Australian Tales and Sketches
by Marcus Clarke
WHAT is the dominant note of Australian Scenery? That which, is the dominant
note of Edgar Allan Poe's poetry--Weird Melancholy. A poem like "L'Allegro" could
never be written by an Australian. It is too airy, too sweet, too freshly happy. The
Australian mountain forests are funereal, secret, stern. Their solitude is
desolation. They seem to stifle in their black gorges a story of sullen despair. No
tender sentiment is nourished in their shade. In other lands the dying year is
mourned, the falling leaves drop lightly on his bier. In the Australian forests no
leaves fall. The savage winds' shout among the rock clefts. from the melancholy
gums strips of white bark hang and rustle. The very animal life of these frowning
hills is either grotesque or ghostly. Great gray kangaroos hop noiselessly over the
coarse grass. Flights of white cockatoos stream out shrieking like evil souls. The
sun suddenly sinks, and the mopokes burst out into horrible peals of semi-human
laughter. The natives aver that when night comes, from out the bottomless
depths of some lagoon the Bunyip rises, and in form like a monstrous sea-calf,
drags his loathsome length from out the ooze. From a corner of the silent forest
rises a dismal chant, and around a fire, dance natives painted like skeletons. All is
fear-inspiring and gloomy. No bright fancies are linked with the memories of the
mountains. Hopeless explorers have named them out of their sufferings--Mount
Misery, Mount Dreadful, Mount Despair. As when among sylvan scenes in places
"Made green with the running of rivers,
And gracious with temperate air,"
the soul is soothed and satisfied, so, placed before the frightful grandeur of these
barren hills, it drinks in their sentiment of defiant ferocity, and is steeped in
Australia has rightly been named the Land of the Dawning. Wrapped in the midst of
early morning her history looms vague and gigantic. The lonely horseman, riding
between the moonlight and the day, sees vast shadows creeping across the
shelterless and silent plains, hears strange noises in the primeval forests, where
flourishes a vegetation long dead in other lands, and feels, despite his fortune,
that the trim utilitarian civilisation which bred him shrinks into insignificance
beside the contemptuous grandeur of forest and ranges coeval with an age in
which European scientists have cradled his own race.
There is a poem in every form of tree or flower, but the poetry which lives in the
trees and flowers of Australia, differs from those of other countries. Europe is
the home of knightly song, of bright deeds --and clear morning thought. Asia sinks
beneath the weighty recollections of her past magnificence, as the Suttee sinks
jewel-burdened upon the corpse of dread grandeur, destructive even in its death.
America swiftly hurries on her way, rapid, glittering, insatiable even as one of her
own giant waterfalls. From the jungles of Africa, and the creeper-tangled groves
of the Islands of the South, arise, from the glowing hearts of a thousand flowers,
heavy and intoxicating odoursthe Upas-poison, which dwells in barbaric sensuality.
In Australia alone is to be found the Grotesque, the Weird, the strange scribblings
of Nature learning how to write. Some see no beauty in our trees without shade,
our flowers without perfume, our birds who cannot fly, and our beasts who have
not yet learned to walk on all fours. But the dweller in the wilderness
acknowledges the subtle charm of this fantastic land of monstrosities. He
becomes familiar with the beauty of loneliness. Whispered to by the myriad
tongues of the wilderness, he learns the language of the barren and the uncouth,
and can read the hieroglyphs of haggard gum-trees, blown into odd shapes
distorted with fierce hot winds, or cramped with cold nights, when the Southern
Cross freezes in a cloudless sky of icy blue. The phantasmagoria of that wild
dreamland termed the Bush interprets itself, and the Poet of our desolation
begins to comprehend why free Esau loved his heritage of desert sand, better
than all the bountiful richness of Egypt.
Learning "Colonial Experience"
THERE were three of us, Dougald McAlister, Jack Thwaites, and myself. The place
was called in the grandiloquent language of the bush, "The Dinkledoodledum
Station" (I like these old native names), because it was situated in the
Dinkledoodledum Creek. Dinkledoodledum--as any philologist can guess by the
sound of it--means the Valley of the Rippling Streamlets; but alas! never a rippling
streamlet did our eyes behold during our stay in the inhospitable valley.
The station had just been purchased by Thwaites' brothers--is not his name now
synonymous with gold, from the Great Glimmera to the Adelaide Desert?--and had
been overstocked by its former proprietor. Along the Glimmera banks, where jovial
but family-burdened Boschman kept his boundary-riding habitation, the ground was
as bare as a billiard-table, and the travelling sheep that called the Great Glimmera
their "feeding track," were only too glad to escape beyond the Dinkledoodledum
boundary into the pleasant paths of Whistlebinkie. Let it not, however, be imagined
that our station was always in this condition. On the contrary, it had been
renowned as a place flowing with milk and honey. It was reported that Clibborn had
made his fortune out of it; that Wallum had retired to independence and hot grog
after twelve months of it; and that Thwaites was in a fair way to do exceedingly
well if he could but "hold on" to it.
Unluckily, what with the former proprietor's mania for feeding two sheep to every
three acres (one sheep to every five acres was about the Dinkledoodledum
standard) and a succession of bad seasons, the "holding on" was hard work.
Economy was absolutely needful, ,and McAlister, Jack and I practised it healthily.
Mutton and damper all the week, and damper and mutton on Sundays, was the
order of the day, and we carried it out to the letter. No epicurean feasts of beef
or of pork disgraced the frugality of our board. Never to our table came the
feeble fowl or the enervating kitchen-garden vegetable. We had no milk, for our
dairy cattle were starving; no eggs, for our poultry refused to lay; no pumpkin pie,
for our soil was too poor to grow even that harmless esculent. Yet on Spartan
fare we led Spartan lives, and were happy.
Oh, that bark hut! Never shall I forget the first day when I, a slim and somewhat
effeminate youth, with London smoke not yet cleared from my throat, beheld its
dilapidated walls. "You will sleep here," said Jack, pointing to a skillion which
seemed to have been used as a sheep-pen, so marked was the "spoor" of those
beasts. "With all my heart," said I, as that organ sank within me -- down,
down, down, until I could feel it palpitating in the very tips of my riding-boots. But I
did not regret my acquiescence. How many nights in that humble shelter have I
listened to the skirr of the wild cats, and watched the one bright star that
pertinaciously peeped through the chinks of the bark sheets. How many nights
have I lighted my lonely pipe, and wrestled alone with my own particular angel, even
as Jacob wrestled at Pennel. Happy Jacob! would I owned thy cunning of wrist and
elbow. How many nights have I trimmed the reed in the pannikin of tallow, and read
the half-dozen books I possessed until I could read no more. How many nights have
I slept the unutterably sweet slumber of virtuous weariness, until my Jack,
bursting in with clanking spurs, would rouse me with his "All aboard!" Aye, old
skillion, I have had some happy hours in thee; so peace to thy ashes, for, sooth to
say, thou art now but fit for burning.
It is proper to boast of the Australian summer. Those who have lived in tents,
camped by rocky water-holes, kept dew-sprinkled watch beneath the yellow moon,
and ridden through fiery noons hard upon the tails of the head- long herd, can with
justice boast of the wild intoxication of that burning ether. I have known it, I! Not
the draught which the great spirit gave to eager Faust maddens so gloriously.
Australian summer, dost thou say? I am with thee. With open shirt ballooned
behind thee, with streaming hair and bloody spurs, urge, urge the straining steed
across the level plain! No tree mars the prospect of immensity. In front, the flying
emu, and behind--naught but the whistling air ! The grey grass spins, the grey
plain reels, the cloudless sky glows molten brass above. It comes--the hot wind of
the desert ! Bitter-fierce from the sand- hills of the scorching north, it sweeps
upon thee ! Ride! Ride ! There are fifty miles of grass before thee, and the blood of
an Emperor's battle steed beats beneath thy saddle-flaps. What are fears, griefs,
loves? Throned upon the rocking saddles of our stretching barbs, we laugh at fate.
Stand in thy stirrups now, and shout! Ha ! ha! Tell me what draught of love or wine
compares with this--the champagne nectar of a hot-wind gallop!
But the time to enjoy our hut was in the winter--the wild, wet winter that lashed
the groaning gums, and scoured to white rage the risen river. All the hot summer
wooed us to the air. Through parching noons and dewy nights we rode and revelled.
Then camped the cattle by the shrinking swamp, and the wild horses came down to
drink at the famished springs. Then we went expeditions in the balmy moonlight,
and roused the drowsy township with the clattering echoes of our hurrying hoofs.
Then came Harry of the Gap, Tom of the Scano, and Dare-devil Dick, of Mostyn's
Folly, to "foregather" with us. Then were Homeric days, musical with chanted
melody, and fierce with the recklessness of horse-taming youth. Then were our
hearts great within us, and in that glowing atmosphere, beneath that burning sun,
our bright blood bounded, and we lived!
But in gray, chill winter the bark but, so long deserted, repaid our ingratitude by
generous kindness. Creeping, all wet, and weary with travel, splashed with
mire, and torn by prickly scrub, to its friendly shelter, it glowed warm welcome,
its rough but honest sides laughing in the beams of the roaring logs till they were
nigh to crack again. How cheery were those evenings. How we ate the ewe mutton,
and laughed at the mishaps of the day; how we smoked, and toasted our toes and
"yarned;" three sworn comrades, singing the songs of our native Britain to the
accompaniment of the whistling Austral wind.
The hut was not commodious. When duly camped within it, indeed, we had but
scant room. When McAlister had flung his lazy length upon the lounging chair (a
wool bale stretched upon the racktoothed iron skeleton of some long-forgotten
patent) and I had usurped the cane-bottomed American importation, there was but
one place for Thwaites, and that the table top. Thwaites would roost there, like
some intelligent bird, and chant the lays of his native country. We called him the
"Little Warbler." Thwaites was a young man of military tendencies. He had
belonged in the old country to the Diggleshire Yeomanry Cavalry (who received the
thanks of their Lord- Lieutenant and county, you may remember, for their
conduct in the great insurrection of the cider-sellers against the patent bottling
process), and in our excursions into the bush he was perpetually waving a
brass-headed whip which he affected, and with wild cries of "St. George and
Diggleshire!" charging the brush fences. Paddy, his big-boned horse, put him down
badly one afternoon, and he gave up this method of exhilaration. McAlister, who
owned that sense of dry humour which is a fungoid growth peculiar to Scotland,
would artfully excite Thwaites to wrath by the assumption of anti- Hanoverian
tendencies, and induce in him a violent outburst of loyalty, and frequent reference
to a lady of whom he habitually spoke as "My gracious sovereign, whom God
preserve." McAlister himself was not without his prejudices, for on one occasion I
distinctly remember that we removed the table, and fought over the merits of
poor Mary Queen of Scots. I had ventured to hint that her conduct in the matter
of Bothwell was not quite incapable of impeachment, and McAlister challenged me
to trial by battle. In justice to the soundness of a reasoning which has sent so
many honest men to Hades, I will presume that my cause was a bad one, for I
received a very sound and cornplete drubbing.
One of poor Thwaites's duties was to "keep the books," and once a week he would
labour painfully, but religiously at his task. The, "books" could not have been very
difficult to "keep," I think, but somehow or other we never could keep them. I am
now inclined to think that our system was too comprehensive, for, as we put
everything down in a volume called a day- book, (lucus a non lucendo, I suppose,
for we never wrote anything in it until night), and transferred it bodily to a ledger,
our accounts were pretty mixed. After I had been there a month, Thwaites
mounted his horse solemnly and mysteriously one morning, and rode off one
hundred and twenty miles to his brother. Two days afterwards he returned, dusty
but calm, and big with intelligence of importance. After supper, he said to me
gravely, "you have been in a bank, haven't you ?" I replied that I had for a month
or so, until my ravages among the well kept books were presumed to have
permanently affected the brain of Napoleon Smith, the manager. "Then," said
Jack, "since you've been used to banking, my boy, my brother thinks that you can
keep the books." I was ready for any hazardous experiment in those days, and I
consented. I think on the whole I did pretty well, though three rams (half-bred
Leicesters, and as strong as bullocks), got into Derwent Joe's account, and could
not be got out again by any financial operation I could devise, while I was always
dropping boots and things in "carrying over." Jack would endeavour sometimes to
see how I was getting on, but he told me one day that he couldn't understand why I
should keep four plugs of Barrett's twist in the Long Swamp Paddock, and put our
married couple's wages to the debit of Weathers and Weaners. I really don't think
he understood much about it.
In the Long Swamp Paddock, by the way, lived one Long Tom, who was an oddity.
He was nearly seven feet high and thin as a harpoon. He had been a sailor, digger,
explorer, stockman, everything but a quiet stop-at-home. For the last ten years,
however, he had rested in the hut by the Long Swamp, and the place was known as
Long Tom's Waterhole; indeed, Long Tom and his dog were better known at the
stations round about, than the name of the Chief Secretary of the Colony. His dog
was one of the biggest impostors--for a dog--that I have ever met. He was called
Old Moke, and was supposed to be of marvellous sagacity ; he was a stumpy-
tailed, long-bodied, shambling beast, who worked just when he chose, and as he
chose. Long Tom, when riding to muster, would remark that if we didn't get the
sheep soon, he would have to put "Old Moke on 'em," as though the act was
equivalent to working a miracle, or dissolving Parliament. By-and-by Old Moke was
"put on." "Moke!" Tom would remark in tones of conscious superiority, "get away
forward !" We would hear a howl, and see a streak of white lightning slip out from
under the belly of Tom's horse. Moke had obeyed the summons. By-and-by, in the
depths of the forest, faint barks would be heard, and Tom would grow uneasy. He
would whistle. Still the barking would continue, and presently, with a rushing sound,
a flock of ewes would fly past us bewilderedly. Tom would shift in his saddle, and
we would grin.
Presently McAlister gallops up, raging. "Call off your cursed dog, Tom!" he shouts.
"Hi, Moke!" roars Tom. "Moke! Moke ! Sink, and burn, and--and--and----the dog.
Moke! Hi! Moke!" Then would Long Tom, vomiting fury, gallop madly into the bush,
some agonised howls would be heard, and old Moke would be seen no more until
supper, when he would meet us at the hut wagging his delusive stump defiantly.
Yet everybody around believed in the beast. Old Moke was a sort of religion at the
Dinkledoodledum, and to express doubt of his immense value would be heresy of
the deepest dye. One would meet stockmen going home with puppies, squeaking at
their heels. "Any good ?" one would ask, nodding at the black and white mass.
"Good! I believe you. That's one of old Moke's," would be the proud reply. Alas! old
Moke-- honest impostor, thou and thy crack-brained master are both gone ! Gone,
let us hope, old dog, to a place where the faults of both of ye will be as lightly
dealt with as in the pleasant days of old.
When Thwaites had gone to bed in the corner--he was a most determined
sleeper--McAlister and I would pitch another log on the fire and prepare for
enjoyment. Carefully filling our pipes, we placed the grease-pannikin on a mark
made exactly in the centre of the table, and "yarned." By "yarning," dear
reader, I don't mean mere trivial conversation, but hard, solid talk. McAlister was
a man of more than ordinary natural talents, and had he been placed in other
circumstances, would have cut a figure. It was not easy to argue with him, and
some of our discussions lasted until cock-crow. The arguments not unfrequently
merged into story-telling, and in that department my memory served me in good
stead. I had been a sickly brat in my infancy, and having unfettered access to the
library of a man who owned few prejudices for moral fig-leaves, had, with the
avidity for recondite knowledge which sickly brats always evince, read many
strange books. I boiled down my recollections for McAlister, and constituted
myself a sort of Scherezade for his peculiar benefit. He would smoke and I would
fix my eyes on a long strip of bark which hung serpentwise from the ridge pole,
and relate. I think if that strip of bark had been removed, my power of narration
would have been removed with it. In this fashion we got through a good deal of
Brantome, several of the plays--or rather plots of the plays--of Wycherley,
Massinger, and Farquahar, and most of Byron. We rambled over the Continent with
Gil Blas, discussed the Alchemists, strolled up and down Rome with Horace, and
investigated the miracles of the early Saxon churchmen in company of a lot of
queer fellows who lived somewhere about the time of the Venerable Bede. We
talked Candide and Dr. Lardner's Encyclopaedia; we saw Hogarth with Ireland's
descriptions ; we quarrelled bitterly over Tom Paine's Age of Reason, and made
friends again over the pathetic adventures of one Moll Flanders, a friend of Daniel
Oh, cheery bark hut, despite all miseries of rough ways and rougher weather,
despite all hideousness of lamb-cutting and sheepslaughtering, despite the figs of
tobacco that would get mixed up with my record of maiden-ewes and two-toothed
wethers, despite rain, storm, and tough mutton, I recall thy memory with
unfeigned regret. Thither " never came the trader, never waved a European flag;"
no smiling bill-discounters ever invaded thy sacred precincts; no severe duns,
rightly claiming that which is, alas! their own, and that which I am unable to pay
them, ever darkened thy hospitable doorway; no folio documents, demanding
instant official attention, were ever brought by the rnerry black-boy to thy rude
letter-box ; no monstrous civilisation with its luxurious necessities overshadowed,
Upas- like, thy imperfect roof. A glorious barbarism was thine, a jovial freedom
born the cares of the morrow was the charter of thy liberties. I disliked thee
once, and grumblingly did abuse thy hospitable shelter,. but I have since found
other roofs less pleasant than thine, have since--pent within stucco and inurned in
marble mockery of grandeur--yearned for the careless fortune of thy uncultured
surroundings, cried often in vain amid the uncomfortable comfort of the city.
"Give me again my hollow tree,
My crust of bread and liberty."
A HOT day. A very hot day on the plains. A very hot day up in the ranges, too. The
Australian sun had got up suddenly with a savage swoop, as though he was angry
at the still coolness of early morning, and was determined to drive the cattle, who
were munching complacently in the long rich grass of the swamp, back up under
the hill among the thick she-oaks. It seemed to be a settled thing on the part of
the sun to get up hotter and hotter every morning. He even went down at night
with a red face, as much as to say, "Take care, I shall be hotter than ever
The men on the station did not get into smoking humour until he had been gone
down at least an hour, and as they sat on a bench and a barrel or two, outside the
"men's hut" on the hill, they looked away across the swamp to that jagged gap in
the ranges where he had sunk, and seeing the red flush in the sky, nodded at one
another, and said, "We shall have a hot day to- morrow." And they were right. For,
when they had forgotten the mosquitoes and the heat, and the many pleasant
things that live in the crevices between the slabs of the hut, and gone to sleep, up
he came again, hotter than ever, without the least warning, and sent them away
to work again.
On this particular morning he was very hot. Even King Peter, who was slowly
driving up the working bullocks from the swamp, felt his old enemy so fierce on his
back, that he got up in his stirrups and cracked his whip, until the hills rang again,
and Strawberry, and Punch, and Doughboy, and Damper, and all (except that
cynical, wicked Spot, who hated the world, and always lived away by himself in a
private clump of she-oak) straightened their tails and shook their heads, and
galloped away up to the stockyard in mortal terror. The horses felt the heat, and
King Peter's brother, who was looking for them on the side of the Stony Mount,
had a long ride up and down all sorts of gullies before he found them out, and then
they were unusually difficult to get together. The cockatoos knew it was hot, and
screamed themselves away into the bush. The kangaroos, who had come down like
gigantic shadows out of the still night, had all hopped away back into the scrub
under the mountains, while the mist yet hung about the trees around the
creek-bed. The parrots were uneasy, and the very station dogs got under the
shadow-lee of the huts, in case of a hot wind coming up. As for the sheep--when
Pretty Dick's father let them out in the dawn, he said to his dog, "We shan't have
much to do to-day, old woman, shall we?" At which Lassie wagged her tail and
grinned, as intelligent dogs do.
But who was Pretty Dick?
Pretty Dick was the seven-years-old son of Richard Fielding, the shepherd. Pretty
Dick was a slender little man, with eyes like pools of still water when the sky is
violet at sunset, and a skin as white as milk--that is, under his little blue and white
shirt, for where the sun had touched it, it was a golden brown, and his hands were
the colour of the ripe chestnuts his father used to gather in England years ago.
Pretty Dick had hair like a patch of sunlight, and a laugh like rippling water. He was
the merriest little fellow possible, and manly, too! He understood all about milking,
did Pretty Dick : and could drive up a refractory cow with anybody. He could chop
wood, too--that is, a little, you know, because he was not very strong, and the axe
was heavy. He could ride, not a buck- jumper--that was his ambition--but he would
take Molly (the wall-eyed mare) into the home station for his father's rations, and
come out again quite safely.
He liked going into the station because he saw Ah Yung, the Chinaman cook, who
was kind to him, and gave him sugar. He had all the news to bear too. How another
mob of travelling sheep were coming through the run; how the grey mare had
slipped her foal; how the bay filly had bucked off Black Harry and hurt his wrist;
how Old Tom had "got the sack " for being impudent to the overseer, and had
vowed to fire the run. Besides, there was the paper to borrow for his father, Mr.
Trelawney's horses to look at, the chat with the carpenter, and perhaps a peep at
the new buggy with its silver-mounted harness (worth, "oh, thousands of pounds!"
Pretty Dick thought perhaps, too, he might go down to the house, with its garden
and cool verandah, and bunches of grapes; might get a little cake from Mary, the
cook or even might be smiled upon by Mrs Trelawney, the owner's young wife, who
seemed to Dick to be something more a lady--to be a sweet voice that spoke
kindly to him and made him feel as he would feel sometimes when his mother would
get the Big Bible, that came all the way from England, and tell him the story about
the Good Man who so loved little children.
He liked to go into the station, because everyone was so kind to him. Everyone
loved Pretty Dick: even old Tom, who had been a "lag," and was a very wicked
man, hushed the foul jest and savage oath when the curly head of Pretty Dick
came within hearing, and the men always felt as if they had their Sunday clothes
on in his presence. But he was not to go into the station to-day. It was not
ration-day; so he sat on the step of his father's hut door, looking out through a
break in the timber-belt at the white dots on the plain, that he knew to be his
Pretty Dick's father lived in the Log Hut, on the edge of the plains, and had five
thousand sheep to look after. He was away all day. Sometimes, when the sheep
would camp near home, Pretty Dick would go down with some fresh tea in a
"billy," for his father, and would have a very merry afternoon watching his father
cut curious notches in his stick, and would play with Lassie, and look about for
'possums in the trees, or, with craning neck, cautiously inspect an ant-hill. And
then when evening came, and Lassie had got the sheep together--quietly without
any barking you know--when father and son jogged homewards through the
warm, still air, and the trampling hoofs of the sheep sent up a fragrance from the
crushed herbage round the folding ground, Pretty Dick would repeat long stories
that his mother had told him, about "Valentine and Orsen," and "Beauty and the
Beast," and "Jack the Giant Killer;" for Pretty Dick's mother had been maid in the
rector's family, in the Kentish village at home, and was a little above Pretty Dick's
father, who was only a better sort of farm-labourer. But they were all three very,
happy now in their adopted country. They were all alone there, these
three--Pretty Dick, and mother and father--and no other children came to divide
the love that both father and mother had for Pretty Dick. So that when Pretty
Dick knelt down by his little bed at night, and put his little brown hands together,
and said, "God bless my dear father and mother, and God bless me and make me a
good boy," he prayed for the whole family, you see. So, they all three loved each
other very much--though they were poor people--and Pretty Dick's mother often
said that she would not have any harm happen to Pretty Dick for Queen Victoria's
golden crown. They had called him Pretty Dick when he was yet a baby, on board
the "Star of Peace" emigrant ship, and the name had remained with him ever
since. His father called him Pretty Dick, and his mother called him Pretty Dick, and
the people at the home station called him Pretty Dick; and even the cockatoo who
lived on the perch over Lassie's bark-kennel, would call out "Pretty Dick! Pretty
Dick! Pretty Dick!" over and over again.
Now, on this particular morning, Pretty Dick sat gazing between the trunks of the
gum-trees into the blue distance. It was very hot. The blue sky was cloudless, and
the sun seemed to be everywhere at once. There was a little shade, to be sure,
among the gum-tree trunks, but that would soon pass, and there would be no
shade anywhere. The little fenced-in waterhole in the front of the hut glittered in
the sunlight like a piece of burnished metal, and the tin milk-pail that was turned
topsy-turvy on the pole-paling, was quite dazzling to look at. Daisy, the cow, stood
stupidly under the shade of a round, punchy little she-oak close by, and seemed
too lazy even to lie down, it was so hot. Of course the blow-flies had begun, and
their ceaseless buzz resounded above and around, making it seem hotter than
ever, Pretty Dick thought.
How hot father must be! Pretty Dick knew those terrible plains well. He had been
across them two or three times. Once in the early spring when it was pleasant
enough with a cool breeze blowing, and white clouds resting on the tops of the
distant mountains, and the broad rolling levels of short, crisp, grass-land sweeping
up from their feet to the horizon unceasingly. But he had been across there once
in the summer, when the ground was dry and cracked, when the mountains seemed
so close that he almost thought that he could touch them with his hand, when the
heavens were like burning brass, and the air (crepitant with the ceaseless chirping
of the grasshopper) like the flame of a heated furnace. Pretty Dick felt quite a
fresh accession of heat as he thought of it, and turned his face away to the
right to cool himself by thinking of the ranges. They were deep in the bush, past
the creek that ran away the other side of the Sandy Rises; deep in the bush on the
right hand, and many a weary stretch of sandy slope, and rough-grassed swamp,
and solemn wood, and dismal, deserted scrub, was between him and them. He could
see the lofty purple peak of Mount Clear, the highest in the range, grandly rising
above the dense level tops of the gum- tree forests, and he thought how cool it
must be in its mighty shadow. He had never been under the mountain. That there
were some strange reaches of scrub, and sand, and dense thickets, and tumbled
creeper-entwined rock in that swamp-guarded land, that lay all unseen under the
shadow of the hills. he, knew, for he had heard the men say so. Had he not heard
how men had been lost in that awesome scrub, silent and impenetrable, which
swallowed up its victims noiselessly? Had he not heard how shepherds had strayed
or slept, and how, at night, the sheep had returned alone, and that search had
been in vain, until perhaps some wandering horseman, all by chance, had lighted
upon a rusty rag or two, a white skull, and perhaps a tin pannikin with hopeless
scratchings of name and date? Had he not been told fearful things about those
ranges ? How the bushrangers had made their lair in the Gap, and how the cave
was yet visible where their leader had been shot dead by the troopers; how large
sums of stolen money were buried there, hidden away behind slags and slabs of
rock, flung into fathomless gullies, or crammed into fissures in the mountain side,
hidden so well that all the searching hands and prying eyes of the district had not
yet discovered them? Did not Wallaby Dick tell him one night about the Murder that
had been done down in the flat under the large Australian moon--when the two
swagmen, after eating and drinking, had got up in the bright, still night, and beaten
out the brains of the travelling hawker, who gave them hospitality, and how, the
old man being found beside his rifled cart, with his gray hairs matted with blood,
search was made for the murderers, and they were taken in a tap-room in distant
Hamilton, bargaining with the landlord for the purchase of their plunder?
What stories had he not heard of wild cattle, of savage bulls, red-eyed, pawing,
and unapproachable? What hideous tales of snakes, black, cold, and deadly, had
not been associated in his mind with that Mountain Land ? What a strange,
dangerous, fascinating, horrible, wonderful place that Mountain Land must be, and
how much he would like to explore it! But he had been forbidden to go, and he
dismissed, with a childish sigh, all idea of going.
He looked up at his clock--the sun. He was just over the top of the big
gum-tree--that meant ten o'clock. How late! The morning was slipping away. He
heard his mother inside singing. She was making the bread. It would be very hot in
the hut when the loaf was put in the camp-oven to bake. He had nothing to do
either. He would go down to the creek; it was cool there. So he went into the hut
and got a big piece of sweet cake, and put it in the pocket of his little jumper.
"Mother," said Pretty Dick, "I am going down to the creek."
"Take care you don't get lost!" said she, half in jest, half in earnest.
"Lost! No fear!" said Pretty Dick.
--And when he went out, his mother began to sing again.
It was beautifully cool down by the creek. Pretty Dick knew that it would be. The
creek had come a long way, and was tired, and ran very slowly between its deep
banks, luscious with foliage, and rich with grass. It had a long way to go, too,
Pretty Dick knew where it went. It ran right away down to the river. It ran on into
the open, desolate, barren piece of ground where the road to the station crossed
it, and where its bright waters were all red and discoloured with the trampling of
horses and cattle. It ran by the old stockyard, and then turned away with a sudden
jerk, and lost itself in the Five Mile Swamp, from whence it re-appeared again,
broader and bigger, and wound along until it met the river.
But it did not run beyond the swamp now, Dick knew, because the weather had
been so hot, and the creeks were all dried up for miles around-- his father
said--all but this one. It took its rise in the mountains, and when the rainfall was
less than usual, grew thinner and thinner, until it became, what it was now, a
slender stream of water, trickling heavily between high banks-- quite unlike the
dashing, brawling, black, bubbling torrent that had rushed down the gully in
Pretty Dick took off his little boots, and paddled about in the water, and found out
all kinds of curious, gnarled roots of old trees, and funny holes under the banks. It
was so cool and delicious under the stems and thick leaves of the water frondage
that Pretty Dick felt quite restored again, and sang remembered scraps of his
mother's songs, as he dodged round intervening trees, and slipped merrily between
friendly trunks and branches. At last he came out into the open. Here his friend,
the creek, divided itself into all sorts of queer shapes, and ran here, and doubled
back again there, and twisted and tortured itself in an extraordinary manner, just
out of pure fun and frolic.
There was a herd of cattle camped at this place, for the trees were tall, and big,
and spreading. The cattle did not mind Pretty Dick at all, strange to say. Perhaps
that was because he was on foot. If he had been on horseback now, you would have
seen how they would have stared and wheeled about, and splashed off into the
scrub. But when Pretty Dick, swinging a stick that he had cut, and singing one of
his mother's songs, came by, they merely moved a little farther away, and looked
at his little figure with long, sleepy eyes, slowly grinding their teeth from side to
side the while. Now the way began to go up-hill, and there were big dead trees to
get over, and fallen spreading branches to go round; for the men had been felling
timber here, and the wasted wood lay thick upon the ground. At last Pretty Dick
came to the Crossing Place. The Crossing Place was by the edge of the big swamp,
and was a notable place for miles round. There was no need for a crossing
place now though, for the limpid water was not a foot deep.
Pretty Dick had come out just on the top of a little sandy rise, and he saw the big
swamp right before him, speckled with feeding cattle, whose backs were just level
with the tall rushes. And beyond the big swamp the ranges rose up, with the
sunlight gleaming here and there upon jutting crags of granite, and with deep cool
shadows in other places, where the noble waving line of hills sank in, and made
dark recesses full of shade and coolness. The sky was bluer than ever, and the air
was heavy with heat; and Pretty Dick wondered how the eagle-hawk that was
poised--a floating speck above the mountain top--could bear to swoop and swing
all day long in that fierce glare.
He turned down again, and crossing the creek, plunged into the bush. There was a
subtle perfume about him now; not a sweet, rich perfume like the flowers in the
home station garden, but a strange intoxicating smell, evolved from the beat and
the water, and the many coloured heath blossoms. The way was more difficult
now, and Pretty Dick left the bank of the creek, and made for the open
space--sandy, and bunched with coarse clumps of grass. He went on for a long
time, still upwards, and at last his little feet began to tire; and, after chasing a
dragon-fly or two, and running a long way after a kangaroo rat, that started out
from a patch of broom and ran in sharp diagonal lines away to hide itself in among
the roots of a she-oak, he began to think of the piece of sweet cake in his pocket.
So when, after some little time, emerging from out a dense mass of scrub, that
scratched and tore at him as though it would hold him back, he found himself far
up the hills, with a great gully between him and the towering ranges, he sat down
and came to the conclusion that he was hungry. But when he had eaten his sweet
cake, he found that he was thirsty too, and that there was no water near him. But
Pretty Dick knew that there was water in the ranges so he got up again, a little
wearily, and went down the gully to look for it. But it was not so easy to find, and
he wandered about for a long time among big granite boulders, and all kinds of
blind creeks, choked up with thick grass and creeping plants, and began to feel
very tired indeed, and a little inclined to wish that he had not left the
water-course so early. But he found it at last--a little pool, half concealed by
stiff, spiky, rush grass, and lay down, and drank eagerly. How nice the first
draught was! But at the second, the water felt warm, and at the third, tasted
quite thick and slimy. There had been some ducks paddling about when he came up,
and they flew away with a great quacking and splashing, that almost startled him.
As soon as they had disappeared though, the place was quite still again, and the
air grew heavier than ever. He felt quite drowsy and tired, and laid himself down on
a soft patch of mossy grass, under a tree; and so, after listening a little while to
the humming of the insects, and the distant crackling of mysterious branches in
the forest, he put his little head on his little arm, and went fast to sleep.
How long he slept Pretty Dick did not know, but he woke up, suddenly with a start,
and a dim consciousness that the sun had shifted, and had been pouring its heat
upon him for some time. The moment he woke he heard a great crashing and
plunging, and started up just in time to see a herd of wild cattle scouring off down
the side of the range. They had come up to drink while he was asleep, and his
sudden waking had frightened them. How late it must be! The place seemed quite
changed. There was sunlight where no sunlight had been before, and shadow where
had been sunlight. Pretty Dick was quite startled at finding how late it was. He
must go home, or mother would be frightened. So he began to go back again. He
knew his way quite well. No fear of his losing himself. He felt a little tired though,
but that would soon wear off. So he left the little pool and turned homewards. He
got back again into the gully, and clambered up to the top, and went on sturdily.
But the trees did not seem familiar to him, and the succession of dips in the hills
seemed interminable. He would soon reach the Big Swamp again, and then he could
follow up the creek. But he could not find the Swamp. He toiled alone, very slowly
now, and at last found the open plot of ground where he had stopped in the
morning But when he looked at it a little, it was not the same plot at all, but
another something like it, and the grim ranges, heavy with shadow, rose all around
A terrible fear came into poor little Pretty Dick's heart, and he seemed to hear his
mother say, quite plainly, "Take care you don't get lost, Pretty Dick!" Lost! But he
put the feeling away bravely, and swallowed down a lump in his throat, and went on
again. The cattle-track widened out, and in a little while he found himself upon a
jutting peak, with the whole panorama of the Bush at his feet. A grand sight! On
the right hand towered the Ranges, their roots sunk deep in scrub and dense
morass, and their heads lifted into the sky, that was beginning to be streaked with
purple flushes now. On the left, the bush rolled away beneath him--one level mass
of treetops, broken here and there by an open space of yellow swamp, or a thin
line of darker foliage, that marked the meanderings of some dried-up creek. The
sun was nearly level with his face, and cast a long shadow behind him. Pretty Dick
felt his heart give a great jump, and then go on beating quicker and quicker. But he
would not give in. Lost!--Oh no, he should soon be home, and telling his mother all
the wonders of the walk. But it was too late! He must make haste. What was
that!--somebody on horseback. Pretty Dick shaded his eyes with his little hand,
and peered down into the valley. A man with a white puggarree on his hat, was
moving along a sort of cattletrack. Joy!--It was Mr. Gaunt, the overseer. Pretty
Dick cooeed. No answer. He cooeed again,--and again, but still the figure went on.
Presently, it emerged from the scrub, and the poor little fellow could see the rays
of the setting sun gleam redly, for an instant on a bright spur, like a dying spark.
He gave a despairing shout. The horseman stopped, looked about him, and
then glancing up at the fast clouding heavens, shook his horse's bridle, and rode
off in a hand-gallop. Poor Pretty Dick. He knew that his cry had been unheard--
mistaken, perhaps, for the scream of a parrot, the cry of some native bear, or
strange bird, but in his present strait, the departure of the presence of
something human, felt like a desertion. He fairly gave way, and sat down and cried.
By-and-by he got up again, with quite a strange feeling of horror, and terror, and
despair; he ran down the steep side of the range in the direction in which Mr.
Gaunt had gone, and followed his fast fading figure, calling and crying with choked
voice. Presently he lost him altogether, and then he felt his courage utterly fail.
He had no idea of where he was. He had lost all power of thought and reason, and
was possessed but by one over-powering terror, and a consciousness that
whatever he did, he must keep on running, and not stop a moment. But he soon
could run no longer. He could only stagger along from tree to tree in the gloomy
woods, and cry, "Mother! Mother!" But there was no mother to help him. There
was no human being near him, no sound but the hideous croaking of the frogs in
the marshes, and the crackling of the branches under his footsteps. The sun went
down suddenly behind the hills, and the air grew cool at once. Pretty Dick felt as if
he had lost a friend, and his tears burst forth afresh. Utterly tired and worn out,
he sat down at the foot of a tree, and sobbed with sheer fatigue. Then he got up
and ran round and round, like some hunted animal, calling, "Mother! Mother!"
But there was no reply. Nothing living was near him, save a hideous black crow who
perched himself upon the branch of a withered tree. and mocked him, seeming to
the poor boy's distorted fancy to say, "Pretty Dick! Pretty Dick! Walk! walk! walk!"
In a burst of passionate, childish despair, he flung a piece of stick at the bird, but
his strength failed him, and the missile fell short. This fresh failure made him cry
again, and then he got up and ran--stumbling, and falling, and crying--away from
the loathsome thing. But it followed him, flapping heavily from tree to tree, and
perched quite close to him at last, croaking like an evil presence--"Pretty Dick!
Pretty Dick! Walk! walk! walk!"
The sweet night fell, and the stars looked down into the gullies and ravines, where
poor Pretty Dick, all bruised, bleeding, and despairing, was staggering from rock to
rock, sick at heart, drenched with dew, hatless, shoeless, tear-stained, crying,
"Mother! mother! I am lost! Oh, mother! mother!"
The calm, pitiless stars looked down upon him, and the broad .sky spread coldly
over him, and the birds flew away terrified at him; and the deadly chill of loneliness
fell upon him, and the cold, cruel, silent night seemed to swallow him up, and hide
him from human sympathy.
Poor Pretty Dick! No more mother's kisses, no more father's caresses, no more
songs, no more pleasures, no more flowers, no more sunshine, no more
love--nothing but grim Death, waiting remorselessly in the iron solitude of the
hills; in the sad-eyed presence of the speechless stars. There, among the
awful mystery and majesty of nature, alone, a terrified little human soul, with the
eternal grandeur of the forests, the mountains, and the myriad voices of the
night, Pretty Dick knelt trembling down, and lifting his little, tear-stained face to
the great, grave, impassable sky--sobbed.
"Oh take me home! Take me home! Oh! please, God, take me home!"
The night wore on--with strange sounds far away in the cruel bush, with
sceamings of strange birds, with gloomy noises, as of the tramplings of many
cattle, with movements of leaves and snapping of branches, with unknown
whirrings as of wings, with ripplings and patterings as of waterfalls, with a
strange heavy pulsation in the air, as though the multitudinous life of the forest
was breathing around him. He was dimly conscious that any moment some strange
beast--some impossible monster, enormous and irresistible, might rise up out of
the gloom of the gullies and fall upon him;--that the whole horror of the bush was
about to take some tangible shape and appear silently from behind the awful rocks
which shut out all safety and succour. His little soul was weighed down by the
nameless terror of a solitude which was no solitude,--but a silence teeming with
monsters. He pictured the shapeless Bunyip lifting its shining sides heavily from
the bottomless blackness of some lagoon in the shadow of the hills, and dragging,
all its loathsome length to where he lay. He felt suffocated; the silence that held
all these indistinct noises in its bosom, muffled him about like a murderous cloak;
the palpable shadow of the immeasurable mountains fell upon him like a
gravestone, and the gorge where he lay was like the Valley of the Shadow of
Death. He screamed to break the silence, and the scream rang around him in the
woods, and up above him in the mountain clefts, and beneath him in the mute
mystery of the glens and swamps,--his cry seemed to be re-echoed again and
again by strange voices never heard before, and repeated with indistinct
mutterings and moanings in the caverns of the ranges. He dared not scream a
second time lest he should wake some awful sound whose thunder should deafen
All this time he was staggering on,--not daring to look to right or left, or
anywhere but straight on--straight on always. He fell, and tore his hands, and
bruised his limbs, but the bruises did not hurt him. His little forehead was cut by a
sharp stone, and his bright hair was all dusty and matted with blood. His knees
shook and trembled, and his tongue clove to his mouth. He fell at every yard, and
his heart seemed to beat so loud, that the sound filled the air around him.
