Part 12 out of 12
has got his brogue on."
"Ye'll have some fun directly, Miss Brentwood," he said. "But there's
some serious, sober earnest to come first. My cousin, Slievedonad, is
"The same. That small Viscount is at this moment in pur----. God
forgive me, and him too."
"That's just half. My uncle Lord Covetown was taken with a fit when he
heard of it, and is gone after him, and the Lord forgive him too. He
turned me, his own brother's son, out into the world with half an
education, to sink or swim; and never a kind word did he or his son
ever give me in their lives. It must have broken the old man's heart to
think how the estate would go. But as I said before, God forgive him."
"You must feel his loss, Captain Desborough," said Alice. "I am very
sorry for you."
"Ahem! my dear young lady, you don't seem to know how this ends."
"Why, no," said Alice, looking up wonderingly; "I do not."
"Why, it ends in this," said Desborough; "that I myself am Earl of
Covetown, Viscount Slievedonad, and Baron Avoca, with twenty thousand a
year, me darlin, the laste penny; see to there now."
"Brogue again," said Alice. "Are you joking?"
"True enough," said Desborough. "I had a letter from my grandmother,
the Dowager (she that lost the dog), only this very day. And there's a
thousand pounds paid into the Bank of New South Wales to my account.
Pretty good proof that last, eh?"
"My dear Lord," said Alice, "I congratulate you most heartily. All the
world are turning out to be noblemen. I should not be surprised to find
that I am a duchess myself."
"It rests with you, Miss Brentwood," said Desborough, with a wicked
glance at Sam, "to be a countess. I now formally make you an offer of
me hand and heart. Oh! tell me, Miss Brentwood, will ye be Mrs. Mars--
I beg pardon, Countess of Covetown?"
"No, I thank you, my lord," said Alice, laughing and blushing. "I am
afraid I must decline."
"I was afraid ye would," said Lord Covetown. "I had heard that a great
six-foot villain had been trifling with your affections, so I came
prepared for a refusal. Came prepared with this, Miss Brentwood, which
I pray you to accept; shall I be too bold if I say, as a wedding
present, from one of your most sincere admirers."
He produced a jewel case, and took from it a bracelet, at the sight of
which Alice gave an honest womanly cry of delight. And well she might,
for the bauble cost 150L. It was a bracelet of gold, representing a
snake. Half-way up the reptile's back began a row of sapphires, getting
larger towards the neck, each of which was surrounded by small
emeralds. The back of the head contained a noble brilliant, and the
eyes were two rubies. Altogether, a thorough specimen of Irish
extravagance and good taste.
"Can you clasp it on for her, Sam?" said Lord Covetown.
"Oh, my Lord, I ought not to accept such a princely present!" said
"Look here, Miss Brentwood," said Covetown, laying his hand on Sam's
shoulder. "I find that the noblest and best fellow I know is going to
marry the handsomest woman, saving your presence, that I ever saw. I
myself have just come into an earldom, and twenty thousand a-year; and
if, under these circumstances, I mayn't make that woman a handsome
present, why then the deuce is in it, you know. Sam, my boy, your hand.
Jim, your hand, my lad. May you be as good a soldier as your father."
"Ah!" said Jim. "So you're an earl are you? What does it feel like, eh?
Do you feel the blue blood of a hundred sires coursing in your veins?
Do you feel the hereditary class prejudices of the Norman aristocracy
cutting you off from the sympathies of the inferior classes, and
raising you above the hopes and fears of the masses? How very comical
it must be! So you are going to sit among the big-wigs in the House of
Lords. I hope you won't forget yourself, and cry 'Faug a Ballagh,' when
one of the bishops rises to speak. And whatever you do, don't sing
'Gama crem'ah cruiskeen' in the lobby."
"My dear fellow," said he, "I am not in the House of Lords at all. Only
an Irish peer. I intend to get into the Commons though, and produce a
sensation by introducing the Australian 'Co'ee' into the seat of
How long these four would have gone on talking unutterable nonsense, no
man can say. But Frank Maberly coming in, greeted them courteously, and
changed the conversation.
Poor Frank! Hard and incessant work was beginning to tell on that
noble frame, and the hard marked features were getting more hard and
marked year by year. Yet, in spite of the deep lines that now furrowed
that kindly face, those who knew it best, said that it grew more
beautiful than it had ever been before. As that magnificent PHYSIQUE
began to fail, the noble soul within began to show clearer through its
earthly tenement. That noble soul, which was getting purified and ready
for what happened but a few years after this in Patagonia. When we
heard that that man had earned the crown of glory, and had been thought
worthy to sit beside Stephen and Paul in the Kingdom, none of us wept
for him, or mourned. It seemed such a fitting reward for such a pure
and noble life. But even now, when I wake in the night, I see him
before me as he was described in the last scene by the only survivor.
Felled down upon the sand, with his arms before his eyes, crying out,
as the spears struck him, one after another, "Lord, forgive them, they
know not what they do!"
IN WHICH SAM MEETS WITH A SERIOUS ACCIDENT, AND GETS CRIPPLED FOR LIFE.
What morning is this, when Sam, waking from silver dreams to a golden
reality, turns over in his bed and looks out of the open glass door; at
dog Rover, propped up against the lintel, chopping at the early flies;
at the flower-garden, dark and dewy; at the black wall of forest
beyond, in which the magpies were beginning to pipe cheerily; at the
blessed dawn which was behind and above it, shooting long rays of
primrose and crimson half-way up the zenith; hearing the sleepy
ceaseless crawling of the river over the shingle bars; hearing the
booming of the cattle-herds far over the plain; hearing the chirrup of
the grasshopper among the raspberries, the chirr of the cicada among
the wattles--what happy morning is this? Is it the Sabbath?
Ah, no! the Sabbath was yesterday. This is his wedding morn.
My dear brother bachelor, do you remember those old first-love
sensations, or have you got too old, and too fat? Do you remember the
night when you parted from her on the bridge by the lock, the night
before her father wrote to you and forbade you the house? Have you got
the rose she gave you there? Is it in your Bible, brother? Do you
remember the months that followed--months of mad grief and wild
yearning, till the yearning grew less--less wild--and the grief less
desperate; and then, worst of all, the degrading consciousness that
you were, in spite of yourself, getting rid of your love, and that she
was not to you as she had been? Do you remember all this? When you come
across the rose in your Bible, do you feel that you would give all the
honour and wealth of the world to feel again those happy, wretched, old
sensations? Do you not say that this world has nothing to give in
comparison to that?
Not this world, I believe. You and I can never feel that again. So let
us make up our minds to it--it is dead. In God's name don't let us try
to galvanize an old corpse, which may rise upon us hideous, and scare
us to the lower pit. Let us be content as we are. Let us read that Book
we spoke of just now with the rose in it, and imitate the Perfect Man
there spoken of, who was crucified 1800 years ago, believing, like Him,
that all men are our brothers, and acting up to it. And then, Lord
knows what may be in store for us.
Here's a digression. If I had had a good wife to keep me in order, I
never should have gone so far out of the road. Here is Sam in bed,
sitting up, with his happy head upon his hands, trying to believe that
this dream of love is going to be realized--trying to believe that it
is really his wedding morn.
It evidently is; so he gets out of bed and says his prayers like an
honest gentleman--he very often forgot to do this same, but he did it
this morning carefully--much I am afraid as a kind of charm or
incantation, till he came to the Lord's Prayer itself, and then his
whole happy soul wedded itself to the eternal words, and he arose calm
and happy, and went down to bathe.
