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Book III.




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Chapter I.

Elevation of the Stubbles in fashionable life.—Joe becomes Member for Muddleton.—Mrs Stubble's experience with domestic servants.

AFTER the excitement of Maggie's wedding was over, Mr Stubble went to school to learn English grammar, in fulfilment of the compact which he had previously made with his wife. What he might have accomplished if he had been more persevering, it is not easy to estimate, but at the end of six weeks he impatiently declared that “he had had enough of verbs and other puzzling consarns, and he would not bother his head any more, whether he spoke plain English or not.” But he thought his recent exercise had polished his lingo a bit, for he had learned a good many new words, and was trying to forget a lot of old ones which the schoolmaster said were vulgar. Peggy had respected her part of the compact by taking private lessons in writing from Miss Dottz; but that lady sailed for England to print her budget before her dull pupil had done with “pot-hooks and hangers,” so the copy-book was thrown aside for a convenient season to begin on the higher branches of caligraphic art; and poor Mrs Stubble continued to waste much time in lamenting over her early disadvantages, and blaming herself for not beginning five years ago “to learn to be a scholar.” She had grown more painfully conscious of her deficiencies since she became intimate with Mrs Smatter, and other fashionable ladies, who knew everything in the world; still, her outward and visible pride did not diminish a single tittle.

After their year of tenancy expired, the Stubbles removed from the house in Slumm Street to one of far greater pretensions to style. It was situate in the fashionable purlieus of Double Bay. Peggy had set her heart on


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that identical house six months before, because it had a semi-circular carriage drive right up to the door, or, as she remarked, “You could go in at one gate, and out at the other, without turning round.” Mr Stubble gradually grew out of his dislike to city life, and his self-confidence expanded to such a cheering extent, that he could walk into the dining-hall at Entwistle's (even on a baron-of-beef day) carrying his head as erect as a lordly squatter from Beardy Plains, and without showing the least sign of sheepishness, though a hundred eyes were taken off fifty plates to gaze at him. He soon became quite “at home” with the rollicking habitués of the “smoking crib,” and the intimacy with some of them soon ripened into financial transactions of no ordinary kind. Mr John Murrabig, the jovial Hunter River squire, and Mr Stubble sometimes had a mild tipple together, and would grow as sentimental as gipsies while they talked of the lanes and hedges of old Devon, and compared their early experiences in garden, field, or stable, or the softer recollections of their apple-picking exploits amid a scrambling bevy of rosy-faced lasses, for which their native county is so famous. The highly-cultivated “Count” Sticky has deigned to take hold of Joe's arm, and strongly recommend him to buy a nice estate on the Nimrod, and to talk to him upon other matters, which clearly showed his confidence in the man. Cannie Jock was like a brither to him, and on two occasions made him a present of some prime smoked tongues and bullocks tails. The great wool-man, of champagne-breakfast celebrity, often shook hands with Joe, and asked after his wife. Other men of less renown, though perhaps equally worthy, testified their affection for Joe in various ways. Moreover, he became a man of mark to the liveliest of the Sydney brokers, and the bargains, or “snug little specs,” that were brought to his notice from day to day, were sometimes too good to be slighted.

To guard in some measure against the encroachment of pride, which such varied attentions were calculated to induce, Mr Stubble would sometimes come out in an old country-cut coat, and he occasionally carried a rough sapling or stick, such as blind men use as feelers; but he dropped his stick and doffed his old coat on being told that that “humble dodge” had been tried by a worthy civic councillor, and it did not answer any other end than to excite the satire of Punch.

Success has a wonderful influence in inspiring even the


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meekest of men with confidence in their own tact, and also in gaining for them the approbation of their keen-sighted neighbours. Mr Stubble had made several very profitable speculations, which were currently talked about, and had such an exalting influence on his reputation for sagacity and money, that after a while he was powerfully pressed to stand as Member of Parliament for Muddleton, which seat had become vacant through the resignation of Mr Morrison, who “went home” to enjoy himself with the fortune he had made in Australia, after the example of many others who have “morris'd off,” after making their “pile.”

A Dublin jury was once sitting on the body of an Irish hodman, who had fallen from a ladder, and, by the doctor's report, had broken his neck. The coroner was summing up the evidence preparatory to receiving a verdict, when Patrick suddenly raised himself up from the shell in which he was placed, and exclaimed in a faint voice, “Fegs, I think I'm alive yit!”

“Arrah! lie down ye crayther!” growled a hungry juror, who was impatient to get home to his dinner. “Lie down, sir, this minute! Do you mane to say ye know betther nor the docthor, who ses ye're dead?”

Mr Stubble's honest assertion that he knew no more about politics than he did about steering a ship was smilingly taken as an indication of praiseworthy modesty by his enthusiastic supporters, and they were so loud in their opinions of his fitness for the post of dignity and trust, that at length he began to suspect that he had all through his life underrated his own powers; at any rate, it was only reasonable to believe that a deputation of seven intelligent electors must surely know better than his own humble self, so he agreed to leave himself in their hands, and promised to do his best for the constituency if they made a Member of him.

After a sharp contest, he was returned by a majority of nine. His election cost him £500, but he was assured by friends, who knew what they were talking about, that it was a cheap seat after all, considering the manifold advantages that might accrue therefrom, if he kept his eyes open to his own interest.

As a matter of course, his elevation to the Legislative Assembly gained him abundant honour of an indirect kind, and his name was often seen in the public prints as well as seen posted on all the old walls in town. “Joseph Stubble,


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Esq., M.L.A., has kindly consented to take the chair,” was an announcement to be seen sometimes twice in one column of advertisements of public meetings of a moral or social character. He was highly esteemed as a chairman, for he usually put a cheque in the plate; and as he never attempted to say much, his reticence was properly regarded as a mark of wisdom. Almost every speaker on the programme would remark, as usual, “I am happy to see you in the chair, sir—et cetera;” and as honest Joe did not know anything about stock phrases of public orators, he used to believe every word they said, and would look as smirky as a blackfellow in a new blanket. His name was also placed on many local committees, sometimes without previously asking his leave, for, on the assumption that he had nothing particular to do, everybody was willing to find him a job. In his stammering reply to a complimentary vote of thanks for his ability in the chair, he on one occasion remarked, “that he was always ready to help any good cause with his personal efforts, and with his purse also.” After that encouraging sentiment, it was sagely argued by collectors, that to neglect to call on him for a subscription was virtually to admit that the cause they were collecting for was a bad one, which would never do; and the number of “good causes” he was solicited to subscribe to was enough to cheer any one of a philanthropic turn of mind. Professional beggars found out where he lived, of course; and though they occasionally got a scolding from the mistress of the house, they were sustained under it by the certain hope of an alms, if the master happened to be at home, and they were lucky enough to catch him alone, to tell him their tales of sorrow.

Mr Stubble's native modesty made him shrink from the numerous posts of honour or responsibility which were thrust upon him; but his objections were always joked away by his partial admirers, who could not be so ill-mannered as to accept a plea of incapacity, and after a while he was lulled into the belief that he really did possess latent talent of a popular kind. If some of my readers should doubt the possibility of any man being so befooled, let them look around them, and if they happen to be in a civilised community, they may see many analogous cases, where men have been lifted almost above their own individual recognition by the syren voice of public flattery and private wheedling.

Ben Goldstone's social position had naturally improved


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since his marriage. Apart from higher considerations, he was more patronised by fashionable friends, which was a source of glorification to him; but receiving visitors and returning calls was so irksome to poor Maggie, that she often sighed for the quietude of a country life, and wished from her heart that Ben would take a farm and remove her away from the embarrassing routine of city fashion, and the choking influence of city dust.

It was often a matter of wondering conjecture with gossipping neighbours what profession or calling young Goldstone followed, but no uninitiated one could solve the mystery. He had an office in town, and kept a sporting-looking clerk; and he mixed a good deal with sharp speculators, sea-captains, money-lenders, and horse-dealers; but as he always seemed to be flush of money, people did not give themselves much trouble to investigate his business affairs.

Although Mr Stubble was not aware of it, he was largely indebted to his son-in-law for his rapid advancement in public and social life; for Ben, to use his own words, “was up to all the moves on the board,” and was intimately acquainted with some of the sharpest men in Sydney. He had “worked the oracle” so successfully, that Mr Stubble was generally believed to be a man of very large means, and of a great depth of wisdom also, which he tried to hide beneath his rustic manners. It was through Ben's secret influence that Joe had been led out by the Liberal party to stand for Muddleton, and it was through Ben's hints and inuendoes that Joe was supposed to be the owner of bricks and mortar (i.e., houses) all over the country, and plenty of ready money beside.

Mrs Stubble's veneration for Ben had diminished, for she shrewdly suspected that he was not so fond of his wife as he had professed to be before he married her: still, Maggie never complained of anything, and the strictest cross-examination failed to elicit a word from her condemnatory of her husband; so Peggy was silenced, though not cured of her suspicions.

Biddy Flynn had been summarily dismissed the service, for threatening to crack the housemaid's head with a blacking brush. One morning very early Mrs Stubble overheard Biddy scolding Dolly, and, with her usual impetuosity, the irate mistress descended the stairs in her night-cap, and told Biddy to “march off, bag and baggage, that blessed minute.” Biddy took the hint, and started off, without her breakfast, to Maggie's house, where she was gladly sheltered.

It was soon ascertained that Biddy's wrath had been excited


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by seeing the housemaid wash her face and hands in the water-butt. Mrs Stubble admitted that the nasty wench deserved a worse scolding than she had got, and asked Biddy to return to her old station: but she declined the invitation, stating that “she wanted pace and quietness, an' shure she hadn't had much of that same since she left Buttercup Glen. Still an' all, she didn't mane to lave the family intirely, so she'd shtop wid Miss Maggie” (as she still called Mrs Goldstone). Biddy added a little advice to her late mistress, to the effect, “that if she didn't want to be pisoned out an' out, she had betther kape a sharp look-out after that same Dolly Slapp, for she'd seen her carry the water for the toilet bottles up-stairs in the covered bucket, and do a lot of other neat tricks, for the convanience ov savin' herself a little bit ov work; an' she wore dungaree aprons, 'cos they hide the dirt.”

Mrs Stubble was so excited by that disclosure, that she discharged the slovenly maid at a minute's notice, and without half-a-minute's reflection on the inconvenience she was causing herself by her petulant act. After Dolly Slapp was gone, Mrs Stubble sat down to repent of her hastiness, and to “wonder whatever she should do without a single servant in the house, and company coming to dinner the day after tomorrow.”

Mr Stubble was appealed to for counsel in the emergency, and he calmly suggested “that they should give their expected guests a leg of mutton and a figgy pudding for dinner; and he thought Peggy might manage to cook that much, for once and away.”

Mrs Stubble pettishly replied, “that was just like him, always annoying her when she was worried, instead of trying to help her.” He then advised her to go to one of the registry offices in Sydney, and pick out a couple of servants: there were always lots of girls sitting in those places waiting to be hired.”

Mrs Stubble objected to that course, and said “she did not choose to go running after servants, which would make them think too much of themselves. The proper way was to make them come to her.”

“Very well, Peggy; I be agreeable;” said Joe; “but I wish you would not fidget yourself so much, for that won't help you a bit.”

An advertisement was sent to the Herald and Empire, for a cook and laundress, and a housemaid; and the next day


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two full-grown women presented themselves at Stubbleton to offer their services. After examining their testimonials (which were very flattering ones, although written on very common paper), Mrs Stubble engaged them, and they agreed to come that evening. They had lived in service together; and Mrs Stubble reasoned that, as they doubtless understood each other's ways, it would save her no end of bother.

The next day there was much bustle and preparation for the dinner-party, which was to be an extra grand one. Mrs Stubble was beginning her old fussy, domineering ways, which poor Biddy had so long borne with, when the new cook sternly intimated that “she did not like her mistress to be buzznagging about in the kitchen.” Peggy was startled at that early symptom of an insubordinate spirit; but she resolved to bear it silently for that day, as she could not help herself, but “she would talk to the saucy thing to-morrow, and let her see who was mistress in that house.”

About an hour before dinner-time, a strong scent of overroasted meat ascended to the parlour, so Mrs Stubble ventured down-stairs, and peeped into the kitchen to see what was burning. There was the quarter of lamb blackening before the fire, in consequence of the roasting-jack having run down, and there was the cook lying on the floor, with a gravy-spoon in her hand, and with her nose looking highly inflamed. The alarmed mistress thought the maid was in a fit, so shook her roughly, to arouse her out of it, when she half-opened her eyes and mumbled, “Hallo! Wh-wh-what's up now, m-missis?”

“Mercy! What have you been drinking?”

“Gin-gin-ginger-beer, m-missis, that's all—hic.”

“Oh, you vile woman! You have been stealing the whisky!” exclaimed Mrs Stubble. “However could I have been so silly as to leave that cellar door unlocked? Get out of the house this instant, or I'll send for a constable. Here Charlotte! Charlotte, go for a policeman, directly. Where are you, Charlotte?”

“Ye-ye-yes, mum; here am I,” said the housemaid, staggering from her bedroom adjoining the kitchen.

“Gracious me! why, you are drunk too, you nasty creature!” shrieked Mrs Stubble, with disgust and indignation distorting all her features. “Oh, that I should be imposed upon by two such dreadful women!”

A description of the noisy scene which ensued during the


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process of expelling the unfaithful servants from the house, and the subsequent troubles of that exciting day, would fill a long chapter; but as I cannot afford the space, the reader may imagine it all. With the help of a charwoman, Mrs Stubble managed to prepare a tolerably good dinner; and she was somewhat consoled at learning, from the experience of some of her lady-guests, that she was not the only mistress in Sydney who had been plagued with bad cooks and housemaids.

Seven servants were engaged during the ensuing month, and were all summarily discharged for failings of various kinds, including klepto-mania, tipple-mania, and dirt-mania. At length Mrs Stubble resolved that she would not hire another girl without first inquiring her character from her last mistress. The result of that sensible plan was, that she eventually got two really good servants, and her late troublesome experience incited her to strive to keep them. To that end, she ceased to nag them perpetually, as she had nagged poor Biddy, and she soon found that kind, encouraging words were far more effective than sharp ones in getting work done well, and in securing the respect of her domestics.




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Chapter II.

Interview between Mr Stubble and Mr Rowley.—Their conversation on many topics of interest.—Some of Mr Stubble's parliamentary experience.

MR STUBBLE was sitting in the library at his house overlooking Double Bay one morning, about three years after his induction to city life, and was spelling over a parliamentary document, in which he seemed much interested, when his manservant announced a visitor, and the next minute Mr Rowley entered the room, with the nervous step of a disrated official seeking an interview with the premier.

“What! Rowley, my boy! How are you? Glad to see you,” said Mr Stubble, rising and shaking his friend's hand with genuine warmth.

“I am pretty well, thank you, Joe—hem—a—Mr Stubble. Beg pardon, sir; I forgot myself for a minute.”

“Come, come, none of this ceremony, Peter,” said Joe, laughing. “I am Joe Stubble still to my old friends, though I be a little bit higher up in the world than I used to be. There is no silly pride about me; so don't be stiff and formish, Peter, or you'll make me feel uneasy. Hang your hat up in the hall, or put it down on you table, and make yourself at home.”

“I am pleased to hear you talk in that neighbourly strain, Joe,” replied Mr Rowley, smiling. “I don't see why a change of position should alter a man's bearing towards his old friends, though it does do so pretty often. It is said that a man when he is poor is able to discern objects at the greatest distance with the naked eye, which he could not see, though standing at his elbow, when he is rich.”

“That is true enough, Peter, and I've seen plenty of that uppish pride in the men that I have to mix with every day; not that they show it to me, you know, for I must say everybody treats me with uncommon respectfulness.”

“Of course they will do that, Joe. Position will generally gain a man respect, or at any rate the outward form of it,


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irrespective of his moral worth. But I am forgetting to ask after Mrs Stubble and the family. How are they all?”

“Nicely, thank'ee, Peter; and how are all your folks? Hearty, I hope. I haven't heard of you for I don't know when, and I think it is nearly three years since I saw you last. When did you come to town?”

“I came down by yesterday's steamer, but did not reach Sydney till this morning, for our boiler burst on the passage.”

“Hi, hi! that was a rum go. Was anybody killed?”

“No, thank God! there was no one killed, but one of the firemen was badly scalded. The captain happened to overhear a remark I made to Sam about the necessity for keeping the boiler in good order, when he got quite cross, and insisted ‘that his boiler was all right, for his six months' certificate had three weeks more to run.’ Fortunately for us, the weather was fine, and we sailed to Sydney; but my wife was frightened a bit.”

“Oh, the missis is down, is she? Why didn't you bring her out with you? Mrs Stubble would be glad to see her, never fear. You should not make yourself so strangified, Peter. I tell you again we are not aristocracks, though we live in a more stylish way than we did when you knew us in days agone.”

“Mrs Rowley and I have come down to see Sophy and her husband off; they will sail for Melbourne this afternoon. You heard that my girl married young Rafter, of course.”

“Yes, yes, Peter; and I was very glad to hear it; but how is it they are going to leave you?”

“Sam has had an offer of partnership from a gentleman who is in a large way of business in Victoria. He knew Sam before he was out of his time; and as he wants a trustworthy working partner, he wrote to Sam making certain propositions, which after due consideration he has accepted. I dare not persuade him not to go, because I can see it will be to his advantage, for his partner is an excellent man and is in a thriving position.”

“I am very pleased to hear this, Peter. I always liked Sam; and I knew he would rise in the world, for he is a knowledgeable chap. I only wish my boy Bob had taken pattern from Sam when they were boys together.”

“By the bye, how is Bob getting on, Joe?”

“Ah, don't say aught to me about him, for it makes my heart ache. He has gone and married a girl without brains


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or heart either. It's nation hard, Peter, after rearing a son up to manhood, to see him throw himself away, as it were; for I look upon a young fellow as done for, if he marries a fool, though she may be worth her dead weight in sovereigns.”

“I am grieved to hear this of Bob. He was a fine-spirited lad; only I always thought he wanted a tighter rein kept on him than he had at home.”

“Bob was always a bit skittish, though there was no vice in him, as I could see. He liked cracking a stock-whip a deal better than studying his school-books; and skinning 'possoms and snakes was better fun to him than learning Latin and such like head-work. I couldn't always keep the bearing-rein on him, Peter; and you know the reason why.”

“Pray excuse my remark, Joe; I did not mean it as a reproach, you know. And how is Maggie—beg pardon, Mrs Goldstone, I mean?”

“Poor girl, she bean't in such first-rate health as she used to have; town life doesn't suit her at all. I am uneasy about her too; so you see, neighbour, that with all my honours and stylish set-out, I bean't over and above happy. I have got my share of trouble, though I don't cry about it to everybody, or put on a dismal look to excite people to pity me.”

“ ‘Man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward.’ That is a sacred truth from the Bible, you know, Joe. Any man who expects to get through life without trouble, no matter how high his social position may be, must discredit God's own word to the contrary; and troubles terribly gall a man who does not believe that they are amongst the ‘all things’ that God sees it necessary to send to him, to make him set his heart on a better world than this one.”

“That is pretty much like what our good minister said last Sunday night; and it's true enough, no doubt,” replied Joe, with a sigh.

“You go to church then, Joe?”

“I do so, Peter. I have had a pew in your old church for close up three years.”

“I am glad of that, Joe. I'm sure you cannot sit under Mr Goodwin's preaching without profit; for he is an earnest man, and evidences his piety ‘not only with his lips, but in his life.’ ”

“By the bye, I saw your name in the Government Gazette among the new magistrates, Peter,” said Joe, who was desirous of changing the topic of conversation.




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“I suspect I am indebted to your political influence for that honour, Joe. I am much obliged to you; but I did not expect such a distinction, and should not have sought it.”

“I don't know who has a right to expect such a distinction if an honest sensible man has not. A stick fit for a besomshank don't stay long in the wood. But don't say aught about the obligation to me; I didn't know you would think I had a hand in it, or I wouldn't have named it to you. It was my friend the Secretary who managed it.”

“I never was more surprised at anything than at seeing you offer yourself as a candidate for a seat in the Assembly, Joe.”

“Ha, ha, ha! I guess you were astonished, and I bet a guinea you laughed at me a bit. But I have heard you say yourself, Peter, that a man doesn't know what he can do till he tries; and how was I to know that I wasn't able to legislate till I had a try at it? But, joking aside, you know, I had no more notion of being an M.L.A. when I first came to Sydney than I had of being a sodger officer, and if anybody had told me I should, I'd have thought he worn't sober. But it is wonderful how soon a man, even a plain country yokel, will change his opinion of himself, if half-a-dozen sharp fellows set to work to convince him that he is clever. Ha, ha, ha! It's human nature, I suppose, Peter; for I can see that I am not the only yokel who has been persuaded that there is dormant knowledge in his head, which ought to be roused up for the benefit of the country.”

“I thought you had been pressed into the service, Joe. Tell me how you overcame your natural diffidence.”

“It would take too long to tell you all I said against the thing, Peter; but I told the deputation who came to me that I worn't a fit and proper man for the post either by education, political knowledge, or power of speech, in plain English; but they wouldn't take all that for an answer. They said I had got colonial experience, and common sense, and a stake in the country, and a tongue in my head. I could not deny those facts, you know, Peter; and while I was considering what to say next, they went hard at me on the tea and sugar racket, and argued that it was my bounden duty to stand up and protect the poor man from having his common necessaries of life taxed, which was a burning shame. There they nailed me, for I haven't forgotten the time when I was down in the world. They saw I was beginning to feel their logic, so they went at


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it again, and in such a touching way, that blessed if I could bear it; so I said I wouldn't stand by and see the poor man's tea-pot taxed if my going into the House would stop it. So they went to work, and I was returned for Muddleton.”

“Ha, ha, ha!” laughed Mr Rowley. “Excuse me for interrupting you so rudely, Joe; but I am just reminded of a story I heard a minister tell the other day. Two Scotchmen had had a long night's fuddle together, and when daylight was appearing, one of them, who was ‘unco fou,’ began to cry. ‘Eh, Sandy, ma freend, dinna fret. What ails ye mon?’ asked his fellow-fuddler. ‘It's this muckle national debt mak's me weep,’ sobbed Sandy, rubbing his eyes. Now,” continued Mr Rowley, “I think the anxiety of the tea and sugar ranters, in general, is about as earnest as the fuddled Scotchman's grief for his country's large debt of honour. But I should have thought you were up to that old clap-trap cry of political adventurers, Joe. The poor man's tea and sugar!—Ha, ha!”

“I am up to it now, Peter; and I wonder that poor men, as they are called, cannot see that it is all bunkum. A tea and sugar tax would bear less upon the poor than upon the rich, and that is as clear to my mind as that four farthings make a penny.”

“How did you get on in the Assembly at the first set-off? I should like to have seen you take your seat ‘amongst the rulers of the land, Joe.’ ”

“At first start-off I was as shy and skeered as a young colt in the branding yard; but I soon saw that I wasn't the only ‘new chum’ in politics; so I began to take heart, and thinks I to myself I'll show some of these customers a thing or two by and bye that I have learnt in the bush. A little before that you know, Peter, I went to school for a bit to learn to talk straight. I daresay you have observed that I have dropped a lot of my old Devonshire lingo, and learnt a few fashionable words. Then I began to study politics, and though it's precious little of that science I've learnt yet, everybody don't know that I bean't a reg'lar wiseacre, for I never attempt to make a set speech, and I never open my mouth to speak at all unless I know what I am going to talk about. I don't mean to say that I am in my right place, Peter; but, right or wrong, I am a duly-elected member of the House; so it is my duty to make myself as useful as I can, and I'll do it too, as soon as I have learnt the way.”




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“That is the way to talk, Joe. You cannot expect to take a leading part in the debates; but you may use your experienced judgment in giving your vote on divisions, and you may render good practical service in committees. I know you will act honestly, and will not connive at wrong-doing.”

“I have been reading a paper this morning that is just issued from the Government printing-office; I wish you would get a copy, Peter, and read it carefully, for it contains some of the most startling things I have ever heard of.”

“What paper is it, Joe?”

“It is called ‘Report from the Select Committee on the Condition of the Working Classes of the Metropolis.’ ”

“I should like to see it, for I have heard something about it. Where can I get a copy, Joe?”

“You can get it for 5½d. at the Government printing-office; but I'll see if I can get a copy for you to-morrow. It makes some saddening disclosures of the state of the poorer classes in Sydney, and especially in relation to juvenile prostitution. It is a lengthy affair, for the committee have had twenty-two meetings and examined forty-one witnesses.”

“What is the practical object of the report?”

“Well, that remains to be seen, Peter; but if I stop in the House I'll try to get something done with it, though I expect the chairman of the committee will not lose sight of the matter,note for he is a real worker.”

“I wish there were more workers in the House, and fewer talkers, Joe.”

“You are right, Peter; and it would be a good thing for the country if you had your wish. I once saw an old hen on my farm standing over her nest of eggs, which were covered by flood-waters; and I have often been reminded of the silly bird when I have heard men gabble for hours on a stretch about some matter not worth a nest of addled eggs, and thinks I to myself, I wish you talkative gentlemen would set about doing something useful, and you needn't look far to find a job, if you are willing to adapt your work to your capacity, or your capacity to your work.”

“Well done, Joe! You talk like a philosopher.”

“I don't know about the philosophy of it, but I think it's common sense, Peter; and perhaps one is as good as the other


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for every-day use. There are several matters that I mean to see after, if I be spared, and nobody else forestalls me. In the first place, I am going to try to bring in a bill to bung up all the cesspits in the city; and that would be a blessing for every citizen's nose and his lungs too. I'll be bound there bean't many members in the House who know more about muck than I do, Peter, however they may talk. I know the value of it when it is rightly applied to the land; but it is deadly stuff to sleep amongst; and my word for it, if something is not done in the matter, we shall have typhus fever, and perhaps cholera morbus in the city, one of these hot days. I have got a lot of calculations about it; some of them are out of my own head, and others from doctors' reports; and I mean to try to get a law to compel owners of houses to erect earth closets,— ah, you may laugh, Peter, for you live in the country, where the air is sweet; but perhaps you wouldn't have spirit enough to laugh if you lived for a few months in the heart of the city, where there are thousands of pestilent cesspits, to say nothing of the open drains.”

“Beg your pardon, Joe. I was smiling at your earnestness in taking up such a troublesome matter, not ridiculing the idea; far from it; for I am quite of your opinion as to its importance, and have wondered that it has not been legislated upon long ago.”

“I am not the man to sit down and do nothing you know; and I am willing to do little odd jobs that come within the scope of my knowledge, and that other men would not care to put their hands to for fear of getting a nick-name. But I say, Peter, it is dry work talking: what will you take to drink? Beg pardon for not asking you before.”

“I never drink anything stronger than my wife's ginger-beer, Joe. I thought you were a teetotaller of twenty-years' standing.”

“Yes, so I was till I came to Sydney, Peter. But it's all the go here to drink nobblers; so I be got into the fashion; and I ain't easy now without my reg'lars, though I feel pretty sure I should be better without them. You'll stay and dine with us, of course; so, if you have no objection, we will go and take a stroll for an hour through the Government gardens, and then we can have a quiet chat about the best way to put the world to rights, and smell the sweet flowers at the same time. What do you say?”

Mr Rowley cheerfully acquiesced in the proposal; so Joe


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rang the bell, and ordered the carriage round to the front door, and soon afterwards the cosy pair started for their drive.

As the carriage bowled along the level road past Rushcutters' Bay, a group of aborigines were observed a little distance ahead. There were three men, dressed in various articles of European left-off apparel, and three women, each wrapped about with a blanket. As the carriage drew near, one of the men lifted an old black hat off his woolly head, and with a low bow he exclaimed, “Hallo, massa! Good morning!”

Mr Stubble told the coachman to stop, and then with an assumed sternness in his look, he asked, “Who are you, sir? How dare you stop me on the Queen's highway?”

The blackfellow looked puzzled for an instant; then, with another bow and a grin, he exclaimed, “You know me, massa! Billy, Port Stebens! Sit down your place long while ago— you know.”

“How should I know you, sir?”

“Yah! Gammon! You know me, Massa Tubble. You know Billy.”

“What do you mean by calling me Massa Tubble? Isn't my name Brown?”

“Baal that Brown—Ha, ha, ha! Gammon! You Massa Tubble—Old Joe! Yah! ha, ha! I know you long time ago. Gib me tikee-pence, massa, if you please, sir.”

The two friends then burst into a hearty laugh, and were joined by the merry group of natives, who were too keen-sighted not to recognise Mr Stubble, even though he had tried to disguise his face by austere looks. It appeared that the natives had lately come to Sydney from the Hunter River, and had been camping on the domain of a worthy son of the soil at Darling Point, a gentleman whose hearty good nature is plainly discernible in his every look and action, and who has always been ready to administer to the material necessities of the aborigines on their occasional visits to the metropolis.

“If I give you sixpence, you will buy betalligo (grog) with it,” remarked Mr Stubble, taking out his purse, and addressing grinning Billy.

“Baal, massa, baal. Me buy loaf and 'bacca. Baal me buy betalligo, Massa Tubble. Gib me tikee-pence, if you please, sir.”

“Here you are, then—here is a shilling. Now, mind you don't spend it in grog.”




  ― 281 ―

“Baal, that buy grog, massa. Tank'ee, sir; much 'bliged to ye, sir. Ha, ha, ha! No gammon. Massa murra good man, sir.”

“I perceive that you advocate strict temperance sometimes, neighbour,” said Mr Rowley, laughing, as the carriage drove away from the rejoicing group in the road.

“It was right to caution that fellow, was it not, Peter?”

“Yes, yes; quite right, my friend. I am not making game of your good counsel; but it struck me at the same time that your ‘reg'lars’ for one day are perhaps more than Billy drinks in a month. Don't be uneasy at my remarks, Joe; I do not insinuate that you are an excessive drinker nevertheless.”

“But that fellow will perhaps go and get tipsy, in spite of my good advice.”

“Very likely he will; but if he were as much accustomed to grog as a daily beverage as you say you are, a shilling's worth of the stuff would not suffice to make him even half tipsy. Billy has not a convenient sideboard to keep his supply in; so he drinks all he can get right off, and its effects are seen at once; but if he divided his annual consumption into equal daily portions, his moderation would excel that of thousands of reputable citizens, who would be shocked at being compared with him.”

“Ha, ha, ha! I never calculated the thing in that way, Peter; but I daresay you are right. Poor Billy! I have known him for many years. He used to camp for weeks together on my run, and he often went out shooting with Bob. He is an honest, good-natured creature; and his wife can wash linen with any white woman.”

“Did you ever reflect that Billy has got an immortal soul, Joe?”

“I never thought much about it one way or the other, Peter; but I have heard many people say that our blackfellows are only a single degree above the monkey family.”

“Yes, I have heard that said too, Joe; and it has been argued by educated colonists that our aborigines are incapable of enlightenment of a moral or religious nature. I am sorry to add that many persons who know better than to believe that heathenish doctrine act towards the poor blacks as if it were true, for they neither try to instruct them themselves, nor are they willing to support a missionary who is competent for the good work, and anxious to be engaged in it.”




  ― 282 ―

“To tell you the plain truth, Peter, I don't believe that our black fellows are capable of learning anything about religion, or any such difficult subject.”

“I wish you would have half-an-hour's chat with the Rev. Mr R——, a gentleman, a scholar, and a devoted Christian. He lives in Sydney, and is as well known as the Speaker of the Assembly. He would be delighted to see you, or any one else who is interested in the welfare of the poor neglected natives; and you might get some admirable lectures and papers which he has published at various times on the subject. A few years ago that reverend gentleman went as a missionary to the blacks in the north; but, to the shame of the Christians of this great land, he was compelled to relinquish the work in which he laboured with all his energies and talents, because he was not supported even in the homely way in which he was contented to live. By the bye,” continued Peter, “I recollect I have amongst my papers at home an interesting account of a visit which a friend of mine made to the deathbed of an aborigine in the Melbourne Hospital. I will send you the paper,note Joe; and after reading it, I am sure you will be no longer sceptical of the capacity of the Australian aborigine to comprehend divine truth. Bah! such an idea is dishonouring to our Almighty Father, who made the race, and endowed them with immortal spirits such as you and I have, Joe.”




  ― 283 ―

Chapter III.

Visit of Mr Stubble and Mr Rowley to Government Gardens.—Joe explains his financial affairs to his friend.—Fulsome pride of Mrs Stubble.

“I THINK, if I lived in Sydney, I should visit this pleasant retreat every day, Joe,” remarked Mr Rowley, as he and his friend entered the Botanical Gardens by the eastern gate.

“So I used to think, Peter, before I came to live in town; but I don't seem to be able to find time to enjoy a quiet ramble here very often. If somebody were to advertise that there was a pig in yon corner with two heads, or a monkey with two tails, no doubt there would be a regular rush of folks to see it, even if there was something to pay for the sight. Now, there are oceans of things in these gardens more wonderful and much more pleasing than monstrous pigs or monkeys to be seen for nothing; and yet there are hundreds of folks in Sydney who seldom or never look at them. That is queer, isn't it, Peter?”

“It is like human nature in general, Joe. Millions of people are running after monstrosities and nonsense, while they are blind and deaf to a world full of music and beauty. These gardens certainly contain the most charming variety of scenic and floral beauties that I have ever seen in a like space elsewhere; and nothing presents so much inducement to me to leave the country as the pleasure of visiting this place occasionally. The residents of Sydney have many privileges of which they ought to be proud.”

“And some of the folks are proud too, Peter. Ha, ha!”

“Yes; some of them have more pride than principle; but we must not be cynical, Joe; we are not perfect ourselves. I have been thinking, since we came into the gardens, that, with deference to the talented manager, if the names of the various plants and flowers were given in plain English, it would very much add to the pleasure and instruction of ordinary visitors, such as you and me. I do not object to classical terminology for those who can appreciate it; but let


  ― 284 ―
us have the common names as well, for the advantage of those persons who are not classically educated.”

“That is just what I have said to my wife, when she has been bothering her head to find out what those foreign names signified. Lots of these things might as well be ticketed in Chinese lingo as far as I am concerned; for I haven't learned Latin, nor never shall learn it now. It is my opinion, Peter, that”——

“Excuse me for interrupting you, Joe; but here is a sensible arrangement, and a capital illustration of our argument,” said Mr Rowley, stopping before an immense cluster of creaking bamboos, labelled thus—

  GRAMINACEÆ.

  BAMBUSA ARUNDINACEA.

  (Common Bamboo.)

“The scholar and the simple servant-maid are studied in this label.”

“Yes; that is plain enough, Peter—the last line of it, anyhow; though almost any simpleton would know a bamboo if it wasn't ticketed at all. I can't see how the gardeners don't mark everything else in the same common-sense way, instead of bamboozling unlearned folks with their long spifflicating names, that not many of the scientific gentlemen themselves thoroughly understand. I tell'ee what it is, neighbour, I'll make a motion about it in the House, after I've put them other concerns to rights; and that common bamboo will help me with a lively argument to stir up sleepy members.”

“Ha, ha! you are planning plenty of work for yourself in the House, Joe. I hope you may be spared to carry out some of your practical schemes. But tell me, now we are quietly together, what are your ideas of city life, after your three years' experience?”

“Do you want to come to Sydney to live, Peter?”

“Not I, indeed. I am not tired of a peaceful life, Joe; but I should like to know what you think of it; and whether you find yourself happier in town than you were in the country.”

“I'll tell you candidly, Peter, as you have asked me,” replied Mr Stubble, with a sigh. “I have never been comfortable since I left my old farm at the Glen; and I don't believe my missis has either, though perhaps she would not confess


  ― 285 ―
it so plainly as I do. It was a move in the wrong direction, Peter; and I feared as much when I first decided on it. A man who has lived all his days in the country, especially a man of my uneducated mind, isn't much fitted for a fashionable life in town, either by taste, or habit, or anything else. It is true enough I have risen in the social scale, as it is called, and I have been overloaded with offices of honour; but there is not much solid comfort in all that—at any rate, I can't find it if there is.”

“You would be the cleverest man that ever lived in the world if you could find it, Joe.”

“Well, I am not half so clever as folks say I am, Peter; and the effort to bring myself up to the mark for the duties that have been forced upon me is almost too much for me at my time of life, and considering the disadvantages I have against me, in the lack of early training and my inexperience of public life. I have done my best so far, honestly and zealously, and I will continue to do it; but I often think I am standing in the way of some better man. It isn't comforting for a fellow to feel himself a sham, you know, Peter.”