His strength was leaving him; he tottered from weakness; and, at last, emerging
upon a little open platform of rock, white under the moon, he felt his head swim,
and the black trunks, and the masses of fern-tree leaves, and the open ground,
and the silent expanse of bush below him, all turned round in one crimson flash;
and then the crimson grew purple-streaked, and spotted with sparks, and
radiations, and bursting globes of light and colour, and then the ranges closed in
and fell upon him, and he was at once in his little bed at home--oh, so-fast-
But he woke at last, very cold and numbed, and with some feeling that he was not
himself, but that he had been dreaming of a happy boy named Pretty Dick, who
went away for a walk one afternoon many years ago. And then he felt for the
blankets to pull them up about his shoulders, and his little fingers grasped a
prickly handful of heather, and he woke with a terrible start.
Moonlight still, but a peaceful, solemn, sinking moon. She was low down in the sky,
hanging like a great yellow globe over the swamp that rose from far beneath him,
straight up, it seemed to a level with his face. Her clear cut rim rested on the
edge of the morass now. He could almost touch her, she looked so close to him;
but he could not lift his little arm so high, and besides, he had turned everything
upside down before he went to sleep, and the moon was down below him and the
earth up above him! To be sure! and then he shut his eyes and went to sleep again.
By-and-by it dawned. The birds twittered, and the dew sparkled, and the mists
came up and wreathed themselves all about the trees, and Pretty, Dick was up in
the pure cool sky, looking down upon a little figure that lay on an open space
among the heather. Presently, slowly at first, and then more quickly, he found out
that this little figure was himself, and that he was in pain, and then it all came
back with one terrible shock, and he was Lost again.
He could bear to think of it now, though. His terror, born of darkness, had fled
with the uprising of the glorious golden sun. There was, after all, no reason to be
afraid. Boys had been lost before, and found again. His father would have missed
him last night, and the station would be speedily roused. Oh, he would soon be
found! He got up very painfully and stiffly, and went to look for water. No
difficulty in that; and when he had drunken, and washed his face and hands, he felt
much better. Then he began to get hungry, and to comfort himself with the
thought that he would soon be found. He could almost hear the joyful shout, and
the welcome, and the questioning. How slowly the time went on! He tried to keep
still in one place, for he knew now that his terror-driven feet had brought him to
this pass, and that he should have kept still in the place where he saw Mr. Gaunt
the night before.
At the recollection of that bitter disappointment, and the thought of how near he
had been to succour, his tears began afresh. He tried hard to keep his terrors
back--poor little fellow,--and thought of all kinds of things-- of the stories his
mother told him--of the calf-pen that father was putting up. And then he would
think of the men at the station, and the remembrance of their faces cheered him;
and he thought of Mrs. Trewlawney, and his mother. 0--suppose he should never
see his mother again! And then he cried, and slept, and woke, and forgot his fears
for awhile, and would listen intently for a sound, and spring up and answer a
flancied shout, and then lie in a dull, stupid despair, with burning eyes, and aching
head, and a gnawing pain that he knew was Hunger. So the hot day wore out.
The same beat as yesterday, the same day as yesterday, the same sights and
sounds as yesterday--but oh! how different was yesterday to to-day,--and how
far off yesterday seemed. No one came. The shadows shifted, and the heat burnt
him up, and the shade fell on him, and the sun sank again, and the stars began to
shine,--and no one came near Pretty Dick. He had almost forgotten, indeed, that
there was such a boy as Pretty Dick. He seemed to have lived years in the bush
alone. He did not know where he was, or who he was. It seemed quite natural to
him that he should be there alone, and he had no wish to get away. He had lost all
his terror of the Night. He scarcely knew it was night, and after sitting on the
grass a little longer, smiling at the fantastic shadows that the moonlight threw
upon the ground, he discovered that he was hungry, and must go into the hut for
supper. The hut was down in the gully yonder he could hear his mother singing--so
Pretty Dick got up, and crooning a little song, went down into the Shadow.
They looked for him for five days. On the sixth, his father and another came upon
something, lying, half-hidden, in the long grass at the bottom of a gully in the
ranges, A little army of crows flew heavily away. The father sprang to earth with
a white face. Pretty Dick was lying on his face, with his head on his arm.
God had taken him home.
HE was the ostler at Coppinger's, and they called him Poor Joe. Nobody knew
whence he came; nobody knew what misery of early mutilation had been his. He
had appeared one evening, a wandering swagman, unable to speak, and so explain
his journey's aim or end -- able only to mutter and gesticulate, making signs that
he was cold and hungry, and needed fire and food. The rough crowd in Coppinger's
bar looked on him kindly, having for him that sympathy which marked physical
affliction commands in the rudest natures. Poor Joe needed all their sympathies:
he was a dwarf, and dumb.
Coppinger -- bluff, blasphemous, and good-hearted soul -- dispatched him, with
many oaths, to the kitchen, and when the next morning the deformed creature
volunteered in his strange sign-speech to do some work that might "pay for his
lodging," sent him to help the ostler that ministered to King Cobb's coach-horses.
The ostler, for lack of a better name, perhaps, called him "Joe," and Coppinger,
finding that the limping mute, though he could speak no word of human language,
yet had a marvellous power of communication with horseflesh, installed him as
tinder-ostler and stable-helper, with a scat at the social board, and a wisp of clean
straw in King Cobb's stable.
"I have taken him on," said Coppinger, when the township cronies met the next
night in the bar.
"Who," asked the croniest, bibulously disregarding grammar. "Poor Joe," said
The sympathetic world of Bullocktown approved the epithet, and the deformed
vagabond, thus baptized, was known as Poor Joe ever after.
He was a quiet fellow enough. His utmost wrath never sufficed to ruffle a hair on
the sleek backs of King Cobb's horses. His utmost mirth never went beyond an
ape-like chuckle, that irradiated his pain-stricken face, as a stray gleam of
sunshine lights up the hideousness of the gargoyle on some old cathedral tower.
It was only when "in drink" that Poor Joe became a spectacle for strangers to
wonder at. Brandy maddened him, and when thus excited his misshapen soul would
peep out of his sunken fiery eyes, force his grotesque legs to dance unseemly
sarabands, and compel his pigeonbreast to give forth monstrous and ghastly
utterances, that might have been laughs, were they not so much like groans of a
brutish despair that had in it a strange chord of human suffering. Coppinger was
angry when the poor dwarf was thus tortured for the sport of the
whisky-drinkers, and once threw Frolicksome Fitz into the muck midden for
inciting the cripple to sputter forth his grotesque croonings and snatches of
gruesome merriment. "He won't be fit for nothin' to-morrer," was the excuse
Coppinger made for his display of feeling. Indeed, on the days that followed these
debauches, Poor Joe was sadly downcast. Even his beloved horses failed to cheer
him, and he would sit, red-eyed and woe-begone, on the post-and-rail-fence, like
some dissipated bird of evil omen.
The only thing he seemed to love, save his horses, was Coppinger, and Coppinger
was proud of this simple affection. So proud was he, that when he discovered that
whenever Miss Jane, the sister of Young Bartram, from Seven Creeks, put her
pony into the stable, the said pony was fondled and slobbered over and caressed
by Poor Joe, he felt something like a pang of jealousy.
Miss Jane was a fair maiden, with pale gold hair, and lips like the two streaks of
crimson in the leaf of the white poppy. Young Bartram, owner of Seven Creeks
Station--you could see the lights in the house windows from Coppinger's--had
brought her from town to "keep house for him," and she was the beauty of the
country side. Frolicksome Fitz, the pound-keeper, was at first inclined to toast an
opposition belle (Miss Kate Ryder of Ryder's Mount), but when returning home one
evening by the New Dam, he saw Miss Jane jump Black Jack over the post-and-wire
into the home station paddock, he forswore his allegiance.
"She rides like an angel," said pious Fitz, and the next time he met her he told her
Now this young maiden, so fair, so daring, and so silent, came upon the
Bullocktown folk like a new revelation. The old Frenchman at the Melon Patch
vowed tearfully that she had talked French to him like one of his countrywomen,
and the school master--Mr. Frank Smith--duly certificated under the Board of
Education--reported that she played the piano divinely, singing like a seraph the
while. As nobody played (except at euchre) in Bullocktown, this judgment was
undisputed. Coppinger swore, slapping with emphasis his mighty thigh, that Miss
Jane was a lady, and when he said that he said everything. So, whenever Miss Jane
visited the township, she was received with admiration. Coppinger took off his hat
to her, Mr. Frank Smith walked to the station every Sunday afternoon to see her,
and Poor Joe stood afar off and worshipped her, happy if she bestowed a smile
upon him once out of every five times that he held her tiny stirrups.
This taming of Poor Joe was not unnoticed by the whiskydrinkers, and they came
in the course of a month or so to regard the cripple as part of the property of
Miss Jane--as they regarded her dog for instance. The schoolmaster, moreover,
did not escape tap-room comment. He was frequently at Seven Creeks. He
brought flowers from the garden there. He sent for some new clothes from
Melbourne. He even borrowed Coppinger's bay mare "Flirt," to ride over to the
Sheep-wash, and Dick the mail-boy, who knew that Coppinger's mare was
pigeon-toed, vowed that he had seen another horse's tracks besides her's in
the sand of the Rose Gap Road.
"You're a deep 'un, Mr. Smith" said Coppinger. "I found yer out sparking Miss Jane
along the Mountain Track. Deny it if yer can?"
But Frank Smith's pale cheek only flushed, and he turned off the question with a
laugh. It was Poor Joe's eyes that snapped fire in the corner.
So matters held themselves until the winter, when the unusually wet season
forbade riding parties of pleasure. It rained savagely that year, as we all
remember, and Bullocktown in rainy weather is not a cheerful place. Miss Jane
kept at home, and Poor Joe's little eyes, wistfully turned to the Station on the hill,
saw never her black pony cantering round the corner of Archie Cameron's hayrick.
A deeper melancholy seemed to fall on the always melancholy township.
Coppinger's cronies took their "tots" in silence, steaming the while, and Coppinger
himself would come gloomily to the door, speculating upon evil unless the leaden
But it did not lift, and rumour of evil came. Up the country, by Parsham and
Merrydale, and Black Adder's Gully, there were whole tracts of grass-land under
water. The neighbouring station of Hall's, in the mountains, was a swamp. The
roads were bogged for miles. Tim Doolan was compelled to leave his dray and
bullocks Tom and Jerry's, and ride for his life before the advancing waters. The
dams were brimming, at Quartzborough, St. Rey reservoir was running over. It was
reported by little McCleod, the sheep-dealer, that the old bridge at the Little
Glimmera had been carried away. It was reported that Old Man Horn, whose
residence overlooked the river, had fastened a bigger hook to a larger pole (there
was a legend to the effect that Old Man Horn had once hooked a body from the
greedy river, and after emptying its pockets, had softly started it down stream
again), and was waiting behind his rickety door, rubbing his withered hands
gleefully. Young Bartram rode over to Quartzborough to get McCompass, the shire
engineer, to look at his new dam. Then the coach stopped running, and then Flash
Harry, galloping through the township at night, like the ghost-rider in BŸrger's
ghastly ballad, brought the terrible news :--THE FLOODS WERE UP, AND THE GLIMMERA
BANK AND BANK AT THE OLD CROSSING-PLACE.
"It will be here in less than an hour,"he shouted, under Coppinger's red lamps;
"make for the high ground if you love your lives;" and so wet, wild-eyed, and white,
splashed off into the darkness, if haply he might warn the poor folk down the river
of the rushing death that was coming upon them.
Those who were there have told of the horrors of that night. How the muddy
street, scarce reclaimed from the river-bed, was suddenly, full of startled
half-dressed folk. How Coppinger's was crowded to the garret. How the
schoolmaster dashed off, stumbling through the rain, to warn them at Seven
Creeks. How bullies grew pale with fear, and men hitherto mild of speech and
modest of mien, waxed fiery-hot with wrath at incapacity, and fiercely
self-assertive in relegating fools to their place in the bewildered social economy of
that general overturn. How the roaring flood came down, bearing huge trees,
fragments of houses, grotesquely terrible waifs and strays of house-hold
furniture upon its yellow and turbid bosom, timid women grew brave, and brave
men hid their faces for a while. How Old Man Horn saved two lives that night. How
Widow Rae's cottage, with her light still burning in the windowsill, was swept off,
and carried miles down stream. How Archy Cameron's hayrick stranded in the
middle of the township. How forty drowned sheep were floated into the upper
windows of the "Royal Mail". How Patey Barnes's cradle, with its new-born
occupant sucking an unconscious thumb, was found jammed in the bight of the
windlass in Magby's killing-yard. How all this took place has been told, I say, by,
those who were present, and needs no repeating. But one thing which took place
shall be chronicled here. When the terror and confusion were somewhat stilled,
and Coppinger, by dint of brand and blankets, had got some strength and courage
into the half-naked, shivering creatures clustered in his ark, a sudden terrible
tremor went through the crowd, like an electric current. In some mysterious way,
no one knew how originating, or by what fed and fostered, men came to hear that
Bartram's Dam was breaking. That is to say, that in ten minutes or less, all the
land that lay between Coppinger's and the river, would be a roaring waste of
water--that in less than ten minutes the Seven Creeks Station, with all its
inmates, would be swept off the face of the earth, and that if Coppinger's
escaped it would be a thing to thank God for.
After the first sharp agony of self-apprehension, one thought came to each--Miss
"Good God," cries Coppinger, "can nobody go to her?" Ten men volunteered to go.
"It's no good," said faint-hearted Riley, the bully of the bar.
"The dam'll burst twice over 'fore you can reach the Station."
It was likely.
"I'll go myself," cries brave old Coppinger; but his wife clung to his arm, and held
him back with all the weight of her maternity. "I have it," says Coppinger ; "Poor
Joe'll go. Where is he ?"
No one had seen him. Coppinger dashed down the stairs, splashed through the yard
into the stable. The door was open, and Blackboy, the strongest of King Cobb's
horses, was missing. Coppinger flashed round the lantern he held. The mail-boy's
saddle had disappeared, and faintly mingling with the raging wind and roaring
water, died the rapid strokes of a horse pat.
Poor Poe had gone.
The house was already flooded out, and they were sitting (so I was told) with their
arms round each other, not far from where poor Bartram's body was found, when
the strange misshapen figure, bestriding the huge horse, splashed
desperately through the water, that was once the garden.
"Rescue," cried Frank, but she only, clung to him the closer.
Poor Joe bit his lips at the sight of the pair, and then, so Frank Smith averred,
flung him one bitter glance of agony, and dropping his deformed body from the
back of the reeking horse, held out the bridle with a groan.
In moments of supreme danger one divines quickly. Frank placed his betrothed
upon the saddle, and sprang up behind her. If ever Blackboy was to prove his
metal, he must prove it then, for already the lightning revealed a thin stream of
water trickling over the surface of the dam.
"But what is to become of you?" cried Miss Jane.
Poor Joe, rejecting Frank's offered hand, took that of Miss Jane, patted it softly,
and let it fall. He pointed to Coppinger's red light, and then to the black wall of the
dam. No man could mistake the meaning of that trembling finger, and those
widely-opened eyes. They said "Ride for your lives ride!" plainer than the most
eloquent tongue owned by schoolmaster could speak.
It was no time for sentiment, and for the schoolmaster there was but one life to
be saved or lost that night. He drove his heels into the good horse's sides, and
galloped down the hill. "God bless you Joe" cried Miss Jane. Poor Joe smiled, and
then, falling down on his knees, waited, straining his ears to listen. It was not ten
minutes, but it seemed ten hours, when, through the roar, he heard a distant
shout go up. They were saved. Thank God! And then the dam burst with a roar like
thunder, and he was whirled away amid a chaos of tree trunks.
They found his little weak body four days afterwards, battered and bruised almost
out of recognition but his great brave soul had gone on to judgment.
Gentleman George's Bride
"WHEN it was known at Bullocktown that old Keturah Gow was going to be married
to Gentleman George, there was somelaughter and much shaking of heads.
"Keturah was a woman of hard middle age. Scotch by birth, and Presbyterian by
religion, she had come to Australia as the nurse of Flora McLeod, now Mrs.
Marrable, of Seven Creeks, and had lived twenty years in the bush. The man whom
she was about to marry was named George Harris. No one knew whence he came,
or how long he had lived in the colonies. He had no religion worth mentioning, and no
accomplishment save that of horsemanship. His age was three-and-twenty, or
thereabouts and being impatient of temper, handy with his fists, prodigal of his
money, and possessed of a certain gipsy beauty of face and figure, the intelligent
stockmen called him 'Gentleman George.'
"In vain did the gossips of Bullocktown animadvert upon the match. In vain did
Longbow borrow Muniford's spring-cart and Coppinger's grey mare for the express
purpose of making a pilgrimage to the Gap, and warning Neil Gow, the shepherd, of
the misery which awaited his sister. 'She must just gang her ain gate,' said
crippled Neil, wagging the stump of his arm in a feeble circle as though he would
fain have waved the hand that was wanting. 'I've said a' I can, I'll say nae
mair.''Shall I speak to her?' asked Longbow. 'As ye please,' quoth Neil ; 'but
Kitty's the deevil's temper, and maybe she'll claw oot ye're e'en, man!'So Longbow
sighed and shot ducks. In vain did Mrs. Marrable implore the headstrong old woman
to reconsider her determination. 'The fellows a ne'er-do-well, Keturah--John says
he is: he only wants your money (for Keturah had saved some £200 during her
servitude). He's a bad man.' Keturah only sighed and vowed that all the world was
prejudiced against puir Geordie. In vain did John Marrable--not without a hearty
English curse or two--command Gentleman George not to make a fool of himself
and to let the old woman alone. 'If she's minded to marry me,' said the young man,
with a droop of his thickly-lashed lids, 'It isn't for you to interfere, sir-- excuse
me. I suppose a man can marry anyone he likes.' 'I suppose he can, confound him,'
replied honest John Marrable. In vain did Coppinger, the publican, suggest--over a
nobbler of P.B.-- that George was throwing himself away. 'You'll have the whole
township laughing at you, George.'' Shall I?' returns George, fiercely, and
catching Alick, the blacksmith, in the very dead waste and middle of a grin,
forthwith pitched him into the sandy street. 'Folks won't laugh at me twice, I'll
pound it,' said he, and Alick--his mouth full of sand--re-echoed the sentiment with
spluttering humility. So the pair were married in due form, and the wedding feast
was held at the 'Saw-pits.'
"The 'Saw-Pits' was a public-house situated half-way between the Gap (where,
under the shadow of the hills, nestled Neil Gow's hut), and the distant Glimmera, on
whose farther bank smoked the chimneys of Coppinger's and drowsed the world of
Bullocktown. The High Road was wont to run through Bullocktown and bend
abruptly westward to avoid crossing the chain of water-holes called the Great
Glimmera River; but three floods and a new Postmaster-General, with a turn for
economy, had altered all that. The mail-carrying coaches had been directed to
take the shortest cut, and a bridge had been built, in order that they might do so
with convenience. The building of this bridge had established a colony of sawyers,
and the bridge completed, the mill was converted into a tavern. Where the carcass
is, there will the eagles be gathered together. Where is liquor, there flock the
bushmen. It is thus that townships are formed.
"The keeper of the 'Saw-pits' was one Trowbridge, who with his two daughters had
migrated from Bullocktown. Neil Gow was a great crony of his, and despite the
orders of Marrable (who, when a public-house was established on his run, thought
the end of the world was come) frequently rode the bob-tailed pony through the
sweet summer night, and 'hung him up'to Trowbridge's verandah-post. Trowbridge
and the one-armed boundary rider had often seriously conversed on the subject of
Keturah's approaching marriage, and it had been agreed that the wedding feast
should be held at the 'Saw-pits.'
"'She may do what she likes, lad,' said Trowbridge 'and if the match turns out ill,
neither thou nor I will be to blame. But if we don't make every mother's son of 'em
as drunk as a fiddler's bitch, my name ain't Tom Trowbridge!'
" The laudible purpose of the publican seemed likely to be fulfilled. Before the
wedding party arrived, the 'Saw-pits Hotel' was crowded. Trowbridge's Sunday
shirt had come to torment him before the time, and Alick anticipated the daily
period of his intoxication by full three hours. In the hollows round about the creek
were camped tilt-waggons galore, and in the half-acre of mud that did duty for the
stable-yard of the 'Saw-pits,' the brand new buggy of Jim Porter, the lucky
reefer, lay stranded like a skeleton-wreck upon a bleak, inhospitable shore.
Festoons of such wild flowers as were procurable, decorated the front of the
hostelry, and wreathed themselves lovingly about the transparent beauties of
Hennessy and Otard, while in the long room, where dancing was to be undergone,
the air was pungent with the exhilarating odour of smashed gum-leaves.To these
preparations arrived presently, in a cloud of dust, the bridal party.
"Let the classical reader recall the triumphs of old Rome, the glittering spears,
the hollow-clanging shield, the sound of the trumpets, the thunder of the captains,
and the shouting. First, galloping furiously, a crowd of horsemen, bearded and
long-haired, cracking their whips like pistol-shots, and filling the air with Homeric
laughter. Then a mass of vehicles, bumping, jolting, leaping, filled with men in white
shirts, and women with yellow shawls. Then were stockriders, some with led
horses, in order that the swift pace of the morning might be preserved on the
homeward journey. Now behind, now before, in the midst of this fury and clamour,
borne along, and overwhelmed by dust and friendship, clattered the triumphal
car--a hooded buggy lent by Coppinger, to which were attached four grass-fed
nags, postillioned by the two sons of Archy Fletcher, youths to whom, in the
matter of rapidity of locomotion, Jehu, the son of Nimshi, would have appeared but
as a farmer's wife, jogging with egg-laden panniers to market. From the buggy--
erked to a swaying standstill in the most approved bush method when the fore
legs of the leaders threatened the skillion window of the inn--descended, to
shouts that rent the hot heaven, the happy pair.
"Gentleman George was dressed in the height of bush fashion. A cabbage-tree hat,
so browned and battered that it boasted the colour of a well-smoked meerschaum,
adorned his handsome bullet-head. A short linen coat served but to enhance the
purity of a white shirt, from the falling collar of which fluttered the ends of one of
those gaily-coloured kerchiefs known to London costermongers as 'Kingsmen.'
Round his supple waist was girded a red silk sash, and tightly-fitted breeches of
creamy whiteness met, and defied boots, so marvellously black, so astonishingly
wrinkled, that Mr. Rapersole, bootmaker and parish clerk, had forgotten an Amen
in gazing at them. As this hero walked, the rowels of huge German-silver spurs,
loosely fastened by one broad semicircular strap, click-clacked upon the boards in
the musical manner so dear to the stockman's soul. Keturah, now Mrs. Harris, was
none the less imposing in her attire. She wore a purple shot-silk dress, on the
shifting surface of which played rays of crimson and gold, as shoot the colours of
the prism across a mass of molten metal. From beneath this marvel two white
boots played in and out--not so much like Sir John Suckling's mice as like plump
mill-rats newly escaped from a flour-bag. Keturah wore a red velvet bonnet
adorned with blue and white flowers; her shawl, fastened by a plaid brooch, was a
glowing yellow with a green border, and her hands swelled in all the magnificent
mockery of mauve kid gloves. Yet, with all this, her honest brown face shone with
an honesty of purpose and a hopefulness of future happiness that rendered it
"She hung lovingly on her husband's arm, smiling up at him, nor removing her eyes
from his face but to gaze proudly at the cheering crowd. He walked rather
quickly, and his lips tightly compressed, and his black eyes set forward steadily,
seemingly wrought up to endure the scene, but anxious to be quit of it. She
seemed to say, 'See what a noble husband I have won!' He seemed to say, 'I guess
your thoughts, but my marriage is none of your business.'" 'He's a temper, Jenny,'
said Susie Barnes. " 'My word!' assented Jenny. "'She aint such a bad-looking bit
of stuff after all,' said Jim Porter. 'I'd rather marry herthan break my leg, blowed
if I wouldn't.'" So the wedding feast began. " It is not for my feeble pen to detail
the glories of that day. The little township--buried as it was beneath the shadow
of the purple hills, and yet preserving in itself all the petty malice, the local
jealousy, the blatant conceit of larger towns--gave loose on this one occasion to
the wildest merriment. Local feuds were forgotten, personal hatreds forgiven or
suspended. Even Mr. McTaggart, a rabid Orangeman from Derry, forbore to attack
Mr. Michael Murphy, a rabid Ribbandman from Clare, and going out into the solitude
of the bridge, drank in silence his favourite toast of 'Here's the Pope in the devil's
belly, and Martin Luther pitching red hot priests at him!' a toast which was wont to
cause Mr. Murphy's 'bhlood to bhoil, bhoys,' and to bring about wrathful combats.
Fighting Fitz, the poundkeeper, who was at daggers drawn with Dick Mossop,
Scabby Barton's overseer, on account of a brindled poley bullock branded P.W.
over T.S. on the off rump, with a notch in both ears, and a star on the forehead,
consented to be friends again, and even offered to sell Dick a certain bay mare in
defiance of the Impounding Act. Rapersole, of course, could not be kept from
politics, and insisted on putting what he was pleased to call 'supposititious' cases
in such numbers that Neil Gow, vowing him a bletherin' bumbee's byke, took him by
the collar, and flourishing the stump of his arm menacingly, deposited him in an
empty buggy. The breakfast was an immense success. Tom Trowbridge presided,
having formally asked permission to lay aside his unaccustomed coat, and carved
a noble round of beef with the air of a gold stick in waiting. But a round of beef
was not the only viand. There was mutton broth and cow-heel, and an ox's head
decorated with flowers, and rump steaks, and sweetbreads, and a haggis, and
lamb's head, and sheep's trotters, and cold saddle of mutton, and preserved
peaches, and tins of jam, and sago pudding, and plum duff, and bottled ale, and
tea, and sweet cake, and brandy, and rum, and one bottle of champagne for the
ladies. "'My eyes that's a merry tightener!' said Chirrup, the mail-boy. 'Could you
eat any more, Archy?''No fear!' said Archy, ruefully, 'them blessed puff-tillooners
did my business.' After the breakfast and the speeches--you should have heard
Rapersole's!--and the digestive smoke, drinking and dancing commenced,
Trowbridge doing his best to carry out his promise to Neil Gow and vindicate his
self-impugned title to his name. Some notion of the result may be gleaned from a
glance at his bill, duly paid by Mrs. Keturah Harris two days afterwards.
"To Mr. George Harris' weding brakefast:-
Refreshments for lades
ginger Bear and bitters
Squar gin for six
Drinks for same
2 broken chares
Shout all round
Dit o parting
Beds for 12
Shampane for lades
Received by cash
"In the consumption of such items as those mentioned above did the day wear out;
and Trowbridge nobly fulfilled his promise. Of the sixty or seventy persons
present, but a very insignificant number went home sober. Indeed, had it not been
for the coquetry of Jenny Joyce, who, riding her father's bay horse, Walkover,
dared any of the young men to give her five minutes' start and catch her before
she reached the Bluff, there is no saying what might have happened. Eight or nine
of the best-mounted followed laughing Jenny, but no one got within arm's length of
her supple waist save Harry Scallan, and they do say that she checked her nag to
let him snatch the kiss he had begged for in vain. However, Harry never confessed
the fact; but as Dick Mossop, his rival, broke his horse's knees at Mount Hopeless,
but half-way to the Bluff, and Jenny became Mrs. Scallan a month afterwards,
Harry could afford to be generous. Two or three horse-accidents happened that
day. Jim Porter saddled his new buggy-horse, and attempting to ride him, despite
the advice of Gentleman George himself, was bucked ignominiously, and his
collar-bone ingloriously fractured. Lucy Sperrin's grey pony kicked Chirrup in the
stomach and hurt him badly. 'Serves him right for fossicking round me,'Miss Lucy
had said. 'I told him the mare was handy with her heels.' Poor Cooke--Mad Cooke,
who wore a silver plate on his head, to the wonder of Bullocktown--must needs
bring out his old stock-horse and witch the world with noble horsemanship.
'Heigh, boys! Heigh, boys!' he would cry while at full gallop. 'There's none of ye can
go up the hills like Ballie!'And indeed no one attempted to do so, all standing aghast
at the feats Ballie performed upon the side of the steep hill that shadowed the
inn, until poor Ballie put his foot into a hole, or slipped on a rolling stone, and his
master came to earth with a fresh brain concussion--the third in his short mad
life-time." Amid such sports the hot, sweet day wore out to cool evening. The
pure perfume of grass, and earth scented the air. The red sun sunk in glory behind
the ragged shoulder of the bluff. A purple mist slowly enveloped the hills the
laughing jackasses, merry fellows, set up a tremendous chattering; the frogs
began to babble in the marshes, the sheep to move off their camps, the cattle to
make for water. The wedding-day was over, and as, amidst a hurricane of cheers,
Gentleman George handed his wife to the spring-cart that was to bear them to
their home in the Swamp Hut, the great stars came slowly out and looked with
tender eyes upon this hopeful, ill-dressed bride.
"A week afterwards frolicsome Fitz, wandering in search of prey wherewith to
feed his ravenous Pound, met jolly Polwheal, the butcher, coming from the Swamp
"'Have you seen the bride' asked Fitz.
"'Ay, and a comely wench she's grown. She looks a young 'oman, Fitz.'
"'Does she?' says Fitz, 'That's rum, too.'
"Polwheal laughed. 'you're not a felosopher, Fitz ! Don't you know,' he added,
borrowing a metaphor from his own profession, 'that a working bullock, if you get
him fat after a spell, makes the best beef.'In regard to the appearance of Keturah
Harris, Mr. Polwheal was right. She had become a very comely woman. The lines in
her face had faded, her spare figure had rounded, her withered arms had
fattened, her grey eyes had a youthful sparkle, and her step a youthful lightness;
she seemed a younger woman by twenty years. If you passed by the Swamp Hut,
at any hour of the day, you could hear her singing, and the good-tempered woman
who brought you out a pannikin of tea, or asked you to have a slice of sweet cake,
was a very different being from 'old Ketty,' of the home station, the
shrewish-tongued and withered maiden who was the terror of wandering swagmen.
Bullocktown wondered at the change, and were not disinclined to roughly jest upon
the subject with Gentleman George. That worthy, however, went about his
business of stock-riding in silence, and seemed determined by honest attention to
his business to merit the kindness shown him by Mrs. Marrable, and deserve the
'married couple' billet which John Marrable had bestowed upon him.
"The astute reader will no doubt have come to the conclusion that this conduct of
Gentleman George was but assumed for his own ends; and the astute reader will
be right. Gentleman George had not the least intention of passing his life as
a stockrider to Mr. Marrable and as the young husband of an old woman. He had
married Keturah for her money, and intended, as soon as he could obtain that
money, to take himself off. Until he was in a position to do this securely, it was his
interest to be kind and gentle, and the scoundrel was kind and gentle accordingly. I
trust, however, that the astute reader who has discovered this will not consider
Mr. Harris a very great villain. For a young man to marry an old woman for her
money, is not such a very rare thing, nor have there been wanting cases in the
best society where the lady has been deserted afterwards. I admit, however, that
to perpetrate such an offence for two hundred pounds does show a coarseness of
intellect. If Keturah had been possessed of two hundred thousand pounds now, the
case would have been different, and good society might have admitted Mr. Harris
to its bosom without a pang. Yet men can but act according to their opportunity,
and I am sure that had Gentleman George seen his way to marry a lady with two
hundred thousand, or even one hundred thousand pounds, he would have left poor
"There is no necessity to protract the story at this period. In six months George
had got possession of the endorsed deposit receipt of the Bank of Australia,
Quartzborough, for £201 8s. 0d., had kissed his wife, told her he was going to look
after the mare and foal last seen in Ponsonby's paddock. Once clear of the hut he
saddled his own nag Peppercorn, secured his swag already 'planted' on the river
bank, set out a smart canter for Quartzborough; drew the money, and slept that
night at Hamilton, doing ninety-five miles in eleven and-a-half hours.
" Poor Keturah was like a mad woman. At first she thought that some accident
had befallen him, then that he was detained at a neighbouring station. She would
fain have roused all the station to look for him. She ran to her mistress raging and
upbraided her for not suffering the dam to be dragged. Then she began to
suspect, then to weep, then to vow revenge. 'He's left ye missis,' said the wife of
the other boundary-rider. 'He's a bad lot. Ye'd better forget him.'
"'I'll no forget him, the black villain,' said the deserted woman. 'I'll pray to God on
my bended knees that I may meet him, and if he's a heart o' flesh I'll wring it.'
" 'Come, Ketty,' said her mistress, some days after, 'It's no use greeting, woman.
The fellow's gone.'
"'Let him go,' said Ketty. 'I'll find him oot. Ef he's on his dying, bed, I'll find him oot,
and dinna let him ask me to raise a finger to save him.'
"'I must take her away,' said Mrs. Marrable to her husband. 'She can't bear the
sneers and looks of the folk about.'
"'All right, take her with you to town when you go,' said, John Marrable.
"Thus it came to pass that having been twenty years in the bush, Keturah Harris
became Upper nurse in the family of Mr. Thomas Marrable, of the firm of Marrable
and Davis, softgoods-men."
"THE soft-goods firm of Marrable and Davis was a wealthy one. The Marrable
interest consisted of Thomas Marrable (the brother of the station-owner) with his
son Harry, and Mr. Israel Davis, once chief clerk, now partner. The office was in
Flinders Lane--a big stuccoed building of four soreys, having swing-doors
embellished with double plates of brass. Mr. Marrable was a politician and an
importer. His son dressed in the latest London fashions, played loo and billiards
equally badly, and cherished a secret ambition to belong to the Melbourne Club. He
was a thin young man, with a blotched face; rode fairly to hounds, had large
private expenses of a disreputable sort, and avowed a profound contempt for
cads--which was unselfish. Mrs. Thomas was the daughter of a buttonmaker of
Birmingham; she brought 'money' into the business, painted her face daily, had
four unhealthy children, and compelled Marrable to reside at Toorak, in case she
should ever 'go into society.'" Mr. Davis lived in a cottage at St. Kilda, and was
remarkable for his bachelor parties. He was a tall, slim man of irreproachable
manners, and the slightest suspicion of an accent. He drank the best wine
procurable, smoked the best cigars, was a patron (and a judicious one) of the
fine-arts, owned a cultivated musical taste, and flattered himself that he was
utterly without principle. 'My dear fellows,' he would say to the guests (gentlemen
who ate his admirable dinner and d----d him going home 'for an infernal Jew, sir'), 'I
have no principle, and no religion. My father was a slopseller in Monmouth Street.
What's that to me ? I am myself with a good dinner, and a good digestion. You call
yourself Christians--bah--you're asses. Every man his own creed, that's my
motto. I am Israel Davis--that's my religion. Harry, here, who has been drinking
too much claret, thinks himself superior to me. Let him--that's his religion, and
quite sufficient for him.'
" Flinders Street respected Mr. Davis. 'He's a crafty beast, that beast Davis,' said
Mr. Podosokus, the bill-broker. 'He did me out of £50 as easy as kiss my hand.
Dam him. I like that fellow. He's such a beast.'
"'A thorough business man,' said Cammolard, of the Border Bank. 'A hard head. A
hard heart. A thorough business man.'
"'I don't like that Mr. Davis,' said Milly Smith, who met him at the Marrables' once.
'He's so polite.'
"'What do you mean, dear?' asked Mrs. Smith, but Milly couldn't explain.
"'I wonder if he has as large an interest in the firm as young Mr. Marrable,' said
"'I don't like young Mr. Marrable, either,' said poor Milly. 'He's so rude.'
"'That wasn't what I asked you, Miss,' said the old lady sharply, and fell into a
"Now, despite his hard-headed and hard-heartedness, Mr Davis had done one kind
thing. He had 'taken up' a bill signed 'Marrable and Davis,' which was written by Mr.
Harry. This bill was for £250 and had been discounted by Mr. Davis's
unacknowledged brother, Zebulon Davis, the proprietor of the Victorian Loan and
Discount Company, capital £300,000,000, offices 29 Elizabeth Street East. Mr.
Zebulon Davis was the 'Company,' and the capital was supplied by Mr. Israel. When
some poor devil of a borrower took his miserable acceptance to the offices at 29
Elizabeth Street, he would be received by Zebulon, who would scan the oblong slip
doubtfully, saying, 'It ish an unushual transhaction, Mr. Blank, but I'll lay it before
the Board,' and so send a messenger round to Israel, with particulars. If Israel said
'Yes,'the cash, less 90 per cent., was handed to applicant. If Israel said
'No,'Zebulon would put off the transaction for a day or two, on pretence of making
inquiries, and then suggest that, perhaps, 'with another namesh'--&c.
"When a bill for £120, with the signature of the firm, was presented to Israel, he
saw the state of the case at once, and being a business man he directed it to be
discounted on easy terms. 'It is a forgery,' said he to his brother when they met
that evening. 'It is sure to be taken up.' Sure enough it was taken up by Mr. Harry
in person, who had borrowed £120 from Davis 'just for twenty-four hours.' The
next day Harry brought the company another bill for £250-- 'I don't like to put it
through the bank,' he said, 'but it's all right.' By his brother's directions, the
'Company' cashed this second forgery, and on the day it fell due, Mr. Davis called
Harry into his private room and showed him the document.
"'Do you see this?'
"Harry turned very pale.
"'The money-lender to whom you took it had his suspicions, and brought it here.
Fortunately I saw him, and not your father. I have paid it.'
"Harry, stammering thanks and excuses, stretched out his hand for the
document, but Mr. Davis twitched it away.
"'Oh, no,' he said. 'Excuse me, dear boy, I shall keep this until you repay me the
"It was after this transaction that Harry Marrable's face became blotchy, and
that he had that awkward fit. Dr. Dignato knew it was brandy, so he said it was
blood, and ordered the boy to go into the country. Thomas Marrable sent him to
his brother's station.
"At last Harry Marrable saw a way of paying his debt to the hated Davis--the very
way by which he had incurred it. Honest Jack Griswold's 'Trumpeter' was certain
to win the steeplechase, and as the 'talent' didn't think so, Harry could get 20 to
1 about him. A simple outlay of £12 10s. would free him from Mr. Israel Davis at
once and for ever. Honest jack Griswold was a man of honour (so the sporting
world thought), and his horses ran straight, which was more than did those
of some other men. The 'talent,' --consisting of Mr. Blackadder, Mr. Samuelson,
Mr. Barnabas, Mr. Mephisto, and little Tobyman--had been assured that the horse
for 'this event' was 'Bandoline' (by 'Cosmetic,' out of that famous mare
'Bearsgrease'), and laid their 20 to 1 accordingly. Harry got on his money, and
being informed by some broken-down hanger-on of the 'Ring' that 'Trumpeter' was
'meant,' felt happy. Mr. Israel Davis (who betted a little also) had invested against
Honest John Griswold's stable, simply because he believed that a man who was
called Honest must necessarily be a rogue.
"Such were the conflicting interests that revolved round the house at Toorak in
which old Keturah was upper nurse.
"Now there is--or was--a place called the Casino de Carambole. It stands midway
in the street of Bourke, and is frequented by wicked people. Its pillars are
mock-malachite, its glass is mock-crystal, its gooseberry-juice is
mock-champagne, and its love-making is mock-turtle. The ostensible landlord of
this saloon was one Oily O'Connor, a fighting man; the real owner was Zebulon
Davis, and behind him was the gentlemanly partner of Marrable and Co. Not that
Israel ever went there. Not he. His taste was too refined for such vulgar
debaucheries, he simply drew a share of the profits. The sort of people who went
were overseers of stations, juvenile owners of the same young men of fashion
(Heaven help them!) who came out from England superfluously oxygenated,
betting-men, card-sharpers, day-waiters at hotels, and now and then some stray
newspaper-man, or officer of the Frolicking Five Thousandth.
