Part 9 out of 12
"And what does she say to it?"
"She is very much delighted."
"And I am very much delighted, and I suppose Sam is too. So there you
are, you see: all agreed."
And that was the way the marriage negotiations proceeded; indeed, it
was nearly all that was ever said on the subject. But one day the Major
brought two papers over to the Captain (who signed them), which were
supposed to refer to settlements, and after that all the arrangements
were left to Alice and Mrs. Buckley.
They started for Cape Chatham about nine o'clock in the day; Halbert
and Jim first, then Sam and Alice, and lastly the three elders. This
arrangement did not last long, however; for very soon Sam and Alice
called aloud to Halbert and Jim to come and ride with them, for that
they were boring one another to death. This they did, and now the
discreet and sober conversation of the oldsters was much disturbed by
loud laughter of the younger folks, in which, however, they could not
help joining. It was a glorious crystal clear day in autumn; all
nature, aroused from her summer's rest, had put off her suit of hodden
grey, and was flaunting in gaudiest green. The atmosphere was so
amazingly pure that miles away across the plains the travellers could
distinguish the herds of turkeys (bustards) stalking to and fro, while
before them, that noble maritime mountain Cape Chatham towered up,
sharply defined above the gleaming haze which marked the distant sea.
For a time their way lay straight across the broad well-grassed plains,
marked with ripples as though the retiring sea had but just left it.
Then a green swamp; through the tall reeds the native companion, king
of cranes, waded majestic; the brilliant porphyry water hen, with
scarlet bill and legs, flashed like a sapphire among the emerald green
water-sedge. A shallow lake, dotted with wild ducks; here and there a
group of wild swan, black with red bills, floating calmly on its bosom.
A long stretch of grass as smooth as a bowling-green. A sudden rocky
rise, clothed with native cypress (Exocarpus--Oh my botanical
readers!), honeysuckle (Banksia), she-oak (Casuarina), and here and
there a stunted gum. Cape Chatham began to show grander and nearer,
topping all; and soon they saw the broad belt of brown sandy heath that
lay along the shore.
"Here," said the Doctor, riding up, "we leave the last limit of the
lava streams from Mirngish and the Organ-hill. Now, immediately you
shall see how we pass from the richly-grassed volcanic plains, into the
barren sandstone heaths; from a productive pasture land into a useless
flower-garden. Nature here is economical, as she always is: she makes
her choicest ornamental efforts on spots otherwise useless. You will
see a greater variety of vegetation on one acre of your sandy heath
than on two square miles of the thickly-grassed country we have been
It was as he said. They came soon on to the heath; a dark dreary
expanse, dull to look upon after so long a journey upon the bright
green grass. It stretched away right and left interminably, only broken
here and there with islands of dull-coloured trees; as melancholy a
piece of country as one could conceive: yet far more thickly peopled
with animal as well as vegetable life, than the rich pastoral downs
further inland. Now they began to see the little red brush kangaroo,
and the grey forester, skipping away in all directions; and had it been
summer they would have been startled more than once by the brown snake,
and the copper snake, deadliest of their tribe. The painted quail, and
the brush quail (the largest of Australian game birds I believe),
whirred away from beneath their horses' feet; and the ground parrot,
green with mottlings of gold and black, rose like a partridge from the
heather, and flew low. Here, too, the Doctor flushed a "White's
thrush," close to an outlying belt of forest, and got into a great
state of excitement about it. "The only known bird," he said, "which is
found in Europe, America, and Australia alike." Then he pointed out the
emu wren, a little tiny brown fellow, with long hairy tail-feathers,
flitting from bush to bush; and then, leaving ornithology, called their
attention to the wonderful variety of low vegetation that they were
riding through; Hakeas, Acacias, Grevilleas, and what not. In spring
this brown heath would have been a brilliant mass of flowers; but now,
nothing was to be seen save a few tall crimson spikes of Epacris, and
here and there a bunch of lemon-coloured Correas. Altogether, he kept
them so well amused, that they were astonished to come so quickly upon
the station, placed in a snug cove of the forest, where it bordered on
the heath beside a sluggish creek. Then, seeing the mountain towering
up close to them, and hearing, as they stayed at the door, a low
continuous thunder behind a high roll in the heath which lay before them,
they knew that the old ocean was close at hand, and their journey was
The people at the station were very glad to see them, of course.
Barker, the paterfamilias, was an old friend of both the Major and the
Captain, and they found so much to talk about, that after a heavy
midday-meal, excellent in kind, though that kind was coarse, and
certain libations of pale ale and cold claret and water, the older of
the party, with the exception of Dr. Mulhaus, refused to go any
farther; so the young people started forth to the Cape, under the
guidance of George Barker, the fourth or fifth son, who happened to be
"Doctor," said Alice as they were starting, "do you remark what
beautiful smooth grass covers the cape itself, while here we have
nothing but this scrubby heath? The mountain is, I suppose, some
"Granite, my dear young lady," said the Doctor. "A cap of granite
rising through and partly overlying this sandstone."
"You can always tell one exactly what one wants to know," said Alice;
and, as they walked forwards, somehow got talking to Halbert, which I
believe most firmly had been arranged beforehand with Sam. For he,
falling back, ranged alongside of the Doctor, and, managing to draw him
behind the others, turned to him and said suddenly,--
"My dear old friend! my good old tutor!"
The Doctor stopped short, pulled out a pair of spectacles, wiped
them, put them on, and looked at Sam through them for nearly a minute,
and then said:
"My dear boy, you don't mean to say----"
"I do, Doctor.--Last night.--And, oh! if you could only tell, how
happy I am at this moment! If you could guess at it!----"
"Pooh, pooh!" said the Doctor; "I am not so old as that, my dear boy.
Why, I am a marrying man myself. Sam, I am so very, very glad! You
have won her, and now wear her, like a pearl beyond all price. I think
that she is worthy of you: more than that she could not be."
They shook hands, and soon Sam was at her side again, toiling up the
steep ascent. They soon distanced the others, and went forwards by
There was such a rise in the ground seawards, that the broad ocean was
invisible till they were half way up the grassy down. Then right and
left they began to see the nether firmament, stretching away
infinitely. But the happy lovers paused not till they stood upon the
loftiest breezy knoll, and seemed alone together between the blue
cloudless heaven and another azure-sphere which lay beneath their feet.
A cloudless sky and a sailless sea. Far beneath them they heard but saw
not the eternal surges gnawing at the mountain. A few white albatrosses
skimmed and sailed below, and before, seaward, the sheets of turf,
falling away, stretched into a shoreless headland, fringed with black
rock and snow-white surf.
She stood there, flushed and excited with the exercise, her bright hair
dishevelled, waving in the free sea-breeze, the most beautiful object
in that glorious landscape, her noble mate beside her. Awe, wonder,
and admiration kept both of them silent for a few moments, and then she
"Do you know any of the choruses in the 'Messiah'?" asked she.
"No, I do not," said Sam.
"I am rather sorry for it," she said, "because this is so very like
some of them."
"I can quite imagine that," said Sam. "I can quite imagine music which
expresses what we see now. Something infinitely BROAD I should say.
Is that nonsense now?"
"Not to me," said Alice.
"I imagined," said Sam, "that the sea would be much rougher than this.
In spite of the ceaseless thunder below there, it is very calm."
"Calm, eh?" said the Doctor's voice behind them. "God help the ship
that should touch that reef this day, though a nautilus might float in
safety! See, how the groundswell is tearing away at those rocks; you
can just distinguish the long heave of the water, before it breaks.
There is the most dangerous groundswell in the world off this coast.
Should this country ever have a large coast-trade, they will find it
out, in calm weather with no anchorage."
A great coasting trade has arisen; and the Doctor's remark has proved
terribly true. Let the Monumental City and the Schomberg, the Duncan
Dunbar and the Catherine Adamson bear witness to it. Let the drowning
cries of hundreds of good sailors, who have been missed and never more
heard of, bear witness that this is the most pitiless and unprotected,
and, even in calm weather, the most dangerous coast in the world.
But Jim came panting up, and, throwing himself on the short turf, said--
"So this is the great Southern Ocean; eh! How far can one see, now,
"About thirty miles."
"And how far to India; eh?"
"About seven thousand."
"A long way," said Jim. "However, not so far as to England."
"Fancy," said Halbert, "one of those old Dutch voyagers driving on this
unknown coast on a dark night. What a sudden end to their voyage! Yet
that must have happened to many ships which have never come home.
Perhaps when they come to explore this coast a little more they may
find some old ship's ribs jammed on a reef; the ribs of some ship whose
name and memory has perished."
"The very thing you mention is the case," said the Doctor. "Down the
coast here, under a hopeless, black basaltic cliff, is to be seen the
wreck of a very, very old ship, now covered with coral and seaweed. I
waited down there for a spring tide, to examine her, but could
determine nothing, save that she was very old; whether Dutch or Spanish
I know not. You English should never sneer at those two nations: they
were before you everywhere."
"And the Chinese before any of us in Australia," replied Halbert.
"If you will just come here," said Alice, "where those black rocks are
hid by the bend of the hill, you get only three colours in your
landscape; blue sky, grey grass, and purple sea. But look, there is a
man standing on the promontory. He makes quite an eyesore there. I
wish he would go away."
"I suppose he has as good a right there as any of us," answered the
Doctor. "But he certainly does not harmonise very well with the rest of
the colouring. What a strange place he has chosen to stand in, looking
out over the sea, as though he were a shipwrecked mariner--the last of
"A shipwrecked mariner would hardly wear breeches and boots, my dear
Doctor," said Jim. "That man is a stockman."
"Not one of ours, however," said George Barker; "even at this distance
I can see that. See, he's gone! Strange! I know of no way down the
cliff thereabouts. Would you like to come down to the shore?"
So they began their descent to the shore by a winding path of turf,
among tumbled heaps of granite, down towards the rock-walled cove, a
horseshoe of smooth white sand lying between two long black reefs,
among whose isolated pinnacles the groundswell leapt and spouted
Halbert remarked, "This granite coast is hardly so remarkable as our
Cornish one. There are none of those queer pinnacles and tors one sees
there, just ready to topple down into the sea. This granite is not half
"Earthquakes, of which you have none in Cornwall," said the Doctor,
"will just account for the difference. I have felt one near here quite
as strong as your famous lieutenant, who capsized the Logan stone."
