« PreviousContinue »
times, was strong upon his face to night.
“I tracked him," said he, speaking half absently to Reuben, “from here to Paris—to Geneva—to Turin-to Ajaccio. What did he want there, in the name of his master the devil ? And then to Naples, and Malta, and at Malta I lost him, and he must have come back to England. Have you seen him ?”
He said this suddenly and sharply. Reuben asked whom he meant ?
“Why, Samuel Burton. Did I not tell you ? Have you seen him ?”
Reuben said, “No," but cunningly waited to hear more. “What might make Sir George so anxious to find him ?” he asked.
“ Vought! A little conversation. A few words in private. Nothing more."
He said this so strangely that Reuben would not say what was on the tip of his tongue. To wit, that Samuel Burton was at that present moment in Australia, and that he had in his pocket at that moment a letter announcing his arrival there. Reuben thought that it might be wise to keep these two good people apart. He was confirmed in his resolution by all that he saw and heard that night.
Sir George kept him there talking for a long time. The conversation was all on Sir George's part, and consisted almost entirely of a long diatribe against Samuel Burton : his ingratitude, bis falseness, his villainous, abominable ingratitude over again, until Reuben was prompted to ask suddenly, “whether he had been up to anything fresh.” Sir George said no, and talked more cautiously.
He asked about Stanlake ; about the home farm ; about the game; about Lady Hillyar. Had she been alarmed at night? Had there been any attempts at burglary? there was a deal of property in the house. He knew for certain that the house had been robbed once, and that the thief had got in through the pantry window. Morton should be told of this ; Reuben had better tell him. Reuben had better say that he had received a letter from Florence, and that Morton was to sleep
in the house, and shoot any man who attempted to break in stone dead. It was only justifiable homicide ; the law would acquit him. Reuben had better say nothing about it; he did not wish any one shot. He was a miserable and most unhappy beggar, and wished he was dead, and that Erne was dead, and that they were all dead, and quietly asleep in their graves. He was not afraid of death, he said, and wondered that he was fool enough to live on. If he could bring himself to believe in a future state, of any sort or kind, he would blow out his brains that night. But he couldn't, and annihilation was so horrible. He had not been used justly. He had had no chance. He appealed to Reuben. Reuben would not stand there and say that he had ever had a fair chance; not such a chance as one gentleman would give another. The whole state of this world was horrible and abominable ; a man was predoomed to ruin from his cradle. The Ultrapredestinarians were right. He would publicly declare for them, and declare himself reprobate. He would not do it for nothing though ; if his doom had been sealed from the first, he would not go quietly to his punishment. No. That dog might be assured of his salvation, but he should feel the horror of sudden death. He would get face to face with that dog, and inflict on him a few moments of ghastly terror.
And so on. If any man cares, let him follow out poor Sir George Hillyar's frantic, illogical line of thought. It would be very easy, but is it worth while ?
Sir George had worked himself into a state nearly frantic, and Reuben was sincerely distressed. At last he ventured up to him, and, laying his hand on his arm, besought hin earnestly to be quieter. It had a sudden effect; Sir George grew calmer, and his rage died away into low mutterings.
Presently he told Reuben that he must go. He cautioned him not to mention his having seen him to any living soul, and so dismissed him.
“I will go and look at the outside of
the old place,” said Reuben to himself not, however, but passed out, and began as soon as he was in the street. “I ascending the great staircase. am fond of it for their sakes. What a What made Reuben feel sure that he kind lot they were ! I wonder what was going up to his old room- to the they are doing now. So it's all broke room which had been the scene of so off between Emma and Mr. Erne; more much before ? Reuben was puzzled to the pity.”