"'It isn't that I am a moral man,' said Davis, when urged to visit this scene of
revelry, 'but the place is so deuced unwholesome.' He was right, it was very
unwholesome. Perhaps one of the most unwholesome elements in it was the
perpetual presence of the 'Talent.' Mr. Blackadder, shiny of eye, and Rat of head;
Mr. Samuelson, small of stature, and red crimpy of hair, freckled and moist of
countenance. Mr. Barnabas, cold and reserved; Mr. Mephisto, perpetually grinning
at the world through the horse-collar of his own whiskers; and little Tobyman, that
loathsome pretender to childish gaiety and innocence. These worthies would knot
in corners like vipers, would lean over bars until the crowns of their bran-new hats
were the only objects visible to the spectator, would hoarsely 'shout' champagne,
or dance on the waxed floor with exuberance of gesture. A variety of dimly-lighted
bar-rooms surrounded this delightful spot, and to these such pigeons as Harry
Marrable were admitted--as into traps. The 'talent'--presumedly under the
influence of gooseberry-juice--were wont to drop awful hints of 'stable secrets,'
upon the knowledge of which 'pots' of money could be put with absolute safety.
When Mr. Davis spoke of the Casino to his brother, he always wiped his hands with
"'I wish that confounded den of yours was burnt down,' he said one day. 'It is
positively a disgrace to the city.'
"'Oh, no, yer don't, Israel,' said Zebulon, grinning with all his yellow fangs (the
teeth of this honest fellow were ringed near the gums, as though they were posts
stuck into a spongy soil, which had sunk since their first embedding). 'Oh, no, yer
don it. It's worth five thousand pounds any day.'
"' I do with all my heart,' repeated Israel, earnestly. 'It's a disreputable hole,
that's what it is, and--and I've just insured it for ten.'
"'I can't understand how that ruffian O'Connor keeps that sink of iniquity going,'
remarked Tom Provis the same evening at the dinner-table of Mr. Davis, 'I suppose
the Jews--' and then he felt his host's keen eye upon him, and paused.
"'Go on, dear sir,' said Davis; 'you would say the Jews help him. So they do.
O'Connor isn't his name. His name is Levison. I am connected with his family. We
are all connected; we all help each other. Do you ever see a Jew dig, or beg, or do
menial service? Did you ever have a Jew servant? Did you ever know a Jew,
however poor, who hadn't a sovereign to lend at interest? My dear sir, we Jews
rule the world. Freemasonrystuff! Priestcraftbosh! When we were turned out of
that ill-built and inconvenient town, Jerusalem, we made a vow to take possession
of the Universe--and we've done it, too.'
"'But how ?' asked Provis, 'how?'
"'By sticking together,' said Mr. Davis. 'All Jewry my dear Provis, is one great
firm--a huge bank which keeps the table against all Christendom. By the way,
talking of banks, shall we cut the light pack or call the rattling main?'
"'All right,' said Provis, and presently proved his birthright as a Christian by losing
"Now into this Casino there strolled one evening Mr. Finch, the gentleman who was
to ride 'Bandoline.'
"'Can you tell me where I can find Mr. Blackadder,' said he 'I want to see him
"Harry Marrable, who, in company with a cigar and a friend (of equally bad odour in
different ways), was gleaning 'information,' heard the question, saw that the long
coat and neat boots belonged to a horsey-man, and guessed that something was
wrong with Mr. Blackadder's property.
"Blackadder came out of an adjoining pigeon-hole, and bent to hear the news. 'I'll
be out in the morning, Finch,' he said, and as Finch turned to go, Harry jumped up
with an exclamation of surprise.
"'George Harris, by Jove!' said he, and clapped him on the back.
"Gentleman George turned very red and then very pale when he saw who it
was--the pair had often ridden together at Seven Creeks and made as though he
would fain get away. Harry held him fast, 'Look here, George,' he said, 'your old
woman's living nurse at my mother's, do you know that?'
"'Don't say you saw me,' said the other. 'Well,' returned Harry, 'I don't see why I
shouldn't. Come in here, and let us have a talk.'
"Herewas the Yorick's Head, a theatrical tavern kept by one Porboy, and a place
not likely to be visited by members of the Ring.
"'Sit down and have a drink,' said the young man, pointing to a chair situated
beneath a portrait of G. V. Brooke. 'So you are going to ride 'Bandoline.' Two
whiskies, Mrs. Porboy, please. Hot? No; cold. Cold, my girl. Now, George, look here.
Where have you been hiding ? There's been a jolly row over this bolting.'
"'I don't see what business that is of yours, Mr. Harry,' said the stockman, his
false eyes drooping. 'It won't do you any good to set my wife on to me.'
"'Well, no; it wouldn't do me any good,' returned the boy, sipping the whisky: 'but
it ain't right, you know, George. 'Pon my soul it ain't. The old soul's awfully cut up
"'What does she say ?' asked Gentleman George, looking very hard at James
Anderson as Ingomar.
"'She don't say much,' replied the other, ' but she thinks a lot. She'll make it hot
for you when she meets you, you be bound. It'll put you on the roads, my boy, or
something like it,' he added with a shiver.
"Gentleman George seemed to read all the petty soul of the wretched young
profligate in the evil glance he cast at him.
"'Would you like to make some money, Mr. Harry?' he asked.
"'Should I? By Jove, I should!' said Harry, thinking of the accursed bill, and the
thrice-accursed Davis. 'Do you know a way?'
"'I ride "Bandoline" next week. Lay against him.'
"'Then you'll lose.'
"'Well, you're a queer fellow. If I shall lose, why tell me to risk my money.'
"'If you won't say anything about me to the old woman, you shan't lose your
money, for "Bandoline" shan't win!'
"'You are a pretty scoundrel!' said the young forger, feeling quite indignant at the
mention of a sin to which he was unaccustomed.
"'Think of the money you can make,' said Gentleman George.
"'If I pull "Bandoline," you can put the pot on "Trumpeter," and make money both
ways. It's only holding your tongue for a week after all.'
Harry Marrable took a turn up and down the room.
"'I won't tell your wife until after the race, at all events,' he said 'and if
"'He won't win, Mr. Harry,' returned the man. 'I've no wish to meet that old
skeleton any more, I can tell you.'
"With this tacit agreement, they then parted."
"THE appearance of a racecourse is much the same all the world over, and the
Melbourne Racecourse differs only from that of Epsom in the regard of an octave.
The melody of the turf is set a little lower to suit the less refined ears of
our musicians. The grand opera of a steeplechase varies only in the class of
singers; our tenor is not so good as he of London, our prima donna would not be
thought much of at Liverpool, and our corps de ballet is neither so well dressed
nor so well drilled as that which dances on the springy sward of the Downs, or joins
in the tremendous chorus which salutes the winner of the Grand National. But we
do our best to put the production of Signor Sathanas on the stage, and our
libretto is translated into Australian by the best man we can discover. Our
resources may be insufficient, but no one can doubt our willingness to please. The
dramatis personae jockeys, fine ladies, lorettes, Jews, three-card-men, loafers,
swindlers, gamblers, pickpockets and police--are represented to the best of our
ability, and if we do not raise the curtain upon so splendid an array of beauty and
fashion as that which yearly beams from the dress-circle of the Epsom Grand
Stand, we have at least equalled the legitimate theatre in our transpontine luxury
of villains. The 'Ring' is overpoweringly admirable. No racecourse in the world can
boast greasier, flashier, hoarser-voiced, or dirtier-handed bookmakers than
Mephisto, Blackadder, Samuelson, Barnabas & Co.
"Young Harry Marrable, walking up and down the lawn--elbowed by bawling
bookmakers shouting the odds beneath the charming noses of the soft-goods
aristocracy--was ill at ease. He had not seen Gentleman George, otherwise Mr.
Finch, since the evening he had met him so opportunely at the 'Casino,' and though
he had followed the advice given him in the matter of backing 'Trumpeter,' he was
by no means certain that the ingenious husband of poor Keturah would perform his
promise. Mr. Davis--who, resplendent in white coat and lavender gloves, smoked a
priceless cigar on the cynical retirement of a camp-stool--had taken occasion a
few minutes before to remind him that he 'wanted that £250 to-morrow, dear
boy.' The course buzzed with the name of 'Bandoline,' upon the result of whose
performance the greatly little Tobyman was understood to have risked £2,000. In
addition to these anxieties was the awkward feeling that he had no business there
at all, for his father, Thomas Marrable, had been taken seriously ill two days
before, and was even then in a 'critical' condition. So, with fevered hands, dry lips,
and an unpleasant feeling as of mental indigestion, Harry watched the
preparations for the event of the day.
"'--refused the jump,' and amid a furious medley of cheers, groans, and yells,
'Trumpeter' and 'Bandoline,' alone in the race, had but one fence between them
and victory. 'Bandoline' led by half a length, Gentleman George sitting well back,
composed, and easy.
"'That fellow can ride,' said Horsefall. 'Who is he?'
'A man called Finch, a horse-breaker, I think,' returned Captain Pips. 'I don't know
anything--ah ! My God, he's killed.'
" It was 'Trumpeter's' race, for 'Bandoline,' swerving at the final fence, breasted
it, toppled, and fell, crushing his rider beneath him.
"Harry turned sick. Was this an accident, or had the daring scoundrel, recklessly
faithful to Luck and his promise, 'pulled' the beast as he had agreed, and so
brought about this catastrophe? Blackadder, muttering oaths, shouldered his way
through the crowd.
"'He has broken his neck,' said he to Tobyman.
"'Has he?' said Tobyman, ruefully adjusting the hat upon which he had jumped
three minutes before. 'I knowd he was ridin' too 'ard at it.'
"'He be damned,' says Blackadder, roughly contemptuous, 'I mean the horse.'
"Harry felt a hand on his shoulder. It was that of Mr. Israel Davis, and its touch
was not quite so firm as usual.
"'How did you come off?' he asked.
"'I've won,' said Harry. 'I can pay you that money the day after to-morrow.'
"' I'm glad of that,' said Davis. ' I shall want all the money I can get. I have lost a
small fortune--for me. Curse the brute!'
"'I don't think it--it was the horse's fault,' said Harry. ' It--it seemed--'
"'Of course it wasn't the horse's fault,' snapped Davis, no longer a Russian but a
Tartar;' I meant the man.'
"While they were cheering Trumpeter and Griswold, somebody brought a hurdle,
upon which the unhappy rider of the dead horse was lifted and borne off the
course. When Harry, trembling to know the worst, reached the spot, he saw only
turf, trampled with boot-heels, and ploughed with an insignificant furrow at the
place where ill-fated 'Bandoline' had literally bitten the dust. He made for the
gates and home.
"His father was no better, and Mrs. Harris, who had been invested with the
responsibility of nursing the invalid, shook her head when questioned. By-and-by
Dr. Dignato came, in a carriage accompanied by a kennel of dogs, and remarked
that 'our patient must have quiet--perfect quiet. So I heard they killed a man
to-day.' Mrs. Marrable had retired to her own room, and sent down her 'maid'
every hour to 'make inquiries.' The children had been ordered to refrain from
noise, and were 'playing at visiting.' Miss Mabel was the lady of the house, and
said, ' How do you do?'to Miss Fanny. ' Did you go to the concert? How are the
dear children?' After this they had a 'dinner party' at which little Toodles and
Master Alfred personated the two 'poor relations,' and were instructed by Miss
Mabel (a clever girl for her age) to refuse a second helping of pudding while Fanny
(as footman) took care to only give them 'once champagne.' Harry went into the
garden and smoked bitterly.
"He had won his money, and released himself from Davis. So help him Heaven, he
would never run risks of this nature again. He hoped that George hadn't done that
purposely. It didn't look as if he had, although it was rumoured that people near
the chair had seen him pull the horse off the jump. He hoped he wasn't dead.
Should he tell old Keturah? What would be the use? He would 'sound' her, and see
in what mood she would be likely to take the news that her husband had been
found. "He went to town next day as usual, and ' stuck to business.'
" On the evening he said to Keturah, 'Have you ever heard of your husband, Mrs.
"'No sir,' said she, with a blush and a frown, 'and dinna want to.'
"'Ah! Somebody told me that they had seen him at--at Ballarat.'
"'It's like enough. But, if you please, Mr. Harry, say nae mair; he's dead to me, let
him be where he may, the black villain.'
"'But, Ketty, suppose now that you heard he were ill, would you go to him ?'
"'--if you heard he was dead.'
"She turned pale, ' What do you mean, sir--it's ill jesting wi' me. I tell ye, I'd not go
if he were dying in yon room, unless he sent for me; and then I'd tell the villain
what I thought o' him,' and leaving her questioner with an iron face, she went
straight to her own room and inconsequentially wept.
"The next day Mr. Marrable felt better.
"'Bring Davis home with you to-night, Harry,' he said 'I want to talk to him.'
Mr. Davis started when Harry gave him the message, and asked if Mr. Marrable had
quite recovered. 'No, but he's much better, thank God,' said Harry. 'I say Davis, I'll
get that money for you this afternoon.' ' All right,' said Davis, frowning. 'I am glad
to hear it.' But when Harry Marrable had shut the door of Mr. Israel Davis's room,
that gentleman took the trouble to lock it after him, and then sat down to
ruminate on his own position.
"The fact was--Mr. Israel confessed it to himself with many
self-reproaches--that his vaunted sagacity had been at fault of late. His dubious
speculations in 'bills' had not turned out so well as he thought he had a right to
expect. Much 'paper,' of a kind which the 'Company' had imagined to be of the
'safest,' had been returned upon him. Some obnoxious journalist, in want of a
'subject,' had chosen to attack the Casino de Carambole, and a series of 'leaders'
upon that institution-- 'leaders'which bristled with moral sentiments and blazed
with Latin quotations, more or less incorrectly printed--had appeared in the daily
press. The unlucky accident to 'Bandoline' had placed Mr. Davis in sore straights
for money, and he confessed dismally that the £250 which that accident would
enable young Marrable to pay him would be but a small instalment of the sum the
bookmakers would demand that evening. He had counted upon this 'bill' being a
tower of financial strength to him in days to come. When Mr. Harry Marrable was
admitted to a larger participation in the profits of the firm, the astute Davis had
promised himself that he would not part with the forgery for less than three
times the amount which he had paid for it. Mr. Marrable was ill. It was possible that
he might die. It was probable that he would take a less active part in business, and
that the time for the 'sweating' of the foolish Harry was nigh at hand. It was
provoking that by a turn of fortune Mr. Israel was to be a loser in a double sense.
He went to the safe and took out the bill. There it lay--worth £1,000, at
least, if he could only keep it a few months longer. The signature was well forged.
The words Marrable and Davis were capitally imitated. Mr. Israel smiled as he
recognised the final flourish of his own 's.' How provoking to be compelled to give
up so splendid a prize! He began to wonder at the mood in which Master Harry
must have found himself when he began forgery as a profession. He could imagine
Harry Marrable with the door locked, as it was locked now--playing with a pen, as
he himself now played--scribbling the signature of the firm, as he himself now--!
A bright notion occurred to Davis. He thought he saw a way to receive the £250,
and keep the bill into the bargain. He would try.
"He was engaged in 'trying' for some time, and having at last succeeded to his
satisfaction, he put on his hat and went out. 'If Mr. Henry should ask for me,' said
he to the chief clerk, 'be good enough to tell him that I have gone home, and that I
will see him at his father's this evening.' The clerk delivered the message, and
Harry felt a little alarmed. Surely, Davis did not intend to reveal the ugly secret!
No, he could not imagine that.
" He sat with the sick man, on thorns, until the grinding of Davis's cab-wheels upon
the gravel proclaimed his fate at hand.
"'Here he is,' he cried. ' I'll fetch him up,' and meeting Israel on the stairs, he
dragged him from the stairs into the dressing-room adjoining the bed-chamber.
"'Where's the bill?'
"Mr. Israel was very calm.
"'I am sorry I was obliged to leave, Harry. How is your father?'
"'Better,' said Harry. 'Have you got it with you ?'
"'I have,' said Mr. Davis, producing the bill from his pocket, and waving it gently in
"'Then here's the money,' cried the poor boy, ' see, twelve £20 notes and a £10;
"'I do not know, sir,' returned Mr. Davis, ' If I am altogether justified in giving up
this document. I really, think, dear boy, that your father ought to be informed of
"'Oh, for God's sake!' cried Harry in great alarm.
"'I am sorry, dear boy, but really ----'
"'Is that you, Davis?' said the voice of the sick man querulously; 'why don't you
"'Oh Davis! give it to me!' urged Harry, with dry lips. 'Here take the money, I'll give
you £50 more, I will, upon my honour Davis, I say.'
"Mr. Israel Davis seemed to relent. He set his back against the dressing-room
door, and extending one hand for the money, held out the bill with the other.
"'Here then,' he said, nodding at the lowered gas-lamp, 'take it and let me see it
burned before I leave the room.'
"Harry clutched the bill, and had already held it towards the flame, when the door
was flung open with that violence which is natural in a person who wishes to
hastily enter a room, and who is ignorant that any impediment is likely to prevent
him so doing with ease. The effect of this accident was to propel the elegant
Israel forcibly forward.
"'I beg your pardon,' cried Keturah, the intruder, aghast, 'but, the master's calling
"Mr. Davis muttered something inelegantly like an oath, and Harry, seeing through
the open door his father's face, was seized with a sudden impulse.
"He ran into the room, flung himself by the bedside, and holding out the forged
acceptance, sobbed out his story in a few hurried words.
"'I was in debt, father. They pressed me. I did this. Mr. Davis had it. I have paid
him. See, here it is. Forgive me!'
"Mr. Israel Davis stood astounded. Of all things in heaven and earth, he had not
calculated upon this!
"Thomas Marrable raised himself in his bed and called his Partner.
"'What is this, Mr. Davis? My boy forged upon the firm--you should have told me. I
would have paid it sooner than that this should happen.'
"'I thought, sir,' returned Mr. Davis, whose agitation had subsided into a wolfish
calmness, 'that you would be glad to be spared the pang of knowing such an--an
indiscretion. The note was presented to me, and I paid it. Do you blame me?'
"'--No,no,' said poor Thomas Marrable. 'You did it for the best, I have no doubt;
"'Say no more, dear sir,' said Mr. Israel. 'Your son, I am sure, is truly penitent. Let
us burn the bill, and forget that----'
" ' Why !--Why!--Why, you infernal scoundrel!' burst out young Mr. Harry, who had
been staring at the fatal paper. 'This--this is not the bill l gave you!'
"'Nonsense!' said Mr. Davis, showing his teeth in a vicious grin. 'What else should it
be, give it to me, and let me burn it.'
"In his haste he made as though he would absolutely tear it out of the young man's
hands, but Harry held it fast.
"'See, father. This is not the bill. I am sure it is not. That is not my signature.'
"'Mr. Davis,' says Thomas Marrable, 'what the devil is the meaning of this? Where
is the bill that you say my son has forged?'
"'You have it in your hand, sir.'
"The old man looked from one to the other in bewilderment. He was an honest
tradesman, and he did not comprehend such complications of finance. Harry--who
was in advance of his father in knowledge of roguery, by virtue of the very
forgery he had committed--came to the right conclusion.
"'I see what it is, father,' he said, 'he has forged this, so that I might burn it. He
has got the original bill himself.'
" Mr. Israel Davis was no common rogue, and he saw that there was but one way
to redeem his blunder.
"'My dear Mr. Marrable, your son is right. How much will you give me to return you
the bill, and retire from the firm?'
"'I'll--I'll send you to gaol!' cries Marrable.
"'--And have the transaction explained in court? No, that would be a blunder
worse than mine. Give me £500 and we will exchange documents.'
"'I'll see you ---- first,' says Thomas Marrable.
"'Not first, dear sir, not first,' returned Israel Davis, regaining all his composure.
'Afterwards you may have that pleasure. Come, £500. I will forego 20 per cent. on
my share in the business and leave on the day your cheque for the balance is
"'I will see my solicitors,' groaned Thomas.
"'I will see them if you like, dear sir; I shall explain matters more fully.'
"Thomas Marrable stared.
"'Are you not ashamed to talk like this,' he said at last.
"'Ashamed! why should I be ashamed?' said Davis, with coolness. 'I was ashamed
when you found me out--ashamed that I had allowed so trivial ill accident as the
sudden opening of a door to disarrange my plans. But that is all, dear sir. You are
a Christian, so is your dear boy there. You would be ashamed, perhaps. You have a
"moral sense", a "society", a "parson." Bah. I am Israel Davis.'
"'You are a monstrous scoundrel! Go. I will write to my solicitors.'
"'Good evening, my, dear sir,' said Mr. Israel.
"They heard his cart-wheels crunch the gravel, and then old Marrable looked at his
"'It was my fault, Harry. I should never have allowed you to come in contact with
that scoundrel. He is enough to corrupt any one.'
Harry Marrable suffered the excuse to be made, and left the sick-room with stern
promise of repentance and amendment. On his way he met Keturah, cloaked and
"'0h, Harry, tell me,' cried she, 'Did you know anything?'
"'What do you mean?'
"'When you spoke to me last night about my husband. He's sent for me.'
"'The, deuce he has!'
"'A cab's come to fetch me. I have seen the mistress.I am going at once. Tell me,
Mr. Harry is he sick or well?'
"'How should I know, Ketty,' said the young man, fearful of betraying himself. 'He
can't be ill if he has sent for you. Go and Make it up with him.'
"'No, I'll never do that,' said Keturah, her anger rising. ' I'll see him, and tell him my
opinion o' him, as I vowed I would do.'
" The cab which had been sent for Mrs. Harris was not a handsome vehicle. The
wheels were disagreeably loose, the iron step was bent and twisted, the cushions
were mouldy, the tarpaullin-hood ragged and insufficient. The conduct of the
driver, moreover, was not calculated to inspire confidence. He was a large,
loose man, with a white nose and a mottled face. His enemies said that he drank
so much brandy that his nose had passed through the red stage and achieved a
white heat. He wore a flapping Yankee hat, and drove at a great pace, shouting.
"So rapid was the manner in which the ricketty vehicle was whirled through space,
that it was not until the panting horse dropped into a grateful walk at Prince's
Bridge that the poor old woman felt herself enabled to ask questions.
"'Who sent ye? and how far's Flemington?'
"'Barney Welsher sent me,' returned white-nose, 'and it's about two mile.'
"'Who's Barney Welsher?' asks Keturah alarmed.
"'He keeps the "Horse and Jockey" on the Flemington course there. I'm a
Flemington car, I am. I driven Joe Blueitt and another bloke, ye see, over there, ye
see, when--cck !--out comes Barney, and ses "Go to Toorak and find Mr.
Marrable's 'ouse, ask for a Mrs. Harris, and tell 'er 'er 'usban' wants 'er. Bring 'er
out 'ere," he says, "and drive like 'ell" he ses. Ha'ay ! Gu-u- u-ur!
"--And the banging and slamming of the jolting car rendered further explanation
" Keturah was considerably relieved when the man, who had never ceased to howl
at his horse, or to thwack him violently with a lashless whip, pulled up in safety
beneath the solitary lamp of a lonely public-house, and sat gloomily waiting for Mr.
Welsher to emerge. At sight of this worthy hirer of cabs poor Keturah felt a
strange terror seize her. Mr. Welsher was in his shirt-sleeves, a pipe decorated
his mouth, and in his left paw he held a very greasy 'hand' of cards. Nevertheless,
when he espied the old woman, he handed her out with a solemnity
that--contrasted with his appearance and evident pursuit--had something bodeful
"'I heard that--that my husband was here,' said Keturah.
"'So he is, marm,' replied Mr. Welsher, scanning her curiously. 'Walk in. There's
some coves in the parlour, but dont mind them. 'Ave a drop o' gin after your
drive? No--well, then, this way.'
"The 'coves in the parlour' were not prepossessing. They were the sort of 'coves'
engendered in the foul air of a stable; the sort of 'coves' to whom the inside of a
prison would not he unfamiliar, it might be wagered. In the 'parlour' was that
atmosphere of oaths and brandy, onions, cheese, and humanity, which may be
found in apartments where seven foul-fed, foul-clothed, foul-mouthed ruffians
have been playing'euchre' for nine, consecutive hours. The cleanly Scotchwoman
drew her honest petticoats about her and walked daintily. This was a strange place
to where she had been brought, yet she felt that no harm was meant. Mr. Welsher
politely aided her entrance, by saying, 'Now, then, make room there. Blarst yer,
make room.' The terms in which the request was couched were not elegant, but
they were intelligible, and Keturah felt that the sentence was dictated by a spirit
of the truest politeness.
"She passed through the unsavoury crowd and entered a room beyond the
adjoining passage. Something was lying on a bed there. Something bound up.
Something which had candles burning at its bedside, and a cup of water within
reach of the hand it could not move. Something which Keturah Harris would have
taken for a corpse, but for the great black eloquent eyes of it, which gazed at her
with all the dumb agony of a dying dog.
"Revenge melted into air.
"'Geordie! my bairn! Geordie, my jo!'
"Mr.Welsher reverently damned his soul, and shut the door, for the old faithful
wife was on her knees at her husband's bedside.
"But what became of Israel Davis?"
" Who knows. He made good terms with the Marrables and left the colony--it is
rumoured for America. But a man of his ability could get on anywhere."
"And now tell us the end of Mrs. Harris."
"I can only tell you this, that her story is true from beginning to end. Mrs. Harris
is a 'charwoman.' She comes and washes stairs and so on at my house. When she
gets her miserable wage, she goes home--to a wretched little house in a poor
Melbourne suburb. In that house, there is a paralyzed and helpless man who has
not yet reached middle-age. He is her husband. She expends her earnings in buying
him nourishing food, and paying a child to mind him when she is away. She lives on
scraps and pieces, and broken victual. He has brandy and tobacco. Aye, I've seen
the woman hold the pipe to the speechless lips of the poor blackguard while he
pulled at it!"
"Ah! there is a great deal of poetry in the lives of some very unpoetical-looking
people, isn't there?
BULLOCKTOWN is situated, like all up-country townships, on the banks of something
that is flood in winter and a mud-hole in summer. For general purposes the
inhabitants of the city, called the something a river, and those intelligent land
surveyors that mark "agricultural areas" on the tops of lofty mountains, had
given the river a very grand name indeed.
The Pollywog Creek, or as it was marked on the maps, the Great Glimmera, took
its rise somewhere about Bowlby's Gap, and after constructing a natural
sheepwash for Bowlby, terminated in a swamp, which was courteously termed
Lake Landowne. No man had ever seen Lake Landowne but once, and that was
during a flood, but Lake Landowne the place was called, and Lake Landowne it
remained; reeds, tussocks, and brindled bullocks' backs to the contrary
notwithstanding. There was a legend afloat in Bullocktown, that an unhappy
new-comer from Little Britain had once purchased Lake Landowne from the
Government, with the intention of building a summer residence on its banks, and
becoming a landed proprietor. The first view of his estate, however, as seen from
the hood of a partially submerged buggy, diverted his ambition to brandy and
water, and having drunk hard for a week at the "Three Posts," he returned into
his original obscurity by the first Cobb's coach driver that could be prevailed upon
to receive him.
I do not vouch for the truth of the story, I only know that a peculiarly soapy part
on the edge of the "lake" was known as "Smuggins' Hole," by reason of Smuggins,
the landed proprietor, having been fished therefrom at an early period of his
aforesaid landed proprietorship.
However, any impartial observer in the summer months could see Spot and Toby
and Punch, and the rest of the station bullocks, feeding hard in the middle of the
lake, and if, after that, he chose to make observations, nobody minded him. Mr.
Rapersole, the bootmaker, and correspondent of the Quartzborough Chronicle,
had a map in his back parlour, with Lake Landowne in the biggest of possible print
on it, and that was quite enough for Bullocktown. Impertinent strangers are locally
speaking the ruin of a township.
There was a church in Bullocktown, and there were also three public-houses. It is
not for me to make unpleasant comments, but I know for a fact that the minister
vowed that the place wasn't worth buggy-hire, and that the publicans were making
fortunes. Perhaps this was owing to the unsettled state of the district--in
up-country townships most evils (including floods) are said to arise from this
cause--and could in time have been remedied. I am afraid that religion, as an art,
was not cultivated much in Bullocktown. The seed sown there was a little mixed in
character. One week you had a Primitive Methodist, and the next a Hardshell
Baptist, --and the next an Irvingite or a Southcottian. To do the inhabitants
justice, they endeavoured very hard to learn the ins and outs of the business, but
I do not believe that they ever succeeded. As Wallaby Dick observed one day, "
When you run a lot of paddocked sheep into a race, what's the good o' sticking
half-a-dozen fellers at the gate? The poor beggars don't know which way, to run!"
The township being on a main road, and not owning a resident parson, all sorts of
strange preachers set up their tents there. It was considered a point of honour
for all travelling clergymen ("bush parsons," the Bullocktownians called them) to
give an evening at the "brick edifice." Indeed, Tom the publican (who owned the
land on which the "edifice" was built), said that it was "only fair to take turn
about, one down t'other come on, a clear stage and no favour," but, then, Tom
was a heathen, and had been a prize-fighter. I think that of all the many
"preachments" the inhabitants suffered, the teetotal abstinence was received
with the greatest favour. The "edifice" was crowded, and Trowbridge, vowing that
the teetotaler was a trump, and had during, the two hours he had been in his
house drunk ginger-beer enough to burst a gasometer, occupied the front pew in
all the heroic agony of a clean shirt and collar. The lecture was most impressive.
Tom wept with mingled remorse and whisky, and they say that the carouse which
took place in his back-bar after the pledge was signed was the biggest that had
been known in Bullocktown since the diggings. The lecturer invited everybody to
sign, and I believe that everybody did. "Roll up, you poor lost lambs," he cried,
"and seal your blessed souls to abstinence!" He did not explain what "abstinence"
meant, and I have reason to believe that the majority, of his hearers thought it a
peculiar sort of peppermint bitters, invigorating and stimulating beyond the
average of such concoctions.
The effect, however, was immense. The lambs signed to a wether, and where they
could not sign, made their marks. The display of ignorance of the miserable art of
writing nearly rivalled that shown at a general election. As the lecturer said
afterwards, over a pint of warm orange-water in the bar-parlour, "It was a
blessed time," and Mrs. Mumford, of the Pound, volunteered to take her "dying
oath" (whatever that might be) that Jerry had never been so "loving drunk" in all
his life before. Billy, the blackfellow, came up to the homestead two days
afterwards, gaping like a black earthquake, and informed us that he had taken
"blackfellow pledge, big one square-bottle that feller," and felt "berry
bad."McKillop, the overseer, gave him three packets of Epsom salts, and sent him
down to the creek with a pannikin. Strange to say, he recovered.
It was not often that we had amusement of this sort in Bullocktown. Except at
shearing time, when the "hands" knocked down their cheques (and never picked
them up again), gaiety was scarce. Steady drinking at the "Royal Cobb," and a
dance at "Trowbridge's" were the two excitements. The latter soon palled upon
the palate, for, at the time of which I write, there were but five women in the
township, three of whom were aged, or as Wallaby said, "broken-mouthed
crawlers, not worth the trouble of culling." The other two were daughters of old
Trowbridge, and could cut out a refractory bullock with the best stockman on the
plains. But what were two among so many? I have seen fifteen couples stand up in
"Trowbridge's" to the "Cruiskeen Lawn," and dance a mild polka, gyrating round
each other like intelligent weathercocks.
The stationary dance of the bush-hand is a fearful and wonderful thing. Two
sheepish, blushing stockmen grip each other's elbows, and solemnly twirl to the
music of their loose spurs. They don't "dance," they simply twirl, with a rocking
motion like that of an intoxicated teetotum, and occasionally shout to relieve their
feelings. If the "Cruiskeen Lawn" had been the "Old Hundredth," they could not
have looked more melancholy. Moreover, I think that to treat a hornpipe as a
religious ceremony is a mistake. The entertainment was varied with a free fight
for the hands of the Misses Trowbridge. One of these liberal measures was passed
every ten minutes or so, Trowbridge standing in the background, waiting to pick up
the man with the most money. As a study of human nature the scene was
interesting, as a provocative to reckless hilarity it was not eminently successful.
The other public-houses were much of the same stamp. The township was a sort
of rule of three sum in alcohol. As the "Royal Cobb" was to "Trowbridge's," so
was "Trowbridge's" to the "Three Posts," or you work it the other way. As the
"Three Posts", was to "Trowbridge's" so was "Trowbridge's" to the "Royal Cobb."
The result was always the same--a shilling a nobbler. True, that "Trowbridge's"
did not "lamb down" so well as the "Three Posts," but then the "Three Posts" put
fig tobacco in its brandy casks, and "Trowbridge's" did not do that. True, that the
coach stopped at the "Royal Cobb," but then the "Royal Cobb" had no daughters,
and some passengers preferred to take their cut off the joint at "Trownbridge's."
Providence mindful of Mr. Emerson's doctrine of compensation--equalised
conditions even in Bullocktown.
The "Royal Cobb" was perhaps the best house. Before Coppinger bought the place,
it was kept by Mr. Longbow, a tall, thin, one-eyed, and eminently genteel man, who
was always smoking. He was a capital host, a shrewd man of the world, and a
handy, shot with a duck gun. No one knew what he had been, and no one could with
any certainty, predict what he might be. He shot birds, stuffed beasts, discovered
mines, set legs, played the violin, and was "up" in the Land Act. He was a universal
genius, in fact, and had but one fault. His veracity was too small for his
It was useless to argue with Longbow. He was "all there," no matter where you
might be. The Derby! He had lost fifty thou. in Musjid's year. The interior of Africa!
He had lived there for months, and spoke gorillese like a native. Dr. Livingstone!
They had slept all night with but an ant-hill between them. The Duke of Wellington!
He had been his most intimate friend, and called him "Arthur" for years. I shall
never forget one pathetic evening, when, after much unlimited loo, and some
considerably hot whisky, Longbow told me of his troubles. "Beastly colony!" he
said, "beastly! Why, my dear boy, when I was leaving;--but there, never mind,
Buckingham and Chandos was right. Never mind what they may say, Sir,
Buckingham and Chandos was right as the mail." I replied that from the reports I
had read of Buckingham and Chandos, I had no doubt whatever that he was all that
could be desired by the most fastidious. Upon which Longbow favoured me with a
history of B. and C. lending him £20,000 on his note of hand, and borrowing his
dress waistcoat to dance at Rosherville Gardens. Before I left he volunteered to
produce--some day when I wasn't busy--the Duke of Wellington's autograph letter,
containing the celebrated recipe for devilled mushrooms, with a plan of the lines of
Torres Vedras drawn on the back of it, and he would not allow me to leave him
until he told me how Her Majesty had said, "Longbow, old man, sorry to lose you,
but Australia's a fine place. Go in and win, my boy, and chance the ducks!" This
last story was quite impressive, more especially as Longbow acted the scene
between himself and Her Majesty, and making the whisky-bottle take the place of
the Duchess of Sutherland--alternated parts with himself as poor Jack Longbow,
and himself as the first lord-in-waiting, crying, "Damme, Jack, come out o' that;
she's going to cry, you villain!" I listened with approving patience, and never smiled
until the very end of the story, where Longbow rushed frantically from the
Presence, and knocked A. Saxe Gotha head over heels into the brand new
coal-scuttle on the landing! "Oh! those were the days! D---- the colony, and pass
the whisky !"
Opposite the "Royal Cobb" was the schoolhouse. It had four scholars, and the
master was paid by results. He used to drink a large quantity of rum (to settle
any symptoms of indigestion, arising from his plethora of funds, I suppose), and
was always appealed to on matters of quotation. He was a very old man with a
very red nose, and "had been a gentleman." There was never an up-country
township yet that had not some such melancholy waif and stray in it.
When the schoolmaster got very drunk indeed, he would quote Aristophanes, and
on one memorable occasion put Flash Harry's song--
"Oh Sally, she went up the stairs, and I went up to find her;
And as she stooped to buckle her shoe, I tumbled down behind her."
into Horatian alcaics. He quarrelled with the Visiting Inspector because he (the
V.I.) said that wigs were not worn by the ancients and our broken-down gentleman
put him into his purgation with the case of Astyages as given by Xenophon.
He confessed afterwards that setting your superiors right on matters of
quotation is not politic, and that he wished he had let it alone. He was from Dublin
University. How is it that the wittiest talkers, the most brilliant classics, and the
most irreclaimable drunkards, all used to come from Dublin University?
There was a Post-office in Bullocktown, kept, if a post-office can be kept, by Mr.
Rapersole aforesaid, who was regarded as quite a literary genius by the
bullock-drivers. Mr. R. "corresponded for the paper"--the paper--and would
loftily crush anybody who gave him cause of offence. If Rapersole lost a chicken
or missed a pig, the world was sure to hear of it in the Paper. Rapersole, however,
did not affect writing so much as speaking. "The platform for me!" he would say,
as though the platform were a sort of untamed fiery steed, and he a rough-rider.
However, nobody came forward with the article, and he did not "show." It was
generally believed in Bullocktown, however, that if Rapersole once got his
platform, the universe might consider itself reformed without further trouble.
The mining township of Grumbler's Gully is situated about twelve miles from
There are various ways of approaching Grumbler's Gully. If you happen to be a
commercial traveller, for instance, in the employment of Messrs. Gin and Bitters,
and temporary owner of a glittering buggy and trotting mare, you would most
likely take a tour by way of Killarney, Jerusalem, Kenilworth, Blair Athole, St
Petersburg, Maimaitoora, Lucky Woman's, and Rowdy Flat, thus swooping upon
Grumbler's Gully by way of Breakyleg, Spicersville, Bangatoora, and Bullocktown. If
you were a squatter residing at Glengelder, The Rocks, or Vancluse, you would ride
across the Lonely Plains, down by Melancholy Swamp and Murderer's Flat, until you
reach Jack-a-dandy, where, as everyone knows, the track forks to Milford Haven
and St. Omeo.
If you were a Ballarat sharebroker, and wanted to have a look at the reefs on the
road, you would turn off at Hell's Hole, and making for Old Moke's, borrow a horse,
and ride on to the Hanging Rock, midway between Kororoot and Jefferson's Lead,
this course taking you into the heart of the reefing country. You could jog easily
from Salted Claim to Ballyrafferty, Dufferstown, and Moonlight Reefs, calling at
the Great Eastern, and entering Grumbler's Gully from the north by way of the
Good-morning-Bob Ranges and Schnilflehaustein.
The first impression of Grumbler's Gully is, I confess, not a cheering one. I think it
was Mr. Caxton who replied when asked what he though of his new-born infant, "it
is very red, ma'am." The same remark would apply to Grumbler's Gully. It is very
red. Long before you get to it you are covered with dust that looks and feels like
finely-powdered bricks. The haggard gum-trees by the roadside -- if you can call it
rightly a roadside -- are covered with this red powder. The white near leader
seems stained with bloody sweat, and the slices of bark that, as you approach the
town, fringe the track, look as though they were lumps of red putty, drying and
crumbling in the sun. On turning the corner, Grumbler's Gully is below as a long
straggling street, under a red hill that overlooks a red expanse of mud flecked
with pools of red water, and bristling with mounds, shaft-sheds, and wooden
engine-houses. The sun is sinking behind yonder mighty range, under whose brow
stretches that belt of scrub and marsh, and crag that meets the mallee
wilderness, and minor mountains rise up all around us. Grumbler's Gully is shaped
like a shoe with a lump in the middle of it, or rather perhaps, like one of
those cock-boats that children make with folded paper. It is a ridge of quartz
rising in the midst of a long valley surrounded by mountains.
The place is underlined with "sinkings," and the inhabitants burrow like moles
beneath the surface of the earth. It is no disgrace -- quite the reverse -- in
Grumbler's Gully to wear moleskin trousers stained with the everlasting red clay.
There is, indeed, a story afloat there to the effect that a leading townsman
presided at a public dinner in those garments, and was not a whit less respectable
than usual. In getting into the bar of the "Golden Tribute Hotel," you become
conscious that the well-dressed and intelligent gentleman, who, in the whitest of
shirt sleeves, handed you "Otard" (the brand then in fashion in the Gully), and bid
you help yourself, was a shareholder in a rich claim, and could topically speaking,
buy and sell you over again if he like without inconvenience. In drinking the said
"Otard" you become conscious of a thumping vibration going on somewhere, as if
a giant with accelerated action of the heart was imprisoned under the flooring;
and getting out into the back yard, where Mr. Merryjingle's pair horse and buggy is
waiting for Mr. Merryjingle to finish his twentieth last glass, you see a big red
mound surmounting the stable, and know that the engine is pumping night and day
in the Golden Tribute Reef.