But now, getting on the level sands, they fell to gathering shells and
sea-weeds like children. Jim trying to see how near he could get to a
wave without being caught, got washed up like jetsam. Alice took Sam's
pocket-handkerchief, and filled it indiscriminately with everything she
could lay her hand on, principally Trochuses, as big as one's fist, and
"Venus-ears," scarlet outside. And after an hour, wetfooted and happy,
dragging a yard or so of sea-tang behind her, she looked round for the
Doctor, and saw him far out on the reef, lying flat on his stomach, and
closely examining a large still pool of salt water, contained in the
crevices of the rocks.
He held up his hand and beckoned. Sam and Alice advanced towards him
over the slippery beds of seaweed, Sam bravely burying his feet in
the wet clefts, and holding out his hand to help her along. Once there
was a break in the reef, too broad to be jumped, and then for the first
time he had her fairly in his arms and swung her across, which was
undoubtedly very delightful, but unfortunately soon over. At length,
however, they reached the Doctor, who was seated like a cormorant on a
wet rock, lighting a pipe.
"What have you collected?" he asked. "Show me."
Alice proudly displayed the inestimable treasures contained in Sam's
"Rubbish! Rubbish!" said the Doctor, "Do you believe in mermaidens?"
"Of course I do, if you wish it," said Alice. "Have you seen one?"
"No, but here is one of their flower-gardens. Bend down and look into
She bent and looked. The first thing she saw was her own exquisite
face, and Sam's brown phiz peering over her shoulder. A golden tress of
hair, loosened by the sea breeze, fell down into the water, and had to
be looped up again. Then gazing down once more, she saw beneath the
crystal water a bed of flowers; dahlias, ranunculuses, carnations,
chrysanthemums, of every colour in the rainbow save blue. She gave a
cry of pleasure: "What are they, Doctor? What do you call them?"
"Sea anemones, in English, I believe," said the Doctor, "actinias,
serpulas, and sabellas. You may see something like that on the European
coasts, on a small scale, but there is nothing I ever have seen like
that great crimson fellow with cream-coloured tentacles. I do not know
his name. I suspect he has never been described. The common European
anemone they call 'crassicornis' is something like him, but not half as
"Is there any means of gathering and keeping them, Doctor?" asked Sam.
"We have no flowers in the garden like them."
"No possible means," said the Doctor. "They are but lumps of jelly. Let
us come away and get round the headland before the tide comes in."
They wandered on from cove to cove, under the dark cliffs, till
rounding a little headland the Doctor called out,--
"Here is something in your Cornish style, Halbert."
A thin wall of granite, like a vast buttress, ran into the sea, pierced
by a great arch, some sixty feet high. Aloft all sharp grey stone:
below, wherever the salt water had reached, a mass of dark clinging
weed: while beyond, as though set in a dark frame, was a soft glimpse
of blue sky and snow-white seabirds.
"There is nothing so grand as that in Cornwall, Doctor," said Halbert.
"Can we pass under it, Mr. Barker?" said Alice. "I should like to go
through; we have been into none of the caves yet."
"Oh, yes!" said George Barker. "You may go through for the next two
hours. The tide has not turned yet."
"I'll volunteer first," said the Doctor, "and if there's anything worth
seeing beyond, I'll come for you."
It was, as I said, a thin wall of granite, which ran out from the rest
of the hill, seaward, and was pierced by a tall arch; the blocks which
had formerly filled the void now lay weed-grown, half buried in sand,
forming a slippery threshold. Over these the Doctor climbed and looked
A little sandy cove, reef-bound, like those they had seen before, lay
under the dark cliffs; and on a water-washed rock, not a hundred yards
from him, stood the man they had seen on the downs above, looking
The Doctor slipped over the rocks like an otter, and approached the man
across the smooth sand, unheard in the thunder of the surf. When he was
close upon him, the stranger turned, and the Doctor uttered a low cry
of wonder and alarm.
It was George Hawker! The Doctor knew him in a moment: but whether the
recognition was mutual, he never found out, for Hawker, stepping
rapidly from stone to stone, disappeared round the headland, and the
thunderstruck Doctor retraced his steps to the arch.
There were all the young people gathered, wondering and delighted. But
Alice came to meet him, and said,--
"Who was that with you just now?"
"A mermaid!" replied he.
"That, indeed!" said Alice. "And what did she say?"
"She said, 'Go home to your supper; you have seen quite enough; go home
in good time.'"
"Doctor, there is something wrong!" said Alice. "I see it in your face.
Can you trust me, and tell me what it is?"
"I can trust you so far as to tell you that you are right. I don't like
the look of things at all. I fear there are evil times coming for some
of our friends! Further than this I can say nothing. Say your prayers,
and trust God! Don't tell Sam anything about this: to-morrow I shall
speak to him. We won't spoil a pleasant holiday on mere suspicion."
They rejoined the others, and the Doctor said, "Come away home now; we
have seen enough. Some future time we will come here again: you might
see this fifty times, and never get tired of it."
After a good scramble they stood once more on the down above, and
turned to take a last look at the broad blue sea before they descended
inland; at the first glance seaward, Halbert exclaimed,--
"See there, Doctor! see there! A boat!"
"It's only a whale, I think," said George Barker.
There was a black speck far out at sea, but no whale; it was too steady
for that. All day the air had been calm; if anything, the breeze was
from the north, but now a strong wind was coming up from the south-east,
freshening every moment, and bringing with it a pent bank of dark
clouds; and, as they watched, the mysterious black speck was topped
with white, and soon they saw that it was indeed a boat driving before
the wind under a spritsail, which had just been set.
"That is very strange!" said George Barker. "Can it be a shipwrecked
"More likely a mob of escaped convicts from Van Diemen's Land," said
Jim. "If so, look out for squalls, you, George, and keep your guns
"I don't think it can be that, Jim," said Sam. "What could bring them
so far north? They would have landed, more likely, somewhere in the
Straits, about the big lakes."
"They may have been driven off shore by these westerly winds which have
been blowing the last few days," replied Jim, "and kept their boat's
head northward, to get nearer the settlements. They will be terribly
hungry when they do land, for certain. What's your opinion, Doctor?"
"I think that wise men should be always prepared. We should communicate
with Captain Desborough, and set the police on the alert."
"I wonder," said Sam, "if that mysterious man we saw to-day, watching
on the cliff, could have had any connexion with this equally mysterious
boat. Not likely, though. However, if they are going to land to-night,
they had better look sharp, for it is coming on to blow."
The great bank of cloud which they had been watching, away to the
south-east, was growing and spreading rapidly, sending out little black
avant-couriers of scud, which were hurrying fanlike across the heavens,
telling the news of the coming storm. Landward, in the west, the sun
was going down in purple and scarlet splendours, but seaward, all
looked dark and ominous.
The young folks stood together in the verandah before they went into
dinner, listening to the wind which was beginning to scream angrily
round the corners of the house. The rain had not yet gathered strength
to fall steadily, but was whisked hither and thither by the blast, in a
few uncertain drops. They saw that a great gale was coming up, and knew
that, in a few hours, earth and sky would be mingled in furious war!
"How comfortable it is to think that all the animals are under shelter
to-night!" said Sam. "Jim, my boy, I am glad you and I are not camped
out with cattle this evening. We have been out on nights as bad as this
though; eh? Oh, Lord! fancy sitting the saddle all to-night, under the
breaking boughs, wet through!"
"No more of that for me, old Sam. No more jolly gallops after cattle or
horses for me. But I was always a good hand at anything of that sort,
and I mean to be a good soldier now. You'll see."
At dark, while they were sitting at dinner, the storm was raging round
the house in full fury; but there, in the well-lighted room, before a
good fire, they cared little for it. When dinner was over, the Doctor
called the Captain and the Major aside, and told them in what manner he
had seen and recognised George Hawker on the beach that day; and raised
their fears still more by telling them of that mysterious boat which
the Doctor thought Hawker had been watching for. None of them could
understand it, but all agreed that these things boded no good; and so,
having called their host into their confidence, with regard to the
boat, they quietly loaded all the fire-arms in the place, and put them
together in the hall. This done, they returned to the sitting-room,
and, having taken their grog, retired to bed.
It must be remembered that hitherto Major Buckley knew nothing of
George Hawker's previous appearance, but the Doctor now let him into
the secret. The Major's astonishment and wrath may be conceived, at
finding that his old PROTEGEE Mary, instead of being a comfortable
widow, was the persecuted wife of one of the greatest bushrangers
known. At first he was stunned and confused, but, ere he slept, his
clear straightforward mind had come to a determination that the first
evil was the worst, and that, God give him grace, he would hand the
scoundrel over to justice on the first opportunity, sure that he was
serving Mary best by doing so.
That night Jim and Sam lay together in a little room to the windward of
the house. They were soon fast asleep, but, in the middle of the night,
Jim was woke by a shake on the shoulder, and, rousing himself, saw that
Sam was sitting up in the bed.
"My God, Jim!" said he,--"I have had such an awful dream! I dreamed
that those fellows in the boat were carrying off Alice, and I stood by
and saw it, and could not move hand or foot. I am terribly frightened.
That was something more than a dream, Jim."
"You ate too much of that pie at dinner," said Jim, "and you've had the
nightmare,--that's what is the matter with you. Lord bless you, I
often have the nightmare when I have eaten too much at supper, and lie
on my back. Why, I dreamed the other night that the devil had got me
under the wool-press, screwing me down as hard as he could, and singing
the Hundredth Psalm all the time. That was a much worse dream than
Sam was obliged to confess that it was. "But still," said he, "I think
mine was something more than a dream. I'm frightened still."
"Oh, nonsense; lie down again. You are pulling all the clothes off me."
They lay down, and Jim was soon asleep, but not so Sam. His dream had
taken such hold of his imagination, that he lay awake, listening to
the storm howling around the house. Now and then he could hear the
unearthly scream of some curlew piercing the din, and, above all, he
could hear the continuous earth-shaking thunder of the surf upon the
beach. Soon after daylight, getting Halbert to accompany him, he went
out to have a look at the shore, and, forcing their way against the
driving, cutting rain, they looked over the low cliff at the furious
waste of waters beneath them, and saw mountain after mountain of water
hurl itself, in a cloud of spray, upon the shore.
"What terrible waves, now!" said Sam.
"Yes," replied Halbert; "there's no land to windward for six thousand
miles or more. I never saw heavier seas than those. I enjoy this, Sam.
It reminds me of a good roaring winter's day in old Cornwall."
"I like it, too," said Sam. "It freshens you up. How calm the water is
to the leeward of the Cape!"
