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Book I.

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Chapter I.

A domestic episode.—Love at first sight; a simple matter, which had a weighty influence on the subsequent career of the Stubble family.

MR JOSEPH STUBBLE was sitting on a stump in front of his homestead one evening in autumn; the sun had dipped below the horizon, and a flock of “laughing Jackasses” (Ducelo gigantea), perched on a blue gum-tree, were making the bush resound with their merry cachinnations, as they invariably do at sunset and sunrise. Mr Stubble was wishing that his heart were as free from care for the morrow as those chattering birds were, and was sighing over some unseen trouble, when he felt one of his grizzly locks pulled by a playful hand behind him, and on turning round he beheld his wife, her ruddy face looking as pleasant as the moon, which was just showing its full orb, and turning the ripples of the distant river into quicksilver.

“Hey, Peggy lass, arn't thee done with skittish tricks?” said Mr Stubble, smiling affectionately at his wife; then drawing her towards him by her apron-string, he gave her a kiss, so lovingly loud that it seemed to excite the birds in the gumtree, for they began to chuckle again in that peculiar way which no naturalist has ever been able adequately to describe or imitate. “What's up now, Peg? I know there be's summat comical coming, by the way thee lips twiddle.”

“What do you think, Joe?”

“Why, I think thee art the buxomest old 'ooman in Daisybank. Give us another buss, lass?”

“Get out with your nonsense, master; there's Biddy

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yonder grinning at us. I am going to tell you something about our Mag as will astonish you a bit.”

“Well, I'd like to know summat nice about her, for to tell'ee the truth, Peg, I've been sitting on this stump for an hour or more trying to guess what ails the maid, and I can't come at it for the life of me,” replied Joe, with a sigh.

“I thought you were bothering your head about something or other, by the way you were biting your beard and pulling at your whiskers. But you needn't look so suart, master, there's nothing shocking the matter.”

“I be glad to hear that, lass; for what's all the world to a man if his family be's miserable around him. My old dad used to say, ‘The horse-shoe that clatters wants a nail,’ and I be sartain sure there is summat uncommon the matter with Mag, for her looks as paky as a bush parrot caged in an old tea-chest, and a bit agone her used to be giggling all day long at nothing at all, or singing songs by the dozen. I hope her hasn't cotched the measles from Giles' young uns.”

“Measles! not at all. Don't you remember she had 'em when we were up at Luckyboy? But she has cotched something else, Joe. Ha, ha, ha! how you do stare.”

“It bean't dangerous, I hope; but out with it at once, Peggy, for I be a bit nervous to-night.”

“Why, where is all your wit gone to, Joe? Ha, ha, ha! Can't you see the maid is in love?”

“Oh, ho! Love is it? Well, well, I forgot to think of that; and it's a likely complaint for a young lass to catch too. But bather it all, missis, thee didn't look mopey when thee wast in love wi' me; and when I was over head and ears in love wi' thee, I never went paking about with my chin down to my waistcoat pockets, and my eyes looking as dull as boiled horse-beans. Not at all.”

“You forget how you used to look, Joe,” said Peggy, laughing.

“Not I, lass; I don't forget those merry days, nor never shall. But it's my notion, Peg, that love bean't such a real genuine thing out in this country as it used to be at whoam. Perhaps the hot winds have summat to do with the change; 'em do shrivel up the hearts of the cabbages in our garden, you know. At any odds, I don't think young folks are so steady in their love affairs as 'em used to be in our time; there is too much gallivantation about 'em, especially the gals.”

“What is that, Joe?”

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“Why, talking nonsense, and whirling about like giddy butterflies, that is what I mean. Some folks call it flirting, and think there bean't much harm in it; but I think t'other way, for I've seen lasses gad about till 'em flutter into the nets of them poaching fellows who are always on the look-out for soft nawnies.”

“I hope you don't mean to say that our girl is a soft nawny, master?”

“No, no, I didn't say that at all, Peg; still I'll say this— her bean't half as spirited as her mother was at her age. I don't like the way her has been dilly-dallying with Sam Rafter this while back, because it isn't fair and square according to my notion. If her doesn't mean to have the lad, why don't her tell 'en so honestly, and let him go and look out for some gal who will like him better?”

“Well, Mag doesn't mean to have him, father; at any rate she won't if things go on as straight as we expect, and she can get a better man.”

“Her is getting plaguey crooked herself.”

“Crooked! What are you talking about, Stubble? There isn't a better shaped girl in”——

“Stop, stop, Peggy! it was her temper I was talking about, not her limbs. I don't know what sort of a man her wants if Sam can't please her.”

“That is a matter of fancy you know, master. When John Duff asked me to marry him, I said, nay, though he had a bakery of his own at Winkleigh: I preferred you, Joe.”

“I should think so, indeed! Duff had got a wooden leg. Now Sam Rafter is a big-fisted, manly-looking young fellow as there is in the district, and a first-rate hand at his trade. He'll mount up in the world by-and-bye, never fear, for he has lots of book-larning in his head, though he doesn't talk so much as some chaps do who know precious little. My word! Sam is worth a dray-load of Jack-o'-dandies, who would starve their grannies for a bottle of scent or a bundle of cigars.”

“Sam is sober, and steady, and good-looking enough; I don't deny all that, Joe; but you know he has only got his bare wages to depend on, and what is that to begin the world with and keep a wife? Mag likes him a bit I daresay, but she thinks she ought to look a little higher in life, and no blame to her neither, for she is as fine a maid as can be found on the three rivers, though I am her mother.”

“That is right enough, Peggy. Her is a real strapping

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wench, and I be her feyther: still for all that, I don't think her is a bit too good for Sam. It's true he is only a journeyman at present, but I don't care about seeing young fellows their own masters before they have learnt experience. Sam will have a shop of his own by and bye, never fear.”

“Suppose he does get a shop of his own, father, what will that be after all? Mag is worthy of a gentleman.”

“Well, Sam is a gentleman to my thinking, though he does wear a paper cap sometimes, and carries a two-foot rule in his breeches pocket. I don't believe he would do a shabby thing if it would make his fortune. I never heard him speak a slang word, much less curse and swear as some of the lads in the neighbourhood do. He hasn't got any bad habits that I know of; he is kind to his feeble old mother, and he is as religious as the parson himself. If all that bean't gentility, I be out in my reckoning, that's all. I wish thee thought of the lad as I do, Peggy, then Mag would not see many objections, I'll warrant, for thee can manage her like churning.”

“But you haven't let me tell you who she is in love with, Joe,” said Peggy, with a knowing look.

“I ax pardon for stopping you, lass. Speak up now; I'll listen.”

“Of course you saw that young gentleman who was out 'possum shooting with Bob the moonlight nights last week.”

“Hi, hi! what! that long dandy chap with a glass eye, who's been stopping at the Major's?”

“With an eye-glass, you mean, Joe.”

“It's all the same, Peggy.”

“It isn't all the same though; a glass eye is”——

“Yes, yes, I know; what 'em put in a stuffed head or a dark lantern; but do 'ee tell me who the chap is, and where he comes from, and what his name is, and all that.”

“He is a regular gentleman. Mr Benjamin Goldstone, that is his name. His father is one of the richest men in Sydney, and his grandfather was”——

“Stop a bit, Peg, never mind his grandmother; tell me how Mag came to get in love with a man her knows naught about, and whom I suppose her has never spoken to. That doesn't look sensible, missis?”

“Ah, but she has spoken to him several times, I can tell you. The first afternoon he called here for Bob to go round the swamps with him to shoot ducks, I was certain sure he was struck comical at Mag all of a sudden, for I was peeping

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through the chinks of the dairy, and I saw how he looked. And when she went into the orchard to pull some ripe figs, he walked after her as polite as could be, and said a pretty deal to her, in a loving way too, I'll be bound; for she came back blushing like a royal red-streak apple.”

“Well, her might blush I think,” said Joe, testily. “To go gallivanting under a fig-tree with a young fellow as her never seed afore.”

“You are woful sharp, master. You'll cut my head off, in a minute.”

“Not I, lass. I wouldn't cut thee little finger nail. I love thee too well to hurt thee; I love my girl too, and that's why I be cautious that nobody hurts her.”

“Nobody has tried to hurt her the least bit in life, so you needn't get fightable, Stubble. I am sure Mr Goldstone is as nice a gentleman as ever entered a house, and no more pride in him than our Bob has. He sat down in your old chair t'other day, and sipped a mug of milk, and talked to me and Mag for an hour or more as pleasantly as if he had known us all our days.”

“If I had guessed he wor going to stay here so long, I wouldn't have gone into the township that afternoon,” said Joe, drily. “As far as I can make out this Coldstone”——

“Goldstone, I told you; not Coldstone, master,” interrupted Peggy.

“Well, it's all the same to me; I don't believe he is much good.”

“How can you say such spiteful things behind a gentleman's back, Stubble?”

“Doan't 'ee get angry, Peggy, for that won't make him a bit better. I know what I be talking about. It's only fair to judge of a man by his companions, and I seed him riding with a precious lot of Tom-and-Jerry boys only last Sunday morning. They were going kangaroo-hunting, I think. I don't want such visitors as them in my humble home, and I won't have 'em in it either, and that's all about it.”

“Hoity-toity! I've helped to make your home, Mr Stubble, and I hope I have enough pride in me to keep it decent,” retorted Peggy, while her colour heightened with excitement.

“Thee has quite enow pride, missis,—a little bit too much in some ways; and I've naught to say against your keeping the house tidy and decent; but if thee can't see the danger of

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encouraging that Will-o'-the-wisp customer, thee must let me look out, and I'll do't a bit sharper than thee, I'll warrant.”

“Yes, you are wonderfully sharp, no doubt. Didn't Jock, the dealer, do you out of the price of twenty dozen of pumpkins the week before last?”

“I don't care twopence about the pumpkins, Peggy; but let any caterwauling fellow try to do me out of my darter, and he'll see what stuff I be made of. If I'd seed that long chap in the orchard 'other day, sky-larking with Mag, I'd soon a telled him to morris out, and go and shoot his wild-ducks, and it would have been good for his bones to have gone off pretty quick. I know what that sort of courting means with the like of him, and I wonder thee hadn't more wit than to encourage the gal to think he meant anything more than nonsense, if he didn't plot mischief.”

“I can't think what ails you, father. You get so touchy all in a minute, as if the gentleman was coming here to burn us all out of house and home, and you snap me up before I can tell you what he said to Mag.”

“I don't want to know what he said, Peggy; but I'll take care he doesn't say any more to her, if I be at home the next time he calls, except he comes to me first and foremost, and gives me better reasons for it than I think he's got in his head. It bean't honest courting with him, according to my notion, or he would set about it in a more modest, straightforward way. And if it be honest, it bean't common sense for us to match Mag with a man who seemingly doesn't know better than to go sky-larking about Sundays as well as Mondays, with Dick Swallow and other young reprobates.”

“Why, you know very well, Stubble, that the Swallow family is as high as any in the district; old Mr Swallow is”—

“I bean't saying aught disrespectful of old Mr Swallow, Peggy; but it's plain enow that his son Dick is a low scamp; and high up as his family is, I bean't going to let our boy associate with him, or with any of his companions either. Bob is now as sober and steady as your old daddy was; but there bean't no saying how soon he might be spoilt if us let him get too thick with this dandy chap that you and Mag are going crazy about.”

“He isn't a chap, Stubble: and I am shocked at your bad manners for calling him such a vulgar name.”

“Hush, Peggy! keep thee temper, lass. Soft words, if us have hard arguments. I can't see how thee can be a good

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judge of a man on so short an acquaintance, though you be a cleverish sort of 'ooman.”

“I am thankful to say I am not of such a dreadfully suspicious nature as you are, Stubble; one would fancy you had been an er—I dont-know-what, to think so wickedly of others as you do.”

“Never mind; if the biggest rogues make the best fathers, as the saying is, I be a good hand for looking after my gal. But thee hast know'd me all my life, Peggy, and if I'd done much in the flirting way, thee'd have tell'd me of it afore to-day, I reckon. Thee bean't too modest for that, lass.”

“I don't notice all that some people do, or I should be wretched.”

“Come, come, doan't'ee pout so Peggy. Thee was looking as glad as a singing bird when thee first pulled my wig a few minutes agone. Brighten up again, lass! There bean't a bit of common sense in being cross with one another; at any odds, us ought to be agreed about what concerns the life and happiness of our only darter.”

“How can we agree if you say one thing and I say another, if you pull backwards while I pull forward? I am trying to rear our children up respectably, and you always go dead against me.”

“Thee art mistaken there, Peggy, lass! I love my children as much as thee dost, and I want to see 'em grow up industrious, sober, honest, and all that sort of thing, which will make 'em respectable.”

“I have never said aught against their being sober and honest and industrious; you know that very well, Stubble. Of course I have objected to Bob driving bullocks, or Mag milking cows, since we have made our fortune, and that is reasonable enough.”

“Thee hast had thee own way there, Peg, though I think a little work of that sort wouldn't do the young uns any harm. Us did plenty of it, you know, and it didn't stint our growth.”

“I don't suppose it would stint their growth, Mr Stubble, but it would stop 'em from mixing in good society, and that is what I am anxious for 'em to do, though you set your face against it.”

“Thee never heard me object to good society for 'em Peg— quite t'other way; for haven't I always stood up for Sophy Rowley, and”——

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“Faugh! Sophy Rowley, indeed! The mealy-mouthed, countryfied—er—er—slap-cabbage!” vociferated Mrs Stubble, whose contempt was bubbling over.

“That bean't pretty talk, mother; I guess good society wouldn't stand much of it,” said Joe, getting off the stump and walking towards the house, closely followed by his wife, who was talking loudly. “Doan't 'ee be so cross, Peg; I tell'ee that bean't the way to agree together.”

“It is you that makes me cross, Stubble, with your contrary ways. It is the greatest anxiety of my life to see my children grow up genteel, but you always spoil all I do. Here is a fine chance for Mag to marry into high life, and perhaps be the making of Bob, besides raising us all up in the world; and as soon as I tell you about it, you upset all I have been planning and doing for the last fortnight, with your common remarks. You ought to be ashamed of yourself, Stubble, for calling a gentleman a chap, as if he were a coarse vulgar fellow coming to do, I don't know what, to us all.”

“I bean't afeard of what he'll do to thee, Peg, but thee must be a precious old goosey not to see what the fellow be's up to, with his city blarney and his impudent winks at Mag through his glass eye. I am 'mazed that thee hasn't got more gumption, mother!”

“Ugh! you wicked man!” sobbed Peggy, beginning to cry with vexation and wounded pride. “If Mr Goldstone comes here again, I'll tell him you said I was to order him off the place.”

“Very well, Peg, tell 'en so; and thee'd better advise him, as he is such a friend of yourn, to march off pretty quick, for if I cotch 'en here again talking soft nonsense to my gal, barn me if I doan't pitch 'en head and heels into the lagoon, his gun and all. That's the way to say it, and I mean it too.”

Mr Stubble delivered that forcible ultimatum with a calmly determined air, like a jack-tar aiming a swivel gun at a piratical junk. He then put on his coat and went for a stroll in his bush paddock, in order to avoid the circle of a connubial storm. He knew from past experience that his wife would not be pacified with anything short of absolute submission to her views, which he was not prepared to yield, from a conviction that Goldstone had not an honest motive in his visits to Buttercup Glen.

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Chapter II.

A glance at the the earlier history of Mr and Mrs Stubble.—Their arrival in Australia and settlement at Luckyboy station.

JOSEPH STUBBLE and Peggy Budd were born in the village of Chumleigh in Devonshire. Their parents being too poor to keep them, they were apprenticed to neighbouring farmers by the parochial authorities, and received such a breaking in as few young Australians can experimentally comprehend. To turn out of their beds before daylight in frosty mornings, and go into the fields to pull turnips or herd cows, was not the severest part of their discipline, for they often got their duty to their masters drilled into them with a stick, and were made to toil like slaves for coarse fare, a scanty allowance of clothing, and sixpence a week. It was fun to hear Mr Stubble, in after years, tell his listening children (when mother was absent), how fortunate he fancied himself when his wages were raised to two shillings a week; and how proud his dear Peggy felt when she had saved enough money to buy a Dunstable bonnet and a plaid shawl, in which smart attire she had captivated his susceptible heart.

After their terms of apprenticeship expired, Joe hired with his old master as ploughman for eight shillings a week without board, and Peggy went to Farmer Fursells as dairymaid, and got three shillings a week and her keep. Out of their meagre wages, however, they managed to save a little, and after four years' courtship they were married, Peggy being then about twenty-one years of age, and Joe a few years older. They took a little thatched cottage in their native village, and though they had not much furniture in it, they were happy and contented, for they were both of cheerful disposition, and loved each other fondly. Joe had constant employment, and Peggy sometimes got a day's work from her old mistress, which was a help to their income; besides, they had a small plot of garden ground, with a stye for a pig in one corner of it.

Fortunately for them, about that time a gentleman who had lived many years in Australia, paid a visit for a few days to

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their village, and meeting by chance with Joe, he explained to him how much better he might get on in this great country, than he could hope to do at home, and so excited his ambition that all his prejudices against foreign lands vanished, and his born fondness for old England began to waver, inasmuch as he resolved that if he could manage it, he would be off, bag and baggage, and try his fortune on the other side of the world, for he had no better prospect than hard fare and hard toil all his lifetime on his native side of it. The gentleman used his influence to get Joe and his wife a free passage, and two months afterwards they were on board a fine ship bound for Sydney.

They had hard struggling to tear themselves from kith and kin in the village where they were born, and from which they had never been fifty miles away, but the bright pictures of the land of plenty which their Australian friend had drawn were most alluring when contrasted with the realities of their hard everyday life, and especially as there was a prospect of a family to add to their expenses. So they bade a tearful adieu to their native land, and in less than four months afterwards they arrived at their destination.

Of course there were a few hardships to brave on the voyage— no reasonable person expects wholly to avoid discomfort on shipboard; but Joe and his wife were thoroughly healthy and as hardy as gipsies: so, little things which would have been made into great trials by some people, did not affect them at all.

Their friend, the Australian gentleman, had given them a good deal of advice, and had especially warned them against the danger of contracting idle habits during the many weeks they would be at sea. Joe had wisdom enough to attend to that practical hint. He was a handy man with tools of almost every sort; and as his uncle Dan, the cobbler, had died a few months before, Joe bought his kit cheap, and he not only soled and heeled several pairs of old boots for himself and Peggy, but he got odd jobs in the cobbling way from the sailors and passengers. Thus he was not only kept usefully employed, and spared the ennui which idleness always produces, but he made money, for at the end of the voyage he had five pounds in his pocket, which was more ready cash than he had ever before possessed.

They arrived in Port Jackson one bright summer's morning, a few days after Christmas. That was a glorious day in their history, a day of new emotions, which were fresh in their memories twenty years afterwards. How their hearts throbbed

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with delight and gratitude as they gazed around them, and tried to express their admiration of the scenic beauties which might inspire the dullest soul with poetic rapture!

“I say, Peggy, us never seed anything half so grand as this afore, lass!” said Joe with an enthusiasm which he had never before manifested.

“It is an uncommon pretty place, sure enough!” replied Peggy, while tears started to her eyes as she thought of her dear old father and mother, and wished they could see the bright land of promise which seemed to smile such a gladdening welcome to the poverty-stricken wanderers from the old country.

The next day they landed in Sydney, and were very soon engaged by an up-country settler at the astounding wages of £65 a year and rations. Their exultation at their good fortune was highly amusing to some of the old colonists, who were reminded of their own exuberant feelings when they first landed long ago, with very light baggage, and with still lighter pockets. Never did any poor mortals feel themselves more thoroughly independent than Joe and Peggy did, as they rambled arm in arm through the dusty streets that day in their heavy boots, and puffed and perspired with the heat till their smiling faces grew deepest blush colour. How amazed they were at the grand shops, showing English wares in profusion, and ticketed as temptingly as could possibly be done even in London itself! How Peggy laughed when she first saw a mosquito; and thought it was a Devonshire gnat that had slyly secured a passage inside her bonnet box, for she had previously imagined that mosquitoes were formidable creatures, of proportions somewhere between a dragon-fly and a lobster. How highly honoured they looked when some waggish “old hand” told them that all “new chums” were invited to dine with the Governor off a king parrot roasted whole, on the first Sunday after their arrival, and how vexed Peggy got with Joe because he said “he would not go to the Governor's house to dine if he were paid for it!”

How proud they were to tell any one who would patiently listen, that they had just arrived in the Flying Buck, and with what innocent hyperbole they eulogised that good ship, which had carried them in safety over so many miles of rolling ocean! Never was such another clipper for speed or seaworthiness! Such a brave captain too! He was never scared a bit even when “the white squall came over the surging

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wave,” and took the ship aback. What a lark they had when crossing the line! What a terrible fright they got one night in a storm! What a tremendous shark they caught one day in a calm! What a funny man the second mate was; how kind the steward was to Peggy; and what an awful fellow the cook was to curse and chew tobacco! Those and a hundred other reflections on their long voyage, were related with the simple earnestness so peculiar to new arrivals just off their first sea-voyage, and they seemed wholly unconscious that their quizzical listeners were slyly laughing at them. They were detained three weeks in Sydney, waiting for their master, who was going up with them to their distant location. In the interval of leisure Joe wrote a very long letter to friends at home, giving his first ideas of the new land, with a graphic description of everything which struck his fancy, and also a general price current of domestic necessaries and luxuries, especially noting the price of peaches, which he said were as cheap as apples were in Devonshire. Though Peggy could not write, she could handle a pen; so she ornamented the margins of the letter with little ink stars to represent kisses. The letter also enclosed a draft for £2 as a Christmas-box for dear father and mother, and doubtless the poor old folks shed tears of joy over it, a few months afterwards.

Most new emigrants have a veneration for the ship which brought them across the sea, especially if the voyage have been an ordinarily pleasant one. Nor does the feeling soon die out, for the subsequent career of the “good old ship” is watched with a peculiar interest, and any serious mishap befalling it is heard of with a sorrow akin to what we might feel on hearing of the burning of our childhood's home, or the downfall of the bell tower of our old village church.

That feeling was particularly strong in Joe and Peggy, for never had they fared so well as they did on board the Flying Buck. Meat every day, and “plum duff” twice a week, were luxuries worthy of remembrance, to say nothing of the peasoup, and the lob-skouse, or the frequent “tit-bits” from the cabin table which the steward gave to Peggy. But it was higher sentiments than reminiscences of good victuals which influenced them, on the afternoon before they left Sydney, to stroll down to the grassy knoll near Dawes Battery, to take a farewell look at the dear old ship, which was lying at anchor off Sydney Cove, taking in ballast for her voyage to India.

The sailors were hoisting in the long-boat, and singing

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“Hey O! cheerily, man!” The noisy chorus thrilled Peggy's sensitive system like the parting words of old friends, and Joe himself was almost affected to tears.

“It seems funny to me that only four months ago that ship was in Plymouth Sound, and here she is at Sydney looking just the same as ever. Doesn't it seem funny to you, Joe?”

“It does so, lass. And bean't it queer, when us call to mind the old ship dashing, and foaming, and tossing, and wobbling about in them great big waves off the Cape, to see her floating yonder as quietly as a dead duck? Eh, Peggy?”

With many such colloquial recollections of their memorable voyage, they beguiled the hours of the afternoon, while they feasted on ripe fruit, with which they had filled their pockets. When four bells struck, the boatswain's whistle piped all hands to “knock off work and go to supper.” Peggy and Joe then arose from their grassy seat, and after a last fond look at the ship, they said “Good-bye, old Flying Buck!” and walked away to their lodgings.

A few weeks afterwards they were settled in their new home in the far bush. It was a little stringy-bark hut, and though far from comfortable at first, it soon underwent a transformation. Joe had stopped up all the squanches or gaps between the slabs, so as to keep out snakes or other noxious vermin, and had given the whole edifice, both inside and outside, two coats of thick lime-wash. He made many other improvements in the outside arrangement of his homestead; while Peggy was equally energetic in securing convenience and comfort inside. And when their master brought his wife over to see them, that lady was highly pleased with the skill and industry of Joe and Peggy, which had turned a ruinous old slab hut into a home comfortable enough for any humble couple to live in.

I cannot relate all Joe's early “colonial experience.” Of course he had difficulties at times—who in the world has not? —but a cheerful courage helped him to endure even the worst trials that he met with, and which his energy could not surmount or his sagacity avoid. At the expiration of two years, he “totted” up his reckoning, as he called it, while his wife sat beside him nursing a chubby little boy. His arithmetic showed a wonderful improvement in their circumstances, and they again blessed the day that they landed on the shores of Australia; while their hearts glowed with gratitude to the good friend who had induced them to leave their native land

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and poverty. Joe had deposited ninety pounds in the savings-bank, and had sent ten pounds each year to “the old folks at home,” besides buying many little things which were necessary for the comfort of his own household. His master was so much pleased with him that he had made him overseer, and advanced his wages. He often earned a little money in his own time too, for he was a good practical horse-doctor, and could put on a shoe with any farrier in the bush. On the whole, Joe's financial statement was most cheering; and Peggy's glistening eyes showed as much thorough approval as was ever testified by a forest of upraised hands at an annual meeting of joint-stockholders in the act of carrying unanimously a satisfactory report.

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Chapter III.

A short digressive chapter.—Dawn of moral and social enlightenment. —The Great Panic.—The Bank Lottery.—The unlucky winner of the Grand Prize.

JOE STUBBLE arrived in New South Wales shortly before that welcome era in its history when transportation of convicts from Great Britain to Sydney was abolished. The best friends of the colony had long sought for that boon from the Imperial Government, and it was at length granted, to the delight of many honest hearts, who hailed it as the dawn of brighter days, when the jarring distinctions of class, which were so fruitful of animosity, should cease in this land for ever.

About the same time the privilege of representative government was ceded to us. Municipal institutions were also inaugurated in Sydney, and a steady current of free immigration was setting towards our shores. It was a rather curious coincidence, but that time was also remarkable for perhaps the most disastrous monetary panic that has ever distressed our community. It was the opinion of some casuists that the reaction of reckless speculation and extravagance caused that crisis; others blamed the ruling Governor and his new land regulations; some traced the cause direct to an unparalleled season of drought, when for a short time flour rose to £90 a ton, and other provisions were proportionately dear. It is needless to further enumerate the opinions on the causes of the wide-spread disaster and ruin; not many persons, however, were willing to blame themselves for folly or mismanagement. But whatever was the cause, it did not effectually admonish against subsequent commercial panics, for they have occurred in the Colony with almost septenary punctuality, though never with such severity as marked the one in question.