But all the hotel-keepers of Grumbler's Gully are not as elegant as Mr. Bilbery.
There is Polwheal, for example, the gigantic Cornishman, who lives in the big red
building opposite the Court-house. Polwheal considers his hotel a better one than
the "Golden Tribute," and swears largely when visitors of note stop at Bilberry's.
For Polwheal's hotel is of brick, and being built in the "good old times" cost
something like a shilling a brick to erect, whereas Bilberry's is but a wooden
structure, and not very substantial at that. The inmate of Bilberry's can hear his
right-hand neighbour clean his teeth and can trace the various stages of his
left-hand neighbour going to bed -- commencing with the scratching of a safety
match, and ending with the clatter of hastily deposited boots. When the Country
Court sits at Grumbler's Gully, and the Judge, Crown prosecutor, and others put
up there, it is notorious that Bilberrry is driven politely frantic by his efforts to
put Mr. Mountain, who snores like the action of a circular saw, in some room where
his slumber will not be the cause of wakefulness of others. It is even reported
that a distinguished barrister, after plugging his ears in vain, was compelled one
sultry night to take his blankets and "coil" on the wood heap in order to escape
from the roaring of Mr Mountain's fitful diapason. I, myself, tossing in agony three
rooms off, have been enabled to accurately follow the breathing of that worthy
man, and to trace how the grunt swells into a rumble, the rumble reaches a harsh,
grating sound, which broadens into the circular saw movement, until glasses ring,
roofs shake, and the terrified listener, convinced that in another instant Mountain
must either suffocate or burst, hears with relief the terrific blast softened to a
strangled whistle, and finally dies away into a soothing murmur, full of
deceitful promises of silence.
Now at Polwheal's you have none of this annoyance, but then Polwheal's liquor is
not so good, and his table is not so well kept. Now, often with the thermometer at
100, have I shuddered at a smoking red lump of boiled beef, with Polwheal in a
violent perspiration looming above in a cloud of greasy steam! But Polwheal has his
patrons, and many a jorum of whisky hot has been consumed in that big parlour,
where the Quartzborough Chronicle of the week before last lies perpetually on
the table. Then there is "Bosk-eyed Harry's" where the "boys" dance, and where a
young lady, known to fame as the "Chestnut Filly," was wont to dispense the wine
cup. Also Mr. Corkison's, called "Boss" Corkison, who dressed elaborately in what
he imagined to be the height of Melbourne fashion, owned half the Antelope Reef,
and couldn't write his own name. "Boss" was an ingenious fellow, however, and
wishing to draw a cheque would say to any respectable stranger, "Morning, sir! A
warm day! Have a drink, sir! Me name's Corkison! Phillip, a little hard stuff! Me hand
shakes, sir! Up last night with a few roaring dogs drinking hot whisky. Hot whisky is
the devil sir!" Upon the stranger drinking, and strangers were not often backward
in accepting hospitality, "Boss" would pull from his fashionable pocket-book a fat
cheque-book, and would insinuatingly say, "Sir, shall be obliged if you will draw a
chick, for me (he always spoke of chicks) for £10, sir. Jeremiah Corkison. I will
touch the pen. Sir, I am obliged to you." If the stranger was deceived by the
subterfuge, "Boss" would waylay him for days, with the "chicks" getting bigger
and bigger, and his hand getting shakier and more shaky, I may mention Tom
Puff's store, where one drank Hennessy in tin tots, and played loo in the back
parlour: and the great Irish house, where you got nothing but Irish whisky and
patriotism. I have no time to do more than allude to the "Morning Star," the
"Reefer's Joy," the "Rough and Ready," or the twenty other places of resort.
Leaving hotels for awhile, let us walk down Main Street. Society in Grumbler's Gully
is very mixed. I suppose that the rich squatters who live around about consider
themselves at the top of the tree, while the resident police-magistrate, the
resident barrister, the Church of England clergyman, and the Roman Catholic
priest, and the managers of the banks sit on the big limbs -- leaving the solicitors,
rich storekeepers, and owners of claims to roost on the lower branches, and the
working miners, &c, to creep into the holes in the bare ground. Of course the place
is eaten up with scandal, and saturated with petty jealousy. The Church of England
clergyman will not speak to the Presbyterian minister, and both have sworn
eternal enmity to the Roman Catholic priest. The wife of the resident magistrate,
and wives of the bank managers, don't recognise the wives of the solicitors. If you
call on Mrs. M`Kirkincroft she will tell you -- after you have heard how difficult it
is to get servants, and that there had been no water in the tank for two
days -- that shocking story, though remember, only a rumour, of Mrs. Partridge
and Mr. Quail from Melbourne, and how Mrs. Partridge threw a glass of
brandy-and-water over Mr.Quail, and how Mr. Quail went into Mr. Pounce's office
and cried like a child, with his head on a bundle of mining leases.
If you call on Mrs. Pontifex, she will inform you -- after you have heard that there
has been now water in the tank for two days, and how difficult it is to get
servants -- that Mrs. M`Kirkincroft's papa was a butcher at Rowdy Flat, and that
M`Kirkincroft himself made his money by keeping a public-house on the road to
Bendigo. Mrs. Partridge has a very pretty history of Mrs. Pontifex's aunt, who
came out in the same ship with Mr. Partridges' cousin, who was quite notorious for
her flirtations during the voyage; and Mrs. Partidge who is a vicious, thin-lipped,
little dark woman, pronounces the word "flirtation" as if it included the breaking
of the seventh commandment seventy times over. You hear how Tom Twotooth
ran away with Bessie Brokenmouth, and how old Brokenmouth took his entire
horse, Alexander the Great, out of the stable in the middle of the night and
galloped to the "Great Eastern," only to find the floods down below Proud's ferry,
and the roads impassable. You hear how Jack Bragford lost over £600 to Dr.
Splint, and how Jack drew a bill which was duly dishonoured, thereby compelling
poor Sugman Sotomayordesoto, the wine and spirit merchant (who is as generous
as becomes a man in whose veins runs the blood of old Castile), to impoverish
himself in order to pay the money. There are current in Grumbler's Gully
marvellous scandals respecting the parson, the priest, and the police magistrate
-- scandals which, though they are visible lies, are nevertheless eagerly credited
by dwellers round about. There are strong flavoured stories -- old jokes such as
our grandfathers chuckled at -- told concerning the publican, the miners, and the
borough councillors: and a resident of Grumbler's Gully would be quite indignant if
you hint to him that you had "heard that story before."
But come back to Main Street. The architecture is decidedly irregular. A bank
shoulders a public-house, a wooden shanty nestles under the lee of a brick and iron
store. Everything is desperately new. The bricks even look but a few days baked,
and the iron roof of the Grumbler's Gully Emporium and Quartzborough Magazin
des Modes has not as yet lost its virgin whiteness. The red dust is everywhere
flying in blinding clouds. The white silk coat of "Boss" Corkison looking for the
stranger is powdered with it: and the black hat, vest, trousers and boots of Jabez
Hick -- Jabez P. Hick he insists on signing himself -- are marked with red
Mr. Hick is a very smart Yankee (there are one or two in Grumbler's Gully), and is
the proprietor of the Emporium. He has also a share in the General Washington
United, and has been down to the dam this afternoon to look at the small amount
of water which yet remains there. The dust lies thickly on the hood of Mr.
Salthide's buggy, standing at the door of Copperas, the ironmonger, and ruins the
latest Melbourne toilets of Mrs. Partridge and Mrs. Pontifex, who continue
to think Main Street Collins Street, and make believe to shop there daily from
three to five. The peculiarity of Main Street is it incongruous newness. Around are
solemn, purple hills, with their hidden mysteries of swamp and wilderness; and
here, on the backbone of this quartz ridge in the midst of a dirty, dusty, unsightly
mud-patch punched with holes, and disfigured with staring, yellow mounds, are
fifty or sixty straggling wooden, iron and brick buildings, in which live people of all
ranks of society, of all nations, of all opinions, but every one surrounded with his
or her particular aureole of civilisation, and playing the latest music, drinking the
most fashionable brand of brandy, reading the latest novels, and taking the most
lively interest in the election for president, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Spanish
question, the Prussion war, and the appalling fact that oysters in London are
positively three shilling a dozen! A coach thundering and tattling at the heels of
four smoking horses drops upon them twice a day out of the bush, and the
coachman delivers his mails, skims a local paper, has a liquor, retails the latest
joke (made in Melbourne, perhaps, twenty-four hours before,) and then thunders
and tattles away again through the lonely gum-tree forest, until he drops upon
just such another place, with just such another population, at the next quartz
out-cropping fifty miles away. Amidst all this there is not nationality. The
Frenchman, German, and Englishman all talk confidently about "going home," and if
by any chance some old man with married daughters thinks he will die in the
colony, he never by chance expresses a wish to leave his bones in the horribly
utilitarian cemetery at Grumbler's Gully.
A word about this Grumbler's Gully Cemetery. It is close to the hospital, a fine
building containing fifty beds, and supported by voluntary contributions: and the
patients can see the grave of a man who died yesterday quite readily. Grumbler's
Gully can see no reason why they should not see it. Sick people must die
sometimes, of course. In the same spirit has the cemetery been built. It is a
square patch of ground surrounded by a neat iron railing. Everything spick and
span new, the railing not even rusted, to the sordid red mounds not even
overgrown with grass. No tenderness, no beauty, no association, no admirable
place to hold the loathly corpses that were once human beings: a most useful
graveyard and nothing more. Nothing more: save that near these ugly mounds,
unpolitical, untaught, ill-dressed man and woman will sometimes linger, sparing an
hour from the common toil of practical place to foolishly weep, thinking on the
friends that are gone. The hideously excellent cemetery of Grumbler's Gully always
seemed to me to realise the life of the colony -- the stern, practical, laborious,
unleisured life of a young country, a life in which one has no time to think of
others until they have left us and gone Home.
Close beside the hospital is the church and over against the church the chapel, and
glaring viciously at both of them in an underbred way is the meeting-house.
Religion, or rather difference of religion, is a noted feature in Grumbler's Gully.
Formerly the inhabitants might have been divided into two classes, teetotalers and
whiskey-hot men. There was a club called the "Whisky Hot Club" at
Polwheal's each member of which was pledged to drink ten whiskeys hot "Per
noctem," the qualification for membership being three fits of "delirium
tremens" -- but of late these broad distinctions have been broken down, and the
town now boasts five sects, each of which devoutly believes in the ultimate
condemnation of the other four. There is a Band of Hope at Grumbler's Gully,
likewise a Tent of Rechab. The last has fallen into some disrepute since it was
discovered by a wandering analytical chemist that Binks Brothers, who were
affiliated Jonadabers in the third degree, and who supplied the camp with teetootal
liquids, habitually put forty per cent. of proof spirit into the Hallelujah Cordial.
There was quite a run upon Hallelujah Cordial for a few days after this discovery.
The moving religious element, however, in Grumbler's Gully is a Mr. Jack. Jack was
a cabinet maker when in darkness and did not get "called" until he had been twice
insolvent. He was so near fraudulency the second time that it is supposed that his
imminent danger converted him. Jack is a short, squat, yellow-faced,
black-toothed, greasy-fingered fellow, with a tremendous power of adjective.
When he prays he turns up his eyes until nothing but a thin rim of white is visible,
over which the eyelids quiver with agonizing fervour. When he prays he is very
abusive to his fellow-creatures, and seems to find intense consolation in thinking
everybody around him deceitful, wicked, and hard-hearted. To hear him denounce
this miserable world, you would think that, did he suddenly discover that some
people were very hopeful and happy in it, he would suffer intense pain. He travels
about the country "preaching the Word," which means, I'm afraid, sponging on the
squatter, and has written a diary, "Jacks' Diary, published by subscription,"
which sets forth his wanderings and adventures. Passages like this occur in that
Christian work: --
"Nov.28th. -- My horse fell with me at Roaring Megs (a claim to be understood,
not a lady), and I could not get him to rise. After poking him with sharp sticks
for some time in vain, I bethought me of lighting a fire beneath the beast: this
roused him, and I lifted up my heart in prayer, -- Isaiah xix. 22."
"Nov. 29. -- Came to Bachelor Plains, and put up at home station. The overseer,
an intelligent young man, put my horse into the stable and gave him some oats,
the which he has not tasted for many months. In the evening, after an excellent
repast, I ventured to commune in prayer, but the overseer pulled out a pipe, and
began to play euker with a friend. I felt it my duty to tell them of the awful
position in which they stood, and upon their still continuing to gamble, to curse
them both solemnly in the name of the Lord."
It will be seen by this that Jack is not averse to a little blasphemy. He is a self
seeking, cunning dog, who is fit for nothing but the vocation he follows, vis.: --
that of "entering widows' houses, and for a pittance making long prayers." Yet he
has a large following, and crowds the chapel when he preaches. The result is that
all the rationalistic-going men in the township, and there are some half-a-dozen,
disgusted with the hypocrisy and vulgarity of this untaught preacher, have
come to consider all clergymen knaves or fools, and to despise all religion.
These enlightened persons hold meetings at the "Morning Star Hotel," and settle
the universe quite comfortably. They are especially great at such trifling subjects
as "The Cause of Poverty," "Our Social Relations," "The Origin of Species," "Is
Polygamy or Polyandry best calculated to insure the Happiness of the Human
Race." "Whence do we come," "Whither do we go," and so on. Indeed, Grumbler's
Gully was at one time denounced by the opposition (Baker's Flat) journal as having
dangerous tendencies to pure Buddhism. The local paper, however, retorted with
some ingenuity, that the Baker's Flats were already far gone in the pernicious
doctrines of Fo, and that it was well known that Hang Fat, the Chinese interpreter,
held nightly se'ances in order to expound the teaching of Confucius.
A word about the local literature. The Quartzborough Chronicle and Grumbler's
Gully Gazette is like all other country newspapers -- whatever its editor chooses
to make it. Local news is scarce. Arrival of telegrams, a borough council riot, or
two police-court cases, will not make a paper, and the leading article on alluvial
diggings, Mr. Pagrag's speech on the Budget, Mr. Bobtail's proposition for levelling
the Gippsland Ranges to fill up the Sandridge lagoon, or what not, or a written
"cuttings" become things of necessity, and Daw, the editor, "cuts" remarkably
Daw is a capital amateur actor, and a smart journalist. His leaders can be good if
he likes to put his heart into his work, and every now and then a quaint original
sketch or pathetic story gives Grumbler's Gully a fill-up. Daw writes about four
columns a day, and is paid £250 a year. His friends say he ought to be in
Melbourne, but he is afraid to give up a certainty, so he stays, editing his paper
and narrowing his mind, yearning for some intellectual intercourse with his
fellow-creatures. To those who have not lived in a mining township the utter
dullness of Daw's life is incomprehensible. There is a complete lack of anything like
cultivated mental companionship, and the three or four intellects who are above
the dead level do their best to reduce their exuberant acuteness by excess of
whisky-and-water. The club, the reading-room, the parliament, the audience that
testifies approval and appreciation are all found in one place -- the public-house
bar. To obtain a criticism or a suggestion one is compelled to drink a nobbler of
brandy. The life of an up-country editor is the life of Sisyphus -- the higher up the
hill he rolls his stone, with more violence does it tumble back upon him. "You want
an editor?" said a hopeful new-chum to the lucky job printer who owned the
Blanket Flat Mercury. "I have the best testimonials, and have written largely to
the English Press." The man of advertisments scanned the proffered paper.
"Clever! sober! industrious! My good sir, you won't do for me. I want a man as is
blazing drunk half his time, and who can just knock off a smart thing when I tell
him." "But who edits the paper?" then said the applicant. "Who?" returned the
proprietor, flourishing his scissors over his head in indignant astonishment,
"Why, I do! All you have to do is to correct the spellin', and put in the
personalities!" It is remarkable that in this free colony, where everybody is so
tremendously equal, the tyranny of cash is carried to a greater extent than in any
other country on the face of the earth. Men come to Australia to get rich, and if
they don't get rich they go to the wall. In Melbourne one can in a measure escape
the offensive patronage of the uneducated wealthy, but in a mining township,
where life is nothing but a daring speculation, the brutal force of money is
But it is time to "have a drink" -- the chief amusement of the place. If we cannot
imitate these jolly dogs of reef-owners, who start from Polwheals's at 10 a.m.,
and drink their way to Bilberry's by 2 p.m., working back again to unlimited loo and
whisky-hot by sundown, it is perhaps better for us, but we must at all events
conform to the manners and customs.
To sum up the jollity of Grumbler's Gully in two words -- "What's yours?"
Romance of Bullocktown
Mr. John Hardy, the schoolmaster, was regarded with some degree of awe by the
Bullocktown folks. As a general rule, Bullocktown stood in awe of nothing under or
over heaven, believing utterly in the eternal fitness of things, and the propriety of
its own existence. But Mr. John Hardy was a human being of a type so unfamiliar
to Bullocktown, that for once in its life the township unwillingly did reverence.
The new schoolmaster was a tall, gaunt, angular man, with a mop of black hair,
large bony hands, and black melancholy eyes. He arrived by the night coach with no
more property than a small bag sufficed to carry, and asked Flash Harry if the
schoolmaster's house was anywhere near. Harry pointed with his whip to the little
hut which, embowered in creepers, stood on the hill, and the new comer at once
tramped away to it, ignoring with provoking complacency the great business of
"liquoring up" which was the commercial pursuit of Bullocktown.
Nor was he more sociable next day. Maggie Burns, who was "keeping" the
schoolhouse, deposed that Mr. Hardy had asked her for a light, opened his bag,
produced a small book, and read till daylight. At daylight he had gone for a walk,
and returned laden with plants and ferns, just in time to open school. School being
over, he went for another walk, and did not come back till 10 o'clock. This process
of self-abstraction from the joys of Bullocktown was at first resented. It was the
custom that every stranger should be made free of the place -- receive the
liberty of the city, so to speak -- by at least one glorious bout of brandy.
Intoxication in Bullocktown had become elevated into an art, and, as with other
delights of a sensual character, connoisseurs studied to protract its enjoyment
as long as possible. Rumours were afloat that Mr. Hardy was a scholar of
eminence, a man of much erudition, whom "circumstances" had compelled to
accept the appointment of a common schoolmaster. A report filtered through the
common layers of society, as such reports mysteriously do filter, that Mr. Hardy
had been a man well known in Melbourne, and that his name was not really Hardy,
but something else. Now, Bullocktown, the best hearted place in the universe, was
ready to receive this unfortunate victim of unknown circumstances with open
arms -- was ready to clasp him to its manly bosom, and to initiate him into all the
art and mystery of its profession of drinking. For the proper reception of such a
stranger, Bullocktown was prepared to risk a present of insensibility and a future
of trembling delirium. Had it been possible to set the kennels running with red
wine, and have the fountain in the square spouting particular sherries,
Bullocktown would have done it; but it was quite impossible for there were no
kennels, no fountain, no square, and no red wine or sherries (worth mentioning), in
Bullocktown. There was no lack of brandy, however: Henessy, Otard, and "Three
Star" were all at command, and brandy would have flowed like water had the
stranger wished it. It is not to be wondered at, therefore, that when Mr. Hardy
declared that "he did not drink," Bullocktown considered itself slighted.
A sort of consultation was held at Coppinger's as to the course to be pursued with
this extremely unsociable schoolmaster. Fighting Fitz said that not only had Mr.
Hardy refused to drink with him, but that he had mildly but decidedly withdrawn
from his company. Archy Cameron said that if he got "Good day," it was as much
as he did get; for all that his three children were regular attendants at the
schoolhouse; and Coppinger topped the chorus of complaints by relating that Mr.
Hardy had not only declined to partake of the gentle stimulant afforded by brandy
and bitters at 9 a.m., but that he had expressed himself astonished at the
inordinate consumption of grog by the men, women, and children of the district.
"He flew into a tearing rage," said Coppinger, "and declared that drink was the
curse of the country. I don't say that it isn't, boys, but I'm d----d if I'll allow any
man to say so in my bar!"
So it was agreed that Mr. Hardy should be sent to Coventry. Strange to say, he did
not seem to mind this decision in the least; in fact, his punishment seemed rather
to amuse him.
One creature in the township, however, did not partake of the general feeling.
Rose Melliship, the daughter of old Melliship, of the Sawpits, openly said that the
conduct of Bullocktown was "mean and ridiculous." Now, had anyone but Rose said
this, Bullocktown, with its Widow Grip at the head of it, would have arisen like one
woman, and torn her to pieces; but Rose was privileged. It was known in
Bullocktown that old Melliship had "married a lady," and this fact constituted the
pale, quiet girl the constitutional sovereign of the little State. Nothing that Rose
Mellishop did could be anything but right; anything she said was received with the
respect due to a Queen's speech ere yet Prime Ministers had acquired the art of
writing. Rose Mellishop herself did not disdain this humble homage. Whatever her
parentage may have been, it was certain she owned a large share of that grace
and intelligence which are presumed to belong entirely to the aristocracy. Rose
Mellishop, taught at a common school, with a few books, with no companions of
similar tastes to her own, grown to womanhood among vulgar sights and sounds,
was -- well, let me put it plainly at once -- the one woman for whom John Hardy
felt he had all his life been seeking.
I do not know how their courtship began; -- I fancy at some accidental meeting, at
which a word or two on either side gave token to each of sympathy with the other;
but no one ever knew. They met, talked, and parted. Rose, with feminine
instinct of such things, knew the middle-aged man loved her, though he had never
expressed to her his love as lovers in books were wont to express it. He was often
absent-minded, always sad, sometimes impatient.
"You have some great trouble," said Rose once to him. "Tell it to me; I will try and
But he angrily put by the question, and she said no more.
There was not much love-making at these interviews. It was enough for her to
listen, to know that her thoughts were understood, that those speculations which
she had imagined tremblingly were hers only, were common to many; that there
was by her side a strong soul upon which she could lean and rest.
It seemed enough for him to have near him a tender-eyed woman, with soft voice,
and bright perceptions, who comprehended without explanation, and read his griefs
before he could utter them. It was to both of them, as though their souls, long
divided, had mysteriously met. There was harmony between them.
Yet they had been many months acquainted before John Hardy spoke of marriage.
Old Melliship had a shrewd notion of the progress of affairs, and desired, in his
worldly wisdom -- which is, we know, so much superior to anything else in this
world -- to bring the schoolmaster to book. He told Rose he was going to send her
to Melbourne on a visit to her uncle, the cooper. Rose told this to Hardy, and Hardy
called on Melliship next day to try and dissuade him.
"You had better leave your daughter here, Mr. Melliship. She is just at an age when
she should remain at home; and -- we are reading French together."
"Look ye here, Mr. Hardy," returned old Melliship, "I think you read French a deal
too much together, that's a fact."
"Sir," stammered Hardy.
"Oh, I don't think you mean no harm. You are a gentleman, I believe, and I can trust
my girl anywhere; but -- she'd better go to town a bit."
John Hardy slept less than ever that night, if Mrs. Burns is to be believed.
According to her account, he walked up and down his schoolroom, as one in violent
agitation, for some hours, and then dashed out of the house, hatless, into the
bush. When the school opened, however, he was at his place, as quiet, through
perhaps paler than usual, and after school he walked straight to the Sawpits.
"I have come to ask you to marry me, Rose."
She blushed a little -- a very little -- and looked away across the hills without
"Do you love me enough to do so?" he asked, after a pause.
"I was thinking," said she, frankly, turning her head; and then -- giving him both
her hands -- "Yes, I do. I will marry you."
It was his turn to look away and to keep silence. By-and-by he spoke in a
laboriously controlled voice. "I have no fortune to offer you, no hopes of future
grandeur to hold out to you. If we marry we must live here, or in some place
like this, poor and obscure, until we die. Are you content?"
"Yes, dear, I am content."
He turned -- suddenly and passionately -- catching her in his arms, and devouring
her face with his great eyes.
"Rose, do you love me enough, knowing me only as you do, to keep faith for me, to
think always well of me, to remember that whatever happens -- whatever has
happened -- I loved you, and will love you always?"
For reply, she gently unwound his arms, and took his hot hands in her cool ones.
"There is some mystery in your life. If you choose to tell it to me, tell it. But I do
not seek to know, saving that I may comfort you. It is idle to promise that we will
always love. How can we tell? I love you now, and you only, dear, of all men on
earth. What does it matter to me what you have done, or may do?"
There was no passion in the tones, though, perhaps a taste of high-flown
sentiment might not have seemed misplaced in a reply to such a wild appeal as his;
but the simple truthfulness of the grave, sweet voice soothed and convinced the
"You are a woman who would meet death for one you loved, my rose!"
"Death is the least of human ills," said Rose, smiling at him, "if your philosophy is
to be believed. Ah, my love, my love, you need not doubt me."
The township was more indignant than ever when it heard that "that d----d Hardy"
was going to marry their pride and darling. Not only did the township receive a blow
in the tenderest portion of its corporeal anatomy by old Melliship daring to give
away his daughter at all, but it was highly offended by the fact that old Mellishop
had done this deed propri‰ motu, and without duly lubricating that machine he
called his mind, with brandy. The affair would appear to have been decided without
even a "nobbler." In a township where the advent of a calf was the subject of
alcoholic rejoicing, such a proceeding was simply monstrous. Moreover, by thus
artfully placing himself under the protection of the township's pet, "that d----d
Hardy" had escaped the usual penalty decreed by the jovial fellows at Coppinger's
for bridegrooms. Had the schoolmaster married anyone else, the whole battery of
Bullocktown wit and humour would have been turned against him. In accordance
with the time-honoured practice, his door would have been nailed up, his chimney
choked, his water-tank filled with the bodies of defunct township cats, and his
wood-heap carted into the bush. A band of merry boys would have exploded in his
back yard, and have banged kerosene tins beneath his wedding window. The jovial
dogs might even have gone so far as to burn him in effigy -- as they did Boss
Corkison, of Quartzborough, at the back of the Church. But it was impossible that
these jests should be indulged in when Rose Melliship, "whose mother was a
lady," was to be the subject of them. So, with a sigh, Bullocktown saw the wedding
morning of the schoolmaster arrive, and gave up all projects of midnight
The little Church by the river bank was crowded, and when Rose came out with her
husband the cheers deafened her. Tears stood in her eyes. "How ungenerous she
had been to despite these people. They had good hearts and loved her."
As the thought crossed her mind she looked up to John Hardy to compare him
proudly with the others, and was astonished at his paleness. His mouth was firmly
shut, but the lips quivered, and from time to time the muscles of the face relaxed
as though weary with the strain put upon them. It was evident that the
schoolmaster suffered strong emotion.
The Quartzborough and Seven Creeks coach, which passed through Bullocktown at
noonday, made its appearance in a cloud of red dust from over the hill and swung
heavily towards the Church. Flash Harry seeing the locked mass of buggies, carts,
and horsemen which hung upon the tail of the bridal party, checked his unicorn
team, and waved a hasty order to clear the way.
Fighting Fitz, spurring his buck-jumping ginger-coloured nag beside the wheel,
urged a parley.
"Curse ye man," cried Harry, savagely, "let me pass. Are they married?"
"Yes," says Fitz, "as fast as old Spottleboy can do it."
"God help him then! I'll break every bone in his body."
"His!" returned Flash Harry, pointing to the bridegroom. "Let me pass I tell ye,
man; we don't want a scene here."
But it was too late. The scene was over. There was no box-passenger on the coach
that day, but it seemed that the bulging leathern curtains concealed somebody.
They were parted with a wrench, and from them tumbled something that looked
like a bundle of parti-coloured clothes, surmounted by a horse's tail. This object
lying, groaning feeble oaths, at the very feet of the advancing pair, Coppinger
caught hold of it, and dragging it upwards, discovered a being with tangled hair and
dirty hands, and bloated lips murmuring blasphemy -- a being that was obscene,
drunk, and a woman.
The party paused, disgusted at this hideous intrusion into their midst, and Flash
Harry felt constrained to say, "Come, get in again, mum, get in; I knew that last
nobbler at the Cross Reefs would set yer off. Get in."
But the bemuzzled poor wretch, striking some frowsy hair out of her eyes, made
reply by suddenly plunging at the bridegroom.
"Wha's all this, John?" said she, supported by Coppinger. "Don' ye know me?"
The face and attitude of the miserable schoolmaster answered more decidedly
He had loosed hold of the bride's arm, and stood apart, haggard, wild, despairing.
Presently he raised his head, and taking a step forward, indicated with a
gesture, the drunken woman, and said, with a deliberate, level accent of disgust
and despair on each syllable -- "This is my wife."
Old Melliship clenched his fist, and stepped out to fell the man to the earth, but his
daughter laid her light touch upon his arm, and restraining him by that single
gesture, stood motionless, tearless, speechless, -- looking at the hideous thing
which had come to blight her life. The drunken woman, her intellects roused by the
dramatic force of the scene, suddenly seemed to comprehend her husband's
offence, and, breaking from Coppinger, rushed forward to pour forth a torrent of
blasphemous reproach, until exhausted with her own violence, she fell prone
before them all upon the Church steps, a spectacle to shudder at and to pity. Her
husband raised her from the ground and placed her inside the porch. Then,
averting his face, he seemed to wait until he should be left alone with her, and so
standing, became conscious of a hand on his whose electric touch thrilled him. It
was Rose. "How you must have suffered," she said, and kissed the hand she held.
There is much delicacy in the minds of the poor, and those who are forced to live
face to face with nature. The rovers of the bush and the sea are seldom vulgar,
for in the forests and on the ocean, are no meanness, no vulgarities. Bullocktown
felt that at a moment like this it was an intruder. Flash Harry flogged his horses,
Fitz struck spurs to his pony, Coppinger made for his buggy, and in a few seconds
the space in front of the Church was empty.
"You are a d----d villain," said old Melliship. "What could make you come into a
quiet place like this to break my lass's heart?"
"I intended no wrong, sir; believe me. She will understand me, if you do not. But I
was weak. You do not know, perhaps, what it is to have a drunken wife. Pray god
you never may. Pray God you may never know what it is to come home, and find
the mother of your children -- oh, my God! -- how can I picture what I have
suffered! Night after night, sir, -- for my business took me out -- have I found
her there," -- (pointing with both hands to the floor) -- "drunk, drunk, drunk! I
have been rich; she has made me poor. I have had a good name; she dragged it
through the dirt. I have had children; she let them die. I have been much to blame
-- of course, where is there a case of wrong in which one only is blameworthy?
But I am passionate; have tastes incompatible with dirt and shame; am cursed
with too keen a memory, too feeble hope. I despaired."
The girl had drawn closer to him, and was now almost on his heart. Yet her father
did not chide her. In the frightful incongruity of all things around them, it seemed
natural only that she should be there.
"At last I left her. I had money, which I assigned for her. I thought I would seek
peace in some harmless way of life, in some quiet place like this. I came here, and
-- and, for the first time met a woman whom I could love. Do not frown, sir.
I do not think you understand your daughter nor me! That I have done wrong, I
admit. I was weak, weary, suffering, alone; and love is very sweet to those who
can taste it first in middle age. I thought myself so far removed from chance of
discovery that no shame could come to your daughter by my act; and my way of
thought led me to see for her no sin where there was no shame. Enough -- I have
been punished. Good-bye my Rose; this is the calamity I feared."
The old man made in silence for the door. Turning then for his daughter, he saw
her clinging to John Hardy's breast, and heard her last farewell to him. "Good-bye,
my love, my love! When first I knew you, I used to think it no desert in me to love a
man so worthy, and have wished, in foolish dreaming, you might do some terrible
act for which all the world would spurn you, and so make my love of value.
Good-bye, my ----. You must go back -- you must! Good-bye. Nay, I have nothing to
forgive, nor you to regret. Time may cripple us with sorrow, or with suffering, but
it cannot change our loves -- cannot, at least, destroy the memory, that we have
known each other. Good-bye!"
So she left him, and his last look of her showed him a sweet face, smiling sad
hope, and streaming with silent tears.
The next morning he returned to Melbourne and fate, with his unhappy wife.
"But did they meet again, and does she love him still?" Ah, these are the
questions always asked.
How The Circus Came To Bullocktown
When it became known that the Circus was coming to Bullocktown there was much
excitement. Anything in the shape of amusement was so eagerly seized upon --
even a pound sale was considered a joyous occasion -- that the news of a circus
within cooey, as one might say, almost took away the breath of the inhabitants.
The intelligence was brought by 'Arry the mail boy, who, riding at Grogmore and
Brandyvale twice a-week, had on his last journey fallen in with the Circus, camped
(quite condescendingly) by the Muddy Waterholes. 'Arry's description of the regal
magnificence of the proud proprietors of this travelling raree show fired all the
youth of the township, and juvenile Bullocktown burned for the arena. As has been
hinted at, juvenile Bullocktown did not often get a chance to do anything but burn.
Bullocktown did not offer any vast attractions to the itinerant showman, and even
the Wizard Oil Man, daring beyond his compeers in exploring of "untrodden ways,"
drew the line at Quartzborough, and turned off to Grogmore by the way of St.
Omer and Whisky Flat. Two "performances" had indeed been given in the biggest
parlour of the "Royal Cobb," but they were not eminently successful. One of these
was a "lecture," and the other an "entertainment." I witnessed both, and until I
saw the entertainment, would have ventured to wager large sums that nothing in
the way of amusement could be more dreary than the lecture.
The "Siege of Sebastopol," with illustrations, is, one would think, a subject which
could be rendered interesting, if not instructive, but it wasn't. In the first place,
the illustrations were not all they might have been. A comic set of magic lantern
slides representing Chinamen seized by sailors, rats entering the practicable
mouths of sleeping miners, and marvellous men in red garments chasing
anatomically alarming youths in blue, does not give one a very accurate idea of the
Russian Campaign. Moreover, the lecturer was afflicted with what he was pleased
to term "whisky in the hair," and was uncertain in his movements. Bullocktown
grew bewildered when informed that, "'ere they saw the 'Eurilas' twenty-eight
guns as hengagin' the Rooshan frigate 'Chokemoff,' 181 guns (to the left Hadmiral
Sir C. Napier standing on the foretops'le sheet-blocks)," and were presented with
a portrait of the Vale of Pempes, by moonlight, instead. Jack Harris, the son of
the butcher, asked the lecturer in an unsophisticated way to "bung out his blank
Sebastypool and get on," and when the lecturer wobbled in his speech, and
hiccoughed solemnly during the Bombardment of Cronstadt, told him that
"he'd never buy the child a new frock," and advised him to "knock off and have a
smoke." Eventually the lecturer appealed to Longbow, who made a little speech, in
which he stated that if his respected friend, Miss Burdett-Coutts, could by any
possibility have heard the ungentlemanly observations of Mr. Harris she would
"never get over it," as though it was a five-barred gate to be taken at a fly with
a bad take off and an uncertain landing. Mr. Patrick Rafferty (senior-Constable
Rafferty the Quartzborough Chronicle called him) cut the gordian know by locking
Jack Harris in the stable until the "lecture" was concluded.
The "entertainment" was given by Mr. And Mrs. Montacute, late of the Theatre
Royal and Haymarket, Melbourne. The biggest table in the "Royal Cobb" was the
stage, and Mrs Montacute ran laughingly up a pair of steps on the left hand to
meet Mr. Montacute, who bounded gracefully from the vantage ground of an
inverted bucket on the right. The curtain was a horse-cloth, and the orchestra a
piano, played by Tom Patterson, the overseer at Mount Melancholy, who had an ear
for music, and who, being in the township on a matter of post-and-rail fencing,
most generously volunteered his services. I am afraid that the artistic position
which poor Mr. and Mrs. Montacute occupied at the Theatre Royal and Haymarket
had not been the most exalted one, but they did their best, and were received with
rapturous applause. Indeed, when Mr. Montacute, clad severely in a dressing-gown
of Longbow's (given him, of course, by his "intimate friend, the Marquis of Doon"),
rolled his eyes, and asked in a terrible voice, "Who has been opening oysters with
my razor?" the peals of laughter were deafening. This was the more
complimentary to the comic powers of Mr. Montacute, for none of the "born
inhabitants" of Bullocktown had ever seen an oyster in all their lives.
But to resume. Riding along the bush road to Grogmore the day after the
deliverance of 'Arry's budget, the traveller of the guide-books would have
observed that the gum-trees were here and there "blazed" with posters --
"Buncombe's Imperial Yanko-American Circus!" "The most complete Stud in the
Australias!" "The Boneless Brothers of Blazing Beet!" "Mademoiselle Zepherina,
the Fairy Equestrienne!" "Feats in the Haute Ecole!" "Mr. Stanislaus Buncombe,
the Machiavelian Clown!" and so on; while the pictures of the Brothers distorting
their boneless limbs, the Machiavellian Clown roaring with laughter at his own jests,
and Mademoiselle Zepherina performing her feats in the Haute Ecole, were
calculated to appal the stoutest beholder. By mid-day Bullocktown shook to its
foundations -- the Circus had arrived.
Most of us have seen that inexpressibly melancholy spectacle -- a "Triumphal
Entry by Circus Riders." We know the paint and powder, and long hair, and fillets,
and piebald ponies, and big drums. We are familiar with the lovely damsels who are
not lovely, and the spirited steeds that are not spirited, and the golden car that is
not golden, and the sham and pretension of the whole business. We know how cold
and wretched the Bounding Bucks look in their silk tights at mid-day, and how
singularly bony are the Boneless Brothers. We sympathise with the dusty
team of sixteen creams that comport themselves with such preposterous
affectation of suddenly making for their native postures, and dragging at their
fiery heels the fragments of the Triumphal Car. We observe even the bulged and
blackened stocking-knee of the Famed Equestrienne, and bethink us how many
times it has knelt in vain to the murderous marauder, who, bestriding three
steeds at once, would fain bear off the pearl of the Haute Ecole across his triple
saddle bow. All this we have seen, and have commented on in our various methods:
some parsonically, with hints of burnings in store for the abandoned folk: some
cynically, as betokening a condition of sham and humbug typical of much in
humanity: some kindly and cheerily, with knowledge of good fellowship and
friendship displayed among these hard-working holiday-makers that might put
better dressed and more respectable people to shame. But I doubt if it has fallen
to the lot of many of us to see the strange sight which this eighth wonder of
Bullocktown presented when contrasted with its surroundings. The sordid little
wooden stores, the grey, grim gumtrees, the staring public-house, the unmetalled
roads, the dispiriting "newness" of the whole place, and in the midst of this
position of unreal heroes, mock marauders, motley clowns, and pasteboard
Three times did the Circus encircle the township, and then it coiled itself gradually
into the back yard of the "Royal Cobb," to be seen of men no more until night.
By-and-by certain cadaverous, greasy-haired people came into Longbow's bar, and
condescendingly drank with the inhabitants. In the bar congregated at once the
rank and fashion of the township.
Mr. Bluffem was there; also Mrs Bluffem, called by her affectionate husband, "Ize
Betsy," and popularly known as "Bluffem's Pet." Flash Harry, the coachdriver, was
there, in breeches of appalling tightness and loose spurs that jingled highwayman
like as he walked. There was also little Potkins, the owner of the adjoining run of
marsh-mallows; and numerous horses -- "mokes" as their owners termed them --
were hanging at various degrees of neck extension to the rings on the "Royal
Cobb" verandah-post. By-and-by the Boneless Brothers, attended by an admiring
crowd of township children, marked out a sort of free selection on a piece of
waste ground, between McTaggart the blacksmith's and the schoolhouse, and in
the course of an hour or so a wondrous erection of poles and canvas, to which the
tent of the Fairy Peri Barron (so celebrated in Eastern story) was but a shanty in
comparison, rose into being. On the top of this canvas mushroom flew in the hot
wind an enormous flag. The "Circus" had become a fact.
During the afternoon the world and his wife trooped into Bullocktown. Stockmen
were abundant, and riding their own horses for the day, behaved with that
reckless disregard of life and limb which characterises stockmen on such
The yard of the "Three Posts" presented a curious appearance. Hans Kolsen, the
"cranky shepherd," was expatiating on the mystery of the mallee to a crowd to
bearded fellows, who alternately ridiculed and "shouted" for him. Sandy
McDonald fought a pitched battle with Andy O'Brien; and that one-armed hero, old
Niel Gow, the boundary rider ("shepherd ranger" he loved to term himself) bent
pewter pots and held up strong men in his teeth, and achieved other feats for
which he had become celebrated throughout the district. The fiddles struck up
fast and furious in the "long room," the tobaccoed brandy circulated freely, and
before sundown, had the traveller before-mentioned paused for an instant at the
bridge, he could not have failed to have come to the conclusion that Bullocktown
was in the primary stage of intoxication.
