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Book IV.

Chapter I.

Extracted from the Diary of the Rev. James North.

   BATHURST, February 11th, 1846.

IN turning over the pages of my journal, to note the good fortune that has just happened to me, I am struck by the utter desolation of my life for the last seven years.

Can it be possible that I, James North, the college-hero, the poet, the prizeman, the heaven knows what else, have been content to live on at this dreary spot—an animal, eating and drinking, for to-morrow I die? Yet it has been so. My world, that world of which I once dreamt so much, has been—here. My fame—which was to reach the ends of the earth—has penetrated to the neighbouring stations. I am considered a “good preacher” by my sheep-feeding friends. It is kind of them.

Yet, on the eve of leaving it, I confess that this solitary life has not been without its charms. I have had my books and my thoughts—though at times the latter were but grim companions. I have striven with my familiar sin, and have not always been worsted. Melancholy reflection. “Not always!” “But yet” is as a jailer to bring forth some monstrous malefactor. I vowed, however, that I would not cheat myself in this diary of mine, and I will not. No evasions, no glossings over of my own sins. This journal is my confessor, and I bare my heart to it.

It is curious the pleasure I feel in setting down here in black

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and white these agonies and secret cravings of which I dare not speak. It is for the same reason, I suppose, that murderers make confession to dogs and cats, that people with something “on their mind” are given to thinking aloud, that the queen of Midas must needs whisper to the sedges the secret of her husband's infirmity. Outwardly I am a man of God, pious and grave and softly spoken. Inwardly—what? The mean, cowardly, weak sinner that this book knows me. … Imp! I could tear you in pieces! … One of these days I will. In the mean time, I will keep you under lock and key, and you shall hug my secrets close. No, old friend, with whom I have communed so long, forgive me, forgive me. You are to me instead of wife or priest. I tell to your cold blue pages—how much was it I bought you for in Paramatta, rascal?—these stories, longings, remorses, which I would fain tell to human ear could I find a human being as discreet as thou. It has been said that a man dare not write all his thoughts and deeds; the words would blister the paper. Yet your sheets are smooth enough, you fat rogue! Our neighbours of Rome know human nature. A man must confess. One reads of wretches who have carried secrets in their bosoms for years, and blurted them forth at last. I, shut up here without companionship, without sympathy, without letters, cannot lock up my soul, and feed on my own thoughts. They will out, and so I whisper them to thee.

What art thou, thou tremendous power
Who dost inhabit us without our leave,
And art, within ourselves, another self,
A master self that loves to domineer?

What? Conscience? That is a word to frighten children. The conscience of each man is of his own making. My friend the shark-toothed cannibal whom Staples brought in his whaler to Sydney would have found his conscience reproach him sorely did he refuse to partake of the feasts made sacred by the customs of his ancestors. A spark of divinity? The divinity that, according to received doctrine, sits apart, enthroned amid sweet music, and leaves poor humanity to earn its condemnation as it may? I'll have none of that—though I preach it. One must soothe the vulgar senses of the people. Priesthood has its “pious frauds.” The Master spoke in parables. Wit? The wit that sees how ill-balanced are our actions and our aspirations?

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The devilish wit born of our own brain, that sneers at us for our own failings? Perhaps madness? More likely, for there are few men who are not mad one hour of the waking twelve. If differing from the judgment of the majority of mankind in regard to familiar things be madness, I suppose I am mad—or too wise. The speculation draws near to hair-splitting. James North, recall your early recklessness, your ruin, and your redemption; bring your mind back to earth. Circumstances have made you what you are, and will shape your destiny for you without your interference. That's comfortably settled!

Now supposing—to take another canter on my night-mare—that man is the slave of circumstance (a doctrine which I am inclined to believe, though unwilling to confess); what circumstance can have brought about the sudden awakening of the powers that be to James North's fitness for duty?

“HOBART TOWN, Jan. 12th.

“DEAR NORTH,—I have much pleasure in informing you that you can be appointed Protestant chaplain at Norfolk Island, if you like. It seems that they did not get on well with the last man, and when my advice was asked, I at once recommended you for the office. The pay is small, but you have a house and so on. It is certainly better than Bathurst, and indeed is considered rather a prize in the clerical lottery.

“There is to be an investigation into affairs down there. Poor old Pratt—who went down, as you know, at the earnest solicitation of the Government—seems to have become absurdly lenient with the prisoners, and it is reported that the island is in a frightful state. Sir Eardley is looking out for some disciplinarian to take the place in hand.

“In the mean time, the chaplaincy is vacant, and I thought of you.”

I must consider this seeming good fortune further.

February 19th.—I accept. There is work to be done among those unhappy men that may be my purgation. The authorities shall hear me yet—though inquiry was stifled at Port Arthur. By the way, a Pharaoh has arisen who knows not Joseph. It is evident that the meddlesome parson, who complained of men being flogged to death, is forgotten, as the men are! How many ghosts must haunt the dismal loneliness of that prison shore! Poor Burgess is gone the way of all flesh. I wonder if his spirit revisits the scenes of its violence? I have written “poor” Burgess.

It is strange how we pity a man gone out of this life. Enmity is extinguished when one can but remember injuries. If a man

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had injured me, the fact of his living at all would be sufficient grounds for me to hate him: if I had injured him, I should hate him still more. Is that the reason I hate myself at times—my greatest enemy, and one whom I have injured beyond forgiveness? There are offences against one's own nature that are not to be forgiven. Isn't it Tacitus who says “the hatred of those most nearly related is most inveterate”? But—I am taking flight again.

February 27th, 11.30 p.m.—Nine Creeks Station. I like to be accurate in names, dates, etc. Accuracy is a virtue. To exercise it, then. Station ninety miles from Bathurst. I should say about 4,000 head of cattle. Luxury without refinement. Plenty to eat, drink, and read. Hostess' name—Carr. She is a well-preserved creature, about thirty-four years of age, and a clever woman—not in a poetical sense, but in the widest worldly acceptation of the term. At the same time, I should be sorry to be her husband. Women have no business with a brain like hers—that is, if they wish to be women and not sexual monsters. Mrs. Carr is not a lady, though she might have been one. I don't think she is a good woman either. It is possible, indeed, that she has known the factory before now. There is a mystery about her, for I was informed that she was a Mrs. Purfoy, the widow of a whaling captain, and had married one of her assigned servants, who had deserted her five years ago, as soon as he obtained his freedom. A word or two at dinner set me thinking. She had received some English papers, and, accounting for her preoccupied manner, grimly said, “I think I have news of my husband.” I should not like to be in Carr's shoes if she has news of him! I don't think she would suffer indignity calmly. After all, what business is it of mine? I was beguiled into taking more wine at dinner than I needed. Confessor, do you hear me? But I will not allow myself to be carried away. You grin, you fat familiar! So may I, but I shall be eaten with remorse to-morrow.

March 3rd.—A place called Jerrilang, where I have a head and heartache. “One that hath let go himself from the hold and stay of reason, and lies open to the mercy of all temptations.”

March 20th.—Sydney. At Captain Frere's.—Seventeen days since I have opened you, beloved and detested companion of

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mine. I have more than half a mind to never open you again! To read you is to recall to myself all I would most willingly forget; yet not to read you would be to forget all that which I should for my sins remember.

The last week has made a new man of me. I am no longer morose, despairing, and bitter, but genial, and on good terms with fortune. It is strange that accident should have induced me to stay a week under the same roof with that vision of brightness which has haunted me so long. A meeting in the street, an introduction, an invitation—the thing is done.

The circumstances which form our fortunes are certainly curious things. I had thought never again to meet the bright young face to which I felt so strange an attraction—and lo! here it is smiling on me daily. Captain Frere should be a happy man. Yet there is a skeleton in this house also. That young wife, by nature so lovable and so mirthful, ought not to have the sadness on her face that twice to-day has clouded it. He seems a passionate and boorish creature, this wonderful convict disciplinarian. His convicts—poor devils—are doubtless disciplined enough. Charming little Sylvia, with your quaint wit and weird beauty, he is not good enough for you—and yet it was a love match.

March 21st.—I have read family prayers every night since I have been here—my black coat and white tie gave me the natural pre-eminence in such matters—and I feel guilty every time I read. I wonder what the little lady of the devotional eyes would say if she knew that I am a miserable hypocrite, preaching that which I do not practise, exhorting others to believe those marvels which I do not believe? I am a coward not to throw off the saintly mask, and appear as a Freethinker. Yet, am I a coward? I urge upon myself that it is for the glory of God I hold my peace. The scandal of a priest turned infidel would do more harm than the reign of reason would do good. Imagine this trustful woman for instance—she would suffer anguish at the thoughts of such a sin, though another were the sinner. “If any one offend one of these little ones it were better for him that a millstone be hanged about his neck and that he be cast into the sea.” Yet truth is truth, and should be spoken—should it not, malignant monitor, who remindest me how often I fail to speak it? Surely among all his army of

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black-coats our worthy bishop must have some men like me, who cannot bring their reason to believe in things contrary to the experience of mankind and the laws of nature and physics.

March 22nd.—This unromantic Captain Frere has had some romantic incidents in his life, and he is fond of dilating upon them. It seems that in early life he expected to have been left a large fortune by an uncle who had quarrelled with his heir. But the uncle dies on the day fixed for the altering of the will, the son disappears, and is thought to be drowned. The widow, however, steadfastly refuses to believe in any report of the young man's death, and having a life-interest in the property, holds it against all comers. My poor host in consequence comes out here on his pay, and, three years ago, just as he is hoping that the death of his aunt may give him opportunity to enforce a claim as next of kin to some portion of the property, the long-lost son returns, is recognized by his mother and the trustees, and installed in due heirship! The other romantic story is connected with Frere's marriage. He told me after dinner tonight, how his wife had been wrecked when a child, and how he had saved her life, and defended her from the rude hands of an escaped convict—one of the monsters that our monstrous system breeds. “That was how we fell in love,” said he, tossing off his wine complacently.

“An auspicious opportunity,” said I. To which he nodded. He is not overburdened with brains, I fancy.

Let me see if I can set down some account of this lovely place and its people.

A long low white house, surrounded by a blooming garden. Wide windows opening on a lawn. The ever glorious, ever changing sea beneath. It is evening. I am talking with Mrs. Frere, of theories of social reform, of picture galleries, of sunsets, and new books. There comes a sound of wheels on the gravel. It is the magistrate returned from his convict-discipline. We hear him come briskly up the steps, but we go on talking. (I fancy there was a time when the lady would have run to meet him.) He enters, coldly kisses his wife, and disturbs at once the current of our thoughts. “It has been hot to-day. What, still no letter from Head-quarters, Mr. North! I saw Mrs. Golightly in town, Sylvia, and she asked for you. There is to be a ball at Government House.

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We must go.” Then he departs, and is heard in the distance indistinctly cursing because the water is not hot enough, or because Dawkins, his convict servant, has not brushed his trousers sufficiently. We resume our chat, but he returns all hungry, and bluff, and whisker-brushed. “Dinner. Ha-ha! I'm ready for it. North, take Mrs. Frere.” By-and-by it is, “North, some sherry? Sylvia, the soup is spoilt again. Did you go out to-day? No?” His eyebrows contract here, and I know he says inwardly, “Reading some trashy novel, I suppose.” However, he grins, and obligingly relates how the police have captured Cockatoo Bill, the noted bushranger.

After dinner the disciplinarian and I converse—of dogs and horses, gamecocks, convicts, and moving accidents by flood and field. I remember old college feats, and strive to keep pace with him in the relation of athletics. What hypocrites we are!—for all the time I am longing to get to the drawing-room, and finish my criticism of the new poet, Mr. Tennyson, to Mrs. Frere. Frere does not read Tennyson—nor anybody else. Adjourned to the drawing-room, we chat—Mrs. Frere and I—until supper. (He eats supper.) She is a charming companion, and when I talk my best—I can talk, you must admit, O Familiar—her face lightens up with an interest I rarely see upon it at other times. I feel cooled and soothed by this companionship. The quiet refinement of this house, after bullocks and Bathurst, is like the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.

Mrs. Frere is about five-and-twenty. She is rather beneath the middle height, with a slight, girlish figure. This girlish appearance is enhanced by the fact that she has bright fair hair and blue eyes. Upon conversation with her, however, one sees that her face has lost much of the delicate plumpness which it probably owned in youth. She has had one child, born only to die. Her cheeks are thin, and her eyes have a tinge of sadness, which speak of physical pain or mental grief. This thinness of face makes the eyes appear larger and the brow broader than they really are. Her hands are white and painfully thin. They must have been plump and pretty once. Her lips are red with perpetual fever.

Captain Frere seems to have absorbed all his wife's vitality. (Who quotes the story of Lucius Claudius Hermippus, who lived to a great age by being constantly breathed on by young

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girls? I suppose Burton—who quotes everything.) In proportion as she has lost her vigour and youth, he has gained strength and heartiness. Though he is at least forty years of age, he does not look more than thirty. His face is ruddy, his eyes bright, his voice firm and ringing. He must be a man of considerable strength and—I should say—of more than ordinary animal courage and animal appetite. There is not a nerve in his body which does not twang like a piano wire. In appearance, he is tall, broad, and bluff, with red whiskers and reddish hair slightly touched with grey. His manner is loud, coarse, and imperious; his talk of dogs, horses, cocks, and convicts. What a strangely-mated pair!

March 30th.—A letter from Van Diemen's Land. “There is a row in the pantry,” said Frere, with his accustomed slang. It seems that the Comptroller-General of Convicts has appointed a Mr. Pounce to go down and make a report on the state of Norfolk Island. I am to go down with him, and shall receive instructions to that effect from the Comptroller-General. I have informed Frere of this, and he has written to Pounce to come and stay on his way down. There has been nothing but convict discipline talked since. Frere is great upon this point, and wearies me with his explanations of convict tricks and wickedness. He is celebrated for his knowledge of such matters. Detestable wisdom! His servants hate him, but they obey him without a murmur. I have observed that habitual criminals—like all savage beasts—cower before the man who has once mastered them. I should not be surprised if the Van Diemen's Land Government selected Frere as their “disciplinarian.” I hope they won't, and yet I hope they will.

April 4th.—Nothing worth recording until to-day. Eating, drinking, and sleeping. Despite my forty-seven years, I begin to feel almost like the James North who fought the bargee and took the gold medal. What a drink water is! The fons Bandusiœ splendidior vitreo was better than all the Massic, Master Horace! I doubt if your celebrated liquor, bottled when Manlius was consul, could compare with it.

But to my notable facts. I have found out to-night two things which surprise me. One is that the convict who attempted the

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life of Mrs. Frere is none other than the unhappy man whom my fatal weakness caused to be flogged at Port Arthur, and whose face comes before me to reproach me even now. The other that Mrs. Carr is an old acquaintance of Frere's. The latter piece of information I obtained in a curious way. One night, after Mrs. Frere had retired, we were talking of clever women. I broached my theory, that strong intellect in women went far to destroy their womanly nature.

“Desire in man,” said I, “should be Volition in women: Reason, Intuition; Reverence, Devotion; Passion, Love. The woman should strike a lower key-note, but a sharper sound. Man has vigour of reason, woman quickness of feeling. The woman who possesses masculine force of intellect is abnormal.” He did not half comprehend me, I could see, but he agreed with the broad view of the case. “I only knew one woman who was really ‘strong-minded,’ as they call it,” he said, “and she was a regular bad one.”

“It does not follow that she should be bad,” said I.

“This one was, though—stock, lock, and barrel. But as sharp as a needle, sir, and as immovable as a rock. A fine woman, too.”

I saw by the expression of the man's face that he owned ugly memories, and pressed him further. “She's up country somewhere,” he said. “Married her assigned servant, I was told, a fellow named Carr. I haven't seen her for years, and don't know what she may be like now, but in the days when I knew her she was just what you describe.” (Let it be noted that I had described nothing.) “She came out in the ship with me as maid to my wife's mother.”

It was on the tip of my tongue to say that I had met her, but I don't know what induced me to be silent. There are passages in the lives of men of Captain Frere's complexion which don't bear descanting on. I expect there has been in this case, for he changed the subject abruptly, as his wife came in. Is it possible that these two creatures—the notable disciplinarian and the wife of the assigned servant—could have been more than friends in youth? Quite possible. He is the sort of man for gross amours. (A pretty way I am abusing my host!) And the supple woman with the dark eyes would have been just the creature to enthral him. Perhaps some such story as this may account in part for Mrs. Frere's sad looks. Why do I speculate

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on such things? I seem to do violence to myself and to insult her by writing such suspicions. If I was a Flagellant now, I would don hair-shirt and up flail. “For this sort cometh not out but by prayer and fasting.”

April 7th.—Mr. Pounce has arrived—full of the importance of his mission. He walks with the air of a minister of state on the eve of a vacant garter, hoping, wondering, fearing, and dignified even in his dubitancy. I am as flippant as a school-girl concerning this fatuous official, and yet—Heaven knows—I feel deeply enough the importance of the task he has before him. One relieves one's brain by these whirlings of one's mental limbs. I remember that a prisoner at Hobart Town, twice condemned and twice reprieved, jumped and shouted with frenzied vehemence when he heard his sentence of death finally pronounced. He told me, if he had not so shouted, he believed he would have gone mad.

April 10th.—We had a state dinner last night. The conversation was about nothing in the world but convicts. I never saw Mrs. Frere to less advantage. Silent, distraite, and sad. She told me after dinner that she disliked the very name of “convict” from early associations. “I have lived among them all my life,” she said, “but that does not make it the better for me. I have terrible fancies at times, Mr. North, that seem half-memories. I dread to be brought in contact with prisoners again. I am sure that some evil awaits me at their hands.”

I laughed, of course, but it would not do. She holds to her own opinion, and looks at me with horror in her eyes. This terror in her face is perplexing.

“You are nervous,” I said. “You want rest.”

“I am nervous,” she replied, with that candour of voice and manner I have before remarked in her, “and I have presentiments of evil.”

We sat silent for a while, and then she suddenly turned her large eyes on me, and said calmly, “Mr. North, what death shall I die?” The question was an echo of my own thoughts—I have some foolish (?) fancies as to physiognomy—and it made me start. What death, indeed? What sort of death would one meet with widely-opened eyes, parted lips, and brows bent as though to rally fast-flying courage? Not a peaceful death surely.

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I brought my black coat to my aid. “My dear lady, you must not think of such things. Death is but a sleep, you know. Why anticipate a nightmare?”

She sighed, slowly awaking as though from some momentary trance. Checking herself on the verge of tears, she rallied, turned the conversation, and finding an excuse for going to the piano, dashed into a waltz. This unnatural gaiety ended, I fancy, in an hysterical fit. I heard her husband afterwards recommending sal volatile. He is the sort of man who would recommend sal volatile to the Pythoness if she consulted him.

April 26th.—All has been arranged, and we start to-morrow. Mr. Pounce is in a condition of painful dignity. He seems afraid to move lest motion should thaw his official ice. Having found out that I am the “chaplain,” he has refrained from familiarity. My self-love is wounded, but my patience relieved. Query: Would not the majority of mankind rather be bored by people in authority than not noticed by them? James North declines to answer for his part.

I have made my farewells to my friends, and on looking back on the pleasant hours I have spent, felt saddened. It is not likely that I shall have many such pleasant hours. I feel like a vagabond who, having been allowed to sit by a cheerful fireside for a while, is turned out into the wet and windy streets, and finds them colder than ever. What were the lines I wrote in her album?

“As some poor tavern-haunter drenched in wine
With staggering footsteps through the streets returning,
—Seeing through blinding rain a beacon shine
From household lamp in happy window burning,—

“Pauses an instant at the reddened pane
To gaze on that sweet scene of love and duty,
Then turns into the wild wet night again,
Lest his sad presence mar its homely beauty.”

Yes, those were the lines. With more of truth in them than she expected; and yet what business have I sentimentalizing? My socius think “what a puling fool this North is!”

So, that's over! Now for Norfolk Island and my purgation.

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Chapter II.

The Lost Heir.

THE lost son of Sir Richard Devine had returned to England, and made claim to his name and fortune. In other words, John Rex had successfully carried out the scheme by which he had usurped the rights of his old convict-comrade.

Smoking his cigar in his bachelor lodgings, or pausing in a calculation concerning a race, John Rex often wondered at the strange ease with which he had carried out so monstrous and seemingly difficult an imposture. After he was landed in Sydney by the vessel which Sarah Purfoy had sent to save him, he found himself a slave to a bondage scarcely less galling than that from which he had escaped—the bondage of enforced companionship with an unloved woman. The opportune death of one of her assigned servants enabled Sarah Purfoy to instal the escaped convict in his room. In the strange state of society which prevailed of necessity in New South Wales at that period, it was not unusual for assigned servants to marry among the free settlers, and when it was heard that Mrs. Purfoy, the widow of a whaling captain, had married John Carr, her storekeeper, transported for embezzlement, and with two years of his sentence yet to run, no one expressed surprise. Indeed, when, the year after, John Carr blossomed as an “expiree,” master of a fine wife and a fine fortune, there were many about him who would have made his existence in Australia pleasant enough. But John Rex had no notion of remaining longer than he could help, and ceaselessly sought means of escape from this second prison-house. For a long time his search was unsuccessful. Much as she loved the scoundrel, Sarah Purfoy did not scruple to tell him that she had bought him, and regarded him as her property. He knew that if he made any attempt to escape from his marriage-bonds, the woman who had risked so much to save him would not hesitate to deliver him over to the authorities, and state how the opportune death of John Carr had enabled her to give name and employment to John Rex, the absconder. He had thought once that the fact of her being his wife would prevent her from giving evidence against him, and that he could

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thus defy her. But she reminded him that a word to Blunt would be all sufficient.

“I know you don't care for me now, John,” she said, with grim complacency; “but your life is in my hands, and if you desert me I will bring you to the gallows.”

In vain, in his secret eagerness to be rid of her, he raged and chafed. He was tied hand and foot. She held his money, and her shrewd wit had more than doubled it. She was all-powerful, and he could but wait until her death or some lucky accident should rid him of her, and leave him free to follow out the scheme he had matured. “Once rid of her,” he thought, in his solitary rides over the station of which he was the nominal owner, “the rest is easy. I shall return to England with a plausible story of shipwreck, and shall doubtless be received with open arms by the dear mother from whom I have been so long parted. Richard Devine shall have his own again.”

To be rid of her was not so easy. Twice he tried to escape from his thraldom, and was twice brought back. “I have bought you, John,” his partner had laughed, “and you don't get away from me. Surely you can be content with these comforts. You were content with less once. I am not so ugly and repulsive, am I?”

“I am home-sick,” John Carr retorted. “Let us go to England, Sarah.”

She tapped her strong white fingers sharply on the table. “Go to England? No, no. That is what you would like to do. You would be master there. You would take my money, and leave me to starve. I know you, Jack. We stop here, dear. Here, where I can hand you over to the first trooper as an escaped convict if you are not kind to me.”


“Oh, I don't mind your abuse. Abuse me if you like, Jack. Beat me if you will, but don't leave me, or it will be worse for you.”

“You are a strange woman!” he cried, in sudden petulant admiration.

“To love such a villain? I don't know that. I love you because you are a villain. A better man would be wearisome to such as I am.”

“I wish to Heaven I'd never left Port Arthur. Better there than this dog's life.”

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“Go back, then. You have only to say the word!”

And so they would wrangle, she glorying in her power over the man who had so long triumphed over her, and he consoling himself with the hope that the day was not far distant which should bring him at once freedom and fortune. One day the chance came to him. His wife was ill, and the ungrateful scoundrel stole five hundred pounds, and taking two horses reached Sydney, and obtained passage in a vessel bound for Rio.

Having escaped thraldom, John Rex proceeded to play for the great stake of his life with the utmost caution. He went to the Continent, and lived for weeks together in the towns where Richard Devine might possibly have resided, familiarizing himself with streets, making the acquaintance of old inhabitants, drawing into his own hands all loose ends of information which could help to knit the meshes of his net the closer. Such loose ends were not numerous; the prodigal had been too poor, too insignificant, to leave strong memories behind him. Yet Rex knew well by what strange accidents the deceit of an assumed identity is often penetrated. Some old comrade or companion of the lost heir might suddenly appear with keen questions as to trifles which could cut his flimsy web to shreds, as easily as the sword of Saladin divided the floating silk. He could not afford to ignore the most insignificant circumstances. With consummate skill, piece by piece he built up the story which was to deceive the poor mother, and to make him possessor of one of the largest private fortunes in England.

