Book II.

  ― 116 ―

Chapter I.

The entry of Mrs Stubble and her son and daughter to city life.—Their early disasters in the furnished cottage.—Bravery of Bob and Biddy.

MOST persons who have travelled by steamers know something about the hubbub that usually prevails at the termination of a voyage; so it is not necessary to describe the scene on board the Wallaby, in order to excite enough sympathy for Mrs Stubble and her children on the night of their arrival in Darling harbour. Whatever it might be to persons who were used to it, Mrs Stubble felt that voyaging by steamer on a windy day was by no means pleasurable to her; and the cheese-coloured faces of her son and daughter were palpable evidences of similar feeling; in fact, none of them were used to the sea, nor did they seem as if they wished to be.

Though Bob acknowledged that he was ever so much better “since the steamer had left off back-jumping,” he shook his head sideways when the steward kindly offered to make up a berth for him for the night, and laconically replied, “No, thank'ee;” adding, sotto voce, as he collected his luggage, “Catch me in a berth again, if you can, now that I have the option of stepping on to dry land.”

Mrs Stubble declined a similar offer from the stewardess, and shruggingly declared that the whirligig motion and the horrible noises on board the steamer, when at sea, were worse than anything she could think of, except the smell of the cabin, which beat all the world; and she further declared that she would go on shore for change of air, even if it were raining rag-stones. The stewardess, in order to obviate the suspicion that there was a lack of cleanliness in her department,

  ― 117 ―
explained that the peculiar scent at which Mrs Stubble had so often turned up her nose was merely the fragrance of the lucerne hay with which the steamer was laden; whereupon Biddy Flynn remarked “that she liked the smell of new hay a dale betther whin it wasn't mixed up wid shtinks from the shteam-engine, and the dhirty wather in the bottom of the ship, to say nothin' of the green hides and the pigs on deck. Shure, ye'll be a mighty sight aisier on the land, missis dear; so be afther puttin' on yer bonnet an' cloak while I rin for a car. I'll find one, niver fear, for cabmen niver go to bed at all, poor mortials!”

Biddy's advice was for once unhesitatingly adopted by her mistress, who languidly said, “Yes, I think your plan is best, Biddy.” On any other occasion Mrs Stubble would have argued more or less before acting upon any suggestion of her shrewd little domestic, no matter how valuable it might be; but at that time she was as helpless as a patient in a hydropathic pack, for the brief season of sea-sickness had made her very weak, and she was proportionately humble. Moreover she mentally admitted that her knowledge of the city was inferior to Biddy's, who had lived several years in Sydney, and boasted that she knew all the ins and outs of it as well as she knew the holes and corners in Buttercup Cottage.

Maggie, too, was almost as subdued as her mother; and as she gazed at herself in a mirror while arranging her touzled ringlets, she decided that nobody should ever persuade her to take a short sea-trip with a view of improving her complexion; and she was thankful that there was no probability of meeting with her lover that night, for he did not know she was in Sydney.

In a short time a cab was procured, and the whole party drove off, with Biddy on the box beside the driver. After stopping a good many times to make inquiries—for their direction-card was not very explicit—the cab finally drew up before two snug-looking little houses in Bullanaming Street, Redfern.

“Here you are, ma'am,” said the cabman, opening the door of the vehicle. “Found it out at last.”

“This can't be the place, surely” whined Mrs Stubble. “Father said it was a cottage, and this is an up-stairs house.”

“Yes, this is it, ma'am. Number two; all right,” replied the cabman, knocking loudly at the door, after he had scrutinised the number and the name of the house, written against a side

  ― 118 ―
wall, “I know the house well enough now, ma'am; Old Towser, the barber, used to live here.

“Well, I never!” muttered Maggie, as she alighted from the cab. “I can't think what could have possessed father to take such a miserable little poking place for us. But I wish we could get inside it, for I am cold as ice-cream, and tired to death too. Knock again, Bob.”

Bob knocked again and again, but there was no other response than dull echoes. Biddy looked through the keyhole, but could see “nothin' but blackness like a coal-cellar, widout a single tint of light at all.”

“Pay me my fare, and let me be off, ma'am, if you please,” said the cabman, as he placed the last trunk on the pavement before the door; “my horses are catching cold, and it's no good of my stopping here.”

“Well, but what are we to do if we can't get into the house?” asked Mrs Stubble. To which query the cabman said he didn't know, “but he would drive them to some other place if they liked, only they must look sharp about it.”

“It is terribly provoking,” said Mrs Stubble, talking aloud to herself. “Stubble told me that he had left a woman in charge of the house, and that everything would be all ready for us, snug and comfortable. I expected to see a good fire, and the kettle on the hob. I am dying for a cup of tea and something to eat, for I have tasted nothing all day but lemonade. Mercy me! I wish we had stayed on board the steamer; or I wish a hundred times that we had never thought of coming to town at all. Knock again, Biddy, can't you? Keep on knocking. Perhaps the lazy woman inside has gone to sleep—drat her! I'll give her a talking to when I catch her.”

Biddy did knock with a vengeance, for she was getting as cold and cross as her mistress. Presently an upper window in the next house was thrown open, and a gruff voice asked, “What's all that row about?” Mrs Stubble explained, in the mildest manner she could assume, that she was the new tenant come to take possession of her house, but she could not get in.

“Oh, I suppose, Mrs Grumm has gone home to see after her old man; he tumbled off his dray yesterday. But she'll be back soon, I daresay. She told me she expected some folks from the country one night this week. You need not keep on hammering at the door, missis. I tell you there

  ― 119 ―
is nobody at home, and you are waking all my young 'uns up.”

“I wonder if you have a key that will open the door, mister,” said Mrs Stubble, appealingly.

“I don't know. Perhaps my front-door key will do it, but I never tried it.”

“Well, hand it out here, an' we'll thry it for yez,” said Biddy. “The doors look as much alike as twin brothers, an' maybe they've both got the same kayhole. Good luck to ye, misther. Look alive an' pitch down the kay; thin ye can go to bed agin. If we can't get intil the house, we'd betther get into the cab agin, an' drive to the ‘Day and Duck.’ I know'd ould Jerry, the landlord, years agone, an' he'll let us in in a jiffy, I'll ingage.”

The man flung down the key; and to the great relief of them all, when Biddy turned it, she declared it was the identical thing itself, for it opened the door at once.

“That's lucky,” said Bob. “What is your fare, cabman?”

“Say six half-crowns, sir. That won't hurt you.”

“What! fifteen shillings! That's too much by half,” said Bob, with the warmth of a thorough native, who was not going to be silently cheated. “Come, come; you mustn't fancy we are ‘new chums.’ ”

“Why, I've been kept standing here for close up an hour; and look at the time o'night, sir. Besides, there is half-a-ton of luggage,” appealed cabby. “You can't grumble at fifteen bob, sir; I'm a poor man, sir.”

“Give it him, give it him, Bob. Don't stand there argufying, and catch your death o' cold. Let us get the boxes into the house,” said Mrs Stubble, who was more disposed for indoor comforts than for saving shillings just then. Bob thereupon paid the demand, and the cabman drove off, laughing, no doubt, at the victims of his extortion.

Bob was too much of a bushman to be without a matchbox in his pocket; so a light was soon procured, and the luggage was deposited in a front room, which they supposed to be the best parlour. Maggie was beginning to break out into another grumble, but was checked by her mother, who proposed that they should go to bed, before they saw anything to spoil their sleep; adding, that “they would have plenty of time in the morning for finding fault, and no doubt there were plenty of faults in the house for them to find.” The up-stairs rooms were bed-rooms; so it was arranged that Maggie

  ― 120 ―
and her mother should occupy the front one, and Biddy the back one; Bob agreed to make up “a shake-down” on the table in the back-room down-stairs. Accordingly, they bade each other good-night, and retired to their several apartments, hungry, and not very high-spirited.

Bob had scarcely got himself comfortably spread on the table, when he heard a loud whisper from Biddy on the stairs, warning him of danger in the rear. “Arrah, for the dear life o' yez, Masther Bob; kape yerself quiet, an' don't show yer nose at the windee. There's thieves in the back-yard, an' we'll all be kilt an' murthered, for the Sydney robbers are the biggest blaggirds in the worrld. Whisht, honey! don't be skeered. Blow yer light out, an' thin they won't see to shoot yez. I'll get yer somethin' to hit 'em wid.”

Bob extinguished the light instantly, and peered through a hole in the blind, when, to his great dismay, he saw three men armed with something, but whether bludgeons or carbines, he could not distinguish. In another minute Biddy was beside him with a poker in her hand. “Here take this, Masther Bob,” she whispered; “I'll go and get the tongs, an' iv they put their heads in here, we'll slaughter 'em in a crack. Hisht! don't make a bit o' noise, or the missis wull be skeered to death, poor soul. Save us! here come the vaggibins right up to the windee.”

Presently the sash was hastily lifted, and a man's head and shoulders were thrust into the room, but were as quickly withdrawn, for Bob's poker descended with a force which might have cracked the intruding skull, had it not struck a glazed hat, which fell off into the room.

“Burst open the door, Jenkins. We'll have 'em;” said an excited voice, and the next moment the back-door was forced open, and two policemen rushed into the room.

“Ownshugh! This is a mistake althegether!” cried Biddy, dropping the tongs when she saw that the supposed robbers were honest constables.

“No mistake about our catching you, old nutcracker,” said one of the men, who seized her, while his comrade caught Bob and united him to Biddy by means of a handcuff.

“Look after them, Jenkins, while I grab the other fellows. I think there are more in the house yet.”

“Och, murcy on yez, good man, don't go up-stairs at all,” shouted Biddy, who was peremptorily ordered to hold her tongue under pain of being choked with a constable's staff.

  ― 121 ―

The hubbub down-stairs aroused Mrs Stubble, who was just beginning to doze, and she immediately nudged Maggie, who was soundly asleep. The surprise of Mrs Stubble was extreme, when, on descending the stairs in the dark to learn what Bob and Biddy were quarreling about, she was grasped by a pair of muscular arms clad in rough cloth. Of course she shrieked, which it was only natural for her to do, and Maggie fainted away; so she could not comfort her mother. Bob and Biddy were pinioned in a corner of the kitchen, and were not even permitted to speak. How this highly exciting affair would have ended, it is hard to say, had not the man next door, who was awakened by the shrieking and scuffling, hastened in to see what was the matter with his new neighbours; and his timely arrival saved the besieged family from a forced march to the watch-house.

A few words will suffice to explain the mysterious occurrence which had so unexpectedly marred the quiet repose of the weary travellers. It appeared that Mrs Grumm had not been apprised of the exact day on which the Stubble family intended to take possession of the house, and it was very reasonable for her to suppose that they would not come after eleven o'clock at night; so about that time she locked up the house and started homeward to see her husband, who had met with an accident on the previous day. She had not been at home long before her son-in-law ran in with the alarming news, that in passing the furnished house he had observed lights flitting about in the rooms both up-stairs and down-stairs. Mrs Grumm immediately opined that thieves had watched her away, and broken into the house; so she procured the assistance of two policemen, and with her son-in-law hastened to the house, in the hope of catching the burglars, as they supposed the inmates of the house to be. The constables and the son-in-law climbed over the back palings and approached the house, while Mrs Grumm waited at the front door to give the alarm if the thieves should attempt to escape that way. I have already shown the reception they met with from the poker and tongs of Bob and Biddy, who were afterwards complimented for their tact and courage by the police serjeant, whose hat they had fractured.

The neighbour next door soon made Mrs Grumm understand the mistake she had committed; and the honest old woman was almost demented at the idea of having caused so much annoyance to her new mistress and family through her

  ― 122 ―
own lapse of duty in leaving the house. While she was humbly begging pardon from the ladies, a policeman was disuniting Bob and Biddy. The son-in-law also penitently expressed his regret that he had made such an unlucky mistake, and having been freely pardoned, he asked to be allowed to supply the family with milk from the cow at tenpence a quart.

Right heartily did Mrs Grumm go to work to make a fire and put the kettle on. She then knocked up the pork butcher and got some chops for supper. Mrs Stubble declared that her appetite was completely scared away; however, it returned with full vigour about the time that Mrs Grumm had placed the edibles on the table, and a little while afterwards all the family were laughing at their late alarm. Biddy said it was “a rale lucky rowdedow afther all, for it saved her from going to bed hungry, which was the most ill-convanient thing in life, barrin' the want of a bed to go to, whin a poor sowl was hungry, and didn't want to kape awake, frittin' bekase there was nothin' to ate.”

  ― 123 ―

Chapter II.

Reflections on the wandering disposition of humanity.—Mrs Stubble's and Maggie's dissatisfaction with their new city home.—More of Biddy Flynn's philosophy.

CRISPIN WELTER, the journeyman shoemaker, as he sat in his dingy off Kirri-billi Point, fishing for bream, could not imagine what induced Mr Luckieman to leave that palatial dwelling of his in Honeysuckle Bay, to face the icy blasts off Cape Horn, and to endure the general discomforts of a life on ship-board for three tedious months.

“There is no accounting for taste,” said Mr Welter, soliloquisingly. “But if I had Luckieman's princely habitation, and only half as much money as he owns, I should prefer to stay here, and go out schnapper-fishing or parrot-shooting every day, or to enjoy myself in some other rational way, instead of roving to the frosty side of the world to be shrivelled up like a stale carrot by cold easterly winds. Ugh! Go home, indeed! Not I. I'd stay here where I can see sunshine and hear bird-music every day in the year—where I can live warm and die straight. Catch me hurrying off to a region where, I am told, for half the year there is nothing to be seen but snow-balls, yellow fog, and dead trees, and where a poor unlucky bachelor like myself could not even go to bed without a warming-pan at my back, a water-bottle at my feet, and my knees coiled up to my nose. Luckieman may search the world over, and not find a more enchanting spot to locate himself than the one he has left, yonder; I wonder he was not content to stay there.”

It is plain that Mr Welter is not a philosopher, though he is a shoemaker; at any rate, he has not studied human nature very closely, or he would not wonder so much at the migratory whim of Mr Luckieman, neither would he be so sure that he himself would be contented, even if he had yonder grand house and its owner's fortune as well.

It is very likely that a few years ago, when Luckieman was a struggling man, he looked at that mansion as the ultimatum

  ― 124 ―
of his earthly ambition; but encompassed as it is with all that is lovely and enticing, he grew weary of it after he had possessed it for a while. He doubtless expects to be happier in England, whither he has gone; but when he gets there, he will not be wholly satisfied, and probably he will wish he were back in his fine house in Honeysuckle Bay, with its sunny aspect, its evergreen gardens, and sloping lawn; and in this genial climate too, where hard frosts and withering winter storms are unknown.

But the solution of what appears enigmatical to Crispin Welter is simply the inherent desire in the human heart for something more than it at present possesses. The following short extract from “Central Truths” will better explain it. “Give! give! is the ceaseless cry of the spirit. Is the child happy? He will be when he is a man. Is the peasant satisfied? He will be when he is rich. Is the rich man satisfied? He will be when he is ennobled. Is the nobleman satisfied? He will be when he is king. Is the king satisfied? Listen, for one is speaking—‘Oh, that I had wings like a dove, for then would I fly away, and be at rest.’ ”

If Mrs Stubble, when she first came to the colony, had had such a home to call her own as the one she had just entered upon, she would have thought herself more fortunate than any of her ancestors, for not one of them had ever had such a dwelling; indeed, any person of moderate desires would have considered it a snug little house, and tolerably well-furnished. It was small certainly, and not at all stylish either internally or externally, and the little tenements opposite did not add to its gentility of position; but if it had been directly opposite to Mrs Burdekin's town mansion, it would not have saved it from condemnation in the judgment of Mrs Stubble and her equally dissatisfied daughter. They wanted a grander house, and that craving marred their appreciation of present conveniences, which were threefold more than they would have presumed to hope for at one period of their lives.

No sooner did they open their eyes on the morning after their unpleasant entry, before described, than, instead of saying their prayers, they began to notify all the faults they could see without raising their heads from their pillows. Maggie opined that the sheets had been rinsed in a tan-pit, while her mother picked holes in the moth-eaten blankets, and called the dimity curtains dowdy rags. The bed they unanimously declared was stuffed with old millet brooms and peach-stones,

  ― 125 ―
and they were surprised that they had not awakened to that fact in the middle of the night. They suspected, too, that they had been visited in their sleep by certain nocturnal creatures that poets seldom refer to, and which often haunt town-beds, even in dwellings where the chamber-maids are as vigilant as detective officers, and for which a hammer, or some such instrument, is the only effectual exterminator.

“It's no good lying here shuckening any longer; let us get up, Mag,” said Mrs Stubble. So they got up, and while performing their toilet duties they each moment discovered some new source of discontent. Mrs Stubble found that the ewer was minus a handle, and the towel-horse was unscrewed in its legs, for it tumbled down directly she touched it. Maggie, about the same time, loudly condemned the looking-glass, which was of a cheap sort, and not a truthful article, for it made her mouth seem as wide as the breast-pocket of Bob's shooting-coat; or, to quote her own words, “turned her into a perfect fright,” which was certainly not fair, for Mag was a pretty girl, as I have before explained. After a general exploration of the two up-stairs rooms, and discovering many more things to grumble at than I shall mention, they descended to the back-parlour, where Bob was sitting before the fire taking his first lesson on the bellows, and laughing like a savage at an automaton drummer, while Biddy explained the philosophy of that domestic wind-instrument, which Bob had never before handled.

Mrs Stubble could not fail to notice that the room was full of smoke; but Biddy explained “that the flue was choke-full of soot, and that was the rayson why the smoke cudn't find its way up to the chimbley-pot; but she'd soon cure that complaint wid the firsht shweep she cud cotch goin' by.” Mrs Stubble thought that the people who let the house ought to have seen that the chimneys were all swept, and that the house was clean and tidy in every other part, including the windows, which looked as if they had been last dusted with a greasy mop. A shriek from the kitchen interrupted Mrs Stubble's tirade against the rusty fire-irons, and almost simultaneously Maggie rushed into the parlour in great trepidation, having seen a rat on the dresser eating a candle.

“Shure, that's nothin', darlint. Iv ye'd jist sed ‘hoosh’ to the crayther, it'ud ha' bolted off like a runaway horse,” said Biddy, soothingly. “There's allers lots o' rats in Sydney, an' it's a good job too, I'm thinkin', or we'd pritty soon be

  ― 126 ―
pisoned intirely wid the hapes ov rubbidge that they ate up, poor wretches. Tut, don't say that agin, Miss Maggie, bekase it's nonsense. The landlord isn't a ha'porth to blame for the rats anyhow, for the varmint won't take a civil notice to quit. My word for it, ye'll rin a long way afore ye'll find a house in town widout rats in it, unless there's a good sharp cat to scare 'em away, or bite their heads off. Afther all, the rats ain't nigh hand so bad as the shnakes in the bush; 'an shure, didn't I find one great long varmint coiled up in me best bonnet last Good Friday, forbye the big ugly bear under me hed, and no end ov triantilopes an' centipees, that ye may allers find iv ye go lookin' for 'em.”

While Biddy prepared breakfast, Mrs Stubble and Maggie continued their investigation of the house in general, and the best parlour in particular; and the result was, that they became thoroughly dissatisfied with their dwelling, and decided that they would not stay in it a day longer than they were absolutely obliged to do. It was fortunate for Mr Stubble's peace that he remained behind at Buttercup Glen to sell the cows, and perhaps well for the character of the whole family, for his wife and daughter were, by their own confession, downright cross; and as they regarded “father” as the immediate cause of their perplexities, he would doubtless have received a scolding severe enough to have made the lion within him roar, and thus let their family dissension be known to all the listening gossips in the locality. But as Joe was beyond reach, Biddy came in for the full explosive force of their ill-humour; and the poverty-stricken appearance of the breakfast-table having reminded her mistress of the lost basket of edibles, that served as a pretext for scolding Biddy for her carelessness in leaving the basket on the wharf at Daisy-bank.

“Och, missis, darlint! be aisy, can't yez? an' let a poor body have a morsel of pace an' quietness. Shure it's little enough of that same I'm afther gettin' for a week or more, forbye what I cotched last night itself,” exclaimed Biddy supplicatingly, after her mistress had “blown her up” till she was short of breath herself.

“Don't tell me, indeed!” quoth Mrs Stubble. “I'll let you know that if I pay you wages, I have a right to say what I please to you.”

“I don't care at all what ye say to me in rayson, missis; but what on airth is the good ov kickin' up a rumpus about

  ― 127 ―
an ould basket that's a hundred miles, or more, away from us? Dear knows, that won't fetch it a ha'porth nigher ta yez.”

“That's the way you always try to excuse your blundering, Biddy,” said Mrs Stubble, seating herself with the air of a deeply-injured woman resigning herself to circumstances.

“Well, dash it all, missis, it's betther to say somethin' sensible than to be blatherin' away in your style, axin' yer pardin. An', good luck ta yez, ma'am, don't be afther frittin' an' fumin' any more about this old house, or, be gawnies! I'll rin right straight away back to Daisybank, an' hire meself for life to Mrs Rowley. I will so: an' she'll be plased enough for me to do it, I'll bet a penny. Whisht a bit now, missis dear!” she added, as she saw that Mrs Stubble was about to reply, “hear me shpake a word or two ov common sinse. This isn't the house for yez, that's plain enough; for it's too little altogether, an' there isn't a room for me to sleep in, barrin' the crib jist over the kitchin, about half as big as a baker's oven, and pritty nigh as warrm too; but that's naythir here nor there, for I'm nobody at all. The house is ill convanient for yerself; an' it's my belief, if the masther had seed it afore he hired it, he wouldn't have had any truck wid it at no price. Still an' all, ma'am, frittin' an' grumblin' won't alter it the laste bit in life. All the tears in the worrld wouldn't mend a cracked mug; any fool cud see the rayson in that bit ov sinse. Aisy another minute, ma'am. Don't shpake yit. I haven't quite done. I'm goin' to tell yez a thrue fact to show what I mane. Listen now.

“There was two Irish bhoys as lived nixt door neighbours on a bit o' ground up Cockadingy Creek,” continued Biddy, “and a flood came an' ruined their young crops ov early corrn out an' out. Troth it did no end ov mischief forbye that; but niver mind shpakin' about that at presint. ‘Och, Pat, me jewel, how mortial thin ye're lookin',’ said Mike to his unlucky neighbour, a week or two aftherwards. ‘An' what's up widge yer, honey? Shure ye're lookin' as bony as a bullock's tail, so ye are.’

“ ‘I've bin frittin' about me corrn what the flood spiled on me, till I'm close up broken-hearted, and Judy's worser nor myself, poor sowl!’ said Pat. ‘But I say Mike,’ ses he, ‘yer corrn is sproutin' up agin green as young leeks, so it is; an' I thought it was drownded intirely, same as me own was. How's that now, will ye tell me?’ ses he.

“ ‘Why,’ said Mike, ‘this is it, me bhoy. As soon as iver

  ― 128 ―
the flood wather rin off me ground, I sets to work an' put in some ninety day corrn, an' I was jist in time ye see, for it's comin' up illigantly, an' I'll have a good crop afther all, plase God.’

“ ‘Troth!’ sed Pat, ‘I wisht I'd bin puttin' in ninety-day corrn too, 'stead ov sittin' down an' frittin' over me bad luck; but I never onst thought of it, an' now it's too late to do it, soh! What a great guffy I've bin, to be shure.’

“Now ye see, missis,” added Biddy, “if ye'll take my advice, ye'll jist give over botherin' yerself about this little crib, wid its dhirty windees, an' shmoky chimneys, an' bad drain under the parlour floor, an' all them other nasty things what ye're allers tryin' to smell. Niver say another worrd about 'em at all, good or bad, but go out and look for another house to-morrow. Thin, whin the masther comes home, iv ye'll put a swate face on yez, an' ax him tinderly, I'll ingage he'll let you move out of this one in harf a jiffy. That's all I've got to say, ma'am.”

Mrs Stubble was about to tell her faithful servant to mind her own business; but she was interrupted by Bob, who laughingly declared “that Biddy talked like a Christmas-book;” whereupon Maggie laughed, and Mrs Stubble was obliged to laugh too, because she could not help it. They then sat down to breakfast, looking quite pleasant, while Biddy shuffled to the kitchen, as happy as a prime minister who had just signed a treaty of peace.

After a long discussion, it was unanimously resolved to follow Biddy's counsel, to do their utmost to get father into the humour to move them into a better house.

  ― 129 ―

Chapter III.

Mr Peter Rowley's experienced opinions upon sundry important social and commercial matters.—Mr Stubble sells his estate at Buttercup Glen, and takes his departure for Sydney with a pocket full of money.

IT had been decided that Mr Stubble should stay at the Glen for a few days to watch the sale of the live stock and farming implements, and also to find either a tenant or a purchaser for the farm itself. He most willingly acquiesced in that plan, for he wished to give his family the privilege of discussing the merits of their new city home, unembarrassed by his presence: he had a shrewd idea, too, that his own personal quietude would be enhanced by that arrangement. After Bob had departed in the cart with his mother and sister and their appurtenances, Mr Stubble locked up his lonely dwelling, put up all the slip rails, and then walked slowly over to Mr Rowley's house, where he had been invited to stay until his final departure from the district.

He was unusually dull that evening; and though Mrs Rowley had provided a nice hot supper, and everything else she could think of to make him comfortable, even to a pair of sheepskin slippers and the easiest arm-chair in the house, he still looked dispirited, and tears stood in his eyes as he remarked, “that he felt awfully sorry at leaving the old house, and wished with all his heart that his folks could have made themselves contented in it, instead of moving away into a noisy, dusty city, where he was certain they would have less comfort, if they had more style.”

“Somehow or other, I can't feel easy about this change that I be making, Peter; I never felt so uncertain before in anything I took in hand, for I can't see any good luck ahead of me. Howsomever, the job's done now, and it's no good crying over dead chicks. My folks be all gone, and I must follow 'em pretty soon; for whipped if I'd live away from my wife and young 'uns, if anybody would give me a big castle choke-full of marble figures and other fashionable ornaments.

  ― 130 ―
But I want to know what thee'st got to say about my selling the farm, Peter,” continued Joe, trying to brighten up a little. “Since I seed 'ee last, Sam Plodder has offered a middlinish rent for 'en; but my missis says her won't come back here agen long as her lives, so I doan't see the good of keeping it. Mr Wiseman's estate, over the river beyond, sold like gold nuggets t'other day, when it wor cut up into little farms, and no doubt mine would sell fast enough; in fact, Mr Knox, the auctioneer, tould me he'd get a customer for me in a crack, if I only said the word. Now is the time to get shut of it, if I want to, for buyers are as eager for sellers as gals are for sodgers. What dost thee think I ought to do, neighbour?”

After a few minutes' silent cogitation, Mr Rowley replied, “I daresay the farm would sell now, and fetch its full value, Joe; but I don't see how you could invest the money to bring you in better interest than you can get in the shape of a rental. Money is wonderfully plentiful at present, and there is as sharp competition going on in Sydney between the colonial and the English banks as there is among the Daisy-bank dealers when there is a sudden rise in the price of eggs. Some of the banks have reduced the rate of discount to three per cent. per annum, which is lower than I ever knew it to be before in the colony; and if you have any bank stock, you will probably find your next dividend smaller than usual. I think Sam Plodder is a man who will take care of your property, Joe, and pay his rent regularly; but you might have some trouble in investing the money safely and profitably.”

“I forgot to tell'ee, Peter, Master Goldstone says he will show me how to 'vest my money first-rate, and get a deal more interest than my steam shares fetch.”

“Many persons will undertake to show you that trick, Joe,” said Mr Rowley, smiling. “But I have often heard of money-jobbers making investments for country clients which have never returned either interest or principal. I don't mean to insinuate any such scheming to Mr Goldstone, for I do not know much about that gentleman; but I would have you be very careful whose advice you take in such matters, and to look well to your security, rather than to the temptation of a high rate of interest, which is often held out as a bait to catch the unwary. Consult a respectable solicitor before you decide upon an investment; then you will be pretty safe. As a rule, I begin to suspect that something is wrong with the security when I hear of more than current rates of interest

  ― 131 ―
being offered for money. Mr Goldstone is but a young man, you know, Joe, and he cannot have had much experience in investing money in the way that you would like to place your capital; so you had better be cautious in taking his advice. Remember that money is like a man's fair reputation, not always an easy matter to regain after it is parted with.”

“That is just what my ould measter, Mr Drydun, used to say. ‘Joe,’ says he to me one day, ‘if I had all my money in my pocket now, I'll warrant I'd hold it tighter than I did before.’ ”

“Yes, most people say that when they have lost their money, Joe. I have been thinking a good deal over the matter since I last saw you, and if you were not so fully bent upon selling your farm, I would advise you to settle it on your wife by a legal instrument. Then you will secure a comfortable home for yourselves, if things should go wrong in your new mode of life, and reverses overtake you, as they have done many wiser men than you or me. It would only be an act of justice to your wife to see that she is provided for, for you know she worked to help you to make your fortune; and it would be hard upon her if you should be unlucky enough to lose it, and thus compel her to go to work again when she is getting up in years. I suppose you are not in debt, Joe? Excuse my bluntness.”

“Debt! not I, indeed; thank God. I be as free from debt as I be from disease. Leastwise, I tell a story; I owe Master Raspin, the farrier, a pound or two, and eighteenpence to the puntman,—that's all as I know of; but it bean't much to be scared at, anyhow.”

“I knew you were the wrong mark to run far into debt, Joe, or I should not have been so free with my advice. It would be wrong—nay, positively fraudulent—for you to convey the farm to your wife, to the prejudice of your creditors, or if you intended to trade on the reputation of being the owner of the property which you had thus legally parted with. But as you can do it with a clear conscience in the sight of God and man, I would strongly urge you to consult with your lawyer on the subject as soon as you get to Sydney, and in the meantime leave the farm alone. It will not run away, you know; but I am not so sure about the money that you might get by the sale of it.”

“Hast thee made this farm over to the missis, Peter?” asked Joe, with a knowing look.

  ― 132 ―

“No, I have not done so, Joe; and I am not in a position to do it now, if I would. When I foolishly went to Sydney a few years ago to begin a business that I did not understand, I had more than two thousand pounds cash, and this farm to the good, and I did not owe a shilling. Then I might honestly have made the farm over to my wife, and traded to the extent of my ready money. That would have been all fair and square, and I ought to have done it, but I did not give it a thought. A year or two afterwards, I got into difficulties, as you have heard me explain, and I was in some danger of being sold off altogether, only I had one good friend who knew I was an honest man, and he stood by me. At that time I deeply regretted that I had not secured my poor wife from poverty, but it was too late to remedy my omission. Many men in my position would have done it even then, and taken the chance of their creditors not looking sharply into the transaction. That sort of thing is very often done, I am sorry to say; but I knew it was best to do what was right, and then I could ask Almighty God to help me. I struggled on, and after a while I weathered the storm; but I am not quite clear of debt yet.”

“When thee gets all straight, will thee give the farm to the missis then, Peter?”

“There is not the same necessity for my doing it now, Joe, for I shall probably never move from here again while I live; certainly, I shall not be tempted to meddle with business matters that I know nothing about; nor is it likely that I shall be persuaded to back bills for any of my needy friends, and ruin myself in that way, as our old neighbour Roslyn has done. But I tell you what I did a few years ago, Joe. I invested in what is called a deferred annuity; so, after I am sixty years old I shall receive two pounds a week for life, and if I should die in the meantime, all the money that I have paid to the assurance society will be paid back to my wife. That provision is quite secure from the claims of creditors.”

“That is what my ould dad would call ‘preparing for a rainy day,’ ” said Joe; “nation good sort of overcoat that, Peter.”

“It is so, friend, for none of us knows in this uncertain world what reverses may overtake us. I was induced to take that step by the example of one of the richest men in Sydney. I heard him tell at a public meeting how he had provided against future poverty by a deferred annuity. So thinks I to myself, there are not many safer men in the land than that

  ― 133 ―
gentleman is in every way, for he is as wise as he is rich, and if he thinks it is prudent to make such a provision for himself, surely there must be more reason for me to look out. So I took out a policy the very next day, and I endowed my girl at the same time.”

“What did thee do to her, Peter?” asked Joe, with a look of amazement.

“Why, made an endowment for her in the same office that I took out my annuity policy. I will try to explain it to you, as you don't seem to understand it. Sophy was at that time about thirteen years of age; and by paying a little over thirty pounds a year, I secure £300 to be paid to her when she is twenty-one years old, and a good lump sum besides in the shape of bonus; and if she should die in the meantime, I shall receive back all the money I have paid into the assurance office. So you see that is a good deal better provision than putting money by in the savings-bank for her, which would only bear simple interest.”

“My word, it be'st, Peter. I never heard tell of that scheme afore. Howsomever, I've got lots of money for my young 'uns, so I doan't see as I want to do anything in that line; besides, I shouldn't fret much if 'em were forced to work for their living. I've taken care to give 'em a good bit of schooling, and that's better than money for boys and girls any day. But as for giving the farm to the missis, I don't dezackly like the notion, governor; and I'll tell'ee for why. Doan't 'ee think I be going to say aught against my ould woman; I'll never do that, Peter. Her be's as honest a wife as ever wore a gown; but her might fancy her had a right to wear the other concerns as belong to the master if her was owner of the property and could do as her liked with it. It's human nature, you know, to make others knuckle down, as the saying is. I knowed an easy-going old chap up the country, named Sam Hoony, who made his property over to his wife, every stick he had, and banged if her didn't stick to it all like wax. Her wouldn't let poor Sam have a shilling to buy 'baccy, without grumbling like as if he wor pinching her; and their boys and girls used to treat their old dad as if he wor a reg'lar cadger.”

“But that is an extraordinary case, Joe; and you need not apprehend similar treatment from your family.”

“Noa, I don't expect I should, Peter, for my wife and children are very good all of 'em; and though 'em be a bit contrary now and again, not one of 'em would be cruel to a horse,

  ― 134 ―
let alone to me. But there's such lots of roguery in that way that I be reg'larly set against it. I've heard tell of fellows making over property to their wives, when 'em hadn't an honest shilling to call their own, and were over head and ears in debt besides. Now, afore I'd let any one say that Joe Stubble was a rogue of that sort, I'd run the risk of being as poor as old Mutton, the blackfellow. That's the way to say it, Peter.”