Happy, I said. Was he really happy? He ought to have been; for every
wish he had in this life was fulfilled. And yet, when Jim, and he, and
Halbert, were walking, towel in hand down the garden, they held this
"Sam, my dear old brother, at last," said Jim, "are you happy?"
"I ought to be, Jim," said Sam; "but I'm in the most confounded fright,
sir."--They generally are in a fright, when they are going to be
married, those Benedicts. What the deuce are they afraid of?
Our dear Jim was in anything but an enviable frame of mind. He had
found out several things which did not at all conduce to his happiness;
he had found out that it was one thing to propose going to India, or
No-man'sland, and cutting off every tie and association which he had
in the world; and that it was quite another thing to do that same. He
had found out that it was one thing to leave his sister in the keeping
of his friend Sam, and another to part from her probably for ever; and,
last of all, he had found out, ever since his father had put his arm
round his neck and kissed him, that night we know of, that he loved
that father beyond all men in this world. It was a new discovery; he
had never known it till he found he had got to part with him. And now,
when he woke in the night, our old merry-hearted Jim sat up in bed, and
wept; aye, and no shame to him for it, when he thought of that
handsome, calm, bronzed face tearless and quiet there, over the
fortifications and the mathematics, when he was far away.
"He will never say a word, Sam," said Jim, as they were walking down to
bathe this very morning of the wedding; "but he'll think the more. Sam,
I am afraid I have done a selfish thing in going; but if I were to draw
back now, I should never be the same to him again. He couldn't stand
that. But I am sorry I ever thought of it."
"I don't know, Jim," said Halbert, pulling off his trowsers, "I really
don't know of any act of parliament passed in favour of the Brentwood
family, exempting them from the ordinary evils of humanity. Do you
think now, that when John Nokes, aged nineteen, goes into market at
Cambridge, or elsewhere, and 'lists, and never goes home again; do you
think, I say, that that lad don't feel a very strange emptiness about
the epigastric region when he thinks of the grey-headed old man, that
is sitting waiting for him at the cottage-door? And," added Halbert,
standing on the plunging-stage Adamically, without a rag upon him,
pointing at Jim with his finger in an oratorical manner; "do you think
that the old man who sits there, year after year, waiting for him who
never comes, and telling the neighbours that his lad who is gone for a
sodger, was the finest lad in the village, do you think that old man
feels nothing? Give up fine feelings, Jim. You don't know what trouble
And so he went souse into the water.
And after the bathe all came up and dressed;--white trowsers and
brilliant ties being the order of the day. Then we all, from the
bachelor side of the house, assembled in the verandah, for the ceremony
was not to be performed till eight, and it was not more than halfpast
seven. There was the promise of a very awkward half hour, so I was glad
of a diversion caused by my appearing in a blue coat with gilt buttons,
and pockets in the tails,--a coat I had not brought out for twenty
years, but as good as new, I give you my honour. Jim was very funny
about that coat, and I encouraged him by defending it, and so we got
through ten minutes, and kept Sam amused. Then one of the grooms, a lad
I mentioned before as bringing a note to Baroona on one occasion, a
long brown-faced lad, born of London parents in the colony, made a
diversion by coming round to look at us. He admired us very much, but
my gilt buttons took his attention principally. He guessed they must
have cost a matter of twenty pound, but on my telling him that the
whole affair was bought for three pounds, he asked, I remember:--
"What are they made on, then?"
Brass I supposed, and gilt. So he left me in disgust, and took up with
Jim's trowsers, wanting to know "if they was canvas."
"Satin velvet," Jim said; and then the Major came out and beckoned us
into the drawing-room.
And there she was, between Mrs. Buckley and Mary Hawker, dressed all in
white, looking as beautiful as morning. Frank Maberly stood beside a
little table, which the women had made into an altar, with the big
Prayer-book in his hand. And we all stood around, and the servants
thronged in, and Sam, taking Alice's hand, went up and stood before
Captain Brentwood, of the Artillery, would give this woman to be
married to this man, with ten thousand blessings on her head; and
Samuel Buckley, of Baroona, would take this woman as his wedded wife,
in sickness and health, for richer, for poorer, till death did them
part. And, "Yes, by George, he will," says Jim to himself,--but I
heard him, for we were reading out of the same Prayer-book.
And so it was all over. And the Doctor, who had all the morning been
invisible, and had only slipt into the room just as the ceremony had
began, wearing on his coat a great star, a prodigy, which had drawn
many eyes from their Prayer-books, the Doctor, I say, came up, star and
all, and taking Alice's hand, kissed her forehead, and then clasped a
splendid necklace round her throat.
Then followed all the usual kissings and congratulations, and then
came the breakfast. I hope Alice and Sam were happy, as happy as young
folks can be in such a state of flutter and excitement; but all I know
is, that the rest of the party were thoroughly and utterly miserable.
The certainty that this was the break-up of our happy old society, that
all that was young, and merry, and graceful, among us, was about to
take wing and leave us old folks sitting there lonely and dull. The
thought, that neither Baroona nor Garoopna could ever be again what
they had once been, and that never again we should hear those merry
voices, wakening us in the morning, or ringing pleasant by the river on
the soft summer's evening; these thoughts, I say, made us but a dull
party, although Covetown and the Doctor made talking enough for the
rest of us.
There was something I could not understand about the Doctor. He talked
loud and nervously all breakfast time, and afterwards, when Alice had
retired to change her dress, and we were all standing about talking,
he came up to me in a quiet corner where I was, and took me by the
hand. "My dear old friend," he said, "you will never forget me, will
"Forget you, Baron! never," I said. I would have asked him more, but
there was Alice in the room, in her pretty blue riding-habit and hat,
ready for a start, and Sam beside her, whip in hand; so we all crowded
out to say good-bye.
That was the worst time of all. Mrs. Buckley had said farewell and
departed. Jim was walking about, tearless, but quite unable to answer
me when I asked him a question. Those two grim old warriors, the Captain
and the Major, were taking things very quietly, but did not seem
inclined to talk much, while the Doctor was conducting himself like an
amiable lunatic, getting in everybody's way as he followed Sam about.
"Sam," he said, after Alice had been lifted on her horse, "my dear Sam,
my good pupil, you will never forget your old tutor, will you?"
"Never, never!" said Sam; "not likely, if I lived to be a hundred. I
shall see you to-morrow."
"Oh yes, surely," said the Baron; "we shall meet to-morrow for certain.
But good-bye, my boy; good bye."
And then the young couple rode away to Baroona, which was empty, swept,
and garnished, ready for their reception. And the servants cheered them
as they went away, and tall Eleanor sent one of her husband's boots
after them for luck, with such force and dexterity that it fell close
to the heels of Widderin, setting him capering;--then Sam turned
round and waved his hat, and they were gone.
And we turned round to look at one another, and lo! another horse, the
Doctor's, was being led up and down by a groom, saddled; and, while we
wondered, out came the Doctor himself and began strapping his valise on
to the saddle.
"And where are you going to-day, Baron?" asked the Major.
"I am going," said he, "to Sydney. I sail for Europe in a week."
Our astonishment was too great for ejaculations; we kept an awful
silence; this was the first hint he had given us of his intention.
