Part 5 out of 12
sheep and taking off his fleece better than any man in the shed. The
prisoners, of course, would not work effectually without extra wages,
and thus gave a deal of trouble; knowing that there was no fear of my
sending them to the magistrate (fifty miles off) during such a busy
time. However, all evils must come to an end some time or another, and
so did shearing, though it was nearly Christmas before our wool was
pressed and ready for the drays.
Then came a breathing time. So I determined, having heard nothing of
James, to go over and spend my Christmas with the Buckleys, and see how
they were getting on at their new station; and about noon on the day
before Boxing-day, having followed the track made by their drays from
the place I had last parted with them, I reined up on the cliffs above
a noble river, and could see their new huts, scarce a quarter of a mile
off, on the other side of the stream.
They say that Christmas-day is the hottest day in the year in those
countries, but some days in January are, I think, generally hotter.
To-day, however, was as hot as a salamander could wish. All the vast
extent of yellow plain to the eastward quivered beneath a fiery sky,
and every little eminence stood like an island in a lake of mirage.
Used as I had got to this phenomenon, I was often tempted that morning
to turn a few hundred yards from my route, and give my horse a drink at
one of the broad glassy pools that seemed to lie right and left. Once
the faint track I was following headed straight towards one of these
apparent sheets of water, and I was even meditating a bathe, but, lo!
when I was a hundred yards or so off, it began to dwindle and disappear,
and I found nothing but the same endless stretch of grass,
burnt up by the midsummer sun.
For many miles I had distinguished the new huts, placed at the apex of
a great cape of the continent of timber which ran down from the
mountains into the plains. I thought they had chosen a strange place
for their habitation, as there appeared no signs of a watercourse
near it. It was not till I pulled up within a quarter of a mile of my
destination, that I heard a hoarse roar as if from the bowels of the
earth, and found that I was standing on the edge of a glen about four
hundred feet deep, through which a magnificent snow-fed river poured
ceaselessly, here flashing bright among bars of rock, there lying in
dark, deep reaches, under tall, white-stemmed trees.
The scene was so beautiful and novel that I paused and gazed at it.
Across the glen, behind the houses, rolled up a dark mass of timbered
ranges, getting higher and steeper as far as the eye could reach, while
to the north-east the river's course might be traced by the timber that
fringed the water's edge, and sometimes feathered some tributary gully
almost to the level of the flat lofty table-land. On either side of it,
down behind, down folded one over the other, and, bordered by great
forests, led the eye towards the river's source, till the course of the
valley could no longer be distinguished, lost among the distant ranges;
but above where it had disappeared, rose a tall blue peak with streaks
I rode down a steep pathway, and crossed a broad gravelly ford. As my
horse stopped to drink, I looked delighted up the vista which opened on
my sight. The river, partly over-shadowed by tall trees, was hurrying
and spouting through upright columns of basalt, which stood in groups
everywhere like the pillars of a ruined city; in some places solitary,
in others, clustered together like fantastic buildings, while a hundred
yards above was an island, dividing the stream, on which, towering
above the variety of low green shrubs which covered it, three noble
fern trees held their plumes aloft, shaking with the concussion of the
I crossed the river. A gully, deep at first, but getting rapidly
shallower, led up by a steep ascent to the tableland above, and as I
reached the summit I found myself at Major Buckley's front door. They
had, with good taste, left such trees as stood near the house--a few
deep-shadowed light-woods and black wattles, which formed pretty groups
in what I could see was marked out for a garden. Behind, the land began
to rise, at first, in park-like timbered forest glades, and further
back, closing into dense deep woodlands.
"What a lovely place they will make of this in time!" I said to myself;
but I had not much time for cogitation. A loud, cheerful voice shouted:
"Hamlyn, you are welcome to Baroona!" and close to me I saw the Major,
carrying his son and heir in his arms, advancing to meet me from the
"You are welcome to Baroona!" echoed the boy; "and a merry Christmas
and a happy New-year to you!"
I went into the house and was delighted to find what a change a few
weeks of busy, quiet, and HOME had made in the somewhat draggle-tailed
and disconsolate troop that I had parted with on their road. Miss
Thornton, with her black mittens, white apron, and spectacles, had
found herself a cool corner by the empty fire-place, and was stitching
away happily at baby linen. Mrs. Buckley, in the character of a
duchess, was picking raisins, and Mary was helping her; and, as I
entered, laughing loudly, they greeted me kindly with all the old
sacred good wishes of the season.
"I very much pity you, Mr. Hamlyn," said Mrs. Buckley, "at having
outlived the novelty of being scorched to death on Christmas-day. My
dear husband, please refresh me with reading the thermometer!"
"One hundred and nine in the shade," replied the Major, with a chuckle.
"Ah, dear!" said Mrs. Buckley, "If the dear old rheumatic creatures
from the alms-house at Clere could only spend to-morrow with us, how it
would warm their old bones! Fancy how they are crouching before their
little pinched grates just now!"
"Hardly that, Mrs. Buckley," I said laughing; "they are all snug in bed
now. It is three o'clock in the morning, or thereabouts, at home, you
must remember. Miss Thornton, I hope you have got over your journey."
"Yes, and I can laugh at all my mishaps now," she replied; "I have just
got homely and comfortable here, but we must make one more move, and
that will be the last for me. Mary and Mr. Troubridge have taken up
their country to the south-west, and as soon as he has got our house
built, we are going to live there."
"It is not far, I hope," said I.
"A trifle: not more than ten miles," said Miss Thornton; "they call the
place Toonarbin. Mary's run joins the Major's on two sides, and beyond
again, we already have neighbours, the Mayfords. They are on the river
again; but we are on a small creek towards the ranges. I should like to
have been on the river, but they say we are very lucky."
"I am so glad to see you," said Mary; "James Stockbridge said you would
be sure to come; otherwise, we should have sent over for you. What do
you think of my boy?"
She produced him from an inner room. He was certainly a beautiful
child, though very small, and with a certain painful likeness to his
father, which even I could see, and I could not help comparing him
unfavourably, in my own mind, with that noble six-year-old Sam Buckley,
who had come to my knee where I sat, and was looking in my face as if
to make a request.
"What is it, my prince?" I asked.
He blushed, and turned his handsome gray eyes to a silver-handled
riding-whip that I had in my hand "I'll take such care of it," he
whispered, and, having got it, was soon astride of a stick, full gallop
for Banbury Cross.
James and Troubridge came in. To the former I had much to tell that was
highly satisfactory about our shearing; and from the latter I had much
to hear about the state of both the new stations, and the adventures of
a journey he had had back towards Sydney to fetch up his sheep. But
these particulars will be but little interesting to an English reader,
and perhaps still less so to an Australian. I am writing a history of
the people themselves, not of their property. I will only say, once for
all, that the Major's run contained very little short of 60,000 acres
of splendidly grassed plain-land, which he took up originally with
merely a few cattle, and about 3,000 sheep; but which, in a few years,
carried 28,000 sheep comfortably. Mrs. Hawker and Troubridge had quite
as large a run; but a great deal of it was rather worthless forest,
badly grassed; which Tom, in his wisdom, like a great many other new
chums, had thought superior to the bleak plains on account of the
shelter. Yet, notwithstanding this disadvantage, they were never, after
a year or two, with less than 15,000 sheep, and a tolerable head of
cattle. In short, in a very few years, both the Major and Troubridge,
by mere power of accumulation, became very wealthy people.
Christmas morn rose bright; but ere the sun had time to wreak his fury
upon us every soul in the household was abroad, under the shade of the
lightwood trees, to hear the Major read the Litany.
A strange group we were. The Major stood with his back against a
tree-stem, and all his congregation were ranged around him. To his right
stood Miss Thornton, her arms folded placidly before her; and with her,
Mary and Mrs. Buckley, in front of whom sat the two boys: Sam, the
elder, trying to keep Charles, the younger, quiet. Next, going round
the circle, stood the old housekeeper, servant of the Buckleys for
thirty years; who now looked askance off her Prayer-book to see that
the two convict women under her charge were behaving with decorum.
Next, and exactly opposite the Major, were two free servants: one a
broad, brawny, athleticlooking man, with, I thought, not a bad
countenance; and the other a tall, handsome, foolish-looking Devonshire
lad. The round was completed by five convict man-servants,
standing vacantly looking about them; and Tom, James, and myself, who
were next the Major.
The service, which he read in a clear manly voice, was soon over, and
we returned to the house in groups. I threw myself in the way of the
two free servants, and asked,--
"Pray, which of you is William Lee?"--for I had forgotten him.
The short thickset man I had noticed before touched his hat and said
that he was. That touching of the hat is a very rare piece of courtesy
from working men in Australia. The convicts are forced to do it, and so
the free men make it a point of honour not to do so.
"Oh!" said I, "I have got a groom who calls himself Dick. I found him
sorefooted in the bush the day I met the Major. He was trying to pick
you up. He asked me to tell you that he was afraid to cross the range
alone on account of the blacks, or he would have come up with you. He
seemed anxious lest you should think it was his fault."
"Poor chap!" said Lee. "What a faithful little fellow it is! Would it
be asking a liberty if you would take back a letter for me, sir?"
I said, "No; certainly not."
"I am much obliged to you, sir," he said. "I am glad Dick has got with
That letter was of some importance to me, though I did not know it till
after, but I may as well say why now. Lee had been a favourite servant
of my father's, and when he got into trouble my father had paid a
counsel to defend him. Lee never forgot this, and this letter to Dick
was shortly to the effect that I was one of the RIGHT SORT, and was to
be taken care of, which injunction Dick obeyed to the very letter,
doing me services for pure good will, which could not have been bought
for a thousand a-year.
After breakfast arose the question, "What is to be done?" Which
Troubridge replied to by saying: "What could any sensible man do such
weather as this, but get into the water and stop there?"
"Shall it be, 'All hands to bathe,' then?" said the Major.
"You won't be without company," said Mrs. Buckley, "for the black
fellows are camped in the bend, and they spend most of their time in
the water such a day as this."
So James and Troubridge started for the river with their towels, the
Major and I promising to follow them immediately, for I wanted to look
at my horse, and the Major had also something to do in the paddock. So
we walked together.
"Major," said I, when we had gone a little way, "do you never feel
anxious about Mary Hawker's husband appearing and giving trouble?"
"Oh, no!" said he. "The man is safe in Van Diemen's Land. Besides, what
could he gain? I, for one, without consulting her, should find means to
pack him off again. There is no fear."
"By the bye, Major," I said, "have you heard from our friend Doctor
Mulhaus since your arrival? I suppose he is at Drumston still?"
"Oh dear, no!" said he. "He is gone back to Germany. He is going to
settle there again. He was so sickened of England when all his friends
left, that he determined to go home. I understood that he had some sort
of patrimony there, on which he will end his days. Wherever he goes,
God go with him, for he is a noble fellow!"