“If I were sure I was planning what is lawful and right, I should not be turned aside by dread of what ill-natured persons might say or think, Joe; for scandal never yet broke a man's bones. You would only be using a prudent precaution in a straightforward way; and I don't think you ought to be deterred from it by dread of backbiters, who will say anything but their prayers. All good measures are liable to be abused; nevertheless, a good thing is good for all that. It is true enough that unprincipled persons have often made away with property which belonged to their creditors, and I have seen many glaring examples of the sort; but in most cases the creditors themselves were to blame for not looking sharper after their own rights, and at the same time protecting society in general from the dangerous influence which must result if such frauds are allowed to be perpetrated with impunity.”

“Thee seems to know a thing or two about schemers, Peter.”

“I don't think you have heard me say so much about them before, Joe, though I might say ten times more; but all I could say would not cure them, and it would only harass my own mind. There is a day of reckoning coming for them, and I should like to see them all squaring up for it. I lost a lot of money during that commercial crisis when folks were going insolvent, half-a-dozen every day. I daresay you remember the time; Mr-r-r—I forget his name (he is dead now, poor man) was commissioner. Debtors of the “happy-go-lucky” sort used to walk up King Streetnote as jauntily as if they were going to a levee, and a month or two afterwards you might have seen them starting in business again, brisker than ever.”

“I don't see how 'em managed that rightly, Peter.”

“Of course you don't, Joe; but many persons did it legally, and scores of small creditors like myself had to suffer loss. By some sort of conjuration, only known to the initiated, an insolvent of the happy sort usually managed to get a few of the large creditors on his side, and then it was useless for any

  ― 135 ―
of the small fry to interfere; at any rate, very few of them had the presumption to do so. The larger the amount failed for, the better chance the debtor had of getting off easily, and of course his pickings were proportionate. The man who “burst up” for a “plum” or so, was usually treated with marked deference by all the officials concerned, and the learned commissioner himself used to look as sympathetic as a good old lady doctoring a scalded limb. Few, if any, of the small creditors had the pluck to say a word to such an important insolvent, for they knew he would soon be in an influential commercial position again, and he might remember their opposition, and pay them off in the wrong coin.”

“That looks nation queer, Peter.”

“I could tell you of still queerer things,” continued Peter. “But I was going to remark, on the other hand, only just let a poor honest struggling man break for a few hundred pounds, and ten to one, if he would not be nearly worried to death by opposing creditors. In the first place, the fat insolvent would most likely be allowed his costly household effects without a dissentient voice being heard; and in the latter case, the humble debtor's application for a similar allowance would perhaps be stoutly opposed by a merciless money-lender, or by some unlucky tradesman, whose patience had been over tried by repeated losses, and who had resolved to make an example of the next insolvent who ‘let him in.’ I must say, however, that the commissioner was a kind man, and it was not often that he allowed a poor man to be deprived of all his furniture. Creditors who lived out of the colony seldom troubled themselves about an insolvent's affairs, being indisposed to incur expense or to throw good money after bad; they usually left the management of an estate to the local creditors, and took whatever dividend they could get, as so much salvage from a wreck, and were joyful over it. The local creditors, too, were in general careless about looking after ‘dead horses,’ and that duty often devolved upon one or two of the more pushing creditors, who usually effected an amicable wind-up by selling the assets to the insolvent. Of course he got his release at the same time, and off he would go again with full sail and flying colours.”

“But, blow it all! folks wouldn't trust these shavers again in a hurry, I reckon!” said honest Joe, looking quite pugilistic.

“Bless your innocence, Joe, my boy! some traders would trust old Bozy himself if he came to them in his best clothes.

  ― 136 ―
There are many keen commercial men who would trust Jerry Wrackem almost to any amount he liked to ask for at his first start off on the new, for they know he is too shrewd a manœuvrer to go to pot again within a reasonable time; at any rate, they consider his bills at four and five months safe enough. Well, you see, after it becomes known that the great firm of Murry, Carbonn, and Co. trust him largely, the”——

“I say, Peter, excuse me, dear, for interrupting you, but I think you have chatted quite enough for the present,” softly chimed in Mrs Rowley. “I am afraid you will lie awake all night, as you usually do after talking on these exciting subjects. Suppose we prepare for bed, dear; I am sure Mr Stubble is weary.”

“You are right, mother, and I thank you for your gentle hints. I don't often let my tongue run so fast about other people's doings; but as our old neighbour is going to Sydney with his pockets full of money, it is but right to give him a little friendly caution, for he does not know half as much of city life as we do.”

“I fancy 'em be all rogues together in Sydney, Peter, sure enough.”

“Don't you go away with any such idea in your head, Joe, my boy; far be it from me to make you think so. I believe that the morality of Sydney, viewed either commercially, socially, or in any other way, would compare favourably with that of any capital in the world. You do not incur any more risk in going to Sydney than you would in going to London; perhaps not so much. Men from the country are always considered fair game for town sharpers, everywhere.”

“No fear about me, Peter, if that is all,” said Joe, nodding his head very knowingly. “Sharpers will have to look double sharp to catch me, I'll warrant. It's my old clothes as make me look like a yokel; but I mean to shine up a bit—as Peggy says—when I get to town. I bean't afeard of being robbed.”

“Pray, don't misunderstand me, my friend,” said Peter. “I don't think you are lacking in common sense—quite the contrary; but you are too apt to think that men whom you meet with are all as honest as yourself. That is what I meant by warning you, Joe. But I will say no more on the subject, lest I tire you out. Hand me the Bible, mother, and call in the maid to prayers.”

Mr Stubble pondered over the advice of his good friend,

  ― 137 ―
and had almost resolved to let his farm to Sam Plodder, and convey it to his wife as soon as he went to Sydney. But the next day, after the sale of the cattle and farming implements, Mr Knox, the auctioneer, with the persuasive eloquence peculiar to his calling, quite altered Mr Stubble's views on the subject; and before he started for Daisybank that night he had received instructions from his client to sell Buttercup Glen if he could get anything like £3000 for it. A day or two afterwards, Mr Knox brought a purchaser for £300 over the reserve price; and on that day week Joe started for Sydney, highly elated at having sold every item of his property in the district, and for ready money too,—for the buyer of his farm preferred paying cash down even to allowing two-thirds of the money to remain on mortgage at five per cent interest.

  ― 138 ―

Chapter IV.

Mr Stubble's arrival in Sydney.—More domestic disasters.—Social qualities of Ben Goldstone, and pride of the family at the prospect of Ben soon becoming an M.L.A.

As Mr Stubble proceeded towards the hired home of his family on the evening that he landed in Sydney from the Daisybank steamer, he had a foreboding of domestic disagreements, and the nearer he got to Redfern, the farther he seemed to be from that quietude which he needed after his late excitement. He had some difficulty in finding the house; for though he had the address written plainly enough on a card, “No. 2 Bullanaming Street,” he made so many queer blunders in pronouncing that very uncommon name, that some of the persons of whom he inquired thought he was rather tipsy, while others insinuated that he was “chaffing” them, and answered him accordingly. At length he stood before the identical house, trying to summon resolution enough to knock, like a little boy preparing to plunge into a cold bath on a frosty morning.

“I shall cotch it, sure enough, when I get inside, for this bean't the sort of house I reckoned it wor, nor nothing like it,” he muttered. “I was a gorby that I didn't come and take a look at 'en afore I let that agent-chap wheedle me to pay a month's rent. I be a good mind to run away and come again to-morrow. No, no, bang it! that woan't do neither. They be expecting me whoam; and 'em 'll be skeer'd if I stay away, and think I be drownded in the sea, or sick'd to death in the steamer. Ha, ha, ha! what a rusty old knocker! Mag has had a grumble at this, I'll warrant.” He then rapped at the door in a very modest manner. Presently he heard light tripping footsteps in the passage, and in another minute the door was opened, and his daughter's arms were about his neck, embracing him with an affectionate warmth such as he had not experienced from her for years, and it is not easy to tell whether surprise or delight was the strongest emotion of his throbbing heart.

“O mamma! here's papa come home!” cried Maggie,

  ― 139 ―
which further astonished Joe, for he had never before heard the parental names in his family thus classically expressed. “I am so glad you are come, dear papa! Come in to our snug little parlour,” added Maggie, leading her passive sire by the hand.

“Hallo, measter! welcome home!” said Mrs Stubble, who ran up the passage to meet him, and kissed him very fondly. Bob's salutation was equally cordial, and the greeting of Biddy was as warm as her own kind heart. Such a general display of affection, and such happy-looking faces were almost as overpowering to Joe's sensitive feelings as the sight of a lifeboat would be to the captain of a sinking ship, and two tears of joy trickled down his honest old face.

“Get father's new slippers, Mag. Biddy, bring in the tea-pot, and the hot muffins, and crumpets,” said Peggy. “You are hungry, Joe, I am sure. Was the sea very rough to-day, measter?”

“Noa, it wor as smooth as our lucerne paddock at the Glen:—but what be I talking about? I forgot it bean't our paddock now, Peggy. I've sould all the consarn right out, rump and stump, as thee tould 'en to do.”

“Have you, now? Well done, measter!” said Peggy, giving Joe another kiss, which made his eyes glisten with enjoyment. “And have you got the money for it, Joe? That's the main thing, you know.”

“I have so, lass,” said Joe, slapping his pocket. “Here it be, all right as ninepence, though it bean't in pound notes, dezackly; but it is just as good, and I'll get the ready cash for 'en to-morrow. An' I got three hundred pounds more for the consarn than I expected to get; ha, ha, ha! Doan't 'ee say I bean't a good 'un at a bargain after that.” The whole family here united in a laughing chorus, aided by Biddy, who for once was allowed to have her laugh out unrebuked by her mistress.

“How did the cows sell, father?” asked Bob.

“First-rate, boy. Fetched more 'en they cost us by a long way. The farmers up there have got heaps of money, sure enough.”

“So they ought to have,” said Bob. “For this while back they have been getting thirteen shillings a bushel for wheat, and nine shillings for maize, and ten pounds a ton for potatoes; and almost anything they liked to ask for dairy produce and fruit. Who bought Cherry-stone, father?”

  ― 140 ―

“Sam Rafter bought 'en; and proud enough he looked over his bargain too.”

“Ha, ha, ha! I'll bet a threepenny-bit that Sam gets a burster the first time he mounts Cherry,” said Bob, looking quite merry at the idea of his rival being turned heels over head. “Well, Sam will take care of Cherry, that's one comfort; I shouldn't like to have heard that the poor little cob had fallen into savage hands. After he knows his rider a bit, he is not so likely to buck him off. How much did you get for the old cart, father?”

“Ten pounds odd,” replied Joe, whereupon they all laughed again, like members of a goose club. Well they might laugh at the simplicity of the buyer, for the cart was not worth half the money; but the fact is, that auction sales of farming effects were not very frequent at that time, and some of the people in the neighbourhood had more money than they knew how to spend prudently.

“An' who bought all thim ould tubs out in the back skillion, masther?” asked Biddy, who was as much interested as any one in the result of the sale.

“Let me see—who was it bought them?” said Joe, reflectively. “Oh, old boss-eyed Billy, so it was. He bought the lot for forty shillings.”

“Och, good luck to yez, masther!” shrieked Biddy; “they worn't worth forty fardens; for the bottoms of 'em was as tender as stewed tripe, so they wor. Ho, ho, ho! what a billy looney he must be to give that money for a hape ov ould rubbidge! Ha, ha, ha! his wife wud give him beans when he took the tubs home, I'll ingage.”

“There, there, that'll do, Biddy. You have laughed quite enough. Go to your kitchen and make a good fire up; we'll roast that little pig for supper. I expect Benjamin will be here by and bye,” said Mrs Stubble.

“Oh, aye, yes, to be sure: I forgot to ax about him afore. How be'st he, Mag? All right and toight, I hope.”

“Very well, thank you, father. He was here last night. Oh, I have such lots of news to tell you, papa, when you have rested yourself a bit,” said Maggie.

“How dost thee loike this little crib, Peggy?” asked Joe, with a trembling consciousness that he was tapping a spring whence troubled waters would speedily issue.

“Well, measter, we have all made up our minds that if you

  ― 141 ―
like it, we will put up with inconvenience, and say naught about it,” replied Peggy, looking uncommonly amiable.

“Bless the bright eyes of thee, Peggy!” exclaimed Joe, kissing his wife rapturously. “Thee shan't do nought of the sort, lass. Whipped if thee shall be put out a hair's-breadth. That's the way to say it. This bean't the sort of house to suit 'ee. I could have tell'd that in a crack, if I'd only see'd itafore Mr Clinch nailed me on my bargain. Thee shall have a smarter house than this one, Peggy, for thee hast wrought hard with me to make our fortune, and it's only fair-play that thee should enjoy it a bit. I'll give thee the price of what the old traps at whoam fetched, and the odd three hundred pounds what I got for the farm. Thee shall have the money, and lay it out any way thee likest best, and I won't say nay to nothing. I'll give Bob and Mag a fifty-pund note apiece too, and let 'em spend it anyhow they like. Barn it! what's the good of money if us can't make ourselves comfortable wi' it? Get out of this ould crib as soon as thee likest, Peggy, and take a house to thee mind.”

Peggy and her children seemed quite melted down by Joe's generosity, and they were about to embrace him again, when they were startled by loud shouts from Biddy, who had forgotten that she had a town grate instead of a huge bush chimney, and in making a roaring big fire to roast the little pig she had set the flue in a blaze.

“Mercy 'pon us! What shall we do?” whined Mrs Stubble. “We shall be burnt out of house and home in a minute. Oh dear, dear, dear!”

“What's the use of going on at that rate, mother?” said Bob. “The house isn't ours, you know.”

“Ugh, you stupid boy!” exclaimed Maggie, “haven't we got all our good clothes and lots of things in it? Let us carry them out into the street before they catch fire.”

“Stop a bit! stop a bit! The house bean't burning yet awhile. It's only the soot in the lum, I reckon,” said Joe; and then he hastened to the help of Biddy, who was busy ramming a wet mop up the chimney and shouting like the foreman of a fire brigade, while showers of sparks fell around her.

“Och, murther! Haven't I bin thryin' to catch a chimbley shweep all this blissed day long, bekase I knowed this flue was choke-full ov soot. Bad luck ta these little scrimpin' holes of chimbleys, not bigger nor a pop-gun. Git me another

  ― 142 ―
bucket ov wather, Masther Bob! Hurry, now, hurry! Poogh! I'll be smothered intirely!”

Just then a loud knocking at the front door further startled them, and on Maggie opening it, two constables rushed in; at the same time a crowd of boys and street loungers scaled the back fence. Several volunteers also mounted to the roof of the kitchen, and nearly drowned Biddy below, by pouring a torrent of water down the flue. In the height of the confusion, and while Mr Stubble was warmly disputing the right of constables or anybody else to interfere with him if he chose to burn his own flue clean, Mr Ben Goldstone came in, and soon made Joe understand that he was liable, under one of the city bye-laws, to a fine of five pounds for allowing his chimney to catch fire; of which fact he was practically assured in a day or two. After a while the fire was extinguished, and the mob went away grumbling that it was only a smoky chimney after all, and not a regular flare-up for the engines to play with; so there was no prospect of beer, or salvage-plunder either.

Biddy's kitchen was in a sad state of smut, so was her countenance; and the poor little woman was half inclined to sit down and cry when the climax of her excitement was past. “Ah, shure, cryin' won't clane up this muck, nor roast the pig nayther,” quoth Biddy, while she began to repair damages. Presently she exclaimed in an excited tone, “Where is the pig at all? True as death, one ov thim young rips ov fire-boys has walked it off, so he has; an' the knife-box too, an' the new broom, what missis bought this mornin'. Ochone! what a dreadful mob of dishonest thieves there is in Sydney! I wisht I'd stopped at Daisybank, or I wisht I'd niver left it.”

Of course Mrs Stubble could not bear the loss of a sucking pig and sundry useful chattels with perfect calmness, but the presence of Benjamin in the house had a more pacifying influence than all Biddy's explanations or her threats of running away either. After a while Mrs Stubble decided to send for something hot from the cook's shop for the family supper when Benjamin had departed, and invite him to a befitting repast on some future evening.

When the confusion, caused by the before-mentioned domestic incidents, had subsided, Mr Goldstone began to make himself one with the Stubbles, and to enter into their discussions about household matters with as much interest as if he were already a member of the family. Mrs Stubble never

  ― 143 ―
before felt so gratified as she did while listening to Benjamin's mild suggestions to her husband upon important financial matters. She felt her position elevated ever so many degrees by the happy alliance with Ben; and withal she felt it to be so much safer now that father had some one whom he could look up to, to advise with him, and teach him what he did not know.

Bob Stubble's veneration for his future brother-in-law's conversational talents grew greater every minute, for Goldstone had a glib tongue and effrontery enough to sustain him amidst a more scrutinising audience than he then had. Maggie sat silently listening, but her gushing looks ever and anon told of the pleasing mingle of love, reverence, and pride which was glowing in her maiden heart, while the man of her choice was expatiating on his happiness at feeling himself an honoured member of a family for whom he entertained so much affection and respect.

“Henceforth I shall consider my honour inseparably identified with yours,” said Ben, with a look at each which touched them all in their tenderest feeling. “Anything that affects you as a family or individually, I shall feel proportionately, whether it be joy or sorrow, good fortune or misfortune. You will very shortly be my dear mother,” he added, rising and kissing Peggy, who was shedding tears of glory. “And you, sir, will be my father” (taking Joe's horny hand), “a warmer-souled friend than my own lawful sire. And you will be my worthy brother” (seizing Bob's hand and shaking it vehemently); “and let me now say that I have felt an attachment for you ever since the day we first met. My admiration for you as a sportsman was kindled by the first flash of your long gun, which knocked down four ducks; but the feeling has grown into a strong affection since I have known your qualities as a man and a brother. And what shall I say to you?” he added, turning to Maggie, who softly yielded to his chaste embrace. “My charmer! my life's fond idol!—would that I could say my wife! Hours will seem like weeks, and days like months, until the happy morn arrives when we shall be united in the flowery bonds of Hymen: when I shall, in sight of all in the church, proclaim you Mrs Goldstone, junior; and I trust I may then have the honour to add M.L.A. to that name.”

The concluding part of the last sentence had as marked an effect upon the whole family as if Ben had confidentially

  ― 144 ―
informed them that he was a royal prince in disguise. Mr Stubble was just going to propose a smoke out in the backyard; but the sudden idea of Benjamin being a member of Parliament elect was enough to check Joe's craving for tobacco in a twinkling, and he quietly restored his little black pipe to his waistcoat pocket, and secretly hoped his honourable guest would not smell it, and grow disgusted. Bob, too, looked overawed, and was ashamed of himself for presumptuously calling him Ben a few minutes before, in utter ignorance of his prospective high rank. Bob looked nervous for the remainder of the evening, and always coughed slightly before he spoke to his new brother, whom he was very careful to call Mr Goldstone. Mrs Stubble felt glad and sorry alternately. She was overflowing with family pride at the idea of her girl marrying a “member;” but her triumph would grow dim as she began to dread that he would see something in some of them to be shocked at, or lest he should find out that Mag was not so good as he thought she was, and give her up, and thus upset all her hopes for life. Maggie was troubled with similar feelings; and though she loved the honour and glory of owning an M.L.A., she wished that she were safely married before her Ben took such a tremendous rise above her social level; and her poor little heart began to ache at the bare suspicion of losing such a chance of settling herself, and of astounding Sophy Rowley, and all the rest of her old school-fellows up the country.

Goldstone could not fail to observe those marks of increased respect, but he tried to make them all feel that his approaching honours would be the joint possession of the family. To prove to them that he was not lofty-minded, although he was about to soar to a legislative pinnacle, when Biddy blundered into the room and asked Mrs Stubble if she should “rin for the hot saveloys now,” Ben spared that lady's confusion, and saved Biddy a dreadful scolding, by saying, with the plainness of a mere common man, “My word, that's the sort of grub to get when you don't want to cook in your own caboose. Get some red-hot polonies, and a drop of Tooth's swizzle, and I'll stop to supper. If we can't have sucking pig, let us have saveloys; only see that you don't get stale ones boiled up afresh, Biddy.”

The confidence of the family in some measure returned while partaking of their homely meal together; and when Ben rose to depart, a little after midnight, his cordial salutations

  ― 145 ―
reassured them all, that although he was on the point of becoming such a great man, he was not a whit prouder than he was the first day he called to see them at Buttercup Glen, when he drunk new milk out of a yellow colonial-made mug.

“Ha, ha, ha! They are a jolly rustic lot! green as cabbages!” soliloquised Ben, as he walked to his lodgings under the genial influence of the “pot of swizzle.” “It was a pity I was out of the way when old Stubble came to town to look for a house. If I had been at home, Clinch would not have had the chance of swindling him into taking that detestable little doghole that I am ashamed to go near by daylight. Never mind, it can't be helped now. If I can manage to let them our old house in Slumm Street, I shall get on the right side of father again, and if I coax Joe to buy the house out and out, the governor may perhaps lend me the money for a term, and that will allow me to sail along with a flowing sheet. At any rate, my honoured friends must come out of that little crib; it will never do for them to stop there. If Slumm Street is a dirty neighbourhood, our old house is a fine large one, and that is the main thing. Nobody is thought much of in Sydney if he does not live in a big house.”

“All right!” continued Ben, after a little silent consideration. “I can see my way clear to do two strokes at once; that will be helpful to me in various ways, and be serving others as well. I shall get the Stubbles into a genteel residence, and make up matters with my sulky old daddy, for he will be glad to get a good tenant. All serene! I think I can work it without any trouble. Ha, ha, ha! my mother-in-law is a fussy old judy, but she is nuts on me, and as proud of the forthcoming match as if I were the young lord who has been cutting capers in Sydney lately.”

  ― 146 ―

Chapter V.

A family argument.—Mr Stubble and Bob go to a fashionable tailor.—Ben Goldstone's presents.—Philosophy of a pipe.—Search for a genteel residence.

FOR some time after Goldstone had gone, the Stubbles sat in cheerful conference on the subject of Maggie's coming grandeur, and the correlative exaltation of the whole family. Honest Joe smiled pleasantly while Peggy reminded him of the summer afternoon in their courting days, when they met the gipsy woman at the “Northern Burrows,” and she told her (Peggy) that she would ride in her carriage and have gentle-folks related to her. It was clear to Peggy that the prediction was coming true to a tittle. She was not aware, however, that fortunetellers usually tell all their silly customers the same flattering story,—that it was a mere trick of their trade.

“But when be thee going to be married, Mag?” asked Joe, who had been for some time nodding a drowsy assent to every proposition. “I forgot to ax Mr Goldstone that when he wor saying such a lot of sweet things about thee, as if thee wast made of barley-sugar.”

“Oh, my patience, father! You surely would not be so sil——so—so—unwise as to ask him such a terrible question!” said Maggie, very excitedly. “For pity's sake, don't make such a mistake as that, papa, or I shall die with shame. Benjamin has not yet asked me to name the day, but I can understand his reason for not doing so. He knows that we have not yet got a suitable house; he is aware, too, that we have many preparations to make; and he is anxious to spare us all the embarrassment he can. Any one can see his delicate consideration. I am quite sure it is not because he is apathetic—far from it—for, of course, I know what he has said to me in private, and no poet in the colony could more beautifully express affectionate longing than you all heard him utter here to-night. For you to ask him bluntly when he is going to marry me, would be shocking bad manners, father; and I hope

  ― 147 ―
and trust you will not forget yourself so much, or I don't know how I shall feel; but I am sure I shall faint.”

“All right, Mag! All right! I'll twist my words twice over in my mouth, and bite the rough edges off 'em, afore I speak 'em out, when Ben comes here again. I won't say naught to make 'ee 'shamed; so doan't 'ee look so skeered—

‘'Taint every man can be a poet,
Nor more nor sheep can be a go-at.’

But I shouldn't wonder a bit if us all get slangy, for its natural to copy any one who is high above us, and us be all ready to worship your grand man, and to think all he says is first-rate talk. My word! didn't'ee hear 'en call our victuals “grub,” and let out a lot of poetry of that sort, as nice as our stockman, Jack Slash, could do't? Ha, ha, ha!”

“Yes, yes; but that was only humoursome talk, you know, master,” said Peggy, in an apologetic tone. “I've heard lots of gents up-country say them sort of funny things, and laugh like pixies at the wit of it.”

“I bet a penny thee never heard Mr Drydun talk that lingo, nor his wife neither,” said Joe. “He never called me ‘Old Flick,’ or ‘Old Blowhard,’ same as Ben did to-night, after he had drained his pot of swizzle. Howsomever, I won't grumble, for I bean't over-nice myself; only when Mag is so mighty 'feard of my not talking foine enough afore her shiny sweetheart, it's time to let 'en see that I know what's what as well as her does, if her has larnt grammar. I can tell a carrion crow from a cock pheasant, if I only hear 'en open his mouth once. Though I bean't much of a scholar, I've lived a-nigh fifty years in the world with my eyes and my ears open; and if I haven't larnt a thing or two about men and manners in all that time, I must be a born fool,—that's all about it. But it is the fashion now-a-days for bumptious youngsters to think that an ould chap knows naught, if he hadn't the good luck to be sent to school for a year or two when he was a boy, and if he bean't quite up to the mark in his spelling.”

“I am very sorry indeed that I have grieved you, papa,” said Maggie, kissing her ruffled sire. “You did not understand me exactly. I only meant to tell you that it is not usual for a young lady's papa to ask a young gentleman when he is going to marry his daughter. You know it would look as if we were in a hurry, father; and that would not be proper

  ― 148 ―
at all. Nobody is supposed to be in a hurry about such a thing; at least, genteel people are not.”

“I bean't in a hurry, so I tell'ee, whether I be genteel or t'other thing; and what's more than that, I doan't care a snap if Goldstone won't have 'ee at all. Thee wouldn't have far to run to find a better man than he—that's my notion, though he be's such a mighty big chap, and can gabble like a sea-lawyer.”

“Come, come, measter! You are tired and rather sleepy too; so we had better go to bed, all of us,” said Mrs Stubble, rising from her seat, for she saw that Bob's temper was rising, and he was clearing his throat to speak up for his absent friend. She foresaw a noisy scene, for Joe was too weary to reason calmly, and Bob would have fought, if necessary, for the honour of his brother sportsman; so she told yawning Biddy to bolt up the doors, and “mind she did not set fire to the house again;” and then they all retired for the night.

After seven hours' slumber, Mr Stubble's system was so much invigorated that, to use his own figure, he felt as fresh as a cart-horse after a fortnight's spell in a clover paddock, and there was not a shadow of last night's pettishness on his smiling face when he sat down to the breakfast-table.

“What be us all going to do to-day?” he asked, looking round at his family. “There be's no cows to milk, nor pigs to feed, nor bullocks to yoke up, and nothing at all to do but play with one another. I'll take the lot of thee to see the house that the governor lives in, if thee be'st a-mind. What dost say, mother?”

“You will let me speak out what I think is best to be done, Joe, won't you?” asked Peggy, deferentially.

“Ees, to be sure, lass. Haven't thee allers done it ever since the day after us was first married? Doan't 'ee think I've brought 'ee to Sydney on purpose to gag thee. Say what thee lik'st, all of thee, but doan't'ee talk slang, because it ain't pretty.”

“Well, I think we ought to go out and look for a house; but, first and foremost, Bob wants to go to the tailor's to get some new clothes, and you had better go with him, Joe. Your best colonial tweed suit is shrunk up ever so much too tight for you since that stupid thing Biddy boiled it all night with the blankets in the washing-copper. Mag and I think you will look much better in a nice black cloth suit, and we will

  ― 149 ―
go with you to be measured, if you like; then we can see that you are well fitted.”

“Very well, missis; so be it. Thee shall rig me out how thee lik'st; but I bean't sure that thee'll fancy the look of me afterwards, for I never wear'd a black coat in all me life. To my fancy, colonial tweed beats all that fine stuff, for it's good and cheap; besides, you haven't got to be allers rubbin' yerself down with the dandy-brush, for it doan't show the dust. I'm thinking the main thing that tailors have got to find fault with it for is, that everybody knows the price of it; so the tailors can't bamboozle ye with long bills, same as they can when they sell broad-cloth, and such like stuff, that nobody knows the value of 'cept the snip himself. Ha, ha! everybody likes to have a little mystery in his trade, else how could he live and make money? Howsomever, thee shall have thee own way, Peggy, as I tell'd thee before. Rig me out as black as a parson, if thee likes it; I doan't care how ugly I look.”

An hour or two afterwards the Stubble family alighted from an omnibus, and entered the shop of a fashionable tailor in George Street, whose card of address they had received from Benjamin.

“Mister Goldstone tould 'en that yours was the best shop to go to, to get a first-rate rig-out,” said Joe, addressing the primly-dressed master of the establishment, who had looked rather dubiously at his customers on their entry, as if he fancied they had come to the wrong shop.

“Very happy to serve you, sir. Would you like to look over these fashions?” said the tailor, bowing politely.

Joe glanced over the book of fashions, while a quizzical smile played over his face. Fearing he might say something which would lessen the respect which the tailor seemed to feel for them all, Mrs Stubble came to the relief, and explained, in mincing accents, that Mr Stubble wanted a suit of the very best superfine black cloth clothes.

“Certainly, ma'am: shall be very happy. Will you do me the favour to step this way, sir, and I will take your measure? Forward, Mr Serge!”

The latter short sentence was addressed to an assistant in a back-shop, who speedily came to the front-shop.

“Ready, Mr Serge?”

The assistant replied that he was quite ready, and his master then applied the tape to Joe, and took his length and breadth from neck to heel, meanwhile expressing (parenthetically)

  ― 150 ―
the usual compliments on the shape and make of his customer. He then smilingly said, “That will do, sir; thank you,” whereupon Joe slipped into his country-cut coat again, and felt as much relieved as a sailor just let out of irons.

“What'll be the price of this 'ere new suit as you are going to make, mister?” asked Joe, in his simplicity.

“Oh, sir!” said the tailor, rubbing his hands and looking slightly wounded; “gentlemen never ask the price of an article at my establishment.”

“It's all right, father,” whispered Peggy, with a reverential side-glance at the tailor. “Benjamin said he knows the gentleman, and we could put down all we bought to his account, and he'd settle it for us.”

“I be satisfied, Peggy. Thee could allers drive a better shop bargain than I could,” said Joe, who was highly amused at the change which city life had wrought upon his wife in so short a time. Had she been buying a garment from a Daisybank storekeeper, she would have haggled over the price for ten minutes at least: but she was too much over-awed in the presence of a town tailor even to ask what she had to pay for a suit, much less try to abate the price a single shilling.

“I think I ought to have a smart hat of some sort to match these new consarns, Peggy,” whispered Joe. “This old cabbage-tree tile looks rather greasy.”

“Of course, dear, I am going to get you a new one. Do you sell black hats, sir?” she asked of the tailor, who politely assured her that he did sell hats of the very best London and Paris makers, and forthwith he began to exhibit some of the latest fashions.

“Whew! Thee bean't going to put my head in a long-faced hat, Peggy, surely? Nobody belonging to me ever wear'd one of them consarns,—ho, ho, ho!”

“Hush, Joe. Doan't 'ee laugh so loud. You must have a black hat with superfine clothes. Leave it to me; I know what I'm about.” Maggie at the same time said, “Of course, father.” So Joe waived his objections, and tried on a new glossy Gibus; but on looking at himself in the cheval glass, he burst into such a roar of laughter that his wife and daughter were quite shocked at him, and Mr Serge giggled himself purple behind his desk, while Bob beat his own leg with his riding-whip to chasten his mortified pride, and mentally vowed that he would never go tailoring again with his father and mother.

  ― 151 ―

“Had you not better let me make you two suits of clothes, sir?” asked the tailor, who began to apprehend that his customer was rich, although not so refined as he hoped to make him look in a few days.

“I doan't know naught about it; ax the missis,” replied Joe. Whereupon Mrs Stubble told the tailor that he might make two suits if he pleased, but she hoped he would make them well, and not fail to send home one suit on Saturday night. Some neck-ties and gloves were next selected for Joe, and then Peggy said she thought he was furnished all but his boots, which she must buy at Mr Lobb's shop.

The task of suiting Bob was not quite so simple as it had been to fit out his sire, for Bob was extremely fastidious in the selection of material, and positively tiresome with his instructions to the tailor to make his clothes of the newest cut. After a while he appeared to be satisfied that justice would be done to his symmetrical figure; and when Mr Serge had written down their address “No. 2 Bull-in-a-ring Street,” the tailor bowed his customers out.

“I say, Peggy, I wish I'd a-thought of it to ax the tailor if he knows where there be's a house that'll suit us,” said Joe, after he had got a little way from the shop.

“I'll go back and ask him,” said Peggy; “I daresay he'll tell us in a minute, for he is a very civil man. Not a bit like old Deedle the tailor at Daisybank.”

“Quite a gentleman,” said Maggie. “Did you see him offer me a chair, ma? I daresay Benjamin has told him who I am, and that is the reason why he was so respectful to us all.”

“Hold hard, Peggy, I'll run back. Stop 'ee here all of thee, aside this apple-stall,” said Joe; and away he trotted back to the shop. On entering, he found the tailor and his assistant with very red faces and their eyes moist with emotion of some sort, but Joe did not suspect that they had been laughing at him till they were tickled to tears. “I say, mister, can 'ee tell 'en where I can get a good house to rent?”

“Let me see,” said the tailor, after coughing away his smirks. “I don't know of one myself just at present, but you can't do better than go to Mr Craig the house-agent,—a very honest man, sir,—came out in the same ship with me. His office is just round the corner. He'll suit you, if it is to be done.”

“thank'ee, sir. Good-day.”

A few minutes afterwards, Joe entered Mr Craig's office,

  ― 152 ―
followed by his family. He opened his business by giving the agent a running account of his recent visit to Sydney, and the bad bargain he had made with Mr Clinch, while Mr Craig listened attentively, and seemed much grieved at the greedy anxiety of his brother agent to secure a commission rather than to see his client comfortably housed.