In order to remove the appearance of romance which my next chapter may present, I adduce the following startling incident, which is as true as history, of those exciting times when property changed hands so abruptly.

The Bank of Australia broke, as many old colonists have

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cause to remember. The principal assets of the bank were an accumulation of property, which had fallen into its hands through the failure of certain customers, to whom the old adage, that “they were better known than trusted,” did not apply.

In order to dispose of the said property, which it was not possible to do in an ordinary way, the trustees of the bank got permission from the government to have a lottery, or “partition,” as they ingeniously called it. Many thousands of tickets or shares were sold at four pounds each; and each one represented something tangible, if it were only a town allotment in a remote swamp. “All prizes and no blanks” was the enticing motto which drew the price of a ticket from many a hardly-earned hoard in the savings-bank. Several houses in Sydney and in country towns were placed on the programme in most attractive colours, to show that there was no mistake about it; and the bank agents throughout the colony were as innocently persuasive as ladies collecting for a fancy bazaar. The “Grand Prize,” which headed the list in fanciful type, was a very desirable homestead called “Underbank,” a significant name, by the way, for the former owner of it had been under bank pressure for some time before he became bankrupt. That fine estate, together with a station higher up the country, and all the stock upon it, was included in one lot, and every allottee naturally wished he might get it. For three months preceding the important day of decision, much excitement was manifested by the hundreds of persons who had invested their money in this novel speculation; and doubtless Underbank house and station often marred the nocturnal repose of many who were longing for the prize with an eagerness peculiar to great gamblers.

The much-envied winner of the grand lot was an honest Highlandman who rented a small farm on the Hunter River. He was induced to buy the ticket by a storekeeper in Maitland, and after paying for it, he went on with his usual work, and perhaps bestowed no more after-thought on his purchase than he would have done after planting an orange-pip in his orchard, for there was very little restless ambition discernible in poor Mack's nature. One day, as he was ploughing for his potato crop, the merchant aforesaid rode up and told him that “he had won the great Underbank prize, and was a rich man.”

He could not believe the news at first, but when his informant offered a large sum on the bargain, Mack began to feel glad. So he let go his plough and unyoked his bullocks, and

  ― 17 ―
then went to his house, where a host of friends had assembled to congratulate him. A few days afterwards the superintendent of the station, who had learned the whereabouts of the lucky allottee, got on his horse and rode down to see his new master, taking with him another horse for Mack to ride back with him and see his property. The next day Mack set out from his home, accompanied by several friends, to proceed to Underbank, and, sad to say, he had not ridden quite five miles from his own fence when he fell from his horse and broke his neck. His wife and family took possession of the property which had so strangely cost him his life.

The result of that “partition” was, in a pecuniary sense, very comforting to the bank trustees, and doubtless a few of the ticket-holders were highly gratified, but the majority of them were not uncommonly pleased with their prizes, for they were positive blanks, from a marketable point of view, although they certainly looked pretty on the surveyor's map.

How far we might have advanced as a community in the art of wholesale gambling is only to be surmised, for we were not permitted to indulge our bent. Other “partitions” were projected by enterprising colonists, who wanted to “clear out and go home,” but the Government solemnly demurred, so the schemes were abandoned. The gambling spirit was thus damped down, but even judicial opposition could not extinguish it; and though it has never since been so glaringly manifest as it was during the exciting months, when all the dead walls in the city were dressed in flaring placards inviting everybody to try his luck in a lawful lottery, it has never ceased to develop itself in various other forms which the law does not effectually check. We have had no more public partitions—the one alluded to was considered enough for us; but the gambling spark is still alive, and little circumstances occasionally show that it only requires a stimulating puff or two to kindle a flame, which fact will be borne out by many curious examples in the course of my story.

The “bad times,” which I have cursorily alluded to, proved good times for Joe Stubble and many others of his class—the “flood-tide in their affairs, which drifted them on to fortune.”

  ― 18 ―

Chapter IV.

The brief Colonial career of Mr Drydun, and his downfall.—Joe Stubble becomes owner of Luckyboy station, on the Big River.

THE name of Joe Stubble's new master was Drydun. His history has not much to do with my story; still I must glance at it, for reasons which will be apparent.

Mr Drydun had taken a degree at Cambridge, and studied a short time for the bar. During a vacation he went to Scotland for a few weeks' shooting, and whilst there he fell in love with an accomplished young lady, the daughter of his host, a retired merchant in Aberdeenshire. The result was, that Mr Drydun gave up his profession, and went to live with a farmer in that county, for the purpose of gaining a practical knowledge of farming, of grazing especially. It is very likely the idea of being within a few hours' ride of the young lady who had captivated his heart had something to do with the change of his pursuits; but that is mere hypothesis. Soon after the death of his father he married the object of his choice, and a few months afterwards they sailed for Sydney, taking with them a capital of £8000, and some valuable breeding stock, including a very fine blood horse.

Mr Drydun was about thirty years of age, of prepossessing exterior; and his frankness and affability won him a good many new friends as soon as he landed in Sydney. His choice stock was even more attractive than himself to the sporting fraternity, and introduced him to more society than he found profitable to him; so he resolved to settle himself on a station as soon as possible, for he felt in danger of being drawn into fashionable extravagances, for which he had not yet acquired a taste. He had brought with him many letters of introduction, some of which were of less value than a “ticket for soup,” for they did not induce even a single invitation to dinner: others were addressed to persons in remote parts of the colony, and as Mr Drydun did not feel encouraged to incur

  ― 19 ―
expense and trouble in delivering the letters in person, he put them into the post-office box, with his card of address enclosed in each.

By return of post he received a very kind note from a Mr Rashleigh, an old schoolfellow of his late uncle's, acknowledging receipt of letter of introduction, and inviting him and his wife to spend a week or two at his house. That was something like the correct thing, thought Mr Drydun; and he was glad he had posted the letters instead of throwing them into the fire, as he had been almost tempted to do one day, after a freezing interview with the Honourable Mr Ball, his mother's cousin. A few days afterwards he and his wife were honoured guests at Folidom, near Maitland.

Mr Rashleigh was a gentleman of cultivated taste, which was evidenced by numberless silent witnesses about his mansion and grounds, and he was the centre ornament of an élite circle. He had the reputation of being very wealthy, and his wisdom was supposed to be proportionate to his riches by the honest rustics around.

There were some enterprising spirits in Maitland in those frolicsome days—men with “hearts of oak,” or iron-bark, which is more colonial, and faces like brass-pans or anchor buttons. All they lacked, as men of mettle, was money; but that was merely a temporary inconvenience, and by no means a disqualification for great designs. Mr Rashleigh had always taken a sort of paternal interest in most of the popular movements in the district; so he was easily induced to encourage with his influential name some of the patriotic schemes which were projected by those fertile heads, including the Grand Riverside Railway, the Mutton-ham Company, and the Pure Portable Soup Association. Other influential men followed Mr Rashleigh's example, and very soon the share market was as lively as the old market-wharf in Sydney used to be, when the fishing boats arrived.

Perhaps the most promising local institution was the “Hunter River Auction Company.” It is still a disputed question whether Maitland or Sydney heads first concocted that scheme, which was quite new in mercantile economy; at any rate, there was a rival auction company in Sydney about the same time. But the latter was a mere hum-drum commercial concern, with an ordinary staff of clerks, who were not distinguishable from mercantile employés in general; whereas the “officers” of the former company were “thorough bricks,” and all wore

  ― 20 ―
top-boots, from Mr Thomas Tosser, the head auctioneer, down to the junior sales clerk.

Stock and stations, shares and estates, were the items which these sporting auctioneers glorled in manipulating. They also liked wool and well-cured hides, or even sheep-skins, but mere merchandise was below the ideas of the white-fingered staff. It is true they did not decline it (though Mr Tosser would rather have knocked down a hundred fat bullocks than a single bale of shirting or a crate of cups and saucers); and they gradually relaxed their lofty bearing until they declined nothing at all, except payment to consigners and creditors in general. But I am anticipating their undignified finale.

The flourishing prospectus of the Hunter River Auction Company concluded with the announcement, in effect, that the earliest applicants for shares would have the preference, but some of the sage old Hunter men looked at that encouraging sentence with one eye partially closed, like sly birds peeping into a brick trap, until it was publicly rumoured that Mr Rashleigh had taken a hundred shares. Then there was quite a rush at the office door, in which many persons got their toes injured, and a few of the up-countrymen had their pockets picked, before they got inside.

Mr Rashleigh was honest above an average, and at one time he had a very humble opinion of himself, which was quite right; but the popular voice had actually persuaded him that he was endowed with wonderful financial forethought and sagacity, and in exercising his talents he had learned to believe that he was doing good double-handed; that is to say, benefiting the colonists in general, and himself as well. It was no wonder, then, that Mr Drydun sought counsel from his experienced friend, nor is it surprising that, after the purchase of a cattle station on the Big River, he should confidently invest the balance of his capital in Auction Company's shares.

After a month's sojourn in Maitland, Mr Drydun found himself almost fascinated by the gay society to which he had been introduced. His daily routine in prospective was slow indeed compared with his present life of fun. To console himself under the approaching trial of parting with his jovial friends, he reflected that the merry days and convivial nights he had spent in Maitland would furnish a multitude of reminiscences when on his distant squattage, and serve to enliven his wife when she was dreary, though of course he would not tell her of all his frolickings—that would never do. His

  ― 21 ―
losses at the card table or on the grand stand had exceeded his gains by what sporting men call “long odds,” still he had formed friendships of a refined solidity which he had scarcely hoped to meet with in this then unpopular part of the world. So he had a quid pro quo for his money; and after all, what is money to a man without friends to enjoy it with him?

But all sublunary joys have an end, and it usually comes too soon for us. Domestic reasons, which could not be slighted, urged Mr Drydun to depart; so he bade adieu to merry Maitland with all its attractions, and hied to his new homestead in the distant wilds, as fast as a bullock dray would carry him and his appurtenances. I shall not trouble the reader with a description of the early difficulties of this young pair in their new life. The pioneers of the bush did not enjoy the privileges of select society, which are procurable now that numberless highly respectable families have settled on their pastoral estates, and towns and hamlets have sprung up in many places which were formerly the haunts of the aborigine and the kangaroo. Mr Drydun was well adapted for the vocation which he had chosen; and his wife was a helpmeet indeed, a lady endowed with “graceful ease and sweetness, void of pride.” Trials of a minor kind they patiently endured, and they enjoyed their nomadic life with its freedom and healthful excitement.

But before two years had passed, they were overtaken by disasters which, with all their resources, they could not surmount, for the “great panic” came, and, along with scores of other trading concerns, the Hunter River Auction Company failed, and involved every one connected with it who had anything to lose. To be brief, Mr Drydun was hopelessly bankrupt; for in addition to his liability as a shareholder in that company, he had “lent his name” to a few of his luxurious friends in Maitland, “merely as a matter of form;” and as a preliminary matter of legal form he was served with “writs” for the payment of every bill which bore his endorsement.

Joe Stubble was much grieved when he heard of his master's downfall. Peggy was grieved too, for Mrs Drydun had been very kind to her; indeed, they were employers of a sort that always secure the affection of their servants. After a consultation with his wife, and again totting up his assets, which had considerably increased in the last twelve months, Joe went straightway to the house with his savings'-bank book and his

  ― 22 ―
purse in his pocket, and without a word he handed them over to his master.

Mr Drydun, with tears in his eyes, declined to take the money, and candidly stated that he was embarrassed beyond hope of recovery, and all he possessed must be sold. “But I don't see why you should not buy the whole concern, Joe; as you have some ready money,” added Mr Drydun, brightening up a little. “You have been a trustworthy servant, and perhaps, if the place gets into strange hands, the next owner of it might not appreciate your honest services. Take my advice, Joe; go to Sydney and buy the station; it must be sold, and it will go for a mere song, as Brown's station did the week before last.

It would be tedious to tell all Joe's proceedings; but he acted throughout in an upright way, and according to his master's counsel. In a short time he went to Sydney, and with the ready money which he had saved in three years, he bought “Luckyboy station” and all the stock upon it, including horses and working bullocks, also drays, stores, &c.; and after getting his title-deeds, he returned home to tell Peggy that she was for the first time in her life her own mistress.

When she heard the news, Peggy sat down and cried, partly for joy at her own good fortune, and partly for sorrow at the misfortunes of her mistress, whom she loved very much. “I tell you what it is, Joe, I will never take the master's property; so you had best go and give it back to him,” said Peggy, sobbing.

“I've offered it to 'en already, lass, and he woan't have it, 'cos he says it bean't no good at all to him. Somebody 'ud pounce upon it agin directly, for he owes a lot of money; or, any odds, he's got to pay it, whether he owes it rightly or not, and I suppose it be's much about the same to them chaps as have got to receive it. Howsomever, I'll let 'en take what he likes, and stop here as long as he likes, as master too, and I can't say any fairer than that, as I see.”

Some men are mean enough, when they have risen in the world, to look with selfish indifference upon the friends who have helped them up, especially if those friends happen to have grown poor in purse. But it was not so with honest Joe Stubble. He was really sorry for his master's mishaps, though he had profited by them in so unexpected a manner; and he gave him substantial help as well as sympathy.

  ― 23 ―

“Doan't 'ee fret, sir!” said Joe one day, when Mr Drydun was looking very dispirited. “A good name keeps its shine in the dark, and it is worth heaps of money to a man. Though you have been unlucky, sir, thee hast not been tricky, I'll warrant; and that's a thought as wud help to soothe a man to sleep if he went to bed hungry. Help theeself, sir, to anything on the station thee hast a mind to, and doan't 'ee say thank'ee to me for it neither, for it be's more yourn than mine, though I've bought it fair and square.”

But Mr Drydun was not the sort of man to encroach upon any one's generosity. He soon removed to Sydney, in the hope of getting a government situation, but found, on his arrival in the metropolis, that there were scores of needy persons there before him on the look-out for “billets.” He also discovered that his personal qualities did not counterbalance his poverty, in the estimation of his former friends. In dread that he would want to borrow money from them, and always owe it, after the habit of broken-down men in general, they showed him the “cold shoulder,” which chilled his sensitive spirit more than the loss of his station had done.

Yielding to his wife's wishes, he shortly afterwards returned to England, after undergoing the liquidating process, waggishly yclept “Burton's Purge”

  ― 24 ―

Chapter V.

Mr Stubble's early struggles to keep his station.—The boiling-pot reaction.—Gold discovery.—Mr Stubble sells his station, and buys a dairy farm near Daisybank.

ALTHOUGH Mr Stubble was for a time highly elated at his fortunate purchase, he soon found himself surrounded by difficulties which he had not foreseen. He required some ready money to carry on his large establishment; and it was not easy to borrow from bankers or merchants in that season of general mistrust; at any rate, Joe did not know the right way to apply for a loan, or it is possible he might have obtained it. To sell cattle was to sacrifice them. Some of his neighbours had driven fat bullocks to Maitland—the nearest market —and sold them for twenty-five shillings a-head. At that juncture, when graziers were foreboding total ruin, though their runs were overrun with fat stock, some wise-headed colonist propounded the expedient of “boiling down,” and demonstrated by figures—the result of experiments—that it would pay. That project, barbarous as it may seem, burst like sunshine on the squatter's gloomy prospects, and showed clearly that their flocks and herds possessed a tangible value; for the most unmercantile head knew that tallow, and hides, and sheepskins would fetch ready money all the world over. Some of the bankers began to look gracious, and merchants were glad—in fact, the great slaughter throughout the land had an enlivening influence on the whole community; things in general began to look up, and everybody grew hopeful.

Joe Stubble saw through the “boiling down scheme” the moment it was explained to him, and only wondered that he had not first thought of it himself. A large draft of his fat stock “went to pot” forthwith, and that expedient saved him from utter ruin with a plethora of wealth around him.

Think of that, ye horse-eating antipodeans! Tens of thousands of sheep and cattle were boiled down for their fat and skins; and hundreds of tons of wholesome edible matter were thrown to pigs, or cast on to the land as refuse, utterly wasted.

  ― 25 ―
It is a saddening reflection too, that perhaps at the same time thousands of poor persons in our fatherland were suffering from hunger. Legs of mutton, prime enough for the shambles of Leadenhall or Whitechapel, were sold for sixpence each, and prime rounds of beef at one penny a pound. Tails and shins for soup, or kidneys, hearts, livers, or heads, might have been had for nothing, as they were not fat enough for the pots.

The “boiling pot” is necessarily resorted to to a limited extent at the present time, for stock increases much faster than our population can consume it. But, thanks to the scientific skill and enterprise of some of our leading colonists, it is probable that before these pages are issued from the press that “the million” of Great Britain may feast upon fresh mutton and beef from Australia, and thus the almost sinful waste of boiling down will be avoided. I would here say to my British readers, Do not let continental purveyors of horseflesh, or any other interested persons, prejudice you against Australian mutton and beef, before you have tasted it; at any rate, give it a fair trial for your own sakes. If some of the experiments of preserving carcases by chemical process which are now being made prove successful, and I believe they will, we shall be able to supply you with an unlimited quantity of wholesome meat, at a moderate price. My impartial advice to you, friends, is to let those persons eat horses whose tastes incline thereto, but do you eat Australian beef and mutton, and be grateful for it.

Joe's struggles for the next seven years were severe; and it was often a grave consideration with him whether, after all, he would not have been better off had he remained in service, and saved his wages, rather than to encumber himself with an extensive property and its concomitant liabilities, which caused him much anxiety as well as bodily exertion. Many men who have hastened to become masters have felt similar anxieties to those which often weighed down Mr Stubble's spirits, and helped to prematurely wrinkle his honest face. A succession of troubles and disasters proved to him that wealth was not the unmixed good which he had at one time supposed it to be. A long season of drought thinned his herds, and stopped his recourse to the boiling pots, for there was no fat in his cattle. A lawsuit too, with a litigious neighbour, over the disputed right of a dry water hole, lightened Joe's purse considerably, and made him confess to the old truism, “That in a thousand pounds of law there is not an ounce of love.”

  ― 26 ―

Nevertheless, he did not cease to hope for better times; though Peggy was very desponding, and could not derive any comfort from the little distich which Joe often quoted—

“This truth of old was sorrow's friend,
Times at the worst will soonest mend.”

She was certain sure it was an unlucky change when he became his own master, for he had never been the same man since then. As for times mending, she did not believe in it at all; and she saw no better prospect than to be buried in the bush all her life, and then to leave her bones there for ever.

Poor Joe was even more perplexed with his wife's repining than with all his other difficulties; and he was seriously thinking of re-selling his station for what it would bring, and going into service again, when the news of the discovery of gold in the colony electrified the whole population. For a time Joe's troubles seemed to be overwhelming, and he fancied himself totally ruined by the discovery of the precious metal, for nearly all his men ran off to the diggings, and there was a prospect of his cattle running wild for want of proper herding. In a very short time, however, a wonderful reaction took place, and livestock rose to an unprecedented price. Urged on by Peggy's entreaties, Joe at once took advantage of the sudden turn, and sold his station, with all the stock upon it, for a large sum of money; part of which was paid down, and the balance was secured to him by legal instrument. He then started down the country with his wife and three children, in the hope of living quietly in some rural nook, where he could recruit his somewhat impaired energies, and educate his children; for they were growing up almost as untutored as the little blacks in the bush. Joe knew the value of education from the lack of it, and it had often caused him uneasiness that he had no means of getting his children instructed, for there was not a school within many miles of his homestead. If he had never read the following remark of a wise writer, his opinion was in harmony with the sentiment,—viz., “That if the spring put forth no blossoms, there will be no beauty in summer, and in autumn no fruit; so if youth be trifled away without improvement, riper years will be contemptible, and old age miserable.”

After looking about him for some time, Mr Stubble bought a small dairy farm a few miles from the pleasant village of

  ― 27 ―
Daisybank, on the lower Hunter River; and there he went to reside. The farm was prettily situated, and had been tolerably well taken care of by its previous owner. The house was comfortable and roomy, though by no means stylish; but Joe cared very little for fashion. The sudden improvement in his financial position made no perceptible difference in him, and he continued to work nearly as hard as he had wrought all his lifetime—in fact, he used to say that it was penance for him to be idle. His wife, however, did not retain her original humility, and Joe often laughed aside, to see how she tried to ape the lady-like grace of Mrs Drydun; which, he said, “her managed about as nicely as a working bullock wuld imitate the paces of his blood horse, Brutus.”

It was plain that Peggy could not bear the change of fortune with the calm thankfulness of her more philosophical spouse; and many petty sources of annoyance made her dissatisfied with her lot. For instance, if any of the genteel neighbours around their new home called to see them in accordance with fashionable etiquette, Peggy's heart would throb with pride, and her face sometimes blushed with vexation at the bad manners of Joe, who would perhaps thoughtlessly walk into the parlour without his coat. At other times he would begin to talk about the five pounds he earned at cobbling when coming out in the Flying Buck. All the private tuition which Peggy volunteered to him on social etiquette (and which she had learnt when living in service) was thrown away, and her patience was often upset in the midst of a lesson on manners, by his making some dry remark about her antecedents; or saying, “What a lark it wor that his Peg should live to be a fine lady!”

As their children grew up, they imbibed the spirit of their mother, which is often the case in families; and after many long and fruitless arguments, Joe was obliged to own to himself that he was powerless to wholly arrest the growing ambition of his family; so for the sake of peace and quietness, he yielded up his rule in minor matters, and seldom interfered with their doings, except where there was some flagrant attempt to set aside his authority altogether. He had an affectionate disposition, and loved his wife and children as he loved his life, and their frequent little acts of opposition gave him more pain than they were aware of, for he usually bore his troubles patiently and without complaining. Peggy was affectionate too, but she had not much strength of mind, and, yielding to little

  ― 28 ―
encroachments of ill-humour, had gradually changed her disposition; and purse-pride, at the same time, growing up unchecked, had spoiled her wonted smooth temper, and made her at times disposed to murmur at the best of everything in life— and to be as unreasonably pettish as she appeared to the reader at the close of my first chapter.

  ― 29 ―

Chapter VI.

Introduces Mr Stubble's children, Dick, Bob, and Maggie; and his eccentric little domestic, Biddy Flynn.

DICK STUBBLE, Joe's eldest son, was what is sometimes called “a ne'er-do-weel;” or a “black sheep.” His education had been totally neglected, for there was not a school within thirty miles of his father's station; and as he grew up a stout, tall lad, he was as mischievous as a “native dingo,” and caused his parents endless trouble. Soon after they removed to Daisybank, all their children were sent to school, and Joe's mind was relieved of one great source of anxiety. But Dick had been too long accustomed to the freedom of the bush, and the unrestrained exercise of his own strong will, to patiently bear the discipline of the schoolmaster; and he often expressed his abhorrence of learning.

Archbishop Whately says, “Labourers who are employed in driving wedges into a block of wood are careful to use blows of no greater force than is just sufficient. If they strike too hard, the elasticity of the wood will throw out the wedge.”

Perhaps Dick's schoolmaster had not studied Whately's works. Whether or no, he did not practically endorse the principle embodied in the above homely figure, when imparting instruction to the stubborn mind of the neglected youth. He believed in the efficacy of hard blows in driving learning into dull or obstinate heads, and he beat Dick without either mercy or judgment; and the result was, that the boy became viciously inclined to revolt.

One morning Dick decamped with his father's favourite thorough-bred horse and his mother's purse; and from that day no tidings had been heard of the runaway, beyond a rumour that he had gone to the new diggings at Bendigo. It was a sad trial to his parents to part with their eldest son in that way, and deeply they lamented their folly in omitting to provide in some shape for his early mental and moral culture. All their wealth failed to assuage the sorrow which resulted to them from that neglect of parental duty.

  ― 30 ―

Bob Stubble was a fine specimen of an Australian youth, tall, broad-shouldered, and apparently as hardy as one of the iron-bark saplings of the forest. His well-formed face, bronzed with exposure to the sun, indexed honest good nature; and his whole mien betokened an independence and fear-naught self-reliance, which is so characteristic of “currency lads,” and of bush-bred lads especially. To quote Bob's own expression, “He had never seen a horse that he was afraid to mount, or a cow that he could not break into bail.” To have seen him mounted on his spirited hack, dashing through some of the formidable gullies of his rugged district, after a herd of young heifers or a straying colt, would have made an English fox-hunter shudder. He was as thorough a bushman as ever made “quart pot tea,” and could push his way across a new country with the intuitive tact of a black-fellow. Bob was very expert too with the rifle or fowling-piece. His stock of opossum and platypus skins and stuffed parrots was a little fortune. He had also a variety of snakes and other reptiles in his curiosity shop, as he called it—all of which he had killed and cured himself; and he was very proud when any intelligent visitor would look over his collection and tell him the name of any new object which had baffled his scientific research.

Bob was twenty-one years of age, and had lived under his parental roof nearly all his days. He went to Sydney once for a treat; but he missed his horse so much, and used to get so tired and foot-sore with walking about the dusty streets and dodging from the crowds of busy pedestrians, that long before his holiday term expired he “rolled up his swag,” and took steamer for home; and felt as rejoiced as a freed slave, when he once again beheld the old house on the green slope, encircled with orange trees and clustering vines, and heard the neighing of his frisky cob, “Cherrystone,” as he galloped across the clover paddock to welcome his master back again, and get his nose rubbed by Bob's fondling hand.

