Part 11 out of 12
"And my daughter?"
"Safe, sir. Young Mr. Buckley rode over and caught her up out of it ten
minutes before they got here."
"Long life to him, and glory to God. Who is here?"
The trooper enumerated them.
"And what has become of the gang?" asked the Captain.
"Gone into the limestone gully, sir. Safe for tomorrow."
"Ah, well, I shall come in and lie in the hall. Don't make a noise.
What is that?"
They both started. Some one of the many sleepers, with that strange
hoarse voice peculiar to those who talk in their dreams, said, with
singular energy and distinctness,--
"I will go, sir; they will call me coward."
"That's young Mr. Hawker, sir," said the trooper. "His sweetheart's
brother, Mr. Mayford, was killed by them yesterday. The head of this
very gang, sir, that villain Touan--his name is Hawker. An odd
"Very odd," said the Captain. "At the same time, Jackson, if I were
you, I wouldn't talk about it. There are many things one had best not
talk about, Jackson. Pull out the corner of that blanket, will you? So
we shall have some fun to-morrow, up in the pass, I'm thinking."
"They'll fight, sir," said the trooper. "If we can bail them up,
they'll fight, believe me. Better so; I think we shall save the hangman
some trouble. Good night, sir."
So Captain Brentwood lay down beside the trooper, and slept the sleep
of the just among his broken chairs and tables. The others slept too,
sound and quiet, as though there were no fight on the morrow.
But ere the moon grew pale they were woke by Desborough, tramping about
with clicking spurs among the sleepers, and giving orders in a loud
noise. At the first movement, while the rest were yawning and
stretching themselves, and thinking that battle was not altogether so
desirable a thing on a cold morning as it was overnight, Major Buckley
was by Charles Hawker's bedside, and, reminding him of his promise, got
him out unperceived, helped him to saddle his horse, and started him
off to his mother with a note.
The lad, overawed by the major's serious manner, went without debate,
putting the note in his pocket. I have seen that note; Sam showed it to
me the next day, and so I can give you the contents. It was from Major
Buckley to Mary Hawker, and ran thus:--
"I have sent your boy to you, dear old friend, bearing this. You will
have heard by now what has happened, and you will give me credit for
preventing what might come to be a terrible catastrophe. The boy is
utterly unconscious that his own father is the man whose life is sought
this day above all others. He is at the head of this gang, Mary. My own
son saw him yesterday. My hand shall not be raised against him; but
further than that I will not interfere. Your troubles have come now to
the final and most terrible pass; and all the advice I have to give you
is to pray, and pray continually, till this awful storm is gone by.
Remember, that come what may, you have two friends entirely devoted to
you--my wife and myself."
Hurriedly written, scrawled rather, as this note was, it showed me
again plainer than ever what a noble clear-hearted man he was who had
written it. But this is not to the purpose. Charles Hawker departed,
carrying this, before the others were stirring, and held his way
through the forest-road towards his mother's station.
This same two days' business was the best stroke of work that the Devil
did in that part of the country for many years. With his usual sagacity
he had busied himself in drawing the threads of mischief so parallel,
that it seemed they must end in one and only one lamentable issue;
namely, that Charles Hawker and his father should meet pistol in hand,
as deadly enemies. But at this last period of the game, our good honest
Major completely check-mated him, by sending Charles Hawker home to his
mother. In this terrible pass, after this unexpected move of the
Major's; he (the Devil, no other) began casting about for a scoundrel,
by whose assistance he might turn the Major's flank. But no great rogue
being forthcoming he had to look round for the next best substitute, a
great fool,--and one of these he found immediately, riding exactly the
way he wished. Him he subpoenaed immediately, and found to do his work
better even than a good rogue would have done. We shall see how poor
Charles Hawker, pricking along through the forest, getting every moment
further from danger and mischief, met a man charging along the road,
full speed, who instantly pulled up and spoke to him.
This was the consummate fool, sent of the Devil, whom I have mentioned
above. We have seen him before. He was the longest, brownest, stupidest
of the Hawbuck family. The one who could spit further than any of his
"Well, Charley," he said, "is this all true about the bushrangers?"
Charles said it was. And they were bailed up in the limestone gully,
and all the party were away after them.
"Where are you going then?" asked the unfortunate young idiot.
"Home to my mother," blurted out poor Charles.
"Well!" said the other, speaking unconsciously exactly the words which
the enemy of mankind desired. "Well, I couldn't have believed that. If
a chap had said that of you in my hearing, I'd have fought him if he'd
been as big as a house. I never thought that of you, Charley."
Charles cursed aloud. "What have I done to be talked to like this?
Major Buckley has no right to send me away like this, to be branded as
coward through the country side. Ten times over better to be shot than
have such words as these said to me. I shall go back with you."
"That's the talk," said the poor fool. "I thought I wasn't wrong in
you, Charley." And so Charles galloped back with him.
We, in the meantime, had started from the station, ere day was well
broke. Foremost of the company rode Desborough, calm and serene, and on
either side of him Captain Brentwood and Major Buckley. Then came the
Doctor, Sam, Jim, Halbert, and myself; behind us again, five troopers
and the Sergeant. Each man of us all was armed with a sword; and every
man in that company, as it happened, knew the use of that weapon
well. The troopers carried carbines, and all of us carried pistols.
The glare in the east changing from pearly green to golden yellow, gave
notice of the coming sun. One snow peak, Tambo, I think, began to catch
the light, and blaze like another morning star. The day had begun in
earnest, and, as we entered the mouth of the glen to which we were
bound, slanting gleams of light were already piercing the misty gloom,
and lighting up the loftier crags.
A deep, rock-walled glen it was, open and level, though, in the centre,
ran a tangled waving line of evergreen shrubs, marking the course of
a pretty bright creek, which, half hidden by luxuriant vegetation, ran
beside the faint track leading to one of Captain Brentwood's mountain
huts. Along this track we could plainly see the hoof marks of the men
we were after.
It was one of the most beautiful gullies I had ever seen, and I turned
to say so to some one who rode beside me. Conceive my horror at finding
it was Charles Hawker. I turned to him fiercely, and said,--
"Get back, Charles. Go home. You don't know what you are doing, lad."
He defied me. And I was speaking roughly to him again, when there came
a puff of smoke from among the rocks overhead, and down I went, head
over heels. A bullet had grazed my thigh, and killed my horse, who.
throwing me on my head, rendered me HORS DE COMBAT. So that during the
fight which followed, I was sitting on a rock, very sick and very
stupid, a mile from the scene of action.
My catastrophe caused only a temporary stoppage; and, during the
confusion, Charles Hawker was unnoticed. The man who had fired at me
(why at me I cannot divine), was evidently a solitary guard perched
among the rocks. The others held on for about a quarter of an hour,
till the valley narrowed up again, just leaving room for the walk
between the brawling creek and the tall limestone cliff. But after this
it opened out into a broader amphitheatre, walled on all sides by
inaccessible rock, save in two places. Sam, from whom I get this
account of affairs, had just time to notice this when he saw Captain
Brentwood draw a pistol and fire it, and, at the same instant, a man
dashed out of some scrub on the other side of the creek, and galloped
away up the valley.
"They have had the precaution to set two watches for us, which I hardly
expected," said Captain Desborough. "They will fight us now, they
can't help it, thank God. They have had a short turn and a merry one,
but they are dead men, and they know it. The Devil is but a poor
paymaster, Buckley. After all this hide and seek work, they have only
got two days' liberty."
The troopers now went to the front with Halbert and the other military
men, while Sam, Jim, and Charles, the last all unperceived by the Major
in his excitement, rode in the rear.
"We are going to have a regular battle," said Jim. "They are bailed up,
and must fight; some of us will go home feet foremost to-day."
So they rode on through the open forest, till they began to see one or
two horsemen through the treestems, reconnoitering. The ground began
to rise towards a lofty cliff that towered before them, and all could
see that the end was coming. Then they caught sight of the whole gang,
scattered about among the low shrubs, and a few shots were fired on
both sides before the bushrangers turned and retreated towards the wall
of rock, now plainly visible through the timber. Our party continued to
advance steadily in open order.
Then under the beetling crags, where the fern-trees began to feather up
among the fallen boulders, the bushrangers turned like hunted wolves,
and stood at bay.
THE FIGHT AMONG THE FERN-TREES.
Then Desborough cried aloud to ride at them, and spare no man. And, as
he spoke, every golden fernbough, and every coigne of vantage among
the rocks, began to blaze and crackle with gun and pistol shot. Jim's
horse sprung aloft and fell, hurling him forcibly to the ground, and a
tall young trooper, dropping his carbine, rolled heavily off his
saddle, and lay on the grass face downward, quite still, as if asleep.
"There's the first man killed," said the Major, very quietly. "Sam, my
boy, don't get excited, but close on the first fellow you see a chance
at." And Sam, looking in his father's face as he spoke, saw a light in
his eyes, that he had never seen there before--the light of battle.
The Major caught a carbine from the hands of a trooper who rode beside
him, and took a snap shot, quick as lightning, at a man whom they saw
running from one cover to another. The poor wretch staggered and put
his hands to his head, then stumbled and fell heavily down.
Now the fight became general and confused. All about among the fern and
the flowers, among the lemanshrubs, and the tangled vines, men
fought, and fired, and struck, and cursed; while the little brown
bandiroots scudded swiftly away, and the deadly snake hid himself in
his darkest lair, affrighted. Shots were cracking on all sides, two
riderless horses, confused in the MELEE, were galloping about neighing,
and a third lay squealing on the ground in the agonies of death.
Sam saw a man fire at his father, whose horse went down, while the
Major arose unhurt. He rode at the ruffian, who was dismounted, and cut
him so deep between the shoulder and the neck, that he fell and never
spoke again. Then seeing Halbert and the Doctor on the right, fiercely
engaged with four men who were fighting with clubbed muskets and
knives, he turned to help them, but ere he reached them, a tall,
handsome young fellow dashed out of the shrub, and pulling his horse
short up, took deliberate aim at him, and fired.
