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The Australian Footman by James De Mille

 

CHAPTER I. SHOWING HOW LOW THE GOLD FEVER MAY REDUCE A MAN.

IT was morning in Sydney harbor. The wharves were crowded with shipping from all parts of the world which were already filled with workmen busily engaged in unloading the cargoes. The hum of the thousands in the city beginning their daily work, rose into the air and spread far over the country.

It was a beautiful scene. Before the city spread the noble bay which forms one of the finest harbors in the world, all smooth and unruffled, for scarce a breath of wind disturbed the air. Encircling the water rose the green shores, here verdant and smiling with fertile meadows, and there wooded and shaded by pleasant groves or orchards. Ships lay around upon the face of the water, from whose masts floated the flag of many a nation, some slowly borne on by the tide, with the wide spread sails flapping idly against the mast, others swinging slowly, from their fast anchors. And queen of all this peaceful scene-appeared the metropolis of Australia, with its white houses, lofty spires, and thronged wharves-thus she appeared-sitting in the prime of youth, laying aside her maidenhood to wed the world.

Among a crowd of passengers who had just landed from one of the newly arrived emigrant ships, two youths might be seen, whose appearance denoted a station in life much above that of their fellow voyagers. One was a tall man, with a noble figure, in which strength and beauty were finely blended, and a countenance upon which rested an expression of frankness. His features were handsome, his hair being dark and glossy, his eyes black, and gleaming beneath his brows as though they might read the soul. His companion was a merry-hearted fellow, with lively features and a pleasant smile.

"Well, Melville, here we are at last," said the younger of the two. "And now what do you propose to do?"

"Stay here of course. Why, Marden, my boy, what else is there to do?"

"Have you forgotten all that we heard coming out?"

"What-that it is hard to live here now-that the emigrants suffer-that the diggings are crowded? Why, I believe it."

"Well, what will you do?"

"I'll look out for a situation."

"Pray, how much money have you?"

"Just half a crown, my dear friend," said Melville, laughingly tossing two silver pieces into the air.

"Half a crown! Whew! Why, I have five pounds, and expect to starve on that."

"My dear boy. A man who has his wits about him need never starve in this world."

"Well, I do not see what we can do in Sydney. I thought the diggings were not more than twenty miles from here, and I find they are more than a hundred miles from Melbourne,—which is, goodness knows, how many miles from this place."

"Well, Marden, take, my advice and be philosophical."

"Be philosophical! It was very well to be so at Oxford, when a fellow lost a few pounds or owed a debt to some tradesman, but it's no go when a fellow is ever so many thousand miles from home, and only in the possession of enough to keep him from starving."

"Do you know how much the immaculate Johnson, who came home so rich, had when he landed at Melbourne?"

"No."

"Just sixpence halfpenny."

"The dickens! Now I tell you I'll put off Melbourne. That's the land, my hearty!"

"Nonsense-you wont do any such thing."

"Yes, I must. I can't do anything here. I want to get to the diggings."

"Pooh, Marden. Don't be cast down. I don't care, though. I am worse off than you."

"You can't leave here, unless you become a bootblack or a servant."

"By the lord Harry then, I would be a servant."

"What! you would-you, the brillliant, the aristocratic Melville-the 'double first' at Oxford? Bah!"

"Certainly. Why not? The truly great man is he who will not let anything cast him down. In short, if the proud Dame Fortune tries to knock him down she can't come it. That's the doctrine, my boy."

"Well, my mind is made up. I will go to Melbourne."

"What-go to Melbourne? O nonsense!"

"I will, certainly. What will you do here? Come with me to Melbourne. We can find a situation there."

"No, not more easily than here. In fact I believe that it is much more crowded."

"Hang it, I wish I had stayed at home."

"But since you are out here, put it through, Marden."

"Ah, well," said he, with a sigh. "I suppose I'll have to,—and I must be off this morning for Melbourne. The sooner the better, for I have little money left. We must part, old fellow. I don't see what you can do here, though?"