find a reason for such a strange proThinking in this way, Reuben passed ceeding; and yet he was absolutely through the narrow passage by the dis certain that he was going there. So senting chapel, and soon stood before certain that he followed more rapidly the old deserted house. Brown's Row was than was quite prudent. mainly gone to bed. Only Mr. Pistol, The moon flooded the house, through who had got off with a twelvemonth, every available cranny, with a dull was standing with three or four others weird light; and Sir George was easily under a lamp, and expressing his in- 'kept in sight. It was the more easy tention of slitting a certain worthy to do it, as there was a brisk wind magistrate's throat from ear to ear. But, abroad, which filled the house with hearing a base groveller of a policeman i rustling sound, and hushed the footsteps coming round the corner, he swaggered of the follower. He passed on, higher off with a dignified silence in the direc- and higher, till he passed into Reuben's tion of Church Street; and the Row room, and disappeared. Reuben, waitwas left in peace.
ing a few minutes, cautiously peeped in Reuben was glad of it, for he was at the half-opened door. His old bed (for him) in a sentimental mood, and stood there still ; it was barely worth felt very much inclined to stand and removing; but there were other evi. watch the old house, bathed in the light dences of Sir George having been there of the early spring moon. He leant in before. The bed was roughly covered the shadow under the pent-house of the with a blanket-bed enough for an old Burtons' forge, and watched the dear Australian ; and there were other signs old place with something very like of habitation, in the midst of which sat emotion—when all at once Sir George Sir George at a broken old table, with Hillyar came up, without seeing him, his revolver lying before him. Reuben and disappeared round the back of the gave one look at him, and then stole house.
silently away, his retreat being covered Prompted both by curiosity and by by the innumerable mysterious noises reckless love of adventure, Reuben im- of the deserted place. mediately followed him. When he got round the house, no one was there, and
CHAPTER LIV. it was evident that Sir George had got into the yard by a broken place in the JAMES BURTON'S STORY : THE CLAYTON palings ; and Reuben, looking in, saw
MÉNAGE. him enter the old house by a back “At last,” I cried out, as I saw Erne window which was left unclosed. come slinging on through the forest to
“Now, what is the meaning of this ? wards me. “Why, I thought I had lost and what on earth is he doing here?” you for ever." thought Reuben, and immediately “Old boy, I am so glad to see you. crouched down under the window. I was determined to make you wait for He heard Sir George on the stairs ; letting Emma go away before my apand quickly, and with the silence of a pointed visit. You see I have avenged cat, he followed him in, and slipped myself on you by keeping you waiting off his shoes.
some six months for a sight of my handHe found himself in the old familiar some mug. It was only your wedding kitchen, and crouched down for fear of which brought me over at last. And how Sir George lighting a candle. He did are you all ? "
“We were all very well.”
“You have seen Joe's Report,” said Erne, " of course. Is it not masterly? I am so rejoiced ; but no one ever doubted his abilities but himself. The conclusion pleased me; I heard the old fellow's voice as I read it, and saw him emphatically rolling his head at every period; it is so exactly like Joe. “Our tender mercies to these people will be found to be but cruel, if we do but raise them out of a sea of physical misery which was overwhelming them in the old world, to plunge them into a moral and intellectual one in this. In examining the condition of the class of boy on which you ordered me to report, I found an insolent ignorance, a sullen impatience of control, which gave me the deepest concern, and which has settled for ever in my own mind the question of compulsory education. Unarmed with such powers as I should derive from the prestige which is naturally the right of an officer appointed by Government, and by a law rendering education compulsory, I for one, speak ing as a schoolmaster, would refuse to undertake the task of training these sullen and ignorant young barbarians, who in a few years' time will be exercising the full privileges of citizens.”—I pause for a reply.
“That last sentence ain't in it, is it?" I asked.
“No," said Erne, laughing, “but it should be, in the fitness of things. The fault of the report is that it is all through too much in the 'Romans, countrymen, and lovers' style. Joe is uncertain of himself, afraid of some old lurking bit of slang or vernacular turning up and undoing him when he don't expect it; and so he wraps up all his excellent common sense in fine words. Never mind; the set he is in now will soon cure him of that. Well, and how is she ?”
“Emma? She is very well; she seems not to like Palmerston. Joe is never at home, and, when he is, is utterly precupied. Since his evidence before that commission, and the order for him to make a special report, he has been utterly unfit to attend to the slightest domestic
arrangement. She says he would never get fed if it wasn't for her.”