"Yes; a capital harbour of refuge that. Let us go home to breakfast."
He turned to go, but was recalled by a wild shout from Sam.
"A ship! A ship!"
He ran back and looked over into the seething hell of waters helow. Was
it only a thicker spot in the driving mist, or was it really a ship? If
so, God help her.
Small time to deliberate. Ere he could think twice about it, a full-rigged
ship, about five hundred tons, with a close-reefed topsail and a
rag of a foresail upon her, came rushing, rolling, diving, and plunging
on, apparently heading for the deadly white line of breakers which
stretched into the sea at the end of the promontory.
"A Queen's ship, Sam! a Queen's ship! The Tartar, for a thousand
pounds! Oh, what a pity; what a terrible pity!"
"Only a merchant ship, surely," said Sam.
"Did you ever see a merchant ship with six such guns as those on her
upper deck, and a hundred blue-jackets at quarters? That is the
Tartar, Sam, and in three minutes there will be no Tartar."
They had run in their excitement out to the very end of the Cape, and
now the ship was almost under their feet, an awful sight to see. She
was rolling fearfully, going dead before the wind. Now and then she
would slop tons of water on her deck, and her mainyard would almost
touch the water. But still the dark clusters of men along her bulwarks
held steadfast, and the ship's head never veered half a point. Now it
became apparent that she would clear the reef by a hundred yards or
more, and Halbert, waving his hat, cried out,--
"Well done, Blockstrop! Bravely done, indeed! He is running under the
lee of the Cape for shelter. Her Majesty has one more ship-of-war than
I thought she would have had five minutes ago."
As he spoke, she had passed the reef. The yards, as if by magic, swung
round, and, for a moment, she was broadside on to the sea. One wave
broke over her, and nought but her masts appeared above a sheet of
white foam; but, ere the water had well done pouring from her open deck
ports, she was in smooth water, her anchor was down, and the topsail
yard was black with men.
"Let us come down, Sam," said Halbert: "very likely they will send a
As they were scrambling down the leeward side of the cliff, they saw a
boat put off from the ship, and gained the beach in time to meet a
midshipman coming towards them. He, seeing two well-dressed gentlemen
before him, bowed, and said,--
"Good morning; very rough weather."
"Very, indeed," said Halbert. "Is that the Tartar, pray?"
"That is the Tartar; yes. We were caught in the gale last night, and we
lay-to. This morning, as soon as we recognised the Cape, we determined
to run for this cove, where we have been before. We had an anxious
night last night, I assure you. We have been terribly lucky. If the
wind had veered a few more points to the east, we should have been done
for. We never could have beaten off in such a sea as this."
"Are you going to Sydney?"
"No; we are in chase of a boat full of escaped convicts from
Launceston. Cunning dogs; they would not land in the Straits. We missed
them and got across to Port Phillip, and put Captain D---- and his black
police on the alert; and they have got scent of it, and coasted up
north. We have examined the coast all along, but I am afraid they have
given us the slip; there is such a system of intelligence among them.
However, if they had not landed before last night, they have saved us
all trouble; and if they are ashore we wash our hands of them, and
leave them to the police."
Halbert and Sam looked at one another. Then the former said,--
"Last night, about an hour before it came on to blow, we saw a boat
making for this very headland, which puzzled us exceedingly; and, what
was stranger still, we saw a man on the Cape, who seemed to be on the
"That is quite possible," replied the midshipman; "these fellows have a
queer system of communication. The boat you saw must certainly have
been them; and if they landed at all they must have landed here."
* * * * *
I must change the scene here, if you please, my dear reader, and get
you to come with me on board his (I beg pardon, her) Majesty's ship
Tartar for a few minutes, for on the quarter-deck of that noble sloop
there are at this moment two men worth rescuing from oblivion.
The first is a stoutish, upright, middle-aged man, in a naval uniform,
with a brickdust complexion, and very light scanty whiskers; the
jolliest, cheeriest-looking fellow you are likely to meet in a year's
journey. Such a bright merry blue eye as he has, too! This is Captain
Blockstrop, now, I am happy to say, C.B.; a right valiant officer, as
the despatches of Lyons and Peel will testify.
The other is a very different sort of man;--a long, wiry, brown-faced
man, with a big forehead, and a comical expression about his eyes. This
is no less a person than the Colonial Secretary of one of our three
great colonies: of which I decline to mention. Those who know the
Honourable Abiram Pollifex do not need to be told; and those who do not
must find out for themselves. I may mention that he has been known to
retain office seven years in succession, and yet he seldom threatens to
resign his office and throw himself upon the country fewer than three
times, and sometimes four, per annum. Latterly, I am sorry to say, a
miserable faction, taking advantage of one of his numerous
resignations, have assumed the reins of government, and, in spite of
three votes of want of confidence, persist in retaining the seals of
office. Let me add to this, that he is considered the best hand at
quiet "chaff" in the House, and is allowed, both by his supporters and
opponents, to be an honourable man, and a right good fellow.
Such were the two men who now stood side by side on the quarter-deck,
looking eagerly at Sam and Halbert through a pair of telescopes.
"Pollifex," said the Captain, "what do you make of these?"
"Gentlemen," said the Secretary, curtly.
"So I make out," said the Captain; "and apparently in good condition,
too. A very well fed man that biggest, I should say."
"Ye-es; well, ye-es," said the Secretary; "he does look well-fed
enough. He must be a stranger to these parts; probably from the Maneroo
plains, or thereabout."
"What makes you think so?"
"Dear me," said the Secretary; "have you been stationed nearly three
years on this coast, and ask how a man could possibly be in good
condition living in those scrubby heaths?"
"Bad-looking country; eh?" said the Captain.
"Small cattle-stations, sir," said the Secretary, "I can see at a
glance. Salt beef, very tough, and very little of it. I shall run a
bill through the House for the abolition of small cattle-stations next
"Better get your estimates through first, old fellow. The bagpipes will
play quite loud enough over them to last for some time."
"I know it, but tremble not," replied the undaunted Secretary; "I have
got used to it. I fancy I hear Callaghan beginning now: 'The unbridled
prodigality, sir, and the reckless profligacy, sir, of those
individuals who have so long, under the name of government----'"
"That'll do, now," said the Captain; "you are worse than the reality. I
shall go ashore, and take my chance of getting breakfast. Will you
"Not if I know it, sir, with pork chops for breakfast in the cabin.
Blockstrop, have you duly reflected what you are about to do? You are
about to land alone, unarmed, unprovisioned, among the offscourings of
white society, scarcely superior in their habits of life to the nomadic
savages they have unjustly displaced. Pause and reflect, my dear
fellow. What guarantee have you that they will not propose to feed you
on damper, or some other nameless abomination of the same sort?"
"It was only the other day, in the House," said the Captain, "that you
said the small squatters and freehold farmers represented the greater
part of the intelligence and education of the colony, and now----"
"Sir! sir!" said the Secretary, "you don't know what you are talking
about. Sir, we are not in the House now. Are you determined, then?"
The Captain was quite determined, and they went down to the waist. They
were raising a bag of potatoes from somewhere, and the Colonial
Secretary, seizing two handfuls of them, presented them to the Captain.
"If you will go," he said, "take these with you, and teach the poor
benighted white savages to plant them. So if you fall a victim to
indigestion, we will vote a monument to you on the summit of the Cape,
and write:--'He did not live in vain. He introduced the potato among
the small cattle stations around Cape Chatham.'"
He held out his potatoes towards the retiring Captain with the air of
Burke producing the dagger. His humour, I perceive, reads poor enough
when written down, but when assisted by his comical impassible face,
and solemn drawling delivery, I never heard anything much better.
Good old Pollifex! my heart warms towards him now. When I think what
the men were whose clamour put him out of office in 184-, I have the
conviction forced upon me, that the best among them was not worth his
little finger. He left the colony in a most prosperous state, and,
retiring honourably to one of his stations, set to work, as he said, to
begin life again on a new principle. He is wealthy, honoured, and
happy, as he deserves to be.
I cannot help, although somewhat in the wrong place, telling the reader
under what circumstances I saw him last. Only two years ago, fifteen
after he had left office, I happened to be standing with him, at the
door of a certain club, in a certain capital, just after lunch time,
when we saw the then Colonial Secretary, the man who had succeeded
Pollifex, come scurrying round the corner of the street, fresh from his
office. His face was flushed and perspiring, his hat was on wrong-side
before, with his veil hanging down his back. In the one hand he held
papers, in the other he supported over his fevered brow his white
cotton umbrella; altogether he looked harassed beyond the bounds of
human endurance, but when he caught sight of the open club-doors, he
freshened a bit, and mended his pace. His troubles were not over, for
ere he reached his haven, two Irishmen, with two different requests,
rose as if from the earth, and confronted him. We saw him make two
promises, contradictory to each other, and impossible of fulfilment,
and as he came up the steps, I looked into the face of Ex-Secretary
Pollifex, and saw there an expression which is beyond description. Say
that of the ghost of a man who has been hanged, attending an execution.
Or say the expression of a Catholic, converted by torture, watching
the action of the thumb-screws upon another heretic. The air, in short,
of a man who had been through it all before. And as the then Secretary
came madly rushing up the steps, Pollifex confronted him, and said,--
"Don't you wish you were me, T----?"
"Sir!" said the Secretary, "dipping" his umbrella and dropping his
papers, for the purpose of rhetorically pointing with his left hand at
nothing; "Sir! flesh and blood can't stand it. I resign to-morrow." And
so he went in to his lunch, and is in office at this present moment.
I must apologize most heartily for this long digression. The
Captain's gig, impelled by the "might of England's pride," was cleverly
beached alongside of the other boat, and the Captain stepped out and
confronted the midshipman.
"Got any news, Mr. Vang?"
"Yes, sir!" said the midshipman. "These gentlemen saw the boat
Sam and Halbert, who were standing behind him, came forward. The
Captain bowed, and looked with admiration at the two highbred-looking
men, that this unpromising desert had produced. They told him what they
had told the midshipman, and the Captain said,--"It will be a very
serious thing for this country side, if these dogs have succeeded in
landing. Let us hope that the sea has done good service in swallowing
fourteen of the vilest wretches that ever disgraced humanity. Pray, are
either of you gentlemen magistrates?"
"My father, Major Buckley, is a magistrate," said Sam. "This gentleman
is Lieutenant Halbert, of the Bengal Artillery."