"I can earn a living, I have no friends to be ashamed of me here in the antipodes. I suppose yonder is the vessel for Melbourne," said he, pointing to one at the next wharf, on which was a notice to that effect.

"Yes, that is the one."

"Well, I will help to carry your baggage there. Mine will remain here. I am sorry we must separate, but since we seek our fortunes, let us do what we think best. Come on."

And the two youths bearing Marden's trunk, walked over to the Melbourne packet, which was soon to start. Many others appeared upon the wharves who were about to leave Sydney. Some were pale and sickly looking, others appeared like desperadoes; others had a faint gleam of hope on their countenances, but ah, very faint.

"Look at those who have starved here, Melville. Can you stay? No, come. Let me go back and help you here with your trunk."

"No, no, I will remain."

"But, old fellow, do let me divide this money with you."

"Thank you, Marden, you are a generous fellow-too generous. But I would not think of it. I have no fear but that I can live."

An hour after Melville stood watching the packet, as with all sails set, she left the wharf, and sailed slowly out of the harbor. The wind springing up carried them away, and Melville, as the vessel lessened in the distance, bade good-by to the last of those friends which reminded him of home.

"Now courage!" he murmured to himself—"just let us sit down and form some plans."

He walked over to his trunk, and sat for a while. Strange situation for a well born and well educated gentleman! To be on a foreign shore, with but half a crown in money, and a few clothes in a small trunk as his worldly goods. After a while he opened the trunk, and taking out a piece of cake, made his morning meal.

"And now for business," said he, shouldering his trunk.

He walked off with it to a small boarding-house near by, where he opened it and took out all his good clothes. These he carried to a pawnbroker's who gave him twelve pounds for the lot.

"Hurrah!" he cried, "twelve pounds! That I think will help me along for awhile."

He then bought a suit of rough clothes, and going to his lodgings, put them on, after which he went back and sold his last suit of good clothes for three pounds more.

"Fifteen pounds I have now. Good-again! I will have my watch yet to sell if anything happens. But nonsense, with fifteen pounds I can make a fortune. I may as well prepare now for prosperity at the antipodes."

On the following morning there appeared among the strange crowds of people who throng the Australian capital, a man of most striking appearance. His air was high bred, but his clothes were coarse, and he walked up and down with a large barrow filled with confectionary. He looked around upon all the people with a smile of unutterable complacency, as though he were perfectly content with himself and the whole world.

It was Melville!

"Ha, ha, ha!" he chuckled to himself. "I think I see myself starving. By Jove, wouldn't Aldborough laugh if he were to see me here? And my eldest brother, the baronet-the head of the family-hem-shouldn't I like him to see me now! Ha, ha!"

"Confectionary, confectionary," he cried, bursting into a louder tone of voice, which rang forth clear and deep-toned, as a bell. "Confectionary!" and then he added with grotesque modulations of his voice, "Confecctunarrry!"

"By Jove, how this reminds me of the little fellow in London. I'll go the complete candy-seller. I might as well."

"Ladies and gentlemen! Here's your fine candy, lozenges, apples, oranges, cakes and tarts! Heeeere's your chance!"

He displayed the most imperturbable calmness, walked up to ladies in the streets with the utmost nonchalance, to sell his things, and they, pleased with his uncommonly handsome face and fascinating manner, invariably bought.

"The ladies! Bless their kind little hearts!" said he, gazing after the last two whom he met. "And that little one-what eyes! what a smile! Who can she be, and where does she live? She looked so bewitchingly at me! I'll follow, and see where she lives."

Melville slowly walked after them, keeping at a proper distance. When they stopped at a house or shop, he also stopped at another, till they went on again. Our hero saw the younger occasionally glancing back toward him, and almost fancied that she encouraged him.

"What a lovely creature!" he muttered to himself. "Ah, there is her house, now. By Jove I have it!"

He marked it carefully, and passing by saw the name upon the door-plate. Henry Inglis.