“Ah, I am very sorry you did not come to me, sir, in the first instance, instead of going to Clinch,” said Mr Craig, with a virtuous shrug. “I don't like to say anything against a person in the same line as myself; but I may simply remark, sir, that if you had consulted me first of all, you might have saved yourself a good deal of trouble and expense. However, I think I can satisfy you now,” he added, opening a big book, and beginning to look more cheerful.

“It's a thousand pities you did not think of this gentleman before, Stubble, instead of going to t'other tricky fellow,” whispered Peggy.

“How could I think of 'en, thee silly goose!” said Joe, tartly. “Didn't Goldstone himself tell t'other chap to write to us?”

“Oh, to be sure! I forgot that, Joe. Yes, it ain't your fault after all, measter. I daresay you did your best, and it can't be helped. This gentleman will find us a house, I'll warrant.”

Mr Craig said that family residences were very scarce just then; still, after scrutinising his register, he found that he had not less than five eligible houses to let, either of which he thought would suit his new clients nicely. So they got cards to view, and then hired a cab and drove to see the tenements in the order in which the agent had numbered them.

The first one they stopped at was a large house certainly, but it looked so dilapidated that Peggy was afraid it was haunted, and would not even get out of the cab to take a peep through the grimy windows at the inside of it. The next house on their list was a commodious one too, but its back part overlooked a burial-ground, and that was a decided objection in Maggie's eyes, for superstitious reasons which I need not explain. Other two of the family houses to let were in elevated sites of “the rocks;” but Peggy said she preferred Macquarie Street North to that locality, and Bob positively refused to live on the rocks “at any price.” The last house they viewed, which was near Fort Street, was a very good one, and cheap for its size. It was in a cool situation,

  ― 153 ―
under a rock, or rather it had a precipitous cliff in its rear, with a trickling stream of water falling from it into the back-yard. Mag thought that was very romantic, and her mother suggested that they might grow their own water-cress; but Bob damped their poetical ideas in a minute by asserting that the tiny cataract was wholly dependent, in dry weather, upon the liquid contributions of the denizens of the alley above. There was a perceptible savour of alley refuse, not only in the back-yard, but in the back-rooms of the house itself, which unmistakably proved the correctness of Bob's observations.

It was also observed that a brass band of musicians occupied a little cottage on the top of the cliff, and they happened just then to be practising several new tunes all at once, which made Peggy desire to hasten away lest she should get sick headache; but Joe smiled, and said he rather liked the row, as it put him in mind of his old stock-yard at branding time. After a little discussion, they resolved to wait till to-morrow before seeing Mr Craig again; and having grown rather hungry with their long morning's work, they drove straight homeward to dine.

“Hey, day! what are all these things, Biddy?” asked Mrs Stubble, as she entered the front parlour and found the table covered with paper parcels.

“Troth, I can't tell ye what they are, missis; for I never looked into 'em. It ain't pepper anyhow, for I took a smell at every one of 'em. A man brought 'em wid a cart an' horse, an' here 's a letther he left too.”

The letter was addressed to Miss Stubble, and explained that the parcels contained trifling presents for each member of the family, with Benjamin's devoted love and respect. Of course they were all extremely anxious to see what the presents were; so the largest one, addressed to Maggie, was opened first, and proved to be a very handsome dressing-case, which they all declared to be the loveliest thing they had ever seen. The next parcel contained a beautiful work-box for Peggy, which was also rapturously admired. Joe's present was a pound packet of cut tobacco, and a silver-mounted meerschaum pipe. Bob's parcel contained a pair of solid silver spurs, a pocket-pistol (or dram-bottle), and a massive gold breast-pin. The head of the pin represented a horse's ear, quite a new design by a colonial jeweller of a sporting turn of mind. It was much admired by Mag and her mother,

  ― 154 ―
and Bob was proud of it too. Father thought that a donkey's head would look more natural, but he was too considerate to say a word that would damp their exultation, or raise a noisy argument.

“Hey! here's another parcel. Who is this for? Oh, it's for Biddy, to be sure. Where is she?”

“Here am I, miss,” said Biddy, who had been behind the door all the while. “Shure, an' didn't he forget me naythir, the dear man!”

Biddy's present was a white crape shawl and a delaine dress, striped something like a barber's pole. In a postscript to the letter, Benjamin expressed a hope that they had not decided about a house, as he thought his father had one to let that was “just the thing.” He intended to see the old gentleman about it, and would call upon them that evening, and let them know the result of his interview.

While his family and servant were examining their treasures, and loudly expatiating on the merits of each article, Mr Stubble, who had been longing for a smoke all the morning, filled his new pipe with the fragrant mixture of negrohead and pigtail, and went into the back-yard to blow a cloud, and at the same time to ponder over certain anomalies in Mr Goldstone's character which were puzzling to Joe's mental philosophy.

The flavour of the tobacco was rich and rare, and though the pipe had that peculiar bran-new taste which old smokers always object to, it was a very smart pipe, a real meerschaum, and not a sham article made of mere clay. Moreover, it had a large capacity, and bore twenty minutes' hard puffing before it began to splutter, or to give any other unpleasant signs of exhaustion, such as sending a draw of hot ashes up its amber tube. A few hours' abstinence had also tended to heighten Joe's relish; for even a pipe ceases to be a luxury if it be indulged in too often.…

After writing the last sentence, I felt at a loss how to express Joe's sublimated feelings in words of my own; so I sought counsel in a volume which was sent to me two days ago by my courteous friend, Francis Campbell, M.A., M.D. It is entitled “A Commentary on the influence which the use of Tobacco exerts on the Human Constitution.” The name of its learned author is a guarantee that the book is well worth reading, but I have not yet had time to read it through. The first page that I opened a few minutes ago contains a quotation

  ― 155 ―
from a work written by a no less exalted personage than King James I. I thought I need not search the book for a higher authority, so I copied the extract. Here it is verbatim:

“Tobacco being a common herb which (though under diverse names) grows almost everywhere, was first found out by some of the barbarous Indians to be a preservative or antidote against a filthy disease whereunto these barbarous people are, as all men know, very much subject, what through the uncleanly and adust constitution of their bodies, and what through the intemperate heat of the climate. So that as from them was first brought into Christendom that most detestable disease, so from them likewise was brought this use of tobacco as a stinking and unsavoury antidote for so corrupted and execrable a malady, the stinking suffumigation whereof they yet use against that disease, making so one canker or vermine to eat out another.”

If that is not enough to put out the finest pipe that was ever lighted, I know not what is. I dare not presume to controvert the registered opinion of a great monarch by saying much on the other side of this subject at present; still, I must be truthful in recording the influence which Mr Goldstone's present, on the whole, had upon his unsophisticated old friend. It proved, in that instance, to be the pipe of peace, for it dulled Joe's brain to the remembrance of various little acts which had excited his suspicion of Ben's honesty, and before the pipe was restored to its morocco case, all prejudice was puffed away, and Goldstone had regained thorough possession of Joe's susceptible heart.

The little indefinable misgivings which Biddy had harboured against Ben had also been removed by the crape shawl and the striped dress: in short, there remained not the shadow of a doubt in the mind of one of that household that Benjamin's friendship was pure as filtered water.

  ― 156 ―

Chapter VI.

Ben Goldstone's interview with his father.—His ideas on the qualifications for a politician.—Ben's sympathy with his father's trials.—Various negotiations.

“WHO are you, sir?” asked Mr Goldstone, senior, as his son entered the dusky room where he was sitting on the afternoon alluded to in the preceding chapter.

“I am Benjamin Goldstone, sir,” replied Ben, bowing politely, and without showing any sign of annoyance at his sire's abrupt address.

“Oh, Ben Goldstone, are you? Humph! I was not sure about it. You have so horribly altered in appearance since I last saw you.”

Mr Goldstone meant this as a cutting reproof to his son for allowing his beard and moustache to grow. Mr Goldstone had shaved his face bare twice a week ever since he was nineteen years of age, and although his hands had got very shaky, and he often cut little corners off his wrinkles, he still persisted in the use of his razor, and, like many other old fogies who want all the world to copy them in everything, he professed the utmost contempt for any man who chose to let those gifts of nature go unclipped. Ben knew his father's humour too well to reason with him on the philosophy of beard culture; and though there might have been some little excuse for Ben if he had been ruffled, he did not look in the least degree unamiable. It is very difficult to raise a dispute where there is only one person inclined thereto, and Ben was not going to quarrel with his father about a few bristles. Moreover, he had a premeditated design of conciliating his neglected sire; so he smiled as if he thought the caustic remark were pleasantly witty, and said, as he took a seat, “How are you, father?”

“It is a matter of small concern to you how I am, sir, or you would have come to see me when I was ill.”

“I am very sorry to hear you have been ill, father,” said Ben, rising and taking the old man's tremulous hand. “I did not

  ― 157 ―
know it, I assure you, sir. What has been the matter with you, father?”

“I was laid up with typhoid fear—at death's door, you may say—for six weeks, but not a soul came near me except old Mrs Smith.”

“Ben thought it was not at all unlikely that his father might have typhoid again, and Mrs Smith also, for the atmosphere of the room was as fœtid as if it had not had a change for a week. Throwing all the pathos he could into his expression, he said, “Dear me! I am very sorry, father. I wish you had sent a special messenger for me. The fact is, I have been out of town for the last three months looking after my tenants on the Hunter River.”

“Tenants on the Hunter! I was not aware that you had any tenants in that direction,” said Simon, in a milder tone, for he was suddenly relieved of the idea that his son had come to ask for money. Ben marked the effect of that one little “white lie,” and was prepared to back it up by a hundred more, if necessary, but in order to divert the old man from the subject, he said, “I have called this afternoon, father, to speak to you on several matters of importance, and in the first place, let me tell you before I forget it, that I can get you a first-rate tenant for the old house in Slumm Street that has been so long empty.”

“I shall be very glad to let it at a reduced rent, Benjamin. It is a trouble to me. The last tenant left without paying any rent, and I did not know he was gone until a policeman came to tell me that all the lead had been stolen off the roof, and everything else that could be moved, including the knocker on the front door, and the bell-handle at the back gate.”

“What a shame!” exclaimed Ben, trying to look grieved. “But what was your agent about to let the tenant bolt, and then to leave the house to the mercy of petty thieves. Let me go and talk Greek to him, father!”

Simon calmly thanked his son for his readiness to turn his classics to practical account, but explained that he had no agent, for he managed his business himself, and saved commission. Ben thought it was an equivocal method of saving, but he knew that to argue the point with his sire would be useless; so he said in a sympathising tone, “I wish you had sent for me, father, when you were taken ill. I would have looked after your affairs for you.”

  ― 158 ―

“But you know, Ben, that I like punctuality in business, and that is a quality which you have not evidenced whenever I have entrusted you with the collection of rents for me.”

“I am sorry to say I have not acted right, father—in fact, I have been tempted to do wrong; but I have turned over a new leaf lately. I am happy to say my pecuniary circumstances have improved very much, and I am in a position to pay all my just debts. The money that I have misappropriated shall all be refunded to you in a few weeks. By the bye, let me tell you another important fact, father; I am going to be married!”

“Married! married, did you say, boy?”

“Yes, father. I am going to be married to a young lady possessing wealth, beauty, and intellect. She is of a good family too—descended from a Sax”——

“I don't care whether she is descended from Saxon, Celt, or Gael,” interrupted Simon. “There are honest people in every country. Tell me if she knows how to keep a house tidy, and if she has common sense, and if she is likely to be a suitable companion for you through life.”

“I was going to tell you, father. She is quite domesticated, can make a loaf with Bones the baker any day, and do scores of useful things besides. The only failing that I have seen in her yet is, that she is inclined to be stingy; she has learnt that from her mother; but I can break her off it.”

“She will soon get over that failing if she follows your example. If you have really found a girl with wealth, beauty, intellect, and of economical habits as well, you are a fortunate fellow, Ben, and the sooner you get married the better, lest she should change her mind, and marry some one more like herself.”

“I am glad to know that you are so favourable to my union, father. It was my duty to consult you before I decided. Would you like to see Miss Stubble, sir?”

“I cannot go out of doors at present. You can give my compliments to her, of course.”

“She would very much like to see you, father,” said Ben, in his most insinuating tone.

“Yes, yes; so would the blind man under the post-office portico. You know I am an invalid. ‘When Æschylus was sitting under the walls of his house, an eagle, hovering over his bald head, mistook it for a stone, and let fall his oyster, hoping thus to break the shell, but pierced the poor

  ― 159 ―
man's skull.’ If the poor man had kept within the walls of his house, the eagle would not have seen him,” added Simon, who had a habit of quoting from classic authors, without any apparent relevancy to the subject of conversation.

“When is this wealthy, handsome, and intellectual young lady going to give herself away?”

Ben felt much annoyed at his father's irony, but he mastered his feelings, and replied softly, “I presume you mean to ask when we are to be married, father. Not for a month or more, for I have some very important matters to attend to in the interim. The fact is, I am putting up as member for Muddleton.”

“Peck of nonsense!” exclaimed Simon, looking thoroughly amazed. “Member for Muddleton, indeed! A pretty muddle you would make of it. What do you know about political science, boy?”

“I could soon tell you all that, father; but it is no matter, as times go. I suppose I can learn, as everybody else is obliged to do.”

“Pooh! get out with you. I have no patience left.”

“Don't be so touchy, father, Let me explain matters to you,” said Ben, looking rather abashed, for he had expected his father would have been highly pleased at the idea of his son getting into Parliament. He was surprised, too, at his father's patriotism, for he had never before expressed so much interest in the institutions of the land in the presence of his son. “I assure you, sir, I have not sought for this honour. It has been thrust upon me. The idea was first suggested to me by an honourable member, and I recoiled from the grave responsibility. But a week or two afterwards, I received a powerfully-signed requisition from the electors of Muddleton, to which I could not but accede; so I sent a modest reply, which I will read to you, sir, if you will allow me.” Ben thereupon took a paper from his pocket, and boldly read as follows, while his father sat in silence, with his eyebrows raised as high as they would go, and the angles of his mouth drawn down to the folds of his neckcloth, expressive of surprise, chagrin, and unmitigated contempt:—

To the Independent Electors of Muddleton.

“GENTLEMEN,—To say that I was astounded at your most respectably-signed requisition, would be but to express my feelings in the faintest language; but my sense of the honour

  ― 160 ―
you have conferred on me exceeds every other feeling except a consciousness of my own inability to reciprocate the weighty obligation under which your confidence has laid me.

“We are obliged to act so far as our power reacheth towards the good of the whole community; and he who doth not perform the part assigned him towards advancing the benefit of the whole, in proportion to his opportunities and abilities, is not only a useless, but a very mischievous, member of the public, because he takes his share of the profit, and yet leaves his share of the burden to be borne by others, which is the true principal cause of most miseries and misfortunes in life.

“Deeply impressed with”——

“Stop, stop! Where did you get that last paragraph?”

“Where, father? why out of my own head, to be sure. You shall hear some more.”

“I have heard more than I wanted to hear; and you must not try to befool me by declaring that the windy bunkum at the beginning of your address and the next paragraph are out of the same head. Tell me where you stole that little bit of common sense, or I will see if I can find out,” said Simon, rising and hobbling towards his book-shelves.

“Sit down, father,” said Ben, trying to laugh; “I cribbed that little bit from Swift, but all the rest is my own composition, I'll swear.”

“Don't swear in my house, or I will call a constable; you prating, brain-stealing”——

“Pray don't be so cross, father, I will explain”——

“Cross, indeed! Perhaps it was Dean Swift who said that children would not cross their parents so much when they grow up, if they crossed their knees oftener when they were young,” growled Simon. “Whoever it was that said it, I can feelingly endorse the sentiment; and I am cross with myself for sparing the rod to you when I ought to have used it.”

“I can tell you a remedy for a cross temper, father, which the Dean did not invent,” said Ben, who, though he was much annoyed at his father's sharp rebukes, felt nevertheless determined to keep his own temper, for reasons of his own. So, in the hope of making the old gentleman smile, he told him when he felt inclined to say angry words he was to run to the pump, fill his mouth with cold water, and keep it there for ten minutes before he spoke. But Simon still looked as sour as if his mouth were full of pickles, and Ben thought he had

  ― 161 ―
better change his tactics, as stale jokes would not tickle his father in the least degree. So he put on a perplexed look, and said, “If I had had an idea that you would object to my going into the House, father, I certainly should not have accepted the invitation from the electors of Muddleton; but now my honour is at stake, you know.”

“And my honour is at stake also. It would not only disgrace my reputation, but it would worry me into a fever again, to see my son in Parliament. You confess that you are ignorant of the duties required of you.”

“But I am willing to learn them, father.”

“Benjamin, I am sorry to say I do not believe you have ability to fill the post of a junior clerk,—at any rate, you have not industry enough for it; and it pains me to see you presume to set yourself up for a legislator, to make laws for the good government of nearly half-a-million of people! Any one of common sense will admit that it is necessary to serve years to learn any handicraft; and to master any of the arts or sciences requires long and diligent application; but it is a curious fact that many men suppose they have an intuitive knowledge of political economy, which is the most difficult study that I know of. A member of Parliament has moral responsibilities which he should not lightly estimate nor undertake without necessary qualification.”

“Do you think, then, that a man should not go into the House unless he is a thorough statesman?”

“I did not say that, Benjamin; but I do certainly say that he should not go in if he is thoroughly ignorant of statesmanship. Where a man has a full share of common sense, and that experience of the world which only years can give him, and provided he is able to express his ideas in a tolerably clear manner, he may be excused for going into the House, if there be no more eligible candidate for the seat; but then he must work hard, and study hard afterwards, otherwise he is negligent of his solemn trust, and will merit public contempt.”

“I begin to see that I have been precipitate in putting up as a ruler before I am qualified. I am sorry I did not consult you before, father, but I do not see how I can honourably retract. It would look so foolish to back out of it now.”

“Alexander Pope says, ‘A man should never be ashamed to own he has been in the wrong’; which is but saying in other words that he is wiser to-day than he was yesterday,” said Simon. “You are an Australian, Ben, and if you have

  ― 162 ―
any ambition to see the land of your birth advance, do all you can to secure wise legislators for it. And the best thing you can do in that way at present is to stand aside and let a wiser man than yourself stand for Muddleton; and surely the constituents would not have far to go to find one.”

“Excuse me, sir; but how is it that you have lived so long in the land and have never tried to advance it through means of the superior knowledge that you possess? I think there is more credit due to me, and to other young men of comparatively small experience, in being willing to come forward and do what we can for the country, than there is in all the wise old Solons who will do nothing but sit in their libraries and grumble at things they never try to mend. But I beg pardon, father, I don't want to vex you; I will think over your good advice. Please to tell me what rent you want for the house in Slumm Street, for I must be off.”

Simon's features relaxed into a sickly smile, and he said, “Ah, yes—the house: it is a very convenient one for a family. I want £150 a year for it, Ben. The last tenant was to have paid me £200 a year, but he paid me nothing at all, the shabby rogue.”

“You will put it into good tenantable order, I presume, father?”

“I certainly will not spend any more money upon the house, Benjamin. Previous to the last tenant going in I put it in thorough order, and he ran away without paying me a shilling.”

“You should employ a good sharp agent, father; then your tenants are not likely to run away in your debt,” said Ben, with an insinuating look, which seemed to imply that he himself would be just the man for the post.

“The agent himself might run away you know, Ben; and it would be a strong incentive for him to do so, seeing that I could not run after him. I once heard of a man who had exhausted himself in chasing a thief who had stolen his hat. He was leaning against a post, when a sympathising lounger came up and asked him why he did not pursue the robber and recover his hat. ‘I cannot possibly run another yard,’ said the poor man, panting for breath. ‘If that be the case, I may as well take your wig,’ replied the sympathising rascal. He then snatched the peruke from the helpless man's head, and ran off in another direction.”

“Ha, ha! that was a good joke,” said Ben. “But I say,

  ― 163 ―
father, suppose I can get you a cash customer for the house, what will you take for it?”

“I will take £2000 for it, Ben.”

“All right, sir; I will see what I can do. In the meantime I will let the house for you, and guarantee the rent, if you like. If I get you £2000 for it, will you have any objection to lend me the money on security of my estate in Cumberland?”

“I happen to know that your estate, as you call it, is already mortgaged, Benjamin,” said Simon, with a reproving look at his spendthrift son.

“I supposed you knew it, sir; but of course I intend to pay off that trifling incumbrance, and give you security on the whole estate.”

“Yes, that is the proper way, Benjamin; and when you have paid it off, you can let me know, and then we may talk about a fresh loan. But I must say, it is not very creditable to a young man like yourself to want a loan at all.”

After a little more conversation on the subject, Ben took an affectionate leave of his mollified sire, and departed.

“After all, I believe old daddy's surliness of manner proceeds more from bad digestion than from lack of paternal affection for his dutiful son,” soliloquised Ben, as he walked towards Redfern. “With respect to my parliamentary project, I must say his counsel is worth thinking about; but if I shy off from this constituency, I shall get awfully abused in certain quarters, and shall perhaps be driven to pen and ink in self-defence. My wig! I wonder if any of the Muddletonians have ever read Dean Swift's works. If any of them should detect that little bit of cribbage, I shall be nicely roasted. Never mind, I'll swear Swift stole it from me. Stop, that will not do, though, for he has been dead I don't know how long. Ah, well, I'll chance it!”

  ― 164 ―

Chapter VII.

How Ben Goldstone was induced to stand for Muddleton.—His touching interest in the financial affairs of the Stubbles.—Becomes their banker.

I WILL now briefly tell how Ben Goldstone got the money of which he boasted so much to his father and to others; and also explain how and why he was induced to offer himself as member for Muddleton.

Mr Joshua Samms was an old colonist, and a very honest plodding man, whom anybody would trust. From small beginnings in the slop trade, he gradually acquired wealth. He owned a good deal of house property, and a large stock-in-trade besides. He was sanguine of being able to make “twice as much” in a few years, and then he intended to settle down comfortably and enjoy himself for life. One day, while he was busy in his warehouse, death touched his heart, and in a moment he was gone from the world and from all his hardly-earned substance. Two days afterwards a cortège (a quarter of a mile in length) of friends and neighbours followed the late Mr Samms to the cemetery at the customary mournful pace. They saw his mortal remains deposited in the grave, and sighed “Poor fellow!” as they heard the earth fall on the coffin, when the solemn words “dust to dust” were pronounced; then away they hastened to their respective homes or houses of business as fast as their horses could trot.

Mr Samms had been so much engrossed with his mercantile concerns, and in “adding house to house, and field to field,” that he neglected several matters of lasting consequence to himself and to his family, including the important duty of making a will. He fully intended to do it, for he was too shrewd a business man not to foresee the difficulties which would beset his wife and daughters if he happened to die intestate. He was also aware that no person knew so much about his affairs as he himself did, and that he was the fittest person to partition his own estate to his family,

  ― 165 ―
and thereby guard as far as he could do against litigation and disputing amongst them after he was in his grave. Mr Samms knew all that. He was aware, too, that the mere act of making a will would not expedite his death one moment. No man could be more scrupulously careful than Mr Samms was to insure his houses against fire risks, and to cover by open policies all his merchandise afloat against loss by perils of the sea; still, strange to say, he neglected to make his will, forgot to insure his beloved family against future trouble, which he might have done by a few hours' serious thought and the outlay of a trifling sum to his solicitor. If he had been asked why he did not make a will, he perhaps could have given no better reason than thousands of persons who are alive at this moment can give for putting off that serious duty; still he deferred it from day to day—put it off till tomorrow, until it was too late. He died suddenly, and a large portion of his real property fell into the uncontrolled possession of his only son, a lively youth about twenty-two years of age, who had always loved play much better than he loved work.

Young Nabal Samms had been educated at the same school with Ben Goldstone. They had often played truant together, and had spent many hungry days picking “geebungs” and “five-corners” in Botany scrub, or “bogging” on the beach at “Little Coogee,” or catching crabs and cray-fish off the rocks at “Bondi.” A strong fraternal bond unites school-fellows and ship-mates. That fact is particularly noticeable in Australia, as witness the convivialities of the “Blues” (Christ Church scholars) in Sydney, and the marked partiality which most voyagers from distant lands manifest for anybody who came out in the same ship with them. It is likely enough that Nabal's sudden accession to wealth (he had always been short of cash before), had a revivifying influence on Goldstone's dulled friendship for his young schoolfellow; at any rate, Ben was amongst the foremost of the crowd of rollicking blades who hastened to congratulate Nabal on his fortune, and help him to spend it.

I shall not try to explain the process by which Ben effected a transfer of about £500 from Nabal's pocket to his own in the short space of ten days. Ben could doubtless have satisfied a good many of the initiated that it was all “fair-play,” and Nabal did not dispute it for an instant, much less did he fret over his loss. He admired Ben's skill

  ― 166 ―
as a billiard-player, and hoped in time to become almost as expert, and he was quite content to pay for his practice. He had “oceans of money,” which his industrious sire had toiled to the last minute of his life in making, and Nabal's adopted motto was, “Eat, drink, and be merry;” in short, he did not value money beyond the price of dumps or stony marbles.

Although Ben Goldstone never took a prize at school for mathematics, he had a turn for figures, inasmuch as he could always contrive to make his cash on hand appear five times as much as the sum was in reality, or to swell it to any amount that suited his purpose. He made such a jingle with the £500 which he had won from Nabal, that it was soon currently believed he had coaxed £5000, at least, from his father. The speedy result was, that Ben found himself raised quite beyond his common sphere, which was especially gratifying to him at that time, as he was wishful to make a telling impression on the simple minds of his friends, the Stubbles, on their first arrival in Sydney.

An old and highly respectable resident of Muddleton was the only candidate for that constituency at the forthcoming general election, and it was inferred by some of the Radical leaders that Mr Morrison would not be on their side of the House if he got into it, so they resolved by all means to keep him out, and a fit and proper person was sought for to oppose him. Goldstone was the man selected, principally because he was morally supple enough to be bent in any direction his patrons were inclined to; but he had other qualities which they hoped to turn to useful account. For instance, he could talk for an hour, or more if need be, on any simple subject in the world, and he was thoroughly blush-proof against solemn rebukes, satirical shafts, rasping banter, or downright abuse. His general physique, too, was favourable to his party, and awe-striking to all opponents. He was exactly a fathom in height, nautical measure; and he boasted that he could knock down a cab-horse with his fist. He had broken the nose of the second mate on board of the Juno whaler at one knock, and had seriously damaged the ribs of a Samoan chief, who had shown his disapproval of Ben's attentions to his daughter by tapping him on the head with the paddle of his own canoe. In one of Ben's most frisky moods, he had carried a new cast-iron lamp-post from Exchange corner, and dropped it over the Circular Quay into a waterman's boat; thus showing his great strength as well as his taste for pure fun. Altogether, he was,

  ― 167 ―
as Biddy Flynn remarked, “a rale building of a man.” Moreover, he was a gentleman by virtue of his cash in hand, as well as in view of what he would get when his father had done with it. Taking him for all in all, the Radical leaders thought they might go far without finding a more fit and proper man for the Muddletonians; so one of their party was deputed to “bring Ben up to the scratch.”

It did not cost Mr Wheedle much argumentation to induce Ben to stand for Muddleton. He looked upon it in the light of a “lark.” Besides, he knew it would glorify him in the eyes of the Stubbles, and astonish other weak minds in town; and he hoped it would help his dutiful designs upon his father's good-nature. In the latter calculation, however, he was somewhat mistaken in the offset, as I have shown. It was an easy matter to get a strong requisition from Muddleton, for there were seventy-five independent electors in that town who liked beer; there were a few men there, too, who had had long experience in measuring out liquids, and who also took an active part in other public measures which bore directly on their own interests. A requisition was duly signed and sent from Muddleton, couched in the usual complimentary terms, and Ben replied to it in a touching address, part of which I have already transcribed. It was advertised in the leading newspapers, of course, and then Ben's concern ended for the present. He had nothing to do with the fighting and brawling which were practised at Muddleton during the active canvassing season. That was not his business; and if the electors chose to break one another's bones about him, more fools they. All he was answerable for was the beer, and sundry other luxuries in that line. He cunningly judged that he would stand a better chance of being triumphantly returned if he stayed away from the electorate until the day of nomination, having in mind the axiom that “familiarity breeds contempt.” His braggart assurance was as helpful to him in general as pipe-clay moulds are to “professional smashers,” and might serve him to answer any random questions put to him when on the hustings, or to make a long speech when the material was immaterial, but he knew it would not stand the test of ten minutes' private analysis by some of the matter-of-fact Muddletonians. So, after satisfying the local committee that his absence from the country was unavoidable, on account of the pressing necessity for looking after his property in town, he began to turn his attention to various other matters, and

  ― 168 ―
notwithstanding his bedazzling prospect, he kept as cool as a sailor lashed to the helm in a snow-storm.

After his interview with his father, he went straightway to Redfern, and reached No. 2 Bullanaming Street as the Stubbles were sitting down to tea. He was not expected till supper-time; so Mrs Stubble was indulging her taste for eschalots, contrary to Maggie's expressed wish, for she said, as Benjamin always kissed her mother at meeting and parting, he would be sure to smell them, and most gentlemen of taste hated onions, especially as an article of diet for ladies.

Mrs Stubble blushingly apologised for the presence of the vulgar vegetables on her table, but Ben put her at ease directly by assuring her that he did not object to them—in fact, that he liked them even better than garlic. He said, too, that when he was on his travels, he dined one day with a prince, and that noble personage ate a large raw Spanish onion without salt. Ben omitted to explain that the exalted personage was Prince Jabberaway of the Solomon Islands, whose best dining-table was a mat spread on the ground, without knives and forks or plates upon it, and whose state-costume was a simple waistband of coloured flax, and a chaste collaret made of sharks' teeth.

After tea a pleasant discussion took place respecting the house in Slumm Street, and both Maggie and her mother felt so sure that it would suit them if Benjamin could recommend it, that a bargain would have been concluded for it at once; but Ben suggested that it would be more satisfactory to him if father and Robert would go and inspect it, and then, if they liked it, he would set men to work to put it in good order. “If you will come and dine with me to-morrow,” said Ben, addressing Mr Stubble and Bob, “I will drive you to the house in the afternoon; or stay—let me see—meet me at Entwistle's hotel at one o'clock. You will get a first-rate dinner there, and see something of real life in Sydney at the same time. You know where it is, I suppose?”

“Noa, sir. I doan't know where it be at all. It's a rum name; but I'll find 'en out I daresay.”

“It is in York Street. Anybody will show you the place, or you can smell the dinner nearly half-a-mile off at one o'clock.”

“I'll scent 'en out, then, I'll warrant; for my nose is allers nation sharp about that time o' day. I remember when I was at whoam, in the ould country”——

“A-hem—hem, if it's all the same to you, Benjamin, I think

  ― 169 ―
father had better meet you on Monday at one o'clock,” said Peggy, purposely interrupting Joe's reminiscences of the old country, which were too much associated with poverty to please her, or her children either. “To tell you the truth, Benjamin, the tailor will not have father's and Bob's new clothes ready till to-morrow night, and their country suits look shabby—hem.”

“Oh, that is no matter. ‘A man's a man for a' that.’ However, please yourself, mother; let us say Monday at one o'clock, sharp. That is all settled, then. And now I hope you will excuse me for what I am going to say next,” added Ben, looking very affectionately at them all round. “You know we are all one family now, as it were, and there ought not to be any shyness between us. Our interests are identical; all one and the same thing in fact. I have been thinking that as you have just come from the country, you might want some change. Pray, don't be offended now; I have plenty of money by me that I have no use for at present. Do you want any? Say the word, and don't mince matters. You can have any sum you like from five pounds to five thousand.”

“Noa, thank'ee kindly,” said Joe, smiling. “I've got a heap of money in my pocket here; leastways, 'taint money dezackly, but it's all as one when I goes to the bank. Much obliged to thee all the same, sir.”

“I am glad you are not vexed with me for making you such an offer. But I say, mother, you ought not to let father carry a lot of money about in his pocket in that way,” added Ben, shaking his head despondingly. “It really is not safe, for there are scoundrels in Sydney who would pick a man's pocket as soon as they'd pick a bone.”

“That's right, Benjamin, speak to him,” said Peggy, looking proudly at her sagacious son-in-law elect. It's no good of me talking to him; if I've told him once, I've told him a dozen times about that very thing, and he always winks his eye, and says, ‘No fear.’ I have no patience with such bravado, and I shouldn't wonder if he gets murdered. But he thinks, because he never gets tipsy, that he is as safe as if he was fitted with a full suit of brass—er—er—thingemees.”

“Armour! Yes—ha, ha! You are too unsuspecting, daddy; too nobly credulous for common life. Where do you bank, old man?” said Ben; at the same time he slapped Joe on the back, which additional mark of familiarity and filial interest sent a thrill of reverence through Maggie and her mother, and made Bob feel that they had found in Ben a friend indeed.

  ― 170 ―

“I never kept much ready money by me,” said Joe. “I allers got Mr Knox to buy shares of some sort for me; and I had a bank of my own under a heap of slabs in the garden at the Glen. Nobody ever found out that bank, 'cept perhaps the snakes; but they never steal a man's money.”

“You had better open an account with a bank in Sydney, for you will want some ready money now, of course. But I tell you what, daddy; if it is any advantage to you, you can lodge your money in my bank till you decide what you will do with it, and I can easily give you a cheque when you want it, you know. It won't inconvenience me the least in life if you like to do it; but please yourself, you know.”

“Ah, you had better do that, father; then you will know it is all right. It is very kind of Benjamin to think of it,” said Peggy. Maggie and Bob immediately indorsed their mother's sentiments; whereupon Joe said he didn't care so long as it was all safe; then drew out his pouch, and produced a bank-draft at three days' sight for £3300, the purchase-money of the farm, and Mr Knox's cheque for £425, the proceeds of sale of furniture and farming stock.

“I see these drafts are on the Bank of Australasia,” said Ben, affecting to scrutinise the documents closely, to see that Joe had not been duped. “They are all right I have no doubt. I will pay them into my bank to-morrow, and I can give you a cheque when you want one. We will see by and bye when we all get to rights how we can invest the money to bring in interest. Do you want any loose cash now, mother?”