The Circus was to open at half-past seven o'clock, and shortly before that hour
the crowd around the "Royal Cobb" increased in density. Mr. Patrick Rafferty --
his whiskers blazing with a sense of duty -- exerted himself to the utmost to
preserve order, and with patriotic disregard of expense, dressed himself defiantly
in full uniform. The avenues and passages of the "Royal Cobb" -- not too many
nor too wide -- were choked with enthralled inhabitants. The Equestrienne was
eating in an adjoining apartment. Rumour, with its thousand tongues, even hinted
that Stanislaus Buncombe himself had, with Machiavelian Clownishness, ordered
steak and onions. Great thought! The dish rose in the estimation of Bullocktown
from that hour.
The violet darkness of a moonless summer night had fallen on the tent when the
canvas flap was lifted to admit the multitude. Prices did not rule high -- one
shilling to the pit, one shilling and sixpence to the boxes, and sixpence to all other
parts of the house, were the advertised charges; and Bullocktown, on pleasure
bent, thronged to the pit. It was rumoured that three shillings had been charged in
Quartzborough for a seat in that locality, and that so high were the notions of the
Circus proprietors that but for the necessity of "spelling" their horses they would
not have performed in Bullocktown at all, but gone straight to Grogmore. It was
pleasant to see how Bullocktown appreciated the honour done it, and lavished its
shillings on pit seats.
The aristocrats -- that is to say, Little Potkins, Tom Patterson, Dick Stevens of
the Gash, and other wealthy squatters, occupied the boxes, and tapped their
boots with the thong-ends of their Sunday riding whips with much dignity.
Meerschaum pipes obtained about this part of the house, and young Sholtz
(learning colonial experience), who was generally supposed to devote his existence
to the colouring of these articles, had mounted the most gigantic specimen in his
collection in pure honour of the occasion. Tom Patterson, the rogue, ogled the two
township belles, and even dared to cast the eye of flirtation on pretty Mrs
Ballantine, the poundkeeper's lately achieved bridge. Potkins sucked the
German-silver head of his whip, and looked knowing, while Stevens, who was in
"society" when in town, leant against the post and assumed a "blase'" air.
A moment of anxious expectation, and the Machiavelian One himself leapt into the
I believe that the Machiavelian One was a good clown. I have seen his memoirs,
penned bymy versatile "hic-et-ubique" friend. Bob Jingle, bound in green
covers, with a pensive portrait of the humourist himself on the back of it, and
been alarmed at his violent predilection for jesting. I am willing, even now, to
believe that the M.O. has turned fifteen double somersaults in succession, peeling
and eating an orange during the process, and that as a "jumpist," so to speak, he
is without a rival. But candour compels me to admit, on this occasion, he was not
sparkling. I have heard funnier jests than those that fell from his Machiavelian lips,
and have witnessed acrobatic feats quite as dangerous as those which horrified
the Bullocktown public on this particular evening. But perhaps the day's journey
had fatigued him, or perhaps -- and this supposition is not an improbable one -- he
did not care about wasting his best jokes upon a Bullocktown audience.
It was well that he did not, for from the instant he entered a storm of noises
shook the canvas. All the powers of bullock-driving "badinage" -- seldom elegant
-- were put in force to drive him from the ring. The good folks thought he was
the fool he feigned to be and laughed at him, not with him! When the ring-master,
chose, I imagine, for that exalted office on account of the peculiar breadth and
beauty of his whiskers, lashed the clown, the audience solemnly applauded him; and
when poor Stanislaus, in ecstasies of melancholy laughter, upset and trampled
upon the ringmaster, the audience cried "shame" at the unmanly action. It was
evident that they regarded the jester as the one serious blot upon the amusement
of the evening!
This being the unexpected conclusion, haste was made to bring in the
Equestrienne, who was graciously received. Mademoiselle Zepherina sat gracefully
on the tail end of her fiery charger -- a Roman-nosed animal of sedate and wise
appearance who seemed to be rather ashamed of his capers and caparisons --
stood upon one leg, smiled beamingly, and leapt through hoops and bounded over
silk scarfs (falling upon her knees with tremendous accuracy) until Bullocktown
would have died for her fair sake to a man. Three times was she compelled to
re-enter and kiss her fingers in acknowledgement of the homage of her subjects;
and in the last grand act, where her sailor-lover (having torn off his trousers and
flung them to the wind) stripped off so many costumes during his rapid flight that
blushing matrons, unused to daring acts of equitation, wondered alarmedly how
deep he meant to go, the applause was deafening. The lover peeled to the last
tight, waved his breathless thanks, and sank exhausted on the pad of his foaming
piebald. As the flap closed on the pair the tumult was a hurricane, tempered by
At this entrancing instant a pattering sound was heard. One of those violent
sudden showers which sometimes burst upon up-country townships was about to
descend on the tent. The ring-master paused in the midst of a whip-crack, and the
Machiavelian jester had need of all his diplomacy to assume a jocular appearance.
All faces turned simultaneously to the roof, and some half dozen men were
observed to rush past the ticket-taker and vanish into the now cloudy night. The
entrance of the Boneless Brothers recalled us to revelry. No event of less
importance could have availed to do so.
The boneless pair were certainly very startling. The way in which they defied
the anatomists, by putting their heads where their feet ought to be, and tying
themselves into knots of the most gristly description, was perfectly perplexing.
Longbow, who, amongst other professions, owned that of a surgeon, said that the
cartilaginous formation was extraordinary; only equalled, indeed, by that of his
poor dear friend, Lord Herbert of Cherberry, who had (upon Longbow's soul) the
most remarkable development of muscle ever vouchsafed to man. But when the
B.B. bent themselves into a triumphal arch, of which their heads were the
keystone, and walked upon their hands twice round the arena, even Longbow felt
compelled conscientiously to admit that Lord Herbert of Cherberry was, in
comparison, cartilaginously nowhere.
As the brothers rose, empurpled from this feat, a hideous yell resounded, and the
canvas, after swaying ominously, bulged into the centre.
The tin-hoop chandelier, with its wreath of flaming tallow-dips, dropped rattling
into the "boxes," and amid a wild shried of dismay the whole fabric collapsed upon
us. Those merry fellows outside had cut the ropes!
The cries of women pierced the canvas, and a running accompaniment of strong
language testified that male Bullocktown was not at ease.
It is not a good thing to be suddenly swamped into a sea of dirty canvas, and for a
few moments suffocation seemed imminent. Longbow, however, who was next to
me, suggested a remedy.
"I've got a knife in my trousers pocket," said he, in semi-stifled tones, "and if you
can get it out we'll cut the canvas. My arms are immovable."
Painfully conscious of the immediate and oppressive presence of "Ize Betsy," I
made shift to grasp the desired weapon, and plunged it into the blinding mass
above me. With a sound like that emitted by a tearing sheet the tent split in
sunder, and we wriggled out. The momentary glimpse we got of the chaos out of
which we had escaped was not calculated to reassure us. The centre tent-pole
alone remained. Grimly upright, it protruded from a heaving desert of dirty white
canvas, upon which the gathering rain fell patteringly. This canvas was here and
there bulged with heads and pinnacled with feet.
Indistinct growlings and groanings escaped from it, and at the slit from which we
had emerged peered one forlorn face.
It was that of Sanislaus Buncombe himself.
Longbow extended his hands which had been pressed so many times in friendship
by F.M. the Duke of Wellington, and dragged the Machiavelian one gasping in the air.
"Oh my!" said he, "here's an almighty slide."
He spoke truly. It was an almighty slide, and looked like nothing so much as a dirty
avalanche that had lost its way in a London fog, except perhaps a monster bundle
of clothes split on their course to a Titanic wash. The clown surveyed the
scene with emotion, but at last the driving rain, filling his clownish pockets with
water, compelled him to cease meditation. Around us, on the edge of this
overturned Circus riding, were several figures who appeared from their gestures
to be on the point of expiring in convulsions of laughter. These were the merry
dogs who had perpetrated this exquisite jest. Stanislaus seized upon two of these
as volunteers, and borrowing the knife that had done such good service, he rapidly
cut the cords that bound the canvas to the tent-pegs.
For an instant it appeared as though the vast sheet would be twisted into a ball by
the struggles of the creatures beneath, but Buncombe catching one end of it, and
Neil Gow the other, they "skinned" it from the corporate body beneath. Rending as
it ran, into its various sections, the emblazoned tent was pulled from the elite of
Bullocktown. Squirming, struggling, gasping, fighting, there lay the best blood of
the township, the human bottles that held what Daw, the editor of the
Quartzborough Gazette, so euphoniously termed the "vital fluid of the colonies."
Despite all one's knowledge of their misery and discomfort, one could not forbear
a laugh at the appearance of the "audience." It was as though we had overturned
a huge stone that covered a snug family of earth worms. Though not a head was
visible, I never fully realized the truth of the saying "that man is but a forked
radish with head fantastically carved" until then. Stanislaus was a modest man,
and he turned away his face with a gasp of dismay.
In a few minutes, however, all were upright, and then was confusion worse
confounded than before. Several friendly fights, began under the obscurity of the
canvas, were concluded above ground; women wept over crushed bonnets and torn
dresses. "Ize Betsy" urged her lord to execute instant vengeance upon the whole
troupe of circus-riders, and catching sight of poor Stanislaus, made at him like a
lioness. Not all the diplomacy of Machiavel was equal to the occasion, and feebly
uttering "My good woman!" the proprietor of the Yanko-American Circus turned
and fled. "I'll good woman you," screamed Mrs. Bluffem. "Wait a minute, you dog!
Wait a minute."
But Stanislaus had no such intention. Bounding over the fallen patriarchs of the
village, he ran like a deer for the "Royal Cobb," and reaching his bedroom a hand's
breadth in advance of "Ize Betsy," locked the door, vanished from view. Mrs.
Bluffem, foiled in her vengeance, and wet to the skin, screamed "Fire!" at the top
of her voice, and, falling into strong convulsions, was only to be got round by still
stronger brandy and water, administered scalding hot in the biggest tumbler the
By-and-by, however, the first flavour of alarm having gone off, it was found that
after all the affair was a most excellent jest, and merited drinks all round. So
more dark brandy was consumed, and Bullocktown agreed in the parlour, passage,
and what not of the "Royal Cobb" that it had not enjoyed itself so much for years,
and that the true way to see a circus performance was to cut the ropes at
the earliest opportunity.
This conclusion having been amicably arrived at, and the Yanko-Americans pledged
bottle deep in liquor -- which they drank suddenly and silently, as though they
were not quite satisfied at the hilarity of their hosts -- it was discovered that
there was yet more excitement. A Mysterious Beast and a Knife-Swallowing Boy
were exhibiting in a small booth which had escaped the general overthrow, and
sixpence was the price of admission.
The Mysterious Beast was certainly very mysterious. He was a clean-shaved,
melancholy animal, with a collar of gray fur round his neck, and a chain round his
body. He sat on his hind legs in a corner, and moaned plaintively, shaking his
miserable head from side to side as though he would exclaim against the
wickedness of the world and the intolerable vanity of circus-riders. The only
creature I had ever seen that resembled him in the slightest degree was a worthy
pastor at Aberdeen that preached there to me on the Sabbath upon "Balwin' oop
the trumpet i' the fool moon," and did so with just such a woebegone expression. It
was evident that the Mysterious Beast was weighed down by the consciousness of
his mystery. He felt the loneliness of genius.
The Knife-Swallowing Boy was, however, of a most cheerful character. He was
stupendously fat. (I am indeed of opinion that he was in training for greatness in
that profession, and burned to eclipse Lambert). His eyes were of pale blue, and
his cheeks a sodden white. His tights were stretched to their utmost, and rolls of
adipose tissue hung down over his spangled boots. If he swallowed nothing but
knives, cutlery must have agreed with him wonderfully.
He commenced operations by a snack of pebbles. Handing round some good sized
pieces of quartz upon a plate, he informed us that he was in the habit of
consuming these delicacies in prodigal profusion, and that he found they were
eminently satisfying and agreeable. Having said this he swallowed -- or seemed to
swallow -- five or six in rapid succession, and made a low bow. The audience
thrilled with delight, and one gentleman, in an ecstasy of admiration, swore with
surprising energy for several minutes.
The boy, however, took this compliment as his evident due, and disdainfully spat
into his hand. A lean man in the corner, who acted as showman to this exhibition,
said as solemnly as though he really believed it, "He eats ten o' them every
morning afore breakfast. It is supposed by physicians that the flints striking fire
with the steel, enables him to better digest this remarkable repast." The boy
sniffed contemptuously at this, and pretend not to know that everybody was
looking at him.
"He will now swallow a sword," said the lean man. "'And it round Master
Merryweather! 'and it round!" So the sword was 'anded round, and everybody felt it
and weighed it, looked knowingly over it, and tried if it would go into the handle,
and if it was real steel, and winked their eyes mysteriously, or affected to pass it
by with a placid smile, as though they had seen it habitually from boyhood,
and knew the man who made it.
During this process I got a little closer to the boy, and observed that he was
standing on a platform, around the bottom of which was a legend to this effect:--
"JOHN LAMBTON MERRYWEATHER,
"Age fourteen and a-half years, born in the County of Grant. He swallows knives,
swords, and all sorts of old iron. He eats pebbles, and is passionately fond of Chalk.
"PATRONISE NATIVE TALENT!
By the time I had read it over, the sword had been returned, and the swallow was
about to commence. Stretching his legs very wide apart, the boy flung back his
head until the Adam's-apple in his throat protruded in a dangerous manner, and
then holding the sword very straight in the air, he allowed it to slide into his gullet.
To the horror of all of us, the hilt rested upon his teeth, and the blade
consequently fifteen inches deep into his stomach. After remaining in this position
for an instant, the boy rapidly stretched out his arms, and the lean man, mounting
on a chair, dexterously drew the weapon from its human sheath, and handed round
the reeking blade to be admired.
During the awe-stricken silence which followed upon this feat a wild shriek was
heard. It proceeded from little Potkins, who, tormenting the Mysterious Beast, had
been bitten severely for his pains.
"Go it!" says the lean man. "Wot der want to hirritate him for?"
"I wasn't irritating," says Potkins.
"Yes yer were, I sor yer," says the boy. "You was a rokin' of him."
"Yer carn't expect beasts to be quiet when folks rokes 'em."
Flash Harry scented a riot.
"Shut up, you young quartz-crusher," said he. "Who asked for your opinion."
The boy solemnly advanced.
"Hold on my pipkin," he said. "Wait till I get up with yer; and we'll see whose
quartz'll get crushed."
"Come on young stoneworks," says Harry. "Roll up here and show yer muscle."
The crowd parted like water, and in another minute Harry and the boy were at it
hammer and tongs. I'll do Harry the justice to say that he fought well, but he was
nowhere against the boy. That corpulent infant had been apparently bred to the
science of self-defence, and the precision with which he planted his fatal left upon
the nose of the horsebreader was, as Longbow declared, beautiful to see.
After the third blow of this sort, which induced Harry's nose to spurt burstingly
beneath the fat fist, as though it had been a suddenly-quashed gooseberry, the
fight was virtually over, and the boy withdrew. Harry was removed by Potkins, and
harmony seemed again restored, when a terrible accident was found to have taken
place -- the Mysterious Beast had vanished. Taking advantage of the confusion,
the captive had escaped. It would be "roked" no more.
The lean man was violently wroth at this, and preposterously accusing Neil Gow of
having concealed the marvellous animal about his person, was promptly knocked
head over heels by that gigantic worthy.
The boy came to the rescue, and the row, for it deserves no better name, became
fiercely general. The booth was uprooted, and the knife-swallower ran some
danger of annihilation. But help was nigh. The Circus-riders came down upon us in a
compact mass, and cut into us like a wedge. Hemmed in and separated from our
companions, Longbow and I surrendered at our discretion, but the others, madly
drunk, fought until they could fight no longer. The place where the Circus had been
was the arena of one of the freest fights I remember. The Circus men were
terribly sober, and in most unpleasant "condition." They had evidently made up
their minds to avenge the destruction of their tent, and they did so most
completely. I did not see much of the combat, but in about half-an-hour the
Yanko-Americans returned, and ordered whiskies hot. Their coats were torn, and
their faces badly cut, but not a Bullocktown man showed in their wake.
One of the Bounding Brothers was kind enough to ask me for a light, and I took the
opportunity of enquiring what had become of my companions.
"Guess we kinder squelched 'em," said he. And I guess they kinder had, for not
another resident showed his nose that evening.
Having thus celebrated their victory, the Yanko-Americans began to look about
them for amusement, and strange to say they found it ready at their hand.
Curiously enough that very evening had arrived at the "Royal Cobb" that teetotal
lecturer whose eloquence had formerly moved Bullocktown to repentance and
sodawater. The name of this distinguished man was Barclay, and he had with him a
teetotal friend, who, by one of those laughable coincidences which so often occur
in life, was named Perkins. These two were sworn friends, and hunted in couples.
The low-backed shandy-dan -- half buggy, half go-cart -- in which they rode was
well-known in the district, and with its full freight of lecturers and lecturers'
wives, had been dubbed. "Barclay and Perkins Entire." This shandy-dan was now
resting in Longbow's backyard, and the four eschewers of the evil of strong drink
seated in Longbow's best parlour.
Mrs Barclay was a tall, thin, and aristocratic lady; Mrs Perkins was podgy, short,
and plebeian. Mrs Barclay was severe in demeanour; Mrs Perkins was merry with
all. Mrs Barclay read serious books; Mrs Perkins affected novels of the
Percy B. St. John type. They both, however, agreed on the subject of alcholic
liquors; for the matter of that they might have been twinned in teetotalism. It was
rumoured that Mrs Perkins had been heard to express more than friendly
admiration for Mr. Barclay, and that Mrs. Barclay had owned to a tender respect
for the noble character of Mr. Perkins. As for Barclay and Perkins, they were both
like brothers. To see them you would think Cato and Hortensius were not more
Plump upon this happy quartette did Stanislaus Buncombe, creeping down the
passage in mortal terror of "Ize Betzy," fall.
"A thousand pardons."
"Pray! Cone in," said Mr. Perkins, with a sigh. "It may chance that we win another
soul to grace."
This blessed utterance was heard by the troupe, and expecting fun, they blocked
"Come in, me Keristian friends," says Barclay, with a sigh that seemed to rend his
vitals. "Oh! Come in!"
Mr. Perkins in the meanwhile addressed himself to Stanislaus with a smile. "Do you
"Thank you," says the bewildered Machiavel, expectant of liquor. "I do." "I thought
so," returned Mr. Perkins, throwing himself back in his chair. "Dorothy! My dear,
just look at this unhappy man!"
Mrs. Perkins tittered (in a pious way) and looked. "Is he not a miserable
spectacle," asked Perkins, with deep sorrow in his tones. "Oh why do the heathen
thus furiously rage together?"
Stanislaus began to see how the land lay, and with Machiavelian sharpness, winked
at his joyous band. "Ize Betsy" had departed, and he felt himself a man again. "My
dear sir," he said, "do you know that your teetotal cordials are more pernicious
than any quantity of ardent spirits."
Barclay waved his hand to Perkins, as who should say, "here is another benighted
heathen. Hark at him!"
"I was not aware of it," says Perkins, "I have heard the argument many times
before. It is a favourite one with the children of Beeelial."
"It's a fact," says Stanislaus. "Mr. Longbow, bring me some stomach bitters."
Longbow brought them.
"Drink this," said he, "and tell me your candid opinion."
Perkins drank and handed the bottle to Barclay. The bitters were good, for the
holy men smiled a pleasant smile.
"It is comforting," said Barclay.
Stanislaus pretended to be astonished, and drank himself. "Upon my word," he
cried, "it is not bad. I half begin to believe your doctrines." "Sit down, my friend,"
cried Barclay, "and I shall expound them yet further into thee."
"The ladies," says Stanislaus, "if they will forgive a poor player, but discussion is
weary, and -- may I suggest lemonade?"
Mrs. Barclay iced herself at once, but Mrs. Perkins bowed a gracious assent,
and the lemonade was brought.
I have not now space to give the sermon that was preached by the pair, but it was
a good one, and one of these days I may repeat it. Suffice it here to say that we
all sat down and listened, and that the two holy men applied themselves to the
stomach bitters between whiles. Speaking was dry work. The evening waned, and
Stanislaus gallantly ordered more lemonade. We drank a good deal of lemonade,
and then the ladies retired to a sort of cock-loft bed-chamber suite of their
rooms that were built upon the upper storey.
"The bitters are empty," said Stanislaus. "Another bottle. Your discourse has
Some more bitters were brought, and more lemonade, and presently I began to
feel unaccountably drowsy.
A glance through the open door explained the mystery. Longbow, doubtless by that
villain Stanislaus' directions, had been putting gin into the lemonade, and brandy
into the cordial.
What need for further explanation. Perkins began to wander in his speech, and
Barclay to get unsteady on his legs. Babbling peacefully of teetotalism, they were
soon as happily drunk as the most confirmed toper of us all. Stanislaus,
triumphant, called for a "health," and filling up a cordial glass to the brim with
brandy, he handed it to Perkins.
"Water for ever," cried he.
"Wah! Wah! Water for -- egh," says Perkins, draining the brandy, with a dreadful
splutter, and suddenly awakening to the consciousness of the trick that had been
played upon him. "Why you oul, oul villain, I'm t-t-tight!" Here his speech failed him,
and he fell exhausted on the carpet.
Then came our task to convey him to bed. With wondrous exercise of mechanical
ingenuity, we bore him up stairs, and opening the doors of their rooms, bundled
him in and retreated. But when half way up the stairs a wild cry arose, and two
white figures rushed at each otheron the landing.
"Jeerusalem!" says the leader of the Yanko-Americans, "but we've put 'em into
It was even so. Mr. Barclay had enraded the chamber of Mrs. Perkins, and Mr.
Perkins that of Mrs. Barclay. 'Twas like a scene from Smollett. The two ladies,
each thinking that she had discovered her husband's infidelity, flew at each other
with deadly fury. Barclay, holding on by the bannister, denounced them both, but
Perkins, too drunk to stand, clapped his hands feebly, and said with the last flicker
of expiring sense, "Gug-go it Kak! Kak-Karoline!"
Who is it says that nothing is more gratifying to the gods than the spectacle of a
good man struggling with adversity!
But I am not a god, so let me draw the veil.
The Romance Of Lively Creek
The township of Lively Creek is not the sort of place in which one would expect a
romance to happen; and yet, in the year, 18--, when I accepted the secretaryship
to the Mechanics' Institute, occurred a series of circumstances which had in them
all the elements of the wildest French fiction.
The unwonted impetus given to social relations, which was affected by the
"opening up" of the Great Daylight Reef, brought together those incongruous
particles of adventurous humanity which are to be found floating about the
gold-mining centres of Australian population, and in six months the quiet village --
up to that time notorious for its extreme simplicity -- had become a long street,
surrounded by mounds, shafts, and engine-houses, and boasting a Court House, a
Mechanics' Institute, half a dozen places of (variously conducted) religious
worship, and some twenty public-houses.
The thirst for knowledge which attends upon worldly success soon made my office
a laborious one, for, in addition to my duties as Librarian, I was expected to act as
Master of the Ceremonies, Conductor of Conversaziones, Curator of a Museum of
Curiosities, and Theatrical Manager. The Committee of Management were desirous
that no attraction which might increase the funds of the institution should be
passed over, and when Mademoiselle Pauline Christoval (of the Theatres Royal,
Honolulu, Manilla, Singapore, and Popocatapetl) offered a handsome rent to be
permitted to play for six nights in the great hall, I was instructed to afford every
facility to that distinguished actress.
Mademoiselle Pauline was a woman of an uncertain age -- that is to say, she might
have been two-and-twenty and was not improbably three-and-thirty. Tall, elegant,
self-possessed and intelligent, she made her business arrangements with
considerable acuteness, and, having duly checked all items of "gas" and
"etceteras," announced that she would play the Green Bushes, as an initiatory
performance. "I always act as my own agent," said she, "and my Company is
entirely under my own direction."
Upon inquiry at the Three Star Brand -- where the Company were lodged -- I found
this statement to be thoroughly correct. Miss Fortescue (the wife of Mr.
Effingham Bellingham, the "leading man") had already confided to Mrs. Butt, the
landlady, several items of intelligence concerning the tyranny exercised by
the lady manager. Mr. Capricorn, the "juvenile man" (husband of Miss Sally Lunn,
the charming danseuse), had hinted vaguely, with much uplifting of his juvenile
brows, that Mademoiselle was not to be trifled with, while I found that old Joe
Banks, the low comedian (the original "Stunning Joseph" in the popular farce of
My Wife's Aunt), had shaken his venerable head many times in humorous
denunciation of "the artfulness of Christoval."
There was much excitement in the bar-parlour of the "Main Reef Hotel" at the
dinner hour. So many reefers took me mysteriously behind the door, and begged
me to bring them casually behind the scenes during the performance, that it was
evident that, for the first night of the six, at all events, the improvised theatre
would be crowded. The only man who manifested no interest was Sporboy --
Sporboy, the newly-arrived; Sporboy, the adventurer; Sporboy, the oracle of
tap-rooms; Sporboy, the donor of curiosities to our Museum; Sporboy, the
shareholder in the Great Daylight; Sporboy, the traveller, the narrator, the hot
shisky swiller:-- Honest Jack Sporboy, the richest man, the hugest drunkard, and
the biggest liar in all Lively Creek.
"I've seen enough of them sort o' gals," said he. "I'm getting old. My hair's grey.
Pauline Christoval, of the Theatres Royal, Manilla, and Popocatapetl, eh? Bosh! Hot
"But, Captain Sporboy, your influence ----"
"Oh yes! All right. I've been in Manilla. I've eaten brain soup and Basi in Hocos, my
boy. Human brains. Devilish good, too. Ha, ha! Another lump of sugar."
"Human brains, you old cannibal!" cried Jack Barnstaple. "What do you mean?"
"Just what I say, dear boy," returned the old reprobate, wagging his Silenus head.
"When I was in Pampalo we made a trip to Pangasinan, and assisted at a native
feast. The Palanese had just achieved a victory over the Quinanf's, and
seventy-five heads were served up in my honour. Gad, gentlemen, the fellows
cracked 'em like cocoa-nuts, and whipped out the brains in less time than you
would take to disembowel a crayfish!"
"But a theatrical entertainment, my dear Captain Sporboy, merits your
"Seen 'em all, sir. Tired of 'em. N'York, Par's, London. No! Jack Sporboy, sir, is
tired of the vanities of life, and prefers the noble simplicity of hot whisky. I had
the Theatre on Popocatapetl myself once, and lost 4,000 dol. By a mtis that I
hired to dance the tight-rope. Fine woman, but immoral, gentlemen. She ran away
with my big-drum-and-cymbals, and left me to support her helpless husband.
Never trust a half-caste; they are all treacherous."
So we left the virtuous old gentleman to the enjoyment of his memories, and went
to the hall. My anticipations were realized. The Green Bushes was a distinct
success. Joe Banks, as " Jack Gong," was voted magnificant, and for the "Miami"
the audience could not find words enough in which to express their admiration.
Mademoiselle added to the attractions of her flashing black eyes, streaming
black hair, supple figure, and delicate brown hands, a decided capacity for the
realization of barbaric passion, and her performance was remarkably good. The
Lively Creek Gazette, indeed, expressed itself, on the following morning, in these
admirable terms:-- "Mademoiselle Christoval's 'Miami' was simply magnificent, and
displayed a considerable amount of dramatic power. She looked the Indian to the
life, and her intense reproduction of the jealous wife rose almost to mediocrity in
the third act. Indeed, in the delineation of the fiercer emotions, Mademoiselle
Christoval has no equal on the Colonial stage, and we have no hesitation in
pronouncing her a very nice actress." After the drama was over, I took advantage
of my position to go "behind the scenes," and, while Joe Banks was delighting the
public with the "roaring farce" of Turn Him Out, to compliment the lady upon her
triumph. I found the door of the improvised dressing-room beseiged by the male
fashion of the township, who (having made Lame Dick, my janitor, drunk) had
obtained introductions to the eminent tragedienne. Foremost amongst these was
Harry Beaufort, the son of Beaufort, or Beaufort's Mount.
"Ah," said I, "are you here?"
"Yes," said he, blushing. "I rode over today from Long Gully."
"Mr. Beaufort and I are old acquaintances," said the soft tones of the lady, as
emerging, cloaked and bonneted, from the rough planking, she melted the crowd
with a smile, and turned towards me, "Will you join us at supper?"
I looked at Harry and saw him blush again. It stuck me that he was only
two-and-twenty; that his father was worth half-a-million of sheep, and that
Mademoiselle Christoval was not a woman to marry for love.
"Thank you," said I. "I will."
We had a very pleasant supper, for though I was evidently a skeleton at the
banquet, the actress was far too clever a one to let me see her uneasiness. Harry
sulked, after the manner of his stupid sex, but the lady talked with a vivacity
which made ample amends for his silence. She was a very agreeable woman. Born
-- so she told me -- in the Phillipines, she had travelled through South America
and the States, had visited California, and was now "doing Australia," on her way
to Europe. "I want to see Life," she said, with extraordinary vigour of enjoyment in
her black eyes, "and I must travel."
"Why don't you take an engagement in Melbourne?" I asked.
"Can't get one to suit me. I don't care about sharing after everything a night but
the gas. Besides, I only want to pay my way and travel. I should have to stop too
long in one place if I took a Melbourne engagement."
"And don't you like to stop in one place?" asked Beaufort.
"No," said she, decidedly. "I am an actress, and actresses, like fine views, grow
stale if you see them every day."
"But did you never think of leaving the stage?" asked the young man.
"Never. I was born in a theatre. My mother was a ballet dancer. My father was an
actor. My grandfather was clown in a circus. I have played every part in the English
language that could be played by a woman. I could play 'Hamlet' to-morrow night if
the people would come and see me. Why should I leave the stage?"
"True," said I, "but you may marry."
Oh! The vicious look she gave me! -- a dagger sheathed in a smile.
"I never intend to marry. It is growing late. I am an actress -- the people will talk.
We parted with mutual esteem; and, as she shook hands with us, I saw, lurching up
the passage, the whisky-filled form of the Great Sporboy. His eyes, attracted by
the light from the room, fell upon us, and -- surprised, doubtless, at the brilliant
appearance of Mademoiselle Pauline -- he started.
Mademoiselle Pauline grew pale -- alarmed, perhaps, at the manner of the
intoxicated old reprobate -- and hastily drew back into her chamber.
"Go away. You're drunk!" said Harry, in a fierce whisper.
"Of course I am," said Sporboy, advancing diagonally, "but that's my business.
"That is Mademoiselle Pauline," said I.
"Ho!" cries Sporboy, his red face lighting up as if suddenly illumined by some
inward glow. "Ho! Ho! That's she, is it. He, he! A fine woman. A fair woman. A sweet
woman." It was a peculiarity of this uneducated monster to display a strange
faculty for mutilated quotation.
"Ho, ho! I wish ye joy o'e the worm. So a kind good-night to all."
Busy all next day, I found in the evening that the tragedienne had been indisposed,
and had kept her room. Harry Beaufort, who informed me, said that she had
intended to throw up the engagement, and quit the town, but that he had
persuaded her to remain. "I do not want her to do anything that may appear
strange," he said. Then, sitting in the little room off the bar, underneath the
picture of the Brighton Mail, he told me the truth. He intended to marry
Mademoiselle Pauline. "But," said I, "do you know anything about her? I will tell you
frankly that I don't like her. She is a mystery. Why should she travel about alone in
this way? Do you know anything of her past life?"
"So much the worse. One can always obtain the fullest account of an actress's
life, because she is a notable person, and the public takes an interest in the
minutest particulars concerning notable people. If, as she says, she is the
daughter of an actor, fifty people of the stage can tell you all about her family.
Have you made enquiries?"
"She came from California," said he. "How should they know her? Come, let us go
into the theatre."
I went in, and saw, to my astonishment, the cynical Sporboy seated in the front
row, applauding vehemently, and sliming 'Miami' with his eye as a boar slimes a
rabbit it intends to devour.
"Capital!" he was exclaiming, "Capital! What a waist! What an ankle! What a
charming devikin it is! Black blood there, boys! Supple as an eel. Ho, ho! Good! Our
Pauline shall receive the homage of her Sporboy in the splendid neatness of a
The stage, being of necessity but three feet from the front seats, these
exclamations were distinctly heard by the actress, who seemed to shiver at them,
as a high-bred horse shivers at the sight of some horrible animal. But she never
turned her flashing black eyes to where the empurpled vagabond wheezed and
gloated. She seemed, I thought, rather to avoid that fishy eye, and to feel relieved
when Sporboy went out for that "splendid neatness," and did not return. I
complimented her -- in my official capacity -- upon the success of her
performance, but she seemed tired and anxious to get to the hotel. I offered to
escort her, and when on the steps was met by Sporboy.
He lifted his hat with a flourish which made the rings on his fat hands flash in the
gaslight. "Introduce me! -- Nay -- then, I will introduce myself. John Sporboy,
madam, late of Manilla, 'Frisco, Popocatapetl, and Ranker's Gully. John Sporboy,
who has himself fretted his little hour upon the stage, and has owned no less than
ten theatres in various parts of the civilized world. John Sporboy craves an
introduction to Mademoiselle Pauline Christoval."
She paused a moment, and then -- probably seeing that opposition might expose
her to insult -- said to me: "Pray introduce your friend, if he is so desirous."
"Spoken like a Plantagenet," cried Sporboy. "Mademoiselle, I kiss your hands. If
you will permit me, I'll sing the songs of other years, of joyful bliss or war, and if
my songs should make you weep, I'll touch the gay guitar!"
"Pray come upstairs," said she, coldly; "all the people are staring at us."
The Great Sporboy was never greater than on that well-remembered evening. He
talked incessantly, and when he was not devoting himself to the "elegant
simplicity of whisky hot," he was singing Canadian boat songs to his own piano
accompaniment, or relating anecdotes of his triumphs in Wall Street, his
adventures on the Pacific Slope, or his lucky hits in every kind of speculation.
"I have been through fire and water. I know most things. I have been up
some very tall trees in my time, and looked around upon some very queer
prospects. You can't deceive me, and my advice is, don't try, for, if you do, I'm
bound to look ugly, and when I knock a man down, ma'am, it takes four more to
carry him away, and then there's five gone! Tra-la-la! Pu-r-r-r!" And he ran up and
down the keys with his fat fingers.
"I think Mademoiselle Pauline looks tired," said I.
"Oh, no," she returned, uneasily. "Not at all. Captain Sporboy is so amusing, so
vivacious -- so young, may I say?"
"You may, Mademoiselle," said Sporboy, "say what you like."
To lovely women, Sporboy was ever as gentle as the gazelle.
"Pray" -- suddenly wheeling round upon the music-stool and, liquorishly, facing her
-- "have you heard lately from your sainted MOTHER, ma'am?"
They say that a creature shot through the heart often leaps into the air before it
falls dead. Mademoiselle Pauline must have received at that instant some such
fatal wound, for she leapt to her feet, standing for an instant gazing wildly at us,
and then sank back into her seat, speechless and pale.
"What do you mean? I do not understand you," she gasped out at length; and then,
as though her quick intellect had assured her that deceit was useless -- "I have
not seen my mother since she left me, seven years ago, at St. Louis."
"As she left me once before!" said Sporboy, with savage triumph in his bloodshot
eyes. "I thought I knew you, Miss Mannelita. 'Should old acquaintance be forgot?'
eh? I hope not."
I rose to go, faltering some lame excuse, but Sporboy stopped me. "Nay, my young
and juvenile friend (as I used to say in Chadband), be not hasty. This lady and I are
old friends. 'We met, 'twas in a crowd;' and I thought she would shun me. Ho, ho!
Let us drink to this merry meeting! For 'when may we three meet again?' I will
order Moet and Chandon."
"I think, Sporboy, that you have drunk enough." (She was sitting motionless,
waiting, as it seemed, for the issue of events.) "Let us go home."
"Home. It's home I fain would be -- home, home, home, in my ain countree! Eh! Miss
Pauline, 'I'd be a butterfly born in a bower.' EH?"
"If you have anything to say to me, sir," (the dusky pale of her cheeks illuminated
by two spots of crimson) "you had better say it."
"I, my enslaver? No, not I, not I, not I! Was it Vestris used to sing?" (Humming it)
"'I'll be no submissive, wi-fe, no, not I, no, not I!' Would you like to be a submissive
wife, ma'am? God help the man who gets you! Adieu, adieu! 'Hamlet, r-r-remember
"Good heavens, Sporboy," said I, when I got him outside, "what on earth did you go
on in that way for? What do you know of her?"
"Ho, ho!" chuckled Sporboy, with thickening utterance. "What do I know of
her? Tra-la-la! Tilly-valley! No good, you may depend."
"Tell me what you do know then. Young Beaufort wishes to marry her."
"I know," said Sporboy, with another chuckle; "he told me. He's gone to Melbourne
by the night coach to make arrangements."
"When will he be back?"
"The day after to-morrow. Tra-la-la! Oh haste to the wedding, and let us be gay,
for young Pauline is dressed in her bridal array. She's wooed and she's won, by a
Beaufort's proud son, and Pauline, Pauline, Pauline's a lady."
"But, Sporboy, if you know anything absolutely discreditable about her, you ought
to tell me."
"Not to-night, dear boy. To-morrow! 'To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
creeps on this pretty pace from day to day, and all our yesterdays have lighted
fools away to dusky death.' Where's the brief candle? So to bed, to bed!"
All night I tossed uneasily. The strange mystery of this handsome and defiant
woman affected me. Who, and what was she? What did the profligate old
adventurer know of her? Was she innocent and maligned, or a guilty creature to be
unmasked and abandoned to her own fortune? The hot morning steamed into my
window, and woke me from some strange dream, in which such conjectures as
these had taken visible shape to torment me. I approach the lattice-work, and
distinguished the tones of Sporboy and Mademoiselle Pauline.
"Why do you wish to persecute me?" she said. "I am not interfering with your
schemes. This boy is not a friend of yours. I have not seen you for years."
"No, my charming child, you have not. You thought me dead, eh?"
"I had hoped so often," said she, slowly.
"But we don't die young in our family, my dear," he laughed. "'We live and love
together through many a changing year' -- ay, and hate together! Ho, ho!"
"What do you want to do then?"
"To make you suffer for your mother -- for your infernal wretch of a half-bred,
Spanish-blooded, treacherous devil of a mother -- my young lamb."
"By waiting until your lover comes back with his licence in his pocket, and then
telling him as much of your history as I know, and as much more as I can invent."
She fell upon her knees.
"O, no, no! You will not do this. I will go away to-night, to-day, this hour. I never
injued you. If you knew the life I have led. I am weary, weary. This boy loves me.
He is honest, and, and ----"
"And rich, my Manuelita?"
"I cannot marry a poor man. You should know that. I have suffered poverty too
"But have you not your Profession? Are you not an eminent tragedienne? Do not
the diggers throw the nuggets? I am ashamed of you, my Manuelita," and he began
to whistle as thoughintensely amused.
She rose to her feet. "My profession! I hate it! Hate it! Hate it! I never wished to
belong to it. I was forced into it. Forced by my mother, and by you----"
"And by others, my pigeon!"
"When I was thirteen you sold me. When I was fifteen I was a woman. I am thirty
now, and do you think that fifteen years of sordid cares and desperate strifes
have led me to love my art -- as you call it? An art! It is an art. But you, and men
like you, have made a trade of it -- a trade in which bare bosoms and blonde hair
fetch the highest prices."
"Gently, sweet Manuelita! Tra-la-la-la! Tum-tum! Tra-la-la-la!" and he stopped his
whistle to hum, beating time with his hand on the verandah-rail.
"All my life. I have been told to get money -- money -- money -- money. Good
looks are worth -- money. Health is worth -- money. I am taught to sing, to play,
to dance, to talk, that I may bring -- money. Well, you have had your profit out of
me. Now, I am going to sell myself for my own benefit!"
