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Chapter X

“Oh! bitter to the youthful heart,
That scarce a pang, a care has known,
The hour when first from scenes we part
Where life's bright spring has flown!
Forsaking, o'er the world to roam,
That little shrine of peace—our home.”
————I love young Ida, and
I'll wed her.


“Going, gentlemen, going at a sacrifice,” said the auctioneer.

Considerable excitement and surprise had been occasioned by the circulation of the report that Captain Dell was about to part with Cowanda, and employ Mr. Joseph Auxtable, auctioneer and storekeeper, to sell his furniture, &c. It was this announcement which had collected the greater number of the inhabitants of the district; some came to purchase, some to see how things went; some to condole, and express their sincere sorrow for the loss of old neighbours; many were actuated by a feeling which appears common to human nature—rejoicing in the misfortunes which, it was concluded, though none knew, must be the cause of this sale.

But for the painful interest of the scene, it would have been highly amusing: there were the neighbouring gentry, in phaetons or on horseback; farmers' wives, in carts or bullock-drays; old dames and young girls, jogging on plough horses, and others were walking; one old man, formerly a convict servant of the family, was seated on a high large-boned steed, with a gallon-bottle in one hand, and a tin pannikin in the other, inviting everyone to drink the “master and the leddies' healths in a drap o' the cratur,” and adding that there was more coming after, in allusion to a couple of bottles protruding from out of the pockets of his ragged long coat; there was the old nurse of the district, surrounded by a group of matronly women, to whom she was reciting sundry hair-breadth escapes the young ladies, in the early period of their residence at Cowanda, had, from which it was evident nothing but her skill could have prevented a premature termination of their career; there were

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scenes in the yard and parlour, for doors were thrown open now, and people walked where they listed.

Mr. Joseph Auxtable found himself in the drawing-room, trying to look very wise and comfortable, and glancing at the ceiling with an air that said plainly, “I understand the reasons, but shall not reveal them!”

Aunt Nancy and her nieces were trying to entertain the ladies of the gathering, who had crowded round them, and were manifesting some curiosity.

“But I did not understand the Captain why he thought of leaving Cowanda,” suddenly remarked Mrs. Macmicken, a neighbouring estate holder's lady.

Aunt Nancy was thrown off her guard by this unexpected lunge after the secret, and Rachel came quickly to her relief.

“My grandfather thinks it advisable to lessen the many things which claim his attention.”

“To be sure—he's an old man; but who could think it?” submitted another female, in a lower tone, and all glanced at the Captain, who was conversing with Mr. Macmicken at the further end of the room. The events of the last few weeks had added the appearance of years to the stalwart form, and yet he stood so erect and defiant, that to associate the idea of failing powers with him appeared absurd, and the ladies gave a general verdict that “he was a splendid man, and looked far better than many younger men.” Rachel had glanced fondly and proudly in the same direction, and acknowledged the remark by a bow.

“Will you sell everything?”

“No, ma'am; we retain some trifling pieces of furniture we have an affection for, and my piano.”

“Oh! then you don't sell the piano; I thought I saw one mentioned in the catalogue.”

“That was the old one.”

The lady looked at the drawn silk and carved wood of the other, with a face that said clearly that she had been imposed upon, and remarked, that she came on purpose to see how the piano went; and then demanded where the Captain's old leather-cushioned chair was, as her father wanted it.

“I am sorry, but that is also reserved;” returned Rachel, disposed to laugh, but for the pain depicted in Elice's countenance; so she stole to her side, and put her arm round her waist.

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“It's so unfeeling,” replied the girl, with tears quivering in her eyes; the encircling arm pressed her firmly, and Rachel returned in the same hushed tone—

“ ‘The Lord taketh pleasure in those that fear Him; in those that trust in his mercy.’ We will trust Him, dear Elly, if friends fail us.”