“No, thank'ee, Benjamin. We don't want any till we begin to furnish our new house. I am sure we are very much obliged to you for the trouble you are taking, Benjamin.”

“Pray, don't mention it, dear mother! It is my duty to do what is in my power for you all, and that duty is a pleasure. When we are united by the golden chain of wedlock,” added Ben, passing his arm tenderly round Maggie's waist; “then the link of love which now holds us together as a family will be firmly riveted, and nothing but the sledge-hammer of Death can knock the rivet out again.”

Soon after that touching delivery Ben took an affectionate leave of them all, and departed.

Mr Rogers, in his admirable work, “The Eclipse of Faith,” tells a story of a soldier-sentinel and the prisoner whom he was guarding holding an animated dialogue on the subject of

  ― 171 ―
the threatened invasion of England by Bonaparte. The prisoner, in lamenting the probability of the French forces marching into London, remarked, “that it would be a sad blow to their liberties.” “Ah!” said the soldier, with a profane oath; “it is the injury to our religion that I am most afraid of.”

Ben Goldstone's zeal for the safety of Mr Stubble's money was as anomalous as the anxiety of the cursing soldier for his religion, or the fettered prisoner for his liberty; but honest Joe and simple Peggy felt as full of confidence as if they had invested their cash in city debentures.

  ― 172 ―

Chapter VIII.

How the Stubble family spent their first Sabbath in Sydney.—Mr Stubble's remarks on Sunday trading.

“DEAR is the hallowed morn to me,
When village bells awake the day,
And by their sacred minstrelsy,
Call me from earthly cares away.

“And dear to me the winged hour,
Spent in Thy holy court, O Lord,
To feel devotion's soothing power,
And catch the manna of thy word.

“Oft when the world with iron hands
Has bound me in its six days' chain,
Thou bursts them like the strong man's bands,
And lets my spirit loose again.

“Then dear to me the Sabbath morn,
The village bells, the shepherd's voice;
These oft have found my heart forlorn,
And always bid that heart rejoice.

“Go, man of pleasure, strike the lyre,
Of broken Sabbaths sing the charms;
Ours be the prophet's car of fire,
Which bears us to a Father's arms.”


DING-DONG! went the bells from a dozen church turrets as the Stubble family emerged from their temporary home, and walked slowly towards the church, where they had previously decided to attend divine service.

It was a lovely mid-winter morning, and the sun shone out unobscured by a single cloud. A fresh breeze direct from the frosty summits of the western mountains was blowing sufficiently keen to remind old colonists of their overcoats, though

  ― 173 ―
new-comers, with healthy British blood in their veins, would have said, “It is rather warm walking.”

Ding-dong dingle! went the bells, and their solemn chiming carried Mr Stubble's memory away to the other side of the earth and back again; to the early days of his life, when he walked across the meadows and through the copse beside his dear old father and mother to their village church. Many years had passed away since then; his parents had gone to the grave, and his humble family name, he supposed, was forgotten in his native place; but every old association seemed to flit before his mind as fresh as yesterday, and tears rolled down his rough face, despite his efforts to restrain them—tears of awakened feelings which had long been dulled by the monotony of his isolated life in the bush, and a total neglect of holy Sabbath duties.

“What ails you, master? Arn't you well?” asked Peggy, with more tenderness than usual in her tones.

“Yes, lass, thank'ee, I be very well; but somehow, I feel down-hearted a bit, and yet I bean't down neither, if thee can see what I mean. I loike this fine morning; it minds me of May-day at whoam; and it is nice to look at the harbour yonder, for it calls back the sunshiny day long ago when us first come to this land. Then them bells make me think of our old parish church, where us used to go when us was little, and where us were married, Peggy; and then I think about our dear old folks who used to sit on the form, just inside the porch. It is over twenty years since I heard church bells chiming till to-day, and 'em stir up lots of old thoughts in my head that I had clean forgotten. But come along, all of you. Step out, or us'll be too late for the first of the service, and mayhap us won't get a seat.”

Soon afterwards they entered a place of worship, the excellent pastor of which had often been spoken of in affectionate terms by Mr Rowley, and Joe had resolved that the first Sunday he spent in Sydney he would go and hear that minister preach. It happened, however, that he had gone to preach a special sermon at some other church in the city on that morning, and his place was supplied by a younger man who was beginning to be renowned for his talents in the pulpit.

Joe and his family were accommodated with seats in the body of the church, and a gentleman in an adjoining pew, seeing that they were strangers, and were unprovided with books, politely supplied them. Joe was somewhat surprised, on

  ― 174 ―
glancing round the church, to notice that it was not much more than two-thirds filled with worshippers, and he thought how glad many poor fellows who were far away in the bush would be to have the opportunity of attending such a church.

The service soon began, and as the organ pealed forth its thrilling melody, tears again stood in Joe's eyes, and his wife looked touched also, for neither of them had heard church-music since they left England, and it recalled the time when they were more mindful of their Christian duties. It is true they might have enjoyed the privilege of attending divine service while they lived near Daisybank, but they had some frivolous pique against the minister, the nature of which I shall not explain; but for that lame reason they had slighted their Maker by disregarding even the mere outward form of their religion. When they lived far in the interior, they had no religious advantages beyond an occasional visit from the pastor of a church seventy miles distant.

Joe reverentially joined in the first part of that morning's service, and he enjoyed the psalmody very much, for they were plain old-fashioned tunes that he had often sung when he was a boy; but he made his wife and children blush several times, during the delivery of a lengthy sermon, at seeing that he showed nodding symptons of drowsiness. Maggie was much interested in the florid oratory of the youthful preacher. She, by the bye, had often attended the church at Daisybank; so she knew more about pulpit power than any other member of the family. She mentally wished that Benjamin were by her side, for he was so passionately fond of poetical imagery and bold thought; besides, she fancied that her father would not have presumed to go to sleep if Benjamin were sitting in the same pew with him to excite his veneration.

Many of the young minister's sentences were rounded off as smoothly as duck-stones on a sea-beach, while others were rich and rugged as lumps of auriferous quartz. The figures, too, were thrown in with an eye to the surprise influence of striking contrast, for while some of them were as classical as Grecian sculpture, others were as homely as three-legged stools, and their profusion was almost astounding; indeed

“He could not ope
His mouth, but out there flew a trope.”

His perfect sang froid showed that he knew what he was going

  ― 175 ―
to say before he began; and his whole mien betokened strong confidence in himself, and that even in his loftiest flights he had no more dread of tripping than Mr Blondin, the tight-rope man, had when wheeling his wife across the Niagara falls in a barrow. His varied action, too, was highly exciting to hearers of a poetic turn, though it is not likely they would care for his emphatic thumps. When he figuratively spoke of flying away somewhere, Maggie thought that his elbows worked very like the wings of a black swan just taking flight; but when his white fingers twiddled demi-semi-quavers in the air to represent bird melody, she felt—she could not tell how—and fondly imagined for a moment that she heard the twittering of young swallows in their old chimney at the Glen. The graceful style in which he used his cambric handkerchief Maggie thought indicated high breeding; and the easy, natural way he referred to his gold watch before he began “the application,” was a nice contrast to the spasmodic excitement which some less fluent speakers assume when they suddenly look up at the clock and try to imply that they had no idea it was so late. Whilst affectionately warning the “little ones” of his flock against “the mundane allurements and the apostatising hallucinations of this sublunary sphere,” his reverence gave his head such a lugubrious shake that Maggie thought the smooth enunciation of that impressive sentence was injured, and that his face was rather too emotional to seriously affect infantile minds. But he made up for that little mistake when dilating upon some of the privileges of the men of the present age; then his manner was hopeful and exhilarating to a degree that many of his hearers were observed to stroke their beards in sympathy with the action of their hirsute preceptor.

After preaching fifty-five minutes, he prepared to stop. So he half closed the large Bible and held it with one hand, while his fine eyes rolled first round the gallery, then through the free seats down-stairs, and with his left fore-finger solemnly shaking, he said something arousing to the sinners in each of those places; then shutting up the book with a loud clap, which made Joe jump, he looked languidly at the ceiling, and sighed out “Amen” so softly that nobody heard it.

The choir then stood up and sung a psalm, and as they had chosen a new tune only known to themselves, they were not annoyed by the voices of the congregation. When the singers

  ― 176 ―
stopped, the youthful pastor spread out his hands, and everybody bent humbly to receive his benediction; after which there was a general feeling for hats, and while the organ played a nice stirring voluntary, the whole company moved out much faster than they had moved in.

Mrs Stubble grew cross as soon as she left her pew, in consequence of having her fashionable skirt trodden upon by the occupant of the next pew, who seemed in a hurry to get home to his dinner; and Mr Stubble did not appease her anger by whispering in her ear, “that it worn't likely the gentleman would guess that an old 'ooman would have such a long train draggling behind her.” Bob was rather excited too, for he had forgotten his silver-topped cane, and the task of forcing his way back to the pew, against the powerful human current that was setting towards the door, was almost as difficult as pulling a ship's dingy against a spring-tide.

As the Stubbles were strangers, they were not detained outside to shake hands and discuss the signs of the times, as were some of the regular worshippers, who blocked up the doorways; in fact, no person spoke a word to the Stubbles—not even to invite them to come to church again. On their way homeward, Maggie and her mother exchanged opinions respecting bonnets, and were unanimous in condemning their own milliner's taste; for their head-gear looked quite dowdy compared with some that they had seen in the body of the church, and they were almost certain their feathers were old ones dyed new. Bob and his sister then had a spirited discussion on the merits and demerits of the sermon, until their father remarked, “that it did not look nice to see people talking and laughing after they came out of the house of God, and they had better walk along decently, and try to think of some of the things the minister had been saying.” As Joe could not remember much of the sermon himself, it was natural that he should think of something else; so he began to make his own quiet observations on stirring affairs around him. He could not fail to notice that there were many persons in the city who paid no outward respect to the sanctity of the day, although there were so many churches open to receive them.

He pitied the poor horses in cabs and omnibuses, and he pitied their drivers, many of whom he knew were not their own masters, so were obliged to supply the demands of Sunday travellers, or seek other employment, which might not be easy for them to find. Joe also sympathised with the engineers

  ― 177 ―
and stokers, and others employed on the railway, for the screaming engines every now and then reminded him that Sunday was not a day of rest for them. From the savoury steam which issued from some of the bake-houses, he judged, too, that Sunday was a hard-working day for many journey-men bakers; and scores of small shops, displaying sweetmeats and fruit, seemed to be doing a brisk business with the street arabs, and were, perhaps, tempting many Sunday-school scholars to trade. Publicans were taking money, of course; so were tobacconists; and some steamboat owners were not strict Sabbatarians, as was manifested by occasional clouds of black smoke which rose up in the face of the sun. Altogether, Joe thought he had seen an awful amount of Sunday traffic in the great metropolis of the colony in half-an-hour's walk; and he innocently resolved to speak to Goldstone about it, so that, when he got into Parliament, he might immediately put a stop to all unnecessary Sunday labour.

“How did you like the service this morning. Joe?” asked Mrs Stubble, as Biddy was clearing away the dinner things.

“I liked the singing uncommon, Peggy; and I liked the part the parson read from the book about ‘the man with ten talents;’ I've heard it afore. It's somewhere in the Bible, I think.”

“To be sure it is in the Bible, measter; I knew that when the parson was reading it.”

“Well, lass, doan't 'ee be captious: I said I thought it wor. If I live till to-morrow, I'll buy a Bible, Peggy. Us had one in the house years agone, but I don't know what come of it.”

Peggy blushed at that remark, for she remembered what had become of it, but she did not shock her husband's feelings by telling him that it had been used as waste paper when they lived at Luckyboy.

“How did you like the sermon, father?” asked Maggie.

“I can't say as I understood much about it, girl, and that's the truth. The parson had such a plaguey lot of hard words that 'em bothered me 'mazingly. But I daresay 'twas very good to them as knowed the meaning of it, though it worn't a bit like what our good old parson at whoam used to say to us when us went to his church.”

“I thought it was like one of Biddy's white puddings; altogether too rich for me,” said Bob, laughing. “But I saw you going to sleep, father.”

“Faith, thin, yerself had betther have gone to sleep, than to

  ― 178 ―
kape awake to make game of what's good,” chimed in Biddy, with a severe look at Bob. “Biddy's puddin's, indeed! Och, how nasty they are! ain't they now? But I mane to say it's mortial bad manners, Masther Bob, to go to church an' thin come home agin, an' pull an' haul the parson to pieces, an' laugh at all yez heard, as iv ye'd been to the play-house, 'stead ov the house of God. Take my word for it, ye'll have no luck at all in Sydney iv ye're goin' to begin that game. Arrah, ye may grin, but it's a thrue fact that I'm sayin', an' shure many a bhoy that's bin hanged took the fisht step to the gallows whin he began to make shport ov the sarmonts he heard in church.”

“There, now, go into the kitchen and get your dinner, Biddy,” said Mrs Stubble. “Speak when you are spoken to; that's what I am always telling you to do. What do you know about the sermon, I should like to know?”

“If I didn't know half as much agin about sarmonts as yerself knows, I shud be pritty nigh as dark as ould Wingle the blackfellow,” muttered Biddy, as she walked into the kitchen.

That evening the Stubble family went again to church, and the reverend incumbent himself delivered an impressive discourse to which Joe listened with close attention. As a literary composition it was not to be compared with the sermon of the morning; but Joe understood it all, for it was put in plain Saxon words, and there were no hard syllogistical abstractions to puzzle his simple brain, nor Greek roots for him to stumble over. The demeanour of the minister was calm and solemnly dignified, not statuesque, but with no more action than was befitting his purpose to impress the grave truths he was uttering upon the hearts of his hearers; in short, his manner was natural, without a shade of acting in it, and his earnestness could not be doubted.

Biddy Flynn sat up in a corner on one of the free seats, and listened attentively to every word. She remarked with unusual seriousness to her mistress, after the service was over, “Shure, thin, ma'am, that sarmont was as plain as a finger-post wid the road to Dublin marked on it. Nobody in the worrld cud make a mishtake about that, I'm thinking, unless it wor a poor idiot sowl wid no sinse at all in his head; an' it's my belief that God Almighty will take care that none o' them are lost. It's a wondher to me, so it is, that everybody can't see the straight way to heaven; but I s'pose it's the devil's

  ― 179 ―
fault, for coaxin' 'em not to belave it. Shure, and he is allers tryin' to do that same to meself, the Lord help me!”

When an artist showed the celebrated Mr Pepys his wife's picture, which was just completed, he remarked, “It is excellent in every way, save that it isn't like Mrs Pepys.”

The oration of that morning was perhaps excellent in its way, especially in the charming quality of variety. It evidenced a liking for hard hits at controversial knots, with a decided turn for confuting commentators in general, and for sifting the abstract opinion of learned men in all ages; showing that the orator differed from them in a striking degree. It also displayed philological lore which was, at times, as bedazzling as sparks from a razor-grinder's wheel, with a volubility of utterance that was almost wonderful; in short, it was what the young preacher himself modestly called “a thoughtful sermon.” It doubtless pleased some of the hearers, who were more satisfied with misty abstractions, mixed up with metaphysical poetry, which they called an “intellectual treat,” than they would have been with “a gospel feast;” but it was lost upon poor Joe Stubble, and perhaps upon other hearers of his simple cast of mind. It was lacking in the main desiderata of every sermon—namely, a plain, concise exposition of God's full and free grace to sinners; of pardon for sin, and adoption into Divine favour through faith in the Redeemer. The important message, “Repent, and believe the gospel!” was omitted; or, if not wholly left out of the discourse, it was put in such ambiguous, grandiloquent verbiage, that uncultured minds could not comprehend it.

But the preacher of the evening gave out no uncertain sound from his gospel trumpet, and only those whose ears and hearts were stubbornly closed to the truth could have failed to be impressed by it. To any poor miserable wanderer, weary of the treacherous ways of sin, and longing for “that peace which the world cannot give,” the sermon of the morning would have been as tantalising as an ice-cream or a glass of syllabub to a hungry sailor; but the sermon of the evening showed, in plain intelligible words, God's own appointed way to save seeking outcasts. It told of a Father of infinite mercy, of a Saviour from the guilt and dominion of sin; of the Comforter, who would abide with the believer for ever; and of a home beyond the grave “where the weary are at rest.” It enunciated, also, the encouraging doctrine, that the believer “is present to God's thoughts, not as one leaf in the forest,

  ― 180 ―
one wave in the sea, or one poor human unit in the aggregate of life, may be present to the generalising and indiscriminate thoughts of man, but as a child is present to the thought of his father.”

That was the substance of the evening message, which was powerfully impressed upon Joe Stubble's awakened conscience; and it kindled a living fire in poor Biddy Flynn's heart which influenced her whole after life.

  ― 181 ―

Chapter IX.

Dinner hour at “Entwistle's,” in the “golden time.”

“Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And days o' auld lang syne?”


IT was three-quarters past noon on Monday when Mr Stubble and his son Bob walked into the lofty dining-hall at Entwistle's hotel, according to previous appointment with Ben Goldstone.

On the long centre table were laid knives and forks for forty, and sundry small side-tables were similarly prepared for the gustatory action of a host of men mighty to eat. Nimble waiters were gyrating about in soft slippers, like skaters on a pond. The courteous landlady and her two handsome sisters were behind the bar, quite prepared for the active duties which they would shortly have to perform at the beer-engine and the spirit-taps. The portly Entwistle himself was scarcely up to the mark that morning, and looked as if something had ruffled his temper; probably one of the cooks had got tipsy, and neglected to baste the loin of pork, for there was a suspicious odour of over-done crackling distinguishable in the savoury vapour which escaped from the culinary region behind the screen. Such annoying things did sometimes happen at hotels in those golden days, when good cooks were as independent as theatrical stars, and did not care a copper for their masters or for his customers either.

After easing off his choler on a dozy-looking waiter, who was not worth his salt, the host stepped into the bar, took a little sedative fluid from a quart bottle, then returned to the head of the table, and began to sharpen the main carving-knife. Presently, he shouted in a nautical tone of command, “Dish up!” and a general stir among the waiters ensued, which showed that they were the men who could dish up in style. Meanwhile, the host walked up and down beside the

  ― 182 ―
long table to see that everything was all correct, and no cinders in the gravy, or soot on the edges of the dishes. Now and then, he would shift a cover which was not exactly straight, or scrutinise the contents of a side-dish, for Entwistle was a particular man, and there were no eyes left in his potatoes, and no flies about his curries.

When the last cover was properly squared, the host stood in solemn attitude, gazing at the dial, for it was his glory to have dinner ready by one o'clock sharp, to match the appetites of his clients. As the pendulum gave the last tick to the past hour, Entwistle took off his white hat, seized a sham club, and struck a mighty blow on a Chinese gong, which made Bob Stubble jump, and his father to exclaim, “By gum! that be's a banger; summat loike old Tom of Exeter Cathedral.” Before they had half recovered from the stunning effect of the gong, a company of earnest-looking gentlemen entered the hall and took seats sans céremonie. Soon the long table was occupied, and most of the side-tables also, and the waiters were hurrying about with their hands full of steaming soup plates, chanting “giblet or vermicelli, sir?” behind each guest; while a general buzz of conversation, as harmonious as the tuning of a monster band of musicians, filled the hall up to the sky-lights.

Mr Stubble and his son had turned out that morning as sleek as town-kept hackneys. The tailor had certainly done all that mechanical skill could do to make them look genteel, and they were not a single mail behind the London fashion. Peggy remarked, with a prideful smile, that “they never were so smart afore in all their days,” and Mag declared that Bob looked a regular buck in his glossy paletôt, railway-stripe trousers, screaming satin waistcoat, and his Paris hat. She further opined that anybody might take father for a city gentleman, if he would keep his hands in his trousers' pockets, according to the fashion, turn his toes out, and not waddle so much when he walked. It occupied the joint exertions of Mag and her mother for seven minutes to wheedle Joe's stubborn fingers into a pair of French kid gloves, and he was solemnly cautioned not to take them off till he returned home, because his hands were so horribly freckled. A hundred times that morning did he wish his gloves back to France; still, he dared not pull them off, for he knew he had not skill enough to put them on again; and as he walked along, his swollen fingers stuck out like bunches of young parsnips. The street dust

  ― 183 ―
had somewhat marred the lustre of their apparel; still, as they stood up in a corner of the dining-hall, toying with their hats, nobody could doubt they were fresh from the country, and foolishly bashful too, or they would have secured seats for themselves.

There they stood, modestly gazing about for Goldstone, uncertain whether or not it were polite to begin to dine before he came. They were too shy to sit down at the long table, and all the seats were speedily filled by persons who were not shy, and to whom Joe and his son had given place, in their simple endeavours to make their manners match their fine clothes. Presently, they were escorted by Jem, the coloured waiter, to a little table near-the entrance to the kitchen, and where they had the advantage of a strong draught from the back-gate, opening on to the romantic lane called “Irwin's,” where brawling neighbours are more numerous than singing birds.

“Burn these 'ere consarns!” said Joe, looking at his tight gloves. “How be I to eat my dinner with these things on?”

“Peel 'em off, father,” whispered Bob. Joe thereupon applied his teeth to the finger-ends of his kids, and pulled them off, remarking as he threw them into his hat, “that he would never have them put on to his hands again unless he should be struck silly and couldn't help it.”

“Vermicelli or giblet sir?” asked a waiter.

“Ay, let us have a giblet pie, mate, and look sharp about it too,” said Joe, who had begun to fancy that he was not properly attended to. The waiter said, “Yes, sir;” and as there happened to be a giblet pie on the long table, he helped Joe and Bob to a plateful each, and left them quite satisfied, and apparently unaware that they had been cheated of their due shares of soup.

As Joe glanced down the long table from time to time in search of Goldstone, he could not but notice the unanimity and zeal with which those forty gentlemen attended to the duties of the board. Men of differing creeds and of various shades of political opinions were there, but not a single dispute was heard about the exciting object which had attracted them together. Rival tradesmen, too, might have been seen sitting close together, absorbed in matters foreign to the concerns of their shops; and though they often “troubled each other for salt,” or even for pepper, they had no hot words over it; thus

  ― 184 ―
clearly disproving the correctness of the old axiom that “two of a trade never agree.”

There were three persons at the principal table who sat with their hats on, which quite shocked Bob's rustic ideas of propriety, and he whispered to his father that “it would be a good lark if somebody would rivet tin pot-handles to the hats of those vulgar chaps, by way of quietly admonishing them to uncover their heads the next time they sat down in civilised company.” Joe softly reproved his son's fondness for practical joking, and added that “it was nonsense to think them big, full-dressed gentlemen didn't know manners; and most likely the reason why they were ashamed to take their hats off was because they had mangy heads, poor fellows!”

Joe was ludicrously excited at observing the clumsy efforts of some of the gentlemen who had the honour of carving assigned to them, or who had dropped into the honorary post by accident. The person behind the boiled leg of mutton was evidently impatient to be getting on with his own diet, or Joe supposed that he would not hack the joint up into such awkward junks, as if he were feeding hounds, instead of cutting nice thin slices; and he would have been more careful about a fair distribution of the fat and the sauce in the dish, if he had studied to discharge his honorary duties with becoming etiquette.

“My word, that be's a greedy old codger!” said Joe, nudging Bob and nodding towards a stout gentleman who had just helped himself to a triangular cut out of the middle of a fine smoked tongue. “I should not like to have him for a mate out in the bush.” Whereupon Bob frowned, and whispered to his chuckling sire that he shouldn't wonder if they both got kicked out into York Street directly. Bob's premonition was not very effective, however, for Joe laughed outright at the idea of the thing, and one of the waiters laughed at Joe, under the impression that he was getting tipsy.

But the person who tickled Joe's fancy most was a clerical-looking gentleman, who was attempting to carve a pair of fowls which were not tender. “Ha, ha, ha! Look at that chap, Bob. Doan't he mind thee of Biddy Flynn sawin' up firewood? If I had had 'en up at Buttercup for a day or two, I'd teach'd 'en to cut up a chucky, I bet a guinea. Look at 'en now, raspin' away at the wrong side of that leg, a mile away from the joint! Why, bang it, if he'd only got gumption enough to slip his knife underneath 'en, and give 'en a smartish jerk, it

  ― 185 ―
'ud come off as easy as skinning a banana. Ho, ho, ho! he be's gettin' savage 'cos that black chap behind 'en is grinning.”

“Hush, father!” said Bob, reprovingly. “That is a parson you know, and it's dead against the catechism to speak disrespectfully of him.”

“I bean't saying ought that's bad of 'en, boy. Not at all. I never say nothing wicked against anybody, black, white, or gray. But I doan't think he be's a bony fidy parson, Bob, or he'd know better than to keep haggling away at that knuckle. There bean't much algebra in that chap's head, I guess. Ho, ho, ho! look at 'en splashing the gravy all over his button-up waistcoat.”

Just then Joe noticed a tall personage having a little soft conversation with a damsel behind the bar, and in another minute his future son-in-law entered the hall with his hat inclined to the right side, and a hammer-headed whip sticking out of his coat pocket.

“Hallo, Goldstone! How are you, Goldstone?” said half-a-dozen voices at once, and as many hands were at the same time held out to give the first friendly grasp, as Ben marched down the hall as majestically as a conquering hero, and shaking each outstretched hand as he passed with lofty affability.

“I'm afraid the soup is cold, Mr Goldstone,” said the host, looking very sorry it was not hot.

“Never mind soup; I want something solid. What have you got in your dish, Entwistle? Oh, aye, calf's head, so it is; that's the tack. Let me have a cut of that, and some brains with it. I expected to have met two gentlemen here, friends from the country,” said Ben, looking round, “but I don't see them. Have any strangers been here asking for me, Jem? Hallo! here they are, to be sure!” he added, turning round and grasping the hands of Joe and Bob. “But, I say, what were you doing in that out-of-the-way corner? Hey, Jem! Why did you put these gentlemen up against the kitchen door, eh? Confound you!”

“Because there were no other seats empty,” said Jem, the head waiter, with a characteristic grin. Jem, by the way, was an authority in that establishment, and though he was of a jet black colour, he was one of the most expert men of his class, and a general favourite with all visitors to that hotel.

“It bean't a morsel of odds,” said Joe, seeing that Ben was inclined to be angry at the lack of attention to his friends. “Us have had a good dinner, and I'd as soon eat it up agin

  ― 186 ―
the kitchen door as in the middle of this long bench every bit; so doan't 'ee blow up the waiter.”

All eyes were turned towards the two rustic strangers who were on such intimate terms with the wealthy Ben Goldstone. Joe stood the general stare pretty well, though he did not care for so much popularity; but Bob blushed intensely, and wished himself in the bush, or anywhere else away from the gaze of so many sharp-eyed gentlemen.

After Ben had finished his dinner, he said to Joe with pleasant familiarity, “Have you got your pipe in your pocket, old man?”

Joe replied that he had not, but he did not explain that his wife had emphatically cautioned him against ever carrying a dirty pipe in the pockets of his superfine clothes, on account of the perfume it created.

“Never mind, I'll get you a cheroot. Come into the smoking crib.”

The said crib was a small room off the dining-hall, where about a dozen gentlemen were luxuriating in an atmosphere of aromatic smoke. “Who has got any weeds?” asked Ben, as he took up a position for himself and his two friends on a sofa behind the door.

“Here you are, Goldstone!” said a smart young corn merchant, producing his cigar-case, which Ben took without demur or thanks either. Joe thought he would rather buy “baccy” for himself, but he did not like to say so, lest Ben might not like it. He soon perceived that young Duncan's cigar-case was considered common property by nearly all the smokers in the room, and as the owner looked quite happy over it, Joe's scruples dulled down, and he puffed away at a Manilla cigar, holding it tightly all the while, lest he should suck it down his throat, for he was not used to smoking anything more refined than a clay pipe.

“Whose turn is it to stand nobblers to-day?” asked a gray-haired portly gentleman, who, in addition to a fair commercial credit, had the credit of inaugurating the first joint-stock gold-mining company in New South Wales, and which did not turn out a lucky spec for the shareholders in general, whatever it might have done for the spirited projectors.

“I stod Som yesterday!” replied a rubicund gentleman, manager of another joint-stock company in a drooping condition, who stood six feet one in his top-boots on race days, and who was rather proud of his figure. A cannie chiel was Jock; and in addition to other private virtues, which many

  ― 187 ―
ladies acknowledged, he could play a rubber at whist, tell a crack, or brew a bowl of whisky toddy, “wi ony mon in toon.” “I stod Som yesterday; so it's some ither body's turn the day,” said Jock, in his usual sonorous tones.

“It's Duncan's day,” said a sharp little man, an importer of hardware; and for confirmation of his opinion, he appealed to a sedate-looking gentleman in the leather line, who was quietly smoking his own cigar with his eyes closed, and his nose pointed to the ceiling, in rapt enjoyment; but before that person had emptied his mouth to reply, Mr Duncan had given the company the benefit of the doubt by calling for nobblers round, and ginger-beer for Joe and his son. The whole party then began to puff away like craters, except Bob, who had never learnt to smoke, but he made up for it by sneezing incessantly.

Dr Johnson said “that the man who would be cheerful at all times was a fool, but he who would be cheerful at no time was a humbug.” If the word “liberal” were substituted for “cheerful,” the proposition would be equally in accordance with public opinion. Those persons who called young Duncan a fool (and there were many who did so after his money was all wasted) were ungrateful fools themselves, or something worse. He was an open-handed, soft-natured man, who could never say nay if he were asked a favour which it was in his power to grant. He was as free with his money as he was with his cigars and nobblers. His horse, which was usually hooked up at the post in front of Entwistle's door every day at dinner-time, was often borrowed without first asking the owner's permission, for it was well known that Duncan never grumbled. Of course, the animal did not back-jump, or he would have been safe from the raids of these bold borrowers; the poor hack was as easy-going as his owner; so, to use a sporting phrase, his cockney riders “rode his tail off.”

Duncan's friends were considerate enough not to borrow his name as unceremoniously as they borrowed his horse; they were mindful of a poetical implication somewhere in the statute-book, that to write another man's name for commercial purposes is forgery. However, they begged his name, which is much the same thing in a moral sense, and they used it, too, until the bright polish was worn off it, and then they facetiously owned that Duncan was “done up,” and his bill was as useless as a dead turkey's beak. One of the fast friends of his palmy days, who had often made free with his horse and

  ― 188 ―
with his purse also, on being told of Duncan's pecuniary reverses, and of his serious illness, exclaimed, in a tone which was meant to be very tender, “Poor d——l!” Think of that, all ye young heirs who have just come in for your paternal estates! That is the sort of sympathy you will get if you fool away your money.

A dozen crops of summer grass have withered on poor Duncan's grave, and nearly all his jovial companions are laid low too. Entwistle's jolly face is missing at the head of that long table, and his comely wife will never more be seen in the bar-parlour. The hotel still exists, under another name; but though the dinners may be as sumptuous and as cheap as ever, few, very few, of the old faces “of days lang syne” assemble now in that lofty hall at the sound of the one o'clock gong, for death has summoned them away “to that bourne whence no traveller returns.”

  ― 189 ―

Chapter X.

Ben accompanies Mr Stubble and Bob on a visit of inspection to the house in Slumm Street.—Rejoicing of the ladies over the big house.—Suggestions for a carriage.—Joe's objection thereto.

AFTER leaving Entwistle's hotel, Mr Goldstone and his two friends went straightway to inspect the house which he had recommended for the occupancy of the family.

If Mr Stubble had ever read Tom Hood's “Haunted House,” he might have been forcibly reminded of it on entering the dreary domicile in Slumm Street. It had been built in the days of forced labour, and was perhaps designed by a turnkey, for it had a decidedly jailish look, especially about its rear. The front-window sashes were small, and had outside wooden shutters with diamond-shaped clusters of auger holes in them to admit some of the morning rays. The back-windows were protected by massive iron bars, evidently showing that the original owner or his gloomy architect had a strong suspicion that there were robbers in the land. The yard was badly paved, and an unsavoury odour indicated imperfect sewerage, untidy neighbours, and rats. A tall mouldy wall, several degrees out of the perpendicular, separated the property from a cow-shed, which was on somewhat higher ground, as was shown by a perpetual ooze of liquid through some fissures in the brickwork, which kept the yard disagreeably moist.

Mr Stubble's facial twists and involuntary shrugs from time to time were anything but favouring symptoms, but his modesty kept him from expressing the disapproval which his nose suggested. He was glad his wife and daughter were not there, or they would have condemned the place in a minute, and Ben's feelings might have been hurt by their blunt depreciation of his father's property.

Goldstone took a more cheerful view of cach grimy nook and corner, and explained, with the decisive utterance of an auctioneer praising damaged goods, that a dash of whitewash here, a dab of paint there, and a barrowful of bricks and mortar in another place, would make a wondrous improvement.

  ― 190 ―
In his opinion, a painter or two, a couple of carpenters, a mason, and a good scavenger, would, in a fortnight's time, make the place smart enough for the Prime Minister to live in. The adjoining cow-yard, he considered, was a double advantage to an incoming tenant, inasmuch as almost everybody who knew anything about natural philosophy admitted that the scent of cattle was wholesome; and the family might see their own milk drawn from the cow every day by merely peeping over the wall—a privilege which they would learn to prize when they became more alive to the wily ways of town dairymen in general.

“Blamed if I know what to say about it, and that's the truth. What do you think, Bob?” said Mr Stubble, who was anxious to keep the responsibility from resting entirely on his own shoulders this time. “Why don't you speak up, boy?”

“I think, as Mr Goldstone thinks, that the place will look very different after it has had a regular cleaning out,” said Bob. “There is a good stable and coach-house, which we shall find handy. I don't exactly see what we want with so many rooms; but mother and Mag are always singing out for a big house, so it will suit them in that respect. I expect the rent will be tremendously high though, as houses go in Sydney.”

“Not at all: and that is a strong reason why I recommend it,” said Ben. “I can let you have it for £100 a year less than you could get a house of its size elsewhere in the city, and I don't think it will cost more than £50 to put it in order. But please yourselves, and don't let me persuade you against your own judgment; for though the house belongs to my father, and my mother died in it, I would not allow you to take it if I thought it would not suit you. It is no pecuniary interest of mine, you will understand; at any rate, I shall not be benefited by it while the old man is alive. If he should happen to pop off, you shall live in the house for nothing.”