"Amen," I answered. And soon after, having got towels, we proceeded to
the river; making for a long reach a little below where I had crossed
the night before.
"Look there!" said the Major. "There's a bit for one of your painters!
I wish Wilkie or Martin were here."
I agreed with him. Had Etty been on the spot he would have got a hint
for one of his finest pictures; though I can give but little idea of it
in writing, however, let me try. Before us was a long reach of deep,
still water, unbroken by a ripple, so hemmed in on all sides by walls
of deep green black wattle, tea-tree, and delicate silver acacia, that
the water seemed to flow in a deep shoreless rift of the forest, above
which the taller forest trees towered up two hundred feet, hiding the
lofty cliffs, which had here receded a little back from the river.
The picture had a centre, and a strange one. A little ledge of rock ran
out into deep water, and upon it, rising from a heap of light-coloured
clothing, like a white pillar, in the midst of the sombre green
foliage, rose the naked carcass of Thomas Troubridge, Esq., preparing
for a header, while at his feet were grouped three or four black
fellows, one of whom as we watched slid off the rock like an otter. The
reach was covered with black heads belonging to the savages, who were
swimming in all directions, while groups of all ages and both sexes
stood about on the bank in Mother Nature's full dress.
We had a glorious bathe, and then sat on the rock, smoking, talking,
and watching the various manoeuvres of the blacks. An old lady,
apparently about eighty, with a head as white as snow, topping her
black body (a flourbag cobbler, as her tribe would call her), was
punting a canoe along in the shallow water on the opposite side of the
river. She was entirely without clothes, and in spite of her
decrepitude stood upright in the cockleshell, handling it with great
dexterity. When she was a little above us, she made way on her barque,
and shot into the deep water in the middle of the stream, evidently
with the intention of speaking us. As, however, she was just half-way
across, floating helplessly, unable to reach the bottom with the spear
she had used as a puntpole in the shallower water, a mischievous black
imp canted her over, and souse she went into the river. It was amazing
to see how boldly and well the old woman struck out for the shore,
keeping her white head well out of the water; and, having reached dry
land once more, sat down on her haunches, and began scolding with a
volubility and power which would soon have silenced the loudest tongue
in old Billingsgate.
Her anger, so far from wearing out, grew on what fed it; so that her
long-drawn yells, which seemed like parentheses in her jabbering
discourse, were getting each minute more and more acute, and we were
just thinking about moving homewards, when a voice behind us sang out,--
"Hallo, Major! Having a little music, eh? What a sweet song that old
girl is singing! I must write it down from dictation, and translate it,
as Walter Scott used to do with the old wives' ballads in Scotland."
"I have no doubt it would be quite Ossianic--equal to any of the
abusive scenes in Homer. But, my dear Harding, how are you? You are
come to eat your Christmas dinner with us, I hope?"
"That same thing, Major," answered the new comer. "Troubridge and
Stockbridge, how are you? This, I presume, is your partner, Hamlyn?"
We went back to the house. Harding, I found, was half-owner of a
station to the north-east, an Oxford man, a great hand at skylarking,
and an inveterate writer of songs. He was good-looking too, and
gentlemanlike, in fact, a very pleasant companion in every way.
Dinner was to be at six o'clock, in imitation of home hours; but we did
not find the day hang heavy on our hands, there was so much to be
spoken of by all of us. And when that important meal was over we
gathered in the open air in front of the house, bent upon making
"What is your last new song, eh, Harding?" said the Major; "now is the
time to ventilate it."
"I've been too busy shearing for song-writing, Major."
Soon after this we went in, and there we sat till nearly ten o'clock,
laughing, joking, singing, and drinking punch. Mary sat between James
Stockbridge and Tom, and they three spoke together so exclusively and
so low, that the rest of us were quite forgotten. Mary was smiling and
laughing, first at one and then at the other, in her old way, and now
and then as I glanced at her I could hardly help sighing. But I soon
remembered certain resolutions I had made, and tried not to notice
the trio, but to make myself agreeable to the others. Still my eyes
wandered towards them again intuitively. I thought Mary had never
looked so beautiful before. Her complexion was very full, as though she
were blushing at something one of them had said to her, and while I
watched I saw James rise and go to a jug of flowers, and bring back a
wreath of scarlet Kennedia, saying:--
"Do us a favour on Christmas night, Mary; twine this in your hair."
She blushed deeper than before, but she did it, and Tom helped her.
There was no harm in that, you say, for was he not her cousin? But
still I could not help saying to myself, "Oh Mary, Mary, if you were a
widow, how long would you stay so?"
"What a gathering it is, to be sure!" said Mrs. Buckley!--"all the old
Drumstonians who are alive collected under one roof."
"Except the Doctor," said the Major.
"Ah, yes, dear Doctor Mulhaus. I am so sad sometimes to think that we
shall never see him again."
"I miss him more than any one," said the Major. "I have no one to
contradict me now."
"I shall have to take that duty upon me, then," said his wife. "Hark!
there is Lee come back from the sheep station. Yes, that must be his
horse. Call him in and give him a glass of grog. I was sorry to send
him out to-day."
"He is coming to make his report," said Mrs. Buckley; "there is his
heavy tramp outside the door."
The door was opened, and the new comer advanced to where the glare of
the candles fell full upon his face.
Had the Gentleman in Black himself advanced out of the darkness at that
moment, with his blue bag on his arm and his bundle of documents in his
hand, we should not have leapt to our feet and cried out more suddenly
than we did then. For Doctor Mulhaus stood in the middle of the room,
looking around him with a bland smile.
JIM STOCKBRIDGE BEGINS TO TAKE ANOTHER VIEW OF MATTERS.
He stood in the candle-light, smiling blandly, while we all stayed for
an instant, after our first exclamation, speechless with astonishment.
The Major was the first who showed signs of consciousness, for I
verily believe that one half of the company at least believed him to
be a ghost. "You are the man," said the Major, "who in the flesh called
himself Maximilian Mulhaus! Why are you come to trouble us,
O spirit?--not that we shouldn't be glad to see you if you were alive,
you know, but--my dear old friend, how are you?"
Then we crowded round him, all speaking at once and trying to shake
hands with him. Still he remained silent, and smiled. I, looking into
his eyes, saw that they were swimming, and divined why he would not
trust himself to speak. No one hated a show of emotion more than the
Doctor, and yet his brave warm heart would often flood his eyes in
spite of himself.
He walked round to the fire-place, and, leaning against the board that
answered for a chimney-piece, stood looking at us with beaming eyes,
while we anxiously waited for him to speak.
"Ah!" he said at length, with a deep sigh, "this does me good. I have
not made my journey in vain. A man who tries to live in this world
without love must, if he is not a fool, commit suicide in a year. I
went to my own home, and my own dogs barked at me. Those I had raised
out of the gutter, and set on horseback, splashed mud on me as I
walked. I will go back, I said, to the little English family who loved
and respected me for my own sake, though they be at the ends of the
earth. So I left those who should have loved me with an ill-concealed
smile on their faces, and when I come here I am welcomed with tears of
joy from those I have not known five years. Bah! Here is my home,
Buckley: let me live and die with you."
"Live!" said the Major--"ay, while there's a place to live in; don't
talk about dying yet, though,--we'll think of that presently. I can't
find words enough to give him welcome. Wife, can you?"
"Not I, indeed," she said; "and what need? He can see a warmer welcome
in our faces than an hour's clumsy talk could give him. I say, Doctor,
you are welcome, now and for ever. Will that serve you, husband?"
I could not help looking at Miss Thornton. She sat silently staring at
him through it all, with her hands clasped together, beating them upon
her knee. Now, when all was quiet, and Mrs. Buckley and Mary had run
off to the kitchen to order the Doctor some supper, he seemed to see
her for the first time, and bowed profoundly. She rose, and, looking
at him intently, sat down again.
The Doctor had eaten his supper, and Mrs. Buckley had made him
something to drink with her own hands; the Doctor had lit his pipe, and
we had gathered round the empty fire-place, when the Major said,--
"Now, Doctor, do tell us your adventures, and how you have managed to
drop upon us from the skies on Christmas-day."
"Soon told, my friend," he answered. "See here. I went back to Germany
because all ties in England were broken. I went to Lord C----: I said,
'I will go back and see the palingenesis of my country; I will see what
they are doing, now the French are in the dust.' He said, 'Go, and God
speed you!' I went. What did I find? Beggars on horseback everywhere,
riding post-haste to the devil--not as good horsemen, either, but as
tailors of Brentford, and crowding one another into the mud to see who
would be there first. 'Let me get out of this before they ride over
me,' said I. So I came forth to England, took ship, and here I am."
"A most lucid and entirely satisfactory explanation of what you have
been about, I must say," answered the Major; "however, I must be
At this moment, little Sam, who had made his escape in the confusion,
came running in, breathless. "Papa! papa!" said he, "Lee has come home
with a snake seven feet long." Lee was at the door with the reptile in
his hand--a black snake, with a deep salmon-coloured belly, deadly
venomous, as I knew. All the party went out to look at it, except the
Doctor and Miss Thornton, who stayed at the fire-place.
"Mind your hands, Lee!" I heard James say; "though the brute is dead,
you might prick your fingers with him."
I was behind all the others, waiting to look at the snake, which was
somewhat of a large one, and worth seeing, so I could not help
overhearing the conversation of Miss Thornton and the Doctor, and
having heard the first of it my ears grew so unnaturally quickened,
that I could not for the life of me avoid hearing the whole, though I
was ashamed of playing eavesdropper.
"My God, sir!" I heard her say, "what new madness is this? Why do you
persist in separating yourself from your family in this manner?"
"No madness at all, my dear madam," he answered; "you would have done
the same under the circumstances. My brother was civil, but I saw he
would rather have me away, and continue his stewardship. And so I let
Miss Thornton put another question which I did not catch, and the sense
of which I could not supply, but I heard his answer plainly: it was,--
"Of course I did, my dear lady, and, just as you may suppose, when I
walked up the Ritter Saal, there was a buzz and giggle, and not one
held out his hand save noble Von H----; long life to him!"
"But--?" said Miss Thornton, mentioning somebody, whose name I
could not catch.
"I saw him bend over to M--- as I came up to the Presence, and they
both laughed. I saw a slight was intended, made my devoirs, and backed
off. The next day he sent for me, but I was off and away. I heard of it
before I left England."
"And will you never go back?" she said.
"When I can with honour, not before; and that will never be till he is
dead, I fear; and his life is as good as mine. So, hey for natural
history, and quiet domestic life, and happiness with my English
friends! Now, am I wise or not?"
"I fear not," she said.
The Doctor laughed, and taking her hand, kissed it gallantly; by this
time we had all turned round, and were coming in.