The Captain bowed to Halbert, and turning to Sam, said,--"So you are
the son of my old friend Major Buckley! I was midshipman in the
'Phlegethon' when she took him and part of his regiment to Portugal, in
1811. I met him at dinner in Sydney, the other day. Is he in the
"He is waiting breakfast for us not a quarter of a mile off," said Sam.
"Will you join us?"
"I shall be delighted; but duty first. If these fellows have succeeded
in landing, you will have to arm and prepare for the worst. Now, unless
they were caught by the gale and drowned, which I believe to be the
case, they must have come ashore in this very bay, about five o'clock
last night. There is no other place where they could have beached their
boat for many miles. Consequently, the thing lies in a nutshell: if we
find the boat, prepare yourselves,--if not, make yourselves easy.
Let us use our wits a little. They would round the headland as soon as
possible, and probably run ashore in that furthest cove to our right,
just inside the reef. I have examined the bay through a telescope, and
could make out nothing of her. Let us come and examine carefully.
Downhaul!" (to his Coxswain). "Come with me."
They passed three or four indentations in the bay examining as they
went, finding nothing, but when they scrambled over the rocks which
bounded the cover the Captain had indicated, he waved his hat, and
"Ha, ha! just as I thought. There she is."
"Where, Captain Blockstrop?" said Halbert. "I don't see her."
"Nor I either," said the Captain. "But I see the heap of seaweed that
the cunning dogs have raked over her.--Downhaul; heave away at this
weed, and show these gentlemen what is below it."
The Coxswain began throwing away a pile of seatang heaped against a
rock. Bit by bit was disclosed the clean run of a beautiful white
whale-boat, which when turned over discovered her oars laid neatly side
by side, with a small spritsail. The Captain stood by with the air of
a man who had made a hit, while Sam and Halbert stared at one another
with looks of blank discomfiture and alarm.
A COUNCIL OF WAR.
"This is a very serious matter for us, Captain Blockstrop," said Sam,
as they were walking back to the boats. "An exceedingly serious
"I have only one advice to give you, Mr. Buckley," said the Captain;
"which is unnecessary, as it is just what your father will do. Fight,
sir!--hunt 'em down. Shoot 'em! They will give you no quarter: be sure
you don't give them any."
A wild discordant bellow was here heard from the ship, on which the
Captain slapped his leg, and said,--
"Dash my buttons, if he hasn't got hold of my speaking-trumpet."
The midshipman came up with a solemn face, and, touching his cap,
"Colonial Secretary hailing, sir."
"Bless my soul, Mr. Vang, I can hear that," said the Captain. "I don't
suppose any of my officer would dare to make such an inarticulate, no
sailor-like bellow as that on her Majesty's quarterdeck. Can you make
out what he says? That would be more to the purpose."
Again the unearthly bellow came floating over the water, happily
deadened by the wind, which was roaring a thousand feet over head.
"CAN you make out anything, Mr. Vang?" said the Captain.
"I make out 'pork-chops!' sir," said the midshipman.
"Take one of the boats on board, Mr. Vang. My compliments, and will be
much obliged if he will come ashore immediately! On important business,
say. Tell him the convicts have landed; will you? Also, tell the
lieutenant of the watch that I want either Mr. Tacks, or Mr. Sheets:
either will do."
The boat was soon seen coming back with the Colonial Secretary in a
statesman-like attitude in the stern sheets, and beside him that
important officer Mr. Tacks, a wee little dot of a naval cadet,
apparently about ten years old.
"What were you bellowing about pork-chops, Pollifex?" asked the
Captain, the moment the boat touched the shore.
"A failure, sir," said the Colonial Secretary; "burnt, sir;
disgracefully burnt up to a cinder, sir. I have been consulting the
honourable member for the Cross-jack-yard (I allude to Mr. Tack's N.C.,
my honourable friend, if he will allow me to call him so) as to the
propriety of calling a court-martial on the cook's mate. He informs me
that such a course is not usual in naval jurisprudence. I am, however,
of opinion that in one of the civil courts of the colony an action for
damages would lie. Surely I have the pleasure of seeing Mr. Buckley of
Sam and he had met before, and the Secretary, finding himself on shore
and where he was known, dropped his King Cambyses' vein, and appeared
in his real character of a shrewd, experienced man. They walked up
together, and when they arrived at the summit of the ridge, and saw
the magnificent plains stretching away inland, beyond the narrow belt
of heath along the shore, the Secretary whispered to the Captain,--
"I have been deceived. We shall get some breakfast, after all. As
fine a country as I ever saw in my life!"
The party who were just sitting down to breakfast at the station were
sufficiently astonished to see Captain Blockstrop come rolling up the
garden walk, with that small ship-of-war Tacks sailing in his wake,
convoying the three civilians; but on going in and explaining matters,
and room having been made for them at the table, Sam was also
astonished on looking round to see that a new arrival had taken place
since that morning.
It was that of a handsome singular-looking man. His hair was light, his
whiskers a little darker, and his blonde moustache curled up towards
his eyes like corkscrews or a ram's horns (congratulate me on my
simile). A very merry laughing eye he had, too, blue of course, with
that coloured hair; altogether a very pleasant-looking man, and yet
whose face gave one the idea that it was not at all times pleasant, but
on occasions might look terribly tigerish and fierce. A man who won you
at once, and yet one with whom one would hardly like to quarrel. Add to
this, also, that when he opened his mouth to speak, he disclosed a
splendid set of white teeth, and the moment he'd uttered a word, a
stranger would remark to himself, "That is an Irishman."
Sam, who had ensconced himself beside Alice, looked up the long table
towards him with astonishment. "Why, good gracious, Captain
Desborough," he said, "can that be you?"
"I have been waiting," said Desborough, "with the greatest patience to
see how long you would have the audacity to ignore my presence. How do
you do, my small child? Sam, my dear, if ever I get cashiered for being
too handsome to remain in the Service, I'll carry you about and exhibit
you, as the biggest and ugliest boy in the Australian colonies."
Captain Desborough has been mentioned before in these pages. He was an
officer in the army, at the present time holding the situation of
Inspector of Police in this district. He was a very famous hunter-down
of bushrangers, and was heartily popular with every one he was thrown
against, except the aforesaid bushrangers. Sam and he were very old
friends, and were very fond of one another.
Desborough was sitting now at the upper end of the table, with the
Colonial Secretary, Major Buckley, Captain Blockstrop, Captain
Brentwood, and Doctor Mulhaus. They looked very serious indeed.
"It was a very lucky thing, Desborough," said the Major, "that you
happened to meet Captain Blockstrop. He has now, you perceive, handed
over the care of these rascals to you. It is rather strange that they
should have landed here."
"I believe that they were expected," said the Doctor. "I believe that
there is a desperate scheme of villany afloat, and that some of us are
the objects of it."
"If you mean," said Desborough, "that that man you saw on the Cape last
night was watching for the boat, I don't believe it possible. It was,
possibly, some stockman or shepherd, having a look at the weather."
The Doctor had it on the tip of his tongue to speak, and astound them
by disclosing that the lonely watcher was none other than the ruffian
Touan, alias George Hawker; but the Major pressed his foot beneath the
table, and he was silent.
"Well," said Desborough, "and that's about all that's to be said at
present, except that the settlers must arm and watch, and if necessary
"If they will only do that," said the Colonial Secretary; "if they
will only act boldly in protecting their property and lives, the evil
is reduced by one-half; but when Brallagan was out, nothing that I or
the Governor could do would induce the majority of them to behave like
"Look here, now," said Barker, the host, "I was over the water when
Brallagan was out, and when Howe was out too. And what could a lonely
squatter do against half-a-dozen of 'em? Answer me that?"
"I don't mean that," said the Colonial Secretary; "what I refer to is
the cowardly way in which the settlers allowed themselves to be
prevented by threats from giving information. I speak the more boldly,
Mr. Barker, because you were not one of those who did so."
Barker was appeased. "There's five long guns in my hall, and there's
five long lads can use 'em," he said. "By-the-bye, Captain Desborough,
let me congratulate you on the short work you made with that gang to
the north, the other day. I am sorry to hear that the principal rascal
of the lot, Captain Touan, gave you the slip."
The Doctor had been pondering, and had made up his mind to a certain
course; he bent over the table, and said,--
"I think, on the whole, that it is better to let you all know the
worst. That man whom we saw on the cliff last night I met afterwards,
alone, down on the shore, and that man is no other than the one you
speak of, Captain Touan."
Any one watching Desborough's face as the Doctor spoke would have seen
his eyebrows contract heavily, and a fierce scowl settle on his face.
The name the Doctor mentioned was a very unwelcome one. He had been
taunted and laughed at, at Government-house, for having allowed Hawker
to outwit him. His hot Irish blood couldn't stand that, and he had
vowed to have the fellow somehow. Here he had missed him again, and by
so little, too! He renewed his vow to himself, and in an instant the
cloud was gone, and the merry Irishman was there again.
"My dear Doctor," he said, "I am aware that you never speak at random,
or I should ask you, were you sure of the man? Are you not mistaken?"
"Mistaken in HIM,--eh?" said the Doctor. "No, I was not mistaken."
"You seem to know too much of a very suspicious character, Doctor!"
said Desborough. "I shall have to keep my eye on you, I see!"
* * * * *
Meanwhile, at the other end of the table, more agreeable subjects
were being talked of. There sat our young coterie, laughing loudly,
grouping themselves round some exceedingly minute object, which
apparently was between Sam and Alice, and which, on close examination,
turned out to be little Tacks, who was evidently making himself
agreeable in a way hardly to be expected in one of his tender years.
And this is the way he got there:--
When Captain Blockstrop came in, Alice was duly impressed by the
appearance of that warrior. But when she saw little Tacks slip in
behind him, and sit meekly down by the door; and when she saw how his
character was appreciated by the cattle-dogs, one of whom had his head
in the lad's lap, while the other was licking his face--when she saw,
I say, the little blue and gold apparition, her heart grew pitiful,
and, turning to Halbert, she said,--
"Why, good gracious me! You don't mean to tell me that they take such a
child as that to sea; do you?"
"Oh dear, yes!" said Halbert, "and younger, too. Don't you remember the
story about Collingwood offering his cake to the first lieutenant? He
became, remember, a greater man than Nelson, in all except worldly
"Would you ask him to come and sit by me, if you please?" said Alice.
So Halbert went and fetched him in, and he sat and had his breakfast
between Alice and Sam. They were all delighted with him; such a child,
and yet so bold and self-helpful, making himself quietly at home, and
answering such questions as were put to him modestly and well. Would
that all midshipmen were like him!