“I sympathise with you to some extent, Joe. A becoming humility is at all times commendable; but there is a danger of its assuming a morbid character, and by yielding to it a man is soon unfitted for the positive duties of life. I judge that you have improved your position in a pecuniary sense by coming to Sydney?”

“Yes, Peter; there is no doubt about that, if my debtors pay up honestly, and I am not wrong in my calculations. I made close up £7000 in two ventures in cattle, let alone other lucky specs. It's a fact that almost everything I have had a hand in has turned out profitable; but none of us know how soon luck may turn on us, and that thought often makes me fidgety. Though I didn't seek to get so high up in the world, I should not like to tumble down again, you know; for the higher a man is up before he tumbles, the more he will feel his fall.”

“So long as you confine your dealings to cattle, and such things as you thoroughly understand, I have not much fear of your making any serious mistake, Joe. Still, continued success is apt to make a man over-sanguine; and though you should try to avoid troubling yourself about mishaps which may never occur, it is well to mind that you do not grow careless.”




  ― 286 ―

“I have gone into other things besides cattle, Peter; but I cannot tell you all my speculations just now.”

“I have no desire to pry into your affairs, or to obtrude my advice upon you. I hope I have not appeared to do so, Joe?”

“Not at all, my boy! Say what you like to me, and I shall be much obliged to you, for there is not a man in the land whose advice I would sooner take than yours, Peter. I have often thought of the pleasant chats we used to have, as we smoked our pipes by your snug fireside in the bush; and many times I have wished I were beside you again to ask your counsel, especially when I've been in a quandary about bill consarns.”

“Then, you have had something to do with bills, Joe?”

“I have so, neighbour; and I'll defy you to go in for large speculations in Sydney without paper transactions, unless you have pockets like Bill Dash or Archy Midge.”

“I never objected to genuine trade bills, Joe; they are legitimate enough; but bills representing sham transactions, called ‘accommodation paper,’ or ‘kites,’ are as dangerous to handle as blasting powder; in fact, they have blasted many young traders' prospects for life. Those are the things I wished to warn you against when we used to have the cosy chats that you have referred to.”

“Just so, Peter; and you regularly scared me; for when I came first to Sydney, I was as shy of all sorts of bills as a young horse is of a wheelbarrow, but by degrees I got more plucky. I used to see men who carried high heads borrow their neighbours' names as coolly as I'd ask you for the loan of a rake, and after a bit I got talked into doing a little in the sham way. But I had a practical caution the other day which will do more towards curing me of the weakness than all your sensible hints beforehand. A chap failed all of a sudden, and I had to take up a little bill that I lent him to oblige him. I don't expect to lose anything, for he says he will pay twenty shillings in the pound all right, as soon as he swings round; but it's made me vow to myself that I'll never do so any more—leastways, I won't if I can help it.”

Mr Rowley quietly smiled at the simplicity of his friend; but he did not like to depress him by giving his own experience of sanguine debtors who had promised to pay him in full. After a few remarks on the danger of suretyship in general, Mr Rowley, by way of changing the subject, which


  ― 287 ―
was becoming embarrassing to Joe, asked how Ben Goldstone was getting on.

“I can hardly tell you, Peter,” replied Joe, with a sigh. “Ben beats all my calculations; still, he is clever—there's no mistake about that. I have been in a good many speculations with him, and most of them have turned out first-rate; but he is too venturesome to please me, and he is as obstinate as a donkey. It is no use for me to try to influence him.”

“I hope he is steady, Joe.”

“Well, he is not over-steady, I am sorry to say. He drinks an awful lot of grog every day; but I would not care so much about that, for he can stand any amount of drink, and look sharp all the while; but he is such a terrible fellow to gamble, and I know what that usually leads to. But what grieves me more than all, I am afraid he isn't over-kind to his wife; though, poor girl, she never will own to it.”

“Dear me! you have more trouble than I thought you had, neighbour,” said Mr Rowley, in a sympathising tone. “I am very sorry for you.”

“Yes; I have more on my mind than I have told you of yet, Peter. I am a good deal mixed up with Ben in business concerns, and I shall have to deal very gently with him in order to get a squaring-up; but when I get that done, I'll take care to drive my own cart in future.”

“Where is Ben now, Joe?”

“He is in the country to the north, buying horses to ship to India.”

“You have proper account-books, I presume; and they ought to show how you stand with Ben.”

“Yes, we have a lot of books; but you know I don't understand much about accounts, and I have trusted those matters to Ben. He has totted up the profits on each of our transactions, and made everything look fair and square; but I have lately heard it rumoured that he lost a sight of money at the last races in Melbourne, so I feel uneasy till he comes back to explain his affairs to me. What has made me more fidgety than anything else is this, Peter——I know I can tell you all my troubles without fear of you talking about them.”

“You may depend I shall not mention what you tell me to a soul, Joe; and if I can help you by my counsel or otherwise, I will do it gladly.”

“Thank you, Peter; you are very kind. This is what is bothering me a good deal, and upsetting my head for going


  ― 288 ―
at the work I have planned to do in the House. A few days ago, when I went to my bank to pay in some money, the manager asked me to step into his private room for a few minutes, so in I went, cheerfully enough, for he has always been mighty civil to me. ‘Take a chair, Mr Stubble,’ says he, and then he opened a book full of figures, and says he, ‘I wanted to suggest to you, sir, as your liabilities to this bank are rather heavy, that you allow me to be the escritoir of your title-deeds. A mere matter of form, you know, sir; but I have been requested by the directors to make the suggestion, and I hope you will not object to it.’ I felt regularly taken aback, Peter, for I did not expect anything of the sort. So I told him I would see about it, and came away; but I have been very uneasy ever since, because I can't understand the thing.”

“Of course you know the extent of your liabilities to the bank, Joe.”

“Well, not exactly; and that bothers me, for I don't like to ask the manager, and let him think that I have not been keeping careful tally. I shall soon find out when Ben comes back. You know, Peter, I have had so many jobs in hand, in the House and on committees, and presiding at public meetings, and all the rest, that I haven't had much time for looking sharp after money matters; and, as I told you before, I have trusted to Ben. I know I ought to have more than £20,000 to the good, if everybody pays me honestly; so you may imagine how queer I felt when the manager talked to me in that uncommon way. Mind you don't say a word about this before the missis, Peter, for she can't bear the least sign of trouble; and I don't know that there is anything to be afraid of after all.”

“I shall be careful not to say a word, Joe. I would advise you to write to Ben, and request him to come to Sydney to assist in a thorough investigation of your accounts, and then give up speculating altogether. You have money enough for all your wants, if you take care of it; and by trying to make more of it, you run a fearful risk of losing all, for in these days of sharp competition in commercial circles, it stands to reason that a man who has such a limited business knowledge as you have, can have but little chance of making money by speculating in merchandise or things of the kind.”

“You are right, my boy; and I'll take your advice as soon as I can,” said Joe, assuming a more cheerful look. I heard a little story the other day that made me merry for a minute. I


  ― 289 ―
don't know if I can tell it exactly, but I'll try. A rather eccentric divine was trying one day to convince an argumentative clodpole of the truth of miraculous agency, which the man obstinately denied.

“ ‘Will you tell me what is a miracle, your reverence?’ asked the man, after cavilling a long time about it.

“ ‘It is not easy to make you understand anything by logical rules,’ replied the parson, whose patience was running short. ‘But I'll try another method. Step in front of me a pace or two, will you?’ The man obeyed, when his reverence lifted his best leg and gave him a sturdy kick. ‘Hallo!’ roared the clodpole, turning round, and angrily confronting his preceptor; ‘what did you do that for?’ ‘Simply to illustrate my answer to your question,’ said the parson. ‘If you had not felt my foot, that would have been a miracle.’

“Now, thinks I to myself,” continued Joe, “after I heard that story, it would have been a miracle if I had not felt the moral kick that the bank manager gave me, and a wonder too, if I don't get perplexed a bit with all the business affairs that I have in hand, especially if anything should happen to Ben; so I made up my mind to have a final squaring up with that fast young gentleman as soon as he comes back to Sydney; and after that is done, I shall invest my money in some way that will insure me a steady income without annoying my head with merchant's work or banking concerns that I know naught about. When that is all settled comfortably, my brain will be clear to set to work about some of the social improvements of the city that I have been talking about. Ben will be back in a month I daresay; so if the manager wants my title-deeds, I may as well let him have them till then; they will be as safe in the bank as they are in my lawyer's box. Now I think we may as well go home to dinner, Peter. You have heard enough of my town troubles; but I feel a good deal more comfortable since I have opened my mind to you.”

The two friends then got into the carriage, and returned to Stubbleton, which was the name of Joe's villa.

Although Mrs Stubble received her guest cordially, and inquired very kindly after his family, Mr Rowley did not feel at ease in her company, and he was glad of having a good excuse for declining to take his wife out to spend a day at Stubbleton. He was going to return home the following night, so he could reasonably plead want of time to pay another visit.




  ― 290 ―

During dinner, Mrs Stubble behaved with a stately propriety which was anything but composing to the diffident feelings of her country guest, though it was not intended to make him feel ill at ease, but merely to impress him with her lady-like manner. There was withal a scowling expression on her face, which showed that though she was surrounded by luxury, she was not satisfied. Her sharp domineering tone when she addressed her good-natured spouse, did not betoken becoming respect, much less affection for him. Her impatient looks, too, when he indulged in any little merry allusion to old times, were too plain to escape the notice of Peter; and while he pitied his old neighbour's hen-pecked condition, he was anxious for dinner to be over, to take his leave of his exacting hostess, whose intolerable pride was manifested in her every word and action.

“Stubble, do for patience sake take your elbows off the table,” said his wife sharply, as Joe was sitting at ease, and telling a little incident of bush life to his smiling friend after the second course had been removed.

“I don't so much care about it before Mr Rowley, for I know he will excuse it,” added Peggy; “but it does look so boorish when strangers are here; and I wish, too, that you would use your table-napkin instead of your pocket-handkerchief.”

“All right, missis, I won't do it again. Don't 'ee flurry yourself.—Well, as I was saying, Peter,” continued Joe, resuming his story, “the dray was stuck as tight as wax, and the bullocks were bogged right up to their bellies, and”——

“Hem—hem! Stubble, do not tell those vulgar stories while the servants are coming into the room,” interrupted Peggy.

“Bang the servants! what do I care for 'em. I bean't going to tell anything wicked,” said Joe, warmly; whereupon his wife retorted in still warmer style, and in a few minutes there was a domestic cyclone which threatened to sweep the table; but during a temporary lull, Mr Rowley discovered, by referring to his watch, that it was time for him to go, as he had to see his son and daughter off by the four o'clock steamer; so he took his hat and departed.




  ― 291 ―

Chapter IV.

Bob Stubble's courtship and marriage with Miss Blunt.—His disappointment at finding that she has not a fortune.—Ben Goldstone's legerdemain.

BOB STUBBLE'S marriage has been before alluded to; but I will now explain how it was brought about.

Ben Goldstone had some difficulty in convincing his doubting pupil that a match with Betsy Blunt would be the best spec he could possibly make. Bob could not see it for some time; perhaps his heart was stubborn; but when his scruples had been subdued, Ben began “to work the oracle.” I need not tell all his manœuvres, some of which were as mysterious as necromancy; but the result of them was, that in less than a month Bob was the accepted suitor of Miss Blunt, with the cordial assent of her mother. His own mother and father he had not deemed it expedient to consult, lest they should raise certain family questions which Ben facetiously suggested “would be sure to puncture Mrs Blunt's pride, and upset Bob's apple-cart in a trice.”

A part of Ben's grand scheme was to impress Mrs Blunt with the belief that Bob had plenty of money in possession, and that he would come in for a large fortune on the death of his father. To aid in carrying out that little deception, Ben advanced £500 to Bob on his note of hand at four months; and as he argued it would not fall due till after his marriage, he would have ample funds to meet it. It was an agreeable novelty to Bob to carry a cheque-book in his pocket, and he took it out to look at it as often as a boy looks at his new watch. He did not scruple to use his cheques neither; and the costly presents of jewellery which he made to his gratified Betsy had perhaps more effect in cementing her attachment to him than any personal virtue which he possessed, for she inherited her late sire's practical turn of mind. Ben had reminded Bob, with an insinuating nudge in the ribs at the same time, that making prenuptial presents was not like sinking money, for such little things, articles of jewellery


  ― 292 ―
especially, were handy at any time for raising the wind, if necessary; and, of course, they would be his own after the knot was tied, the same as everything else that his wife possessed, in the absence of any legal instrument defining her own special rights, and appointing trustees to guard them.

“Has the old lady said anything about a deed of settlement?” asked Ben when Bob informed him that the wedding-day had been fixed.

“Not a syllable, Goldstone.”

“Bravo, Bob! Your fortune is made, old fellow! But you must still go gingerly to work till the job is completed; mind that, whatever you do. Don't make a mistake at any time, and forget your innocent deportment, for it all hinges upon that. My word! if the old woman were to twig our little game, we should have to run, for she has a tongue in her head that would frighten a policeman. How do you like Miss Betsy by this time, Bob?”

“Only so-so,” replied Bob with an affected drawl. “In fact—aw—I'm sorry we have gone so far with the joke, for I don't believe I can ever actually like her, let alone love her, you know.”

“Nonsense, Bob! You will like her well enough after you are married. She is a nice little nuggety article if she isn't handsome; besides, she is literally worth her own weight in gold three times over, and that should recommend any judy in the world to a man of mettle.”

“Ah, it's very well for you to talk, Goldstone; but it will be no nonsense for me to be tied for life to a judy that I don't fancy a bit, even though she had a ton weight of gold. Besides, Betsy's peppery temper will not agree with mine very long, and we shall quarrel like wild dingoes.”

“That is nothing when you are used to it, Bob—ha, ha, ha! She is naturally high-spirited like her mother, but I don't think she is a sour-tempered girl. Not at all.”

“Oh, ho! don't you think so? Then, you should have seen her the night before last when the old lady asked her to play her poor dear father's favourite song, ‘Roley poley, gammon and spinach!’ She flopped down on to the piano-stool with her mouth screwed up to her left ear; and, my word, she looked as grim as one of those stone heads on the University gables. I almost loathed the sight of her.”

“Pooh! You are mistaken altogether, Bob. That was not an exhibition of temper—not at all. I know her little


  ― 293 ―
ways better than you do. She has a modish habit of making grimaces which are meant to look interesting. She was aiming soft blandishments at your heart then, and you should have looked spooney. Blow it all! you are not half-awake, Bob. I have seen other girls make rum faces when they were in their merriest mood; it is only an interesting way of giving expression to their features when they want to be very funny or unusually striking. That's it, Bob. I am sure you have seen Mag ogle often enough; in fact, I rather like to see her come out in that way, when she does not do it too strikingly.”

“Yes, yes, Goldstone; but Mag is a pretty girl, with fine eyes and good teeth, and that makes all the difference, you know. Let her twist her face about as she likes, she can't make it look hideous; but you remember how interesting old Dolly Dottz used to look when she was imitating Mag's expressive twists, and stretching open her mouth and eyes like a cat with a bone in her throat.”

“Ha, ha, ha! Don't mention it again, or I shall faint,” said Ben. “I hate to see old women ogling and grimacing in girl fashion, though they often do it. Dolly Dottz did not know what a fright she looked, or she would not have screwed her old face about in such style for a dollar a twist.”

“Well, if Betsy ever makes any of her queer grimaces again in order to strike me spooney, I am certain I shall run off directly like a scared colt, even if it should be on my weddingnight.”

“You may bold then if you like, Bob,” remarked Ben, with a portentous wink. “But don't run away before, whatever you do. You will never get another such chance of making a fortune right off the reel; so don't lose it through any silly squeamishness. That is my advice, Bob, if you choose to take it.”

“I would ten times sooner have Lydia Swan, though she has only got a brick house for her portion. I could love her. In fact, I would rather have her without a shilling.”

“Yes, a loveable wife is very desirable, I grant you, Bob; but a domestic circle without any shillings in it would be awfully cold and comfortless.”

“Hang it all, Goldstone! I could do something to earn the wherewithal to keep a wife, surely,” said Bob, with rising warmth.

“Of course you could. I didn't say you could not. There was a billet vacant a few days ago at Burt's horse bazaar


  ― 294 ―
would have suited you to a T. Three pounds a week! Give up Bet if you like. I don't care so long as you meet your bill when it falls due. Your marriage will not benefit me, any more than the pleasure of seeing you in a position corresponding with my own. Marry Lyddy if you like; in fact, I should be pleased to see you do it, for I verily believe my old dad is going crazy after her; but, by Jerry, if he attempts to marry her, I'll have him put in the mad-house.”

“Don't be cross, Goldstone,” said Bob, softening in tone. “I am sorry I said so much. I am engaged to the girl, and it would be unfair to break the engagement. I am much obliged for your advice and help. I will try to like Betsy. Love springs up like mushrooms sometimes; and it may be so in my case after I am married.”

Preparations for the wedding went on actively on both sides. Bob took a convenient house at Darlinghurst, and entrusted the furnishing of it to an upholsterer in Sydney, who charged fancy prices for his chattels, but was not particular as to the time of payment, provided his “marks” were first-rate. Goldstone had assured him that Bob was right as the bank; so the trusting tradesman went to work, and furnished the house from the kitchen to the attic, in fashionable style, and to the complete satisfaction of Miss Blunt and her mother, who paid a visit of inspection when the house was in order.

As the important day drew near, Bob's conscience became uneasy, and would not allow him to take so momentous a step in his life's history without informing his parents; so, contrary to Ben's advice, he broke the news to them a few days before the event. In the first excitement which the unexpected disclosure created, Mrs Stubble spoke very unguardedly, and even declared, with startling vehemence, that she would see him dead and buried sooner than her only living son should form such a horridly low connexion; and added so long a string of bitter invectives against the whole generation of Blunts, that Bob's fiery temper was at length aroused, and he emphatically declared that he would marry Betsy in spite of his mother and his father too, and that not one of his family should be invited to the wedding.

Mr Stubble was far less excited than his wife, and repeatedly suggested that they should talk the matter over smoothly, and not rate out so that the servants in the kitchen could hear all about it. He urged that it was no good


  ― 295 ―
trying to bounce Bob, as if he were a boy in a pinafore; that if he loved the young girl, and she was all right and straight, it wasn't for them to say he shouldn't have her, if he had a mind to. Furthermore, he argued, that for aught he knew, the Blunts were as high up as the Stubbles, so far as their pedigree was concerned; but if they were ever so bad, abusing them would not make them better; at any rate, he did not see any fun in kicking up a row about them in his house; he wouldn't have it neither; and that was all about it.

But notwithstanding Mr Stubble's pacific arguments and his emphatic ultimatum, his wife still persisted in saying damaging things about the Blunts, especially referring to a tradition about a hocussed digger, which again excited Bob to such an extent, that he at length took up his hat and left the house in a rage. His mother then sat down, and cried aloud with sorrow and vexation.

Bob was compelled to explain part of the family dissent to Betsy and her mother; and in turn their pride and wrath were stirred together in such a whirl that, only for Ben's skilful interposition, it is probable that the match would have been abruptly broken off; and, as Ben remarked, Bob would have been humbled to the dust in the eyes of the world, and his bran-new furniture would have become the spoil of a lot of dusty brokers.

At length, they were married in a quiet way, or, as Mrs Blunt tritely remarked, “without any fuss and nonsense.” The only guests present were Mr Barrelton, the wine merchant (Mrs Blunt's sister's husband), with his wife and three daughters, who acted as bridesmaids. Ben Goldstone, and a mercantile gentleman who had been confidential clerk to the late Mr Blunt, were the bridegroom's men.

After the ceremony came the breakfast, of course; and when that was eaten, the youthful pair started for Manly Beach, to spend the honeymoon.

Ben Goldstone returned to his house that night rejoicing, for one great cause of anxiety was gone. He had dreaded up to the last hour lest Bob should turn sulky and “shy off” the match, for it was clear that he did not love his bride in the least, and he had told his devoted brother-in-law that it was purely to oblige him that he was thus sacrificing himself, which pointed declaration Ben affected not to understand.

Although the fund of useful information which the young bride possessed was very small, she had a strong disposition


  ― 296 ―
to talk: it is no wonder, then, that her conversation was more of a domestic than an intellectual character. As is commonly the case with such poorly-cultured minds, her stock of talking matter was pretty well exhausted before the honeymoon was at its full; but in the course of her garrulous exposition of family affairs, it became evident to Bob that he had made a serious miscalculation in the amount of fortune which his bride inherited in her own right, for she did not own anything at all in actual possession, though she was heir-apparent to her mother's property. I will explain the matter in fewer words than Bob learned it from his wife.

The late Mr Blunt, though the ostensible owner of a good deal of city and country property, was in a similar position to other owners of property this day; that is to say, his estate was heavily mortgaged. He had been lured out of his own lucky line of business by a plausible broker with a greedy eye to commission, and had bought a whole cargo of rice, molasses, bamboo-chairs, and pickled ginger, by which he lost an immense sum of money, and had to borrow on his real estate to pay his debts. His widow, who was wonderfully sharp in money matters, had been gradually paying off incumbrances upon some properties by selling others, and she had lately encouraged a hope that through the pecuniary assistance of her new son-in-law she might redeem the residue of her houses from the clutches of her powerful enemy, the mortgager.

Though Mrs Blunt's income was sufficient to enable her to live in comfortable style, it was not a tithe of the amount which Ben had been led to suppose. He got his information respecting the family affairs from a discarded clerk of the late Mr Blunt, who had been witness to his will, made seven years before. But since that time real property had very much decreased in value,—so much so, indeed, that poor Mr Blunt was supposed to have died of a broken heart in consequence. A few months prior to his death he had made another will (with his own hands, to save expense) by which he bequeathed the whole of his property to his wife, absolutely during her widowhood, and appointed her sole executrix. The discarded clerk knew nothing about the second will, and sharp as Benjamin Goldstone was, it did not occur to him to ask his informant the date of the will he had witnessed, or to find out if a subsequent will had been made. It is not surprising that Ben knew nothing of Mr Blunt's heavy loss


  ― 297 ―
on the Indian cargo, for mercantile men are usually pretty close on the subject of losses, except when they want to show a good excuse for breaking; and in Mr Blunt's case it was not expedient to break, because he would have lost by it; so he buried his troubles in his own breast, and current report said they killed him.

Bob had been carefully reticent about money matters to his bride-elect and her mother, lest it might be suggestive of a deed of settlement; and Mrs Blunt's dread, lest her daughter should lose the chance of a rich husband through his discovering that she was dowerless, made her equally shy of speaking about business, or asking Bob any particulars respecting his source of income, until the nuptial knot was tied. Ben's crafty inuendoes, and the more direct evidence of Bob's cheque-book, had seduced her into the belief that the young man was rich; and from his apparent ductility, she had no doubt of being able to do as she liked with him by and bye; so she remained silent and hopeful.

The first evening after Bob's return to town, his mother-in-law, with a pleasant candour which she had never before shown, explained to him every particular respecting her affairs, including her income and expenditure. Her statement tallied so closely with what he had previously heard from the lips of his wife, that there was not the slightest room to doubt that he had made a miserable mistake. Mrs Blunt's manner seemed to indicate that she expected an equally explicit disclosure of his financial condition, which he was not prepared to afford her till he had consulted his trusty brother Ben; so he adroitly evaded the matter by asking his wife to sing “Roley poley,” and he would try to play an accompaniment on his brass Jew's harp.

Poor Bob passed a sleepless night after that family reunion, and bitterly did he reproach himself for encouraging a spirit of despicable covetousness and idleness, which had led him into perplexities from which he could see no pleasant way of extricating himself. Immediately after breakfast next morning, he left his home for the purpose of meeting Ben as he came into town.

“I say, Goldstone, here's a pretty go!” exclaimed Bob, seizing Ben's arm at the corner of King Street.

“What's up, old fellow? You look regularly scared. Has your wife been combing your hair with the claws of her piano-stool?”




  ― 298 ―

“No fear! Tell me who informed you that Betsy has £40,000 in her own right, Ben?”

“Who? Why, Jack Carss, the broker at Bridge Street, Blunt's old clerk. I promised to give him quarter per cent upon the”——

“Pooh! quarter per cent upon nothing; how much is that?”

“Don't be playing the fool with me, Bob, for I am not in the humour to stand it this morning. I have worry enough already.”

“I think you have been playing the fool with me, Ben, and I shall have to hop to the tune of “Gammon and spinach” all the days of my life.”

“What do you mean?” asked Ben, turning pale with excitement.

“I mean that my wife is not worth a dump.”

“'Tis false, Bob! If that is the way you are going to repay me my £500, I'll—I'll soon put somebody on your scent.”

“How dare you talk to me in that way?” interrupted Bob fiercely, at the same time shaking his riding-whip in Ben's face. “I'll knock your nose off, if you say that again.”

“Here, come into the café, Bob. Don't let people in the street see us quarrelling,” said Ben, in a mollifying tone, which contrasted strangely with his bullying manner a minute before. “Make haste. Here comes long John, and I don't want to meet him this morning, for special reasons.” He then passed his arm through Bob's, and led him to the French café in George Street.

Bob's temper was not so accommodating as that of his wily relative, and it was some time before his ruffled spirits were softened down sufficiently to enable him to speak. When he had grown calmer, he explained to Ben the substance of Mrs Blunt's disclosure on the previous night. While Ben sat and listened, he was evidently making a violent effort to suppress his outraged feelings; at length he said, “Let us go to Carss's office, and hear what he has to say about it.”

“What is the good of going to him? I tell you, I have seen a copy of old Blunt's will with my own eyes. Every stick he had is left to his wife.”

“If Jack has wilfully deceived me, I'll massacre him this blessed morning,” said Ben, striking the table with his huge fist.




  ― 299 ―

“Be quiet, Ben; the waiters are grinning at us. I don't believe Carss knew anything about old Blunt's affairs of late. As far as I can make out, Jack was discharged for drunkenness seven years ago, and has never entered Blunt's office since then. The old man lost £65,000 in three years by unlucky speculations and bad debts, let alone depreciation of his house property.”

“Whew!” whistled Ben. “Then the old woman can't be worth very much now.”

“She has about £700 a year from rents.”

“Is the property all hers absolutely?”

“Every stick and stone of it, unless she should marry again; in which case it is to be equally divided between herself and Betsy—share and share alike, the will says.”

Ben swallowed the small residue of liquor in the tumbler before him, and then remarked with a forced laugh, “I wish we could make up a match between her and my old dad; but I'm afraid that is no go, for he is cranky after Miss Swan.”

“Poor Lyddy!” sighed Bob. “You did not let me finish what I was talking about, Ben. The several shares are to be vested in trustees for Betsy and her mother, individually, for their own sole and separate use and benefit, free and clear of and from all and singular”——

“Tush! I don't want to hear all the legal jargon. It is plain that we are done brown,” exclaimed Ben with a savage oath.

“It strikes me, that I am done brownest of the two; and it is not unlikely that I shall be done black and blue before I pacify Mrs Blunt for my part in this cheating transaction.”

“Mrs Blunt be blowed! She is the greatest cheat of the lot. She led me all along to believe that Blundleton Terrace belongs to Bet, and now it appears that she sold it two years ago, to pay off mortgages.”

“But it is no use whining over it. How much money have you in the bank now, Bob!”

“Not any to spare at present, I assure you,” replied Bob, carelessly.

“Well, I must raise £1000 in some way by this day week, or it is all U P with my credit. By the bye, Bob, is your household furniture insured?”

“I am sure I don't know—at any rate, I have not insured it; I never thought of it. Why, Ben?”




  ― 300 ―

“Eh—oh—nothing; only, it is not safe to run risks, you know; there was a house burnt down a month ago.”

“Yes; and there are thousands of houses in Sydney that have never been burnt at all.”

“That is a nonsensical argument. You might be burnt out to-night. It is safer to insure.”

“I should not care very much if I were burned myself,” said Bob, despondingly. “The fact is, I dread to go home lest Mrs Blunt should be there. I must tell her my position, and then there will be a comical scene, I know. I wish I was a sailor, and I would be off to sea.”

“You need not go home till late to-night, Bob, then the old dame will be gone to Newtown; and in the meantime we can consider what is best to be done. The sudden news has taken me slap-aback, and I cannot think clearly about anything just now. Waiter! another cocktail!”

“Ah, that is refreshing! You are a fool not to try one, Bob,” said Ben, when he had drunk the mixture which the waiter placed on the table before him. “Now, then, let me first of all explain to you how I am fixed at present, and show you how you can help me, and then I will help you to consider a safe way to bamboozle Mrs Blunt. I have a heavy bill to meet this day week in favour of your father, and my credit hinges upon its being punctually met. I think it is the very first bill the governor has ever taken, and if it were dishonoured, there would be a grand kick-up, and, worse than all, he would be dead set against bills for ever after. I can see the way clear to do a rattling stroke of business if I can keep on the right side of our daddy, and I shall let you in for a share in the speculations. But nobody must know our true positions; mind that, Bob. You crack me up, and I'll crack you up— you understand? How much money have you got in the bank now?”

“About £140; but I really cannot spare any of that, Goldstone.”

“My word! you have been doing it pretty extensively, Bob. £360 in less than three months, and all for nothing! Well, never mind—can't be helped; other fellows as wide-awake as ourselves have been nipped before to-day. I don't want your balance, old fellow; you must eke that out, and take care Betsy doesn't see your pass-book. I daresay your bank will melt one of my bills, say for £300. You must slip it into the pot and try. I can get your bill to me done at my


  ― 301 ―
bank for £200. That will make £500, less discount, which is neither here nor there. Then you must get an advance of £500 on your furniture, and that will make up the sum I want as right as ninepence.”

“How am I to get an advance on the furniture, Ben?” asked Bob, with a look of concern.

“Simply enough. Leave that to me; only give me a written authority, and take your wife and Mother Blunt to Parramatta for a day's fresh air. I will manage it all right.”

“But you know the furniture is not paid for, Ben.”

“What does that matter? If I buy a horse from you on credit, am I not at liberty to sell it till I pay you for it? Foogh! how would commercial men manage their large concerns if your squeamish notion were to become mercantile law? Besides, you will only want the advance for a week or two. I shall soon have plenty of funds in hand, and you can wipe off the advance, and pay for the traps as well. Don't you see?”

“I suppose it is all right, Ben. I am very willing to help you in any way I can; but pray don't involve me in pecuniary difficulty. And now tell me what I shall say to Mrs Blunt when I go home; for the fact is, I am in a quaking, nervous fever.”

“I'll turn the whole matter over in my mind to-day, Bob, and we will discuss it over a hot supper at the ‘crib.’ Nabal has just returned from Melbourne in the Governor-General, and he is sure to go to the ‘crib’ to-night to see Susan. I hear he has sold his Collins Street property; so I hope to do a useful stroke with him, if the sporting Victorians have not cleaned him out. Keep your collar up, old fellow, and don't look so dismal. I'll put you on a track that will carry you along smoothly enough for a month or two, and we must trust to chance for what will turn up in the interim. Why don't you try a nobbler?”

“I would rather not, thank you, Ben; my head is aching.”

“Sparkle up then, and let us go over to Rumball's office, and do this little bill business; we can get blank forms there; then I must go and attend to some other delicate affairs that I have in hand, and I will meet you at the ‘crib’ at eight o'clock.”

“Do you see this card, Bob?” said Ben soon after they met in the evening at the appointed rendezvous. “Twig it well. Do you see anything green about it?”




  ― 302 ―

“I can see a tiny piece of blue paper sticking on the back of it,” replied Bob, after he had scrutinised it carefully.

“Just so. Now keep your eyes open and your mouth shut, and you may learn something to-night that will be better than a trade to you. Hush!—shut up! Here come Nabal and his cousin Gregory!”

A little after midnight, Bob, who had been growing very uneasy, whispered Ben that he must go home; whereupon Ben arose from the card-table, at which several young men were seated with flushed faces, and remarking that he would be back in less than ten minutes, he left the house with his dispirited brother-in-law.

“Ha, ha, ha!—glorious sport! Luck has been on my side to-night, and no mistake!” exclaimed Ben exultingly, when the two friends got on to Hyde Park.

“Luck, do you call it?” said Bob. “I think it was sleight-of-hand. What perfect fools those fellows are to sit there, and see you pocket their money in that style.”

“They think they are going to win it back; that is always the way, you know. Ha, ha, ha!” laughed Ben, slapping his pocket. “I shall not want you to pawn your furniture this time, Bob. But I must go back before those sporting blades have time to cool down. My word! I have done a stroke to-night.”

“What shall I say to Mrs Blunt, Ben, if she asks me any questions?”

“Say? why, bamboozle her you know. I have not time to go into particulars now; but I'll see you in the morning. Talk largely about the station at New England, and the farm at the Hunter, and you may have my estate in Cumberland to make a noise with. If she asks any pointed questions, refer her to me for information, or take the huff and turn sulky. You can tell Betsy you don't like to feel that you are an object of suspicion and vulgar doubts. Can't stay any longer, Bob. I must clear out Nabal and his cousin to-night, while they are in a sporting humour; somebody else will do it to-morrow, if I let the chance slip. Ta, ta! give my love to Betsy. Keep your pecker up, old fellow. Good-night.”

Ben then hastened back to the “crib,” and Bob pursued his way home, hoping as he went that his inquisitive mother-in-law would not be there.




  ― 303 ―

Chapter V.

A glance at the history of Mr and Mrs Blunt.—Bob Stubble's discomfiture.—His insolvency.—Departure for Melbourne.—Various other matters of interest.

A FULL account of Bob Stubble's career for the three years ensuing would fill up my book; so, I must summarise his doings in one chapter. But first of all, it will be necessary to glance back at the history of his wife and her parents.

Mr and Mrs Blunt had, before their marriage, lived fellow-servants in a gentleman's family at the Glebe; the former as coachman, and the latter as cook. After a proper season of courtship, they were united in holy wedlock; and then, with their joint savings, they opened a house in the public line at one of the most thirsty corners of the city. There they did “a roaring trade;” notwithstanding which, the “Jolly Dingo” was considered a respectable house, and a favourite shop for getting a noon-day nobbler on the quiet, for it had a private entrance to the bar screened off nice and snug for the encouragement of bashful tipplers.

The second engineer of a coasting steamer had not harder work in his department than Mrs Blunt had behind the bar from day-dawn till midnight; but she was as active a woman as ever handled a pewter pot: moreover, the stimulus of making money dulled her sense of aching limbs, and cheered her spirits with the hope of ease and happiness when “the pile” was made. Mr Blunt had busy times of it too in the underground department, which he managed wholly himself by the light of a safety-lamp; but after he had finished his mysterious operations of mixing-off for the day, he was always ready to stand by the beer-engine, and let his wife attend to the lighter duties of the spirit-taps and the chalktally.

Almost every successful man is an object of envy; and Mr Blunt was not an exception. There was a peculiarly attractive influence about the angular doorway of the “Jolly Dingo,”


  ― 304 ―
and customers were whirled inside as they were rounding the corner like sticks and straws in a tide-eddy. Several brother tapsters longed for Jacob's lucky stand; but his landlord could never be induced to turn him out of it, though he was offered more than double the rent which Jacob paid. The fact of his having a lease of the house was probably the cause of his landlord's favouring firmness; and though this is mere hypothesis, it could be supported by many examples from colonial life, where tenants at will have been turned out of house and home to make room for others in whom the landlord felt greater interest.

But envy is not easily foiled, and it soon began to show itself in another form, which furtively aimed at muzzling or shutting up the “Jolly Dingo,” and diverting the strong current of traffic in another direction. Jacob was repeatedly fined for Sunday selling, at the instance of a virtuous policeman, who had his eye to promotion, and whose zeal for the decency of the particular locality was perhaps stimulated by the circumstance of the houses at two opposite corners being owned by an influential J.P. Mrs Blunt was in favour of turning strict Sabbatarians, lest they should lose their licence; but Jacob, though not less pious than his wife, did not like to lose custom, and he said “he'd chance it.” He did so, was again summoned by the vigilant constable, and his licence was cancelled forthwith, as a solemn warning to other publicans to mind what they were about. The “Jolly Dingo” never wagged his tail again.

Though it was a shocking blow to Mr Blunt, it was not what is called “a settler,” for he was a made man, having bought a good deal of property very cheap, when the exodus to California threw so many small houses into the market. He retired in disgust from the retail liquor trade, and started in the wholesale way, in which he soon began to make money like dirt. His wife rétired into private life, but with a spirit soured by mortal hatred to the persecuting policeman, and the arbitrary J.P. who cancelled the licence.