Sam heard the bullet go hissing past his ear, and got mad. "That young
dog shall go down," said he. "I know him. He is the one who rode first
yesterday." And as this passed through his mind, he rode straight at
him, with his sword hand upon his left shoulder. He came full against
him in a moment, and as the man held up his gun to guard himself, his
cut descended, so full and hard that it shore through the gunbarrel as
through a stick, and ere he could bring his hand to his cheek, his
opponent had grappled him, and the two rolled off their horses
together, locked in a deadly embrace.
Then began an awful and deadly fight between these two young fellows.
Sam's sword had gone from his hand in the fall, and he was defenceless,
save by such splendid physical powers as he had by nature. But his
adversary, though perhaps a little lighter, was a terrible enemy, and
fought with the strength and litheness of a leopard. He had his hand at
Sam's throat, and was trying to choke him. Sam saw that one great
effort was necessary, and with a heave of his whole body, threw the
other beneath him, and struck downwards, three quick blows, with the
whole strength of his ponderous fist, on the face of the man, as he lay
beneath him. The hold on his throat loosened, and seeing that they had
rolled within reach of his sword, in a moment he had clutched it, and
drawing back his elbow, prepared to plunge it in his adversary's chest.
But he hesitated. He could not do it. Maddened as he was with fighting,
the sight of that bloody face, bruised beyond recognition by his
terrible blows, and the wild fierce eyes, full of rage and terror,
looking into his own, stayed his hand, and while he paused the man
spoke, thick and indistinctly, for his jaw was broken.
"If you will spare me," he said, "I will be King's evidence."
"Then turn on your face," said Sam; "and I will tie you up."
And as he spoke a trooper ran up, and secured the prisoner, who
appealed to Sam for his handkerchief. "I fought you fair," he said;
"and you're a man worth fighting. But you have broken something in my
face with your fist. Give me something to tie it up with?"
"God save us all!" said Sam, giving him his handkerchief. "This is
miserable work! I hope it is all over."
It seemed so. All he heard were the fearful screams of a wounded man
lying somewhere among the fern.
"Where are they all, Jackson?" said he.
"All away to the right, sir," said the trooper. "One of my comrades is
killed, your father has had his horse shot, the Doctor is hit in the
arm, and Mr. James Brentwood has got his leg broke with the fall of
his horse. They are minding him now. We've got all the gang, alive or
dead, except two. Captain Desborough is up the valley now after the
head man, and young Mr. Hawker is with him. D--n it all! hark to
Two shots were fired in quick succession in the direction indicated;
and Sam having caught his horse, gallopped off to see what was going
* * * * *
Desborough fought neither against small nor great, but only against one
man, and he was George Hawker. Him he had sworn he would bring home,
dead or alive. When he and his party had first broken through the fern,
he had caught sight of his quarry, and had instantly made towards him,
as quick as the broken, scrub-tangled ground would allow.
They knew one another; and, as soon as Hawker saw that he was
recognised, he made to the left, away from the rest of his gang, trying
to reach, as Desborough could plainly see, the only practicable way
that led from the amphitheatre in which they were back into the
They fired at one another without effect at the first. Hawker was now
pushing in full flight, though the scrub was so dense that neither made
much way. Now the ground got more open and easier travelled, when
Desborough was aware of one who came charging recklessly up alongside
of him, and, looking round, he recognised Charles Hawker.
"Good lad," he said; "come on. I must have that fellow before us there.
He is the arch-devil of the lot. If we follow him to h-ll, we must
"We'll have him, safe enough!" said Charles. "Push to the left,
Captain, and we shall get him against those fallen rocks."
Desborough saw the excellence of this advice. This was the last piece
of broken ground there was. On the right the cliff rose precipitous,
and from its side had tumbled a confused heap of broken rock, running
out into the glen. Once past this, the man they were pursuing would
have the advantage, for he was splendidly mounted, and beyond was clear
galloping ground. As it was, he was in a recess, and Desborough and
Charles, pushing forward, succeeded in bringing him to bay. Alas, too
George Hawker reined up his horse when he saw escape was impossible,
and awaited their coming with a double-barrelled pistol in his hand. As
the other two came on, calling on him to surrender, Desborough's horse
received a bullet in his chest, and down went horse and man together.
But Charles pushed on till he was within twenty yards of the
bushranger, and levelled his pistol to fire.
So met father and son the second time in their lives, all
unconsciously. For an instant they glared on one another with wild
threatening eyes, as the father made his aim more certain and deadly.
Was there no lightning in heaven to strike him dead, and save him
from this last horrid crime? Was there no warning voice to tell him
that this was his son?
None. The bullet sped, and the poor boy tumbled from his saddle,
clutching wildly, with crooked, convulsive fingers at the grass and
flowers--shot through the the chest!
Then, ere Desborough had disentangled himself from his fallen horse,
George Hawker rode off laughing--out through the upper rock walls into
the presence of the broad bald snow-line that rolled above his head in
endless lofty tiers towards the sky.
Desborough arose, swearing and stamping; but, ere he could pick up his
cap, Sam was alongside of him, breathless, and with him another
common-looking man--my man, Dick, no other--and they both cried out
together, "What has happened?"
"Look there!" said Desborough, pointing to something dark among the
grass,--"that's what has happened. What lies there was Charles
Hawker, and the villain is off."
"Who shot Charles Hawker?" said Dick.
"His namesake," said Desborough.
"His own father!" said Dick; "that's terrible."
"What do you mean?" they both asked, aghast.
"Never mind now," he answered. "Captain Desborough, what are you
going to do? Do you know where he's gone?"
"Up into the mountain, to lie by, I suppose," said Desborough.
"Not at all, sir! He is going to cross the snow, and get to the old
hut, near the Murray Gate."
"What! Merryman's hut?" said the Captain. "Impossible! He could not get
through that way."
"I tell you he can. That is where they came from at first; that is
where they went to when they landed; and this is the gully they came
"Are you deceiving me?" said Desborough. "It will be worse for you if
you are! I ain't in a humour for that sort of thing. Who are you?"
"I am Mr. Hamlyn's groom--Dick. Strike me dead if I ain't telling the
"Do you know this man, Buckley?" said Desborough, calling out to Sam,
who was sitting beside poor Charles Hawker, holding his head up.
"Know him! of course I do," he replied; "ever since I was a child."
"Then, look here," said Desborough to Dick; "I shall trust you. Now,
you say he will cross the snow. If I were to go round by the Parson's I
shouldn't get much snow."
"That's just it, don't you see? You can be round at the huts before
him. That's what I mean," said Dick. "Take Mr. Buckley's horse, and
ride him till he drops, and you'll get another at the Parson's. If you
have any snow, it will be on Broadsaddle; but it won't signify. You go
round the low side of Tambo, and sight the lake, and you'll be there
"Sixty miles, or thereabouts, plain sailing. It ain't eleven o'clock
"Good; I'll remember you for this. Buckley, I want your horse. Is the
"No; but he is very bad. I'll try to get him home. Take the horse; he
is not so good a one as Widderin, but he'll carry you to the Parson's.
God speed you."
They watched him ride away almost south, skirting the ridges of the
mountain as long as he could; then they saw him scrambling up a lofty
wooded ridge, and there he disappeared.
They raised poor Charles Hawker up, and Sam, mounting Dick's horse,
took the wounded man up before him, and started to go slowly home.
After a time, he said, "Do you feel worse, Charles?" and the other
replied, "No; but I am very cold." After that he stayed quite still,
with his arm round Sam Buckley's neck, until they reached the
Some came out to the door to meet them, and, among others, Alice. "Take
him from me," said Sam to one of the men. "Be very gentle: he is
asleep." And so they took the dead man's arm from off the living man's
shoulder, and carried him in; for Charles Hawker was asleep indeed--in
the sleep that knows no waking.
* * * * *
That was one of the fiercest and firmest stands that was ever made by
bushrangers against the authorities. Of the latter five were shot down,
three wounded, and the rest captured, save two. The gang was destroyed
at once, and life and property once more secure, though at a sad
One trooper was shot dead at the first onset,--a fine young fellow,
just picked from his regiment for good conduct to join the police.
Another was desperately wounded, who died the next day. On the part of
the independent men assisting, there were Charles Hawker killed, Doctor
Mulhaus shot in the left arm, and Jim with his leg broke; so that, on
that evening, Captain Brentwood's house was like a hospital.
Captain Brentwood set his son's leg, under Dr. Mulhaus' directions, the
Doctor keeping mighty brave, though once or twice his face twisted with
pain, and he was nearly fainting. Alice was everywhere, pale and calm,
helping every one who needed it, and saying nothing. Eleanor, the cook,
pervaded the house, doing the work of seven women, and having the
sympathies of fourteen. She told them that this was as bad a job as
she'd ever seen; worse, in fact. That the nearest thing she'd ever seen
to it was when Mat Steeman's mob were broke up by the squatters; "But
then," she added, "there were none but prisoners killed."
But when Alice had done all she could, and the house was quiet, she
went up to her father, and said,--
"Now, father, comes the worst part of the matter for me. Who is to tell
"Mrs. Buckley, my dear, would be the best person. But she is at the
Mayfords', I am afraid."
"Mrs. Hawker must be told at once, father, by some of us. I do so dread
her hearing of it by some accident, when none of her friends are with
her. Oh, dear! oh, dear! I never thought to have had such times as
"Alice, my darling," said her father, "do you think that you have
strength to carry the news to her? If Major Buckley went with you, he
could tell her, you know; and it would be much better for her to have
him, an old friend, beside her. It would be such a delay to go round
and fetch his wife. Have you courage?"
"I will make courage," she said. "Speak to Major Buckley, father, and I
will get ready."
She went to Sam. "I am going on a terrible errand," she said; "I am
going to tell Mrs. Hawker about this dreadful, dreadful business. Now,
what I want to say is, that you mustn't come; your father is going with
me, and I'll get through it alone, Sam. Now please," she added, seeing
Sam was going to speak, "don't argue about it; I am very much upset as
it is, and I want you to stay here. You won't follow us, will you?"