Bob had always been his mother's pet; but he had a spirit above the effeminacy which is usually the characteristic of those social pests, called spoilt boys. For all that, he was not the most dutiful youth in the land; he had a will of his own and a temper too, which was sometimes manifested in a way not at all encouraging to his parents. I do not notice the shady side of Master Bob's character in a fault-finding spirit. I am very proud of our Australian youths, and honestly believe them to be both physically and intellectually equal to the youth of

  ― 31 ―
any other nation on the earth. Of course they have failings; and perhaps the most distinguishable of their weaknesses (I speak of native lads in general) is a disposition to have their own way in spite of obstacles, moral or otherwise—in fact, some of them are as difficult to manage as their hardy bush horses. However, I do not mourn so much as some folks do over that indication of spirit; for now that the “schoolmaster is abroad,” and the ministers of the Gospel are abroad too, their influence will be mighty in training the indomitable energies of the “currency lads and lasses” into right directions; and then Australia will rapidly advance towards its destined status as the great Empire of the South. On this very morning I read, in the Sydney Herald, a most pleasing history (epitomised into six lines) of an Australian lad, one of the “Sydney Arabs.” A humane captain of a ship picked up a boy from the streets, and took him as apprentice. He was apt to learn, and his benefactor was willing to teach him. He rose rapidly in his profession, and he is now captain of a clipper ship in the China trade. I hope he will have the heart to throw “a tow-line” to many a poor friendless boy, whom he may fall in with on life's ocean, in grateful remembrance of his own kind helper.

I drop my pen for a few minutes to gaze from my window upon our lovely harbour. Its blue rippling waters are sparkling in the sunshine of this bracing winter's morning. Yonder lies the Vernon training ship, quietly anchored in the little bay before me. On board of that ship there are more than a hundred boys, who have been reclaimed from vagrancy, and are not only receiving a solid education, but are being taught a useful trade or calling. My heart swells with emotion as I reflect that many of those lads have been rescued from squalid poverty and vice; some perhaps from a prison life, or a felon's awful fate. And I feel grateful, too, to those kind philanthropists who have, at so much personal effort, established the “Training Ship.” It does not stretch my fancy overmuch to picture some of those bright boys, a few years hence, as captains or owners of ships sailing out of this port,—ay, possibly one of those striplings, whom I see nimbly mounting to the fore-top-sail yard of the Vernon, may fill the distinguished post which his friend and patron now occupies, as Premier of New South Wales! Who knows? Thanks for our glorious constitution! there is no positive barrier to check the ambition of any bright lad, even for that exalted office.

The following little incident will show Bob Stubble's wayward

  ― 32 ―
proclivities. It will also indicate the diverse opinions of his parents on the matter of discipline, and at the same time show the difficulties which beset Mr Stubble in the moral training of his family.

One day, when Bob was about fourteen years of age, Mrs Stubble saw him about to tear up his silk neck-tie to make a cracker for his stock-whip, and in a not very silvery key she shouted, “Hey, Bob! Drabbit the lad! If you rip up that neckerchief, I'll scat the ears off you, I will!”

“No fear!” replied Bob, in real currency slang; and forthwith he slit the neck-tie into three pieces, and began to twist them up, while his eyes flashed defiance.

“Barn 'ee! I heerd thee, young brat!” ejaculated his father, as he turned the corner of the cow-shed just in time to witness Bob's flagrant act of disobedience, and to deal him a backhanded slap on the head. “Take that now, and larn better manners; or I'll skin thee in half a minute.”

But timely as was that punishment, and richly as it was deserved too, Mr Stubble got no honour for its administration. Of course Bob objected to it, and howled as loudly as if his father were actually skinning him in the summary manner he had threatened. In a few seconds his sister Mag and Biddy the maid were on the spot, sympathising with him; while his mother, instead of seconding her husband's motion, began to scold him for hitting the boy too hard. To escape from the general grumble, Joe retired, as was his usual custom, and quietly smoked his pipe under the green wattle trees by the cow-bails. Bob, seeing that he had such a powerful majority with him, imagined, not only that he was right, but that he was greatly wronged by his sire; and his feelings were so deeply wounded, that more than a week elapsed before he could return even a monosyllabic answer when his father spoke to him.

Margaret Stubble, or Mag as she was familiarly called, was a tall, well-proportioned girl, with pleasing features, sunny hair, and laughing blue eyes—that is to say, her features were pleasing, and her eyes laughed lovingly, when she was in a good humour; but she sometimes disfigured her handsome face by pouting, which was a pity. She was about two years younger than her brother Bob, and had been educated with him at Daisybank, or she had been taught reading, writing, and arithmetic, which was all that was usually taught in country schools in those days. She was very fond of Bob, and always took

  ― 33 ―
his part whether he was right or wrong, and no matter who was in the opposition. She often accompanied him in his bush excursions, for she could ride a horse, kill a snake, or play a jew's harp with any lass in the district; she had also some little skill in skinning birds, and was useful to Bob in his ornithological experiments.

She had been tolerably well disciplined in domestic matters by her mother, who was a very tidy housewife. Mag could make a damper as light as a baker's loaf, and her pumpkin pasties were wonders in their way; but her sponge-cakes were almost perfection itself. She also knew how to salt a pig, to make candles, ketchup, jam, ginger-beer, and many other nice things. She was not a bad dairy-maid, and could milk a cow; but she had not done anything of the kind since she had been promoted to long frocks and was supposed to be “grown up.” Like Bob, she was petted by her mother, and could always ensure safe shelter under the maternal wing if her father scolded, as he sometimes did when his patience was over-tried by the exhibition of some act of extravagance or trumpery pride, or when his wife encroached too much on his right of rule.

The only female servant they kept in their establishment was Biddy Flynn; indeed, it was only since Mag had matured into a fine young lady that they had seen the necessity for an in-door servant. Biddy, though nearly fifty years of age, was as active as a girl; and was, as Joe remarked, “a rare hand to make work scarce.” She had lived for many years with a respectable family in the district, who, much to Biddy's regret, went to England, “lavin' her all alone in the worrld.” Gladly would she have accompanied them, but circumstances which she did not like to talk about prevented her; and being well known to Mr and Mrs Stubble, she hired with them as maid-of-all-work; “and indeed she found it all work and no play in that house,” as she sometimes grumblingly apostrophised.

Biddy was a native of the “Green Isle,” and quite an original in her small way. Though of diminutive stature, she was very strong and healthy.

“Shure thin I niver was sick in me life; and I don't want to be naythir,” was her usual reply if asked by strangers as to the state of her health. Though by no means handsome, there was something attractive in her sun-freckled face; and at times there was a comical twist about her mouth, and a twinkle in her little gray eyes, which no kindly person could help smiling at.

  ― 34 ―

Biddy had been nearly thirty years in the Colony, and when she was in a communicative mood, she showed that she had been pretty observant of passing events; indeed, her remarks occasionally evinced more than ordinary acuteness, “seeing as how she niver had a hap'orth of schoolin' in her life-time.” Her attire was in keeping with her character, and was odd enough. She usually wore a blue dungaree petticoat, and a “shower-of-hail” jacket, a coarse Holland sun-bonnet, or a cabbage-tree hat, and thick leather shoes. She always wore stockings on Sundays and holidays. When she went into the neighbouring township, which was not often, she wore her green merino gown, a crape shawl dyed brown (the gift of her late mistress), and her little rugged face inside a large Leghorn bonnet looked like a rock melon in a market basket.

Biddy was, in general, very reticent respecting her early history; and if asked by any inquisitive person how she came to the Colony, she would reply, while her mouth twitched comically, “Ah, thin, it was the King himself as sint me, so he did, bekase he knowed there was a lot ov haythins out here as wanted to be tached manners.” At another time she would say in reply to a similar impertinent question, “Well, ye see, as the ould song says, ‘some love to roam,’ an' thim sort ov folks don't often shtop at home, and make their minds aisy. Troth! an' if I'd done that same thing, I wudn't be here now, in this blazin' hot counthry, bothered intirely wid moskatees an' other varmint, all a-thryin to suck me as dhry as a back log. But niver mind. Sorra a hair I care for nothin'. I've got contintment in me heart; an' dear knows that's a blessin as many rich crathers 'ud like to buy if they cud, poor sowls!”

“I've sane a thing or two in me time, that I wudn't wish the likes o' you to see, Miss Maggie,” she once remarked when in one of her softest moods. “Ah! may God Almighty help all the poor little childers as are cast adrift on the worrld widout faathers an' mothers as I was! An' it's no wondher at all that I rin inta mischief an got ‘lagged for life;’ not a bit. Och, musha musha! I've had hapes ov throble since thin, so I have; an' some o' these days I'll tell ye a lot as I've gone through, Miss; 'cos I knows ye won't go blatherin' it agin to all the counthry—and maybe it'll do ye good to hear it: any way it won't do ye no harrm I'll ingage, for I wudn't sphake half a worrd as 'ud make ye blush, honey! no, not if all the fools in the land wud larf at it, an' shout, Bravo, Biddy!”

Biddy could never be induced to tell the fault for which she

  ― 35 ―
was transported, but it was generally supposed that it was for some hasty act of revenge upon a faithless lover. She had never been married; and when once asked why she had not, she replied, “Fegs thin, men are jist like young cows in the bail, niver to be depinded on, unless ye've got a rope on their leg.” She was thoroughly trustworthy, and affectionate to a degree, and never felt it a trouble to do anything either by day or by night for those who were kind to her. She was not averse to a little playful banter, and was seldom put out of temper by anything that was said to her in a good-natured way; but if she saw a design to insult her, her sharp little eyes would flash fire, and her active tongue would put any ordinary opponent to the rout.

She was not actually extravagant in her department of the household; still, having had the command of unlimited stores in the service of Squire Bligh, she felt a disagreeable restraint in Mrs Stubble's more homely establishment, and was conscious of the overlooking eyes of her mistress, perhaps oftener than was necessary. It was some time before she could appreciate the economy of her new mistress, and she often manifested pettishness, or resorted to expedients to evade the rules and by-laws which Mrs Stubble was over-fond of enacting, in the first overflow of her pride at having a maid-servant of her own to order about, and conscious that she was the first in her family who had had that honour.

“I have told you half a dozen times, Biddy, that I can't allow more than one candle alight at once out here,” said Mrs Stubble, suddenly entering the kitchen one night where Biddy was sitting darning worsted stockings with two lights on the table beside her.

“Shure, I've ony got one candle, missis!”

“Patience me! Do you mean to say I'm blind? what's this, and what's that? Don't they make two?”

“To be shure they don't, an' that's plain enough, for didn't I cut one candle in half? Here ye can see where I did it, soh,” exclaimed Biddy, at the same time taking the pieces out of the sockets and holding them up exultingly before the eyes of her irate mistress.

“Ha, ha, ha! the ould crather!” chuckled Biddy, as Mrs Stubble walked back to her sitting-room, grumbling all the way she went. “She'd betther be aisy wid Biddy Flynn, or she'll get her match, an' half as much agin. Dash it all! I don't want to waste her candles, not I; but I'd like to know

  ― 36 ―
what ould woman in the worrld can thuddle a worsted needle in the dark an' widout spectacles too? Poogh! there. I'll shtop till the moon gets up; nobody 'ull grudge me a bit ov moonshine, I'm thinkin,” she added, as she blew the lights out. Then drawing her stool near to the fire, she began to sing, “Erin go bragh,” to “kape herself from gittin' downright crass.”

  ― 37 ―

Chapter VII.

Colloquy between Bob Stubble and his sister, which clearly proved that she was in love with Ben Goldstone, the son and heir of a rich citizen of Sydney.

WHILE their parents were having the jarring colloquy described in my opening chapter, Bob Stubble and Maggie were jogging homeward on their horses. They had been to Daisybank to get the letters and newspapers at the post-office, and also to do a little shopping. Bob had a large parcel strapped before him on his saddle; and his sister carried a band-box, containing a new bonnet, and sundry other delicate articles, which she was unwilling to entrust to other hands.

“Come, Mag! brighten up a bit, and talk to a fellow. What is the use of sighing?” said Bob, after a rather long silence. “Don't be so moody, Mag.”

“I can't always be laughing and talking, you know, Bob; and I don't know why you and father think me moody because I am a little quieter than usual. I am not very well, so don't you make me worse.”

“Ah! you look poorly!” said Bob, with a merry glance at his sister's rosy face. “I'll be your doctor for once, Mag, and I'll cure you without physic. Here is a prescription. Sing this bit of old song as if you meant it:—

‘Men, I'm sure, were born to please us,
 Such their words and looks imply;
And we're dolts to let them tease us—
 If you would, so would not I.’

Ha, ha, ha! why, you are looking better already, Mag. But, joking aside, tell me, sissy: when you get a grand lady, and ride in your town carriage with a flunky behind you, will you be too proud to notice your big awkward brother Bob from the country, in his strapped Colonial tweed trousers, and cabbage-tree hat?”

“What a queer boy you are, Bob! You think of such out-of-the-way things. But I hope and trust you will not say

  ― 38 ―
anything to me about Mr Goldstone when any one else is by. I don't so much mind what you say when we are by ourselves; though of course it is silly of you to make such remarks as you have just made.”

“I didn't mention Goldstone's name at all; so that shows what your quiet thoughts are about. But I won't tease you, Mag. I am sure he is in love with you, and that's all about it.”

“What nonsense you talk, Bob! He has been riding about every day this week with Miss Hawkins, and hasn't been near our place since last Friday.”

“Oh, ho! that's what is the matter with you, is it? Jealousy! Now I understand it all. But you need not let that spoil your rest, for you have bewitched Ben's heart as certainly as I trapped the ‘dingo’ last night. I'll bet a guinea that neither Miss Hawkins nor any other miss in the district will cut you out, Mag; so, cheer up.”

“I should like to know how you can tell the state of his heart, clever as you think yourself.”

“Well, I'll tell you. When Ben has been out shooting with me lately, he has praised you up to the moon. ‘Where there is smoke there is always fire,’ as father says; and Ben is ‘sweet’ on you, or he wouldn't say so much in your favour.”

“He is a great spoony,” said Mag, with a short sigh.

“Well, if I don't tell him what you say, may I never burst my gun! By the by, Mag, I forgot to tell you Goldstone has given me his double-barrelled ‘Joe Manton,’ and such a stunning shot-belt.”

“I am sure he is very liberal. But where does he get all the money that you say he sports about with in such grand style?”

“Where! Why his father is as rich as a banker, and Ben says he will come in for all the property by and by; and there is nobody to share it with him, for he has neither brother nor sister, nor a single relative to claim the worth of a bullet.”

“He is very fortunate indeed. But I can't make him out exactly—he is so poetically flighty. What trade is he, Bob?”

“Trade, eh!” exclaimed Bob, with a shrug. “What is the use of a trade to a young fellow with half a city-full of houses all his own? He wouldn't like it, Mag, if he heard you ask that question. I think he has been in the navy a little while, for he talks sea lingo sometimes; but he knows no more about trade or business, in the common way, than my cob does.”

  ― 39 ―

“How ever came he to fall in love with me, Bob—that is to say, if he has really done so?” said Mag, with a coquettish toss of her sunny ringlets. “I am sure there are hosts of handsome girls in Sydney; and if he is so very rich, I suppose he may almost pick where he chooses.”

“Well, I will tell you one thing that he said to me, Mag; I could tell you fifty more if you wish to hear them. Says he to me, ‘Bob, I never saw any one sit a horse as your sister does.’ He saw you riding across the moors after that Wallaby that gave us the double at old Cobbera's cross-fence ‘She looks just like Dinah, the goddess of the chase,’ says he.”

“Diana, you goose!” suggested Maggie, laughing.

“Very well, anything you like, sissy. Ben is right enough anyhow, for I'd back you against all the Dianas that ever sat in a saddle; and I do believe that, if you were not my sister, I should tumble in love with you, head over heels, if I only saw you canter half a mile.”

“I should like to know how Sophy Rowley would feel if she heard you say that there was even a possibility of your loving any one on earth but herself, if it were only your sister Mag.”

“And I should like to know what Sam Rafter will say, when he finds you have cut him all to chips,” rejoined Bob, laughing.

“Faugh! gluepot! what do I care for him,” said Mag; “don't mention him to me again, Bob.”

“Ah, you didn't call him gluepot a month ago, Mag; and I don't like to hear you nickname him now, though you have almost caged a goldfinch. Sam is a better looking chap than Ben, nobody can deny that; still if you can get a rich man for a husband, you would be a simpleton to have one who has only his trade to depend on, and his old mother to keep besides. But give him up civilly, Mag; that's all I have got to say.”

“I never was engaged to Sam Rafter,” said Mag, in a tone of remonstrance. “He has thought proper to follow me home now and then, and to bring me nosegays and wooden money-boxes, and other trumpery; but I never even thanked him for anything, let alone told him that I loved him. Indeed I think it is very presumptuous of him to imagine such a thing.”

“Oh, ho, Mag! Come, now. Fair play is my motto. Didn't you encourage him to follow you home? Of course you did. You drew him after you with your eyes, if your tongue had nothing to do with it. All girls know how to bewitch the boys

  ― 40 ―
in that way. Take my word for it, Mag, Sam would not follow a girl about if she did not look sweet at him; for he is a manly, straight-up-and-down sort of fellow, though he is poor. I don't say that you were actually engaged to him, but you liked him above a bit, and you let him see it too, until Goldstone began to wheedle. Mind, I don't blame you for preferring Ben, but don't show contempt for poor Sam, or I'll stand up for him in a minute.”

“Why, I declare you are almost as warm about Sam as father is,” said Mag. “You are surprisingly fond of him all at once. I don't want to say anything against him—not I, indeed. He is a nice young man in his way, I daresay; but if I don't choose to have him for a husband, you can't make me, you know.”

“I have sometimes tried to knock down two birds at a shot, and have missed them both,” said Bob, dryly. “Take care you don't miss both your men, Mag, while trying to make a double smite.”

“By the by, Bob, when are you going out duck-shooting again?” asked Maggie, as though she were desirous of changing the conversation.

“Why don't you ask me when I am going to see Goldstone again? for that's what you mean, Mag. I can see what is in the corners of your eyes, as plainly as I see my horse's ears.”

“You are a provoking boy,” said Mag, giving him a playful flick on the shoulder with her little riding whip. “Well then, tell me when you are going to see Mr Goldstone again, if you will have it so.”

“I have promised to go with him on Wednesday, to have a pop at the Nankeen birds on Barnacle Island; but don't say anything about it at home. I shall have to take the cart in with a keg of butter in time to meet the morning's steamer to Sydney; and I want to get Jogger shod, and a few other odd jobs done at the blacksmith's; and in the meantime, I can go and have a little sport. I don't want father to know that I am going shooting, for he is as particular about my wasting time as if he were dependent upon my earnings. But do you want me to say anything to Ben for you, Mag?”

“Of course not, you silly fellow! I only wanted to know how much longer he is going to stay at the Major's.”

“Ah, yes, I understand. I'll find out for you, Mag. Don't you fret your little heart any more about Annie Hawkins, for you have caught Ben fast enough, never fear. But touch up

  ― 41 ―
your mare, Mag; and let us get over the boggy road at the end of the fences before dark.” Mag thereupon said, “Gee up, Jenny,” to her spirited little palfrey, and away she cantered, while Bob kept beside her with his cob at full trot.

The foregoing colloquy will indicate the state of Miss Stubble's heart, and a few words will explain the cause of the unusual moodiness which her father had observed with so much concern. The fact is, that Mag had been instigated by her mother to “set her cap” at Mr Goldstone; for the reputation of his immense wealth had quite fascinated the latter lady, and had indeed blinded them both to defects of character, which were too glaring to escape the most casual observer. For many nights, after Mr Stubble had retired to rest, unconscious that anything unusual was going on in his household, Mag and her mother were sitting up till a late hour “building castles in the air” with Goldstone's money, and devising plans of operation to draw him into a formal declaration of love; for though his manner had been very familiar, considering their short acquaintance, he had not actually “come to the point,” as Peggy called it.

“You do exactly as I have told you, my dear, and you've got him as safe as a cooped turkey-cock,” said Peggy, with a peculiar ogle of her little black eyes, which in her youthful days was probably a rather killing expression. “And mind, Mag, when he says snip, you say snap, directly minute.”

“Ah, but perhaps he won't say snip, mother,” sighed Mag.

“Never you fear, girl; he'll pretty soon out with what he feels, I'll warrant. If he bean't in love with you, Mag, I never knew what love is, that's all.”

Mag thought so too, and encouraged the idea, and a hundred other ideas springing therefrom, all favourable to herself as the bride elect of a wealthy man who had preferred her to the pick of the rank and fashion of the metropolis. But, alas! her bright hopes had lately given way to misgivings which saddened her pretty face, for Goldstone had absented himself from Buttercup-glen for nearly a week, and had been seen riding out every day with a niece of Major Hawkins. It is true that Miss Hawkins was quite a fright compared with Maggie—or so Maggie thought; but that fact could not chase away her fears that she had lost him, though she was unwilling that even her mother should know she felt so deeply on the subject.

  ― 42 ―

Chapter VIII.

A sulky trio.—Arrival of letter-bag containing letter from Ben Goldstone, asking permission to pay his addresses to Miss Maggie.

WHEN Bob and his sister reached home they found their mother sitting in the front verandah with visible signs of her recent excitement in her face; and it was not long before they knew the cause, for Peggy was never remarkable for a prudent reticence respecting her domestic troubles. She had often suffered for her lack of judgment in that way, and had good reason to regret that she had not thought a little more and spoken less about her real or imaginary grievances. But experience did not make her very wise.

After hearing her dolorous version of the disagreement between herself and her husband (in which she owned to a very small share of blame), Bob and Mag strongly sympathised with her, as usual; and when their father returned home about ten o'clock, there were three sulky faces for him to look at, which were enough to depress any ordinary man's spirits. But Joe was a philosopher in his way, as I have before shown; and his example is worthy of note by other unhappy sires in divided households. He had often seen those faces sullen, and had proved by repeated trials that gentle arguments were as powerless to cure ill-humour in its first stage, as they would be to draw cattle from a bog; so to avoid a domestic brawl, which even soft words would be sure to raise, he used to keep silent and try to show a cheerful face, even though his heart were aching with sadness.

Accordingly he opened the post-office bag, which Bob had carelessly thrown into a corner, and sat down at a side-table to read his correspondence. There were three letters in the bag. The first one Joe opened was from his agent in Sydney, advising him of a brisk demand for prime dairy-fed porkers, and of a fall of three pence a pound in butter. It also contained a pathetic refutation of a charge of neglect in returning empty butter kegs, and some other little differences of opinion respecting the weight of certain consignments. But

  ― 43 ―
those were controversial matters of too common occurrence to yield even the attraction which novelty sometimes lends even to disagreeable subjects, and Joe yawned over every sentence. The second letter was from a speculative friend in town, asking for the loan of twenty pounds, for only three weeks; but as Joe had not forgotten a former loan to the same person, which had extended over three years, he coolly threw the missive into the fire, and then opened the third letter, of which the following is a copy:—



“DEAR SIR,—I take the liberty of writing to inform you that I have formed a strong attachment to your daughter; and to request your permission to pay my addresses to that young lady with a view to marriage. Though I have not the honour of an intimate acquaintance with you, I presume that you know me sufficiently well to grant me the preliminary interview which I solicit. My father must be well known to you by name, if not otherwise; and I flatter myself there will be no objection to my suit on the ground of doubtful respectability. I may also state, that being my father's only son, I am heir-at-law to his property; besides having a present competency, derived under the will of my late grandfather, whom you doubtless knew by repute. I am at present staying with Major Hawkins, but shall probably return to Sydney next week. If you will in the meantime favour me with an intimation when it will be agreeable to you for me to wait on you personally, I shall be much obliged.—I remain, dear sir, yours respectfully, BENJAMIN GOLDSTONE.”

Joe's dubious looks as he read and re-read the latter document could not escape the notice of his family, who were sitting in the room, silently nursing their ill-humour, or occasionally interchanging short sentences in tones just above a whisper. It was Joe's usual custom to read all his correspondence aloud for the general edification; but he knew that at the present time his company were too sullen to be interested in the rise of pork or the fall of butter, and that the letter of the needy town friend would not call forth even an ironical “wish he may get it” from his wife, or a sly joke from Bob, which it would certainly have done in a peaceful season; so Joe ruminated in silence, while his family were secretly vexed

  ― 44 ―
that they were not made acquainted with his solemn thoughts. They could not but opine that the letter which father had last opened was on an exciting subject, for his winks and blinks, and his occasional interjections showed that plainly enough; but they were all too sulky to ask him any questions, and he did not volunteer a word of explanation, for he rightly judged that such an important subject should be discussed in a calmer temper than either of them just then evidenced. After a while, Joe folded up Goldstone's letter and put it into his pocket, and went into the garden for a walk, as he was accustomed to do when he had anything uncommon to cogitate.

“There was something queer in that last letter which father read, I'll bet twopence,” said Bob, looking sorry he could not guess what it was. “It made him twist his mouth about as if he were eating native currant-jam. I wonder what it is about?”

“Don't know, I'm sure,” replied his mother. “But I'll pretty soon find out after father's gone to sleep. I seed what pocket he put it into.”

“Perhaps it is a letter from the lawyer, wanting father to have another new trial with old Groodle for putting his corner post half a rod the wrong way,” suggested Bob.

“Not it, boy. The lawyer knows father won't have any more law about that twopenny-halfpenny corner post. He has had two trials, as they call 'em, and pretty dearly he has paid for the fun.”

“But didn't you teach me to sing ‘Try, try again,’ mother?” said Bob, laughing. “I wonder if it was a lawyer who made that little song?”

“Ah, well, it's no odds to me who made it; father won't try to move that old post again while I'm alive, that's certain,” said Peggy, positively. “The letter isn't about that concern, I know, or we should have heard father whistle directly he opened it.”

“Perhaps it's a letter from brother Dick,” whispered Mag, tenderly conscious that she was opening up a painful subject.

“Ah, poor dear boy! I'm 'feard we shall never hear from him again,” sighed Peggy. “It bean't from him neither, because he can't write—more's the pity.”

“Well, I don't see what is the use of trying to guess what the letter is about. We shall know when father chooses to tell us, and that will be quite soon enough for us if it is full of bad news; and if it's got good news in it, it won't spoil

  ― 45 ―
with keeping,” said Bob, who was anxious to stop a lamentation over his lost brother, which he saw was forthcoming. He then kissed his mother and sister, and they all retired for the night.