This was the tale he hit upon. He had been saved from the burning Hydaspes by a vessel bound for Rio. Ignorant of the death of Sir Richard, and prompted by the pride which was known to be a leading feature of his character, he had determined not to return, until fortune should have bestowed upon him wealth at least equal to the inheritance from which he had been ousted. In Spanish America he had striven to accumulate that wealth in vain. As vaquero, traveller, speculator, sailor, he had toiled for fourteen years, and had failed. Worn out and penitent he had returned home to find a corner of English earth in which to lay his weary bones. The tale was plausible enough, and in the telling of it he was armed at all points. There was little fear that the navigator of the captured Osprey, the man who had lived in Chili and “cut out” cattle on the Carrum Plains, would prove lacking in knowledge of riding, seamanship, or Spanish

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customs. Moreover, he had determined upon a course of action which showed his knowledge of human nature.

The will under which Richard Devine inherited was dated in 1807, and had been made when the testator was in the first hopeful glow of paternity. By its terms Lady Devine was to receive a life interest of three thousand a year in her husband's property—which was placed in the hands of two trustees,—until her eldest son died or attained the age of twenty-five years. When either of these events should occur, the property was to be realized, Lady Devine receiving a sum of a hundred thousand pounds, which, invested in Consols for her benefit, would, according to Sir Richard's prudent calculation, exactly compensate for her loss of interest, the remainder going absolutely to the son, if living, to his children or next of kin if dead. The trustees appointed were Lady Devine's father, Colonel Wotton Wade, and Mr. Silas Quaid, of the firm of Purkiss and Quaid, Thavies Inn, Sir Richard's solicitors. Colonel Wade, before his death, had appointed, with Quaid's consent, his own son, Mr. Francis Wade, to act in his stead. When Mr. Quaid died, the firm of Purkiss and Quaid (represented in the Quaid branch of it by a smart London-bred nephew) declined further responsibility; and, with the consent of Lady Devine, Francis Wade continued alone in his trust. Sir Richard's sister and her husband, Anthony Frere, of Bristol, were long ago dead, and, as we know, their representative, Maurice Frere, content at last in the lot that fortune had sent him, had given up all thought of meddling with his uncle's business. John Rex, therefore, in the person of the returned Richard, had but two persons to satisfy, his putative uncle, Mr. Francis Wade, and his putative mother, Lady Devine.

This he found to be the easiest task possible. Francis Wade was an invalid virtuoso, who detested business, and whose ambition was to be known as a man of taste. The possessor of a small independent income, he had resided at North End ever since his father's death, and had made the place a miniature Strawberry Hill. When, at his sister's urgent wish, he assumed the sole responsibility of the estate, he put all the floating capital into 3 per cents., and was content to see the interest accumulate. Lady Devine had never recovered the shock of the circumstances attending Sir Richard's death, and, clinging to the belief in her son's existence, regarded

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herself as the mere guardian of his interests, to be displaced at any moment by his sudden return. The retired pair lived thus together, and spent in charity and bric-a-brac about a fourth of their mutual income. By both of them the return of the wanderer was hailed with delight. To Lady Devine it meant the realization of a lifelong hope, become part of her nature. To Francis Wade it meant relief from a responsibility which his simplicity always secretly loathed, the responsibility of looking after another person's money.

“I shall not think of interfering with the arrangements which you have made, my dear uncle,” said Mr. John Rex, on the first night of his reception. “It would be most ungrateful of me to do so. My wants are very few, and can easily be supplied. I will see your lawyers some day, and settle it.”

“See them at once, Richard, see them at once. I am no man of business, you know, but I think you will find all right.

Richard, however, put off the visit from day to day. He desired to have as little to do with lawyers as possible. He had resolved upon his course of action. He would get money from his mother for immediate needs, and when that mother died, he would assert his rights. “My rough life has unfitted me for drawing-rooms, dear mother,” he said. “Do not let there be a display about my return. Give me a corner to smoke my pipe, and I am happy.” Lady Devine, with a loving tender pity, for which John Rex could not altogether account, consented, and “Mr. Richard” soon came to be regarded as a martyr to circumstances, a man conscious of his own imperfections, and one whose imperfections were therefore to be lightly dwelt upon. So the returned prodigal had his own suite of rooms, his own servants, his own bank account, drank, smoked, and was merry.

For five or six months he thought himself in Paradise. Then he began to find his life insufferably weary. The burden of hypocrisy is very heavy to bear, and Rex was compelled perpetually to bear it. His mother demanded all his time. She hung upon his lips; she made him repeat fifty times the story of his wanderings. She was never tired of kissing him, of weeping over him, of thanking him for the “sacrifice” he had made for her.

“We promised never to speak of it more, Richard,” the poor lady said one day, “but if my lifelong love can make atonement for the wrong I have done you ——”

  ― 377 ―

“Hush, dearest mother,” said John Rex, who did not in the least comprehend what it was all about. “Let us say no more.”

Lady Devine wept quietly for a while, and then went away, leaving the man who pretended to be her son much bewildered and a little frightened. There was a secret which he had not fathomed between Lady Devine and her son. The mother did not again refer to it, and gaining courage as the days went on, Rex grew bold enough to forget his fears.

In the first stages of his deception, he had been timid and cautious. Then the soothing influence of comfort, respect, and security came upon him, and almost refined him. He began to feel as he had felt when Mr. Lionel Crofton was alive. The sensation of being ministered to by a loving woman, who kissed him night and morning, calling him “son,”—of being regarded with admiration by rustics, with envy by respectable folk—of being deferred to in all things—was novel and pleasing. They were so good to him that he felt at times inclined to confess all, and leave his case in the hands of the folk he had injured. Yet—he thought—such a course would be absurd. It would result in no benefit to any one, simply in misery to himself. The true Richard Devine was buried fathoms deep in the greedy ocean of convict-discipline, and the waves of innumerable punishments washed over him. John Rex flattered himself that he had usurped the name of one who was in fact no living man, and that, unless one should rise from the dead, Richard Devine could never return to accuse him. So flattering himself, he gradually became bolder, and by slow degrees suffered his true nature to appear. He was violent to the servants, cruel to dogs and horses, often wantonly coarse in speech, and brutally regardless of the feelings of others. Governed, like most women, solely by her feelings, Lady Devine had at first been prodigal of her affection to the man she believed to be her injured son. But his rash acts of selfishness, his habits of grossness and self-indulgence, gradually disgusted her. For some time she—poor woman—fought against this feeling, endeavouring to overcome her instincts of distaste, and arguing with herself that to permit a detestation of her unfortunate son to arise in her heart was almost criminal; but she was at length forced to succumb.

For the first year Mr. Richard conducted himself with great propriety, but as his circle of acquaintance and his confidence

  ― 378 ―
in himself increased, he now and then forgot the part he was playing. One day Mr. Richard went to pass the day with a sporting friend, only too proud to see at his table so wealthy and wonderful a man. Mr. Richard drank a good deal more than was good for him, and came home in a condition of disgusting drunkenness. I say disgusting, because some folk have the art of getting drunk after a humorous fashion, that robs intoxication of half its grossness. For John Rex to be drunk was to be himself—coarse and cruel. Francis Wade was away, and Lady Devine had retired for the night, when the dog-cart brought home “Mr. Richard.” The virtuous butler-porter, who opened the door, received a blow in the chest and a demand for “Brandy!” The groom was cursed, and ordered to instant oblivion. Mr. Richard stumbled into the dining-room—veiled in dim light as a dining-room which was “sitting up” for its master ought to be—and ordered “more candles!” The candles were brought, after some delay, and Mr. Richard amused himself by spilling their meltings upon the carpet. “Let's have 'luminashon!” he cried; and climbing with muddy boots upon the costly chairs, scraping with his feet the polished table, attempted to fix the wax in the silver sconces, with which the antiquarian tastes of Mr. Francis Wade had adorned the room.

“You'll break the table, sir,” said the servant.

“Damn the table!” said Rex. “Buy 'nother table. What's table t'you?”

“Oh, certainly, sir,” replied the man.

“Oh, c'ert'nly! Why c'ert'nly? What do you know about it?”

“Oh, certainly not, sir,” replied the man.

“If I had—stockwhip here—I make you—hic—skip! Whar's brandy?”

“Here, Mr. Richard.”

“Have some! Good brandy! Send for servantsh and have dance. D' you dance, Tomkins?”

“No, Mr. Richard.”

“Then you shall dance now, Tomkins. You'll dance upon nothing one day, Tomkins! Here! Halloo! Mary! Susan! Janet! William! Hey! Halloo!” And he began to shout and blaspheme.

“Don't you think it's time for bed, Mr. Richard?” one of the men ventured to suggest.

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“No!” roared the ex-convict, emphatically, “I don't! I've gone to bed at daylight far too long. We'll have 'luminashon! I'm master here. Master everything. Richard 'Vine's my name. Isn't it, Tomkins, you villain?”

“Oh-h-h! Ye-yes, Mr. Richard.”

“Course it is, and make you know it, too! I'm no painter-picture, crockery chap. I'm genelman! Genelman seen the world! Knows what what. There ain't much I ain't fly to. Wait till the old woman's dead, Tomkins, and you shall see!” More swearing, and awful threats of what the inebriate would do when he was in possession. “Bring up some brandy!” Crash goes the bottle in the fire-place. “Light up the droring-rooms; we'll have dance! I'm drunk! what's that? If you'd gone through what I have, you'd be glad to be drunk. I look a fool”—this to his image in another glass. “I ain't though, or I wouldn't be here. Curse you, you grinning idiot”—crash goes his fist through the mirror—“don't grin at me. Play up there! Where's old woman! Fetch her out and let's dance!”

“Lady Devine had gone to bed, Mr. Richard,” cried Tomkins, aghast, attempting to bar the passage to the upper regions.

“Then let's have her out o' bed,” cried John Rex, plunging to the door.

Tomkins, attempting to restrain him, is instantly hurled into a cabinet of rare china, and the drunken brute essays the stairs. The other servants seize him. He curses and fights like a demon. Doors bang open, lights gleam, maids hover, horrified, asking if it's “fire?” and begging to be “put out.” The whole house is in an uproar; in the midst of which Lady Devine appears, and looks down upon the scene. Rex catches sight of her, and bursts into blasphemy. She withdraws, strangely terrified; and the animal, torn, bloody, and blasphemous, is at last got into his own apartments, the groom, whose face had been seriously damaged in the encounter, bestowing a hearty kick on the prostrate carcase at parting.

The next morning Lady Devine declined to see her son, though he sent a special apology to her.

“I am afraid I was a little overcome by wine last night,” said he to Tomkins.

“Well, you was, sir,” said Tomkins.

“A very little wine makes me quite ill, Tomkins. Did I do anything very violent?”

  ― 380 ―

“You was rather obstropolous, Mr. Richard.”

“Here's a sovereign for you, Tomkins. Did I say anything?”

“You cussed a good deal, Mr. Richard. Most gents do when they've bin—hum—dining out, Mr. Richard.”

“What a fool I am,” thought John Rex, as he dressed. “I shall spoil everything if I don't take care.” He was right. He was going the right way to spoil everything. However, for this bout he made amends—money soothed the servants' hall, and apologies and time won Lady Devine's forgiveness.

“I cannot yet conform to English habits, my dear mother,” said Rex, “and feel at times out of place in your quiet home. I think that—if you can spare me a little money—I should like to travel.”

Lady Devine—with a sense of relief for which she blamed herself—assented, and, supplied with letters of credit, John Rex went to Paris.

Fairly started in the world of dissipation and excess, he began to grow reckless. When a young man, he had been singularly free from the vice of drunkenness; turning his sobriety—as he did all his virtues—to vicious account, but he had learnt to drink deep in the loneliness of the bush. Master of a large sum of money, he had intended to spend it as he would have spent it in his younger days. He had forgotten that since his death and burial the world had not grown younger. It was possible that Mr. Lionel Crofton might have discovered some of the old set of fools and knaves with whom he had once mixed. Many of them were alive and flourishing. Mr. Lemoine, for instance, was respectably married in his native island of Jersey, and had already threatened to disinherit a nephew who showed a tendency to dissipation.

But Mr. Lemoine would not care to recognize Mr. Lionel Crofton, the gambler and rake, in his proper person, and it was not expedient that his acquaintance should be made in the person of Richard Devine, lest by some unlucky chance he should recognize the cheat.

Thus poor Lionel Crofton was compelled to lie still in his grave, and Mr. Richard Devine, trusting to a big beard and more burly figure, to keep his secret, was compelled to begin his friendship with Mr. Lionel's whilom friends all over again. In Paris and London there were plenty of people ready to become

  ― 381 ―
hail-fellow-well-met with any gentleman possessing money. Mr. Richard Devine's history was whispered in many a boudoir and club-room. The history, however, was not always told in the same way. It was generally known that Lady Devine had a son, who, being supposed to be dead, had suddenly returned, to the confusion of his family. But the manner of his return was told in many ways.

In the first place, Mr. Francis Wade, well-known though he was, did not move in that brilliant circle which had lately received his nephew. There are in England many men of fortune as large as that left by the old ship-builder, who are positively unknown in that little world which is supposed to contain all the men worth knowing. Francis Wade was a man of mark in his own coterie. Among artists, bric-a-brac sellers, antiquarians and men of letters, he was known as a patron and man of taste. His bankers and his lawyers knew him to be of independent fortune, but as he neither mixed in politics, “went into society,” betted, or speculated in merchandise, there were several large sections of the community who had never heard his name. Many respectable money-lenders would have required “further information” before they would discount his bills; and “club-men” in general—save, perhaps, those ancient quidnuncs who know everybody, from Adam downwards—had but little acquaintance with him. The advent of Mr. Richard Devine—a coarse person of unlimited means—had therefore chief influence upon that sinister circle of male and female rogues who form the “half-world.” They began to inquire concerning his antecedents, and, failing satisfactory information, to invent lies concerning him. It was generally believed that he was a black sheep, a man whose family kept him out of the way, but who was, in a pecuniary sense, “good” for a considerable sum.

Thus taken upon trust, Mr. Richard Devine mixed in the very best of bad society, and had no lack of agreeable friends to help him to spend money. So admirably did he spend it, that Francis Wade became at last alarmed at the frequent drafts, and urged his nephew to bring his affairs to a final settlement. Richard Devine—in Paris, or Hamburg, or London, or elsewhere—could never be got to attack business, and Mr. Francis Wade grew more and more anxious. The poor gentleman positively became ill through the anxiety consequent upon his nephew's dissipations. “I wish, my dear Richard, that you

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would let me know what to do,” he wrote. “I wish, my dear uncle, that you would do what you think best,” was his nephew's reply.

“Will you let Purkiss and Quaid look into the business?” said the badgered Francis.

“I hate lawyers,” said Richard. “Do what you think right.”

Mr. Wade began to repent of his too easy taking of matters in the beginning. Not that he had a suspicion of Rex, but that he remembered that Dick was always a loose fish. The even current of the dilettante's life became disturbed. He grew pale and hollow eyed. His digestion was impaired. He ceased to take the interest in china which the importance of that article demanded. In a word, he grew despondent as to his fitness for his mission in life. Lady Ellinor saw a change in her brother. He became morose, peevish, excitable. She went privately to the family doctor, who shrugged his shoulders. “There is no danger,” said he, “if he is kept quiet; keep him quiet, and he will live for years, but his father died of heart disease, you know.” Lady Ellinor, upon this, wrote a long letter to Mr. Richard, who was at Paris, repeated the doctor's opinions, and begged him to come over at once. Mr. Richard replied that some horse-racing matter of great importance occupied his attention, but that he would be at his rooms in Clarges Street (he had long ago established a town house) on the 14th, and would “go into matters.” “I have lost a good deal of money lately, my dear mother,” said Mr. Richard, “and the present will be a good opportunity to make a final settlement.” The fact was, that John Rex, now three years in undisturbed possession, considered that the moment had arrived for the execution of his grand coup—the carrying off at one swoop of the whole of the fortune he had gambled for.

Chapter III.

Extracted from the Diary of the Rev. James North.

MAY 12th.—Landed to-day at Norfolk Island, and have been introduced to my new abode, situated some eleven hundred miles from Sydney. A solitary rock in the tropical ocean, the island seems, indeed, a fit place of

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banishment. It is about seven miles long and four broad. The most remarkable natural object is of course the Norfolk Island pine, which rears its stately head a hundred feet above the surrounding forest. The appearance of the place is very wild and beautiful, bringing to my mind the description of the romantic islands of the Pacific, which old geographers dwell upon so fondly. Lemon, lime, and guava trees abound, also oranges, grapes, figs, bananas, peaches, pomegranates, and pine-apples. The climate just now is hot and muggy. The approach to Kingstown—as the barracks and huts are called—is properly difficult. A long low reef—probably originally a portion of the barren rocks of Nepean and Philip Islands, which rise east and west of the settlement—fronts the bay and obstructs the entrance of vessels. We were landed in boats through an opening in this reef, and our vessel stands on and off within signalling distance. The surf washes almost against the walls of the military roadway that leads to the barracks. The social aspect of the place fills me with horror. There seems neither discipline nor order. On our way to the Commandant's house we passed a low dilapidated building, where the men were at work grinding maize, and at the sight of us they commenced whistling, hooting, and shouting, using the most disgusting language. Three warders were near, but no attempt was made to check this unseemly exhibition.

May 14th.—I sit down to write with as much reluctance as though I were about to relate my experience of a journey through a sewer.

First, to the prisoners' barracks, which stand on an area of about three acres, surrounded by a lofty wall. A road runs between this wall and the sea. The barracks are three storeys high, and hold seven hundred and ninety men (let me remark here that there are more than two thousand men on the island). There are twenty-two wards in this place. Each ward runs the depth of the building, viz., eighteen feet, and in consequence is simply a funnel for hot or cold air to blow through. When the ward is filled, the men's heads lie under the windows. The largest ward contains a hundred men, the smallest fifteen. They sleep in hammocks, slung close to each other as on board ship, in two lines, with a passage down the centre. There is a wardsman to each ward. He is selected by the prisoners, and is generally a man of the worst character. He is supposed

  ― 384 ―
to keep order, but of course he never attempts to do so; indeed as he is locked up in the ward every night from six o'clock in the evening until sunrise, without light, it is possible that he might get maltreated did he make himself obnoxious.

The barracks look upon the Barrack Square, which is filled with lounging prisoners. The windows of the hospital-ward also look upon Barrack Square, and the prisoners are in constant communication with the patients. The hospital is a low stone building, capable of containing about twenty men, and faces the beach. I placed my hands on the wall, and found it damp. An ulcerous prisoner said the dampness was owing to the heavy surf constantly rolling so close beneath the building. There are two gaols, the old and the new. The old gaol stands near the sea, close to the landing-place. Outside it, at the door, is the Gallows. I touched it as I passed in. This engine is the first thing which greets the eyes of a newly-arrived prisoner. The new gaol is barely completed, is of a pentagonal shape, and has eighteen radiating cells of a pattern approved by some wiseacre in England, who thinks that to prevent a man from seeing his fellow-men is not the way to drive him mad. In the old gaol are twenty-four prisoners, all heavily ironed, awaiting trial by the visiting Commission, from Hobart Town. Some of these poor ruffians, having committed their offences just after the last sitting of the Commission, have already been in gaol upwards of eleven months!

At six o'clock we saw the men mustered. I read prayers before the muster, and was surprised to find that some of the prisoners attended, while some strolled about the yard, whistling, singing, and joking. The muster is a farce. The prisoners are not mustered outside and then marched to their wards, but they rush into the barracks indiscriminately, and place themselves dressed or undressed in their hammocks. A convict suboverseer then calls out the names, and somebody replies. If an answer is returned to each name, all is considered right. The lights are taken away, and save for a few minutes at eight o'clock, when the good-conduct men are let in, the ruffians are left to their own devices until morning. Knowing what I know of the customs of convicts, my heart sickens when I in imagination put myself in the place of a newly-transported man, plunged from six at night until daybreak into that fœtid den of worse than wild beasts.

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May 15th.—There is a place enclosed between high walls adjoining the convict barracks, called the Lumber Yard. This is where the prisoners mess. It is roofed on two sides, and contains tables and benches. Six hundred men can mess here perhaps, but as seven hundred are always driven into it, it follows that the weakest men are compelled to sit on the ground. A more disorderly sight than this yard at meal times I never beheld. The cook-houses are adjoining it, and the men bake their meal-bread there. Outside the cook-house door the firewood is piled, and fires are made in all directions on the ground, round which sit the prisoners, frying their rations of fresh pork, baking their hominy cakes, chatting, and even smoking.

The lumber yard is a sort of Alsatia, to which the hunted prisoner retires. I don't think the boldest constable on the island would venture into that place to pick out a man from the seven hundred. If he did go in I don't think he would come out again alive.

16th May.—A sub-overseer, a man named Hankey, has been talking to me. He says that there are some forty of the oldest and worst prisoners who form what he calls the “Ring,” and that the members of this Ring are bound by an oath to support each other, and to avenge the punishment of any of their number. In proof of his assertions he instanced two cases of English prisoners who had refused to join in some crime, and had informed the Commandant of the proceedings of the “Ring.” They were found in the morning strangled in their hammocks. An inquiry was held, but not a man out of the ninety in the ward would speak a word.

I dread the task that is before me. How can I attempt to preach piety and morality to these men? How can I attempt even to save the less villainous?

17th May.—Visited the wards to-day, and returned in despair. The condition of things is worse than I expected. It is not to be written. The newly-arrived English prisoners—and some of their histories are most touching—are insulted by the language and demeanour of the hardened miscreants who are the refuse of Port Arthur and Cockatoo Island. The vilest crimes are perpetrated as jests. There are creatures who openly defy authority, whose language and conduct is such as was never before

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seen or heard out of Bedlam. There are men who are known to have murdered their companions, and who boast of it. With these the English farm labourer, the riotous and ignorant mechanic, the victim of perjury or mistake, are indiscriminately herded. With them are mixed Chinamen from Hong-Kong, the aborigines of New Holland, West Indian blacks, Greeks, Caffres, and Malays, soldiers for desertion, idiots, madmen, pig-stealers, and pickpockets. The dreadful place seems set apart for all that is hideous and vile in our common nature. In its recklessness, its insubordination, its filth, and its despair, it realizes to my mind the popular notion of hell.

May 21st.—Entered to-day officially upon my duties as Religious Instructor at the settlement.

An occurrence took place this morning which shows the dangerous condition of the “Ring.” I accompanied Mr. Pounce to the Lumber Yard, and, on our entry, we observed a man in the crowd round the cook-house deliberately smoking. The Chief Constable of the Island—my old friend Troke, of Port Arthur—seeing that this exhibition attracted Pounce's notice, pointed out the man to an assistant. The assistant, Jacob Gimblett, advanced and desired the prisoner to surrender the pipe. The man plunged his hands into his pockets, and, with a gesture of the most profound contempt, walked away to that part of the mess-shed where the “Ring” congregate.

“Take the scoundrel to gaol!” cried Troke.

No one moved, but the man at the gate that leads through the carpenter's shop into barracks, called to us to come out, saying that the prisoners would never suffer the man to be taken. Pounce, however, with more determination than I gave him credit for, kept his ground, and insisted that so flagrant a breach of discipline should not be suffered to pass unnoticed. Thus urged, Mr. Troke pushed through the crowd, and made for the spot whither the man had withdrawn himself.

The yard was buzzing like a disturbed hive, and I momentarily expected that a rush would be made upon us. In a few moments the prisoner appeared, attended by, rather than in the custody of, the Chief Constable of the island. He advanced to the unlucky assistant constable, who was standing close to me, and asked, “What have you ordered me to gaol for?” The man made some reply, advising him to go quietly, when the convict

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raised his fist, and deliberately felled the man to the ground. “You had better retire, gentlemen,” said Troke. “I see them getting out their knives.”