"Whatever you order, Alice, is law," said Sam. "I won't come if you
don't wish it; but I can't see----"
"There now. Will you get me my horse? And please stay by poor Jim, for
Sam complied; and Alice, getting on her riding-habit, came back
trembling, and trying not to cry, to tell Major Buckley that she was
He took her in his arms, and kissed her. "You are a brave, noble girl,"
he said; "I thank God for such a daughter-in-law. Now, my dear, let us
hurry off, and not think of what is to come."
It was about five o'clock when they went off. Sam and Halbert, having
let them out of the paddock, went in-doors to comfort poor Jim's heart,
and to get something to eat, if it were procurable. Jim lay on his
bed tossing about, and the Doctor sat beside him, talking to him; pale
and grim, waiting for the doctor who had been sent for; no other than
his drunken old enemy.
"This is about as nice a kettle of fish," said Jim, when they came and
sat beside him, "as a man could possibly wish to eat. Poor Cecil and
Charley; both gone, eh? Well, I know it ain't decent for a fellow with
a broken leg to feel wicked; but I do, nevertheless. I wish now that I
had had a chance at some of them before that stupid brute of a horse
"If you don't lie still, you Jim," said Sam, "your leg will never set;
and then you must have it taken off, you know. How is your arm,
"Shooting a little," said the Doctor; "nothing to signify, I believe.
At least, nothing in the midst of such a tragedy as this. Poor Mary
Hawker; the pretty little village-maid we all loved so well. To come to
such an end as this!"
"Is it true, then, Doctor, that Hawker, the bushranger, is her
"Quite true, alas! Every one must know it now. But I pray you, Sam, to
keep the darkest part of it all from her; don't let her know that the
boy fell by the hand of his father."
"I could almost swear," said Sam, "that one among the gang is his son
too. When they rode past Alice and myself yesterday morning, one was
beside him so wonderfully like him, that even at that time I set them
down for father and son."
"If Hamlyn's strange tale be true, it is so," said the Doctor. "Is the
young man you speak of among the prisoners, do you know?"
"Yes; I helped to capture him myself," said Sam. "What do you mean by
"Oh, a long one. He met him in a hut the night after we picnic'd at
Mirngish, and found out who he was. The secret not being ours, your
father and I never told any of you young people of the fact of this
bushranger being poor Mrs. Hawker's husband. I wish we had; all this
might have been avoided. But the poor soul always desired that the
secret of his birth might be kept from Charles, and you see the
consequences. I'll never keep a secret again. Come here with me; let us
see both of them."
They followed him, and he turned into a little side room at the back of
the house. It was a room used for chance visitors or strangers,
containing two small beds, which now bore an unaccustomed burden, for
beneath the snow-white coverlids, lay two figures, indistinct indeed,
"Which is he?" whispered the Doctor.
Sam raised the counterpane from the nearest one, but it was not
Charles. It was a young, handsome face that he saw, lying so quietly
and peacefully on the white pillow, that he exclaimed--
"Surely this man is not dead?"
The Doctor shook his head. "I have often seen them like that," he said.
"He is shot through the heart."
Then they went to the other bed, where poor Charles lay. Sam gently
raised the black curls from his face, but none of them spoke a word for
a few minutes, till the Doctor said, "Now let us come and see his
They crossed the yard, to a slab outbuilding, before which one of the
troopers was keeping guard, with a loaded carbine, and, the Sergeant
coming across, admitted them.
Seven or eight fearfully ill-looking ruffians lay about on the floor,
handcuffed. They were most of them of the usual convict stamp, dark,
saturnine looking fellows, though one offered a strange contrast by
being an Albino, and another they could not see plainly, for he was
huddled up in a dark corner, bending down over a basin of water, and
dabbing his face. The greater part of them cursed and blasphemed
desperately, as is the manner of such men when their blood is up, and
they are reckless; while the wounded ones lay in a fierce sullen
silence, more terrible almost than the foul language of the others.
"He is not here," said Sam. "Stay, that must be him wiping his face!"
He went towards him, and saw he was right. The young man he had taken
looked wildly up like a trapped animal into his face, and the Doctor
could not suppress an exclamation when he saw the likeness to his
"Is your face very bad?" said Sam quietly.
The other turned away in silence.
"I'll tie it up for you, if you like," said Sam.
"It don't want no tying up."
He turned his face to the wall, and remained obstinately silent. They
perceived that nothing more was to be got from him, and departed. But,
turning at the door, they still saw him crouched in the corner like a
wild beast, wiping his bruised face every now and then with Sam's
handkerchief, apparently thinking of nothing, hoping for nothing. Such
a pitiful sight--such an example of one who was gone beyond feeling
pity, or sorrow, or aught else, save physical pain, that the Doctor's
gorge rose, and he said, stamping on the gravel,--
"A man, who says that that is not the saddest, saddest sight he ever
saw, is a disgrace to the mother that bore him. To see a young fellow
like that with such a PHYSIQUE--and God only knows what undeveloped
qualities in him, only ripe for the gallows at five-and-twenty, is
enough to make the angels weep. He knows no evil but physical pain, and
that he considers but a temporary one. He knows no good save, perhaps,
to be faithful to his confederates. He has been brought up from his
cradle to look on every man as his enemy. He never knew what it was to
love a human being in his life. Why, what does such a man regard this
world as? As the antechamber of hell, if he ever heard of such a place.
I want to know what either of us three would have been if we had had
his training. I want to know that now. We might have been as much worse
than him as a wolf is worse than an evil-tempered dog."
A beautiful colley came up to the Doctor and fawned on him, looking
into his face with her deep, expressive, hazel eyes.
"We must do something for that fellow, Sam. If it's only for his name's
sake," said the Doctor.
* * * * *
That poor boy, sitting crouched there in the corner, with a broken jaw,
and just so much of human feeling as one may suppose a polecat to have,
caught in a gin, is that same baby that we saw Ellen Lee nursing on the
door-step in the rain, when our poor Mary came upon her on one wild
night in Exeter.
Base-born, workhouse-bred! Tossed from workhouse to prison, from prison
to hulk--every man's hand against him--an Arab of society. As
hopeless a case, my lord judge, as you ever had to deal with; and yet I
think, my lord, that your big heart grows a little pitiful, when you
see that handsome face before you, blank and careless, and you try,
fruitlessly, to raise some blush of shame, or even anger in it, by your
Gone beyond that, my lord. Your thunderbolts fall harmless here, and
the man you say is lost, and naturally. Yet, give that same man room to
breathe and act; keep temptation from him, and let his good qualities,
should he have any, have fair play, and, even yet, he may convert you
to the belief that hardened criminals may be reformed, to the extent of
one in a dozen; beyond that no reasonable man will go.
Let us see the end of this man. For now the end of my tale draws near,
and I must begin gathering up the threads of the story, to tie them in
a knot, and release my readers from duty. Here is all I can gather
Sam and the Doctor moved heaven, earth, and the Colonial Secretary, to
get his sentence commuted, and with success. So when his companions
were led out to execution, he was held back; reserved for penal
servitude for life.
He proved himself quiet and docile; so much so that when our greatest,
boldest explorer was starting for his last hopeless journey to the
interior, this man was selected as one of the twelve convicts who were
to accompany him. What follows is an extract which I have been favoured
with from his private journal. You will not find it in the published
history of the expedition:--
"Date--lat.--long.--Morning. It is getting hopeless now, and to-morrow
I turn. Sand, and nothing but sand. The salsolaceous plants, so
long the only vegetation we have seen, are gone; and the little
sienite peak, the last symptom of a water-bearing country, has disappeared
behind us. The sandhills still roll away towards the setting
sun, but get less and less elevated. The wild fowl are still holding
their mysterious flight to the north-west, but I have not wings to
follow them. Oh, my God! if I only knew what those silly birds know. It
is hopeless to go on, and, I begin to fear, hopeless to go back. Will
it never rain again?
"Afternoon.--My servant Hawker, one of the convicts assigned to me
by Government, died to-day at noon. I had got fond of this man, as the
most patient and the bravest, where all have been so patient and so
brave. He was a very silent and reserved man, and had never complained,
so that I was deeply shocked on his sending for me at dinner-time, to
find that he was dying.
"He asked me not to deceive him, but to tell him if there was any truth
in what the gaol-chaplain had said, about there being another life
after death. I told him earnestly that I knew it as surely as I knew
that the earth was under my feet; and went on comforting him as one
comforts a dying man. But he never spoke again; and we buried him in
the hot sand at sundown. The first wind will obliterate the little
mound we raised over him, and none will ever cross this hideous desert
again. So that he will have as quiet a grave as he could wish.
"Eleven o'clock at night.--God be praised. Heavy clouds and thunder to
So this poor workhouse-bred lad lies out among the sands of the middle
ACROSS THE SNOW.
Hawker the elder, as I said, casting one glance at the body of his son,
whom he knew not, and another at Captain Desborough, who was just
rising from the ground after his fall, set spurs to his noble chestnut
horse, and, pushing through the contracted barriers of slate which
closed up the southern end of the amphitheatre where they had been
surprised, made for the broader and rapidly rising valley which
He soon reached the rocky gate, where the vast ridge of schist,
alternating with the limestone, and running north and south in high
serrated ridges, was cut through by a deep fissure, formed by the never
idle waters of a little creek, that in the course of ages had mined
away the softer portions of the slate, and made a practicable pass
toward the mountains.
He picked his way with difficulty through the tumbled boulders that lay
in the chasm; and then there was a cool brisk wind on his forehead, and
a glare in his eyes. The chill breath of the west wind from the
mountain--the glare of the snow that filled up the upper end of the
valley, rising in level ridges towards the sky-line.
He had been this path before; and if he had gone it a hundred times
again, he would only have cursed it for a rough, desperate road, the
only hope of a desperate man. Not for him to notice the thousand
lessons that the Lord had spread before him in the wilderness! Not for
him to notice how the vegetation changed when the limestone was passed,
and the white quartz reefs began to seam the slaty sides of the valley
like rivers of silver! Not for him to see how, as he went up and on,
the hardy Dicksoniae, still nestled in stunted tufts among the more
sheltered side gullies, long after her tenderer sister, the queenly
Alsophylla had been left behind. He only knew that he was a hunted
wild beast, and that his lair was beyond the snow.