Long after midnight Mr Stubble might have been seen walking slowly up and down the centre path of his garden with his hands behind him, and his head bent downwards in the attitude of deep abstraction. Goldstone's letter had set him thinking, until, as he quaintly muttered, he was as dazed as though his brains were turned to cream cheese. He had sense enough left, however, to know that the letter was written in a civil style, and required a suitable reply; but what to say to it he could not make up his mind. He was certainly relieved from the exasperating belief that the young man was flirting with his daughter with dishonourable motives, for the letter plainly alluded to marriage. If his mind were equally free from misgivings respecting Goldstone's reputable habits, Joe would have felt some of his difficulties removed; though there would still be posing objections to the connexion. It was an unequal match, he thought; and notwithstanding the young man was rolling in riches, he would rather give Mag to Sam Rafter whose sole wealth were his tools and a small sum in the savings-bank. But then Sam had a thorough knowledge of his trade, and was both able and willing to work; he had a well-stored mind too, which Joe, humble as he was, highly appreciated; in short, “Sam was a real man,” as Joe tritely remarked. And he had troublesome doubts about the manly principles of Goldstone, simply on account of the companions with whom he was frequently associated, some of whom were well known to Joe as idle, dissolute young men, although of respectable parentage.

All these and other perplexing matters occupied the mind of Mr Stubble, as he perambulated the garden path till the moon began to dip low in the western sky, and the morning dew-drops on his whiskers warned him that he had better go in-doors, if he did not want to provoke a return of his old rheumatic pains; so he hastened in to bed.

  ― 46 ―

Chapter IX.

Discussion between Mr and Mrs Stubble respecting Goldstone's letter. —Maggie's joy and her mother's pride.

THE next morning, to the joy of Mr Stubble, his wife and daughter appeared at the breakfast-table with smiling faces. Such a brief season of sulkiness was unusual; but he was too much delighted with the change to speculate upon the cause of it. Perhaps he hopefully thought that they had seen the folly of showing ill-temper, and had resolved to act like sensible women in future; at any rate, he was not aware of the fact that they had had a private conference soon after sunrise, and resolved “to wheedle out of father” the purport of the mysterious letter, which Peggy had failed to discover by searching his pockets while he was asleep. They well knew father's susceptibility to kind words, for they had often proved it when they wanted to get something from him out of the common way. An endearing expression was as gladdening to his heart as bird music; and a pleasant look, or the touch of a gentle hand, would make his face brighten up with joy, even when he had lumbago or the earache. But it soon became evident, from his wary answers to their interrogations, that whatever was in the letter, father was not inclined to disclose it just then; and they were half sorry that they had debarred themselves the satisfaction of a moderate sulk without the anticipated result. Joe's experienced eyes could discover certain little physiognomical changes, like murky streaks on the horizon, which sailors know are signs of “dirty weather;” so, after breakfast, he quietly intimated to his wife that if she could spare half an hour he would like to have a private chat with her. She accordingly followed him into the best parlour, closed the door, and politely waited for him to speak first.

“I be bothered to tell'ee what's in my head, Peg,” began Joe, after sitting for some time silently fingering his whiskers. “But first and foremost, I want to get rid of summat as is making my conscience uneasy. I own that I be real sorry for

  ― 47 ―
what I said as worn't right yesterday. No honest man ought to be ashamed to say that much. Anybody may make a mistake and do what's wrong—that is human nature—and only rogues or fools refuse to own when they've gone astray. I told 'ee that I'd pitch young Master Goldstone head and heels into the lagoon if I catched 'en here again; and I be sorry I said that, Peg, because I have reason to think he wasn't coming here on purpose to play mischief with our gal. I thought he wor when I said it; and, by Job, I'd punish any mortal fellow on two legs who was coolly plotting to cast shame and sorrow into my house. But I ought to have know'd, Peg, if I'd a gived it a thought, that them heart-breaking rogues seldom or never meddle with a lass who has got a brother six feet high, or a feyther who knows how to handle a flail. I doan't want to say any more about what's gone and past, so give us a buss, Peg, and let us forgive and forget. Hearts should allers agree, though heads differ. There, now, thee 'st looking like my own loving Peggy long agone. I got a letter last night,” continued Joe, taking the missive from under the lining of his hat.

“Oh, yes, ah, that is the letter! In your hat, was it?” exclaimed Peggy, excitedly. “What is it all about? Read it out, will you, father?”

“Yes, yes, thee shall hear it all in a minute,” said Joe, putting on his spectacles; and then he slowly read the epistle which I have already transcribed, while Peggy's glistening eyes betokened her high appreciation of the composition as a whole.

“What does that mean, father?” asked Peggy, stopping Joe while he was spelling over the puzzling words—“preliminary interview.”

“I dunnow dezackly what 'en means, Peg, but 'tain't nothing uncommon, I don't think. Perhaps he wants to know if us have got any ready money to give away with Mag. Shouldn't wonder, for it's often axed for on wedding-days by gentlefolks; though it seems queer enough to me that a man should expect to be paid for marrying a good wife. It ought to be t'other way, to my thinking.”

“But Master Goldstone has got loads and loads of money, father. I heard all about that before I let him say a word to Mag. Ha, ha! I knowed what I was about.”

“That is the very reason why he may want a little more money, Peggy: any odds, it's the way of the world now-a-days,

  ― 48 ―
and us bean't much unlike other folks neither, when you come to think of it. Don't thee remember, lass, when us first went into Dab cottage at Chumleigh, with just fifty shilling's worth of furniture in it, how proud us was of our home, and that all the traps in it wor paid for honestly? Jingo! if anybody had a told us then that us 'ud have more than two thousand head of cattle of our own in a few years time, us wud have capered wi' joy, like chummies on May-day; and, sure enough, us 'ud have fancied we'd be contented with that too, to all the days of our lives. Well, thee know'st, Peg, that us worn't satisfied when us had got all that and more too; nor us worn't easy when us had more sovereigns than both of us could have carried on our backs and could have afforded a golden knocker to our door, and a silver shoe-scraper too, if us had a mind to be over-grand. Us wanted summat that us couldn't get then, and that just shows that it bean't in the nature of human creatures to have enough. Though Master Goldstone has got such heaps of money as thee talks about, Peg, I'll be bound he wants a little bit more. But never mind, it's no good talking; us can't stop the world from going round, and if a little money is all that is wanted to help our girl's happiness, I'll pretty soon hand it out, for barn it all, I don't want to hoard up my gold like a miser. Not I. What dost thee think about the letter, Peg? Thee hasn't said a word about that yet.”

“Oh, my! it's the best letter I ever heard in all my born days. I knowed he was a regular gentleman: I told you that, you know, father.”

“He be's a bit of a scholar, and no mistake, for he knows some nationlong words. But to my thinking, Peggy, Mag isn't the sort of gal for him. Her wud make a prime wife for a plain honest young fellow with enough common sense in his head to find out her value, and make her respect him; but her bean't fit for a lady,—to live in a grand house and manage a squad of servants; the poor wench ain't been used to it, and her wud be as awkward at it as I should be speechifying to a judge and jury with lawyer Windmore's wig and gown on. Then again, I'm afeard that this young fellow has tumbled in love too suddenly to be much in earnest; he hasn't had time to find out half Mag's goodness, and if it is her pretty face only that has smitten him, why, his love will soon go out like the fizz of a squib, for her won't allers be young and blooming, you know, and the first show of a

  ― 49 ―
wrinkle will scare him away from her. It is likely enough too that he'll soon be ashamed of her before his rich friends; I've seen that sort of thing before to-day, Peg. He'll find out that her bean't scholar enough to confab with them, and”——

“But she is a scholar, father,” interrupted Peggy. “I am sure Mag can read and write with any girl ever so far round about; and as for her ciphering, she bean't far out in that, I'll warrant, though I'm no judge.”

“Bless thee innocent heart, missis; doan't 'ee know that ladies must be able to fiddle on the pianney, and polly-voo French to their company, and work all sorts of fal-re-rals with beads and coloured worsted; and Mag knows no more about them things than Biddy Flynn does. Her can churn, and make a cheese, or do any other clever thing about a farm-house; but what's the good of all that sort of learning to her, if her marries Goldstone and goes to live among tip-top folks in Sydney? I tell thee what it is, Peggy, Mag won't be happy, and her had a hundred times better have Sam Rafter; that's my notion.”

“There now, I was certain sure you were going to talk about Sam Rafter before you had done. I tell you again, father, Mag doesn't like him, and her won't have him; and no blame to her neither. A girl has only one heart, you know, and surely she may have her say about it as well as her dad; and she would be a goof to give it away to a man that she doesn't like.”

“I doan't want her to have a man her don't like. Not I, missis. But her liked Sam well enough afore this grand gentleman turned up, and that makes me think it's money that her's in love with more than the man; for, barn it all, Sam's a nation sight better looking fellow than t'other, any day in the week, and Sundays especially, when he is figged out in his superfine church-going clothes.”

“But what does Bob think about it? I'll warrant he won't say half a word against Sam.”

“Why, Bob thinks as I think, of course, that Mag ought to look up in the world; and to marry a journeyman joiner would be looking exactly t'other way.”

“If that is all about it, I tell thee, Peg, Sam shan't be a journeyman another month. I'll start 'en in business for himself; and I'll lay any money he'll make a fortune by and bye, for he's just the chap as is likely to do't, and what's

  ― 50 ―
more, I'll engage he'll make good use of his money when he has earned it.”

“Mag can get a man with a great fortune, all ready made, Joe; and surely that is better than to scrape and toil for ever so many years to earn it, bean't it now?”

“Noa, I doan't believe it, missis; except Mr Goldstone had got more than twice as much gumption as I think he's got in his head. Even then Mag's ready-made fortune wouldn't be half so sweet to her as if her had scraped and toiled, as thee calls it, and helped to make it. Us never know the worth of water till the hole is dry. Dost thee think that a fellow who never lets his appetite rest long enough to grow hungry, would enjoy a grand feast half as much as a thrasher would relish a squab-pie or a figgy puddin'? Not he, indeed! And suppose when us lived in Dab cottage somebody had druved up in a cart, and tilted ten thousand golden sovereigns inside our front door, and said to us, ‘There, Joe and Peggy, there's a fortune for'ee; go and enjoy it.’ Dost thee think it wad have been as relishable to us as the fortune us have made for ourselves, after long years' hard labour?”

“I don't know, I'm sure, Joe, because I have never been tried in no such way as that; but I somehow think I should have liked it better than working hard; at any rate, I should like to have tried it. Scalls of money never would have scared me, master, nor, I don't believe it, would have scared you neither, for all your talk.”

“Ah, well, I see it bean't no good of me argufying any more with thee, Peggy,” said Joe, laughing. “If thee and Bob and Mag be all agreed about Goldstone, I won't stand out against him; that's all about it. Get me a good pen, and tell me how to answer his letter, and I'll do't in a crack. Let us hope it will turn out all right.”

“Don't you think I had better go and talk to Mag about it first of all, father. It is only natural for her to wish to have a voice in the thing, you know.”

“Yes, yes, of course; I forgot that, Peg. Go and talk to Mag, and I'll take a walk and try if I can get my think back again, for I seem to have been almost be-wattled for the last day or two.”

“Didn't I tell you, girl, that it was a letter from Mr Goldstone?” said Mrs Stubble exultingly as she entered Maggie's bed-room to acquaint her with the stimulating news.

“Never, mother! It can't be, surely!”

  ― 51 ―

“It is, I tell you, Mag. It's an offer of marriage. Here is the letter itself in a wrapper, smelling like roses and lavender water.”

Maggie took the letter, and blushed deeply as she read it through; then laughingly exclaimed “O mother, what shall I do? What shall I say about it?”

“Isn't it a beautiful letter, Mag? I knew very well I wasn't mistaken the very first time I saw Benjamin looking at you. I knew he was in love, safe as eggs. You mustn't try to deceive me in them things.”

“How ever could you tell, mother?”

“Tell, girl? why, easily enough; though I can't explain it rightly. He looked queer, you know, as if he'd die if he didn't get you. Can't ye understand?”

“Ha, ha, ha! how funny!” said Maggie. “That is exactly as I feel myself, mother.”

“You are a lucky lass, sure enough, Mag.”

“It will be a help to all the family, you know, mother. But what does father say to it?”

“He prefers Sam Rafter, of course; but after a long argification, he has promised to write a letter to Benjamin, and say he may come to see you if he likes.”

“How kind of him!” sighed Maggie. “Won't Bob be pleased?”

“I mean to say we have managed this job cleverly, Mag, and all in a fortnight too. Ha, ha, ha! Won't old Dame Rowley be savage? And Sam will be jealous enough to saw his own head off.”

“I was afraid something was the matter, as Benjamin stayed away so long, mother.”

“Nonsense, girl. I told you all along that Annie Hawkins wouldn't catch him, though she tried hard enough to do it, no doubt. You need not have been so miserable about it, Mag; but never mind, that's all over. Now we must set to work a little faster with the improvements to our dowdy old house, and get some new furniture in it before Sunday. The very sight of those rickety cedar chairs always makes me feel uneasy: they are not fit for a gentleman to sit upon: and that donkey sofa looks horridly common.”

“I don't like to see that picture of grandfather in a fustian coat, hanging right over the clock, mother. Couldn't you manage to hang it up in your bedroom?”

“If we take that thing down, Mag, father will be wofully

  ― 52 ―
cross. We must keep him in good humour; then we'll get all we want. I'll settle the picture, never fear; but don't you say anything about it.”

Writing a letter to Mr Goldstone was an arduous task to Joe, and he perspired over it as though he were bursting a cross-grained log. Peggy lent important aid in the composition, but Mag had to be summoned into the room on several occasions to arbitrate on disputed questions of orthography. After a while, however, the epistle was finished and despatched to the post-office, and then Maggie's heart began to flutter with anticipations too tender to be described in plain prose.

  ― 53 ―

Chapter X.

Bob Stubble and Biddy Flynn's disastrous ride to Daisybank.—Bob's humiliation before his grand young friends.—A sample of Biddy's philosophy.

BOB STUBBLE took no part in the discussion related in the preceding chapter. He had risen from his bed that morning before the magpies began to make the bush vocal with their matutinal melody, or the cockatoos and king-parrots awoke up for their customary gabbling conference as to what unlucky farmer they should lay under contribution for a breakfast of milky young maize. With a lighted lantern in his hand, Bob hastened to the stable, and gave old Jogger, the cart-horse, a feed of corn and a comforting rub down with a wisp of straw. He then tapped at Biddy Flynn's bedroom window, and bade her get up directly if she wished to go to Daisybank with him.

“Botheration! What for did ye wake me up when it 'aint nigh daylight? Yawgh! I don't want to go to town in the dark, an' maybe break me bones among the stumps, or git bogged in a mud-hole,” grumbled Biddy.

“Hold your cackle, can't you? I don't want father to see us start. It will be sunrise before we can get away, for I want my breakfast first. Come, get up, Biddy; there's a good old soul.”

“Och! an' ye're allers gettin' over owld Biddy wid yer blarney, so ye are. Jist go an' stir up the back log, and sling the tay-kettle over it, an' I'll be out wid yer in a jiffy, if I don't fall asleep agin while I'm wakin' up.”

Away went Bob, and soon he had charred the iron-bark log in the huge kitchen chimney, and made a blazing fire. Before the kettle had begun to sing, out came Biddy from her bedroom in simple morning attire, and busied herself in preparing breakfast for her young master and herself.

“Ye'll ate yer male in the kitchen this mornin', won't ye, Masther Bob?”

“Yes, of course; and don't you begin fizzing away with

  ― 54 ―
your frying-pan, or you'll wake up everybody in the house. What have you got cold in the cupboard, Biddy?”

“There's a peach-pie, an' a damper an' butther; nothin' more, barrin' a knuckle bone ov pork, what's polished pretty nigh as clane as the handle ov a knife.”

“Hand it all out, Biddy, and then go and polish yourself, for I want to be off at the first streak of daylight.”

“An' what for are ye in sich a mortial hurry-skurry this mornin', Masther Bob?” asked Biddy, as she placed the viands on the table.

“Never you mind; that's my business. Hand up the teapot, Biddy, and then go and get ready. I won't wait a minute after I get Jogger in the cart.”

“Save us all! what a flustration ye're in, an' nobody knows a ha'porth about it. But ye'd betther take care ye don't scalt yer teeth out wid this bilin' hot tay, or choke yerself wid a peach-stone.” Biddy then shuffled back to her chamber to put on her best gear while Bob ate his breakfast. Meanwhile I will explain the cause of his haste, which was so very unusual that Biddy “cudn't make it out at all, at all.”

During the last few weeks a fulsome pride had sprung up in Bob's breast, to which he had heretofore been a stranger. His reputation as a sportsman, such a crack shot with his long duck gun, and one who knew the haunts of all the game in the bush, had attracted Mr Goldstone, who, as I before stated, was on a visit to a gentleman residing not far from Daisybank. The result was, that in visiting Buttercup Glen, Goldstone saw and was smitten with Maggie at first sight; and Bob became so fascinated with his new friend's jaunty address and demeanour, that, although scarcely conscious of the fact, he began to imitate him in many ways, and to ignore his own natural free and easy manner for the assumed airs of a city dandy. He was highly elated, too, at the companionship of a gentleman who was generally believed to be very wealthy, and with whom all the young “nobs” in the neighbourhood associated.

Among the first indications of the unhealthy ambition which inflated Bob's heart was dissatisfaction with his lot and station in life, a growing disrespect for his unpolished parents, his father especially, and a distaste for his humble home. His contempt for the tip cart in which he had so often whistled on his way to the village, or home again, was increased every time he heard his fashionable friend speak of his “turn out” in Sydney, which Bob imagined was a very stylish one. He

  ― 55 ―
would almost have suffered scalping sooner than allow Goldstone to see him driving old Jogger in the “lumbering rattletrap,” which he began to think was hardly smart enough for a city greengrocer.

Bob had agreed to meet Goldstone at Daisybank that morning, and was most anxious not to do so until he had delivered his dairy produce to the steamboat agent, and had got rid of the loathsome cart, and the objectionable companionship of Biddy Flynn. It had been arranged by his mother and Mag the previous night that Biddy should go with him to Daisybank to buy a few new kitchen utensils, and to do a little shopping on her own account. She undertook to walk home again after she had completed her purchases, and Bob was to bring the things home in the cart when he returned in the evening. Bob had another reason for starting at such an early hour, which was a desire to avoid his father, knowing that he was going shooting for the day, or he would have grumbled at so much time being wasted in sport, when there was plenty of work to do on the farm. Bob's conscience was rather tender on that point, for he was aware that he had done little else but sport about with Goldstone for the last fortnight or more.

By the time the horse was harnessed Biddy was ready to start, though she was not in her most amiable humour, and her outward appearance was unusually rugged through dressing “in sich a red-hot hurry as if the house was on fire.” The sun was just rising as Biddy scrambled into the cart by the near wheel, after putting up the slip-rails; and before she could comfortably seat herself on a box of eggs, Bob had whipped Jogger into a trot, which turned the little woman over in a second, and further ruffled her disposition and slightly damaged her bonnet.

“Bad manners to yez, Masther Bob! did ye want to kill a crather out an' out? What for are yez in sich a mortial hurry that ye can't give a body time to sit down, nor to take a morsel ov breath without chokin' herself intirely. Troth, if I'd know'd ye'd be afther drivin away like a fire ingin, be dash'd iv I'd a got in the cart at all. Not I. Aisy, sir, aisy! I tell yez! Shure as death the wheels wull be off in a minute an' we shall be knocked into dead corpses. Shtop the baste, an' let me git out I say, iv ye won't drive along dacently. Fegs, I'd rather walk all the way there, iv I crawled on me knees, thin be boxed about in this haythinish way an' git me clothes

  ― 56 ―
spoilt, an' all me bones cracked, forby the life bein' scared clane out ov me.”

“Hold your noise, and sit still Biddy. You'll frighten the horse directly,” shouted Bob.

“Howld me noise, is it? Faix, then, I won't, an' that's plain enow, anyhow. If ye don't shtop the baste this blessed minute I'll scrache murther, so I will,” said Biddy, growing quite red with wrath and fear combined.

Bob could see that Biddy's temper was up, and he knew it would not be wise to trifle with her under such circumstances; so he very reluctantly reined Jogger into a more sober pace. But it was too much to expect that Biddy's ire would soften down as speedily as Jogger's paces; and there she sat on the egg-box, grumbling out her dissatisfaction at being “trated worser nor a fat calf goin' to markit,” and wishing that she had “shtopped in her bed comfitably instead of gittin' up in the middle ov the night to have all the sinse bumped out ov her in a dhirty owld cart.”

They jogged along tolerably easy for some time, when Bob, who had begun to grow impatient of their slow progress, broke out with wrathful emphasis,—“I can't go crawling along at this rate any longer, Biddy; I want to get to the township early; so hold tight, I am going to trot again.”

Slash went the whip, and off went the horse at a brisk trot, which soon freshened into a canter, and as the cart had no springs and the road was rough, Biddy was soon jolted off her seat again, notwithstanding her attention to Bob's hint to “hold tight.”

“Bedad, thin, do ye think I'm goin' to sit still an' be damaged for iver widout havin' a squeak for it?” said the little woman, in a rage, at the same time getting up and snatching the reins from Bob's hands. “I'll soon shtop the brute meself—woa! woa! woo!”

“Sit down, you old gingerbread-nut!” roared Bob, giving her a push which seated her on the bottom of the cart; but unluckily she clutched one rein in her hand, which she pulled with all her might. The consequence was, that the horse swerved aside, when the off-wheel came in contact with a stump, and in a twinkling the cart was upset, and Biddy and her master were lying on the road beside the overturned box of eggs and the keg of butter.

Biddy's loud shrieks as she fell from the cart vibrated through the clear morning air, and reached the ears of a knot

  ― 57 ―
of loungers on the steamboat wharf a mile away, and soon they were hurrying to the rescue. It happened that Mr Goldstone had that morning ridden in to the post-office with letters for Sydney, and on the way thither met Dick Swallow and his brother Fred. Seeing a crowd running in the direction of Biddy's cries, and being always ready for a little excitement of any sort, the three young gentlemen, who were well mounted, put spurs to their horses, and arrived first at the scene of disaster.

“Hullo, Stubble! I am sorry to see you have had a spill,” said Goldstone, jumping off his horse and going up to Bob to shake hands. At the same time, the young Swallows briefly expressed their sympathy.

“Oh, it is nothing,” stammered Bob, trying to laugh, but colouring intensely with wounded pride and confusion at being seen by his aristocratic friends in such a humiliating position.

“Ugh! nothin', do ye call it? Bad luck to yez for a cranky young spalpeen!” roared Biddy, who was by no means improved in appearance by the mud with which she was begrimed. “Here's a lovely keg o'butther all sprawlin' in the dirrt, an' a big box of eggs knocked into flip; forbye dashin' the brains out of meself pretty nigh; an' ye call that nothin', do ye, yer haythin?”

“Well, it can't be helped; so hold your noise, Biddy,” said Bob, picking up his gun, and preparing to leave the spot. “You had better go on to Daisybank, and I'll get one of these men that's coming to take charge of the horse and cart.”

“An' did yez want me to lave the butther lyin' in the road?” asked Biddy, with a sneer, while she began to roll up her sleeves for action.

“Yes, yes; it is dirty. Let it lie where it is; the man will pick up the keg. Here, my man, I'll give you a crown if you will take charge of this—aw—horse and concern; leave them at the blacksmith's yonder, and—aw”——

“Be the powers, I'll niver lave this beautiful lock ov butther to waste, whiles I've got two fists on me. Not I; so yez naydn't be tellin' the man to take away the impty keg till I fill it. Shure the missis wud brawl the ears aff o' me, if I did that same, soh!” said Biddy, beginning to gather up the butter with her hands, and putting it into the keg, to the extreme annoyance of Bob, who could not but observe that his three fashionable friends were unable to restrain their mirth at his comical predicament.

  ― 58 ―

“You are an obstinate old creature!” exclaimed Bob, in an affected tone of voice.

“Bad scran to yez, Bob Stubble! what do ye mane at all?” vociferated Biddy, thoroughly aroused, and standing up with a defiant air, and her hands covered with butter. “An' am I to be tumbled upside down, an' me neck a'most broke, an' thin to be called ugly names by the likes o' you. Ugh! git out widge yer! Don't ye be comin' the boss over Biddy Flynn, or ye'll only be showin' them grinnin' gossoons there that I don't care a ha'porth for yez.”

“How dare you presume to speak to me in that style, you saucy old bush-cat?” shouted Bob, forgetting his assumed haughty air for an instant; at the same time he gave Biddy an unceremonious push out of his way.

“What do ye mane at all by pushing me? Yah! be off wid ye!” she yelled, with her face at white heat, as Bob was about to give her a second push; at the same time she shook the dirty butter off her hands at his head, and immediately prepared to administer a larger doze, if necessary to do so in self-defence.

It is hard to say what summary vengeance Bob would have taken in the savageness of his soul; and it is probable that Biddy would have found her head inside the butter-tub, had not Goldstone seized the arm of the bespattered youth, and led him to a cottage near at hand; while the crowd were laughing loudly at his expense, and at the same time were lauding Biddy for her pluck in basting her domineering master.

Never before had Bob's sensitive feelings received such a shock as they did on that unlucky morning, though he had experienced above an average share of casualties in the course of his lifelong residence in the bush. He had been horned by a wild heifer, speared by a hostile black fellow, and half-drowned on two occasions when crossing swollen rivers. He had been lost in the bush for three days, and subsisted on a kangaroo rat and fern-root. He had been fired at when galloping away from bushrangers, and had had numerous minor disasters from bolting or back-jumping horses, and was once upset in a mailcoach. But the whole of those mishaps combined did not cause him so much mental discomfiture as the upset in the cart that morning, together with the unprecedented abuse from Biddy. The reason for his chagrin I have before hinted at; and it will be judged that it was not the mere tumble out

  ― 59 ―
of the vehicle, or even the eccentric behaviour of Biddy. Those occurrences would not have troubled him over much had there been no quizzical spectators at hand; but to be thus debased in the presence of Goldstone and the young Swallows, to be called “Bob Stubble,” and to be bespattered with butter before those friends whom he was most anxious to impress with a sense of his importance, and in the midst of a laughing street crowd, was more than his fortitude could bear, and wrath was beginning to master his prudence and all his other virtues too.