“I'm sure you be very kind, Benjamin. I'd take the place in a minute if I worn't afeard of missis and Mag grumbling at me.”

“Well, as I said before, I think it can be made to look first-rate at very little expense. It is not in a fashionable neighbourhood, but you don't care for that I know; comfort and convenience is what you think most about. I have no doubt that the ladies will be pleased with the place after

  ― 191 ―
it is put to rights; in fact, I am willing to take the responsibility upon myself, and if they don't like it they may blame me.”

“That will do, mate,” said Mr Stubble, excitedly. “I'll have the house then, and thee may set men to work as soon as thee likes. I'll tell the missis and Mag just what you say.”

“All right, it's a bargain,” said Goldstone. “£150 a year and taxes—lease for a year, with the option of taking it for a longer term—rent payable quarterly—all serene. I'll settle the thing for you with the governor, and the house shall be all in order—as smart as a new sentry-box—in three weeks from to-day.”

After a little more conversation, the friends separated; Joe and his son going home to tell mother and Mag the particulars of their new bargain, and Ben going straightway to his father's house to acquaint him with the prompt way in which he had procured him a first-rate tenant, and to renew his efforts to ingratiate himself into the favour of his eccentric sire.

“I've got a house as will suit'ee now, Peggy, I'll warrant,” said Joe when he returned to Redfern.

“Have you now? That's right, measter! I know'd you could do it if you set about the job in earnest. Have you seen the house, Bob?”

“I have so—been all over it from the coal-hole to the top of the shingles, mother. There is a prime place for a pigeon-coot in the front attic, and a long pole for a monkey or a native bear in the back-yard.”

“Is it a good big house, Bob?” asked Maggie.

“My word, it is. There are a dozen rooms in it, without counting the cellar: and some of them are real smart rooms too, with whigmaleeries in the centre of the ceilings, and crinkem-crankems all round the edges. I reckon it will cost above a trifle to fill it with furniture, and Biddy will have to brush up to keep it tidy.”

“But what, in the name of Fortune, did you go and take such an out-of-the-way big house as that for, father?” asked Peggy, with frowns forming on her brow.

“There, now; at it again, lass! Beginning to grumble afore thee hast seed the consarn. Goldstone persuaded me to take 'en, and he said, if thee didn't like 'en, he'd be 'sponsible, and thee needn't have it at all.”

  ― 192 ―

“Oh—ay—well—yes; that's fair enough, Joe. It is all correct, I daresay; I am not going to grumble at you. But what is it like at all? Tell us about it.”

“Thee knew Squire Bangham's house at Barnstaple? Well, it's bigger nor that a pretty deal. Then there is a coach-house and stable, with brick muck-hole and an iron pump, and all the rest of 'en, quite grand I can tell'ee.”

“Do you mean to treat us to a carriage, father?” asked Maggie; at the same time she cast a significant glance at her brother, who winked in return.

“Ha, ha, ha!” laughed Joe. “Carriage, eh? Doant 'ee want a footman in velvet breeches to ride behind? Ho, ho, ho! What would my poor old granny say if she wor alive, and could hear us talk so big?”

“Joking aside, father, I don't see why we should not have a vehicle of some sort,” said Bob. “We have a place to keep it, and a good three-stall stable. It wouldn't cost much to keep a couple of horses, and one man to look after them. We could get our hay and corn down from Daisybank you know.”

“But us would have to pay for it, boy, get it where us would. Doan't 'ee be going ahead too fast altogether. Us don't want a coach, and I bean't going to buy one neither; so that's all about it,” said Joe, who was beginning to lose his patience at the extravagant notions of his children. Peggy said nothing, for though she would have had no objection to a coach of her own to ride in, she thought it would be launching too much into expense.

“By Jericho! it's a rale pity ye should jogger on the ould cart, Masther Bob, so it is; for thin ye might have guv us all a trot now an' agin, for a trate, same as ye guv me whin ye dhrove me to Daisybank an' smashed all the eggs an' butther,” said Biddy, who had just entered the room to hear what was going on. She was peremptorily ordered to leave the room instantly: but her remarks stopped the discussion on the carriage question, and turned the conversation to the subject of her incorrigible habit of speaking without being spoken to. After all the family except Joe had expressed their opinion on Biddy's demerits, Mrs Stubble finally remarked that, as she should always sit on thorns when they had company in the house, lest that vulgar old thing should open her mouth, she had resolved to get rid of her as soon as it could be done quietly.

  ― 193 ―

In somewhat less than a fortnight, the house in Slumm Street looked decidedly better. Ben Goldstone had been very assiduous in looking after his workmen and in directing their efforts. As he had predicted, a wonderful improvement had been wrought through the skilful application of whitewash, paint, plaster, paper-hangings, &c. The cost of the work was double what he had estimated, but that was no consequence; estimates always did exceed expectations. Mr Stubble and Bob had paid daily visits to the house while the renovating process was going on, and their report at night was eagerly listened to by the ladies, who were impatient to see their new home, but had been requested by Ben not to go near it until he had got it into apple-pie order. It was with difficulty that Joe could be restrained from going to work when at the house; indeed he had one day stripped off his coat to help a labourer to load his cart with rubbish from the back-yard, when Bob came up in time to stop the undignified proceeding, and, as he afterwards explained to his sister, he made the old man drop his shovel as hastily as if there were a centipede on the handle, by merely telling him that “Ben was coming round the corner.”

At length the house was finished, and Bob went home with the key in his pocket. The next day the whole family paid a visit of inspection, and Ben had the gratification of receiving the approving smiles and encomiums of the ladies, who expressed themselves thoroughly pleased with the dwelling from bottom to top. Mrs Stubble ventured to remark that she would have preferred having a nice view of the harbour and the lovely Domain from the front windows, instead of the pawnbroker's shop and the green-grocery over the way, but when Ben explained to her the high prices that people have to pay for such fine views from their fronts, Peggy was satisfied. “After all, it did not matter,” she remarked, “for they could see a little bit of Cockle Bay from their attic window, and they might easily walk to the Domain in twenty minutes any day.”

“Yes, but you will have a carriage, mother; so you can ride there in ten minutes. It is quite a fashionable afternoon drive round Lady Macquarie's chair.”

“I don't know about our driving, Benjamin,” said Peggy, with a modest simper; “father doesn't see as how he can afford us a vehicle, and I don't wish to be extravagant.”

“Nonsense! not afford it, indeed! I say, old man, you'll

  ― 194 ―
treat them to a trap, surely?” said Ben, slapping Joe's shoulder facetiously. “I know where there is one which will suit you to a T. Bob and I were looking at it the day before yesterday.” But the old man shook his head so decisively, that Ben thought he had better not press the matter, for he could plainly see that Mr Stubble did not mean to yield that point.

“Now, the next thing to be thought of is the furniture. Excuse me for asking the question, but have you decided who you will engage to furnish the house for you?” said Ben. “I don't wish to interfere, you know, but I thought I might be able to offer you a useful hint or two.”

“I was thinking that the missis and I could take a walk round about them cheap shops in Pitt Street, or attend some of them Monday morning auctions. I seed a fine strong cedar bedstead, mattress and all, knocked down t'other morning for five and twenty shillings, and it worn't much worse for wear neither.”

“Faugh! you won't persuade me to have any second-hand wooden bedsteads in my house, Stubble; so you needn't boast about your bargains in that way,” said Mrs Stubble, firmly. “I remember old Johnny Doddle bought a wooden bedstead for his wife a bit ago, and thought he was doing wonders. It was warranted bran-new, though I think it must have been pretty stale, judging by the scent of it; anyway it was a grand-looking concern, with great big polished legs as thick as a donkey's thigh, and heaps of carved things on 'em. It had great heavy cornices too, like the top of a church organ, and shiny poles and monhogony rings for curtains, quite out of the common way. But by and bye, when the warm weather set in, they found they couldn't sleep a wink till sunrise of a morning; so they hired a strong man to take the bedstead down again, and rub its joints with camphor and turpentine. Still that was no good; it only made a wicked smell for nothing; there were things in the wood that wouldn't come out by daylight, whatever the man did to coax 'em, but they would come out lively enough at night, and Johnny did not like 'em at all. Mrs Doddle was very proud of her bedstead's fine polished legs, but her old man said he was tired of lying awake at night looking at 'em; so he got cross one day and sent the whole concern away to a sale-room, where it was knocked down for next to nothing, same as the bedstead was that father talks about.”

“Just so. I have heard of such things before; in fact, I have seen unpleasant bedsteads in the course of my travels,” said

  ― 195 ―
Ben, with a shrug. “It would be a pity to bring any old furniture into this house, now it has been done up so nicely. If you will allow me to make a suggestion, mother, I would say that you had better go to Lenehan's, or Hill's, or Hunt's, or Moore's. But stay, you are a stranger to them; so I will take that little job upon myself, if you like, and will see that the house is furnished respectably. What do you say, mother?”

“Hem, I'm afraid it is giving you too much trouble, Benjamin. You have been very kind in seeing after the doing up of the house, we couldn't think of asking you to furnish it for us.”

“Don't say a syllable about that, mother. The trouble is a pleasure. If you like to entrust me with that duty, I'll see that the house is furnished, all ready for you to come into on Friday week, or say Saturday week—Friday is an unlucky day you know.”

“I am sure we are all very much obliged to you, Benjamin. What do you think about it, father?”

“It will cost a mighty lot of money, that is what I be thinking of, and I be getting skeered, Peggy; so I tell'ee.”

“But didn't you say that mother was to take a house and furnish it as she liked, and you would not say a word against it, father?” whispered Maggie; at the same time she passed her arm coaxingly round father's neck.

“All right, girl, I forgot that. Go to work; only doan't 'ee ruin me out and out—that's all I've got to say,” replied Joe, trying to force a smile, though he was really concerned at the prospect of having to pay so much money for living in a grand style, which was thoroughly opposed to his own humble taste. Gladly would he have seconded a proposition to return at once to the old house at Buttercup Glen, even if he had to buy it back again at double the price that he had sold it for. But there was no such proposition thought of by any of his family; they had one and all become fascinated by the prospect of grandeur before them, and Joe felt his utter inability to alter their views; so he sighed, but said nothing further.

“Perhaps you would like to go with me to choose the carpets and oil-cloth, and to select the drawing-room suite?” said Ben, appealing to Mrs and Miss Stubble, who replied that they should very much like to do so; whereupon Ben promised to bring his trap for them on the following afternoon and drive them to the upholsterer's.

  ― 196 ―

Throughout the ensuing week, the topic of conversation at every meal was the new house and the new furniture. Ben was a nightly visitor, and each time he reported progress, which was always regarded as satisfactory by the ladies. Poor Joe was the only one who did not seem joyful; even Biddy was always laughing; but whether it was an ebullition of gladsome feeling at the prospect of her change, or a derisive laugh at the fulsome pride of the family, I will not stay to consider.

  ― 197 ―

Chapter XI.

Mr Stubble buys a bargain.—Dissatisfaction of his family.—He gets wroth, and damages his toe.—Applies to Mr Gobble, an advertising quack, for a cure.

“WELL, well! look at that now! Anybody in the worrld who cud bate that for a blunder, I'd like to see 'em do it, soh. Iv ould Biddy Flynn had done half sich a crack-brained trick as that, wudn't they have said, ‘Arrah, that's Paddy all over.’ They wud so, an' no wondher nayther. Shough! only think of that comical consarn stuck straight up in the doorway like a conjurer's tool-chest, or a harlequin's coffin. Ha, ha, ha! I can't help laughing, though it's crass I am to see the like.”

Biddy was standing opposite to a tall antique cabinet pianoforte in the drawing-room of the new house in Slumm Street, as she gave vent to the above ebullition of mingled mirth and vexation. She had been sent to clean the grates and to give the drawing-room a final sweep out for the reception of the new suite, which was to come the next day. The instrument in question was one of Joe's bargains; indeed, it was the only household article he had ventured to select. He had heard his wife and daughter agree that a pianoforte was absolutely necessary in their new house; for although no member of the family understood a single note of music, it was argued that some of their visitors might be able to play, and it would look very vulgar not to have an instrument in the drawing-room; in fact, no house could be considered genteel without one or two pianos in it, as the fashions go in Sydney.

One day, when Mr Stubble was sauntering through the city, he noticed in a broker's shop a ponderous six-octave cabinet pianoforte, which had doubtless been a fashionable affair forty years ago. The price asked for it, thirteen pounds, struck Joe as being so astoundingly cheap that he was almost startled into buying it there and then, lest it should be pounced upon by some other discerning buyer with an eye for music. He reasoned that if his family must have a piano, they would not

  ― 198 ―
be able to beat that at the price; anyway, he was certain it could not be all the money too dear. But though his musical fit was unusually strong, it did not overpower his caution; so, at the instance of a happy thought which suddenly came into his head, he took the measure of the instrument, and told the broker that he would call again very soon and see if they could make a deal.

In the long room up-stairs (the drawing-room) was a doorway into a back room which had been closed up, leaving a chasm the whole depth of the massive wall. Joe thought if his piano would fit into that unsightly gap, his wife would be much more pleased with the room. Upon measuring the recess, he found that it was the exact size to a hair; so back he hastened to secure the instrument.

The broker was very glad to see him, and began to expatiate on the virtues of the piano, which he could strongly recommend, doubtless on the score of old acquaintanceship. He firmly resisted Joe's attempts to persuade him to make even money of it, or take a pound less than the price asked; “indeed, he was sorry that he had asked so low a sum; nevertheless, he would stick to his word, and if Mr Stubble liked to say ‘done,’ the piano was his, and he would have a bargain not to be met with every day.”

Joe stood for a few minutes irresolutely pulling his whiskers, and wondering whether the thing would please Maggie; he had no doubt at all that Peggy would be delighted with it. Meanwhile, the broker's little daughter, who had just come from school, at the request of her father, sat down to the instrument, opened her exercise-book, and strummed over that plaintive melody, “In my cottage near a wood,” which touched Joe's softest feelings, and carried his heart all the way back to Chumleigh, and his happy honeymoon in Dab Cottage, near the Copse. Almost before he could wipe his eyes dry, a bargain was completed, and the money paid down. The instrument was forthwith sent home in a spring-cart, with Joe sitting upon it to keep it steady; and it was found to fit into the recess, flush with the wall, as nicely as if it had been made on purpose. Nothing could fit more snugly. The broker's men hinted that it was dry work getting it into its hole, but Joe referred them to the iron pump by the stable door, for he was rather vexed with them for giggling all the time they were fixing the piano.

After the men were gone, Joe sat down and tried his hand

  ― 199 ―
on it, but finding that he could not play it satisfactorily, he shut it up and locked it, lest other unpractised hands should injure its tone. He had said nothing to his family about his purchase, for he contemplated giving them a pleasant surprise, and hoped to receive their commendations on his clever device for filling up an ugly chasm in their best room. Joe had solemnly cautioned Biddy to be careful, when she swept the floor, not to kick up too much dust, nor to knock the music with her broom, and he had no sooner gone out than she hurried up-stairs to see what the music was like. I have already described part of her impressions at first sight.

“Well, well, well!” continued Biddy, soliloquisingly. “I wudn't have belaved that the masther was sich a goof, iv anybody had sweared to it, for to go and put a panney choke-a-block intil the middle ov a brick wall! Ha, ha, ha! iv he had filled the consarn itself wid bricks an' morthar, it wud be pritty nigh as clever. It'll sound as nice as a hand-organ inside a bean-stalk, I'm thinking; or a kettle-drum choke-full ov tater palin's—ha, ha, ha! Och, Mike! I cudn't help larfin iv I was goin' to be shot for it; still an' all, it's crass I am to see them craythers foolin' away their money, afther they've been workin' like black niggers all the best days ov their lives to get what they've got. They are goin' cranky, that's a fact; lasteways, the ould cove himself is, an' no wonder nayther, poor sowl! Shure, nothin' can be more like a cracked fellow's trick, than to bury a panney in a brick wall—ha, ha, ha! Crickey me! what next will I see?”

“Hallo! Nora-creena! Don't cry; mother's better! What have you got inside here—Punch and Judy?” said a painter, looking in at the doorway, having been attracted by Biddy's merry laughter, which echoed through the whole house.

“Oh, good luck ta yez, Misther Potts! come an' take a squint at this whizimejig, what the masther has shoved inside the wall to make it sound nice and lively. Did ye iver see the like afore?”

“Ha, ha!” laughed the painter, “the governor is touched in his cobbera;—a bit cranky, I guess. I thought as much t'other day when he axed me to paint the stable pump light blue. Ho, ho, ho! he puts me in mind of an old chap I've heard my wife speak of, where she lived in service before we were married. Let me see, what was his name again—I forget it—but everybody knows him. He lives a mile or

  ― 200 ―
two t'other side of the old toll-bar yonder, down by the waterside. He was the rummest old codger that ever I heard tell of for playing monkey tricks that nobody else would ever think of. And he didn't care what the price was neither.”

“Troth, thin, he niver did a nater trick nor this, I'll bet a pinny, though he be an' out-an'-out Paddy from the biggest bog in ould Ireland.”

“A Paddy! not he: he is a born native, which is quite as good, and a jolly old cock too, when you come to know him. My word, how he used to make all the maids grin to see him come driving home with his yellow dog-cart choke-full of all sorts of jimcracks that he had been bamboozled into buying though he didn't want 'em no more than I want a wooden leg. My wife says he fetched home a musical consarn one day, something like this one, only it worked with a handle, so that the old cove himself, or any other fool, could play it without bothering to learn music; and it had a squad of dancing dolls in it too. Another time he drove home with his trap half-full of shoe-horns, boot-jacks, and scrubbing-brushes, that he had bought cheap at some auction-shop. But the best joke of all was—— Hallo! I say, Nora, here comes your old cove, and we mustn't let him catch us in here grinning at his thingemee.” The painter, whose narrative was interrupted by the sudden return of Mr Stubble, then popped through the window on to the balcony, and Biddy went to work with her broom.

In a few days more the house was furnished, and the Stubble family were in possession. The upholsterer had certainly shown his taste and skill; and if he also showed that he had done his best to make the most out of a good pliant customer, let those of my readers censure him who are guiltless of doing anything of the sort. Mrs Stubble and her children were highly pleased, when, on the day prior to their occupation of the house, Goldstone escorted them through each room, and modestly assured them that no effort on his part had been wanting to do the correct thing,—a fact which each shining chattel seemed to corroborate, for everything was stylish in the extreme.

It has been said that “there is a Mordecai at every man's gate.” The saying is figurative, of course. The joy of the family trio was marred, even when it ought to have been overflowing, considering the outlay, not by an objectionable

  ― 201 ―
person at their gate, but by an ugly old pianoforte in their grand drawing-room, which Joe obstinately refused to have removed, although he had been tried with remonstrances, entreaties, sharp arguments, and ridicule. The truth is, Mr Stubble had been sullen and low-spirited during the busy time of furnishing, for he could not but see that he was being run to most unnecessary expense, and he dreaded the upholsterer's bill as much as he had dreaded his lawyer's bill of costs for two trials over one corner-post. But he had promised not to say a word to check his wife's taste in furnishing the house, and he respected his promise, however much he might have blamed himself for giving it. Great was his surprise and chagrin when he saw a handsome new walnut-wood piano carried into the drawing-room, to match the tables and chairs and “what-nots” in every corner of the room. He had seen many annoying proofs of reckless extravagance before, but that was the climacteric. It was well known to his family that he had already bought a piano, and the idea that there was a combination to ruin him, as well as to show contempt for his taste, rushed into his mind and so much upset his patience that, had there been a hammer at hand, it is very probable he would have cracked the walnut piano. He restrained his fury, however, before the upholsterer's men; but the moment after they had left the house, he kicked the new music-stool with such force that it bounded across the room, and overturned a little fancy table upon which stood the three Graces in Parian marble.

His wife was exasperated, and his daughter was shocked at such an unprecedented display of bad temper, but Joe did not stay to hear their comments; he walked down to the stable to smoke himself calm, and on the way thither, he became conscious that he had hurt his big toe. As his excitement dulled down, the pain in his toe was more acute, till at length he thought it was broken; so he resolved to go straightway to a doctor as fast as he could limp.

He had often noticed an advertisement in the newspapers setting forth the wondrous skill of a certain medicine-monger, who, by a process confined to his own knowledge, effected cures of all kinds in no time at all, compared with the tedious routine of the regular faculty. Like many other persons of a certain stamp of mind, Mr Stubble had but little confidence in doctors as a body, and in his opinion their profession was half humbug. He was just the sort of subject for quackery to influence;

  ― 202 ―
he had a bad pain in his toe, and he wanted to get rid of it by the most summary process; so he went straightway to the great advertising “professor.”

“Ugh, ah! dear me!” shrugged Mr Gobble, when Joe pulled off his sock, and showed his damaged member. “That looks bad, very bad. How did you do that, my good friend?”

“Well, it's no odds how I did it, doctor. What's done can't be undone; but can 'ee cure it,—that's the talk?”

“I'll try what I can do for you, mister; but it is a dangerous part to treat. I have known a less injury than that cause tetanus.”

“What is that, doctor?” asked Joe, with some show of alarm.

“Why, lock-jaw, and certain death in the most dreadful torture imaginable. But don't be shocked; I have cured worse cases than this with three or four bottles of my celebrated Ikepuphetimus. It is well that you have not lost any time in coming to me, or very serious consequences might have ensued, for I can see that your nervous system is very much deranged. You will excuse me for putting the question, as you are a stranger to me; but will the nature of your occupation allow you to lie by for a while—in other words, can you afford to go through the course of treatment which is absolutely necessary for you?”

“Ees, I s'pose so, if I must do't. I've got naught to do in particular; and I s'pose I can afford to pay thee, if that is what 'ee want to know.”

“Exactly so. Pray don't misunderstand me, sir; you know I have a multitude of patients every day, and it is part of my system to study their individual circumstances. I strive to be conscientious in all my doings; in short, sir, I am a religious man.”

“That's all right, doctor; but do 'ee make haste and put summat on my toe, for it smarts uncommon.” The doctor thereupon dipped a strip of lint into some dark fluid and applied it to the toe, which made Joe roar with pain.

“It is all correct, my friend. You must bear a little pain for a time, but I will undertake to cure you in a week or ten days. Come and see me again to-morrow—but stay, you had better not come out of your house. Tell me where you live, and I will call upon you. You must be very careful.”

“Never mind, doctor. I be moving just now; so I can't tell'ee where I live; besides, I don't want my missis to know

  ― 203 ―
I be doctoring. I'll come and see thee myself, and if I can't walk, I'll ride in a cab. What is there to pay, sir?”

“I'll charge you a guinea, which includes a bottle of medicine. Take care of it: there is very precious stuff in it.”

“So I should guess,” said Joe, paying the fee; and after wishing the smirking professor good-day, he hobbled away, grumbling as he went. Before he had gone far he met a gentleman who had spent several days at Buttercup Glen a few months before. He accosted Joe very warmly, and one of his first inquiries was as to the cause of his lameness, when Joe explained that he had hurt his toe, and had just been to Mr Gobble for his professional aid.

“Gobble! What on earth did you go to that quack for? He will keep you lame, and half scare you to death, till he has made a little fortune out of you. I know some of his tricks upon simple folks who have been gulled by his impudent advertisements. Come along with me, and I will introduce you to my family physician. If there is anything serious the matter with you, he will try to cure you; but if there is nothing wrong with you, he will tell you so honestly.”

“This communication is libellous, you know, in the eye of the law, Mr Stubble,” continued the gentleman, as Joe hobbled along by his side. “If Mr Gobble knew what I have said about him, he would be very glad of the chance of increasing his popularity by bringing an action against me; so you had better not tell him if he should call on you, as he is very likely to do. He will find out where you live, depend upon it.”

“But he told me he was a religious man, and if that be's the case, he wouldn't be so wicked as to ruin my toe.”

“I fear his religion is the spurious kind, which Shakespeare makes King Richard the Third confess to, Mr Stubble:—

‘But then I sigh, and with a piece of Scripture
Tell them that God bade us do good for evil;
And thus I clothe my naked villainy,
With old odd ends stolen forth of holy writ;
And seem a saint when most I play the devil.’

A friend of mine was led to fancy there was something the matter with him, after reading one of Gobble's exciting advertisements; so he called on Gobble, who tried to persuade him that he had some terrible disorder, and wanted to operate on him forthwith. But Mr Quack was a little too fast on that occasion, for my friend was confident he had not the ailment mentioned, and resolutely refused to be operated upon. It

  ― 204 ―
was fortunate for him that he was so firm, for Gobble would probably have injured him for life. There are many highly respectable medical gentlemen in Sydney,—men of established reputation for talent and integrity,—and I would strongly advise you, Mr Stubble, if anything ails yourself or your family, to call in one of those duly qualified practitioners, and eschew quacks of the Gobble class as you would shun snakes in the bush.”

After examining Mr Stubble's toe, the doctor, to whom Joe had been introduced by his friend, pronounced it a simple bruise; but it was likely to be made into a serious wound by the caustic lotion which had been applied to it. He tore off Gobble's bandage, and applied another one, which gave momentary ease. The precious mixture he advised Joe to throw away, unless he had rats about his house that he wished to poison with it.

  ― 205 ―

Chapter XII.

Mr Stubble's rustic ideas of the fine arts.—Ben Goldstone's liberal present of a carriage and pair.—Family debate on getting a livery servant.

FOR several days Mr Stubble's toe was very troublesome, and constantly reminded him of his petulance in kicking the piano-stool out of its place; he was conscious, too, that he got no more sympathy from his family than he deserved, and he was often annoyed with suspicions that they were silently laughing at his limping efforts to walk like a sound man. At their occasional question, “How is your toe, father?” he looked as vexed as if the inquirer were treading on it, and would tartly reply, “My toe is all right; so doan't 'ee bother about it. Take care of yer own toes.”

One afternoon he hobbled into the dining-room to take his customary “forty winks” on the sofa, when he heard his wife and daughter debating over the possibility of repairing the three Graces, which had been seriously fractured in their lower limbs by father's impetuous kick.

“I think if we get a little bit of what-you-may-call-it, Mag, we might stick these legs together, so that they would stand up again straight enough, so long as nobody meddled with 'em.”

“Oh, ma, we could never mend that middle Grace's knee with putty powder or diamond cement; and even if we could, it would look so shabby to have patched-up ornaments in the drawing-room. We had better have a new set at once.”

“Ugh! new set, indeed! I tell'ee what it is, Mag, thee be'st goin' ahead a plaguey deal too fast, and I be goin' to stop yer gallop,” said Mr Stubble, with warmth. “If thee brings any more of them bare-backed images into my house, blamed if I doan't kick 'em all into the street, if I crack all my toes over it.”

“They are all the fashion now, papa, and every genteel house has got some.”

  ― 206 ―

“Fashion be blowed, gal! I don't see the good of spending money that us can't afford, in getting things as are no use to us at all. There be's scores of jimcracks in the house now that us doan't want, any more than an old sow wants a wig. If us had heaps of money, and could spend it honestly, I wouldn't say aught against encouraging the fine arts, as ye call 'em; though, for my part, I can't see anything superfine in standing a great big stone fellow bolt-upright in the hall.”

“Why, pa, that is a most beautiful statue; and the upholsterer said it belonged to the late Judge Burton.”

“Well, I suppose I be no judge; but I remember when I was a boy, old Letcham of Exeter was put in the pillory for showing pictures in his shop window only half as bare as that image.”

“It is the statue of Apollo, papa,” explained Maggie.

“I don't care what you call him, Mag; he looks like an impudent scamp, and for two pins I'd pitch 'en out in the road.”

“Oh, Stubble, I never did hear any one go on in such a way as you do!” said Peggy. “It was Benjamin who bought the image. I did not want it, and I am quite willing for it to be taken away again if you don't like it.”

“I bean't going to sit still and be ruined for the sake of all the fine arts in the world. That is all I've got to say,” replied Mr Stubble.

“It only cost five guineas, Joe; so it is not worth making a stir about.”

“Well, Peggy, five guineas would buy a cow.”

“Pooh! what could we do with a cow? I am sure there are cows enough in the next yard; the smell is disgusting.”

“Your nose is getting very particular now, Peggy. I have seen the time when it worn't so over-nice.”

“Come, come, Joe! don't be cross. We won't buy any more fine arts,” said Peggy, in a soothing tone. “But we must have some cards, you know.”

“Cards, eh! What next will 'ee want, Peg? Bang'd if I'll have any gambling in my house neither; so that's all about it.”

“Ha, ha, ha!” laughed Maggie. “We don't want cards to gamble with, father.”

“Tut! don't 'ee tell me that, lass. I know a pretty deal more about them things than thee dost. I recollect one

  ― 207 ―
Sunday, afore I was out of my time, Bill Tossey, the baker's boy, coaxed me to play a hand at ‘beat my neighbour,’ up in his master's hay-loft; and almost afore I could say knife, Bill won every button I'd a got on my best corduroy jacket, and when I went home at tea-time I got a real welting from measter for cutting my buttons off. Thee doan't catch me playing at cards again, I'll bet a wager, nor I won't let thee do't neither while I have a hand over thee.”

“Hark 'ee, Joe!” said Peggy. “We don't want any cards of that sort at all; them's the devil's books, as mother used to say. We want visiting cards—small, little bits of shiny pasteboard, with our names printed on 'em—Mr Joseph Stubble, and Mrs Joseph Stubble, and Miss Stubble: don't you see now?”

“What's the good of them things, Peggy?”

“Well, not much good perhaps; but it is fashionable to have 'em, you know, Joe. Folks will be calling on us directly, and we must return their calls, of course; and how foolish we should look without our card-cases!”

“Pooh! Card-cases won't make any odds to our looks 'cept us hang 'em to our ears or our noses. At any rate, have 'em if thee likes; I don't care a farden so long as thee doan't gamble with 'em.”

At that moment, Maggie, who was looking through the window, exclaimed with interesting vehemence, “O mamma, mamma, here is Benjamin and Bob in such a love of a carriage!” In another minute Goldstone was inside the room explaining that “he had brought a trap to give them all a drive round the Domain, for he thought they wanted a sniff of fresh air, especially daddy, with his game toe.”

Mrs Stubble and Maggie were delighted at the idea of the thing, but it took some persuasion to induce Mr Stubble to go for a drive. Eventually, however, they all put on their smartest attire and got into the carriage. Bob sat on the box with Ben, who took the reins and whip with a nonchalant air, which seemed to imply that driving a pair of horses was mere child'splay to a man who had often driven four-in-hand. A group of women stood at the door of the green-grocery opposite and audibly commented on the new tenants of the old house, especially noticing the flowers in Maggie's blush-coloured bonnet, and Mrs Stubble's grand parasol. Off went the carriage, and immediately a mob of dirty boys climbed up on the after-springs, while other little urchins, who could not climb

  ― 208 ―
up, shouted to Ben, “Whip behind, master!” which envious request Ben did not deign to notice, lest they should be only trying to make a fool of him. Biddy Flynn watched the vehicle round the corner, then went in-doors and laughed and grumbled alternately, until the new house-maid, who had come fresh that morning, began to contemplate going away again that evening, being nervously impressed with the idea that her fellow-servant was crazy.

Never before had Mrs Stubble felt so proudly elated, and never had Maggie felt her young heart more suffused with pleasurable emotions of all sorts. Bob, too, was in his glory and his best clothes, and wanted nothing to complete his happiness but to have the reins and whip in his hands. Nobody would have judged that it was their first ride in a private carriage, for they tried their utmost to look as if they had been used to it all their days. Joe was the only one of the party about whose enjoyment there could have been any doubt; but his uneasiness perhaps escaped general notice, for it is common enough to see old gentlemen riding in soft coaches, and looking far less satisfied with their lot than a sweep's boy on a donkey with a soot-bag for a saddle.

I have before stated that Maggie and her brother were a handsome pair, and they were both very much like their mother. Their stylish dress of course set off their natural charms to the greatest advantage. Even Joe was a smart-looking old man when seated in a carriage with his hat on his head and his hands out of sight; in other positions he showed to less advantage, for he could seldom be prevailed upon to wear gloves, and he had an unchangeable fashion of combing his hair slantingly over his forehead in Tim Bobbin's style. It is no wonder, then, Goldstone felt conscious that, on the whole, his turn-out was uncommmonly attractive.

It was a fine afternoon, and many persons were taking their airing in the Domain. There were dozens of private vehicles, differing in pretensions, from the old-fashioned gig or modern dog-cart to the spider-like buggy, the dashing brougham, or the more lordly landau of some of the Darling Point grandees. Hired cabriolets were there, too, some of them smart enough to have passed for private concerns, if it were not for the odious law-prescribed number on their panels, and an unmistakably cabby look about the horses and their harness. There was also a sprinkling of patent safeties, shiny as new boots, with their drivers rocking to and fro in their precarious nooks

  ― 209 ―
behind, and flicking their horses into paces dangerous to pedestrians at certain sharp corners, or in parts where the dividing lines between the footpaths and the carriage-way were not distinguishable.

Many pedestrians were to be seen there also, some of them, perhaps, considering that, if every one had his due, they themselves would often be riding instead of walking. Some persons are troubled with reflections of that sort occasionally; though it would be more conducive to their comfort, if, instead of fretting because they can't afford to ride, they would congratulate themselves on their power to walk abroad, while so many poor mortals are confined within the walls of a sick-room. And, after all, if they could only have thought so, those persons on foot had most enjoyment, inasmuch as they were free from dread of contusions or fractures from bolting horses; besides, they had more leisure to inhale the balmy air from buds and blossoms, and could more appreciate a rest on a rustic seat under a spreading tree, or a cooler retreat still beneath an overhanging rock, from whence they might watch the tiny waves, and meditate, if they would, on their own ruffled course over the ocean of life, and look joyfully onward and upward to their haven of rest, where all men will be equal.