"A finely sounding name. I heard her friend call her Emily-Emily Inglis. Ah, how dear is the name! If I were but rich, now. But I can adore her image till I become so. Yet what hope is there in this contemptible business Bah! never mind. I'll stick to it till something turns up."

On the following morning, Melville dressed as before, with his barrow of confectionary, went along Summer street where Mr. Inglis resided. It was a large stone house, four stories high, and one of the best in Sydney. He rang at the door and after a time Emily herself came. She started, and a half smile came across her beautiful face. Melville himself for the first time in his life, felt embarrassed-but he spoke up, and in the tone of a courtier, said:

"Fair maiden-can a poor confectioner offer you anything this morning."

"What have you?" said she, with a sweet smile.

He brought in his trays and the beautiful girl bent down over them, while her long, dark tresses hid her face from view. Melville's heart beat with delight.

"You will find there as good candy as any in the city," he said at length, in a business way.

She selected a large quantity.

"O thank you, thank you, fair lady, for your kindness to a poor man like me."

"You are a stranger here, are you not?"

"Yes, I arrived only yesterday morning."

"From England?"

"Yes, and another friend came with me, but he is off to Melbourne."

"And will you not go?"

"I decided to stay here when he left, and now I could not-would not leave this place for the world."

"You are prospering, then?" said she, with embarrassment, for Melville's dark eyes rested meaningly upon her.

"Yes, and happy. I have my little—"

"Emmie," said a voice at the head of the stairs.

"Yes, pa, I am coming. Please bring some more to-morrow, good man," added she, in a louder voice, "and if you hear of a footman who wants a place, send him here."

"Thank you, miss," said he, in the tone of a hawker, again, "I will do so. I am very much obliged, miss, for your custom, miss, and I hope it. will be continued, if I can do anything to please you, miss."

CHAPTER II. HE "STOOPS TO CONQUER."

"Emily," said Mr. Inglis to his daughter, "what a strange servant is this new one of ours. He is one of the handsomest and boldest fellows in the world-looks as much like a gentleman as I do, and yet he is a servant. I declare I feel quite a reluctance to order him about. And when I ride out, it is awkward to have such a noble looking fellow as my servant, riding behind my carriage. He is an energetic fellow, I saw him selling confectionary before he came here. Did not you say he sold some to you?"

"Yes," said Emily, faintly.

"And yet he is not impudent, but is perfectly obedient. I cannot make him out, however. He performs everything smilingly, as though it were an excellent joke. I wonder who he can be?"

"He is an Englishman."

"Certainly, and he is well-educated. I know so. It is amusing to see how popular he is with the servants. Ha, ha, he has got them all to admire and try to imitate him. You should have heard a lecture which he delivered last night to them. I stood out in the yard, and attracted by some noise, looked in. There our new servant was, with a short pipe in his mouth, and a mug of ale beside him. The others called out for a speech. Upon which he rose from the chair and got upon the table, and spoke to them."

"What did he say?"

"O I cannot tell you half of it. He made the wittiest and most brilliant speech I ever heard. It was interspersed with laughable anecdotes and poetical quotations flowed in throngs from him. The happiest hits and the most lively sallies. O, I was totally overcome! He kept them in continual roars of laughter, and I could scarcely contain myself. But now I must attend to some business. Emily, where is my desk?"

"In the dining room," said she, ringing the bell.

Melville came to obey the summons.

"Henry," said Mr. Inglis, somewhat awkwardly, "you may a-will it be convenient? a-to-my writing desk-hem?"

"Certainly, sir, a moment, sir—," and Melville disappeared.

In a short time he laid the desk before Mr. Inglis, and stood in a corner of the room waiting any further orders.

"Emily, I am in an awkward situation. There are some French merchants in Melbourne to whom I have to write, and I have forgotten my French. Could you write a letter in that language?"

"Not grammatically, I fear."

"I beg your pardon, sir," said Melville, coming forward. "If you are willing, sir, I will write it."

"Do you know French?" said Mr. Inglis, in surprise.

"As well as English, sir."