“Never mind, Stubble; don't bother yourself any more about it, old fellow! I understand it all; the woman is mad,” said Goldstone, consolingly, as Bob was giving a stammering explanation of the mishap, and cleansing his face at the same time. Bob was especially anxious for his friends to know that it was a very uncommon event for Biddy to ride in a cart with him, and that her rude familiarity in addressing him was an unlicensed liberty which she had never before taken. Goldstone and the Swallows appeared to sympathise with him, and warmly expressed their opinion that Biddy was an old savage who deserved to be ducked to death in a swill-tub. Still Bob could not but suspect from their smirky looks that they were longing to laugh out their suppressed merriment.

In order to show his young sporting friends how indifferent he was to such common trifles as a horse and cart, and a few pounds' worth of dairy produce, Bob, after washing his face, accompanied his friends to the Daisybank Inn for refreshments, leaving Biddy to repair damages in any way she chose. Some of the bystanders had righted the cart and rubbed the dust off the horse; others separated the sound eggs from the broken ones; while Biddy gathered up the butter and gradually regained her good temper.

“Troth, thin, it won't be wasted afther all,” quoth Biddy, as she dabbed the last handful into the tub. “And if there shud be a little tint or two ov clane mud in it, it won't pison nobody, I'll warrant; an' may be it'll all shake to the bottom ov the keg. There aint a morsel of home dirt in it anyhow, an' that's more nor some ov the slap-dash butther-makers on this side of the counthry can say—more shame for 'em.”

“What are you going to do with it, Biddy?” asked the man whom Bob had hired to take charge of the horse and cart.

“Do wid it? Why, sind it to markit, to be shure. So be

  ― 60 ―
afther puttin' the tub in the carrt, an' let's be off out ov this pritty quick, or we'll miss the shtamer, an' thin I'll be bothered. Everybody in Sydney won't know that the butther has been scraped up out of the mud, and it wull be harrd if somebody won't ate it. By the same token, it's a good job for a lot of us poor unfortinate mortials, that all the worrld don't know the scrapes we've bin in, or don't see the little bits ov dirt there are sticking to our characters; an' maybe that's the very rayson why the worst ov us will find a friend sometimes. Here, honies! ye may suck all thim cracked eggs, if ye like; an' look out for chicks!” she added, addressing a lot of young urchins, who had gathered round to see the fun, or to share the spoil.

“Arrah, Judy! me darlint! let me lift you into your chariot,” said Mr Snubby, the pompous little district constable (a man of immense importance in his own way); at the same time he took hold of Biddy's arms, with mock gallantry.

“Kape yer slippery paws off me, iv ye plase, Misther Trap! I've got money in me pocket,” exclaimed Biddy, who saw that he was trying to make fun of her.

“You are an ugly old woman!” said Mr Snubby, standing back with offended dignity.

“It's a good job for me I'm not an ugly ould man, for that 'ud be a mighty dale worse,” replied Biddy, with a significant look at the sour-faced functionary. She then climbed into the cart beside her new driver, and away they jogged, while the crowd were laughing at the discomfited Mr Snubby.

  ― 61 ―

Chapter XI.

Efforts of Mrs Stubble to make their old house look stylish.—Bob's sport on Barnacle Island.—Biddy and the bear.—Bob's reflections on practical joking.

AFTER doing her business in the township, Biddy Flynn walked home again, with her shoes tucked under her arm, for, being new, they galled her feet, and made her “onaisy.” On her arrival at the Glen, she found “the ould house close up turned into rubbidge intirely, an' sorra a tidy place in it where she could sit down in pace, and rist her bruised bones.”

It is necessary to explain the movement which had so marred Biddy's comfort, and drawn forth the above impatient remark. Mrs Stubble and Maggie had put their heads together to effect certain alterations in the interior of their house. They were doubtful if father would favour their plans, but they resolved to try their persuasive influence with him, and they knew that they would have a better chance of success if Biddy were out of the way, for upon such an important matter she would most certainly obtrude her opinion; and her judgment often influenced Mr Stubble, for the simple reason that she usually displayed a good deal of practical wisdom, although she had a quaint way of expressing it. Their house contained a good many rooms, but they were all small; and Maggie had suggested that, by merely knocking down a lath-and-plaster partition, they could make two apartments into one, which would do nicely for a drawing-room. Her mother was delighted at the idea, and said she knew no reason why they should not have a little bit of style about their house as well as other folks, who had not half as much money as themselves, consequently had less cause to be proud.

“Humph! drawing-room, indeed! I don't see the good of it, Peg; for none of us knows how to draw, if us had time to spare for it,” said Joe, after his wife had explained the plan in her most persuasive manner.

“You don't exactly understand the thing, master,” said

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Peggy. “A drawing-room is a sort of bettermost room, you know, to put visitors in when they come to see us; the same as Mrs Drydun had at Luckyboy.”

“Well, it's my notion, Peg, that us have got plenty of rooms, good enough for anybody who isn't too proud for such homely folks as us be; and any room in the house is plenty big enough to hold all the friends us have got hereabouts.”

“But you know, Joe, that you have written to Mr Goldstone, and told him that he may court Mag.”

“Ees, that's right enough, missis; but surely thee doan't want to knock two rooms into one on purpose for two young uns to coart in. Us didn't want so much room as all that in days agone. Mr Goldstone bean't such a mighty big chap in size, and Mag isn't nigh hand as fat as her mother.”

“You are very provoking, father,” said Peggy, in a rather petulant tone. “You know what I mean well enough. I don't see why we should live in this plain pauperish way, when we have ever so much more money than some of our neighbours who live in style, and enjoy themselves. It is high time for us to get out of this beggarly way of living.”

“Oh, aye! now I begin to see what thee means, Peggy. Thee wants to be grand-like; that's it, is it? I be afeard I shall spoil thee, though; for it bean't in my grain to take a high polish. But please theeself, lass; knock down the partition, if that will make thee happy. I doan't care what thee dost, so long as thee looks sweet.”

Barney, their handy-man, was called in forthwith; and in a short time the partition was down, and the comfort of the house was annihilated. Myriads of white ants were exposed to view at the same time; and when Biddy returned, the house was in the state of confusion which she graphically described in her own vernacular:—

“Save us all! and what an ugly mess ye are making here!” said Biddy, addressing Barney, but intending her remarks to reach other ears too. “What on airth are ye doin' at all? Thryin' to cotch all the varmin at onst? or are ye ony jist scaring away the rats by makin' 'em belave the owld house is goin' to tumble down althegether? Troth, it looks likely enough to do it; so ye'd betther take care ov yer cobbera, Barney.”

“We are going to make a drawing-room,” replied Barney, with a quiet chuckle at the astounded looks of Biddy.

“Och Mike! a drawin'-room is it they want? It'ull be as handy to 'em as a four-post bed 'ud be to owld Polly out in the

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stock-yard yinder. Ha, ha, ha! Dash'd, if I can help laughin', though I'm rale crass. Poogh! what a dhirty dust ye're kickin' up, Barney. Can't ye strike aisy? But never mind, sorra a hair I care; hit out how ye like, and ye'll clane yer muck up afther ye too, for niver a broom or a brush will I fist this blissed day to plase anybody alive, and ye may take my worrd for that same.” Biddy then trotted to the kitchen, grumbling, as she went, about the pride of some folks, “who were allers breakin' their backs to appear grander nor nature meant 'em to be, and makin' every poor body under 'em as miserable as a sick beggar.”

Biddy did not mention the disasters of the morning to any one in the house; for, indignant as she had been with her young master, she liked him too well to get him into trouble, and when her anger had subsided, she was more inclined to blame herself than him. Kindness of heart was one of her prominent characteristics: and though she was quick in her temper and sharp enough in her denunciation of wrong-doing, she was always more ready to praise than to blame; and, in her own words, “she wudn't hurrt a hair ov a rat's tail if she know'd it, especially if the varmint didn't come anigh her at all.”

A short distance from Daisybank is a very picturesque little island, overgrown with mangrove bushes and swamp oak-trees. Bob Stubble had had many dainty meals of teal, plover, black ducks and other game from Barnacle Island. Occasionally he shot a black swan, which is not a particularly tender bird, and requires more curry-powder to disguise its carrion flavour than is agreeable to delicate stomachs; consequently it is not regarded as a very desirable dish for the table. But if nothing better was to be met with (which rarely happened), the sportsman could always count upon bagging plenty of nankeen crane (night-heron), if he were not fastidious about the quality of his game. Hundreds of those nocturnal birds were to be seen any day dosing among the branches of the oak-trees, and might be knocked down by the most ordinary marksman.

After leaving the inn that morning, Bob started in a small boat for Barnacle Island, in company with his three friends and two blackfellows, who were very expert boatmen as well as keen sportsmen. Each man carried a double-barrelled gun with plenty of ammunition. As the tide was low, the boat could not get within a hundred yards of the island; so the gentlemen were carried on shore by the blacks, who sank so

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deeply in the mud at times that it was doubtful if they would not have to drop their heavy burdens in order to extricate themselves; however, they struggled manfully onward, laughing merrily all the while, and at length landed their passengers dry-shod.

A flock of black ducks took wing at their approach, and flew away far down the river; but the disappointment at not being able to have a pop at them was soon forgotten in the excitement of seeing hundreds of night-heron opening their drowsy eyes to see who were invading their little island home, and disturbing their morning slumbers. Bang! bang! bang! went the guns, and down fell the birds almost as fast as the delighted blackfellows could pick them up; and every one seemed pleased at the sport except Bob, who had missed his first bird, and in his chagrin and over-anxiety to hit the second one, he missed that also. He could not reasonably blame his gun, for he had previously praised it beyond its due; and he could not excuse his blundering by accusing the birds of coyness, for the poor sleepy-headed creatures had not sense enough to fly even beyond pistol-shot; so while he muttered out some half-intelligible excuse to his laughing friends, he mentally blamed Biddy Flynn for unsettling his nerves, and thus spoiling his reputation as a crack shot in the eyes of the young Swallows, who did not forget to twit him for his awkwardness. It is very probable that his unusual libation at the inn that morning had more to do with his failure than poor Biddy had; but Bob forgot that in his excitment, while he secretly resolved to be revenged on the unsuspecting old woman the first opportunity he had. It is no wonder, then, that he was sullen when he reached home soon after dusk that evening.

Biddy ran out with a lantern when she heard him drive up to the slip-rails; and by way of showing that she had forgotten or forgiven his disagreeable behaviour in the morning, she said in a cheerful tone, “I'm rale glad to see ye home agin safe an' sound, Masther Bob. An' have yez had any shport to-day, sir?”

“Yes; I knocked down an old cackling goose,” said Bob, sharply.

“ 'Deed, fegs! An'ye don't call that shport for a gintleman what any ould 'ooman cud do wid a broomstick?” replied Biddy, who knew very well what Bob meant.

“Don't talk to me. Put down the lantern, and go and mind your pots and pans,” growled Bob.

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“Ah, ma bougha! thin me pots an' pans are purtier things to look at nor your surly face, anyhow; so take the lantern an' light yerself, an' ye can let me know whin ye want me nixt time,” retorted Biddy; and forthwith she trotted back to her kitchen in a ruffled mood.

I have not thought it necessary to follow Bob and his companions through all their exploits that day. They had no lack of sport, however; for when they grew tired of knocking down nankeen birds, they left the island for a thick brush on the river-bank, where wallabi and other wild animals abounded. Amongst their captures was a full-grown native bear (koala). One of the blacks cut his way to the top of a tall gum-tree, and brought down the bear alive. Bob had secured that as his share of the day's spoil, and had taken it home with him in the cart, intending to stuff it for his curiosity shop.

Bob's anger was aroused at Biddy's last retort; so, without pausing for reflection, he dragged the bear from the cart, and pushed it quietly into the kitchen, the door of which was invitingly ajar. “See if that is a purtier thing to look at than my surly face,” he muttered to himself as he walked away.

But it is only fair to say that Bob had too much good sense to delight in mischievous practical jokes; and he had no sooner put the bear inside the door than he regretted doing so, for he knew that Biddy had been very timid of bush animals ever since the day she was clawed by an “old man” kangaroo. He stood for a minute or two, irresolute whether to go into the kitchen and drag the bear out again; but he reasoned that if he did so, Biddy would certainly scold him for putting it in, and he thought it would very likely run out of its own accord. So he put his horse into the stable, and then went into the house, and soon forgot Biddy and the bear in the excitement of listening to his mother's animated account of the honour that was about to fall upon the family, and in hearing his sister read Goldstone's letter aloud for the seventh time that day.

Soon afterwards he retired to bed, but it was some time before he could compose himself to sleep, for his conscience troubled him. He felt grieved for his unmanly attempt to frighten a poor old woman, who was always ready to do a kind act for him when he treated her properly. Heartily he hoped that the bear had escaped to the bush, though he wanted it for his museum. He was just dozing off when loud shrieks

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from Biddy aroused him, and every one else in the house besides. In another second he heard his father's voice asking, “What's the matter now?”

“Whaa-a! hurry, masther! hurry! an' bring a gun or a pishtle widge yer! Some ugly rascal is under me bed, so he is! Whaa-a! make haste, masther dear!”

“Hallo! hallo! What's up?” asked Bob, who had hastily donned part of his clothing, and run to Biddy's room door before any other person could get there.

“Oh, macree aisthig! I'm skeer'd to death intirely. Come in, Masther Bob; for the dear life o'ye, come in, an' cotch this great big fellow under me bed.”

“What is it, Biddy?” asked Bob again, entering the room, his face drawn into a most unnatural shape with his efforts to suppress his laughter, although he really felt ashamed of himself. “Where is it? What is it?”

“Dear knows what it is at all; but it's under me bed, shure. For the love ov marcy, don't let it come anigh me agin, Masther Bob,” whined Biddy, who was coiled up under the bed-clothes.

“Here he is! here he is! don't be afraid, Biddy. I've got him tightly enough,” shouted Bob, as he seized the bear by the nape of the neck, and dragged him from his corner.

“Arrah! blissings on ye, Masther Bob. I'm iverlastinly obliged to yez, so I am. Pull him out, sir, iv ye plase. Who is he, sir?”

“It's only a bear,” said Bob.

“A bear! Och, murther! It's a marcy the dhirty baste didn't bite the legs clane off me. How in the worrld did the crathur come to git in here, I'd like to know? Thankee kindly, Masther Bob; plase to shut the door tight, sir. Dear life, what a fright I'm afther gittin'!”

The next morning Biddy was overflowing with gratitude to Bob for his timely help in her distress, and at the same time she humbly begged his pardon for her shocking bad manners on the previous morning. Bob felt his conscience twinge, while a blush of shame covered his honest face, and he was about to confess that her thanks were undeserved, when the dirty butter rose to his memory; so he mentally cried “quits.”

“The boy who threw a stone at a dog, which missed the dog and struck his cruel stepmother, thought that, though he otherwise intended it, the stone was not thrown away.” So Bob, with his bear, did not mean to frighten Biddy so

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thoroughly, yet he consoled himself with the thought that she was not wholly undeserving of punishment. But notwithstanding that reflection, he could not acquit himself for his thoughtless trick; and he resolved that he would in future eschew practical jokes, from a conviction that they usually began in mischief and ended in disaster. His manly resolution is worthy of imitation by all young folks; and both young and old would do well to remember the motto of Cicero the sage—“Moderation should be used in joking.”

The letter which had been despatched to Mr Goldstone shortly led to an interview, and to his acceptance as the affianced lover of Miss Stubble. In view of the forthcoming alliance, the importance of every member of the household, save Joe and Biddy, was enhanced a hundredfold in their own estimation, if not in the eyes of their gossiping neighbours, some of whom enviously declared, “the match was all for money on one side, but what it was for on the other side they could not imagine, for Mag had nothing to commend her to the notice of a rich gentleman, except it was her pride; and as for her connexions, the less said about low people the better!”

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Chapter XII.

Mr Peter Rowley's model farm.—Mrs Rowley's domestic economy.— Mrs Stubble's disdainful remarks on her thrifty neighbour.— Biddy Flynn's reflections on the growing pride of the family.

ADJACENT to Buttercup Glen lived Mr Peter Rowley, who owned a section which he had bought many years before, when the upset price of land was only five shillings an acre. Half of his lot was swampy, but the remainder was rich brush land, which, to quote a saying of a celebrated wit, “only required to be tickled with a plough to laugh into a harvest.” Mr Rowley, however, was not so much a poet as he was a practical farmer; so he did not believe in merely tickling the ground with a plough and harrow, and then sitting down till harvest began to laugh, and let the grubs and weeds laugh at him in the meantime. He knew that the Divine edict which, in creation's infancy, decreed that “man should eat bread in the sweat of his face,” had never been rescinded, and he cheerfully submitted to it, believing it to be a part of the infinitely wise economy of the great Creator.

Mr Rowley farmed his ground well; and though he did not make what a squatter would consider a satisfactory income out of it, he made a comfortable living, and could save a little money besides. It is rare to meet with a man in New South Wales who has grown rich by merely cultivating his land; indeed, farmers, as a class, are poor at the present time. Various calamities have befallen them for several successive years, such as floods, droughts, rust, &c.; and some of them are well-nigh disheartened. But I believe that better times are already dawning on them; and there is no doubt in my mind that eventually this colony will be as great in agriculture as it is in pastoral and mineral resources.

I need not minutely explain how carefully Mr Rowley drained his land, nor the attention he paid to the alternation of crops; but those matters were important parts of his system which puzzled some of his farming neighbours, who had

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long been wedded to the practice, so common in the colony, of enforcing two crops a year off their land without any variation, and in most cases with mere surface-ploughing. His economical arrangements, too, for saving every atom of manure, liquid or otherwise, was a joke to many around him, who did not believe that what they called virgin soil would need such artificial help in their time. But results may be seen this day, and they clearly testify to the advantage of skilful method. Mr Rowley's farm is in a high state of cultivation, and yields a good return for his industry, while many of the adjacent farms are so impoverished and overgrown with noxious weeds, that they are scarcely fit for grazing draught-cattle; and some of the late occupants have been literally starved out.

The storekeepers in Daisybank were glad to buy wheat or maize the produce of Mr Rowley's farm, for they knew it was always well cleaned and free from ryegrass seeds or broken cobs and damaged grains. His dairy produce, too, commanded the highest market prices, and the butchers almost raced after his fat calves and porkers. Peter had planted a lot of rosecuttings behind a three-rail fence, which enclosed about two acres of ground adjacent to his house; and in a few years he had a splendid hedge, which defied the ingress of boys or cattle, besides being ornamental and delightfully fragrant. He was also saved the expense of a new fence, for by the time the old posts were rotted in the ground the hedge had become impenetrable.

Within that enclosure was a variety of fruit-trees, including orange, lemon, citron, and banana; and as Peter had been careful to plant the best of the respective kinds of trees, his fruit was of superior quality, and would always sell when the produce of other orchards would not. He planted a few hundred vines, and usually made two casks of wine and a cask of vinegar each year, besides sending a good many grapes to market. He was as careful in the choice of his breeding-stock as he had been in the selection of trees for his orchard; his maxim being, that a bad tree will occupy as much space as a good one, and an ill-bred beast will eat as much, or sometimes more, than a well-bred one; and his horses and cattle usually met with ready buyers when he had any to sell. In short, Mr Rowley was a sensible, far-seeing man, who, having chosen farming as his calling, devoted his best energies to acquire a knowledge of it, and he had been amply repaid for his trouble. Similar results will generally follow

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an intelligent perseverance in any other occupation in life, of which abundant testimony is to be seen in this land and elsewhere.

Mrs Rowley was a quiet, inoffensive woman, and the grateful aspiration of her heart each day was—

“Oh may I still contented be
With what kind Heaven has given me:
And though I may not seem so blest
As others, think my lot the best.”

She was scrupulously cleanly, and economical almost to a fault. She could not bear to see anything wasted, and that feeling had nearly grown into a disposition to hoard before she was aware of it. Still, she was not mean in any way. If sudden disaster affected either the health or the circumstances of any of her neighbours, no one was more ready to run to their relief than Mrs Rowley, and her help was given ungrudgingly, though with a calm judgment which was not always appreciated; and while she was ever ready to help the helpless, she set her face like a flint against idleness or extravagance of any kind. Gossiping housewives often ridiculed her “cheese-paring economy;” but it would have been better for them had they profited by her thrifty example; their homes would have been rendered more comfortable, and perhaps their husbands would have been less often seen wasting their time and money in public-house taprooms.

Those of my readers who have visited some of the rural homesteads in the interior of this colony have doubtless observed an abundance of empty bottles and jars which had contained delicacies of various kinds, imported from distant lands. A few years ago, during the height of the extravagance which was so general after the grand discovery of gold, those discarded bottles and jars were more particularly noticeable. Not only in the vicinity of rural homes, but also in towns, those empty trophies of bygone luxuries were to be seen, and heaps of bottles and jars were as common in backyards as dust-bins. Perhaps there is not much to be said against the consumption of imported pickles, fruits, jams, and the like, by persons living in the city, because few of them have the advantage of garden grounds attached to their dwellings; consequently they are dependent upon the shopkeeper for everything they consume, down to the simple pot-herbs with which they season their broth. But in the majority of homes in the country, there can be very little excuse for

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spending money for such articles as can be easily produced by careful housewives—

“Dainties unbought, the produce of the farm.”

When the writer was on a visit to London, in 1854, he heard a manufacturer of oilman's stores remark, “that the Australians must be amazingly fond of pickles and preserves.” His whole staff of employés had been busy day and night, for many weeks, executing orders for thousands of cases of those luxuries for the Sydney market.

Well the London oilman might wonder, and, doubtless, some of the American exporters wonder, and perhaps laugh too, while they are coopering up barrels of their dried apples for our market. In the name of common thrift, it may be asked, Why not dry our own apples, if we want such leathery edibles? Surely our summer sun is warm enough for the operation, and there is no scarcity of pippins. It is a fact, which a glance at our commercial statistics will reveal, that even in these comparatively hard times we colonists expend a large sum of money annually for foreign vegetables and fruits, when our own rich land is capable of producing all that we can reasonably wish for in that way. I am not going to give an essay on protection, nor on free-trade, but I would gladly recommend the study of domestic economy in general.

Mrs Rowley's store-room was a nice, cool, brick-paved apartment, adjoining the dairy, with a simple arrangement for excluding flies and dust, but admitting a current of air. The sun could seldom get a peep at the shingles through the thick branches of acacia which overshadowed the roof. Her shelves were not very showy, but they were strong, as they had need to be, for they held many jars and bottles of pickles, jams, honey, ketchup, marmalade, vinegar, wine, lemon-syrup, and other home-made delicacies. From the beams of the ceiling were suspended bladders of lard, hams, chaps, and flitches of bacon, in tempting profusion; also, ropes of onions, and bunches of herbs. In the coolest corner was a keg of ginger-beer on tap. In another corner was a boxful of home-made candles, and beside it was a harness-cask filled with prime pickled pork.

After showing any intelligent visitor through her store-room, Mrs Rowley would usually say, with modest pride, “I'll warrant all those things are good and wholesome, for I made or preserved them with my own hands; and if they don't look quite so tempting, or are not bottled up so smartly, as the

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shop wares, I can be sure they are free from adulteration. And another recommendation is, that they don't cost me much ready money, for they are nearly all produced on our own farm, except the bottles and jars.”

Mr Rowley was a kind man, ever ready to oblige in any way in his power, and quite free from petty querulous notions, which so often make near neighbours enemies to each other. If Mr Stubble's troublesome bull broke down a weak panel in their dividing fence, and committed a trespass, Peter would merely drive the beast out again, and send a good-natured message to his friend Joe to mend the fence; or, if any of Peter's cattle wandered into Joe's enclosures, he would act in a similar neighbourly way. There never were any disagreeable words between them, or threats of impounding, or Court of Request suits for damages. In short, they were sensible, peace-loving men, and were better disposed than to cause each other loss or annoyance about trifling matters, which are common enough in the country, and are sometimes unavoidable.

Mrs Stubble and Mrs Rowley did not agree so well as their husbands. Though they never actually quarrelled, they held such opposite views on many domestic subjects that their pleasant intercourse was thereby marred. Peggy often expressed uncomplimentary opinions of her neighbour's general management; and she was more particularly eloquent if Joe innocently lauded anything that had struck his fancy when paying a visit to the house of an evening, to smoke a friendly pipe with Peter and chat over the affairs of the world.

“Pooh! I don't believe in stewing snakes to buy soap with the fat,” exclaimed Peggy one day, when her husband had explained some little economical arrangement which he had observed that morning in Mrs Rowley's store-room.

“If her ever stewed down a snake, I'll warrant her didn't put the fat in with her kitchen-stuff, mother,” said Joe, smiling. “Her put it away safe enough in a gallipot. The blackfellows' scroggies (doctors) say it's a real good remedy for sprains or bruises. But who told thee about her stewed snakes?”

“Never mind; I shall not tell you who told me. She is too much of a nipper for me to copy, I can tell you that. I know how to manage my house without going to her for advice; and it isn't very nice for me to hear you everlastingly praising up all you see her do. There is no butter like Mrs

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Rowley's make, and as for her bacon, one would think she fattened her pigs on raspberries and cream.”

“Come, come, lass; doan't 'ee be so captious. Mrs Rowley be's always axing kindly after thee, and bothering me to take thee over to see her.”

“I don't care if I never darken her doors again; for go when I will, she is sure to begin prating to me about a new way of making some trumpery old mess or other, or about religion, or something else that isn't agreeable. If she likes to live in the linny to save dirting the floor of her house, I don't and won't; so that's plain. I mean to have comfort so long as I can pay for it. But don't say any more to me about her, Stubble, or we shall have words.”

“I don't want to say any more about her if thee don't like it, Peg; but barn it all! doan't'ee say her house bean't comfortable, for that is wrong, anyway; and I don't like to hear folks spoken ill of, no matter who 'em be.”

“Well, I mean to say that our house is comfortable, and, what's more, it is fit for any respectable friend to come into, and no brass kettles on the best parlour sideboard,” said Peggy, warmly.

“Our house was a plaguey deal more comfortable to my mind, Peggy, afore thee turned it upside down, and stuffed it full of fashionable jimcrackery, what's not half so useful as brass kettles and such like. I can't go and take a nap on the sofa, on a warm afternoon, without being hooshed at like a cat in a bonnet-box. Bang'd if I can see the good of having rooms that are too grand to be used.”