But the majority of pedestrians who were abroad that day had not fretful views of life and its diversified gifts, as witnessed the gladsome looks of the nurse-maids in charge of little tribes of infantile Australians, or the jaunty airs of the soldiers who were flirting with the said maids, and doubtless trying to persuade them that life in the barracks was all glory and nothing else. The portly blind man, too, who felt his way along with a stick, looked pleased, for though he could not see the sun, he could feel its genial influence, and perhaps he was thankful for the blessing of strong limbs, and that he was not doomed to a life of suffering and confinement, like his poor paralytic neighbour. Anotherman with a stick, who may be seen every day in the Domain, did not look so happy as the blind man, for he was constantly seeing something to annoy him in the course of his walks of duty; and I daresay a stroll through the dusty city would have been an agreeable change for him. By the way, there is scarcely a public functionary in the land with whom I more strongly sympathise than with that same man with the stick, whom the vulgar boys call “Paddy the Ranger.” His life must be an unmitigated worry in seasons when locusts are plentiful, for then hordes of street arabs infest the Domain at

  ― 210 ―
all points, and climb the trees in quest of the chirping insects. No farmer in corn season is more troubled with cockatoos than the Domain-ranger is with the boys of Sydney. Mischievous young turks some of those boys are, and between them and the ranger there is perpetual warfare. Occasionally he has the satisfaction of cuffing one of his young foes, but not very often, for he must needs catch his foe first, and the ranger cannot run so fast as he could do forty years ago, of which fact the boys are quite as conscious as Paddy is himself.

Goldstone entered the Domain at the Macquarie Street gateway, and drove down the steep decline at a dashing pace past the cricket-ground, where the Sydney eleven were practising for a grand match with the Melbourne eleven. Onward he drove up the rise beyond, and down the steep decline, and along the red road skirting the rocky shores of Wooloomooloo Bay, past the public and private baths, and finally he pulled up at the end of that picturesque peninsula so well known as “Lady Macquarie's Point.” Most of my Australian readers are doubtless familiar with that locality, and any attempt to describe its peculiar atttractions would but show them the meagreness of my descriptive powers; while to persons afar off, my best efforts would fail to convey more than a faint conception of the varied features which combine to make one of the most pleasing landscapes that human eyes have ever beheld. The Domain is one of the most frequented public reserves, or recreation-grounds, in the vicinity of Sydney. It is not for the “upper ten” exclusively, for its level roadway is as free for the spring-cart of the humble tradesman, or the butcher-boy's bob-tailed cob, as for the carriage or the prancing well-bred hack of the aristocrat, without toll or any other tax whatever. The “Government Domain,” and the adjacent Botanical Gardens, are assuredly boons to the citizens of Sydney, which it would be hard to over-estimate.

There were many carriages drawn up near to the masked battery at the point, some of the occupants of which bowed respectfully to Goldstone, to the increased joy of Mrs Stubble and Maggie, who were proud indeed to see that Benjamin had so many carriage friends. The Sydney yacht fleet were manœuvring under the command of their commodore. The sailors in the steam frigate lying in Farm Cove were exercising on the yards. A fine clipper ship from London was being towed up to her anchorage. Dozens of smart little sailing boats were gliding to and fro, and some of the racing gigs

  ― 211 ―
from the Australian Subscription Boat Club were out, manned by their spirited amateur crews.

Goldstone's party stayed some time gazing at the attractive scene, and expressing their gladsome emotions in short interjaculatory sentences, the most noticeable of which were—“Did you ever?” and “Deary, deary me!” They then returned homeward by way of the eastern gateway, and along College Street, turning into Park Street, and finally into Slumm Street itself. The nearer they approached to their home, the firmer became Mrs Stubble's conviction that they had not chosen the most alluring part of the city for their residence; however, she said nothing on the subject, as the house belonged to Benjamin's father: besides, Benjamin himself was born in it.

After the inside passengers had alighted at their front door, to their great surprise, they saw Bob get off the box, and open the side gates, when Ben drove the carriage into the back-yard, and in a few minutes more the horses were in the stable. While Joe was speculating upon the reason for that unlooked-for movement, Ben re-entered the house, and in the most delicate manner imaginable, he begged Mrs Stubble to favour him by accepting of the said carriage and pair as a trifling mark of his esteem, veneration, and affection. Such lordly liberality could not but affect the whole family more or less; and some time elapsed before either of the ladies could verbally express their thanks. I shall not stay to describe the exciting scene which ensued, or to explain how modestly Ben combated all the half-uttered objections which were urged against so severely taxing his generosity. He declined to stay to tea, for the overflowing gratitude of the ladies was almost too much for his nerves without tea, and Mr Stubble was apparently struck dumb by excessive feeling; so Ben departed, and the family forthwith went into an unrestrained discussion on the subject of Ben's most magnificent present.

“It be's very good-natured of him, I don't deny that; still I wish he hadn't bought a carriage for us at all,” said Joe. “Us can do very well without one, for we've got good legs all of us. Us must keep a groom now; and the feed, and other things, will cost a pretty lot of money.”

“You have not considered what we shall save in shoe leather, father,” said Peggy with a tender smile.

“Ees, I have, though, missis; and what it will cost for

  ― 212 ―
horse-shoes and harness leather too. Well, never mind, it's no good fretting; when the money is all spent, us must use our legs again. But I hope us won't get gouty with high living, and proud and lazy into the bargain.”

“What do you say about getting our old stockman, Jack Slash, down, father? He would make a first-rate coachman,” said Bob.

“O yes! I always liked Jack,” said Maggie, eagerly. “He is pretty tall, and if he would keep his hair cut a little shorter, he would look very respectable in a nice modest livery.”

“A modest what?” shouted Joe with unusual vehemence. “Livery did 'ee say? Jack Slash in a mulberry coat and blue breeches, driving old Joe Stubble about the streets in a grand shandradan! Is that what 'ee want to see? No, no; dash my wig, if I'll stand that, anyhow! I bean't stark mad yet.”

“Yaw, yaw, yaw!” guffed Biddy Flynn, who had just come in with the tea-tray; whereupon Mrs Stubble, with stately rage, which made all her words hiss, bade her rebellious maid take warning “to leave the house that very day week.”

“Shure, I didn't mane to grin at all, missis; but I cudn't help it, 'cept I'd dropped all the tay-cups, and choked meself too, wid respect ta yez. But, dear knows, I don't want to shtop in yer house—not I; so I'll be aff nixt Friday, an' it's glad enough I'll be to do it too.”

“Let me not hear another word of your impudence. Go into your kitchen this instant moment, or I'll send you out of the house this very minute,” said Mrs Stubble, who then sat down in a corner to cool.

“I'm very sorry I spoke, papa; but pray don't vex yourself. I was half joking about the livery, you know,” said Maggie, humbly approaching her angry sire.

“What is the good of kicking up this dust?” urged Bob, standing up with all the grace of a police-office pleader. “Here is a precious row in the house in a minute, and all about nothing at all. I'm blessed if I don't put the horses in the britzka, and drive it back to Goldstone's lodgings, and tell him to keep his coach, for it set us all quarrelling directly after he left the house.”

Bob's address was so very sudden, and withal so forcible, that it was as effective as the smart rap of the master's cane on his desk in a large schoolful of rackety boys. Even

  ― 213 ―
Joe himself would not have sanctioned such an extreme measure as Bob threatened, for that would be to offer a gratuitous insult to a generous man; so he tamely remarked, “I bean't going to say another word,” and pulled out his pipe. Bob accepted that as an absolute submission, and then directed his eloquence to his mother. The result was, that she gradually softened, until she went into the kitchen and rescinded her wrathful warning to Biddy; and peace was presently restored to the ruffled household. After tea, Bob went out to order some hay and corn, and to buy a curry-comb and a dandy-brush.

  ― 214 ―

Chapter XIII.

The Stubbles receive fashionable visitors.—Joe's awkwardness before company.—Engage a coachman.—Joe agrees to go to school to learn grammar.—Biddy Flynn and the carter.

THE ensuing fortnight was remarkable for events as new as they were exciting to the erst rustic family. Numerous fashionable visitors called on them from day to day. Some were Ben's friends, who were desirous of showing respect for him, as a rising man, by recognising his bride-elect and her relations. Others were neighbours, who had been induced to observe the etiquette of refined life by rumours of the wealth and respectability of the Stubble family; which flattering rumours, I may state, might have been traced by any pains-taking person to Benjamin himself as their author.

Mrs Stubble and her daughter were vastly pleased with these marks of polite attention, and deported themselves before their guests as well as could be expected. Mr Stubble usually contrived to get out of the way when visitors called; in which act he pleased himself, and his wife and daughter also. On one occasion, however, two ladies came in a phæton when Joe was in the house alone; and, as he was always mindful to show hospitality to strangers, he bade them walk in and sit down, for “his missis had only just gone up to the barber's to get her head frizzled, and her would be back again in half-an-hour or so.” The ladies walked in and sat down, though they politely declined Joe's pressing offer to get them a cup of tea, in accordance with bush hospitality; and when Mrs Stubble and Maggie returned shortly afterwards, they, to their great chagrin, found the strange visitors sitting in the dining-room, listening to Joe's graphic account of his early struggles in the far interior, when he was overseer for Mr Drydun.

Jack Slash, of Daisybank, had been engaged as coachman and groom to the family; but he came to Sydney in moleskin trousers, digger's boots, red juniper and cabbage-tree hat;

  ― 215 ―
and as he doggedly refused to alter his costume, or to get his hair shortened, he was discharged again, and an experienced town coachman was hired the same day. Mr Stubble would not hear a word about livery; so, the new man was supplied with a becoming suit of black, and white gloves, and a hat which nobody could doubt was made for a flunkey. Mrs Stubble, with her son and daughter, usually took an airing every day, and always went shopping in the carriage; but Joe could seldom be persuaded to ride in it. His family were very willing to indulge his obstinate crotchet, but they unanimously protested against calling the carriage “the machine,” which he was accustomed to do whenever he spoke of it. They also objected to his occasional passion for grooming the horses, and bringing hairs and stable odours into the house.

Goldstone had returned to Sydney, rejected by the electors of Muddleton, instead of being returned by them as their representative in Parliament. It was a severe blow to his pride; indeed, it influenced the whole family in various degrees, and none more sensitively than Bob, who had counted upon getting a “snug Government billet” through Ben's political power with the heads of departments.

Ben's defeat was more distressing to him on account of its being wholly unexpected, he having been led to hope that he would distance his Tory opponent by two to one, through the combined influence of tip and tipple, carefully administered. In as few words as possible, I will explain how the linch-pin was taken from a wheel of Ben's political coach, and he was let down into the mire of popular disfavour. It appears that he had wounded the feelings of one of the leading men on his local committee, by innocently putting up at the house of another leading man on his visit to Muddleton shortly before the day of nomination; and though he explained, in his most conciliatory style and with logical clearness, that he could not stay at two inns at one and the same time, the jealous ire of the man was unappeased, and he emphatically promised to “cook Ben's goose.”

Any person less familiar with the poetical figures of speech of country publicans in general, might have supposed that the ruffled committee-man generously intended to roast the said bird for a grand festival after Ben's triumphant return; but Ben understood the current meaning of the trope, and his hopes began to fade away from that moment. He knew full

  ― 216 ―
well that the man could wield a mighty influence over a large mass of the population around, that he had only to “shout,” and hundreds of able-bodied men would roar like tigers; and would fight like Turks too, if he only “tipped them the wink.” On perceiving the critical state of affairs, Ben wrote immediately to his political backers in Sydney, imploring them to come to his aid with their powerful logic. They would doubtless have done so, and have made a desperate effort to secure so handy a man; but as luck would have it, the mailbag was stolen by bush-rangers, who had not consideration enough to send on Ben's important letter, but burnt it with all the other letters that contained nothing valuable.

On the morning of the day of nomination, Ben looked as downcast as a culprit going to be hanged, for it was plain to him that he was deserted by his friends, both in town and country. He had been rehearsing his speech the whole night, consequently he felt rather sleepy. To brighten himself up for his appearance on the hustings, when he had solemn reasons for expecting to meet a very noisy mob, he had recourse to brandy. Many other men have tried the same thing in immoderate doses, though but few have testified to having derived much real strength therefrom, moral or otherwise. Ben's own prior experience might have suggested that the expedient was not a reliable one; perhaps it did; but if so, he did not heed it, for he tried brandy, both pale and dark, in oft-repeated doses, growing more bold, or more blind, at each nobbler, until he had dosed himself into thorough talking trim; or, in other words, he got tipsy, and when on the hustings, he quarrelled with the few supporters that he had left, while his non-supporters playfully pelted him with stale eggs and other matter of an odorous nature. The grand result of the day was, that Ben got wofully beaten about his person, and the next day he was beaten at the poll by his political opponent, who had an overwhelming majority of votes. Thus he lost his election, and returned to Sydney, bruised in body and disturbed in mind, for he was suffering from the “horrors” in a mitigated form.

His own private opinion coincided with public opinion at Muddleton, namely, that he had made an ass of himself; but he was too cunning to tell the unvarnished facts to his friends the Stubbles; and as black lies or white lies were all the same to him, he soon invented a story which afforded a temporary plaster to his wounded pride, and procured for him

  ― 217 ―
unlimited sympathy. His visible bruises were laid to the account of a vicious horse, and his defeat at the poll was put down to bribery and corruption, against which no personal merit could be expected to cope. But after all, he said, he was not sorry at his non-success, for legislators were usually the victims of ingratitude and abuse from the very persons for whose benefit they devoted their time and talents. Of course, he had to tell a different story to his political friends in the city; but I shall not weary the reader with details of matters which are not worth mentioning.

At length Maggie's marriage-day was fixed for three weeks hence, and active preparations were begun forthwith. It would not be in good taste to give all particulars thereof. No young lady would like to have her wedding trousseau minutely described in a book, nor would any sensitive mamma be pleased to see all her little domestic manœuvres publicly explained; so I forbear to go into particulars. I may state, however, without fear of wounding anybody, that they all put forth their very best efforts to make the coming event as grand as possible.

“I say, measter, we ought to keep some wine and stuff in the house,” said Mrs Stubble, one afternoon as her husband was taking his lounge. “If we don't drink it ourselves, many of the folks who call to see us like a little drop, you know. It looks stingy not to give 'em something, and we haven't got any nice new milk to offer them now.”

“Give 'em a cup of tea. That is the best tack, Peggy.”

“Oh, that's nonsense, you know, Joe. It would never do to be taking cups of tea into the drawing-room at all hours of the day, same as we used to do in the bush when folks called to see us.”

“I doan't see why not, Peggy. But if thee can't do that, give 'em some water if they be dry. It's prime water in Sydney, and that be's about the purest thing us get here, to my thinking. It won't pay to 'dulterate that.”

“You are very provoking, Stubble. How it would look to ask fashionable visitors to have a draught of water! Why we should be talked about from one end of the town to t'other. Besides, you know Benjamin likes a little drop of something.”

“I be afeared he likes a big drop, Peggy; that is telling the truth. When he was here t'other night after he coom'd

  ― 218 ―
down from Muddleton, if he worn't close up drunk, I be pretty far out in my reckoning.”

“Oh, Joe, what are you talking about? I am shocked at you for saying such a thing. You should say tipsy, if it be right to say it at all; but I'm certain sure that Benjamin was no more the worse for liquor than I am now.”

“Ah, well, thee nose was out of tune, Peggy, or thee'd have scented him as soon as he coom'd into the house, and specially when he kissed thee. Ugh! I be glad he doan't take a fancy to kiss me. Howsomever, there's this to excuse 'en; he'd been 'lectioneering. But there bean't so much fear of his getting drun”——

“Hush! don't say that nasty vulgar word again, Stubble,” interrupted Peggy, with a pettish look. “And now you've put me in mind of another thing I have been going to speak to you about a many times. I will tell it now afore I forget again.”

“What be's that, lass? Speak up, but doan't 'ee get cross. Try to look at me allers same as thee does when grand folks come to see us. Thee looks as sweet as a cookoo eating cherries at them times.”

“Well, don't you say things to vex me, Joe; then I shall look pleasant enough, I am sure. This is what I was going to say, and mind I don't want to find fault with you; so don't you get cross. You bean't very particular in your grammar, measter, and that looks bad, you know; and makes me feel as if I'd got live eels in my pocket, when I hear you begin to speak afore company.”

“Where did thee learn to talk so mighty smooth, Peggy? Us both went to Dame Dubble's school, and bang'd if her know'd more about grammar nor Geordie Loot, the born fool. I know'd how to talk to please thee at one time, and thee didn't say naught about my plain speech in days what's gone by.”

“There, I was afeared you'd get touchy, Joe, and I didn't mean to say aught to vex you. I know I haven't had more schooling than you have, but I have lived in sarvice with gentlefolks, you know, and I've picked up a good bit of larning that way, doan't'ee see, measter?”

“Oh—ay—yes; I daresay thee hast picked up a thing or two about manners; but thee never larnt how to write a letter to thee poor old feyther; so there I beat'ee. Thee can't write no more than thee can talk French.”

“I know I can't write, Joe, and that is what I be's most sorry for. But I mean to learn to do it.”

  ― 219 ―

“That's right, Peggy lass; it bean't never too late to larn to do a right thing. Thee know'st old widow Totty larnt to write after her was sixty years old. It be's easy enough to do't when one has a mind for it. Many folks waste more time in fretting because 'em don't know how to read and write, than it would take to make scholars of 'em.”

“Well, what do you say, Joe? If I set to work to learn to write, will you go to school for a bit, and learn grammar?”

“Ha, ha, ha!” laughed Joe. “Go to school, eh! My wig! wouldn't the little boys grin! Hold on a bit, Peggy; let me read 'en summat what I se'ed t'other day in one of Bob's books; it tickled me, sure enough.” Joe thereupon fetched from his son's room “Halliwell's Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial Words,” and read therein the following little story, which seemed to excite his fancy exceedingly:—

“THE CORNWALL SCHOOL-BOY.—An ould man found one day a young gentleman's portmantle, as he were a going to 'es dennar; he took'd et en and gived et to 'es wife, and said, ‘Mally, here's roul of lither, look, see, I suppoase some poor ould shoemaker or other have los'en, tak'en, and put'en a top of the teaster of tha bed, he'll be glad ta hab'en agin sum day, I dear say.’ The ould man, Jan, that was 'es neame, went to 'es work as before. Mally then opened the portmantle, and found en et three hundred pounds. Soon after thes, the ould man not being very well, Mally said, ‘Jan, I'av saaved away a little money, by the bye, and, as thee caan't read or write, thee shu'st go to school' (he were then nigh threescore and ten). He went but a very short time, and comed hoam one day and said, ‘Mally, I waint go to school no more, 'caase the childer do be laffen at me; they can tell their letters, and I can't tell my A, B, C, and I wud rayther go to work agen.’ ‘Do as thee wool,’ ses Mally. Jan had not been out many days, afore the young gentleman came by that lost the portmantle, and said, ‘Well, my ould man, did 'ee see or hear tell o' sich a thing as a portmantle?’ ‘Portmantle, sar, was't that un, sumthing like thickey?’ (pointing to one behind es saddle). ‘I vound the toth'r day zackly like that.’ ‘Where es et?’ ‘Come along, I carr'd en and gov'en to my ould 'ooman, Mally; thee sha't av' en nevr vear. Mally, where es that roul of lither I broft en tould thee to put en a top of the teaster of the bed, afore I go'd to school?’ ‘Drat thee emperance,’ said the young gentleman, ‘thee art bewattled; that were afore I were born.’ So he

  ― 220 ―
druv'd off, and left all the three hundred pounds with Jan an' Mally.”

After Mr and Mrs Stubble had laughed heartily over the fortunate experience of the old Cornish pair, they began to discuss, in serious mood, the feasibility of their improving their very limited education; and finally resolved that they would both set to work in earnest with that commendable object, as soon as the excitement of Maggie's wedding was over.

A few days afterwards a wine-merchant's cart drove up to the door with sundry cases of wine, beer, spirits, liqueurs, &c. Biddy Flynn would have sent the carter away again, in the belief that he had come to the wrong house; but her mistress, who happened to be at home, told Biddy it was all right, and to take it in.

“All right, is it?” quoth Biddy, as she trotted to the front door. “If it don't turn out all wrong, I'll be wrong in me calculation, that's all, an' I hope it'll be so. Save us all! and what are the craythers up till at all? Goin' to poison themselves now, is it? I daresay it's all doctored rubbidge, as 'll breed blue divils in the house. Sure, then, that ould parson in the bush know'd what he was talkin' about whin he tould his congregation that there ‘wasn't a dhrop ov good dhrink to be had in the country.’ An' what's inside this?” she asked, as the carman carried in a small case.

“That is old Tom,” said the man, with a sly grin at Biddy.

“Ould Tom is it? Fegs, then, it'll play ould Jerry wid'em, I'm thinkin'. I have heard tell what that stuff is made of. And what de ye call this comical consarn?

“That's a demijohn of real Irish whisky; the sort of stuff that you've had a taste of many a time, I'll bet a wager.”

“Don't ye belave no such thing,” replied Biddy. “I've got a spite agin that same stuff for murtherin' me brother Mike, an' shure I'll niver touch it; it's only for that rayson. What's in them big tubs?”

“Why, port and sherry wine. Lend me a hand to lift them out of the cart, will you?”

“Onshugh! what next? Do ye think I'm goin' to crack me back over that job? Not I, faith!”

“Get out of the way then. Mind yer crooked limbs!” said the man, as he prepared to lift the casks out by himself.

“Tut! bad manners to yiz, ye spalpeen! What do ye mane at all? Crooked limbs, indeed! They'd be crooked

  ― 221 ―
enough no doubt, iv I was to help to empty yer cart-load ov mischief down me own throat.”

“Mischief do you call it? Ha, ha!”

“What is it as does most ov the mischief in the worrld, if it isn't grog, and Sathan himself who invented it?” asked Biddy.

“Was Satan a distiller then, Judy?”

“Sure ye know a dale more about him nor I do. Be afther rollin' yer tubs into the cellar, an' thin ye can go off as quick as ye plase.”

“thank'ee, Judy. When shall I come and see you again?”

“Ye can wait till I send for yez, an' ye'll have plenty ov time to polish up yer manners. There now, aff ye go wid yer barrow.”

“Barrow! mine is a cart, Judy.”

“Thin, put yer ugly carcase intil it, an' drive aff out ov this, for I don't want any more ov yer imperence.” Biddy then slammed the door, and went away to her work, muttering her disapproval of that “fresh step that the family were taking on the broad road to ruin.”

  ― 222 ―

Chapter XIV.

Biddy gives Bob and Maggie a lesson on “genteel manners.” Miss Dottz, the literary lady, gets Biddy to tell her why she was transported.—Horror of Miss Dottz.

“AH, sure! ye look slap-up now, Masther Bob!” exclaimed Biddy Flynn, one afternoon as her young master stood brushing his hat in the dining-room, preparatory to going out for a ride on a handsome gelding which he had bought at Burt's a few days before with the fifty pounds which his father had given him.

“Do you think so, Biddy?” replied Bob, with a pleasant smirk.

“Troth, thin, I do think so, or I wouldn't have said it. I never seed a greater transmogrification in any young chap in the worrld than is come over yourself since ye come to town; an' that's a fact, sir. The tailor has had a good hand in it, no doubt; still, an 'all he didn't do it intirely, for I've sane some counthry bhoys what all the tailors in the colony cudn't pad into the shape of jintlemen, nohow, 'cos they fling their limbs about in sich a slummacking style, as iv they wor all arms an' legs, an' nothin' else. Nature has bin on yer side, honey; an' that's plain enough.”

“You will make him proud, Biddy, if you say any more in his praise,” said Maggie, who was sitting in the room sewing.

“I'd be sorrow to make him a bit prouder nor he is at present, Miss Maggie. Dear knows, he's got enough pride in him, so he has; and it isn't a bad thing for a young feller to have naythir, so long as he don't get consated an' sarcy, same as lots ov gossoons do as soon as iver they get a long-tail'd coat on'em, an' a little bit ov fluff on their upper lip, what they are iverlastin'ly lickin' an' fingerin'.”

“You seem to know a good deal about boys, and their little innocent ways, Biddy,” said Bob.

“Fegs, thin, I do know about 'em, sir, an' about gals too.

  ― 223 ―
An' what wud I have been doin' wid me gumption all the days ov me life, iv I didn't know summat out of the common way? Haven't I lived nigh fourteen years wid Squire Bligh, an' seed all his illigant bhoys an' gals grow up to men an' women? I have so. An' I shud jist like to see the pair of yez turn out every ha'porth as jintale as thim wor, an' thin ye'd do to go an' live wid the governor, or the chief justice, or any other great nob in the land; so ye wud, an' no mishtake.”

“Don't you think we should do for the best society in Sydney now, Biddy?” asked Bob, with an involuntary glance at his patent leather boots.

“Shure, ye're honest enow to live wid the bishop, or the dean aythir, sir.”

“Yes, but that is not the question. Nobody would think we were dishonest, I should hope. Are we polished enough to mix with gentlefolks, such as you have been accustomed to see at Squire Bligh's? That is the point, Biddy; and as you have begun to talk on the subject, let us know what you mean.”

“It isn't a nice thing to give an honest opinion allers, an' I've found that out in my experience no end ov times. So long as ye say what's in their favour, most folks will look as plisant as little children suckin' sugar-plums; but ony tell 'em ov something they don't want to belave, some of their faults, which iverybody in the worrld can see 'cept themselves, an' ochone! look out, me bhoy, they'll niver respect ye no more, 'cept ye happen to be rich, an' maybe they'll do ye a mischief some day, iv they arn't afeared of bein' cotched at it.”

“You need not be afraid to speak your mind honestly and plainly to us, you know, Biddy. You have done that hitherto, whether we liked it or not.”

“Well, now, I'll jist try iv ye mane what ye say, Masther Bob, ony once't; an' iv ye don't like it, I'll give ye no more ov me brogue. Aisy, sir, afore ye put on yer kid gloves. Do ye think anybody who knows what's what wud mishtake ye for a rale jintleman iv they seed thim long finger-nails ov yourn choke-full ov black dirt? Ugh! not they indeed! Thim nasty nails wud shock dacint society; worser nor the bare toes ov a chimbley-sweep.”

Bob blushed intensely, but said nothing; and Maggie blushed too, for her nails were not much purer than her brother's. “Och! don't ye bite 'em off, Masther Bob, that's shocking vulgar. Go and buy a pair ov nail scissors an' a

  ― 224 ―
nail-brush, an' use 'em pritty often. Ye'll allers see thim things in ivery jinuine jintleman's kit, an' a tooth-brush too, ye may depind. Ye tould me to shpake plain, sir, an' shure that's plain enow, anyway. Wud ye like me shpake agin? If not, say the worrd, an' I'll shtop where I left off, for, dear knows, I wudn't offind ye for a trifle.”

“Say what you like, Biddy. I know you only mean kindness; and it may do us good, for you have seen more of life than either of us here.”

“That's thrue for ye, Masther Bob. I've sane more of life's troubles nor ayther of yez will iver see, plase God. Now I'll shpake out what's in me mind, an' I'll give ye all the jintale advice I know of; an' shure iv ye don't take it all, I shan't be offinded, same as some clever craythers are iv ye don't swallow ivery worrd they say. Firsht an' foremost, thin, let me tell you, sir, there's as much difference atween a rale jintleman an' what they call a ‘gent' as there is atween a race-horse an' a donkey; an' it's a jintleman as I want to make ov yerself. Now, let me show yez how you should walk intil a drawing-room full ov jintale ladies. Don't grin, but jist walk in gracefully, same as I do now, and say ‘Besum,’ ever so softly, as ye make yer bow. Bravo, Masther Bob! that's illigantly done—cudn't be done betther, anyhow. Now, supposin' ye wor goin' intil a room full of jintlemen, an' they wor all lookin' at yez, ye must walk in in this way, wid aisy dignity, an' say ‘Broom.’ Capital! ye did it firsht-rate, sir. Ye'll do by and bye; niver fear. Now, again, supposin' ye was goin' to make a spache at a public meetin'—though ye're not such a loony as to be thrying yer hand at that game yit awhile; but in case ye've got to do it presently, I'll tell ye how to go about it. Jist walk up to the platform, as straight as a sodger officer, and say ‘Brush!’ Say it again, sir, an' kape yer eyes open, an' yer head up. Well done! that's jist it, sir. Troth, ye did it to the life; didn't he, Miss Maggie? Ha! ha! ha!”

“I don't quite understand your peculiar lessons, Biddy,” said Maggie. “It would seem very funny to me for a gentleman to walk into a drawing-room, and say ‘besum.’ I should laugh at him directly.”

“In coorse ye wud, honey. Ye cudn't help it iv he did that same; but I don't want him to say ‘besum’ out loud, ye know; nor ‘broom,’ nor ‘brush’ naythir—not at all. He is ony to whisper it to himself, so softly that nobody can hear it. Don't ye see now, miss?”

  ― 225 ―

“Well, I must be stupid, I suppose, Biddy; but I cannot comprehend how that whispering ‘besum,’ ‘broom,’ and ‘brush’ can influence a gentleman's looks in company.”

“Can't ye, darlint? Hisht a bit thin, whiles I explain my manin', an' I'll ingage ye'll see the common sinse ov it as plain as the man's nose in the moon. No jintleman in the worrld can whisper ‘besum’ widout lookin' modest; an' that's the way he should allers look afore ladies. Thin agin, he cudn't say ‘broom,’ iv he tried ever so, widout lookin' manly about the mouth—that's clare enough; an' it wudn't be nateral for him to say ‘brush’ widout standin' up stiff an' lookin' sharp; an' that's jist how a man should do iv he is going to say anythin' in public that he wants a lot ov people to listen to. Now, don't you see what I mane, miss? My word for it, Masther Bob, iv ye'd only practise ‘besum,’ ‘broom,’ and ‘brush’ afore yer lookin'-glass ivery day for a week, ye'd lose the biggest part ov that sheepishness that ye brought down wid ye from the counthry, an' that ye can't git quit ov by strokin' yer little beard, or whackin' yer leg wid yer ridin' whip.”

Bob and Maggie laughed merrily at Biddy's quaint lessons on “jintale manners,” which encouraged the honest old creature to proceed.

“Whin ye go intil a drawing-room for a fashionable call, Masther Bob, don't ye be afther puttin' yer hat on the floor, or under yer chair, bekase that'll make yer look shy an' silly; nor don't ye be puttin' it on the table among the ornaments an' card-baskets naythir, for that'll look bold an' vulgar. Ye'd better put it ontil a chair beside yez, or hould it in yer hand aisily, an' if the lady or jintleman ov the house wanted ye to shtop a bit wid'em, they'll pritty soon be takin' yer hat from yez, or tellin' ye to hang it up, an' make yerself at home. But, mind ye, don't niver stretch out full length on a sofa, or cock yer foot on yer knee as iv ye wor goin' to bite yer toe-nails; nor ye naydn't pick yer ears, or scratch yer head, or twiddle wid yer beard while the lady is shpakin' ta yez, for thim tricks arn't jintale at all at all. Kape the besum in yer mouth all the while, an' I'll ingage ye won't make a mighty big hole in yer manners.

“An' supposin' ye wos axed to shtop to dinner, ye wudn't say nay to that, I'll bet a pinny, for ye are allers ready for yer males, anyway. In coorse, ye'd sit down where the lady or jintleman tould ye to sit; and ye'd kape yer elbows off the

  ― 226 ―
table. Don't niver be afther makin' pills wid the bread, or rollin' yer napkin up like a snow-ball, or fiddlin' wid yer fork, whiles ye're waitin' for yer plate. Sit up like a man, an' think ov the broom. But don't shpake too much, same as windy fellers allers do; give iverybody a chance to say somethin', for that's ony fair play, ye know. In coorse, ye wudn't think ov fistin' a bone, or lickin' yer fingers, or pickin' yer teeth wid yer thumbs; ye're not sich a haythin as all that; so I naydn't say nothin' about thim things, though I've sane 'em done afore to-day, an' I've sane a nasty feller wipe his mouth on the table-cloth too; but he worn't a born native, I'll say that for the honour ov the counthry. Another thing I'd like ye to kape in mind, sir, while ye're thinking about the brush, an' that is, to brush yer hair tidy—ye're not mighty particular about that same, let me tell yez—an' don't ye forgit to brush it behind as well as in front, bekase sometimes ye may sit afore somebody in church or elsewhere, an' though ye can't see the back ov yer head yerself, the chap behind yer can see it plain enough, 'cept he's blind; and he can see too if ye've forgot to remember to wash yerself behind yer ears. Thin agin, Masther Bob, ye may take my worrd for it, that no rale gintleman talks slang, and”——

“I say. Biddy, I can't stay to hear any more just now,” interrupted Bob. “My horse will break his bridle if I keep him hooked up to the stable door any longer. I am much obliged to you for your useful hints on etiquette and personal cleanliness. I shall try to profit by them, and you may expect to see that your besum has wonderfully improved my rustic manners. Good-bye, Biddy. You had better give Mag a few lessons now.” Bob then departed, and was soon cantering along George Street, muttering “brush!” and looking as bold as a captain of volunteers.

“Ha, ha, ha! I didn't think Misther Bob wud have shtopped half as long to listen to my lingo,” said Biddy, looking quite pleased at the success of her first lecture.

“I think your remarks were very sensible, Biddy, and I'm sure Bob thinks so too; and he will remember you with gratitude,” replied Maggie.

“Bless the hearts ov both ov yez! I love ye like chickens, so I do, an' it's ony for that I shpake up now an' agin. Many's the time I've sane fine handsome bhoys an' gals spoil their good looks intirely, bekase they didn't know how to behave themselves dacintly in company, no more nor young

  ― 227 ―
bog-trotters, more shame till their parents for not tachin' 'em betther; but, be the same token, many ov thim same parents wor as bad-mannered as the young uns thimselves, an' didn't know no betther. Och! isn't it a shocking thing, Miss Maggie, to see a fine strong strappin' lass wid her hair all touzzled like a wisp ov hay, for want ov a comb an' brush, an', maybe, her dress ripped open at the gathers, an' grate big taters in the heels of her stockin's, to say nothin' about her face bein' a'most as grimy as her hands, an' her teeth niver bin touched wid a brush all the days ov her life! I allers feel cross an' sorry when I see the like; an' I ses to meself, ‘Arrah, mercy on the poor unlucky man who gets you for a wife, ye dawdlin' dolly! Ye'll allers kape him ragged an' miserable, an' not clane naythir’. But I say, Miss Maggie, shure as death, here comes Miss What's-her-name, the ould gal wid spectacles, an' I wisht she ha' shtopped at home.”