We made for the gate, and the crowd closed in like a sea upon the two constables. I fully expected murder, but in a few moments Troke and Gimblett appeared, borne along by a mass of men, dusty, but unharmed, and having the convict between them. He sulkily raised a hand as he passed me, either to rectify the position of his straw hat, or to offer a tardy apology. A more wanton, unprovoked, and flagrant outrage than that of which this man was guilty I never witnessed. It is customary for “the old dogs,” as the experienced convicts are called, to use the most opprobrious language to their officers, and to this a deaf ear is usually turned, but I never before saw a man wantonly strike a constable. I fancy that the act was done out of bravado. Troke informed me that the man's name is Rufus Dawes, and that he is the leader of the Ring, and considered the worst man on the island; that to secure him he (Troke) was obliged to use the language of expostulation; and that, but for the presence of an officer accredited by his Excellency, he dared not have acted as he had done.

This is the same man, then, whom I injured at Port Arthur. Seven years of “discipline” don't seem to have done him much good. His sentence is “life”—a lifetime in this place! Troke says that he was the terror of Port Arthur, and that they sent him here when a “weeding” of the prisoners was made. He has been here four years. Poor wretch!

May 24th.—After prayers, I saw Dawes. He was confined in the Old Gaol, and seven others were in the cell with him. He came out at my request, and stood leaning against the doorpost. He was much changed from the man I remember. Seven years ago he was a stalwart, upright, handsome man. He has become a beetle-browed, sullen, slouching ruffian. His hair is grey, though he cannot be more than forty years of age, and his frame has lost that just proportion of parts which once made him almost graceful. His face has also grown like other convict faces—how hideously alike they all are!—and, save for his black eyes and a peculiar trick he has of compressing his lips, I should not have recognized him. How habitual sin and misery suffice to brutalize “the human face divine!” I said but

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little, for the other prisoners were listening, eager, as it appeared to me, to witness my discomfiture. It is evident that Rufus Dawes had been accustomed to meet the ministrations of my predecessor with insolence. I spoke to him for a few minutes, only saying how foolish it was to rebel against an authority superior in strength to himself. He did not answer, and the only emotion he evinced during the interview was when I reminded him that we had met before. He shrugged one shoulder, as if in pain or anger, and seemed about to speak, but casting his eyes upon the group in the cell, relapsed into silence again. I must get speech with him alone. One can do nothing with a man if seven other devils worse than himself are locked up with him.

I sent for Hankey, and asked him about cells. He says that the gaol is crowded to suffocation. “Solitary confinement” is a mere name. There are six men, each sentenced to solitary confinement, in a cell together. This cell is called the “nunnery.” It is small, and the six men were naked to the waist when I entered, the perspiration pouring in streams off their naked bodies! It is disgusting to write of such things.

June 26th.—Pounce has departed in the Lady Franklin for Hobart Town, and it is rumoured that we are to have a new commandant. The Lady Franklin is commanded by an old man named Blunt, a protégé of Frere's, and a fellow to whom I have taken one of my inexplicable and unreasoning dislikes.

Saw Rufus Dawes this morning. He continues sullen and morose. His papers are very bad. He is perpetually up for punishment. I am informed that he and a man named Eastwood, nicknamed Jacky Jacky, glory in being the leaders of the “Ring,” and that they openly avow themselves weary of life. Can it be that the unmerited flogging which the poor creature got at Port Arthur has aided, with other sufferings, to bring him to this horrible state of mind? It is quite possible. Oh, James North, remember your own crime, and pray Heaven to let you redeem one soul at least, to plead for your own at the Judgment Seat.

June 30th.—I took a holiday this afternoon, and walked in the direction of Mount Pitt. The island lay at my feet like—as sings Mrs. Frere's favourite poet—“a summer isle of Eden

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lying in dark purple sphere of sea.” Sophocles has the same idea in the Philoctetes, but I can't quote it. Note: I measured a pine twenty-three feet in circumference. I followed a little brook that runs from the hills, and winds through thick undergrowths of creeper and blossom, until it reaches a lovely valley surrounded by lofty trees, whose branches, linked together by the luxurious grape-vine, form an arching bower of verdure. Here stands the ruin of an old hut, formerly inhabited by the early settlers; lemons, figs, and guaves are thick; while amid the shrub and cane a large convolvulus is intertwined, and stars the green with its purple and crimson flowers.

I sat down here, and had a smoke. It seems that the former occupant of my rooms at the settlement read French; for in searching for a book to bring with me—I never walk without a book—I found and pocketed a volume of Balzac. It proved to be a portion of the Vie Privée series, and I stumbled upon a story called La Fausse Maitresse. With calm belief in the Paris of his imagination—where Marcas was a politician, Nucingen a banker, Gobseck a money-lender, and Vautrin a candidate for some such place as this—Balzac introduces me to a Pole by name Paz, who, loving the wife of his friend, devotes himself to watch over her happiness and her husband's interest. The husband gambles and is profligate. Paz informs the wife that the leanness which hazard and debauchery have caused to the domestic exchequer is due to his extravagance, the husband having len him money. She does not believe, and Paz feigns an intrigue with a circus-rider in order to lull all suspicions. She says to her adored spouse, “Get rid of this extravagant friend! Away with him! He is a profligate, a gambler! A drunkard!” Paz finally departs, and when he has gone, the lady finds out the poor Pole's worth. The story does not end satisfactorily. Balzac was too great a master of his art for that. In real life the curtain never falls on a comfortably-finished drama. The play goes on eternally.

I have been thinking of the story all the evening. A man who loves his friend's wife, and devotes his energies to increase her happiness by concealing from her her husband's follies! Surely none but Balzac would have hit upon such a notion. “A man who loves his friend's wife.”—Asmodeus, I write no more! I have ceased to converse with thee for so long

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that I blush to confess all that I have in my heart.—I will not confess it, so that shall suffice.

Chapter IV.

Extracted from the Diary of the Rev. James North.

AUGUST 24th.—There has been but one entry in my journal since the 30th June, that which records the advent of our new Commandant, who, as I expected, is Captain Maurice Frere.

So great have been the changes which have taken place, that I scarcely know how to record them. Captain Frere has realized my worst anticipations. He is brutal, vindictive, and domineering. His knowledge of prisons and prisoners gives him an advantage over Burgess, othewise he much resembles that murderous animal. He has but one thought—to keep the prisoners in subjection. So long as the island is quiet, he cares not whether the men live or die. “I was sent down here to keep order,” said he to me, a few days after his arrival, “and by God, sir, I'll do it!”

He has done it, I must admit; but at a cost of a legacy of hatred to himself that he may some day regret to have earned. He has organized three parties of police. One patrols the fields, one is on guard at stores and public buildings, and the third is employed as a detective force. There are two hundred soldiers on the island. And the officer in charge, Captain McNab, has been induced by Frere to increase their duties in many ways. The cords of discipline are suddenly drawn tight. For the disorder which prevailed when I landed, Frere has substituted a sudden and excessive rigour. Any officer found giving the smallest piece of tobacco to a prisoner is liable to removal from the island. The tobacco which grows wild has been rooted up and destroyed lest the men should obtain a leaf of it. The privilege of having a pannikin of hot water when the gangs came in from field labour in the evening, has been withdrawn. The shepherds, hut-keepers, and all other prisoners, whether at the stations of Longridge or the Cascades (where the English convicts are stationed), are forbidden to keep a parrot or any other bird. The plaiting

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of straw hats during the prisoners' leisure hours is also prohibited. At the settlement where the “old hands” are located railed boundaries have been erected, beyond which no prisoner must pass unless to work. Two days ago Job Dodd, a negro, let his jacket fall over the boundary rails, crossed them to recover it, and was severely flogged. The floggings are hideously frequent. On flogging mornings I have seen the ground where the men stood at the triangles saturated with blood, as if a bucket of blood had been spilled on it, covering a space three feet in diameter, and running out in various directions, in little streams two or three feet long. At the same time, let me say, with that strict justice I force myself to mete out to those whom I dislike, that the island is in a condition of abject submission. There is not much chance of mutiny. The men go to their work without a murmur, and slink to their dormitories like whipped hounds to kennel. The gaols and solitary (!) cells are crowded with prisoners, and each day sees fresh sentences for fresh crimes. It is crime here to do anything but live.

The method by which Captain Frere has brought about this repose of desolation is characteristic of him. He sets every man as a spy upon his neighbour, awes the more daring into obedience by the display of a ruffianism more outrageous than their own, and raising the worst scoundrels in the place to office, compels them to find “cases” for punishment. Perfidy is rewarded. It has been made part of a convict-policeman's duty to search a fellow-prisoner anywhere and at any time. This searching is often conducted in a wantonly rough and disgusting manner; and if resistance be offered, the man resisting can be knocked down by a blow from the searcher's bludgeon. Inquisitorial vigilance and indiscriminating harshness prevail everywhere, and the lives of hundreds of prisoners are reduced to a continual agony of terror and self-loathing.

“It is impossible, Captain Frere,” said I one day, during the initiation of this system, “to think that these villains whom you have made constables will do their duty.”

He replied, “They must do their duty. If they are indulgent to the prisoners, they know I shall flog 'em. If they do what I tell 'em, they'll make themselves so hated that they'd have their own father up to the triangles to save themselves being sent back to the ranks.”

“You treat them then like slave-keepers of a wild beast den.

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They must flog the animals to avoid being flogged themselves.”

“Ay,” said he, with his coarse laugh, “and having once flogged 'em, they'd do anything rather than be put in the cage, don't ye see!”

It is horrible to think of this sort of logic being used by a man who has a wife, and friends and enemies. It is the logic that the Keeper of the Tormented would use, I should think. I am sick unto death of the place. It makes me an unbeliever in the social charities. It takes out of penal science anything it may possess of nobility or worth. It is cruel, debasing, inhuman.

August 26th.—Saw Rufus Dawes again to-day. His usual bearing is ostentatiously rough and brutal. He has sunk to a depth of self-abasement in which he takes a delight in his degradation. This condition is one familiar to me.

He is working in the chain-gang to which Hankey was made sub-overseer. Blind Mooney, an ophthalmic prisoner, who was removed from the gang to hospital, told me that there was a plot to murder Hankey, but that Dawes, to whom he had shown some kindness, had prevented it. I saw Hankey and told him of this, asking him if he had been aware of the plot. He said “No,” falling into a great tremble. “Major Pratt promised me a removal,” said he. “I expected it would come to this.” I asked him why Dawes defended him; and after some trouble he told me, exacting from me a promise that I would not acquaint the Commandant. It seems that one morning last week Hankey had gone up to Captain Frere's house with a return from Troke, and coming back through the garden had plucked a flower. Dawes had asked him for this flower, offering two days' rations for it. Hankey, who is not a bad-hearted man, gave him the sprig. “There were tears in his eyes as he took it,” said he.

There must be some way to get at this man's heart, bad as he seems to be.

August 28th.—Hankey was murdered yesterday. He applied to be removed from the gaol-gang, but Frere refused. “I never let my men ‘funk,’” he said. “If they've threatened to murder you, I'll keep you there another month in spite of 'em.

Some one who overheard this reported it to the gang, and

  ― 393 ―
they set upon the unfortunate gaoler yesterday, and beat his brains out with their shovels. Troke says that the wretch who was foremost cried, “There's for you; and if your master don't take care, he'll get served the same one of these days!” The gang were employed at building a reef in the sea, and were working up to their armpits in water. Hankey fell into the surf, and never moved after the first blow. I saw the gang, and Dawes said,—

“It was Frere's fault; he should have let the man go!”

“I am surprised you did not interfere,” said I.

“I did all I could,” was the man's answer. “What's a life more or less here.”

This occurrence has spread consternation among the overseers, and they have addressed a “round robin” to the Commandant, praying to be relieved from their positions.

The way Frere has dealt with this petition is characteristic of him, and fills me at once with admiration and disgust. He came down with it in his hand to the gaol-gang, walked into the yard, shut the gate, and said, “I've just got this from my overseers. They say they're afraid you'll murder them as you murdered Hankey. Now, if you want to murder, murder me. Here I am. Step out, one of you.” All this, said in a tone of the most galling contempt, did not move them. I saw a dozen pair of eyes flash hatred, but the bull-dog courage of the man overawed them here, as, I am told, it had done in Sydney. It would have been easy to kill him then and there, and his death, I am told, is sworn among them; but no one raised a finger. The only man who moved was Rufus Dawes, and he checked himself instantly. Frere, with a recklessness of which I did not think him capable, stepped up to this terror of the prison, and ran his hands lightly down his sides, as is the custom with constables when “searching” a man. Dawes—who is of a fierce temper—turned crimson at this bravado, and, I thought, would have struck him, but he did not. Frere then—still unarmed and alone—proceeded to the man, saying, “How are you, Dawes? Do you think of bolting again, Dawes? Have you made any more boats?”

“You Devil!” said the chained man, in a voice pregnant with such weight of unborn murder, that the gang winced.

“You'll find me one,” said Frere, with a laugh; and, turning to me, continued, in the same jesting tone, “There's a penitent for you, Mr. North—try your hand on him.”

  ― 394 ―

I was speechless at his audacity, and must have shown my disgust in my face, for he coloured slightly, and as we were leaving the yard, endeavoured to excuse himself, by saying that it was no use preaching to stones, and such doubly-dyed villains as this Dawes were past hope. “I know the ruffian of old,” said he. “He came out in the ship from England with me, and tried to raise a mutiny on board. He was the man who nearly murdered my wife. He has never been out of irons—except then and when he escaped—for the last eighteen years; and as he's three life sentences, he's like to die in 'em.

A monstrous wretch and criminal, evidently, and yet I feel a strange sympathy with this outcast.

Chapter V.

Mr. Richard Devine Surprised.

THE town house of Mr. Richard Devine was in Clarges Street. Not that the very modest mansion there situated was the only establishment of which Richard Devine was master. Mr. John Rex had expensive tastes. He neither shot nor hunted, so he had no capital invested in Scotch moors or Leicestershire hunting-boxes. But his stables were the wonder of London, he owned almost a racing village near Doncaster, kept a yacht at Cowes, and, in addition to a house in Paris, paid the rent of a villa at Brompton. He belonged to several clubs of the faster sort, and might have lived like a prince at any one of them had he been so minded; but a constant and haunting fear of discovery—which three years of unquestioned ease and unbridled riot had not dispelled—led him to prefer the privacy of his own house, where he could choose his own society. The house in Clarges Street was decorated in conformity with the tastes of its owner. The pictures were pictures of horses, the books were records of races, or novels purporting to describe sporting life. Mr. Francis Wade, waiting, on the morning of the 20th April, 1846, for the coming of his nephew, sighed as he thought of the cultured quiet of Northend House.

Mr. Richard appeared in his dressing-gown. Three years of good living and hard drinking had deprived his figure of its

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athletic beauty. He was past forty years of age, and the sudden cessation from severe bodily toil to which in his active life as a convict and squatter he had been accustomed, had increased Rex's natural proneness to fat, and instead of being portly he had become gross. His cheeks were inflamed with the frequent application of hot and rebellious liquors to his blood. His hands were swollen, and not so steady as of yore. His whiskers were streaked with unhealthy grey. His eyes, bright and black as ever, lurked in a thicket of crow's feet. He had become prematurely bald—a sure sign of mental or bodily excess. He spoke with assumed heartiness, in a boisterous tone of affected ease.

“Ha, ha! My dear uncle, sit down. Delighted to see you. Have you breakfasted?—of course you have. I was up rather late last night. Quite sure you won't have anything. A glass of wine? No—then sit down and tell me all the news of Hampstead.”

“Thank you, Richard,” said the old gentleman, a little stiffly, “but I want some serious talk with you. What do you intend to do with the property? This indecision worries me. Either relieve me of my trust, or be guided by my advice.”

“Well, the fact is,” said Richard, with a very ugly look on his face, “the fact is—and you may as well know it at once—I am much pushed for money.”

“Pushed for money!” cried Mr. Wade, in horror. “Why, Purkiss said the property was worth twenty thousand a year.”

“So it might have been—five years ago—but my horse-racing, and betting, and other amusements, concerning which you need not too curiously inquire, have reduced its value considerably.”

He spoke recklessly and roughly. It was evident that success had but developed his ruffianism. His “dandyism” was only comparative. The impulse of poverty and scheming which led him to affect the “gentleman” having been removed, the natural brutality of his nature showed itself freely. Mr. Francis Wade took a pinch of snuff with a sharp motion of distaste. “I do not want to hear of your debaucheries,” he said; “our name has been sufficiently disgraced in my hearing.”

“What is got over the devil's back goes under his belly,” replied Mr. Richard, coarsely. “My old father got his money by dirtier ways than these in which I spend it. As villainous an old scoundrel and skinflint as ever poisoned a seaman, I'll go bail.'

  ― 396 ―

Mr. Francis rose. “You need not revile your father, Richard—he left you all.”

“Ay, but by pure accident. He didn't mean it. If he hadn't died in the nick of time, that unhung murderous villain, Maurice Frere, would have come in for it. By the way,” he added, with a change of tone, “do you ever hear anything of Maurice?”

“I have not heard for some years,” said Mr. Wade. “He is something in the Convict Department at Sydney, I think.”

“Is he?” said Mr. Richard, with a shiver. “Hope he'll stop there. Well, but about business. The fact is, that—that I am thinking of selling everything.”

“Selling everything!”

“Yes. 'Pon my soul I am. The Hampstead place and all.”

“Sell Northend House!” cried poor Mr. Wade, in bewilderment. “Why, the carvings by Grinling Gibbons are the finest in England.”

“I can't help that,” laughed Mr. Richard, ringing the bell. “I want cash, and cash I must have.—Breakfast, Smithers.—I'm going to travel.”

Francis Wade was breathless with astonishment. Educated and reared as he had been, he would as soon have thought of proposing to sell St. Paul's Cathedral, as to sell the casket which held his treasures of art,—his coins, his coffee-cups, his pictures, and his “proofs before letters.”

“Surely, Richard, you are not in earnest?” he gasped.

“I am, indeed.”

“But—but who will buy it?”

“Plenty of people. I shall cut it up into building allotments. Besides, they are talking of a suburban line, with a terminus at St. John's Wood, which will cut the garden in half. You are quite sure you've breakfasted? Then pardon me.”

“Richard, you are jesting with me! You will never let them do such a thing!”

“I'm thinking of a trip to America,” said Mr. Richard, cracking an egg. “I am sick of Europe. After all, what is the good of a man like me pretending to belong to ‘an old family,’ with ‘a seat’ and all that humbug? Money is the thing now, my dear uncle. Hard cash! That's the ticket for soup, you may depend.”

“Then what do you propose doing, sir?”

“To buy my mother's life interest as provided, realize upon

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the property, and travel,” said Mr. Richard, helping himself to potted grouse.

“You amaze me, Richard. You confound me. Of course, you can do as you please. But so sudden a determination. The old house—scattered—vases—coins—pictures—I really—Well, it is your property, of course,—and—and—I wish you a very good morning!”

“I mean to do as I please,” soliloquized Rex, as he resumed his breakfast. “Let him sell his rubbish by auction, and go and live abroad, in Germany or Jerusalem if he likes, the farther the better for me. I'll sell off the property and make myself scarce. A trip to America will benefit my health.”

A knock at the door made him start.

“Come in! Curse it, how nervous I'm getting. What's that? Letters? Give them to me; and why the devil don't you put the brandy on the table, Smithers?”

He drank some of the spirit greedily, and began to open his correspondence.

“Cussed brute,” said Mr. Smithers, outside the door. “He couldn't use wuss langwidge if he was a dook, dam 'im !—Yessir,” he added, suddenly, as a roar from his master recalled him.

“When did this come?” asked Mr. Richard, holding out a letter more than usually disfigured with stampings.

“Lars night, sir. It's bin to 'Amstead, sir, and come down directed with the h'others.” The angry glare of the black eyes induced him to add, “I 'ope there's nothink wrong, sir.”

“Nothing, you infernal ass and idiot,” burst out Mr. Richard, white with rage, “except that I should have had this instantly. Can't you see it's marked urgent? Can you read? Can you spell? There, that will do. No lies. Get out!”

Left to himself again, Mr. Richard walked hurriedly up and down the chamber, wiped his forehead, drank a tumbler of brandy, and finally sat down and re-read the letter. It was short, but terribly to the purpose.


17th April, 1846.   


“I have found you out, you see. Never mind how just at present. I know all about your proceedings, and unless Mr. Richard Devine receives

  ― 398 ―
his wife with due propriety, he'll find himself in the custody of the police. Telegraph, dear, to Mrs. Richard Devine, at above address.

“Yours as ever, Jack,  


“To Richard Devine, Esq.,

  “Northend House,


The blow was unexpected and severe. It was hard, in the very high tide and flush of assured success, to be thus plucked back into the old bondage. Despite the affectionate tone of the letter, he knew the woman with whom he had to deal. For some furious minutes he sat motionless, gazing at the letter. He did not speak—men seldom do under such circumstances—but his thoughts ran in this fashion: “Here is this cursed woman again! Just as I was congratulating myself on my freedom. How did she discover me! Small use asking that. What shall I do? I can do nothing. It is absurd to run away, for I shall be caught. Besides, I've no money. My account at Mastermann's is overdrawn two thousand pounds. If I bolt at all, I must bolt at once—within twenty-four hours. Rich as I am, I don't suppose I could raise more than five thousand pounds in that time. These things take a day or two, say forty-eight hours. In forty-eight hours I could raise twenty thousand pounds, but forty-eight hours is too long. Curse the woman! I know her! How in the fiend's name did she discover me? It's a bad job.—However, she's not inclined to be gratuitously disagreeable. How lucky I never married again! I had better make terms and trust to fortune. After all, she's been a good friend to me.—Poor Sally!—I might have rotted on that infernal Eaglehawk Neck, if it hadn't been for her. She is not a bad sort. Handsome woman, too. I may make it up with her. I shall have to sell off and go away after all.—It might be worse.—I dare say the property's worth three hundred thousand pounds. Not bad for a start in America. And I may get rid of her yet. Yes. I must give in.—Oh, curse her!—[ringing the bell] Smithers!” [Smithers appears.] “A telegraph form and a cab! Stay. Pack me a dressing-bag, I shall have to go away for a day or so. [Sotto voce]—I'd better see her myself.—[Aloud]—Bring me a Bradshaw! [Sotto voce]—Damn the woman.”

  ― 399 ―

Chapter VI.

In which the Chaplain is Taken Ill.

THOUGH the house of the Commandant of Norfolk Island was comfortable and well furnished, and though, of necessity, all that was most hideous in the “discipline” of the place was hidden, the loathing with which Sylvia had approached the last and most dreaded abiding place of the elaborate convict system, under which it had been her misfortune to live, had not decreased. The sights and sounds of pain and punishment surrounded her. She could not look out of her windows without a shudder. She dreaded each evening when her husband returned, lest he should blurt out some new atrocity. She feared to ask him in the morning whither he was going, lest he should thrill her with the announcement of some fresh punishment.

“I wish, Maurice, we had never come here,” said she, piteously, when he recounted to her the scene of the gaol-gang. “These unhappy men will do you some frightful injury one of these days.”

“Stuff!” said her husband. “They've not the courage. I'd take the best man among them, and dare him to touch me.”

“I cannot think how you like to witness so much misery and villainy. It is horrible to me to think of.”

“Our tastes differ, my dear.—Jenkins! Confound you! Jenkins, I say.” The convict-servant entered. “Where is the chargebook? I've told you always to have it ready for me. Why don't you do as you are told? You idle, lazy scoundrel! I suppose you were yarning in the cookhouse, or ——”

“If you please, sir ——”

“Don't answer me, sir. Give me the book.” Taking it and running his finger down the leaves, he commented on the list of offences to which he would be called upon in the morning to mete out judgment.

Meer-a-seek, having a pipe—the rascally Hindoo scoundrel!—Benjamin Pellett, having fat in his possession. Miles Byrne, not walking fast enough—We must enliven Mr. Byrne. Thomas Twist, having a pipe and striking a light. W. Barnes, not in place at muster; says he was ‘washing himself’—I'll wash him!

  ― 400 ―
John Richards, missing muster and insolence. John Gateby, insolence and insubordination. James Hopkins, insolence and foul language. Rufus Dawes, gross insolence, refusing to work.—Ah! we must look after you. You are a parson's man, are you? I'll break your spirit, my man, or I'll —— Sylvia!”


“Your friend Dawes is doing credit to his bringing up.”

“What do you mean?”

“That infernal villain and reprobate, Dawes. He is fitting himself faster for ——”

She interrupted him. “Maurice, I wish you would not use such language. You know I dislike it.” She spoke coldly and sadly, as one who knows that remonstrance is vain, and is yet constrained to remonstrate.