Their only daughter Betsy was sent to a second-rate boarding-school a short distance from Sydney, where she learnt many more things than were noticed in the quarterly bulletin of progress, for some of her schoolfellows were very precocious young ladies. Perhaps the main reason why Betsy did not become a finished flirt was, that she was remarkably plain, and not a favourite with the adventurous youths who,


  ― 305 ―
by means which the governess failed to guard against, used to hold nocturnal communications with other girls in the school.

At the death of her father, Betsy left school, for she had “finished her education,” and went to reside with her mother at Newtown. She was not wholly slighted by the other sex; far from it; for she had had several brisk beaux, including Ben Goldstone; but her keen-sighted mamma could read their mercenary motives, and she started them off as sharply as she dismissed street-beggars. But when Bob Stubble presented himself, his modest mien impressed Mrs Blunt at once that he was not a matrimonial juggler; and the pleasant belief that he had plenty of money of his own, forbade the idea that he was seeking her daughter with sordid eyes. His comely person and harmlessly rollicking manner soon won upon the heart of Betsy, and she confessed to her mother that she loved him tremendously; so he was accepted without any scrupulous questions being asked.

For several weeks after the last interview with Ben, noticed in the preceding chapter, Bob continued to keep his wife and her mother in ignorance of the true state of his financial affairs. He occasionally alluded to his station up-country and his farm on the Hunter River, in accordance with Ben's counsel; but it was done in such a bunglingly bashful manner that it is no wonder he felt conscious Mrs Blunt's searching look was tinctured with suspicion; and the misery he endured in her presence can only be estimated by those who have been lured into a similar course of deception and trickery. His confidence in Ben was entirely gone since he had been eye-witness to several of his recent schemes for raising money, including his gross fraud upon the imbecile young spendthrift, Nebal Samms; indeed, he had come to the forced conclusion that Ben was a thorough blackleg. Bitterly he bemoaned his folly in yielding to evil counsel, and bartering his liberty, and honour, and peace of mind, for a life of wretched thraldom with a wife whose disposition was dreadfully contrary to his own, and with whom he was daily growing more disgusted. He felt that an exposé of his affairs must inevitably take place, and he never could shake off the dread which it created. He grew so wretchedly nervous, that the well-known rat-tat of Mrs Blunt at his front-door, would startle him more than the bang of a carronade under his bed would have done a few months before.




  ― 306 ―

In a state of extreme mental depression, he one day appealed to Ben, whom he met on the street, for pecuniary help, as his balance in the bank was nearly expended, and his first quarter's rent was due the next day. Ben explained that, in consequence of his luck having taken a turn, and losses resulting, he was unable to furnish him with any of the “ready rhino;” but offered “to melt” another bill for him, as his last one had “gone down like a bladder of lard.”

Bob replied that “he would not sign any more bills; for, as he saw no way of paying them, it was positive cheating. Besides, the idea of being encumbered by debt made him intolerably wretched.”

Ben then suggested that Bob should ask his father for a small loan; but he vehemently declared he would rather die than let his parents know of his humbled position, after what had recently passed between them.

“I tell you what you can do, Bob, as easily as skinning a snake,” said Ben, lowering his voice to a whisper. “You can write a cheque for Nabal, you know; he is always muddled, and would not know anything about it. And even if he should perchance find it out by and bye, I can make it all right, for he is under my thumb completely.”

“What! do you want me to commit forgery, Goldstone?” asked Bob, with a look of horror.

“What a blessed muff you are, Bob! Why do you speak so loudly? We shall have a mob round us in a minute. Look you, you may as well have a few hundreds out of Nabal as let other sharks have it all; in fact, it will be doing him a kindness to borrow a little from him in the way I suggest; for you will pay him back, of course, and it will come in handy for him after he is cleaned out, which he certainly will be before long.”

“I tell you, Ben,”—

“Hold on a minute, and hear what I have to say. The thing can be done without the least risk, for I'll guarantee Nabal would not miss £400. He never checks his passbook, and I doubt if he even keeps a rough account of the cheques he draws.”

“You have led me into misery enough already, Goldstone, without tempting me to finish up by committing felony,” replied Bob, drawing himself up in a manner which made Ben wince. “I shall go home at once, and declare my real position to my wife and her mother, and that


  ― 307 ―
will rid me of some of the anxiety which is eating my heart away.”

“More fool you!” interrupted Ben savagely. “You can easily stave them off for a month or two longer. My luck will surely turn in the meantime, and I shall be able to help you. I have several little dodges in hand; and, as I told you before, if you will stick to me and show yourself plucky, I will pull you through your difficulties. But if you prefer to take your own way, and go home whining about your poverty, look out; that's all. Old Mother Blunt will tattoo your face with her dirty nails; so mind your eyes.”

“Better to run that risk than be a convict for life, as you want to make me,” said Bob, bitterly. “I tell you again, Goldstone, I cannot keep up a system of deceit and falsehood, however well you may manage to do it. I won't be a rogue any longer, if I know it; and I will starve before I have recourse to your disreputable schemes and plots for raising money.”

That taunting remark was immediately followed by a heavy blow from Ben's fist, which Bob promptly returned; and a scuffle ensued, in which the latter got his face severely bruised, and his coat torn off his back. The combatants were soon separated by some passers-by, when Bob slunk away home in a state of mind not easily depicted.

His battered condition of course elicited inquiries from his wife and her mother; when Bob, with sobbing utterance, explained the cause of it, and also confessed the deception which he had been persuaded to practise upon them, and wound up his startling disclosure by a pathetic appeal to their good-nature for forgiveness, and a promise that he would go to work, and earn a livelihood for himself and wife in any honest way that offered itself to him.

I shall not give a full account of the domestic scene which ensued, but will simply record that poor Bob was mute to all the invectives which Mrs Blunt discharged at him with the full force of her practised tongue. To her threats of a criminal prosecution for conspiracy, Bob made no remark, for he felt he deserved it; but when she showed a furious disposition to dispense summary justice with her own hands by means of the parlour poker, he plucked up effort to evade it, for which nobody can blame him. Seizing a spare coat that hung on a peg in the hall, he fled from the house, leaving his wife screaming with hysterical tantrum, and his mother-in-law swearing like a common sailor.




  ― 308 ―

Bob would have gone home in a thoroughly humbled mood, and sought sympathy in his distress from his parents, but he dreaded a disclosure of Ben's infamous doings, which he knew would shock his parents terribly, and perhaps be the death of Maggie, who was in a very low nervous state. He therefore resolved to keep away from his family altogether, and as soon as practicable to leave the colony and seek his fortune elsewhere.

A few days afterwards a sheriff officer found out his secluded lodgings at Prymont, and served him with a writ at suit of the accommodating upholsterer before mentioned, who had become suddenly impressed with the idea that Bob was a bad mark. The next process was to lodge him in the debtors' prison, from whence he could only extricate himself by filing his schedule.

I forbear to follow Bob in his trying passage through the Insolvent Court, lest I arouse shuddering recollections in the minds of some of my honest readers, who would doubtless prefer a passage round Cape Horn in a leaky ship to another liquidating process before the Commissioner. But at length a day of deliverance came, and Bob issued from the court with his certificate in his pocket, and his heart eased of more than half its load of trouble. As he walked down the “valley of humiliation” into Pitt Street, he mentally resolved that he would henceforward eschew prodigality in all its forms, and would work to earn an honest livelihood, even at the humblest calling, rather than again run into debt, and undergo the misery attendant thereupon. His wearing apparel had been considerately allowed him by the Commissioner. His gold watch had been overlooked by his surly opposing creditor, and it was at the bottom of his fob; so he took it out, and a friend of the needy, named Molloy, lent him £6 upon it. Bob forthwith took a steerage passage to Melbourne under an assumed name, to prevent his friends discovering his whereabouts, and when the steamer cleared Sydney Heads, he felt that he was free, although miserably sea-sick.

He did not stay in Melbourne, but started on foot for Bendigo. He worked for a fortnight on the road, breaking stones, at which he saved £4, for stone-breakers were paid better wages in those days than they are now. As he was very frugal, he had cash in his pocket when he arrived at Sandhurst. He had entertained some hope of finding his lost brother, but he soon judged that it would be lost time to look


  ― 309 ―
for Dick amongst the crowds of diggers at Bendigo; so he began to look out for himself.

Fortunately for him, he fell in with three young men who had recently opened up a small claim; two of them were sailors, the third, who was by no means fond of hard work, was the prodigal son of a clergyman in England. He was very glad to sell his share in the claim to Bob for a pair of decent trousers and the balance of his cash in hand; and it was a bargain which gave much satisfaction to his mates, who were, in plain terms, glad to get rid of him, and were equally glad to get Bob for a partner, as he was both able and willing to work.

Bob experienced the usual vicissitudes of a digger's life, but he enjoyed it, for he was comparatively free from harass of mind. His partners were intelligent young men, full of nautical fun; and they agreed well together, for they were all industrious and saving. They opened several claims, some of which turned out tolerably well, others were “shicers” (i.e., worthless); but on the whole, they had reason to be satisfied, and grumbling was never heard in their camp. Sailors in general are handy fellows at almost any kind of work on shore, and they usually appreciate a position where they have “their watch below” all night.

“No turning out to reef topsails or to take your turn at the wheel, to-night,” one of Bob's sailor friends would sometimes laughingly say to the other, as they lay coiled up in their snug bunks, while the winter wind howled round the tent. “And no cross mother-in-law to make me shudder directly I get up in the morning, or dunning creditors to dog me as soon as I put my head into the open air,” muttered Bob, as he snuggled up in his corner of the tent. So they were all happy in the enjoyment of liberty; and they worked away at their claim with the exciting hope that they might at some lucky stroke of the pick-axe turn out a nugget heavy enough to make them independent men for life.

After about two years, one of Bob's mates was unfortunately killed by the sudden caving-in of the shaft; so the partnership was dissolved, and the claim was sold. Bob found himself in possession of £450, with which he started for Melbourne direct. A few days before, he wrote to his wife, asking her forgiveness for his long neglect, and for all his other misconduct. He told her of the success of his industrious efforts, and expounded his future plans, as far as he could see


  ― 310 ―
them. It was his intention, if she approved of it, to rent a small dairy-farm on the Hunter, or elsewhere; he had enough money to stock it, and to furnish a house comfortably, and hoped he would be able to afford her a dog-cart; at any rate, she should have a nice horse, and he would teach her to ride. He drew a fanciful picture of their future rural homestead, and finished his letter by expressing a sincere hope that they would be able to live happily together, as man and wife should do.

By return of post he received a black-margined note from his mother-in-law, coldly informing him that his wife had died seven months before of scarlatina. The writer significantly hinted that she had been thus prompt in replying to his communication, in order to save him the trouble and expense of coming to Sydney.

“Poor Betsy!” sighed Bob, as he put the letter into his pocket. “Perhaps it is all for the best. We never should have lived happily together. Impossible!”

That was about the height or depth of his heart-mourning for his lost wife; but he had been taught by his mother the propriety of exhibiting the outward symbols of respect and grief for departed relatives in whatever part of the world they had died. On one occasion, when they lived in the country, his mother had spent more than forty pounds for family mourning on hearing of the death of her eldest brother, who, for nine months prior to his decease, had scarcely common necessaries, let alone delicacies suitable for a sick man. Undoubtedly, the forty pounds might have been more kindly expended in ministering to the comfort of the sufferer; but perhaps Peggy did not think of that; whether or not, it is but reasonable to infer from her acts, that she thought it of less importance than to put on sable apparel, and “bear about the semblance of woe,” after his decease. Bob was not disposed to disrespect his wife's memory, however much he had slighted her personally; so he went forthwith to a tailor and ordered a suit of superfine mourning, and put a band on his hat four and three-quarter inches deep; he could not get a five-inch band. He also tried to keep his face in a becomingly serious shape, and carefully watched against his acquired habit of whistling popular airs in the street.

He had not received a letter from his parents since he left home; so he concluded that they were irreconcilably offended with him, and he decided not to go to Sydney to see them,


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but to “take a spell” for a month or two, and in the meantime see a little of quiet life in Melbourne. He accordingly took lodgings at a respectable private boarding-house near Carlton Gardens, and lodged his money in the Bank of Victoria.

There were several young gentlemen lodging at the same house with him; but as they were of a decidedly frolicsome turn, he avoided a close intimacy with them, for he thought it would never do for a man in deep mourning to look merry; nevertheless, he quietly enjoyed some of their fun at the table, and now and then picked up a bit of interesting information from their remarks, for they were well acquainted with Melbourne men, and with the manners and customs of that cosmopolite community.

The usual topic of discussion at the tea-table was the state of the gold share market during the day, and much excitement was manifested, for all in the house, including the landlady, were shareholders. Bob heard many stimulating examples of sudden fortunes being made by men and women, and even by boys, who had never even seen a gold-field, but who had made lucky purchases of gold-quartz reef shares on the Melbourne Mining Exchange. In short, the speculative fever was then at its height, and almost everybody in the city was anxious to try his luck.

“I say, Morris, will you sell your Tiddliwinks?” asked a young man of his friend at the opposite side of the table, one evening, while Bob sat by silently sipping his tea, but with his ears wide open.

“No fear,” replied Morris; “they fetched £3 10s. today.

“That is a clear £150 in my pocket. They will be up to £6 by this day week; and then I mean to sell out, and go in for something else.”

“I will bet you five notes that they don't go up to £6 within a month,” said his friend, whose name was Jobson.

“Done!” cried Morris, and forthwith the two spirited young gentlemen drew out their betting-books, and each one, after making an entry, said “All right.”

The next morning Bob coolly walked down to the Mining Exchange in Collins Street, and after a little negotiation with a bustling sharebroker, he succeeded in buying one hundred shares in the Tiddliwink gold-quartz reef for £4 a share. He


  ― 312 ―
was only just in time to secure the bargain, for the shares were £4 15s. at three o'clock that afternoon,—indeed, he was offered £4 16s. for his lot if he would take a bill, which he declined doing lest the bill should turn out a “shicer.”

“Well, this is about the best day's work I ever did,” thought Bob, as he rolled about in his bed that night, forming plans what to do with his money after he had sold out his Tiddliwink shares at £6. “Many a day I have been delving deep under ground, up to my knees in mud, without getting even the colour of gold, and here I have made, say £75, without any harder labour than merely writing a cheque! My word! that is the way to make money; and it is perfectly honest, too,—not like Master Ben's trickery with marked cards. Ha, ha, ha! Diggers may dig if they like; but they will not catch me slaving my flesh off again so long as I can do the correct thing at this rate. Let me see: if I sell out even at £5 10s., I shall make £150: but if I get £6, I shall make £200, slap. Ha, ha! that's the way to do it!” With that comforting reflection he lulled himself to sleep.

Alas for poor Bob's golden harvest! His shares had reached their maximum on that very day. They could not be puffed up higher by any sort of hocus-pocus that was being secretly practised. The next week it was currently rumoured that the Tiddliwink reef had been “peppered” or “salted,” and the shares were not saleable at any price.

The unexpected news had a distracting effect upon Messrs Morris and Jobson, who were fellow-clerks in a large mercantile house in the city. A fortnight afterwards they were fellow-prisoners in the stockade at Pentridge, having been convicted of embezzlement. Their pathetic plea, that “they had simply borrowed the money, and fully intended to restore it,” though believed by both judge and jury, was not held sufficient in law to justify even the temporary appropriation of their master's money.

Bob Stubble lost all his hardly-earned capital except about £20; but he was thankful that he had not lost his liberty or his character. He at once made up his mind to seek some honest employment in Melbourne, and firmly resolved that he would never again dabble in gold-mining shares, unless he were thoroughly acquainted with the mine itself, or had undoubted proof of the respectability of the projectors or directors of the mining company in which he was induced to invest his money.




  ― 313 ―

I would commend Bob Stubble's wise resolution to the consideration of any of my youthful readers who may be tempted to believe that speculation of any kind is a better way to make money than by working for it at their proper honest trade or calling.




  ― 314 ―

Chapter VI.

Mr Simon Goldstone's courtship and marriage with Lydia Swan.

MR SIMON GOLDSTONE'S introduction to Lydia Swan, the merry bridesmaid, has been described in a previous chapter. It is but fair to acquit that young lady of a deliberate design to smite the old gentleman's heart when she began to coy with him in company with Maggie and her frolicsome maids. Though Lydia was fond of a bit of fun, and was leader of innocent feminine mischief among her youthful associates, she was not a flirt or a determined angler for a rich husband. Had Simon been half-a-century younger, with all his money, she would not have dared to throw off her maidenly reserve for a moment, much less call him endearing names to coax him to sing, or say all sorts of merry things to make him laugh. Many young ladies who are out of their teens think it quite safe to frolic, in a sisterly way, with a boy in a round jacket, or with an old bachelor of seventy winters, when they would stand tip-toed on their dignity if a man of twenty-five were to presume in any way to transgress the established rules of etiquette in his approaches to them.

I do not mean to say that frolicking, even with a boy in a jacket, is either safe or decorous conduct for a young maiden, but it is sometimes practised, and innocently enough too. But if it be safe sport for the girl, which is questionable, it is not always so for the boy; and I have known a youth of sixteen lose his heart through a course of platonic coying with a damsel of twenty-two, who was as virtuous as she was beautiful, and who had no more idea of enslaving the affections of her boy-lover than she had of marrying the Duke of Wellington.

Lydia Swan was an orphan, and was left to the guardianship of a bachelor uncle, who was clerk in an office in Sydney. Her income was about £100 a year, the rent of a house left her by her late father. She had been well educated, and, notwithstanding her frolicsome humour, she was a young lady


  ― 315 ―
of superior mental endowments. She was generous to an extreme; and out of her limited income she contributed to the support of two infirm widows. In her sprightly way she has often remarked, as many other girls have playfully done, “I wish I could captivate some rich old nabob. What a lot of good I might do with his wealth! I should like to have plenty of money to give away, if it were only to save me from heart-ache, when I see so many sick persons around me destitute of common comforts.”

When Simon rapped at the door of the house in Kent Street on the memorable day before referred to, his heart was cold as the iron knocker; in fact, it had never been very warm. And when he entered the drawing-room, had the young ladies sat with dignified stiffness, and talked to him in a becomingly reverent manner, it is doubtful if he would have had any other feeling than a desire to get away again as soon as possible, for he had always felt a creeping diffidence in female society, and a morbid idea that he was an object of disfavour and ridicule. If Lydia had been alone, or even in the presence of a few sedate companions, it is not likely that she would have had any perceptible influence on Simon's heart, for she would not have presumed to be funny or familiar. But the encouraging support of six other lively lasses, and being withal in a frolicking mood, she let her merry tongue loose, and her gamboling fancy fly; and, without the least idea of doing it, she made Simon's heart simmer like a roasting pippin.

The effect was as surprising as it was pleasing to him. A new-born gladness seemed to tingle his old system like dance-music. He had never before been called a dear old darling, or a merry old duck, by such pretty pouting lips. Never in his recollection had a pair of flashing black eyes looked at him in that loving way. Not a solitary once, in his whole lifetime, had he been coaxed to “sing a song of sixpence” by such a bewitching voice; in fact, nobody had ever done him the honour of supposing him capable of singing a song of any sort. Female eyes had usually looked at him with coldness or disdain, if ever they deigned to look at him at all; and female faces were drawn into sombre longitude at his approach, as if in mockery of the stony old miser who could not love anybody but himself. It is no wonder, then, that he laughed so uncommonly while the seven lively girls


  ― 316 ―
grouped around him; no wonder that his long frozen-up feelings were thawed by such genial influences; nor is it strange that he should lie and revolve the whole pleasing scene over and over again in his mind after he got into bed that night.

“Heigho!” sighed Simon, as he adjusted his flannel nightcap, and took another cough lozenge from a box beneath his pillow. “If my poor dear wife who is dead and gone had been as lively and cheerful as that pretty lass whom I saw at Stubble's this afternoon, what a happy life I should have lived with her! But she never even smiled in my presence, and that used to make me look gloomy. She was always peevish and fretful, which kept me from being kind and loving to her, when I wished to be so. But, poor dear, she was not strong, either in body or mind; and perhaps I was in fault for not removing from that dingy house, and allowing her a little more cheerful society. Half-a-dozen merry lasses for companions would have made a difference in her temper, I'll be bound. Yes, I was in fault; but not wholly so, for her mother was to blame too. She ought to have had more sense than to interfere in our domestic matters; that sort of thing usually leads to a rupture. Well, poor Granny Farden is dead and gone; so I need not grumble at her now. I wonder if that lassie would have me if I asked her? What a remarkable change it would make in my dreary life! But I am too old for her. If I could adopt her as a daughter, I should hear her merry voice in my house. No, no, no; that won't do at all; it is impracticable. Envious tongues would talk about it, and injure her reputation; and I would not have that for the world.

“Heigho!” sighed Simon again, after a few minutes' meditation. “I don't know when I have enjoyed myself so much as I have done this afternoon. A good genuine laugh is a blessed thing. I wish I could enjoy one every day. My money does not make me laugh, nay, it does not even excite me as it used to do when I was engaged in making it; and I am troubled with the unpleasant reflection that it may make some poor mortals in the world cry, if I should die suddenly, and that thriftless son of mine should begin to scatter it.” Simon then fell into a solemn reverie, and finally dropped off to sleep, and dreamed that he saw ten thousand ragged boys and girls scrambling for threepenny-bits, which he was throwing to them from his front attic window. He woke up with an unusual fit of laughter, took another lozenge, then dozed


  ― 317 ―
off again and dreamed that he was riding to church in Scully's wedding-coach, with Lydia by his side, and his son Ben on the box.

I have already described Simon's smart attire and his jaunty air at Maggie's wedding. His marked attention to Miss Swan was observed by other persons besides Ben; and she was subjected to a more than customary share of banter and quizzing on that account, for it was the general opinion that she had fascinated the old gentleman; or, as it was facetiously expressed, drawn the old snail quite out of his shell.

“You must be joking,” said Lydia, laughing till her merry eyes sparkled in tears of fun, when an experienced matron, in solemn mood, said she was certain old Mr Goldstone thought she (Lydia) was in earnest with her familiarity. “I have had a bit of fun with him certainly, but in the same spirit that I should have played with my grandfather; nothing more, I assure you, Mrs Dix; and I cannot believe that he looks at me in any other way than as a giddy girl. Perhaps he thinks I deserve to be whipped for my mad-cap behaviour. It is impossible that he can be so silly as to think of me for his wife—ha, ha, ha! Nonsense, Mrs Dix!”

But if such were Lydia's real sentiments respecting Simon's feelings or intentions, she was soon undeceived; for, a few days afterwards, he drew up to her uncle's house in a cab, and solicited an interview with Miss Swan.

Lydia was in the kitchen making pastry when the servant brought Mr Goldstone's card; and her surprise and trepidation may be imagined. Without changing her dress, she entered the drawing-room, and received her visitor with an easy grace which she had some difficulty in assuming; but her manner was sedately becoming her position as mistress of the house, and in company with a gentleman alone.

After a few minutes' conversation on general topics, Mr Goldstone, with wonderful calmness, and in his usual gentlemanly style, told Lydia the object of his visit, which was to make her an offer of marriage. Observing that she changed colour, and looked embarrassed, he added, in a kind tone, “I daresay you are surprised at my presumption. You might with good reason doubt my judgment, or even question my seriousness, on account of the great disparity in our ages; but, I assure you, I have carefully considered the subject, and, from my point of view, the obstacles do not appear to be so formidable as to mar your happiness, or I should not make


  ― 318 ―
this proposal. I would willingly explain my views more clearly to you; but I will not stay now, for I can see that I have embarrassed you, my child. This visit was unexpected by you, I am sure. I wish you to take time to consider my proposal, and to consult your guardian. I will only ask you to allow me the privilege of another visit, to receive your verbal answer; and whatever your decision may be, I trust that, at all events, you will ever regard me as your sincere friend.”

Lydia was only able to articulate a few words, which Simon took for an assent to his last proposition; so, with the most delicate desire to spare her further excitement, he shook hands with her and departed. When he had left the house, she ran up to her bedroom, and burst into tears. The merry, frolicsome, romping girl was for a few minutes overcome with sorrow for her folly in flirting with the kind old gentleman, and thoughtlessly leading him to hope for an impossibility.

When her uncle came home in the evening, her serious face showed that something unusual had occurred, and, in reply to his affectionate inquiries, she told him of the visit of Mr Goldstone, and the object of it. After hearing her story, her uncle laughed heartily, and Lydia could not help laughing with him, though she did not feel in a merry humour.

“You should have said ‘boo!’ to him, and scared him away,” said her uncle. “I wish I had been here to talk to the old goose. Report says that he is the most inveterate miser in the land; so if you were to link yourself to him, it is very likely he would starve you to death. 'Tis true I have never spoken to the man, but I have heard his character long ago. Marry you, indeed! Pooh, pooh! I have not patience enough to think of such a thing for a moment.”

“His manner this morning was very gentle and dignified, uncle. There was nothing of the doting old lover in his address or demeanour. I must say that for him.”

“Do you want my consent to the match, Lyd? You know that is not necessary, for you are your own mistress now. You are twenty-two years old, come Sunday.”

“Consent! Oh, dear no! uncle; I have no idea of accepting his offer. Of course not. But I do not want to offend him, or to cause him unnecessary trouble, for his manner was exceedingly kind; and it is only right, you know, for me to treat him with respect. I have brought this about by my silly, thoughtless fun, but really I had no wish to do mischief. I thought I could be as familiar as I pleased with such a very


  ― 319 ―
old man, and he was so funny himself that he led me on;— you know what a romping mad-cap I can be, uncle.”

“You are right there, Lyd; and you had better be sedate in future. But I will suggest an easy way to get rid of your old beau. When he comes here again, tell him that you are the most expensive girl in the city. I daresay you would be so Lyd, if you had plenty of money to give away. If that confession does not scare him, tell him that if you have him, he must settle, say £5000 on you, as private pocket-money, to spend as you please—ha, ha, ha! I'll warrant that will be enough to scare away all his love for you in a twinkling; he will hobble off home, and you will never see him here again. Now brighten up, my dear, and don't think any more about it.”…

Three days afterwards, Mr Goldstone called again at Lydia's house. He was dressed in a new suit of black clothes, of a becoming cut; and he looked very genteel, without any of the old dandy appearance which he had shown in his modish attire at Maggie's wedding. Lydia received him without any visible embarrassment. She had prepared herself for the interview, and she assumed a sprightly demeanour. After a while, Simon, in a calm, collected tone, asked her if she had sufficiently considered his proposal.

“Yes, Mr Goldstone, I have thought a good deal about it; but it is only fair to tell you, first of all, that you would find me the most costly, noisy, wild, troublesome creature you ever heard of; in short, I should be most dreadfully extravagant and a terrible fidget, and I don't know what besides.”

Simon smiled pleasantly, and said he should be only too happy to call her his wife, even if she had twice as many failings as she really possessed. His reply took Lydia somewhat by surprise; but she soon recovered her self-possession, and, putting on her arch look again, she said, “But you know, Mr Goldstone, I should want a pocketful of money to spend every day.”

“You shall have it, my child, and anything you wish for besides, that is in my power to procure for you.”

“Oh, but I want a great lot of money in my own purse. I shall require at least £5000 made over to me absolutely, placed in my uncle's hands for me to spend as I like, for I am monstrously expensive.”

“I will most gladly give you ten, aye, twenty thousand pounds, my child, for that is less than a quarter of what I


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possess. I will secure that sum to you, for your own special use, to spend as you please; and when that is spent, you shall have more; I am sure you will not waste it. Moreover, you shall be the sole legatee of my property at my decease, for I am determined it shall not pander to the idleness and dissipation of my spendthrift son. Every shilling that I possess shall be yours, my child.”

“Oh! don't say any more to me, Mr Goldstone, if you please,” said Lydia, looking imploringly into his face. “Pray, don't say any more to me! Your kindness oppresses me. I am truly sorry I have trifled with you. Forgive me, sir; it was thoughtless folly, and not design, I assure you. I did not intend to mislead you into the belief that I could ever marry you. I cannot do it, sir. You are”——She hesitated, and blushed deeply.

“Too old,” suggested Simon. “Yes, my dear child, I know it. It would be a very unequal match. I know too much of human nature to believe that any old man, verging upon seventy, is likely to engage the affections of a bright young girl upon a short acquaintance. Your present candour increases my confidence in you, and confirms the estimate I had formed of your character from personal observation and otherwise. Pardon me for checking you,” he added, as Lydia was about to speak. “Hear me for a few minutes; then I will depart, for it grieves me to cause you so much embarrassment. I deeply considered this matter before I resolved to speak to you. You will make a sacrifice, no doubt; but I have allowed myself to hope that the power, in a pecuniary sense, of dispensing succour to so many objects of need will outweigh what might otherwise be to you insurmountable. A surprising change has taken place in me of late, and I can trace it partly to your happy influence. Your dear, cheerful voice has opened a new joy-spring in my heart, and forced me to shake off my long-cherished avarice; and now I see the world around me with other eyes. I believe I shall live to be beloved and respected, instead of being shunned and pointed at as a selfish, money-loving old hermit. I could explain much more of my recent experience, but I dread being prolix. At some other time I may tell you all. I have hoarded money for a son who, to my sorrow, has proved himself unworthy to be trusted with it. It would be a sin to leave it to him, for he would do mischief with it. It shall be yours, Lydia, if you will accept of it; and the remainder


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of my life shall be devoted to promoting your happiness, and in helping you to make others happy. Consider again about it, my dear child, calmly and dispassionately. I will wait a week longer for your decision.” Simon then shook hands with the agitated girl, and considerately withdrew.

“Well, well! you have thoroughly astounded me, girl,” said Mr Balmer, Lydia's uncle, when, on his return home in the evening, she had related the whole particulars of her interview with Mr Goldstone. “What do you think about it, Lyd?”

“I have been so excited all day, uncle, that I dare not tell you my thoughts, lest you should think me crazy.”

“I can see you are looking anxious, my girl; so you had better not say any more about it at present. You will be able to consider the affair calmly by the time Mr Goldstone calls again, and I will ponder over it too; for it is only fair to him to think seriously about it, though at first I was inclined to treat it as a joke. His behaviour has been very gentleman-like, and his confidence and liberality are truly wonderful. He must have been terribly belied, or else you have wrought a marvellous change in him, Lyd.” Her uncle then began to chat in his liveliest strain upon current news of the day, the most exciting of which was the arrival in Sydney of a lady of the Bloomer persuasion, who was going to reform the tastes of the currency lasses in the important matter of dress.

Nearly a week had elapsed, when one evening, as Mr Balmer was reclining in his arm-chair by the fire, his niece seated herself on a carpeted foot-stool, and placing her hands on his knees, said she was going to speak to him respecting Mr Goldstone, as she expected him to call the next day. “You know, dear uncle, I have always had a desire for plenty of money, so that I could help those who are suffering from poverty and sickness; but I never had an idea of owning such an immense sum as I have now within my reach. I think I should do right in accepting Mr Goldstone's offer.”

“For the sake of his money, Lyd?”

“Principally so, I admit, uncle, for the sake of the good I might do with it. How many sad hearts I may be able to cheer in the course of a year! How many poor outcast children I may be able to clothe and educate! How many charitable institutions, that are now languishing for want of funds, I may be able to assist from my heavy purse! And lastly, though it will be my first object, how comfortably I


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can settle you for life, dear uncle, and save you from the necessity of sitting in a cold office all day when your rheumatism is so severe.”

Tears stood in Mr Balmer's eyes as he gazed at the upturned face of his beautiful niece, and it was some time before he could speak; at length he said, “You must leave me out of your reckoning, Lyd. I will never consent to your bartering your happiness on my account.”

“Bartering my happiness, dear uncle! Will it not be happiness to do good in the world with money which would otherwise remain locked up in an iron box? Indeed, it will; and I shall have so much good work to do that I shall not find leisure to be unhappy. As regards yourself, you must live with me; and if you object to that part of the bargain, my decision is made at once. I shall want your experienced judgment to help me in laying out my money carefully and usefully. I would not incur the responsibility of doing it all myself, I am such a little goose, you know, and designing people would impose upon me.”

Uncle Will smiled pleasantly at the idea of having nothing else to do but spend money; then remarked, “Well, my dear, you know I appreciate your generosity; but we will not argue the point concerning myself just now; it is the least important part of the matter. Have you duly considered how you will be able to bear the quizzical banter of your old playfellows, and the cynical remarks of disappointed young beaux, and tattling gossips? It is only reasonable, you know, to expect that your marriage with a rich old gentleman will set a lot of tongues talking and heads wagging. It will certainly be said that you have married for money.”

“As for all that, uncle, I don't know that it is worth much consideration, when we look at the many advantages in the other scale,” said Lydia, with a merry look. “At any rate, those things shall not influence me, if you approve of my marriage. I shall never be able to please everybody, marry whom I may, or if I live an old maid. There is this comforting idea, after all; I shall not hear what is said of me, for envious folks are generally considerate enough to say spiteful things out of the hearing of the person spoken against; and mere saucy words aimed at my back will not pierce me like arrows or air-gun bullets. Besides, don't you see, uncle Will, I may hear some nice soft words, for folks are often very polite to rich men's wives.”

“So far so good, Lyd; you are a sensible little puss, though


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you are such a romping plague to me at times,” said Uncle Will, kissing her fondly. “Now comes the most important question of all, and there must be no joking over it: Can you honestly make the solemn vow to ‘love, honour, cherish, and obey' Mr Goldstone for life?”

Lydia's face looked thoughtfully serious as she replied, “I believe I shall love Mr Goldstone dearly, for love begets love, you know, uncle. He is so kind and gentle, and so scrupulously delicate in his demeanour to me, without a particle of the monkeyfied manner which some old men affect; then he is so learned and clever you know; he can teach me such a lot of wisdom, and there is nothing I so much need as that. I daresay many people will think that it is impossible I can make a dutiful wife to a man so much older than myself; but I think they will be all mistaken. I shall be happy, uncle, if you approve of what I do.”

A long discussion ensued, which I need not relate; but the result was, that Mr Balmer assented to the plans of his niece, and the next day Mr Goldstone was overjoyed at hearing a decision quite opposite to the one he had anticipated.

Ben Goldstone was violently opposed to the match, and even threatened to make application to the judges for a writ of lunatico inquirendo; but his undutiful opposition was treated with calm indifference by his father; and Ben was almost lunatic himself with rage and disappointment. Gossiping neighbours also had a good deal to say about the young belle and her old beau, and some of them professed to be quite shocked at the connexion; nevertheless, preparations for the wedding went on, perhaps as smoothly as if no one had been shocked at all over it.

Lydia had explained to Simon that she did not wish for a very large house, and he kindly bade her please herself; so, with the aid of her uncle, she found a suitable villa residence about a mile from Sydney, and had it furnished to her own taste. After it was all in order, Simon went to see it, and said he was delighted with everything she had done.

In due course the promised deed of settlement was executed, and Simon and Lydia were married.




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Chapter VII.

Old Simon and his young wife at home.—Uncle Will, the good old English gentleman.—His happy influence over Simon.

LYDIA had appended the significant words “no cards” to the announcement of her marriage in the newspapers, and she secretly wished there would be no ceremonious callers; but she was not gratified in that respect, for soon after her return to town with her husband, she had many fashionable visitors. It is paradoxical, if not strange, that the persons who were most shocked at her engagement with a rich old man were strongest in their congratulations on her fortunate lot, and wished her joy with more fluency of speech than did those friends who really meant all they said, but said very little.

The marriage was town-talk for a day or two, and caused a sensation almost equal to the recent balloon explosion at the Haymarket. Of course there were some caustic jokes made about old Simon and his young wife; and some witty epigrammatic puns on their names were composed for private circulation. Some base inuendoes were also uttered by certain masculines, who estimate female virtue by the low standard of their own moral perceptions or qualities; but as Lydia did not hear the scandalous remarks, she was not shocked by them.

After the excitement of receiving and returning calls was over, and Lydia had settled down to a quiet routine, she began to devise plans for employing her time and money usefully; and the dearly-bought experience of her uncle was called into practical use, to guide her in her philanthropic designs. Mr Goldstone spent a good deal of his time in his library; but, though studious, he was not mopish—far from it; he was very cheerful in her society, and was ever ready to give her advice on any subject she propounded, and all her plans for doing good met with his ready acquiescence.