"Now, Doctor," said the Major, "If you have done flirting with Miss
Thornton, look at this snake."
"A noble beast, indeed," said the Doctor. "Friend," he added to Lee,
"if you don't want him, I will take him off your hands for a sum of
money. He shall be pickled, as I live."
"He is very venomous, sir," said Lee. "The blacks eat 'em, it's true,
but they always cut the head off first. I'd take the head off, sir,
before I ventured to taste him."
We all laughed at Lee's supposing that the Doctor meant to make a meal
of the deadly serpent, and Lee laughed as loudly as anybody.
"You see, sir," he said, "I've always heard that you French gents ate
frogs, so I didn't know as snakes would come amiss."
"Pray, don't take me for a Frenchman, my good lad," said the Doctor;
"and as for frogs, they are as good as chickens."
"Well, I've eaten guaners myself," said Lee, "though I can't say much
for them. They're uglier than snakes any way."
Lee was made to sit down and take a glass of grog. So, very shortly,
the conversation flowed on into its old channel, and, after spending a
long and pleasant evening, we all went to bed.
James and I slept in the same room; and, when we were going to bed, I
"James, if that fellow were to die, there would be a chance for you
"With regard to what?" he asked.
"You know well enough, you old humbug," I said; "with regard to Mary
"I doubt it, my lad," he said. "I very much doubt it indeed; and,
perhaps, you have heard that there must be two parties to a bargain, so
that even if she were willing to take me, I very much doubt if I would
"No one could blame you for that," I said, "after what has happened.
There are but few men who would like to marry the widow of a coiner."
"You mistake me, Jeff. You mistake me altogether," he answered, walking
up and down the room, with one boot off. "That would make but little
difference to me. I've no relations to sing out about a mesalliance,
you know. No, my dear old fellow, not that; but--Jeff, Jeff! You are
the dearest friend I have in the world."
"Jim, my boy," I answered, "I love you like a brother. What is it?"
"I have no secrets from you, Jeff," he said; "so I don't mind telling
you." Another hesitation! I grew rather anxious. "What the deuce is
coming?" I thought. "What can she have been up to? Go on, old fellow,"
I added aloud; "let's hear all about it."
He stood at the end of the room, looking rather sheepish. "Why, the
fact is, old fellow, that I begin to suspect that I have outlived any
little attachment I had in that quarter. I've been staying in the house
two months with her, you see; and, in fact!--in fact!"--here he
brought up short again.
"James Stockbridge," I said, sitting up in bed, "you atrocious humbug;
two months ago you informed me, with a sigh like a groggy pair of
bellows, that her image could only be effaced from your heart by death.
You have seduced me, whose only fault was loving you too well to part
with you, into coming sixteen thousand miles to a barbarous land, far
from kindred and country, on the plea that your blighted affections
made England less endurable than--France, I'll say for argument;--
and, now having had two months' opportunity of studying the character
of the beloved one, you coolly inform me that the whole thing was a
mistake. I repeat that you are a humbug."
"If you don't hold your tongue, and that quick," he replied, "I'll send
this boot at your ugly head. Now, then!"
I ducked, fully expecting it was coming, and laughed silently under the
bed-clothes. I was very happy to hear this--I was very happy to hear
that a man, whom I really liked so well, had got the better of a
passion for a woman who I knew was utterly incapable of being to him
what his romantic high-flown notions required a wife to be. "If this
happy result," I said to myself, "can be rendered the more sure by
ridicule, that shall not be wanting. Meanwhile, I will sue for peace,
and see how it came about."
I rose again and saw he had got his other boot half off, and was
watching for me. "Jim," said I, "you ain't angry because I laughed at
you, are you?"
"Angry!" he answered. "I am never angry with you, and you know it. I've
been a fool, and I ought to be laughed at."
"Pooh!" said I, "no more a fool than other men have been before you,
from father Adam downwards."
"And he was a most con--"
"There," I interrupted: "don't abuse your ancestors. Tell me why you
have changed your mind so quick?"
"That's a precious hard thing to do, mind you;" he answered. "A
thousand trifling circumstances, which taken apart are as worthless
straws, when they are bound up together become a respectable truss,
which is marketable, and ponderable. So it is with little traits in
Mary's character, which I have only noticed lately, nothing separately,
yet when taken together, to say the least, different to what I had
imagined while my eyes were blinded. To take one instance among fifty;
there's her cousin Tom, one of the finest fellows that ever stepped;
but still I don't like to see her, a married woman, allowing him to
pull her hair about, and twist flowers in it."
This was very true, but I thought that if James instead of Tom had been
allowed the privilege of decorating her hair, he might have looked on
it with different eyes. James, I saw, cared too little about her to be
very jealous, and so I saw that there was no fear of any coolness
between him and Troubridge, which was a thing to be rejoiced at, as it
would have been a terrible blow on our little society, and which I
feared at one time that evening would have been the case.
"Jim," said I, "I have got something to tell you. Do you know, I
believe there is some mystery about Doctor Mulhaus."
"He is a walking mystery," said Jim; "but he is a noble good fellow,
though unhappily a frog-eater."
"Ah! but I believe Miss Thornton knows it."
"Very like," said Jim, yawning.
"I told him all the conversation I overheard that evening."
"Are you sure she said 'the king'?" he asked.
"Quite sure," I said; "now, what do you make of it?"
"I make this of it," he said: "that it is no earthly business of ours,
or we should have been informed of it; and if I were you, I wouldn't
breathe a word of it to any mortal soul, or let the Doctor suspect that
you overheard anything. Secrets where kings are concerned are
precious sacred things, old Jeff. Good night!"
SAM BUCKLEY'S EDUCATION.
This narrative which I am now writing is neither more nor less than an
account of what befell certain of my acquaintances during a period
extending over nearly, or quite, twenty years, interspersed, and let us
hope embellished, with descriptions of the country in which these
circumstances took place, and illustrated by conversations well known
to me by frequent repetition, selected as throwing light upon the
characters of the persons concerned. Episodes there are, too, which I
have thought it worth while to introduce as being more or less
interesting, as bearing on the manners of a country but little known,
out of which materials it is difficult to select those most proper to
make my tale coherent; yet such has been my object, neither to dwell on
the one hand unnecessarily on the more unimportant passages, nor on the
other hand to omit anything which may be supposed to bear on the
general course of events.
Now, during all the time above mentioned, I, Geoffry Hamlyn, have
happened to lead a most uninteresting, and with few exceptions
prosperous existence. I was but little concerned, save as a hearer, in
the catalogue of exciting accidents and offences which I chronicle. I
have looked on with the deepest interest at the lovemaking, and ended
a bachelor; I have witnessed the fighting afar off, only joining the
battle when I could not help it, yet I am a steady old fogey, with a
mortal horror of a disturbance of any sort. I have sat drinking with
the wine-bibbers, and yet at sixty my hand is as steady as a rock.
Money has come to me by mere accumulation; I have taken more pains to
spend it than to make it; in short, all through my life's drama, I have
been a spectator, and not an actor, and so in this story I shall keep
myself as much as possible in the background, only appearing personally
when I cannot help it.
Acting on this resolve I must now make my CONGE, and bid you farewell
for a few years, and go back to those few sheep which James Stockbridge
and I own in the wilderness, and continue the history of those who are
more important than myself. I must push on too, for there is a long
period of dull stupid prosperity coming to our friends at Baroona and
Toonarbin, which we must get over as quickly as is decent. Little Sam
Buckley also, though at present a most delightful child, will soon be a
mere uninteresting boy. We must teach him to read and write, and ride,
and what not, as soon as possible, and see if we can't find a young
lady--well, I won't anticipate, but go on. Go on, did I say?--jump
on, rather--two whole years at once.
See Baroona now. Would you know it? I think not. That hut where we
spent the pleasant Christmas-day you know of is degraded into the
kitchen, and seems moved backward, although it stands in the same
place, for a new house is built nearer the river, quite overwhelming
the old slab hut in its grandeur--a long low wooden house, with deep
cool verandahs all round, already festooned with passion-flowers, and
young grapevines, and fronted by a flower garden, all a-blaze with
petunias and geraniums.
It was a summer evening, and all the French windows reaching to the
ground were open to admit the cool south wind, which had just come up,
deliciously icily cold after a scorching day. In the verandah sat the
Major and the Doctor over their claret (for the Major had taken to
dining late again now, to his great comfort), and in the garden were
Mrs. Buckley and Sam watering the flowers, attended by a man who drew
water from a new-made reservoir near the house.
"I think, Doctor," said the Major, "that the habit of dining in the
middle of the day is a gross abuse of the gifts of Providence, and I'll
prove it to you. What does a man dine for?--answer me that."
"To satisfy his hunger, I should say," answered the Doctor.
"Pooh! pooh! stuff and nonsense, my good friend," said the Major; "you
are speaking at random. I suppose you will say, then, that a black
fellow is capable of dining?"
"Highly capable, as far as I can judge from what I have seen," replied
the Doctor. "A full-grown fighting black would be ashamed if he
couldn't eat a leg of mutton at a sitting."
"And you call that DINING?" said the Major. "I call it gorging. Why,
those fellows are more uncomfortable after food than before. I have
seen them sitting close before the fire and rubbing their stomachs with
mutton fat to reduce the swelling. Ha! ha! ha!--dining, eh? Oh, Lord!"
"Then if you don't dine to satisfy your hunger, what the deuce do you
eat dinners for at all?" asked the Doctor.
"Why," said the Major, spreading his legs out before him with a benign
smile, and leaning back in his chair, "I eat my dinner, not so much for
the sake of the dinner itself, as for the after-dinnerish feeling which
follows: a feeling that you have nothing to do, and that if you had
you'd be shot if you'd do it. That, to return to where I started from,
is why I won't dine in in the middle of the day."
"If that is the way you feel after dinner, I certainly wouldn't."
"All the most amiable feelings in the human breast," continued the
Major, "are brought out in their full perfection by dinner. If a fellow
were to come to me now and ask me to lend him ten pounds, I'd do it,
provided, you know, that he would fetch out the cheque-book and pen and
"Laziness is nothing," said the Doctor, "unless well carried out. I
only contradicted you, however, to draw you out; I agree entirely. Do
you know, my friend, I am getting marvellously fond of this climate."
"So am I. But then you know, Doctor, that we are sheltered from the
north wind here by the snow-ranges. The summer in Sydney, now, is
perfectly infernal. The dust is so thick you can't see your hand before
"So I believe," said the Doctor. "By the bye, I got a new butterfly
to-day; rather an event, mind you, here, where there are so few."
"What is he?"
"An Hipparchia," said the Doctor, "Sam saw him first and gave chase."
"You seem to be making quite a naturalist of my boy, Doctor. I am
sincerely obliged to you. If we can make him take to that sort of thing
it may keep him out of much mischief."