“Oh, dear! My Lady Proper! can't bear to hear her husband swear. How refined we're getting!”

“There, I did not mean to annoy you,” said she, wearily. “Don't let us quarrel, for goodness' sake.”

He went away noisily, and she sat looking at the carpet wearily. A noise roused her. She looked up and saw North. Her face beamed instantly. “Ah! Mr. North, I did not expect you. What brings you here? You'll stay to dinner, of course.” (She rang the bell without waiting for a reply.) “Mr. North dines here; place a chair for him. And have you brought me the book? I have been looking for it.”

“Here it is,” said North, producing a volume of ‘Monte Christo.’ “I envy you.”

She seized the book with avidity, and, after running her eyes over the pages, turned inquiringly to the fly-leaf.

“It belongs to my predecessor,” said North, as though in answer to her thought. “He seems to have been a great reader of French. I have found many French novels of his.”

“I thought clergymen never read French novels,” said Sylvia, with a smile.

“There are French novels and French novels,” said North. “Stupid people confound the good with the bad. I remember a worthy friend of mine in Sydney who soundly abused me for reading ‘Rabelais,’ and when I asked him if he had read it, he said that he would sooner cut his hand off than open it. Admirable judge of its merits!”

“But is this really good? Papa told me it was rubbish.”

  ― 401 ―

“It is a romance, but, in my opinion, a very fine one. The notion of the sailor being taught in prison by the priest, and sent back into the world, an accomplished gentleman, to work out his vengeance, is superb.”

“Now, now—you are telling me,” laughed she; and then, with feminine perversity, “Go on, what is the story?”

“Only that of an unjustly imprisoned man, who, escaping by a marvel, and becoming rich—as Dr. Johnson says, ‘beyond the dreams of avarice’—devotes his life and fortune to revenge himself.”

“And does he?”

“He does, upon all his enemies save one.”

“And he ——?”

She—was the wife of his greatest enemy, and Dantès spared her because he loved her.”

Sylvia turned away her head. “It seems interesting enough,” said she, coldly.

There was an awkward silence for a moment, which each seemed afraid to break. North bit his lips, as though regretting what he had said. Mrs. Frere beat her foot on the floor, and at length raising her eyes, and meeting those of the clergyman fixed upon her face, rose hurriedly, and went to meet her returning husband.

“Come to dinner, of course!” said Frere, who, though he disliked the clergyman, yet was glad of anybody who would help him to pass a cheerful evening.

“I came to bring Mrs. Frere a book.”

“Ah! She reads too many books; she's always reading books. It is not a good thing to be always poring over print, is it, North? You have some influence with her; tell her so. Come, I am hungry.”

He spoke with that affectation of jollity with which husbands of his calibre veil their bad temper.

Sylvia had her defensive armour on in a twinkling.

“Of course, you two men will be against me. When did two men ever disagree upon the subject of wifely duties? However, I shall read in spite of you. Do you know, Mr. North, that when I married I made a special agreement with Captain Frere that I was not to be asked to sew on buttons for him?'

“Indeed!” said North, not understanding this change of humour.

  ― 402 ―

“And she never has from that hour,” said Frere, recovering his suavity at the sight of food. “I never have a shirt fit to put on. Upon my word, there are a dozen in the drawer now.”

North perused his plate uncomfortably. A saying of omniscient Balzac occurred to him. “Le grand écueil est le ridicule,” and his mind began to sound all sorts of philosophical depths, not of the most clerical character.

After dinner Maurice launched out into his usual topic—convict discipline. It was pleasant for him to get a listener; for his wife, cold and unsympathetic, tacitly declined to enter into his schemes for the subduing of the refractory villains. “You insisted on coming here,” she would say. “I did not wish to come. I don't like to talk of these things. Let us talk of something else.” When she adopted this method of procedure, he had no alternative but to submit, for he was afraid of her, after a fashion. In this ill-assorted match he was only apparently the master. He was a physical tyrant. For him, a creature had but to be weak to be an object of contempt; and his gross nature triumphed over the finer one of his wife. Love had long since died out of their life. The young, impulsive, delicate girl, who had given herself to him seven years before, had been changed into a weary, suffering woman. The wife is what her husband makes her, and his rude animalism had made her the nervous invalid she was. Instead of love, he had awakened in her a distaste which at times amounted to disgust. We have neither the skill nor the boldness of that profound philosopher whose autopsy of the human heart awoke North's contemplation, and we will not presume to set forth in bare English the story of this marriage of the Minotaur. Let it suffice to say that Sylvia liked her husband least when he loved her most. In this repulsion lay her power over him. When the animal and spiritual natures cross each other, the nobler triumphs in fact if not in appearance. Maurice Frere, though his wife obeyed him, knew that he was inferior to her, and was afraid of the statue he had created. She was ice, but it was the artificial ice that chemists make in the midst of a furnace. Her coldness was at once her strength and her weakness. When she chilled him, she commanded him.

Unwitting of the thoughts that possessed his guest, Frere chatted amicably. North said little, but drank a good deal. The wine, however, rendered him silent, instead of talkative.

  ― 403 ―
He drank that he might forget unpleasant memories, and drank without accomplishing his object. When the pair proceeded to the room where Mrs. Frere awaited them, Frere was boisterously good humoured, North silently misanthropic.

“Sing something, Sylvia!” said Frere, with the ease of possession, as one who should say to a living musical-box, “Play something.”

“Oh, Mr. North doesn't care for music, and I'm not inclined to sing. Singing seems out of place here.”

“Nonsense,” said Frere. “Why should it be more out of place here than anywhere else?”

“Mrs. Frere means that mirth is in a manner unsuited to these melancholy surroundings,” said North, out of his keener sense.

“Melancholy surroundings!” cried Frere, staring in turn at the piano, the ottomans, and the looking-glass. “Well, the house isn't as good as the one in Sydney, but it's comfortable enough.”

“You don't understand me, Maurice,” said Sylvia. “This place is very gloomy to me. The thought of the unhappy men who are ironed and chained all about us makes me miserable.”

“What stuff!” said Frere, now thoroughly roused. “The ruffians deserve all they get and more. Why should you make yourself wretched about them?”

“Poor men! How do we know the strength of their temptation, the bitterness of their repentance?”

“Evil-doers earn their punishment,” says North, in a hard voice, and taking up a book suddenly. “They must learn to bear it. No repentance can undo their sin.”

“But surely there is mercy for the worst of evil-doers,” urged Sylvia, gently.

North seemed disinclined or unable to reply, and nodded only.

“Mercy!” cried Frere. “I am not here to be merciful; I am here to keep these scoundrels in order, and by the Lord that made me, I'll do it!”

“Maurice, do not talk like that. Think how slight an accident might have made any one of us like one of these men. What is the matter, Mr. North?”

Mr. North has suddenly turned pale.

“Nothing,” returned the clergyman, gasping—“a sudden

  ― 404 ―
faintness!” The windows were thrown open, and the chaplain gradually recovered, as he did in Burgess's parlour, at Port Arthur, seven years ago. “I am liable to these attacks. A touch of heart disease, I think. I shall have to rest for a day or so.”

“Ah, take a spell,” said Frere; “you overwork yourself.”

North, sitting, gasping and pale, smiles in a ghastly manner. ‘I—I will. If I do not appear for a week, Mrs. Frere, you will know the reason.”

“A week! Surely it will not last so long as that,” exclaims Sylvia.

The ambiguous “it” appears to annoy him, for he flushes painfully, replying, “Sometimes longer. It is, a—um—uncertain,” in a confused and shame-faced manner, and is luckily relieved by the entry of Jenkins.

“A message from Mr. Troke, sir.”

“Troke! What's the matter now?”

“Dawes, sir, 's been violent and assaulted Mr. Troke. Mr. Troke said you'd left orders to be told at onst of the insubordination of prisoners.”

“Quite right, where is he?”

“In the cells, I think, sir. They had a hard fight to get him there, I am told, your honour.”

“Had they? Give my compliments to Mr. Troke, and tell him that I shall have the pleasure of breaking Mr. Dawes's spirit to-morrow morning at nine sharp.”

“Maurice,” said Sylvia, who had been listening to the conversation in undisguised alarm, “do me a favour? Do not torment this man.”

“What makes you take a fancy to him?” asks her husband, with sudden unnecessary fierceness.

“Because his is one of the names which have been from my childhood synonymous with suffering and torture, because whatever wrong he may have done, his life-long punishment must have in some degree atoned for it.”

She spoke with an eager pity in her face that transfigured it. North, devouring her with his glance, saw tears in her eyes.

“Does this look as if he had made atonement?” said Frere coarsely, slapping the letter.

“He is a bad man, I know, but ——” she passed her hand over her forehead with the old troubled gesture—“he cannot

  ― 405 ―
have been always bad. I think I have heard some good of him somewhere.”

“Nonsense,” said Frere, rising decisively. “Your fancies mislead you. Let me hear you no more. The man is rebellious, and must be lashed back again to his duty. Come, North, we'll have a nip before you start.”

“Mr. North, will not you plead for me?” suddenly cried poor Sylvia, her self-possession overthrown. “You have a heart to pity these suffering creatures.”

But North, who seemed to have suddenly recalled his soul from some place where it had been wandering, draws himself aside, and with dry lips makes shift to say, “I cannot interfere with your husband, madam,” and goes out almost rudely.

“You've made old North quite ill,” said Frere, when he by-and-by returns, hoping by bluff ignoring of roughness on his own part to avoid reproach from his wife. “He drank half a bottle of brandy to steady his nerves before he went home, and swung out of the house like one possessed.”

But Sylvia, occupied by her own thoughts, did not reply.

Chapter VII.

Breaking a Man's Spirit.

THE insubordination of which Rufus Dawes had been guilty was, in this instance, insignificant. It was the custom of the newly-fledged constables of Captain Frere to enter the wards at night, armed with cutlasses, tramping about, and making a great noise. Mindful of the report of Pounce, they pulled the men roughly from their hammocks, examined their persons for concealed tobacco, and compelled them to open their mouths to see if any was inside. The men in Dawes's gang—to which Mr. Troke had an especial objection—were often searched more than once in a night, searched going to work, searched at meals, searched going to prayers, searched coming out, and this in the roughest manner. Their sleep broken, and what little self-respect they might yet presume to retain harried out of them, the objects of this incessant persecution were ready to turn upon and kill their tormentors.

The great aim of Troke was to catch Dawes tripping, but the

  ― 406 ―
leader of the “Ring” was too wary. In vain had Troke, eager to sustain his reputation for sharpness, burst in upon the convict at all times and seasons. He had found nothing. In vain had he laid traps for him; in vain had he “planted” figs of tobacco, and attaching long threads to them, waited in a bush hard by, until the pluck at the end of his line should give token that the fish had bitten. The experienced “old hand” was too acute for him. Filled with disgust and ambition, he determined upon an ingenious little trick. He was certain that Dawes possessed tobacco; the thing was to find it upon him. Now, Rufus Dawes, holding aloof, as was his custom, from the majority of his companions, had made one friend—if so mindless and battered an old wreck could be called a friend—Blind Mooney. Perhaps this oddly-assorted friendship was brought about by two causes—one, that Mooney was the only man on the island who knew more of the horrors of convictism than the leader of the Ring; the other, that Mooney was blind, and, to a moody, sullen man, subject to violent fits of passion and a constant suspicion of all his fellow-creatures, a blind companion was more congenial than a sharp-eyed one.

Mooney was one of the “First Fleeters.” He had arrived in Sydney fifty-seven years before, in the year 1789, and when he was transported he was fourteen years old. He had been through the whole round of servitude, had worked as a bondsman, had married, and been “up country,” had been again sentenced, and was a sort of dismal patriarch of Norfolk Island, having been there at its former settlement. He had no friends. His wife was long since dead, and he stated, without contradiction, that his master, having taken a fancy to her, had despatched the uncomplaisant husband to imprisonment. Such cases were not uncommon.

One of the many ways in which Rufus Dawes had obtained the affection of the old blind man was the gift of such fragments of tobacco as he had himself from time to time secured. Troke knew this; and on the evening in question hit upon an excellent plan. Admitting himself noiselessly into the boat-shed, where the gang slept, he crept close to the sleeping Dawes, and counterfeiting Mooney's mumbling utterance, asked for “some tobacco.” Rufus Dawes was but half awake, and on repeating his request, Troke felt something put into his hand. He grasped Dawes's arm, and struck a light. He had got his man this time.

  ― 407 ―
Dawes had conveyed to his fancied friend a piece of tobacco almost as big as the top joint of his little finger.

One can understand the feelings of a man entrapped by such base means. Rufus Dawes no sooner saw the hated face of Warder Troke peering over his hammock, than he sprang out, and exerting to the utmost his powerful muscles, knocked Mr. Troke fairly off his legs into the arms of the in-coming constables. A desperate struggle took place, at the end of which, the convict, overpowered by numbers, was borne senseless to the cells, gagged, and chained to the ring-bolt on the bare flags. While in this condition he was savagely beaten by five or six constables.

To this maimed and manacled rebel was the Commandant ushered by Troke the next morning.

“Ha! ha! my man,” said the Commandant. “Here you are again, you see. How do you like this sort of thing?”

Dawes, glaring, makes no answer.

“You shall have fifty lashes, my man,” said Frere. “We'll see how you'll feel then!”

The fifty were duly administered, and the Commandant called the next day. The rebel was still mute.

“Give him fifty more, Mr. Troke. We'll see what he's made of.”

One hundred and twenty lashes were inflicted in the course of the morning, but still the sullen convict refused to speak. He was then treated to fourteen days' solitary confinement in one of the new cells. On being brought out and confronted with his tormentor, he merely laughed. For this he was sent back for another fourteen days; and still remaining obdurate, was flogged again, and got fourteen days more. Had the chaplain then visited him, he might have found him open to consolation, but the chaplain—so it was stated—was sick. When brought out at the conclusion of his third confinement, he was found to be in so exhausted a condition, that the doctor ordered him to hospital. As soon as he was sufficiently recovered, Frere visited him, and finding his “spirit” not yet “broken,” ordered that he should be put to grind maize. Dawes declined to work. So they chained his hand to one arm of the grindstone, and placed another prisoner at the other arm. As the second prisoner turned, the hand of Dawes of course revolved.

“You're not such a pebble as folks seemed to think,” grinned Frere, pointing to the turning wheel.

  ― 408 ―

Upon which the indomitable poor devil straightened his sorely-tried muscles, and prevented the wheel from turning at all. Frere gave him fifty more lashes, and sent him the next day to grind cayenne pepper. This was a punishment more dreaded by the convicts than any other. The pungent dust filled their eyes and lungs, causing them the most excruciating torments. For a man with a raw back the work was one continued agony. In four days, Rufus Dawes, emaciated blistered, blinded, broke down.

“For God's sake, Captain Frere, kill me at once!” he said.

“No fear,” said the other, rejoiced at this proof of his power. “You've given in; that's all I wanted. Troke, take him to the hospital.”

When he was in hospital, North visited him.

“I would have come to see you before,” said the clergyman, “but I have been very ill.”

In truth he looked so. He had had a fever, it seemed, and they had shaved his beard, and cropped his hair. Dawes could see that the haggard, wasted man had passed through some agony almost as great as his own. The next day Frere visited him, complimented him on his courage, and offered to make him a constable. Dawes turned his scarred back to his torturer, and resolutely declined to answer.

“I am afraid you have made an enemy of the Commandant,” said North, the next day. “Why not accept his offer?”

Dawes cast on him a glance of quiet scorn. “And betray my mates? I'm not one of that sort.”

The clergyman spoke to him of hope, of release, of repentance, and redemption. The prisoner laughed. “Who's to redeem me?” he said, expressing his thoughts in phraseology that to ordinary folks might seem blasphemous. “It would take a Christ to die again to save such as I.”

North spoke to him of immortality. “There is another life,” said he. “Do not risk your chance of happiness in it. You have a future to live for, man.”

“I hope not,” said the victim of the “system.” “I want to rest—to rest, and never to be disturbed again.”

His “spirit” was broken enough by this time. Yet he had resolution enough to refuse Frere's repeated offers. “I'll never ‘jump’ it,” he said to North, “if they cut me in half first.”

North pityingly implored the stubborn mind to have mercy on

  ― 409 ―
the lacerated body, but without effect. His own wayward heart gave him the key to read the cipher of this man's life. “A noble nature ruined,” said he to himself. “What is the secret of his history?”

Dawes, on his part, seeing how different from other black coats was this priest—at once so ardent and so gloomy, so stern and so tender—began to speculate on the cause of his monitor's sunken cheeks, fiery eyes, and preoccupied manner, to wonder what grief inspired those agonized prayers, those eloquent and daring supplications, which were daily poured out over his rude bed. So between these two—the priest and the sinner—was a sort of sympathetic bond.

One day this bond was drawn so close as to tug at both their heart-strings. The chaplain had a flower in his coat. Dawes eyed it with hungry looks, and, as the clergyman was about to quit the room, said, “Mr. North, will you give me that rosebud?' North paused irresolutely, and finally, as if after a struggle with himself, took it carefully from his button-hole, and placed it in the prisoner's brown, scarred hand. In another instant, Dawes, believing himself alone, pressed the gift to his lips. North returned abruptly, and the eyes of the pair met. Dawes flushed crimson, but North turned white as death. Neither spoke, but each was drawn closer to the other, since both had kissed the rosebud plucked by Sylvia's fingers.

Chapter VIII.

Extracted from the Diary of the Rev. James North.

OCTOBER 21st.—I am safe for another six months if I am careful, for my last bout lasted longer than I expected. I suppose one of these days I shall have a paroxysm that will kill me. I shall not regret it.

I wonder if this familiar of mine—I begin to detest the expression—will accuse me of endeavouring to make a case for myself if I say that I believe my madness to be a disease? I do believe it. I honestly can no more help getting drunk, than a lunatic can help screaming and gibbering. It would be different with me, perhaps, were I a contented man, happily married, with children about me, and family cares to distract me. But as I

  ― 410 ―
am—a lonely, gloomy being, debarred from love, devoured by spleen, and tortured with repressed desires—I become a living torment to myself. I think of happier men, with fair wives and clinging children, of men who are loved and who love, of Frere for instance—and a hideous wild beast seems to stir within me, a monster, whose cravings cannot be satisfied, can only be drowned in stupefying brandy.

Penitent and shattered, I vow to lead a new life; to forswear spirits, to drink nothing but water. Indeed, the sight and smell of brandy make me ill. All goes well for some weeks, when I grow nervous, discontented, moody. I smoke, and am soothed. But moderation is not to be thought of; little by little I increase the dose of tobacco. Five pipes a day become six or seven. Then I count up to ten and twelve, then drop to three or four, then mount to eleven at a leap; then lose count altogether. Much smoking excites the brain. I feel clear, bright, gay. My tongue is parched in the morning, however, and I use liquor to literally “moisten my clay.” I drink wine or beer in moderation, and all goes well. My limbs regain their suppleness, my hands their coolness, my brain its placidity. I begin to feel that I have a will. I am confident, calm, and hopeful. To this condition succeeds one of the most frightful melancholy. I remain plunged, for an hour together, in a stupor of despair. The earth, air, sea, all appear barren, colourless. Life is a burden. I long to sleep, and sleeping struggle to awake, because of the awful dreams which flap about me in the darkness. At night I cry, “Would to God it were morning!” in the morning, “Would to God it were evening!” I loathe myself, and all around me. I am nerveless, passionless, bowed down with a burden like the burden of Saul. I know well what will restore me to life and ease—restore me, but to cast me back again into a deeper fit of despair. I drink. One glass—my blood is warmed,—my heart leaps, my hand no longer shakes. Three glasses, I rise with hope in my soul,—the evil spirit flies from me. I continue—pleasing images flock to my brain, the fields break into flower, the birds into song, the sea gleams sapphire, the warm heaven laughs. Great God! what man could withstand a temptation like this?

By an effort, I shake off the desire to drink deeper, and fix my thoughts on my duties, on my books, on the wretched prisoners. I succeed perhaps for a time; but my blood, heated

  ― 411 ―
by the wine which is at once my poison and my life, boils in my veins. I drink again, and dream. I feel all the animal within me stirring. In the day my thoughts wander to all monstrous imaginings. The most familiar objects suggest to me loathsome thoughts. Obscene and filthy images surround me. My nature seems changed. By day I feel myself a wolf in sheep's clothing; a man possessed by a devil, who is ready at any moment to break out and tear him to pieces. At night I become a satyr. While in this torment I at once hate and fear myself. One fair face is ever before me, gleaming through my hot dreams like a flying moon in the sultry midnight of a tropic storm. I dare not trust myself in the presence of those whom I love and respect, lest my wild thoughts should find vent in wilder words. I lose my humanity. I am a beast. Out of this depth there is but one way of escape. Downwards. I must drench the monster I have awakened until he sleeps again. I drink and become oblivious. In these last paroxysms there is nothing for me but brandy. I shut myself up alone and pour down my gullet huge draughts of spirit. It mounts to my brain. I am a man again! and as I regain my manhood, I topple over—dead drunk.

But the awakening! Let me not paint it. The delirium, the fever, the self-loathing, the prostration, the despair. I view in the looking-glass a haggard face, with red eyes. I look down upon shaking hands, flaccid muscles, and shrunken limbs. I speculate if I shall ever be one of those grotesque and melancholy beings, with bleared eyes and running noses, swollen bellies and shrunken legs! Ugh!—it is too likely.

October 22nd.—Have spent the day with Mrs. Frere. She is evidently eager to leave the place—as eager as I am. Frere rejoices in his murderous power, and laughs at her expostulations. I suppose men get tired of their wives. In my present frame of mind I am at a loss to understand how a man could refuse a wife anything.

I do not think she can possibly care for him. I am not a selfish sentimentalist, as are the majority of seducers. I would take no woman away from a husband for mere liking. Yet I think there are cases in which a man who loved would be justified in making a woman happy at the risk of his own—soul, I suppose.

Making her happy! Ay, that's the point. Would she be

  ― 412 ―
happy? There are few men who can endure to be “cut,” slighted, pointed at, and women suffer more than men in these regards. I, a grizzled man of forty, am not such an arrant ass as to suppose that a year of guilty delirium can compensate to a gently-nurtured woman for the loss of that social dignity which constitutes her best happiness. I am not such an idiot as to forget that there may come a time when the woman I love may cease to love me, and having no tie of self-respect, social position, or family duty, to bind her, may inflict upon her seducer that agony which he has taught her to inflict upon her husband. Apart from the question of the sin of breaking the seventh commandment, I doubt if the worst husband and the most unhappy home are not better, in this social condition of ours, than the most devoted lover. A strange subject this for a clergyman to speculate upon! If this diary should ever fall into the hands of a real God-fearing, honest booby, who never was tempted to sin by finding that at middle-age he loved the wife of another, how he would condemn me! And rightly, of course.

November 4th.—In one of the turnkey's rooms in the new gaol is to be seen an article of harness, which at first creates surprise to the mind of the beholder, who considers what animal of the brute creation exists of so diminutive a size as to admit of its use. On inquiry, it will be found to be a bridle, perfect in headband, throat-lash, etc., for a human being. There is attached to this bridle a round piece of cross wood, of almost four inches in length, and one and a half in diameter. This, again, is secured to a broad strap of leather to cross the mouth. In the wood there is a small hole, and, when used, the wood is inserted in the mouth, the small hole being the only breathing space. This being secured with the various straps and buckles, a more complete bridle could not be well imagined.

I was in the gaol last evening at eight o'clock. I had been to see Rufus Dawes, and returning, paused for a moment to speak to Hailey. Gimblett, who robbed Mr. Vane of two hundred pounds, was present; he was at that time a turnkey, holding a third-class pass, and in receipt of two shillings per diem. Everything was quite still. I could not help remarking how quiet the gaol was, when Gimblett said, “There's some one speaking. I know who that is.” And forthwith took from its pegs one of the bridles just described, and a pair of handcuffs.