He stopped whistling and caught her by the wrist.
"I tell you what you are going to do. You are going to do just as I tell you, until this
time to-morrow morning. You are going to stop acting, for I won't let you out of
my sight. (Don't start; I will pay the salaries of your people.) You are going to
remain with me all day. We will visit the claims, the shops, the museum, the places
of interest, and this time to-morrow your lover will arrive, and I shall have the
honour of relating to him the particulars of your lively career in the United States,
Mexico, California, and the Great Pacific Slope."
"I will not obey you. Let me go."
"Does my Manuelita wish that I relate her history to the world then? That I print it
in the local paper; that I tell my friend Craven, the police-magistrate and warden
that ----" and he approached and whispered something in her ear which I could not
There was silence for a moment, and then the sound of suppressed sobs. Sporboy
had conquered, for he walked away humming, and in a few minutes I saw him pass
out of the door below me, and -- with no trace of the debauch of last night upon
him -- call out to the waiter, "Mademoiselle has asked me to breakfast, Chips.
When the heart of a man is oppressed with cares, the mists are dispelled when a
woman appears! Rum and milk, Chips."
I went about my business that morning rather more satisfied than I had been. It
was evident that, however infamous, from a moral point of view, might be the
behaviour of Sporboy, the woman was an adventuress who merited exposure, and
that the action proposed would liberate my foolish friend. I resolved to wait
The first event was the arrival of Sporboy to pay me for the Hall. "Our charming
friend -- I knew her poor dear mother in 'Frisco -- is unwell and cannot play.
Genius, dear boy, is often a trying burden. I have taken upon myself to show her
about the township, to take her for a drive to the dam -- to amuse her mind in
fact. Is that whisky in that bottle? No? Ink! Ah, I will not trouble you. Till we meet,
dear boy! Ho, 'let me like a soldier fall.' Tum, tum! Te, tum! Tum, tum!"
The second was the report started at the "Main Reef Hotel," that Sporboy was
going to marry Mademoiselle Pauline, and that he was taking her down his claims to
show her his wealth.
The third was the appearance of the pair themselves in Merry-jingle's new buggy,
to "look at the museum." "We have done the dam, seen the claims, been down
shafts, and exhausted nature generally," said Sporboy. "Ma'amselle is almost
In truth she looked so. She was very white and nervous, and glanced about her
with the stare of a hunted animal. Knowing that which I did know, I thought that
Sporboy might esteem himself fortunate in not having been precipitated down a
shaft by a little hand which so nervously twitched at the magnificent shawl of
Angora goat's hair, which had been the envy of Main Street for the last three
days. I almost pitied the poor creature.
"Show us the wonders of the Museum," cried the vivacious Sporboy (smelling
strongly of the elegant simplicity of hot whisky). "Let us see your fossils, your
emu eggs, your Indian shields, and your savage weapons of war! Ho, ho! Here is a
canoe, Ma'amselle. How would you like to be floating in it away back to your native
land? Here we have a model of the Great Lively Creek Nugget. How would you like
to have that now, and live in luxury all your days?"
If this was the method of torment he had put in practice since morning, she must
have had more than human patience to endure it in silence.
"Here we have a club from New Caledonia. How nice to cleave the skull of your
enemies! Our charming friend, Pauline, if she has enemies, might long to be able to
use so effective a weapon! Or this spear! Adapted even to a woman's hand! Ho, ho!
Miami, would you like to draw this little bow, and spit your foe with this arrow? By
the way, how goes the time?"
It was two o'clock, and I told him so.
"The coach for Melbourne passes at three; would you like to go by it?" he asked
her. "But no, I would not recommend it. And yet the company is paid a week in
advance. They would not stop you. Shall we make a trip?"
She turned to him half hopefully, as though deceived by his tones, but catching the
malignant glance of his eye flushed and turned away.
Skipping from case to case like an overgrown bee, he paused at last.
"Ho, ho! What have we here! Oh! My gift. The Sumpitan, or blow-pipe, the
weapon of the natives of Central America, presented together with a case
of poisoned arrows, by John Sporboy. Tra-la-la! Observe this:-- The fellow
takes one of these little wooden needles stuck into a pith ball, puts it into the
pipe, blows, and puff! -- down falls his dinner!"
He commenced capering about with the long reed to his lips, swelling out his
cheeks as in the act of blowing, and looking -- with his big belly and
tightly-buttoned coat -- like a dissipated bullfrog.
Mademoiselle seemed roused to some little interest by this novel instrument.
"But how can they eat poisoned meat?" asked she.
"The poison does not injure the meat," I replied, with the gravity proper to a
Secretary. "It is the celebrated Wourali poison, and effects no organic change in
the body of the animal killed by it. You fire at him; he feels the prick of the needle,
and, as Captain Sporboy says -- puff -- he falls dead in a few minutes!"
"Ho, ho!" cries the exhilarated Sporboy from the other end of the room. "See me
slay the Secretary with his own weapons," and wheeling about, he blew at me a
pellet of paper, propelled with such force that, narrowly missing my face, it
struck and knocked to the ground a little Indian figure, which shivered into fifty
The gross old villain was somewhat sobered by this incident, and taking the quiver
from the hands of Mademoiselle, replaced it, together with the reed in its
"I am an ass," he said. "Let us return to the hotel and see the coach come in. We
may have news of absent friends, who knows? My Pauline, thy Sporboy awaits
Paler and colder than ever, she allowed him to lead her away, and they departed.
The manner in which Sporboy treated the wretched woman whom he had vowed to
unmask disgusted me. It was unmanly, cruel. That she should be prevented from
ruining a young and wealthy fool was right and necessary, but there was no need
to torment her, to play with her as the catplays with the mouse. Surely the best
thing to do with her would be to let her go her own ways back into the great world
out of which she had come. I determined to see Sporboy, inform him of that which
I had overheard, and beg his mercy.
At four o'clock, the hour for closing the Museum, I went down to the hotel.
At the door I saw Stunning Joe Banks.
"I was coming to see you," he said; "I want to take the Hall."
"Oh certainly, but I must see Mademoiselle Christoval first."
"Gone to Melbourne."
"By the three o'clock coach. It's all right. We're all square."
"But," said I bewildered, "what about Sporboy?"
"Which?" asked Joseph, with one of those fine touches of humour for which he
was so distinguished. "What?"
"Excuse me a few minutes," I said. "There is something strange here," and I
hastened down Main Street, "Captain Sporboy in?" I asked Chips.
"He was here this afternoon, sir."
"When did Mademoiselle Christovel leave?"
"She came down with the Captain in his buggy, and went upstairs with him.
Presently she rang the bell and told me to take her passage by the coach. She paid
her bill, sent down her boxes, and was O.P.H., sir."
"And was not Captain Sporboy with her?"
"No. Sir. Didn't see him after he went upstairs with her. P'raps he's in his room."
I went upstairs and knocked at the Great Man's door. No answer. I opened the
door, and nearly fell over Sporboy's body. He was lying on the floor, just inside his
room -- DEAD!
My hurried summons filled the room with people in a few seconds. We lifted the
corpse from the ground. There was on it no mark of violence, save that in falling
the dying man had struck his nose against the floor, and the blood had slightly
spotted his shirt front, and that hisright hand doubled under him was bruised and
"I wonder," said the Coroner, taking his "Three Star" afterwards in the bar, "that
a man of his habits was so apparently healthy. He drank whisky enough to have
killed a regiment of dragoons. Those sort of subjects almost always die suddenly."
Suddenly, indeed, when he was last seen by Mr. Butt, in perfect health, shaking
hands with Mademoiselle Christovel at the threshold of the room that was his
The romance of Lively Creek was over, buried in the grave of the friendless
adventurer. No one ever knew the nature of the secret which bound the Great
Sporboy to the travelling actress, for when Harry Beaufort returned by the
morning coach, he found a letter awaiting him, containing three lines of farewell
from the unworthy woman he had hoped to marry, andwho disappeared into the
unholy mystery out of which she had emerged.
Was it accident or murder which removed the profligate prosecutor of
Pauline of Manuelita so opportunely and so suddenly from her path? In common
with the rest of the world I believed the former -- until yesterday.
Despite the strong motive for the crime, the absolute absence of all testimony,
medical or circumstantial, against her had compelled me to adjudge her innocent
of the deed. I thought so then -- I hope so now -- but the reason I have recalled
upon paper the details of this unfinished history is, that upon taking down
yesterday, for some official purposes, the Sumpitan quiver, which had hung upon
its accustomed nail for the last ten years under the noses of all the world, I found
that the tiny, poisoned, thorn-point of one of the wooden needles had been broken
off, and caught by a splinter in the little cane ring which sustained the mutilated
shaft was a fine white thread -- the hair of the Angora goat.
King Billy's Troubles: or Governmental Red-Tapeism
"It is perfectly monstrous," said I, "this is the ninth pair he has had since
shearing. Buckmaster himself would be ruined at this rate."
"My love," suggested Mrs. Tallowfat, "he can't go about without them."
I made some pettish observations about the "poor Indian" and "beauty unadorned
&c.," but Mrs. Tallowfat said "stuff" in a tone which precluded argument. "The
Bellwethers are coming up to the station next week" said she "and to have a black
fellow walking about -- Oh, it's not to be thought of."
"Budgeree, climb tree" says King Billy, turning his dilapidations towards us with
the elegant simplicity of the savage. "Slip down long o' 'possum. Big fellow hole
There was no disputing it.
"Well my dear" said I, "he'll get no more from me I'll -- I'll write to the
His Majesty King William the First was the chieftain of the Great Glimmera blacks,
and carried on his manly breast a brass label inscribed with his name, date and
title. He was general "knock-about-man" on the station, and as I had been idiot
enough to allow myself to be made a corresponding member of the Board for the
Protection of Aboriginals, William imagined that he had a right to demand from me
unlimited clothing. The Board liberally supplied the few blacks who yet survived the
gin bottle with a blanket per year (by the way, the storekeepers who gave rum in
exchange vowed the quality was most inferior); by some accident the blanket
intended for the monarch had been captured by some inferior aboriginal, and had
never been replaced. William indignantly demanded to be clothed, and to quiet his
outcries I gave him a pair of pantaloons. The gift was so highly appreciated, that
when the blanket did arrive, His Majesty declined to wear it. "What for you gib it
that." "No good," said he, with profound contempt, and continued to eat, drink,
sleep, ride, and climb trees in my pantaloons.
"Mrs. Tallowfat," said I, "I will write to the department."
I did write -- a forcible, and I flatter myself, even elegant letter, setting forth the
poor savage's yearning for civilisation, begging that the Board would take the
matter into their favourable consideration, and supply the dethroned monarch
with one pair of moleskins a year. A week passed, and I received a letter from the
BOARD FOR THE PROTECTION OF ABORIGINES.
July 27th, 186--
Sir, -- I have the honour to acknowledge your letter of 20th inst., requesting that the
aboriginal named in the margin may be supplied with one pair of moleskin trousers
annually by this department, and in reply have the honour to inform you that I will
lay the letter before the Board at their next sitting, and communicate to you their
decision on the subject.
I have the honour to be, Sir,
Your most obedient humble servant,
JOHN P. ROBINSON,
Secretary to the Board.
To Tiyrus Tallowfat, Esq., J.P.,
Budgeree Flat, Old Man Plains, Great Glimmera.
This, so far, was very satisfactory, and I triumphantly snubbed my wife, who had
ventured to hint that I should find my application treated with nonchalance.
Weeks, however, rolled away, Billy wore out two more pairs of trousers, and the
Board did not write. I sent another despatch; no answer. Another; no answer. A
third; still no reply. I got angry, and penned a sarcastic note. "Am I Briareus?"
asked I, sardonically, "that I should keep a hundred pairs of breeches on hand." My
sarcasm had the desired result. It provoked an answer.
28th September, 186--
Sir, I have the honour, by the direction of the Board for the Protection of Aboriginies,
to acknowledge the correspondence cited in the margin, and to inform you in reply that
the Board have given your application their fullest and most complete attention. The
practice, however, of supplying breeches to black fellows is one which has not
hitherto obtained in this department, authorised, under Act Vic. cxxii., Sec.4001 to
provide blankets and petticoats only. I am directed, however, to inform you that the
Board will again consider this somewhat important matter, with a view to bringing it
under the notice of the Hon. The Chief Secretary at an early date.
I am further instructed to say that your observation on the subject of "Briareus" is
not only incorrect, but considered by the Board to be quite uncalled for.
I have the honour to be, &c.,
JOHN P. ROBINSON.
I was staggered. What vast machinery had I not set in motion. Good gracious! I had
no desire to trouble the Chief Secretary. I would write to him and apologise. Like
an ass, I did so.
In three months I received back my letter, marked in red ink, in blue ink, in green
ink, minuted in all directions, and commented upon in all kinds of handwriting.
"Noted and returned, W.P.S." "Not on the business of this department, O.P.G."
"Refer to the Paste and Scissors Office, M.B." "Apparently forwarded in error,
L.B.O." Across the right hand bottom corner of this maltreated document was
written, in fine bold hand, with which I afterwards became hideously familiar.
"Communications on the subject of Clothing of Aboriginals must be made to
the Hon. The Chief Secretary through the Gunnybag and Postage Stamp
Department Only, O.K."
This was decisive, though who "O.K." was, and what the Gunnybag and Postal
Stamp Department had to do with the Clothing of Aboriginals (who wore neither
Gunnybags nor Postage Stamps), I could not tell. However, I was not yet beaten. I
wrote to the Hon. Silas Barnstarke, then Comptroller General of Gunnybags,
enclosed the returned letter and begged that he would use his influence in the
proper quarter to procure a pair of moleskins for King Billy. The Hon. Silas
Barnstarke was an official by nature, and he replied after six months accordingly.
GUNNYBAGS AND POSTAGE STAMP DEPARTMENT.
3rd July, 187--.
Sir, -- In reference to your note of 24th January last, I have the honour to inform you
that no official cognisance of blackfellows' breeches can at present be taken by this
I have the honour to be, &c.,
Comptroller of Gunnybags.
My Dear Sir, -- I have to regret that I am unable to comply with your very reasonable
Dear Tallowfat, -- I can't do anything about this confounded blackfellow.
In the meantime King William wore out three more pairs. I wrote again to the
Board, and, after waiting the usual time, received the following reply:--
9th October, 187--.
Sir, -- I have the honour by direction of the board, to inform you that they cannot at
present move in the matters named in the margin.* The subject of the Clothing of
Aborigines in general has occupied the gravest attention of the Board for the last six
months, but, after mature consideration, they fail to see how your request can be in
any respect complied with, unless by the direct authority of His Excellency the
I am instructed to suggest, that perhaps in the meantime, as the case seems urgent,
and His Excellency is in Adelaide, a kilt might meet the difficulty.
I have the honour, &c.,
JOHN P. ROBINSON.
"A kilt meet the difficulty! No, nor half of it." In indignant terms I wrote to this
half-hearted Robinson. "No one but an idiot," said I, "could make such a
preposterous suggestion." Thephlegmatic creature replied (after three weeks) as
1st November, 187--.
Sir, -- I have the honour to acknowledge your communication of 12th October last, in
which you inform me I am an idiot, as per margin, and in reply thereto, I beg to
inform you that on that point a difference of opinion exists in this Department.
and he had again "the honour to be."
This seemed a fatal blow to my hopes, but I wrote again, begged to withdraw the
offensive expression made in the heat of the moment, and to request that the
Board would condescend to take my petition into earnest consideration. Mr.
Robinson replied in a temperature and forgiving spirit.
The "Board" he observed, in the most elegant round-hand "are most desirous to
promote the welfare of Aborigines in the minutest particular, and I am directed to
state for your information that a proposal to amalgamate the votes for flannel
petticoats and patent revolving beacons will be made to the Government, which
amalgamation will enable the Board to issue one pair of moleskin trousers, as per
Schedule B., to every three adult aboriginals in the colony. I am directed to ask if
you have any suggestions to offer with regard to cut, number of buttons, flap or
I could not see how one pair of breeches between every three adult natives would
"meet the difficulty," as Mr. Robinson elegantly put it, nor did I understand why
the votes for flannel petticoats and patent revolving beacons needed
amalgamation, but I replied thanking the Board, and wrote to my friend O'Dowd,
member for the Glimmera, to beg him to make a "proper representation" on the
subject. O'Dowd was at that time "in opposition." I saw in the Peacock that "the
hon. Member for Glimmera gave notice that he would ask the hon. The Comptroller
of Gunnybags, on the following Thursday, if he was aware of the particulars
attending the case of an aboriginal known as King Billy."
My hopes rose high, when, on the following Thursday, O'Dowd delivered himself of a
terrific speech, in which he accused the Government of the most wanton
barbarity, and drew such a terrible picture of the trouserless monarch hiding in
the dens and clefts of the rocks, that it brought tears into my eyes as I read it.
Barnstarke, however, who had kept two clerks at work night and day, copying the
correspondence replied in his usual calm and dignified manner. "The attention of
the Government had already been called to the lamentable condition of the
aborigines in that wealthy and populous district, where the hon. Member who had
just sat down owned such extensive property, and he might inform the hon.
Member that the Government had taken steps to remedy, in some measure, the
effects of the apparent parsimony of the inhabitants of the Glimmera district, by
a method which he was convinced would fully satisfy every intelligent and
liberal member of that House."
O'Dowd was muzzled, but, as luck would have it, little Chips, the leader writer to
the Peacock, was in the gallery and wanted a "subject." "Monstrous case about
that blackfellow," said he to the editor later in the evening. "I should like to do a
smart little thing on old Barnstarke about it."
There was nothing better going, and the article was written. I forget it now, but I
know it was vastly clever, quoting Horace twice, and comparing poor Barnstarke
to Le Roi Dagobert. In fact, it was full of as much withering scorn as Chips could
afford for £2 2s., and Chips was liberal.
Thus encouraged by the support of the Press, O'Dowd moved for a Commission to
inquire into the subject of Aborigines' breeches, with power to call for persons and
The Commission was granted, sat at the Parliament Houses for nine mortal weeks,
examined 300 witnesses, ordered "plans and specifications" of all the breeches
since the original fig-leaf, and at a cost of £2000 published a Report of 1000
pages, containing a complete history of the development of breeches from the
This Report contained my correspondence in an appendix, and advised that all the
Aborigines throughout the Colony, male and female, should at once be provided
with three pairs of broadcloth pantaloons a-piece.
In the meantime King Billy wore out four pairs of mine.
Elated, however, by the successful issue of my labours, I gave him the garments,
and waited for my revenge. I waited for three months.
It was nearly the end of the session, and I had almost begun to despair, when I
received a large packet from Mr. Robinson, enclosing a copy of the Report, and
asking for a "return of the number, height, age, and weight of all the Aborigines in
the district." I set to work without delay to furnish this return, and had the
gratification of seeing by the papers that "In reply to a question by Mr. O'Dowd,
the Comptroller of Gunnybags informed the House that the Report of the
Blackfellows' Breeches Commission had been referred to the Board for the
Protection of Aborigines, who would give the recommendation of the Commission
their best attention."
It seemed that we had come back to the place whence we had started.
Nothing was done, of course, during the recess, but when the House was about to
sit, I saw that the Peacock was "informed that the Special Report of the Board
for the Protection of Aborigines, which, we understand, will be shortly laid on the
table of the House, contains some startling revelations on the subject of
blackfellows' breeches, and proves beyond a doubt the necessary for an Absolute
Freetrade Policy for this Colony."
The Ministerial journal (the Peacock was always in opposition) hinted that "it was
the intention of the liberal and intelligent Government, to further Protect
the Native Industry of the Colony by placing a tax of 4?d. a leg on every pair of
imported moleskins -- a proceeding which cannot fail to redound to the credit of
that Government, whose fiscal policy we have always upheld through the medium
of our advising columns." It was not to be expected that the Peacock could allow
such a gross fallacy to pass unquestioned, so it inquired sarcastically the following
morning if "its Little Bourke contemporary was aware that America had been
plunged into Civil War in consequence of the bloomer movement, which deprived
thousands of hard-working negroes of their nether garments." "The Imports of
the United States during the year 1862, when a freetrade policy prevailed," said
the Peacock "reached a total of $8,936,052.18. In 1863, when Henry Clay, a
member of the notorious Pantaloon-and-gaiter-Ring, levied a tax of one red cent,
on every article of clothing that came below the knee, the Customs returns
showed a deficit of $18,000,000,000. This fact speaks for itself."
At it again went the protectionist paper, and proved entirely to its own
satisfaction that the only way to make mankind happy, was to encourage the
growth of breeches industry by severe protective duties. "It is rumoured" said
the protectionist paper "that an effort will be made by the soft goods faction to
import the 200,000 pairs of breeches required for our aboriginal population.
Quem deus vult perdere, &c. Such an act would blur the blush and grace of
modesty. We trust that a patriotic Government will look to it. We have imported
too long. Our short-sighted and venal contemporary, not satisfied with importing
its Sparrows, Rabbits, Bulls, and Editors, must needs attack the country in its
most vital point -- stab it in its very seat of honour. We are confident that Sir
Ossian M`Orkney, however much he may have appeared to lean towards the unholy
condition of Flinders Lane, will draw the line at breeches."
The controversy was highly interesting, but in the meantime King Billy wore out
four more pairs -- leathers. I wrote to Barnstarke informing him that while the
great question of Freetrade or Protection yet remained unsettled, my wardrobe
was becoming absorbed into the surrounding forest, and that unless something
was speedily done, I would send the monarch breechesless to Melbourne, marked
"This side up with care," and let his country deal with him.
Barnstarke replied that "while deprecating the indiscreet haste which I had
displayed in the treatment of a matter of so much importance, he was willing to
do everything in his power, and after consultation with his colleagues, had given
instructions to the Chief Commissioner of Police to forward an old pair of
regulation cords, which would perhaps satisfy me." No cords came, but a very
large letter from the Chief Commissioner, in which he regretted that all the
regulation cords of the Department being in constant use, he was unable to
comply with the request of the Hon. The Comptroller of Gunnybags, but that he
had forwarded my letter (forwarded to him through the Department of the Hon.
The Chief Secretary by the Hon. The Comptroller of Gunnybags) to the
Commandant of the Local Forces, with a request that he give the matter his
Three weeks passed, and I received a letter from the Commandant of the Local
Forces, who, in a military "memo" in red ink, begged to forward me copies of the
correspondence between the Hon. The Comptroller of Gunnybags, the Chief
Commissioner of Police and himself, and to attach a list of the articles with which
"it was in his power to supply me through the usual official channel." The list was
five folio pages of close print, and contained, I believe, every article under heaven
except the one I desired. I replied by marking a few dozen, convinced that nothing
would come of it, and wrote again to Barnstarke. Barnstarke sent me a parcel
with a private note.
Dear Tallowfat, -- I don't see how to please you, but as the matter will be brought
before the House shortly, and those confounded fellows in the Opposition will be sure
to make a handle of it, I have begged a personal interview with the Governor, stated
your case, and asked him as an old friend of my cousin, Lord Lofty, to help me. His
Excellency, in the kindest and most delicate manner, has sent me an old pair of
"plush," discarded, I believe, by one of the vice-regal domestics, and placed them
entirely at your service. For goodness sake, my dear fellow, keep the matter dark, for
I sadly fear that so irregular a proceeding will result in some confusion in this
P.S. -- I rely as ever on your powerful support in case of a General Election.
We clothed King Billy in the Vice-Regal Plush, and for some months he was happy.
The papers having got hold of a Divorce Case, was engaged (in the cause of
morality) in commenting on the particulars, and I had hoped that matters would
not rest. But I had forgotten one thing -- "The Audit Commissioners."
Early in the following spring, Tommy, the boy who rode for the mail to Bullocktown,
informed me that there was a packing-case at the Post Office, marked "On Her
Majesty's Service," and addressed to me. I sent a bullock-dray for it, and it proved
to be a bundle of papers from the "Audit Commissioners," accompanied by a note
Dear Tallowfat, -- I knew that we should get into a mess about those confounded
breeches. It appears that they had been reseated by the Government contractor, and
that no requisition had been sent into this office. The result is that the Commissioners
of Audits (among other queries) desire to be "informed" about this "gross
irregularity." The whole of the accounts of this Department are in arrear in
consequence. Can you tell them what they want to know?
I rose every morning at daylight for the space of a month, and read away at the
bundle. It contained some tolerably rough reading. All the accounts of His
Excellency's household were then noted and commented upon in the most acute
and accurate manner. The Audit Commissioners were continually "dropping down"
upon His Excellency, as thus -- His Excellency's valet desires a water-bottle for
Excellency's bedroom, and is informed in a brief note from the Chief Clerk of
the Water-bottle Department of the Government stores, that he "must
requisition for it in the usual way." He does so, and sends in the bill "in the usual
form." A voluminous correspondence then occurs between the Government
Storekeeper, the Commissioners of Audit, and the Contractor, as to whether
"cut-glass bottles" should or should not be charged for at a certain rate. This
question satisfactorily settled, the Contractor applies to the Government
Storekeeper to apply to the Commissioners of Audit to "pass the account through
the Treasury," and is informed contemptuously that "the number of pints not
being stated in the voucher, the Commissioners of Audit are unable to forward the
account in question." This causes another correspondence with the Treasury, and,
just as I had worked myself into a fever of expectation, imagining that the money
must at last be paid, the Treasurer triumphantly encloses a copy of the
Registrar-General's certificate of the death of the applicant, and refers the whole
matter for adjustment by the Curator of Intestate Estates.
I stumbled also upon an exciting chase after an item of 2 3/4d overcharge for
farriery, which at last proved to have been paid for a threepenny drink to the
smith, less the "usual discount on Government contracts," but I found nothing
bearing upon my breeches, or His Excellency's breeches, or King billy's Breeches,
or, to speak more correctly, and in accordance with official exactness, the "one
pair of double-plush extra super small clothes, the property of Her Majesty the
Queen of Great Britain and Ireland, Fid. Def."
With bewildered brain, I returned the bundle to Barnstarke, and begged him to
settle it anyhow. He replied that the only thing to do was to at oncereturn the
breeches to the Government Store keeper "for," said he, "if this is not done, we
must move the Treasurer to put a sum of 5s. 4d. on the Supplementary
Estimates, and such a course will naturally cause great inconvenience to this
I sent him down a blank cheque, begged him to fill it up for any sum he pleased, and
settle the matter at once. Alas! Little did I know the wisdom by which the world is
governed. Barnstarke was most indignant.
"Not only," said he in his reply, "is the course you propose most improper, and
utterly opposed to all the traditions of official business, but it would put the
Department to the utmost inconvenience to entertain, even for an instant, such a
monstrous proposition. You will, I trust, excuse me speaking thus plainly, when I
inform you that, to enable me to receive the sum of money you so rashly proffer,
I should require a special vote to the House. If it is absolutely impossible for you
to return the breeches, the Treasurer must be moved in the usual way." What
could I do? The breeches were torn to shreds by this time, and fragments of them
gleamed derisively from several lofty gum-trees in the vicinity of the station.
There was evidently no help for it. The Treasurer, poor fellow, must be "moved in
the usual way," whatever that might be.
In the Supplementary Estimates for 187-- accordingly appeared the
Comptroller of Gunnybags:
"Division, 492; Sub-division, 8.
"His Excellency the Governor-General and Vice-Admiral of the Colony of Victoria.
"For re-seating one pair of extra plush small clothes, 5s. 4d."
It was thought there would have been a row. The Treasurer trembled when he
submitted the fatal item to the House, and an ominous silence reigned. "I would
ask the Hon. The Treasurer," said Mr. Wiggintop rising, "if this piece of wanton
extravagance is to be paid for out of the Imperial or the Colonial Funds.
"The Colonial funds of course," says a rash member from the Government
benches. Wiggintop sat down quietly, and those who knew his antipathy to Downing
Street, trembled for the fate of the Ministry.
The next morning the Daily Bellower, a paper that went in for economic
democracy, laughed bitterly. "So then this is the way in which the Victorian
taxpayer is robbed to support the liveried myrmidons of an effete and palsied
aristocracy. The representative of Downing Street, not contented with gloating
over the Victorian artisan from Toorak, must needs clothe his footmen out of the
proceeds of the hardy miner's toil. The rogue wants his breeches re-seated, does
he! Pampered menial."
There was no standing this. The Ministry resigned, and Wiggintop was sent for. He
formed a Ministry in twenty-four hours, and went to the country with the
breeches metaphorically nailed to the mast-head of his future policy. "It shall be
my business," said he at an enthusiastic meeting of his constituents, "to see that
every half-penny of that 5s. 4d. Paid is out of the Royal Exchequer." When
Parliament met, Wiggintop called for "all the correspondence connected with this
gross case of Imperial tyranny" (the report of the Blackfellows' Breeches
Committee, came in as an appendix this time), "in order that he might lay it on the
table of this wronged and outraged House." He did so, and, to the triumph of the
Colonial Progress Party, it was resolved by an overwhelming majority that the
question should be immediately referred to the Privy Council.
I imagined that all was over. But by the return mail, Wiggintop received the
gratifying intelligence that a Royal Commission had been appointed, who would
examine personally the witnesses in the most important case. A few days after
the Bellower informed the public that the first blow had been struck, the
"pampered menial" had gone home in the "Great Britain" to give his evidence.
By the following mail was transmitted a list of witnesses who were required to be
examined before the fourteen noblemen and gentlemen of the Royal Commission.
Of course, I was one, but my blood was up now, and I resolved that I would not
shrink from my duty. I left orders with my tailor to supply King Billy, and started.
With my gained experience of the celerity of officaldom, I spent a couple of
months in London sight-seeing, and then thinking it about time to attend to
business, wrote to the Secretary to the Commission, but received no answer. I
waited two months more, and then having primed myself with names, called at
Downing Street. It was the "silly season," and London was empty. A messenger
was elegantly lounging on the steps of the Colonial Office, however, and to him I
"Is Lord Lofty within?"
"No, His Lordship is in Greece."
"Mr. Chicester Fortescue?"
"Gone to Norway."
"Mr. Washington White?"
"In the South of France."
"Mr. Fritz Clarence Paget?"
"Rusticating in Boulogne."
"Good Gracious," said I, "is there no one to look after the interests of these two
million of colonists?"
"I think you'll find a young gentleman upstairs," said the messenger, carelessly.
I went upstairs, and after some investigation found the young gentleman who
looked after the colonies. He was very spruce and very small, with his hair cut
very short, and wore a rose in his coat and a glass in his eye. He stared at me as I
entered, as one who should say, "What the deuce do you mean coming into a
Government Office in this way."
"Mr. Crackelly Jenks?" said I.
"Quite so! What can I do for you?"
"I have called about the Breeches Commission!"
"Ah! Door B., first on the right, third turning to the left! Not here! Mistake."
"Pardon me! Sir, I have called there, and they referred me to you."
"Oh, did they," says Mr. Crackelly Jenks. "Ah! Well, what is it?"
"I wrote some time ago to Mr. Washington White, who acts as Secretary to the
"The Breeches Commission!"
"Oh! Ah! Is there such a thing! Quite so! Didn't know! Beg your pardon! Go on!"
"My name is Tityrus Tallowfat. I am an Australian! Sir, and have come 36,000
"All right! Marrofat! Sit down. Never mind the distance! Every Australian tells us
that. So you're from Victoria Island! Eh?"
"Victoria! Sir! Capital, Melbourne."
"Oh! Ah! Yes, stupid of me, but the Vs. are not in my department, don't you see! I
take the Bs., Bermuda, and so on; but, however, never mind, I daresay we shall go
on. You want to see White?"
"Well, no!" said I, "I want to know ----"
"Hadn't you better put it in writing, Marrowfat? Put it in writing now!"
"There is no occasion for that," said I, taught by bitter experience, how futile was
such a course; "I have already written to Mr. White."
"Ah!" says the young gentlemen at once relieved. "Why didn't you say so before?
Tomkins bring me Mr. White's letter-book." Tomkins brought it, and Mr. Jenks
perused it. "You must be under a mistake, Marrowfat," he said at last. "There's
no letter mentioned here."
"But I wrote one sir," I ventured to remark.
"I rather think not, Marrowfat," said he. "You must be in error, Marrowfat."
"But my dear sir ----"
"But my dear sir, the thing's as plain as a pikestaff. We register all our letters of
course; now there is no letter mentioned here, so we couldn't have received one.
Don't you see!"
"Perhaps it might have escaped you," I hesitated again.
He smiled a patronising smile. "My dear Mr. Marrowfat, our system of registration
is perfect, simply perfect; it couldn't have escaped us."
Just then, the door was burst open, and there entered another gentleman with a
letter in his hand.
"Hullo!" said Mr. Jenks quite unabashed. "Here it is! Egad that's strange. Thanks
my dear Carnaby, thanks. Now, sir," (to me severely, as if I had been in fault)
"perhaps you can explain your business."
A bright idea struck me! I would inquire as to the probable result of my inquiries.
"That letter, sir, fully explains my business. May I ask you what will become of it?"
"Become of it! It is the property of the office, sir."
"But what will be done with it."
"It will go through the usual official course, I presume," said Mr. Jenks.
"And what is that, may I ask."
"Oh! Said the young man, waving the letter as he spoke, Mr. White will hand it to
Mr. Paget, who will minute it, and send it on to Mr. Fortescue. He will pass it
through his department, and then it will, in the usual official course, reach Mr.
Secretary Landwith; he will send it to the Commissioners."
"Oh! And what then!"
"Well, the Commissioners will have it read and entered in their minutes, and, then,
unless they choose to send it to the Privy Council, they will return it to us in the
"From Mr. Secretary Landwith to Mr. Fortescue from Mr. Fortescue to Mr. Paget,
from Mr. Paget to Mr. White, from Mr. White to me!"
"And what would you do with it?"
"I should hand it to the Chief," said Mr. Jenks.
"And what would become of it then?"
Mr. Jenks admired his boot, gloomily, and said at last:--
"'Pon my life, Marrowfat, I don't know. The Chief is rather absent, and -- between
ourselves -- when once a document gets into his hands, 'gad, there's no telling
what he may do with it."
"Sir," said I in a rage! "I wish you good-morning."
"Good-morning, my dear Marrowfat," said Mr. Jenks, with perfect affability,
"anything we can do for you, you know, d'ighted I'm sure."
I did not pause to ask what would become of my letter in the alternative of the
Commission choosing to hand it to the Privy Council, but left the office. Outside
were some thirty or forty of the cloud of witnesses. "Ha! Ha!" they laughed, "here
is Mr. Tallowfat, we've been all over London looking for it."
"Gentlemen," said I, "it may be in the moon for all I know of it. If I don't go home
and go to bed, I shall be a subject for Bedlam."
I waited in London ten months, and, hearing nothing of the Commission, returned
to Melbourne. King Billy had cut the Gordian Knot by dying, and as, according to the
custom of his race, he was buried dressed; he took my fifty-third and last pair of
breeches with him to his long home.
The Commission is still sitting, I suppose, for we hear the most flourishing
accounts from the Agent-General, of the wonderful progress they are making with
the collection "of the vast mass of interesting evidence, which I shall have the
honour to transmit to you in the usual official course."
"But if ever 'I write to the Department' again I'm ----"
It was dusk when we reached the flat, for, determined to make the most of my
brief holiday, I had wandered with Wallaby Dick all day among the ranges.
Wallaby Dick was a lame man, with a face like one of those German toys called
"nut-crackers." He was very old, and had lived in his bark hut under the Bluff for
the last fifteen years. Wallaby could shoot or snare any living creature that bred,
and boasted that he knew every mountain-path, track, and gully between White
Swamp and Mount Dreadful. So mighty was the prowess of his gun, that men from
the stations round about, spending a barren day stalking the scrub, would aver
that Wallaby had discovered the track which led to that legendary Land of Plenty
existing on the inaccessible summit of the ranges, and was wont to withdraw from
his kind to hunt there.
There is an indescribable ghastliness about the mountain bush at night which has
affected most imaginative people. The grotesque and distorted trees, huddled
here and there together in the gloom like whispering conspirators. The little open
flats encircled by boulders which seem the forgotten altars of some unholy
worship. The white, bare, and ghastly gums gleaming momentarily amid the deeper
shades of the forest. The lonely pools begirt with shivering reeds, and haunted by
the melancholy bittern only. The rifted and draggled creek-bed, which seems
violently gouged out of the lacerated earth by some savage convulsion of nature;
the silent and solitary places where a few blasted trees crouch together like
withered witches, who, brooding on some deed of blood, have suddenly been
stricken horror-stiff. Riding through this nightmare landscape, a whirr of wings,
and a harsh cry disturb you from time to time, hideous and mocking laughter peals
above and about you, and huge grey ghosts with little red eyes hop away in
gigantic but noiseless bounds. You shake your bridle, the mare lengthens her
stride, the tree-trunks run into one another, the leaves make overhead a
continuous curtain, the earth reels out beneath you like a strip of grey cloth spun
by a furiously flying boom, the air strikes your face sharply, the bush, always grey
and colourless, parts before you, and closes behind you like a fog. You lose
yourself in this prevailing indecision of sound and colour. You become drunk with
the wine of the night, and, losing your individuality, sweep onward on a flying
phantom in a land of shadows.
"The moon will be up in an hour, my lad," said the old man. "Keep all the
left-hand tracks, and you'll pull the long Waterhole," and then, whistling to his dog,
"But where are you going, Wallaby?"
"O, I'm going up the ranges," said Wallaby, with what appeared to me in the dusk
to be a fiendish grin, "for a holiday."
When I drew bridle, the moon flung my shadow on the turf, I had gained the little
plain which divides Mount Barren from Mount Scar, and the panorama of the valley
lay below me. Mile after mile stretched the dusky grey tree-tops. Here and there a
link of the chain of water holes which connected the Great and Little Styx flashed
white beneath the moon, and from time to time the level surface of the forest
was broken by the spectre-like upstarting of some huge gum-skeleton grasping at
air with his crooked and ravenous claws. From out this valley, brooded upon by big
blue and floating mists, uprose a mysterious murmur composed of crackling twigs,
falling leaves, rustling wings, lapping water, and stirring breezes -- breathing of
the sleeping bush. Above me to the right and left towered, steel-blue in the
moonlight, the twin peaks of Mount Mystery, and between them, far up the gap
that led, no one knew whither, a red light gleamed.
The plateau on which I stood bore an evil reputation. It had been in old times the
camping-place of the blacks, and upon the largest of the three gigantic stones,
which disposed in the form of triangle, seemed to point to the triple peaks of the
triform mountain, human sacrifices had been held, and horrible banquets
celebrated. The earth, pawed by my impatient horse, was black and rich --
strangely black and rich when compared with the surrounding soil, and the three
enormous trees that overshadowed the three alter-stones seemed to own roots
fed with fat food, so vigorously had they upsprung from out the rock. The gloomy
glamour of ancient barbarism was upon the place. Standing there alone, a usurping
white man within the mystic temple of a dead and forgotten creed, I seemed to
realize for an instant the whole horror of the ancient worship. Again the skin
drums resounded, again floated up to the full moon and wild chant of the women,
again the furious fires blazed high, again the people in the valley of the peaks
shouted to their savage divinity, again the painted and naked priest reared high
the thirsty knife and flung himself -- blood-red in the fire-glow -- upon the panting
victim. What mysteries might not have been celebrated in this forest, haggard and
grey with age and storms? Those savage priests, those leaping warriors, might be
administering a right primeval, recalling in their wild dances the mystic worship of
Egypt, and completing, in their ignorance, the magnificent allegory of that ancient
Faith, which, through all the world's history, remains still the hope of thousands.
Here in this lonely spot, among the frowning hills, where the pious Christian cries
to this risen Lord, might sacrifice have been done to Mithra the virgin-born, to Isis
the virgin-mother, to Osiris stretched upon his cross, or to Tammuz the slain for
our sins, and re-risen from the dead to save us. Here might the trembling
neophyte have prostrated himself before a barbaric Hyphon -- that terrible genius
of darkness and of doubt, that great Serpent Tempter of the ancient mysteries!
In Mexico, in Africa, amid the snows of the Himalayas and the deserts of Central
Asia, dwells his ancient worship. The mighty monuments which frown in bewildering
grandeur from out the virgin forests of Darien, the legends of the sacred islands
of the South, the world rites of Papua and the Marquesas, give token of the
mystic lore of Egypt and the East. Its symbols are used equally by Jew, Turk, and
Christian, and now, in this strange and barren land, long deemed worthless to the
tread of white feet, did I meet again the traces of the old religion.