"He will never get into much," said the Doctor, "unless I am mistaken;
he is the most docile child I ever came across. It is a pleasure to be
with him. What are you going to do with him?"
"He must go to school, I am afraid," said the Major with a sigh, "I
can't bring my heart to part with him; but his mother has taught him
all she knows, so I suppose he must go to school and fight, and get
flogged, and come home with a pipe in his mouth, and an oath on his
lips, with his education completed. I don't fancy his staying here
among these convict servants, when he is old enough to learn mischief."
"He'll learn as much mischief at a colonial school, I expect," said the
Doctor, "and more too. All the evil he hears from these fellows will be
like the water on a duck's back; whereas, if you send him to school in
a town, he'll learn a dozen vices he'll never hear of here. Get him a
"That is easier said than done, Doctor. It is very hard to get a
respectable tutor in the colony."
"Here is one at your hand," said the Doctor. "Take me."
"My dear friend," said the Major, jumping up, "I would not have dared
to ask such a thing. If you would undertake him for a short time?"
"I will undertake the boy's education altogether. Potztausend, and why
not! It will be a labour of love, and therefore the more thoroughly
done. What shall he learn, now?"
"That I must leave to you."
"A weighty responsibility," said the Doctor. "No Latin or Greek, I
suppose? They will be no use to him here."
"Well--no; I suppose not. But I should like him to learn his Latin
grammar. You may depend upon it there's something in the Latin
"What use has it been to you, Major?"
"Why, the least advantage it has been to me is to give me an insight
into the construction of languages, which is some use. But while I was
learning the Latin grammar, I learnt other things besides, of more use
than the construction of any languages, living or dead. First, I learnt
that there were certain things in this world that MUST be done. Next,
that there were people in this world, of whom the Masters of Eton were
a sample, whose orders must be obeyed without question. Third, I found
that it was pleasanter in all ways to do one's duty than to leave it
undone. And last, I found out how to bear a moderate amount of birching
without any indecent outcry."
"All very useful things," said the Doctor. "Teach a boy one thing well,
and you show him how to learn others. History, I suppose?"
"As much as you like, Doctor. His mother has taught him his catechism,
and all that sort of thing, and she is the fit person, you know. With
the exception of that and the Latin grammar, I trust everything to
"There is one thing I leave to you, Major, if you please, and that is
corporal chastisement. I am not at all sure that I could bring myself
to flog Sam, and, if I did, it would be very inefficiently done."
"Oh, I'll undertake it," said the Major, "though I believe I shall have
an easy task. He won't want much flogging."
At this moment Mrs. Buckley approached with a basketful of fresh-gathered
flowers. "The roses don't flower well here, Doctor," she said,
"but the geraniums run mad. Here is a salmon-coloured one for your
"He has earned it well, Agnes," said her husband. "He has decided the
discussion we had last night by offering to undertake Sam's education
"And God's blessing on him for it!" said Mrs. Buckley warmly. "You have
taken a great load off my mind, Doctor. I should never have been happy
if that boy had gone to school. Come here, Sam."
Sam came bounding into the verandah, and clambered up on his father,
as if he had been a tree. He was now eleven years old, and very tall
and wellformed for his age. He was a good-looking boy, with regular
features, and curly chestnut hair. He had, too, the large grey-blue eye
of his father, an eye that never lost for a moment its staring
expression of kindly honesty, and the lad's whole countenance was one
which, without being particularly handsome, or even very intelligent,
won an honest man's regard at first sight.
"My dear Sam," said his mother, "leave off playing with your father's
hair, and listen to me, for I have something serious to say to you.
Last night your father and I were debating about sending you to school,
but Doctor Mulhaus has himself offered to be your tutor, thereby giving
you advantages, for love, which you never could have secured for money.
Now, the least we can expect of you, my dear boy, is that you will be
docile and attentive to him."
"I will try, Doctor dear," said Sam. "But I am very stupid sometimes,
So the good Doctor, whose head was stored with nearly as much of human
knowledge as mortal head could hold, took simple, guileless little Sam
by the hand, and led him into the garden of knowledge. Unless I am
mistaken, these two will pick more flowers than they will dig potatoes
in the aforesaid garden, but I don't think that two such honest souls
will gather much unwholesome fruit. The danger is that they will waste
their time, which is no danger at all, but a certainty.
I believe that such an education as our Sam got from the Doctor would
have made a slattern and a faineant out of half the boys in England. If
Sam had been a clever boy, or a conceited boy, he would have ended with
a superficial knowledge of things in general, imagining he knew
everything when he knew nothing, and would have been left in the end,
without a faith either religious or political, a useless, careless man.
This danger the Doctor foresaw in the first month, and going to the
Major abruptly, as he walked up and down the garden, took his arm, and
"See here, Buckley. I have undertaken to educate that boy of yours, and
every day I like the task better, and yet every day I see that I have
undertaken something beyond me. His appetite for knowledge is insatiable,
but he is not an intellectual boy; he makes no deductions of his
own, but takes mine for granted. He has no commentary on what he
learns, but that of a dissatisfied idealist like me, a man who has been
thrown among circumstances sufficiently favourable to make a prime
minister out of some men, and yet who has ended by doing nothing.
Another thing: this is my first attempt at education, and I have not
the schoolmaster's art to keep him to details. Every day I make new
resolutions, and every day I break them. The boy turns his great eyes
upon me in the middle of some humdrum work, and asks me a question. In
answering, I get off the turnpike road, and away we go from lane to
lane, from one subject to another, until lesson-time is over, and
nothing done. And, if it were merely time wasted, it could be made up,
but he remembers every word I say, and believes in it like gospel, when
I myself couldn't remember half of it to save my life. Now, my dear
fellow, I consider your boy to be a very sacred trust to me, and so I
have mentioned all this to you, to give you an opportunity of removing
him to where he might be under a stricter discipline, if you thought
fit. If he was like some boys, now, I should resign my post at once
but, as it is, I shall wait till you turn me out, for two reasons. The
first is, that I take such delight in my task, that I do not care to
relinquish it; and the other is, that the lad is naturally so orderly
and gentle, that he does not need discipline, like most boys."
"My dear Doctor," replied Major Buckley, "listen to me. If we were in
England, and Sam could go to Eton, which, I take it you know, is the
best school in the world, I would still earnestly ask you to continue
your work. He will probably inherit a great deal of money, and will not
have to push his way in the world by his brains; so that close
scholarship will be rather unnecessary. I should like him to know
history well and thoroughly; for he may mix in the political life of
this little colony by and by. Latin grammar, you know," he said,
laughing, "is indispensable. Doctor, I trust my boy with you because I
know that you will make him a gentleman, as his mother, with God's
blessing, will make him a Christian."
So, the Doctor buckled to his task again, with renewed energy; to
Euclid, Latin grammar, and fractions. Sam's good memory enabled him to
make light of the grammar, and the fractions too were no great
difficulty, but the Euclid was an awful trial. He couldn't make out
what it was all about. He got on very well until he came nearly to the
end of the first book, and then getting among the parallelogram
"props," as we used to call them (may their fathers' graves be
defiled!), he stuck dead. For a whole evening did he pore patiently
over one of them till A B, setting to C D, crossed hands, poussetted,
and whirled round "in Sahara waltz" through his throbbing head. Bed-time,
but no rest! Whether he slept or not he could not tell. Who could
sleep with that long-bodied, ill-tempered-looking parallelogram A H
standing on the bed-clothes, and crying out, in tones loud enough to
waken the house, that it never had been, nor never would be equal to
the fat jolly square C K? So, in the morning, Sam woke to the
consciousness that he was farther off from the solution than ever, but,
having had a good cry, went into the study and tackled to it again.
No good! Breakfast time, and matters much worse! That long peaked-nose
vixen of a triangle A H C, which yesterday Sam had made out was equal
to half the parallelogram and half the square, now had the audacity
to declare that she had nothing to do with either of them; so what was
to be done now?
After breakfast Sam took his book and went out to his father, who was
sitting smoking in the verandah. He clambered up on to his knee, and
"Father, dear, see here; can you understand this? You've got to prove,
you know,--oh, dear! I've forgot that now."
"Let's see," said the Major; "I am afraid this is a little above me.
There's Brentwood, now, could do it; he was in the Artillery, you know,
and learnt fortification, and that sort of thing. I don't think I can
make much hand of it, Sam."
But Sam had put his head upon his father's shoulder, and was crying
"Come, come, my old man," said the Major, "don't give way, you know;
don't be beat."
"I can't make it out at all," said Sam, sobbing. "I've got such a
buzzing in my head with it! And if I can't do it I must stop; because I
can't go on to the next till I understand this. Oh, dear me!"
"Lay your head there a little, my boy, till it gets clearer; then
perhaps you will be able to make it out. You may depend on it that you
ought to learn it, or the good Doctor wouldn't have set it to you:
never let a thing beat you, my son."
So Sam cried on his father's shoulder a little, and then went in with
his book; and not long after, the Doctor looked in unperceived, and saw
the boy with his elbows on the table and the book before him. Even
while he looked a big tear fell plump into the middle of A H; so the
Doctor came quietly in and said,--
"Can't you manage it, Sam?"
Sam shook his head.
"Just give me hold of the book; will you, Sam?"
Sam complied without word or comment; the Doctor sent it flying through
the open window, halfway down the garden. "There!" said he, nodding
his head, "that's the fit place for him this day: you've had enough of
him at present; go and tell one of the blacks to dig some worms, and
we'll make holiday and go a fishing."
Sam looked at the Doctor, and then through the window at his old
enemy lying in the middle of the flowerbed. He did not like to see
the poor book, so lately his master, crumpled and helpless, fallen from
its high estate so suddenly. He would have gone to its assistance, and
picked it up and smoothed it, the more so as he felt that he had been
The Doctor seemed to see everything. "Let it lie here, my child," he
said; "you are not in a position to assist a fallen enemy; you are
still the vanquished party. Go and get the worms."
He went, and when he came back he found the Doctor sitting beside his
father in the verandah, with a penknife in one hand and the ace of
spades in the other. He cut the card into squares, triangles, and
parallelograms, while Sam looked on, and, demonstrating as he went,
fitted them one into the other, till the boy saw his bugbear of a
proposition made as clear as day before his eyes.
"Why," said Sam, "that's all as clear as need be. I understand it. Now
may I pick the book up, Doctor?"
History was the pleasantest part of all Sam's tasks, for they would sit
in the little room given up for a study, with the French windows open
looking on the flower-garden, Sam reading aloud and the Doctor making
discursive commentaries. At last, one day the Doctor said,--
"My boy, we are making too much of a pleasure of this: you must really
learn your dates. Now tell me the date of the accession of Edward the
"Ah! I thought so: we must not be so discursive. We'll learn the dates
of the Grecian History, as being an effort of memory, you not having
read it yet."