"Yes," said he, "I sail from Sydney this day week. I could not embitter
my boy's wedding-day by letting him know that he was to lose me; better
that he should come back and find me gone. I must go, and I foresaw it
when that letter came; but I would not tell you, because I knew you
would be so sorry to part. I have been inside and said farewell to Mrs.
Buckley. And now, my friends, shorten this scene for me. Night and day,
for a month, I have been dreading it, and now let us spare one another.
Why should we tear our hearts asunder by a long leave-taking. Oh,
Buckley, Buckley! after so many years--"
Only a hurried shaking of hands, and he was gone. Down by the paddock
to the river, and when he reached the height beyond, he turned and
waved his hand. Then he went on his way across the old plains, and we
saw him lessening in the distance until he disappeared altogether, and
we saw him no more. No more!
In two months from that time Jim and Halbert were gone to India, Sam
and Alice were away to the Darling Downs, Desborough and the Doctor had
sailed for Europe, and we old folks, taking up our residence at
Baroona, had agreed to make common house of it. Of course we were very
dull at first, when we missed half of the faces which had been used to
smile upon us; but this soon wore off. During the succeeding winter I
remember many pleasant evenings, when the Captain, the Major, Mrs.
Buckley, and myself played whist, shilling points and the rigour of the
game, and while Mary Hawker, in her widow's weeds, sat sewing by the
fireside, contentedly enough.
HOW MARY HAWKER SAID "YES."
It was one evening during the next spring, and the game of whist was
over for the night. The servant had just brought in tumblers with a
view to whiskey and water before bed. I was preparing to pay fourteen
shillings to Mrs. Buckley, and was rather nervous about meeting my
partner, the Major's eye, when he, tapping the table with his hand,
"The most childish play, Hamlyn; the most childish play."
"I don't defend the last game," I said. "I thought you were short of
diamonds--at least I calculated on the chance of your being so, having
seven myself. But please to remember, Major, that you yourself lost two
tricks in hearts, in the first game of the second rubber."
"And why, sir?" said the Major. "Tell me that, sir. Because you
confused me by leading queen, when you had ace, king, queen. The most
utterly schoolboy play. I wouldn't have done such a thing at Eton."
"I had a flush of them," I said eagerly. "And I meant to lead ace, and
then get trumps out. But I put down queen by mistake."
"You can make what excuses you like, Hamlyn," said the Major. "But the
fact remains the same. There is one great fault in your character, the
greatest fault I know of, and which you ought to study to correct. I
tell you of it boldly as an old friend. You are too confoundedly chary
in leading out your trumps, and you can't deny it."
"Hallo!" said Captain Brentwood, "who comes so late?"
Mary Hawker rose from her chair, and looked eagerly towards the door.
"I know who it is," she said, blushing. "I heard him laugh."
In another moment the door was thrown open, and in stalked Tom
"By George!" he said. "Don't all speak to me at once. I feel the
queerest wambling in my innards, as we used to say in Devon, at the
sight of so many old faces. Somehow, a man can't make a new home in a
hurry. It's the people make the home, not the house and furniture. My
dear old cousin, and how are you?"
"I am very quiet, Tom. I am much happier than I thought to have been.
And I am deeply thankful to see you again."
"How is my boy, Tom?" said the Major.
"And how is my girl, Tom?" said the Captain.
"Sam," said Tom, "is a sight worth a guinea, and Mrs. Samuel looks
charming, but--In point of fact you know I believe she expects--"
"No!" said the Captain. "You don't say so."
"Fact, my dear sir."
"Dear me," said the Major, drumming on the table. "I hope it will be a
b--. By the bye, how go the sheep?"
"You never saw such a country, sir!" said Tom. "We have got nearly five
thousand on each run, and there is no one crowding up yet. If we can
hold that ground with our produce, and such store-sheep as we can pick
up, we shall do wonders."
By this time Tom was set at supper, and between the business of
satisfying a hunger of fifteen hours, began asking after old friends.
"How are the Mayfords?" he asked.
"Poor Mrs. Mayford is better," said Mrs. Buckley. "She and Ellen are
just starting for Europe. They have sold their station, and we have
"What are they going to do in England?" asked Tom.
"Going to live with their relations in Hampshire."
"Ellen will be a fine match for some young English squire," said Tom.
"She will have twenty thousand pounds some day, I suppose."
And then we went on talking about other matters.
A little scene took place in the garden next morning, which may
astonish some of my readers, but which did not surprise me in the
least. I knew it would happen, sooner or later, and when I saw Tom's
air, on his arrival the night before, I said to myself, "It is coming,"
and so sure enough it did. And I got all the circumstances out of Tom
only a few days afterwards.
Mary Hawker was now a very handsome woman, about one and forty. There
may have been a grey hair here and there among her long black tresses,
but they were few and far between. I used to watch her sometimes of an
evening, and wonder to myself how she had come through such troubles,
and lived; and yet there she was on the night when Tom arrived, for
instance, sitting quite calm and cheerful beside the fire in her
half-mourning (she had soon dropped her weeds, perhaps, considering who
her husband had been, a piece of good taste), with quite a placid,
contented look on her fine black eyes. I think no one was capable of
feeling deeper for a time, but her power of resilience was marvellous.
I have noticed that before. It may, God forgive me, have given me some
slight feeling of contempt for her, because, forsooth, she did not
brood over and nurse an old grief as I did myself. I am not the man to
judge her. When I look back on my own wasted life; when I see how for
one boyish fancy I cut myself off from all the ties of domestic life,
to hold my selfish way alone, I sometimes think that she has shown
herself a better woman than I have a man. Ah! well, old sweetheart, not
much to boast of either of us. Let us get on.
She was walking in the garden, next morning, and Tom came and walked
beside her; and after a little he said,--
"So you are pretty well contented, cousin?"
"I am as well content," she said, "as a poor, desolate, old childless
widow could hope to be. There is no happiness left for me in this
"Who told you that?" said Tom. "Who told you that the next twenty years
of your life might not be happier than any that have gone before?"
"How could that be?" she asked. "What is left for me now, but to go
quietly to my grave?"
"Grave!" said Tom. "Who talks of graves for twenty years to come! Mary,
my darling, I have waited for you so long and faithfully, you will not
disappoint me at last?"
"What do you mean? What can you mean?"
"Mean!" said he; "why, I mean this, cousin: I mean you to be my wife--
to come and live with me as my honoured wife, for the next thirty
years, please God!"
"You are mad!" she said. "Do you know what you say? Do you know who you
are speaking to?"
"To my old sweetheart, Polly Thornton!" he said, with a laugh,--"to no
one else in the world."
"You are wrong," she said; "you may try to forget now, but you will
remember afterwards. I am not Mary Thornton. I am an old broken woman,
whose husband was transported for coining, and hung for murder and
"Peace be with him!" said Tom. "I am not asking who your husband was;
I have had twenty years to think about that, and at the end of twenty
years, I say, my dear old sweetheart, you are free at last: will you
"Impossible!" said Mary. "All the country-side knows who I am. Think of
the eternal disgrace that clings to me. Oh, never, never!"
"Then you have no objection to me? eh, cousin?"
"To you, my kind, noble old partner? Ah, I love and honour you above
"Then," said Tom, putting his arm round her waist, "to the devil with
all the nonsense you have just been talking, about eternal disgraces
and so forth! I am an honest man and you're an honest woman, and,
therefore, what cause or impediment can there be? Come, Mary, it's no
use resisting; my mind is made up, and you MUST!"