Mr Balmer, or Uncle Will, as he was usually called, was a fine old English gentleman of fifty-seven summers. He had


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a comfortably portly frame, and was very active for his age. The first glance at his jovial-looking face would have assured any sensible person that there was not an atom of the crusty old bachelor in his composition, and any one who knew where to look for his bump of benevolence, would not be long in deciding that he “had a heart that could feel for another.” His twinkling black eyes seemed full of sympathy, intelligence, and fun; his manner was at all times open and confiding; and his disposition generous in the extreme. He had been tolerably rich at one time of his life; but through helping everybody but himself, he lost his money. But he did not lose his self-respect or his peace of mind; nor did he fret about his lost riches, in the maudlin hope of exciting pity. Whenever trials came from which he could not honourably escape, he would say, “It is all right. My Almighty Father knows what is best for me, and I am sure he will not suffer me to be afflicted beyond what is necessary to keep me humble. ‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.’ ”

Uncle Will might have embarked in business again, for several good friends offered to lend him the necessary capital; but he was averse to borrowing money, lest he should lose it; so he accepted a situation as clerk in a merchant's office, which post he filled for several years, until his niece persuaded him to resign it, and in her arch way told him he was to consider himself engaged to her as amanuensis, or “man Friday.”

Lydia had two rooms in her new house set apart for her uncle, furnished with everything she could think of to make him comfortable. She also insisted on his receiving £5 a week as pocket-money, for she knew the joy it afforded him to relieve distress in a quiet way. It would not have been an easy matter for a niece of mere ordinary tact to have induced Uncle Will to accept of such liberal bounty; but Lydia had such a happy way of managing him, that he could seldom resist her, and she almost did as she pleased with him. If he began to object to anything she proposed for his benefit, she would threaten to tickle him into submission; and he never could stand that infliction. She managed her husband in a similarly pleasant way; and it was fun to see the old men laughing at the sayings and doings of their merry little monitress in her whimsical efforts to “keep her two troublesome boys in order.”

Uncle Will was a quiet unobtrusive Christian. He lived a life of faith, and it was nearly always summer in his soul.


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He did not talk much about religion, unless it was to encourage a poor way-worn pilgrim, or to lead some benighted one into the light of truth; but his lamp was always burning, and its gladsome glow has led many around him to believe in the reality of the hope which enabled him to show a cheerful courage under losses and crosses, which would have bowed some men's spirits to the dust, or kept them enveloped in the gloom of despair. Such desponding ones may perhaps say, “It was natural for Uncle Will to show strong confidence in the supply of his daily wants, with such a niece, and such a home, and withal £5 a week of certain income.” It is true enough that it is easier for a sailor to trust in the strength of his ship's tackling in fine weather and smooth water, than it is when clawing off a lee-shore in a gale of wind; but a thorough sailor will never lose heart so long as he is outside of the breakers, and a thorough Christian will never cast away his faith in God so long as he is this side of the grave.

Uncle Will was a well-read man, but his life's guide-book was the Bible, and with it he was most intimately acquainted. He has often been heard to say, that he would not barter the store of Scriptural texts which he had in his memory for a nabob's fortune. His stock of psalms and hymns, too, was surprising, and he was very fond of singing. He did not object to secular music of a harmless kind, and his collection of old songs would have been a good stock-in-trade for a professional ballad-singer, but he was most partial to old-fashioned psalm-music. He was fond of children, and few things pleased him more than to have a bit of fun with a group of merry boys and girls, and for the time being he was a boy again, and leader of the frolics.

A warm attachment soon grew up between Uncle Will and Simon, and they spent much time together. It was both pleasing and instructive for Lydia to sit and hear the old men chat about the past and present affairs of the world; of the progress of scientific discovery, and the advancement of social and political reform. Occasionally the conversation would lead to remarks on the moral and religious movements of the age; but then she usually observed that her husband grew less eloquent than he had been upon other topics, and would courteously shift the subject, or propose some music or a game at chess, which interesting game both gentlemen played skilfully.

One afternoon, Lydia was sitting at her work-table, and her


  ― 327 ―
husband was reading aloud, as he often did, stopping occasionally to explain some passage which might appear abstruse to her less experienced mind. The book he had selected, and which was of engrossing interest to Lydia, was entitled “The Tongue of Fire.” After a while he suddenly ceased reading, and appeared to be in deep thought. Lydia did not disturb his reverie by asking him “what he was thinking of?” or “what was the matter with him?” or any of the silly sort of questions which some good wives are in the habit of teasing their husbands with when they wish to be left alone; so she noiselessly opened a scrap-book which lay on the centre table, and soon found something to interest her. Presently Simon remarked, “What have you there, my bird, that makes you smile so pleasantly?”

“Oh, I thought you were taking a nap, deary. You shall hear what I was smiling at; it may make you smile too. I fancy you are unusually dull this afternoon.”

“I am so, my child, but pray don't be uneasy; there is nothing very serious the matter. Read to me what so amused you a minute ago.” Lydia then read the subjoined extract, entitled “A Receipt for Low Spirits”:—

“Take an ounce of the seeds of resolution, mixed well with the oil of good conscience, infuse into it a large spoonful of the salts of patience; distil very carefully a composing plant called “others' woes,” which you will find in every part of the garden of life, growing under the broad leaves of disguise; add a small quantity, and it will greatly assist the salts of patience in their operation; gather a handful of the blossom of hope, then sweeten them properly with the balm of prudence; and if you can get any of the seeds of true friendship, you will then have the most valuable medicine that can be administered. But you must be careful to get some of the seeds of true friendship, as there is a seed very much like it called “self-interest,” which will spoil the whole composition. Make the ingredients into pills, take one night and morning, and the cure will be effected.”

“Ha, ha, ha!” laughed Lydia, “I will make a big boxful of those pills for family use. Now, Simmy!” she added, rising and stroking her husband's thin locks affectionately, “Tell me what made you look so thoughtful before I tickled your fancy, and made you laugh. Come, sir! tell me all about it this minute, or I shall surmise all sorts of funny things, and blame myself, of course, for that is quite natural.”

“It was merely a simple remark your uncle made last night that came into my mind all of a sudden. Nothing more, I assure you; so pray do not trouble yourself. Now, love, I


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think I should enjoy a nap for half-an-hour. Will you play over that pretty little song uncle and you were singing last night.”

Lydia placed a cushion behind her husband's head, then sat down to the piano and sang in a soft key, “A Day's March nearer Home!” When she had finished the song, Simon was asleep; so she glided out of the room, and joined her uncle, who was making some preparations on the lawn for fêting the children of the School of Industry on the ensuing day. After a few words of encouragement to her worthy relative on the admirable arrangements he was making for the entertainment of his youthful visitors, she told him of the singular depression which she had just observed in her husband, and asked her uncle the nature of their late conversation, for she feared they might have had some misunderstanding.

Uncle Will smiled as though it were gladsome news to him, and then replied kindly, “Don't distress yourself in the least, my dear. I think I can explain it all in a minute. I was talking with Simon last night about the various charitable institutions in the city that you and I have visited this week. I spoke of the urgent necessity there was for other establishments, especially a night refuge for the destitute and a home for the indigent blind,note when he remarked that he had an idea of endowing a night refuge for street vagrants; for, he added with a sigh, ‘I have a son for whose benefit I have wasted the best years of my life,—that is to say, I have toiled and pinched to hoard up money, in the blind belief that I was doing it for his benefit, and totally unconscious that I was thus cankering my own heart with selfishness and all kinds of hateful meanness that spring therefrom. That son is going to ruin as fast as he can go. His present reckless career, which he little thinks I am so well acquainted with, must inevitably end in misery and want, if it is not cut short by a sudden death. I am powerless to stop him in his reckless course, for I have no influence over him. I have resolved not to minister to his profligacy by bequeathing him money at my decease; but I should like to provide a home for him, or a roof where he might get shelter from the cold night storms, and not be necessitated, as so many unhappy creatures are, to lie out on the race-course, or under the trees in the Domain, when his miserable career draws near to its close.’




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“I replied,” continned Uncle Will, “that it was a praiseworthy forethought which other sorrowing parents in the land would do well to imitate; still, it was of comparatively small moment whether or not he had a roof to shelter his poverty-stricken body if his soul were prepared for the great hereafter. That is about the substance of what passed between Simon and me last night, Lyd. I was going to say a little more when the supper-bell rang. But as you will have to superintend the preparations for the juvenile feast, Lyd, I may have a little more close conversation with him this evening. He is evidently concerned for his own as well as for his son's soul.”

When tea was over, Lydia said she must go into the kitchen for an hour or two, to keep her maids at work; so the gentlemen were left together in the parlour. After a while, the subject of human happiness was broached, and an animated conversation ensued, in the course of which Simon quoted the following lines from Willis, as being in harmony with his own ideas on the subject of discussion:—

“ 'Tis to have
Attentive and believing faculties;
To go abroad rejoicing in the joy
Of beautiful and well-created things;
To love the voice of waters, and the sheen
Of silver fountains leaping to the sea;
To thrill with the rich melody of birds
Living their life of music; to be glad
In the gay sunshine, reverent in the storm;
To see a beauty in the stirring leaf,
And find calm thoughts beneath the whisp'ring tree;
To see, and hear, and breathe the evidence
Of God's deep wisdom in the natural world.”

“Very pretty thoughts certainly, and smoothly expressed, and my feelings vibrate to every word” said Mr Balmer. “I dearly love the works of nature, for in them I can trace the infinite wisdom of their Omnipotent Creator. Still, none of the wonders or beauties that I behold in the world around me, or in the starry skies above me, would bring to me individually the comforting assurance of the life of the world to come. God's holy Word alone reveals that to my heart. The book of nature is gloriously wonderful, but God's Word is life-breathing, and yields spiritual joy unspeakable to the humble believer.”

“The Bible is a wondrously mysterious book,” remarked


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Simon, with an inquiring glance at the glowing face of his friend.

“I presume you have read it extensively, Mr Goldstone?”

“Yes, sir, from beginning to end, over and over again; but I sadly confess that I do not understand it as you do. I have also read the philosophy of many astute thinkers and the arguments of learned controversialists without number, but my obtuseness is not removed.”

“There are many things in the Bible that are hard to be understood; still, there is an inexhaustible fund of truth which the simplest mind can receive, if the Scriptures be searched with a sincere desire to know God's will, and with earnest prayer to Him for spiritual enlightenment. That poor old cripple to whom you gave a greatcoat this afternoon is but barely able to read, and yet he could tell you more about the spiritual power of God's Word than you would learn from the works of all the learned rationalistic writers whom you named to me the other day.”

“I daresay you are right, Mr Balmer. I do sincerely wish I could derive the same amount of light and comfort that you get in reading the Bible,” said Mr Goldstone, with a sigh. “I have often been overwhelmed with wonder at some parts of it, but I have never experienced a comforting feeling; and I have, when reading other parts, been subject to influences that I should not like to name. How is this?”

“Let me repeat what I heard a minister say a few Sundays ago in the course of an able sermon, which I shall never forget,” remarked Mr Balmer. “The reverend gentleman modestly premised that the following figurative exposition was addressed to the boys of the college of which he is Principal; but I think it may be addressed to many boys outside of his college, and to a multitude of old folks as well. He said, when expatiating on the inestimable qualities of God's holy Word, “There are some things in the Bible which I should not have put there if I had written the book; but God is wiser than I, and He has seen fit to put them there with a good purpose, no doubt. Suppose a garden, stocked with choice flowers, had in one corner of it a carrion carcase. If a bee and a blow-fly entered that garden, the bee would sip honey from the flowers but would not touch the carrion, while the blow-fly would go straightway to the corner where the carcase was, and perhaps not even stop to light on a flower. The Bible is like a rich parterre; and when we see any one leaving


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the flowers which abound therein for those excrescences which are doubtless left there for admonition and warning, we see at once that he is certainly not a bee. Those parts which I, in my short-sighted judgment, would have left out are perhaps put in the book for us to test ourselves by, to see whether we are bees or blow-flies.”

“Alas! I fear that I have been a blow-fly!” said Simon, with a mournful look.

“Pardon me, Mr Goldstone. I did not mean to be personal. I am very sorry that”——

“The figure aptly applies to me, sir,” interrupted Simon; “and you need not be sorry for having quoted it, but quite the contrary. It is exactly my case; and perhaps it would equally apply to many of the learned sceptics whose writings I have studied with far more earnestness than I have studied God's Word itself. Yes, Mr Balmer; those rationalistic writers that I named are blow-flies; and I would at this moment give all I possess if I could wholly rid my mind of the infidel dogmas they have blown into it, to the destruction of my present peace, and the blighting of my hope of happiness in the world to come.”

“God's Word will show you the way to find a peace that passes all understanding,” Mr Goldstone.

“Yes; I believe that is true, sir. I thank God for the spark of true light which I now possess, but I long for more than a spark; I want to ‘be enlightened with the light of the living.’ ”

“Seek, and you shall find,” said Mr Balmer.

“Yes, sir, I will seek; I will search the Scriptures diligently, and with humble prayer to God to open my eyes ‘that I may behold wondrous things out of His law.’ I am grateful to you, Mr Balmer, for the Christian counsel which you have given me from time to time, and for the consistent example you have shown me, which has perhaps had more influence upon me than mere precept. Oh, that I had met with such a faithful friend as you fifty years ago! What a multitude of sins might have been hidden or prevented. But, thank God! it is not too late to turn to Him, though it be the eleventh hour.”

“I am joyful, indeed, that I have, in my humble way, been instrumental to your spiritual enlightenment, Mr Goldstone. It is the duty of every Christian to speak a ‘word in season;’ and a powerful incentive is given him to do so in the very


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text which you have just now partially quoted—the last words the apostle James wrote. By the way, I have a sermon by a great preacher from that very text; and if you will allow me, I will read you a short passage which particularly struck me, showing the wonderful influence of individual effort under the providential guidance of Almighty God.”

Mr Goldstone intimated his desire to hear the passage referred to; so Mr Balmer read as follows:—

“Oh! you do not know what you do when you convert a soul. Think of death, the death of the body—nay, that is nothing; think of the death of the soul, more terrible far than the death of the body. Saving a soul from death! And then, that is not all; you stop the train of evil. Save one soul, and you save all the souls whom that one soul would have corrupted, and all the souls whom that one soul will reclaim. The influence is mighty, and goes spreading on like the ripple of a lake, until the only stoppage to the circulation is the boundary of the lake itself. There, in the far-off olden time, is the pious mother teaching the lessons of gospel truth to her child from the Dutch tiles upon the mantel-piece. The seed enters into his heart; he grows up and becomes a minister of the gospel, and his name is Philip Doddridge. The mother dies; but the son lives, and his works live, and he writes ‘The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul;’ and that work has a large circulation, and enters into the heart of a rich man, wise, valiant, honourable, reputable, and full of everything that the world covets and enjoys; it is like an arrow in a sure place, and it makes an impression upon him which issues in his conversion, and that man was William Wilberforce; and he wrote a book entitled ‘Practical Christianity,’ which, from the position and antecedents of the writer, gets a large circulation too; and north and south, and east and west, the copies fly; and far down in the south, they get into the hands of a man, and give him clearer views of godliness than he has ever known before, and that man is Legh Richmond; and he writes ‘The Dairyman's Daughter,’ which has gone, by God's good hand, converting thousands upon thousands instrumentally, from that day to this. And then, far up in the north again, in a country manse of Scotland, that book falls into the hands of a minister who has been preaching a gospel that he did not know; it gave him clearer views of truth, and brought him to the feet of Jesus; and with what power and vigour did he


  ― 333 ―
proclaim the truth! His name was Thomas Chalmers; and all Scotland rings with the testimony which he bore for the truth of Christ. You do not know what you do, when you convert a soul.”

“That is very wonderful,” said Simon. “I have been thinking while you were reading, Mr Balmer, that if I could influence my old friend Roberts, what a deal of evil it might prevent, for he has a great influence over many young men. But stay—I must first learn the way of holiness myself before I presume to teach others.”

“Christ is the way, Mr Goldstone; and He has promised wisdom to all who lack it. ‘Ask, and ye shall receive.’ ”

Lydia just then tapped at the door to say that supper was ready; so the interesting conversation terminated.




  ― 334 ―

Chapter VIII.

A summary of Ben Goldstone's doings since his marriage.—His commercial transactions with Mr Stubble.—Poor Maggie's domestic misery.—Biddy Flynn's sympathy.

TO attempt a clear and comprehensive explanation of Ben Goldstone's financial progress for the three years succeeding his marriage would be fruitless, for he himself boastfully declared that he would defy a lawyer to fathom his schemes, and in his poetical moods he has often exclaimed, “Deep as the d——l is Benjamin?” Assuming that Ben was right for once, it would scarcely be a pleasant investigation, if it were practicable, to get to the bottom of his affairs; so, I shall take a mere surface glance at them, which will be deep enough for my purpose.

The cash which he held as private banker for Mr Stubble, and his winnings from Nabal Samms, had, by a little jingling manipulation, gained him the reputation of being a capitalist. How he had acquired the money, no one took the liberty to inquire; that was of but little consequence compared with the fact that he had money, which no one could doubt who was in his company for five minutes. He soon became a man of mark in sporting and in commercial circles, especially as he manifested a lively disposition to sport or to speculate with his capital. All the brokers in town regarded him as a desirable client; and though for a time directors were as shy of his paper as sly old fish are of a bare hook, after a while any of the banks would discount his bills as eagerly as a red bream would bite at a yellow-tail. He was on familiar terms with all the “horsey” men in the metropolis, and was better known at Tattersall's than Tattersall himself.

His active superintendence of repairs to the old house in Slumm Street had been helpful to him, inasmuch as it showed that he was on good terms with his wealthy sire; and he contrived to induce the current belief that he had the supervision of the whole of his father's property. It was also quietly


  ― 335 ―
rumoured that he had got £5000 cash down with his wife. Mr Stubble was quite prepared to give £2000 to his daughter for a marriage-portion; indeed he had a notion that money was always expected to be forthcoming at marriage in high life; but as Ben did not even hint at it, Joe refrained from opening the subject. It was not extreme modesty, however, which kept Ben silent; but he was desirous of impressing his father-in-law with the idea that he had plenty of money of his own. He shrewdly estimated that he would get whatever cash he wanted from Joe if he went carefully to work; in short, all Ben's acts showed him to be a calculating youth. The carriage and horses, for instance, cost him nearly £200; but he received more than that sum as quiet commission from the upholsterer, the tailor, and the contractor who repaired the house. Thus he made Mr Stubble pay for the turn-out; while he, Ben, had the credit of being uncommonly liberal, and considerate in the extreme. The additional prestige which the carriage gave to the family was a collateral advantage to Ben, and helpful to his plans for getting his name up.

Bob Stubble, although aware of Ben's difficulty in raising money to meet the bills payable to Mr Stubble, did not suspect him of being more than temporarily short of cash. Bob's disagreement with his parents, and his subsequent departure from the colony, prevented him from knowing anything more of Ben's movements; and his desire to spare his sister's feelings prevented him from explaining what he did know of Ben's disreputable method of making money, and of his general lack of moral principle.

The bill for £2500 was duly honoured, and thus a dead weight of prejudice was removed from Mr Stubble's mind against that species of paper currency; and sundry minor speculations which he entered upon having turned out profitable, he was stimulated to launch out upon his credit, instead of nervously confining himself to simple cash transactions, which Ben designated as a mere cheap-butcher's style of doing business. Mr Stubble was induced to go largely into store cattle, which were then selling at a temptingly low figure. To obtain the ready cash, it was deemed necessary to resort to a common device well known as “kite-flying,” which Ben assured his credulous relative was all right so long as his bank directors did not find it out; but even if they did know it, it was no matter, provided he were well into their books, or stood well in their opinion as a man of capital.


  ― 336 ―
The cattle were sent, in convenient mobs, overland to Melbourne, and arrived there at a favourable time of scarcity; and the speculation netted nearly £7000 profit. Mr Stubble was naturally elated at that piece of good luck; and it gained him considerable éclat with certain sharp men of business, who usually respect men who make money.

Another venture in shipping cattle to New Zealand, when Ben went as supercargo, was not so fortunate, for expenses were enormously heavy; nevertheless, the transaction left a small profit, which was better than a loss, as Ben facetiously remarked.

The next speculation was the purchase of a vessel for a trading voyage to the South Sea Islands. Ben predicted large gains from that venture, as he had some knowledge of the islands; but he never cared to give the particulars of his experience for special reasons not delicate to mention. Mr Stubble did not enter heartily into that venture, because the principal article of trade was inferior spirits, and he had seen a good deal of mischief caused by that commodity in the bush. It was some time before he would be persuaded that there was any difference, in a moral point of view, between the sly grog-cart of the bush-hawker and the spirit-laden schooner of the island trader; but Ben, with his peculiar logic, demonstrated that the distinction was as clear as “Old Tom” itself; for the former traffic was confined to a low class of fellows, whose only capital were their carts and the rubbish in their kegs; whereas the latter trade was made respectable by the countenance and support of men who carried high heads in the community, and who helped to make wholesome laws for us all. As for what was said and written about the demoralising influence of the trade on the poor islanders, that was all bosh; a mere missionary outcry that nobody heeded. The natives in general were free and independent men, though they were half-naked; and they had as much right to drink what they pleased as the enlightened citizens of Sydney, for whose convenience the Government sanctioned the licensing of more than half-a-thousand public-houses. “Besides, daddy, you surely don't mean to set yourself up as a greater moralist than Mr Gall Deacon, or a more profound political economist than Mr Bobton?” said Ben, as a wind-up to his argument.

“Not I, Ben. I bean't half as good or as knowing as either of them. I never said I was.”




  ― 337 ―

“Very well, then; Bobton has I don't know how many vessels in the island trade, and has been making money hand over fist, as sailors say, for many years past; and as for Gall Deacon, everybody knows that he is a large importer of spirits; and I should like to know who would presume, on any Sunday morning, to say black is the white of his eye.”

At those two veritable examples Mr Stubble's conscientious scruples began to waver; Ben's confident assertion, too, that the spec was like coining money, was a powerful stimulus to the love of gain, which lurks in every heart; and finally Joe's scruples were silenced, if not wholly removed.

“Hooker has a brig to sell dirt cheap, daddy; and we can get her on terms. She is an old clumbung; but never mind, she will answer our purpose as well as if she were A 1. It is the fine-weather season, you know, and we are not going to load her as deep as a collier; besides, she has first-rate pumps, and a life-boat on her port davits.”

The Bumbee was bought, and afterwards was “thoroughly refitted;” that is to say, she was smartened up with paint and pitch, and her rigging was rubbed down with the best tar. A sailor had a severe fall to the deck, through boldly trusting his whole weight on the foot-rope of the fore-top-gallant yard; but he was carefully carried to the accident ward of the infirmary. The marine surveyor was not quite satisfied with the Bumbee's ground-tackle, and ordered another cable to be put on board; so Ben bought an old one very cheap, and chuckled at his cleverness in cheating the surveyor, for the chain was not strong enough to tether a cow, though it looked nice and heavy.

The Bumbee had a light cargo, judiciously stowed on her ballast, though her published manifest showed that she had a prodigious load for her tonnage. That discrepancy could only have been explained by Ben and a few of his allies, if any inquiry had been made about it. The ship and cargo were comfortably insured, and Ben started on his voyage with an old school-fellow for a skipper, a young gentleman who knew more nautical manœuvres than are referred to in “Norrie's Epitome of Navigation,” and as jolly a dog as ever kicked a common sailor.

The Bumbee never returned to Sydney; but Benjamin returned in about six months, with his captain and crew, and demonstrated, beyond all legal controversy, to the underwriters, that the brig had struck a rock, “not laid down in


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any chart,” off Tonga-taboo; and as she soon afterwards sank in deep water, a survey was impracticable. The insurance was duly paid; and though Mr Stubble thought the transaction entailed a slight loss, Benjamin secretly knew that it left a large profit; and he had had a pleasantly exciting cruise into the bargain. How it was possible to make profit out of a total wreck, I shall not stay to consider; but I daresay there are both shippers and ship-owners in this part of the world who could explain the process, anomalous as it may seem.

An extensive shipment to California of sour beer, with a forged label on the bottles, purporting it to be the double-stout of a well-known London brewer, did not turn out a favourable speculation in any way. The sailors, with the proclivity which their class have for testing liquid cargo, broke bulk on the voyage, and got the cholera morbus for their pains; so the whole parcel of pseudo XXX was condemned by the Board of Health at Honolula, having previously been terribly becursed by the surviving sailors on board ship. Mr Stubble really knew nothing of that nefarious transaction beyond bearing his share of the loss; the whole affair was managed by Benjamin and a certain agent in town, whose turn for polished knavery was only equalled by Benjamin himself, and by their mutual ally, whose name it is not polite to write in plain English.

A clearing-out speculation in American ware, which Blarney the broker coaxed Mr Stubble to enter upon, gave him a good deal of anxiety, for he knew nothing about “Yankee notions,” and subsequent heavy importations of similar goods had so glutted the market that, to quote a broker's phrase, “they could not be placed so as to leave a favourable margin.” The bright faces of Joe's wooden clocks were getting dulled with mildew, and his fresh lobsters began to smell suspiciously stale; the rats were eating his dried apples by wholesale, and store rent was gradually eating up everything, to say nothing of interest of money lying dead. Altogether it was a very depressing affair, when, as if to crown Joe's troubles, a disastrous fire one night consumed the building in which the unfortunate goods were stored. Poor Joe was in a sad state of excitement while the fire was blazing, and burnt his fingers badly in carrying hot “notions” from the building; for as he did not know they were covered by insurance, he exerted himself like a salvage thief to save what he could. But Ben


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presently eased his mind by calling him a fool for trying to save the goods, as they were fully insured. “The origin of the fire was unknown.”

Benjamin's efforts to sell his father's house in Slumm Street to Mr Stubble were unsuccessful. Mrs Stubble firmly opposed the purchase at any price, for it was in an intolerably low neighbourhood, and not fit for any genteel family to live in. To Ben's reminder that he was born in the house, Peggy sharply replied she did not doubt it; and it was also clear to her that she should die in the house if she stayed there much longer, for the stench from the drains was strong enough to kill a pig. Furthermore, she remarked, “if Mr Stubble wanted to get rid of her, the safest way he could do it would be to buy the house, and she would say no more about it.”

That, of course, settled the question; but it did not affect Ben as much as it might have done under other circumstances, for he had contrived to get Mr Stubble mixed up with him in so many extensive transactions that he knew it was impossible for that gentleman to withdraw his capital, if he were ever so much inclined thereto. Ben had several accommodating friends in town, who were willing at any time to lend him their names in exchange for his own or Mr Stubble's; thus he found no difficulty in raising money to any extent he wished, and his swaggering importance was more than ever manifest. Mr Stubble was so much engaged with his political and social reform movements, that he did not look carefully into Ben's transactions; and as he managed to show a profit on almost every venture by a “cooking” process in which he was skilled, Joe was lulled into a fancied security, and actually believed he was making money in an easy way, quite as fast as some of the Sydney merchants, who were plodding with body and mind at their legitimate calling.

It soon became known to the astute Zachary that Mr Stubble was entangled in the nets of a coterie of kite-flyers, who were notoriously rotten, and some of them were roguishly inclined too. The commercial relationship between Mr Stubble and his son-in-law was not clearly understood; but it was not deemed expedient to sift the mystery, lest Joe might take umbrage, and shift his account. Bankers have a peculiar delicacy in making obtrusive inquiries into the dealings of clients of whose present stability there are tangible evidences; and it is not their business to caution rash customers, and run


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the risk of actions at law for defamation. That would never pay dividends and bonuses!

In the meantime, Benjamin had been doing what he called a stroke or two in various ways, of which Mr Stubble knew nothing at all. In the first place, he had helped to clear out Nabal Samms; and that young spendthrift retired into obscurity with a blotched face, a broken constitution, and an allowance of a pound a week from his mother. Ben had also made his appearance on the Melbourne turf as an amateur book-maker, but the sporting Victorians were too knowing for him; he was “hit hard,” and lost a large sum of money. In trying to win some of it back at the billiard-table, he lost more. His skill at cards had never failed him in ordinary society; so he tried his sharpest tricks, but was detected in a minute by men who knew twice as much as himself in that way. He was unmercifully kicked and bonneted, and only escaped scalping or gouging by his superior powers of running. Those mishaps, and many other mishaps and exploits during his ten weeks' stay in Victoria, he kept secret from Mr Stubble, who believed that his zealous son-in-law went to Melbourne solely for the purpose of seeing after an agent to whom they had consigned a quantity of horse feed. The agent in question was so tardy in making a return for the corn, that Mr Stubble began to fear it had slipped his memory, or that he had slipped off himself, never to return; so Benjamin volunteered to go and “touch him up.”

Poor Maggie's connubial experience was an unhappy one indeed. Scarcely had a month elapsed from her weddingday ere she was the object of an unlooked-for outburst of passion on the part of her husband which almost broke her heart. Anxiety for his personal safety had induced her to set out very late one night, in company with Biddy, in search of him. She met him a short distance from their house, staggering homeward intoxicated; and his wrath at being, as he said, “watched by his wife,” was so furious that even courageous Biddy tremblingly muttered that she “had niver heard the like afore from any sane man who worn't stark mad.’

That was the beginning of Maggie's sorrows. A record of her subsequent sufferings would not be pleasant reading to any one; so I shall not write more of it than the interest of my story demands.

The day after the stormy ebullition just noticed. Ben


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seemed sorry for his conduct, but tried to excuse it by saying that he always got ruffled if he felt that prying eyes were upon him. Maggie hung upon his neck, and with choking utterance promised never to go out to look for him again, if he were ever so late; and implored him not to say such dreadful things to her again, for she could not bear them. He said he was very sorry, and would never do so any more; so Maggie dried her tears, and tried to look happy again.

But Ben was a tippler, and his disease had reached that chronic stage which is marked by a perpetual craving for alcoholic excitement. At the first blush of morning light he took a dram from a bottle at his bedside, and throughout the day he kept up the steam with nobblers out of number. It is pretty well known that steam will have vent in some way or other; and Ben's alcoholic vapour often blew off in noisy jets of choler, and especially if those near to him were not able or willing to retort upon him in his own abusive style. He usually kept the lever of policy on the escape-valve during his intercourse with business men of influence, or with his sporting associates, whom it was expedient to avoid offending; but when he entered his home, the most insignificant cause, the smallest screw loose in the domestic machinery, was enough to lift the valve and let the steam off with a vengeance, and then his wife and the servants had to flee for their lives and limbs. The walls of his dining-room had many marks of broken tumblers, and other dangerous missiles, which he had thrown at the heads of the scampering objects of his sudden outbursts; and fractured furniture bore palpable indication of the destructive power of the high-pressure steam which I have figuratively alluded to. Before six months of wedded life passed, Ben had, in his seasons of temporary madness, torn his wife's treasured bridal attire into shreds, and demolished many of the valued presents which she received on her wedding-day; but worse than all, the bright girl, whom he had solemnly vowed to love and cherish, had more than once been smitten to the floor by blows from his heavy fist.

After the birth of her son, Maggie's health began to fail. For a short period her husband was less violent in his demeanour, and treated her more kindly; but it was only a brief season of peace, for he soon relapsed into his old courses, and she became a neglected, broken-spirited wife. Like a fragile flower blasted by a cold wind, her beauty was gone, and her poor thin face was prematurely wrinkled by sorrow


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and suffering. It is true that she had sometimes shown her old sullen temper, which is not surprising; but Ben coarsely vowed to stamp that out of her, and he succeeded in doing it. Very soon she was thoroughly subdued—cowed down, as he called it; and then her pensive looks were usually attributed to sullenness, which he assayed to cure by absenting himself from home for a week or more, to give her time to have her sulky fit out.

Amid all her troubles Maggie never spoke of them to any one except to Biddy, who she knew was too shrewd not to observe all that was going on in that unhappy home. Biddy had often interposed to shield her mistress from violence, and at such times she gave the “masther” a bit of her mind in her own style, which made him quail before her. She had many times been ordered to leave the house instanter, but she resolutely declared that she would “stop and be murthered forty times afore she wud lave Miss Maggie.” On one memorable occasion, after savagely knocking his wife down, and then kicking her, Ben attempted to put Biddy out of the room by main force, when she turned on him like an infuriated cat, and he was glad to escape from her teeth and nails, which he found were even sharper than her tongue.

“Och! dash it all, Miss Maggie! Where is all yer spirit gone to at all?” exclaimed Biddy, in an excited manner, after the fierce contest above alluded to, and Ben had left the house. “Shure I've sane the day whin ye wudn't sit still to be knocked down and kicked by the like of”—— Here the little woman checked herself, and running up, clasped Maggie in her arms with a mother's fondness. “Ah, acushla! I didn't mane to say half as much as that, but it slipped out onknown'st to me. I know ye're ill and downhearted, honey; and ye've got no more pluck in yez nor a little kid, God help ye. I won't shpake agin in that way, whatever comes; so chare up, jewel, and don't ye frit about me the laste bit in life. I won't rin away from yez, niver fear, though I sed as much awhile agone, when I was close up cranky.”

“You are very, very kind, Biddy; and I am sure you would not willingly say a word to wound any one.”

“That's true for ye, honey! I wudn't say half a word, iv it didn't slip out afore I cud stop it. Still an' all, I ain't so out an' out particular as the ould lady I heard tell ov once't. She was niver known to say a bad word against anybody at


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all, black or white. One day some ov her boys an' gals were talkin' about the ould lady's vartues, an' one of 'em sed, ses he, ‘I sartinly belave our dear ould granny wud have summat good to say even ov Satan himself.’ ‘Here she comes, an' I'll tell her what you say,’ sed another broth of a boy. So whin the ould lady came in, he up an' told her that brother Jack had had the imperence to say that she wud shpake a good word for the d——l. ‘Well, my dear children,’ sed the darling ould crayther, widout stopping to think for an instant, ‘I wish we all had Satan's industry and perseverance.’

“Now, that's jist what I say meself,” added Biddy. “Satan is all there for work—bad luck to him! an' it's busy enough he's been lately wid your own unfort'nate family, Miss Maggie. But I won't shpake any more, honey, lest I say summat sharp agin him, for I don't like him a morsel, an' that's a fact; an' sure I've got a strong wakeness for sayin' out what I've got aginst anybody, 'stead ov kapin' a lot ov savagery in me brist to make me look as sour as pickled cabbage.”




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Chapter IX.

Maggie's illness.—Biddy's gentle nursing and soothing counsel.—Poor Percy.—Ben Goldstone's villany.—Heavy trouble looming over the Stubble family.

“NOW, Miss Maggie, sip a small tashte ov this nice beef-tay, what I've jist made meself,” said Biddy Flynn, one afternoon a few weeks after the scene described in the last chapter, as she entered a bed-room in Ben Goldstone's house, where Maggie sat, propped up with pillows, in an arm-chair.

“Whisha! What, cryin' agin, is it, honey? Ah! don't ye kape on doin' that same, or ye'll break me poor ould heart intirely; so ye will. An' what is it as is frittin' ye now, darlint?” continued Biddy, with a look of tender interest.

“Shure, I see what's the matther widout axin' yez. Ye've bin to the bottom drawer beyont, an' I thought it was locked up safe enough. An' didn't I ax yez not to stir half-an-inch till I came back agin?”

“Poor Percy!” exclaimed Maggie, bursting into tears; at the same time a little velvet cap dropped from under her wrapper. During the brief absence of her faithful attendant, Maggie had opened a drawer in her wardrobe which was full of precious relics, the clothing and toys of her late beloved boy, her only child and her heart's idol, who had died very suddenly about five weeks before. The velvet cap was a birth-day present from Maggie to little Percy when he attained his second year.

“Hush! a-cushla! Don't think ov him at all till ye git strong again,—but it's onpossible for ye not to do that, I'm thinkin', for none ov us can't conquer natur' intirely; but don't ye frit so sorrowfully, honey! Poor Percy is all right, an' safe, an' happy, niver fear; aye, an' tin times more honoured nor if the mighty Queen of England had got him nursed to sleep in her lap.”

“The last words he spoke were, ‘Dood-night, mamma!’ ” sobbed Maggie. “I felt a sad presentiment when I put him


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into his cot that evening, that something would happen to him very soon. He was too beautiful to live long: too much like an angel to stay in this cruel world. Poor little Percy!”

“Hush, darlint! Don't cry so harrd. 'Deed, thin, he was a beautiful boy,” said Biddy, wiping her eyes. “But shure, Miss Maggie, he's twinty hundred times more beautifuller now, for God's glory is shining on him. He is up in heaven, safe enough, out of the way ov trouble altogether; an' it's aisy he got there too, for he died whin he was asleep. Yis, yis; he's safe, not a doubt of it, for he didn't stay long enough in the worrld to larn wickedness, not the laste bit in life; so there was nothin' for him but to go to glory in a twinkling, and not a worrd sed till him at all, save lovely words of welcome; and isn't that a happy thing for him, honey?”

“Oh, yes, indeed; that is a great comfort,” sobbed Maggie. “But do you think that all little children go to heaven, Biddy?”