“Patience me! I didn't expect her so soon, and I am not dressed. Show her up into the drawing-room, Biddy, and tell her I will be there in ten minutes or so.”

Miss Dottz was a middle-aged lady, who had the reputation of being very clever. She had ample pecuniary means, and was making a tour of the Australian colonies for the avowed purpose of gathering material for a book of travels which she intended to publish on her return to London; not so much with an eye to profit as for the éclat of authorship. She had lodged for some months in the same house with Ben Goldstone, and through him she was introduced to the Stubbles, and appeared to take quite a lively interest in the family. She had a happy way of making herself at home wherever she went: and was, upon the whole, an agreeable companion, for she was very well informed, and had a pleasant communicative manner. Her unreserved use of a note-book sometimes made casual acquaintances dread that she was taking their portraits to embellish her forthcoming volume; but it is only fair to say that she was too well-bred to be guilty of such rudeness, and no one who really knew her was afraid of such a thing. She was generally on the qui vive for any little bits of useful information, or amusing incidents, which nobody could reasonably object to her appropriating; but it would have been in better taste had she kept her suspicious-looking note-book out of sight, and then even strangers would have enjoyed her cheerful society.

Miss Dottz had been invited to tea that evening, and it

  ― 228 ―
occurred to her that she might take her tatting-bag and go an hour or two earlier, for the sake of a little pleasant gossip with Mrs and Miss Stubble, who she knew would be glad to see her. As I have before stated, Biddy Flynn had a great repugnance to answering questions respecting her earlier history; moreover, she had a settled idea that Miss Dottz was going to put her into her new book, for which honoured position Biddy was not at all ambitious. She was therefore particularly taciturn when that lady was present, and usually returned evasive answers to inquiries when they directly referred to her own affairs.

Biddy showed Miss Dottz into the drawing-room, and was about to retire directly, when that lady detained her by asking a few questions respecting the health of the family.

“They're all hearty enow, ma'am, thank God,” replied Biddy, shuffling towards the door.

“And pray, how long have you been in this colony?” asked Miss Dottz, with a persuasive smile.

“Close up thirty years, ma'am.”

“Thirty years! Bless me, that is a long time. You must have been a mere girl when you came.”

“That's thrue for ye, ma'am.”

“Did ye come with your parents, Biddy?”

“I did not, ma'am.”

“Came here all alone, did you?”

“Shure, thin, I didn't do that naythir, for there was lots ov gals came in the same ship wid me. But iv ye won't be aisy till ye know all about it, whisht while I tell it yez. I was sent here a prisoner, same as hundreds of betther gals nor meself wor in them unlucky days.”

“Dear, dear me! sent here as a prisoner, were you? Poor thing! What a sad blow it must have been for your parents.”

“It was worser for meself, ma'am, a pritty dale.”

“Yes, yes; I daresay it was indeed. May I ask you why you were sent here so young, Biddy? I feel interested in you, and that is why I put the question; but perhaps you don't like to answer it.”

“I'll tell ye all about it, an' more too, ma'am; so, git ready yer pocket-book, an' dot it all down cleverly. This was it, ma'am, wid respect to yez. I was mortial hungry one day as I was tramping through one of the back slums ov Dublin looking for tater palins, an' I seed a purty little boy sittin' on a door-step nursin' a kitten. I was innocently goin' to take

  ― 229 ―
the pussy from him to ate it up quietly widout killin' it, but whin I took hold ov the little boy's arm, it felt so nice and tender; so I did—shure, I cudn't help it, ma'am; hunger is a savage feelin' ”——

“Mercy me! do you really mean to say you bit it off?”

“Hould on a bit, ma'am; don't ye be so awfully skeered; see, I saved the bone—ha, ha! Here it is, ma'am,” added Biddy, taking from her pocket an old-fashioned ivory needle-case, and offering it to the old lady; “ye shall have it for a kape-sake, as ye're so mighty fond ov me, ma'am.”

“Ugh! Yah! Get away from me, you dreadful creature!” shrieked Miss Dottz.

“Arrah! take that wid yer. Go an' print that in yer new book, ye pryin' ould pen-an'-ink monger,” muttered Biddy, as she hurried down to the kitchen.

“Oh, dear me! Miss Stubble. I have just had such a terrible shock to my nerves! Do get me a glass of water, love!” gasped Miss Dottz, when Maggie entered the drawing-room a few minutes afterwards.

“Whatever is the matter, Miss Dottz? You are looking as pale as death. What has alarmed you?”

“Oh, mercy me! that wicked old servant of yours has given me such a turn. She has got a little boy's bone in her pocket, and”——

“A little boy's what?” exclaimed Maggie; then suddenly surmising that Biddy had been practising some of her comical freaks on the literary lady, she burst out laughing, which further shocked Miss Dottz's sensitive system.

“I humbly beg pardon,” said Maggie, handing Miss Dottz a glass of water. “But I could not help laughing at the idea of you're being so much afraid of poor Biddy, who is the kindest old soul in the world. I am sure she would not hurt a cat.”

“Why, she told me only a few minutes ago, that she was once going to actually eat a live kitten; and,—oh, it's too horrible to repeat what she said beside! I was nearly swooning when you came into the room.”

“Ha, ha, ha!” laughed Maggie again. “Pray excuse me, Miss Dottz; I am ashamed of my rudeness. I think this is the explanation of Biddy's strange conduct. She has a silly idea that you intend to introduce her in your book of adventures, and she is afraid of you on that account. Though she is a crochety old creature, and sometimes says the most extraordinary

  ― 230 ―
things, she is as good-natured honest a soul as ever lived; and I am sure you would like her if you knew her better.”

The explanation seemed to revive Miss Dottz a little; but it was some time before she resumed her usual vivacity; nor did she seem to make rapid progress towards liking Biddy very strongly, for whenever she entered the room during the evening, Miss Dottz eyed her as suspiciously as she would have eyed a mad dog without a muzzle.

  ― 231 ―

Chapter XV.

Mr Simon Goldstone and the bridesmaids.—Mr Stubble tries whisky toddy.—Biddy Flynn's reflections on her master's defection.—Ben Goldstone's conviviality.

BEN GOLDSTONE gradually recovered from the effects of his excesses; and at the end of a fortnight, none but a Muddletonian would have supposed him to be the identical blusterer who had so lately offered to fight all the Conservatives in the electorate, “one down, and another come on.”

Ben had not been inactive during his convalescent season, though he had kept away from his accustomed haunts, from a modest dislike to be condoled with on his late inglorious defeat. He had in the meantime taken a cottage ornée at Waverley, and given Hunt & Co. orders to furnish it in becoming style. He had also been measured for his wedding-suit, and had made other necessary preparations for the approaching nuptial ceremony. After his blue bruises had toned down sufficiently to escape the notice of a short-sighted man, Ben called to see his father, who smiled when his humbled son explained how “that he had been sold by a clique of Muddletonian savages, who had been bought by the unscrupulous agents of his political opponent.”

Mr Goldstone expressed a hope that it would be a salutary warning to his son not to attempt again to mount into a position for which everybody but himself could see his utter unfitness. He politely thanked Ben for an invitation to his wedding, but was not sure that he could attend on account of his cough; but he promised to call on the Stubbles, as they were now his tenants, and he could, at the same time, pay his respects to his daughter-in-law elect. Ben said she would be exceedingly proud to see him; and after a little more conversation on nothing in particular, he departed.

The next afternoon Mr Goldstone called to see his new tenants. He was shown up into the drawing-room, and quite unexpectedly found himself in the presence of Maggie and half-a-dozen of her young female friends, who had met to discuss

  ― 232 ―
certain matters connected with the forthcoming bridal ceremony, in which they, as bridesmaids, were interested.

Frigid indeed must any old gentleman be who could sit in the presence of seven comely maidens without showing some outward sign of satisfaction. From divers causes, Mr Goldstone was in an unusually placid mood that day. In the first place, he had been relieved of an annoying mental load by the news of his son's political defeat; then the change from his murky room to the sunshine and fresh air was exhilarating to his shaken system; furthermore, he had been cheered, on his entrance to the house, to see how nicely it had been put in order at the tenant's expense; and lastly, the presence of the blooming lasses was not the least of the influences which had all combined to make his heart glad: in fact, he had not felt so pleasingly excited for many a long day, and his yellow face looked as cheerful as a fog-lantern.

“And pray, which is the young lady that my son has been fortunate enough to win?” asked Simon, in his pleasantest tones.

“This is the fortunate young lady, sir. Allow me to introduce her, as I am to have the honour of being her chief bridesmaid,” said a roguish-looking lassie with black eyes and brown ringlets, as she led Maggie up to her smiling father-in-law, who shook hands with her very cordially, and seemed as if he were half-inclined to salute her in a more loving way.

“I am very glad to see you, my dear. If Ben were here, I should offer him my honest congratulations on his choice. He is a lucky fellow. I hope you may be happy, my child.”

Maggie felt relieved of a depressing influence which had struck her dumb at the first entrance of Mr Goldstone. She had formed a dreadful opinion of him from little rumours which had reached her from time to time, and from certain hints which Ben had given her to mind her P's and Q's when his father called on her. She had expected to see a sour-looking, snarling old fellow, who would freeze her with his first touch, whose cynical sayings would wound all her susceptibilities, and whose scowling looks would shrivel her back to her native insignificance in a minute; and she was the more embarrassed on account of the absence of her parents. But Simon's affectionate manner had quite reassured her, and the timidity she felt at his entry to the room gave place to a feeling of real delight at seeing such a very different person to the one whom she had expected to see. Her young companions

  ― 233 ―
were equally pleased; and Simon presently astonished himself at the funny things he was encouraged to say, and which set all the lasses laughing like elves.

Girls usually feel licensed to take innocent liberties with a merry old man; and their rapid progress in good fellowship may be estimated by the fact, that when Ben arrived, half-an-hour afterwards, he was not a little surprised to see his father sitting on a couch, with all the girls clustered around him, trying to coax him to sing; while the old gentleman, with tears of laughter in his eyes, was protesting that he had never sung a song in his life, and did not know one.

“Oh, here is Mr Benjamin!” cried the roguish lassie with black eyes, and who was the merriest of the merry girls. “You have just come in time; do, pray, try to persuade your father to sing us a song. He has been saying such funny things—ha, ha, ha! I am sure he must be able to sing. Now, Mr Goldstone, sing us a song—do, there's a dear old ducky!”

“Aye, father, sing ‘Old dog Tray,’ ” said Ben, laughing.

“Tut, tut, boy! what nonsense you talk! You know very well that I have no more voice for singing than a fish-hawk has.”

“Oh, yes; do sing about dog Tray, Mr Goldstone,” giggled all the girls in chorus, while they clustered more closely round the old man, who actually laughed till he cried, though no moral pressure could induce him to sing. Ben was highly amused at the scene, and was enlightened also, for he had never before seen his father in such a happy mood. It was clear to him that feminine fun had more effect on the crusted nature of his sire than any influence which he, Ben, was acquainted with; and he sagaciously resolved to trust to Maggie's winsome ways, instead of his own logic, in his future appeals to his father's feelings, or his future attempts on his father's pocket.

After a while, Mr Goldstone took his leave, and walked homeward with a more elastic step than he had done for years. As he went along, he reflected that, after all, a little genial society was more exhilarating to the animal spirits than were even the profoundest studies in mental philosophy; and the girls were, in the meantime, unanimous in their declaration that he was a “dear old darling.” The roguish lassie, before alluded to, went so far as to say that she was downright in love with him, which made her companions exclaim, “O Lydia!” She was only in fun, of course; but Ben thought it

  ― 234 ―
was too serious a matter to joke about, and secretly hoped the young lady would not say that again, for he did not like to encourage even the shadow of an idea that his father would be silly enough to marry again.

Mr and Mrs Stubble returned home a short time after Mr Goldstone left the house, and Maggie got a mild scolding for not asking him to stay to tea. Mrs Stubble was in a ruffled mood. She had been to a photographer's to sit for her likeness, and had trimmed herself up extra smart, as most ladies do for such interesting operations. It had been decided by a family conference that father and mother should be taken together; so they started out that afternoon for the purpose. But the difficulty of the task could only be appreciated by the artist himself; and his patience was so sorely tested that, in order to relieve his feelings, he had several times to go into his dark room and blow up his boy. Two fine pictures had been spoiled by Mr Stubble moving his arms or legs after he had been screwed into a becoming pose; a third had been marred by his winking at his wife when the artist put his head into the baize bag; and the fourth, in which Peggy was taken to perfection, represented Joe in the act of stifling a yawn, with his mouth drawn towards his left ear. He had refused to sit again, for which obstinacy his wife had rated him all the way home.

After tea, Ben and Mr Stubble adjourned to a little room, which was called the “snuggery,” there to smoke their pipes over a glass of whisky-toddy (which Joe was learning to sip without coughing), and to discuss sundry topics of interest. In the first place, Ben produced a proper statement of monies expended by him on Mr Stubble's account, for repairs to the house; also the tailor's and upholsterer's bills, all duly receipted. The commercial abbreviations, “per pro. note at 3 mos.,” were unintelligible to Joe. Still, he did not like to show his ignorance by asking questions; so he merely said, “I daresay 'em be all right, Benjamin,” and put them into his pocket without further examination, lest he should be supposed to have a doubt on the subject. The balance in his favour, Ben told him, he could have the next day, if he chose to keep his own bank accounts. Joe had previously been cogitating over the uncertainty of life and other contingencies, and had arrived at the conclusion that the money would be as well in his own hands as under the sole control of his intended son-in-law; so he replied, “Well, perhaps thee

  ― 235 ―
may as well hand me over the money, if it be's all the same to thee, sir.”

“Just so,” said Ben, with a look which might have caused uneasiness to a keener observer than Mr Stubble, or to one more accustomed to the ways of the world. In truth, Ben was not so willing to hand over the balance as he wished his companion to suppose, for his electioneering expenses had been heavy, and the cost of furnishing his cottage ornée would not be light; besides, luck had been dead against him at the late Hombush races. Still, it was no part of his policy to explain these matters. “Just so, father; I am glad you have decided so, as it will relieve me of a little anxiety. I think you had better open a bank account, say in the Commercial. I'll go with you to-morrow, and introduce you to the manager. Nice fellow, Ingoldby. I know him intimately. Won't you try another nobbler of toddy?” he added, as he replenished his own glass.

“Noa, thank'ee, Benjamin; I be young at this game. I feel this glass that I have just drink'd tingling all the way down to my little toes. I woan't take any more, or mayhap it'll get into my head and capsize me altogether.”

“Ha, ha, ha!” laughed Ben; “you will soon be able to stand a second glass. I have been thinking, father, that you and I might make money like winking by uniting our capital, as it were, and going in for a bold spec now and then, say in flour, or”——

“Noa; I bean't going to spec in making bread dear, for that 'ud speckle my conscience,” replied Joe, with far more boldness than usual, for which the whisky-toddy was accountable. “I seed that game carried on years agone by a lot of dodging chaps in Sydney, who ‘raised the wind' atween themselves by some sort of hocus-pocus what Master Rowley tried to explain to me; and bless'd if 'em didn't run the price of flour up to £3 a hundred. It didn't stop long at that price, thee may be sure; no thanks to them though, for they would have runned 'en up to £6 if 'em could. Down it came again; but these greedy beggars held on to their stuff till it got full of worms, and worn't wholesome for pig's meat. Then, in course, 'em was glad to sell at any price; and for months and months folks were half-poisoned with bad bread, especially the poor chaps far away in the bush, where 'em wor forced to eat it, or go without. No, no, Benjamin; I bean't going to turn famine-monger, if I know it.”

  ― 236 ―

“I mentioned flour, father, incidentally; but I don't approve of monopolising the staff of life any more than you do; in fact, I believe there is a curse hanging over the practice,” said Ben, with a virtuous air. “There are scores of other things that we might go in for, and make money without risk. By the bye, I'll tell you something that I heard of yesterday, but you must not mention it to a soul. I know a gentleman—an intimate friend of mine in fact—who has a private still, and”——

“Well, he may keep his still, and all the luck he'll brew out of it too, for it's sartain to be bad luck,” interrupted Joe. “I won't have naught to do wi 't, anyway. I'd sooner deal in dead horses and feed cats.”

“I did not ask you to have anything to do with it, father; so you need not be so precious sharp with me all at once,” said Ben, rather tartly.

“Beg your pardon, Benjamin. Didn't mean to say naught to vex thee. I wor thinkin' just then of a yarn as neighbour Doddle told me about a cove as he knew who kept a private still, and drove himself mad with it.”

“That is very likely,” said Ben. “Sly grog-making has done lots of mischief. It was common enough before the excise duties were reduced. It used to be called ‘wicked willany;’ and I have heard my father tell some queer stories about old Bob R—er—what's his name?”

“Bob Dickells,” suggested Joe.

“Not at all. He was in quite another line; and let me warn you, that it is not safe to say there is ‘wicked willany’ in his profession, though poor Bob is dead and gone.”

“Hold on a bit, Benjamin; that puts me in mind of a true story as Mr Rowley told me about that very same gentleman, and thee had better let me tell it now, afore I forget 'en. One day Bob Dickells had the bailie put in his house for a debt of fifty pounds. I suppose it was for rent, though it might have been for summat else, for he was pretty often run into straits through being too free in lending or giving away his money; anyway, he was five pounds short of the sum he wanted to pay off the bailie; so out he goes to borrow it. As luck would have it, the first friend he called on to ax for the money had a bailie in his house too, so he couldn't lend naught. ‘I be sorry to see thee in the same fix as myself,’ said Bob, looking at the chap in the kind, jolly, careless way

  ― 237 ―
that he always had with him. “What is the amount of yer debt?”

“Seven pounds ten,” said the poor man, who was close up crying, because his wife was ill in bed, and the bailie's bellman was outside her widow, ringing away like fire.

“Here it is, old fellow!” said Bob, taking the money out of his pocket, and counting it down on the table. “We needn't both be in trouble at once; so pay your bailie off, and stop that beggaring bell.”

“Bravo! Bob,” exclaimed Ben. “That was joanac; and yet I have heard some superfine people say wicked things of poor Dickells after he was dead.”

“Yes; that's natural, Benjamin, because it's safer to backbite a dead man than a live one, you know; and it's likely enow them chaps as run him down would have seed the bed sold from under the sick woman afore 'em would have paid down seven pounds ten shillings to save it. I mean to say Bob was a brick, whatever his enemies say against it.”

“I say ditto,” remarked Ben.

“There are other men in the colony too who are said to be first-rate bad,” continued Mr Stubble, with warmth; “and blamed if I don't believe 'em 'll astonish a lot of the good ones at the grand squaring-up day for us all.”

“Well, there is good in everybody and everything, I suppose,” said Ben, with a philosophical look. “There are jewels in a toad's head, the poets say.”

“Perhaps so, Benjamin, though I never seed any; but I know there be's prime soup in a kangaroo's tail, and tripe isn't bad tack when it's nice and clean.”

“There is not much poetry in it anyway, father.”

“Ha, ha! that old fellow with a cart who cries out ‘Tripe O!’ doesn't look much like a poet neither. But I say, Benjamin, I don't feel the whisky tickling me now as it did awhile ago when I first drink'd it. How is that?”

“You should keep the steam up, daddy. You cannot expect one glass of whisky to make you frisky all night long.”

“I s'pose it won't then; but I bean't much used to 'en. I never drinked grog afore in my life 'cept one time, and that was at a harvest supper at whoam. Measter gived us a glass of old Tom all round, and et made some of our chaps wicked sure enough, for 'em had been drinking sharp cider afore that. But I heard tell of a sailor as went into a grog-shop in Sydney t'other day, and says he to the landlord, ‘I say, gov'nor, give

  ― 238 ―
us another nobbler of the same tack as I had here on Saturday night; it tickled my limbers like hot bullets for three days. The landlord looked scared, as if it was a ghost at his bar, for he know'd before that he had made a mistake and gived the chap a glass out of the bottle of vitriol, or some other stingeree stuff what he kept to 'liven his rum with, and he was afeard he'd be hanged for killing his customer out and out.”

“Ha, ha, ha! That fellow was used to it, father, and that shows what practice will do. Let me mix you another tot,” said Ben, who thereupon prepared a second glass of toddy for Joe, and a third for himself.

“Codlins! this be's woful strong, though, Benjamin,” said Joe, after taking a few pleasant sips. “There be's plenty of tickle in this, for I begin to feel all alive already.”

“That is what I call mixing it on the square, or fair and equal parts of water and whisky. Suck it up, daddy; it will make you talk pure Devonshire.” …

Half-an-hour afterwards Mrs Stubble tapped at the room-door to remind her husband that it was bed-time, when he called out in loud stammering tones, such as she had never before heard from him. “Coom in, Pe-Pe-Peggy lass! Drabbit, what be thee ra-rappin' at the door for? (hic.) Coom in, an' welcome, old 'ooman.”

“Why, measter, what have you been about? Your nose is as red as a carrot!” exclaimed Peggy, as she entered the room, and gazed with unfeigned surprise at her spouse, who was grinning and nodding and winking in that facetious style which usually marks an early stage of inebriety, when the patient is disposed to be playful in the extreme.

“Here, ta-take a sup of this, mother,” said Joe, pulling his wife on to his knee. “This will warm thee heart like friendship, and make thee love thee enemies. Give us a buss, Peg. Tut, doan't 'ee be shy, lass; I knowed thee forty years gone and more—(hic.) What's the odds if Ben be's looking at us? He's our own boy now, close up—(hic)—ha, ha, ha! I be as happy as a rat in a granary—ho, ho, ho! That's right, Peg; take another sip, lass—(hic)—plenty more in the cellar—ha, ha, ha! I be so out-and-out jolly.

‘O there was an old 'ooman in Darby,
And in Darby her did dwell.’ ”

“Why, bless my heart, Joe, I never heard you sing afore in all my born days,” said Peggy, laughing.

  ― 239 ―

“I don't know no more of that song—(hic)—but I'll give thee the same over agin as long as thee likes. Us used to sing it at harvest supper in the old country.” Joe forthwith began to sing it again in a style which doubtless astonished the pawnbroker over the way, and probably the watch-house keeper too, at the corner of the next street.

“Save us all! what on airth is that row?” exclaimed Biddy, running up from the kitchen. Bob and Maggie were equally astonished; and on hastening into the snuggery they beheld their mother sitting on father's knee, and Goldstone sitting opposite, looking highly amused at what he called a “jolly domestic scene.” As Benjamin was laughing, Bob and his sister laughed too, though the scene might have made them weep, for their father was intoxicated, and their mother was smirking or laughing aloud at his grossly absurd sayings and doings.

“Ochone! an' it's come to this, is it? They wull pritty soon settle themselves now,” whined Biddy, as she shuffled back to the kitchen. “The ould feller is singin' dhrunk, an' them are all grinnin' at him, as if it wor mighty witty for him to make a fool ov himself, an' a baste too. Well, well! didn't I say to meself what wud be up, when I seed that carrt-load ov grog comin' into the house? I did so; for I've sane forty hundred poor sowls, or more, ruined intirely by that same stuff since I fisht came to the colony. Ah, shure! I am sorry enough for these craythers; so I am, for they'll go post-haste to the divil from this out, unless the good Lord himself sinds some blissed trouble to shtop 'em. But I'll go to bed, an' git out ov the way, anyhow, for I can't bear to see the like; an' for sartin, I shall offind 'em all iv I let my gabbling tongue loose.”

Two hours afterwards, Biddy was aroused from her sober slumbers by a great noise on the stairs, and she was not long in learning the cause of it. Mrs Stubble and her children were carrying Mr Stubble up to bed.

“Och musha!” sighed Biddy, as she drew her night-cap over her ears to stifle Joe's incoherent whinings. “The poor ould masther is cryin' dhrunk now, an' I'll ingage he'll look as dismal as a smoky Chinaman to-morrow morning. Ochone! what misery that horrid grog is makin' in the worrld to be shure, an' nothin' at all can stop it. Yis, there is though—I make a mistake—the grace of God can stop it, for it stopped

  ― 240 ―
it from ruining meself years agone, whin many ov the gals who came out in the ship wid me went to the bad altogether, through dhrinkin' rum.”

“I don't mane to say that, if I had a pig, I wadn't let the baste ate grains from a brewery or a still-house; I ain't sich a boiling-hot tay-tottler as all that,” continued Biddy, after a few minutes' silent meditation on her own merciful deliverance from the curse of drink. “Nor I won't say that iverybody who takes a dhrop of drink in moderation is a haythin; not at all. I niver sed that, though I have heard somebody say as much; but I mane to say that them as never tastes a smell ov it are safest. Troth, I wish from me heart that all the bright boys and gals in this land wud say they niver wud touch it at all. Ah! well, well! this dhrinkin' bout in the house to-night will be a lesson to Masther Bob an' his sister, anyhow; an' afther seeing what a fool grog has made ov their poor old father, naythir ov them will have the bad sinse to taste a single sup ov it, no more nor they wud go within a chain's length ov Teddy, the butcher's bull-dog.”

After that somewhat comforting reflection, Biddy shut her eyes and soon snored herself to sleep.

  ― 241 ―

Chapter XVI.

Morning reflections.—Squaring up with Ben Goldstone.—Unhappy tiff over it.—Mr Stubble opens account with the Commercial Bank.

“Ha, ha, ha! Do you really say that you don't remember kissing Benjamin last night, father?”

“Not I, indeed, gal! Never kissed a man in my life as I know of, nor I doan't want to, neither. I remember dancing a fandango with mother round the snuggery table, and singin' about the ould 'ooman in Darby; but that's all the harm I did, 'cept getting drunk, and I be sorry enow I did that.”

“Oh, Joe, I saw you kiss Benjamin with my own eyes,” said Peggy; “and you told him to his face that he was a regular gentleman, though when you first saw him you thought he was a rogue-rascal, who was going to teach your gal the first step in the ruination gallop.”

“I tell'ee I doan't remember aught about 'en, Peggy. But doan't 'ee bother me any more just now, there 's a good soul; my head ackes like whopping.”

“I remember that you promised me a new saddle and bridle, father; and I mean to call at Smart's this morning and order them,” said Bob, with a sly look at his sister.

“Well, well, boy, if I did promise 'en, it's all right; thee shall have 'en; but I doan't remember that neither.”

“You surely don't forget that you promised me that nice large piano that you bought so cheap, father,” said Maggie, with a persuasive look at her father, and a side-glance at her mother.

“Noa, lass, I doan't recollect it no more than I do being born into the world; howsomever, thee shall have the panney safe enow. I meant to make thee a handsome present for yer new house; so that'll do nicely. Give us a cup of coffee, Peggy, and doan't 'ee say any more any of yer, for I be 'shamed of myself, and that's all about it. I tould thee how it would be, missis, when thee first telled about getting such a lot of drink in the house, for I've seen this sort of thing afore today,

  ― 242 ―
and so hast thee too. Old Daddy Wood, as us knowed up country, was a happy man till he began to keep a case of gin under his bed, and that pretty soon settled 'en.”

“I didn't get all that liquor, you know, Joe; I should never have thought of buying a whole cart-load.”

“But thee telled Ben to buy et though; and he allers does things by wholesale. For my part, I wish it wor all spilled into the drain; and I'll go and do't too, if thee 'll say the word. Us never had a sup of grog in our house afore since us have been in the land; and that's why us made so much money, I believe. Us have allers been healthy and happy without it; but now us have both broken our pledges—more shame for us—what us kept more nor five-and-twenty years. I be fit to cry.”

Us, you say! Why, I didn't get tipsy, father,” said Peggy, warmly

“Noa, I didn't say thee did, Peggy; but thee took a sip or two, and that's enow to break the promise us made when us stood up, hand in hand, afore dear old fayther and mother in Dab cottage, and said us would never taste strong drink as long as us lived.”

“Oh, that's such a long time ago, that I forgot it, Joe; besides we couldn't afford anything but skim milk in them days. Times are altered, you know, and it is only common sense that we should alter too. We can afford to live as other folks do now; and as I said before, it is necessary to have wine and stuff in the house for our visitors, unless we want to be talked about everywhere. We are not bound to drink it ourselves, unless we like. I never dreamt of you getting tipsy, father, at no time, especially on the very first night you tapped the demijohn of whisky.”

“Neither did I dream about et, I can tell'ee. I didn't mean to touch the stuff at all, but Ben kept on coaxing me to take just a little sup to keep him company, and I thought it looked bad manners not to do't in my own house; so I took a sup more to oblige Ben than to please myself. Then after I tooked one tot, I was easily persuaded to take another, and that upset me, for Ben made et woful strong. But the best thing us can do, Peggy, is to shake hands again now directly, and promise afore Bob and Mag not to taste any more. That's the safest way to deal with dangerous stuff, for if us don't drink the first glass, there is no danger of the second, or the floorer. What dost thee say, lass!”

  ― 243 ―

“What is the good of doing that, measter? I am sure we should not keep our words with all this liquor in the house, and Mag's wedding coming off next week. We must drink her health, I suppose, same as other folks do, if we only take a sip; and how shabby it would look for us to drink it in water! Benjamin wouldn't like that, I am sure, and other friends would laugh at us. But you may depend on it that I will never get tipsy; and if you promise not to do it again, I shall be satisfied. You made a mistake last night, but I don't see why you should grieve yourself to death about it; better men that you have made mistakes of that sort. I bean't a bit afeard of you getting tipsy again, measter.”

“Thee be's right there, Peggy. I shan't do't again in a hurry, I'll bet a guinea. It'll be a long day afore I forget this splitting headache. Give us another cup of coffee, lass.”

The foregoing colloquy took place at the breakfast-table on the morning after Mr Stubble's unprecedented debauch. Some of my readers may probably understand his peculiar sensations; I trust, however, that but few, if any of my youthful friends have an experimental knowledge of the enervating reaction of strong drink. Young Australians are comparatively free from the degrading vice of intemperance; and however much our excise returns may seem to contradict that statement, I firmly adhere to it. The currency lads and lasses do not aid much in making up the enormous aggregate which statistics of the liquor traffic exhibit; and though recent analysts have shown a startling average expenditure, it is certain that there are thousands of young persons in the land who have never spent a penny in strong drink. This reflection may help to reanimate the dispirited faggers of temperance reform, who certainly want a little more encouragement. Though the miasma of intemperance sadly distempers our social atmosphere, there is a good time coming; for when the hosts of children who are now associated with our Sunday schools and bands of hopenote grow up to men and women, their influence will be mighty in dispelling this moral pestilence.

“I say, missis, art thee going to use the machine to-day?” asked Joe, as he arose from the table, after breakfast was over.

  ― 244 ―

“I have begged of you, I don't know how many times, Stubble, not to call our carriage the machine. It sounds so shockingly vulgar, and you know very well it annoys Mag and Bob.”

“Beg pardon, Peggy; I forgot. Didn't mean to vex thee. I'll recollect next time. If thee wert going out this arternoon, I'd like thee to give me a lift as far as Ben's place.”

“I would rather you asked for a drive, father; a lift sounds so much like a carman's talk. But I heard you promise Benjamin to meet him this morning at eleven o'clock, to go to the bank about something or other.”

“My wig! so I did, and I'd clean forgot it. Glad thee hast told me, Peggy. Bring me my boots, Biddy. Look sharp, will 'ee! Bang the maid! what ails her this morning, I wonder?”

Biddy shortly appeared with the boots, and explained that “it wor unpossible to polish 'em at all, bekase summat was split on 'em last night, what took ivery bit ov the shine out ov the leather.”

Joe sighed as he drew on his dull boots, for he reflected that the same stuff had taken the shine off his character for sobriety. As soon as he had left the house, his wife and daughter began to laugh at the clever way in which they had managed to get rid of the odious old cabinet piano from their grand drawing-room. A furniture van was sent for at once; and Bob undertook to see the objectionable instrument snugly stowed away in the stable at the rear of Ben's lodgings, and covered up with clean straw.

“How are you this morning, daddy?” asked Ben, as Joe walked into Tattersall's long room, about eleven o'clock.

“I be sick and sorry, Benjamin,” replied Joe, with a slight groan. “My head be's as sore as if it had been thrashed with a bean-flail, and my narves be's all twiddling about like skinned eels.”

“Ha, ha, ha! You look rather seedy. You had better take a hair of the dog that bit you. Hey, waiter! bring some soda-water and brandy.”

“Two sodas and brandy, sir—yes sir,” said the waiter, and away he hurried to execute the order.

“I doan't want any more strong stuff to make me weaker than I be, Benjamin,” said Joe, after the waiter had left the mixture sparkling in the glasses before them. “I promised the missis I'd never get drunk agin.”

  ― 245 ―

“Drunk! Of course not, father. You took one glass too much last night, and that is what always does the mischief; but this is sober tipple, the established panacea for morning creeps. If you are going to the bank with me, you will want your hand steady enough to sign your name in the depositors' book; so, drink this up while it fizzes. Here's luck!”

After that popular hob-nobbing toast, Ben tossed off his reviver; and Joe with trembling hands raised his tumbler to his lips. The first sip was wonderfully refreshing, so he took a second sip, which made him bold enough to drink it all; and he felt, as he confessed, ever so much better directly.

“Now then, old man, we will go and see my friend Zachary at the Commercial. But stay a minute,—don't be in a hurry; sit down, while I show you how I propose to square our little money matters. Here is my cheque, you see, for £472, 3s. 2d.; you must pay that into current account, which you will open with the bank. I'll show you how to do it by and bye.”

“Thee don't mean to say thee has spent all 'cept this?” said Joe, with extreme wonderment and alarm in his countenance.

“Not at all. I'll explain in a minute or two. Here is my promissory-note for the balance, £2350. You will find that is right to a penny. It is drawn at four months—merely a nominal thing, you know; you can get the cash for it at any time you like, that is to say, on any discount-day; but you don't want it at present, I know.”