But this plan was rather worse than the other; for one morning, Sam
having innocently asked, at half-past eleven, what the battle of
Thermopylae was, Mrs. Buckley coming in, at one, to call them to lunch,
found the Doctor, who had begun the account of that glorious fight in
English, and then gone on to German, walking up and down the room in a
state of excitement, reciting to Sam, who did not know delta from
psi, the soul-moving account of it from Herodotus in good sonorous
Greek. She asked, laughing, "What language are you talking now, my dear
"Greek, madam, Greek! and the very best of Greek!"
"And what does Sam think of it? I should like you to learn Greek, my
boy, if you can."
"I thought he was singing, mother," said Sam; but after that the lad
used to sit delighted, by the river side, when they were fishing, while
the Doctor, with his musical voice, repeated some melodious ode of
And so the intellectual education proceeded, with more or less energy;
and meanwhile the physical and moral part was not forgotten, though the
two latter, like the former, were not very closely attended to, and
left a good deal to Providence. (And, having done your best for a boy,
in what better hands can you leave him?) But the Major, as an old
soldier, had gained a certain faith in the usefulness of physical
training; so, when Sam was about twelve, you might have seen him any
afternoon on the lawn, with his father, the Major, patiently teaching
him singlestick, and Sam as patiently learning, until the boy came to
be so marvellously active on his legs, and to show such rapidity of eye
and hand, that the Major, on one occasion, having received a more than
usually agonizing cut on the forearm, remarked that he thought he was
not quite so active on his pins as formerly, and that he must hand the
boy over to the Doctor.
"Doctor," said he that day, "I have taught my boy ordinary sword play
till, by Jove, sir, he is getting quicker than I am. I wish you would
take him in hand and give him a little fencing."
"Who told you I could fence?" said the Doctor.
"Why, I don't know; no one, I think. I have judged, I fancy, more by
seeing you flourish your walking-stick than anything else. You are a
fencer, are you not?"
The Doctor laughed. He was, in fact, a consummate MAITRE D'ARMES; and
Captain Brentwood, before spoken of, no mean fencer, coming to Baroona
on a visit, found that our friend could do exactly as he liked with
him, to the Captain's great astonishment. And Sam soon improved under
his tuition, not indeed to the extent of being a master of the weapon;
he was too large and loosely built for that; but, at all events, so far
as to gain an upright and elastic carriage, and to learn the use of his
The Major issued an edict, giving the most positive orders against its
infringement, that Sam should never mount a horse without his special
leave and licence. He taught him to ride, indeed, but would not give
him much opportunity for practising it. Once or twice a-week he would
take him out, but seldom oftener. Sam, who never dreamt of questioning
the wisdom and excellence of any of his father's decisions, rather
wondered at this; pondering in his own mind how it was that, while all
the lads he knew around, now getting pretty numerous, lived, as it
were, on horseback, never walking a quarter of a mile on any
occasion, he alone should be discouraged from it. "Perhaps," he said to
himself one day, "he doesn't want me to make many acquaintances. Its
true, Charley Delisle smokes and swears, which is very ungentlemanly;
but Cecil Mayford, Dad says, is a perfect little gentleman, and I
ought to see as much of him as possible, and yet he wouldn't give me a
horse to go to their muster. Well, I suppose he has some reason for
One holiday the Doctor and the Major were sitting in the verandah after
breakfast, when Sam entered to them, and, clambering on to his father
as his wont was, said,--
"See here, father! Harry is getting in some young beasts at the stockyard
hut, and Cecil Mayford is coming over to see if any of theirs are
among them; may I go out and meet him?"
"To be sure, my boy; why not?"
"May I have Bronsewing, father? He is in the stable."
"It is a nice cool day, and only four miles; why not walk out, my boy?"
Sam looked disappointed, but said nothing.
"I know all about it, my child," said the Major; "Cecil will be there
on Blackboy, and you would like to show him that Bronsewing is the
superior pony of the two. That's all very natural; but still I say, get
your hat, Sam, and trot through the forest on your own two legs, and
bring Cecil home to dinner."
Sam still looked disappointed, though he tried not to show it. He went
and got his hat, and, meeting the dogs, got such a wild welcome from
them that he forgot all about Bronsewing. Soon his father saw him
merrily crossing the paddock with the whole kennel of the
establishment, Kangaroo dogs, cattle dogs, and colleys, barking
joyously around him.
"There's a good lesson manfully learnt, Doctor," said the Major; "he
has learnt to sacrifice his will to mine without argument, because he
knows I have always a reason for things. I want that boy to ride as
little as possible, but he has earned an exception in his favour
to-day.--Jerry!" (After a few calls the stableman appeared.) "Put Mr.
Samuel's saddle on Bronsewing, and mine on Ricochette, and bring them
So Sam, walking cheerily forward singing, under the light and shadow of
the old forest, surrounded by his dogs, hears horses' feet behind him,
and looking back sees his father riding and leading Bronsewing saddled.
"Jump up, my boy," said the Major; "Cecil shall see what Bronsewing is
like, and how well you can sit him. The reason I altered my mind was
that I might reward you for acting like a man, and not arguing. Now, I
don't want you to ride much yet for a few years. I don't want my lad to
grow up with a pair of bow legs like a groom, and probably something
worse, from living on horseback before his bones are set. You see I
have a good reason for what I do."
But I think that the lessons Sam liked best of all were the swimming
lessons, and at a very early age he could swim and dive like a black,
and once when disporting himself in the water, when not more than
thirteen, poor Sam nearly had a stop put to his bathing for ever, and
that in a very frightful manner.
His father and he had gone down to bathe one hot noon; the Major had
swum out and was standing on the rock wiping himself while Sam was
still disporting in the mid-river; as he watched the boy he saw what
seemed a stick upon the water, and then, as he perceived the ripple
around it, the horrible truth burst on the affrighted father: it was a
large black snake crossing the river, and poor little Sam was swimming
straight towards it, all unconscious of his danger.
The Major cried out and waved his hand; the boy, seeing something was
wrong, turned and made for the shore, and the next moment his father,
bending his body back, hurled himself through the air and alighted in
the water alongside of him, clutching him round the body, and heading
down the river with furious strokes.
"Don't cling, Sam, or get frightened; make for the shore."
The lad, although terribly frightened at he knew not what, with
infinite courage seconded his father's efforts although he felt
sinking. In a few minutes they were safe on the bank, in time for them
to see the reptile land, and crawling up the bank disappear among the
"God has been very good to us, my son. You have been saved from a
terrible death. Mind you don't breathe a word to your mother about
That night Sam dreamt that he was in the coils of a snake, but waking
up found that his father was laid beside him in his clothes with one
arm round his neck, so he went to sleep again and thought no more of
"My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not"--a saying which it
is just possible you have heard before. I can tell you where it comes
from: it is one of the apothegms of the king of a little eastern nation
who at one time were settled in Syria, and whose writings are not much
read now-a-days, in consequence of the vast mass of literature of a
superior kind which this happy century has produced. I can recommend
the book, however, as containing some original remarks, and being
generally worth reading. The meaning of the above quotation (and the
man who said it, mind you, had at one time a reputation for shrewdness)
is, as I take it, that a man's morals are very much influenced by the
society he is thrown among; and although in these parliamentary times
we know that kings must of necessity be fools, yet in this instance I
think that the man shows some glimmerings of reason, for his remark
tallies singularly with my own personal observation; so, acting on
this, while I am giving you the history of this little wild boy of the
bush, I cannot do better than give some account of the companions with
whom he chiefly assorted out of school-hours.
With broad intelligent forehead, with large loving hazel eyes, with a
frill like Queen Elizabeth, with a brush like a fox; deep in the
brisket, perfect in markings of black, white, and tan; in sagacity a
Pitt, in courage an Anglesey, Rover stands first on my list, and claims
to be king of Colley-dogs. In politics I should say Conservative of the
high Protectionist sort. Let us have no strange dogs about the place to
grub up sacred bones, or we will shake out our frills and tumble them
in the dust. Domestic cats may mioul in the garden at night to a
certain extent, but a line must be drawn; after that they must be
chased up trees and barked at, if necessary, all night. Opossums and
native cats are unfit to cumber the earth, and must be hunted into
holes, wherever possible. Cows and other horned animals must not come
into the yard, or even look over the garden fence, under penalties.
Black fellows must be barked at, and their dogs chased to the uttermost
limits of the habitable globe. Such were the chief points of the creed
subscribed to by Sam's dog Rover.
All the love that may be between dog and man, and man and dog, existed
between Sam and Rover. Never a fresh cheery morning when the boy arose
with the consciousness of another happy day before him, but that the
dog was waiting for him as he stepped from his window into clear
morning air. Never a walk in the forest, but that Rover was his merry
companion. And what would lessons have been without Rover looking in
now and then with his head on one side, and his ears cocked, to know
when he would be finished and come out to play?
Oh, memorable day, when Sam got separated from his father in the Yass,
and, looking back, saw a cloud of dust in the road, and dimly descried
Rover, fighting valiantly against fearful odds, with all the dogs in
the township upon him! He rode back, and prayed for assistance from the
men lounging in front of the publichouse; who, pitying his distress,
pulled off all the dogs till there were only left Rover and a great
white bulldog to do battle. The fight seemed going against Sam's dog;
for the bulldog had him by the neck, and held him firm, so that he
could do nothing. Nevertheless, mind yourself, master bulldog; you've
only got a mouthful of long hair there; and when you do let go, I
think, there is danger for you in those fierce gleaming eyes, and
terrible grinning fangs.
Sam was crying; and the men round were saying, "Oh! take the bulldog
off; the colley's no good to him,"--when a man suddenly appeared at
Sam's side, and called out,
"I'll back the colley for five pounds, and here's my money!"
Half-a-dozen five-pound notes were ready for him at once; and he had
barely got the stakes posted before the event proved he was right. In
an evil moment for him the bulldog loosed his hold, and, ere he had
time to turn round, Rover had seized him below the eye, and was
dragging him about the road, worrying him as he would worry an opossum:
so the discomfited owner had to remove his bulldog to save his life.
Rover, after showing his teeth and shaking himself, came to Sam as
fresh as a daisy; and the new comer pocketed his five pounds.
"I am so much obliged to you," said Sam, turning to him, "for taking my
dog's part! They were all against me."
"I'm much obliged to your dog, sir, for winning me five pound so easy.
But there ain't a many bad dogs, or bad men either, about Major
"Then you know us?" said Sam.
"Ought to it, sir. An old Devonshire man. Mr. Hamlyn's stud-groom,
Well, as I am going to write Rover's life, in three volumes post
octavo, I won't any further entrench on my subject matter, save to say
that, while on the subject of Sam's education, I could not well omit a
notice of the aforesaid Rover. For, I think that all a man can learn
from a dog, Sam learnt from him; and that is something. Now let us go
on to the next of his notable acquaintances.