  ― 413 ―

I followed him to one of the cells, which he opened, and therein was a man lying on his straw mat, undressed, and to all appearance fast asleep. Gimblett ordered him to get up and dress himself. He did so, and came into the yard, where Gimblett inserted the iron-wood gag in his mouth. The sound produced by his breathing through it (which appeared to be done with great difficulty) resembled a low, indistinct whistle. Gimblett let him to the lamp-post in the yard, and I saw that the victim of his wanton tyranny was the poor blind wretch Mooney. Gimblett placed him with his back against the lamp-post, and his arms being taken round, were secured by handcuffs round the post. I was told that the old man was to remain in this condition for three hours. I went at once to the Commandant. He invited me into his drawing-room—an invitation which I had the good sense to refuse—but refused to listen to any plea for mercy. “The old impostor is always making his blindness an excuse for disobedience,” said he.—And this is her husband!

Chapter IX.

The Longest Straw.

RUFUS DAWES hearing, when “on the chain” the next day, of the wanton torture of his friend, uttered no threat of vengeance, but groaned only. “I am not so strong as I was,” said he, as if in apology for his lack of spirit. “They have unnerved me.” And he looked sadly down at his gaunt frame and trembling hands.

“I can't stand it no longer,” said Mooney, grimly. “I've spoken to Bland, and he's of my mind. You know what we resolved to do. Let's do it.”

Rufus Dawes stared at the sightless orbs turned inquiringly to his own. The fingers of his hand, thrust into his bosom, felt a token which lay there. A shudder thrilled him. “No, no. Not now,” he said.

“You're not afeard, man?” asked Mooney, stretching out his hand in the direction of the voice. “You're not going to shirk?” The other avoided the touch, and shrank away, still

  ― 414 ―
staring. “You ain't going to back out after you swored it, Dawes? You're not that sort. Dawes, speak, man!”

“Is Bland willing?” asked Dawes, looking round, as if to seek some method of escape from the glare of those unspeculative eyes.

“Ay, and ready. They flogged him again yesterday.”

“Leave it till to-morrow,” said Dawes, at length.

“No; let's have it over,” urged the old man, with a strange eagerness. “I'm tired o' this.”

Rufus Dawes cast a wistful glance towards the wall behind which lay the house of the Commandant. “Leave it till to-morrow,” he repeated, with his hand still in his breast.

They had been so occupied in their conversation that neither had observed the approach of their common enemy. “What are you hiding there?” cried Frere, seizing Dawes by the wrist. “More tobacco, you dog?” The hand of the convict, thus suddenly plucked from his bosom, opened involuntarily, and a withered rose fell to the earth. Frere at once, indignant and astonished, picked it up. “Hallo! What the devil's this? You've not been robbing my garden for a nosegay, Jack?” The Commandant was wont to call all convicts “Jack” in his moments of facetiousness. It was a little humorous way he had.

Rufus Dawes uttered one dismal cry, and then stood trembling and cowed. His companions, hearing the exclamation of rage and grief that burst from him, looked to see him snatch back the flower or perform some act of violence. Perhaps such was his intention, but he did not execute it. One would have thought that there was some charm about this rose so strangely cherished, for he stood gazing at it, as it twirled between Captain Frere's strong fingers, as though it fascinated him. “You're a pretty man to want a rose for your button-hole! Are you going out with your sweetheart next Sunday, Mr. Dawes?” The gang laughed. “How did you get this?” Dawes was silent. “You'd better tell me.” No answer. “Troke, let us see if we can't find Mr. Dawes's tongue. Pull off your shirt, my man. I expect that's the way to your heart—eh, boys?”

At this elegant allusion to the lash, the gang laughed again, and looked at each other astonished. It seemed possible that the leader of the Ring was going to turn milksop. Such, indeed, appeared to be the case, for Dawes, trembling and pale, cried,

  ― 415 ―
“Don't flog me again, sir! I picked it up in the yard. It fell out of your coat one day.” Frere smiled with an inward satisfaction at the result of his spirit-breaking. The explanation was probably the correct one. He was in the habit of wearing flowers in his coat, and it was impossible that the convict should have obtained one by any other means. Had it been a fig of tobacco now, the astute Commandant knew plenty of men who would have brought it into the prison. But who would risk a flogging for so useless a thing as a flower? “You'd better not pick up any more, Jack,” he said. “We don't grow flowers for your amusement.” And contemptuously flinging the rose over the wall, he strode away.

The gang, left to itself for a moment, bestowed their attention upon Dawes. Large tears were silently rolling down his face, and he stood staring at the wall as one in a dream. The gang curled their lips. One fellow, more charitable than the rest, tapped his forehead and winked. “He's going cranky,” said this good-natured man, who could not understand what a sane prisoner had to do with flowers. Dawes recovered himself, and the contemptuous glances of his companions seemed to bring back the colour to his cheeks.

“We'll do it to-night,” whispered he to Mooney, and Mooney smiled with pleasure.

Since the “tobacco trick,” Mooney and Dawes had been placed in the new prison, together with a man named Bland, who had already twice failed to kill himself. When old Mooney, fresh from the torture of the gag-and-bridle, lamented his hard case, Bland proposed that the three should put in practice a scheme in which two at least must succeed. The scheme was a desperate one, and attempted only in the last extremity. It was the custom of the Ring, however, to swear each of its members to carry out to the best of his ability this last invention of the convict-disciplined mind, should two other members crave his assistance.

The scheme—like all great ideas—was simplicity itself.

That evening, when the cell-door was securely locked, and the absence of a visiting gaoler might be counted upon for an hour at least, Bland produced a straw, and held it out to his companions. Dawes took it, and tearing it into unequal lengths, handed the fragments to Mooney.

  ― 416 ―

“The longest is the one,” said the blind man. “Come on, boys, and dip in the lucky-bag!”

It was evident that lots were to be drawn to determine to whom fortune would grant freedom. The men drew in silence, and then Bland and Dawes looked at each other. The prize had been left in the bag. Mooney—fortunate old fellow—retained the longest straw. Bland's hand shook as he compared notes with his companion. There was a moment's pause, during which the blank eyeballs of the blind man fiercely searched the gloom, as if in that awful moment they could penetrate it.

“I hold the shortest,” said Dawes to Bland. “'Tis you that must do it.”

“I'm glad of that,” said Mooney.

Bland, seemingly terrified at the danger which fate had decreed that he should run, tore the fatal lot into fragments with an oath, and sat gnawing his knuckles in excess of abject terror. Mooney stretched himself out upon his plank-bed. “Come on, mate,” he said.

Bland extended a shaking hand, and caught Rufus Dawes by the sleeve.

“You have more nerve than I. You do it.”

“No, no,” said Dawes, almost as pale as his companion. “I've run my chance fairly. 'Twas your own proposal.”

The coward who, confident in his own luck, would seem to have fallen into the pit he had dug for others, sat rocking himself to and fro, holding his head in his hands.

“By Heaven, I can't do it,” he whispered, lifting a white, wet face.

“What are you waiting for?” said fortunate Mooney. “Come on, I'm ready.”

“I—I—thought you might like to—to—pray a bit,” said Bland.

The notion seemed to sober the senses of the old man, exalted too fiercely by his good fortune.

“Ay!” he said. “Pray! A good thought!” and he knelt down; and shutting his blind eyes—'twas as though he was dazzled by some strong light—unseen by his comrades, moved his lips silently.

The silence was at last broken by the footstep of the warder in the corridor. Bland hailed it as a reprieve from whatever act of daring he dreaded.

  ― 417 ―

“We must wait until he goes,” he whispered eagerly. “He might look in.”

Dawes nodded, and Mooney, whose quick ear apprised him very exactly of the position of the approaching gaoler, rose from his knees radiant. The sour face of Gimblett appeared at the trap cell-door.

“All right?” he asked, somewhat—so the three thought—less sourly than usual.

“All right,” was the reply, and Mooney added, “Good-night, Mr. Gimblett.”

“I wonder what makes the old man so cheerful,” thought Gimblett, as he got into the next corridor.

The sound of his echoing footsteps had scarcely died away, when upon the ears of the two less fortunate casters of lots, fell the dull sound of rending woollen. The lucky man was tearing a strip from his blanket. “I think this will do,” said he, pulling it between his hands to test its strength. “I am an old man.” It was possible that he debated concerning the descent of some abyss into which the strip of blanket was to lower him. “Here, Bland, catch hold. Where are ye?—don't be faint-hearted, man. It won't take ye long.”

It was quite dark now in the cell, but as Bland advanced, his face was like a white mask floating upon the darkness, it was so ghastly pale. Dawes pressed his lucky comrade's hand, and withdrew to the farthest corner. Bland and Mooney were for a few moments occupied with the rope—doubtless preparing for escape by means of it. The silence was broken only by the convulsive jangling of Bland's irons—he was shuddering violently. At last Mooney spoke again, in strangely soft and subdued tones.

“Dawes, lad, do you think there is a Heaven?”

“I know there is a Hell,” said Dawes, without turning his face.

“Ay, and a Heaven, lad. I think I shall go there. You will, old chap, for you've been good to me—God bless you, you've been very good to me.”

When Troke came in the morning, he saw what had occurred at a glance, and hastened to remove the corpse of the strangled Mooney.

“We drew lots,” said Rufus Dawes, pointing to Bland, who

  ― 418 ―
crouched in the corner farthest from his victim, “and it fell upon him to do it. I'm the witness.”

“They'll hang you for all that,” said Troke.

“I hope so,” said Rufus Dawes.

The scheme of escape hit upon by the convict intellect was simply this. Three men being together, lots were drawn to determine whom should be murdered. The drawer of the longest straw was the “lucky” man. He was killed. The drawer of the next longest straw was the murderer. He was hanged. The unlucky one was the witness. He had, of course, an excellent chance of being hung also, but his doom was not so certain, and he therefore looked upon himself as unfortunate.

Chapter X.

A Meeting.

JOHN REX found the “George” disagreeably prepared for his august arrival. Obsequious waiters took his dressing-bag and overcoat, the landlord himself welcomed him at the door. Two naval gentlemen came out of the coffee-room to stare at him. “Have you any more luggage, Mr. Devine?” asked the landlord, as he flung open the door of the best drawing-room. It was awkwardly evident that his wife had no notion of suffering him to hide his borrowed light under a bushel.

A supper-table laid for two people gleamed bright from the cheeriest corner. A fire crackled beneath the marble mantel-shelf. The latest evening paper lay upon a chair; and, brushing it carelessly with her costly dress, the woman he had so basely deserted came smiling to meet him.

“Well, Mr. Richard Devine,” said she, “you did not expect to see me again, did you?”

Although, on his journey down, he had composed an elaborate speech wherewith to greet her, this unnatural civility dumb-founded him. “Sarah! I never meant to ——”

“Hush, my dear Richard—it must be Richard now, I suppose—This is not the time for explanations. Besides, the waiter might hear you. Let us have some supper, you must be hungry,

  ― 419 ―
I am sure.” He advanced to the table mechanically. “How fat you are!” she continued. “Too good living, I suppose. You were not so fat at Port Ar—— Oh, I forgot, my dear! Come and sit down. That's right. I have told them all that I am your wife, for whom you have sent. They regard me with some interest and respect in consequence. Don't spoil their good opinion of me.”

He was about to utter an imprecation, but she stopped him by a glance. “No bad language, John, or I shall ring for a constable. Let us understand one another, my dear. You may be a very great man to other people, but to me you are merely my runaway husband—an escaped convict. If you don't eat your supper civilly, I shall send for the police.”

“Sarah!” he burst out, “I never meant to desert you. Upon my word. It is all a mistake. Let me explain.”

“There is no need for explanations yet, Jack—I mean Richard. Have your supper. Ah! I know what you want.”

She poured out half a tumbler of brandy, and gave it to him. He took the glass from her hand, drank the contents, and then, as though warmed by the spirit, laughed. “What a woman you are, Sarah. I have been a great brute, I confess.”

“You have been an ungrateful villain,” said she, with sudden passion, “a hardened, selfish villain.”

“But, Sarah ——”

“Don't touch me!”

“'Pon my word, you are a fine creature, and I was a fool to leave you.”

The compliment seemed to soothe her, for her tone changed somewhat. “It was a wicked, cruel act, Jack. You whom I saved from death—whom I nursed—whom I enriched. It was the act of a coward.”

“I admit it. It was.”

“You admit it. Have you no shame then? Have you no pity for me for what I have suffered all these years?”

“I don't suppose you cared much.”

“Don't you? You never thought about me at all. I have cared this much, John Rex—bah! the door is shut close enough—that I have spent a fortune in hunting you down; and now I have found you, I will make you suffer in your turn.”

He laughed again, but uneasily. “How did you discover me?”

  ― 420 ―

With a readiness which showed that she had already prepared an answer to the question, she unlocked a writing case which was on the side table, and took from it a newspaper. “By one of those accidents which are the ruin of men like you. Among the papers sent to the overseer from his English friends was this one.”

She held out an illustrated journal—a Sunday organ of sporting opinion—and pointed to a portrait engraved on the centre page. It represented a broad-shouldered, bearded man, dressed in the fashion affected by turfites and lovers of horseflesh, standing beside a pedestal on which were piled a variety of racing cups and trophies. John Rex read underneath this work of art the name



“And you recognized me?”

“The portrait was sufficiently like you to induce me to make inquiries, and when I found that Mr. Richard Devine had suddenly returned from a mysterious absence of fourteen years, I set to work in earnest. I have spent a deal of money, Jack, but I've got you!”

“You have been clever in finding me out; I give you credit for that.”

“There is not a single act of your life, John Rex, that I do not know,” she continued, with heat. “I have traced you from the day you stole out of my house until now. I know your continental trips, your journeyings here and there in search of a lost clue. I pieced together the puzzle, as you have done, and I know that, by some foul fortune, you have stolen the secret of a dead man to ruin an innocent and virtuous family.”

“Hullo! hullo!” said John Rex. “Since when have you learnt to talk of virtue?”

“It is well to taunt, but you have got to the end of your tether now, Jack. I have communicated with the woman whose son's fortune you have stolen. I expect to hear from Lady Devine in a day or so.”

“Well—and when you hear?”

“I shall give back the fortune at the price of her silence!”

“Ho! ho! Will you?”

  ― 421 ―

“Yes; and if my husband does not come back and live with me quietly, I shall call in the police.”

John Rex sprang up. “Who will believe you, idiot?” he cried. “I'll have you sent to gaol as an imposter.”

“You forget, my dear,” she returned, playing coquettishly with her rings, and glancing sideways as she spoke, “that you have already acknowledged me as your wife before the landlord and the servants. It is too late for that sort of thing. Oh, my dear Jack, you think you are very clever, but I am as clever as you.”

Smothering a curse, he sat down beside her. “Listen, Sarah. What is the use of fighting like a couple of children. I am rich ——.”

“So am I.”

“Well, so much the better. We will join our riches together. I admit that I was a fool and a cur to leave you; but I played for a great stake. The name of Richard Devine was worth nearly half a million of money. It is mine. I won it. Share it with me! Sarah, you and I defied the world years ago. Don't let us quarrel now. I was ungrateful. Forget it. We know by this time that we are not either of us angels. We started in life together—do you remember, Sally, when I met you first?—determined to make money. We have succeeded. Why then set to work to destroy each other? You are handsome as ever, I have not lost my wits. Is there any need for you to tell the world that I am a runaway convict, and that you are—well no, of course, there is no need. Kiss, and be friends, Sarah. I would have escaped you if I could, I admit. You have found me out. I accept the position. You claim me as your husband. You say you are Mrs. Richard Devine. Very well, I admit it. You have all your life wanted to be a great lady. Now is your chance!”

Much as she had cause to hate him, well as she knew his treacherous and ungrateful character, little as she had reason to trust him, her strange and distempered affection for the scoundrel came upon her again with gathering strength. As she sat beside him, listening to the familiar tones of the voice she had learned to love, greedily drinking in the promise of a future fidelity which she was well aware was made but to be broken, her memory recalled the past days of trust and happiness, and her woman's fancy once more invested the selfish

  ― 422 ―
villain she had reclaimed with those attributes which had enchained her wilful and wayward affections. The unselfish devotion which had marked her conduct to the swindler and convict was, indeed, her one redeeming virtue; and perhaps she felt dimly—poor woman—that it were better for her to cling to that, if she lost all the world beside. Her wish for vengeance melted under the influence of these thoughts. The bitterness of despised love, the shame and anger of desertion, ingratitude, and betrayal, all vanished. The tears of a sweet forgiveness trembled in her eyes, the unreasoning love of her sex—faithful to nought but love, and faithful to love in death—shook in her voice. She took his coward hand and kissed it, pardoning all his baseness with the sole reproach, “Oh John, John, you might have trusted me after all?”

John Rex had conquered, and he smiled as he embraced her. “I wish I had,” said he; “it would have saved me many regrets; but never mind. Sit down; now we will have supper.”

“Your preference has one drawback, Sarah,” he said, when the meal was concluded, and the two sat down to consider their immediate course of action, “it doubles the chance of detection.”

“How so?”

“People have accepted me without inquiry, but I am afraid not without dislike. Mr. Francis Wade, my uncle, never liked me; and I fear I have not played my cards well with Lady Devine. When they find I have a mysterious wife their dislike will become suspicion. Is it likely that I should have been married all these years and not have informed them?”

“Very unlikely,” returned Sarah calmly, “and that is just the reason why you have not been married all these years. Really,” she added, with a laugh, “the male intellect is very dull. You have already told ten thousand lies about this affair, and yet you don't see your way to tell one more.”

“What do you mean?”

“Why, my dear Richard, you surely cannot have forgotten that you married me last year on the Continent? By the way, it was last year that you were there, was it not? I am the daughter of a poor clergyman of the Church of England; name—anything you please—and you met me—where shall we say? Baden, Aix, Brussels? Cross the Alps, if you like, dear, and say Rome.”

  ― 423 ―

John Rex put his hand to his head. “Of course—I am stupid,” said he. “I have not been well lately. Too much brandy and racket, I suppose.”

“Well, we will alter all that,” she returned with a laugh, which her anxious glance at him belied. “You are going to be domestic now, Jack—I mean Dick.”

“Go on,” said he, impatiently. “What then?”

“Then, having settled these little preliminaries, you take me up to London and introduce me to your relatives and friends.”

He started. “A bold game.”

“Bold! Nonsense! The only safe one. People don't, as a rule, suspect, unless one is mysterious. You must do it; I have arranged for your doing it. The waiters here all know me as your wife. There is not the least danger—unless, indeed, you are married already?” she added, with a quick and angry suspicion.

“You need not be alarmed. I was not such a fool as to marry another woman while you were alive—had I even seen one I would have cared to marry. But what of Lady Devine? You say you have told her.”

“I have told her to communicate with Mrs. Carr, Post-office, Torquay, in order to hear something to her advantage. If you had been rebellious, John, the ‘something’ would have been a letter from me telling her who you really are. Now you have proved obedient, the ‘something’ will be a begging letter of a sort of which she has already received hundreds, and which in all probability she will not even answer. What do you think of that, Mr. Richard Devine?”

“You deserve success, Sarah,” said the old schemer, in genuine admiration. “By Jove, this is something like the old days, when we were Mr. and Mrs. Crofton.”

“Or, Mr. and Mrs. Skinner, eh, John?” she said, with as much tenderness in her voice as though she had been a virtuous matron recalling her honeymoon. “That was an unlucky name, wasn't it dear? You should have taken my advice there.” And, immersed in grateful recollection of their past rogueries, the worthy pair pensively smiled. Rex was the first to awake from that pleasant reverie.

“I will be guided by you then,” he said. “What next?”

“Next—for, as you say, my presence doubles the danger—we will contrive to withdraw quietly from England. The introduction

  ― 424 ―
to your mother over, and Mr. Francis disposed of, we will go to Hampstead, and live there for a while. During that time you must turn into cash as much property as you dare. We will then go abroad for the ‘season’—and stop there. After a year or so on the Continent, you can write to our agent to sell more property; and, finally, when we are regarded as permanent absentees—and three or four years will bring that about—we will get rid of everything, and slip over to America. Then you can endow a charity if you like, or build a church to the memory of the man you have displaced.”

John Rex burst into a laugh. “An excellent plan. I like the idea of the charity—the Devine Hospital, eh?”

“By the way, how did you find out the particulars of this man's life? He was burned in the Hydaspes, wasn't he?”

“No,” said Rex, with an air of pride. “He was transported in the Malabar under the name of Rufus Dawes. You remember him. It is a long story. The particulars weren't numerous, and if the old lady had been half sharp she would have bowled me out. But the fact was she wanted to find the fellow alive, and was willing to take a good deal on trust. I'll tell you all about it another time. I think I'll go to bed now; I'm tired, and my head aches as though it would split.”

“Then it is decided that you follow my directions?”


She rose and placed her hand on the bell. “What are you going to do?” he asked, uneasily.

I am going to do nothing. You are going to telegraph to your servants to have the house in London prepared for your wife, who will return with you the day after to-morrow.”

John Rex stayed her hand with a sudden angry gesture. “This is all devilish fine,” he said, “but suppose it fails?”

“That is your affair, John. You need not go on with this business at all, unless you like. I had rather you didn't.”

“What the deuce am I to do, then?”

“I am not as rich as you are, but, with my station and so on, I am worth seven thousand a year. Come back to Australia with me, and let these poor people enjoy their own again. Ah, John, it is the best thing to do, believe me. We can afford to be honest now.”

“A fine scheme!” cried he. “Give up half a million of money, and go back to Australia! You must be mad!”

  ― 425 ―

“Then telegraph.”

“But, my dear ——”

“Hush, here's the waiter.”

As he wrote, John Rex felt gloomily that, though he had succeeded in recalling her affection, that affection was as imperious as of yore.

Chapter XI.

Extracted from the Diary of the Rev. James North.

DECEMBER 7th.—I have made up my mind to leave this place, to bury myself again in the bush, I suppose, and await extinction. I try to think that the reason for this determination is the frightful condition of misery existing among the prisoners; that because I am daily horrified and sickened by scenes of torture and infamy, I decide to go away; that, feeling myself powerless to save others, I wish to spare myself. But in this journal, in which I bind myself to write nothing but truth, I am forced to confess that these are not the reasons. I will write the reason plainly: “I covet my neighbour's wife.” It does not look well thus written. It looks hideous. In my own breast I find numberless excuses for my passion. I said to myself, “My neighbour does not love his wife, and her unloved life is misery. She is forced to live in the frightful seclusion of this accursed island, and she is dying for want of companionship. She feels that I understand and appreciate her, that I could love her as she deserves, that I could render her happy. I feel that I have met the only woman who has power to touch my heart, to hold me back from the ruin into which I am about to plunge, to make me useful to my fellows—a man, and not a drunkard.” Whispering these conclusions to myself, I am urged to brave public opinion, and make two lives happy. I say to myself, or rather my desires say to me—“What sin is there in this? Adultery? No; for a marriage without love is the coarsest of all adulteries. What tie binds a man and woman together—that formula of license pronounced by the priest, which the law has recognized as a ‘legal bond’? Surely not this only, for marriage is but a partnership—a contract of mutual fidelity—and in all contracts the violation of the terms of the agreement by one of

  ― 426 ―
the contracting persons absolves the other. Mrs. Frere is then absolved, by her husband's act. I cannot but think so. But is she willing to risk the shame of divorce or legal offence? Perhaps. Is she fitted by temperament to bear such a burden of contumely as must needs fall upon her? Will she not feel disgust at the man who entrapped her into shame? Do not the comforts which surround her compensate for the lack of affection?” And so the torturing catechism continues, until I am driven mad with doubt, love, and despair.

Of course I am wrong; of course I outrage my character as a priest; of course I endanger—according to the creed I teach—my soul and hers. But priests, unluckily, have hearts and passions as well as other men. Thank God, as yet, I have never expressed my madness in words. What a fate is mine! When I am in her presence I am in torment; when I am absent from her my imagination pictures her surrounded by a thousand graces that are not hers, but belong to all the women of my dreams—to Helen, to Juliet, to Rosalind. Fools that we are of our own senses! When I think of her I blush; when I hear her name my heart leaps, and I grow pale. Love! What is the love of two pure souls, scarce conscious of the Paradise into which they have fallen, to this maddening delirium? I can understand the poison of Circe's cup; it is the sweet-torment of a forbidden love like mine! Away gross materialism, in which I have so long schooled myself! I, who laughed at passion as the outcome of temperament and easy living—I, who thought in my intellect, to sound all the depths and shoals of human feeling—I, who analysed my own soul—scoffed at my own yearnings for an immortality—am forced to deify the senseless power of my creed, and believe in God, that I may pray to Him. I know now why men reject the cold impersonality that reason tells us rules the world—it is because they love. To die, and be no more; to die, and rendered into dust, be blown about the earth; to die, and leave our love defenceless and forlorn, till the bright soul that smiled to ours is smothered in the earth that made it! No! To love is life eternal. God, I believe in Thee! Aid me! Pity me! Sinful wretch that I am, to have denied Thee! See me on my knees before Thee! Pity me, or let me die!