The creek flashed pleasantly among the broken slate, full and turbid
under the mid-day sun. After midnight, when its fountains are sealed
again by the frosty breath of night, that creek will be reduced to a
trickling rill. His horse's feet brushed through the delicate
asplenium, the Venus'-hair of Australia; the sarsaparilla still hung in
scant purple tufts on the golden wattle, and the scarlet correa lurked
among the broken quartz.
Upwards and onwards. In front, endless cycles agone, a lava stream from
some crater we know not had burst over the slate, with fearful clang
and fierce explosion, forming a broad roadway of broken basalt up to
a plateau twelve hundred feet or more above us, and not so steep but
that a horse might be led up it. Let us go up with him, not cursing
heaven and earth, as he did, but noticing how, as we ascend, the
scarlet wreaths of the Kennedia and the crimson Grevillea give place to
the golden Grevillea and the red Epacris; then comes the white Epacris,
and then the grass trees, getting smaller and scantier as we go, till
the little blue Gentian, blossoming boldly among the slippery crags,
tells us that we have nearly reached the limits of vegetation.
He turned when he reached this spot, and looked around him. To the west
a broad rolling down of snow, rising gradually; to the east, a noble
prospect of forest and plain, hill and gully, with old Snowy winding on
in broad bright curves towards the sea. He looked over all the beauty
and undeveloped wealth of Gipp's Land, which shall yet, please God, in
fulness of time, be one of the brightest jewels in the King of
England's crown, but with eyes that saw not. He turned towards the
snow, and mounting his horse, which he had led up the cliff, held
His plans were well laid. Across the mountain, north of Lake Omeo, not
far from the mighty cleft in which the infant Murray spends his youth,
were two huts, erected years before by some settler, and abandoned.
They had been used by a gang of bushrangers, who had been attacked by
the police, and dispersed. Nevertheless, they had been since inhabited
by the men we know of, who landed in the boat from Van Diemen's Land,
in consequence of Hawker himself having found a pass through the
ranges, open for nine months in the year. So that, when the police were
searching Gipp's Land for these men, they, with the exception of two or
three, were snugly ensconced on the other water-shed, waiting till the
storm should blow over. In these huts Hawker intended to lie by for a
short time, living on such provisions as were left, until he could make
his way northward, on the outskirts of the settlements, and escape.
There was no pursuit, he thought: how could there be? Who knew of this
route but himself and his mates? hardly likely any of them would betray
him. No creature was moving in the valley he had just ascended; but the
sun was beginning to slope towards the west, and he must onwards.
Onwards, across the slippery snow. At first a few tree-stems, blighted
and withered, were visible right and left, proving that at some time
during their existence, these bald downs had either a less elevation
or a warmer climate than now. Then these even disappeared, and all
around was one white blinding glare. To the right, the snow-fields
rolled up into the shapeless lofty mass called Mount Tambo, behind
which the hill they now call Kosciusko,--as some say, the highest ground
in the country,--began to take a crimson tint from the declining sun.
Far to the south, black and gaunt among the whitened hills, towered the
rounded hump of Buffaloe, while the peaks of Buller and Aberdeen showed
like dim blue clouds on the furthest horizon.
Snow, and nothing but snow. Sometimes plunging shoulder deep into some
treacherous hollow, sometimes guiding the tired horse across the
surface frozen over unknown depths. He had been drinking hard for some
days, and, now the excitement of action had gone off, was fearfully
nervous. The snow-glint had dizzied his head, too, and he began to see
strange shapes forming themselves in the shade of each hollow, and
start at each stumble of his horse.
A swift-flying shadow upon the snow, and a rush of wings overhead. An
eagle. The lordly scavenger is following him, impatient for him to drop
and become a prey. Soar up, old bird, and bide thy time; on yonder
precipice thou shalt have good chance of a meal.
Twilight, and then night, and yet the snow but half past. There is a
rock in a hollow, where grow a few scanty tufts of grass which the poor
horse may eat. Here he will camp, fireless, foodless, and walk up and
down the livelong night, for sleep might be death. Though he is not in
thoroughly Alpine regions, yet still, at this time of the year, the
snow is deep and the frost is keen. It were as well to keep awake.
As he paced up and down beneath the sheltering rock, when night had
closed in, and the frosty stars were twinkling in the cold blue
firmament, strange ghosts and fancies came crowding on him thick and
fast. Down the long vista of a misspent, ruined life, he saw people
long since forgotten trooping up towards him. His father tottered
sternly on, as with a fixed purpose before him; his gipsy-mother,
Madge, strode forward pitiless; and poor ruined Ellen, holding her
child to her heart, joined the others, and held up her withered hand as
if in mockery. But then there came a face between him and all the other
figures which his distempered brain had summoned, and blotted them
out; the face of a young man, bearing a strange likeness to himself;
the face of the last human creature he had seen; the face of the boy
that he had shot down among the fern.
Why should this face grow before him wherever he turned, so that he
could not look on rock or sky without seeing it? Why should it glare at
him through a blood-red haze when he shut his eyes to keep it out, not
in sorrow, not in anger, but even as he had seen it last, expressing
only terror and pain, as the lad rolled off his horse, and lay a black
heap among the flowers? Up and away! anything is better than this. Let
us stumble away across the snow, through the mirk night once more,
rather than be driven mad by this pale boy's face.
Morning, and the pale ghosts have departed. Long shadows of horse and
man are thrown before him now, as the slope dips away to the westward,
and he knows that his journey is well-nigh over.
It was late, afternoon, before, having left the snow some hours, he
began to lead his horse down a wooded precipice, through vegetation
which grew more luxuriant every yard he descended. The glen, whose
bottom he was trying to reach, was a black profound gulf, with
perpendicular, or rather over-hanging walls, on every side, save where
he was scrambling down. Here indeed it was possible for a horse to keep
his footing among the belts of trees, that, alternating with
precipitous granite cliff, formed the upper end of one of the most
tremendous glens in the world--the Gates of the Murray.
He was barely one-third of the way down this mountain wall, when the
poor tired horse lost his footing and fell over the edge, touching
neither tree nor stone for five hundred feet, while George Hawker was
left terrified, hardly daring to peer into the dim abyss, where the
poor beast was gone.
But it was little matter. The hut he was making for was barely four
miles off now, and there was meat, drink, and safety. Perhaps there
might be company, he hoped there might,--some of the gang might have
escaped. A dog would be some sort of friend, anything sooner than such
another night as last night.
His pistols were gone with the saddle, and he was unarmed. He reached
the base of the cliff in safety, and forced his way through the tangled
scrub that fringed the infant river, towards the lower end of the pass.
Here the granite walls, overhanging, bend forward above to meet one
another, almost forming an arch, the height of which, from the river-bed,
is computed to be nearly, if not quite, three thousand feet.
Through this awful gate he forced his way, overawed and utterly
dispirited, and reached the gully where his refuge lay, just as the sun
There was a slight track, partly formed by stray cattle which led up
it, and casting his eyes upon this, he saw the marks of a horse's feet.
"Some one of the gang got home before me," he said. "I'm right glad of
that, anything better than such another night."
He turned a sharp angle in the path, just where it ran round an abrupt
cliff. He saw a horseman within ten yards of him with his face towards
him. Captain Desborough, holding a pistol at his head.
"Surrender, George Hawker!" said Desborough. "Or, by the living Lord!
you are a dead man."
Hungry, cold, desperate, unarmed; he saw that he was undone, and that
hope was dead. The Captain had an easier prey than he had anticipated.
Hawker threw up his arms, and ere he could fully appreciate his
situation, he was chained fast to Desborough's saddle, only to be
loosed, he knew, by the gallows.
Without a word on either side they began their terrible journey.
Desborough riding, and Hawker manacled by his right wrist to the
saddle. Fully a mile was passed before the latter asked, sullenly,--
"Where are you going to take me to-night?"
"To Dickenson's," replied Desborough. "You must step out you know. It
will be for your own good, for I must get there to-night."
Two or three miles further were got over, when Hawker said abruptly,--
"Look here, Captain, I want to talk to you."
"You had better not," said Desborough. "I don't want to have any
communication with you, and every word you say will go against you."
"Bah!" said Hawker. "I must swing. I know that. I shan't make any
defence. Why, the devils out of hell would come into court against me
if I did. But I want to ask you a question or two. You haven't got the
character of being a brutal fellow, like O----. It can't hurt you to
answer me one or two things, and ease my mind a bit."
"God help you, unhappy man;" said Desborough. "I will answer any
questions you ask."
"Well, then, see here," said Hawker, hesitating. "I want to know--I
want to know first, how you got round before me?"
"Is that all?" said Desborough. "Well, I came round over Broad-saddle,
and got a fresh horse at the Parson's."
"Ah!" said Hawker. "That young fellow I shot down when you were after
me, is he dead?"
"By this time," said Desborough. "He was just dying when I came away."
"Would you mind stopping for a moment, Captain? Now tell me, who was
"Mr. Charles Hawker, son of Mrs. Hawker, of Toonarbin."
He gave such a yell that Desborough shrunk from him appalled,--a cry
as of a wounded tiger,--and struggled so wildly with his handcuffs
that the blood poured from his wrists. Let us close this scene.
Desborough told me afterwards that that wild, fierce, despairing cry,
rang in his ears for many years afterwards, and would never be
forgotten till those ears were closed with the dust of the grave.
HOW MARY HAWKER HEARD THE NEWS.
Troubridge's Station, Toonarbin, lay so far back from the river, and so
entirely on the road to nowhere, that Tom used to remark, that he would
back it for being the worst station for news in the country. So it
happened that while these terrible scenes were enacting within ten
miles of them, down, in fact, to about one o'clock in the day when the
bushrangers were overtaken and punished, Mary and her cousin sat
totally unconscious of what was going on.
But about eleven o'clock that day, Burnside, the cattle dealer,
mentioned once before in these pages, arrived at Major Buckley's, from
somewhere up country, and found the house apparently deserted.
But having coee'd for some time, a door opened in one of the huts, and
a sleepy groom came forth, yawning.
"Where are they all?" asked Burnside.
"Mrs. Buckley and the women were down at Mrs. Mayford's, streaking the
bodies out," he believed. "The rest were gone away after the gang."
