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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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

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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

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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.”

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“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

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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

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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.”