Who is this glorious, blue-eyed, curly-headed boy, who bursts into the
house like a whirlwind, making it ring again with merry laughter? This
is Jim Brentwood, of whom we shall see much anon.
At Waterloo, when the French cavalry were coming up the hill, and our
artillerymen were running for the squares, deftly trundling their
gun-wheels before them, it happened that there came running towards the
square where Major Buckley stood like a tower of strength (the tallest
man in the regiment), an artillery officer, begrimed with mud and
gunpowder, and dragging a youth by the collar, or rather, what seemed
to be the body of a youth. Some cried out to him to let go; but he
looked back, seeming to measure the distance between the cavalry and
the square, and then, never loosing his hold, held on against hope.
Every one thought he would be too late; when some one ran out of the
square (men said it was Buckley), and, throwing the wounded lad over
his shoulder, ran with him into safety; and a cheer ran along the line
from those who saw him do it. Small time for cheering then; for neither
could recover his breath before there came a volley of musketry, and
all around them, outside the bayonets, was a wild sea of fierce men's
faces, horses' heads, gleaming steel, and French blasphemy. A strange
scene for the commencement of an acquaintance! And yet it throve; for
that same evening, Buckley, talking to his Colonel, saw the artillery
officer coming towards them, and asked who he might be?
"That," said the Colonel, "is Brentwood of the Artillery, who ran away
with Lady Kate Bingley, and they haven't a rap to bless themselves
with, sir. It was her brother that you and he fetched into the square
And so began a friendship which lasted the lives of both men; and, I
doubt not, will last their sons' lives too. For Brentwood lived within
thirty miles of the Major, and their sons spent much of their time
together, having such a friendship for one another as only boys can
Captain Brentwood's son Jim was a very different boy to Sam, though a
very fine fellow too. Mischief and laughter were the apparent objects
of his life; and when the Doctor saw him approaching the house, he used
to put away Sam's lesson-books with a sigh and wait for better times.
The Captain had himself undertaken his son's education, and, being a
somewhat dreamy man, excessively attached to mathematics, Jim had got,
altogether, a very remarkable education indeed; which, however, is
hardly to our purpose just now. Brentwood, I must say, was a widower,
and a kindhearted, easy-going man; he had, besides, a daughter, who
was away at school. Enough of them at present.
The next of Sam's companions who takes an important part in this
history is Cecil Mayford--a delicate, clever little dandy, and
courageous withal; with more brains in his head, I should say, than Sam
and Jim could muster between them. His mother was a widow, who owned
the station next down the river from the Buckleys', distant about five
miles, and which, since the death of her husband, Doctor Mayford, she
had managed with the assistance of an overseer. She had, besides Cecil,
a little daughter of great beauty.
Also, I must here mention that the next station below Mrs. Mayford's,
on the river, distant by the windings of the valley fifteen miles, and
yet, in consequence of a bend, scarcely ten from Major Buckley's at
Baroona, was owned and inhabited by Yahoos (by name Donovan), with whom
we had nothing to do. But this aforesaid station, which is called
Garoopna, will shortly fall into other hands, when you will see that
many events of deep importance will take place there, and many pleasant
hours spent there by all our friends, more particularly one--by name
"There is one other left of whom I must say something here, and more
immediately. The poor, puling little babe, born in misery and disaster,
Mary Hawker's boy Charles!"
Toonarbin was but a short ten miles from Baroona, and, of course, the
two families were as one. There was always a hostage from the one house
staying as a visitor in the other; and, under such circumstances, of
course, Charles and Sam were much together, and, as time went on, got
to be firm friends.
Charles was two years younger than Sam; the smallest of all the lads,
and perhaps the most unhappy. For the truth must be told: he was morose
and uncertain in his temper; and although all the other boys bore
with him most generously, as one whom they had heard was born under
some great misfortune, yet he was hardly a favourite amongst them; and
the poor boy, sometimes perceiving this, would withdraw from his play,
and sulk alone, resisting all the sober, kind inducements of Sam, and
the merry, impetuous persuasions of Jim, to return.
But he was a kind, good-hearted boy, nevertheless. His temper was not
under control; but, after one of his fierce, volcanic bursts of
ill-humour, he would be acutely miserable and angry with himself for days,
particularly if the object of it had been Jim or Sam, his two especial
favourites. On one occasion, after a causeless fit of anger with Jim,
while the three were at Major Buckley's together, he got his pony and
rode away home, secretly speaking to no one. The other two lamented all
the afternoon that he had taken the matter so seriously, and were
debating even next morning going after him to propitiate him, when
Charles reappeared, having apparently quite recovered his temper, but
evidently bent upon something.
He had a bird, a white corrella, which could talk and whistle
surprisingly, probably, in fact, the most precious thing he owned. This
prodigy he had now brought back in a basket as a peace-offering, and
refused to be comforted, unless Jim accepted it as a present.
"But see, Charley," said Jim, "I was as much in the wrong as you were"
(which was not fact, for Jim was perfectly innocent). "I wouldn't take
your bird for the world."
But Charles said that his mother approved of it, and if Jim didn't take
it he'd let it fly.
"Well, if you will, old fellow," said Jim, "I'll tell you what I would
rather have. Give me Fly's dun pup instead, and take the bird home."
So this was negotiated after a time, and the corrella was taken back to
Toonarbin, wildly excited by the journey, and calling for strong liquor
all the way home.
Those who knew the sad circumstances of poor Charles's birth (the
Major, the Doctor, and Mrs. Buckley) treated him with such kindness
and consideration, that they won his confidence and love. In any of his
Berserk fits, if his mother were not at hand, he would go to Mrs.
Buckley and open his griefs; and her motherly tact and kindness seldom
failed to still the wild beatings of that poor, sensitive, silly little
heart, so that in time he grew to love her as only second to his
Such is my brief and imperfect, and I fear tedious account of Sam's
education, and of the companions with whom he lived, until the boy had
grown into a young man, and his sixteenth birthday came round, on which
day, as had been arranged, he was considered to have finished his
education, and stand up, young as he was, as a man.
Happy morning, and memorable for one thing at least--that his father,
coming into his bedroom and kissing his forehead, led him out to the
front door, where was a groom holding a horse handsomer than any Sam
had seen before, which pawed the gravel impatient to be ridden, and ere
Sam had exhausted half his expressions of wonder and admiration--that
his father told him the horse was his, a birthday-present from his
"But," I think I hear you say, "What has become of Mary Hawker all this
time? You raised our interest about her somewhat, at first, as a young
and beautiful woman, villain-beguiled, who seemed, too, to have a
temper of her own, and promised, under circumstances, to turn out a bit
of a b--mst-ne. What is she doing all this time? Has she got fat, or
had the small-pox, that you neglect her like this? We had rather more
than we wanted of her and her villanous husband in the first volume;
and now nothing. Let us, at all events, hear if she is dead or alive.
And her husband, too,--although we hope, under Providence, that he has
left this wicked world, yet we should be glad to hear of it for
certain. Make inquiries, and let us know the result. Likewise, be so
good as inform us, how is Miss Thornton?"
To all this I answer humbly, that I will do my best. If you will bring
a dull chapter on you, duller even than all the rest, at least read it,
and exonerate me. The fact is, my dear sir, that women like Mary Hawker
are not particularly interesting in the piping times of peace. In
volcanic and explosive times they, with their wild animal passions,
become tragical and remarkable, like baronesses of old. But in tranquil
times, as I said, they fall into the back-ground, and show us the value
and excellence of such placid, noble helpmates, as the serene, high-bred
A creek joined the river about a mile below the Buckleys' station,
falling into the main stream with rather a pretty cascade, which even
at the end of the hottest summer poured a tiny silver thread across the
black rocks. Above the cascade the creek cut deep into the table land,
making a charming glen, with precipitous blue stone walls, some eighty
or ninety feet in height, fringed with black wattle and lightwood, and
here and there, among the fallen rocks nearest the water, a fern tree
or so, which last I may say are no longer there, Dr. Mulhaus having cut
the hearts out of them and eaten them for cabbage. Should you wander up
this little gully on a hot summer's day, you would be charmed with the
beauty of the scenery, and the shady coolness of the spot; till coming
upon a black snake coiled away among the rocks, like a rope on the deck
of a man of war, you would probably withdraw, not without a strong
inclination to "shy" at every black stick you saw for the rest of the
day. For this lower part of the Moira creek was, I am sorry to say, the
most troubled locality for snakes, diamond, black, carpet, and other,
which I ever happened to see.
But following this creek you would find that the banks got rapidly less
precipitous, and at length it swept in long curves through open forest
glades, spreading, too, into deep dark water-holes, only connected by
gravelly fords, with a slender stream of clear water running across the
yellow pebbles. These water-holes were the haunts of the platypus and
the tortoise. Here, too, were flocks of black duck and teal, and as you
rode past, the merry little snipe would rise from the water's edge, and
whisk away like lightning through the trees. Altogether a pleasant
woodland creek, alongside of which, under the mighty box-trees, ran a
sandy road, bordered with deep beds of bracken fern, which led from
Baroona of the Buckleys to Toonarbin of the Hawkers.
A pleasant road, indeed, winding through the old forest straight
towards the mountains, shifting its course so often that every minute
some new vista opened upon you, till at length you came suddenly upon a
clear space, beyond which rose a picturesque little granite cap, at the
foot of which you saw a charming house, covered with green creepers,
and backed by huts, sheepyards, a woolshed, and the usual
concomitants of a flourishing Australian sheep station. Behind all
again towered lofty, dark hanging woods, closing the prospect.
This is Toonarbin, where Mary Hawker, with her leal and trusty cousin
Tom Troubridge for partner, has pitched her tent, after all her
spasmodic, tragical troubles, and here she is leading as happy, and by
consequence as uninteresting, an existence as ever fell to the lot of a
handsome woman yet.
Mary and Miss Thornton had stayed with the Buckleys until good cousin
Tom had got a house ready to receive them, and then they moved up and
took possession. Mary and Tom were from the first copartners, and,
latterly, Miss Thornton had invested her money, about 2,000 pounds, in the
station. Matters were very prosperous, and, after a few years, Tom
began to get weighty and didactic in his speech, and to think of
turning his attention to politics.
To Mary the past seemed like a dream--as an old dream, well-nigh
forgotten. The scene was so changed that at times she could hardly
believe that all those dark old days were real. Could she, now so busy
and happy, be the same woman who sat worn and frightened over the dying
fire with poor Captain Saxon? Is she the same woman whose husband was
hurried off one wild night, and transported for coining? Or is all that
a hideous imagination?