This was the first that Burnside had heard about the matter. And now,
bit by bit, he extracted everything from the sleepy groom.
I got him afterwards to confess to me, that when he heard of this
terrible affair, his natural feeling of horror was considerably alloyed
with pleasure. He saw here at one glance a fund of small talk for six
months. He saw himself a welcome visitor at every station, even up to
furthest lonely Condamine, retailing the news of these occurrences with
all the authenticity of an eye witness, improving his narrative by each
repetition. Here was the basis of a new tale, Ode, Epic, Saga, or what
you may please to call it, which he Burnside, the bard, should sing at
each fireside throughout the land.
"And how are Mrs. and Miss Mayford, poor souls!" he asked.
"They're as well," answered the groom, "as you'd expect folks to be
after such a mishap. They ran out at the back way and down the garden
towards the river before the chaps could burst the door down. I am
sorry for that little chap Cecil; I am, by Jove! A straightforward,
manly little chap as ever crossed a horse. Last week he says to me,
says he, 'Benjy, my boy,' says he, 'come and be groom to me. I'll give
you thirty pound a-year.' And I says, 'If Mr. Sam----' Hallo, there
they are at it, hammer and tongs! Sharp work, that!"
They both listened intensely. They could hear, borne on the west wind,
a distant dropping fire and a shouting. The groom's eye began to kindle
a bit, but Burnside, sitting yet upon his horse, grasped the lad's
shoulder and cried, "God save us, suppose our men should be beaten!"
"Suppose," said the groom, contemptuously shaking him off; "why, then
you and I should get our throats cut."
At this moment the noise of the distant fight breezed up louder than
"They're beat back," said Burnside. "I shall be off to Toonarbin, and
give them warning. I advise you to save yourself."
"I was set to mind these here things," said Benjy, "and I'm a-going to
mind 'em. And they as meddles with 'em had better look out."
Burnside started off for Toonarbin, and when halfway there he paused
and listened. The firing had ceased. When he came to reflect, now that
his panic was over, he had very little doubt that Desborough's party
had gained the day. It was impossible, he thought, that it could be
Nevertheless, being half-way to Toonarbin, he determined to ride on,
and, having called in a moment, to follow a road which took a way past
Lee's old hut towards the scene of action. He very soon pulled up at
the door, and Tom Troubridge came slowly out to meet him.
"Hallo, Burnside!" said Tom. "Get off, and come in."
"Not I, indeed. I am going off to see the fight."
"What fight?" said Mary Hawker, looking over Tom's shoulder.
"Do you mean to say you have not heard the news?"
"Not a word of any news for a fortnight."
For once in his life, Burnside was laconic, and told them all that had
happened. Tom spoke not a word, but ran up to the stable and had a
horse out, saddled in a minute, he was dashing into the house again for
his hat and pistols when he came against Mary in the passage, leaning
against the wall.
"Tom," she whispered hoarsely. "Bring that boy back to me safe, or
never look me in the face again!"
He never answered her, he was thinking of some one beside the boy. He
pushed past her, and the next moment she saw him gallop away with
Burnside, followed by two men, and now she was left alone indeed, and
There was not a soul about the place but herself; not a soul within ten
miles. She stood looking out of the door fixedly, at nothing, for a
time; but then, as hour by hour went on, and the afternoon stillness
fell upon the forest, and the shadows began to slant, a terror began to
grow upon her which at length became unbearable, and well-nigh drove
At the first she understood that all these years of anxiety had come to
a point at last, and a strange feeling of excitement, almost joy, came
over her. She was one of those impetuous characters who stand suspense
worse than anything, and now, although terror was in her, she
felt as though relief was nigh. Then she began to think again of her
son, but only for an instant. He was under Major Buckley's care, and
must be safe; so she dismissed that fear from her mind for a time, but
only for a time. It came back to her again. Why did he not come to her?
Why had not the Major sent him off to her at once? Could the Major have
been killed? even if so, there was Doctor Mulhaus. Her terrors were
But not the less terrors that grew in strength hour by hour, as she
waited there, looking at the pleasant spring forest, and no one came.
Terrors that grew at last so strong, that they took the place of
certainties. Some hitch must have taken place, and her boy must be gone
out with the rest.
Having got as far as this, to go further was no difficulty. He was
killed, she felt sure of it, and none had courage to come and tell her
of it. She suddenly determined to verify her thoughts at once, and went
in doors to get her hat.
She had fully made up her mind that he must be killed at this time. The
hope of his having escaped was gone. We, who know the real state of the
case, should tremble for her reason, when she finds her fears so
terribly true. We shall see.
She determined to start away to the Brentwoods', and end her present
state of terror one way or another. Tom had taken the only horse in the
stable, but her own brown pony was running in the paddock with some
others; and she sallied forth, worn out, feverish, halfmad, to try to
The obstinate brute wouldn't be caught. Then she spent a weary hour
trying to drive them all into the stockyard, but in vain. Three times
she, with infinite labour, drove them up to the slip-rack, and each
time the same mare and foal broke away, leading off the others. The
third time, when she saw them all run whinnying down to the further end
of the paddock, after half an hour or so of weary work driving them up,
when she had run herself off her poor tottering legs, and saw that all
her toil was in vain, then she sank down on the cold hard gravel in the
yard, with her long black hair streaming loose along the ground, and
prayed that she might die. Down at full length, in front of her own
door, like a dead woman, moaning and crying, from time to time, "Oh, my
boy, my boy."
How long she lay there she knew not. She heard a horse's feet, but only
stopped her ears from the news she thought was coming. Then she heard a
steady heavy footstep close to her, and some one touched her, and tried
to raise her.
She sat up, shook the hair from her eyes, and looked at the man who
stood beside her. At first she thought it was a phantom of her own
brain, but then looking wildly at the calm, solemn features, and the
kindly grey eyes which were gazing at her so inquiringly, she pronounced
his name--"Frank Maberly."
"God save you, madam,," he said. "What is the matter?"
"Misery, wrath, madness, despair!" she cried wildly, raising her hand.
"The retribution of a lifetime fallen on my luckless head in one
Frank Maberly looked at her in real pity, but a thought went through
his head. "What a magnificent actress this woman would make." It merely
past through his brain and was gone, and then he felt ashamed of
himself for entertaining it a moment; and yet it was not altogether an
unnatural one for him who knew her character so well. She was lying on
the ground in an attitude which would have driven Siddons to despair;
one white arm, down which her sleeve had fallen, pressed against her
forehead, while the other clutched the ground; and her splendid black
hair fallen down across her shoulders. Yet how could he say how much of
all this wild despair was real, and how much hysterical?
"But what is the matter, Mary Hawker," he asked. "Tell me, or how can I
"Matter?" she said. "Listen. The bushrangers are come down from the
mountains, spreading ruin, murder, and destruction far and wide. My
husband is captain of the gang: and my son, my only son, whom I have
loved better than my God, is gone with the rest to hunt them down--to
seek, unknowing, his own father's life. There is mischief beyond your
Beyond his mending, indeed. He saw it. "Rise up," he said, "and act.
Tell me all the circumstances. Is it too late?"
She told him how it had come to pass, and then he showed her that all
her terrors were but anticipations, and might be false. He got her pony
for her, and, as night was falling, rode away with her along the mountain
road that led to Captain Brentwood's.
The sun was down, and ere they had gone far, the moon was bright
overhead. Frank, having fully persuaded himself that all her terrors
were the effect of an overwrought imagination, grew cheerful, and tried
to laugh her out of them. She, too, with the exercise of riding through
the night-air, and the company of a handsome, agreeable, well-bred man,
began to have a lurking idea that she had been making a fool of
herself; when they came suddenly on a hut, dark, cheerless, deserted,
standing above a black, stagnant, reed-grown waterhole.
The hut where Frank had gone to preach to the stockmen. The hut where
Lee had been murdered--an ill-omened place; and as they came opposite
to it, they saw two others approaching them in the moonlight--Major
Buckley and Alice Brentwood.
Then Alice, pushing forward, bravely met her, and told her all--all,
from beginning to end; and when she had finished, having borne up
nobly, fell to weeping as though her heart would break. But Mary did
not weep, or cry, or fall down. She only said, "Let me see him," and
went on with them, silent and steady.
They got to Garoopna late at night, none having spoken all the way.
Then they showed her into the room where poor Charles lay, cold and
stiff, and there she stayed hour after hour through the weary night.
Alice looked in once or twice, and saw her sitting on the bed which
bore the corpse of her son, with her face buried in her hands; and at
last, summoning courage, took her by the arm and led her gently to bed.
Then she went into the drawing-room, where, besides her father, were
Major Buckley, Doctor Mulhaus, Frank Maberly, and the drunken doctor
before spoken of, who had had the sublime pleasure of cutting a bullet
from his old adversary's arm, and was now in a fair way to justify the
SOBRIQUET I have so often applied to him. I myself also was sitting
next the fire, alongside of Frank Maberly.
"My brave girl," said the Major, "how is she?"
"I hardly can tell you, sir," said Alice; "she is so very quiet. If she
would cry now, I should be very glad. It would not frighten me so much
as seeing her like that. I fear she will die!"
"If her reason holds," said the Doctor, "she will get over it. She had,
from all accounts, gone through every phase of passion, down to utter
despair, before she knew the blow had fallen. Poor Mary!"
* * * * *
There, we have done. All this misery has come on her from one act of
folly and selfishness years ago. How many lives are ruined, how many
families broken up, by one false step! If ever a poor soul has expiated
her own offence, she has. Let us hope that brighter times are in store
for her. Let us have done with moral reflections; I am no hand at that
work. One more dark scene, reader, and then.--
* * * * *
It was one wild dreary day in the spring; a day of furious wind and
cutting rain; a day when few passengers were abroad, and when the
boatmen were gathered in knots among the sheltered spots upon the
quays, waiting to hear of disasters at sea; when the ships creaked and
groaned at the wharfs, and the harbour was a sheet of wind-driven foam,
and the domain was strewed with broken boughs. On such a day as this,
Major Buckley and myself, after a sharp walk, found ourselves in front
of the principal gaol in Sydney.