December 9th.—I have been visiting the two condemned prisoners, Dawes and Bland, and praying with them. O Lord, let me save one soul that may plead with Thee for mine! Let

  ― 427 ―
me draw one being alive out of this pit! I weep—I weary Thee with my prayers, O Lord! Look down upon me. Grant me a sign. Thou didst it in old times to men who were not more fervent in their supplications than am I. So says Thy Book. Thy Book which I believe—which I believe. Grant me a sign—one little sign, O Lord!—I will not see her. I have sworn it. Thou knowest my grief—my agony—my despair. Thou knowest why I love her. Thou knowest how I strive to make her hate me. Is that not a sacrifice? I am so lonely—a lonely man, with but one creature that he loves—yet, what is mortal love to Thee? Cruel and implacable, Thou sittest in the heavens men have built for Thee, and scornest them! Will not all the burnings and slaughters of the saints appease Thee? Art Thou not sated with blood and tears, O God of vengeance, of wrath, and of despair? Kind Christ, pity me. Thou wilt—for Thou wast human! Blessed Saviour, at whose feet knelt the Magdalen! Divinity, who, most divine in Thy despair, called on Thy cruel God to save Thee—by the memory of that moment when Thou didst deem Thyself forsaken—forsake not me! Sweet Christ, have mercy on Thy sinful servant.

I can write no more. I will pray to Thee with my lips. I will shriek my supplications to Thee. I will call upon Thee so loud that all the world shall hear me, and wonder at Thy silence—unjust and unmerciful God!

December 14th.—What blasphemies are these which I have uttered in my despair? Horrible madness that has left me prostrate, to what heights of frenzy didst thou not drive my soul! Like him of old time, who wandered among the tombs, shrieking and tearing himself, I have been possessed by a devil. For a week I have been unconscious of aught save torture. I have gone about my daily duties as one who in his dreams repeats the accustomed action of the day, and knows it not. Men have looked at me strangely. They look at me strangely now. Can it be that my disease of drunkenness has become the disease of insanity? Am I mad, or do I but verge on madness? O Lord, whom in my agonies I have confessed, leave me my intellect—let me not become a drivelling spectacle for the curious to point at or to pity! At least, in mercy, spare me a little. Let not my punishment overtake me here.

  ― 428 ―
Let her memories of me be clouded with a sense of my rudeness or my brutality; let me for ever seem to her the ungrateful ruffian I strive to show myself—but let her not behold me—that!

Chapter XII.

The Strange Behaviour of Mr. North.

ON or about the 8th of December, Mrs. Frere noticed a sudden and unaccountable change in the manner of the chaplain. He came to her one afternoon, and, after talking for some time, in a vague and unconnected manner, about the miseries of the prison and the wretched condition of some of the prisoners, began to question her abruptly concerning Rufus Dawes.

“I do not wish to think of him,” said she, with a shudder. “I have the strangest, the most horrible dreams about him. He is a bad man. He tried to murder me when a child, and had it not been for my husband, he would have done so. I have only seen him once since then—at Hobart Town, when he was taken.”

“He sometimes speaks to me of you,” said North, eyeing her. “He asked me once to give him a rose plucked in your garden.”

Sylvia turned pale. “And you gave it him?”

“Yes, I gave it him. Why not?”

“It was valueless, of course, but still—to a convict!”

“You are not angry?”

“Oh, no! Why should I be angry?” she laughed constrainedly. “It was a strange fancy for the man to have, that's all.”

“I suppose you would not give me another rose, if I asked you.”

“Why not?” said she, turning away uneasily. “You? You are a gentleman.”

“Not I—you don't know me.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that it would be better for you if you had never seen me.”

“Mr. North!” Terrified at the wild gleam in his eyes, she had risen hastily. “You are talking very strangely.”

  ― 429 ―

“Oh, don't be alarmed, Madam, I am not drunk!”—he pronounced the word with a fierce energy. “I had better leave you. Indeed, I think the less we see of each other the better.”

Deeply wounded and astonished at this extraordinary outburst, Sylvia allowed him to stride away without a word. She saw him pass through the garden and slam the little gate, but she did not see the agony on his face, or the passionate gesture with which—when out of eyeshot—he lamented the voluntary abasement of himself before her. She thought over his conduct with growing fear. It was not possible that he was intoxicated—such a vice was the last one of which she could have believed him guilty. It was more probable that some effects of the fever, which had recently confined him to his house, yet lingered. So she thought; and, thinking, was alarmed to realize of how much importance the well-being of this man was to her.

The next day he met her, and, bowing, passed swiftly. This pained her. Could she have offended him by some unlucky word? She made Maurice ask him to dinner, and, to her astonishment, he pleaded illness as an excuse for not coming. Her pride was hurt, and she sent him back his books and music. A curiosity that was unworthy of her compelled her to ask the servant who carried the parcel what the clergyman had said. “He said nothing—only laughed.” Laughed! In scorn of her foolishness! His conduct was ungentlemanly and intemperate. She would forget, as speedily as possible, that such a being had ever existed. This resolution taken, she was unusually patient with her husband.

So a week passed, and Mr. North did not return. Unluckily for the poor wretch, the very self-sacrifice he had made brought about the precise condition of things which he was desirous to avoid. It is possible that had the acquaintance between them continued on the same staid footing, it would have followed the lot of most acquaintanceships of the kind—other circumstances and other scenes might have wiped out the memory of all but common civilities between them, and Sylvia might never have discovered that she had for the chaplain any other feeling but that of esteem. But the very fact of the sudden wrenching away of her soul-companion, showed her how barren was the solitary life to which she had been fated. Her husband, she had long ago admitted, with bitter self-communings, was utterly unsuited to her. She

  ― 430 ―
could find in his society no enjoyment, and for the sympathy which she needed was compelled to turn elsewhere. She understood that his love for her had burnt itself out—she confessed, with intensity of self-degradation, that his apparent affection had been born of sensuality, and had perished in the fires it had itself kindled. Many women have, unhappily, made some such discovery as this, but for most women there is some distracting occupation. Had it been Sylvia's fate to live in the midst of fashion and society, she would have found relief in the conversation of the witty, or the homage of the distinguished. Had fortune cast her lot in a city, Mrs. Frere might have become one of those charming women who collect around their supper-tables whatever of male intellect is obtainable, and who find the husband admirably useful to open his own champagne bottles. The celebrated women who have stepped out of their domestic circles to enchant or astonish the world, have almost invariably been cursed with unhappy homes. But poor Sylvia was not destined to this fortune. Cast back upon herself, she found no surcease of pain in her own imaginings, and meeting with a man sufficiently her elder to encourage her to talk, and sufficiently clever to induce her to seek his society and his advice, she learnt, for the first time, to forget her own griefs; for the first time she suffered her nature to expand under the sun of a congenial influence. This sun, suddenly withdrawn, her soul, grown accustomed to the warmth and light, shivered at the gloom, and she looked about her in dismay at the dull and barren prospect of life which lay before her. In a word, she found that the society of North had become so far necessary to her, that to be deprived of it was a grief—notwithstanding that her husband remained to console her.

After a week of such reflections, the barrenness of life grew insupportable to her, and one day she came to Maurice and begged to be sent back to Hobart Town. “I cannot live in this horrible island,” she said. “I am getting ill. Let me go to my father for a few months, Maurice.” Maurice consented. His wife was looking ill, and Major Vickers was an old man—a rich old man—who loved his only daughter. It was not undesirable that Mrs. Frere should visit her father; indeed, so little sympathy was there between the pair, that, the first astonishment over, Maurice felt rather glad to get rid of her for a while. “You can go back in the Lady Franklin, if you like,

  ― 431 ―
my dear,” he said. “I expect her every day.” At this decision—much to his surprise—she kissed him with more show of affection than she had manifested since the death of her child.

The news of the approaching departure became known, but still North did not make his appearance. Had it not been a step beneath the dignity of a woman, Mrs. Frere would have gone herself and asked him the meaning of his unaccountable rudeness, but there was just sufficient morbidity in the sympathy she had for him to restrain her from an act which a young girl—though not more innocent—would have dared without hesitation. Calling one day upon the wife of the surgeon, however, she met the chaplain face to face, and with the consummate art of acting which most women possess, rallied him upon his absence from her house. The behaviour of the poor devil, thus stabbed to the heart, was curious. He forgot gentlemanly behaviour and the respect due to a woman, flung one despairingly angry glance at her, and abruptly retired. Sylvia flushed crimson, and endeavoured to excuse North on account of his recent illness. The surgeon's wife looked askance, and turned the conversation. The next time Sylvia bowed to this lady, she got a chilling salute in return that made her blood boil. “I wonder how I have offended Mrs. Field?” she asked Maurice. “She almost cut me to-day.” “Oh, the old cat!” returned Maurice. “What does it matter if she did?” However, a few days afterwards, it seemed that it did matter; for Maurice called upon Field and conversed seriously with him. The issue of the conversation being reported to Mrs. Frere, the lady wept indignant tears of wounded pride and shame. It appeared that North had watched her out of the house, returned, and related—in a “stumbling, hesitating way,” Mrs. Field said—how he disliked Mrs. Frere, how he did not want to visit her, and how flighty and reprehensible such conduct was in a married woman of her rank and station. This act of baseness—or profound nobleness—achieved its purpose. Sylvia noticed the unhappy priest no more.

Between the Commandant and the chaplain now arose a coolness, and Frere set himself, by various petty tyrannies, to disgust North, and compel him to a resignation of his office. The convict-gaolers speedily marked the difference in the treatment of the chaplain, and their demeanour changed. For respect was substituted insolence; for alacrity, sullenness; for prompt

  ― 432 ―
obedience, impertinent intrusion. The men whom North favoured were selected as special subjects for harshness, and for a prisoner to be seen talking to the clergyman, was sufficient to ensure for him a series of tyrannies. The result of this was, that North saw the souls he laboured to save slipping back into the gulf; beheld the men he had half won to love him meet him with averted faces; discovered that to show interest in a prisoner was to injure him, not to serve him. The unhappy man grew thinner and paler under this ingenious torment. He had deprived himself of that love which, guilty though it might be, was, nevertheless, the only true love he had known; and he found that, having won this victory, he had gained the hatred of all living creatures with whom he came in contact. The authority of the Commandant was so supreme that men lived but by the breath of his nostrils. To offend him was to perish, and the man whom the Commandant hated must be hated also by all those who wished to exist in peace. There was but one being who was not to be turned from his allegiance—the convict murderer, Rufus Dawes, who awaited death. For many days he had remained mute, broken down beneath his weight of sorrow or of sullenness; but North, bereft of other love and sympathy, strove with that fighting soul, if haply he might win it back to peace. It seemed to the fancy of the priest—a fancy distempered, perhaps, by excess, or superhumanly exalted by mental agony—that this convict, over whom he had wept, was given to him as a hostage for his own salvation. “I must save him or perish,” he said. “I must save him, though I redeem him with my own blood.”

Frere, unable to comprehend the reason of the calmness with which the doomed felon met his taunts and torments, thought that he was shamming piety to gain some indulgence of meat and drink, and redoubled his severity. He ordered Dawes to be taken out to work just before the hour at which the chaplain was accustomed to visit him. He pretended that the man was “dangerous,” and directed a gaoler to be present at all interviews, “lest the chaplain might be murdered.” He issued an order that all civil officers should obey the challenges of convicts acting as watchmen; and North, coming to pray with his penitent, would be stopped ten times by grinning felons, who, putting their faces within a foot of his, would roar out, “Who goes there?” and burst out laughing at the reply. Under pretence

  ― 433 ―
of watching more carefully over the property of the chaplain, he directed that any convict, acting as constable, might at any time “search everywhere and anywhere,” for property supposed to be in the possession of a prisoner. The chaplain's servant was a prisoner, of course; and North's drawers were ransacked twice in one week by Troke. North met these impertinences with unruffled brow, and Frere could in no way account for his obstinacy, until the arrival of the Lady Franklin explained the chaplain's apparent coolness. He had sent in his resignation two months before, and the saintly Meekin had been appointed in his stead. Frere, unable to attack the clergyman, and indignant at the manner in which he had been defeated, revenged himself upon Rufus Dawes.

Chapter XIII.

Mr. North Speaks.

THE method and manner of Frere's revenge became a subject of whispered conversation on the island. It was reported that North had been forbidden to visit the convict, but that he had refused to accept the prohibition, and by a threat of what he would do when the returning vessel had landed him in Hobart Town, had compelled the Commandant to withdraw his order. The Commandant, however, speedily discovered in Rufus Dawes signs of insubordination, and set to work again to reduce again still further the “spirit” he had so ingeniously “broken.” The unhappy convict was deprived of food, was kept awake at nights, was put to the hardest labour, was loaded with the heaviest irons. Troke, with devilish malice, suggested that, if the tortured wretch would decline to see the chaplain, some amelioration of his condition might be effected; but his suggestions were in vain. Fully believing that his death was certain, Dawes clung to North as the saviour of his agonized soul, and rejected all such insidious overtures. Enraged at this obstinacy, Frere sentenced his victim to the “spread eagle” and the “stretcher.”

Now the rumour of the obduracy of this undaunted convict

  ― 434 ―
who had been recalled to her by the clergyman at their strange interview, had reached Sylvia's ears. She had heard gloomy hints of the punishments inflicted on him by her husband's order; and as—constantly revolving in her mind that last conversation with the chaplain—she wondered at the prisoner's strange fancy for a flower, her brain began to thrill with those undefined and dreadful memories which had haunted her childhood. What was the link between her and this murderous villain? How came it that she felt at times so strange a sympathy for his fate, and that he—who had attempted her life—cherished so tender a remembrance of her as to beg for a flower which her hand had touched?

She questioned her husband concerning the convict's misdoings, but with the petulant brutality which he invariably displayed when the name of Rufus Dawes intruded itself into their conversation, Maurice Frere harshly refused to satisfy her. This but raised her curiosity higher. She reflected how bitter he had always seemed against this man—she remembered how, in the garden at Port Arthur, the hunted wretch had caught her dress with words of assured confidence—she recollected the fragment of cloth he had passionately flung from him, and which her affianced lover had contemptuously tossed into the stream. The name of “Dawes,” detested as it had become to her, bore yet some strange association of comfort and hope. What secret lurked behind the twilight that had fallen upon her childish memories? Deprived of the advice of North—to whom, a few weeks back, she would have confided her misgivings—she resolved upon a project that, for her, was most distasteful. She would herself visit the gaol and judge how far the rumours of her husband's cruelty were worthy of credit.

One sultry afternoon, when the Commandant had gone on a visit of inspection, Troke, lounging at the door of the New Prison, beheld, with surprise, the figure of the Commandant's lady.

“What is it, mam?” he asked, scarcely able to believe his eyes.

“I want to see the prisoner Dawes.”

Troke's jaw fell.

“See Dawes?” he repeated.

“Yes. Where is he?”

Troke was preparing a lie. The imperious voice, and the clear, steady gaze, confused him.

  ― 435 ―

“He's here.”

“Let me see him.”

“He's—he's under punishment, mam.”

“What do you mean? Are they flogging him?”

“No; but he's dangerous, mam. The Commandant ——”

“Do you mean to open the door or not, Mr. Troke?”

Troke grew more confused. It was evident that he was most unwilling to open the door. “The Commandant gave strict orders ——”

“Do you wish me to complain to the Commandant?” cries Sylvia, with a touch of her old spirit, and jumping hastily at the conclusion that the gaolers were, perhaps, torturing the convict for their own entertainment. “Open the door at once!—at once!”

Thus commanded, Troke, with a hasty growl of its “being no affair of his, and he hoped Mrs. Frere would tell the captain how it happened,” flung open the door of a cell on the right hand of the doorway. It was so dark that, at first, Sylvia could distinguish nothing but the outline of a framework, with something stretched upon it that resembled a human body. Her first thought was that the man was dead, but this was not so—he groaned. Her eyes, accustoming themselves to the gloom, began to see what the “punishment” was. Upon the floor was placed an iron frame about six feet long, and two and a half feet wide, with round iron bars, placed transversely, about twelve inches apart. The man she came to seek was bound in a horizontal position upon this frame, with his neck projecting over the end of it. If he allowed his head to hang, the blood rushed to his brain, and suffocated him, while the effort to keep it raised strained every muscle to agony pitch. His face was purple, and he foamed at the mouth. Sylvia uttered a cry. “This is no punishment; it's murder! Who ordered this?”

“The Commandant,” said Troke, sullenly.

“I don't believe it. Loose him!”

“I daren't ma'am,” said Troke.

“Loose him, I say! Hailey!—you, sir, there!” The noise had brought several warders to the spot. “Do you hear me? Do you know who I am? Loose him, I say!” In her eagerness and compassion, she was on her knees by the side of the infernal machine, plucking at the ropes with her delicate fingers

  ― 436 ―
“Wretches, you have cut his flesh! He is dying! Help! You have killed him!”

The prisoner, in fact, seeing this angel of mercy stooping over him, and hearing close to him the tones of a voice that for seven years he had heard but in his dreams, had fainted. Troke and Hailey, alarmed by her vehemence, dragged the stretcher out into the light, and hastily cut the lashings. Dawes rolled off like a log, and his head fell against Mrs. Frere. Troke roughly pulled him aside, and called for water. Sylvia, trembling with sympathy, and pale with passion, turned upon the crew. “How long has he been like this?”

“An hour,” said Troke.

“A lie!” said a stern voice at the door. “He has been there nine hours!”

“Wretches!” cried Sylvia, “you shall hear more of this. Oh, oh! I am sick!”—she felt for the wall—“I—I ——.” North watched her with agony on his face, but did not move. “I faint. I ——”—she uttered a despairing cry that was not without a touch of anger. “Mr. North! do you not see? Oh! Take me home—take me home!” and she would have fallen across the body of the tortured prisoner had not North caught her in his arms.

Rufus Dawes, awaking from his stupor, saw, in the midst of a sunbeam which penetrated a window in the corridor, the woman who came to save his body supported by the priest who came to save his soul; and staggering to his knees, he stretched out his hands with a hoarse cry. Perhaps something in the action brought back to the dimmed remembrance of the Commandant's wife the image of a similar figure stretching forth its hands to a frightened child in the mysterious far-off time. She started, and pushing back her hair, bent a wistful, terrified gaze upon the face of the kneeling man, as though she would fain read there an explanation of the shadowy memory which haunted her. It is possible that she would have spoken, but North—thinking the excitement had produced one of those hysterical crises which were common to her—gently drew her, still gazing, back towards the gate. The convict's arms fell, and an undefinable presentiment of evil chilled him as he beheld the priest—emotion pallid in his cheeks—slowly draw the fair young creature from out the sunlight into the grim shadow of the heavy archway. For an instant the gloom swallowed them, and it

  ― 437 ―
seemed to Dawes that the strange wild man of God had in that instant become a man of Evil—blighting the brightness and the beauty of the innocence that clung to him. For an instant—and then they passed out of the prison archway into the free air of heaven—and the sunlight glowed golden on their faces.

“You are ill,” said North. “You will faint. Why do you look so wildly?”

“What is it?” she whispered, more in answer to her own thoughts than to his question—“what is it that links me to that man? What deed—what terror—what memory! I tremble with crowding thoughts, that die ere they can whisper to me. Oh, that prison!”

“Look up; we are in the sunshine.”

She passed her hand across her brow, sighing heavily, as one awaking from a disturbed slumber—shuddered, and withdrew her arm from his. North interpreted the action correctly, and the blood rushed to his face. “Pardon me, you cannot walk alone; you will fall. I will leave you at the gate.”

In truth she would have fallen had he not again assisted her. She turned upon him eyes whose reproachful sorrow had almost forced him to a confession, but he bowed his head and held silence. They reached the house, and he placed her tenderly in a chair. “Now you are safe, madam, I will leave you.”

She burst into tears. “Why do you treat me thus, Mr. North? What have I done to make you hate me?”

“Hate you!” said North, with trembling lips. “Oh, no, I do not—do not hate you. I am rude in my speech, abrupt in my manner. You must forget it, and—and me.”

A horse's feet crashed upon the gravel, and an instant after Maurice Frere burst into the room. Returning from the Cascades, he had met Troke, and learned the release of the prisoner. Furious at this usurpation of authority by his wife, his self-esteem wounded by the thought that she had witnessed his mean revenge upon the man he had so infamously wronged, and his natural brutality enhanced by brandy, he had made for the house at full gallop, determined to assert his authority. Blind with rage, he saw no one but his wife. “What the devil's this I hear? You have been meddling in my business! You release prisoners! You ——”

“Captain Frere!” said North, stepping forward to assert the restraining presence of a stranger. Frere started, astonished at

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the intrusion of the chaplain. Here was another outrage of his dignity, another insult to his supreme authority. In its passion, his gross mind leapt to the worst conclusion.

“You here, too! What do you want here—with my wife! This is your quarrel, is it?” His eyes glanced wrathfully from one to the other; and he strode towards North. “You infernal hypocritical lying scoundrel, if it wasn't for your black coat, I'd ——”

“Maurice!” cried Sylvia, in an agony of shame and terror, striving to place a restraining hand upon his arm. He turned upon her with so fiercely infamous a curse, that North, pale with righteous rage, seemed prompted to strike the burly ruffian to the earth. For a moment, the two men faced each other, and then Frere, muttering threats of vengeance against each and all—convicts, gaolers, wife, and priest—flung the suppliant woman violently from him, and rushed from the room. She fell heavily against the wall, and as the chaplain raised her, he heard the hoof-strokes of the departing horse.

“Oh!” cried Sylvia, covering her face with trembling hands, “let me leave this place!”

North, enfolding her in his arms, strove to soothe her with incoherent words of comfort. Dizzy with the blow she had received, she clung to him sobbing. Twice he tried to tear himself away, but had he loosed his hold she would have fallen. He could not hold her—bruised, suffering, and in tears—thus against his heart, and keep silence. In a torrent of agonised eloquence the story of his love burst from his lips. “Why should you be thus tortured?” he cried. “Heaven never willed you to be mated to that boor—you, whose life should be all sunshine. Leave him—leave him. He has cast you off. We have both suffered. Let us leave this dreadful place—this isthmus between earth and hell! I will give you happiness.”

“I am going,” she said, faintly. “I had already arranged to go.”

North trembled. “It was not of my seeking. Fate has willed it. We go together!”

They looked at each other—she felt the fever of his blood, she read his passion in his eyes, she comprehended the “hatred” he had affected for her, and, deadly pale, drew back the cold hand he held.

“Go!” she murmured. “If you love me, leave me—leave

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me! Do not see me or speak to me again ——” her silence added the words she could not utter, —— “till then.”

Chapter XIV.

Getting Ready for Sea.

MAURICE FRERE'S passion had spent itself in that last act of violence. He did not return to the prison, as he promised himself, but turned into the road that led to the Cascades. He repented him of his suspicions. There was nothing strange in the presence of the chaplain. Sylvia had always liked the man, and an apology for his conduct had doubtless removed her anger. To make a mountain out of a molehill was the act of an idiot. It was natural that she should release Dawes—women were so tender-hearted. A few well-chosen, calmly-uttered platitudes anent the necessity for treatment that, to those unaccustomed to the desperate wickedness of convicts, must appear harsh, would have served his turn far better than bluster and abuse. Moreover, North was to sail in the Lady Franklin, and might put in execution his threats of official complaint, unless he was carefully dealt with. To put Dawes again to the torture, would be to show to Troke and his friends that the “Commandant's wife” had acted without the “Commandant's authority,” and that must not be shown. He would not return and patch up a peace. His wife would sail in the same vessel with North, and he would in a few days be left alone on the island to pursue his “discipline” unchecked. With this intent he returned to the prison, and gravely informed poor Troke that he was astonished at his barbarity. “Mrs. Frere, who most luckily had appointed to meet me this evening at the prison, tells me that the poor devil Dawes had been on the stretcher since seven o'clock in the morning.”