No. Here is the pledge and proof that it is all too terribly real. This
boy, whom she loves so wildly and fiercely, is that man's son, and his
father, for aught she knows, is alive, and only a few poor hundred
miles off. Never mind; let it be forgotten as though it never was. So
she forgot it, and was happy.
But not always. Sometimes she could not but remember what she was, in
spite of the many kind friends who surrounded her, and the new and busy
life she led. Then would come a fit of despondency, almost of despair,
but the natural elasticity of her temper soon dispersed these clouds,
and she was her old self again.
Her very old self, indeed. That delicate-minded, intellectual old maid,
Miss Thornton, used to remark with silent horror on what she called
Mary's levity of behaviour with men, but more especially with honest
Tom Troubridge. Many a time, when the old lady was sitting darning (she
was always darning; she used to begin darning the things before they
were a week out of the draper's shop), would her tears fall upon her
work, as she saw Mary sitting with her child in her lap, smiling, while
the audacious Tom twisted a flower in her hair, in the way that pleased
him best. To see anything wrong, and to say nothing, was a thing
impossible. She knew that speaking to Mary would only raise a storm, and
so, knowing the man she had to deal with, she determined to speak to Tom.
She was not long without her opportunity. Duly darning one evening,
while Mary was away putting her boy to bed, Tom entered from his wine.
Him, with a combination of valour and judgment, she immediately
attacked, acting upon a rule once laid down to Mary--"My dear, if you
want to manage a man, speak to him after dinner."
"Mr. Troubridge," said Miss Thornton. "May I speak a few words to you
on private affairs?"
"Madam," said Tom, drawing up a chair, "I am at your service night or
"A younger woman," said Miss Thornton, "might feel some delicacy in
saying what I am going to say. But old age has its privileges, and so I
hope to be forgiven."
"Dear Miss Thornton," said Tom, "you must be going to say something
very extraordinary if it requires forgiveness from me."
"Nay, my dear kinsman," said Miss Thornton; "if we begin exchanging
compliments, we shall talk all night, and never get to the gist of the
matter after all. Here is what I want to say. It seems to me that your
attentions to our poor Mary are somewhat more than cousinly, and it
behoves me to remind you that she is still a married woman. Is that too
blunt? Have I offended you?"
"Nay--no," said Tom; "you could never offend me. I think you are right
too. It shall be amended, madam."
And after this Mary missed many delicate little attentions that Tom had
been used to pay her. She thought he was sulky on some account at
first, but soon her good sense showed her that, if they two were to
live together, she must be more circumspect, or mischief would come.
For, after all, Tom had but small place in her heart. Heart filled
almost exclusively with this poor sulky little lad of hers, who seemed
born to trouble, as the sparks went upward. In teething even,
aggravating beyond experience, and afterwards suffering from the whole
list of juvenile evils, in such a way as boy never did before; coming
out of these troubles too, with a captious, disagreeable temper,
jealous in the extreme,--not a member who, on the whole, adds much to
the pleasure of the little household,--yet, with the blindest
passionate love towards some folks. Instance his mother, Thomas
Troubridge, and Sam Buckley.
For these three the lad had a wild hysterical affection, and yet none
of them had much power over him. Once by one unconsidered word arouse
the boy's obstinacy, and all chance of controlling him was gone. Then,
your only chance was to call in Miss Thornton, who had a way of
managing the boy, more potent than Mary's hysterics, and Tom's
indignant remonstrances, or Sam's quiet persuasions.
For instance,--once, when he was about ten years old, his mother set
him to learn some lesson or another, when he had been petitioning to go
off somewhere with the men. He was furiously naughty, and threw the
book to the other end of the room, all the threats and scoldings of his
mother proving insufficient to make him pick it up again. So that at
last she went out, leaving him alone, triumphant, with Miss Thornton,
who said not a word, but only raised her eyes off her work, from time
to time, to look reproachfully on the rebellious boy. He could stand
his mother's anger, but he could not stand those steady wondering looks
that came from under the old lady's spectacles. So that, when Mary came
in again, she found the book picked up, and the lesson learned.
Moreover, it was a fortnight before the lad misbehaved himself again.
In sickness and in health, in summer and in winter, for ten long years
after they settled at Toonarbin, did this noble old lady stand beside
Mary as a rock of refuge in all troubles, great or small. Always
serene, patient, and sensible, even to the last; for the time came when
this true and faithful servant was removed from among them to receive
One morning she confessed herself unable to leave her bed; that was the
first notice they had. Doctor Mayford, sent for secretly, visited her.
"Break up of the constitution," said he,--"no organic disease,"--but
shook his head. "She will go," he added, "with the first frost. I can
do nothing." And Dr. Mulhaus, being consulted, said he was but an
amateur doctor, but concurred with Dr. Mayford. So there was nothing
to do but to wait for the end as patiently as might be.
During the summer she got out of bed, and sat in a chair, which Tom
used to lift dexterously into the verandah. There she would sit very
quietly; sometimes getting Mrs. Buckley, who came and lived at
Toonarbin that summer, to read a hymn for her; and, during this time,
she told them where she would like to be buried.
On a little knoll, she said, which lay to the right of the house,
barely two hundred yards from the window. Here the grass grew shorter
and closer than elsewhere, and here freshened more rapidly beneath the
autumn rains. Here, on winter's evenings, the slanting sunbeams
lingered longest, and here, at such times, she had been accustomed to
saunter, listening to the sighing of the wind, in the dark funeral
sheoaks and cypresses, like the far-off sea upon a sandy shore. Here,
too, came oftener than elsewhere a flock of lories, making the dark low
trees gay with flying living blossoms. And here she would lie with her
feet towards the east, her sightless eyes towards that dreary ocean
which she would never cross again.
One fresh spring morning she sat up and talked serenely to Mrs.
Buckley, about matters far higher and more sacred than one likes to
deal with in a tale of this kind, and, after a time, expressed a wish
for a blossom of a great amaryllis which grew just in front of her
Mrs. Buckley got the flower for her, and so holding the crimson-striped
lily in her delicate, wasted fingers, the good old lady passed from
this world without a struggle, as decently and as quietly as she had
always lived in it.
* * * * *
This happened when Charles was about ten years old, and, for some time,
the lad was subdued and sad. He used to look out of the window at night
towards the grave, and wonder why they had put her they all loved so
well, to lie out there under the wild-sweeping winter rain. But, by
degrees, he got used to the little square white railing on the sheoak
knoll, and, ere half a year was gone, the memory of his aunt had become
very dim and indistinct.
Poor Mary, too, though a long while prepared for it, was very deeply
and sincerely grieved at Miss Thornton's death; but she soon recovered
from it. It came in the course of nature, and, although the house
looked blank and dull for a time, yet there was too much life all
around her, too much youthful happy life, to make it possible to dwell
very long on the death of one who had left them full of years and
honour. But Lord Frederick, before spoken of incidentally in this
narrative, playing billiards at Gibraltar, about a year after this; had
put into his hand a letter, from which, when opened, there fell a lock
of silver grey hair on the green cloth, which he carefully picked up,
and, leaving his game, went home to his quarters. His comrades thought
it was his father who was dead, and when they heard it was only his
sister's old governess, they wondered exceedingly; "for Fred," said
they, "is not given to be sentimental."
And now, in a year or two, it began to be very difficult to keep Master
Charley in order. When he was about thirteen, there was a regular
guerilla-war between him and his mother, on the subject of learning,
which ended, ultimately, in the boy flatly refusing to learn anything.
His natural capacities were but small, and, under any circumstances,
knowledge would only have been acquired by him with infinite pains.
But, as it was, with his selfishness fostered so excessively by his
mother's indulgence, and Tom's good-humoured carelessness, it became
totally impossible to teach him anything. In vain his mother scolded
and wept, in vain Tom represented to him the beauties and excellences
of learning--learn the boy would not; so that at fourteen he was given
up in despair by his mother, having learnt nearly enough of reading,
writing, and ciphering, to carry on the most ordinary business of life,
a most lamentable state of things for a lad who, in after life, would
be a rich man, and who, in a young and rapidly-rising country, might
become, by the help of education, politically influential.
I think that when Samuel Buckley and James Brentwood were grown to be
young men of eighteen or nineteen, and he was about seventeen or so, a
stranger would have seen a great deal of difference between the two
former and the latter, and would, probably, have remarked that James
and Sam spoke and behaved like two gentlemen, but that Charles did not,
but seemed as though he had come from a lower grade in society,--with
some truth too, for there was a circumstance in his bringing up which
brought him more harm than all his neglect of learning, and all his
mother's foolish indulgences.
Both Major Buckley and Captain Brentwood made it a law of the Medes and
Persians that neither of their sons should hold any conversation with
the convict servants, save in the presence of competent authorities;
and, indeed, they both, as soon as increased emigration enabled them,
removed their old household servants, and replaced them by free men,
newly arrived: a lazy independent class, certainly, with exaggerated
notions of their own importance in this new phase of their life, but
without the worse vices of the convicts. This rule, even in such
well-regulated households, was a very hard one to get observed, even under
flogging penalties; and, indeed, formed the staple affliction of poor
thoughtless Jim's early life, as this little anecdote will show:--
One day going to see Captain Brentwood, when Jim was about ten years
old, I met that young gentleman (looking, I thought, a little out of
sorts) about two hundred yards from the house. He turned with me to go
back, and, after the first salutations, I said,--
"Well, Jim, my boy, I hope you've been good since I saw you last?"
"Oh dear, no," was the answer, with a shake of the head that meant
"I'm sorry to hear that; what is the matter?"
"I've been CATCHING it," said Jim, in a whisper, coming close alongside
of me. "A tea-stick as thick as my forefinger all over."--Here he
entered into particulars, which, however harmless in themselves, were
not of a sort usually written in books.
"That's a bad job," I said; "what was it for?"
"Why, I slipped off with Jerry to look after some colts on the black
swamp, and was gone all the afternoon; and so Dad missed me; and when
I got home didn't I CATCH IT! Oh lord, I'm all over blue wales; but
that ain't the worst."
"What's the next misfortune?" I inquired.
"Why, when he got hold of me he said, 'Is this the first time you have
been away with Jerry, sir?' and I said, 'Yes' (which was the awfullest
lie ever you heard, for I went over to Barker's with him two days
before); then he said, 'Well, I must believe you if you say so. I shall
not disgrace you by making inquiries among the men;' and then he gave
it to me for going that time, and since then I've felt like Cain and
Abel for telling him such a lie. What would you do,--eh?"
"I should tell him all about it," I said.
"Ah, but then I shall catch it again, don't you see! Hadn't I better
wait till these wales are gone down?"
"I wouldn't, if I were you," I answered; "I'd tell him at once."