We were admitted, for we had orders; and a small, wiry, clever-looking
man about fifty bowed to us as we entered the white-washed corridor,
which led from the entrance hall. We had a few words with him, and then
To the darkest passage in the darkest end, of that dreary place; to the
condemned cells. And my heart sank as the heavy bolt shot back, and we
went into the first one on the right.
Before us was a kind of bed-place. And on that bedplace lay the
figure of a man. Though it is twenty years ago since I saw it, I can
remember that scene as though it were yesterday.
He lay upon a heap of tumbled blankets, with his face buried in a
pillow. One leg touched the ground, and round it was a ring, connecting
the limb to a long iron bar, which ran along beneath the bed. One arm
also hung listlessly on the cold stone floor, and the other was thrown
around his head, a head covered with short black curls, worthy of an
Antinous, above a bare muscular neck, worthy of a Farnese Hercules. I
advanced towards him.
The governor held me back. "My God, sir," he said, "take care. Don't,
as you value your life, go within length of his chain." But at that
moment the handsome head was raised from the pillow, and my eyes met
George Hawker's. Oh, Lord! such a piteous wild look. I could not see
the fierce desperate villain who had kept our country-side in terror so
long. No, thank God, I could only see the handsome curly-headed boy who
used to play with James Stockbridge and myself among the gravestones in
Drumston churchyard. I saw again the merry lad who used to bathe with
us in Hatherleigh water, and whom, with all his faults, I had once
loved well. And seeing him, and him only, before me, in spite of a
terrified gesture from the governor, I walked up to the bed, and,
sitting down beside him, put my arm round his neck.
"George! George! Dear old friend!" I said. "O George, my boy, has it
come to this?"
I don't want to be instructed in my duty. I know what my duty was on
that occasion as well as any man. My duty as a citizen and a magistrate
was to stand at the further end of the cell, and give this hardened
criminal a moral lecture, showing how honesty and virtue, as in my
case, had led to wealth and honour, and how yielding to one's passions
led to disgrace and infamy, as in his. That was my duty, I allow. But
then, you see, I didn't do my duty. I had a certain tender feeling
about my stomach which prevented me from doing it. So I only hung
there, with my arm round his neck, and said, from time to time, "O
George, George!" like a fool.
He put his two hands upon my shoulders, so that his fetters hung across
my breast; and he looked me in the face. Then he said, after a time,
"What! Hamlyn? Old Jeff Hamlyn! The only man I ever knew that I didn't
quarrel with! Come to see me now, eh? Jeff, old boy, I'm to be hung
"I know it," I said. "And I came to ask you if I could do anything for
you. For the sake of dear old Devon, George."
"Anything you like, old Jeff," he said, with a laugh, "so long as you
don't get me reprieved. If I get loose again, lad, I'd do worse than I
ever did yet, believe me. I've piled up a tolerable heap of wickedness
as it is, though. I've murdered my own son, Jeff. Do you know that?"
I answered--"Yes; I know that, George; but that was an accident. You
did not know who he was."
"He came at me to take my life," said Hawker. "And I tell you, as a man
who goes out to be hung to-morrow, that, if I had guessed who he was,
I'd have blown my own brains out to save him from the crime of killing
me. Who is that man?"
"Don't you remember him?" I said. "Major Buckley."
The Major came forward, and held out his hand to George Hawker. "You
are now," he said, "like a dead man to me. You die to-morrow; and you
know it; and face it like a man. I come to ask you to forgive me
anything you may have to forgive. I have been your enemy since I first
saw you: but I have been an honest and open enemy; and now I am your
enemy no longer. I ask you to shake hands with me. I have been warned
not to come within arm's length of you, chained as you are. But I am
not afraid of you."
The Major came and sat on the bed-place beside him.
"As for that little animal," said George Hawker, pointing to the
governor as he stood at the further end of the cell, "if he comes
within reach of me, I'll beat his useless little brains out against the
wall, and he knows it. He was right to caution you not to come too near
me. I nearly killed a man yesterday: and to-morrow, when they come to
lead me out----But, with regard to you, Major Buckley, the case is
different. Do you know I should be rather sorry to tackle you; I'm
afraid you would be too heavy for me. As to my having anything to
forgive, Major, I don't know that there is anything. If there is, let
me tell you that I feel more kind and hearty towards you and Hamlyn for
coming to me like this to-day, than I've felt towards any man this
twenty year. By-the-bye; let no man go to the gallows without clearing
himself as far as he may. Do you know that I set on that red-haired
villain, Moody, to throttle Bill Lee, because I hadn't pluck to do it
"Poor Lee," said the Major.
"Poor devil," said Hawker. "Why that man had gone through every sort of
villany, from" (so and so up to so and so, he said; I shall not
particularize) "before my beard was grown. Why that man laid such plots
and snares for me when I was a lad, that a bishop could not have
escaped. He egged me on to forge my own father's name. He drove me on
to ruin. And now, because it suited his purpose to turn honest, and act
faithful domestic to my wife for twenty years, he is mourned for as an
exemplary character, and I go to the gallows. He was a meaner villain
than ever I was."
"George," I asked, "have you any message for your wife?"
"Only this," he said; "tell her I always liked her pretty face, and I'm
sorry I brought disgrace upon her. Through all my rascalities, old
Jeff, I swear to you that I respected and liked her to the last. I
tried to see her last year, only to tell her that she needn't be afraid
of me, and should treat me as a dead man; but she and her blessed
pig-headed lover, Tom Troubridge, made such knife and pistol work of it,
that I never got the chance of saying the word I wanted. She'd have
saved herself much trouble if she hadn't acted so much like a frightened
fool. I never meant her any harm. You may tell her all this if you
judge right, but I leave it to you. Time's up, I see. I ain't so much
of a coward, am I, Jeff? Good-bye, old lad, good-bye."
That was the last we saw of him; the next morning he was executed with
four of his comrades. But now the Major and I, leaving him, went out
again into the street, into the rain and the furious wind, to beat up
against it for our hotel. Neither spoke a word till we came to a corner
in George Street, nearest the wharf: and there the Major turned back
upon me suddenly and I thought he had been unable to face the terrible
gust which came sweeping up from the harbour: but it was not so. He had
turned on purpose, and putting his hands upon my shoulders, he said,--
"Hamlyn, Hamlyn, you have taught me a lesson."
"I suppose so," I said. "I have shown you what a fool a tender-hearted
soft-headed fellow may make of himself by yielding to his impulses. But
I have a defence to offer, my dear sir, the best of excuses, the only
real excuse existing in this world. I couldn't help it."
"I don't mean that, Hamlyn," he answered. "The lesson you have taught
me is a very different one. You have taught me that there are bright
points in the worst man's character, a train of good feeling which no
tact can bring out, but yet which some human spark of feeling may
light. Here is this man Hawker, of whom we heard that he was dangerous
to approach, and whom the good chaplain was forced to pray for and
exhort from a safe distance. The man for whose death, till ten minutes
ago, I was rejoicing. The man I thought lost, and beyond hope. Yet
you, by one burst of unpremeditated folly, by one piece of silly
sentimentality; by ignoring the man's later life, and carrying him back
in imagination to his old schoolboy days, have done more than our
good old friend the Chaplain could have done without your assistance.
There is a spark of the Divine in the worst of men, if you can only
In spite of the Major's parliamentary and didactic way of speaking, I
saw there was truth at the bottom of what he said, and that he meant
kindly to me, and to the poor fellow who was even now among the dead;
so instead of arguing with him, I took his arm, and we fought homewards
together through the driving rain.
Imagine three months to have passed. That stormy spring had changed
into a placid, burning summer. The busy shearing-time was past; the
noisy shearers were dispersed, heaven knows where (most of them probably
suffering from a shortness of cash, complicated with delirium
tremens). The grass in the plains had changed from green to dull grey;
the river had changed his hoarse roar for a sleepy murmur, as though
too lazy to quarrel with his boulders in such weather. A hot dull haze
was over forest and mountain. The snow had perspired till it showed
long black streaks on the highest eminences. In short, summer had come
with a vengeance; every one felt hot, idle, and thirsty, and "there
was nothing doing."
Now that broad cool verandah of Captain Brentwood's, with its deep
recesses of shadow, was a place not to be lightly spoken of. Any man
once getting footing there, and leaving it, except on compulsion, would
show himself of weak mind. Any man once comfortably settled there in an
easy chair, who fetched anything for himself when he could get any one
else to fetch it for him, would show himself, in my opinion, a man of
weak mind. One thing only was wanted to make it perfect, and that was
niggers. To the winds with "Uncle Tom's Cabin," and "Dred" after it, in
a hot wind! What can an active-minded, self-helpful lady like Mrs.
Stowe, freezing up there in Connecticut, obliged to do something to
keep herself warm,--what can she, I ask, know about the requirements
of a southern gentleman when the thermometer stands at 125 degrees in the
shade? Pish! Does she know the exertion required for cutting up a pipe
of tobacco in a hot north wind? No! Does she know the amount of
perspiration and anger superinduced by knocking the head off a bottle
of Bass in January? Does she know the physical prostration which is
caused by breaking up two lumps of hard white sugar in a pawnee before
a thunderstorm? No, she doesn't, or she would cry out for niggers with
the best of us! When the thermometer gets over 100 degrees in the shade,
all men would have slaves if they were allowed. An Anglo-Saxon conscience
will not, save in rare instances, bear a higher average heat than 95
But about this verandah. It was the model and type of all verandahs. It
was made originally by the Irish family, the Donovans, before spoken
of; and, like all Irish-made things, was nobly conceived, beautifully
carried out, and then left to take care of itself, so that when Alice
came into possession, she found it a neglected mine of rare creepers
run wild. Here, for the first time, I saw the exquisite crimson
passion-flower, then a great rarity. Here, too, the native passion-flower,
scarlet and orange, was tangled up with the common purple
sarsaparilla and the English honeysuckle and jessamine.