“You ordered it fust thing, yer honour,” said Troke.

“Yes, you fool, but I didn't order you to keep the man there for nine hours, did I? Why, you scoundrel, you might have killed him!” Troke scratched his head in bewilderment. “Take his irons off, and put him in a separate cell in the old gaol. If a man is a murderer, that is no reason you should take

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the law into your own hands, is it? You'd better take care, Mr. Troke.” On the way back he met the chaplain, who, seeing him, made for a by-path in curious haste. “Halloo!” roared Frere. “Hi! Mr. North!” North paused, and the Commandant made at him abruptly. “Look here, sir, I was rude to you just now—devilish rude. Most ungentlemanly of me. I must apologize.” North bowed, without speaking, and tried to pass.

“You must excuse my violence,” Frere went on. “I'm bad tempered, and I didn't like my wife interfering. Women, don't you know, don't see these things—don't understand these scoundrels.” North again bowed. “Why, d——n it, how savage you look! Quite ghastly, bigod! I must have said most outrageous things. Forget and forgive, you know. Come home and have some dinner.”

“I cannot enter your house again, sir,” said North, in tones more agitated than the occasion would seem to warrant.

Frere shrugged his great shoulders with a clumsy affectation of good humour, and held out his hand. “Well, shake hands, parson. You'll have to take care of Mrs. Frere on the voyage, and we may as well make up our differences before you start. Shake hands.”

“Let me pass, sir!” cried North, with heightened colour; and ignoring the proffered hand, strode savagely on.

“You've a d——d fine temper for a parson,” said Frere to himself. “However, if you won't, you won't. Hang me if I'll ask you again.” Nor, when he reached home, did he fare better in his efforts at reconciliation with his wife. Sylvia met him with the icy front of a woman whose pride has been wounded too deeply for tears.

“Say no more about it,” she said. “I am going to my father. If you want to explain your conduct, explain it to him.”

“Come, Sylvia,” he urged; “I was a brute, I know. Forgive me.”

“It is useless to ask me,” she said; “I cannot. I have forgiven you so much during the last seven years.”

He attempted to embrace her, but she withdrew herself loathingly from his arms. He swore a great oath at her, and too obstinate to argue farther, sulked. Blunt coming in about some ship matters, the pair drank rum. Sylvia went to her

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room, and occupied herself with some minor details of clothes-packing (it is wonderful how women find relief from thoughts in household care), while North, poor fool, seeing from his window the light in hers, sat staring at it, alternately cursing and praying.

In the meantime, the unconscious cause of all this—Rufus Dawes—sat in his new cell, wondering at the chance which had procured him comfort, and blessing the fair hands that had brought it to him. He doubted not but that Sylvia had interceded with his tormentor, and by her gentle pleading brought him ease. “God bless her,” he murmured. “I have wronged her all these years. She did not know that I suffered.” He waited anxiously for North to visit him, that he might have his belief confirmed. “I will get him to thank her for me,” he thought. But North did not come for two whole days. No one came but his gaolers; and, gazing from his prison window upon the sea that almost washed its walls, he saw the schooner at anchor, mocking him with a liberty he could not achieve. On the third day, however, North came. His manner was constrained and abrupt. His eyes wandered uneasily, and he seemed burdened with thoughts which he dared not utter.

“I want you to thank her for me, Mr. North,” said Dawes.

“Thank whom?”

“Mrs. Frere.”

The unhappy priest shuddered at hearing the name.

“I do not think you owe any thanks to her. Your irons were removed by the Commandant's order.”

“But by her persuasion. I feel sure of it. Ah, I was wrong to think she had forgotten me. Ask her for her forgiveness.”

“Forgiveness!” said North, recalling the scene in the prison. “What have you done to need her forgiveness?”

“I doubted her,” said Rufus Dawes. “I thought her ungrateful and treacherous. I thought she delivered me again into the bondage from whence I had escaped. I thought she had betrayed me—betrayed me to the villain whose base life I saved for her sweet sake.”

“What do you mean?” asked North. “You never spoke to me of this.”

“No, I had vowed to bury the knowledge of it in my own breast—it was too bitter to speak.”

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“Saved his life!”

“Ay, and hers! I made the boat that carried her to freedom, I held her in my arms, and took the bread from my own lips to feed her!”

“She cannot know this,” said North in an undertone.

“She has forgotten it, perhaps, for she was but a child. But you will remind her, will you not? You will do me justice in her eyes before I die? You will get her forgiveness for me?”

North could not explain why such an interview as the convict desired was impossible, and so he promised.

“She is going away in the schooner,” said he, concealing the fact of his own departure. “I will see her before she goes, and tell her.”

“God bless you, sir,” said poor Dawes. “Now pray with me;” and the wretched priest mechanically repeated one of the formulæ his Church prescribes.

The next day he told his penitent that Mrs. Frere had forgiven him. This was a lie. He had not seen her; but what should a lie be to him now? Lies were needful in the tortuous path he had undertaken to tread. Yet the deceit he was forced to practise cost him many a pang. He had succumbed to his passion, and to win the love for which he yearned, had voluntarily abandoned truth and honour; but standing thus alone with his sin, he despised and hated himself. To deaden remorse and drown reflection, he had recourse to brandy; and though the fierce excitement of his hopes and fears steeled him against the stupefying action of the liquor, he was rendered by it incapable of calm reflection. In certain nervous conditions our mere physical powers are proof against the action of alcohol, and though ten times more drunk than the toper, who, incoherently stammering, reels into the gutter, we can walk erect and talk with fluency. Indeed, in this artificial exaltation of the sensibilities, men often display a brilliant wit, and an acuteness of comprehension, calculated to delight their friends, and terrify their physicians. North had reached this condition of brain-drunkenness. In plain terms, he was trembling on the verge of madness.

The days passed swiftly, and Blunt's preparations for sea were completed. There were two stern cabins in the schooner, one of which was appropriated to Mrs. Frere while the other was set apart for North. Maurice had not attempted to renew

  ― 443 ―
his overtures of friendship, and the chaplain had not spoken. Mindful of Sylvia's last words, he had resolved not to meet her until fairly embarked upon the voyage which he intended should link their fortunes together. On the morning of the 19th December, Blunt declared himself ready to set sail, and in the afternoon the two passengers came on board.

Rufus Dawes, gazing from his window upon the schooner that lay outside the reef, thought nothing of the fact that after the Commandant's boat had taken away the Commandant's wife, another boat should put off with the chaplain. It was quite natural that Mr. North should desire to bid his friends farewell, and through the hot still afternoon he watched for the returning boat, hoping that the chaplain would bring him some message from the woman whom he was never to see more on earth. The hours wore on, however, and no breath of wind ruffled the surface of the sea. The day was exceedingly close and sultry, heavy dun clouds hung on the horizon, and it seemed probable that unless a thunder-storm should clear the air before night, the calm would continue. Blunt, however, with a true sailor's obstinacy in regard to weather, swore there would be a breeze, and held to his purpose of sailing. The hot afternoon passed away in a sultry sunset, and it was not until the shades of evening had begun to fall that Rufus Dawes distinguished a boat detach itself from the sides of the schooner, and glide through the oily water to the jetty. The chaplain was returning, and in a few hours perhaps would be with him, to bring him the message of comfort for which his soul thirsted. He stretched out his unshackled limbs, and throwing himself upon his stretcher, fell to recalling the past—his boat-building, the news of his fortune, his love, and his self-sacrifice.

North, however, was not returning to bring to the prisoner a message of comfort, but he was returning on purpose to see him, nevertheless. The unhappy man, torn by remorse and passion, had resolved upon a course of action which seemed to him a penance for his crime of deceit. He had determined to confess to Dawes that the message he brought was wholly fictitious, that he himself loved the wife of the Commandant, and that with her he was about to leave the island for ever. “I am no hypocrite,” he thought, in his exaltation. “If I choose to sin, I will sin boldly; and this poor wretch, who looks up to me as an angel, shall know me for my true self.”

  ― 444 ―

The notion of thus destroying his own fame in the eyes of the man whom he had taught to love him, was pleasant to his diseased imagination. It was the natural outcome of the morbid condition of mind into which he had drifted, and he provided for the complete execution of his scheme with cunning born of the mischief working in his brain. It was desirable that the fatal stroke should be dealt at the last possible instant; that he should suddenly unveil his own infamy, and then depart, never to be seen again. To this end he had invented an excuse for returning to the shore at the latest possible moment. He had purposely left in his room a dressing-bag—the sort of article one is so likely to forget in the hurry of departure from one's house, and so certain to remember when the time comes to finally prepare for settling in another. He had ingeniously extracted from Blunt the fact that “he didn't expect a wind before dark, but wanted all ship-shape and aboard,” and then, just as darkness fell, discovered that it was imperative for him to go ashore. Blunt cursed, but, if the chaplain insisted upon going, there was no help for it.

“There'll be a breeze in less than two hours,” said he. “You've plenty of time, but if you're not back before the first puff, I'll sail without you, as sure as you're born.” North assured him of his punctuality. “Don't wait for me, Captain, if I'm not here,” said he, with the lightness of tone which men use to mask anxiety. “I'd take him at his word, Blunt,” said the Commandant, who was affably waiting to take final farewell of his wife. “Give way there, men,” he shouted to the crew, “and wait at the jetty. If Mr. North misses his ship through your laziness, you'll pay for it.” So the boat set off, North laughing uproariously at the thought of being late. Frere observed with some astonishment that the chaplain wrapped himself in a boat cloak that lay in the stern sheets. “Does the fellow want to smother himself in a night like this!” was his remark. The truth was that, though his hands and head were burning, North's teeth chattered with cold. Perhaps this was the reason why, when landed and out of eyeshot of the crew, he produced a pocket-flask of rum and eagerly drank. The spirit gave him courage for the ordeal to which he had condemned himself; and with steadied step, he reached the door of the old prison. To his surprise, Gimblett refused him admission!

“But I have come direct from the Commandant,” said North.

  ― 445 ―

“Got any order, sir?”

“Order! No.”

“I can't let you in, your reverence,” said Gimblett.

“I want to see the prisoner Dawes. I have a special message for him. I have come ashore on purpose.”

“I am very sorry, sir ——”

“The ship will sail in two hours, man, and I shall miss her,” said North, indignant at being frustrated in his design. “Let me pass.”

“Upon my honour, sir, I daren't,” said Gimblett, who was not without his good points. “You know what authority is, sir, as well as I do.”

North was in despair, but a bright thought struck him—a thought that, in his soberer moments, would never have entered his head—he would buy admission. He produced the rum flask from beneath the sheltering cloak. “Come, don't talk nonsense to me, Gimblett. You don't suppose I would come here without authority. Here, take a pull at this, and let me through.” Gimblett's features relaxed into a smile. “Well, sir, I suppose it's all right, if you say so,” said he. And clutching the rum bottle with one hand, he opened the door of Dawes's cell with the other.

North entered, and as the door closed behind him, the prisoner, who had been lying apparently asleep upon his bed, leapt up, and made as though to catch him by the throat.

Rufus Dawes had dreamt a dream. Alone, amid the gathering glooms, his fancy had recalled the past, and peopled it with memories. He thought that he was once more upon that barren strand where he had first met with the sweet child he loved. He lived again his life of usefulness and honour. He saw himself working at the boat, embarking, and putting out to sea. The fair head of the innocent girl was again pillowed on his breast; her young lips again murmured words of affection in his greedy ear. Frere was beside him, watching him, as he had watched before. Once again the grey sea spread around him, barren of succour. Once again, in the wild, wet morning, he beheld the American brig bearing down upon them, and saw the bearded faces of the astonished crew. He saw Frere take the child in his arms and mount upon the deck; he heard the shout of delight

  ― 446 ―
that went up, and pressed again the welcoming hands which greeted the rescued castaways. The deck was crowded. All the folk he had ever known were there. He saw the white hair and stern features of Sir Richard Devine, and beside him stood, wringing her thin hands, his weeping mother. Then Frere strode forward, and after him John Rex, the convict, who, roughly elbowing through the crowd of prisoners and gaolers, would have reached the spot where stood Sir Richard Devine, but that the corpse of the murdered Lord Bellasis arose and thrust him back. How the hammers clattered in the ship-builder's yard! Was it a coffin they were making? Not for Sylvia—surely not for her! The air grows heavy, lurid with flame, and black with smoke. The Hydaspes is on fire! Sylvia clings to her husband. Base wretch, would you shake her off! Look up; the midnight heaven is glittering with stars; above the smoke the air breathes delicately! One step—another! fix your eyes on mine—so—to my heart! Alas! she turns; he catches at her dress. What! It is a priest—a priest—who, smiling with infernal joy, would drag her to the flaming gulf that yawns for him. The dreamer leaps at the wretch's throat, and crying, “Villain, was it for this fate I saved her?” —— awakes to find himself struggling with the monster of his dream, the idol of his waking senses—“Mr. North.”

North, paralyzed no less by the suddenness of the attack than by the words with which it was accompanied, let fall his cloak, and stood trembling before the prophetic accusation of the man whose curses he had come to earn.

“I was dreaming,” said Rufus Dawes. “A terrible dream! But it has passed now. The message—you have brought me a message, have you not? Why—what ails you? You are pale—your knees tremble. Did my violence ——?”

North recovered himself with a great effort. “It is nothing. Let us talk, for my time is short. You have thought me a good man—one blessed of God, one consecrated to a holy service: a man honest, pure, and truthful. I have returned to tell you the truth. I am none of these things.” Rufus Dawes sat staring, unable to comprehend this madness. “I told you that the woman you loved—for you do love her—sent you a message of forgiveness. I lied.”


  ― 447 ―

“I never told her of your confession. I never mentioned your name to her.”

“And she will go without knowing—Oh, Mr. North, what have you done?”

“Wrecked my own soul!” cried North, wildly, stung by the reproachful agony of the tone. “Do not cling to me. My task is done. You will hate me now. That is my wish—I merit it. Let me go, I say. I shall be too late.”

“Too late! For what?” He looked at the cloak—through the open window came the voices of the men in the boat—the memory of the rose, of the scene in the prison, flashed across him, and he understood it all. “Great Heaven, you go together!”

“Let me go,” repeated North, in a hoarse voice.

Rufus Dawes stepped between him and the door. “No, madman, I will not let you go, to do this great wrong, to kill this innocent young soul, who— God help her—loves you!” North, confounded at this sudden reversal of their position towards each other, crouched bewildered against the wall. “I say you shall not go! You shall not destroy your own soul and hers! You love her! So do I! and my love is mightier than yours, for it shall save her!”

“In God's name ——” cried the unhappy priest, striving to stop his ears.

“Ay, in God's name! In the name of that God whom in my torments I had forgotten! In the name of that God whom you taught me to remember! That God who sent you to save me from despair, gives me strength to save you in my turn! Oh, Mr. North—my teacher—my friend—my brother—by the sweet hope of mercy which you preached to me, be merciful to this erring woman!”

North lifted agonized eyes. “But I love her! Love her, do you hear? What do you know of love?”

“Love!” cried Rufus Dawes, his pale face radiant. “Love! Oh, it is you who do not know it. Love is the sacrifice of self, the death of all desire that is not for another's good. Love is Godlike! You love?—no, no, your love is selfishness, and will end in shame! Listen, I will tell you the history of such a love as yours.”

North, enthralled by the other's overmastering will, fell back trembling.

  ― 448 ―

“I will tell you the secret of my life, the reason why I am here. Come closer.”

Chapter XV.

The Discovery.

THE house in Clarges Street was duly placed at the disposal of Mrs. Richard Devine, who was installed in it, to the profound astonishment and disgust of Mr. Smithers and his fellow-servants. It only remained that the lady should be formally recognized by Lady Devine. The rest of the ingenious programme would follow as a matter of course. John Rex was well aware of the position which, in his assumed personality, he occupied in society. He knew that by the world of servants, of waiters, of those to whom servants and waiters could babble; of such turfites and men-about-town as had reason to inquire concerning Mr. Richard's domestic affairs—no opinion could be expressed, save that “Devine's married somebody, I hear,” with variations to the same effect. He knew well that the really great world, the Society, whose scandal would have been socially injurious, had long ceased to trouble itself with Mr. Richard Devine's doings in any particular. If it had reported that the Leviathan of the Turf had married his washerwoman, Society would only have intimated that “it was just what might have been expected of him.” To say the truth, however, Mr. Richard had rather hoped that—disgusted at his brutality—Lady Devine would have nothing more to do with him, and that the ordeal of presenting his wife would not be necessary. Lady Devine, however, had resolved on a different line of conduct. The intelligence concerning Mr. Richard Devine's threatened proceedings nerved her to the confession of the dislike which had been long growing in her mind; aided the formation of those doubts, the shadows of which had now and then cast themselves upon her belief in the identity of the man who called himself her son.

“His conduct is brutal,” said she to her brother, “I cannot understand it.”

  ― 449 ―

“It is more than brutal, it is unnatural,” returned Francis Wade, and stole a look at her. “Moreover, he is married.”

“Married!” cried Lady Devine.

“So he says,” continued the other, producing the letter sent to him by Rex at Sarah's dictation. “He writes to me stating that his wife, whom he married last year abroad, has come to England, and wishes us to receive her.”

“I will not receive her!” cried Lady Devine, rising and pacing the room.

“But that would be a declaration of war,” said poor Francis, twisting an Italian onyx which adorned his irresolute hand, “I would not advise that.”

Lady Devine stopped suddenly, with the gesture of one who has finally made a difficult and long-considered resolution. “Richard shall not sell this house,” she said.

“But, my dear Ellinor,” cried her brother, in some alarm at this unwonted decision, “I am afraid that you can't prevent him.”

“If he is the man he says he is, I can,” returned she, with effort.

Francis Wade gasped, “If he is the man! It is true—I have sometimes thought —— Oh, Ellinor, can it be that we have been deceived!”

She came to him and leant upon him for support, as she had leant upon her son in the garden where they now stood, nineteen years ago. “I do not know, I am afraid to think. But between Richard and myself is a secret—a shameful secret, Frank, known to no other living person. If the man who threatens me does not know that secret, he is not my son. If he does know it ——”

“Well, in Heaven's name, what then?”

“He knows that he has neither part nor lot in the fortune of the man who was my husband.”

“Ellinor, you terrify me. What does this mean?”

“I will tell you if there be need to do so,” said the unhappy lady. “But I cannot now. I never meant to speak of it again, even to him. Consider that it is hard to break a silence of nearly twenty years. Write to this man, and tell him that before I receive his wife, I wish to see him alone. No—do not let him come here until the truth be known. I will go to him.”

  ― 450 ―

It was with some trepidation that Mr. Richard, sitting with his wife on the afternoon of the 3rd May, 1846, awaited the arrival of his mother. He had been very nervous and unstrung for some days past, and the prospect of the coming interview was, for some reason he could not explain to himself, weighty with fears. “What does she want to come alone for? And what can she have to say?” he asked himself. “She cannot suspect anything after all these years, surely?” He endeavoured to reason with himself, but in vain; the knock at the door which announced the arrival of his pretended mother made his heart jump.

“I feel deuced shaky, Sarah,” he said. “Let's have a nip of something.”

“You've been nipping too much for the last five years, Dick.” (She had quite schooled her tongue to the new name.) “Your ‘shakiness’ is the result of ‘nipping,’ I'm afraid.”

“Oh, don't preach, I am not in the humour for it.”

“Help yourself, then. You are quite sure that you are ready with your story?”

The brandy revived him, and he rose with affected heartiness. “My dear mother, allow me to present to you ——” He paused, for there was that in Lady Devine's face which confirmed his worst fears.

“I wish to speak to you alone,” she said, ignoring with steady eyes the woman whom she had ostensibly come to see.

John Rex hesitated, but Sarah saw the danger, and hastened to confront it. “A wife should be a husband's best friend, madam. Your son married me of his own free will, and even his mother can have nothing to say to him which it is not my duty and privilege to hear. I am not a girl, as you can see, and I can bear whatever news you bring.”

Lady Devine bit her pale lips. She saw at once that the woman before her was not gently-born, but she felt also that she was a woman of higher mental calibre than herself. Prepared as she was for the worst, this sudden and open declaration of hostilities frightened her, as Sarah had calculated. She began to realize that if she was to prove equal to the task she had set herself, she must not waste her strength in skirmishing. Steadily refusing to look at Richard's wife, she addressed herself to Richard. “My brother will be here in half an hour,” she said, as though the mention of his name would better her

  ― 451 ―
position in some way. “But I begged him to allow me to come first in order that I might speak to you privately.”

“Well,” said John Rex, “we are in private. What have you to say?”

“I want to tell you that I forbid you to carry out the plan you have for breaking up Sir Richard's property.”

“Forbid me!” cried Rex, much relieved. “Why, I only want to do what my father's will enables me to do.”

“Your father's will enables you to do nothing of the sort, and you know it.” She spoke, as though rehearsing a series of set-speeches, and Sarah watched her with growing alarm.

“Oh, nonsense!” cries John Rex, in sheer amazement. “I have a lawyer's opinion on it.”

“Do you remember what took place at Hampstead this day nineteen years ago?”

“At Hampstead!” said Rex, grown suddenly pale. “This day nineteen years ago. No! What do you mean?”

“Do you not remember?” she continued, leaning forward eagerly, and speaking almost fiercely. “Do you not remember the reason why you left the house where you were born, and which you wish now to sell to strangers?”

John Rex stood dumbfounded, the blood suffusing his temples. He knew that among the secrets of the man whose inheritance he had stolen was one which he had never gained—the secret of that sacrifice to which Lady Devine had once referred—and he felt that this secret was to be revealed to crush him now.

Sarah, trembling also, but more with rage than terror, swept towards Lady Devine. “Speak out!” she said, “if you have anything to say! Of what do you accuse my husband?”

“Of imposture!” cried Lady Devine, all her outraged maternity nerving her to abash her enemy. “This man may be your husband, but he is not my son!”

Now that the worst was out, John Rex, choking with passion, felt all the devil within him rebelling against defeat. “You are mad,” he said. “You have recognized me for three years, and now, because I want to claim that which is my own, you invent this lie. Take care how you provoke me. If I am not your son—you have recognized me as such. I stand upon the law and upon my rights.”

Lady Devine turned swiftly, and with both hands to her bosom, confronted him.

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“You shall have your rights! You shall have what the law allows you! Oh how blind I have been all these years. Persist in your infamous imposture. Call yourself Richard Devine still, and I will tell the world the shameful secret which my son died to hide. Be Richard Devine! Richard Devine was a bastard, and the law allows him—Nothing!”

There was no doubting the truth of her words. It was impossible that even a woman whose home had been desecrated, as hers had been, would invent a lie so self-condemning. Yet John Rex forced himself to appear to doubt, and his dry lips asked, “If then your husband was not the father of your son who was?”

“My cousin, Armigell Esmè Wade, Lord Bellasis,” answered Lady Devine.

John Rex gasped for breath. His hand, tugging at his neck-cloth, rent away the linen that covered his choking throat. The whole horizon of his past was lit up by a lightning flash which stunned him. His brain, already enfeebled by excess, was unable to withstand this last shock. He staggered, and but for the cabinet against which he leant, would have fallen. The secret thoughts of his heart rose to his lips, and were uttered unconsciously. “Lord Bellasis! He was my father also, and—I killed him!”

A dreadful silence fell, and then Lady Devine, stretching out her hands towards the self-confessed murderer, with a sort of frightful respect, said in a whisper, in which horror and supplication were strangely mingled, “What did you do with my son? Did you kill him also?”

But John Rex, wagging his head from side to side, like a beast in the shambles that has received a mortal stroke, made no reply. Sarah Purfoy, awed as she was by the dramatic force of the situation, nevertheless remembered that Francis Wade might arrive at any moment, and saw her last opportunity for safety. She advanced and touched the mother on the shoulder.

“Your son is alive!”


“Will you promise not to hinder us leaving this house if I tell you?”

“Yes, yes.”

“Will you promise to keep the confession which you have heard secret, until we have left England?”

  ― 453 ―

“I promise anything. In God's name, woman, if you have a woman's heart, speak! Where is my son?”

Sarah Purfoy rose over the enemy who had defeated her, and said in level, deliberate accents, “They call him Rufus Dawes. He is a convict at Norfolk Island, transported for life for the murder which you heard my husband confess to having committed —— Ah!” ——

Lady Devine had fainted.