“Troth, I do think so, darlint! an' I've wished all me lifetime that I had died whin I was a little innocent babby. Hisht now, whiles I tell yez what our good parson sed t'other day in the church, ony I'm fear'd I can't remember the illigant way he sed it. Ses he, ‘When all the people that iver lived in the worrld shall stand before God's awful bar at the great judgment-day,—and some on 'em looking mighty scared, no doubt,—thin there will be a wide opening made up the middle of the crowd; the big folks will have to stand back right and left, and thin millions of little shining children will come flying up the open space, singing like birds of heaven; an' God Almighty will smile at 'em, an' bid 'em come up close beside Himself, for there is no judgment for thim to hear, bekase they niver did no sin.’ Isn't that a nice pleasant thought, Miss Maggie? It is so. So all the young children will be right enough, an' darlint little Percy will be amongst that blessed flock; and ye'll see him there too. Now isn't that lovely to think about? Doesn't it comfort yer heart, honey? That it does, I'll ingage.”

“Yes, Biddy, it is very consoling. I know he is better off than he could possibly be with me.”

“Betther off! 'Deed, thin, he is so, a million times or more; for supposin' he had growed up to be the 'Torney-General, or the right reverend Bishop himself, he wouldn't be nigh hand so safe as he is now. An' thin, on the other hand, suppose he had growed up to be like his——like no end of poor


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craythers who are crawling along to perdition, through a lifetime of misery. Och! I can't bear to think ov that for half a minute,—to picture precious Percy an awful wicked man. I can't do it at all; an' yit many unlucky parents have lived to see the like: God help 'em. But your blessed boy is safe enough, thank God. So don't ye grieve any more about him, jewel.”

“I will try to think of your comforting words, Biddy; and I will not cry any more, if I can help it. From the lessons I have had in the world, I should feel happy that my dear child is thus early removed from it; but we cannot always make reason overcome feeling, you know.”

“That's true enough, honey. All the rayson in the worrld wudn't cure rheumatism; an' be the same token, it isn't raysonable to expect a mother not to feel the loss ov her child. I know that well enough; 'deed, thin, she wudn't be very tinder iv she didn't do that. Still an' all, it's betther to be lookin' up at yer living treasure in heaven, nor it is to be thinkin' ov the marble-cowld body underground.”

“Yes, that is very true, Biddy; and I will try to look upwards instead of looking downwards. I wish you would put that black dress of mine away somewhere. I cannot wear it, you know, and I do not like to see it.”

“Nor I don't like to see it naythir, Miss Maggie,” said Biddy, as she hung the dress in the wardrobe, and closed the door. “What on earth folks want to wear black dresses for whin their friends go to heaven, bates my understanding intirely; so it does. Our parson sad t'other day, ses he, ‘People wear black at funerals when they ought to wear white, an' strew the grave wid flowers. Angels were at the grave of Jesus; and shure, angels are often at the graves ov our friends too; only we can't see 'em, bekase our eyes are full ov tears.’ It's my opinion that crape an' the like was only invinted to pick the pockets ov poor unfort'nate widees an' orphans. But I won't shpake any more now, Miss Maggie, bekase I want ye to have a nap; ye didn't sleep a single wink last night.” Biddy then drew the window-curtains, so as to darken the room; and sat down to watch in silence beside her suffering mistress.…

“How long have I been asleep, Biddy?” asked Maggie, opening her eyes and gazing on her faithful attendant, who had moved to a seat by the window, and was sewing.

“How long is it, darlint? Why, not more nor an hour.


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Hisht now! try and sleep a little bit longer; it wull do ye a power ov good.”

“I cannot sleep again now, Biddy; my side is very painful. Will you change the wet bandage for me?”

“To be shure I wull, honey! I was jist thinkin' to ax ye to let me do it, soh. Och, musha! an' this place looks worser an' worser, so it does,” exclaimed Biddy, as she applied a wet cloth to a large bruise on Maggie's right side. “Ye'd betther be lettin' me fitch a docther to look at this, honey! It's gittin' beyont my gumption.”

“No, no, Biddy! pray don't get a doctor. Ma would be sure to hear of it, and I could not then prevent her knowing the cause of my illness, and there would be dreadful work. I think it will get well if I keep wet cloths constantly applied to it.”

“Yis, ye sed that ten days agone, jewel; but it's my belief it's beyond the power ov simple cowld wather to cure ye ov that ugly kick anyhow. It's a spiteful looking”——

“Hush, Biddy. Don't call it a kick again,” said Maggie, with tears in her eyes. “I would not have anybody know it for the world.”

“Shure, I'm not goin' to tell anybody about it, darlint, for yer own sake. Not I indeed; an' I won't say it agin; so don't ye frit. There now, that's nice an' cool. How do you feel now, dear?”

“I think I am a little easier now, thank you. Which way is the wind blowing, Biddy?”

“It's blowing mighty shtrong, Miss Maggie; an' the masther wull have a rale knockin' about iv he is on board the shtamer now, so he wull. He'd raythir be ridin' a horse widout a saddle, I'll ingage.”

“Is it a fair wind, Biddy?”

“Not it, honey! It's foul enough for anythin', an' it's rainin' like peas an' beans. This is the right sort ov weather for wicked sinners to go to sea, bekase they sometimes say their prayers when they are afear'd ov being drownded. I've sane 'em at it meself; an' perhaps it wud have been a good thing for some ov 'em iv they had gone straight down to the bottom jist thin, poor sowls; for, maybe, they niver prayed agin, afther 'em got on shore.”

“Benjamin said in his letter that he would be in Sydney to-night, for he has some particular matter to see papa about;


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but he will probably go away again to-morrow night, to finish his business in the country.”

“Ugh! more luck ta him!” muttered Biddy to herself as she drew up the blinds to lighten the room. “An' iv he'd shtop away till I sind for him, he'd have a pritty long spell in the country.”

“You had better go and get the tea ready Biddy; and tell Mary to light a fire in the breakfast-parlour, and to put her master's slippers on the fender. He will be wet and cold if he comes home.”

“Aye, and as snappish as a trapped dingo, forbye,” muttered Biddy, but she audibly replied, “yes, honey! I'll go and attend to it all this minute, an' I'll bring you a cup ov tay in here firsht an' foremost.” Away went Biddy on her errand, leaving Maggie reclining on a chair with her hand pressed to her aching side.

The bruise, which Biddy said was the exact shape of a boot-heel, was caused by the brutal kick from Ben which I have before alluded to. Though Biddy was witness to the act, and had remarked, “it was a marcy it did not kick the life out ov the poor crayther intirely,” she was not aware that Maggie suffered so severely from its effects, until a fortnight afterwards, when she could no longer conceal it. She firmly refused to call in medical aid, and Biddy had perseveringly applied her sovereign specific, cold water. The pain continued to increase, however, and inflammatory symptoms appearing, Biddy had a strong doubt if it were right for her to treat the case any longer, and resolved that if the patient were not better the next day, she would fetch a doctor, whether her mistress sanctioned the act or not.

About ten o'clock that evening Goldstone arrived home, very wet and suffering from the effects of sea-sickness. He said the steamer had had an awful rough passage, and was under water half the time. To the joyful surprise of all in the house, he was unusually passive, and nobody heard him swear. There was even a show of tenderness in his manner at meeting his emaciated wife, who gave him a loving embrace, and said not a word to him about her bruised side.

After partaking of some refreshment, Ben explained that he had come to Sydney for the purpose of getting money to pay for a large mob of horses which he had bought in the Hunter district, and which he was making arrangements to ship direct for the Indian market. It was necessary, he said, for him to


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return to Newcastle by the next evening's steamer, as the venders of the horses would be there to meet him. He further stated that he should not be away more than a week, and on his return to Sydney he would take her (Maggie) to the Currajong for a change.

Early on the following morning Ben rode over to Double Bay to see his father-in-law before he went into town. Mr Stubble was startled when Ben told him the large sum of money he wanted to pay for the horses, and said he could not see how to manage it and meet all the bills coming due at the end of next week.

“In less than a week's time all the horses will be on board ship, and then you can hypothecate them.”

“Do what to them?” asked Mr Stubble.

“Not skin and eat them, daddy,” said Ben, laughing at Joe's inquiring look. “I mean that you can draw against the bills of lading, through your bank.”

“I tell you what it is, Benjamin,” said Mr Stubble, firmly; “I be almost sick and tired of drawing upon the bank, as you call it. I would as soon have a tooth drawn out as draw anything from anybody on credit. I am not used to this sort of thing, and it bothers my head more than I can bear. I am going off my appetite, and can't sleep at night, and am getting as thin and miserable as a blackfellow's dog; and it is all caused by anxiety of mind. I wish I had never seen a bill in my life, or had naught to do with city business.”

“It is nonsense talking in that way, father. Bills have been very handy to you in raising money to carry on with. Have you not made £12,000, or more, since you came to Sydney?”

“I don't know what I have made or what I have lost, Benjamin; but if I had the money that I brought to Sydney safely in my pocket, I should be glad enough to go back to the country again; and if I did not live in style, I should have peace and comfort.”

“I cannot believe that you have any cause to complain of city life, daddy. See the position you have made.”

“Well, it's no use argifying with me, Ben. I bean't fit for my position, and I have found that out before to-day. Put me on a farm or a station, and I know how to manage as well as many men; but the constant worry of money concerns, and puzzling business that I be got into, has pretty nearly withered my head; and if I don't soon alter my way of life, I shall go crazy altogether.”




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“You will not have any worry after I have shipped off the horses; so cheer up, old man! I will return to Sydney as soon as I can, and take all the mercantile affairs off your hands, and leave you to go on with your social reform and your parliamentary work, for which you are so well adapted.”

“I don't believe I be adapted for it at all, Ben; and I was a simpleton to be talked into it. There bean't no more think in my head than there is in a horse's hoof. I have been wofully upset, day and night, ever since Mr Ingoldby made me give him my title-deeds. I never parted with a deed before in my life, nor never borrowed twopence, till I got wheedled into signing a lot of plaguey bills for Tom, Dick, and Harry. Mr Ingoldby said to me a day or two ago, that I had better mind what I was doing.”

“Ingoldby is a hum”——

“It is all very fine to talk bounce behind his back,” interrupted Joe; “but you must speak softly enough to his face, when he knows he has got his thumb upon you. Blamed if it don't make my knees knock together like roguery when I go inside that bank now, for Zachary looks at me as suspiciously as if I was going to steal all his notes. There is ‘knuckle down, my boy’ on his brow, as plain as printing.”

“Nonsense, daddy! you are too sensitive. It is his natural look when he does not put on his board-room smirks. I'll go in and talk to him; and you will not see my knees knock, I'll warrant. Get your horse, and let us go into town, for I have a good deal to do to-day; and I must go up by the steamer to-night, for all the horses will be in Newcastle to-morrow. A splendid mob! I should like you to go up and see them before they are shipped. Come on, daddy! Brighten up, old boy! I will take all the business affairs off your hands in a week's time; and you can go up and visit your constituents at Muddleton.”

“I wish you would stay in town for a day or two, Benjamin, and just explain to me, in a straightforward way, how I stand; for I don't know no more than a fool.”

“Don't know how you stand, father? Why there are all the books in my office for you to examine at any time you please.”

“Yes; but what is the use of my examining the books, Ben? I don't know aught about accounts in the way you keep 'em.”




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“It is a regular system, father, that I learnt at school, plain as a milestone!”

“That may be; but I cannot understand it no more than I can see into a milestone. I never was wrong a threepennybit when I used to keep my own accounts, up in the bush; but then I had naught to do with bills, and cross-bills, and exchange, and drafts on bills of lading, and all the rest of it. It is Dutch to me; and I can't say whether it is right or wrong.”

“I hope you do not doubt my honour, father?” said Ben, with a look of deep concern.

“No, Benjamin; I don't exactly say that—leastways, I don't like your gambling; I have told you that before; but you may be deceived yourself, for there are some reg'lar rogues in Sydney, and I am afraid we are in with some of them too. I heard, only yesterday, that Bragg & Co. are shaky again, and they bought all our flour, you know.”

“That firm shaky! Pooh! Don't you believe it, daddy. Bragg & Co. are as solid as the ‘Sow and Pigs’ rocks; for it is not six months since they smashed up, and paid four and ninepence in the pound.”

“They are as solid as sow and pig's bladders, I am thinking,” said Joe, dubiously; “anyway, I wish I had naught to do with them.”

“I can see you are getting nervous, daddy; so I will come back to Sydney the day after to-morrow, and go into figures with you—square the yards, as we used to say at sea; and then, if you like to take a good lump sum, cash down, to go out of the concern, I can get it for you in a crack.”

“That is just what I should like to do, Benjamin,” said Joe, brightening up a little. “I will give up all my profits if you hand me back my own money; then I will invest it, and live upon the interest. I do not want to make more money; in fact, I would not have the harass of mind that I now feel if I could make enough money to buy all the grand houses at Darling Point.”

“I know that, father. You want your mind free from care and perplexities, which are ever attendant on large commercial speculations, so as to enable you to carry out your praiseworthy schemes of philanthropy. That is it! I see what you are sighing for, and I will manage it for you in less than a week; so cheer up and look plucky.”

“I don't believe that great heaps of money will make a


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man happy, you know, Benjamin,” continued Mr Stubble, who was evidently affected by the sympathy of his son-in-law. “There is many a common sailor at sea, eating cat's meat, who is ten times merrier at heart than his miserly owner on shore; and lots of poor shepherds, smoking mouldy 'baccy in the bush, who are more free from care than their wealthy masters, who are riding about town in shiny carriages.”

“You are right, daddy; money always makes a man miserable: but I say, let us be off and see Zachary before board time. I daresay he will let you draw £2000 against the bills and other securities lying in the bank; but if he hesitates you can offer to hypothecate the horses.”

“I don't know whether he will do it, Benjamin; but we will see.”

“If you brush up, and look jolly independent, he will think you are in a position to shift your account to some other bank, and he would let you have twice as much as you are going to ask for. But come on, daddy; your horse is all ready.”

I need not tell of all the negotiations which followed, but simply state that Ben got the money he wanted, and all in sovereigns too, for he explained that those country horsedealers were precious chary of paper money, and if he had not gold to pay them, they might cry off their bargains, which would be a pity.

That night Goldstone started by steamer for Newcastle, and Mr Stubble went to bed with a lighter heart than usual, for Ben had again assured him that he would return to Sydney in two days, and set him free from all his commercial liabilities, by buying out his interest for a lump sum, cash down.




  ― 353 ―

Chapter X.

More trouble.—Mrs Stubble's grief and anger.—Arrival of a stranger from Melbourne.—Letter from Ben Goldstone.—Bursting of the storm-cloud.

ON Monday morning, Biddy Flynn put on her best bonnet and shawl, and told her mistress that she was going straight into Sydney.

“What are you going there for, Biddy?” asked Maggie, in a feeble voice.

“I am going to fitch a docther to see ye, Miss Maggie. Arrah! don't ye say nay, darlint! I'll be grieved to go aginst yer will, an' I must do it; for shure, I can't shtop here an' see ye dying ivery day, an' maybe my medical tratement wull be blamed for doin' all the mischief, for the profession are allers mighty jealous iv anybody but themselves loses a patient.”

“You know you have often cured me of little aches and pains before, Biddy.”

“That's thrue enough, honey! but ye niver had a bout like this afore. I can docther any mortial thing in common rayson wid cowld wather an' herb-tay; but how can a simple ould woman, who doesn't know a single word ov Latin, trate internal wounds an' bruises inside, what she can't see at all? I shtopped from going for the docther on Saturday, bekase the masther was at home, an' I didn't want a row in the house; but now he is gone agin, I am goin' to see that ye git proper tratement; so don't ye say nay to it iv ye plase, honey!”

“O Biddy! what shall I say to the doctor if he asks me how my side was injured?”

“Say to him? Why, it's allers the bist plan to shpake the truth; but iv ye won't tell him all the true facts, ye won't tell him a lie, I'll ingage. Troth, I don't know what ye'll say at all, an' I can't shtop to invint an honest story at prisint; but I won't tell him about it, niver fear. Now, darlint, be as aisy as you can till I come back. I must hurry, for there's the


  ― 354 ―
omblibus-boy blowin' his brains out wid his norn. Och! what an ugly nuisance thim bus-horns are, whin a sick patient wants to be paceable.” Biddy then hastened away, and in less than an hour she returned with the family doctor, who found that Maggie was suffering from acute inflammation of the liver. After giving certain instructions to Biddy respecting the patient, and leaving a prescription, the doctor departed.

He had scarcely left the house when Mrs Stubble arrived in her carriage. Of course she was anxious to know the object of the doctor's visit, for though Maggie had been an invalid for some time, she had seldom sought medical aid. “What is the matter with your mistress, Biddy?” asked Mrs Stubble.

“She is not well, ma'am.”

“Why did you not send for me immediately?”

“Bekase I knowed the docther wud do her more good nor yerself; so I fitched him firsht an' foremost, ma'am.”

“That is more of your impudence; but I will soon see if I am to be treated in this way by you,” said Mrs Stubble, angrily. She then went straightway to her daughter's bedroom, grumbling at Biddy's lack of respect for her.

“Ugh! you proud, stuck-up owld thing! I wish ye had yer daughter's kick in yer side—shtop! that's wicked, so it is, an' I don't mean it; but I wish ye'd got her soft heart in yer, or one jist like it;—there is no sin in sayin' that much, anyway.—Shure, I wonder now, who that chap is at all? He has bin walkin' afore the house iver since sunrise. He doesn't look like a thief or a robber, but he may be one for all that; there's no tellin' who is honest by the cut ov his coat; so I'd betther be tellin' Mary to look afther the linen on the lines.” At that moment a man walked up to the front gate, and asked Biddy if her master was at home.

There was something in his manner which made Biddy instinctively shudder, though he was not at all an ill-looking man, and was respectably dressed. He was about fifty years of age, and had the appearance of having come off a journey and to be suffering from want of rest. Biddy briefly replied that her master was not at home.

“It is no use telling me that, if it be merely to put me off; for see him I must and will.”

“An' what else cud I tell ye, unless I towld ye a lie? Troth, I wudn't try to shtop ye from looking at him iv he was here, niver fear.”




  ― 355 ―

“I will stay here till I do see him,” said the man, with a sort of frenzied determination in his utterance.

“Thin, ye'll get cowld an' hungry enough, I'm thinkin', iv ye do that same. Anyway ye can plase yerself, misther; this is a free country now, thank God; an' I suppose nobody wull charge ye nothin' for sleepin' in the road for a week or two.”

Biddy then walked into the house and found Mrs Stubble in a high state of excitement, and poor Maggie sobbing hysterically.

“The monster! The fiend in human form! The—the— the—slaughterman! I would tear his eyes out, if I were near him!” shrieked Mrs Stubble.

“Whisht, now, mistress! Noisy words will niver pass for strong rayson; nor they won't hale wounds naythir.”

“Hold your tongue this minute! How dare you presume to talk to me in that way?” said Mrs Stubble, turning fiercely upon Biddy. “And pray, why did you stand by and see my daughter maimed in this cannibal style without letting me know it? Why did you not call in the police?”

“The very last words the docther sed to me were these, ‘Be sure you kape your mistress quiet,’ ses he; an' jist look at her now, poor darlint! Och, Mistress Stubble! for the love of marcy, be aisy, or ye may soon call in the undertaker, so ye may. What on earth is the good ov yer kicking up this racket? Can't ye see that ye are scaring away the little bit ov life there is left in yer unfort'nate darter? Why don't ye wait till the masther comes back, and thin tell him all ye've got to say?”

“Wait till he comes back, indeed? I will do nothing of the kind. I'll have him brought back this very night and tried for wilful murder! Oh, dear, dear! To think that my poor dear girl should come to this—to be kicked like a football! I wish she had never been born! What shall I do? what shall I do?—Hoo, hoo, hoo!” Mrs Stubble then sank into a chair and gave vent to a flood of tears, which had as smoothing an effect on her tongue as heavy rain-showers have upon a rough sea. In the meantime, Biddy gently undressed Maggie and assisted her into bed; and after saying all the soothing things she could think of, she hurried into the kitchen to make some gruel, leaving Mrs Stubble rocking herself calm in a nursing-chair.

“Oh, Biddy! my poor heart is almost breaking!” whined


  ― 356 ―
Mrs Stubble, as she entered the kitchen a few minutes afterwards, with her face drawn into sorrowful longitude.

“Not a bit o' fear ov that, ma'am,” responded Biddy, coldly.

“To think I should have reared up my only daughter to be treated in this shocking way, and by her lawful husband too! Oh, dear, dear! It is dreadful! You have never been a mother, Biddy.”

“No, indeed, ma'am, niver.”

“Oh, Biddy! you must have known months and months ago that my poor dear child was being shamefully ill-used; why did not you come and tell me?”

“Bekase I know'd very well iv I did that same, I should only have bin makin' bad worse. That's jist it, ma'am. Besides, I wud as soon think ov carryin' the silver spoons out ov the house, as to carry out family secrets for all the town to be talkin ov'em. Shure there is no end ov mischief that tattlin' sarvants make; and I've sane a pretty lot ov it too, in me time. It isn't a bit ov good ov yer cryin' about it now, ma'am, no more nor it wud be sinsible for me to tell yez what ye might have done years agone to save yer darter from this cruel tratement; but iv ye'll take my simple advice for once't, ma'am, ye'll see it wull be all the betther for iverybody belonging till yer.”

“What is it, Biddy? I am sure I will do anything I can. This terrible disclosure has shocked me so much that I really do think I am going crazy.”

“I thought as much meself awhile agone, ma'am. If ye'll listen to me, ye'll say no more to Miss Maggie about what's gone and past, an' can't be mended. Don't shpake a word till her, ma'am, 'cept it be soft, an' kind, an' tinder. Let us try an' save her life, an' thin talk about family brawls afterwards. She is dangerously ill, that is my belief, ma'am, an' I know the docther thinks so too, though he didn't say as much.”

“Do you really think so, Biddy? Oh, my poor dear girl! Whatever shall I do if I lose her? I think I will go home and get a few things for myself, and then come and stay here to help you, Biddy, for you are looking fagged and worn out.”

“As you plase, ma'am; but let me tell ye agin not to say any more about the masther afore Miss Maggie, bekase it only makes her cry, poor crayther! No woman wid a heart likes to hear her husband called ugly names, no matter what he has done till her. An' my word for it, ma'am, that poor


  ― 357 ―
child has had enough to bear widout being bothered to death now.”

Mrs Stubble soon afterwards left the house, promising to be back in an hour or so. As she was about to get into her carriage, the man before mentioned stepped up to her, and lifting his hat respectfully, asked if she could inform him whether the master of that house were at home or not. Not liking the peculiar manner of the stranger, she cautiously replied by asking him why he wanted to know.

“Are you Mr Goldstone's mother, madam?”

“No, indeed, I am not,” said Mrs Stubble, sharply. Seemingly encouraged by the tone of her last answer, the man said, “Will you allow me to speak a few words to you, madam. Have you a daughter?”

“Yes, I have a daughter,” replied Mrs Stubble, while tears filled her eyes as she thought of poor emaciated Maggie.

“So have I, madam,” said the man, his voice tremulous from suppressed emotion. “Pray hear me tell my sad story; I will not detain you long. My wife died about five years ago and left me an only child, who was the solace of my loneliness, the only being I had in the world to love. She is now seventeen years of age. I reside in Melbourne, madam, and am a commercial traveller. About twelve months ago, I was commissioned to go to India and China by the mercantile house that I am connected with; so I gave up housekeeping, and my daughter took a situation as pupil-teacher in a respectable school at Collingwood, and resided with her aunt at North Melbourne, where I also lodged when I was in town.

“Five days ago I returned from my Eastern voyage, and judge of my feelings, if you can, madam, when I found my once bright-eyed, beautiful, innocent girl a mere wreck, both in body and mind. She was daily expecting to become a mother. The infamous treatment she had been subjected to by a filthy quack, together with grief and shame at her fallen position, had so altered her that I did not know her when I first saw her. Poor, dear, unhappy girl! I cannot shake off the gloomy presentiment that I shall never see her again, for she has not physical strength for the trial which awaits her. My poor, ruined, darling girl!” Here the unhappy man sobbed aloud.

Mrs Stubble said “she was very sorry to hear his affecting story, but she had troubles of her own which would not allow her to stay any longer.” She was moving away, when the man,


  ― 358 ―
with his former peculiarly wild look, said, “Pray wait one minute more, madam. I have come up from Melbourne for the sole purpose of seeing face to face the author of my poor girl's ruin. He lives in that house.”

“What! Mr Goldstone!”

“Yes, madam, that is his name. He is a married man, I am told: but my poor infatuated girl was led to believe otherwise.”

“Oh, the vile wretch!” shrieked Mrs Stubble.

“Will you be kind enough to tell me if he is at home. I have reason to believe that he expects a visit from me, and he may be shutting himself up, in the hope that I will soon go away. If so, he is mistaken; for never will I rest my head upon a pillow till I have confronted the base destroyer of my happiness, and the rifler of my blighted child's honour. I will stay here and watch for him while I have a spark of life remaining.”

“Oh, pray don't stay here, my good man. My poor daughter is dangerously ill; and if she knew what you have just told me, it would be the death of her. I am the mother of Mr Goldstone's unfortunate wife. He is now away from home, at Newcastle.”

“May I depend upon the correctness of that information, madam? Pray excuse my abruptness.”

“Yes, of course you may; he went away by the steamer the night before last.”

“Thank you madam,” said the man lifting his hat, and again bowing respectfully, he then turned and walked hastily away. Mrs Stubble got into her carriage, and drove homeward in a state of mind not easily described.

Nothwithstanding Mrs Stubble's silly pride and her troublesome temper, she had a strong affection for her children; she really loved her husband too, but his submission to her dominant spirit had lessened her respect for him. As I have already intimated, she suspected that Ben was not kind to his wife, and she had remarked to Joe, that “she never could have believed it possible for a man to change so quickly, for Ben was no more like what he was when he first fell in love with Mag, than a canary-bird is like a toad; indeed, his bearing towards the whole family was totally changed to what it was on the first night he called to see them in the little house at Redfern, and seemed to be so proud of them all.” But Peggy's closest observation had failed to detect anything more than extreme gruffness of manner and lack of outward


  ― 359 ―
show of affection for his wife; she had no idea that he had been guilty of the unmanly acts of beating and kicking poor Maggie. Mrs Stubble's unexpected appearance that morning, and her direct questions to her daughter as to the cause of her illness, led to the confession which had so terribly aroused all her wrathful passions, and made her for a time unconscious that she was adding to the sufferings of her ill-used child.

On reaching her home, Mrs Stubble went direct to the library, where Joe was sitting thoughtfully scanning a letter, which he threw upon a table at her entrance. His countenance might have told her the disturbed state of his mind, and warned her not to increase his perplexity by disclosing her newly-found troubles just then; but she was seldom disposed to soften matters to her husband; on the contrary, she usually tried to make petty trials into large ones, when talking to him about them. Perhaps this did not spring so much from positive unkindness towards him, as from the indulgence of a thoughtless pettishness, until it had become second nature to her; moreover, when she was in trouble she never could see anything but the trouble itself, which always made her trouble double. She might with good reason have spared poor Joe's feelings as much as possible, if she had reflected that it was her own self-will and pride which had been the primary cause of all their disasters in city life; but she did not reflect in that way. Without pausing a minute, she, in excited tones, told Joe all she had seen and heard that morning, including the startling story of the man at the gate.

“That explains this letter,” said Joe, starting up and pacing the room with his hands pressed to his forehead. “It is all out now, and we are ruined! Us will have to begin the world again, Peggy.”

“Ruined! ruined!” whatever do you mean, Stubble?”

“Don't shriek at me in that way, Peggy, 'cept you want to drive me mad. Read that letter from Ben, that I have received by this morning's post. I have been afraid there was something wrong going on for six weeks past; there has been a load on my mind that I could not shake off.”

“I have told you over and over again, Stubble, that you were very foolish in bothering your head so much with business things that you knew naught about; but you never would mind what I said to you, and now this is the end of it—we are ruined. Well, it does not matter to me; I shall soon be in my grave. Is this the letter from Ben? What a nasty-looking


  ― 360 ―
smudged thing.” Mrs Stubble then read the following epistle, while her husband continued to pace the room, looking the image of despair.

  “Ship Screaming Eagle,

  “NEWCASTLE, Sunday evening.

“DEAR FATHER,—I have no doubt this letter will shock you. It grieves me to write it. Circumstances, which I cannot fully explain, impel me to leave the colony for a time. I shall sail to-morrow at daylight for San Francisco. My departure will cause a stir among some of our friends in Sydney, and I shall be cursed by them in their own style; but I don't care a jot for that. I am sorry I have involved you, and I am sorry for poor Mag; but it will not be so bad if you will follow the advice I am now about to give you.

“When you get this letter, lose no time in quietly scraping together every pound you can lay your hands on, and plant it in some snug place. I am vexed that you gave your deeds to the bank; I have told you before you were a fool for doing so; you should have secured your house property to mother; but it cannot be helped now. If you keep your head cool, and manage carefully, you may secure two or three thousand pounds before the grand smash-up. I could work it so as to secure twice as much for you; but I cannot stay in the colony any longer with safety to myself. I expected to have been away a month ago, but this cursed ship heeled on to a rock and injured her rudder.

“Bragg and Co. must burst up before the fourth of next month, unless their particular friend helps them on a little longer. When they go smash, half-a-score of other bubblemongers will go too, and I regret to say you are mixed up with them all. No doubt I shall be made the scape-goat, and be blamed for bursting the bellows. It is an old colonial dodge to put the blame upon some absent partner; but I don't care what they say of me. They are all as rotten as old Nobbley's collier fleet; but I did not know it until I had got too far into their clutches to get out. My late heavy losses in Melbourne and at Homebush have floored me; in fact, luck has been dead against me for the last nine months, and I could not recover myself even if it were possible for me to remain in the colony, unless my father died intestate; but his wheedling young wife will take care of that chance.

“You will find all the account-books in my office, but you


  ― 361 ―
cannot understand them; so do not bother your head with them. There is nothing to show that you and I were partners, unless you choose to admit it; and you are a fool if you do. Admit nothing at all,—that is the safest way. You will find a lot of bills signed for blank amounts in the private drawer of my desk. They are all shicers, and will not melt, except perhaps the one of T. Fawner and Co. I think that would go down still; you can fill it up for £498, 12s 9d. You must not make it even money; discount it at once, and stick to the money. I enclose a cheque for the balance in my bank; draw it out immediately and give it to Mag. Tell her she had better plant all the plate, and say I have got it. The creditors will not take her furniture, nor yours neither; they never think of such a thing in large failures.”

“I forgot to tell you the certificates of rum are held by Grabb as security for a loan. I do not think you will ever hear of the brig in which we shipped the tea and tobacco to Dunedin. You may be able to make the insurance policy over to mother; but you had better consult Jack Carss,—he will work it if it is to be done. I am taking a little money with me, and will send for Mag when I get settled. If she goes softly to work, she may get a good lift from my father; but he is an old——or he would not have kept his son short of money, and forced him to scheming. There is a madman on his way from Melbourne; he is coming up purposely to talk to me about some imaginary wrong he fancies I have done him. It would not be safe for me to stay to argue with him. I cannot write any more, for my head is bewildered. Again I advise you to keep cool and look out for yourself. Give my love to mother and poor Mag.—Your affectionate son,

   “BENJAMIN GOLDSTONE.”

I need not try to describe Mrs Stubble's excitement while spelling over the foregoing letter; but after she had read it through, she broke out in a whining strain of complaint, blaming every one but herself for the calamities which had befallen them, and which she was sure would be the cause of her sudden death from “flutteration of the heart.”

“O Peggy lass! what is the use of going on in that way?” said Joe, appealingly. “If disasters have come upon us, you ought to try to help me to bear up against them, and not make things worse by distressing me with your complainings. When the Flying Buck was in that hard squall which scared us all


  ― 362 ―
on to our knees to pray to God for help,—you remember the time, lass,—suppose, then, the chief mate, instead of going to work like a man to save the ship from capsizing, had begun to grumble at the captain for not seeing the squall coming, what sense would there have beeen in that, think you?”

“That is a different thing altogether Stubble, and I never want to hear again about that old Flying Buck; I wish she had sunk in the squall. What are you going to do to get out of this mess? that is the question.”

“Don't ask me any questions now, Peggy, for pity's sake. Can't you see that I am nearly bothered out of my senses? Tell John to saddle my horse, and I'll go into town;—stay, I will not go out of the house. I don't know what to do. Leave me to myself a bit, Peggy; and do'ee try to be soft and kind to me, or my head will go wrong.”

Soon afterwards Joe sat down, and with trembling hand wrote a few lines to his friend Mr Rowley, and sent the letter to the post forthwith.




  ― 363 ―

Chapter XI.

Mrs Rowley makes a lucky discovery.—Mr Rowley's departure to Sydney.—Tragical event on the passage.—“Lines on a Skeleton.”

“OH, I have such a piece of news to tell you, Peter!” said Mrs Rowley, as she trotted to the front gate to meet her husband, who had just returned on horseback from Daisybank.

“And I have some news to tell you too, mother,” replied Peter, with a serious tone, although he was smiling at his wife's unusual exultation.

“Have you, dear? What is it? Tell it me at once.”

“No, no; you had better tell your news first, mother; it is more cheering than mine, I can see by your merry face. But don't be alarmed, dear;” he added, as he saw her countenance change. “There is not anything the matter with our young folks. What is your good news? Mine will keep for half-an-hour.”

“Come inside, and I will tell you. You know we have often talked of putting a new cover on that old arm-chair of neighbour Stubble's, which you keep in your little cosy. I had nothing particular to do this morning; so after you left, I thought I would rip the old cover off the chair, and get it cleaned, and see if it would do to put on again, before going to the expense of new stuff: for as Joe is rather whimsical, I thought he might like the old cover best. Many people like old things better than new, you know.”

“Yes, but you are a long time getting to the good news, mother. Never mind the old chair.”

“Ha, ha! Old chair, indeed! you will not make fun of it any more, I promise. While I was turning out the dusty horse-hair stuffing, what do you think I found?”

“Some bugs, I daresay, mother.”

“Tut! For shame, Peter! You know there is not one in the house. This is what I found,” said Mrs Rowley, handing a roll of bank-notes to her astonished husband.




  ― 364 ―

“Hey, day! mother. This is a piece of news indeed!” exclaimed Peter, as he spread out the musty notes, which had apparently been rolled together for many years. Pooh! This one is no good to begin with,—Bank of Australia: stop a bit; hand me my spectacles. All right; I see it is the Bank of Australasia; I made a mistake. Good as gold. £310! Well, well! This is a lucky find, mother. I wonder who it belongs to? Some old miser, no doubt.”

“Do you not think that Mr Stubble put it in the chair, Peter?”

“Not he, dear; no more than I did. Joe is not a miser. He got the chair from his old master at Luckyboy; but Mr Drydun did not put the money there for certain; he was as poor as Lazarus before he left the colony. I wonder who he got the chair from. If we could find that out, we might trace the owner of the money.”

“But you have not told me what your news is,” said Mrs Rowley, as Peter sat gazing abstractedly at the notes in his hand.

“It is sad news, dear, and very strange, or providential I should say, that it should come just at the time of this unexpected discovery. Poor Joe Stubble is ruined!”

“Ruined, Peter!” exclaimed Mrs Rowley. “Has he killed himself? Tell me all about it.”

“No, thank God; he has not killed himself, dear, for that would be eternal ruin. I have quoted the expression in his letter to me which I received this morning. He has lost all his money; and that is generally called being ruined by persons who do not know any better.”

“Dear, dear me! Poor fellow! I am very sorry to hear it,” said Rowley, with real sympathy in her looks.

“The news is not so startling to me, because I feared, from a few remarks which Joe made to me when I was in Sydney, that he was speculating to a great extent; and I know the risk of that sort of thing, especially to men who are wholly inexperienced in mercantile affairs.”

“How silly he must be, to be sure! He had everything a reasonable man could wish for,—good farm, comfortable home, and thousands of pounds in the bank; and yet he could not be satisfied, but must go to Sydney; and now he has lost all his hard earnings. Dear, dear me! Whatever will poor Mrs Stubble say? She will be in a sad way!”