"I wonder why he is so particular," said Jim; "the Delisles and the
Donovans spend as much of their time in the huts as they do in the
"And fine young blackguards they'll turn out," I said; in which I was
right in those two instances. And although I have seen young fellows
brought up among convicts who have turned out respectable in the end,
yet it is not a promising school for good citizens.
But at Toonarbin no such precautions as these were taken with regard to
Charles. Tom was too careless, and Mary too indulgent. It was hard
enough to restrain the boy during the lesson hours, falsely so called.
After that he was allowed to go where he liked, and even his mother
sometimes felt relieved by his absence; so that he was continually in
the men's huts, listening to their yarns--sometimes harmless bush
adventures, sometimes, perhaps, ribald stories which he could not
understand; but one day Tom Troubridge coming by the hut looked in
quietly, and saw master Charles smoking a black pipe, (he was not more
than fourteen,) and heard such a conversation going on that he advanced
suddenly upon them, and ordered the boy home in a sterner tone than he
had ever used to him before, and looked out of the door till he had
disappeared. Then he turned round to the men.
There were three of them, all convicts, one of whom, the one he had
heard talking when he came in, was a large, desperate-looking fellow.
When these men mean to deprecate your anger, I have remarked they
always look you blankly in the face; but if they mean to defy you and
be impudent, they never look at you, but always begin fumbling and
fidgetting with something. So when Tom saw that the big man before
mentioned (Daniel Harvey by name) was stooping down before the fire, he
knew he was going to have a row, and waited.
"So boss," began the ruffian, not looking at him, "we ain't fit company
for the likes of that kinchin,--eh?"
"You're not fit company for any man except the hangman," said Tom,
looking more like six-foot-six than six-foot-three.
"Oh my----(colonial oath!)" said the other; "oh my----'cabbage tree!'
So there's going to be a coil about that scrubby little myrnonger; eh?
Don't you fret your bingy; boss; he'll be as good a man as his father
For an instant a dark shadow passed over Tom's face.
"So," he thought, "these fellows know all about George Hawker, eh?
Well, never mind; what odds if they do?" And then he said aloud,
turning round on Harvey, "Look you here, you dog; if I ever hear of
your talking in that style before that boy, or any other boy, by George
I'll twist your head off!"
He advanced towards him, as if to perform that feat on the spot; in a
moment the convict had snatched his knife from his belt and rushed upon
Very suddenly indeed; but not quite quick enough to take the champion
of Devon by surprise. Ere he was well within reach Tom had seized the
hand that held the knife, and with a backward kick of his left foot
sent the embryo assassin sprawling on his back on the top of the fire,
whence Tom dragged him by his heels, far more astonished than burnt.
The other two men had, meanwhile, sat taking no notice, or seeming to
take none, of the disturbance. Now, however, one of them spoke, and
"I'm sure, sir, you didn't hear me say nothing wrong to the young
gent," and so on, in a whining tone, till Tom cut him short by saying
that, "if he had any more nonsense among them, he would send 'em all
three over to Captain Desborough, to the tune of fifty (lashes) a-piece."
After this little EMEUTE Charles did not dare to go into the huts, and
soon after these three men were exchanged. But there remained one man
whose conversation and teaching, though not, perhaps, so openly
outrageously villanous as that of the worthy Harvey, still had a very
unfortunate effect on his character.
This was a rather small, wiry, active man, by name Jackson, a native,
colonially convicted, very clever among horses, a capital light-weight
boxer, and in running superb, a pupil and PROTEGE of the immortal
"flying pieman," (May his shadow never be less!) a capital cricketer, and
a supreme humbug. This man, by his various accomplishments and great
tact, had won a high place in Tom Troubridge's estimation, and was put
in a place of trust among the horses; consequently having continual
access to Charles, to whom he made himself highly agreeable, as being
heir to the property; giving him such insights into the worst side of
sporting life, and such truthful accounts of low life in Sydney, as
would have gone far to corrupt a lad of far stronger moral principle
And so, between this teaching of evil and neglect of good, Mary
Hawker's boy did not grow up all that might be desired. And at
seventeen, I am sorry to say, he got into a most disreputable connexion
with a Highland girl, at one of the Donovans' out-station huts; which
caused his kindly guardian, Tom Troubridge, a great deal of vexation,
and his mother the deepest grief, which was much increased at the same
time by something I will relate in the next chapter.
So sixteen years rolled peacefully away, chequered by such trifling
lights and shadows as I have spoken of. The new generation, the
children of those whom we knew at first, are now ready to take their
places, and bear themselves with more or less credit in what may be
going on. And now comes a period which in the memory of all those whom
I have introduced to you ranks as the most important of their lives. To
me, looking back upon nearly sixty years of memory, the events which
are coming stand out from the rest of my quiet life, well defined and
remarkable, above all others. As looking on our western moors, one sees
the long straight sky-line, broken only once in many miles by some
IN WHICH MARY HAWKER LOSES ONE OF HER OLDEST SWEETHEARTS.
Sixteen years of peace and plenty had rolled over the heads of James
Stockbridge and myself, and we had grown to be rich. Our agent used to
rub his hands, and bow, whenever our high mightinesses visited town.
There was money in the bank, there was claret in the cellar, there were
race-horses in the paddock; in short, we were wealthy prosperous men--
James a magistrate.
November set in burning hot, and by the tenth the grass was as dry as
stubble; still we hoped for a thunder-storm and a few days' rain, but
none came. December wore wearily on, and by Christmas the smaller
creeks, except those which were snow-fed, were reduced to a few muddy
pools, and vast quantities of cattle were congregated within easy reach
of the river, from other people's runs, miles away.
Of course, feed began to get very scarce, yet we were hardly so bad off
yet as our neighbours, for we had just parted with every beast we could
spare, at high prices, to Port Phillip, and were only waiting for the
first rains to start after store cattle, which were somewhat hard to
get near the new colony.
No rain yet, and we were in the end of January; the fountains of heaven
were dried up, but now all round the northern horizon the bush fires
burn continually, a pillar of smoke by day, and a pillar of fire by
Nearer, night by night, like an enemy creeping up to a beleaguered
town. The weather had been very still for some time, and we took
precaution to burn great strips of grass all round the paddocks to the
north, but, in spite of all our precautions, I knew that, should a
strong wind come on from that quarter, nothing short of a miracle would
But as yet the weather was very still, not very bright, but rather
cloudy, and a dense haze of smoke was over everything, making the
distances look ten times as far as they really were, and rendering the
whole landscape as grey and melancholy as you can conceive. There was
nothing much to be done, but to sit in the verandah, drinking
claret-and-water, and watching and hoping for a thunderstorm.
On the third of February the heat was worse than ever, but no wind; and
as the sun went down among the lurid smoke, red as blood, I thought I
made out a few brush-shaped white clouds rising in the north.
Jim and I sat there late, not talking much. We knew that if we were to
be burnt out our loss would be very heavy; but we thanked God that even
were we to lose everything it would not be irreparable, and that we
should still be wealthy. Our brood mares and racing stock were our
greatest anxiety. We had a good stack of hay, by which we might keep
them alive for another month, supposing all the grass was burnt; but if
we lost that, our horses would probably die. I said at last,--
"Jim, we may make up our minds to have the run swept. The fire is
burning up now."
"Yes, it is brightening," said he, "but it must be twenty miles off
still, and if it comes down with a gentle wind we shall save the
paddocks and hay. There is a good deal of grass in the lower paddock. I
am glad we had the forethought not to feed it down. Well, fire or no
fire, I shall go to bed."
We went to bed, and, in spite of anxiety, mosquitoes, and heat, I feel
asleep. In the grey morning I was awakened, nearly suffocated, by a
dull continuous roar. It was the wind in the chimney. The north wind,
so long imprisoned, had broke loose, and the boughs were crashing, and
the trees were falling, before the majesty of his wrath.
I ran out, and met James in the verandah. "It's all up," I said. "Get
the women and children into the river, and let the men go up to
windward with the sheep-skins. [Note: Sheep-skins, on sticks, used for
beating out the fire when in short grass.] I'll get on horseback, and
go out and see how the Morgans get on. That obstinate fellow will wish he
had come in now."
Morgan was a stockman of ours, who lived, with a wife and two children,
about eight miles to the northward. We always thought it would have
been better for him to move in, but he had put it off, and now the fire
had taken us by surprise.
I rode away, dead-up wind. Our station had a few large trees about it,
and then all was clear plain and short grass for two miles; after that
came scrubby ranges, in an open glade of which the Morgans' hut stood.
I feared, from the density of the smoke, that the fire had reached them
already, but I thought it my duty to go and see, for I might meet them
fleeing, and help them with the children.
I had seen many bush-fires, but never such a one as this. The wind was
blowing a hurricane, and, when I had ridden about two miles into scrub,
high enough to brush my horse's belly, I began to get frightened. Still
I persevered, against hope; the heat grew more fearful every moment;
but I reflected that I had often ridden up close to a bush-fire, turned
when I began to see the flame through the smoke, and cantered away from
Then it struck me that I had never yet seen a bushfire in such a
hurricane as this. Then I remembered stories of men riding for their
lives, and others of burnt horses and men found in the bush. And, now,
I saw a sight which made me turn in good earnest.
I was in lofty timber, and, as I paused, I heard the mighty cracking of
fire coming through the wood. At the same instant the blinding smoke
burst into a million tongues of flackering flame, and I saw the fire--
not where I had ever seen it before--not creeping along among the
scrub--but up aloft, a hundred and fifty feet overhead. It had caught
the dry bituminous tops of the higher boughs, and was flying along from
tree-top to tree-top like lightning. Below, the wind was comparatively
moderate, but, up there, it was travelling twenty miles an hour.
I saw one tree ignite like gun-cotton, and then my heart grew small,
and I turned and fled.
I rode as I never rode before. There were three miles to go ere I
cleared the forest, and got among the short grass, where I could save
myself--three miles! Ten minutes nearly of intolerable heat, blinding
smoke, and mortal terror. Any death but this! Drowning were pleasant,
glorious to sink down into the cool sparkling water. But, to be burnt
alive! Fool that I was to venture so far! I would give all my money now
to be naked and penniless, rolling about in a cool pleasant river.
The maddened, terrified horse, went like the wind, but not like the
hurricane--that was too swift for us. The fire had outstripped us
over-head, and I could see it dimly through the infernal choking reek,
leaping and blazing a hundred yards before me, among the feathery
foliage, devouring it, as the south wind devours the thunder clouds.
Then I could see nothing. Was I clear of the forest? Thank the Lord,
yes--I was riding over grass.
I managed to pull up the horse, and as I did so, a mob of kangaroos
blundered by, blinded, almost against me, noticing me no more in their
terror than if I had been a stump or a stone. Soon the fire came
hissing along through the grass scarcely six inches high, and I walked
my horse through it; then I tumbled off on the blackened ground, and
felt as if I should die.