But it became time to go on board, and Captain Blockstrop, coming by
where Alice sat, said, laughing,--
"I hope you are not giving my officer too much marmalade, Miss
Brentwood? He is over-young to be trusted with a jam-pot,--eh, Tacks?"
"Too young to go to sea, I should say," said Alice.
"Not too young to be a brave-hearted boy, however!" said the Captain.
"The other day, in Sydney harbour, one of my marines who couldn't swim
went overboard and this boy soused in after him, and carried the lifebuoy
to him, in spite of sharks. What do you think of that for a ten-year-old?"
The boy's face flushed scarlet as the Captain passed on, and he held
out his hand to Alice to say good-bye. She took it, looked at him,
hesitated, and then bent down and kissed his cheek--a tender, sisterly
kiss--something, as Jim said, to carry on board with him!
Poor little Tacks! He was a great friend of mine; so I have been
tempted to dwell on him. He came to me with letters of introduction,
and stayed at my place six weeks or more. He served brilliantly, and
rose rapidly, and last year only I heard that Lieutenant Tacks had
fallen in the dust, and never risen again, just at the moment that the
gates of Delhi were burst down, and our fellows went swarming in to
AN EARTHQUAKE, A COLLIERY EXPLOSION, AND AN ADVENTURE.
So the Captain, the Colonial Secretary, and the small midshipman left
the station and went on board again, disappearing from this history for
evermore. The others all went home and grew warlike, arming themselves
against the threatened danger; but still weeks, nay months,
rolled on, and winter was turning into spring, and yet the country side
remained so profoundly tranquil that every one began to believe that
the convicts must after all have been drowned, and that the boat
found by sagacious Blockstrop had been capsized and thrown bottom
upwards on the beach. So that, before the brown flocks began to be
spotted with white lambs, all alarm had gone by.
Only four persons, besides Mary Hawker herself, were conversant of the
fact that the Bushranger and George Hawker were the same man. Of these
only three, the Doctor, Major Buckley, and Captain Brentwood, knew of
his more recent appearance on the shore, and they, after due
consultation, took honest Tom Troubridge into their confidence.
But, as I said, all things went so quietly for two months, that at the
end of that time no one thought any more of bushrangers than they would
of tigers. And just about this time, I, Geoffry Hamlyn, having finished
my last consignment of novels from England, and having nothing to do,
determined to ride over, and spend a day or two with Major Buckley.
But when I rode up to the door at Baroona, having pulled my shirt
collar up, and rapped at the door with my whip, out came the
housekeeper to inform me there was not a soul at home. This was deeply
provoking, for I had got on a new pair of riding trousers, which had
cost money, and a new white hat with a blue net veil (rather a neat
thing too), and I had ridden up to the house under the idea that
fourteen or fifteen persons were looking at me out of window. I had
also tickled my old horse, Chanticleer, to make him caper and show the
excellency of my seat. But when I came to remember that the old horse
had nearly bucked me over his head instead of capering, and to find
that my hat was garnished with a large cobweb of what is called by
courtesy native silk, with half-a-dozen dead leaves sticking in it, I
felt consoled that no one had seen me approach, and asked the
housekeeper, with tolerable equanimity, where they were all gone.
They were all gone, she said, over to Captain Brentwood's, and
goodness gracious knew when they would be back again. Mrs. Hawker and
Mr. Charles were gone with them. For her part, she should not be sorry
when Mr. Sam brought Miss Brentwood over for good and all. The house
was terrible lonesome when they were all away.
I remarked, "Oho!" and asked whether she knew if Mr. Troubridge was at
No, she said; he was away again at Port Phillip with store cattle;
making a deal of money, she understood, and laying out a deal for the
Major in land. She wished he would marry Mrs. Hawker and settle down,
for he was a pleasant gentleman, and fine company in a house. Wouldn't
I get off and have a bit of cold wild duck and a glass of sherry?
Certainly I would. So I gave my horse to the groom and went in. I had
hardly cut the first rich red slice from the breast of a fat teal, when
I heard a light step in the passage, and in walked my man Dick. You
remember him, reader. The man we saw five and twenty years ago on
Dartmoor, combining with William Lee to urge the unhappy George Hawker
on to ruin and forgery, which circumstance, remember, I knew nothing of
at this time. The same man I had picked up footsore and penniless in
the bush sixteen years ago, and who had since lived with me, a most
excellent and clever servant--the best I ever had. This man now came
into Major Buckley's parlour, hat in hand, looking a little foolish,
and when I saw him my knife and fork were paralyzed with astonishment.
"Why, what the Dickens" (I used that strong expression) "brings you
here, my lad?"
"I went up to Hipsley's about the colt," he said, "and when I got home
I found you were gone off unexpectedly; so I thought it better to come
after you and tell you all about it. He won't take less than thirty-five."
"Man! man!" I said, "do you mean to say that you have ridden fifty
miles to tell me the price of a leggy beast like that, after I had told
you that twentyfour was my highest offer?"
He looked very silly, and I saw very well he had some other reason for
coming than that. But with a good servant I never ask too many
questions, and when I went out a short time after, and found him
leaning against a fence, and talking earnestly to our old acquaintance
William Lee, I thought, "He wanted an excuse to come up and see his old
friend Lee. That is quite just and proper, and fully accounts for it."
Lee always paid me the high compliment of touching his hat to me, for
old Devon' sake, I suppose. "How's all at Toonarbin, Lee?" I asked.
"Well and hearty, sir. How is yourself, sir?"
"Getting older, Lee. Nothing worse than that. Dick, I am going on to
Captain Brentwood's. If you like to go back to Toonarbin and stay a day
or two with Lee, you can do so."
"I would rather come on with you, sir," he said eagerly.
"Are you sure?" I said.
"Quite sure, sir." And Lee said, "You go on with Mr. Hamlyn, Dick, and
do your duty, mind."
I thought this odd; but, knowing it was useless to ask questions of an
old hand, or try to get any information which was not volunteered, I
held my tongue and departed, taking Dick with me.
I arrived at Captain Brentwood's about three o'clock in the afternoon.
I flatter myself that I made a very successful approach, and created
rather a sensation among the fourteen or fifteen people who were
sitting in the verandah. They took me for a distinguished stranger. But
when they saw who it was they all began calling out to me at once to
know how I was, and to come in (as if I wasn't coming in), and when at
last I got among them, I nearly had my hand shaken off; and the Doctor,
putting on his spectacles and looking at me for a minute, asked what I
had given for my hat?
Let me see, who was there that day? There was Mary Hawker, looking
rather older, and a little worn; and there was her son Charles sitting
beside pretty Ellen Mayford, and carrying on a terrible flirtation with
that young lady, in spite of her fat jolly-looking mother, who sat with
folded hands beside her. Next to her sat her handsome brother Cecil,
looking, poor lad! as miserable as he well could look, although I did
not know the cause. Then came Sam, beside his mother, whose noble happy
face was still worth riding fifty miles to see; and then, standing
beside her chair, was Alice Brentwood.
I had never seen this exquisite creature before, and I immediately fell
desperately and hopelessly in love with her, and told her so that same
evening, in the presence of Sam. Finding that my affection was not
likely to be returned, I enrolled myself as one of her knights, and
remain so to this present time.
The Major sat beside his wife, and the Doctor and Captain Brentwood
walked up and down, talking politics. There were also present, certain
Hawbucks, leggy youths with brown faces and limp hair, in appearance
and dress not unlike English steeplechaseriders who had been treated,
on the face and hands, with walnut-juice. They never spoke, and the
number of them then present I am uncertain about, but one of them I
recollect could spit a great deal farther than any of his brothers, and
proved it beyond controversy about twice in every three minutes.
I missed my old friend Jim Brentwood, and was informed that he had gone
to Sydney, "on the spree," as Sam expressed it, along with a certain
Lieutenant Halbert, who was staying on a visit with Major Buckley.
First I sat down by Mary Hawker, and had a long talk with her about old
times. She was in one of her gay moods, and laughed and joked
continuously. Then I moved up, by invitation, to a chair between the
Major and his wife, and had a long private and confidential
conversation with them.
"How," I began, "is Tom Troubridge?"
"Tom is perfectly well," said the Major. "He still carries on his old
chronic flirtation with Mary; and she is as ready to be flirted with as
"Why don't they marry?" I asked, peevishly. "Why on earth don't they
marry one another? What is the good of carrying on that old folly so
long? They surely must have made up their minds by now. She knows she
is a widow, and has known it for years."
"Good God! Hamlyn, are you so ignorant?" said the Major. And then he
struck me dumb by telling me of all that had happened latterly: of
George Hawker's reappearance, of his identity with the great
bushranger, and, lastly, of his second appearance not two months
"I tell you this in strict confidence, Hamlyn, as one of my oldest and
best friends. I know how deeply your happiness is affected by all
I remained silent and thunderstruck for a time, and then I tried to
turn the conversation:--
"Have you had any alarm from bushrangers lately? I heard a report of
some convicts having landed on the coast."
"All a false alarm!" said the Major. "They were drowned, and the boat
washed ashore, bottom upwards."
Here the Doctor broke in: "Hamlyn, is not this very queer weather?"
When he called my attention to it, I remarked that the weather was
really different from any I had seen before, and said so.
The sky was grey and dull, the distances were clear, and to the eye it
appeared merely a soft grey autumnal day. But there was something very
strange and odd in the deadly stillness of all nature. Not a leaf
moved, not a bird sang, and the air seemed like lead. At once Mrs.
"I can't work, and I can't talk. I am so wretchedly nervous that I
don't know what to do with myself, and you know, my dear," she said,
appealing to her husband, "that I am not given to that sort of thing."
Each man looked at his neighbour, for there was a sound in the air now
a weird and awful sound like nothing else in nature. To the south
arose upon the ear a hollow quivering hum, which swelled rapidly into a
roar beneath our feet; there was a sickening shake, a thump, a crash,
and away went the earthquake, groaning off to the northward.
The women behaved very well, though some of them began to cry; and
hearing a fearful row in the kitchen I dashed off there, followed by
the Doctor. The interior was a chaos of pots and kettles, in the centre
of which sat the cook, Eleanor, holding on by the floor. Every now and
then she would give a scream which took all the breath out of her; so
she had to stop and fetch breath before she could give another. The
Doctor stepped through the saucepans and camp-ovens, and trying to
raise her said,--
"Come, get up, my good woman, and give over screaming. All the danger
is over, and you will frighten the ladies."