“As I rode home from the township, thinking of our poor


  ― 365 ―
neighbour's sudden downfall, the words of Job's friend Elihu came to my mind: ‘Lo! all these things worketh God oftentimes with man, to bring back his soul from the pit; to be enlightened with the light of the living.’ It is all right, mother; depend upon it. It will perhaps turn out the best thing that ever happened to the Stubbles, though they cannot see it yet. I daresay Joe is terribly cast down, and it would not do any good to tell him, at the present time, all I think about the trouble that has befallen him, but I firmly believe he will be glad of it by and bye. I must go to Sydney tomorrow, and see what I can do to help him. I know the value of a cool-headed friend in a time of need. Stubble is an honest man ‘who has fallen among thieves;’ but every one may not know him so well as I do, and the excitement which he cannot help showing will be prejudicial to him, and he may be mistaken for a schemer of the same class as the men who have caused his downfall. I may be able to obviate that to some extent.”

“Will you take this money down to him, Peter?”

“No, my dear. We had better say nothing about it for the present. Lock it up in the strong-box just as it is. I will soon find out from Joe, by an indirect question or two, whether he knows anything about it or not, and I shall then know how to act. I will try to do what is right, you may rest assured.”

The following morning Mr Rowley embarked in the steamer for Sydney, taking with him a kind letter from his wife to Mrs Stubble, inviting her to Briarburn. As the vessel steamed down the river, Mr Rowley was conversing with the captain on the bridge, when the latter casually remarked, “That was a queer start of poor Davis's wife. You have heard of it, I suppose, sir?”

“No; I have heard nothing particular. What has happened to her?”

“Happened to her? Why, she has bolted off to California in the Screaming Eagle, and left three children behind her.”

“The heartless creature!” said Mr Rowley. “What a sad trial for her husband!”

“Well, it almost serves him right, though I am sorry for him,” replied the captain. “He has allowed that long-spliced horse-marine of a fellow to ride about with his wife almost


  ― 366 ―
every day for the last five weeks, and has encouraged his visits to the house; so what could he expect? If you fondle a snake, it is almost sure to bite you.”

“He could certainly expect his wife to show common affection for her children, even if she were destitute of becoming modesty. To run away from her family, and all young children too, is almost unparalleled barbarity. The woman must be out of her mind.”

“Not she, sir; she is knowing enough. But she has been bewitched in some way that I cannot explain—electrification, I think, they call it. I would hang that fellow to the yard-arm if I had my will, for he is a thorough scoundrel, ten times more dangerous than a mad dog. I have heard him myself boast, when he was half-seas over, that he could do what he liked with any young woman, if she would only let him look straight into her eyes for a minute, or let him get a gripe of her hand.”

“He is a false-hearted villain, whoever he is. What is his name, pray?”

“You must know him, sir. He married a daughter of Mr Stubble, the member for Muddleton, who had a farm out your way somewhere.”

“You don't say so?” exclaimed Mr Rowley, who was shocked. “Goldstone?”

“That is he, sir. A flash, leary-eyed rogue, who would sneak into any man's bunk if he got a chance. My blocks! I would tar his rigging down if I had him on board my ship for a long voyage. I hope that Yankee skipper will give him cowskin before he gets to California.”

When the steamer arrived at the Newcastle wharf, Mr Rowley stepped on shore for a few minutes, and then he heard the captain's statement confirmed. Goldstone had gone to San Francisco in the ship Screaming Eagle, with a dashing-looking woman, the wife of a gentleman who lived a short distance from Newcastle. That information further explained to Mr Rowley his friend Stubble's note to him, which briefly asked him to come to Sydney, as he, the writer, was ruined, and overwhelmed with trouble beside.

Just as the steamer was pushing off from the wharf, a man hurried down and sprang on board. His manner was so excited that Mr Rowley could not but notice him carefully; and it seemed that he was an object of special remark to the


  ― 367 ―
bystanders on shore. He at once ascended to the bridge or platform between the paddle-boxes, and began to walk to and fro, with his arms behind him, and his head bent downward, as if in deep and painful contemplation. He was genteelly dressed, and his general appearance betokened him a man of intelligence; but his peculiar wildness of manner induced all the passengers on board to avoid him. For two hours after the vessel put to sea, he continued to pace the bridge in the same abstracted manner, until he ceased to attract general notice. Presently he was observed to take off his overcoat, and throw it carelessly on to the deck; whereupon the second mate left his post on the bridge, for the purpose of expressing his fears to the captain respecting the sanity of the stranger; but he had scarcely got aft before the man threw his hat on to the deck beside his coat; and, uttering a piercing scream, he flung himself headlong overboard in front of the paddle-wheel. The engines were stopped as soon as possible, and a boat was lowered, but not a trace of the unhappy man could be seen; and it was supposed that he had been struck by the wheel, and had sunk immediately.

It is needless to describe the thrilling sensation the above tragical incident caused on board the steamer. After the first excitement was over, an eager search was made in the pockets of the overcoat to discover who the man was, when several papers were found, some of which I transcribe. The first was a telegram of that morning's date, as follows:—“From Jane Green, Melbourne, to R. Smith, Esq., Newcastle.—Grieved to say poor Amy died last night—ten o'clock.”

The next document was addressed to some person in Victoria whose name could not be deciphered, for the writing was much blurred and soiled, as with marks of tears. The composition was erratic, evidently the effort of a distracted mind. The first page contained some bitter strictures on the conduct of certain married men who were well known deflowerers of maiden innocence. The next page contained the following pathetic rhapsody:—

“Were there not unhappy victims enough on the midnight pave of Melbourne to satiate the lust of this ——, but he must seek to add my pure, innocent, lovely child to the host of hopeless outcasts? That he must rifle her of her virtue, and ruin my peace for ever! Poor Amy! my heart bleeds when I think of her present degraded position, and contrast her former purity, and her winsome, clinging fondness for me


  ― 368 ―
in my hours of sorrowful bereavement! The religion which I was taught in my childhood condemns the thirst for revenge which burns in my heart. I know it is wrong. Vengeance belongs to Almighty God: He will repay. I know that, but I cannot resist the force which impels me to seek out and confront the man who has wrecked my once bright, happy girl, and shaken my poor mind to the verge of madness.”

Then followed an incoherent account of the writer's visit to Goldstone's house in Sydney, of his watching before it a whole night, and the discovery that Goldstone had left for Newcastle.

The next part was evidently written at Newcastle. It expressed regret at being too late to meet the man he was seeking, who had sailed on the previous day for California. The letter concluded with an expression of devoted attachment to his fallen daughter, and a hope that he might be allowed the happiness of once more clasping her to his breaking heart before she died; for which object he intended to return to Melbourne by the next steamer.

There was no signature to the letter, and it was evident that the writer intended to add to it before posting it in Sydney. The telegram was dated 11 o'clock A.M., only ten minutes before the steamer left the wharf at Newcastle. The sad news it communicated had broken the last worn link which connected his mind with reason; and in a paroxysm of despair, the wretched, broken-hearted father had hurled himself into the sea of death—a sad, hopeless way of escape from misery, but doubtless the poor man was mad.

The person to whom the letter was addressed was probably connected with the press in some way, for in the same envelope were the following lines, “for insertion if they were thought suitable.” They were in print, and attached thereto was a note stating “that forty years ago the lines appeared in the Morning Chronicle from an unknown contributor. Fifty pounds reward was offered to discover the author, but without success. All that transpired was, that a poem, in a fair clerk's hand, was found under a skeleton of remarkable symmetry of form, in the Museum of Royal College of Surgeons, Lincoln's Inn.”

The lines in question are so beautiful, that I need not hesitate to transcribe them.




  ― 369 ―
Behold this ruin! 'Twas a skull,
Once of ethereal spirit full;
This narrow cell was life's retreat,
This space was thought's mysterious seat!
What beauteous visions filled this spot!
What dreams of pleasure long forgot;
Nor hope, nor love, nor joy, nor fear,
Have left one trace of record here.

Beneath this mouldering canopy
Once shone the bright and busy eye;
But—start not at the dismal void—
If social love that eye employed;
If with no lawless fire it gleamed,
But through the dews of kindness beamed,
That eye shall be for ever bright,
When stars and suns are sunk in night.

Within this hollow cavern hung
The ready, swift, and tuneful tongue;
If falsehood's honey it disdained,
And where it could not praise, was chained;
If bold in virtue's cause it spoke,
Yet gentle concord never broke,
This silent tongue shall plead for thee
When time unveils eternity.

Say, did these fingers delve the mine?
Or with its envied rubies shine?
To hew the rock, or wear the gem,
Can little now avail to them.
But if the page of truth they sought,
Or comfort to the mourner brought,
These hands a richer meed shall claim,
Than all that wait on wealth or fame.

A vails it, whether bare or shod,
These feet the paths of duty trod?
If from the bower of ease they fled,
To seek affliction's humble shed;
If grandeur's guilty bribe they spurned,
And home to virtue's cot returned;
These feet with angel's wings shall vie,
And tread the palace of the sky.

Alas! no contemplative human eyes will ever gaze on the skeleton of the unhappy being whose taste had treasured the above exquisite stanzas. Down in the ocean depths his unshrouded bones will lie until the sea shall give up its dead.




  ― 370 ―

Chapter XII.

Mr Rowley's sympathy and help to his friend Stubble in his distress.—Joe jumps into the life-boat.

MR ROWLEY hired a cab, and drove out to Stubbleton as soon as he arrived in Sydney. He found poor Joe in a pitiable state of mental depression. His wife was looking sorrowful, but her manner was quiet and subdued, for she had begun to have serious fears for her husband's health, and that had aroused all her latent kindness; in short, the legitimate fruits of trouble were beginning to show themselves.

Mr Rowley was too cool a tactician to further excite Joe's perturbed mind with discussions upon his business affairs immediately; so, after tea, he proposed that they should smoke a quiet pipe together, as they had often done in “days lang syne.” Joe willingly acquiesced; and presently they were sitting in the library, and Mr Rowley was trying to engage his friend in cheerful conversation, and at the same time was indirectly gaining little scraps of important information, without letting him perceive his drift.

“By the bye, Joe, my wife is going to trim up your old arm-chair for you, and she wished me to ask if you would like a new cover for it, or if you preferred to have the old one cleaned up,” said Peter, after a short pause in their conversation.

“It is very kind of Mrs Rowley; but I don't care what she does with the old chair. If you have a fancy for it, Peter, you may have it, and welcome. I would not sell it with my other effects, you know, because Mr Drydun gave it to me.”

“Did he bring it out from England with him, Joe?”

“Not at all. He bought it when old Jack Shellbag's traps were sold off after he died.”

“Who was Jack Shellbag? It is a funny name for a man.”

“He was a queer old fellow who used to live at Geebungie in a little cottage all alone, and it was said he starved himself


  ― 371 ―
to death to save his money. Anyway he lived upon nothing but dry damper and Jack-the-painter tea, though it is believed that he had lots of dollars planted away somewhere; besides, he had a good few head of cattle in the bush, and the house he lived in was his own.”

“He was a miser, then, Joe?”

“Aye, he was a miserable old beggar, sure enough! A few minutes before he died he asked the old man who was nursing him to hand him five threepenny-bits that were hidden in a crack of the mantelpiece.”

“His ruling passion was strong to the last;” remarked Peter. “How very sad to hear of a poor unhappy mortal leaving the world in that way! Still, it is far from being a solitary case. Was he married, Joe?”

“Not he. Married, indeed! What woman would have such a dirty old crawler? He had neither kith nor kin in the colony.”

“Who got his property, then?”

“The government sold it off, and kept the money, I suppose, for I never heard of anybody coming forward to claim it. Mr Drydun happened to be at Geebungie when the chief-constable was selling off Jack's furniture, and he went out of curiosity to see what it was like. The only thing in the cottage worth carting away was that old chair; so Mr Drydun bought it for a pound, and gave it to me. You may have it, Peter, if you like.”

“Thank you, Joe; I will accept of it, for it is a comfortable old chair. I will get my wife to restuff it, and clean it well; I daresay there is some dust inside it.” Having satisfied himself that Joe knew nothing of the hoard in the chair, Mr Rowley started some other topic; but his lively efforts to draw his friend's thoughts away from his perplexing affairs for a while were not wholly successful, and his heavy sighs, now and then, showed that he had a troublesome load on his heart. Presently he asked, “Have you seen the newspaper to-day, Peter?”

“No! I have not, Joe; for I started out here directly after I landed from the steamer. Is there anything particularly new in it?”

“There is so,” replied Joe, with a groan. “Look at this!” He then handed the newspaper to Peter, who read a short paragraph headed “ANOTHER BOLTER.” There was no person's name mentioned, but it stated that the absconder, who


  ― 372 ―
had gone to California with a married woman, was well known in sporting circles, and also was closely connected with an honourable member of the Lower House.

“Have you been into the city to-day, Joe?”

“No, I have not been in for four days, but I must go tomorrow. I wanted to see you first of all to tell me what to do, for I am in a regular quandary.”

“Have you any of your account-books here?”

“No; they are all at Ben's office, except a small book with the dates of bills I have to pay each month dotted down in my own simple way.”

“When are your next payments due?”

“To-morrow week, Peter. I have a lot of money to pay then, and I was expecting to pawn the horses that Ben said he had bought, but he has not bought a single head or tail. Read this, Peter, and it will show you the miserable predicament I am in.”

Joe then handed him Ben's letter, which Mr Rowley read over with evident disgust and sorrow.

“What do you think of that, Peter?” asked Joe, after his friend had finished reading the letter.

“I dare not trust myself to say all I think of it, Joe; but it is very plain to me that you have been sadly victimised. However, do not worry yourself about it to-night, if you can help it; we will go in to Goldstone's office to-morrow, and endeavour to find out the amount of your liabilities, for that is an important thing to arrive at. Cheer up, my friend! Things may not turn out so disastrously as you imagine; and even if the worst should happen, that is to say, if you should lose all your money, you will not lose your good name, or the consciousness of having acted in a way that you thought was right, which is a comforting assurance that many men in Sydney cannot lay claim to.”

“I have not wilfully done anything that is wrong, Peter; though I have foolishly allowed myself to be talked into several speculations that I am ashamed of; that is, I have found money for Ben and other schemers to work with. But whatever I have done wrong, I want to do what is right now, even if I have to give up everything I own. I think I had better resign all my offices of trust at once, Peter. I ought never to have taken such important duties upon me.”

“Have patience, Joe, my boy! Let us do one thing at a time; and the best thing we can do now is to ask Almighty


  ― 373 ―
God to guide us aright, for without His help we can do nothing. If you have done anything that is wrong, and are truly sorry for it, God will forgive you; and if you humbly desire to do what is right in future, God will help you. Let us pray to Him!”

Joe willingly knelt down beside his good friend, who offered up a prayer in language simple but fervent; and when they arose from their knees, Joe said he felt his heart ever so much easier.

“To tell you the truth, Peter, I never before felt a prayer do me so much good.”

“ ‘God is a very present help in trouble.’ He knows all about your affairs, Joe, and He can send you help in a thousand ways that you know nothing about. ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not to your own understanding.’ ”

“I wish I could do that, Peter,” said Joe, with a sigh. “I wish I could really trust in Him.”

“You evidently trust me, for you told me just now, that you were waiting for me to come to town to tell you what to do in your perplexing affairs.”

“Yes, that is right, Peter; I ought to trust you certainly, for you have always been a friend to me.”

“And can you not trust Almighty God?”

“I know I ought to do so, Peter; but I do not seem to be able to, while my mind is in such a whirl of anxiety.”

“Nothing but Divine influence can calm your troubled mind, Joe; and that will be vouchsafed to you the moment you ‘cast your burden upon the Lord,’ as He himself has invited you to do. An observant friend of mine told me that he was voyaging from Tasmania to Sydney, some time ago, in a sailing vessel. When in Bass's Straits they encountered a severe storm, and were in some danger of being wrecked. In the height of the gale, while the vessel was struggling, under storm-sails, in the heavy sea that was running, my friend observed a little bird asleep on the water with its head beneath its wing. He said that the peaceful repose of the bird in the midst of the roaring waters seemed to convey a reproof to him for his fears, which had denoted lack of trust in the Omni-potent God who rules the raging sea. That same God can make your mind calm and placid amid all your perplexing trials. He surely can; and He will do it too, if you trust in Him, and do not let unbelief drag you along the dreary road to despair.”




  ― 374 ―

“Yes, Peter; I know that God can do all things, and I am sure that nothing can happen without His knowledge and permission. I have not sat under Mr Goodwin's preaching for three years without learning about true religion. I know a good deal more than I talk about.”

“I am sure of that, Joe; but have you appropriated the gospel truths you have heard enunciated. In plain terms, have you accepted Christ as your Saviour from the guilt of past sin, and as your present living Saviour from the power and dominion of sin? That is the point; and it is a most important point for you to decide.”

“I cannot say that I have, Peter; so I will not deceive you nor myself neither; but I am more than ever resolved to seek to get religion, for I am certain there is no real happiness in life without it. I have had convincing proofs enough of late that solid peace of mind is not to be found in riches, nor in worldly honours and distinctions. As soon as I get my mind settled a bit so as to think clearly, I mean to set to work about religion in real earnest; I promise you that, Peter.”

“I see, Joe, you are resolved to get your mind set at rest by your own efforts. That is like proud human nature; but it will be a failure. Thousands of poor lost souls have found that out. You may as well try to fly.”

“No; that is not what I mean exactly. The fact is, I don't feel that I be fit to profess religion. I have not been living as I ought; and many times lately I have stopped away from church on Sunday nights to talk to Ben about business; and I have often been thinking about money matters while I was listening to a sermon. I know that is wrong; but I cannot help it at present. I feel my need of Christ, but I also see my own inconsistency, and that keeps me back; by and bye, when I get my affairs put straight, you see, Peter, then I shall be able to attend better to my religious duties.”

“That amounts to the same thing, Joe. You want to make yourself a little better before you accept of Christ's loving invitation, ‘Come unto Me!’ ”

“Well, I certainly want to live a better life you know, Peter. I do not see how I can go to Christ as I am now. I wish I could do it!” added Joe, with tears in his eyes. “God knows I am weary and heavy-laden, and that I want rest for my soul. Oh! I do wish I could find it.”

“I remember you telling me a long while ago about the providential escape you had from being drowned when you


  ― 375 ―
were going to Sydney once from the Clarence River, in a small schooner,” said Peter.

“Aye, indeed! I got a sad fright that time. Only for the pilot I should have been lost for certain; and I was not so well prepared for death as I am now, for I knew nothing about religion then.”

“When the vessel was bumping on the Clarence bar, surrounded by breakers, you did not stay below in the cabin to smarten yourself up, I'll be bound, Joe.”

“No; that I did not, you may be sure. I was up in the main rigging, holding tightly enough till the pilot-boat came alongside, and then I had to jump into it pretty smartly the moment the pilot sung out, now. It was a wonderful escape, and I shall never forget it. The ship went to pieces soon after I had got safe out of her.”

“Suppose, Joe, that when the pilot bade you ‘jump now,’ you had told him to keep his boat alongside, and wait while you went below to put on your best clothes?”

“I should have been a fool to do that, Peter, for I could feel the vessel breaking up under me. When the pilot sung out ‘now is your time!’ I jumped into the boat that instant.”

“Can you not see, Joe, my boy, that you are telling the great pilot of your soul to wait with his life-boat till you are properly clad, before you will jump and be saved?” asked Peter, with affectionate earnestness. “In less figurative words, Joe, are you not waiting till you do something to merit the salvation which is offered you through faith in Christ? Do you not see that you are virtually ignoring God's free grace, by relying on your own merits, instead of on the merits of Christ's atonement?”

Joe looked solemnly thoughtful for a minute, then suddenly exclaimed with earnestness, “Yes, I do see it, Peter. Thank God, I do see it as I never saw it before. I do believe in Christ Jesus, and in His willingness to save me this very moment. Without waiting to try to change my own wicked heart, I cast myself on the merits of Christ alone for salvation. He is the pilot. Jesus, take me now! Just as I am! Save me, or I perish!” added Joe, falling on his knees.

“Thank God?” exclaimed Mr Rowley.

“I am saved!” shouted Mr Stubble. “Oh! I never felt so happy in all my life! Thank God! I have jumped into the life-boat, and I am saved!”




  ― 376 ―

On hearing such unusual sounds from the library, Mrs Stubble entered it without knocking, when, to her amazement, she beheld her husband's face glowing with joy, though tears were streaming from his eyes, and Mr Rowley was similarly affected.

“Oh, Peggy I am so happy!” said Joe, embracing his wife fondly. “Let the money go, lass; it won't fret me now. I have got what is worth all the money in the world, the peace of God in my heart; and I want you to have it too, Peggy. Mr Rowley will tell you the way to obtain it now, directly.”

Peggy gave an anxiously inquiring look at Mr Rowley, who, thus encouraged, began in a simple way to explain the plan of salvation through Christ, “the way, the truth, and the life;” while Peggy listened with evident signs of strong feeling. “But you have heard all this before, Mrs Stubble,” added Peter; “Mr Goodwin has often expounded the gospel way of peace to you.”

“Oh, yes, sir; I have often heard it, and have often wished I could enjoy it; but my temper is so bad, and that stops me, I know. It is getting worse and worse instead of better, for everything is going against me, and I have nothing but worrit, worrit, worrit every day; and now I am going to lose poor Maggie, for the doctor has given her up.” Here Mrs Stubble's voice faltered, and she burst into tears. Mr Rowley gently told her “the only way to gain the mastery over evil temper and all other besetments, and to get comfort in all her trials and afflictions, was to cast herself wholly upon Jesus, and resolve to live a life of faith in Him.”

After a while Mrs Stubble became more composed. She thanked Mr Rowley for his good counsel, and promised to try to follow it. They then reverently knelt down, and Peter offered up an appropriate prayer; after which they all retired for the night.




  ― 377 ―

Chapter XIII.

Mr Stubble's insolvency.—Happy change in Peggy's demeanour.

THE following morning, Mr Rowley and Mr Stubble drove straightway to Ben Goldstone's office. The clerk was absent, but a note on his desk explained that the state of his health demanded a change of air; so, he had gone to Geelong and elsewhere.

Throughout that day Mr Rowley was engaged in a patient investigation of the books and papers that he found in the office. Many inquiring creditors called during the day, and seemed somewhat comforted when Mr Stubble told them to send in particulars of their claims as soon as possible. Some of them were very uncomplimentary in their remarks; but Joe refrained from arguing in defence of the absent defaulter, for the case was undoubtedly a bad one.

When Mr Rowley and Joe returned home to tea, Mrs Stubble told them that Mrs Simon Goldstone and her uncle had called in the afternoon. They stated that the news of Benjamin's gross misconduct had so affected his father, that he was thoroughly prostrated; but he wished to express sympathy with the Stubble family, and also to say that he would most willingly render them pecuniary aid if they needed it.

“It is very kind of Mr Goldstone,” said Mr Stubble; “but we cannot tell yet how I stand. You never saw such a muddle, Peggy, as there is in Ben's office. The affairs puzzle our good friend here; and I don't like to see him taking so much trouble.”

“Do not distress yourself in the least on my account, Joe;” said Mr Rowley kindly. “We must have patience, you know. I think, as there are so many excited callers at the office, we had better get all the books and papers removed out here; then we can look through them quietly, and without interruption.”

That suggestion was acted upon next morning; and for the


  ― 378 ―
whole ensuing week, Mr Rowley plodded through the intricacles of Ben's entries, and cross-entries, and non-entries, and examined a host of letters and other documents relating to business transactions, of which he could find no record in the books. At length he was forced to admit that he was unable to unravel the accounts sufficiently to attempt to make even a rough balance-sheet; and he could form no other conclusion but that Ben had systematically complicated his accounts, so that no human being but himself could understand them,—a device not at all uncommon with men of cheating proclivities.

“In my opinion, Joe, the most straightforward course for you to adopt is to call a meeting of your creditors, and explain your position to them,” said Mr Rowley, after he had given the result of his inquiry.

“Do you say so, Peter?” responded Joe, sorrowfully. I can meet the bills due to-morrow.”

“Yes; but I see they are accommodation-bills, Joe, and it would not be fair to pay them if there is a doubt of other bona fide claims being left unpaid.”

“I surely do not owe more than I can pay by and bye, Peter! I thought I should find a large sum to the good.”

“You do not know what you owe, or rather, what you are liable for. I perceive you have been in the practice of signing bills in blank, and leaving Ben to fill them up as he chose. However could you be so unwise as to do that, Joe? I fancied that none but thoroughly reckless men, who had nothing to lose, did such unbusiness-like things.”

“Well, Peter, it is no use to say anything to me now; I see my folly. The fact is, I have been gradually fooled into placing confidence in Ben; and, as I told you before, I have left everything to his management while I have been working away for the public good. That is all about it.”

“I understand it, Joe; and I do not mean to say anything to reproach you—far from it. There will be plenty of people ready to do that I daresay, for that is the way of the world in showing sympathy for misfortune. It was perhaps natural for you to repose confidence in your son-in-law; but he has shamefully betrayed your confidence, and there is no disguising the fact. He has got you inextricably involved in cross-bill transactions with nine or ten persons in town, some of whom are notorious sharpers. There is a large amount of their paper under discount, for which you are liable. If it


  ― 379 ―
should all be paid, I have no doubt you will find a pretty large balance in your favour; but I tell you candidly, I have no faith in the stability of any of the persons; and if one should fail they will all fail, and, in that case, you will be insolvent likewise.”

“As old Mr Goldstone has offered to lend me a hand, I might pay everything, Peter.”

“In my opinion it would hardly be fair to accept his generous offer, to take his money and pay it to rogues and schemers, Joe. He would be grieved if he knew you did that.”

“True, Peter; it would not be right. I will not take a penny from him. But there are lots of goods in various stores in town; we might see after them.”

“I am afraid you will find that all the goods are hypothecated in some way, Joe. Depend on it, there will be claims set up against them if you attempt to remove them. That is usually the case under such circumstances; there is generally a scramble after a failing man's assets, especially if he is helpless, as you certainly are. In plain terms, Joe, the only honest course for you is to call your creditors together. To attempt to patch up your affairs would only involve you still farther, and perhaps undermine your health with anxiety.”

“I will take your advice, Peter. I never thought I should have got into the insolvent list, and it will be a bitter pill for me to swallow; but I daresay it will all be for the best. Thank God, I am able to think so, whatever happens to me now. I want to do what is straightforward and honest; and so long as my good name is not sacrificed, I don't care.”

“God can take care of your good name, Joe.”

“That is true enough, Peter. What time I am afraid, I will trust in Him. All these things will work together for good in some way that I cannot yet see.” …

Two days afterwards there was a meeting of Mr Stubble's creditors. It was soon evident to them all that Joe had been grossly deceived and victimised, and the utmost sympathy was shown for him. After a brief discussion, trustees were appointed, who took charge of all the books and papers relating to Joe's affairs; and it was hoped by some that all claims on him would be liquidated, and a balance remain to be handed over to him. They allowed him his household furniture. After the meeting Joe walked home beside his good friend, satisfied at having taken an honest course, and glad


  ― 380 ―
at heart that not one of his creditors had evinced the least suspicion that he had knowingly acted dishonestly in any way.

“This serious affair does not fret me at all, as far as I am personally concerned,” remarked Joe. “I am able and willing to work for my living, and it will be all the better for my health if I do so; but I am afraid my poor wife will be sadly cut up when she hears that I have given up everything, and that we have nothing left in the world but our household effects.”

“I do not think Mrs Stubble will fret much about it, Joe. I have been delighted to see her in such a placid state of mind for several days past.”

“Poor thing! I heard her sobbing and sighing last night, and I did not like to say aught to her; I thought she was grieving about our losses.” .…

Mrs Stubble met them at the door as they entered the house, when poor Joe burst into tears, and threw his arms about her neck. “Oh, Peggy!” he sobbed, “I have given up every penny I had in the world. Us have got no money now; it is all gone, and we must work for our living.”

“Never mind, Joe dear,” said Peggy, kissing him affectionately, while tears streamed down her face. “We have got health and strength left, and what is better than all, dear, we have got peace of mind, which all the wealth of the world would never give. Since you have been away I have been praying to God to subdue my stubborn will, and help me to bear with patience and resignation any fresh trial that may come upon us; and I have derived such comfort, Joe. God has answered my prayer, and I am now ready to submit to anything He sees fit to send. Thank God! I am so happy now, Joe,” added Peggy, burying her face on her husband's breast and sobbing aloud.

I pass over the occurrences of the next two hours; but Mr Rowley told his wife, when he went home, that it was one of the happiest seasons he had ever experienced.

“Have you any money to go on with, Joe?” asked Mr Rowley, as they sat a few hours afterwards smoking their pipes in the library.

“I have a few shillings, Peter. You know I gave a cheque for my balance in the bank to my trustees.”

“They will probably offer you an allowance for a while; but in the meantime let me supply you with what you want,”


  ― 381 ―
said Mr Rowley, pulling out his pocket-book and laying a ten-pound note on the table.

“No, Peter; I will never take money from you; thank you all the same. I shall soon set about doing something; I won't be idle very long, never fear.”

“This is your own money, Joe; so do not scruple to use it.” Peter then explained to his astonished friend how that Mrs Rowley had found the roll of notes in the old arm-chair.

“But don't you think I ought to give it up to my trustees, Peter?” asked Joe, after his surprise had subsided sufficiently to enable him to speak.

“No; I do not think they have any claim to it. If the original owner of the chair was alive, or even if you knew his descendants, it would be right to return it to him or them, but otherwise, I think, you may honestly keep it yourself.”

“Well, well! this is lucky, or providential I mean. It will just start me on a farm again—ha, ha! Won't Peggy laugh when she thinks how she wanted to sell the old chair? Let us call her in and tell her all about it; here she comes up the garden walk.”

Peggy's joyful surprise was highly amusing to Mr Rowley. After she had left the room, Joe remarked that he would have given a five-pound note if Peggy's likeness could have been taken a few minutes ago. He had never seen her look so pretty before in all his life; and if it were not for that fashionable fright of a bonnet, and her queer petticoats, she would look exactly like an angel.




  ― 382 ―

Chapter XIV.

Death of Maggie.—Death of Simon Goldstone.—Mrs Stubble goes to Briarburn.—Mr Stubble goes to Illawara to look for a farm.

THE late startling occurrences had been carefully kept from the knowledge of Maggie; still, she suspected that there was some fresh trouble in the family. Biddy Flynn's evasive, though tender, replies to her questions, confirmed her suspicion, and the painful suspense was perhaps as trying to her as a full disclosure would have been.

Ben Goldstone's estate had been placed in the Insolvency Court; and as all the household effects were to be sold off, it was deemed expedient to remove Maggie, to prevent her knowing of the sale. Accordingly, she was conveyed in a close carriage to Stubbleton, ostensibly for the advantage of being under her mother's immediate charge. Her doctor, who had not been consulted as to her removal, was so highly displeased at it, that he declined to attend the case any longer. A fresh doctor was called in, who condemned the professional system of his predecessor, and forthwith began a totally opposite course of treatment. But nothing seemed to alleviate poor Maggie's sufferings; she continued to grow worse, until she was reduced to a mere shadow, and even hopeful Biddy began to fear that she would soon lose her darling young mistress.

Three weeks elapsed from Ben's departure, and Maggie's anxiety respecting his prolonged absence grew so intense, that it was at length decided to tell her that Ben had left the colony for a time. Accordingly, the news was communicated to her one evening by her mother, as gently as possible. Maggie listened in pensive silence, while tears rolled down her withered cheeks; presently she sobbed, “It was cruel of him to leave me so ill;” but she asked no questions, evidently dreading lest she should hear something even more distressing, and which she could see her mother was desirous of concealing from her.




  ― 383 ―

Mrs Simon Goldstone called every day, though she was not always allowed to see Maggie. Her kindness was extreme; and she requested Mrs Stubble to leave no means untried for Maggie's relief, and said that her husband had wished her to supply any money that was required. He was still confined to his bed, with a severe attack of an old complaint; consequently could not go to see his daughter-in-law; but he was tenderly interested in her.

One afternoon Biddy was watching beside Maggie's bed, to relieve Mrs Stubble, who had gone to lie down for a while. She had been sleeping, and seemed, from the calmness of her features, to be free from pain. Presently she opened her eyes and fixed them for some time on her faithful attendant; then held out one of her thin hands, which Biddy took and pressed to her quivering lips.

“Biddy!” she softly whispered, “I have had such a pleasant dream. I thought I saw dear Percy in heaven among a host of shining angels; and he smiled at me so lovingly, and held out his arms to come to me, as he used to do when he awoke up from a sleep in his cot. But he looked so amazingly beautiful, ten times brighter than a star. I wonder if I shall know him in heaven, Biddy. Tell me; what do you think?”

“To be shure you will, darlint,—that is a clear case; for supposin' ye shudn't be a bit more wiser nor ye are at prisent, ye'd know yer own child. It is ony common sinse to think that. But it's my belief you'll be a hundred times wiser nor ye are now, honey; so ye'll be shure to know yer own blissed boy the minute ye git to heaven; an' ye'll know all yer other frinds besides who have got safe there, though they may be all shining like rainbows an' sunset-glory. It isn't a bit likely that dear frinds will be separated in heaven. Not at all. That was a lovely dream Miss Maggie; so it was. An' what a happy place heaven must be! all joy an' no sorrow,—no pain, no trouble, nothin' but love—the love of God itself. Shure it makes me heart full of joy to think of it.”

“Oh Biddy! do you really think God will forgive me for all my sins and shortcomings?”

“Didn't ye tell me last night, honey, that ye was sartin sure God had forgiven ye for the sake of Jesus Christ? Ye sed ye know'd God loved ye, an' that His love was filling yer heart an' making yez happy; forbye all yer pains an' sorrow.”

“Yes, I know I did, Biddy; but I am not so sure about it


  ― 384 ―
now. I don't feel so happy as I did last night; my mind seems beclouded.”

“It is the natur' ov us poor wake mortials to change a dozen times a day; but the Almighty God never changes. That is a blessed thought to cheer us. He is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever; and he loves ye to-day as much as he did last night; so don't ye be onaisy about that same, honey. Ye are not always doubtin' whether yer own father loves ye. An' don't ye be lookin' at yer own heart ivery minute to know how it feels, darlint; shure ye'll niver git much comfort doin' that same, bekase yer feelings will change as often as the wind that blows, an' oftener too. Look to Jesus; an' jist whisper that ye want Him to comfort ye, an' yer poor ruffled mind will get as calm as a summer's evening. Try now, honey. Look to Jesus.”

“Yes, Biddy; I am looking to Jesus. He is helping me. I am happier now, Biddy, and my distressing doubts are gone. Jesus is mine!

“Could my tears for ever flow,
Could my zeal no languor know,
These for sin could not atone;
Christ must save, and He alone.
In my hands no price I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling.”

After Maggie had softly repeated the foregoing verse, she said, “Is not that a beautiful verse, Biddy? So soothing! so comforting! Jesus is my rock.”

That night poor Maggie's weary spirit left the world for its eternal rest. The doctor had apprised her friends that the crisis of her disease was approaching. A large abscess had formed in her side, and a fatal result was expected. Mrs Stubble and Biddy were watching beside the bed about midnight, when they suddenly observed a change, and whilst gazing on her death-stamped face, Maggie opened her eyes and extended a hand to each; she then softly whispered, “Jesus is my refuge!” and before Mr Stubble could be summoned to the room, Maggie was dead.

Mr and Mrs Stubble were much affected by the loss of their beloved daughter; still, they did not utter a word of murmuring, and for the first time they learnt what it was to be “sorrowful, yet rejoicing.”




  ― 385 ―

Biddy Flynn's grief was more demonstrative, but it was very brief. When the first outburst subsided, the affectionate old creature declared, with tears in her eyes, that “she was glad from her heart that the dear darlint was gone home to glory before she knew all the wickedness of her worthless husband, or seed the ruination he had brought upon the whole family wid his dishonest cheatin'.”

Maggie's death had a most disastrous effect upon Mr Simon Goldstone, who was at the time in a very precarious state of health. Lydia and her uncle were from home when a messenger arrived from Stubbleton with the sad news, so he was shown up into Mr Goldstone's bedroom. He had previously heard that Maggie's illness was mainly caused by a brutal kick she had received from her husband; and when the news of her death was suddenly communicated to him, the shock was too severe for his weakened system; he was seized with an apoplectic fit, and that night he died without having shown any signs of consciousness in the interim.

A fortnight after Maggie's funeral Mr Stubble sold off all his household effects by auction. Mrs Stubble then went to Briarburn to spend a few weeks with Mrs Rowley, who had very kindly invited her. After resigning all his offices of trust in the city, including his seat in the Legislative Assembly, Mr Stubble went to Illawara to look at a dairy-farm which was advertised for sale. Biddy Flynn went to live with Widow Goldstone.




  ― 386 ―

Chapter XV.