“That's just exactly what ould Andy Blake sed whin his new wife wudn't let the donkey sleep in the skillion,” muttered Biddy, who had entered the room unnoticed. She was always ready to have her say on the current topic of conversation.

“How many times have I told you to keep your tongue still when you come into this room, Biddy?” asked Mrs Stubble, sharply.

“Dear knows how many times, missis; but shure ye're allers tellin' me somethin' or other that I forgit to remember. I ax yer pardin'; but it's true enough ye've spoilt the convanience ov this ould house, tryin' to make it look jintale, an' ye'll niver do that same, no more nor ye cud make a baker's cart into a doctor's gig.”

“I will not allow you to pass your remarks on what I do.

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Well I'm sure! How dare you? Go into your kitchen this instant, and mind your work.”

“I'm just goin', ma'am. Troth, an' there's nothin' else to mind in this place but work, work; an' I knows who it is as makes most of it too,” soliloquised Biddy, as she re-entered the kitchen. “Dash it all! I mustn't shpake at all now but missis ruffles up as if I was goin' to rob her. She thinks she's mighty like a lady all the while, no doubt; but she's no more like a lady nor I'm like a jintleman, not a bit. Ayah! the pride of the crayther puts me in mind ov King Calabash, the black-fellow in Colonel Bullrush's ould red jacket, an' nothin' else on him at all, barrin' a brass plate slung round his neck wid all his dignity printed on it. Ha, ha, ha! This is a rum worrld, so it is; an' dear knows, there's mighty little ov the fun that's in it that poor craythers like myself wud git, if upstart folks cud have everything their own way, an' iv slavery was lawful.”

“Whatever are you muttering about, Biddy?” asked Mrs Stubble, imperatively, as she followed her maid to the kitchen.

“I was jist shpakin' to meself a bit, ma'am, that's all.”

“You have no business to speak to yourself in my hearing.”

“Save us all, missis! wud ye be afther tyin' me tongue down, like the cork in a bottle ov ginger-pop? Shure, I niver heard ov the like, even in Norfolk Island itself.”

“I will not be spoken to, Biddy.”

“Well ma'am, wid respect to yez, iv ye can shtop a tongue in a live head, ye'll be more cleverer nor all the mimbers ov Parliament in the worrld, an' the Emperor of Roosher forbye; manin' no offince.”

“I tell you again I will not allow you to answer me in my own house,” vociferated Mrs Stubble, at the same time stamping her foot.

“Thin I won't shpake another worrd, ma'am, good or bad; anythin' for pace and quietness,” said Biddy; and then she softly whispered, as her mistress returned to the parlour, “shure, thin, ye can't shtop me from thinkin', any way; an' iv ye know'd what I am afther thinkin' about yerself jist now, ye'd be ropeable, so ye wud. Ha, ha! I can't help laughin', but I suppose I'll be gagged for doin' that same, by an' bye. Ha, ha! It's a free counthry now, so it is; an' it's a pity that old 'ooman didn't come here awhile agone, for she wud have made a rale out-an'-out matron for the Parramatta factory.”

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Chapter XIII.

Introduces Sophy Rowley and Sam Rafter, the journeyman joiner.— Remarks on local influences.—Bob Stubble's complacency at his defeat in love matters.

SOPHY ROWLEY, the only daughter of the honest old pair just introduced, was a pretty-looking girl of about nineteen years of age; of artless, unpretending manners, and thoroughly domesticated habits. She was born at Briarburn (the name of her father's farm), and had been carefully trained by her devoted parents. Of course she liked a little bit of fun now and then, but she did not dislike work, and rarely or never neglected important duties for pastime of any sort. She had received a useful education at a day-school at Daisybank, and had been a scholar in a Sunday-school there, until she grew old enough to be a teacher. Since then she had been most diligent in studying to qualify herself for the duties of her office. She felt a real interest in the welfare of her pupils, and received their love and confidence in return.

Maggie Stubble and Sophy had been schoolfellows, and were at one time warmly attached to each other, but of late Maggie had slighted her unpretending friend in a way which she could not fail to notice; and though she did not resent the treatment in an ill-natured way, she had too much honest pride to obtrude her friendship upon one who had so plainly shown that she did not value it.

Bob Stubble had long shown a partiality for Sophy, which was observed by her watchful parents. It is true he had never consulted them, or made to their daughter what could be properly called a declaration of love; but that they attributed to his natural shyness, for they could have no doubt as to the object of his frequent visits to their house. Mr and Mrs Rowley had often talked the matter over, but were strangely perplexed when trying to decide what answer to give to Bob if he “popped the question,” which they daily expected him to do.

“Bob is a smart fellow,” remarked Mr Rowley, as he and

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his wife were one day discussing the merits and demerits of the youth. “There is not a lad in the district that knows more about cattle than he does, and he is pretty knowing in many other things; still, I do not think he is exactly the one to make our girl happy for life, and I cannot make up my mind that it would be a safe match for her.”

“He is very steady, and a well-spoken young fellow, Peter,” said Mrs Rowley, with a sort of inquiring glance at her spouse.

“Yes, he is all that, my dear, and more too; but I take it that a man who totally disregards the divine command to keep the Sabbath-day holy has not much religion; consequently it would be an unequal yoke for Sophy, and we could not expect their union to be a happy one.

“That is just what I have been thinking, Peter; and I believe it is the very thing that stops us from making up our minds to say yes, if he should ask us to let him have Sophy. Every day since she has been born we have asked God to teach us to train her in the right way, and it seems to me to be going in the face of Providence to give her to a man who does not ‘fear God and keep His commandments.’ But Bob is an honest, good-natured lad, and he has got sense enough in his head to know what is lawful and right. He may get religion, you know, Peter.”

“Yes, mother, he may get it easily enough, if he will only seek it in the right way, and I believe he knows the way too; but he must show proofs to us that he really does possess it, before we can safely give our girl to him. I do not believe in the notion I have heard some people propound, that a good woman can always influence her husband. It is flattering to womankind I daresay, but I have no faith in it. It may be possible for her to do it to some extent, but it is a dangerous experiment for any young girl to make. She had better try to reform a man before marriage, for if she has not influence over him then, it is ten to one if she will ever have it, and she will run a terrible risk of being influenced by him to her own ruin. That is my opinion, mother; and if you agree, I think it will be well for one of us to tell Sophy our mind, and advise her how to act with Bob in future. I am sure she will dutifully accede to our wishes, for she knows that we have her best interests at heart.”

Mr and Mrs Rowley saw eye to eye in most things, especially in the important matter of training their only daughter; and they never had any of those jarring arguments which so often

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mar the happiness of man and wife. After tea that evening, Peter rode into a Church meeting at Daisybank; and while he was away, Mrs Rowley had a long conversation with Sophy, and learned from her the exact state of her mind towards Bob. She admitted that she had liked him very well a year or two ago, but that the feeling had not strengthened upon a longer acquaintance; and lately she fancied that he had been influenced by his sister to slight her, for there had been a marked alteration in his demeanour towards her, inasmuch as she had resolved before her mother spoke to her to discontinue her intimacy with him, as soon as she could do so without disturbing the neighbourly feelings of the two families. Moreover, Sophy confessed, after some hesitation, that she had a growing regard for another young man, who had shown her respectful attention, though he had never even whispered a word of love in her hearing. That young man, she blushingly stated, was Samuel Rafter, the young joiner of Daisybank.

Sophy might with good reason have admired Sam for his handsome face and manly figure; but there were other attractions which had more influence over the sedate young maiden's heart; and Mrs Rowley's eyes glistened with tears of joy and pride as she heard her daughter declare that she never would marry any one, however high his social position might be, if he did not possess true religion, which is the spring source of all good qualities, and without which she could not hope to be happy with any husband. “God bless you, my dear child!” said Mrs Rowley, kissing her affectionately; “you have filled my heart with gladness, and I am sure your dear father will rejoice too, when I tell him what you have said to me. It will be a gloomy day for us when you leave our home for one of your own, and I have no wish to hasten the time. Solicitude for your happiness has induced me to learn your feelings for young Stubble, and now I know how to act towards him.”

Samuel Rafter was a bustling young man, about twenty-four years of age. He was born in the neighbourhood of Daisybank, and had served his apprenticeship to Mr Clamp, the master-builder. I have already alluded to Sam's handsome face and athletic frame. His head was a study for a phrenologist, but, above all, his heart was sound.

Sam's widowed mother lived in a neat little cottage of her own, on the outskirts of Daisybank; and during the term of his apprenticeship, she had a hard struggle to keep a comfortable

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home for herself and her only son. Her poor old back often ached very much with sitting many hours every day of the week, making cabbage-tree hats for their mutual support; but when Sam was out of his time, he would not suffer her to work at hat-making, and he hired a woman for a day in each week to do the domestic drudgery. When most of the working-men of Daisybank rushed to the diggings, leaving their families to shift for themselves, Sam nobly resolved that he would not leave his poor old mother alone for all the gold in the land. He kept to his trade, and in consequence of the scarcity of workmen and abundance of money, he could readily earn from twenty-five to thirty shillings a-day; so he made the most of the good times, and often worked a quarter of a day overtime, or did odd jobs in his own little workshop at home, for which he got well paid.

It is a remarkable fact, that out of the many persons of the working-class with whom I was acquainted in those exciting days of high prices, I could name but very few indeed who carefully husbanded their earnings, and who could say, when the excitement had somewhat subsided, that they were really better off for the unprecedentedly high wages which they had received. Sam Rafter, however, was one of the rare exceptions. His early-formed habits of frugality and industry were never vitiated, or even influenced, by the examples of extravagance and idleness which surrounded him. He made money fast, but he saved it; and not one of his fellow-workmen who had rushed to the diggings was so well off as himself at the year's end; while many of them returned penniless, and with their health broken down by severe bodily exertion, and the privations and hardships which were inseparable from a digger's life in those early days of gold-seeking.

Another strong reason which Sam had for not going to the diggings was, that he was a teacher in the Sunday-school, and leader of the little choir in the church; and he knew that there was no one who would fill his offices if he vacated them just then. Conscience told him that it was his duty to remain; so that decided it, and all the tempting reports from the gold-fields did not induce him to swerve.

The Great Teacher himself said, “A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country.” It is very likely that Sam might have improved his social position had he removed from the neighbourhood where he was bred and born, for, in addition to a fine manly figure, he had a strong intellect.

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His early education had been neglected, but he diligently applied himself to self-culture, in which he was greatly assisted by a little book, written by Rev. J. Paxton Hood, called “Self-education.” Sam has often recommended the same useful work to young men of his acquaintance. There were no mutual-improvement classes or reading or lecture rooms at Daisybank in those days, and it occurred to Sam that something of the kind might be inaugurated: so he took great pains to prepare a lecture to young men, and got the use of the court-house to deliver it in. He had no pedantic motive in coming out as a lecturer, but simply a desire to induce some thoughtless lads in the village to read and study, instead of wasting their evenings in riotous games, to the annoyance of quiet folk.

It is likely enough that, had any pretentious stranger announced a lecture, he would have had an approving audience; but poor Sam's first attempt to enlighten his friends in that way was a failure, for the very reason which should have ensured its success—he was well known to them all. The old gentleman who was asked to preside at the lecture said, “Pooh, pooh! What does that lad know about lecturing? He had better stick to his tool-basket.” It was urged that Sam's boldness might incite others in the district “to come out” in the same way, but the old gentleman still declined to countenance presumption by taking the chair. An old woman said reproachfully, “Why, I knew him when he used to run about the streets without shoes or stockings; so I'm sure I shall not go to hear him.” The lads for whose benefit Sam had taken all the pains, ridiculed the whole affair, and only went for the avowed purpose of “making a fool of Chips;” thus showing that they were fools themselves.

Many young lecturers or preachers, and young authors too, have winced under the lashings of critics; and some sensitive minds have been permanently weakened by such onslaughts, like a tree bowed to the ground by the fury of a hurricane without elasticity enough to rise again. Sam Rafter was naturally annoyed for a while at the treatment his first literary effort had received; but he had too much energy of character to be disheartened by the remarks of a few prejudiced persons, who had condemned his lecture without hearing it, or at any rate without understanding it. He locked the manuscript in his desk, remarking to himself, as he did so, “Perhaps this snubbing is all for the best. If I had been applauded, it

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might have made me too self-confident, and I might have come out as a Mentor before I had the necessary qualification; and then of course I should have merited the contempt of sensible folks. I will diligently strive to increase my little stock of knowledge; and when I next appear as a lecturer perhaps I shall be better appreciated, for I will take care that it shall be in some place where there are not so many old fogies present who knew me when I was a little boy, and who seem to regard me as a boy still, despite the evidence of my whiskers. Ah, well! it is all right, I am sure,” he continued, “and it will doubtless conduce in some way to my good, though I cannot see the working of it just at present. ‘If God be for us, who can be against us?’ ”

That was the way Sam usually derived comfort under trials or difficulties which he could not exactly see through. Opposition only “put him on his mettle,” as he called it, and brought out qualities which he otherwise would not have known that he possessed.

I was present at a dinner given by a rejected candidate for the representation of an electorate in one of the northern districts of this colony to a few of his supporters. In the course of his speech, after his health was drunk, the gentleman jocosely remarked: “The main reason my opponents have given for rejecting me as their representative is—‘That I was once a boy about their town.’ Now, most of us have been boys about some place or other; but it is plain that a boy does not always get most appreciated in his native place.”

Thus a ridiculous prejudice lost that electorate one of the wisest and best men that ever sat in our legislative halls. He was returned for another constituency, and he afterwards filled a seat in the “Upper House” until his death. It is true that he was a “boy about N——,” a poor boy too; but he left that town while in his boyhood, and in course of time he rose by his own energy and talent to be a wealthy and highly influential man. Foremost in every useful work, he lived respected and died regretted, and his memory is revered by thousands who knew his sterling worth. Though I have not given his name, doubtless some of my readers will recognise the picture of one of their warmest friends.

It is my deliberate opinion that where there are no inseparable family ties, or other important considerations or influences, it is advisable for young men who have their way to work up in life, to leave their native home—especially if it be situate

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in a small country town; for in general they will have a better chance of distinguishing themselves where they were not known as poor boys.

It is likely that the local influences alluded to lowered Sam Rafter in the estimation of Miss Stubble, and steeled her heart to the softer influence of love. There was certainly nothing in his personal appearance for her to object to; on the contrary, there was everything which most women would think attractive; besides, his character was unblemished, and his habits steady in the extreme. But all those excellencies were overlooked or slighted by purse-proud Maggie; and she treated the modest advances of Sam first with flirting indifference, then with a disdain which he could not misunderstand. So, with a proper manly spirit, he ceased his attentions to her, and after a time begun to look tenderly at Sophy Rowley, and I have before stated that she regarded him with growing affection. It was not long before Sam proposed in due form, and was accepted by Sophy with the unhesitating assent of her parents.

Bob Stubble soon heard of the engagement, and doubtless felt a little chagrined, for he really liked Sophy. However, he consoled himself by saying that she was too prosy to suit him, altogether too sedate for a young girl of her age. The new companionship of Goldstone perhaps helped to keep Bob from thinking of his defeat, and it was not apparent to any one that he grieved much about it. Maggie and her mother were glad that there was now no probability of a close connexion with such a disagreeably strait-laced family as the Rowleys, and tried to make Bob believe that he ought to look for a wife in a much more elevated circle of society.

“All right! I am not in a hurry to wed. Who knows that I may not smite some fine girl with plenty of money? Many worse-looking fellows than I have made a fortune in that way.” As Bob gave expression to those half-jocular sentiments, he fondled his young beard, and looked as striking as if he were standing for his photograph.

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Chapter XIV.

Introduces Simon Goldstone, the city capitalist, and Ben Goldstone, his son.—A glance at the early history of that fast youth.—His school-days, and his travels.

MR GOLDSTONE, senior, lived in an old-fashioned house on the Parramatta Road, whither he had gone, after retiring from business, a short time before the date of my story. There was a lugubrious look about the dwelling, and its grounds around were as barren as a sea-beach; but it suited its owner, who had always manifested a contempt for fashion; and though he liked flowers, he had never tried to cultivate any.

Mr Goldstone (or old Simon, as he was generally styled) was a man of spare proportions, approaching to seventy years of age. From his every-day dress, which looked almost as aged as himself, he might have been mistaken for a respectable beggar; but a mere glance at his countenance would dispel the illusion, for it bore unmistakable marks of superior intellect; and his abstracted air proved that he was not on the alert for the alms of the philanthropic, nor for objects whereupon to exercise his own dwarfed charity. He was not often seen walking in company with any person, but he seemed to make up for the lack of society by talking to himself. If all the citizens were of his mind, cab and omnibus owners would have been starved into some other calling, for he never patronised them. His gait was quick for his age, and he usually chose the most secluded streets to walk in. He apparently took very little notice of passing objects, and seldom accosted any person he met; but if he were spoken to he would reply with gentlemanly courtesy, and if he could be drawn into a conversation upon books, his extensive knowledge was a marvellous contrast to his insignificant externals. Indeed, Simon was a learned man, but he was niggardly even of his wisdom, and no one was enlightened by it.

Mr Goldstone had been in the colony nearly half-a-century, and was as well known in Sydney as the obelisk in Macquarie Place. At one time he held an office of distinction under

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Government, in which he laid the foundation of his fortune. Rumour said he had dabbled a good deal in commissariat contracts. I have no evidence of that, however; in fact, legal proofs of such jobbery were not often procurable, though there can be no moral doubt that jobs were done on an extensive scale. For many years Simon lived in Slumm Street, in a large house of his own, the frowsy exterior of which was more than matched by its internal odours; but he seldom went out of it for sanitary purposes, though his appearance showed that he needed fresh air.

The nature of his vocation was not intimated by any visible sign about his dwelling; still he did business to a considerable extent, and many needy tradesmen and luxurious young sparks found their way to Simon's house, and he was always glad to see them, though he seldom asked any one to eat or drink with him.

If he were not worth the “mint of money” which public opinion credited him with, he certainly owned a good many houses, which had fallen into his possession through the inability of mortgagers to redeem them. At one time, this accumulation of real property caused him more restless tossing about in his bed than some of his humble neighbours would have felt at the loss of all they owned. His extreme caution had prevented his lending, in any case, more than half the current value of the houses and tenements which were given as security; but when bad times came, the majority of his clients were unable to redeem their properties, and Simon found himself the unwilling owner of houses in almost every street in Sydney. That circumstance preyed on his mind, and induced an obstinate attack of dyspepsia, which nearly shrivelled him to death. To insure all his property against fire cost him an aggravating amount of ready money —and not one of his houses had ever been burned down, to encourage him a bit; but he could not insure at all against the over-reaching of mercenary assessors or tricky tenants. A hard shower in the night would give him a cold sweat, for he was certain to have visits at day-dawn from drenched-out tenants, with exaggerated reports of leaky roofs and fallen plaster, or blocked-up drains, and cause a further drain on his funds. A heavy hail-storm one day smashed all his sky-lights and his north-west windows; and a glazier, who tried to look sorry for the mishap, asked forty-five pounds to repair the damage. His tenants sometimes ran away without paying

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little matters of rent due; and when the houses were untenanted, petty thieves usually stole the fixtures, and “Tom and Jerry boys” wrenched his knockers off. Those additional trials might have been obviated by employing an agent to look after his property; but he was afraid the agent might run away, or otherwise rob him—he had heard of such unlawful doings. Altogether, Simon looked upon himself as the most unfortunate of men, for during a season of severe commercial distress, when he ought to have been rejoicing—for he might have got almost anything he liked to ask for his ready coin—to know that so much of it was locked up in unsaleable houses was grievous in the extreme; and it was cynically remarked by one of his prejudiced clients, that “Old Simon would have poisoned himself, only that drugs were dear.”

But a good time was coming, though he could not see it beforehand any clearer than his neighbours did. The gold, which had slumbered undisturbed for ages in the bed of Summerhill Creek, suddenly aroused from its long nap, and set all the New South Welshmen dancing “the perfect cure.” Up went the price of everything like magic, and Simon went halfcrazy with joy, for his despised houses began to let at fabulous rentals, and he became as rich as a nabob. In his first transport of delight at such unlooked-for good luck, he resolved to retire from business, which had in a great measure retired from him since he had parted with his ready money. He removed into his house on the Parramatta Road, which had been untenanted for a long time; and there he hoped to enjoy himself for life, over the thousands of volumes which he had accumulated, or in watching the increasing value of his houses, and totting up his daily income.

Many years before, when suitable wives were not so easy to find as they are at present, Simon married a young woman who had been his servant. The union was not a happy one; for as Sarah Farden was uneducated, she was not a companion for her husband, and her sullen intractable temper made her particularly disagreeable to him, insomuch that before he had been a month married, he wished himself single again. In addition to other infirmities of character and habit, she had a fondness for stimulants, which all the sober reasoning of her husband failed to check, and at length he was reluctantly compelled to publicly caution “all persons not to give credit to any one on his account without his written authority.” After that ominous announcement, some of the busy-body

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neighbours stepped in, for the ostensible purpose of making peace between the jarring pair, and of course made matters worse by their interference. Mrs Farden, his wife's mother, came out strongly on her daughter's side, and used to tell Simon her mind with a candour that was sometimes quite startling. So, between wife, and mother-in-law, and gossiping neighbours, the poor man's life was made thoroughly miserable; and he was seriously planning a separation when death stepped in and cancelled the conjugal bond which had been so galling to both parties.

Mrs Goldstone died soon after giving birth to a child, which was taken charge of by her mother, who lived near Pennant Hills. Simon loved his little son, but he did not reverence the grandmother; and though he punctually remitted a stipulated sum for the maintenance of the infant, he did not see it very often, because he must needs have seen its nurse at the same time, and, as I have before intimated, he had already seen too much of her.

At ten years old, Master Benjamin was as perfect a specimen of a spoiled boy as ever was seen on Pennant Hills or elsewhere; and he became at length such a nuisance in the homestead, that his peace-loving old grandsire vowed he would go shepherding if his wife did not either get rid of the boy or teach him manners. A smart argument followed that declaration, in which grandfather got the worst of it, and the result was, that Benny became more obstreperous than before, and teased the poor old man to such an extent, that, finding soft words and hard arguments were alike inoperative, he had recourse to a stick, and that brought about a climacteric which was not anticipated by any one. The following brief account of the incident will show the boy Ben's playful proclivities, and his taste for thrilling amusement.

One day his grandfather was pruning the topmost shoots of a pear-tree in his orchard, when a neighbour fortunately walked up just as Master Ben had begun to saw off the limb of the tree upon which his unconscious old relative was standing. In another minute or two grandfather would have fallen like a blighted bergamot, and perhaps have been seriously injured.

“Oh, such fun!” exclaimed the urchin, running to his grand mother in high glee, after the neighbour had taken the saw from him. From his funny report, granny was of opinion that it was only a childish freak, not worth making a fuss about, but grandfather took a different view of it, and, with unprecedented

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firmness, declared that it was a piece of premeditated mischief which called for a solemn recognition, and he forthwith gave Ben what is commonly called “a good hiding” with a pear-tree switch. Being the first hiding Ben had ever felt, it was strange to him, and he did not like it; he wriggled about like a hooked eel, and roared for mercy, while grandfather held him tightly by the arm; but as soon as he was let free, he flung a tomahawk at the old gentleman's head, and then ran away as fast as he could, without stopping to see if he had committed murder.

Grandmother's grief at the flight of her precocious pet was deep and noisy; but we must not stay to sympathise with her and lose sight of Ben, who started for Sydney direct, riding behind a coach, and poured into his father's ears a detail of the painful affair from his own point of view, which showed that he had been brutally punished merely for his desire to acquire a practical knowledge of pruning trees. Simon's parental feelings were all aroused by a sight of grandfather's marks, which Ben had not been able to rub out; and he at once decided that it was expedient to take his son under his own guardianship. But in a very short time he found that the presence of his heir was ruinous to his own quietude, and that to live in the same house with him was wholly impracticable. If Mr Goldstone's moral responsibilities to his son were ever considered, there was no tangible evidence of the fact. What he might have done if the boy had been tractable, of course nobody knows; but his rollicking tendencies hastened his sire's decision that a thorough training away from home was essential to cure his bad habits, and break him in to good ones. Accordingly he was sent to a boarding-school about seven miles from Sydney, but he usually spent his holidays at home with his father, who always rejoiced when the holidays were over, for Ben was still a noisy boy, after all the pains that had been taken to improve him.

At sixteen years of age, Ben was expelled the school for kicking the master; and being too bashful to face his father directly after his disgrace, he went to his grandparents, who gladly received him, and “asked no questions.” Their circumstances had very much improved since Ben had last seen them, for lucky diggers were as free with their money as “Jack tars” just off a cruise. It mattered not to them how much plums were a pint, or apples were a dozen; they liked them, and were able and willing to pay for what they liked;

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so Mr Farden, in common with other fruiterers, found his orchard very profitable, and he made money apace. Ben was glad at his grandfather's good luck; and the doting old gentleman, who still carried the graze of the tomahawk on his bald head, was lavish in supplying the lad with pocket-money, perhaps to show him that he was a better friend than his father, who never gave him sixpence without grumbling.

“Satan finds some mischief still
For idle hands to do.”

That proposition, which, alas! was true thousands of years before Dr Watts' penned it, was exemplified in Ben Goldstone, who was a thorough idler, and an adept in mischief of all sorts. Satan had a lot of choice young friends in the neighbourhood of Parramatta, rare rollicking blades, who were ready for anything in the sporting way, from chuck-farthing to horse-stealing, or from picking their mother's pockets to bushranging. Ben soon found some of these “jolly dogs;” and for the next twelve months, under their tuition he devoted his energies to the study of sport in general, including the mysterious art of gambling, card-trickery, and other devilry of the times.

About this period, owing to an occurrence which I had better not mention, Ben was induced to try a sea-voyage; and such was the urgency of the case that he could not wait to pick and choose a vessel, but embarked in the first one that was ready for sea, which was a whaler bound for a cruise in the South Seas. I shall not trouble myself about his proceedings on that voyage. I may state, however, that he did not catch many whales, though he often caught the rope's end from the chief mate, who soon discovered that Ben was a skulker; indeed, his messmates used to say that the only work he was good at was working his jaws.