A chair was given him, and he wrote at his master's diction. After it was over, Mr. Inglis thanked him, and said:

"I wish there was another here who could relieve me in a similar way. I have to write a Spanish letter to a Spanish house in that rendez-vous of all nations, and I don't know a single word of the language."

"I know it perfectly, sir," said Melville, very meekly.

"You!-Spanish! Why, sir-why I mean-you are a prodigy! Can you write another letter?"

"I should be delighted to do it."

And Melville wrote another, after which he carried the two to the post-office.

"There now! What can I make of a man like that? He knows far more than I do, and acts as though he had been accustomed to the best society. How on earth came he to be a footman?"

Emily's heart beat-she knew why, but she said nothing.

Several weeks passed away, and it was a lovely evening. The sun was fast descending behind the western hills, and a cool breeze from the ocean blew refreshingly upon the city. Many carriages rolled along the roads which led into the country. Men of all classes promenaded the streets after the toils of the day, and nearly all labor had ceased.

Emily and her father rode along one of the avenues which lie without the city. It was a quiet place, for few people were there. Around lay green fields, orchards and groves, pastures where cattle grazed, and vast fields filled with flocks of sheep. Melville rode behind at a little distance, gazing upon Emily as though his whole soul were wrapt up in her.

"What will not a man do for love? Here am I a servant for Emily's sake. Beautiful girl. I would do a thousand times as much to gain some of those tender glances which she at times bestows upon me."

"Emily," said her father, "Is not your horse restive? He starts. I fear he will be troublesome."

"O no, father, it is only his spirit." Melville gazed anxiously at the horse, which occasionally started, rearing a little and swinging his head in a vicious manner.

"Take care! O heavens!" suddenly cried Mr. Inglis, as Emily's horse started at the sight of a blasted tree. He snatched at the reins. The horse, disturbed by this unexpected attack, reared up and pranced furiously.

"Father! O save me!" cried the terrified girl. Her father sprang once more at the reins-the horse darted forward, and then with a wild neigh, stretched out his head, and away he went, away, away, with the speed of the wind!

"O God! O heaven!" cried the father, in agony.

For a moment Melville paused-for an instant-and then lashing his horse he rushed on furiously in pursuit of the frightened steed of Emily. On they went, the pursuing and the pursued. People who were in the road, seeing the fierce beast, shrank away. Emily, pale as marble, still kept her seat, clinging to her horse, but every moment expecting death. She heard the voice of one pursuing, and her heart told her who it was.

Away they went, and nothing was gained on either side. Melville shuddered, and beat his horse to increase his speed-a little was gained, but not enough to admit of hope. On they went. At length the road took a long winding around a spot where the ground made a descent, and ended in a deep gully. Emily's horse followed the road and sped on in his headlong course.

Melville suddenly paused, and looked at the gully. The ground descended gently, the gully was about twelve feet wide, but its perpendicular sides descended to an unseen depth-stones and rocks were strewed around on both sides.

Melville shut his mouth tightly, and lashed his horse. With one spring he cleared the stone wall of the field, and then dashed furiously over the stony ground. It was a fearful sight. Emily saw it as she clung closely to her horse, and the yawning gulf and the fearful deed of Melville took away all thought of herself. She screamed in agony!

But on went the brave horse-on to the deep gully. He prepared-Melville lashed him. One spring-one bound-and the deep chasm was cleared, and away he went-the brave youth, up the other side. Another bound and he was over into the road, just as the horse of Emily, all foaming and perspiring, came up. He rushed before the horse, and with a giant grasp seized the bridle and stopped his furious career. The jerk threw Emily backward. She fell into Melville's outstretched arms.

The horse stood trembling. Melville dismounted, and took Emily to a seat near by. She looked at him so kindly, so tenderly, that a flood of happiness rushed through his soul.

"O thank you, my brave preserver!"

"I am recompensed beyond all that I can hope, in seeing you safe."

"Where is my father?"

"He is coming. There he is! He will be here in a few moments."'