"Oh, think!" she said; "oh, think only once, before it is too late for
"I have thought," said Tom, "as I told you before, for twenty years;
and I ain't likely to alter my opinion in ten minutes. Come, Mary. Say,
And so she said yes.
"Mrs. Buckley," said Tom, as they came up arm in arm to the house, "it
will be a good thing if somebody was to go up to our place, and nurse
Mrs. Sam in her confinement."
"I shall go up myself," said Mrs. Buckley, "though how I am to get
there I hardly know. It must be nearly eight hundred miles, I am
"I don't think you need, my dear madam," said he. "My wife will make an
Tom looked at Mary, who blushed, and Mrs. Buckley came up and kissed
"I am so glad, so very glad, my love!" she said. "The very happiest and
wisest thing that could be! I have been hoping for it, my love, and I
felt sure it would be so, sooner or later. How glad your dear aunt
would be if she were alive!"
And, in short, he took her off with him, and they were married, and
went up to join Sam and his wife in New England--reducing our party to
four. Not very long after they were gone, we heard that there was a new
Sam Buckley born, who promised, said the wise women, to be as big a man
as his father. Then, at an interval of very little more than two years,
Mrs. Buckley got a long letter from Alice, announcing the birth of a
little girl to the Troubridges. This letter is still extant, and in my
possession, having been lent me, among other family papers, by Agnes
Buckley, as soon as she heard that I was bent upon correcting these
memoirs to fit them for the press. I will give you some extracts from
. . . "Dear Mary Troubridge has got a little girl, a sweet, quiet,
brighteyed little thing, taking, I imagine, after old Miss Thornton.
They are going to call it Agnes Alice, after you and I, my dearest
"You cannot imagine how different Mary is grown from what she used to
be! Stout, merry, and matronly, quite! She keeps the house alive, and I
think I never saw a couple more sincerely attached than are she and her
husband. He is a most excellent companion for my Sam. Not to make
matters too long, we are just about as happy as four people can be.
Some day we may all come to live together again, and then our delight
will be perfect.
"I got Jim's letter which you sent me. . . . Sam and his partner are
embarking every sixpence they can spare in buying town and suburban
lots at Melbourne. I know every street and alley in that wonderful city
(containing near a hundred houses) on the map, but I am not very likely
to go there ever. Let us hope that Sam's speculations will turn out
"Best love to Mr. Hamlyn." . . .
I must make a note to this letter. Alice refers to a letter received
from Jim, which, as near as I can make the dates agree, must be the one
I hold in my hand at this moment. I am not sure, but I think so. This
"Dear Dad, . . . I have been down among the dead men, and since then up
into the seventh heaven, in consequence of being not only gazetted, but
promoted. The beggars very nearly did for us. All our fortifications,
the prettiest things ever done under the circumstances, executed
under Bobby's own eye, were thrown down by--what do you think?--an
earthquake! Perhaps we didn't swear--Lord forgive us! Akbar had a
shy at us immediately, but got a most immortal licking!
"Is not this a most wonderful thing about Halbert? The girl that he was
to be married to was supposed to be lost, coming out in the Assam. And
now it appears that she wasn't lost at all (the girl I mean, not the
ship), but that she was wrecked on the east coast of Madagascar, and
saved, with five and twenty more. She came on to Calcutta, and they
were married the week after he got his troop. She is uncommonly
handsome and ladylike, but looks rather brown and lean from living on
birds' nests and sea-weed for above six months of her life."
[Allow me to remark that this must be romance on Jim's part; birds'
nests and trepang are not found in Madagascar.]
"My wound is nearly all right again. It was only a prick with a spear
in my thigh--"
It is the very deuce editing these old letters without anything to
guide one. As far as I can make out by myself (Jim being now down at
Melton hunting, and not having answered my letter of inquiries), this
letter must have come accompanied by an Indian newspaper containing the
account of some battle or campaign in which he was engaged. Putting
this and that together, I am inclined to believe that it refers to the
defence of Jellalabad by Sir Robert Sale, in which I know he was
engaged. I form this opinion from the fact of his mentioning that the
fortifications were destroyed by an earthquake. And I very much fear
that the individual so disrespectfully mentioned above as "Bobby," was
no other than the great Hero himself. In my second (or if that goes off
too quick, in my third) edition, I will endeavour to clear this point
up in a satisfactory manner.
After this there was a long dull time with no news from him or from any
one. Then Sam came down from New England, and paid us a visit, which
freshened us up a little. But in spite of this and other episodes,
there was little change or excitement for us four. We made common house
of it, and never parted from one another more than a day. Always of an
evening came the old friendly rubber, I playing with the Major, and
Captain Brentwood with Mrs. Buckley. The most remarkable event I have
to chronicle during the long period which followed, is, that one day a
bushfire came right up to the garden rails, and was beaten out with
difficulty; and that same evening I held nine trumps, Ace, Queen,
Knave, Nine of hearts, and the rest small. I cannot for the life of me
remember what year it was in, somewhere between forty-two and forty-five,
I believe, because within a year or two of that time we heard
that a large comet had appeared in England, and that Sir Robert Peel
was distrusted on the subject of Protection. After all, it is no great
consequence, though it is rather provoking, because I never before or
since held more than eight trumps. Burnside, the cattle-dealer, claims
to have held eleven, but I may state, once for all, that I doubt that
man's statements on this and every other subject on which he speaks.--
He knows where I am to be found.
My man Dick, too, somehow or another, constituted himself my groom and
valet. And the Major was well contented with the arrangement. So we
four, Major and Mrs. Buckley, Captain Brentwood and I, sat there in the
old station night after night, playing our whist, till even my head,
the youngest of the four, began to be streaked with grey, and sixteen
years were past.
THE LATEST INTELLIGENCE.
It is March, 1856. The short autumn day is rapidly giving place to
night; and darkness, and the horror of a great tempest is settling down
upon the desolate grey sea, which heaves and seethes for ever around
A great clipper ship, the noblest and swiftest of her class, is hurling
along her vast length before the terrible west wind. Hour by hour
through the short and gloomy day, sail after sail has gone fluttering
in; till now, at night-fall, she reels and rolls before the storm under
a single close reefed maintopsail.
There is a humming, and a roaring, and a rushing of great waters, so
that they who are clinging to the bulwarks, and watching awe-struck
this great work of the Lord's, cannot hear one another though they
shout. Now there is a grey mountain which chases the ship, overtakes
her, pours cataracts of water over her rounded stern, and goes hissing
and booming past her. And now a roll more frantic than usual, nigh dips
her mainyard, and sends the water spouting wildly over her bulwarks.
("Oh, you very miserable ass," said Captain Brentwood; "to sit down and
try to describe the indescribable. Do you think that because you can
see all the scene before you now, because your flesh creeps, and your
blood moves as you call it to mind, do you think, I say, that you can
describe it? Do you think that you can give a man, in black and white,
with ink, and on paper, any real notion of that most tremendous
spectacle, a sharp bowed ship running before a gale of wind through the
ice in the great South Sea, where every wave rolls round the world? Go
to--read Tom Cringle, who has given up his whole soul to descriptions,
and see how many pictures dwell in your mind's eye, after reading his
books. Two, or at most three, and they, probably, quite different from
what he intended you to see, lovely as they are;--leave describing
things, man, and give us some more facts."