In a little less than four years he returned to Sydney, a fullgrown man, looking a sort of composite of sailor, jockey, and city dandy. His grandparents had died during his absence, and left him the whole of their property, which yielded an income of about £400 a year. This he regarded as a most lucky occurrence, as it saved him from the hardships of a sailor's life, which he loathed, or of going to work at some other calling, which was also objectionable. He had no hope of receiving the smallest voluntary help from his father; and it was not easy to rob the “old man,” for he kept nothing portable in his house that would fetch ready money. Forgery,

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Ben knew, was not allowed by law. But he was spared the risk of carrying into execution any of the schemes which his fertile brain had concocted while rolling about in his greasy bunk in the forecastle of the Juno, by the “lucky windfall,” the death of his grandparents.

Some of my readers may fancy that £400 a year is a tolerably good income, and wish they could get it. Ben Goldstone thought it was “not so bad,” when he had just come off a long voyage, with the prospect of having to work hard either on sea or on shore for a livelihood; but in less than twelve months of a sporting life, he found that it was quite inadequate to his wants, and he was obliged to mortgage his late grandfather's estate, to meet pressing liabilities at Tattersall's, and enable him to carry on a little longer in the fast style which his taste induced.

It was about this time that he paid a visit to Major Hawkins, at Daisybank, for a few weeks' shooting with his old school-fellow, Ned Hawkins. I have already told how he first saw and admired Maggie Stubble, and that he was accepted as her affianced lover. It may seem improbable that any parents who were not insane should give their ready assent to the engagement of their daughter with a man of whom they knew so little; but a look round at every-day life will show many parallel cases, where the glitter of wealth has blinded the judgment, bedazzled common sense, and gagged the mouth of principle. Ben's father was known to be very rich, and the hasty conclusion was, that Ben must be rich also. That was enough for silly Mrs Stubble, who, as I have shown, was the managing partner. Then the fact of his being a visitor at Hawkville highly excited her veneration, and she never once thought of inquiring into his antecedents, or questioning his moral character for a moment. Major Hawkins was a most respectable man, but he was by no means careful of his family, or he would not have allowed Ben to associate with his son, much less to ride about with his niece. All he knew about the youth he had learned from his son, who knew but little of Ben's career since he left school.

In surrendering his heart so promptly, Ben was not influenced altogether by love; other considerations had weight with him, for he was a calculating youth in his way. He certainly had to some extent the desire, which has always been common to young men, to get married, and he was not insensible to the charms of the fair sex; but he had a sort of

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“fast man's” dread of buying connubial joys at the price of liberty. Several young ladies in Sydney had slightly smitten him, and he had been twice refused by discerning mammas; at any rate, no girl had ever impressed his heart so deeply as Maggie Stubble had done. When first he saw her, she was riding a spirited horse—a position, by the way, in which most ladies show to the best advantage; and he thought her the most dashing-looking girl he had ever seen—a splendid match for a sporting man! one who would astonish his friends at Homebush, and stagger the citizens as he drove tandem through the streets of Sydney in his new dog-cart.

His inquiries in the neighbourhood gained him the encouraging information that Maggie was an only daughter, “with lots of tin.” He judged from the description he had heard of her parents that he should easily gain their favour, or, as he pleasantly expressed it, “walk round the old folks.” His father had long ago threatened to cut him off with a shilling, and Ben would have taken eighteenpence for his chance at one time, but he had begun to hope that his irascible sire might be brought to reason through Maggie's tender influence. She was likely to please him, if any woman could do it, on account of her domesticated habits, and her innocence of fashionable foibles. But if luck deserted him, and his father should bequeath all his money to found an asylum for idiots, as he had solemnly vowed to do, Ben reasoned that Mag's father had money (thirty thousand pounds he was told), and that was almost as good as having half of it in his own pocket. It will be observed that Ben was a sanguine youth. He had great confidence in his own skill in “working the oracle,” as it is called by fast men and conjurers; and he used to boast that his cool blarney was equal to any emergency.

He began operations by getting acquainted with Bob Stubble, and hailing him as a brother sportsman. Bob's vanity was inflated by the polite attention and familiarity of a gentleman from Sydney, a friend of the Major's, and, by general repute, a rich man. Bob was very sensitive to a little flattery; he liked the encomiums which his new friend bestowed on his skill as a shot; and he liked the presents which Ben made him, with a show of off-hand liberality which was very fascinating. Mrs Stubble was as susceptible to soft attention as her son; and Ben's happy allusion to her juvenility, one day, was as operative as “tip” to a wicked exciseman. Thus it may be seen that his course to the heart of Maggie

  ― 90 ―
was as smooth as he could wish, and the result has been briefly told before.

After Ben's formal acceptance as a member-elect of the family, he was a daily visitor at Buttercup Glen; and at such times he put on his very best manners, and succeeded in removing the strong prejudice which Mr Stubble had at first conceived against him; in fact, Joe could not see that there was so much amiss in the young chap when he came to know him better. This he was honest enough to confess to Peggy, who, instead of applauding her husband's candour and love of fair-play, half-tauntingly told him she hoped it would be a warning to him in future not to be so ready to say wicked things of people behind their backs, and teach him to pay a little more respect to her judgment of character.

In about ten days Goldstone took a loving farewell of Mag and her mother, shook hands with Bob and his father, and with Biddy Flynn too, and departed for Sydney, taking with him half a cart-load of wallabi and wild ducks as presents for his numerous friends in town.

  ― 91 ―

Chapter XV.

Mr Stubble consults his friend Rowley on his project of going to Sydney to live.—A few remarks on electioneering matters.—Mr and Mrs Rowley's colloquy after Joe's departure.

“How are you, Master Stubble? Glad to see you,” said Mr Rowley, accosting his neighbour, who had just walked up to the front door, and was carefully scraping his boots prior to entering the house.

“I'm hearty, thank'ee, Peter. How be you and the missis? I've popped over to have a little bit of talk, if thee bean't busy this evening,” replied Joe.

“Come in, come in; your boots are clean enough, neighbour. I was just going to light my pipe; so draw that arm-chair up to the fire, and have a smoke. I am very glad you are come, Joe, for I feel too uneasy this evening to enjoy my books. These westerly winds always make my bones ache.”

“Us used to grumble at the easterly winds for blowing aches and pains in the ould country,” said Joe, smiling. “There are many things as go contrary-like in this land besides the wind; but I can tell'ee a famous cure for your rheumatism, Peter, and you can get it in no time, for thee hast lots of lemon-trees. Take and squeeze the juice of a lemon into a glass, add some water to it, and sugar too, if thee likes it, and drink'en up. Repeat the dose two or three times a day, and I'll engage your rheumatism will soon leave off bothering thee. I got that notion from a great man in Sydney, and afterwards from one of the best doctors in the land; and what's better reason than all to me, I've tried'en myself, and found that it made my pains go away like sorrow at the sound of a fiddle. I only wish all the poor mortals in the world who are suffering from that cruel ailment knew where they might find such a safe and cheap remedy.”

“It is remarkable that I never heard of it before, Joe, though I have been growing lemons for many years. But I'll try it to-night before I go to bed, and I thank you for telling me of it. It cannot do me any harm, if it doesn't do

  ― 92 ―
me good, that is one thing certain; and I have no notion of despising a remedy because it is simple and easy to be obtained. Why, the best cure us poor mortals ever heard of is beautifully simple, and, what is more, it is as free for everybody as the light of the sun. You know what I mean, Joe, my boy, don't you? You remember what we were talking about the last time you were over here?”

Mr Stubble sighed, and replied, after a pause, “Ah, Peter, I know a vast deal better than I practise, I be sorry to say. But doan't'ee talk to me about religion just now, for I bean't able to argify with thee, and it makes me feel uncommon sad when I begin to think what a careless life I've led all along. There, doan't'ee say any more now, Peter,—lend me a knife to cut up some tobacco.”

“Very well, Joe. I'll talk about something else; so fill your pipe. I never obtrude religious topics upon any one; but I thought perhaps you had come over on purpose to have a talk on that very subject, and that is why I said those few words by way of starting you off. Don't you see, Joe? But tell me who you are going to vote for next Friday, and that will change the subject.”

“Blamed if I know, Peter, and I don't much care neither. I don't bother my head a great deal about 'lectioneering consarns. I know more about cows than I do about candidates.”

“That is pretty much the case with many of our neighbours,” said Peter. “But let me tell you, you ought to think a little more on the subject, Joe, for you have a large stake in the colony, and you have children growing up. I believe it is the bounden duty of every man to use all the sense he has got in choosing fit and proper men to make laws for us; and if we neglect to do that, we have no right to grumble when we are misgoverned.”

“That's right enough, old man; but there are plenty of folks as like that sort of fun, so I lets'em look after it. I've got lots of things of my own to attend to. Besides, I doan't want to get my head put in a flour-sack, same as old Captain Kinks was sarved the last 'lection but one at Daisybank, because he voted against the pop'lar candidate, as they called 'en.”

“I remember that affair, for I saw it take place,” said Peter, with a severe look. “But Captain Kinks had too much of the British sailor in his make to be put in a sack without having a kick for it; and the popular party had to pay pretty

  ― 93 ―
smartly for their savage fun. To my mind, Joe, that very occurrence is a strong reason why we should not be lazy in looking after our privilege, the freedom of election; otherwise we shall soon be under mob government altogether. Are you sure that your name is on the electoral roll, Joe?”

“Not I, Peter, for I never see'd the roll in my life as I know of; but I suppose it be's there right enough, for I've got a freehold in the district, everybody knows that.”

“But your name may nevertheless be omitted from the list; and if so, it is too late to remedy it now, and you cannot vote at all. Mistakes often occur in making up the electoral lists, and sometimes nobody knows how to account for the omissions.”

“Well, well, it's no odds, Peter; one vote won't make much difference either way.”

“Excuse my bluntness, Joe; but that is what many lazy folks say, and often enough those very ones are the first to cry out and grumble if they see anything that is not exactly right in our rulers. Your negligence may influence others to follow your example; so on that score it is wrong to show such carelessness about a matter in which every man ought to feel a pride, while exercising his best judgment. There is a special reason why we should be up and doing at the present time, for there are certain persons canvassing with all their might for old Jemmy Bung of Sydney.”

“Get out! Nonsense! Thee doan't mean to say that, Peter? Why, bang it all, he knows no more about Parliament consarns than ould Biddy Flynn does; not a bit.”

“Well, then you should bestir yourself, Joe; and help to elect a fit and proper man, otherwise you will have no right to complain if Bung is returned.

‘A politician should (as I have read)
Be furnish'd in the first place with a head.’

Jemmy has a head big enough, certainly; but there is nothing in it worth mentioning, and he is a mere tool in the hands of the men who are bringing him forward. You had better ride in to Daisybank with me on Friday, Joe, and poll your vote like a man who is not afraid to do what is right.”

“All right; I'll go in with thee, Peter; and I be glad thee named it to me. My head bean't much good to think about these things, and yet I know it's right enough to look sharp, for supposing a lot of chaps like old Jemmy got into

  ― 94 ―
Parliament, they'd pretty soon make a muddle of the whole consarn, and the country would be ruined out and out. Yes, yes, thee be'st right, Peter. Wellman is the man for us, and I'll go in with thee on Friday, and vote for him. He be's a gentleman, anyhow, with lots of superior gumption in his head, and he's got plenty of property in the district, that's another thing in his favour, and t'other fellow is——; but it ain't fair to speak agin a man behind his back; though he won't go into Parliament if I can keep'en out by fair and honest means, that's all about it. And now that consarn's settled, I want to ax your advice about another thing, Peter; and I be come over on purpose for it. Thee be'st a knowledgable sort of man, as I can depend on, and I bean't got many neighbours that I can talk to as I can to thee.”

“If I can do anything for you, Joe, either by word or act, I will do it willingly. You have always been a good neighbour to me; but whether or no, it is right to help one another all we can. It would be a much worse world than it is, if we all neglected that duty. Tell me what I can do for you, Joe.”

“This is it, Peter. I be thinking of going to live in Sydney, and I don't know exactly whether it would be best to sell my farm right out, or to let'en to somebody. I want thee to tell me what thee thinks about it.”

“Going to live in Sydney!” exclaimed Peter, while his wife, who was sitting near, dropped her knitting-needle, and stared with astonishment. “Why, Joe, you have taken me all aback, as the sailors say. I never dreamt that you had such an idea in your head. It is a very sudden notion of yours, is it not?”

“I haven't thought very long about it, Peter; still, for all that, I think it's a settled consarn; but I may as well tell'ee all the ins and outs of it, then thee'll know how to advise me. My gal is going to be married to young Mr Goldstone. I suppose thee heard that news afore, for them sort of things allers get talked about.”

“No, I certainly have not heard it before, Joe, for I make it a rule never to pry into my neighbours' private affairs; and as it is pretty generally known that I do not encourage gossiping, I seldom or never hear news of the sort until it is as current as our agents' market prices. Gossiping often leads to scandalising; and I always suspect that a person who tells me of the faults of others intends to tell others of my faults.

  ― 95 ―
But may I ask you, first of all, Joe, how long you have known Mr Goldstone, and whether you think he is the sort of man to make your girl happy for life?”

“I haven't known him above a few weeks, and to tell'ee the truth, Peter, I doan't know much about'en; but my wife and Mag have settled it between themselves that he is the right man; so it's no good of me saying aught against it,” said Joe, with a look that evidenced perplexity and a forced resignation.

“I have no right to dictate to you, Joe, on the management of your family affairs; so I shall not give any opinion on that matter unless you ask for it. You want to know whether I think it best for you to sell your farm or to let it. At the present time, it would fetch a good price if it were offered for sale, and as the buildings are old, and will want repairs pretty often, it's a chance if you get a tenant who will satisfy you; so perhaps you had better sell. But I'll turn the thing over in my mind for a day or so. By the bye, would it not suit your son Bob?”

“It would be no good offering the place to him at any price, for he says he is sick and tired of a country life; and he be's going to Sydney too.”

“I am very sorry indeed to hear this news, Joe,” said Peter, after a few minutes' reflection. “We have always got along well together as neighbours, and I am loth to lose you; but apart from that selfish consideration, I feel a real concern for you, Joe, because I cannot help thinking that you are going astray, and that you will regret the step before long. Tell me what you are going to do with yourself in Sydney, if it is not wrong for me to ask the question.”

“Banged if I know, no more than a fool; and to tell'ee truth, I doan't want to go to Sydney at all. But this is it, Peter: for some weeks past my wife has been trying might and main to make our old house look grand and fashionable, and her can't manage it nohow. Ha, ha, ha! Such life as they've been carrying on there nobody never seed afore in these parts. Her pulled down a partition, and made a fine big drawing-room, as her called it; and t'other night, after I'd a gone to bed, they were having a dance with Mr Goldstone and young Swallows, with Bob and Mag, and the old woman too; all the lot of'em were hoppin' about like kangaroos, when down went the floor crash into the cellar, and scared'em all above a bit, and smashed a heap of jimcrack things that they had bought to make the room look smart. I couldn't get out of me bed for laughin', so I

  ― 96 ―
lay still and let 'em think I know'd naught about it. But they have found out that the house is eaten to the skin with white ants, and 'em can't make it safe to dance in, though I told them that afore. As fast as they patch up one part of the house, it breaks down in another part; so the long and short of it is, they have all made up their minds to go to live in Sydney. It bean't a morsel of good of me trying to stop 'em I know, and I can't live up here all alone; so I be going to Sydney with 'em.”

“But you have been used to an active life in the country, Joe, and I cannot think what you will find to do in the city to occupy your time. You are still strong and vigorous; and if you have not some employment, if only for the sake of exercise, you will soon fall into bad health, and possibly into bad habits. You see I am speaking plainly, but I know you like honest dealing. Many persons fancy that freedom from toil and plenty of money will ensure a life of ease and comfort; but this is a great mistake, which I don't want you to pay for making, and so I caution you in time. It matters not how rich a man may be; he cannot do without work of some sort or other, without endangering his health and his pocket too. That is a doctrine as old as Adam, and is nothing new; that I have found out myself, though I can attest its truth by my own early experience. And pray, what is Bob going to do in Sydney, may I ask?”

“I can't exactly tell'ee that, Peter, for I don't think he knows himself yet awhile; but it will be summat in the horse-dealing way, I guess. Goldstone has put the notion into Bob's head to go; and I believe he has had a hand in coaxing the ould woman into it. They be all plaguey fond of him sure enough, and think every word he says is true as a new almanac; and it ain't a mite of good of my saying aught against the lot of 'em; so, for the sake of peace and quietness, I lets 'em do just as they like. Mag is to be married in a few weeks' time, and they be all agreed that it can't be done in our old house, 'cos they be going to invite a lot of Goldstone's grand friends, and it won't hold 'em all; besides, they be afeard it will tumble about their ears if they have a jig, and of course they won't do without that. There bean't time to build a new house, so us must find one elsewhere; and us may as well go to Sydney as to any other place for aught I know.”

“But I say, Joe, have you taken into account that it will

  ― 97 ―
cost you twice as much to live in Sydney as it costs you in the country? Let you live as carefully as possible, there are ways and means, in a great city, of spending money, of which you at present have but a faint idea. You will not be able to cart in your own firewood, or to grow your own bread-stuff; and very likely you will not have enough garden-ground to grow a cabbage: you will have to put your hand into your pocket for a score of things which you now get off your own farm for nothing, or next thing to it. Then there is the important matters of rent and taxes, and an additional cost of clothing —for I don't suppose you will wear worsted corduroys and kip boots in Sydney. Have you thought of these things, Joe?”

“Well, as to all that, I am pretty easy about money matters you know, Peter; they never did trouble me very much. I don't mind telling thee just how I stand, though I never told anybody else, for I don't boast of my money, as I have heard some sappy-headed fellows do. I've got a little over nine thousand pounds out at interest, and the farm and stock upon it ought to bring about three thousand more: so thee see'st I be pretty snug, as the saying is, and I ought to be able to afford to live anywhere with that toto. Don't thee think so, old man?”

“Yes, I do indeed think so. You are a fortunate man, Joe, for you have ample means for supplying all your own wants; and you can well afford the luxury of lending a helping hand to any deserving person you may meet with, who is struggling against abject poverty. But there is more art in taking care of money, Joe, than most folks think who have not learnt the lesson. I have heard men say, without joking too, that they have found it much harder to keep money than to make it.”

“Ha, ha! The fellow must be a greenhorn who said that. I don't believe it a bit, Peter,” said Joe, slapping his side pocket. “I never get drunk, thee knows, mate; and when I be out of bed, I be as wide awake as most old chaps: anyhow, a fellow as robs me must get up afore daylight.”

“Yes, you are pretty knowing, Joe, and I don't think any one could sell you a screwed horse; but there is no harm in my warning you to keep all your wits about you. You know, I have had three years' experience in Sydney, and rubbing up against hard customers has tended to make me look sharp. By the bye, you have not told me how you are going to occupy your time in the city, Joe.”

  ― 98 ―

“Well, that's what I be a bit bothered about, Peter; for I can't bear to be idle. Master Goldstone was saying t'other night, that I should find lots of amusement when the trials are going on at the court-house, and”——

“Bah! If that is his taste, save me from—from the like, that's all,” said Peter, hastily. “I have no patience with men who can take pleasure in sitting day after day in a criminal court, gloating over horrible cases, anxiously watching how it will go with thieves and murderers, while the interests of numberless poor, honest, half-starved folks outside are totally neglected by them. But I beg pardon, Joe, for interrupting you so warmly. I am very sure that sort of amusement will not suit you.”

“No fear, as the boys say. I was going to tell'ee what I said to Goldstone about 'en. Ha, ha! I made 'en look as shamed as if he'd bin cotched beating his aunt. But, my wig, Peter, there's the moon getting up: I must be off home, or my ould woman will think I be lost in the bush again. I'll come over in a night or two, and have another talk.”

“Do, Joe; and in the meantime, I will think over the matter that you have asked my advice upon, and give you the best of my judgment.”

After Joe had departed, Mr and Mrs Rowley had a long chat about the recent discussion, and they were both decidedly of opinion that their honest old neighbour was about to make a move in the wrong direction. Mrs Rowley kindly proposed to go over the next day, and have a serious talk with Mrs Stubble on the subject; but on further consideration, it was thought better not to do so, for their motives would probably be misconstrued, and it might even be suspected that they were desirous of renewing the intimacy between Bob and their daughter.

“I am very much afraid friend Stubble will soon lose all his money,” remarked Mr Rowley, after he had sat for some time in silent cogitation.

“He seems very confident of being able to take care of it, Peter,” responded Mrs Rowley.

“Poor fellow! He thinks that the only thieves he will have to guard against are pickpockets and burglars. That class are by no means scarce; but they are not the most dangerous thieves in the community. Joe will no doubt see that his back-doors are bolted and barred securely, and will keep a sharp lookout for the cash in his pockets; but he has no idea of the necessity

  ― 99 ―
for guarding against oily-tongued rogues in superfine clothes. There lies his greatest danger, and he cannot see it.”

“No, poor man! he is too honest himself to suspect others of duplicity, if they speak fair words.”

“Then, again,” continued Peter, “there are many really good-meaning people in Sydney who usually pay court to men who are supposed to be wealthy; not with a selfish purpose of benefiting themselves personally, but, as they say, ‘to bring the stranger out, and make him take an active part in social and religious organisations.’ You know how poor old Mr Doddle was lionised at public meetings soon after he went to live in Sydney.”

“I have heard Mrs Doddle say, that she had very little of her husband's society; for his time was so much occupied in making speeches, and attending meetings to deliver them.”

“Just so; and Doddle told me himself, that he was almost persuaded he was an orator, in spite of his natural diffidence; and at one time he used to think that those persons who shouted ‘hear, hear!’ to him really believed there was something in him. I do not say anything against making people useful, you know, mother; far from it, and to induce them to give freely of their abundance to the support of public charities is very commendable; but I think extreme caution should be used in bringing men out to take a leading part in great social movements. It is essential that they have mental and educational qualifications for such important offices, and not be mere men of money, otherwise they may do more harm than good to the cause they wish to serve, and perhaps do themselves harm too. Many honest, simple-hearted men have been spoiled by being prematurely ‘brought out,’ and being made too much of, their ordinary heads could not bear so much honour all at once.”

“There is not much fear of Mr Stubble being spoiled in that way, Peter. He is too diffident to be led out into public life.”

“I don't know that, mother. Joe is pretty easily persuaded to anything that looks straightforward and honest. There is a certain share of vanity lurking in every heart, you know, dear; and it is very apt to grow mischievous where it is not controlled by superior sense or cultivated judgment. Then, again, Joe will have no end of calls upon him for money, which he has now no conception of. His reputed wealth will draw a host of professional beggars after him, and he will be

  ― 100 ―
fair game for them. His personal friends and neighbours, too, will solicit his help towards their various pet private charities, and poor Joe is too liberal to refuse such appeals as those; so altogether his income is likely to be overtaxed, perhaps before he is aware of it too. All these calls and claims are the natural appendages or penalties of wealth or popularity.”

“Well, as you have had a good deal of experience of city life, Peter, it would only be kind of you to caution Mr Stubble a little before he goes to Sydney.”

“I will certainly do that, as well as I can, mother; but it is not easy to convince such a man as he of his danger, and my experimental wisdom, though costly to me, may not be even thankfully received. In general, there is not much heed paid to the warnings of men who have been victimised, and their precepts are more likely to provoke ridicule than respect.”

“I wonder if this Mr Goldstone is a sensible man, Peter. If so, he will be a sort of safeguard to Joe.”

“I have never spoken to him, mother; but the few glances I have had at his face have not impressed me in his favour. I would not allow him to court our girl, but I did not like to say as much to Joe.”

“It is as well that you did not, Peter, for Mrs Stubble would say it was envy that actuated you. Poor Maggie would have made a nice character if she had been properly trained. Her disposition is kind and gentle, and she used to be an industrious girl before she grew so proud. I doubt if she is a fit wife for a gay city man; she has lived all her days in the bush.”

“It is my opinion that this ill-judged movement will be disastrous to the whole family,” said Peter. “I would gladly stop it if I could, but I do not think it is possible to do it. I will, however, give Joe a few useful hints before he goes; and you know, mother, we can remember them when we are asking for daily blessings for ourselves.”

  ― 101 ―

Chapter XVI.

Arrival of a letter from Sydney.—Mr Stubble goes to Sydney and hires a furnished cottage for his family.—His visit to Museum and Botanical Gardens.

“THIS bean't for me, I be sartain sure!” exclaimed Mr Stubble, as he closely examined a letter which had just arrived express from the post-office, addressed “——Stubble, Esquire, Daisybank.”

“What is it, master? Let me see it,” said Mrs Stubble, peeping over her husband's shoulder, while Bob and Mag looked as interested as if their father had just discovered a new species of bird.

“I bean't a squire; Joe Stubble is my name, and that was my feyther's name too. My grandfeyther was a groom to a squire's uncle, and that's about as nigh as I can get to the honour. It's a lagging matter to open a letter as doan't belong to us, so thee'd best send it back to the postmaster, Peggy, then us'll be safe from the law.”

“Stuff and nonsense, Joe! I'd open it as soon as crack an egg, for it's ours, sure enough. There is no other Stubble hereabouts as I ever heerd tell on. Give me the letter, I'll read it; then if there is any lagging to be got, I'll be in for it; I bean't skeered a bit. There now, didn't I tell you so? Of course, it is for us. It is from the gentleman that Benjamin said he would ask to look out for a house for us,” added Peggy, when she had opened the letter and glanced at its purport.

“Well read 'en out loud for the benefit of the company,” said Joe, smirking under the peculiar stimulus which the new title had given to his latent vanity. Peggy thereupon read as follows, with strong emphasis on the first line:—

“——STUBBLE, Esq.

“DEAR SIR,—At the kind recommendation of Mr Goldstone, jun., I take the liberty of sending you herewith a list of suburban family residences which I have at present in

  ― 102 ―
my hands for sale, or to let; and I shall be happy to treat with you on the most liberal terms for the purchase or lease of either of the properties specified.—Awaiting your esteemed commands, I have the honour to be, your most obedient servant,


“What do you think of that, now?” asked Peggy, with her eyes full of glee.