"You did a terrible thing," she said, as she thought shudderingly of the gully.

"Did you see me?"

"It was an awful thing to see. I shuddered."

"O then, happy am I if I can gain the smallest share of sympathy-the smallest thought from you."

"You risked your life, too,"—she did not finish, but looked at him, and their eyes met. Hers fell down.

"Emily!"

She did not reply, but lowered her head. Through the thick ringlets of hair which clustered around her head, Melville could see a gentle blush which overspread her lovely features.

"Emily-speak, Emily-can you think well of me."

She raised her eyes and again they met his.

What the impassioned youth might have said, we cannot tell, but he was prevented from speaking by Mr. Inglis, who at this moment came up. He leaped from his horse.

"Emily, my child, are you saved!" he cried, rushing towards her, and folding her in his arms.

"Yes, I am alive, dear father, and there is my preserver."

"Noble, brave youth. May the richest blessings of Heaven descend on you. You have saved my child from death. I saw you risk your own at that terrible chasm. O that I could fittingly reward you!"

There was one reward which he could give.

CHAPTER III. FORTUNE FAVORS THE BRAVE!

Mr. Inglis again sat in his parlor, and Emily was near. There was a thoughtful expression upon his face. Occasionally she glanced at her father, to see what he was doing, or perchance to endeavor to discover what thoughts were in his mind.

"Emily," said he, at length.

"Father."

"I know not how to reward Henry. What can I do? I am in want of a head clerk. I wonder if he understands business. I will ask him." And he rang the bell.

Melville appeared.

"Good morning," said Mr. Inglis, grasping his hand. "I can have you as a servant no longer. Permit me to esteem you as a friend, for surely you are my equal, and you have laid me under unspeakable obligations to you. Do you know anything of business?"

"What kind, sir?"

"Any kind-shipping business."

"Yes sir, thoroughly. I have been in situations where I learned it."

"Take off this servile dress. Live in my house as my friend, and if you wish, I will take you as my head clerk."

"Your clerk, Mr. Inglis! How-how can I thank you?"

"Think not of thanks. That is my business. Come with me and I will show you what is to be done."

And the two departed. Melville first went to purchase more appropriate clothing, and then went to Mr. Inglis's office.

A year passed away. Melville had been prosperous beyond all his hopes. Immense profits could then be obtained from chartering ships and from exporting wool. Materials of food and clothing for the gold regions at Melbourne, could also be sold at enormous profits. Mr. Inglis had kindly advanced him money to commence independent speculations. This he had so well used, that at the end of the year the original amount had increased ten-fold.

"Ten thousand pounds! In one year too! And at the same time punctually fulfilling every duty as clerk. Mr. Melville, you are the paragon of clerks. With your genius and energy you will soon be among the wealthiest in the country. You have now a fortune of your own. I have long wanted a partner in my business, for I am growing old. You can enter without feeling any great inferiority. Will you do so?"

"You are overwhelming me with kindness," said Melville, in a faltering voice. "How can I ever repay you? To be in partnership with you, is such a grateful thing to me that I can never thank you enough."

"O there is no need of thanks. I am happy to do this. One like you, I may say without flattery, can very rarely be found. But how very strange is the fate which threw you in my way! What wonderful circumstances! A servant in my family! A gentleman like you to be a servant? What led you to it? Surely you could have gained a living in a less unpleasant way."

"It has turned out my blessing," said Melville.

In the evening, Melville, the new made partner sat alone with Emily in the parlor. It was dark, and the heavy curtains which hung before the window increased the gloom. The moon's rays entered and fell softly upon the floor.

"What a strange life yours has been," said Emily.

"Yes. Do you remember when you saw me first?"

"Well-I always shall remember it-the young confectioner with his box of candy."

"I will bless that box of candy forever."

"I have often wondered why you became a servant."

"Ah, why should you wonder? Emily, can you not guess? Would any light cause make me do it?"

She was silent.