Said Major Buckley, "Go on, Hamlyn, and do the best you can. Don't mind
him." And so I go on accordingly.)
61 degrees 30 minutes South. The Horn, storm-beaten, desolate, four
hundred miles to the North, and barely forty miles to the South, that
cruel, gleaming, ice barrier, which we saw to-day when the weather lifted
at noon, and which we know is there yet, though we dare not think about
it. There comes to us, though, in spite of ourselves, a vision of what may
happen any hour. A wild cry from the foretop. A mass, grey, indistinct,
horrible, rising from the wild waters, scarce a hundred yards from her
bowsprit. A mad hurrying to and fro. A crash. A great ruin of masts and
spars, and then utter, hopeless destruction. That is the way the poor
old Madagascar must have gone. The Lord send us safe through the ice.
Stunned, drenched to the skin, half-frightened, but wildly excited and
determined to see out, what a landsman has but seldom a chance of
seeing, a great gale of wind at sea, I clung tight to the starboard
bulwarks of Mr. Richard Green's new clipper, Sultan, Captain Sneezer,
about an hour after dark, as she was rounding the Horn, watching much
such a scene as I have attempted to give you a notion of above. And
as I held on there, wishing that the directors of my insurance office
could see me at that moment, the first mate, coming from forward,
warping himself from one belayingpin to another, roared in my ear,
"that he thought it was going to blow."
"Man! man!" I said, "do you mean to tell me it is not blowing now?"
"A bit of a breeze," he roared; but his roar came to me like a whisper.
However, I pretty soon found out that this was something quite out of
the common; for, crawling up, along the gangway which runs between the
poophouse and the bulwarks, I came with great difficulty to the
stern; and there I saw the two best men in the larboard watch (let us
immortalize them, they were Deaf Bob, and Harry the digger), lashed to
the wheel, and the Skipper himself, steadfast and anxious, alongside of
them, lashed to a cleat on the afterpart of the deck-house. So thinks
I, if these men are made fast, this is no place for me to be loose in,
and crawled down to my old place in the waist, at the after end of the
spare topsail-yard, which was made fast to the starboard-bulwarks,
and which extended a little abaft of the main shrouds.
If any gentleman can detect a nautical error in that last sentence, I
shall feel obliged by his mentioning it.
Somebody who came forth from the confusion, and was gone again,
informed me that "He was going to lay her to, and that I'd better hold
on." I comforted myself with the reflection that I was doing exactly the
right thing, holding on like grim death.
Then something happened, and I am sorry to say I don't exactly know
what. I find in my notes, taken shortly afterwards, from the dictation
of an intelligent midshipman, "that the fore royal-yard got jammed with
the spanker-boom, and carried away the larboard quarter boat." Nautical
friends have since pointed out to me that this involves an
impossibility. I daresay it does. I know it involved an impossibility
of turning in without subjecting yourself to a hydropathic remedy of
violent nature, by going to bed in wet blankets, and of getting
anything for breakfast besides wet biscuit and cold tea. Let it go;
something went wrong, and the consequences were these.
A wall of water, looming high above her mainyard, came rushing and
booming along, dark, terrible, opaque. For a moment I saw it curling
overhead, and would have cried out, I believe, had there been time; but
a midshipman, a mere child, slipped up before me, and caught hold of my
legs, while I tried to catch his collar. Then I heard the skipper roar
out, in that hoarse throaty voice that seamen use when excited. "Hold
on, the sea's aboard," and then a stunning, blinding rush of water
buried us altogether. The Sultan was on her beamends, and what was
more, seemed inclined to stay there, so that I, holding on by the
bulwarks, saw the sea seething and boiling almost beneath my feet,
which were swinging clear off the deck.
But the midshipman sung out that she was righting again, which she did
rather quicker than was desirable, bringing every loose article on deck
down to our side again with a rush. A useless, thundering, four-pounder
gun, of which terrible implements of war we carried six, came plunging
across from the other side of the deck, and went crashing through the
bulwarks, out into the sea, within two feet of my legs.
"I think," I said, trying to persuade myself that I was not frightened,
"I think I shall go into the cuddy."
That was not very easy to do. I reached the door, and got hold of the
handle, and, watching my opportunity, slipped dexterously in, and
making a plunge, came against the surgeon, who, seated on a camp-stool,
was playing piquette, and overthrew him into a corner.
"Repique, by jingo," shouted Sam Buckley, who was the surgeon's
opponent. "See what a capital thing it is to have an old friend like
Hamlyn, to come in and knock your opponent down just at the right
"And papa was losing, too, Uncle Jeff," added a handsome lad, about
fifteen, who was leaning over Sam's shoulder.
"What are they doing to you, Doctor?" said Alice Buckley, NEE
Brentwood, coming out of a cabin, and supporting herself to a seat by
her husband and son.
"Why," replied the surgeon, "Hamlyn knocked me down just in a moment of
victory, but his nefarious project has failed, for I have kept
possession of my cards. Play, Buckley."
Let us give a glance at the group which is assembled beneath the swing
lamp in the reeling cabin. The wife and son are both leaning over the
father's shoulder, and the three faces are together. Sam is about
forty. There is not a wrinkle in that honest forehead, and the eyes
beam upon you as kindly and pleasantly as ever they did; and when,
after playing to the surgeon, he looks up and laughs, one sees that he
is just the same old Sam that used to lie, as a lad, dreaming in the
verandah at Garoopna. No trouble has left its shadow there. Alice,
whose face is pressed against his, is now a calm, young matron of three
or four-and-thirty, if it were possible, more beautiful than ever, only
she has grown from a Hebe into a Juno. The boy, the son and heir, is
much such a stripling as I can remember his father at the same age, but
handsomer. And while we look, another face comes peering over his
shoulder; the laughing face of a lovely girl, with bright sunny hair,
and soft blue eyes; the face of Maud Buckley, Sam's daughter.
They are going home to England. Sam--what between his New England
runs, where there are now, under Tom Troubridge's care, 118,000 sheep,
and his land speculations at Melbourne, which have turned him out
somewhere about 1,000 per cent. since the gold discovery--Sam, I say,
is one of the richest of her Majesty's subjects in the Southern
hemisphere. I would give 200,000L. for Sam, and make a large fortune in
the surplus. "And so," I suppose you say, "he is going home to buy
Clere." Not at all, my dear sir. Clere is bought, and Sam is going home
to take possession. "Marry, how?" Thus,--
Does any one of my readers remember that our dear old friend, Agnes
Buckley's maiden name was Talbot, and that her father owned the
property adjoining Clere? "We do not remember," you say; "or at least,
if we do, we are not bound to; you have not mentioned the circumstance
since the very beginning of this excessively wearisome book, forty
years ago." Allow me to say, that I have purposely avoided mentioning
them all along, in order that, at this very point, I might come down on
you like a thunderbolt with this piece of information; namely:--That
Talbot of Beaulieu Castle, the towers of which were visible from Clere
Terrace, had died without male issue. That Marian and Gertrude Talbot,
the two pretty girls, Agnes Buckley's eldest sisters, who used to come
in and see old Marmaduke when James was campaigning, had never married.
That Marian was dead. That Gertrude, a broken old maid, was sole
owner of Beaulieu Castle, with eight thousand a-year; and, that Agnes
Buckley, her sister, and consequently, Sam as next in succession, was
All the negotiations for the purchase of Clere had been carried on
through Miss Gertrude and her steward. The Brewer died, the property
was sold, and Sam, by his agents, bought old Clere back, eight months
before this, for 48,000L.