At this moment she had got her "second wind," and as he tried to get
her up she gave such a yell that he dropped her again, and bolted,
stopping his ears; bolted over a teakettle which had been thrown down,
and fell prostrate, resounding like an Homeric hero, on to a heap of
kitchen utensils, at the feet of Alice, who had come in to come see
what the noise was about.
"Good Lord!" said he, picking himself up, "what lungs she has got! I
shall have a singing in my ears to my dying day. Yar! it went through
my head like a knife."
Sam picked up the cook, and she, after a time, picked up her pots,
giving, however, an occasional squall, and holding on by the dresser,
under the impression that another earthquake was coming. We left her,
however, getting dinner under way, and went back to the others, whom we
soon set laughing by telling poor Eleanor's misadventures.
We were all in good spirits now. A brisk cool wind had come up from the
south, following the earthquake, making a pleasant rustle as it swept
across the plain or tossed the forest boughs. The sky had got clear,
and the nimble air was so inviting that we rose as one body to stroll
in groups about the garden and wander down to the river.
The brave old river was rushing hoarsely along, clear and full, between
his ruined temple-columns of basalt, as of old. "What a grand salmon-river
this would be, Major!" said I; "what pools and stickles are here!
Ah! if we only could get the salmon-spawn through the tropics without
its germinating.--Can you tell me, Doctor, why these rocks should take
the form of columns? Is there any particular reason for it that you
"You have asked a very puzzling question," he replied, "and I hardly
know how to answer it. Nine geologists out of ten will tell you that
basalt is lava cooled under pressure. But I have seen it in places
where that solution was quite inapplicable. However, I can tell you
that the same cause which set these pillars here, to wall the river,
piled up yon Organ-hill, produced the caves of Widderin, the great
crater-hollow of Mirngish, and accommodated us with that brisk little
earthquake which we felt just now. For you know that we mortals stand
only on a thin crust of cooled matter, but beneath our feet is all
"I wish you could give us a lecture on these things, Doctor," I said.
"To-morrow," said he, "let us ride forth to Mirngish and have a picnic.
There I will give you a little sketch of the origin of that hill."
In front of the Brentwoods' house the plains stretched away for a dozen
miles or so, a bare sheet of grass with no timber, grey in summer,
green in winter. About five miles off it began to roll into great
waves, and then heaved up into a high bald hill, a lofty down, capped
with black rocks, bearing in its side a vast round hollow, at the
bottom of which was a little swamp, perfectly circular, fringed with
a ring of white gum-trees, standing in such an exact circle that it was
hard to persuade oneself that they were not planted by the hand of
man. This was the crater of the old volcano. Had you stood in it, you
would have remarked that one side was a shelving steep bank of short
grass, while the other reared up some five hundred feet, a precipice of
fire-eaten rock. At one end the lip had broken down, pouring a torrent
of lava, now fertile grass-land, over the surrounding country, which
little gap gave one a delicious bit of blue distance. All else, as I
said, was a circular wall of grass, rock, and tumbled slag.
This was Mirngish. And the day after the earthquake there was a fresh
eruption in the crater. An eruption of horsemen and horse-women. An
eruption of talk, laughter, pink-bonnets, knives and forks, and champagne.
Many a pleasant echo came ringing back from the old volcano-walls
overhead, only used for so many ages to hear the wild rattle of
the thunder and the scream of the hungry eagle.
Was ever a poor old worn-out grass-grown volcano used so badly? Here
into the very pit of Tophet had the audacious Captain that very morning
sent on a spring-cart of all eatables and drinkables, and then had
followed himself with a dozen of his friends, to eat and drink, and
talk and laugh, just in the very spot where of old roared and seethed
the fire and brimstone of Erebus.
Yet the good old mountain was civil, for we were not blown into the
air, to be a warning to all people picnicing in high places; but when
we had eaten and drunk, and all the ladies had separately and
collectively declared that they were SO fond of the smell of tobacco in
the open air, we followed the Doctor, who led the way to the summit of
I arrived last, having dragged dear fat old Mrs. Mayford up the
slippery steep. The Doctor had perched himself on the highest flame-worn
crag, and when we all had grouped ourselves below him, and while
the wind swept pleasantly through the grass, and rushed humming through
the ancient rocks, he in a clear melodious voice thus began:--
"Of old the great sea heaved and foamed above the ground on which we
stand; ay, above this, and above yon farthest snowy peak, which the
westering sun begins to tinge with crimson.
"But in the lapse of ten thousand changing centuries, the lower deeps,
acted on by some Plutonic agency, began to grow shallow; and the
imprisoned tides began to foam and roar as they struggled to follow the
moon, their leader, angry to find that the stillness of their ancient
domain was year by year invaded by the ever-rising land.
"At that time, had man been on the earth to see it, those towering Alps
were a cluster of lofty islands, each mountain pass which divides them
was a tide-swept fiord, in and out of which, twice in the day, age
after age, rushed the sea, bringing down those vast piles of water-worn
gravel which you see accumulated, and now covered with dense
vegetation, at the mouth of each great valley.
"So twenty thousand years went on, and all this fair champagne country
which we overlook became, first a sand-bank, then a dreary stretch of
salt saturated desert, and then, as the roar of the retiring ocean
grew fainter and fainter, began to sustain such vegetation as the Lord
"A thousand years are but as yesterday to Him, and I can give you no
notion as to how many hundred thousand years it took to do all this; or
what productions covered the face of the country. It must have been a
miserably poor region: nothing but the debris of granite, sandstone,
and slate; perhaps here and there partially fertilized by rotting seaweed,
dead fish and shells; things which would, we may assume, have
appeared and flourished as the water grew shallower.
"New elements were wanting to make the country available for man, so
soon to appear in his majesty; and new elements were forthcoming. The
internal fires so long imprisoned beneath the weight of the incumbent
earth, having done their duty in raising the continent, began to find
vent in every weak spot caused by its elevation.
"Here where we stand, in this great crack between the granite and the
sandstone, they broke out with all their wildest fury; hurling stones
high in the air, making mid-day dark with clouds of ashes, and pouring
streams of lava far and wide.
"So the country was desolated by volcanoes, but only desolated that it
might grow greener and richer than ever, with a new and hitherto
unknown fertility; for, as the surface of the lava disintegrated, a new
soil was found, containing all the elements of the old one, and many
more. These are your black clay, and your red burnt soil, which, I take
it, are some of the richest in the world.
"Then our old volcano, our familiar Mirngish, in whose crater we have
been feasting, grew still for a time, for many ages probably; but after
that I see the traces of another eruption; the worst, perhaps, that he
"He had exhausted himself, and gradually subsided, leaving a perfect
cup or crater, the accumulation of the ashes of a hundred eruptions;
nay, even this may have been filled with water, as is Mount Gambier,
which you have not seen, forming a lake without a visible outlet; the
water draining off at that level where the looser scoriae begin.
"But he burst out again, filling this great hollow with lava, till the
accumulation of the molten matter broke through the weaker part of the
wall, and rolled away there, out of that gap to the northward, and
forming what you now call the 'stony rises,'--turning yon creek into
steam, which by its explosive force formed that fantastic cap of rocks,
and, swelling into great bubbles under the hot lava, made those long
underground hollows which we now know as the caves of Bar-ca-nah.
"Is he asleep for ever? I know not. He may arise again in his wrath and
fill the land with desolation; for that earthquake we felt yesterday
was but a wild throe of the giant struggling to be free.
"Let us hope that he may not break his chains, for as I stand here
gazing on those crimson Alps, the spirit of prophecy is upon me, and I
can see far into the future, and all the desolate landscape becomes
peopled with busy figures.
"I see the sunny slopes below me yellow with trellissed vines. They
have gathered the vintage, and I hear them singing at the wine-press.
They sing that the exhausted vineyards of the old world yield no wine
so rare, so rich, as the fresh volcanic slopes of the southern
continent, and that the princes of the earth send their wealth, that
their hearts may get glad from the juice of the Australian grapes.
"Beyond I see fat black ridges grow yellow with a thousand cornfields.
I see a hundred happy homesteads, half-hidden by clustering
wheatstacks. What do they want with all that corn? say you; where is
"There is their market! Away there on the barren forest ranges. See,
the timber is gone, and a city stands there instead. What is that on
the crest of the hill? A steam-engine; nay, see, there are five of
them, working night and day, fast and busy. Their cranks gleam and
flash under the same moon that grew red and lurid when old Mirngish
vomited fire and smoke twenty thousand years ago. As I listen I can
hear the grinding of the busy quartz-mill. What are they doing? you
ask. They are gold-mining.
"They have found gold here, and gold in abundance, and hither have
come, by ship and steamship, all the unfortunate of the earth. The
English factory labourer and the farmer-ridden peasant; the Irish
pauper; the starved Scotch Highlander. I hear a grand swelling chorus
rising above the murmur of the evening breeze; that is sung by German
peasants revelling in such plenty as they never knew before, yet still
regretting fatherland, and then I hear a burst of Italian melody
replying. Hungarians are not wanting, for all the oppressed of the
earth have taken refuge here, glorying to live under the free
government of Britain; for she, warned by American experience, has
granted to all her colonies such rights as the British boast of
I did not understand him then. But, since I have seen the living wonder
of Ballarat, I understand him well enough.
He ceased. But the Major cried out, "Go on, Doctor, go on. Look farther
yet, and tell us what you see. Give us a bit more poetry while your
hand is in."
He faced round, and I fancied I could detect a latent smile about his
"I see," said he, "a vision of a nation, the colony of the greatest
race on the earth, who began their career with more advantages than
ever fell to the lot of a young nation yet. War never looked on them.
Not theirs was the lot to fight, like the Americans, through bankruptcy
and inexperience towards freedom and honour. No. Freedom came to them,
Heavensent, red-tape-bound, straight from Downing-street. Millions of
fertile acres, gold in bushels were theirs, and yet----"
"Go on," said the Major.
"I see a vision of broken railway arches and ruined farms. I see a
vision of a people surfeited with prosperity and freedom grown
factious, so that now one party must command a strong majority ere they
can pass a law the goodness of which no one denies. I see a bankrupt
exchequer, a drunken Governor, an Irish ministry, a----"
"Come down out of that," roared the Major, "before I pull you down.
You're a pretty fellow to come out for a day's pleasure! Jeremiah was a
saint to him," he added, turning appealingly to the rest of us. "Hear
my opinion, 'per contra,' Doctor. I'll be as near right as you."