“Be's this thing what 'em call a bill?” asked Joe, shrinking back as though Ben were handing him a stinging nettle or a tame snake.

“It is not generally styled a thing by polite people, sir. Sometimes it is called a bill, at other times a promissory-note; but it is all the same. What are you afraid of?”

“Well, I've heard so much talk about these consarns that I be scared to have aught to do with 'em; that's a fact, Benjamin. Master Rowley has telled me of such a heap of roguery, and”——

“Rowley be blowed!” interrupted Ben, with a vehemence which made Joe jump, for he was unusually nervous that morning. But recovering his temper as suddenly as he had lost it, Ben straightened himself up, like lofty principle towering over vulgar prejudice, and replied with stately emphasis. “I am very glad you have expressed your doubts of my honour and my solvency to myself, Mr Stubble, It would

  ― 246 ―
have been a far more severe blow to my honest pride if you had let Mr Ingoldby see that you regarded my bill as a mere thing; in fact, as an instrument of roguery.”

“I didn't say that at all; leastways, I didn't mean it.”

“Hitherto I have had the proud satisfaction of knowing that bankers and the public in general regarded me as a gentleman of capital as well as principle; as a man worthy the suffrages of a great constituency,” continued Ben, without appearing to notice Joe's stammering attempts at explanation. “My bill has never been questioned before for an instant; in fact, any thoroughly sane person would as soon think of objecting to a bank-note. But it appears that I have miscalculated the extent of your confidence in me, sir. I am certainly grieved at it for domestic reasons; but it will not otherwise affect me, for it is as easy for me to raise ten thousand pounds as to toss up twopence. If you will stop here for an hour or so, Mr Stubble, I will go and get the cash for you. But stay; upon second thoughts, you will perhaps pardon me for saying that I would prefer paying it to you in the presence of your highly-esteemed family. My motive for this is to enable me to produce documentary proofs which I trust will satisfy all parties, that you have no tangible grounds for stigmatising my honour and my credit in the way you have done, sir.”

“Humbly beg pardon Benj—er—Mr Goldstone,” stammered Joe, who was really concerned at the idea of having hurt his friend's feelings, which was far from his intention. Ben's wordy address, too, frightened him like a lawyer's letter. “I didn't say naught against yer honourable credit, sir. I'd rather be skinned than”——

“Do you mean to insinuate that I want to skin you, sir?” interrupted Ben.

“Not I, Benjamin; never thought of such a thing. I was going to say I'd rather be flayed alive than say aught to offend thee; that's it, Benjamin.”

“When I volunteered to take charge of your money, Mr Stubble,” continued Ben, with increasing emotion, “I was actuated by the purest motives of interest in your family, and anxiety for your personal safety in a city which, I blush to say, contains some persons unscrupulous enough to knock a man's brains out for the mere convenience of picking his pockets quietly. I transferred that risk to myself, sir; and for my kindness in so doing, I have been wounded in the severest manner possible by the very person whose life and

  ― 247 ―
money I have been so anxious to guard from robbery and violence. Is it any wonder, then, that I exhibit strong feeling? Hey, waiter! bring me a nobbler of pale brandy.”

While Ben was swallowing the nobbler, Joe explained, in the most pathetic terms, that he had not the slightest intention to cast doubt on the honour of his beloved young friend; and laying his hand affectionately on the wounded youth's shoulder, Joe told him he might give him his bill, or he might keep the whole toto if he liked; but by no means was he to say a word at home about their little unhappy tiff, for it would make Maggie sulk for a month.

“I felt hurt last night, father,” said Ben, in softened accents, “at the abrupt way in which you spoke to me when I merely hinted at our going into business speculations for our mutual benefit. Your manner was as sharp as if I had actually proposed to you to start a sly groggery, or to conspire to make poor people eat mouldy bread, when my very soul abhors such doings. My motive was to benefit you principally —I need not try to make money for myself; and I was going to propose some honest speculation or other, if you had permitted me to speak. I shall soon have the honour of being related to you, and I naturally feel as much interest in your affairs as I do in my own—more, in fact, because”——

“Yes, yes; I know all that, Benjamin. I be very much obliged to thee. Now, doan't 'ee say any more about it; there's a good ma—gentleman. I be mortal sorry that I vexed thee; but I wor drunk last night, thee know'st, and I be stupid this morning. Shake hands, now, and make it all up; I'll never do't agin. That's right, me boy. Now us be good friends. Come away to the bank, and see Mr Zachary —what's his name? and only tell me what to do, and I'll do't in a crack.”

They forthwith proceeded to the bank, and after a short private conference, Goldstone introduced Mr Stubble to the manager, who shook hands with him in the pleasant manner he usually showed to independent customers, for Ben had explained Mr Stubble's financial position in flattering terms. Joe had never been inside such a big bank before; and the awe which the various monetary manipulations induced actually made him perspire. His excessive humility, manifested in every look and action, was an interesting contrast to the deportment of monied men in general; and the junior clerks might have fancied that he was seeking accommodation

  ― 248 ―
of some kind. But Zachary's experience in the more responsible routine of financial life had taught him to look sharp; so he could tell, by merely half a glance from one eye, that Joe's genuine rustic modesty was quite foreign to the creeping diffidence of a needy customer, whose heart was aching with anxiety, and quaking too with a consciousness of the tremendous crushing powers of the little man in the morocco chair. He could read Joe's character in a minute; and though he had long before mentally set Ben Goldstone down as one of his natural enemies, he had no misgivings about Mr Stubble ever attempting to draw a penny more out of the bank than he had previously paid into it. Nor would he (Zachary) ever have to look suspiciously at Joe, and formally promise “to lay his application before the board.” Such customers as Mr Stubble do not contribute much to satisfactory dividends; still, banks must have depositors; and in times of active competition it is considered good policy to treat them deferentially.

Joe's business was speedily settled. He deposited the cheque to current account, lodged the bill for collection, and affixed his signature to the bank register as usual; then said, “I wish 'ee good day, sir,” to the complaisant manager, bowed timidly to the messenger at the door-way, and departed with his new cheque-book coiled inside his hat

  ― 249 ―

Chapter XVII.

Bob's visit to the opera with Ben Goldstone.—Sees Miss Blunt, a young lady with £40,000.—Ben's advice to Bob on matrimonial matters.

“LOOK across to the second box there, Bob, at that girl beside the old lady with heavy jewellery and a rainbow turban. Take a good quiz at her through my opera-glass, and tell me what you think of her.”

“Rather plain article in my eyes,” drawled Bob, after he had scrutinised the young lady for several minutes. “Who is she, Goldstone?”

“I'll tell you all about her presently. Tut! don't let her see you quizzing her, or the old woman will be down on you like pewter pots. You are not half up to the mark as a lady-killer, Bob, though you are so clever at bringing down a bird.”

The above colloquy took place in the dress-circle of the Prince of Wales' theatre. Ben Goldstone had undertaken to show his unsophisticated young friend a little of life in Sydney; so of course he took him to the opera. Bob Stubble had never been in a play-house before; and on his first entry he felt so bedazzled by the gaudy display around him, that Ben rather brusquely told him not to put on such a jolly green look, or he would be sure to get his pockets picked. Bob thereupon blushed for his ignorance of town-life, and began to smell the silver top of his cane, and to practise a few other current fopperies, in imitation of certain knowing youths whom he observed promenading the upper circle, and in the wings of the pit, and looking as much in their glory as goats in a flower garden.

When the first act of the opera was over, the two friends adjourned to a neighbouring café for refreshments, and then Ben confidentially informed Bob that the young lady to whom he had called his attention in the theatre was a Miss

  ― 250 ―
Blunt, only daughter of the late Jacob Blunt, who died about a year ago, worth two or three bushels of sovereigns, heap measure, which he left to his wife and daughter, share and share alike. “There's a chance for you, my boy!” added Ben, “and you may smite her as easily as knocking down a parrot, if you go the right way to work about it.”

“I would not have her at any price!” exclaimed Bob. “She is such a queer-looking girl, and a regular kicker in harness, I'll warrant.”

“Pooh! what does that matter? She is worth £40,000 at least. If you like to go in for that spec, Bob, I know the way to work it. That will be better than any Government billet I could have got for you, if I had been returned for Muddleton.”

“I would rather have a girl I was fond of, without a pennypiece. It would be horrible to be tied for life to a woman whom I could not love; indeed, I have no idea of selling my liberty.”

“Balderdash! selling your liberty! You would have the handling of the money just as legally as if your own father had made it; and what liberty and licence is there that cash will not procure? I tell you, in strict confidence, Bob, that I happen to know a party who has seen old Blunt's will, and the money is left without any of those abominable restrictions which some surly fathers insist upon. Old Blunt drew up his will himself, for he was a saving man, and got his own clerks to witness it. It is short and sweet, without any legal lumber, and not a single word in it to prevent either his wife or daughter disposing of their share of the money in any way they like—that is to say, it is theirs absolutely; so of course it is their husband's property if they marry. Any good-looking young fellow who will go gingerly to work with the mother, may soon become her worthy son-in-law; but she is a cunning old Judy, and if she suspects any one has an eye to the money more than to the girl, it would be all U.P. with him directly. Now, it strikes me you are the very fellow to manage her, Bob. You have an innocent look about you, and can talk soft nonsense as natural as life. If you will follow my directions to the letter, your fortune is made; but you must be as careful as if you were going to handle a young thorough-bred filly; I will get you an introduction in a day or two, if you like. It won't do to take you to their box just now; there are too many eyes on the look-out; they would

  ― 251 ―
twig our little game, and perhaps spoil it; for these rich wife-hunters are a jealous lot of snobs.”

“Do you know the Blunts intimately, Goldstone?”

“Oh, yes,—that is to say, moderately so. My father and old Blunt used to do business together a few years ago. You saw the ladies bow to me the other day when we were driving in the Domain. They were in a brougham, with a copper-coloured coachman in dun livery.”

“There were so many persons who recognised you then that I scarcely remember any one in particular. How is it that you did not stick up to Miss Blunt yourself?” added Bob, with some hesitation, lest the question should be considered too bold, or be in some way damaging to his sister's interest.

“Hum—er—aw. Why, you see, Bob, having plenty of money of my own in possession or expectancy, I did not want to look after a rich wife: I chose to please my fancy, you know. Love before money, is my motto.”

“Well, I am not in a hurry for a wife; but I should like to please my fancy too, if I ever get married.”

“Of course; and so you can, if you have lots of money, Bob. You noticed that young fellow driving a pair of iron grays in a sociable up William Street, as we came into town this evening. You saw me wink at him?”

“What, the dashing-looking chap with a Turkish turban round his hat, and a girl something like Maggie sitting beside him?”

“Yes; slap-up girl, wasn't she? Well, he married a widow worth four thousand a year; no cross children, and no crabbed trustees to bother his life out.”

“She is a very young widow, if that was she in the sociable.”

“Tut! widow, indeed!” exclaimed Ben, with a facial twist which Bob could not understand. “That was his cousin! His wife is up at her farm. How jolly green you are, Bob! Ha, ha, ha! Crisp as young spinach. But let us go and see the opera out; we can talk about this afterwards. I'll put you up to a move or two, my boy, if you will make use of your mother-wit: but, mind you, mum's the word, Bob,—not a single syllable of this must be mentioned at home, you know. Keep your own counsel and stick to me, and I'll show you how to make money a hundred times easier than working for it. Since you have been figged up by my tailor, you are a

  ― 252 ―
jolly smart-looking fellow, and you may make a fortune by your good looks. I don't see why men should not do a little in that line as well as women.”

“ ‘What is good for the goose is good for the gander,’ I suppose,” said Bob, whose smirky looks at Ben's sophistical speech showed that he thought there was some force in it, and a voluptuous field of sentiment seemed to present itself which his fancy had never yet explored. Ben noted the effect of his remarks on his pliant young pupil, but he deemed it premature to detail his scheme for Ben's matrimonial advancement just then.

Whether it was coyness, or any other virtue, the reader must judge; but Ben did not disclose to Bob all he knew of Miss Blunt and her spirited mamma; neither did he confess to the failure of his own bold attempt on the heart or the fortune of that young lady. But the truth is, Ben had proposed to her, and was sternly repulsed, or, as Mrs Blunt tritely remarked, “She had sent him away with a flea in his ear,” for she happened to know him better than she cared to trust him.

“Who was that girl whom you nodded to just now, Goldstone?” asked Bob, as they sauntered along, arm-in-arm, after leaving the café.

“Eh—er—oh! a girl I've merely seen across a counter. I don't know her, of course. By the bye, you twig that little shop over the way, Bob? Now, if you want to see a nice batch of pretty modest girls, just pop in there some evening.”

“I would rather not, thank'ee,” replied Bob, blushing. “I never went into a place of that sort yet, and I don't mean to begin neither. I've heard too much about the misery that has befallen young fellows who have been lured into such dens. I have a good constitution, and I intend to take care of it. Charley Swallow is as rickety as an old man, and he is not thirty years old.”

“Tush! what are you talking about, Bob? Do you think I would induce you to enter a brothel?” said Ben, with virtuous warmth. “That is a respectable shop—merely a house of call for young girls who are in places of business—a sort of trysting-place where their sweethearts meet them to see them home. That is all. Lots of modest girls call there.”

“If I had a sister in a place of business in Sydney, I would take care to see her home myself, if she could not leave business before dark,” replied Bob.

  ― 253 ―

“Yes, yes; you would be quite right too, Bob. But every young girl has not got a big brother to see her home. At any rate, all of them have not got brothers who are so wise as yourself, or so careful of their sister's honour. But I hope you don't think that I have ever been into any of those improper places that you have hinted at, Bob?”

“Oh, dear no, Goldstone; I did not mean to insinuate such a thing. I beg pardon for the mistake I made.”

“Just so; but don't you make another mistake, and mention at home anything that I have said to you to-night. I am only desirous of putting you up to an innocent trick or two; nothing more, I assure you; I hate immorality. Come away into the play; I'm afraid the second act is half over by this time, we have had such a long gossip at the café. Stay a minute, Bob. Excuse me, but don't stick your hat so far down on the back of your head. That is better; incline it a little to the left side. Now you look twice as knowing. And mind you don't be quizzing Betsy Blunt again through the opera-glass. You can look straight at her, you know; but when she twigs you, take your eyes off her and look modest, like a ram with a tick in his tail. If you manage it naturally, she will think she has struck you comical. Ha, ha, ha! I'll pilot you to a snug berth, if you keep your luff—as we used to say in the navy.”

  ― 254 ―

Chapter XVIII.

Maggie's wedding-day.—Rudeness of the Slumm Street rabble.—Mrs Stubble's troubles, and her husband's expedients.—Various exciting occurrences.—Arrival of the bridal pair at the “Red Cow.”

THE sun arose in unclouded brightness to gild Maggie's wedding-day, but she was up an hour before its priming tints were visible on the eastern sky. It is not marvellous that a young girl should be wakeful on a morning so momentous in her life's history; indeed, it would be an unfavourable symptom if it were otherwise. The day had been long anticipated by all the household; but though preparations had been going on for several days, there was much to be done on the identical morning before church-time; and Mrs Stubble was more than usually fussy and peevish, though it was clear enough that every one around her was striving to do the work in style. She was, in fact, suffering from the efforts of long continued excitement, which the coming exaltation of her family provoked, and was more fit to be in bed than to be bustling about in the smoke and steam of the kitchen; but she would not have believed that, even if a doctor had told her so.

“What a plaguey nuisance those bawling brats of children are outside!” whined Mrs Stubble, alluding to a gathering of all the little boys and girls in the neighbourhood, who were attracted to the spot by the extraordinary event of a grand wedding in Slumm Street, although they would have seen quite as much of the ceremony if they had gone to Rose Bay or Coogee Beach. But children are always pleased to look even at the outside of a building if anything exciting is going on inside. “The worst of this house is, that you can't possibly do anything in it, but you are overlooked by gawking, gossiping neighbours, who say all sorts of things about us. That pawnbroker's horrid daughter is always spying across through a long telescope from their attic window; and I know she hates Mag. Do, for patience sake, go out, and send those yelping little savages away, Stubble. I declare there is a lot of them

  ― 255 ―
playing at ‘king of the castle' in the front verandah! Their impudence is past all bearing, and I won't put up with it any longer.”

“What is the good of bothering yer head about 'em, missis? It's as natural for young 'uns to make a noise as it is for old uns to want to be quiet. Us liked to kick up our heels a bit when us was young, Peggy; and thee know'st us used to play king o' the castle on the tombstones at Chumleigh, and laugh at old Diggs, the sexton, too, when he tried to cotch us. Let 'em alone, poor things! 'em don't often see anything out of the common way.”

“Ugh! poor things, indeed! There's forty of 'em, or more, in our nice clean verandah, drat 'em! If you don't choose to send 'em away, Stubble, I will. I'll poor things 'em, with a vengeance.”

Mrs Stubble then trotted into the verandah with the coach whip in her hand, and began to slash away right and left, making the boys flee like cats in a hail-storm.

“I'll let you see that you have no right to come making this uproar in front of my house, you young monkeys! Don't let me catch any of you here again, or I'll skin you alive, I will!”

Mrs Stubble delivered this short address in very excited tones, emphasising each word by a shake of the whip-stick; but instead of making the naughty boys quake with terror, it made them laugh, or dance, or shout according to their several fancies, while one little shoeless urchin actually had the temerity to mock Mrs Stubble, by shaking a cabbage-stalk at her, and imitating her vociferous utterance.

Finding that the boys utterly disregarded her commands to go away, and that the more she scolded the more they laughed at her, she went in-doors and began to cry. On learning the cause of his mother's grief, Bob grew spiteful, and rushed out with his fists doubled up for action. The nimblest of the boys ran away, for they suspected that Bob would hit hard; but he caught the little urchin with the cabbage-stalk, who happened to be lame, and after cuffing him sufficiently, Bob returned to the house to receive his mother's commendation on his chivalry.

But their triumph at the flight of their foes was only temporary, for the mother of the beaten boy, excited by his pathetic cries, was disposed to take his part, as the mildest of mothers sometimes are, when their offspring are the victims

  ― 256 ―
of cruelty. In a few minutes the vexed woman was in front of the house, sparring like a man, and breathing out a most unpoetical effusion of street eloquence, while the noisy boys and girls had reassembled, and attracted with them a dozen or two of adult stragglers, to whom a street row is always a welcome excitement.

“Oh, my patience!” exclaimed Mrs Stubble, with a very impatient look at her husband. “Did you ever hear such dreadful things as that woman is saying, Stubble? For mercy's sake, go out and get a constable to take her up. The carriages will be here directly, and only think! such a disturbance in front of the house! I shall go crazy—I certainly shall! My poor head will never stand this noise. Hark! do you hear that, Stubble? She says we were both lagged out here for body-snatching. Why don't you deny it, instead of sitting there grinning like an old—old—I—don't—know what? Oh dear, dear, dear! however could you bring your family into such a nasty disagreeable neighbourhood, Stubble? I wish I were in my grave?”

“Ah, thee art allers wishing theeself in some place where thee shouldn't be, missis. I have telled thee above forty times, that if thee had been contented to stop at the old house at Buttercup, thee wouldn't have had the bother thee hast had for months past. Thee wanted to be mighty fine; and us have paid for it, Peggy, more than it is worth a long deal, for whipped if I think thee hast had a day's comfort since thee came to town, and thee hasn't let me have much neither. As for taking this house, thee can't blame me there, anyhow, for Ben and Bob had more to do wi't than I had; and that's lucky for me.”

“How can you sit there prating, Stubble, while that wicked woman is scandalising us all in this dreadful way? Can't you hear her? She says our Mag was trained by old Mother Brown! If Benjamin should hear that, what will he think?”

“Let her rave. Her slang won't hurt us, no more than a broadside of boiled taters would knock down Fort Macquarie,” said Joe, calmly. “Thee will allers have yer own way, missis, and ye bean't often satisfied with it neither. I tould 'ee to let them boys alone; and it would have been better if thee had minded what I said to thee for once. I'd soon have sent 'em off quietly enow; but thee must go out with the whip to 'em, and make theeself look silly afore all the neighbours. Thee ought to have knowed better than that, Peg. Suppose when

  ― 257 ―
us were youngsters, any ould 'ooman had runned after us with a whip, wouldn't us have made fun of her? In course us would. But I bean't going to say any more; so doan't 'ee let us have a rumpus in the house this morning, there's a good soul. I'll go and see if I can stop that creeter's tongue, and do'ee try to look good-tempered for a bit; us will have a houseful of company presently, and it wouldn't be nice for 'em to hear us argufying in this style on our darter's wedding-day, and with our grand new clothes on. Do'ee cheer up, Peggy, lass.”

After that mollifying speech, Mr Stubble went outside, and in a few minutes the noisy mother was as quiet as a slumbering infant. Biddy told her fellow-servant that she “seed the masther give the woman a silver somethin'.” Whatever it was that he gave her, it stopped her noise immediately, and she hurried off to the inn at the corner for refreshment.

Joe then addressed the assembled boys and girls in his usual good-natured tones. “I tell'ee what it is, children, it bean't manners to be kicking up this noise afore my front door; it's against the law too; but I bean't goin' to law, so ye needn't be skeered. Hearken to what I say now. If thee all like to behave decently for the rest of the day, I'll give 'ee a reg'lar treat to-morrow of all the nice things us have left after the feast; there'll be a pretty lot, I'll be bound. And look 'ee here, Jerry, or what else yer name is,” he added, speaking to one of the elder boys. “You trot to the market yonder, and buy a bushel or two of peaches with this crown, and share 'em out fair an' square amongst the lot. Off ye go now, every Jack and Jill of ye; and mind ye don't come here agin to-day, making a rumpus, or ye'll get no treat to-morrow,—no, not so much as a dry bone. Do ye hear what I say, children?”

“All right, sir! all right, master!” shouted the delighted boys and girls. “We won't come anigh yer house agin to-day; never fear, sir. Hooray!” After that parting salute, away scrampered Jerry with the crown-piece and the host of little ragamuffins after him towards the fruit market, to feast upon peaches, while Joe returned to the house smiling at the successful ruse for getting rid of their noise.

“Shure, thin, that's the right way to conquer human natur', masther dear,” said Biddy. “Kindness afore cruelty, any day. A penn'orth ov peaches 'ull do a mortial sight more to quiet a cantankerous gossoon nor a great big horse-whip— that's plain enough, sir.”

  ― 258 ―

“You please to hold your tongue, Biddy, and go and baste those turkeys,” said Mrs Stubble, sharply; and then she went up-stairs to dress for church.

It would be tedious to detail the whole of that day's proceedings; so I briefly state that the happy pair were married at St James's Church, and after the ceremony they drove back to the house in Slumm Street, followed by five carriages and cabs, containing the six bridesmaids and other friends who had been invited.

“Æsopus Clodius, a celebrated Roman actor, is said at one entertainment to have had a dish filled with singing and speaking birds which cost £800.” If that was not the height of extravagance, it surely must have been nearly up to it.

The Stubbles were not so silly as the Roman actor; still, they were lavish beyond all family precedent; and nothing was lacking which reason or fancy could suggest to make the wedding-feast an uncommon one. The quality of the cookery and the style of dishing-up were less noticeable than the superabundance of food prepared; and if any dining-table in the colony might be excused for groaning before company, Stubble's table certainly might, for it was wonderfully overladen; and that it did not actually break down is a circumstance which proves the staunch quality of well-seasoned Australian cedar.

The writer has seen great feasts among the natives of New Zealand, Friendly Islands, and Fiji, where four times as much food was prepared as could possibly be eaten by the guests before it got putrid. A distressing waste was the result; and perhaps hundreds of persons went on short allowance for many weeks afterwards. If Mrs Stubble had not seen similar entertainments, she had doubtless heard of civic banquets. At any rate, her notions of a display of food were as large as the notions of any uncivilised person in Polynesia or elsewhere.

Mr Stubble could not help quietly contrasting the costly banquet spread before him with the humble appearance of his festive board on his own wedding-day, when a hough of bacon, a dish of broad beans, a squab pie, a figgy pudding, and a big brown jugful of cider, comprised the whole bill of fare, and very good fare it was then considered. He felt relieved by the reflection that the food they could not consume would not be wasted, for he had promised the street children a treat

  ― 259 ―
next day; and his heart glowed as he fancied how much the poor things would enjoy it.

The breakfast, which by the way was a hot dinner, progressed without any mishap of consequence. All the guests seemed pleased, and the host and hostess were proud beyond measure. Biddy Flynn was at the head of the domestic staff, and was as active as the boatswain of a dismasted ship.

Benjamin looked sternly thoughtful at times; but fortunately no one noticed it. At any rate, no person but himself could have known the cause, which was simply on account of his father appearing at the table in a fashionable coat and a white waistcoat, and sitting next to the roguish young bridesmaid mentioned in a previous chapter. Ben had never before seen his sire dressed so smartly, nor had he ever before seen his hair oiled. He remarked also that the old gentlemen did not so much as hint at his lumbago, and always tried to stifle his cough; in short, he looked as brisk as a boy.

Those little things, simple in themselves, had a dispiriting influence on Ben, though as a dutiful son he might have had opposite feelings. He tried to cheer himself with the idea that no young girl would be simple enough to marry such a rickety old man of seventy; but that belief was not sustained, for he suddenly remembered that he had seen several instances of such unequal yoking; indeed, only a few days before, when on a visit to a well-known watering-place near Sydney, he had seen a merry old man of seventy-five playing with his little son, about three years old, while his wife, a buxom-looking woman of about twenty-seven years, was suckling an infant. Those reflections tended to becloud Benjamin's brow, even with his blushing bride by his side.

After the knives and forks were done with, some appropriate toasts were given, and several speeches were made; but it would not proper to make them public. Mrs Stubble wept while Benjamin expatiated on his present happiness, and on the honour he felt at being surrounded by so many good friends whom he highly prized, and especially at having by his side one whom he could now call his darling wife, the charming partner of his future fortunes.

Old Mr Goldstone, too, made a neat little speech, from which nobody would have judged that he was in any way miserly; and at the wind-up, he dilated so tenderly on the blissful associations of wedded life, that all the bridesmaids were tickled

  ― 260 ―
exceedingly, or at any rate they laughed as if they were so; and Biddy quietly remarked to the housemaid “that the roguish young lady's eyes flashed fire, like brass tinderboxes.”

Mr Stubble's speech was short and rather incoherent, for drinking bumpers had not improved his diction. He would have got on better, as he afterwards confessed, if his wife had not kept on making faces at him from the other end of the table. Peggy's explanation of the matter was, that “she wasn't making faces at him; only she was afraid he was going to take the company all the way back to Chumleigh, and she was merely giving him a silent hint now and then, with her eyebrows, to warn him not to do it.”

At length the cab arrived to take the happy pair to the railway station; so the festive party broke up, and after the usual leave-taking ceremonies the bride and bridegroom stepped into the vehicle, while a crowd of bonnetless women stood by to witness the departure, and to pass a few jocose remarks among themselves.

“Who has got an old shoe?” asked Simon, who had been immoderately merry since the last toast. “Ho, ho, ho! Give me an old shoe to throw after them for luck.”

“Here is one of my son Bob's best boots, sir,” said Mrs Stubble, who was more solemnly excited than Simon, for she really believed in the luck of the act.

“A shoe would be better,” chuckled Simon; “but never mind, we will make this do.” He then hurled the boot into the cab—alas, with too much earnestness, for it went through the glass pane of the opposite door.

“Bravo! this will be as good as a pair of boots to my old man, 'cos he's got a wooden leg!” exclaimed one of the untidy women, as she picked up the boot, and stuffed it into her pocket. “That's luck in my way, anyhow. Ha, ha, ha! Bravo! old skin-and-bone! Do it agin!”

Cabmen in general are seemingly as tender of their vehicles as sea-captains are of their chronometers. It would be a happy thing indeed for cab horses if they were half as well cared for. This curious fact in town life might be borne out by the experience of numberless passengers who have at times accidentally injured the blinds or lining of a cab, and have been obliged to listen to the forcible appeals of the driver for prompt reparation.

It is no wonder, then, that Ben's Jarvey was hurt to see his

  ― 261 ―
off-side pane smashed in that silly manner. He had frequently seen a boot thrust through his cab window by a high-spirited fare going home from the play, or from some other house of amusement; but there was always a foot in the boot, and its owner was usually in a rollicking mood, and was easily induced to pay liberally for the glazier. Had the cabman been of a more philosophical turn of mind, he would have reflected that the boot was thrown for luck; and it might be made a lucky throw for him, for the giggling old gentleman who threw it would never refuse to pay for the damage while so many pretty girls were beside him smiling at his facetiœ. But the cabman was a surly man, and instead of touching his hat and asking Simon for a sovereign, he called him sundry names, not at all polite, and threatened “to pull him to the police court, for wilfully damaging the vehicle.”

“Hallo! what do you mean by this impudence?” shouted Ben; at the same time he sprang from the cab with the ferocity of a cannibal chief. “Get on to your box, sir; and drive me off this instant, or by gemini, I'll knock your head off in two minutes.”

As I have before stated, Benjamin was strong. He had often knocked down cabmen, and other men too; and he was just then in prime alcoholic trim for hitting an adversary very hard, although he might not strike scientifically. The driver seemed more hardened than softened by Ben's emphatic address, and began to reply in true cabby style; but ere he had utterred more than ten words, or five oaths, he was knocked down by a blow from Ben's right fist, while the left fist was clenched, ready to knock him up again, if need be.

But though floored, cabby was not conquered; and the agility with which he got on to his feet again showed that the blow had not much affected his head. He had had the privilege of being an early pupil of “deaf Burke,” the famous London bruiser—a circumstance which he briefly explained as he sparred up to Ben, and, in the language of the ring, “fetched him a reg'lar smeller,” and “tapped his claret,” to the sad disfigurement of his wedding-waistcoat.

“Yah! Hooray! Bravo, cabby! That's hooked his konk like the snout of the market pump!” exclaimed the vulgar woman with the boot in her pocket, whose sympathies were evidently strong on the cabman's side. “Hit him again, whippy! Bung up his peepers!”

  ― 262 ―

Thus encouraged, the cabman warily sparred round his bulky opponent, who was striking out left and right with a tremendous display of power, but without hitting his foe. The odds were decidedly in favour of science, when Bob Stubble rushed up, and his warmth of feeling for his brother-in-law's damaged nose scotched his sense of fair-play for a moment, and he struck the unlucky cabman a blow from behind, which knocked him down again.

Never, perhaps, since the days when the late Captain Cook was a baby, and Slumm Street was in undisputed possession of the primitive aborigines, was there heard such a yelling as burst from the lungs of the bonnetless women, to mark their disapproval of Bob's cowardly attack. It is highly probable that they would have proceeded at once to carry out their savage threat of scalping him, had not the general attention been diverted by the sudden bolting of the horses.

It is seldom, indeed, that cab-horses can muster spirit enough for a voluntary gallop, and in general they are more prone to lie down in harness; but no horses in the world, however stiff and bony, could have heard that awful yelling without making an effort to run away from it. Off they started, with poor Maggie inside the cab, and her personal luggage outside; and as it whirled round the corner into a cross street, her distracted friends could see her leaning out of the near-side window, and waving both her hands.

It would be a rather stirring moral exercise to reflect on the strange vicissitudes of life which this case presents. Only a few brief minutes before, Maggie had been the object of admiration, perhaps of the envy too, of six bridesmaids, to say nothing of what any of the matrons felt. She had sat at the festive board, and with prideful feelings had heard the most glorifying things said of herself and her devoted husband at her side, and the most exuberant wishes expressed for her future happiness. Alas! how changed the scene! In the turn of a sand-glass, how startling the contrast! What matron would secretly envy Maggie now? What bridesmaid in her senses would wish to exchange places with the bride in a cab drawn by a pair of runaway horses?

A strange spectacle it was, no doubt, to see all the males of that gay wedding-party rushing through the streets without their hats, and Benjamin and the cabman racing neck-and-neck, the one trembling for the fate of his young wife,

  ― 263 ―
and the other for the soundness of his coach and horses. Simon Goldstone kept up a brisk trot, and though he was a long way behind the rest of the runners, he pluckily resolved to see the end of it. His old neighbours were equally surprised at his smart attire and his smart paces, and as but few of them knew what he was running for, it was generally believed that some of his tenants had flitted, and that the old man had run mad.

The cab-horses took a straight course towards their owner's stables at Strawberry Hills, fortunately without coming in contact with anything on their route; so, although Maggie was terribly frightened, she was not otherwise hurt.

A little skilful negotiation on the part of Mr Stubble soon smoothed down the cabman's feelings; and for a handsome consideration he agreed to drive to Parramatta forthwith, as he had missed the four o'clock train. A fresh pair of horses were put in the cab, and in due course the bridal pair arrived safely at the Red Cow Inn. After all the excitement and danger, the only tangible marks of mischief were on Benjamin's nose, which looked very like a ripe fig.

After tea that evening, Mr Stubble and Simon Goldstone took a tumbler of punch together in the snuggery, and Simon grew marvellously confidential and talkative. Among other things, he told Joe that he had fully resolved to enjoy himself for the rest of his days, instead of living miserably and hoarding up his money for somebody to squander after he was dead; but he could not exactly see the force of Joe's suggestion, that he should enjoy himself by pulling down a lot of the old rickety tenements that he owned in the city, and building model dwellings for the working-classes, and thus leave a name to be gratefully remembered long after he was dead. He was just about to explain what he really did mean to do, when the door of the snuggery was opened, and in ran the six blooming bridesmaids, and by pleasant force they hustled the two old gentlemen up-stairs to the drawing-room to play a game of forfeits.

After supper everybody seemed to grow more funny than ever. Mr Goldstone waltzed with the roguish bridesmaid, and Mr Stubble danced a rural fandango with Mrs Stubble, and after he had finished it, he fell down on the hearth-rug muttering, “I be reg'larly done up.” He was straightway carried to bed, singing in a lofty key, “There was an old 'ooman in Darby.”

  ― 264 ―

The company left as the clock was striking two; and as soon as they were gone, Mrs Stubble discovered that whilst they had been dancing in the drawing-room, some dishonest person or persons had entered an open window of the dining-room, and stolen all the silver forks and spoons, and the silver cake-basket, with the wedding-cake in it.