Ben Goldstone's flight from Newcastle in the ship Screaming Eagle, with Mrs Davis.—Remorse of his paramour, and vexation of Ben.—An apparition.

ON the morning of Ben Goldstone's departure from Newcastle in the Screaming Eagle he issued from his cabin long before the dawn of day. He had passed a sleepless night, and was painfully anxious lest some mishap should prevent the ship from getting to sea on that day, in which case he knew that all his deeply-concocted schemes would be exposed. He had induced the husband of his paramour to go to Lochinvar the day before, to bargain for some horses, and meanwhile he wiled away the infatuated woman so slyly that not one of her sharp-eyed neighbours saw her leave the house; and there she was, fast asleep, in the best state-room on board the ship. Mr Davis would probably return to Newcastle by the eleven o'clock train, and then the elopement would be discovered, of course; but Ben hoped to be out of sight of land by that time—or, as he poetically expressed it to his lady, “They would be speeding away to the land of the free on the white horses of the Pacific.” It is no wonder then that he could not sleep composedly, seeing that all his plans and plots might be frustrated by a mere change in the wind, or by a calm, or even by a fog-bank.

The stars were shining brightly when Ben came on deck, and the sky was clear, save a few cirrous clouds to the westward. A light land-wind was blowing, and as he paced the deck with an impatient step he would occasionally stop and exclaim, “Blow, good breezes!” then resume his hurried walk, whistling in that dissonant, hissing key which many sailors superstitiously believe has a stimulating influence on the wind. There were no signs of life on board the ship, save the anchor-watch, who was drearily pacing the top-gallant-forecastle, and the pigs under the long-boat, which began to scent the morning air, and to grunt for their breakfast. The morning star


  ― 387 ―
arose brightly above the horizon, and sparkled in the distant ocean, which was as smooth as a lagoon.

“Curse it all!” exclaimed Ben, stopping suddenly in his walk. “Here is a fair wind freshening up, and the tide all right for a good start, and these skulking sea-dogs are all snoring in their bunks. Rot their lazy bones! If I were the skipper, I'd soon rouse them out with a rope's end or a belaying-pin. I wish we had the mate of the Juno on board here; he would smarten up all hands with his big toe, and make them hop about like French fiddlers.”

Just then the man on the forecastle struck the bells (five o'clock), and walked aft and tapped at the chief mate's cabin to tell him the time. Soon afterwards, smoke began to issue from the galley-funnel, and the cook put the coffee-kettle on to boil. Presently the boatswain came on deck, and lighted his pipe; then the chief mate issued from his cabin, and ordered the hands to be roused out, to heave the cable short; and, finally, the captain came on deck, and three hands were sent aloft to loose the topsails. All these signs of active preparation would have been satisfactory to an ordinary passenger, still Ben was impatient and dissatisfied; he thought that the men did not work the windlass with a will, and the second mate did not bully them enough to stimulate their drowsy energies; the men on the yards, too, seemed to be half-asleep, and the captain himself was only half-awake. So thought Ben; but he was afraid to grumble out his discontent.

As the gray morning light gradually brightened, he could see the pilot-boat preparing to push off to the ship, and then his heart began to quail with apprehension that some unlooked-for event had caused Davis to return before the expected time, and lest he should come off in the pilot-boat to reclaim his truant wife, and punish her seducer. Anxiously Ben stood gazing through a telescope at the approaching boat, until he was satisfied that there was no person in the stern-sheets but the pilot himself, who presently ascended the gangway ladder, and took charge of the ship.

Ben had disguised himself in sailors' gear; so, in order to escape the notice of the pilot, he went forward and took a turn at the windlass-handles, and by the promise of a gallon of rum after they got to sea, he induced the crew to put a little more power into their movements. He was also very active in lending a hand to sheet home the topsails and hoist up the


  ― 388 ―
yards, and then to hoist the quarter-boats up to the davits. No mishap occurred to hinder them, and soon after six o'clock the Screaming Eagle had discharged the pilot outside “Nobby's;” and while part of the crew were getting the anchors on deck, other hands were making sail to an increasing breeze from south-west.

Sail after sail was set, in which operation Ben soon showed the crew that he knew all the ropes. The vessel glided through the water with increasing speed, and Ben's spirits gradually rose as his prospect of getting clear away was brightening every minute. At eight-bells the log was hove, and showed full eleven knots, with a freshening breeze; so Ben muttered to himself, “All right!” and went below to breakfast.

“My dearest Jane, we are free! The land is four leagues astern, and bluff old Nobby does not look bigger than a sailor's hat,” said Ben, as he entered the state-room where Mrs Davis was lying in a berth, looking pale and poorly. “Sparkle up my precious ruby! Let not needless apprehension dim those lovely eyes! We are as safe as if we were inside the golden gate of San Francisco. There is not a tug-boat in Newcastle harbour could catch us now if they pressed up steam to within half-an-ounce of bursting the boiler. Ha, ha! the Screaming Eagle is a clipper worthy of our confidence! Cheer up, my bonnie bird!”

But notwithstanding that encouraging address, Mrs Davis looked as cheerless as a caged robin; and instead of responding in a similarly poetical strain, she said with sobbing utterance, “I would give the world to be at home again. I am wretched in the extreme.”

Ben looked quite staggered for a minute. Such a total change in the views of his companion was to him as incomprehensible as it was unexpected. The previous night she had been in overflowing spirits, and had sung sentimental and sea-songs until past midnight. It is true she was rather tipsy, but that was not a new trait. She had slept heavily all night, and had not awakened until the ship began to plunge about in the short seas about ten miles off the land; then she began to feel both sick and sorry, and was evidently unable to appreciate the sentiment which had just bubbled from the lips of her exultant paramour. Presently Ben recovered from his surprise, and said in the softest tones he could assume, “Come, come, deary! Don't yield to those silly qualms.


  ― 389 ―
Show yourself a true woman. Let me lead you out to breakfast. Come, cheer up, my Jenny!”

“No, no, no! I can't move; my head is splitting. Oh dear, dear! dear!”

“Try a little brandy and soda-water, Jenny.”

“Ugh! I can't touch anything; I am dreadfully sick. Oh my! oh my! whatever did I come here for?”

“Don't cry, ducky! You will be better in a day or two. Do let me get you a little brandy.”

“I tell you I can't take anything. Please to leave me alone for a while, Goldstone.”

“As you please, Jane,” said Ben, in a less gentle tone, and forthwith he went out to the breakfast table, looking rather disconcerted.

Poor Mrs Davis was early awakening to a sense of her degraded position, and her heartlessness in leaving her husband and young family. She had yielded to a fatal temptation, been spell-bound, as it were, by Ben's arts and flattery, and only seemed conscious of the enormity of her error when the hope of retrieving it was past. The reaction of the stimulants which she had lately learnt to imbibe, and the nauseating sensation of sea-sickness, were almost intolerable; but added to her physical sufferings were the pangs of conscience and the yearnings which every heart, to some extent, feels for home; and no picture of misery could be more complete than she presented. On the previous night she had kissed her sleeping children, and while doing so, her maternal feelings had almost prevailed over her lawless passion; but Ben stood by, and passing his arm round her waist, he gently drew her from the bedside, and immediately administered a cordial from his dram-bottle, or “pocket-pistol,” then he hurried her away to the boat. Now her mind was tortured by mental pictures of the poor little forsaken ones waking up, crying for their breakfast, and piteously calling aloud for mamma. Then she would fancy her husband returning to his deserted home, and her paroxysms of grief were agonising.

When Ben re-entered her state-room after breakfast, he tried his utmost to soothe her. The man who could seldom speak a kind word to his own faithful, suffering wife, was apparently deeply concerned at the self-wrought misery of a woman who had proved herself void of moral principle, natural affection, or even common modesty! But all his honeyed words and libidinous looks were ineffectual; they did not assuage


  ― 390 ―
her sorrow or her sickness in the least degree; and after a while he grew tired of talking softly to a listener who did nothing but cry and retch at all he said; so he left her and went on deck, to see how the ship was speeding, and to have a comforting nobbler by himself on the spars amidships.

I must now glance back at Ben's career for a few weeks prior to his departure. He had several reasons for absenting himself from Sydney, the strongest of which was the dread of a visit from the father of the poor girl in Melbourne whom he had led astray. He had received a communication from one of his Victorian associates, warning him “to look out for squalls;” that “daddy Smith was on his passage back from China, and he would most likely call Ben to account for his little affair with Amy.” It further stated that “Smith was a cranky old fellow, and Ben had better steer clear of him until his wrath had stilled down a bit, and then something might be done to compromise the matter.”

Ben would probably have stood his ground and risked Mr Smith's wrath, had his pecuniary affairs been in a satisfactory state, for he had confidence in the power of money to insure protection from any ordinary danger. He had not transgressed the criminal code of law, and a mere action for damages would not have scared him, for he had many means of showing a jury that the girl was no better than she ought to be. Of course the law would protect him against the cudgel of Mr Smith, or of any other crusty sire who essayed to inflict summary justice with his own hands. But Ben was, to use a current phrase, “hard up;” his recent attempts to retrieve his heavy losses in Melbourne had resulted in still further losses. He had reason to believe that there would soon be a grand break up of the accommodating cheque in Sydney, with which he was largely involved. Moreover, he had certain misgivings that Mr Smith might possibly meet him some day on a sudden, and argue his case with a Colt's revolver; so he finally resolved to get out of the way of so much impending danger. He could spend a year or two on foreign travel, and in the mean-time his father might die, or some other lucky stroke of fortune might turn up in his favour. On one side, he saw nothing but personal risk and trouble, including the domestic annoyances of a sick wife and a fidgety mother-in-law; on the other side, he saw liberty, freedom, enjoyment! a life on the ocean wave, and the exciting novelties of the glorious land of the


  ― 391 ―
West; and he might go away with money in both pockets, if he managed with his usual dexterity.

The plea of buying horses for India served Ben while he was making preparations for his departure. He had quietly arranged for a passage in the Screaming Eagle a month previously; but a few days before the ship was ready for sea she took the ground, and injured her ruder and stern-post, and had to discharge cargo to undergo necessary repairs. The delay was very annoying to Ben; but, as he afterwards reasoned, it was a lucky knock, for he was enabled to secure a charming companion, one whose tastes, he thought, singularly accorded with his own. The fact of his having taken a passage in the ship was only known to persons who were bound to secrecy by the strongest tie that could hold them; and while repairs were progressing, Ben was sporting about Newcastle and Maitland, and making a feint to buy horses, though he did not pay for any. He was waiting, he said, for the arrival of next mail-steamer, when he expected a military friend from India, who would assist him in his final bargaining for the animals.

On Ben's frequent visits to the billiard-room of one of the hotels in Newcastle, he had met with a Mr Davis, a gentleman who could handle a cue almost as well as Ben could himself, and whose taste in general was of a decidedly sporting turn. He had formerly held a government appointment in a country town; but there had been a difference of opinion between himself and the Colonial Treasurer respecting his quarterly cash returns, and, to his extreme dissatisfaction, he had been dismissed the service. He explained the whole affair to Ben, and showed himself an injured man. Ben looked very sorry for him, and said “the Treasurer deserved to have his head tied up in a canvas money-bag, and be pelted with copper tokens by all the unfortunate victims that he had mercilessly sacked.”

Mr Davis, who was half-tipsy, seemed much affected by such strong sympathy from a mere stranger. He seized Ben's hand, swore he was a brick, and called for two “ginslings.” He then, in a wheedling tone, which frequent practice had rendered almost perfect in its way, asked Ben “to lend him a couple of sovereigns for three days.”

“Here you are, old fellow,” said Ben. “Take this five-pound note, and keep it till I ask you for it. That is more than the Treasurer would do for you.”




  ― 392 ―

“The Treasurer has tried to starve my poor wife and children, sir,” said Mr Davis, in tones of hissing contempt; to which Ben feelingly responded, “Shame! shame!”

Ben had previously heard that Mr Davis had a very handsome young wife; and it was on that account, more than any real fondness he had for the lazy sponger himself, that Ben had assumed to be interested in his case. Had it not been for that enticing fact, Ben would have referred him to some other sympathising friend, or to the pawnbroker round the corner, for “a loan for three days.” The five-pound note was a mere bait, and the tipsy-brained man took it as eagerly as a barracouta bites at a floating hook in a ship's wake. He pocketed the note, and secretly believed that Ben was a “jolly flat.”

That evening Ben took tea with Mr and Mrs Davis in their cottage, a short distance from Newcastle. After tea, all had some rum-toddy together, and while they sat cosily round the fire, Ben explained that his object in staying in the neighbourhood for a few weeks was to buy horses for India. He wished to have the animals all selected prior to the arrival of his friend, Captain Curber, from Bengal. With a delicate frankness, which was expressly meant to strike the lady, he further stated that “he could put a good thing in his (Mr Davis') way, if he would not consider it infra dig. to undertake a duty so much below his position. He might as well have a commission as any one else, and five per cent. on, say £2000, would be a comfortable sum to have in his pocket. He hoped they would excuse him for naming it; still, if Mr Davis liked to accept the job to select the horses, he should have it.”

Mr Davis assured Ben that he should only be too happy to have the job; in fact, it was just what he liked. He knew a horse's points as well as Burt or Buchan Thomson, and he was also intimately acquainted with the district, and with the most likely persons to have animals suitable for a foreign market. While he was expatiating on his own skill, an idea struck him that he might slyly get five per cent. from the venders, which would double his commission, and it was all fair enough as times go, and in common with usage in certain quarters that he was familiar with. “I gladly accept your kind offer, sir,” he added, “with ten thousand thanks.”

“All right, old fellow! That is settled, then; now let us have a drop more toddy over it. You can go to work and


  ― 393 ―
make your selection as soon as you like, Davis; only do not complete a bargain until Captain Curber arrives. Here is another five-pound note to help to pay your travelling expenses.” …

I need not give any further particulars of this disgraceful affair; the result I have shown. There was the wretched, degraded wife in her cabin, a prey to feelings impossible to describe; and Ben had already begun to regret that he had encumbered himself with a companion who, he imagined, had no more real courage than a young kitten,—in fact, she was a crying doll.

The captain and mate of the Screaming Eagle were aware that Ben was an absconder. In addition to paying a high price for his accommodation on board, he had given a liberal douceur to both captain and mate. They suspected that the lady was not his wife, but they were silent on the subject. They were plain, unpolished men, particularly taciturn, and seemingly unobservant of anything but the concerns of the ship. It was impossible, however, for them not to hear the bickerings which were frequent between their passengers. For the first week out, Mrs Davis continued very sick, and did not leave her cabin. Ben showed surprising patience in trying to quiet her incessant repining; but his leering looks, which had struck so many women stupid, were lost upon her, for she turned her back to him, nor would she be consoled either by his poetical flights or his prosy reasonings. After a while he grew discouraged, and resolved to leave her to have her sulky fit out. She grew worse at being, as she said, deserted by him; whereupon a disagreement ensued, a mere tiff at first, but it gradually grew to a noisy quarrel, and Ben's irritable temper so much mastered his cool cunning, that, in an unguarded moment, he struck her a smart blow on the breast. He was sorry for it in less than a minute, for he found that he had not his own gentle Maggie to deal with, and he also saw his mistake in supposing that Mrs Davis was such a tame little pussy. At that hasty blow, her dormant spirit blazed up like fat in the fire, and Ben was obliged to hold her hands to keep her from throwing bottles and other dangerous missiles at his head, or spoiling his features with her finger-nails.

Her screams soon brought the captain and mate into her cabin, when she claimed their protection, and told them how she had been decoyed from her home and her family by Goldstone's


  ― 394 ―
arts and schemes; in fact, that he had drugged her until she did not know what she was doing. She implored them to land her on the first inhabited island they sighted, or put her on board any vessel they met, for she was afraid of her life with that vile man near her. Ben was incensed at the captain's interference, and a stormy dispute arose between them. The result was, that Ben was ordered to take a cabin to himself and keep to it, on pain of leg-irons and handcuffs if he was caught outside the door. The determined manner of the captain convinced Ben that he was over-matched at last, and that his best course was to submit; so he thenceforth took all his meals by himself, and the only fresh air he could get was through the port-hole. The fact of being a prisoner on board chafed his fiery spirit almost to madness, and all day long he paced to and fro his narrow cabin, like a caged tiger.

The ship had been at sea about twenty-five days, when one night, as the chief mate was relieving the watch at eight-bells (midnight), he was startled by loud shrieks from Goldstone's cabin. He rushed in, and found Ben writhing in a fit. The captain was called, and such remedies were applied as were procurable, and in about two hours Ben's consciousness returned; but his manner was extremely wild, and he seemed terrified at something he had seen, but he refused to say what it was. The captain supposed that he was suffering from delirium tremens, as he had drunk hard every day since he came on board from a private stock of his own; so the steward was ordered to stay in the cabin, and watch him. After the captain and mate had gone on deck, Ben told the steward that a woman in grave-clothes had appeared to him, and he believed it was his poor wife. He implored the steward not to leave him for a minute, and promised to give him £100 at the end of the voyage.

Mrs Davis kept closely to her own cabin, and during those days of loneliness she had ample time for sober reflection. Bitter indeed was her sorrow for her past misconduct; and solemnly she resolved that, if she were spared to get back to her home, she would henceforth live a new life. As one grand step towards it, she then vowed that she would never again taste strong drink, for to that fatal influence she mainly attributed her present miserable, degraded position.




  ― 395 ―

Chapter XVI.

Fearful Hurricane.—Foundering of the Screaming Eagle.—Awful end of Ben Goldstone.

A FEW days afterwards, Ben sent a submissive message to the captain, asking permission to walk the poop for half-an-hour, which was granted. When he went on deck he observed that all hands were busy sending down royal and top-gallant yards, reefing preventer-braces, and making other preparations for heavy weather. It was nearly calm, but the sky had a dull leaden hue, and there was a portentous closeness in the air which no sailor could misunderstand. The ship was then a few degrees to the north-west of the Marquesas Islands. After a while Ben ventured to ask the captain what he thought of the weather, when he curtly replied, “Dirty, sir; very dirty. A low glass, and still falling fast. We are going to have one of these roundy-go-roundies.”

Ben understood what the captain meant, for he had experienced a hurricane when on board the Juno whaler in the Tonga group; and though the ship was lying with three anchors ahead in the land-locked harbour of Vavau, they narrowly escaped being wrecked. He remarked “that he was afraid they had not much sea-room to run for it,” when the captain replied, “No, sir; we are jammed in on all tacks by coral reefs; and come what may, we must lie to, and sweat it out the best way we can. We have a good ship under us, but she is too deep for heavy weather, and I told my agent so before I took in the last lighter of coal that came alongside; but he only smiled and said, ‘Forty tons won't make much difference to this big ship, captain.’ That is the way lots of ships are sent to the bottom of the sea, sir; when they fall in with heavy weather, they get smothered.”

As night approached, the appearance of the sky was awful in the extreme. Lightnings streamed from the murky clouds, and thunders shook the ocean to its bed. The wind was


  ― 396 ―
veering about from all points of the compass, accompanied with heavy squalls of rain. Sail had been reduced to a close-reefed main-topsail and storm staysail; everything else was furled and secured by double gaskets. About thirty tons of coal had been thrown overboard, and the hatches were made all secure with extra tarpaulins; in short, all that sailor-like skill and forethought could do, was done.

At about eight-bells a furious hurricane burst upon them, which blew the canvas away like brown paper, and hove the ship's starboard rail under water, in which helpless position she lay, broadside to it, though the helm was put hard up. The sea was feather-white, and the roaring of the wind through the rigging was even louder than the thunder, while the blue lightning seemed to run down every rope. Most of the cabin furniture fetched way, and crashed down into the state-rooms to leeward; and the smashing of crockery and glass in the steward's pantry added to the general din of destruction. In that awful crisis, Mrs Davis left her cabin and rushed frantically into Ben's arms, beseeching him to save her, while he, pale and agitated, and trembling in every limb, could not articulate a word of comfort, and seemed paralysed with extreme fear.

“O God, have mercy upon us!” exclaimed the distracted woman. “Save us, O God!” Ben's lips moved; perhaps he was mentally repeating that prayer, but he uttered not a word. Presently the captain looked into the cuddy, and said in a hurried tone of authority, “Mr Goldstone, you said you were a sailor; now you must show yourself to be one. Come on deck, sir, and take a turn at the pumps, or else go below and trim the cargo up to windward. Bear a hand, sir; there is no time to think about it; ten minutes longer in this position will send us all to eternity. Steward, you come on deck too.”

Ben scrambled up the companion-way, but he could get no further; his nerves were so shaken by his long-continued excesses, that he was powerless as an infant. The ship was on its beam-ends, and the cargo had shifted. The second mate, with part of the crew, were in the fore-hold, trimming the coal over to windward; the rest of the crew were lashed at the pumps. The captain and mate had clambered along the weather topsides, and were cutting away the laniards of the fore-rigging. Presently the foremast went by the board, taking the main-top-gallant mast with it, when the ship partially


  ― 397 ―
righted; but she still lay wallowing and straining in the trough of the sea.

At midnight there was a sudden lull, and the sea then began to break on board, like vast hillocks of water. The long-boat, spars, fore-deck house, galley, and all the lee bulwarks were washed away; one of the seaman was lost overboard, and several others were badly injured.

The lull lasted but half-an-hour, when the hurricane burst on them again, and the main and mizen topmasts went over the side. It continued to blow furiously till day-dawn, when a pitiable scene of wreck presented itself to the view of the weather-beaten crew. The ship had strained very much as she lay on her broadside, and she leaked badly. The broken spars dashing against her sides also damaged her, and there was no possibility of clearing away the wreck while the sea continued to break on board with such force and fury. There was four feet of water in the hold, and the men were nearly knocked up with incessant pumping all night; nevertheless, they nobly kept at work; but at six-bells there was five feet of water in the hold, and one of the pumps was choked with coal-dust. It was then decided to abandon the ship, as it was not possible to keep her afloat another hour.

Fortunately, the two quarter-boats were uninjured; so the chief mate took charge of one, and the captain the other. Provisions and water were hastily put into the boats, and they were successfully lowered into the water,—a work of imminent hazard on account of the furious cross sea which was breaking over the ship on all sides. The crew were told off for each boat, and stood by, watching for a favourable opportunity of lowering themselves into their respective boats by means of a rope fastened to the end of the spanker-boom. Mrs Davis, who was half-frantic with terror, was with much difficulty lowered into the captain's boat, and there she sat with her face covered in a shawl, as if afraid to gaze on the terrific scene around her.

Meanwhile Ben had gone to his cabin to secure his gold; he had three canvas bags full of sovereigns. In his excited efforts to carry them all on deck at once, he let one bag fall, when it burst, and the coin rolled over the cabin floor. He fell down on his hands and knees, and scraped up part of the treasure, which he put into the pockets of his monkey-jacket. He could not stop to gather it all up, for he heard the captain vociferously calling on him to “bear a hand, if he didn't want


  ― 398 ―
to go down in the ship;” so he seized the other two bags of sovereigns, and staggered with them to the deck. Every soul had left the ship but himself, and the boats were lying under the stern, the crews plying the oars to keep from drifting to leeward. The wind had lulled, but there was a dangerous sea, which threatened to engulf the boats.

“I will not risk the lives of all in the boat by waiting another minute,” shouted the captain. “We shall be stoved up against the ship if we lie here.”

“Hold on half-a-minute, captain! Here, save this gold! I will give £500 to the man who will save it!” shrieked Ben, holding up one of his bags of sovereigns.

“Heave it into the boat,” roared a sailor who was sitting in the head-sheets holding a boat-hook. “Look sharp; heave it in, and I'll catch it.” The boat just then lifted to a sea, and Ben threw the bag. The man caught it, but it was heavier than he had expected, and it fell across the gunwale and split open; part of the coin fell overboard, and the rest scattered into the boat.

Ben uttered an involuntary imprecation on the man's carelessness, then seizing the remaining bag of gold, he passed his leathern belt through a loop in the neck, and fastened it round his waist, being evidently determined to trust in his own power to save that.

“Hold on a bit! hold on, sir!” shouted the captain, whose boat had just shipped a sea and was half-full of water; he then called out to the mate to come up with his boat, and take off Goldstone. Ben evidently misunderstood the captain's words, for instead of waiting till the boat was nearer to the ship, he swung himself off the end of the boom, and there he hung on by his hands only.

“For heaven's sake, make haste, captain!” screamed Ben, who ever and anon dipped into the sea as the vessel rose or fell to the waves. “For mercy's sake, bear a hand! I can't hold on much longer! O my God! O my God! I am going! Captain! captain! save me, and take all my gold!”

“Hang on! hang on, sir!” shouted both captain and mate, who were making strenuous efforts to reach the vessel. With the ship perfectly motionless, it would have been a severe exercise for a strong man to hang on by his hands to a rope for five minutes, but with the ship plunging and rolling in that furious sea, it was a marvel how Ben held on so long with at


  ― 399 ―
least seventy pounds weight of gold in his pockets and fastened to his belt.

The men did their utmost to save him. The orew of the mate's boats used extraordinary efforts to get under the stern, and had almost succeeded; another minute, and they would have had him in their boat; but they were one precious minute too late: the ship took a plunge into a heavy sea, burying her bows and lifting her stern high out of the water. The sudden jerk was too much for Ben's exhausted strength; he uttered a piercing scream, which rang in the ears of every survivor for many days afterwards, and in an instant he was gone. Down he went to the depths of the sea, with his pockets full of gold.

After being several days at sea, the boats of the Screaming Eagle were picked up by a ship bound from San Francisco to Melbourne. About two months afterwards, Mrs Davis returned to her home and her children, a wiser, if not a better woman.




  ― 400 ―

Chapter XVII.

Bob Stubble meets Sam Rafter in Melbourne.—Sam's lecture.—His prosperity.—Bob's sorrow for the misfortunes of his family.—Goes to Sydney.

BOB STUBBLE got a good deal of wordy sympathy from his landlady and others after the loss of his money in the Tiddliwink venture, especially as they learnt that he had not lost his all. He had only about twenty pounds left in the bank; but he did not tell any one the state of his account. He was, perhaps, in quite as good a financial position as many persons who were speculating largely in the share market, and he might have “gone in” again with greater boldness, as he had so little to lose, but Bob never had a taste for gambling of any sort, and he wisely resolved to seek some steady employment, as the safest and surest way of retrieving his fallen fortune.

He searched the columns of the newspapers every morning, and replied to many advertisements headed “Wanted a strong, active young man,” but unfortunately he was always too late; some other active young man had secured the berth before him. At that time there were scores of men walking about the streets of Melbourne seeking for employment; indeed there are at all times many persons who seem to have an unconquerable disposition to lounge about the metropolis in preference to going into the country, where they would have a better chance of finding employment, and where, too, they could, in general, live at much less expense than they can do in a crowded city. Bob Stubble's motive for remaining in Melbourne was certainly a praiseworthy one; he was desirous of availing himself of the advantages of the splendid free library, and also of uniting himself to some of the young men's mutual improvement classes in the city.

It was evident that Bob was not lofty in his ideas of an occupation, and that he had no notion of allowing his pride to starve him, for he applied one morning for the appointment


  ― 401 ―
of cart-driver to a baker; but he was considered ineligible for the post on account of his not being sufficiently acquainted with the city. He was offered a job to hawk onions and potatoes by a produce-dealer in Flinders Lane; but “advance Australia” was always Bob's motto, and he thought it would be more advantageous to the commonwealth for him to grow vegetables rather than to hawk them; so he decided that if at the end of that week he had not succeeded in getting suitable employment, he would either go back to the diggings at Bendigo, or else return to New South Wales, and go to farm work again.

As he was looking through the Argus one morning, he chanced to see an advertisement headed “Lecture to Young Men this evening, by Alderman Rafter, at the Temperance Hall, Russell Street; admission free.” The name of the lecturer could not fail to attract Bob; still, he did not for a moment suspect it was his old playmate Sam, the sawyer's son. He was not aware that Sam was in Melbourne, much less did he expect to see him elevated to the dignity of alderman. However, the subject was an encouraging one, and there was nothing to pay for it; so Bob determined to go and hear it. His surprise may be imagined when he saw a fine-looking man walk with a dignified step on to the platform, and at once he recognised the identical Sam Rafter whom the vulgar boys of Daisybank used to call “chips”; and in one of the reserved seats sat the object of Bob's early love, Sophy Rowley (now Mrs Rafter), gazing proudly at her honoured husband.

The hall was well filled with a respectable audience, and from the way in which they cheered the lecturer from time to time, it was evident that his subject was highly appreciated. The lecture contained a variety of useful hints to young men in every walk of life, showing the advantages that will eventually accrue to them by wisely applying their vigorous young days to the acquirement of useful knowledge. Many examples were adduced of young men who had by steady perseverance and effort risen in the world, and had been made instrumental in benefiting tens of thousands of their fellow-creatures. Perhaps the most striking of Sam's illustrations was from the experience of the Rev. Thomas Binney, as told by himself at the concluding part of a lecture which he delivered to young men in London. It is so very instructive and encouraging, that I give the extract verbatim.




  ― 402 ―

The reverend gentleman said:—“You are young men engaged in business, but have to improve your minds as best you can in your leisure hours. Well, I was once in the same position. I was seven years in a bookseller's concern (the late firm of Angus & Son), and during that time my hours were, for two years, from seven to eight, and for five years from seven to seven—under great pressure, I have sometimes been engaged from six till ten. But somehow, all the time, and especially from my fourteenth to my twentieth year, I found opportunities for much reading and a great deal of composition. I did not shirk, however, my Latin and Greek, for I went for some time two evenings in the week to an old Presbyterian clergyman, to learn the elements of the two languages, and could read Cæsar and St John; but my great work was English. I read many of the best authors, and I wrote largely both poetry and prose; and I did so with much pains-taking. I laboured to acquire a good style of expression, as well as merely to express my thoughts. Some of the plans I pursued were rather odd, and produced odd results. I read the whole of Johnson's ‘Rambler,’ put down all the new words I met with—and they were a good many—with their proper meanings, and then I wrote essays in imitation of Johnson, and used them up. I did the same with Thomson's ‘Seasons,’ and wrote blank verse to use his words, and also to acquire something of music and rhythm. And so I went on, sometimes writing long poems in heroic verse; one on the ‘Being of a God,’ another, in two or three ‘books,’ in blank verse, in imitation of ‘Paradise Lost.’ I wrote essays on the immortality of the soul, sermons, a tragedy in three acts, and other things, very wonderful in their way, you may be sure. I think I can say I never fancied myself a poet or philosopher; but I wrote on and on to acquire the power to write with readiness; and I say to you, with a full conviction of the truth of what I say, that, having lived to gain a little reputation as a writer, I attribute all my success to what I did for myself, and to the habits I formed during those years to which I have thus referred. I have never before mentioned these things, and I do so now simply to urge you young men to laborious self-improvement. I think that a fact drawn from one's own experience may have more weight than a hundred arguments.”

After the lecture was ended, Bob waited till the audience had dispersed, and then he walked forward to the platform


  ― 403 ―
with a timid air. Mr Rafter recognised him instantly, and his cordial greeting to his old playfellow showed that he had the heart of a boy, though he had the mind of a man. Mrs Rafter seemed equally pleased to see Bob. They gave him a pressing invitation to return with them to their house, and stay the night. To that he modestly demurred; he felt his position to be so different from theirs, that he shrunk from a close intimacy; but the kind-hearted pair would not receive his excuses; their phaeton was waiting at the door of the hall, and there was a seat for him; so go he must.

An hour afterwards, Bob was sitting with his good friends at the supper-table in their house at Emerald Hill, and was by degrees losing that reserve which had at first been so painful to him, for he could not but feel that Sam's friendship was as real as ever, although he had risen in the world. After they had chatted a while on family affairs, Sam remarked, with a pleasant smile: “I had not the least idea that you were amongst my audience to-night, Bob. I should not have got on so composedly with my discourse if I had known that you were listening.”

“Why not, Mr Rafter? I am sure I am not competent to criticise your lecture, even if there were anything in it to cavil at.”

“Competency is not always deemed a necessary qualification for censorship, Bob; but I say, please to call me Sam when I am not engaged at aldermanic duties; it sounds less formal and more friendly, you know. I could not help smiling to-night,” continued Sam, “when my audience cheered me so heartily, and especially after the complimentary remarks of the chairman at the conclusion, for I remembered that the last time I delivered that lecture, at Daisybank, I was hooted at by a crowd of unruly boys, and laughed at too by several foolish old folks, who would not do me the justice of hearing what I had to say before they sneered me down.”

“Is that actually the same lecture that old Mr Sleeky called ‘stuff and nonsense,’ Sam?” asked Bob with a look of surprise.

“The very same, I assure you. The only addition is that little bit of the Rev. Mr Binney's experience, which I thought was too good to be omitted. I have several other lectures which are much more pretentious than that one; but I was desirous of seeing how my first effort at composition would pass with a respectable audience. You have accidentally been


  ― 404 ―
there to-night, Bob, to witness my triumph over the despisers of my early efforts in my native village. Ha, ha, ha! Is not that a capital illustration of the principle which I was trying to lay down to-night, viz., that a young man should not be discouraged if his merits are not soon appreciated, but should work on perseveringly, for assuredly his reaping-time will come, if he is sowing good seed?”

“I think if I had been snubbed as you were by the Daisybank audience, Sam, I should never have had the courage to stand up again as a lecturer.”

“I believe you wrong yourself there, Bob. If you felt convinced that you could do a certain thing, and it was right for you to do it, you would not be deterred by a single failure. I am sure of that from my knowledge of your characteristics. How many times have I seen you risk your neck by mounting a fiery young colt, which had thrown itself down under you! Lecturing may not be your forte, Bob; we are not all cut out for the same work, you know; there must be masons and joiners, and plasterers and painters, in the erection of a dwelling-house; but if you had been inclined to come out as a public speaker, a roomful of noisy boys and old fogies would no more have permanently cowed you than they have cowed me. There is too much Australian pluck in you, Bob, to be scared at trifles. That is my real opinion of you.”

“Well, I think it would have taken some of the conceit out of me, at any rate.”

“Possibly so, Bob, and a good thing, too; that would have been helpful, so long as it was not all taken out of you, for a little conceit, or rather self-esteem, is as useful to every man as spirit is in a horse. My first snubbing was not pleasant to me, I assure you. It caused me to lie awake at night, though I feigned to laugh at it when spoken to on the subject; but I now know that it was a salutary ordeal, which did me far more real good than if I had been applauded as loudly as I was to-night.”

“I cannot exactly understand that, Sam.”

“Cannot you? Then I will try to explain what I mean by it. If I had been overwhelmed with praise at my first start-off, I might have grown vain and self-confident; it is only a reasonable hypothesis, judging from what we can see around us every day. Perhaps I should have become careless, and presuming on my popularity, I might have bestowed less thought and study on the next subject I lectured upon, and


  ― 405 ―
so have become at length a mere superficial talker. If I had been ‘led out’ prematurely, as many half-educated youths are, and made too much of,—become a general favourite, as it is called,—I should have had far less time for the diligent study which is necessary to acquire a solid ground-work, or foundation, whereupon to rear a superstructure of usefulness in after-life. Depend upon it, Bob, it would be a happy thing for many of the smart, promising young men around us, if they got a good-natured snubbing now and then; not to cow them down, or to wound their feelings rudely, but to put them on their mettle, and stir their mental powers into active exercise. Some of them would then, perhaps, become real men, fit to take the helm of affairs, if need be, in a political hurricane; whereas they now run a risk of being flattered and coddled into mere smooth-water sailors, and would be afraid to look on deck in bad weather. You know what I mean by that nautical figure. But you smile at my old-mannish remarks, Bob,” added Sam. “Ha, ha, ha! well, you may smile, when you remember that it is not much more than a dozen years since I was a barefooted little urchin. You know I would not venture to say quite so much before the promising young men that I have alluded to, or they would probably think me presumptuous; nevertheless, I think there is common sense in my remarks, though I have not reached the defined philosophic age.”

“I think your remarks are very sensible, Sam; and I wish young Australians in general would follow your wise example as well as your precepts,” said Bob, with earnestness. “Do you know I felt terribly self-condemned to-night, when I saw you standing up with such manly firmness before a large audience, who were attentively listening to every word you said; for I reflected that I have had far superior advantages to you, if I had made proper use of them. But I have wasted my time, and slighted my opportunities; and now I feel that my mind is as barren as a dry swamp. For the last four years I have scarcely even looked into a book, except a sporting novel, or some such work; and I feel such a humbling sense of my own deficiency, that I actually shrink from the society of enlightened young men, or if I am thrown amongst them by accident, I am made miserable by seeing my own defects.”