" He will be secretary before he dies. What a capacity for work there is in him, as well as genius. My father used to remark it. Noble old Joe !"
“And how have you been, my dear friend?” I asked.
“I have been well enough, Jim. But I am not comfortable.”
“Why, no. The people I am with don't suit me.”
“Yes. I like him very well. He is an honest, reckless fellow, a master of his business. He has a great horror of a man who drinks, or a man who reads. - I never knew any good come of reading,' he continually says; 'my dear sir, you will never succeed unless you give it up. It's worse than drinking, in my opinion.'-And he is quite in earnest. Ha! ha!”
“But about her !" I asked.
“Well I don't know. There's some. thing odd about her. A Je ne sais quoi, a sort of Haymarket air altogether. But she was not so bad till Mrs. Quickly came.”
“Mrs. Quickly!” I cried out.
“Yes. Oh, by the bye, she says she knows all of you. I forgot. Yes, Mrs. Quickly has come and taken up her quarters there, altogether.”
“What does Clayton say to that ?"
“Oh, he approved of it at first, there being no family. You see, sir,' he said to me, 'It's as well to have some company for her. It is very dull for a woman in the bush without children.'"
“Take care of Mrs. Quickly, Erne.”
“Oh, you needn't caution me," said Erne, laughing. I know the cut of her ladyship's cap. Unluckily, Mrs. Quickly is troubled with a sinking in her stomach, and requires stimulants, which has resulted in this, that neither Mrs. Quickly nor Mrs. Clayton are ever exactly sober, Mrs. Quickly, being, I suppose, the more seasoned vessel, carries her drink in a more workman-like manner than Mrs. Clayton. When Mrs. Quickly is sufficiently intoxicated
to throw herself into my arms and kiss resort of the lovers of Romilly to this me, you generally find that Mrs. Clay- day, for it is so deeply embowered in ton has been forced to go and lie down. fern-tree and lightwood that one may As for old Parkins, he never gets drunk. sit in the shade and dream of cool Drink what he will it makes no differ- English woods in August: dream only ence to him."
like her who “Does Clayton know of this ? ”
“... Woke, and the bubble of the stream “ Yes, but he hasn't strength of mind
Fell, and without the steady glare"to stop it entirely. He is exceedingly attached and devoted to his wife. He But, however, fern-trees and lightwood says that, as soon as he can get rid of must do, where oak and elm are unproMrs. Quickly, it will be all right again. curable. She never did it till that woman came. The Brougham is popular, too, as a But Mrs. Quickly won't go. Parkins resort for anglers; those pretty little says she has got the whip hand of salmonidæ, which are so singularly like Mrs. Clayton, and knows when she is grayling, leaving the larger river, the well off.”
Erskine, prefer the more aërated waters “I dare say. But who is Parkins ?" of the Brougham and swarm up it in
“ Parkins? Oh, why he is Parkins. thousands. As we passed along the He is a queer-looking card: but very bank which wound up the valley near agreeable. remarkably well-bred. He the river, we saw many of our neighbours came there after Mrs. Quickly at first, I bathing and fishing ; but, getting farther believe, but took such a fancy to me that from the town we seemed to leave life he has been there a good deal. Clayton behind us, and began to think we were says he will leave me his fortune. He alone in the forest : when, coming to a is very well off, looking for an invest. deep pool, in a turn of the river, walled ment.
in with dark shrubs and feathering tree“I hope you may be his heir."
ferns, we came on a solitary man, who “I have very little hope. Hammer- sat on a log fishing by himself : on seeing smith; for, however excellent his tes- whom, Erne exclaimed, “Hallo! why tamentary intentions may be, I doubt here's Parkins," and, going up to him, and whether he will have an opportunity of having affectionately shaken hands, sat carrying them into execution for the down and began a conversation. next forty years. He looks like a liver.” Mr. Parkins was affectionately glad
“ Cannot he stop this miserable to see Erne, but the principal expression drinking ?”
of his face was that of intense amuse“He does all he can, to do him justice : ment-amusement at my expense, for I but somehow he seems afraid of Mrs. was standing looking at him and at Quickly. The whole lot of them, with Erne with staring eyes and open mouth. the exception of Clayton, have just the This Mr. Parkins, this new friend of air of people who had made their Erne's, was no less a person than my fortunes by robbing poor-boxes. Nice cousin Samuel. sort of company for a young gentleman of my bringing-up: I don't much care about it so long as they don't kick up a
CHAPTER LV. row, but I am getting very tired of it. I shall make a bolt one of these days."
