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Chapter XIII

“There are hearts that still through all the past,
Unchanging have loved me well;
There are eyes whose tears were streaming fast,
When I bade my home farewell.”

The only neighbour which the residents of Aloe Hill had in station above the small market gardeners and fishermen, was a builder and his family.

Mr. Eveleigh was a man who, in common parlance, had “carved out his own fortune:” a wide spread class in Australia.

“I had a sensible father,” he used to say, “and he gave me a trade; my mother thought she saw something remarkable about me, and worked hard, poor woman, to send me to a good school: both did the very best thing for me. We cannot tell what lies before any child.”

Sensible, upright, and hard-working, he pushed out into the world, and emigrated, with a wife and young family. 'Twas not enough to be a carpenter, when every day saw some new building commenced; he was intelligent and practical, and soon added a neat plate to the door of his residence, with “Eveleigh, Builder,” upon it. He watched his opportunity; did a bit of land come into the market cheap, he bought it—never mind how remote was the locality; a few years, and it was in the suburbs. Now he was no longer the inmate of a dull damp house, fronted by a timber-yard, but he had built that pretty cottage where Miss Dell and Rachel found them, where they returned Mrs. Eveleigh's call, and he drove a noble chesnut cob and well-kept gig, and was now a large contractor; but prosperity had not changed the man: there was the same kind, upright heart, gleaming out of the small, smiling brown eyes; outwardly, the paper cap and rough attire had vanished, and given place to a suit of comfort and gentility; the comely stout figure, and the firm grasp he gave the hand, carried an assurance of kindness and strength; and Mr. Eveleigh was a man not only respected in the city, but wherever he was known. Wealth had increased; his sons had gone out into the world to

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fill respectable situations; but he had not forgotten his Maker, and he was walking with his God and His blessing was upon him. With a gentle propriety at all times, Mrs. Eveleigh had been able to rise with her husband's circumstances, but her whole time was engrossed with her house and family.

Mr. Eveleigh had offered the inmates of Aloe Hill a seat in his gig whenever they wished to go to town, and Rachel soon availed herself of his offer. She knew some few persons in Sydney, but though she called on them, it was not on their account that she took the excursion, but to institute a search for Gilbert. By dint of inquiry she found the way to Messrs. Ralph and Brett's warehouse, and was admitted to the clerks' office: it was a particularly busy day; clerks were writing with unwonted rapidity, or passing about from desk to desk, with papers in their hands; there were captains, and shippers, and importers, hurrying into the private office, or waiting to be admitted. Rachel paused at the door bewildered, till an elderly clerk advanced and inquired her business.

“Mr. Ralph is engaged at present, Miss; but as soon as that gentleman comes out, if you will go in, you can see him.” Rachel bowed and felt very desolate. It was some time before she glided in at the partly open door, conscious of provoking a stare of surprise from the gentleman just quitting Mr. Ralph's presence; she began to falter an apology, for the agent's countenance looked business-worn and stern; he was expecting the revelation of a collecting card, and deciding the sum he should subscribe, and therefore, after requesting her to sit down, he was startled by the next sentence:—

“My name is Calder, Sir; I am the sister of Gilbert Calder.”

Mr. Arney's description of Rachel was still fresh in his mind, and her presence did not dispel the fair image he had painted; it was with assumed sternness that he returned—

“I wait your pleasure, Ma'am.”

A kind word would have opened the flood-gate of tears; severity raised her nerve, and she grew calmer, and expressed her regret for his departure.

“Do not mention it; you had nothing to do with that, of course. Proceed.”

“I am ignorant, Sir, of his place of abode; I heard but once from him after he left Cowanda. Mr. Arney wrote to my grandfather, informing him how generously you had forgiven

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my brother: we do, indeed, feel grateful for your kindness. Perhaps—I was in hopes you might know something of his probable destination after he left you.”

“Unfortunately, I do not. You shall have the note he wrote to me—a very improper note indeed.” It was folded and endorsed with all due business precision, but threw no light upon the mystery.

“There was one of my clerks very intimate with your brother; I will call him, and you will excuse me, my time is so fully occupied.” And very politely, he handed her over to George Welton, with the mental comment—“A very handsome, dignified young woman.” That dignity which was but the cover for a bleeding heart gave way, when the clerk spoke fondly and warmly of the lost one; but he was as ignorant as herself of the direction of his flight, and, like Mr. Ralph, told her that his name had appeared as passenger to California.

“You may depend upon my making every exertion to serve you, Miss Calder. I will begin a strict search for poor Gilbert. If you wish to see me, and could make it convenient to call on my sister at such hours as I am at home, it might be more pleasant than coming here among all these fellows.”

“Welton, who was that fine girl? Welton, who was the pretty creature?—what eyes!” Such were the inquiries which assailed his return to the desk. “Calder's sister,” was all that they could learn, and pens began their rapid movements again.