As these speculations held me, methought that the mysterious light in the
mountain cleft moved higher, and that it was joined by another light. My mare
snorted and wrenched at her bit, as though eager to leave the spot of ill omen.
The first light twinkled, went out, beamed forth again, and, impelled by one of
those sudden resolutions which seemed like inspiration, I rode down the side of the
rise, and made towards it. The flats between the gorge and the mount were
marshy, and bestrewn with fallen timber. Belts of impenetrable scrub intersected
the numerous water-courses. The air grew cool, and a heavy dew began to fall.
The moon had risen high, and was riding serenely in a wine-dark and cloudless
heaven. A stillness reigned, the mysterious lights moved steadily onwards, and
before me fluttered from tree to tree, swooping in upon me from time to time, as
though to lure me on, a huge grey bat, through whose transparent wings I could
almost see the sparkle of the coldly-gleaming stars. I pressed forward, and the
two lights were joined by a third. The second light twinkled and went out, as the
first had done, but to be again re-lumined; and then, not a hundred yards before
me, the three moving points of fire beamed forth bright and clear. Another
instant, and my snorting horse dashed the pebbles under her hoofs, and, rearing
with terror, came to a sudden pause before three men who barred the rocky
"Hullo, Wallaby Dick!" I cried, "is this your holiday?"
But no answer came from the grey lips of the old man, who, facing about, with
glassy eyes, thrust forth his flaming torch of mountain pine, as though to forbid
I turned to his companions, and a species of ludicrous terror seized me. One was
dombie, the blackfellow, the other Ah Yung, the Chinaman. All three -- European,
Australian, and Mongol -- were naked to the waist, each carried a blazing
pine-torch, and on the face of each sat that hideous expression of death in life
which caused the yellow fangs of the old wallaby hunter to glisten like the teeth of
"Whither are you bound?" I cried, controlling, with difficulty, my terrified horse.
Dombie raised his lean black arm, and silently pointed to the extremity of the
gorge. I looked, and saw from behind a huge boulder upshoot a pillar of fire. As
though this illumination had been some well-known signal, from all parts of the
mountain burst forth the red glare of torches. Above, around, and below
burned innumerable spots of fire. The gorge seemed to swarm with fire-flies, the
mountain-side to be honeycombed with glow-worms, while in the valley I had left,
an immense multitude pressed onward and upward, their torches tossing wildly as
they came. Bewildered and alarmed, I rubbed my eyes to see if I was dreaming; but
no, I was wide-awake, and conscious that it needed all the strength of my muscles
to sit my now maddened horse.
"What foolery is this?" I cried. "Ah! Yung! Dombie! Speak." But they turned
abruptly and breasted the mountain, singing a wild chant as they went. I was
forced to follow, for an all sides pressed the multitude. Perhaps from the glare
and smoke of the torches my brain had become stupified, or my vision impaired,
but it seemed to me that the persons who surrounded me were of all nations and
colours. Mulattoes, Blacks, Chinese, Yellow men, and Red men, all the barbaric
nations of the South came hurrying onwards: walking, riding, crawling -- old men,
women, and cripples -- as they swarmed along the mighty mountain-side like
travelling ants. The fire behind the boulder, fed fast by the gigantic shadows, shot
high up into the night its threefold flame. I turned, and lo! The moon, mounted to
her zenith, flung down the hill I had left the triple shadow of the three altars! The
murmurous prelude to the hymn already began to tremble over the valley, and the
multitude, pressing nearer to the sacrificial fire, carried me along with them. I
looked round in vain for escape, -- no, not in vain; at the very instant when
another plunge of my mare would have flung me beneath the feet of the crowd, a
young girl, riding on a white mule, pointed to a narrow cleft in the wall of rock on
my right. I comprehended her, and wheeling my horse, forced myself clear of the
press. A sharp salt wind blew in upon me, and in another instant the strange
multitude and the mysterious fire faded behind me, and I was galloping up the
gorge in the teeth of a driving storm.
You, reader, who have known what it is to ride hard all night in an Australian
mountain tempest, will appreciate the delight with which I hailed the glorious
outburst of a sunny morning. I could not but think my vision of the night a dream,
born of my own thoughts and the mysterious influence of the moonlit forest; and
in the pure bright air of morning I laughed my follies to scorn. One thing was
certain, however, in my dream or my stupidity, I had galloped up the ranges, and
by some strange chance had struck that long-sought-for path which led to the
mysterious and legendary land behind the mountains. Dismounting, and leading my
weary horse by the bridle, I followed a sort of track along the top of the range,
and looked, as I went, upon the scenery of the new country in which I found
myself. The path wound in and out among the crags, and I soon lost all glimpse of
the semi-civilised land I had left. I saw at my feet what seemed at the first glance
to be a little township embosomed in encircling gardens. As I drew nearer,
however, I saw what I had taken for a township was really a collection of
buildings, apparently belonging to a large, white, low-roofed house, which stood on
the edge of a slope of vineyard. It was evident that some settler, more
adventurous than his neighbours, had penetrated the mysteries of the mountain,
and had set up his abode in this fertile and charming valley. Wallaby Dick had
indeed discovered a pleasant place in which to spend his holidays! Descending the
track, which soon widened into a broad and well-kept road, I pulled the hanging
handle of a bell which was suspended from a lofty wooden gateway before a huge
and nail-studded door. The echo of my summons had not died away when the door
was flung open, and Wallaby Dick himself appeared, his face no longer wrathful or
ill-humoured, but beaming with smiles of welcome.
The appearance of the old man made me start. "You here, Wallaby? Why, what
mystery is this?"
"No mystery," said Wallaby, with the merriest laugh I had ever heard from his lips.
"I have arrived before you, that is all. Come in; you are expected."
"Expected! Then what place is this?"
"It's got a lot o' names," said Wallaby. "Some calls it one thing, and some another.
I call it Holiday Peak, because I comes here for my holidays; but it's known to many
folks as Mount Might-ha-been."
"Many travellers stop here, it appears?" I enquired.
"Oh yes," said the old fellow, hobbling off with my horse. "Most people passing this
way stop here for a night, at all events, especially about the beginning of the new
year. However, you go in, and I'll show you round by-and-by."
I went through the court-yard, and up the broad stone steps into an open space or
square, in the midst of which a fountain played. Ah Yung was standing at the door
of a queer little pagoda. No longer the greasy Chinaman cook, he was dressed with
great splendour in the fashion of his country, and, bowing, invited me in. The house
was wonderfully furnished. A Chinese woman, of pleasing countenance, sat on a
low cane-chair, nursing a baby, and a domestic squatted on his hams in a corner of
the verandah, filling the bowl of Ah Yung's capacious pipe. Through the open
lattice-work I saw spreading paddy-fields, and could catch the monotonous song of
the stalwart river coolies as they propelled their heavily-laden barges up the river.
"All this is mine!" said Ah Yung, embracing with one sweep of his hand the
furniture, the matron, the fat baby, the opium-pipe, and the paddy-fields.
"All yours! But if you own so fine a property, why do you work as cook in the men's
"Cook in the men's hut! What do you mean?" returned he with a pitying smile. "Me
no cook. Me Chinee gentleman. Me mightabeen cook if me run away on board ship,
and go fool mymoney in lottery!"
I turned away bewilderingly, and found myself face to face with my old college
friend, Jack Reckless.
"Jack Reckless!" I cried, astonished at this new apparition. "Why, man, I
thought you were ----"
"Don't be afraid of saying it," said Jack, cheerily, though a touch of sadness
caused his voice to quiver. "You thought I was in gaol for forging Huxtable's name
to a bill. No, thank God, my boy! I might have been, but instead of yielding to the
devilish temptation, I told my dear old father all about my debts and duns, and a
year or two of economy set all right. You shall come over by and-by, and see my
wife. You remember little Lucy?"
"Little Lucy! Yes; -- but wasn't that dreadful story true?"
"True! No. She saw through the scoundrel's pretended affection, and as I was out
of debt, and in a fair way of doing well, married me instead of running away with
him. But I must go to the farm now." he concluded, pointing to a picturesque roof
that nestled in a pretty English landscape; "I call for you to-morrow."
I walked up the lime-tree avenue which led to the Old Manse more bewildered than
ever. Then the terrible story of sin and shame which had wrecked two homes was
but a fiction after all? My spirits rose with the thought; indeed, gazing on that
lovely garden, stretching terrace after terrace, away to the crystal river, it was
difficult to harbour thoughts of sorrow or of suffering, and I felt, as I drank in the
pure clear air of the mountains, almost as vigorous as Dombie, who, no longer
blear-eyed and palsied with excess of tobacco and rum, but young, healthy, and
hopeful, dashed past me with a "Hulloa!" making hard for a flock of emu yonder.
Passing by an old house which stood back from the others in the terrace, my
attention was caught by a crimson scarf trailing from one of the upper windows.
"An artist lives there," was my first thought, for nowhere in the world but in the
pictures of Prout do we see bits of colour floating about in that fashion. "Yes, you
are right," said a young man emerging from the well-dressed crowed which
throngs in spring the steps of the Academy.
It was Gerard! Gerard, my boy friend, who fled from Oxford to Stonyhurst, and
embraced the discipline of Loyola.
"Gerard, what means this?"
"Dear old fellow," said he, putting his arm round my neck in the fond old schoolboy
fashion, "it means that I thought better of my resolve, and followed out the
natural bent of my talents. My picture, the 'death of Alcibiades,' is the talk of the
year. I shall soon be as famous as you."
"As I. You jest. A poor devil banished to Bush Land, tied neck and heels in debt,
soon slips out of the memory even of his friends."
"So you persist in that dream out Australia! Surely you know that the fortune was
recovered, and that your year of poverty but served to correct your boyish
extravagances, and that in easy circumstances you banished Poins and Pistol, and
settled down to the career you chose!"
"Gerard, you are laughing at me!"
"Come into your house, then, and be convinced," said Gerard.
My house, it appeared, was a villa at Richmond. The railway-station was
sufficiently near to take me into town when town-talk was needed, and yet the
cottage in its charm of park and river was sufficiently far away from London
smoke to suffer one's soul to breathe freely.
"I wonder," said Gerard, "that with the horses you keep, you ever travel by the
"My horses, then, are considered good?"
"Horses and books are your only extravagances. It is lucky that your income is not
sufficiently large to suffer you to indulge a taste for pictures. You had better put
down your yacht, and buy my 'Death of Cromwell.'"
"No, no," said I, dreamily, accepting this novel position; "I always had a taste for
yachting; -- but come in and let us converse."
"You dine with Carabas to-night, remember," said Gerard; "Ballhazar Claes and
Byles Gridley wil be there. I know you affect to dislike dinners, but the
marchioness is a good soul, and you must not disappoint her."
"True," said I, "she is; and after presenting my eldest daughter too. I shall
"The Superfine Review has cut up your book as usual," remarked Gerard, turning
over the papers on the horse-shoe table; "but to an author whose readers are
counted by millions, and to whom Bentley gives £5,000 a volume, a sneer in the
Superfine is not of much consequence."
"No, indeed," I replied, feeling much as if someone had taken away my head and
left me a bubble of air in the place of it. "Besides, I write for the Slaughterer, and
the two papers are at daggers drawn."
"Ah! Lucky fellow," said Gerard, throwing open the window to inhale the perfume
of my rose-garden. "How different things might have been if you hadn't taken
your uncle's advice."
"You are right," said I, "but help yourself to wine, and let us walk somewhere. To
tell you the truth, my head feels a little queer this morning."
"That is often the case," returned Gerard, "when first one comes to Holiday Peak,
but you will soon get used to our mountain air. Order your horses, and we will go
and call on Mostyn. He didn't marry the widow after all, and is still the same jolly
fellow as of old."
"Aye, I remember how he used to take me up from Aldershot in the baggage-train,
and introduce to my schoolboy eyesight the wonders of London at midnight. Pray,
are the Arminda Gardens still existent?"
"I don't know what you mean. Mostyn never took you to London with him. You were
never in the Armida Gardens in all your life."
"Thank goodness, Gerard! Are you sure?"
"Quite certain. You might have wasted your youth in such places, and got into no
end of mischief, had not your father kept such a strict and friendly eye upon
"Ah," said I, "you are right. Let us, then, remain at home to-day. Mostyn
"As you please," said Gerard. "Here is the end of Denis Duval. Have you read it?"
"The end of Denis Duval! Why, poor Thackeray died before he finished it."
"Nonsense! He is as hearty as you or I. I met him at Dickens's (they are great
friends now, you know) the other day, and he never looked better. If it had not
been for his excellent constitution, and the attention of Dr. Lydgate, however, he
might have been dead long ago."
"Gerard, my dear fellow," said I, rising. "I -- I feel a little confused; leave me for a
while. We will meet at dinner."
"Very well," said Gerard. "I will take Constantia for a drive."
"Constantia! What, not the girl we ----"
"The same, dear old fellow."
"And she did not marry Count Caskowisky?"
"Count Caskowisky be confounded! No; she married me. We have three children.
I fell back in my easy chair, my easy chair, stupefied. I must be dreaming! But no,
the well-bred presence of my Swiss valet, as he laid out my dress clothes, was too
palpable a reality!
The most notable the Marquis of Carabas lived at Grosvenor Gate, and it seemed
to me that my five-hundred-guinea horses had never accomplished the distance in
so short a time. Scarcely had I entered the carriage when I was sitting beside the
marchioness, and pulling Julie's silken ears with all the freedom of an old
acquaintance. Vivien Grey and I were the only persons allowed that privilege, but
since his marriage with Violet Fane, he had resided principally abroad.
"So you have returned at last," said the marchioness. "You and the count have
the reputation of being the most erratic pair in Europe."
The tall, thin, pale man, with the wonderful eyes, bowed slightly.
"The Countess of Monte Christo," said he, "has ordered me to give up travelling."
"And you obey?"
"Yes. I am tired of having my own way," said Monte Christo.
"Omnipotence becomes wearisome. Moreover, I have pensioned Bertuccio and sold
"Indeed? To whom?"
"To an Australian wine-grower. He finds the rick admirably suited to the growth of
White Ivanhoe, and he has turned my cavern into cellars. Faria and he are planning
a press on a new principle."
"Then M. L'Abbe' recovered from his attack?" I enquired.
"Certainly. A few seconds after I had taken that involuntary leap into the sea
from the summit of the Chateau D'If, the gaoler returned, gave my poor friend
another dose of the cordial, and revived him to rejoice in the pardon sent by the
Emperor. He is the tutor of my eldest son, Morcuf Villefort Danglars. Ah!
Marchioness, if you could only see our little family circle, you would deem
me the happiest man in Christendom. Dear Danglars! How I long to press his honest
hand once more! Poor fellow, what enemies we might have been had the story
Dumas chose to invent been true."
Lord and Lady Byron sat opposite to me, Balzac being between them.
"It is needful that some man of sense should separate so absurdly affectionate a
pair," benevolent Lord Steyne whispered to me, "for they cannot keep from
cooing even at dinner. By the way, Mrs. Crawley, I visited your orphanage to-day,
and must congratulate you upon the excellent use you have made of poor Miss
Sweet Becky lifted her guileless eyes, and smiled. "Ah, Lord Steyne, it is Rawdon
whom you should praise -- not me. He has quite a genius for charity."
"I will bet fifty guineas that Steyne has been giving another cheque," whispered
the Rev. Henry Foker; "that man's charities are unbounded."
"I thought ----" I stammered.
"I know," said Archdeacon Castigan, "you thought Wenham's confounded story
was true! Ah me, dear sir, what is, and what might have been are two very
different things. For instance, Newcome yonder might have married Mackenzie --
that is the present Mrs. Foker -- had not Lady Kew insisted upon dowering Ethel
with her fortune, Sir Barnes, and Lady Highgate begged me to carry her
compliments to Lady Clara. I discharge my duty!"
Good simple-minded Sir Barnes smiled. "Tell Highgate I am angry at his absence. He
never comes to Newcome now."
At the other end of the table they were talking of the unfortunate condition of
"I am told had it not been for the French subscription, whole families would have
perished of hunger," said Steerforth. "And yet think how different things might
have been had Bazaine been defeated," returned Sir Montague Tigg.
"Might have been! Yes. The 'Anglo-Benegalie' might have been wrecked, with other
institutions of a similar character," laughed Bishop Prindie in the ear of Indiana.
"But M. Teeg is such a financier! My husband thinks him unequalled."
"But your husband is so well-bred a gentleman, madam, that he thinks well of
The conversation made my head ache, and I seized the earliest opportunity to
"Come to the club," said Warrington, "and smoke a cigar. Laura is away on a visit
to Mrs. Pen, and I am a bachelor."
"Did you marry Laura, then? I thought that ----."
"That I had married someone else. No, thank God; I was very near it, though."
The club was full. Ferner and his crony Romaine, as usual, were the life of
the smoking-room. George Gentle (of Fen Court), was playing Mr. Cassaubon at
billiards. Major-General Hinton and Colonel Lorrequer betting on the game.
"So Monsoon has turned trappist." said Prince Djalma to Admiral Cuttle, K.C.B.
"Who would have expected such a thing?"
"L'homme propose, mais Dieu dispose," returned the Admiral.
"For which overhaul your conversations-lexicon. Jack Burnsby became a local
The Prince puffed his cigar meditatively. "A fine woman the Macstinger," said he,
"I don't wonder that ce cher Bunsby broke his heart at her refusal of his hand.
But, then, who couldresist Fosco."
"Save Quilp, I seldom met a more fascinating man," said Guy Livingstone. "He is
too fond of violent exercise though, for my taste. I detest your muscular
"Who does not?" said Kingsley, from the little table where he sat with Dr. Newman
and Swinburne. "Algernon, we're four by honours?"
"Then do not strive to awake my friend," said a gentle-voiced little gentleman,
sucking a Trabuco. "It is good to dream."
"Who is that?" I whispered to Singleton Fentenoy, as we descended the steps.
"Pio Nono. The Baptists allow him one hundred and fifty pounds a year, and he
lodges over a hatter's in Piccadilly."
Fentenoy and I strolled down the Haymarket, and the familiar faces passed and
repassed us. There is but little variety, after all, in life. We had both been absent
from England during twenty years, and here the same music was resounding, the
same eyes glittering, the same laughter ringing. There was, however, a strange
reality about it all that saddened me.
"Singleton, do you remember when you thought that tawdry ball-room a palace,
those silly fellows yonder the most daring of rakes, and those poor half-educated,
good-hearted girls the equals of Ninon de L'enclos, and Faustina Imperatrex? Let
us go away; I am memory burdened."
We walked onwards, and by-and-by found ourselves near Notting Hill. Singleton
paused at the gate of a little villa, and pointed to the windows. The blinds were
drawn up, and I saw, seated in a pleasant drawing-room, a young lady -- it was
"Lazy, laughing, languid Jenny,
Fond of a kiss, and fond of a guinea."
Her face brought back to me a strange dream of boy-and-girl folly, of a merry,
thoughtless flight by train and boat, made dishes, French wines, babble, kisses,
tears, and no pocket money.
"But I thought Lord Dagon had discovered in my funny little friend a bonne
worthy of his purse."
"Your funny little friend! What do you mean? She married the respectable grocer,
and never heard of Lord Dagon except in the newspapers. It was fortunate that
you went to Scotland as you intended though, for there might have been
"Good heavens!" I said, "am I then to believe that everything has happened as it
should have happened, and that I have no regrets."
But Singleton had gone, and I was alone above the broad terrace above the moon
Tier upon tier swept upwards to the castle-crag the busky slopes of verdure.
Pierced with alleys of bloom, gleaming with statues, musical with fountains, the
marvellous gardens of the palace lay sleeping beneath the moon, even as they had
slept when the Fairy-Prince leapt the briar-hedge to win with daring kiss his
enchanted bride. The mellow lights in the pavilion of the Arabian jeweller shone in
the waters of the lake. I heard the silvery laugh of Noureddin's Persian, and could
distinguish the gilded barge of the great Caliph, as, encompassed with barbaric
music, panoplied in Eastern pomp, he moved towards the mysterious city. There,
crowded with the misty halo of its myriad lamps, the great Babylon lay beneath me
in the valley. At the white-stone breadth of the quay swung the rising tide of a
hundred argosies. All of squallor, misery, and sin was hidden; and the majestic
angel on the doomed summit of the great cathedral seemed to plume his shining
vans for upward flight into the clear cold purity of the star-sprinkled heavens.
This, then, was the world of which I had dreamt, and that other sordid one in which
I had lived so long was but a dream! How often a truant schoolboy, in depths of
summer woods, garlanded with cool hyacinth, and couched on rustling fern, had I
not seen this fair world! How often lying awake, while the breeze piped shrill across
the coldly tossing sea, had I not beheld these glories of land and lake, of spired
city and embattlemented rock. How often weary and hot with folly or with toil, had
not that magnificent moon swum up into heaven to soothe and comfort me. Here,
then, was Atlantis, here the Fortunate Isles, the Valley of Avilion, the true El
Dorado -- the wondrous Land of Might-have-been!
As one entranced in waking slumber, I moved through the portal, where frowning in
war-like steel, sat ready horsed for combat the guard of Barbarussa.
Charlemagne and Arthur had come again, and Duraudel gleamed once more in the
grasp of risen Roland. The mighty laughter of the heroes shook the hall, and the
smile of happy Metaine was reflected in the lips of gentle Aude. Yes, it was true! --
chivalry lived still, and smug tradesmen, rejoicing in the science of
money-breeding, had not beaten honesty and love to death with their
yard-measures. All around me were beauty, truth, and honour, and serene in the
midst of great and noble souls. I felt my spirit strengthened and sustained.
At length, above a door of ivory, half hidden by a purple curtain, I saw, perched
upon the bust of Pallas, the mocking figure of a raven. The door yielded and I
entered. I was in a long apartment, going on a balcony open to the night; as I
entered, a lady clad in white came towards me. I knew her at once. It was the Lady
Lenore! The lost Lenore. She who forever waits and forever eludes our passionate
arms. Dante called her Beatrice, Petrarch Laura, Burns knew her as Mary, Byron
as ---- but why multiply names? She is for all of us, the impossible woman. Name
her yourself, dear reader, lounging on the club sofa, wiling away an hour before
dinner with this silly story. You are very cynical and pleasant now, and worship
your stomach complacently. But there was a time, was there not, when "you were
young, and songs were sung, and love-lamps in the casements hung," when
something might have been that was not and never will now be? Or will you name
this little figure with the sad sweet eyes -- are they brown or grey for you? Oh!
Prosperous and well-dined merchant, musing with your fond children round your
knees, and your faithful wife smiling cheerily at the end of the table? You love
your wife and children, but, but -- was there not -- is there not -- an ideal
somewhere in your heart, albeit shut up and locked down, and the Family Bible laid
at the top of it? Yes, she exists; here, in the land of might-have-been, call her by
what name you will.
She gave me two cool hands and kissed me.
"At last, then! At last. Lenore! The Raven prophesied falsely. Our pain and sorrow,
our 'strange, unsatisfied longing,' are over, and at last -- oh, other half of my
soul -- I have and hold thee!"
She did not speak, but her eyes said more than words, and her slight figure
trembled in my arms.
I drew her to the window, and with brain and blood on fire, pointed to the vessels
at anchor at the quay.
"Whether this strange land be a land of shadows, I know not; but I know that thou
art real. Come my love, come; see the boat lies below. Let us leave this place."
She raised her head from my shoulder, and looked around. In the far east, where
the waves tumbled white upon the shore, trembled the dawn. The moon was
fading, the city, the river and the enchanted gardens lay lapped in a mysterious
light -- alas!
"The light that never was on sea or land,
The consecration and the poet's dream.
"Come," I repeated; "stern Heaven is kind at last, and we have met, why should we
But even as I pleaded, in tones that had perhaps too much of earth in them for
that fair spirit, she seemed to withdraw from me. One glance, sad and tender,
pitying and hopeful, thrilled me, a farewell kiss, pure as fire, light as a falling
rose-leaf hushed my lips, and -- I was alone.
Alone upon the triform hill whose mysterious altars reddened in the risen
dawn. My holiday was over.
Little Nelly (to the story teller) -- "But Mr. Marston, did you not go back to
Marston -- "I did not know the way, my dear."
Little Nelly -- "But there must be a way. If so many people stop there, a coach
should go near the place."
Marston -- "There is a coach that goes to the very door, little one -- a coach by
which we must all travel one of these days -- a black coach drawn by black
horses. Some day they will take me when I am sleeping soundly, and put me into a
big box, nail me up, and put on the lid a neat brass plate:--
'FOR HOLIDAY PEAK. WITH CARE.
This Side Up.'
"Horace" In The Bush
The coach had broken down at Bullocktown, and we five -- that is say, O'Donoghue, Marston,
Tom Dibdin, McTaggart and myself -- were partaking of eggs, bacon and whisky at
"I fear I shall be late," said classic Marston, a professor at the Melbourne University, who
had been holiday-making with us, "the examinations are on Tuesday."
"Time eneuch to harry the puir deevils," said compassionate M`Taggart, the squatter, of
"Hould yer whilst," interrupted O'Donoghue, "the professor's thinkin' of how he'll bamboozle
the bhoys. If he wasn't quoting Artisophanes in the coach, I mistook the jolting o' the
vayhicle for the full-mouthed sintences o' that roarin' old haythen."
"O'Donoghue, you are personal. I never quote Greek."
"Widout book, ye old imposthor! Marsthon, I dispise ye.
Ev I don't hate ye may I be cut up into copy-paper and have Argus leaders scribbled upon
"In truth," returned Marston, lighting his pipe with a fire-stick, "I was thinking rather of the
Latin than the Greek."
"It is much the same," said I rashly, "the Latins prigged their good things wholesale."
"No, by the mass!"
"Look at that elegant robber Horace. The 'O saepe mecum' ode is a calm theft from
"Pardon me, sir," said a voice at the door, "You do the friend of Virgil an injustice. He is
rather sinned against that sinning."
We turned and saw the box passenger, a comfortable, well-dressed fellow with blear eyes.
"Do you mean to say," cried Marston, fired at the interruption, "that Horace did not copy
from the Greek? Why, that elegant Epicurean was swaddled in Greek literature. The classics
of his day were birched into him by Old Orbilius. He was Greek even in his politics, first a
republican, and then a monarchist."
"He has been copied even in that," said the new comer; "there is nothing like free land
selection to make your radicals conservative. If the Ministry will give me a Sabine farm I'll
cultivate my dried olive, sit under my preserved fig-tree, and vote for them in all
"Horace was a mean man," said M`Taggart, "for I've heard that he wrote mony a
screed against old Mecaenas before he got his patronage."
"The rumour is untrue," says the stranger. "You mean that nonsense about the trailing
gown, I presume? The charge was never proved sir."
"I admit it," said the professor, "'twas a calumny."
"He was just a weathercock," cries M`Taggart, "a time-serving rogue, blown aboot wi' every
"He began life as a patriot."
"A youthful indiscretion," said the urbane intruder. "He afterwards repented, and went --
to his villa."
"Faix, he jist sold himself for a Government billet, like many an honest man before and
since," laughed jolly O'Donoghue.
"The res angusta domi, and being in debt to the butcher, will do much to change a man's
opinions," returned the stranger. "What says the bard himself! 'Aurum per medios ire
'Danae grim-guarded in her brazen tower,
With dogs and double-doors 'gainst those who sought her,
Fell a sweet victim to this mighty power
Of half-a-crown bestowed upon the porter.'
"You seem familiar with the poet," said he.
The stranger smiled sadly.
"Sir," he answered, "I have spent my life in exposing plagiarisms from my -- from Horace's
writings. It is melancholy to see how the so-called 'original' writers have pilfered from the
"Sit down, sir and join us!" cries Marton, fairly astride his hobby. "What will you take?"
"You have no Massic?" asked the guest, seating himself.
"To be sure we have," says honest Dibdin. "Coppinger, hot whisky to the gentleman."
The stranger smiled and proceeded. "The moderns are thieves."
"They are," said Marston. "I agree with you. Tennyson owes his being to Theocritus."
"Keates smacked of him."
"No, his plagiarism was unconscious genius. 'Hyperion' might have been a fragment of
Aeschylus, and yet the doctor's boy was ignorant of Greek."
"I don't think," said I "that our Australian writers can be accused of plagiarising from the
Latin. I have observed that quotations printed or spoken are mostly wrong."
"Your Australians are not plagiarists!" cries our guest, swallowing his whisky at a gulp. "'Ye
powers that smile on virtuous theft!' But two days since the editor of the Dead Horse
Gully Tribune inserted the following as original poetry. You will see that the idea is
stolen from Horace, the ninth ode of the first book beginning --
'Vides ut alt‰, stet nive candidum
"The fellow had the impertinence to call it 'The Squatter's Advice to his Nephew,'"
andhelping himself to another jorum, our visitor warbled --
"(Air -- "Rosin the Beau.") "Come, Jack, draw your rocking-chair nigher,
Mount Macedon's white with the snow;
Pitch another pine log on the fire,
And tip us 'Old Rosin the Beau.'
I ne'er saw the bush look so barren
(When I rode out this morning with Sam),
And last night -- so I'm told by M'Claren --
There's something like ice on the dam.
Let it slide. To us all heaven's handy.*
To the cold ground we one day must go;
In the meantime -- that's Hennessy's brandy
Sit down, lad, and rosin your bow.
Who knows what may happen to-morrow,
What lot is our ultimate fate;
There are some who rejoice to court sorrow --
I'd rather be courting of Kate.
God gave lasses and glasses to men, Jack --
'Twould be wrong not to use them, you know;
When you're bald as a bandicot, then, Jack,
'Twill be time to be solemn and slow.
In the spring time, life's music was playing,
Do we pause in the melody's flow;
In the winter -- the cause for delaying
Is, of course, Jack, to rosin the bow!"
"Euge! Euge!" cried Marston, "but the last verse is not a paraphrase on the original."
"True," said the stranger, "The last verse contains an allusion that likes me not. The 'risus
ah angulo', the 'laugh from the corner' might be thought to hint at Ballarat and its Stock
"By the mass" says O'Donoghue, "but the strain is worthy of Trinity. 'Leonum arida
nutrix.' Mac, ye spalpeen, I feel my heart big within me, and could break your head for the
honour o' ould Ireland on the slightest provocation."
"True indeed for --
Squatters Past And Present
Baktrion epi tauton me gar de melathalainon.
Poluphlois ketikimboun, kai kikety rolopoloios,'
*Heaven is above all. -- Cassio
"If that's not Homer, it's mighty like him," cries O'Donoghue. "Ah, ye deceaver, it's
gibberish you're talking. Marston, hand me the impty bottle that I may throw it at him."
"Brawling in your cups, gentlemen! Fie! That is but barbarian at best. As Horace says --
'Natis in usum laetitiae scyphis,
Pugnare Thracum est,'
or, as a countryman of your friend's has translated it --
'To foight over punch is like Donnybrook fair,
When an Irishman, all in his glory, is there.
Hould your whist! See the combatants, Bacchus between,
With that sprig of shillalagh, his Thyrsus so green!'"
"Sir," said O'Donoghue, in great heat, "you wrong the illustrious composer of that ancient
melody. The janius o' Paddy Macguire never stooped to copy. But you don't drink; the whisky
is with you."
"Non sum qualis eram, bonae sub regno Cinarae," said the red-eyed stranger. "I am not the
man I was when I supped with Lola Montes. I have poor and unhappy brains for drinking. I
mingle my liquors with water, and one amphora of Reisling will set my brain-pan bubbling."
"This is a quaint fellow," whispered Marston to me. "Let us draw him out. Though he avows
himself a model of sobriety, there is a twinkle in his eye that speaks an application for
grape-juice. I hate your dry talks. Coppinger! Another bottle of whisky! Sir, I salute you."
"I looks towards you, sir, and likewise bows."
"The whisky will open his heart," said Marston.
"We'll drag out his tongue, and while the sinner gapes, look for spots of plagiarism in his
"Steady!" cried M`Taggart, "the chiel hasna proved his case! That the Southern poets may
grab frae Horace, I mak' nae doot o'; but the Scotch! Eh, man, whar's your plagiarism in
The stranger tossed off a mutchkin o' Glenlivet, and smiled a ghastly smile. "Rabbi
Burns,"said he, in a strong Scotch accent, "was just the biggest leear and thief extaunt.
Leesten tothis, mon," and again he sang --
MY NANCY O!
"I've lately lived amang the girls,
And fought not wi'oot glory O!
But now nae mair they tug my curls,
My pow is getting hoary O!
Hang up my staff o mickle micht,
My pipes fa' tapsalterie O!
Hang up my lantern, by whose licht,
I clambered to my deary O!
O Venus, dear, I'm fidgin' fain,
Come down and ease my fance, O!
O' a' the girls I lo'e but ane,
Ah, leeze me on my Nancy O!"
"Now, sir," said the songster, "if that is not an impudent transcription of 'vixi puellis
nuperidoneus,' the twenty-sixth ode of the third book, bray me in a mortar, and daub the
walls of aprinting-house with me. Retro Sathanas!"
"Sir!" cried the Scotchman, amid the laughter of the company, "Rab never wrote these
lines. I defy you to prove him a plagiarist. May I never sup parritch again if Rab was not a
genius of Heaven's ain makin'. He combined, sir, the antitheses o' Pope, wi' the tenderness o'
Herrick. Byron only surpassed him, in his love deeties and ----"
"Horace, in his moments o' leesure," interrupted the stranger. "Stuff, my good sir!
'Foenum habes in cornu.' you have a bannock to barley meal skewered tae yer bonnet. I'll
sing ye a mair rantin' melody, a carmen seculare, a ditty not fitted for churchgoers. (Alas!
Parcus deorum cultor et infrequens, I have only been twice to the new Scotch Kirk since I
came to Melbourne), and I will ask you to judge calmly. Horace's ode begins 'Vitas hinnuleo
me similis Chloe.' 'Tis the twenty-third of the first book, as I need not remind you. The
impertinent gauger paraphrases it thus:--
"Hoot! Why like a cantie heifer,
Skippin' at each breathin' sephyr,
Bonnie Peggy, fly me!
Though but rough my manners be,
They're no sae rough tae flechter thee;
Peggy, lassie, gang wi' me --
Sonsie Peggy, try me!
I'm nae bleth'rin, rantin' laddie,
But thy bairns maun hae a daddie;
Bonnie Peggy, try me!
Thy mither says 'tis time to wed;
Mithers must be no gainsaid --
Come and mak' thy weddin' bed,
Bonnie Peggy, by me!"
"Maist indecent, sir," said M`Taggart. "I'll no believe it o' Rabbie. And yet I confess that the
similes are unco alike."
Marston burst into Homeric laughter.
"Virginibus puerisque canto," said our guest with a blush. "I'm singing-master at the
common school, and am not used to such warmth of language -- save on occasions."
"Faith, then, this is one of them," said O'Donoghue. "There's Dibdin half-seas-over already.
It takes an Irishman to drink whisky. Your English brains sop beer like sponges, but
the thrue nectar of the gods intoxicates their dull sowls."
"The gentleman has b-bowled you all out," said Didbin, huskily, "but my grandfather, poor
Ch-Charles, is at least spared. He was n-no p-p-plagiarist."
"Didbin!" cried the stranger, leaping to his feet with an agility which in a person teres
atque rotundus was simply marvellous. "Charles Didbin! The most unblushing scoundrel of
them all! That 'O saepe mecum' ode of which you were speaking when I entered has been
transferred bodily to Didbin's pages in the following infamous travistie:--
JACK JUNK'S RETURN TO WAPPING.
"Jack Junk, my old comrade, what fortunate breeze
Has blown you to Wapping and me?
Jack Junk, with whom after I ploughed the salt seas,
When Blake sailed to Trincomalee.
Jack Junk, by the Lord, lad, how often we've sat
In the fok'sel in boisterous weather,
And greased our pig-tails with the primest o' fat,
And swigged at the grog-can together.
D'ye mind how I fared, Jack, at Spirito Bar,
When the Portuguese boarded the wreck,
And, o'erpowered by numbers, full many a tar
Gasped his honest life out on the deck?
It was touch and go, Jack, for my heart was grown soft,
And thumped at my ribs like a knocker;
But that sweet little cherub that sits up aloft,
Snatched Tom Pipes from old Davy Jones' locker!
I've been in a few stiffish fights in my life,
But in that one I own I felt queer,
Though I chiefly regret that I left poor Poll's knife
In the ribs of that bloody mounseer.*
I got my discharge, Jack, and warped into port,
And the glass of life's fortune set fair;
But you -- you old sea-dog -- who by my side fought,
Must needs ship in the old 'Temeraire.'
Shove your wooden leg under the table, my lad!
The egg's fresh, the rasher is flaky;
Here's a quid of tibbacky, the best can be had,
And a can of right rousing Jammaiky!
So bouse round the bowl! Fill again! Damn my eyes,
to get drunk with a shipmate is proper!
I drink first! No! Well, lest a dispute should arise,
We'll decide it by skying a copper.**
Now wet t'other eye, man! Poll, lass, me old wife,
It ain't often I get on the spree;
But if even I mean to get sprung in my life,
It is now! With Jack Junk home from sea!"
* "Poor Poll's knife." How different in tone from the graceful Relicta non bene parmula. ** A most impudent
rendering of the elegant original. Ovem Venus arbitrium dicet hibendi
"Hear! Hear!" roared the Professor, banging on the table, "Habet! Habet! He's got it,
by Hercules! A delicate paraphrase, if ever there was one."
But Didbin snored unconscious.
"Another strain, O most musical of strangers! No? Another drink then!"
"We won't go home till morning," roars O'Donoghue, "dum rediens jugat asthra Phaybus.
Till the early milk froightens the cats from door-step. Hurroo! Nunc pede libero pulsanda
tellus. Now's the time to shake a loose leg, boys!"
"Let us batter down a door," cries M`Taggart.
"Or filch a sign," says Marston.
"There's the barber down the street," hiccups the classical stranger. "Obsceno ruber
porrectus ab (hic) palus, with a thundering great red pole stuck out of his dirty little shop
window! Let's have that!"
"Quo me Bacche rapis tui plenum," exclaimed I, feeling the whisky impelling me to
"Another song, a classic ditty!" cries Marston. "Tip us a stave of modern Roman, mo jovial,
"Absit somnus! Let slape me quite for iver if I go to bed this night.
"Och, Stony Stratford's a fool to Coppinger's."
Didbin, waking from his slumbers, began to sing --
I'm bound to win, when I go in,
Tommy Dodd! Tommy Dodd!
Heads or tails, I'm, bound to win,
Hurrah for Tommy Dodd!"
"Peace, wretch!" roared our guest. "Insult not the manes of the dead! That ditty was
Marcus Tullius Cicero's, and while I live shall be sung in the original. Come, gentlemen, a
"'Civis nam Romanus sum,
Ergo semper Vinco, quum,
Sortem spargant aleaee,
Seu Venus, seu Caniculae.
Didbin did not show in the morning; but I, having a slight headache, went down to breathe the
fresh air, and take a brandy and soda.
At the bar were M`Taggart and Marston consulting Coppinger.
"Went away in a buggy at six this morning to Quartzborough," said Marston. "Who can he
All were silent.
"Don't you know the stranger's name, Coppinger," said I.
"Mr. Flack, I think he said," replied Coppinger. "'Q.H.F.' was on his portmanteau."
We stared at one another.
QUINTUS HORATIUS FLACCUS.
"It's impossible!" cried I.
"It's totally prepostherous!" said O'Donoghue.
"It's a metempsychosis!" suggested Marston.
"It's just whusky!" concluded M`Taggart.
Yesterday afternoon, when reading the remarks of our latest critic, Mr. Anthony
Trollope, upon Australian life and manners, I received almost simultaneously a
letter from my old friend, Robin Ruff, of the Murrumbidgee, and a visit from my
young acquaintance, Dudley Smooth (nephew to Lord Lytton's friend), of "Scott's
Hotel." Both were squatters, both about equally wealthy, both good fellows in their
way, both occupied nearly the same position in society, both were alike -- and yet
how widely different!