In this verandah, one blazing morning, sat Mrs. Buckley and Alice
making believe to work. Mrs. Buckley really was doing something. Alice
sat with her hands fallen on her lap, so still and so beautiful, that
she might then and there have been photographed off by some
enterprising artist, and exhibited in the printshops as "Argia, Goddess
They were not alone, however. Across the very coolest, darkest corner
was swung a hammock, looking at which you might perceive two hands
elevating a green paper-covered book, as though the owner were reading--
the aforesaid owner, however, being entirely invisible, only proving
his existence by certain bulges and angles in the canvas of the
Now, having made a nice little mystery as to who it was lying there, I
will proceed to solve it. A burst of laughter came from the hidden man,
so uproarious and violent, that the hammock-strings strained and shook,
and the magpie, waking up from a sound sleep, cursed and swore in a
manner fearful to hear.
"My dearest Jim!" said Alice, rousing herself, "What is the matter with
Jim read aloud the immortal battle of the two editors, with their
carpet bags, in "Pickwick," and, ere he had half done, Alice and Mrs.
Buckley had mingled their laughter with his, quite as heartily, if not
"Hallo!" said Jim; "here's a nuisance! There's no more of it. Alice,
have you got any more?"
"That is all, Jim. The other numbers will come by the next mail."
"How tiresome! I suppose the governor is pretty sure to be home to-night.
He can't be away much longer."
"Don't be impatient, my dear," said Alice. "How is your leg?"
Please to remember that Jim's leg was broken in the late wars, and, as
yet, hardly well.
"Oh, it's a good deal better. Heigho! This is very dull."
"Thank you, James!" said Mrs. Buckley. "Dear me! the heat gets greater
every day. If they are on the road, I hope they won't hurry
Our old friends were just now disposed in the following manner:--
The Major was at home. Mary Hawker was staying with him. Doctor Mulhaus
and Halbert staying at Major Brentwood's, while Captain Brentwood was
away with Sam and Tom Troubridge to Sydney; and, having been absent
some weeks, had been expected home now for a day or two. This was the
day they came home, riding slowly up to the porch about five o'clock.
When all greetings were done, and they were sat down beside the others,
Jim opened the ball by asking, "What news, father?"
"What a particularly foolish question!" said the Captain. "Why, you'll
get it all in time--none the quicker for being impatient. May be,
also, when you hear some of the news, you won't like it!"
"Oh, indeed!" said Jim.
"I have a letter for you here, from the Commander-in-Chief. You are
appointed to the 3-th Regiment, at present quartered in India."
Alice looked at him quickly as she heard this, and, as a natural
consequence, Sam looked too. They had expected that he would have
hurra'd aloud, or thrown up his hat, or danced about, when he heard of
it. But no; he only sat bolt upright in his hammock, though his face
flushed scarlet, and his eyes glistened strangely.
His father looked at him an instant, and then continued,--
"Six months' leave of absence procured at the same time, which will
give you about three months more at home. So you see you now possess
the inestimable privilege of wearing a red coat; and what is still
better, of getting a hole made in it; for there is great trouble
threatening with the Affghans and Beloochs, and the chances are that
you will smell powder before you are up in your regimental duties.
Under which circumstances I shall take the liberty of requesting that
you inform yourself on these points under my direction, for I don't
want you to join your regiment in the position of any other booby.
Have the goodness to lie down again and not excite yourself. You have
anticipated this some time. Surely it is not necessary for you to cry
about it like a great girl."
But that night, after dark, when Sam and Alice were taking one of those
agreeable nocturnal walks, which all young lovers are prone to, they
came smoothly gliding over the lawn close up to the house, and then,
unseen and unheard, they saw Captain Brentwood with his arm round Jim's
neck, and heard him say,--
"O James! James! why did you want to leave me?"
And Jim answered. "Father, I didn't know. I didn't know my own mind.
But I can't call back now."
Sam and Alice slipt back again, and continued their walk. Let us hear
what conversation they had been holding together before this little
"Alice, my darling, my love, you are more beautiful than ever!"
"Thanks to your absence, my dear Sam. You see how well I thrive without
"Then when we are----"
"Well?" said Alice. For this was eight o'clock in the evening, you
know, and the moon being four days past the full, it was pitch dark.
"Well?" says she.
"When we are married," says Sam, audaciously, "I suppose you will pine
away to nothing."
"Good gracious me!" she answered. "Married? Why surely we are well
enough as we are."
"Most excellently well, my darling," said Sam. "I wish it could last
"Oh, indeed!" said Alice, almost inaudibly though.
"Alice, my love," said Sam, "have you thought of one thing? Have you
thought that I must make a start in life for myself?"
No, she hadn't thought of that. Didn't see why Baroona wasn't good
enough for him.
"My dear!" he said. "Baroona is a fine property, but it is not mine. I
want money for a set purpose. For a glorious purpose, my love! I will
not tell you yet, not for years perhaps, what that purpose is. But I
want fifty thousand pounds of my own. And fifty thousand pounds I will
Good gracious! What an avaricious creature. Such a quantity of money.
And so she wasn't to hear what he was going to do with it, for ever so
many years. Wouldn't he tell her now? She would so like to know. Would
nothing induce him?
Yes, there was something. Nay, what harm! Only an honest lover's kiss,
among the ripening grapes. In the dark, you say. My dear madam, you
would not have them kiss one another in broad day, with the cook
watching them out of the kitchen window?
"Alice," he said, "I have had one object before me from my boyhood, and
since you told me that I was to be your husband, that object has grown
from a vague intention to a fixed purpose. Alice, I want to buy back
the acres of my forefathers; I wish, I intend, that another Buckley
shall be the master of Clere, and that you shall be his wife."
"Sam, my love!" she said, turning on him suddenly. "What a magnificent
idea. Is it possible?"
"Easy," said Sam. "My father could do it, but will not. He and my
mother have severed every tie with the old country, and it would be at
their time of life only painful to go back to the old scenes and
interests. But with me it is different. Think of you and I taking the
place we are entitled to by birth and education, in the splendid
society of that noble island. Don't let me hear all that balderdash
about the founding of new empires. Empires take too long in growing for
me. What honours, what society, has this little colony to give,
compared to those open to a fourth-rate gentleman in England? I want to
be a real Englishman, not half a one. I want to throw in my lot heart
and hand with the greatest nation in the world. I don't want to be
young Sam Buckley of Baroona. I want to be the Buckley of Clere. Is not
that a noble ambition?"
"My whole soul goes with you, Sam," said Alice. "My whole heart and
soul. Let us consult, and see how this is to be done."
"This is the way the thing stands," said Sam. "The house and park at
Clere, were sold by my father for 12,000L. to a brewer. Since then,
this brewer, a most excellent fellow by all accounts, has bought back,
acre by acre, nearly half the old original property as it existed in my
great grandfather's time, so that now Clere must be worth fifty
thousand pounds at least. This man's children are all dead; and as far
as Captain Brentwood has been able to find out for me, no one knows
exactly how the property is going. The present owner is the same age as
my father; and at his death, should an advantageous offer be made,
there would be a good chance of getting the heirs to sell the property.
We should have to pay very highly for it, but consider what a position
we should buy with it. The county would receive us with open arms. That
is all I know at present."
"A noble idea," said Alice, "and well considered. Now what are you
going to do?"
"Have you heard tell yet," said Sam, "of the new country to the north,
they call the Darling Downs?"
"I have heard of it, from Burnside the cattle dealer. He describes it
as a paradise of wealth."
"He is right. When you get through the Cypress, the plains are endless.
It is undoubtedly the finest piece of country found yet. Now do you
know Tom Troubridge?"
"Slightly enough," said Alice, laughing.
"Well," said Sam. "You know he went to Sydney with us, and before he
had been three days there he came to me full of this Darling Down
country. Quite mad about it in fact. And in the end he said: 'Sam, what
money have you got?' I said that my father had promised me seven
thousand pounds for a certain purpose, and that I had come to town
partly to look for an investment. He said, 'Be my partner;' and I said,
'What for?' 'Darling Downs,' he said. And I said I was only too highly
honoured by such a mark of confidence from such a man, and that I
closed with his offer at once. To make a long matter short, he is off
to the new country to take up ground under the name of Troubridge and
"But oughtn't you to have gone up with him, Sam?"
"I proposed to do so, as a matter of course," said Sam. "But what do
you think he said?"
"I don't know."
"He gave me a great slap on the back," said Sam; "and, said he, 'Go
home, my old lad, marry your wife, and fetch her up to keep house.'
That's what he said. And now, my own love, my darling, will you tell
me, am I to go up alone, and wait for you; or will you come up, and
make a happy home for me in that dreary desert? Will you leave your
home, and come away with me into the grey hot plains of the west?"
"I have no home in future, Sam," she said, "but where you are, and I
will gladly go with you to the world's end."
And so that matter was settled.
And now Sam disclosed to her that a visitor was expected at the station
in about a fortnight or three weeks; and he was no less a person than
our old friend the dean, Frank Maberly. And then he went to ask, did
she think that she could manage by that time to--, eh? Such an
excellent opportunity, you know; seemed almost as if his visit had been
arranged, which, between you and I, it had.
She thought it wildly possible, if there was any real necessity for it.
And after this they went in; and Alice went into her bedroom.
"And what have you been doing out there with Alice all this time, eh?"
asked the Captain.
"I've been asking a question, sir."
"You must have put it in a pretty long form. What sort of an answer did
"I got 'yes' for an answer, sir."
"Ah, well! Mrs. Buckley, can you lend Baroona to a new married couple
for a few weeks, do you think? There is plenty of room for you here."
And then into Mrs. Buckley's astonished ear all the new plans were
poured. She heard that Sam and Alice were to be married in a fortnight,
and that Sam had gone into partnership with Tom Troubridge.
"Stop there," she said; "not too much at once. What becomes of Mary
"She is left at Toonarbin, with an overseer, for the present."
"And when," she asked, "shall you leave us, Sam?"
"Oh, in a couple of months, I suppose. I must give Tom time to get a
house up before I go and join him. What a convenient thing a partner
like that is, eh?"
"Oh, by-the-bye, Mrs. Buckley," said Captain Brentwood, "what do you
make of this letter?"