"Blessed be the day when I became a menial. I saved you from death through that. O, do you ask what made me? A light had beamed across my path. I had seen you, Emily."

Still no reply.

"I would have done anything. To see you daily-to be near you-to hear your voice. O, it was joy to me such as I cannot describe. And I thought at times that you looked kindly at me—that you saw through my motive-that you-yes, Emily, that you even cared something for me. Did you not, Emily? Did you not?"

A low reply sounded gently in his ears:

"Yes, Henry."

"Emily, my own Emily. Would you call it presumption in me if I told you that I loved you? You know it already; you must know it. Can I hope, dearest Emily?"

A low reply again came, which sent a thrill of rapture to the heart of Melville. He wound his arms lovingly around the happy Emily, and—

"Halloo, what are you two people doing over there in the corner?" said the voice of Mr. Inglis, half suffocated with laughter. "Fine doings-hem. Speak up, sir. What is this."

Melville with his arm around the waist of Emily, and her hand in his, walked up to Mr. Inglis.

"I have been seeking another partner, sir."

"Ho, ho-you have, have you?"

"Yes sir, and I thought—"

"You thought, did you, sir, and pray, sir, what business had you to think? Were you not sure of it-sure of her, you young dog, and of me also? I love you, my brave young friend, and I felt an affection for you when you first came here. Take her and be my son. You saved her life and she is yours. But be silent, now-none of your thanks. I tell you I wont put up with them."

The happy party sat down. Melville by the side of Emily, and Mr. Inglis opposite them, viewing them with the utmost delight.

"But Henry, tell us something of your former life. Whose son are you?"

"I was going to say, 'the son of my father,' but that not being sufficiently definite, I will tell you my father's name. I am the younger son of Sir Edmund Melville, Melville Hall, Warwickshire, England."

"The-ahem!" cried Mr. Inglis. "A baronet's son! Whew, and you were my servant!"

"I entered at Eton, nobody cared for me at home. I went through Oxford, took first honor in the university, then went home, but being only a cipher-alias a younger son, they treated me coldly. My father advised me to join the army. I told him I would see the army shot first. My mind was made up to come here. Two hundred guineas constituted all my fortune. All these I spent either before or during the passage out. When I landed here I only had a half crown!"

"Good heavens, only half a crown!"

"All that I had in the world, except my clothes. I sold them and commenced the business of confectioner. You know the rest."

"Why did you decide to be a servant? Ah, I know now. You look down at that little witch of a girl who is almost crying with joy."

"I'm not, pa. What nonsense!"

"Crying with joy. and she looks knowingly at you. Ah, ha? You have been rehearsing the play of 'She stoops to conquer,' only it was the gentleman in this case. But now all your troubles are over."

"All over. I am happy."

And his large, dark eyes gleamed with the joy which dwelt within him.

"Will three weeks be too soon, Emmie dearest?" said he, in a mysterious whisper.

"Nonsense, Henry," and there came a smothered "don't," for Mr. Inglis had left them alone for a little time.

A few days afterward Melville was standing upon a wharf watching some passengers who landed from a vessel late from Melbourne. Suddenly he started. "Why, Marden," he cried, springing forward to grasp the hand of a forlorn looking individual in a tattered hat and tattered coat. "Where are you bound, young 'un?"

"Home."

"Home? how is that? Have you made your fortune?"

"No. I'm as poor as a rat. Only earned enough to take me back. Hang the gold country! But I declare, you look as if you had made your fortune."

"I have. But tell me, would you go home if you could get a good situation here?"

"No, indeed."

"Then stay. But first come to a hotel and 'renovate.' If you want money, I can lend."

"Hurrah! I don't want money. Since I am sure of a situation, I will lay aside the ragamuffin character, and be once more a gentleman."

"And in two weeks hold yourself in readiness to—"

"To—to what?"

"To attend my—"

"Well?"

"My—well, my wedding."

And he did attend his wedding—and a happy occasion the event proved to all.

 
 
 

EBooks - Fiction, Nonfiction 1000s of them ~ Index