Chapter XVI.

Fifteen Hours.

SARAH flew to Rex. “Rouse yourself, John, for heaven's sake. We have not a moment.”

John Rex passed his hand over his forehead wearily.

“I cannot think. I am broken down. I am ill. My brain seems dead.”

Nervously watching the prostrate figure on the floor, she hurried on bonnet, cloak, and veil, and in a twinkling had him outside the house and into a cab.

“Thirty-nine, Lombard Street. Quick!”

“You won't give me up?” said Rex, turning dull eyes upon her.

“Give you up? No. But the police will be after us so soon as that woman can speak, and her brother summon his lawyer. I know what her promise is worth. We have got about fifteen hours.”

“I can't go far, Sarah,” said he; “I am sleepy and stupid.”

She repressed the terrible fear that tugged at her heart, and strove to rally him.

“You've been drinking too much, John. Now sit still and be good, while I go and get some money for you.”

She hurried into the bank, and her name secured her an interview with the manager at once.

“That's a rich woman,” said one of the clerks to his friend.

“A widow, too! Chance for you, Tom,” returned the other; and, presently, from out the sacred presence came another clerk with a request for “a draft on Sydney for three thousand, less

  ― 454 ―
premium,” and bearing a cheque signed “Sarah Carr,” for £200, which he “took” in notes, and so returned again.

From the bank she was taken to Green's Shipping Office.

“I want a cabin in the first ship for Sydney, please.”

The shipping-clerk looked at a board.

“The Highflyer goes in twelve days, madam, and there is one cabin vacant.”

“I want to go at once—to-morrow or next day.”

He smiled. “I am afraid that is impossible,” said he.

Just then one of the partners came out of his private room with a telegram in his hand, and beckoned the shipping-clerk. Sarah was about to depart for another office, when the clerk came hastily back.

“Just the thing for you, ma'am,” said he. “We have got a telegram from a gentleman who has a first cabin in the Dido, to say that his wife has been taken ill, and he must give up his berth.”

“When does the Dido sail?”

“To-morrow morning. She is at Plymouth, waiting for the mails. If you go down to-night by the mail-train which leaves at 9.30, you will be in plenty of time, and we will telegraph.”

“I will take the cabin. How much?”

“One hundred and thirty pounds, madam,” said he.

She produced her notes. “Pray count it yourself. We have been delayed in the same manner ourselves. My husband is a great invalid, but I was not so fortunate as to get some one to refund us our passage-money.”

“What name did you say?” asked the clerk counting. “Mr. and Mrs. Carr. Thank you,” and he handed her the slip of paper.

“Thank you,” said Sarah, with a bewitching smile, and swept down to her cab again.

John Rex was gnawing his nails in sullen apathy. She displayed the passage-ticket. “You are saved. By the time Mr. Francis Wade gets his wits together, and his sister recovers her speech, we shall be past pursuit.”

“To Sydney!” cried Rex, angrily, looking at the warrant. “Why there of all places in God's earth?”

Sarah surveyed him with an expression of contempt. “Because your scheme has failed. Now this is mine. You have

  ― 455 ―
deserted me once; you will do so again in any other country. You are a murderer, a villain, and a coward, but you suit me. I save you, but I mean to keep you. I will bring you to Australia, where the first trooper will arrest you at my bidding as an escaped convict. If you don't like to come, stay behind. I don't care. I am rich. I have done no wrong. The law cannot touch me—Do you agree? Then tell the man to drive to Silver's in Cornhill for your outfit.”

Having housed him at last—all gloomy and despondent—in a quiet tavern near the railway station, she tried to get some information as to this last revealed crime.

“How came you to kill Lord Bellasis?” she asked him quietly.

“I had found out from my mother that I was his natural son, and one day riding home from a pigeon match I told him so. He taunted me—and I struck him. I did not mean to kill him, but he was an old man, and in my passion I struck hard. As he fell, I thought I saw a horseman among the trees, and I galloped off. My ill-luck began then, for the same night I was arrested at the coiner's.”

“But I thought there was robbery,” said she.

“Not by me. But, for God's sake, talk no more about it. I am sick—my brain is going round. I want to sleep.”

“Be careful, please! Lift him gently!” said Mrs. Carr, as the boat ranged alongside the Dido, gaunt and grim, in the early dawn of a bleak May morning.

“What's the matter?” asked the officer of the watch, perceiving the bustle in the boat.

“Gentleman seems to have had a stroke,” said a boatman.

It was so. There was no fear that John Rex would escape again from the woman he had deceived. The infernal genius of Sarah Purfoy had saved her lover at last—but saved him only that she might nurse him till he died—died ignorant even of her tenderness, a mere animal, lacking the intellect he had in his selfish wickedness abused.

  ― 456 ―

Chapter XVII.

The Redemption.

—— “THAT is my story. Let it plead with you to turn you from your purpose, and to save her. The punishment of sin falls not upon the sinner only. A deed once done lives in its consequence for ever, and this tragedy of shame and crime to which my felon's death is a fitting end, is but the outcome of a selfish sin like yours!”

It had grown dark in the prison, and as he ceased speaking, Rufus Dawes felt a trembling hand seize his own. It was that of the chaplain.

“Let me hold your hand!—Sir Richard Devine did not murder your father. He was murdered by a horseman who, riding with him, struck him and fled.”

“Merciful God! How do you know this?”

“Because I saw the murder committed, because—don't let go my hand—I robbed the body.”


“In my youth I was a gambler. Lord Bellasis won money from me, and to pay him I forged two bills of exchange. Unscrupulous and cruel, he threatened to expose me if I did not give him double the sum. Forgery was death in those days, and I strained every nerve to buy back the proofs of my folly. I succeeded. I was to meet Lord Bellasis near his own house at Hampstead on the night of which you speak, to pay the money and receive the bills. When I saw him fall I galloped up, but instead of pursuing his murderer I rifled his pocketbook of my forgeries. I was afraid to give evidence at the trial, or I might have saved you.—Ah! you have let go my hand!”

“God forgive you!” said Rufus Dawes, and then was silent.

“Speak!” cried North. “Speak, or you will make me mad. Reproach me! Spurn me! Spit upon me! You cannot think worse of me than I do myself.”

But the other, his head buried in his hands, did not answer, and with a wild gesture, North staggered out of the cell.

  ― 457 ―

Nearly an hour had passed since the chaplain had placed the rum flask in his hand, and Gimblett observed, with semi-drunken astonishment, that it was not yet empty. He had intended, in the first instance, to have taken but one sup in payment of his courtesy—for Gimblett was conscious of his own weakness in the matter of strong waters—but as he waited and waited, the one sup became two, the two three, and at length more than half the contents of the bottle had moistened his gullet, and maddened him for more. Gimblett was in a quandary. If he didn't finish the flask, he would be oppressed with an everlasting regret. If he did finish it he would be drunk; and to be drunk on duty was the one unpardonable sin. He looked across the darkness of the sea, to where the rising and falling light marked the schooner. The Commandant was a long way off! A faint breeze, which had—according to Blunt's prophecy—arisen with the night, brought up to him the voices of the boat's crew from the jetty below him. His friend Jack Mannix was coxswain of her. He would give Jack a drink. Leaving the gate, he advanced to the edge of the embankment, and, putting his head over, called out to his friend. The breeze, however, which was momentarily freshening, carried his voice away; and Jack Mannix, hearing nothing, continued his conversation. Gimblett was just drunk enough to be virtuously indignant at this incivility, and seating himself on the edge of the bank, swallowed the remainder of the rum at a draught. The effect upon his enforcedly temperate stomach was very touching. He made one feeble attempt to get upon his legs, cast a reproachful glance at the rum bottle, essayed to drink out of its spirituous emptiness, and then, with a smile of reckless contentment, cursed the island and all its contents and fell fast asleep.

North, coming out of the prison, did not notice the absence of the gaoler; indeed, he was not in a condition to notice anything. Bare-headed, without his cloak, with staring eyes and clenched hands, he rushed through the gates into the night as one who flies headlong from some fearful vision. It seemed that, absorbed in his own thoughts, he took no heed to his steps, for instead of taking the path which led to the sea, he kept along the more familiar one that led to his own cottage on the hill. “This man a convict!” he cried. “He is a hero—a

  ― 458 ―
martyr! What a life! Love! Yes, that is love indeed! Oh, James North, how base art thou in the eyes of God beside this despised outcast!” And so muttering, tearing his grey hair, and beating his throbbing temples with clenched hands, he reached his own room, and saw, by the light of the new-born moon, the dressing-bag and candle standing on the table as he had left them. They brought again to his mind the recollection of the task that was before him. He lighted the candle, and, taking the bag in his hand, cast one last look round the chamber which had witnessed his futile struggles against that baser part of himself which had at last triumphed. It was so. Fate had condemned him to sin, and he must now fulfil the doom he might once have averted. Already he fancied he could see the speck that was the schooner move slowly away from the prison shore. He must not linger; they would be waiting for him at the jetty. As he turned, the moonbeams—as yet unobscured by the rapidly gathering clouds—flung a silver streak across the sea, and across that streak North saw a boat pass. Was his distracted brain playing him false?—in the stern sat, wrapped in a cloak, the figure of a man! A fierce gust of wind drove the sea-rack over the moon, and the boat disappeared, as though swallowed up by the gathering storm. North staggered back as the truth struck him.

He remembered how he had said, “I will redeem him with my own blood!” Was it possible that a just heaven had thus decided to allow the man whom a coward had condemned, to escape, and to punish the coward who remained? Oh, this man deserved freedom; he was honest, noble, truthful! How different from himself—a hateful self-lover, an unchaste priest, a drunkard. The looking-glass, in which the saintly face of Meekin was soon to be reflected, stood upon the table, and North, peering into it, with one hand mechanically thrust into the bag, started in insane rage, at the pale face and bloodshot eyes he saw there. What a hateful wretch he had become! The last fatal impulse of insanity which seeks relief from its own hideous self came upon him, and his fingers closed convulsively upon the object they had been seeking.

“It is better so,” he muttered, addressing, with fixed eyes, his own detested image. “I have examined you long enough. I have read your heart, and written out your secrets! You are

  ― 459 ―
but a shell—the shell that holds a corrupted and sinful heart. He shall live; you shall die!” The rapid motion of his arm overturned the candle, and all was dark.

Rufus Dawes, overpowered by the revelation so suddenly made to him, had remained for a few moments motionless in his cell, expecting to hear the heavy clang of the outer door, which should announce to him the departure of the chaplain. But he did not hear it, and it seemed to him that the air in the cell had grown suddenly cooler. He went to the door, and looked into the narrow corridor, expecting to see the scowling countenance of Gimblett. To his astonishment the door of the prison was wide open, and not a soul in sight. His first thought was of North. Had the story he had told, coupled with the entreaties he had lavished, sufficed to turn him from his purpose?

He looked around. The night was falling sullenly; the wind was mounting; from beyond the bar came the hoarse murmur of an angry sea. If the schooner was to sail that night, she had best get out into deep waters. Where was the chaplain? Pray heaven the delay had been sufficient, and they had sailed without him. Yet they would be sure to meet. He advanced a few steps nearer, and looked about him. Was it possible that, in his madness, the chaplain had been about to commit some violence which had drawn the trusty Gimblett from his post? “Gr-r-r-r! Ouph!” The trusty Gimblett was lying at his feet—dead drunk!

“Hi! Hoho! Hillo there!” roared somebody from the jetty below. “Be that you, Muster Noarth! We ain't too much tiam, sur!”

From the uncurtained windows of the chaplain's house on the hill beamed the newly-lighted candle. They in the boat did not see it, but it brought to the prisoner a wild hope that made his heart bound. He ran back to his cell, clapped on North's wideawake, and flinging the cloak hastily about him, came quickly down the steps. If the moon should shine out now!

“Jump in, sir,” said unsuspecting Mannix, thinking only of the flogging he had been threatened with. “It'll be a dirty night, this night! Put this over your knees, sir. Shove her off! Give way!” And they were afloat. But one glimpse of

  ― 460 ―
moonlight fell upon the slouched hat and cloaked figure, and the boat's crew, engaged in the dangerous task of navigating the reef in the teeth of the rising gale, paid no attention to the chaplain.

“By George, lads, we're but just in time!” cried Mannix; and they laid alongside the schooner, black in blackness. “Up ye go, yer honour, quick!” The wind had shifted, and was now off the shore. Blunt, who had begun to repent of his obstinacy, but would not confess it, thought the next best thing to riding out the gale was to get out to open sea. “Damn the parson,” he had said, in all heartiness; “we can't wait all night for him. Heave ahead, Mr. Johnson!” And so the anchor was a-trip as Rufus Dawes ran up the side.

The Commandant, already pulling off in his own boat, roared a coarse farewell. “Good-bye, North! It was touch and go with ye!” adding, “Curse the fellow, he's too proud to answer!”

The chaplain indeed spoke to no one, and plunging down the hatchway, made for the stern cabins. “Close shave, your reverence!” said a respectful somebody, opening a door. It was; but the clergyman did not say so. He double-locked the door, and hardly realizing the danger he had escaped, flung himself on the bunk, panting. Over his head he heard the rapid tramp of feet and the cheery

Yo hi-oh! and a rumbelow!

of the men at the capstan. He could smell the sea, and through the open window of the cabin could distinguish the light in the chaplain's house on the hill. The trampling ceased, the vessel began to move swiftly—the Commandant's boat appeared below him for an instant, making her way back—the Lady Franklin had set sail. With his eyes fixed on the tiny light, he strove to think what was best to be done. It was hopeless to think that he could maintain the imposture which, favoured by the darkness and confusion, he had hitherto successfully attempted. He was certain to be detected at Hobart Town, even if he could lie concealed during his long and tedious voyage. That mattered little, however. He had saved Sylvia, for North had been left behind. Poor North! As the thought of pity came to him, the light he looked at was suddenly extinguished, and Rufus Dawes, compelled thereto as by an irresistible power, fell

  ― 461 ―
upon his knees and prayed for the pardon and happiness of the man who had redeemed him.

“That's a gun from the shore,” said Partridge the mate, “and they're burning a red light. There's a prisoner escaped. Shall we lie-to?”

“Lie-to!” cried old Blunt, with a tremendous oath. “We'll have suthin else to do. Look there!”

The sky to the northward was streaked with a belt of livid green colour, above which rose a mighty black cloud, whose shape was ever changing.

Chapter XVIII.

The Cyclone.

BLUNT, recognizing the meteoric heralds of danger, began to regret his obstinacy. He saw that a hurricane was approaching.

Along the south coast of the Australian continent, though the usual westerly winds and gales of the highest latitudes prevail during the greater portion of the year, hurricanes are not unfrequent. Gales commence at N.W. with a low barometer, increasing at W. and S.W., and gradually veering to the South. True cyclones occur at New Zealand. The log of the Adelaide for 29th February, 1870, describes one which travelled at the rate of ten miles an hour, and had all the veerings, calm centre, etc., of a true tropical hurricane. Now a cyclone occurring off the west coast of New Zealand would travel from the New Hebrides, where such storms are hideously frequent, and envelope Norfolk Island, passing directly across the track of vessels coming from South America to Sydney. It was one of these rotatory storms, an escaped tempest of the tropics, which threatened the Lady Franklin.

The ominous calm which had brooded over the island during the day had given place to a smart breeze from the north-east,

  ― 462 ―
and though the schooner had been sheltered at her anchorage under the lee of the island (the “harbour” looked nearly due south), when once fairly out to sea, Blunt saw it would be impossible to put back in the teeth of the gale. Haply, however, the full fury of the storm would not overtake them till they had gained sea-room.

Rufus Dawes, exhausted with the excitement through which he had passed, had slept for two or three hours, when he was awakened by the motion of the vessel going on the other tack. He rose to his feet, and found himself in complete darkness. Overhead was the noise of trampling feet, and he could distinguish the hoarse tones of Blunt bellowing orders. Astonished at the absence of the moonlight which had so lately silvered the sea, he flung open the cabin window and looked out. As we have said, the cabin allotted to North was one of the two stern cabins, and from it the convict had a full view of the approaching storm.

The sight was one of wild grandeur. The huge, black cloud which hung in the horizon had changed its shape. Instead of a curtain it was an arch. Beneath this vast and magnificent portal, shone a dull phosphoric light. Across this livid space pale flashes of sheet-lightning passed noiselessly. Behind it was a dull and threatening murmur, made up of the grumbling of thunder, the falling of rain, and the roar of contending wind and water. The lights of the prison-island had disappeared, so rapid had been the progress of the schooner under the steady breeze, and the ocean stretched around, black and desolate. Gazing upon this gloomy expanse, Rufus Dawes observed a strange phenomenon—lightning appeared to burst upwards from the sullen bosom of the sea. At intervals, the darkly-rolling waves flashed fire, and streaks of flame shot upwards. The wind increased in violence, and the arch of light was fringed with rain. A dull, red glow hung around, like the reflection of a conflagration. Suddenly, a tremendous peal of thunder, accompanied by a terrific downfall of rain, rattled along the sky. The arch of light disappeared, as though some invisible hand had shut the slide of a giant lantern. A great wall of water rushed roaring over the level plain of the sea, and with an indescribable medley of sounds, in which tones of horror, triumph, and torture were blended, the cyclone swooped upon them.

Rufus Dawes comprehended that the elements had come to

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save or destroy him. In that awful instant the natural powers of the man rose equal to the occasion. In a few hours his fate would be decided, and it was necessary that he should take all precautions. One of two events seemed inevitable—he would either be drowned where he lay, or, should the vessel weather the storm, he would be forced upon deck, and the desperate imposture he had attempted be discovered. For a moment despair overwhelmed him, and he contemplated the raging sea as though he would cast himself into it, and thus end his troubles. The tones of a woman's voice recalled him to himself. Cautiously unlocking the cabin door, he peered out. The cuddy was lighted by a swinging lamp which revealed Sylvia questioning one of the women concerning the storm. As Rufus Dawes looked, he saw her glance, with an air half of hope, half of fear, towards the door behind which he lurked, and he understood that she expected to see the chaplain. Locking the door, he proceeded hastily to dress himself in North's clothes. He would wait until his aid was absolutely required, and then rush out. In the darkness, Sylvia would mistake him for the priest. He could convey her to the boat—if recourse to the boats should be rendered necessary—and then take the hazard of his fortune. While she was in danger, his place was near her.

From the deck of the vessel the scene was appalling. The clouds had closed in. The arch of light had disappeared, and all was a dull, windy blackness. Gigantic seas seemed to mount in the horizon and sweep towards and upon them. It was as though the ship lay in the vortex of a whirlpool, so high on either side of her were piled the rough pyramidical masses of sea. Mighty gusts arose—claps of wind which seemed like strokes of thunder. A sail loosened from its tackling was torn away and blown out to sea, disappearing like a shred of white paper to leeward. The mercury in the barometer marked 29.50. Blunt, who had been at the rum bottle, swore great oaths that no soul on board would see another sun; and when Partridge rebuked him for blasphemy at such a moment, wept spirituous tears.

The howling of the wind was benumbing; the very fury of sound enfeebled while it terrified. The sailors, horror-stricken, crawled about the deck, clinging to anything they thought most secure. It was impossible to raise the head to look to windward.

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The eyelids were driven together, and the face stung by the swift and biting spray. Men breathed this atmosphere of salt and wind, and became sickened. Partridge felt that orders were useless—the man at his elbow could not have heard them. The vessel lay almost on her beam ends, with her helm up, stripped even of the sails which had been furled upon the yards. Mortal hands could do nothing for her.

By five o'clock in the morning, the gale had reached its height. The heavens showered out rain and lightnings; rain which the wind blew away before it reached the ocean, lightnings which the ravenous and mountainous waves swallowed before they could pierce the gloom. The ship lay over on her side, held there by the madly rushing wind, which seemed to flatten down the sea, cutting off the tops of the waves, and breaking them into fine white spray, which covered the ocean like a thick cloud, as high as the topmast heads. Each gust seemed unsurpassable in intensity, but was succeeded, after a pause, that was not a lull but a gasp, by one of more frantic violence. The barometer stood at 27.82. The ship was a mere labouring, crazy wreck, that might sink at any moment. At half-past three o'clock the barometer had fallen to 27.62. Save when lighted by occasional flashes of sheet-lightning, which showed to the cowed wretches their awestricken faces, this tragedy of the elements was performed in a darkness which was almost palpable.

Suddenly the mercury rose to 29.90, and, with one awful shriek, the wind dropped to a calm. The Lady Franklin had reached the centre of the cyclone. Partridge, glancing to where the great body of drunken Blunt rolled helplessly lashed to the wheel, felt a strange selfish joy thrill him. If the ship survived, the drunken captain would be dismissed, and he, Partridge the gallant, would reign in his stead. The schooner, no longer steadied by the wind, was at the mercy of every sea. Volumes of water poured over her. Presently she heeled over, for, with a triumphant scream, the wind leapt on to her from a fresh quarter. Following its usual course, the storm returned upon its track. The hurricane was about to repeat itself from the north-west.

The sea, pouring down through the burst hatchway, tore the door of the cuddy from its hinges. Sylvia found herself surrounded by a wildly-surging torrent which threatened to overwhelm

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her. She shrieked aloud for aid, but her voice was inaudible even to herself. Clinging to the mast which penetrated the little cuddy, she fixed her eyes upon the door behind which she imagined North was, and whispered a last prayer for succour. The door opened, and from out the cabin came a figure clad in black. She looked up, and the light of the expiring lamp showed her a face that was not that of the man she hoped to see. Then a pair of dark eyes beaming ineffable love and pity were bent upon her, and a pair of dripping arms held her above the brine as she had once been held in the misty mysterious days that were gone.

In the terror of that moment the cloud which had so long oppressed her brain passed from it. The action of the strange man before her completed and explained the action of the convict chained to the Port Arthur coal-waggons, of the convict kneeling in the Norfolk Island torture-chamber. She remembered the terrible experience of Macquarie Harbour. She recalled the evening of the boat-building, when, swung into the air by stalwart arms, she had promised the rescuing prisoner to plead for him with her kindred. Regaining her memory thus, all the agony and shame of the man's long life of misery became at once apparent to her. She understood how her husband had deceived her, and with what base injustice and falsehood he had bought her young love. No question as to how this doubly-condemned prisoner had escaped from the hideous isle of punishment she had quitted occurred to her. She asked not—even in her thoughts—how it had been given to him to supplant the chaplain in his place on board the vessel. She only considered, in her sudden awakening, the story of his wrongs, remembered only his marvellous fortitude and love, knew only, in this last instant of her pure, ill-fated life, that as he had saved her once from starvation and death, so had he come again to save her from sin and from despair. Whoever has known a deadly peril will remember how swiftly thought then travelled back through scenes clean forgotten, and will understand how Sylvia's retrospective vision merged the past into the actual before her, how the shock of recovered memory subsided in the grateful utterance of other days—“Good Mr. Dawes!”

The eyes of the man and woman met in one long, wild gaze. Sylvia stretched out her white hands and smiled, and Richard

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Devine understood in his turn the story of the young girl's joyless life, and knew how she had been sacrificed.

In the great crisis of our life, when, brought face to face with annihilation, we are suspended gasping over the great emptiness of death, we become conscious that the Self which we think we knew so well has strange and unthought-of capacities. To describe a tempest of the elements is not easy, but to describe a tempest of the soul is impossible. Amid the fury of such a tempest, a thousand memories, each bearing in its breast the corpse of some dead deed whose influence haunts us yet, are driven like feathers before the blast, as unsubstantial and as unregarded. The mists which shroud our self-knowledge become transparent, and we are smitten with sudden lightning-like comprehension of our own misused power over our fate.

This much we feel and know, but who can coldly describe the hurricane which thus o'erwhelms him? As well ask the drowned mariner to tell of the marvels of mid sea when the great deeps swallowed him and the darkness of death encompassed him round about. These two human beings felt that they had done with life. Together thus, alone in the very midst and presence of death, the distinctions of the world they were about to leave disappeared. Their vision grew clear. They felt as beings whose bodies had already perished, and as they clasped hands, their freed souls, recognising each the loveliness of the other, rushed tremblingly together.

Borne before the returning whirlwind, an immense wave, which glimmered in the darkness, spouted up and towered above the wreck. The wretches who yet clung to the deck looked shuddering up into the bellying greenness, and knew that the end was come.