"Go on, then," said the Doctor.
"I see," began the Major, "the Anglo-Saxon race--"
"Don't forget the Irish, Jews, Germans, Chinese, and other barbarians,"
interrupted the Doctor.
"Asserting," continued the Major, scornfully, "as they always do, their
right to all the unoccupied territories of the earth."
("Blackfellow's claims being ignored," interpolated the Doctor.)
"And filling all the harbours of this magnificent country----"
("Want to see them.")
"With their steamships and their sailing vessels. Say there be gold
here, as I believe there is, the time must come when the mines will be
exhausted. What then? With our coals we shall supply----"
("Newcastle," said the Doctor, again.)
"The British fleets in the East Indies----"
"And compete with Borneo," said the Doctor, quietly, "which contains
more coal than ever India will burn, at one-tenth the distance from her
that we are. If that is a specimen of your prophecies, Major, you are
but a Micaiah after all."
"Well," said the Major, laughing, "I cannot reel it off quite so quick
as you; but think we shall hardly have time for any more prophesying;
the sun is getting very low."
We turned and looked to westward. The lofty rolling snow-downs had
changed to dull lead colour, as the sun went down in a red haze behind
them; only here and there some little elevated pinnacle would catch the
light. Below the mountain lay vast black sheets of woodland, and nearer
still was the river, marked distinctly by a dense and rapidly-rising
line of fog.
"We are going to have a fog and a frost," said the Major. "We had
better hurry home."
Behind all the others rode Alice, Sam, and myself. I was fearful of
being "de trop," but when I tried to get forward to the laughing,
chattering, crowd in front, these two young lovers raised such an
outcry that I was fain to stay with them, which I was well pleased to
Behind us, however, rode three mounted servants, two of Captain
Brentwood's, and my man Dick.
We were almost in sight of the river, nearly home in fact, when there
arose a loud lamentation from Alice.
"Oh, my bracelet! my dear bracelet! I have lost it."
"Have you any idea where you dropped it?" I inquired.
"Oh, yes," she said. "I am sure it must have been when I fell down,
scrambling up the rocks, just before the Doctor began his lecture. Just
as I reached the top, you know, I fell down, and I must have lost it
"I will ride back and find it, then, in no time," I said.
"No, indeed, Uncle Jeff," said Sam. "I will go back."
"I use an uncle's authority," I replied, "and I forbid you. That
miserable old pony of yours, which you have chosen to bring out to-day,
has had quite work enough, without ten miles extra. I condescend to no
argument; here I go."
I turned, with a kind look from both of them, but ere I had gone ten
yards, my servant Dick was alongside of me.
"Where are you going, sir?" said he.
"I am going back to Mirngish," I replied. "Miss Alice has dropped her
bracelet, and I am going back for it."
"I will come with you, sir," he said.
"Indeed no, Dick; there is no need. Go back to your supper, lad. I
shan't be long away,"
"I am coming with you, sir," he replied. "Company is a good thing
"Well, boy," I said, "if you will come, I shall be glad of your
company; so come along."
I had noticed lately that Dick never let me go far alone, but would
always be with me. It gave rise to no suspicion in my mind. He had been
tried too often for that. But still, I thought it strange.
On this occasion, we had not ridden far before he asked me a question
which rather surprised me. He said,--
"Mr. Hamlyn; do you carry pistols?"
"Why, Dick, boy?" I said, "why should I?"
"Look you here, Mr. Hamlyn," said he. "Have you tried me?"
"I have tried you for twenty years, Dick, and have not found you
"Ah!" said he, "that's good hearing. You're a magistrate, sir, though
only just made. But you know that coves like me, that have been in
trouble, get hold of information which you beaks can't. And I tell you,
sir, there's bad times coming for this country side. You carry your
pistols, sir, and, what's more, YOU USE 'EM. See here."
He opened his shirt, and showed me a long sharp knife inside.
"That's what I carries, sir, in these times, and you ought to carry
ditto, and a brace of barkers besides. We shan't get back to the
We were rising on the first shoulder of Mirngish, and daylight was
rapidly departing. I looked back. Nothing but a vast sea of fog, one
snow peak rising from it like an iceberg from a frozen sea, piercing
the clear frosy air like a crystal of lead and silver.
"We must hurry on," I said, "or we shall never have daylight to find
the bracelet. We shall never find our way home through that fog,
without a breath of wind to guide us. What shall we do?"
"I noticed to-day, sir," said Dick, "a track that crossed the hill to
the east; if we can get on that, and keep on it, we are sure to get
somewhere. It would be better to follow that than go blundering across
the plain through such a mist as that."
As he was speaking, we had dismounted and commenced our search. In
five minutes, so well did our recollection serve us, Dick had got the
bracelet, and, having mounted our horses, we deliberated what was next
to be done.
A thick fog covered the whole country, and was rapidly creeping up to
the elevation on which we stood. To get home over the plains without a
compass seemed a hopeless matter. So we determined to strike for the
track which Dick had noticed in the morning, and get on it before it
We plunged down into the sea of fog, and, by carefully keeping the
same direction, we found our road. The moon was nearly full, which
enabled us to distinguish it, though we could never see above five
yards in front of us.
We followed the road above an hour; then we began to see ghostly
tree-stems through the mist. They grew thicker and more frequent. Then we
saw a light, and at last rode up to a hut-door, cheered by the warm
light, emanating from a roaring fire within, which poured through every
crack in the house-side, and made the very fog look warm.
I held Dick's horse while he knocked. The door was opened by a wee
feeble old man, about sixty, with a sharp clever face, and an iron-grey
rough head of hair.
"Night, daddy," said Dick. "Can me and my master stay here to-night?
We're all abroad in this fog. The governor will leave something
handsome behind in the morning, old party, I know." (This latter was in
"Canst thou stay here, say'st thou?" replied the old fellow. "In course
thou canst. But thy master's money may bide in a's pouch. Get thy
saddles off, lad, and come in; 'tis a smittle night for rheumatics."
I helped Dick to take off the saddles, and, having hobbled our horses
with stirrup-leathers, we went in.
Our little old friend was the hut-keeper, as I saw at a glance. The
shepherd was sitting on a block before the fire, in his shirt, smoking
his pipe and warming his legs preparatory to turning in.
I understood him in a moment, as I then thought (though I was much
deceived). A short, wiry, blackheaded man, with a cunning face--
convict all over. He rose as we came in, and gave us good evening. I
begged he would not disturb himself; so he moved his block into the
corner, and smoked away with that lazy indifference that only a
shepherd is master of.
But the old man began bustling about. He made us sit down before the
fire, and make ourselves comfortable. He never ceased talking.
"I'll get ye, lads, some supper just now," said he. "There's na but twa
bunks i' the hut; so master and man must lie o' the floor, 'less indeed
the boss lies in my bed, which he's welcome to. We've a plenty
blankets, though, and sheepskins. We'll mak ye comfortable, boys.
There's a mickle back log o' the fire, and ye'll lie warm, I'se warrant
ye. There's cowd beef, sir (to me), and good breed, no' to mind boggins
o' tea. Ye'll be comfortable, will ye. What's yer name?"
"Hamlyn," I said.
"Oh, ay! Ye're Hamlyn and Stockbridge! I ken ye well; I kenned yer
partner: a good man--a very good man, a man o' ten thousand. He was
put down up north. A bad job--a very bad job! Ye gat terrible
vengeance, though. Ye hewed Agag in pieces! T' Governor up there to
Sydney was wild angry at what ye did, but he darena' say much. He knew
that every free man's heart went with ye. It were the sword of the Lord
and of Gideon that ye fought with! Ye saved many good lives by that
raid of yours after Stockbridge was killed. The devils wanted a lesson,
and ye gar'd them read one wi' a vengeance!"
During this speech, which was uttered in a series of interjections, we
had made our supper, and drawn back to the fire. The shepherd had
tumbled into his blankets, and was snoring. The old man, having cleared
away the things, came and sat down beside us. The present of a fig of
tobacco won his heart utterly, and he, having cut up a pipeful, began
"Why," said he, "it's the real Barret's twist--the very real article!
Eh, master, ye're book-learned: do you ken where this grows? It must be
a fine country to bring up such backer as this; some o' they Palm
Isles, I reckon."
"Virginia," I told him, "or Carolina, one of the finest countries in
the world where they hold slaves."
"Ah," said he, "they couldn't get white men to mess with backer and
such in a hot country, and in course every one knows that blacks won't
work till they're made. That's why they bothers themselves with 'em, I
reckon. But, Lord! they are useless trash. White convicts is useless
enough; think what black niggers must be!"
How about the gentleman in bed? I thought; but he was snoring
"I am a free man myself," continued the old man. "I never did aught,
ay, or thought o' doing aught, that an honest man should not do. But
I've lived among convicts twenty odd year, and do you know, sir,
sometimes I hardly know richt fra wrang. Sometimes I see things that
whiles I think I should inform of, and then the devil comes and tells
me it would be dishonourable. And then I believe him till the time's
gone by, and after that I am miserable in my conscience. So I haven't
an easy time of it, though I have good times, and money to spare."
I was getting fond of the honest, talkative old fellow; so when Dick
asked him if he wanted to turn in, and he answered no, I was well
"Can't you pitch us a yarn, daddy?" said Dick. "Tell us something about
the old country. I should like well to hear what you were at home."
"I'll pitch ye a yarn, lad," he replied, "if the master don't want to
turn in. I'm fond of talking. All old men are, I think," he said,
appealing to me. "The time's coming, ye see, when the gift o' speech
will be gone from me. It's a great gift. But happen we won't lose it
I said, "No, that I thought not; that I thought on the other side of
the grave we should both speak and hear of higher things than we did in
"Happen so," said he; "I think so too, sometime. I'll give ye my yarn;
I have told it often. Howsever, neither o' ye have heard it, so ye're
the luckier that I tell it better by frequent repetition. Here it is:--
"I was a collier lad, always lean, and not well favoured, though I was
active and strong. I was small, too, and that set my father's heart
agin me somewhat, for he was a gran' man, and a mighty fighter.
"But my elder brother Jack, he was a mighty fellow, God bless him; and
when he was eighteen he weighed twelve stone, and was earning man's
wages, tho' that I was hurrying still. I saw that father loved him
better than me, and whiles that vexed me, but most times it didn't, for
I cared about the lad as well as father did, and he liked me the same.
He never went far without me; and whether he fought, or whether he
drunk, I must be wi' him and help.