Robin Ruff, writing in a shaky hand, with honest independence of spelling, and
hearty contempt for necessary doubling of consonants, sent a message to his
grandson, and would I see Wether and Weaners' people about "them yowes." Robin
Ruff is an old man. He is nearer seventy than sixty I should say; but he is as erect
as a dart, and can ride a long day's journey, or do a hard day's work, with many a
younger man. He is six feet high, his hands are knotted and brown -- mottled with
sun, and hardened with labour. His shoulders are broad, his head well set on, his
eye confident. His head is white, and his beard is white also, save that brown patch
round the mouth that looks as if snuff had been spilt on it. In appearance he is not
elegant. His coat is too big for him, and his hat is not of the fashionable mould. His
boots are clumsy, and have thick soles, which creak as he walks. He carries a big
oak stick, and wears a big silver watch. He looks very fierce indeed, and not at all
a "lady's man;" but people who know him well like him, and little children run to him
at first sight.
Robin Ruff came to this colony in 1936, the year before Mr. Latrobe was made
Superintendent. He had been squatting in Sydney before that, but hearing much of
the "new colony," came over to better his fortunes. Old Ruff -- long since put
away comfortably in the kirkyard -- had kept a little shop in a little Scotch town,
and had saved a bit of money, but Robin, adventurous lad, wearied of the big grey
hills and the quiet old straggling street, and sowing, and reaping, determined to
seek his fortune. The old father advised, and the old mother wept beneath her
horn spectacles, but Robin would go. Wise bodies at market assembled, predicted
"nae guid" of the lad -- (he rebuilt the market-hall the other day, with good
Aberdeen granite) -- and it was generally prophesied that he would bring his
parents' grey hairs with sorrow to the grave.
For the first ten years of his Australian struggles he seemed likely enough
to fulfil the worst of their prophecies. It was a hard fight, and little to get for it.
But by steadiness and industry he got a little money together at last. The
marvellous virtue that lies in sheer hard work brought him through after ten
years, and made him independent. Arrived in the Port Phillip wilderness, up the
country he went. Land was to be had easily enough in those days, and being his
own bullock-driver and stockrider, and shepherd, and farmer and cook, Robin Ruff
soon made a home for himself. He began to be looked upon as a "warm" man. Jolly
boys carousing in Melbourne town, at the foundation of Prince's Bridge, spoke of
Ruft's luck and cursed their own in genial fashion. By-and-by the great crash
came. Sheep and cattle were wroth nothing, and Ruff's luck seemed gone. But it
turned again. He had bought land with his saved money, and when the "diggings
broke out" (like an eruption, one would think), had recovered his losses.
He is an old man now, and people ask him why he doesn't "go Home and live;" but
he knows better. His daughter is married here, and his grandchildren are here too.
He has his station to occupy his mind, his trips to Melbourne, his rubber, his pipe,
his club, and his chats with other jolly old boys. How the old fellows chuckle as
some quaint nickname, springing up in the conversation, recalls some hearty piece
of jollity in the "old days!" He did go home once, but he didn't like it. London was so
lonely. He didn't like to pull out his old clay pipe in his dapper nephew's
smoking-room, and when his niece talked French to him, and asked his opinion of
the mise en sce'ne at the opera he felt uncomfortable. He went to his native
town, but his father and mother were dead, and he could remember nobody. A
railway bridge spanned the burn where he paddled in his boyish days, and the
Telegraph Office had been built where stood the tree on which he cut little Jeanie's
name with his clasp-knife forty years before. He gave money to the local
charities, and rebuilt the market-house, and for that the Town Council got at him
and gave him a dinner, and a fat cheesemonger, with a turn for oratory, made
speeches at him all the evening. Sickened, tired, and disappointed, he took his
passage for Melbourne, and, smoking his pipe in the "Port Phillip Club," on the
night of his arrival, with the old faces round him, inwardly vowed he would go home
no more. He is not a brilliant fellow to talk to; he is not aristocratic, nor even
deistical; but he is a fine, honest, kind-hearted old man, and has not been without
his use in this brand-new go-ahead colony of ours.
As I looked up from his letter, I saw Mr. Smooth in the doorway. He was a very
different stamp. Mr. Smooth was a very young gentleman. His hands were brown
but well-kept, and his whiskers were of a fine yellow floss-silk order, like the down
on a duckline. He had but lately come down from his station, but was arrayed in
the most fashionable of fashionable garments. His trousers were so tight, that his
legs looked as if they had been patented by some mono-manaic player on the flute,
as cleaning machines for that instrument of music. His waistcoat yawned like a
whited sepulchre. He wore half-a-yard of black satin tied round his neck, or
rather his shirt collar. His feet were encased in shoes of that high-heeled class
affected by step dancers, and the suddenly expanded trouser-ends flapped around
his ankles -- entwined like two barber's poles, by the red stripes of his silk
stockings. In addition to a gold hawser that swung heavily from buttonhole to
pocket, and fluttered -- so to speak -- with lockets and charms, as though it
were a clothesline on which such trinkets had been hung out to dry, he was
spotted generally with jewellery. His manly breast was like nothing so much as
Biddy's canvas-covered trunk studded with brass nails, and at his throat, and on
his wrists, gleamed gigantic plates encircled with his name and date -- I mean his
crest and bearings. The crest of the Smooths is two flat-irons rampant, and from
every available portion of my young friend's body gleamed golden repetitions of
those time-honoured weapons. He wore a hat which seemed to have been made by
an eccentric hatter, who in the midst of an attempt to imitate the head-covering
of a sporting coal-heaver, had been stricken with remorse, and finished his
handiwork with a haunting sense of the beauty of the episcopal broad-brim. His
manner was affable and easy, he smoked a very strong cigar, and cursed only to
that extent necessary and becoming in a man of fashion.
"Well, you melancholy old cuss," exclaimed this Arcadian youth, "how are you? Got
any soda and B.? I was so dooced cut last night! Went knocking round with
Swizzleford and Rattlebrain. C'sino, and V'rites. Such a lark! Stole two Red Boots
and a Brass Hat. Knocked down thirteen notes, and went to bed as tight as a fly!"
This and more he tells me -- sitting the while on the end of my sofa, swinging his
flute-cleaning legs, and puffing with his cigar, at an angle of forty-five degrees.
His language is ornate and redundant of adjectives. Anything he doesn't like is
"Beastly" or "Loathsome;" anything he does like is "Festive," "Sportive,"
"Ripping." he calls his father "a cheerful swell," or a "festive cuss," and when he
goes to the theatre with his family, he has heard to allude periphrastically to his
mother as a "square party in the boxes."
Mr. Smooth's papa -- Dudley has been named after his uncle, for whom the family
entertain a profound respect, as a man moving in good society, -- came out here
fifteen years ago and made his fortune by lucky speculation in land. He owns
several stations, has a house in the hottest and most uncomfortable part of
South Yarra, and is a most respectable person, with a stake in the country, and a
tendency to stomach. He has placed Dudley on the
Murriowooloomoolooneriangtrotolong station -- he likes the fine old native names,
-- and that young gentleman is "managing" it at a fine rate.
Dudley is a great man on the Murrio, &c. He is called the "---- boss," and lives in
the "house," in contradistinction to the "hut." He also keeps his horses habitually
in the stable, and feeds them on "oats" -- tremendous achievement! He has a
buggy and a trotting mare. Nobody says anything to him if he "coils" in the
front parlour all the afternoon, and when he rides over to the little public-house
and is condescendingly blasphemous towards the publican, the best brandy --
without the Barret's twist at the bottom of the cask -- is brought out in his
honour. At mustering time he is in his glory -- for, to do him justice, he can ride
hard enough -- and when he gets drunk at night, his stories are voted exceedingly
humorous. He is, in his way, a sort of Epicurean. He despises the vanity which
prompts honest John Strong of the Plains to jump over a hurdle with a fat wether
under each arm; but he is very particular about the brightness of his stirrups, and
is the only man on the station who has his boots cleaned every morning.
When he comes down from the country, he makes, as it were, a foray into an
enemy's country. He does not enjoy himself during the day -- the time hangs
heavily. Having paid a visit to his father and mother, if they are in town, he "looks
up a friend," and the two loaf aimlessly about the town. They may be seen
"knocking the balls about" at "Scott's" or the "Port Phillip," or drinking "soda and
b.," or "sherry and bitters," at any decent bar in town. If it is a "selling" day, you
can meet them at Kirk's Horse Bazaar, lounging against the wall as though they
owned so many blood-horses themselves that the sight of anything on four legs
was wearisome. But it is at night when they enjoy life. What with the theatre and
the cafe' they feel quite like old roue's by midnight, and stroll down to the
Varieties or the Casino like a twinned Alcibiades in the Agora, -- only they have
never heard of the Alcibiades. There they drink, and smoke, and bask in the smiles
of beauty. By two o'clock it is time to "knock round," and having supped at Cleal's,
and the night Hansom having been duly chartered, Dudley and his friend take a
tour in the provinces. It is possible that in the course of their peregrinations they
meet Swizzleford and Rattlebrain, and then it is, ho, for the breakage of lamps,
the carrying away of signs, the pretty larceny of gilt hats and wooden boots!
Dudley is under the impression that his dancing society is much sought after by
ladies, and behaves to those poor creatures in a tyrannically fascinating way,
putting his name into their programmes with a tender violence that is quite
affecting. He dances a little wildly, but with much vigour and height of action. He
doesn't sing, but he can eat a great deal, and is fully alive to the fact that a tip to
the waiter will secure a cool bottle of champagne for himself and friends, long
after finding none. He plays billiards fairly, and is proud of his skill at pool. He
makes a book on the races, and is almost as fond of losing as of winning. This
promising young gentleman is two-and-twenty, and intends soon to go home and
see the old country. He is quite complacent about it, and talks of "doing Europe"
as he would of doing "Collins Street."
Let me, in conclusion, add only that Mr. Smooth has not a very strong sense of
moral responsibility; for though he would not willingly do a dishonourable action, he
is so impressed with the virtue of success, that a "smart" scoundrel is, in his
eyes, a far more worthy being than an honest dunderhead. He is making
money, however, and has no reason to be otherwise just now than honest. His
station is fitted with the latest improvements. His prize cattle are fattened on
prize principles. His sheep are washed with hot water, and his paddocks are sown
with English grass. He has not arrived at the glory of his next neighbour, the Hon.
Tom Holles Street, younger son of the Marquis of Portman Square, who was
educated at Oxford and Cirensester, and has taken up squatting on scientific
principles. The Hon. Tom washes sheep in an American dip at the rate of two
hundred a minute, drafts cattle in lavender gloves, has nearly perfected a
shearing machine, quotes Aeschylus to his overseer, prohobits all swearing, except
on Sundays, and has named his working-bullocks after the most distinguished of
the early Christians. The Hon. Tom belongs to a later phase of development, and
our young friend is far behind him in civilisation; but Dudley Smooth stands out in
alarming contrast to poor, honest, simple-minded Robin Ruff.
The Future Australian Race
There has been much vaguely talked and written about the Coming Man. There is
certainly no doubt but that in a few years the inhabitants of the colony of
Australasia will differ materially in their mental and physical characteristics from
ourselves. Let us consider for a few moments why and in what probable respect
this difference will occur.
The tendency of that abolition of boundaries which men call civilisation is to
destroy individuality. The more railways, ships, wars, and international gatherings
we have, the easier is it for men to change skies, to change food, to intermarry,
to beget children from strange loins. The "type" -- that is to say, the incarnated
result of food, education, and climate -- is lost. Men rolled together by the waves
of social progress lose their angles and become smooth, round, differing in size
only; as differ, and remain similar, the stones of the sea beach. The effect of the
increase of ease in the means of locomotion has been making itself apparent for
the last three hundred years. With the discovery of the Americas there came
upon all nations a sort of spirit of freedom and a desire for change. Though the
terms "Greek" and "Roman" had been held to signify two distinct and certain
forms of physiognomy, yet, in the feudal towns of moyen age Europe, were
priest-artisans who revived the one, and stern Crusaders who re-begat the other.
The Moors brought the eagle beak of the East into Arabian Spain; and the
fair-haired Northmen, precursors of Columbus, sailing to the site of Boston city,
bid their savage virtues live again in their descendant redskin warriors. The only
"types" which have come down to predecessors of Columbus as unaltered, say the
archaeologists and the naturalists, are those of the Copt, the Ass, and the
Hyaena. The Chaldean is much the same as he was pictured on the Ninevite
marbles 3000 years ago, but in 1600 years the Egyptian has had far less change
than the average face of the dweller by the Mediterranean knew during the three
hundred years between the death of Phidias and the placing of the Castellani
sacrophagus in the British Museum.
As for England, variation in national physiognomy is so astounding that one is
tempted to suspect the representation as untrustworthy. Yet Holbein, Vandyke,
Reynolds and Romney were fully competent to represent what they saw, and we
are forced to admit that, from the chivalresque attitudes of Vandyke, through
the sedate romance of Reynolds, to the grosser intelligence of Romney, and up
again to the spiritual brightness of Richmond, the changes are true, though
sudden. When we say of a portrait, "What an old-fashioned air," we are really
saying, "That is the grandfather's face come back again." Even in the rudest
times, and under the most unfavourable conditions, those who drew the human
face did their best to copy the faces of their neighbours. An Egyptian artist never
presented a fair-haired or round-eyed face as his type of beauty. An English
manuscript-illuminator made his saints and virgins always delicate and blue-eyed.
Through the clumsy handling of the monkish painters, we can still understand that
our ancestors had, for the most part, rolling eyes, fleshy noses, larger at the tip
than the bridge, long upper lips, strong chins, and coarse jaws. The long,
symmetrical, oval face, with its arched eyebrows and melancholy air, has, in these
days, disappeared. The Norman type is becoming absorbed. The face is square.
The Danish eagle-beak -- the characteristic of the predatory race -- sinks down
and broadens into the sensual and cogitative proboscis of the ruminating animal.
Those stern eyes which glowered in the semi-darkness of a down-drawn visor have
vanished. The cheeks, no longer pressed forward by the locked helmet plates,
relieve the mouth and raise the corners of the lips. The nation, recovered from
the Wars of the Roses, seems to breathe freely. A chastened air of spirituality is
cast over the brows, and the features appear moulded by serious thoughts and
high emotions. The liberal patronage which the Tudors bestowed upon art
culminated with the arrival of Holbein in England, and from that date we can
examine at our leisure the gradual collection and assimilation of those features
which make up the "English Face."
Let us turn to the Royal portraits, as they are produced for us by photography,
and understand how it comes that at masquerades and on the stage the modern
countenance looks so obtrusively out of place. The type of his nation during his
life was Henry the Eighth, and Holbein's picture of him does more than Froude's
whole history to show us his real character. Broad, burly, somewhat sullenly he
stands, his feet wide apart, his hands thrust into his belt, and his eyes looking
straight at you; his lips are full, sensual, firmly shut; his nose footed, and his ears
widely opened. The expression is that of the elephant -- great sagacity, little
refinement, strong will, and courage dauntless to resist. Anne of Cleves, who
simpers beside him, is a long-chinned, big-eyed, narrow-browed creature, perfectly
placid and wholly uninteresting.
But when we come to Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Kate Howard, and Parr, we see
the vivacity which was to thrill the next generation already stirring. Anne Boleyn is
plump, voluptuous, but refined and daring. Seymour has an intelligent, earnest, and
thoughtful face; Howard a sly, sensual, and self-restrained one; Parr has the
forehead of an artist, and the mouth of a wit. Intelligence gleams from each head.
In the next generation of courseness of lip and jaw vanish. Mary has no sexuality
save that which springs from disease. Her pressed, vinegar lips, the lower one
almost split, the wide nostrils, and the prominent cheek bones, give ample
assurance that the broad lips, the high brow, and the somewhat aesthetic
weakness of her husband, could never match her temper. Elizabeth's fine and
haughty face comes like a burst of sunshine among these gloomy intellects. Who
is accountable for that aquiline nose, and that firm, sweetly-moulded chin of Louis
de Hervf''s picture? Anne Boleyn perhaps alone could tell. Elizabeth's nose is a
revelation in national physiognomy.
The club nose was the characteristic of the age. Louis XII had it, so had the noble,
serious face of the Duke of Suffolk, so had Dorset, Jane Grey, James IV., Francis
II., Mary of Guise; the beautiful, intellectual face of Guilford Dudley would be nearly
Greek but for this trait. Elizabeth and her rival, Mary of Scots, were almost alone
in exception. Were not the supposition too fanciful, one might imagine that they
escaped from the influence of parental impress, and that their minds moulded
their features wholly. The heads of both women are keen with intelligence. There
is not a trace of sensual weakness or the sensual strength of the last generation.
An age of Spensers, Wriotheselys, and Raleighs was at hand. Women began to rule,
not through the flesh, as in the days of chivalry and lust, but through the spirit.
Elizabeth and Mary were alike in one regard. They were both incapable of loving,
and both for the same reason. They never met a master, or at least one who
cared to master them. Elizabeth was too contemptuous to surrender, Mary too
confident to keep. One scorned to admit a lover, the other disdained to obey him.
The keynote of passion struck by these two women vibrated through Britain. Men
became adorers, poets, adventurers to win the one; murderers, rebels, plotters,
martyrs, to secure a lasting claim upon the other. What result had this state of
things in moulding the fleshy masks which these daring and impetuous spirits
wore? Let us see.
The portrait of Spenser shows us a haggard-eyed, eager-browed and disappointed
man. From the eagerness, the disappointment, came the banishment of the world,
the turning to nature, the yearning for the good -- the Faery Queene. Sir Nicholas
Poyntz has a long, curling upper-lip and no chin; Babington is an ardent visionary;
Drake has soft, curling hair, a streaming silk beard, a full face, and a look of deep
melancholy. A beautiful miniature of Barbor (who, by the death of Mary, was
delivered from the stake) is a most noticeable face. Nothing of the former
generation but the firm jaw remains. The nose describes a waved line, the lips are
keen and close, the forehead broad and slightly retreating, the eyes large, well
opened, and at once sad and scornful. When we compare these faces with those of
the Duc d'Anjou, cold, cruel, and selfish; Henry Valois, weak, mean, and
treacherous; the Duc de Guise, violent and conceited, we begin to understand how
England succeeded in creating a literature and reforming a religion. The only
French face which presents strongly the characteristics of the English one of
1500-1600 is that of Coligni, the Admiral of France, murdered at the Huguenot
massacre. The type of the intellect which was foreshadowing the reign of the
Grand Monarque is to be seen in the wonderful and beautiful face of the
infamous and delightful Catherine de Medicis.
Out of this melancholy and thoughtful splendour what came. That the portrait of
William Lenthall, Speaker of the Rump Parliament, on the one hand; and Charles
the First, when Prince of Wales, on the other. Charles is a young man of high brow,
secretive mouth, heavy nose, and a head remarkable for its narrowness. There
can be no question that the spirit which animates such features is at once
irresolute, rash, and untrustworthy. Lenthal is sour, grim, and bitterly in earnest.
The relentless mouth, with its snag-tooth, the pinched nostrils, the long, sloping
nose, the eyes scaled like those of a snake, present a type of extravagant
melancholy even more detestable than that of the English king. Between these
extremes, however, there is a whole gamut of notes. Cavaliers and Round-heads
were both gallant fellows, and if some portion of the dash and fire of the old
barons held the one, the grave and serious air of the thinking thrall gave solidity
to the courage of the other. The square brows, serious eyes, and stern air of the
daughter of Sir Richard Stewart is preserved in the rugged and thoughtful face of
her son, Oliver Cromwell.
With the restoration came the reaction. Black-browed hysterical-lipped Charles
loved pleasure, and gathered round him wits and rakes. Have not all the portraits
of this Court the same air? Make allowance for the similarity of costume, for the
fact that the artist, having to paint every woman half naked, endowed each with
the same redundant bosom and flowing hair, and we shall yet be forced to admit
that all the "beauties" are very stupid, sleepy-eyed, over-fed persons; in their
"fitness" resembling Dudu, but though "large, languishing and lazy," yet by no
means of a "beauty that would drive you crazy." The men are better. Rochester
and Sedley had brains enough to have made them great men; but the large mouths
and bald temples show that the curse of the age was upon them and that they
were too lazy to be virtuous. Across the Channel, however, men of the world
enjoyed life still. The Court of Louis le Grand was crowded with men of genius, and
the best of much that was good in a society which existed on a quagmire, looks
out of the serene and religious eyes of the second wife of Louis Quatorze,
Francoise D'Aubignf', Madame de Maintenon. There was no woman in England equal
in sense and wit to the widow of Scarron, but there was also no one equal in
boldness and villainy to Frances Howard, the poisoner of Sir Thomas Overbury.
During the next century the increase of the means of living gave a solidity to the
jaw, and banished the wrinkling lines of thought around the eyes. There arose a
race of refined Elizabethans. The English face in the days of Anne was the face of
indolent greatness. The very vices of the age were those which sprang from a
disdain of consequences. Men, lived, made love, fought, drank, got into debt, or
died in a stately manner, doing out of sheer indolence all those things which the
train of the French Regent -- his clever, pimpled, careless face is the mirror of
his age -- did in laborious pursuit of pleasure. The strain of French vivacity
yet lingering in the airs which blew over the kingdom, gave us eager, impulsive
Pope; genial, careless Steele; brought us, by force of its example, the bitterness
of Swift; the salacious humour of Sterne; nay, even the jovial tenderness of
Goldsmith; while the backbone of "old English manners" (as eating, drinking, and
healthful profligacy were termed) saved the nation from ruin in the general
overturn of the long-threatened French Revolution.
From this period the country of English physiognomy lies straight before us, with
finger-posts on either side. Gainsborough, Reynolds, and Lawrence have
reproduced our ancestors in their habits as they lived; Hogarth, Rawlandson, and
Gilray have taught us how to recognise them, Lavater how to talk with them.
These men and women were our immediate forbears, and yet we are no more like
them as a race than they were like the Elizabethans, or than the heroes of the
Armada and the Spanish man resembled the feudal barons or the knights of
With this much of introduction, let us proceed from the accession of George I.,
and note the causes which have continued to produce those nondescript
physiognomies which we meet in our daily walk. We are all familiar with the terms
-- "An Elizabethan face," "a Puritan face," "a face for hair powder," "a
nineteenth century face." We know still better the expressions -- "An Oriental
face," "an Italian face," "an English face." Let us endeavour to understand what
these terms mean. Let us see why, in a few years, we may talk of an Australian
face, and what that face may be like.
When we look at those portraits of gentlemen in white wigs, and ladies in
short-waisted dresses, which adorn the walls of some few houses in the colonies,
and are reproduced by the score in Wardour Street, for the benefit of modern
gentlemen who are desirous of begetting ancestors, we are struck with one
peculiarity -- the fulness of the jowl. In the portraits of notable men this
peculiarity is almost exaggerated into a defect. Johnson, Goldsmith, Garrick even,
had it. It is one of the signs of the times, and stamps a man as belonging to the
Georgian era -- to the days of Hogarth's Beer Street, Smollett's Feast after
the Manner of the Ancients, and Gilray's Evacuation of Malta. What is the
cause of big jowls, full temples, and bull necks? What, in fact, is the cause of
Georgian face? Simple excess of aliment. The men of 1720 to 1795 were gross
feeders. The Germans are notorious crammers. It is their capacity for gorging
which is the measure of their power. They are a race of strong-willed men -- men
combative and masterful. Experience shows that hollow-templed men are poets,
philosophers, and essayists. Facts show that the wits who were supplanted by the
strong thinkers of the Hanoverian invasion were exactly such
hollow-templed fellows. From the instant the Germans poured into England -- from
that instant began the reign of full feeding and of drink.
Not to confine ourselves to the respective duration of the uninsurable lives of
Kings, let us consider, as from a height of observation, the British people from
Hogarth to Gilray. Their recorded lives are records of alimentary excess. The
Gate of Calais is a jest at the sparse feeding of the French nation, and is
remarkable as a proof that Hogarth, who may be justly considered a type of the
middle-class Englishmen of that day, had no notion of nutriment save in the shape
of lumps of cooked flesh. His Frenchmen are represented as having become
lanterns upon a diet of rich soups, and his English as having been reared into grand
adiposity by the mastification of beef-shins and collops of veals. In Beer Street
and Gin Lane we see the same theory expressed. The drinkers of gin are squalid,
haggard and thin. Men kill themselves; women drop their children over areas
railings; corpses are thrust into coffin-shells. All is hideous and terrifying. The
beer-drinkers are presented, not as well-contented home-keeping persons, but as
boozers, fat, swollen with malt, fermenting with new yeast, rudely amorous,
bestially desirous of all sensual gratification. This full-up-to-the-throat sort of
happiness was really what was enjoyed at the time. In Midnight Conversation, hot
punch in huge bowls lends zest to song. In the Rake's Progress the hero is
dyspeptically insane. In Marriage ˆ la mode, a cur, half-starved, leaps on the
table to seize a bone. In the Four Stages of Cruelty the good boy offers his
cake to save the life of the tortured dog. Everywhere intrude shapes and forms of
eating. In Midnight and Noon, the girl whom the black boy is kissing, carries a
huge pie. In the Industrious Apprentice a whole row of Aldermen are seen, with
napkins swathed under their fat chaps, gnawing bones. In the Election Dinner the
prevailing taste for gorging and guzzling may be said to have reached its height.
One man has burst his waist belt. One pours wine over his friend's head. The
disjecta membra of the feast lie around, as are scattered the fragments of a
carcase torn by dogs. The host is dying of a surfeit. Oyster-shells literally pile the
tables. Tobacco-smoke completes what gluttony began, and burdened stomachs
kick against their load.
Let the reader bethink himself of the incessant device employed by the novelists
of the Georgian era to produce an embroglio. What is the excuse for Mr. Tom
Jones, Mr. Joseph Andrews, or Mr. Peregrine Pickle leaving his chamber in the inn?
A modern writer, true to modern facts, would insinuate sleeplessness, a desire to
smoke and so soothe the too active brain, fear for his own or his horse's safety
-- a thousand other matters turning upon mental exercise. Nothing of this sort
occurs to the heroes of Fielding or of Smollett. They go to bed and sleep soundly,
but are awakened by the effects of their gluttony. "Joseph, in whose bowels the
roasted port was still sticking," and "Jones, who began to feel the effects of the
punch, combined with the too hearty supper which he ate," rise from their beds
and, returning, blunder into different chambers. The device seems so easy
that we are convinced it is natural. The men of that time did habitually that which
men of our time do but seldom -- they over-ate themselves. The caricatures of
Gilray and Rowlandson are full of allusions to this practice. To put out of mind
those grosser jests with which the student of caricature history must be of
necessity familiar, we can remember the Orgies of the P-- of W-l-s, and that
recurring decimal in the humorous sum the Household Economy of Farmer
The example of riotous living set by the Regent and his friends was, however, an
example tempered in some degree by taste. Escaped from the insularity of her
moral position, England contrived to get into her cooks' heads some notions
beyond roast beef, even though she was compelled to achieve the task by
conquering the nations who understood the art of living. During the reign of H.B.
we notice that the faces depicted are less gross than of yore. Lord Althorp is a
heavy jowled man, to be sure, but the rising curve of little Lord John's nose had
already risen above the horizon, and the Iron Duke brings back the severest
Roman physiognomy. Though the sensual lip, the wrinkled throat, and the
retreating forehead were not to be eliminated for a generation, we see clearly, in
the first pages of the struggling Punch, that the English national face has
undergone a change. It has become lighter and more keen. Science advances,
restrictions upon trade are removed, men no longer embittered by fierce party
struggles, turn their attention to money-making. Victoria reigns. The husband of
the Sovereign is a man of wide sympathy and philosophic mind. Under his auspices
philanthropy becomes fashionable. Universal peace brings attempts at
improvement, engineering schemes are projected, industrial social exhibitions held.
The picture has another side. The importance of trade is absurdly magnified. To
die "rich" is considered to be worth the cost of living an unhealthy and dishonest
life. Speculation -- which hardens the eye, and wears the strained muscles always
engaged in concealing the expression of natural emotion -- is rife. Ruin, rapid and
total, overtakes many. Genteel Poverty asserts a physiognomy of its own, at once
humble and haughty, timid and stubborn. There rises out of this ruin, and this
competition, a creature who is known as "Brummagem" -- a man who is neither
very rich, nor very clever, nor very well-behaved, but who pretends to be all three.
Videri quam esse is the motto of smart brokers, sharp traders, and those who
thrive by dexterity in avoiding legal offence. In the midst of this -- when
Tennyson, the hollow-templed, high-nosed, haughty poet, is writing "Maud" to urge
Smooth-faced, snub-nosed rogues
To leap from counter and till --
war bursts, and England regenerates herself in the Crimea, and is fierily baptized
in Indian plains. From the men of those latter days -- from the men of the last
half of this century, springs the Australian race. The gold discoveries attracted
to this hemisphere some of the best nerve-power of England.
Already there existed in the Australias much sturdy Anglo-Saxon stuff.
The officers and soldiers who, with their families, constituted the free population
of early colonial days, were men of courage and daring. Many of the voluntary
immigrants were at least equal to the best middle-class Englishman, while the
banished population over which such men as Fyans and Therry ruled, had at least
the merit of being eminent in their several capacities, even though their capacities
had been misapplied. Among the convicts were many men of great courage, great
strength, great powers of brain, and in many instances of astonishing talents for
mechanics and fine arts. It is only reasonable to expect that the children of such
parents, transplanted to another atmosphere, dieted upon new foods, and
restrained in their prime of life from sensual excess, should be at least
But criminality it is not reproductive. Being as abnormal a condition as skill in
painting or playing is an abnormal condition, it cannot flourish beyond its
generation. The genius of the thief buds, blossoms, and dies as surely as does the
genius of the artist. But for immigration the convict continent would have been
depeopled. Immigration ensued, and what an immigration! The best bone and sinew
of Cornwall, the best muscle of Yorkshire, the keenest brains of Cockneydom --
Bathurst, Ballarat, Bendigo, had them all. With them came also the daring
spendthrift, the young cavalry officer who had lived too fast for the Jews, the
younger son who had outrun his income. Barristers of good family and small
practice, surgeons having all the Dublin Dissector in their heads and all the hospital
experience of Paris in their hands, met each other over a windlass at Bathurst, or
a drive at Ballarat. If there was plenty of muscle in the new land, there was no
lack of blood. Put aside prejudice and look at the Bench, the Bar, and the Church
of this great continent. Look at the schools, libraries, and botanic gardens of
Australia. Read the accounts of the boat races, the cricket matches, and say if
our youth are not manly. Listen to the plaudits which greet a finished actor or a
finely-gifted singer, and confess also that we have some taste and culture. Go
into those parts of the country where the canker of trade has not yet
penetrated, and mark the free hospitality, the generous kindness, the honest
welcome which shall greet you. Sail up Sydney Harbour, ride over a Queensland
plain, watch the gathering of an Adelaide harvest, or mingle with the orderly crowd
which throngs to a Melbourne Cup-race, and deny, if you can, that there is here
the making of a great nation. You do not deny it; but ----. But what?
"There are many factors in the sum of a nation's greatness -- Religion, Polity,
Granted; but these are controllable. There is only one influence which we cannot
escape, though we may modify it, and that is the influence of Physical Laws. Let
us consider what climate the Australian nation will live in, and what food it will be
prone to eat, and having arrived at a distinct conclusion upon those two points, we
can predict, with positive certainty, their religion, their polity, their
commerce, and their appearance. You stare? Attend for a moment, and you will
see that a proposition of Euclid is not clearer.
The quality of a race of beings is determined by two things: food and climate. The
measure of that quality is the measure of the success in the race's incessant
struggle to wrest nature to its own advantage. The history of a nation is the
history of the influence of nature modified by man, and of man modified by the
influence of nature. The highest practical civilisations have been those in which
man came off victor in the contest, and employed the wind to drive his ships, the
heat to work his engines, the cataract to turn his mills. The lowest, those in which
nature reduced men to the condition of brutes -- eating, drinking and feeding.
Given the price of the cheapest food in the country, and the average registration
of the thermometer, and it is easy to return a fair general estimate of the
national characteristics. I say a general estimate, because other causes -- the
height of mountains, the width of rivers, the vicinity of volcanoes, etc., induce
particular results. But the intelligent mind, possessed of information on the two
points of food and climate can confidently sum up, first, the bodily vigour; second,
the mental vigour; third, the religion; fourth, the political constitution of a nation.
Before speculating on future events, let us apply our test to history. The climate
of Egypt is hot and moist, the inundation of the Nile renders the soil wonderfully
fertile, and food is extremely cheap and easily obtained. The climate of India is
hot, and the inhabitants live for the most part on rice, which is cheap and usually
obtained in abundance. The climate of Mexico is hot. Indian corn, which formed the
staple of the food of the inhabitants, is astonishingly prolific and consequently
cheap. Now, cheap food means in all cases cheap marriage, or in other words rapid
reproduction of the species. A hot climate means small expense in house-building,
clothing, or furniture. A man sells his labour to meet his requirements, and in a
hot country his requirements are few. In a hot country, therefore, wages are low,
and the rapid increase of population renders human life of little value. The
difference between the labourer and the employer of labour, then, is great, and
from this difference comes tyranny on the one side and slavery on the other. The
rich grow richer and the poor poorer. Wealth means leisure, and leisure means
luxury and learning. Consequently we should expect to find that a nation living
under these conditions would present the following characteristics:-- A poor and
enslaved peasantry, a rich and luxurious aristocracy, who cultivate great learning
and some taste for art.
Now, this condition answers precisely to the condition in which Anthony found
Egypt, Warren Hastings found India, and Cortez found Mexico. In each place the
nobles lived in incredible luxury and the poor in incredible misery. The learning of
each nation was the marvel of its successors. The expenditure of human
life in each was terrible. Human beings were not only sacrificed in thousands for
the building of the gigantic temples common to each country, but absolutely
slaughtered like sheep to celebrate the triumphs of a conqueror, or appease the
anger of a god. It is remarkable that the religion of each nation was bloodthirsty
and full of terror. Siva the destroyer, Tyhon the Betrayer, Kitzpolchi, God of the
Smoking Hearts, alike demanded offerings of blood and tears. It is quite easy to
account for this. Each nation grew up among scenes of natural grandeur, and a
witness to the almost daily performance of the most majestic operations of
nature. The hurricane, the storm, the simoom, the flood, the earthquake -- all
were familiar to their minds, and poets were created by the influence of the
scenery which they described. Men having, by the expenditure of their own blood,
modified nature with aqueducts, canals and roads, nature modified their struggles
for freedom by the imposition of a terrible superstition which darkened all their
It is an absolute fact that religion is, in all cases a matter of diet and climate. The
Greek, with pure air, light soil, and placid scenery, invented an exquisite
anthropomorphism, in which he deified all his own attributes. The Egyptian, the
Mexican, and the dweller by the Ganges invented a cruel and monstrous creed of
torture and death. The influence of climate was so strong upon the ancient Jews
that they were perpetually relapsing from Theism into the congenial cruelities of
Moloch and Astarte. Remove them into another country, and history has no record
of a people -- save, perhaps, the modern Pagans of our Universities -- more
devotedly attached to the purest form of intelligent adoration of the Almighty.
The Christian faith, transported to the Libyan deserts, or the rocks of Spain,
became burdened with horrors, and oppressed with saint-worship. The ferocious
African's Mumbo Jumbo, the West Indian's Debbel-debbel, are merely the products
of climate and the result of a dietary scale. Cabanis says that religious emotion is
secreted by the smaller intestines. Men "think they are pious when they are only
bilious." Men who habitually eat non-nitrogenous substances and pay little
attention to the state of their bowels are always prone to gloomy piety. This is
the reason why Scotchmen and women are usually inclined to religion.
Now let us consider what climate and food will do for Australians.
In the first place, we must remember that the Australasian nation will have an
empire of many climates, for it will range from Singapore and Malacca in the
north, to New Zealand in the south. All varieties of temperature will be traversed
by the railroad traveller of 1977. The enormous area of Australia, that circle
whose circumference is the sea, and whose centre is a desert, is a strong reason
against federation. It is more than likely that what should be the Australian Empire
will be cut in half by a line drawn through the centre of the continent. All above
this line -- Queensland and the Malaccas, New Guinea, and the parts adjacent --
will evolve a luxurious and stupendous civilisation only removed from that
of Egypt and Mexico by the measure of the remembrance of European democracy.
All beneath this line will be a Republic, having the mean climate, and, in
consequences, the development of Greece. The intellectual capital of this Republic
will be Victoria. The fashionable and luxurious capital on the shore of Sydney
Harbour. The governing capital in New Zealand.
The inhabitants of this Republic are easily described. The soil is for the most part
deficient in lime, hence the bones of the autochthones will be long and soft. The
boys will be tall and slender like cornstalks. It will be rare to find girls with white
and sound teeth. A small pelvis is the natural result of small bones, and a small
pelvis means a sickly mother and stunted children. Bad teeth mean bad digestion,
and bad digestion means melancholy. The Australians will be a fretful, clever,
perverse, irritable race. The climate breeds a desire for out-of-door exercise. Men
will transact their business under verandahs, and make appointments at the
corners of streets. The evening stroll will be an institution. Fashion and wealth will
seek to display themselves out of doors. Hence domesticity will be put away. The
"hearth" of the Northerner, the "fireside" of Burns' Cottar, will be unknown. The
boys, brought up outside their homes' four walls, will easily learn to roam, and as
they conquer difficulties for themselves will learn to care little for their parents.
The Australasians will be selfish, self-reliant, ready in resource, prone to wander,
caring little for home ties. Mercenary marriage will be frequent, and the hotel
system of America will be much favoured. The Australasians will be large
meat-eaters, and meat-eaters require more stimulants than vegetarians. The
present custom of drinking alcohol to excess -- favoured alike by dietary scale
and by carnivorous pratices -- will continue. All carnivora are rash, gloomy, given
to violences. Vegetarians live at a lower level of health, but are calmer and
happier. Red radicals are for the most part meat-eaters. A vegetarian -- Shelly
exceptio quae probat regulam -- is a Conservative. Fish eaters are invariably
moderate Whigs. The Australasians will be content with nothing short of a
There is plenty of oxygen in Australia air, and our Australasians will have
capacious chests also -- cateris paribus, large nostrils. The climate is
unfavourable to the development of a strumous diathesis; therefore, we cannot
expect men of genius unless we beget them by frequent intermarriage. Genius is
to the physiologist but another form of scrofula, and to call a man a poet is to
physiologically insult the mother who bore him. When Mr. Edmund Yates termed
one of his acquaintances a "scrofulous Scotch poet," he intended to be personal.
He was merely tautological. It may be accepted as an axiom that there has never
existed a man of genius who was not strumous. Take the list from Julius Caesar
to Napoleon, or from Job to Keats, and point out one great mind that existed in a
non-strumous body. The Australasians will be freed from the highest burden of
For their faces. The sun beating on the face closes the eyes, puckers the
cheeks, and contracts the muscles of the orbit. Our children will have deep-set
eyes with overhanging brows; the lower eyelid will not melt into the cheek, but will
stand out en profile, clear and well-defined. This, though it may add to character,
takes away from beauty. There will be necessarily a strong development of the
line leading from nostril to mouth. The curve between the centre of the upper lip
will be shortened, and the whole mouth made fleshy and sensual. The custom of
meat-eating will square the jaw, and render the hair course but plentiful. The
Australasian will be a square-headed, masterful man, with full temples, plenty of
beard, a keen eye, a stern and yet sensual mouth. His teeth will be bad, and his
lungs good. He will suffer from liver disease, and become prematurely bald --
average duration of life in the unmarried, fifty-nine; in the married, sixty-five and
The conclusion of all this is, therefore, that in another hundred years the average
Australasian will be a tall, coarse, strong-jawed, greedy, pushing, talented man,
excelling in swimming and horsemanship. His religion will be a form of
Presbyterianism; his national policy a democracy tempered by the rate of
exchange. His wife will be a thin, narrow woman, very fond of dress and idleness,
caring little for her children, but without sufficient brain-power to sin with zest. In
five hundred years, unless recruited from foreign nations, the breed will be wholly
extinct; but in that five hundred years it will have changed the face of Nature, and
swallowed up all our contemporary civilisation. It is, however -- perhaps
fortunately -- impossible that we shall live to see this stupendous climax.