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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,

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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?”

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“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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.”