"Well, so we went on till, as I said, I was seventeen, and he eighteen.
We never had a word till then; we were as brothers should be. But at
this time we had a quarrel, the first we ever had; ay, and the last,
for we got something to mind this one by.
"We both worked in the same pit. It was the Southstone Pit; happen
you've heard of it. No? Well, thus things get soon forgot. Father had
been an overman there, but was doing better now above ground. He and
mother kept a bit shop; made money.
"There was a fair in our village, a poor thing enough; but when we boys
were children we used to look forward to it eleven months out o'
twelve, and the day it came round we used to go to father, and get
sixpence, or happen a shilling apiece to spend.
"Well, time went on till we came to earn money; but still we kept up
the custom, and went to the old man reg'lar for our fairin', and he
used to laugh and chaff us as he'd give us a fourpenny or such, and we
liked the joke as well as he.
"Well this time--it was in '12, just after the comet, just the worst
times of the war, the fair came round, 24th of May, I well remember,
and we went in to the old man to get summut to spend--just for a joke
"He'd lost money, and been vexed; so when Jack asked him for his
fairin' he gi'ed him five shillin', and said, 'I'll go to gaol but what
my handsome boy shan't have summut to treat his friends to beer.' But
when I axed him, he said, 'Earn man's wages, and thee'll get a man's
fairin,' and heaved a penny at me.
"That made me wild mad, I tell you. I wasn't only angry wi' the old
man, but I was mad wi' Jack, poor lad! The devil of jealousy had got
into me, and, instead of kicking him out, I nursed him. I ran out o'
the house, and away into the fair, and drunk, and fought, and swore
like a mad one.
"I was in one of the dancing booths, half drunk, and a young fellow
came to me, and said, 'Where has thee been? Do thee know thy brother
has foughten Jim Perry, and beaten him?'
"I felt like crying, to think my brother had fought, and I not there to
set him up. But I swore, and said, 'I wish Jim Perry had killed un;'
and then I sneaked off home to bed, and cried like a lass.
"And next morning I was up before him, and down the pit. He worked a
good piece from me, so I did not see him, and it came on nigh nine
o'clock before I began to wonder why the viewer had not been round, for
I had heard say there was a foul place cut into by some of them, and at
such times the viewer generally looks into every corner.
"Well, about nine, the viewer and underviewer came up with the overman,
and stood talking alongside of me, when there came a something sudden
and sharp, as tho' one had boxed your ears, and then a 'whiz, whiz,'
and the viewer stumbled a one side, and cried out, 'God save us!'
"I hardly knew what had happened till I heard him singing out clear and
firm, 'Come here to me, you lads; come here. Keep steady, and we'll be
all right yet.' Then I knew it was a fire, and a sharp one, and began
crying out for Jack.
"I heard him calling for me, and then he ran up and got hold of me; and
so ended the only quarrel we ever had, and that was a one-sided one.
"'Are you all here?' said the viewer. 'Now follow me, and if we meet
the afterdamp hold your breath and run. I am afraid it's a bad job, but
we may get through yet.'
"We had not gone fifty yards before we came on the afterdamp, filling
the headway like smoke. Jack and I took hold of each other's collars
and ran, but before we were half-way through, he fell. I kept good hold
of his shirt, and dragged him on on the ground. I felt as strong as a
horse; and in ten seconds, which seemed to me like ten hours, I dragged
him out under the shaft into clear air. At first I thought he was dead,
but he was still alive, and very little of that. His heart beat very
slow, and I thought he'd die; but I knew if he got clear air that he
might come round.
"When we had gotten to the shaft bottom we found it all full of smoke;
the waft had gone straight up, and they on the top told us after that
all the earth round was shook, and the black smoke and coal-dust flew
up as though from a gun-barrel. Any way it was strong enough to carry
away the machine, so we waited there ten minutes and wondered the
basket did not come down; but they above, meanwhile, were rigging a
rope to an old horse-whim, and as they could not get horses, the men
run the poles round themselves.
"But we at the bottom knew nothing of all this. There were thirty or so
in the shaft bottom, standing there, dripping wet wi' water, and
shouting for the others, who never came; now the smoke began to show in
the west drive, and we knew the mine was fired, and yet we heard nought
from those above.
"But what I minded most of all was, that Jack was getting better. I
knew we could not well be lost right under the shaft, so I did not
swear and go on like some of them, because they did not mind us above.
When the basket came down at last, I and Jack went up among the first,
and there I saw such a sight, lad, as ye'll never see till ye see a
colliery explosion. There were hundreds and hundreds there. Most had
got friends or kin in the pit, and as each man came up, his wife or his
mother would seize hold of him and carry on terrible.
"But the worst were they whose husbands and sons never came up again,
and they were many; for out of one hundred and thirty-one men in the
pit, only thirtynine came up alive. Directly we came to bank, I saw
father; he was first among them that were helping, working like a
horse, and directing everything. When he saw us, he said, 'Thank the
Lord, there's my two boys. I am not a loser to-day!' and came running
to us, and helped me to carry Jack down the bank. He was very weak and
sick, but the air freshened him up wonderful.
"I told father all about it, and he said, 'I've been wrong, and thou'st
been wrong. Don't thou get angry for nothing; thou hast done a man's
work to-day, at all events. Now come and bear a hand. T'owd 'ooman will
mind the lad.'
"We went back to the pit's mouth; the men were tearing round the whim
faster than horses would a' done it. And first amongst 'em all was old
Mrs. Cobley, wi' her long grey hair down her back, doing the work o'
three men; for her two boys were down still, and I knew for one that
they were not with us at the bottom; but when the basket came up with
the last, and her two boys missing, she went across to the master, and
asked him what he was going to do, as quiet as possible.
"He said he was going to ask some men to go down, and my father
volunteered to go at once, and eight more went with him. They were soon
up again, and reported that all the mine was full of smoke, and no one
had dared leave the shaft bottom fifty yards.
"'It's clear enough, the mine's fired, sir,' said my father to the
owner. 'They that's down are dead. Better close it, sir.'
"'What!' screamed old Mrs. Cobley, 'close the pit, ye dog, and my boys
down there? Ye wouldn't do such a thing, master dear?' she continued;
'ye couldn't do it.' Many others were wild when they heard the thing
proposed; but while they raved and argued, the pit began to send up a
reek of smoke like the mouth of hell, and then the master gave orders
to close the shaft, and a hundred women knew they were widows, and went
"And Jack got well. And after the old man died, we came out here. Jack
has gotten a public-house in Yass, and next year I shall go home and
live with him.
"And that's the yarn about the fire at the Southstone Pit."
We applauded it highly, and after a time began to talk about lying
down, when on a sudden we heard a noise of horses' feet outside; then
the door was opened, and in came a stranger.
He was a stranger to me, but not to my servant, who I could see
recognized him, though he gave no sign of it in words. I also stared at
him, for he was the handsomest young man I had ever seen.
Handsome as an Apollo, beautiful as a leopard, but with such a peculiar
style of beauty, that when you looked at him you instinctively felt at
your side for a weapon of defence, for a more reckless, dangerous
looking man I never yet set eyes on. And while I looked at him I
recognised him. I had seen his face, or one like it, before often,
often. And it seemed as though I had known him just as he stood there,
years and years ago, on the other side of the world. I was almost
certain it was so, and yet he seemed barely twenty. It was an
impossibility, and yet as I looked I grew every moment more certain.
He dashed in in an insolent way. "I am going to quarter here to-night
and chance it," he said. "Hallo! Dick, my prince! You here? And what
may your name be, old cock?" he added, turning to me, now seeing me
indistinctly for the first time, for I was sitting back in the shadow.
"My name is Geoffry Hamlyn. I am a Justice of the Peace, and I am at
your service," I said. "Now perhaps you will favour me with YOUR
The young gentleman did not seem to like coming so suddenly into close
proximity with a "beak," and answered defiantly,--
"Charles Sutton is my name, and I don't know as there's anything
against me, at present."
"Sutton," I said; "Sutton? I don't know the name. No, I have nothing
against you, except that you don't appear very civil."
Soon after I rolled myself in a blanket and lay down. Dick lay at right
angles to me, his feet nearly touching mine. He began snoring heavily
almost immediately, and just when I was going to give him a kick, and
tell him not to make such a row, I felt him give me a good sharp shove
with the heel of his boot, by which I understood that he was awake,
and meant to keep awake, as he did not approve of the strangers.
I was anxious about our horses, yet in a short time I could keep awake
no longer. I slept, and when I next woke, I heard voices whispering
eagerly together. I silently turned, so that I could see whence the
voices came, and perceived the hut-keeper sitting up in bed, in close
confabulation with the stranger.
"Those two rascals are plotting some villany," I said to myself;
"somebody will be minus a horse shortly, I expect." And then I fell
asleep again; and when I awoke it was broad day.
I found the young man was gone, and, what pleased me better still, had
not taken either of our horses with him. So, when we had taken some
breakfast, we started, and I left the kind little old man something to
remember me by.
We had not ridden a hundred yards, before I turned to Dick and said,--
"Now mind; I don't want you to tell me anything you don't like, but
pray relieve my mind on one point. Who was that young man? Have I ever
seen him before?"
"I think not, sir; but I can explain how you come to think you have.
You remember, sir, that I knew all about Mrs. Hawker's history?"
"Yes! Yes! Go on."
"That young fellow is George Hawker's son."
It came upon me like a thunderbolt. This, then, was the illegitimate
son that he had by his cousin Ellen. Oh miserable child of sin and
shame! to what end, I wondered, had he been saved till now?
We shall see soon. Meanwhile I turned to my companion and said, "Tell
me how he came to be here."
"Why you see, sir, he went on in his father's ways, and got lagged. He
found his father out as soon as he was free, which wasn't long first,
for he is mortal cunning, and since then they two have stuck together.
Most times they quarrel, and sometimes they fight, but they are never
far apart. Hawker ain't far off now."
"Now, sir," he continued, "I am going to tell you something which, if
it ever leaks out of your lips again, in such a way as to show where it
came from, will end my life as sure as if I was hung. You remember
three months ago that a boatful of men were supposed to have landed
"Yes," I said, "I heard it from Major Buckley. But the police have been
scouring in all directions, and can find nothing of them. My opinion is
that the boat was capsized, and they were all drowned, and that the
surf piled the boat over with sea-weed. Depend on it they did not
"Depend on it they did, sir; those men are safe and well, and ready for
any mischief. Hawker was on the look-out for them, and they all stowed