The hour for the sale to commence had come; Mr. Auxtable drained his sixth glass of wine, and prepared for action; and the ladies, who had declined some neighbourly offers of shelter, retired to a room lumbered with trunks and reserved furniture.

The sale would occupy the whole day, and lunch had been provided; and under its exhilirating effects the extolling voice of the auctioneer, and the eager bidding of the crowd, grew loud.

A sense of degradation oppressed Aunt Nancy and Elice; Rachel had felt the same, but reasoned it into abeyance; people walked about the house, and looked into rooms erst sacred, and found fault with things that had been so lately private property; they seemed loosing caste. However, every day comes to an end at last; the property had changed owners, and when Mr. Auxtable could collect the debts, the family were to leave Cowanda for the residence of a mutual friend of the Captain and Mr. Fenwick's; and from this place Elice was to be married and enter upon her new life. Gentle, timid Elice! another week, and as Mrs. Fenwick, she bade farewell to her weeping aunt and the fond companion of her childhood, and went on her way with her exultant husband, in the full tide of feeling, that knows not if it be pain or pleasure. “When the full corn is in the ear it bends, because it is full,” and the depths of joy approach very near to sorrow.

While the party still stood gazing into the solitude where the gig had lately disappeared, and where Elice's weeping farewell had been uttered, there appeared, coming up the path, a small tilted cart, driven by a rather small sallow specimen of humanity; as he neared, there was no mistaking Hyram the dealer; he was, as usual, full of news and witticisms, and Aunt Nancy and Rachel retired, with hearts too full to admit of such trifles; but later in the evening, the wary dealer detected Rachel pacing the veranda, and approached with a box of treasures.

“Specimens from the diggings, mish; here's a nugget;” and he elevated a quartz stone.

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“But where is the gold?” she inquired, bending over it.

“There—a vein just there, mish; beautiful nugget for young ladies' cu'rosities in the glass case.” This was an allusion to a geological collection the cousins had formed, and at that precise time the mention of it affected Rachel so much, that the nugget, quartz and crystals, all floated in haze before her.

“And did Mashter Gilbert go to the diggings?” he suddenly inquired.

“I don't know; he can't be yet;” she said, rather evasively.

“Then you haven't heard since he got up? I was surprised to see him going that way.”

“To see him! where, Hyram?” Then remembering how wildly she had spoken, she added—“Where had he got to?”

Hyram described the place, adding, he was driving a dray.

“Driving a dray! travelling with drays! Whose were they?”

The dealer was puzzled by his interrogator's ignorance and agitation, and resolved to gratify his curiosity.

“Didn't you know he went with them teams, mish?” he returned in answer to her query.

“No; whose were they?”

“Well, I don't know, for 'tween ourselves, mish, Mashter Gilbert took me up short and wouldn't speak, and the other fellow was a German, named Johann.”

Nothing more could be gleaned, and Rachel succeeded in sending him away at last, after purchasing a pretty quartz pebble, at four times its commercial value, and then she could think. The bitter loneliness which a short time before had oppressed her was gone; Gilbert was not far out on the world of waters, voyaging to a strange land, but under circumstances, however dark, comparatively near and accessible.

The thoughts of residing near Sydney had been extremely distasteful to her, but now such a position promised to aid her in her search. Upon the slender information she had derived from Hyram, she might discover the ultimate destination of the teams, and the whereabouts of her brother; but how came his name to be advertised as passenger by the “Salt Wave?” This was an enigma only to be solved by supposing that he had lost his passage. There was no one she could take counsel from: Aunt Nancy was so truly ignorant of the world and in terror of the Captain, and Elice was now far away; yet to

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both she immediately communicated the joyful news, that Gilbert was still in Australia.

Under such circumstances, the Christian feels the full force of having a higher strength and wisdom to apply to. Faith lays the burden upon One who has promised to sustain it, and relies upon immutable love. The reflections of the evening had calmed Rachel's spirit, and she joined the circle in the parlour calm and firm.