EMMA'S VISIT. That evening Erne and I took a walk “This is my friend Mr. Burton,” said together up the Brougham river. It is Erne. an exception to the majority of rivers in “I formerly had the acquaintance of Australia, for, being snow-fed, and coming Mr. James Burton,” said Samuel sarcasto a great extent through limestone, it tically ; “nay, on one occasion I took keeps up a full crystal current through the liberty of saving his life.” the hottest summer. It is the favourite I blushed, and stammered out some
No. 61.-- VOL. XI.
commonplace. I was not quite sure part. He is mad about Port Romilly. that I had not done a rather ill-con- I know this for a fact : before the last ditioned act in passing him before on great land sale a man had squatted on many occasions without speaking to one of the lots, and had made money in him. I hoped he was well.
some way or another. Dawson went to He was quite satisfied at once, and him and said; · My man, I understand began to talk kindly. He congratulated you are going to bid for this lot.' The me on my approaching marriage; and, man said yes, he was going to run it although he must have been consider- up. "You can run it up if you like, ably disconcerted and annoyed at the said Dawson, but, if you do, you'll run impending discovery, by Erne, of the yourself off it; for I'll have it if it costs fact that his refined friend, Mr. Parkins, 30,0001. You stay at home the day of was identical with the transported valet the land-sale, and you may keep this of his brother, yet he never showed the house over your head; but go anigh slightest annoyance or vexation, but that court that day, and out of this you talked indifferently about his sport and go the week after." . The man wisely about the weather, until we rose to walk stayed at home, I believe.” homeward.
I said, “Yes, the story is true. Erne was immensely astonished when But, on my father's mentioning his I eagerly announced the fact to him; wish to own land here, Mr. Dawson but he was quite as much amused as immediately said that he would withsurprised.
draw from competing for the lots which “This completes the Clayton ménage," my father fancied. And so there is a he said. “What an exceedingly funny fair chance for him, though he is deslot of people we are ! I am charmed at perately anxious about it.” this discovery. I will pick Master “What sort of land is he going to Samuel's brains no end about his con buy?” vict experiences. It will determine me « A patch of 500 acres on the north to stay on with Clayton. Fancy being slope of the Cape Wilberforce Mounon intimate terms with a convict. But tain, about three miles from the sea. does it not strike you as curious that he You passed it on the road coming here. and I should be accidentally thrown A mile back. There's a burnt hut on together?”
"I see nothing curious in it what “It is poor land.” ever,” I said. “It is plain to me that he “No, capital vine land, with tha has found out where you are, and, taking aspect."? advantage of this careless bush hospi- “I wish him joy with it. I cannot tality, has introduced himself into the sufficiently admire the generous liberhouse with you, for his own purposes. ality of our honourable friend Dawson. He has intentions with regard to you, Why, my dear boy, that land would but he is far too unfathomably cunning starve a bandicoot." to let you know what they are. He is “How do you know?” going to bid for a farm here."
“Why, innocent! if you will get any “No; is he?"
bushman to sell you that land covered “ So they say. He is waiting here with Eucalyptus dumosus, vulgarly for the land sale."
called Mallee, and exceedingly stunted “And when is that?”
specimens of that, will grow anything, “Next week. My father is going to I will tell him he knows nothing. Your buy heavily."
father is, in my opinion, ill advised." “I thought Dawson bought up every And so the conversation dropped. thing hereabout."
About ten days after it was held I was “He is not going to bid against my married. Only the very night before, father.”
A northerly aspect at the Antipodes is of “That is a singular concession on his course the same as a southern one here.