“It's a nation civil letter, sure enough,” replied Joe.

“Civil! Is that all? Did you ever see such a one afore in all your days, Stubble? I mean to say, it's a beautiful letter, that we all ought to be proud of.”

“You had better get it framed and hung up in the best parlour, like old Mark Browny did the big blue electioneering placard of the candidate who bought all his measly pigs. “Bluster for ever!” suggested Bob, with an ironical grin; whereupon his father frowned, and his mother said she was astonished at him.

“Well, what had we best do about it?” asked Peggy, after they had all given the subject several minutes' silent consideration. “There is a fine lot of houses in the list, but I wish he had sent pictures of 'em. I don't see how we can choose the best without seeing them all. What do you say, father?”

“Blamed, if I know dezackly what to say about it, Peggy. If I were going to choose a cart, or anything in that line, I'd know how to go about it as well as here and there a one; but it's mortal little I know about fine houses. One thing, us don't want a great big house to hold our bits o' traps.”

“Traps! You don't mean to say you are going to take our old rickety furniture to Sydney? Surely, you don't intend to do that, Joe? Why, old Dame Rowley would giggle her wig off, if she see'd us carting away all our combustibles. That would be a joke!”

“Well, well, doan't 'ee get cross, Peg. I doan't care a shot what thee dost so long as thee 'rt happy and quiet. Have a survey of the old things, and buy new ones in Sydney with the money if thee likes.”

“Of course; that is the proper way, father,” chimed in Mag, with a pleasant smile; and Bob said “certainly;” so that matter was decided. The next consideration was, who should go to Sydney to select the house; and after many propositions had been rejected, it was resolved that father should go himself. Peggy strongly urged her right to go with him;

  ― 103 ―
but as she was not supported by her son and daughter, she, for once, was outvoted, so obliged to yield her point and stay at home. After tea that evening the discussion on the choice of the new house was resumed, and continued until a late hour. Joe began to fancy that a new and happy era was dawning upon him, for his wife and children were so uncommonly amiable and kind. Maggy actually said “dear” to him once, but she coughed after it, and Bob winked at his mother, to show that he had noticed Mag's mistake.

When Joe retired to bed that night he had so many warnings, injunctions, and pleadings from his wife and daughter echoing in his ears, that he could not sleep a wink until about an hour before it was time to get up; so he naturally felt rather drowsy while the instructions were being repeated in the morning. After dressing himself in his best colonial tweed suit and cabbage-tree hat, his son drove him to Daisybank, and saw him safely on board the steamer for Sydney.

“Sarvant, sir!” said Joe, with a humble bow, as he entered the little office of Mr Hiram Clinch, on the following morning.

“Well, mister! what can I do for you?” asked Mr Clinch in a brusque tone, for he thought he was speaking to a poor man.

“I be called to see thee about a house,” said Joe, producing from his pocket the list which the agent had forwarded to him.

“Oh, ah, yes! Beg pardon, sir. You are Mr Stubble, I presume: very happy to see you, sir. Please to take a seat, Mr Stubble.”

Joe seated himself, placed his hat under the chair, and began to wipe his dusty face with his handkerchief; he then remarked that it was “uncommon warm in Sydney.”

“Very sultry, sir. When did you come to town, Mr Stubble?”

“I come down by the Colloroy last night; and it war rough weather sure enough. I thought us was all going to the bottom, and I felt as if I'd be glad to go there too, for I was so mortal sea-sick. I would never sell my farm to buy a ship to sail in myself, anyway.”

“Ha, ha, ha! Curious sensation sea-sickness, isn't it? Hum—ah—yes; about the house, Mr Stubble. Have you decided which one on my list is likely to suit you?” said Mr Clinch, in a manner which nicely blended sympathy and humour with business push.

  ― 104 ―

“Noa, sir; can't say as I have dezackly. My missis wanted to come down with me, and I wish her had done it too, for my head be's so dazed with the confounded racket of the town, and the dust to boot, that whipped if I know what I be about rightly. I only wish her 'ud bide easy in the house us have got; her 'ud be a plaguey deal more comfortable up there than her'll be in Sydney, that's my notion. What rent might ye ax for this house now, mister—the one on top of yer bill?”

“Yes, a beautiful house that, Mr Stubble, and I should say it will just suit you. Nice convenient distance from town, good neighbourhood, first-rate roads, and only one turnpike. The rent of that one, sir, if you will take it for a term, will be £300 a year; it was let for £450, but the tenant went insolvent, and”——

“Whew-w!” whistled Joe, while his eyebrows touched his forelock. “Three hundred pound a year! I can't afford no such rent, and thee must look me out summat a mighty deal cheaper than that, mister, or else I shall toddle back and titivate the old house up.”

Mr Clinch smiled at the simple bluntness of his new client; at the same time he mentally resolved not to let him go home again until he had earned a commission out of him in some way or other. After describing several other enticing properties, to all of which, however, Joe shook his head and said “he couldn't afford it,” the agent seemed to be suddenly struck with a new idea, and he exclaimed, “By the bye, Mr Stubble, I have just the very thing that will suit you. I think you said that you were going to sell off your furniture?”

“Ees, sure, every stick of it, if anybody will buy it.”

“Well, sir, I can let you a snug five-roomed cottage at Redfern, all ready furnished to hand, and nothing to do but walk in and sit down comfortably. You can buy all the furniture if you like, and save yourself no end of trouble and expense.”

“The very 'dentical thing to my mind, sir,” said Joe, with a sigh of relief. “It'll save a heap of bother. What's the price of that consarn, mister?”

“Only twenty pounds a month, or say £240, if you take it for a year certain.”

“All right, sir. I'll have it; it's just the ticket. My missis will be pretty soon glad to get out of Sydney again; and then us won't have the trouble of selling our traps afore us start, nor of buying new ones when us come down neither.

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We'll all be into it this day fortnight, if that'll suit 'ee, sir?”

“Oh, yes, Mr Stubble, I'll study your convenience; but perhaps you will not object to leave me a deposit—a matter of form, you know—or suppose we say you pay a month's rent in advance?”

“It's no odds to me when I pay, so long as I doan't pay twice,” said Joe, drawing out his leathern pouch, and depositing a twenty-pound note with the agent, who gave him a receipt, and made a few pleasant remarks on Joe's prompt way of doing business. After a short chat on the state of the crops in the country and the price of farm produce in town, Joe said “good-day” to Mr Clinch, and walked away for the purpose of finding Ben Goldstone to tell him of his lucky bargain. He had not gone far from the office, however, when it suddenly occurred to him that it would have been more business-like if he had inspected the said cottage and furniture before closing for it; so back he hastened to the office, but found it closed, and a ticket on the door, “Gone to lunch.”

“Never mind, it can't be helped,” soliloquised Joe, as he walked away again. “I daresay everything is right enough; at any odds, it wouldn't be much good of me looking at a houseful of furniture. Peggy will be the best hand for that, and I'll warrant her'll soon find out what's missing, and let Mr Thingamee know it. Put me in a stable, and I know a thing or two; but, bang it all, I bean't up to managing consarns of this sort, and I'll take good care they don't catch me out foraging like this agin. Now I'll go and find Benjamin, and mayhap he'll go with me to see the monkeys in the Gardens and to some of the other grand sights in town that he was always talking about.” Away he trudged to Ben's address at Wooloomooloo, but was told that Mr Goldstone had gone to Botany Bay on a fishing excursion, and would not be back for three days.

“Whipped if I'd stay in Sydney three days without my old woman to see all the monkeys in the world,” muttered Joe, as he made his way to a pastry-cook's shop in William Street, where he refreshed himself with sausage-rolls and lemonade. After that he walked slowly up the hill to the Museum, and having entered his name in the visitors' book, he began to gaze with wonder and awe at the varied and well-arranged specimens of natural history which that vast building contains.

  ― 106 ―

“My wig! this be's a place worth looking at, and no mistake,” said Joe to himself, as he stood in the middle of the great hall, wiping his perspiring face and trying to stare at everything at once. “There be's more rum things here than I ever seed afore in my life; and all to be seen for nothing too. It's queer to me how they do it so cheap. My word, won't Bob be pleased to come and see them stuffed snakes and what-you-call-'ems, and them whopping big sharks up in the glass case yonder, with their bellies full of straw. I be glad I come in, for it's fine and cool, and I be better in here than trudging about the warm streets in these plaguey tight boots. I reckon I may as well sit down and rest my legs a bit, for I be nation tired.”

But it is not easy to find a seat in the Museum (or it was not in those days; it is to be hoped that these are better days in that respect), and Joe searched first down-stairs and then up-stairs without seeing a single chair, except the one with which the doorkeeper was accommodated; and his relish for those accumulated wonders of the physical world was spoiled by his pettish reflections on “the bad manners and stinginess of the Museum men, for not getting a few stools or chairs for country folks to sit down and rest their limbs when they come to see what's to be seen.”

“I'll fetch down a few iron-bark fillets for our folks to sit on. They'll let me roll 'em in here, I guess, for they bean't very partiklar what they keep in this shop. Bang it all! look at that!” he added in an audible murmur. “If there bean't two 'spectable old ladies sitting down on the door-step in yon gallery! Well, well; what a shame of the Museum keepers not to give 'em chairs! 'Em don't deserve to have people come to look at their whizamagigs. But I'd better go and sit down on t'other door-step, afore some other tired chap comes up to take a rest.”

When Joe had seen enough of the Museum, he walked to the Botanical Gardens, where he could not reasonably complain of want of seats, or want of anything else which thoughtfulness, taste, and scientific skill could provide or accomplish for the edification and enjoyment of the visitor. There he sat under the shade of a gigantic pine-tree, and gratefully sniffed the fragrance which was wafted from ten thousand flowers on the drowsy afternoon air; while the birds in the adjacent aviary sung sweet soothing lullabies, until he gradually dozed off into forgetfulness of his weariness and his chafed feet. He

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dreamt that he was lolling in his old chair at Buttercup Glen, with his feet in his carpet slippers, and his family were sitting around smiling joyfully at his acute bargaining with Mr Clinch, when their happiness was interrupted by Biddy Flynn entering the room and shouting in his ear that Mr Goldstone's bull terrier had killed the turkey-cock.

Joe started up in a pet, and became conscious that one of the gardeners was shaking him by the shoulder. “Hallo, master! wake up, if you please,” said the man. “It is past sundown, and I am just going to shut the gates.” Joe woke up accordingly, and again a twinge of conscience reminded him that he had better take a look at his cottage and furniture, in order to be able to delight his family with a description from personal survey, but when he reached Mr Clinch's office again he found it was closed for the day. “Well, never mind, it's no good fretting or fidgeting myself. I've hired a house, that's sartain, for I've got the receipt in my pouch. That's the very thing I came to Sydney to do, and if they don't like it when they see it, why, let 'em go and look for another one; that's all about it.” Joe then limped along to the inn where he had slept the previous night, with his eyes full of dust.

That night he embarked in the smart steamer Jimalong Josey; and soon after breakfast next morning he was again sitting in his easy-chair by the chimney-corner, relating with characteristic deliberation the particulars of his journey to his family, who were grouped around him, impatient to hear all about their future habitation in the gay city of Sydney.

  ― 108 ―

Chapter XVII.

Excitement of Mrs Stubble and her children over the furnished cottage.—Sale of household effects, and final departure of the rustic family to Sydney.

“WELL done, master! I didn't think you could have managed it half so cleverly,” said Peggy, after Mr Stubble had informed his family circle that he had taken a house containing everything they wanted, from a wardrobe to a nutmeggrater, and that “they had nothing to do but walk in and make themselves at home, and not say thank'ee to anybody.”

“But you haven't told us where the house is, father,” said Maggie, who had been listening with breathless interest. “What part of Sydney is it in? I hope it is in a nice genteel neighbourhood.”

“It's at Redfern, lass; and a real pretty place 'tis, no doubt.”

“Redfern! Redfern! Where is that, Joe? I never heard tell of it afore, as I know,” said Peggy, who had begun to look rather dubious.

“Why, it's up Parramatta River a bit, I think,” replied Joe, looking dubious too.

“Not it, father,” remarked Bob, whose local knowledge was superior to all the rest, as he had stayed a whole week in Sydney. “I remember the place very well, because one dark night I walked right into a big ditch that runs across a paddock at Redfern. It is out beyond the railway terminus.”

“Yes, yes; Parramatta Railway I meant, of course. Thee be'st right, Bob, my boy; it's out there somewhere, sure enough.”

“But haven't you been to the house, father?” asked Maggie.

“Noa, I can't say as I've been inside 'en dezackly. I've been outside of 'en, thee knows, and”——

“And what does it look like, father?” interrupted Mag.

“Well, that's more than I can tell'ee just at present, lass,

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for I haven't seen 'en yet; but I'll warrant it looks right enough.”

“What! been to Sydney and hired a house full of furniture, and never so much as looked at it first?” said Peggy, excitedly.

“Ha, ha, ha! That's jist like Barney M‘Gee, the blind piper, who wint and got married widout seein' his wife a bit in the worrld,” chuckled Biddy Flynn, who had trotted into the room with “the masther's clane boots,” but purposely to hear what was going on. She might have stayed there unnoticed by any one in the general excitement; but she could no more restrain her tongue when her fancy was tickled than a well-bred cat could resist catching a bird if it came within reach.

“Go into the kitchen this instant moment, and cut up the pumpkin, you saucy old thing!” shrieked Mrs Stubble; whereupon Biddy went out again at full trot, muttering her own private opinions as she went.

“But it never can be possible, Stubble, that you have been such a—a—a—so very thoughtless as to take a house without looking at it. No, no, I won't believe that of you anyway,” said Peggy, in softened tones, and evidently trying to persuade herself that Joe was joking. “Come now, be serious, master; tell us what is the size of the house, and whether there is an up-stairs and down-stairs, and cupboards and all the rest, you know.”

“Here, missis; this'll tell'ee all I know about it,” said Joe, pulling the receipt from his pocket, and handing it to his wife, who glanced at it hastily, and then exclaimed, with stately emphasis, while wrath was simmering in her eyes, “A furnished cottage of five rooms! the whole about as big as our hen-house, I suppose! And you actually mean to poke your family into such a hole as that, do you? Thank'ee, Mr Stubble—much obliged to you. May I ask you if you broke your pledge while you were in Sydney?”

“Oh, doan't 'ee talk to me in that style, Peggy, lass! It makes my marrow twiddle like cutting my corns with a rusty old razor. Thee know'st well enough I'll do anything in the world te make thee and the children happy. I'll get thee the biggest house in the bill, if thee'll only look sweet and speak cheerily to me. But I be sartain sure thee'll like the cottage uncommon. Didn't thee like Dab Cot”—

“There, stop, stop, Stubble! For patience sake, don't be always bringing that dowdy old Dab Cottage to my memory.”

  ― 110 ―

“All right, lass! I woan't say another word about 'en. But I was going to tell'ee that five rooms be quite as many as us want, and it's likely enough they be great big rooms.”

“How do you know that, Stubble? and how do you know that all the furniture is not dingy rubbish, overrun with vermin?”

A slight shudder was observable in Joe's frame at that last terribly suggestive question, but he gave no audible reply. Various other important inquiries as to the kitchen accommodation, water, drainage, smoky chimneys, &c., were alike unanswerable; neither could he inform Mag whether the neighbourhood was noisy or genteel. There he sat during his cross-examination, looking as humble as an old rogue in the dock. He had some faint hope of exciting their pity, for they could not but see that he was weary after his late tossing about in the steamer; at any rate, he knew that the best plea he could offer would not help him a bit, but would only prolong an argument in which he was sure to be beaten. He was conscious that he had managed his important commission very clumsily, notwithstanding the encomiums of Mr Clinch. I have shown that he had mentally owned to his omissions before he left Sydney, and the nearer he got to his home the stronger became the conviction that “he had made a pretty mess of it, and was sartain to get a wiggin' from his wife.”

That he was willing to endure a moderate “wigging” is, I think, evident from the colloquial extracts which I have already given; but a man is not always most disposed to bear reproof when he knows it is most deserved, and though patience was one of Joe's prominent virtues, it was not inexhaustible. Perhaps, growing hopeless of exciting their sympathy by silence and sea-sick looks, he had resolved to try the ruse so often resorted to by politicians and learned counsel when their cause is too bad to be helped by solid arguments. Joe knew a good many of the ways of the world, and it is clear that he knew that old-fashioned trick too, for to the surprise of his wife, long before he had heard all the sharp things she meant to say, he seemed to be in a terrible rage, and vociferously declared that “not one of them should go to Sydney at all till they had larned better manners.”

“Bang it all! what dost thee mean by scolding my ears off?” he exclaimed, starting up and kicking his slippers off. “This be's my house, and I'll be master in it too; I'll keep

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my standing if I doan't sell a ha'porth, as Sam the pieman said. Sure as death, if any one of thee say half a word more to me about the cottage, I'll make thee stay in the bush all thee days.” He then pulled on his boots and went into the garden to cool down, leaving his family all aghast at his unusually wrathful ebullition.

It has been remarked that, “in troubled families, there often arises some servant or gentle friend, powerful with both sides, who may moderate or compound the differences of the family, to whom, in that respect, the whole house, and the master himself, are beholden. This mediator, if he aim only at his own ends, cherishes and aggravates the divisions of a family, but if he be sincere, faithful, and upright, he is indeed invaluable.” Biddy Flynn's incurable bluntness often led her into disfavour, and she seldom got credit for the good motives which prompted her to interfere in the occasional domestic strife at Buttercup Glen; still, she was a faithful friend of the family—of the master especially—and it would have been well for them all had they paid more heed to her quaintly-expressed advice.

On hearing Mr Stubble's vehement ultimatum on the occasion just alluded to, Biddy, who had again entered the room on some trifling errand, pulled her mistress by the sleeve, and whispered, “I want to shpake to ye, ma'am, iv ye plase. Arrah, what's the good ov tazing the masther any more about the cottage as he's taken, missis?” said Biddy, appealingly, when Mrs Stubble had been led into the kitchen. “Shure, iv it has only got five rooms in it, all the talking in life won't make 'em into six. Can't ye see that the masther's say-sick an' tired too, poor crayther? an' it'ud be aisy enough to make a parson crass at sich times. Take my honest worrd for it, missis, iv ye'll ony lave him alone till he's shmoked his pipe, an' maybe had a nap too, he'll look as plisant as a sunshiny Sunday mornin', for he niver sulks a ha'porth—God bless him! Then iv ye'll ony look swate, all ov yez, an' give him a kind worrd or two—for that's what ivery man wants his family to do to him—an' it's only raisinable,—if ye'll do that same, I'll ingage he'll git ye a house wid tin rooms in it, in harf a jiffy, if that's what yer wantin'. But, be the hokey! let me tell ye, missis, iv yez go rowing wid him agin, same as yer jist afther doin', he'll kick out like a donkey wid a hornet on his tail—an' no blame till

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him nayther. Axin' yer pardin, ma'am, for shpakin' out what's in me mind.”

Mrs Stubble seldom acknowledged the value of Biddy's hints, though she often scolded her for presuming to speak at all. On the present occasion she merely said “hum” to the faithful counsel. But there had been such a decided meaning in her husband's last threat, that she deemed it prudent not to say any more about the furnished cottage, but to devote her energies to getting rid of the furniture in their present home, prior to leaving it for good. In that opinion Bob and Mag moodily acquiesced, for they did not want to stay in the bush for life.

After a few turns up and down the garden path, Joe was sufficiently composed to light his pipe, and by the time he had smoked it out, his anger had vanished with his last whiff, and he laughingly congratulated himself that he had got out of his difficulty without a severe domestic brawl, which he dreaded more than he did the “American blight” in his orchard.

Those of my readers who have experienced the perplexity of selling off their household effects will sympathise with the Stubble family during the few days of preparation for the auction sale, when the accumulated odds and ends had to be hunted up and put into the catalogue of lots, and all the furniture rubbed up and arranged with its smartest sides in the best light. At any rate, had any of my quiet readers been at Buttercup Glen just then, it is probable they would have felt moved by the excessive fidgetiness of Mrs Stubble to get out of her company as soon as possible. Mr Stubble would gladly have done so, but special reasons influenced him to stay and see the sale over, though he took very little part in the general cleansing operations, being under the impression that it was superfluous work.

“What's the good of fagging theeself into a bad temper to polish up them traps, Peggy? They will be mauled about by scores of dirty hands to-morrow, and 'em woan't fetch a penny more for all thee labour,” said Joe one day as he entered the drawing-room, where his wife and daughter, scented strongly with bees'-wax and turpentine, were rubbing away at the tables and chairs like French polishers working by the job.

“Well, never you mind, Stubble; if we like to do it, you needn't interfere. It is precious little you do to help us; so

  ― 113 ―
don't hinder us, if you please. I don't want all the people in the district to come and see dirty things in my house; and I won't let 'em neither, while I have any strength left in my arms. Hand me that hard brush, if you have done with it, Mag. Now just be off, Stubble, and don't worrit me, or we shall have words.”

“All right, missis, rub away; I don't care. But thee needn't be bees'-waxing my old arm-chair.”

“I'm quite sure it will look all the brighter for a good rub, father,” said Mag, appealingly; “and it will fetch ever so much more, I'll be bound.”

“I bean't going to sell that for no price,” said Joe; “and I doan't want 'ee to rub 'en up, and make 'en smell like horse physic.”

“Not sell it!” exclaimed Peggy, pausing in her work. “What on earth are you going to do with it, then? You are never going to take that lumbering old thing to Sydney, sure-ly? I shall be ashamed to see it carried into my house.”

“Well, then, it sha'n't go into thee house, if thee be'st 'shamed of 'en; but I woan't sell 'en for all that, missis. I have had many a comfortable snooze in that old chair, and I like 'en forty times better than that gingerbread thing in the corner yonder, what thee be'st always skeered to see me sit in. Master Drydun gave 'en to me up at Luckyboy; so I mean to keep 'en for his sake, and I'll ax neighbour Rowley to take care of 'en for me. I may as well take 'en out of thee way directly.” Joe then put the chair on his head and walked away with it to Briarburn, being glad of a good excuse for getting out of his house, which was full of confusion and disagreeable odours.

But the day of the sale was the most trying time for poor Mrs Stubble. She could not be persuaded to go over to Mrs Rowley's, which would have spared her the mortification of seeing her nice clean house invaded by a host of bargain-hunters in dirty boots, and the more serious annoyance of hearing her shiny chattels scandalously run down by competing bidders before they were knocked down by the auctioneer.

A petulant mother has sometimes been heard to call her lively little boy, “a tormenting young monkey,” or her infant girl, “a good-for-nothing little cat,” and at the same time look cross enough to mean all she said; but had even an intimate friend of the family merely insinuated that the said children were only half as bad as their mother had emphatically declared

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them to be, it is almost certain that she would be permanently offended. Mrs Stubble had, but a few days before, called her household furniture “old rickety combustibles,” in order to induce her husband to sell it off; but it touched her to the heart to hear Jack Truckle, the dealer, and others who had come to buy bargains, abuse her goods in similar language, and she would have gone into her bedroom, and “had a good cry,” only that it was, like all the other rooms in the house, full of troublesome customers.

The excitement of Biddy Flynn at seeing so many handy kitchen utensils “knocked down for nothin' at all,” was a comical contrast to the smiling composure of Mr Stubble, and his apparent indifference whether the things were cheap or dear to the noisy buyers. Maggie was several times almost melted to tears, when some venerated household article was put up to be subjected to the rude jokes of the motley company, and finally to become the property of Blowsy the blacksmith, or Nick Shanks the butcher; and her mother nearly fainted away at hearing old Jerry Whacks the cobbler grossly insinuate that there were insects in her best four-post bedstead. Bob Stubble was not free from grievance on that day either; and he received an unpleasant knock on the nose from a travelling hawker for plainly contradicting the atrocious assertion that their favourite eight-day “Frodsham” clock was full of wooden wheels.

But the exciting day ended, about the same time as the sale; and by the light of the moon Bob drove his mother and sister and Biddy, with their personal baggage, to Daisybank, and safely lodged them at the inn for the night. Mr Stubble was left behind to lock up the house, and to attend the sale of his cattle and farming implements; and to finally settle all his business before he joined his loving family in the great metropolis.

As the departing ones waited on the wharf next morning for the arrival of the steamer which was to carry them to Sydney, their feelings were again highly excited; not that they regretted leaving, but they did not like the fraternal demonstrations of the villagers, who had assembled to say good-bye, according to the general custom in New South Wales when any person is leaving a locality where he has long resided. Maggie was particularly fidgety lest any of Mr Goldstone's grand acquaintance should happen to be on board the steamer and see her shaking hands with so many rustics, who, with genuine friendliness,

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had crowded round her; and Bob was almost ready to fight when old Mrs Carney, the baker's wife, in the warmth of her heart, actually kissed him, because she was his nurse when he was a little baby.

But those trials were soon over, and the travellers began to feel more easy in their minds when they embarked, and the steamer had pushed off and was paddling away; the only drawback just then was the vexing discovery that Biddy had left a basketful of eggs and butter, and other housekeeping comforts, on the wharf in the excitement of parting with her friends, who were more numerous than Mrs Stubble's.

The day turned out stormy, and the steamer tossed about, as Bob remarked, “like a kicking colt with the tackle about its heels.” It being the first time that Maggie had been at sea, she did not like the sensation which the violent motion of the ship aroused. Bob did not enjoy his experience either, but he was silent over it. Mrs Stubble thought she would have died, though her loud expressions of feeling, especially when the vessel gave an extra pitch into the head sea, might have encouraged any one to hope that she would not die on that day. Biddy, who was as lively as a sea-gull, did her utmost to soothe them all. Her assurance that the ship would be as steady as a barn when she got inside of Sydney harbour produced no outward sign of consolation in Bob or Maggie; and Mrs Stubble said that such talk as that made her worse; in fact, she refused to be comforted in any way. Biddy at length grew pettish, and muttered to herself “that her mistress's gwarks were beyont all raisin intirely; an' shure it was no wonder that the other lady passenger had axed the stewardess to make up a bed for her on the sky-light.”

After a prolonged passage, the steamer reached the wharf at Sydney a little before midnight.

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