From the place where Hyram had seen the teams, Rachel concluded that their destination was the Lachlan district, and she turned her attention to find who had stations in that locality. Welton had suggested two merchants who had property there, and to their counting-houses she now repaired: the first she called on was absent; the other had no drays down lately, but knew A—— had a run up there, and that his teams had been down lately; but it was such a chance if he should know anything of the bullock-drivers, who had, no doubt, been hired from a Registry Office, or off the ships, and he pouted out his lips and rubbed his chin in a quick musing manner.

“And the young man? A cousin, perhaps.”

“My brother, Sir.”

“Oh! I beg pardon—very distressing. Gone to the diggings

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in all probabilities—had a clerk go up there last spring, but he soon came back again—out at the elbows. Ha! ha!”

Weary in heart as in step, the sister pursued her way; Mr. A——was equally polite and suggestive, but the same drivers who had brought down the teams returned with them, and he advised an advertisement. Rachel could not explain her position: her grandfather had commanded her to consider Gilbert as dead, and seek no communication with him; but this was impossible —she loved him intensely, and, with much of the feelings of a mother for a dear wayward child, she felt it a sacred duty to watch over and cherish him—a duty which none might set aside or replace.

The day had been fatiguing and wounding to her spirit to a great degree; every nerve quivervd, and she found it difficult to reply to the cheerful conversation of the builder as they drove home.

Rachel had informed her aunt of her intention to seek for Gilbert, but the good lady was so horror-struck at the idea of rebelling against the Captain's orders, that for the future she was necessitated to pursue her way alone. Aunt Nancy was surprised that she went so often to town, but concluded that she was dull. “It's very natural, very natural, poor darling,” she said in her kind-heartedness.

Captain Dell was an altered man: his energy was failing; he was more disposed to sit reading in the verandah than to see after the little property, and Rachel first went to carry orders, and then to superintend their fulfilment; the orchard was under culture, and the fonces repair; Rachel rather felt than saw the change; to her aunt it was not apparent, for he looked well, and she was not a keen observer; but he was much thinner, and his hair had become very white. Still he never complained.

There was a neighbourly feud, or a feud among neighbours, always raging around Aloe Hill: straying pigs, cattle, and turkeys committed aggressions, and were received with stones, much to their detriment. This petty warfare had extended among the orchard farms, and, as Aloe Hill had been regarded as general property, a species of “back run” for their mutual convenience, its being occupied was evidently an infringement of the “rights of the people,” and to be resented accordingly; a brisk attack therefore was commenced, and now it was that

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Rachel knew her grandfather was failing, for he rather shrank from than opposed these acts of invasion; she saw that his spirit was weakened, and she trembled at the inroads a grief, borne with such outward unconcern, must be making.

Neither George Welton's nor Rachel's exertions were successful in tracing the fugitive. The former had connected Blackmore with his sudden departure, but he had as mysteriously disappeared; and he communicated to Rachel his suspicions that they were together.

“I trust not,” she returned.

“I must confess I took a dislike to that man: there is a dark look about him, like underhand villainy.”

“It is so likely that Gilbert should accompany Mr. Blackmore, being accustomed to him; and their destination in that case would certainly be the interior.”

“Could we not advertise for Blackmore in a manner that would not appear to emanate from your family. If we knew where he was, and Gilbert is with him, I could try and get a holiday, and run up and persuade him to come down; or you could write to him.

“What should I do without you?” Welton's eyes brightened at the enthusiasm which prompted her reply.

“Then I will prepare bait for our fish, and set it immediately.”

“Do.—How kind a friend you are to my poor brother! I trust we may find him, and you be rewarded by seeing him treading the path of duty.”

The young man turned away with a glowing cheek, which escaped Rachel's notice. She was not often carried away by feeling, but she had grown to treat the Weltons with confidence and friendship: they shared in all her plans and efforts; they knew of the weary walks she took; the strangers she visited in her fruitless search; and they sympathised in her disappointments. When she returned home with a drooping eyelid and feverish cheek, Aunt Nancy said she did believe the place disagreed with the child, for she was unlike herself; and then she laughed an assurance that she was quite well, only a little tired. Captain Dell used sometimes to stroke back her rich hair from her brow, and look into her eyes; and those scrutinizing looks were the harder to bear, for—though she could not concur in the sentence he had pronounced on Gilbert, and believed it

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a sacred duty to prove his innocence, to do which his presence appeared essential—the thought that she was opposing a being she so truly loved and respected, caused her acute distress.

Rachel Calder had been a general pet and treasure at Montobello—lovely, cheerful, and clever; everyone cherished her, and warded aside trouble; with earth smiling on her, she had centred her strong affection upon what appeared all-sufficient for her happiness, and but dimly felt the power of religion. The glories of God in nature—the benevolence and love of the work of redemption—the purity of the Gospel code of morals—had fascinated her imagination and moved her affections, and led her to desire to lead a Christian life; but now the time was come when friends failed, or looked to her to do and to suffer—when she had to judge of the right or wrong of the course she pursued; and now the fulness of religion expanded before her—not the poetry, but reality of the Christian's hope; she recalled many things that Mr. Osman had said to her, and wished that he was there. “We should soon find Gilbert, if he were,” she concluded, with a satisfaction in his strength and abilities.