He produced a broad thick letter, directed in a bold running hand,
"Baroonah, Combermere County,
"If absent, to be left with the nearest magistrate, and a receipt taken
"How very strange," said Mrs. Buckley, turning it over. "Where did you
"Sergeant Jackson asked me, as nearest magistrate, to take charge of
it; and so I did. It has been forwarded by orderly from Sydney."
"And the Governor's private seal, too," said Mrs. Buckley. "I don't
know when my curiosity has been so painfully excited. Put it on the
chimney-piece, Sam; let us gaze on the outside, even if we are denied
to see the inside. I wonder if your father will come tonight?"
"No; getting too late," said Sam. "Evidently Halbert and the Doctor
have found themselves there during their ride, and are keeping him and
Mrs. Hawker company. They will all three be over to-morrow morning,
depend on it."
"What a really good fellow that Halbert is," said Captain Brentwood.
"One of the best companions I ever met. I wish his spirits would
improve with his health. A sensitive fellow like him is apt not to
recover from a blow like his."
"What blow?" said Mrs. Buckley.
"Did you never hear?" said the Captain. "The girl he was going to be
married to got drowned coming out to him in the Assam."
IN WHICH THERE ARE SOME ASTONISHING REVELATIONS WITH REGARD TO DR. MULHAUS
AND CAPTAIN DESBOROUGH.
At ten o'clock the next morning arrived the Major, the Doctor, and
Halbert; and the first notice they had of it was the Doctor's voice in
the passage, evidently in a great state of excitement.
"No more the common bower-bird than you, sir; a new species. His eyes
are red instead of blue, and the whole plumage is lighter. I will call
it after you, my dear Major."
"You have got to shoot him first," said the Major.
"I'll soon do that," said the Doctor, bursting into the room-door. "How
do you do, all of you? Sam, glad to see you back again. Brentwood, you
are welcome to your own house. Get me your gun--where is it?"
"In my bedroom," said the Captain.
The Doctor went off after it. He reappeared again to complain that the
caps would not fit; but, being satisfied on that score, he disappeared
down the garden, on murderous thoughts intent.
Sam got his father away into the verandah, and told him all his plans.
I need hardly say that they met with the Major's entire approval. All
his plans I said; no, not all. Sam never hinted at the end and object
of all his endeavours; he never said a word about his repurchase of
Clere. The Major had no more idea that Sam had ever thought of such a
thing, or had been making inquiries, than had the owner of Clere
"Sam, my dear boy," said he, "I am very sorry to lose you, and we shall
have but a dull time of it henceforth; but I am sure it is good for a
man to go out into the world by himself" (and all that sort of thing).
"When you are gone, Brentwood and I mean to live together, to console
"My dear, are you coming in?" said Mrs. Buckley. "Here is a letter for
you, which I ought to have given you before."
The Major went in and received the mysterious epistle which the captain
had brought the night before. When he saw it he whistled.
They sat waiting to know the contents. He was provokingly long in
opening it, and when he did, he said nothing, but read it over twice
with a lengthening visage. Now also it became apparent that there was
another letter inside, at the superscription of which the Major having
looked, put it in his pocket, and turning round to the mantel-piece,
with his back to the others, began drumming against the fender with his
A more aggravating course of proceeding he could not have resorted to.
Here they were all dying of curiosity, and not a word did he seem
inclined to answer. At last, Mrs. Buckley, not able to hold out any
"From the Governor, was it not, my love?"
"Yes," he said, "from the Governor. And very important too," and then
relapsed into silence.
Matters were worse than ever. But after a few minutes he turned round
to them suddenly, and said,--
"You have heard of Baron Landstein."
"What," said Sam, "the man that the Doctor's always abusing so? Yes, I
know all about him, of course."
"The noble Landstein," said Alice. "In spite of the Doctor's abuse he
is a great favourite of mine. How well he seems to have behaved at Jena
with those two Landwehr regiments."
"Landsturm, my love," said the Major.
"Yes, Landsturm I mean. I wonder if he is still alive, or whether he
died of his wounds."
"The Doctor," said Sam, "always speaks of him as dead."
"He is not only alive," said the Major, "but he is coming here. He will
be here to-day. He may come any minute."
"What! the great Landstein," said Sam.
"The same man," said the Major.
"The Doctor will have a quarrel with him, father. He is always abusing
him. He says he lost the battle of Jena, or something."
"Be quiet, Sam, and don't talk. Watch what follows."
The Doctor was seen hurrying up the garden-walk. He put down his gun
outside, and bursting open the glass door, stepped into the room,
holding aloft a black bird, freshly killed, and looking around him for
"There!" he said; "I told you so."
The Major walked across the room, and put a letter in his hand, the one
which was enclosed in the mysterious epistle before mentioned.
"Baron," he said. "here is a letter for you."
The Doctor looked round as one would who had received a blow, and knew
not who smote him. He took the letter, and went into the window to read
No one spoke a word. "This, then, my good old tutor," thought Sam,
"turns out to be the great Landstein. Save us, what a piece of
romance." But though he thought this, he never said anything, and
catching Alice's eye, followed it to the window. There, leaning against
the glass, his face buried in his hands, and his broad back shaking
with emotion, stood Doctor Mulhaus. Alas! no. Our kindly, good, hearty,
learned, irritable, but dearly-beloved old friend, is no more. There
never was such a man in reality: but in his place stands Baron von
Landstein of the Niederwald.
What the contents of the Doctor's (I must still call him so) letter, I
cannot tell you. But I have seen the letter which Major Buckley
received enclosing it, and I can give it you word for word. It is from
the Governor himself, and runs thus:--
"MY DEAR MAJOR,
"I am informed that the famous Baron von Landstein has been living in
your house for some years, under the name of Dr. Mulhaus. In fact, I
believe he is a partner of yours. I therefore send the enclosed under
cover to you, and when I tell you that it has been forwarded to me
through the Foreign Office, and the Colonial Office, and is, in point
of fact, an autograph letter from the King of P---- to the Baron, I am
sure that you will ensure its safe delivery.
"The Secretary is completely 'fixed' with his estimates. The salaries
for the Supreme Court Office are thrown out. He must resign. Do next
election send us a couple of moderates.
"Yours, &c., G.G."
This was the Major's letter. But the Doctor stood still there, moved
more deeply than any had seen him before, while Alice and Sam looked at
one another in blank astonishment.
At length he turned and spoke, but not to them, to the empty air. Spoke
as one aroused from a trance. Things hard to understand, yet having
some thread of sense in them too.
"So he has sent for me," he said, "when it seems that he may have some
use for me. So the old man is likely to go at last, and we are to have
the golden age again. If talking could do it, assuredly we should. He
has noble instincts, this young fellow, and some sense. He has sent for
me. If H----, and B----, and Von U----, and myself can but get his ear!
"Oh, Rhineland! my own beloved Rhineland, shall I see you again? Shall
I sit once more in my own grey castle, among the vineyards, above the
broad gleaming river, and hear the noises from the town come floating
softly up the hillside! I wonder are there any left who will remember--"
He took two short turns through the room, and then he turned and spoke
to them again, looking all the time at Sam.
"I am the Baron von Landstein. The very man we have so often talked of,
and whose character we have so freely discussed. When the French
attacked us, I threw myself into the foremost ranks of my countrymen,
and followed the Queen with two regiments which I had raised almost
"I fled away from the blood-red sun of Jena, wounded and desperate.
"That sun," I thought, "has set on the ruins of Great Frederick's
kingdom. Prussia is a province of France: what can happen worse than
this? I will crawl home to my castle and die.
"I had no castle to crawl to. My brother, he who hung upon the same
breast with me, he who learnt his first prayer beside me, he who I
loved and trusted above all other men, had turned traitor, had sold
himself to the French, had deceived my bride that was to be, and
seized my castle.
"I fled to England, to Drumston, Major. I had some knowledge of physic,
and called myself a doctor. I threw myself into the happy English
domestic life which I found there, and soon got around me men and women
whom I loved full well.
"Old John Thornton and his sister knew my secret, as did Lord Crediton:
but they kept it well, and by degrees I began to hope that I would
begin a new life as a useful village apothecary, and forget for ever
the turmoils of politics.
"Then you know what happened. There was an Exodus. All those I had got
to love, arose, in the manner of their nation, and went to the other
end of the earth, so that one night I was left alone on the cliff at
Plymouth, watching a ship which was bearing away all that was left me
to love in the world.
"I went to Prussia. I found my brother had made good use of his
prosperity, and slandered me to the King. His old treachery seemed
forgotten, and he was high in power. The King, for whom I had suffered
so much, received me coldly, and leaving the palace, I spoke to my
brother, and said,--'Send me so much yearly, and keep the rest for a
time.' And then I followed you, Major, out here."
"Shall I tell you any more, Sam?"
"No!" said Sam, smiting his fist upon the table. "I can tell the rest,
Baron, to those who want to know it. I can tell of ten years' patient
kindness towards myself. I can tell--I can tell--"
Sam was the worst orator in the world. He broke down, sir. He knew what
he meant very well; and so I hope do you, reader, but he couldn't say
it. He had done what many of us do, tried to make a fine speech when
his heart was full, and so he failed.
But Alice didn't fail,--not she, though she never spoke a word. She
folded up her work; and going up to the good old man, took both his
hands in hers and kissed him on both his cheeks. A fine piece of
rhetorical action, wasn't it? And then they all crowded round him, and
shook hands with him, and kissed him, and God-blessed him, for their kind,
true, old friend; and prayed that every blessing might light upon his
noble head, till he passed through them speechless and wandered away to
his old friend, the river.
* * * * *
About the middle of this week, there arrived two of our former friends,
Frank Maberly and Captain Desborough, riding side by side. The
Elders, with the Doctor, were outside, and detained the Dean, talking
to him and bidding him welcome. But Captain Desborough, passing in,
came into the room where were assembled Alice, Sam, and Jim, who gave
him a most vociferous greeting.
They saw in a moment that there was some fun in the wind. They knew, by
experience, that when Desborough's eyes twinkled like that, some
absurdity was preparing, though they were quite unprepared for the
mixture of reality and nonsense which followed.
"Pace!" said Desborough, in his affected Irish accent; "be on this
house, and all in it. The top of the morning to ye all."
"Now," said Alice, "we are going to have some fun; Captain Desborough