"Then, why on earth," says Mrs. Councillor Wattlegum (our colonial
Mrs. Grundy), "didn't they go home overland? How could people with such
wealth as you describe, demean themselves by going home round the Horn,
like a parcel of diggers?"
"Because, my dear Madam, the young folks were very anxious to see an
iceberg. Come, let us get on."
The gale has lasted three days, and in that time we have run before it
on our course 970 miles. The fourth morning breaks gloriously bright,
with the shadows of a few fleecy clouds flying across the bright blue
heaving sea. The ship, with all canvas crowded on her, alow and aloft,
is racing on, fifteen knots an hour, with a brisk cold wind full on her
quarter, heeling over till the water comes rushing and spouting through
her leeward ports, and no man can stand without holding on, but all are
merry and happy to see the water fly past like blue champagne, and to
watch the seething wake that the good ship leaves behind her. Ah! what
is this, that all are crowding down to leeward to look at? Is this the
Crystal Palace, of which we have read, come out to sea to meet us? No!
the young folks are going to be gratified. It is a great iceberg, and
we shall pass about a mile to windward.
Certainly worth seeing. Much more tremendous than I had expected,
though my imagination had rather run riot in expectation. Just a great
floating cluster of shining splintered crystals, about a mile long and
300 feet high, with the cold hungry sea leaping and gnawing at its
base,--that is all. Send up those German musicians here, and let us
hear the echo of one of Strauss' Waltzes come ringing back from the
chill green caverns. Then away, her head in northward again now, we
may sight the Falklands the day after to-morrow.
Hardly worth telling you much more about that happy voyage, I think,
and really I remember but few things more of note. A great American
ship in 45 degrees, steaming in the teeth of the wind, heaving her long
gleaming sides through the roll of the South Atlantic. The Royal
Charter passing us like a phantom ship through the hot haze, when we
were becalmed on the line, waking the silence of the heaving glassy sea
with her throbbing propeller. A valiant vainglorious little gun-boat
going out all the way to China by herself, giving herself the airs of a
seventy-four, requiring boats to be sent on board her, as if we
couldn't have stowed her, guns and all, on our poop, and never crowded
ourselves. A noble transport, with 53 painted on her bows, swarming
with soldiers for India, to whom we gave three times three. All these
things have faded from my recollection in favour of a bright spring
morning in April.
A morning which, beyond all others in my life, stands out clear and
distinct, as the most memorable. Jim Buckley shoved aside my cabin door
when I was dressing, and says he,--"Uncle Jeff, my Dad wants you
immediately; he is standing by the davits of the larboard quarterboat."
And so I ran up to Sam, and he took my arm and pointed northward. Over
the gleaming morning sea rose a purple mountain, shadowed here and
there by travelling clouds, and a little red-sailed boat was diving and
plunging towards us, with a red flag fluttering on her mast.
"What!" I said,--but I could say no more.
But I could not see it now for a blinding haze, and I bent down my head
upon the bulwarks--Bah! I am but a fool after all. What could there
have been to cry at in a Cornish moor, and a Falmouth pilot boat? I am
not quite so young as I was, and my nerves are probably failing. That
must have been it. "When I saw the steeple," says M. Tapley, "I thought
it would have choked me." Let me say the same of Eddystone Lighthouse,
which we saw that afternoon; and have done with sentiment for good. If
my memory serves me rightly, we have had a good deal of that sort of
thing in the preceding pages.
I left the ship at Plymouth, and Sam went on in her to London. I
satisfied my soul with amazement at the men of war, and the breakwater;
and, having bought a horse, I struck boldly across the moor for
Drumston, revisiting on my way many a well-known snipe-ground, and old
trout haunt; and so, on the third morning, I reached Drumston once
more, and stabled my horse at a little public-house near the church.
It was about eight o'clock on a Tuesday morning; nevertheless, the
church-bell was going, and the door was open as if for prayer. I was a
little surprised at this, but having visited the grave where my father
and mother lay, and then passed on to the simple headstone which marked
the resting place of John Thornton and his wife, I brushed through the
docks and nettles, towards the lychgate, in the shadow of which stood
the clergyman, a gentlemanly looking young man, talking to a very aged
woman in a red cloak.
He saluted me courteously, and passed on, talking earnestly and kindly
to his aged companion, and so the remarkable couple went into the
church, and the bell stopped.
I looked around. Close to me, leaning against the gate, was a coarse
looking woman about fifty, who had just set down a red earthen pitcher
to rest herself, and seemed not disinclined for a gossip. And at the
same moment I saw a fat man, about my own age, with breeches,
unbuttoned at the knee, grey worsted stockings and slippers, and
looking altogether as if he was just out of bed, having had too much to
drink the night before; such a man, I say, I saw coming across the
road, towards us, with his hands in his pockets.
"Good morning," I said to the woman. "Pray what is the clergyman's name?"
"Mr. Montague," she answered, with a curtsey.
"Does he have prayers every morning?"
"Every marnin' of his life," she said. "He's a Papister."
"You'm a fool, Cis Jewell," said the man, who had by this time arrived.
"You'm leading the gentleman wrong, he's a Pussyite."
"And there bain't much difference, I'm thinking, James Gosford," said
I started. James Gosford had been one of my favourite old comrades in
times gone by, and here he was. Could it be he? Could this fat red-faced
man of sixty-one, be the handsome hard-riding young dandy of
forty years ago? It was he, doubtless, and in another moment I should
have declared myself, but a new interruption occurred.
The bell began again, and service was over. The old woman came out of
the porch and slowly down the pathway towards us.
"Is that all his congregation?" I asked.
"That's all, sir," said Gosford. "Sometimes some of they young villains
of boys gets in, and our old clerk, Jerry, hunts 'em round and round
all prayer time; but there's none goes regular except the old 'ooman."
"And she had need to pray a little more than other folks," said Cis
Jewell, folding her arms, and balancing herself in a conversational
attitude. "My poor old grandfather----"
Further conversation was stopped by the near approach of the old woman
herself, and I looked up at her with some little curiosity. A very old
woman she was surely; and while I seemed struggling with some sort of
recollection, she fixed her eyes upon me, and we knew one another.
"Geoffry Hamlyn," she said, without a sign of surprise. "You are
welcome back to your native village. When your old comrade did not know
you, I, whose eyes are dim with the sorrow of eighty years, recognised
you at once. They may well call me the wise woman."
"Good God!" was all I could say. "Can this be Madge?"
"This is Madge," she said, "who has lived long enough to see and to
bless the man who saw and comforted her poor lost boy in prison, when
all beside fell off from him. The Lord reward you for it."
"How did you know that, Madge?"
"Ask a witch where she gets her information!" laughed she. "God forgive
me. I'll tell you how it was. One of the turnkeys in that very prison
was a Cooper, a Hampshire gipsy, and he, knowing my boy to be
half-blooded, passed all the facts on through the tribes to me, who am a
mother among them! Did you see him die?" she added, eagerly putting her
great bony hand upon my arm, and looking up in my face.
"No! no! mother," I answered: "I hadn't courage for that."
"I heard he died grim," she continued, half to herself. "He should a
done. There was a deal of wild blood in him from both sides. Are you
going up to the woodlands, to see the old place? 'Tis all in ruins now;
and the choughs and stares are building and brooding in the chimney
nook where I nursed him. I shall not have much longer to wait; I only
stayed for this. Goodbye."
And she was gone; and Gosford, relieved by her departure, was
affectionately lugging me off to his house. Oh, the mixture of wealth
and discomfort that house exhibited! Oh, the warm-hearted jollity of
every one there! Oh, to see those three pretty, well-educated girls
taking their father off by force, and making him clean himself in
honour of my arrival! Oh, the merry evening we had! What, though the
cider disagreed with me? What, though I knew it would disagree with me
at the time I drank it? That noisy, jolly night in the old Devonshire
grange was one of the pleasantest of my life.
And, to my great surprise, the Vicar came in in the middle of it, and
made himself very agreeable to me. He told me that old Madge, as far as
he could see, was a thoroughly converted and orderly person, having
thrown aside all pretence of witchcraft. That she lived on some trifle
of hoarded money of her own, and a small parish allowance that she had;
and that she had only come back to the parish some six years since,
after wandering about as a gipsy in almost every part of England. He
was so good as to undertake the delivery of a small sum to her weekly
from me, quite sufficient to enable her to refuse the parish allowance,
and live comfortably (he wrote to me a few months afterwards, and told
me that it was required no longer, for that Madge was gone to rest at
last); and a good deal more news he gave me, very little of which is
He told me that Lord C----, John Thornton's friend, was dead; that he
never thoroughly got over the great Reform debate, in which he
over-exerted himself; and that, after the passing of the Bill, he had
walked joyfully home and had a fit, which prevented his ever taking any
part in politics afterwards, though he lived above ten years. That his son
was not so popular as his father, in consequence of his politics, which
were too conservative for the new class of tenants his father had
brought in; and his religious opinions, which, said the clergyman,
were those of a sound Churchman; by which he meant, I rather suspect,
that he was a pretty smart Tractarian. I was getting won with this
young gentleman, in spite of religious difference, when he chose to
say that the parish had never been right since Maberly had had it, and
that the Dissenters always raved about him to this day; whereby, he
concluded, that Frank Maberly was far from orthodox. I took occasion to
say that Frank was the man of all others in this world whom I admired
most, and that, considering he had sealed his faith with his life, I
thought that he ought to be very reverently spoken of. After this there
arose a little coolness, and he went home.
I went up to town by the Great Western, and, for the first time, knew
what was meant by railway travelling. True, I had seen and travelled on
that monument of human industry, the Hobson's Bay Railroad, but that
stupendous work hardly prepared me for the Great Western. And on this
journey I began to understand, for the first time in my life, what a
marvellous country this England of ours was. I wondered at the wealth
and traffic I saw, even in comparatively unimportant towns. I wondered
at the beauty and solidity of the railway works; at the vast crowds of
people which I saw at every station; at the manly, independent bearing
of the men of the working classes, which combined so well with their
civility and intelligence; and I thought, with a laugh, of the fate of
any eighty thousand men who might shove their noses into this bee-hive,
while there was such material to draw upon. Such were the thoughts of
an Englishman landing in England, from whom the evils produced by dense
population were as yet hidden.
But when I got into the whirl of London, I was completely overwhelmed
and stupified. I did not enjoy anything. The eternal roar was so
different to what I had been used to; and I had stayed there a couple
of months before I had got a distinct impression of anything, save
and except the Crystal Palace at Sydenham.
It was during this visit to London that I heard of the fall of Von
Landstein's (Dr. Mulhaus') Ministry, which had happened a year or two
before. And now, also, I read the speech he made on his resignation,
which, for biting sarcasm and bitter truth rudely told, is unequalled
by any speech I ever read. A more witty, more insolent, more
audacious tirade, was never hurled at a successful opposition by a
fallen minister. The K--- party sat furious, as one by one were seized
on by our ruthless friend, held up to ridicule, and thrown aside. They,
however, meditated vengeance.
Our friend, in the heat of debate, used the word "Dummerkopf," which
answers, I believe, to our "wooden head." He applied it to no one in
particular; but a certain young nobleman (Bow-wow Von Azelsberg was his
name) found the epithet so applicable to his own case, that he took
umbrage at it; and, being egged on by his comrades, challenged Von
Landstein to mortal combat. Von Landstein received his fire without
suffering, adjusted his spectacles, and shot the young gentleman in
the knee, stopping HIS waltzing for ever and a day. He then departed
for his castle, where he is at this present speaking (having just gone
there after a visit to Clere) busy at his great book, "The History of
Fanatics and Fanaticism, from Mahomet to Joe Smith." Beloved by all who
come in contact with him; happy, honoured, and prosperous, as he so
well deserves to be.
But I used to go and see everything that was to be seen, though, having
no companion (for Sam was down at Clere, putting his house in order),
it was very wretched work. I DID, in fact, all the public amusements in
London, and, as a matter of course, found myself one night, about
eleven o'clock, at Evans's, in Covent Garden.
The place was crowded to suffocation, but I got a place at a table
about half-way up, opposite an old gentleman who had been drinking a
good deal of brandy and water, and was wanting some more. Next me was
an honest-looking young fellow enough, and opposite him his friend.
These two looked like shop-lads, out for a "spree."
A tall old gentleman made me buy some cigars, with such an air of
condescending goodwill, that I was encouraged to stop a waiter and
humbly ask for a glass of whisky and water. He was kind enough to bring
it for me; so I felt more at ease, and prepared to enjoy myself.
A very gentlemanly-looking man sang us a song, so unutterably funny
that we were dissolved in inextinguishable laughter; and then, from
behind a curtain, began to come boys in black, one after another, as
the imps in a pantomime come from a place I dare not mention, to chase
the clown to his destruction. I counted twelve of them and grew dizzy.
They ranged themselves in a row, with their hands behind them, and
began screeching Tennyson's "Miller's Daughter" with such a maximum of
shrillness, and such a minimum of expression, that I began to think
that tailing wild cattle on the mountains, at midnight, in a
thunderstorm, with my boots full of water, was a far preferable
situation to my present one.
They finished. Thank goodness. Ah! delusive hope. The drunken old
miscreant opposite me got up an encore with the bottom of his tumbler,
and we had it all over again. Who can tell my delight when he broke his
glass applauding, and the waiter came down on him sharp, and made him
pay for it. I gave that waiter sixpence on the spot.
Then came some capital singing, which I really enjoyed; and then came a
remarkable adventure; "an adventure!" you say; "and at Evans's!" My
dear sir, do you suppose that, at a moment like this, when I am pressed
for space, and just coming to the end of my story;--do you suppose
that, at a moment like this, I would waste your time at a singing-house
A tall, upright looking man passed up the lane between the tables, and
almost touched me as he passed. I did not catch his face, but there was
something so DISTINGUE about him that I watched him. He had his hat
off, and was smoothing down his close-cropped hair, and appeared to be
looking for a seat. As he was just opposite to us, one of the young
clerks leant over to the other, and said,--
"That is----." I did not catch what he said.
"By George," said the other lad. "Is it now?"
"That's HIM, sir," said the first one.
The new comer was walking slowly up the room, and there began to arise
a little breeze of applause, and then some one called out, "Three
cheers for the Inkerman pet," and then there was a stamping of feet,
and a little laughter, and cheering in various parts of the room, but
the new comer made one bow and walked on.
"Pray, sir," said I, bending over to one of those who had spoken
before, "who is that gentleman?"
He had no need to tell me. The man we spoke of reached the orchestra
and turned round. It was Jim Brentwood!
There was a great white seam down his face, and he wore a pair of light
curling moustachios, but I knew him in a moment; and, when he faced
round to the company, I noticed that his person seemed known to the
public, for there was not a little applause with the bottoms of
tumblers, not unlike what one remembers at certain banquets I have been
at, with certain brethren, Sons of Apollo.
In one moment we were standing face to face, shaking one another by
both hands; in another, we were arm in arm, walking through the quiet
streets towards Jim's lodgings. He had been in Ireland with his
regiment, as I knew, which accounted for my not having seen him. And
that night, Major Brentwood recounted to me all his part in the last
great campaign, from the first fierce rush up the hill at the Alma,
down to the time when our Lady pinned a certain bit of gun metal on to
his coat in St. James's Park.
A few days after this, Jim and I were standing together on the platform
of the Wildmoor station, on the South-Western Railway, and a couple of
porters were carrying our portmanteaus towards a pair-horse phaeton,
in which stood Sam Buckley, shouting to us to come on, for the horses
wouldn't stand. So, in a moment, I was alongside of Sam in the front
seat, with Jim standing up behind, between the grooms, and leaning over
between us, to see after Sam's driving; and away we went along a
splendid road, across a heath, at what seemed to me a rather dangerous
"Let them go, my child," said Jim to Sam, "you've got a fair mile
before. You sit at your work in capital style. Give me time and I'll
teach you to drive, Sam. How do you like this, Uncle Jeff?"
I said, "That's more than I can tell you, Master Jim. I know so little
of your wheeled vehicles that I am rather alarmed."
"Ah!" said Jim, "you should have been in Calcutta when the O'Rourke and
little Charley Badminton tried to drive a pair of fresh imported
Australians tandem through the town. Red Maclean and I looked out of
the billiard-room, and we saw the two horses go by with a bit of a
shaft banging about the wheeler's hocks. So we ran down and found
Charley, with his head broke, standing in the middle of the street,
mopping the blood off his forehead. 'Charley,' says I, 'how the deuce
did this happen?' 'We met an elephant,' says he, in a faint voice."
"Have you heard anything of the Mayfords lately?" said Jim.
"You know Ellen is married?" said Sam.
"No! Is she?" I said. "And pray to whom?"
"The Squire of Monkspool," he answered. "A very fine young fellow, and
"Did old Mrs. Mayford," asked Jim, "ever recover her reason before she
"Never, poor soul," said Sam. "To the last, she refused to see my
mother, believing that the rivalry between Cecil and myself in some way
led to his death. She was never sane after that dreadful morning."
And so with much pleasant talk we beguiled the way, till I saw, across
a deep valley on our right, a line of noble heights, well timbered, but
broken into open grassy glades, and smooth sheets of bright green lawn.
Between us and these hills flowed a gleaming river, from which a broad
avenue led up to the eye of the picture, a noble grey stone mansion, a
mass of turrets, gables, and chimneys, which the afternoon sun was
lighting up right pleasantly.
"That is the finest seat I have seen yet, Sam," I said. "Whose is
"That," said Sam, "is Clere. My house and your home, old friend."
Swiftly up under the shadow of the elm avenue, past the herds of
dappled deer, up to the broad graveled terrace which ran along in
front of the brave old house. And there, beneath the dark wild porch,
above the group of servants that stood upon the steps to receive their
master, was Alice, with her son and daughter beside her, waiting to
welcome us, with the happy sunlight on her face.
* * * * *
I bought a sweet cottage, barely a mile from Clere, with forty acres of
grass-land round it, and every convenience suited for an old bachelor
of my moderate though comfortable means.
I took to fishing and to the breeding of horses on a small scale, and
finding that I could make myself enormously busy with these
occupations, and as much hunting as I wanted, I became very
comfortable, and considered myself settled.
I had plenty of society, the best in the land. Above all men I was the
honoured guest at Clere, and as the county had rallied round Sam with
acclamation, I saw and enjoyed to the fullest extent that charming
English country-life, the like of which, I take it, no other country
I was a great favourite, too, with old Miss Gertrude Talbot at the
castle. Her admiration and love for Sam and his wife was almost equal
to mine. So we never bored one another, and so, by degrees, gaining the
old lady's entire confidence, I got entrusted with a special mission of
a somewhat peculiar character.
The leading desire of this good old woman's life was, that her sister
Agnes should come back with her husband, the Major, and take
possession of the castle. Again, Alice could not be content, unless her
father could be induced to come back and take up his residence at
Clere. And letters having failed to produce the desired effect in both
instances, the Major, saying that he was quite comfortable where he
was, and the Captain urging that the English winters would be too
vigorous for his constitution; under these circumstances, I say, I, the
CONFIDANT of the family, within fifteen months of landing at Plymouth,
found myself in a hot omnibus with a Mahomedan driver, jolting and
bumping over the desert of Suez on my way back to Australia, charged to
bring the old folks home, or never show my face again.
And it was after this journey that the scene described in the first
chapter of this book took place; when I read aloud to them from the
roll of manuscript mentioned there, my recollections of all that had
happened to us during so many years, But since I have come back to
England, these "Recollections" have been very much enlarged and
improved by the assistance of Major Buckley, Agnes, and Captain
For I succeeded in my object, and brought them back in triumph through
the Red Sea, across the Isthmus of Suez, and so by way of the
Mediterranean, the Bay of Biscay, the English Channel, Southampton
Water, the South-Western railway, and Alice's new dark-blue barouche,
safe and sound to Clere and the castle, where they all are at this
present speaking, unless some of them are gone out a walking.
As for Tom Troubridge and Mary, they are so exceedingly happy and
prosperous, that they are not worth talking about. They will come
either by the Swiftsure or the Norfolk, and we have got their rooms
ready for them. They say that their second child, the boy, is one of
the finest riders in the colony.
"You have forgotten some one after all," says the reader, after due
examination. "A man we took some little interest in. It is not much
matter though, we shall be glad when you have done."
Is this the man you mean?
I am sitting in Sam's "den" at Clere. He is engaged in receiving the
"afterdavy" of a man who got his head broke by a tinker at the
cricket-match in the park (for Sam is in the commission, and sits on the
bench once a month "a perfect Midas," as Mrs. Wattlegum would say). I am
busy rigging up one of these wonderful new Yankee spoons with a view to
killing a villanous pike, who has got into the troutwater. I have just
tied on the thirty-ninth hook, and have got the fortieth ready in my
fingers, when a footman opens the door, and says to me,--
"If you please, sir, your stud-groom would be glad to see you."
I keep two horses of all work and a grey pony, so that the word "stud"
before the word groom in the last sentence must be taken to refer to my
little farm, on which I rear a few colts annually.
"May he come in, Sam?" I ask.
"Of course! uncle Jeff," says he.
And so there comes in a little old man, dressed in the extreme of that
peculiar dandyism which is affected by retired jockeys and trainers,
and which I have seen since attempted, with indifferent success, by a
few young gentlemen at our great universities. He stands in the door
"Mr. Plowden has offered forty pound for the dark chestnut colt, sir."
"Dick," I say (mark that, if you please) "Dick, I think he may have
And so, my dear reader, I must at last bid you heartily farewell.
I am not entirely without hope that we may meet again.