“Come, come, Bob, you must not talk too much in that gloomy strain, or I shall begin to fancy that my lecture to-night


  ― 406 ―
has done you harm instead of good,” said Sam, kindly.

“No fear of that, Sam; but I was going to remark what a privilege it would have been to me if I had rightly valued your friendship years ago. If I had diligently applied my energies to self-culture as you did, and as you wished me to do, I might now feel myself of some use in the world, instead of being a drone or a know-nothing, only fit to drive a baker's cart, and worse than all, to be always teased with miserable regrets for having wasted my best years in prideful frivolities, if not in positive mischief. How much I would give to recall even the last four years of my life! What a very different course I would pursue!”

“ ‘Time past can never be recalled!’ I remember that axiom was a round-text heading in my copy-book when I went to Mr Phillip's evening class at Daisybank,” said Sam. “But, thank God, the time present may be improved; so cheer up, Bob, my boy! You are not quite twenty-six years old, and if you set to work diligently now, by the time you are thirty you may gain a surprising amount of wisdom, and at forty you may be a philosopher.”

Bob smiled faintly, and said “his ambition did not soar so high as that, and he must be content to hop about on the ground like a broken-winged magpie.”

“Your present humble feelings are hopeful indications for the future, Bob; for a sense of past errors usually precedes an attempt to set out on a new course of action. At the same time, you should not allow morbid feelings to master you, for it is a miserable waste of time to fret over misdoings or disasters which cannot be remedied. Be thankful, Bob, that you have so soon awakened to a sense of your position, and that you are determined, with God's help to redeem the time in future, so that you may not have to look back, when your head is frosted by age, over a wasted life.”

“Your words are very comforting, Sam,” said Bob, looking more cheerful. “I consider it is providential that I have met with you to-night, for my mind seems wonderfully relieved. I am resolved not to waste any more time in sorrowing over what cannot possibly be mended, but to strive earnestly in future to make up for lost opportunities. I will get you to give me a course of study for the next twelve months, Sam, and you shall see that I will pursue it with all my energies.”




  ― 407 ―

“I will most gladly advise you to the best of my ability, Bob. I need hardly remind you that ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.’ The great Teacher himself has said, ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you:’ all needful things, you know, including wisdom, strength, and energy.” …

A long and serious conversation ensued, which my space will not allow me to give in detail. At a late hour, Bob retired to rest with his heart much lighter than it had ever been before, for he had solemnly resolved, in the strength of the Lord God, that he would henceforward walk in newness of life, and strive to be in some degree useful in the world.

The next morning, after breakfast, Sam told Bob that he wished to have some private conversation with him; so they adjourned to Sam's little study, in a quiet part of the house. When they were seated, Sam said, in his kindest tone, “Bob, my dear friend, I have some saddening news to communicate to you. I ascertained by your casual remarks last night that you had not heard of or from your family for nearly three years; but I purposely refrained from telling you what I know respecting them, for I did not wish to spoil your night's rest. I knew it would be time enough to tell you this morning. I do not think it right to withhold the information any longer from you, because there is a steamer going to Sydney to-day, and you may see it expedient to go by it.”

Sam then, as gently as possible, told his agitated friend of the bankruptcy of his father, of the absconding of Goldstone, and of his poor sister Maggie's death.

The news seemed overwhelming, and Bob's grief was intense. After a while, Sam considerately left him alone, ostensibly for the purpose of attending to some business matters. In about an hour Sam returned, when he found Bob's grief had softened down to some extent, and he said that he had prayed to God for grace to bear his heavy trials with patient submission, and also to guide him aright.

“You might have thought last night, when you were telling me of your present position, that I was unkind in not offering to help you in some way, Bob,” said Sam. “I have no doubt that I have influence enough to procure you a situation in Melbourne, and I should offer to interest myself in your behalf now, but I think it is clearly your duty to go to Sydney at once, and comfort your parents in their complicated


  ― 408 ―
misfortunes. If you should afterwards decide upon settling in this colony, come, and make my house your home until you get into suitable employment, and I will do all in my power to further your interests. If you want any money now, Bob, don't scruple to tell me, for I have some to spare, thank God, for a friend in need.”

Bob thanked his generous friend, but declined his offer of pecuniary assistance. Shortly afterwards he took an affectionate farewell of Sam and his worthy wife, and went straightway to his lodgings to pack up his luggage.

That afternoon he embarked in the steamer Telegraph for Sydney.




  ― 409 ―

Chapter XVIII.

Adieu to city life.—Settlement of the family at Unity Vale, Illawara.—Mr Stubble is persuaded to give an oration at the School of Arts.

WHEN Bob Stubble arrived in Sydney, he found that his father and mother had gone to their new farm, so he went straightway out to Mrs Simon Goldstone's house. Lydia and her uncle received him very kindly, and prevailed upon him to stay the night.

From Biddy Flynn Bob learned a good deal about the various sad occurrences in his family during his absence from Sydney, and he saw with bitter regret, that, if he had not allowed his sullen temper to estrange him from them, he might have prevented many of the disasters which had overtaken them.

The next day Bob took steamer for Illawara. His meeting with his parents was a touching scene: they wept and smiled alternately, and then they all reverently thanked God for His goodness in again uniting them after their long separation and their many trials.

Mr Stubble's farm was situated at Illawara, that romantic district which has especially invoked the muse of one of Australia's most gifted poets. The late owner of the farm was about to leave the colony, and Mr Stubble bought it, with all its appurtenances, at a moderate price. The proceeds of sale of his household effects in Sydney, and the cash in the old chair, enabled him to complete his purchase without borrowing money from any one, and he once more felt himself an independent man; for although the farm was small, he believed that it would yield him a respectable living, and that was all he wanted. The house was not large, but it was snug and comfortable. It was charmingly situated in the midst of a shrubbery, and when Joe and his wife had got fairly settled in it, they confessed that they had never felt so contented before. Bob decided to stay and help to work the farm, and his father agreed to give him a share in the profits of it. It was not far from a township where there was a


  ― 410 ―
mechanics' institute with a good library attached to it; also a young men's mutual improvement association. Bob united himself to all those institutions, and the whole family joined themselves to a church in the same town.

Bob was both surprised and delighted at the change in his mother's disposition and demeanour. He had expected to find her pining herself to death at their humbled position and their loss of fortune, instead of which, she was uniformly cheerful and contented; nor had he ever seen her looking in better health. She did all the dairy work, and a good deal of the house work too, for they kept only a little girl from the orphan school as servant. She frequently spoke in affectionate terms of Mrs Rowley, and often referred to the happy time she spent at Briar Burn after poor Maggie's death, and she acknowledged herself greatly indebted to Mrs Rowley for her Christian-like advice and her consistent example.

Mrs Stubble was almost always cheerful, and Bob often heard him, in his quaint way, express his gratitude to God for taking away his money, and giving him in return a heart full of peace and contentment. There never was seen a more happy old couple than Joe and Peggy. Seldom indeed was a note of discord heard in their home, and never was there uttered by either of them a word of reproach for past misdoings or mistakes. Bygones were bygones with them. They “lived and loved together,” and they lived, too, in preparation for, and in joyful hope of, “the life of the world to come.” No busybody ever presumed to whisper a word to Peggy about her husband's folly or lack of judgment in losing his money; her manifested respect for him checked any unwarrantable interference in their affairs, and if she ever thought he was blameable, she would dispel the idea in a moment by the reflection, that God had permitted their reverses and trials for good and wise purposes no doubt, and “the judge of all the earth would do right.” Besides, she knew that she herself was largely to blame in inducing her husband to go to Sydney, and she had been extravagant and proud, and idle too. She knew that Joe had not gambled away his money, or wasted it in riotous living; and the bitter anxiety he had endured was punishment enough for him, if he deserved punishment, for being too kind and too credulous, without reproaches or unkind looks from her, to wound his sensitive spirit, and to check the new energy which was gradually evidencing itself in his life.




  ― 411 ―

The arrival of an ex-member of Parliament to the district, as a permanent resident, caused quite a sensation in the rural community, and Joe received many marked tokens of veneration and respect whenever he went into the neighbouring township, not only from tradespeople who were anxious for his custom, but also from people who had nothing to sell. Soon after he had got fairly into his new homestead, he was waited on one day by a deputation from the mechanics' institute, with a request that he would favour them by giving a lecture in aid of the funds of the institution. Mr Stubble smiled pleasantly at the applicants, and told them that they had over-rated his powers altogether; that he was not capable of giving a lecture, nor had he ever attempted such a task in his life. He would subscribe as much as he could afford to their institution, but he might as well try to hop over Mount Keira as attempt to deliver a lecture.

But the deputation were not to be put off even by that difficult figure. There were some very persevering men among them,—men who had had large experience on similar delicate missions, and in collecting for public charities,—and they were prepared with more arguments than Joe could answer. It would be tedious to give all their pros and cons, their strongest proposition, which Joe could not refute, was, “that it was the duty of every man to do what he could to benefit his fellow-creatures,” and on that point they concentrated their united stress. “It would be very instructive,” they said, “if Mr Stubble would favour them with some hints and reflections from his costly experience of city life; and as they were all plain country folks, it would be peculiarly interesting.”

After a vast deal of persuasion, Joe reluctantly consented to give them an hour's talk about town affairs in his simple, homely way; and he thought he might throw out a few hints worth thinking about, if folks would have patience to listen to him.

“We are very much obliged to you, sir. What shall we call your lecture?” said the spokesman of the deputation.

“Lecture! Ha, ha! Don't you be calling my gabble a lecture, or I won't go at all. It will be a plain matter-of-fact discourse, suitable only for plain people, for I am no hand at speaking, though I have been a ‘member;’ so don't you make a mistake.”

“Yes, sir, I understand,” said the man with a deferential


  ― 412 ―
smile; “but will you please to tell us what will be the nature—that is to say, the title—of your discourse.”

“I don't know, I'm sure,” replied Joe; “I have never thought of the thing: call it what you like. So long as you don't make too much fuss about it, it is no matter to me what name you give it.”

“Beg your pardon, sir, but we would rather that you gave a title to your subject,” said the spokesman modestly. “Any name will do, you know, sir. We are not particular. Most of us are plain dairy-farmers in this part, sir.”

“I can't think of a name all at once,” said Joe, stroking his beard and looking puzzled. Just then his little servant-maid walked past with a bottle of pickles in her hand, to put on the dinner-table. “Here is a title for you, all ready corked up and bladdered over,” added Joe, taking the bottle from the girl's hand. “Call my discourse ‘Piccalily;’ it is a pretty name, and not very common—Ha, ha! There is plenty of mustard in this mixture.”

The deputation smiled, and said that title would do very nicely. They then thanked him and went away.

A few days afterwards Bob rode into the township to get the newspapers, and to his great surprise he saw posted up on the School of Arts, and in various other places, large placards headed—“Oration by Joseph Stubble, Esq., late M.L.A. Subject, Piccalily! Admission, one shilling.”

On the evening appointed for the “oration,” Mr Stubble drove his wife into the township in a spring-cart, and Bob followed on horseback. The School of Arts was lighted up, and a small crowd had assembled at the door. As Joe approached there was a general buzz of conversation, and he overheard one lad say to another, “That is old Piccalily in the white hat.”

When Joe entered the building he saw that it was tastefully decorated with festoons of bush flowers and wreaths of grasstree and fern leaves. The secretary met him at the door, and politely escorted him to the platform, where there were several ministers and other influential residents of the town, one of whom was to take the chair. They all received Mr Stubble very respectfully, and made some complimentary remarks on the honour he was conferring on their institution.

Joe felt anything but elated, and he afterwards confessed to his wife that he would very gladly have exchanged positions


  ― 413 ―
with a solitary shepherd in the far bush, sitting under a tree and howling with the toothache. As the time drew near for him to begin, all the ideas in his head seemed to jumble up together like prizes in a lucky-bag. To add to his discomfiture, there sat just in front of him a city gentleman of the Dundreary type, with a glass stuck in his eye, and he directed an incessant stare at Joe, while his lips curled contemptuously and his nose was turned up to keep his glass steady, and to snub the presumptuous orator at the same time. Poor Joe thought he would have given anything if that quizzical gentleman had had the good manners to put his eye-glass into his pocket, for he surely could not need it to see a full-grown man only six or seven yards from him.

The chairman at length took his seat, and Joe's heart began to tick like a turret-clock. Suddenly an idea came into his head to plead sickness and go home, but a better idea soon encouraged him to stand his ground like a man. He silently reasoned with his qualms: “What have I to be afraid of? I bean't going to break the law in any way, as I know of. All the folks be looking pleasant at me except that dandy chap with the bull's-eye, and why should I let him scare me? His glass won't shoot me, and if it would, why, many a man has faced a rank of musketry in a worse cause than I be engaged in to-night. I did not seek this position—that's certain; and I have no selfish or vainglorious object in view. I am pledged to talk a bit to-night; so it would be unmanly to run away. I will do the best I can. Good Lord, help me!”

When the chairman sat down, after his introductory remarks, Joe got up with modest boldness; he coughed a little, as a matter of form, and then began his extemporaneous discourse, a summary of which may be seen in my next chapter.




  ― 414 ―

Chapter XIX.

“Piccalily,” or Mr Joseph Stubble's “oration.”

AFTER addressing the chairman and the audience in proper style, Mr Stubble said:—“I have heard a good many gentlemen speechify on platforms of late years, and I have noticed that it has been a fashion with most of them to make a soft apology first and foremost, as if 'em were ashamed of what they were going to say. I shall not copy them to-night, because I don't like sham of any sort, and I bean't going to say or do anything that will offend any one, if I know it. I did not seek this honourable position. Not at all. I was persuaded into it, like a simple yokel who takes a shilling from a recruiting-sergeant and sells himself for a soldier, and afterwards is very sorry over the bargain. No doubt I should feel more happy just now if I were in my barn husking maize, or mending my broken bullock yoke; but here I be, and as it bean't natural for a Briton to desert his post of duty or danger, depend upon it I shall not run away till I have said my say, unless you all run away from me, which it bean't unlikely you will do, if you have come here expecting to hear an oration.

“I feel myself in a like quandary that I have seen other modest men fixed through the over-zeal of their friends in trumpeting them into public notice. I have known some good humble-minded men to be regularly broken down through being what is called “cracked up” high above their natural level. They were men of fair abilities no doubt, and would have got along cleverly enough in their own quiet groove; but they are either forced or coaxed out of it, same as I be now, and puffed up in advertisements and in great big placards, so that folks, who went to hear them lecture or preach expecting something extra wonderful, were disappointed, and perhaps they showed it by their scowling looks, which would act like a shovelful of snow on the speaker's fluttering heart. The efforts of the poor fellow to wriggle up to the standard which his friends had hoisted far too high, were more than his


  ― 415 ―
mere ordinary brain could bear, and in a few months he has sunk under the over-pressure. Thus, many good, earnest men have been killed, as it were, by the kindness of a few friends, who had either over-rated the powers of their pets, or else were unscrupulously anxious to draw a host to their tabernacle or their lecture-room; like the waterman in Sydney, t'other day, who advertised a shark as big as a brewer's horse, to be seen for threepence, in a tent rigged up on the Circular Quay, and after all it was only a dog-fish not much bigger than a cod.

“Now, let me tell you, friends, that I did not call my rigmarole to-night an oration, though it is printed so on all the walls in town. I bean't an orator no more than I be a conjurer. I told the gentlemen who asked me to come here, that I would try to give a plain common-sense discourse, and bade them not to dignify it with the name of a lecture. They said they wouldn't; and so, in order to be extra-modest, they have called it an ‘oration!’—Ha, ha, ha! Well, friends, I can't help it, as the old woman said when the cow kicked her. I shall do my best to please you, and if you bean't satisfied when I have done, you had better ask the gentleman at the door to give you back your shillings.”

Loud cheering followed Mr Stubble's preliminary remarks, and vociferous clapping by a nest of boys up in a far corner, one of whom shouted out, “Bravo! mixed pickles!”

“Aye, boy,” said Mr Stubble, smiling, “you'll get some mixed pickles before your head is as gray as mine; but you needn't be scared beforehand, perhaps they won't hurt you no more than hailstones can hurt a turtle. The lightning-stroke does not shiver every tree in the bush, nor the water-spout doesn't burst over every man's home, you know. But I am going to try to show you how you may avoid some of life's unpalatable pickles; so I hope you boys will behave like men, and not make too much noise with your hands and feet, nor with your tongues either. Applause is pleasant enough, but too much of it is apt to upset a weak head.

“You have all heard the old story of the fox who lost his tail in a steel trap, and then went back to his brother foxes and tried to persuade them to get their tails docked in the same way. Now, if I tell my tale of city life, it bean't because I want any of you plain country folks to go to town and get docked too, but to warn you against some of the man-traps that I have been caught in. This will be a


  ― 416 ―
sufficient excuse, I think, if I talk a good deal about myself to-night.”

Mr Stubble then told them as briefly as possible how he landed in Sydney, nearly a quarter of a century ago, with five pounds in his pocket; how he worked hard, and saved all the money he could, and how, through possessing a small capital, he had suddenly risen to be his own master; and, finally, of his removal to the metropolis with a moderate fortune. He acknowledged the mistake he made in the latter step, and argued the policy of a man stopping in the district where he had risen up or made his fortune, for in general his influence for good would be greater there than it would be elsewhere.

“I bean't much of a political economist,” continued Joe; “still, I think it is only common sense for a man to be as careful where he locates himself as he would be in looking out for a market for his wares, if he had any to sell. No Sydney merchant would ever think of sending anchors and cables up to Bathurst for sale, or butter and bacon to this district, nor they would not be likely to send coal-scuttles and fire-irons to Fiji or Tonga, where there are no chimneys at all in the houses. There may sometimes be good reasons why a countryman should go to live in the city, but, as a general thing, he will find that the country is the fittest and the safest place for him. He may have some ground for thinking himself a rather important man in his rural neighbourhood, but he will feel his importance shrink up like burnt bladders if he goes to live in the city, unless his experience should be different to mine, or unless his bump of self-esteem should be bigger than ordinary.

“ ‘Every man to his trade,’ is a good old motto, and many men have suffered through slighting it. Suppose a plain hard-working farmer, for instance, should take it into his head to turn parson, or doctor, or lawyer, or literary man; I don't say anything against the thing—it may be a commendable ambition, or some higher motive, that prompted it; but he does not always count the cost to himself. He must necessarily study hard to fit himself for his new duties, and he will soon begin to find that it is not such a rosy life as he thought it was. The change from the plough-tail to the desk will most likely upset his digestive affairs, and then he will begin to think that the world is going round the wrong way, or that ‘Old Boggy’ has been playing tricks with


  ― 417 ―
his brain, or has turned his liver into bees'-wax; and a hundred other queer fancies will get into his mind in spite of all his logic. If he has got real “grit” in him, as the Yankees say, and he sticks to his studies, and after a time is moderately successful in his new vocation, he must pay for popularity in harder coins than sovereigns. He will most likely catch pen and ink from professional critics, and friends and neighbours will chafe his tenderest parts in the name of pity and sympathy; and if his “grit” is not as hard as blue road-metal, he will wish he could exchange all his honour and glory for a bark hut in the bush, and a shingle-splitter's licence. Take my word for it, friends, if a farmer thinks he has superior sense in his head, he had better use it to improve his farm or his live stock, and not be too ready to leave his own legitimate occupation to study for any profession or calling of a sedentary kind. That remark will apply to others as well as to farmers. The mason had better stick to his mallet and pickaxe, and not seek to be an architect; and the sailor had better stick to his ship, and not set up as a schoolmaster, or an editor, unless he should happen to be unseaworthy, and then, of course, he must earn his junk the best way he can, poor fellow!

“Some farmers that I know have fancied it was easier work to sell country produce than to raise it, and they have started as commission-agents; but I never met with one man who was half as happy in his city store as he used to be on his farm. He usually looked as uncomfortable as an old cockatoo in a hen-coop. Perhaps not more than one man in a dozen has made money by the change; and some of them have lost their money and their morals too.

“I don't know if any of your friends have ever seen a very fat sailor; that is to say, a regular working jack-tar. I never saw one, though I have seen lots of rolling fat captains and mates. Nor I don't remember ever seeing a very flabby-looking ploughman; and that convinces me that hard wholesome work is essential to robust health. I don't mean to say that fat men are not sometimes healthy and happy too, but if I had my choice, I would far sooner have the nerves and the digestive powers of a common sailor or a ploughman than those of a fat skipper, who never thinks of going aloft, or of hauling on to a tackle-fall; or those of a portly landlord, who never handles a plough, and who but seldom handles anything else heavier than a carving-knife and fork, or a cut-glass decanter.




  ― 418 ―

“It bean't always an easy thing to make young folks agree with the logic of hard labour, or to believe that a trade is the best thing for them, but I believe that it is so in a general way. I have heard tell that the ancient Jews used to say that ‘a boy was either training for a trade or for a thief;’ so they gave most of their sons trades. You know the great apostle Paul was a tentmaker. I bean't going to be so hard upon the boys as the old Jews were, for I am sure there are hosts of honest boys who are not learning trades; still, a trade is a good thing to depend on,—as handy as a sheet-anchor is to a ship. There are many parents in the colony now who are sadly perplexed what to do with their sons, who are just leaving college or school; and there are lots of smart lads who have no employment. When I lived in town I was often applied to by parents to get their sons into situations—‘government billets’ were usually preferred; but they were not easy to get, for there were always scores of names on the lists for fresh openings. A lady called on me one day, and asked me what I could recommend her to do with her son, a fine, big, strapping lad, about sixteen years of age. I found out that he had a turn for handling tools of all sorts, so I advised the lady to make an engineer of him. Ha, ha, ha! I shall never forget how shocked she was, and how she stared at me.

“ ‘My son has been well educated, sir,’ she said; ‘and I think he is fit for something better than a mere blacksmith.’

“I explained that an engineer had not so much to do with hammer and tongs as a blacksmith, still, it certainly was a rather smutty trade, and would not agree with delicate fingers. When I asked her if she had ever read Mr Elihu Burritt's ‘Sparks from the Anvil,’ she said she had read nothing of the sort; so I told her that Mr Burritt was at one time a blacksmith, but now he is a famous writer and a very learned man; that the sparks from his bright brain have scattered all over the world, and doubtless have edified millions of persons who have read his books. I also told her of lots of gentlemen in England, now lights in the land, who were at one time mechanics of some sort, and I tried to persuade her that the more education her son had, the better it was for him, whatever calling or occupation he chose. But the lady could not see the sense of my arguments at all; she looked as cross at me as if I had advised her to make her boy a bushranger; and off


  ― 419 ―
she went with her precious son Tom tucked under her arm, and Tom himself looked as if he would like to drop a blacksmith's big hammer on my toes. Soon afterwards I heard that she had got him into an office,—made a clerk of him,—which is like doing all she can to make a poor dependent drudge of him all the days of his life; for of all the underpaid, over-worked men in the colony, I believe that clerks are the worst: of course I speak of them generally. As a class, they are gentlemen; so it is natural for them to wish to live above the common, and to bring their children up respectably; and how they do it often puzzles me more than it does to guess how all the lawyers in Sydney get their living.

“But notwithstanding the palpable fact, that clerks are getting less pay every year, and that at the present time there are scores of them out of employment, and anxious to get into berths at almost any low rate of pay, many persons are desirous of getting their sons into offices, even without a salary, in preference to giving them some useful handicraft which may make them independent men; for an honest, steady mechanic can generally insure a comfortable living, which a clerk cannot do. Notwithstanding all the difficulties of competing with foreign manufacturers, and granted that much can he said on the subject, I believe that we shall eventually become a great manufacturing nation. Who can doubt it when they see the progress which colonial manufactures are making in the present day, despite all the drawbacks against which they have to cope? The learned professions are in danger of being over-stocked, and evils are likely to arise therefrom which would take me too long even to hint at; besides, you know, it bean't very safe for the like of me to talk much about learned men. I say firmly, that if I had half-a-dozen boys, and they were all strong and healthy, I would in the first place give them the best education I could afford, and then either make farmers, or sailors, or mechanics of them. If any of them afterwards showed that they had got superior intellect, depend on it they would find their proper niche in the world, however high up it might be; and they could take a start upwards from the plough, or the work-bench, or the main-deck, same as hundreds of mighty men have done. The currency lads are real climbers. I never could nail up a paling high enough to keep them out of my orchard when the plums and peaches were ripe; but I must say they were boys of the buck-jumping sort, who had never been to school to learn morals or


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manners. Now that schools are springing up all through the bush, they will be taught to behave better.

“ ‘What are we to do with our girls, sir?’ asked a voice from the centre of the hall.

“I have not quite finished polishing the boys,” replied Mr Stubble; “but perhaps I had better notice the girls a little, for some of them are jealous little pussies, and will very likely think they ought to have been served first. It is a puzzling thing to tell you what to do with your girls, without a few weeks' consideration; however, you cannot do better than give them a good education,—not merely make them ‘accomplished,’ as it is called now-a-days, but give them good, solid, sensible schooling, and a thorough home training as well. Bring them up to be tidy, economical housewives; that is essential, whatever else you make of them. A woman who does not know how to bake a loaf, or cook a joint of meat, or wash a shirt, would be a shocking poor helpmate to a man either in town or country, even though she could play the piano like fury, and talk French like Mrs Napoleon. And be sure you look well after your girls so long as they are under your rule; for they require as much watchful care as young lambs do in a drooping season. The enormities which frequently occur—and which no decent language can describe—is saddening proof of the necessity for that precaution.

“And when they have grown up to blushing womanhood, don't part with the dear darlings to Thomas, Richard, or Henry, however plausibly they may ‘pop the question,’ or however demure they may look over it, until you are assured that they are sober and industrious,—in short, that they possess sterling religious principle. I have seen parents exercise less commonsense judgment in deciding upon a husband for their daughter than they would use in the purchase of a cart-horse; indeed, I have known parents to give a girl away to a man whom they would not trust with a five-pound note. Mind you keep profligate, raking dandies away from your homes, whatever you do, or they will do all they can, in an underhand way, to crush your hearts with sorrow. It is not lawful or right to serve them as you serve hawks that hover above your chicken-coops; but there is a moral influence which will scare such human hawks even more effectually than dread of physical wounds and bruises. Train your children up in the ‘fear of the Lord,’ and that ‘will save them from a thousand snares.’ Satan can't do them


  ― 421 ―
any real harm if they humbly trust in Almighty God for guidance.

“While the youngsters are under the home roof, you parents should set them an example of godliness and temperance; you must not expect too much from them if you neglect that important duty. None of us farmers hope to reap a crop of wheat if we have not ploughed up the ground and put in the seed. And when your children go out into the world, do not fail to warn them against the common danger of tippling. Most of us old fellows know something of that tyrannical habit from bitter experience; and all of us—aye, even the stone blind—can trace the evil effects of it in every part of the land. To send a boy or a girl away from home to begin life without warning them against that dangerous vice, is ten times worse folly than starting a team along a rough road without linch-pins in the wheels. I believe that there are cart-loads of bones bleaching in the bush which would this day carry living men and women if it had not been for the fatal influence of strong drink. I specially commend that horrible fact to the sober reflection of merchants and importers of the article, and also to some of their customers who do a good deal in the ‘doctoring’ line. It is murder in the sight of God to put poison in a rum keg, just as wilful as firing a revolver at a man's head, or stabbing him in the back with a knife. Train your children to be ‘temperate in all things.’ Bid them ‘avoid temptation where they can, and when they cannot do that, to shun it.’ Those are two golden maxims, but my head did not make them; so you need not begin to think I am a sage. ‘Temperance puts wood on the fire, meal in the barrel, money in the purse, contentment in the house, clothes on the children, vigour on the body, intelligence in the brain, and spirit in the whole constitution.’ Intemperance is—but I cannot attempt a description of it. If any of you would like to see some clusters of its sad fruits, go any day to the soup kitchen in Sydney; or to the ‘Sunday morning breakfasts for poor outcasts,’ at the Temperance Hall; or to Mr George Lucas's night refuge for the destitute, in Francis Street.

“If you send your young daughters up to Sydney to service or to work in shops, be careful what sort of masters and mistresses you entrust them with, and insist upon it that they do have the run of the streets at night. Bid them shun those evening dancing saloons and singing shops as they would shun


  ― 422 ―
a dead-house, with fever-stricken corpses in it. Caution them against reading books of a silly sentimental character, which will tend to make lackadaisical nawnies of your girls, and soft spoonies of your boys: let them read solid, sensible books, that will help to make men and women of them; and give them a light innocent tale occasionally, if you like, as a sort of moral lollipop for being good children and minding their studies.”

Mr Stubble gave a good many more useful hints to the girls, and then he thus addressed the lads in the far corner:—“Boys, I am going to talk to you again, for I am afraid you are going to sleep. Listen to what I say now: never talk slang, boys, not even in fun, or it may soon grow into a habit, and a very vulgar one too, which no young corn-stalk ought to encourage. I will tell you a little story of a cockney cabman who lost a fare through his confirmed slangy habit. One day, a very stately old lady beckoned a cab from a stand in London, and asked the driver what he would charge to take her to the Bank.

“ ‘You shall go for a bob, marm,’ said cabby, opening the door of his vehicle. The old lady, who did not understand the slang name for a shilling, was naturally vexed at being told she should go for a Bob, which was a common man's name. The cabman, who was anxious for the job, thought she was demurring at his charge, so he said, ‘Well, jump in, marm, I'll take you for a tanner.’ ‘Take me for a tanner!’ exclaimed the lady, looking indignantly at the poor cabman, who could not tell why she was so cross. ‘What do you mean, you impudent fellow? I will not ride in your cab at all.’ Off went the lady, vexed enough at being taken for a bob and a tanner, and in her fine silk dress too, and wondering no doubt what the man meant, for she was not aware that a ‘tanner’ was the slang name for sixpence.

“Thus you see the cabman offended a good customer. Don't you use slang phrases, boys, or you will certainly offend all those friends who hear you who have any claim to good taste. Another thing I would warn you against is smoking. Boys, don't learn to smoke, and then you will never know the difficulty of conquering the craving for the pipe when you grow up to be old men. I know many poor old smoky fellows who would give a small slice off each of their ears if that would effectually cure them of the slavish habit. Some people affirm that smoking is a sin, but I don't put it to you in that


  ― 423 ―
shape; I advise you, on the ground of expediency, to abstain from what may very likely become a passion, and you know, boys, that ‘if we do not subdue our passions, they will subdue us.’ A pious old sailor was much troubled, after being told by a rabid anti-tobacco man that smoking was sinful in the sight of God; so old Jack began to pray about it, as he did about all his concerns, great and small. While he was on his knees he fancied this answer came into his mind (it was mere fancy of course), ‘You may smoke your pipe in moderation, Jack; but don't grumble when you have got no 'baccy.’ The grumbling may be sinful, but I don't believe that smoking is; nevertheless, I say to you again, boys, don't learn to smoke.”

Just then there was a general titter among the audience near to the platform, and the chairman waggishly whispered to the lecturer that the stem of his pipe was sticking out of his waistcoat pocket. Mr Stubble laughed, and then remarked, “I own I be preaching what I don't practise, and that is the way of the world, as I have pretty often found it: still, my advice may be the more valuable, as it is clear that I speak from experience. I have often thought that if some good-natured old smoker had given me a gentle caution when I was a boy, that I should not have begun to acquire the dirty habit; and that is the reason why I warn youngsters whenever I have a chance. If I had thought of it, though, I would have left my pipe at home to-night.

“Another thing I want to say to you, boys: don't gamble! If I were able to describe a scene which I saw with my own eyes in Sydney, a short time ago, I think it would make each boy up in the corner yonder say to himself, this very minute, ‘I'll never gamble, and break my poor mother's heart.’ I saw an old widow lady, just after her only son was taken out of her house one night by detectives, who had a warrant charging him with embezzling money from his employer, to pay ‘debts of honour!’ I shall never forget that poor lady's intense sorrow, nor the unhappy lad's look of despair, as the policemen were putting the handcuffs on him.

“Horse-racing is perhaps the most popular form of gambling now-a-days. It would take me a week to tell you even the half of the mischief I have seen and heard of through that alluring bait which Satan has set up in his trap-road to ruin. It is right enough, no doubt, to improve the breed of horses; but for all really useful purposes nobody wants his


  ― 424 ―
horse to go ahead at the rate of an express engine. None but drunken fools care to ride or drive through the streets at full gallop. I mean to say that it isn't dignified nor sensible of the great gentlemen and ladies of the land to patronise races on purpose to encourage the breeding of fast horses, for these furious riders or drivers to knock down or run over poor helpless old folks or young children, which often happens in the streets of Sydney. I would suggest that the most common-sense way of improving the breed of the noble animal, for really practical ends, would be to have occasional trials of strength between draught horses, in lieu of races: there would be far less gambling over that fun, and less cruelty too; besides, most of us plain farmers could have a go at it if we liked. I don't suppose that many ‘book-makers,’ or other professional turfites, will approve of my plan, and some of the jockeys may feel inclined to argue the point with me by hitting me over the head with a stirrup-iron, or sticking a spur into my leg; still, there is the hint for them, and whether they take it or not, I hope some of you boys up there will take my serious advice, and resolve not to go to races at all, lest you should catch the betting mania, which has desolated so many hearts and homes in this land and elsewhere.”

Mr Stubble then warmly congratulated both boys and girls on the facilities they had for gaining a useful education, and contrasted the disadvantages of the times when he went to school. After a few comical reminiscences of his school-mistress, old Dame Duddle, and her primitive system of teaching her pupils to spell, which was all she could do herself, he remarked, “It is a wise movement of our Government to establish schools throughout the country. We had better pay schoolmasters than policemen; it is far better to build school-houses than lock-ups and gaols, and we must do either one or the other to keep our spirited boys and girls in order. If we educate them properly, they will pay us back with good interest,—they will help to find out for us what this great land is made of; but if we neglect that duty, depend on it they will make us pay for it by and bye, and perhaps make us smart for it too. I know the value of education from the lack of it, and if it were proposed to compel careless parents to send their children to a school of some sort, I would hold up my hand for it, although I be no advocate for ‘interfering with the honest liberties of the subject.’ I mean to say that parents have no more right, looking at it in one sense, to rear


  ― 425 ―
up children as ignorant as the blacks in the bush, than they have to keep a lot of young lions loose about their homesteads, to the danger or injury of their neighbours. I daresay some mothers will be cross with me for saying all that, but, bless their hearts! I don't want to hurt their children,—not a bit of it; I want to do them good, poor things!”

Mr Stubble next alluded in a piquant style to the overtrading disposition of city folks in general, and explained a good many of the sleight-of-hand manœuvres that are sometimes used for “raising the wind,” which made some of his rustic hearers look as much surprised as if the shingles above their heads had begun to whirl about like butterflies. “There are too many petty traders by half in Sydney,” continued Mr Stubble; “and that is the reason why we so often hear the cry of ‘bad times.’ Hundreds of great strong fellows are trying to eke out a precarious living by hawking wares of some sort or other, instead of working at their trades, or going into the country and doing something towards making themselves independent, and, at the same time, contributing to the general wealth of the community. Whenever I see an able-bodied man lolling behind a fruit-stall in the street, I feel inclined to upset his concern, and bid the lazy fellow go to work and leave the fruit and lollipop trade to poor old men or women who are past hard labour.”

Mr Stubble then touched upon a variety of other topics of city life, including some of his costly experience in the law courts. He thought it was a great hardship on jurors to be forced to leave their own business to sit, perhaps for a week or more, to decide between two litigants, over a matter not worth twopence-halfpenny, and of no real interest to anybody beside the legal gentlemen concerned. He said, a merry lawyer once told him that “the best counsel for both plaintiff and defendant was, Don't go to law;” but the lawyer did not tell him that until after he had been at law, and had lost by it. Mr Stubble's illustrations and incidents were more varied than I have reported them, and his audience heartily appreciated all he said. Even Dundreary seemed to be amused; he dropped his eye-glass, and began to look at the speaker in a pleasant natural way. Peggy's black eyes sparkled with pleasure and pride at seeing her Joe get on so bravely, and that he did not break down or bolt out at the back-door, as she had dreaded he would do before he warmed up to his work.

After talking for more than an hour, Mr Stubble looked at


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his watch, and remarked “that he must wind himself up, for it was getting late,” whereupon there were loud shouts of “Go on, sir, go on!” and the boys at the back shouted, “More Piccalily,” and other merry expressions, which stimulated him to stand up a little longer.

“I think I heard one of you boys cry out, ‘Give us a gerkin!’ ” continued Joe. “Well, here is one for you, and I hope it won't set your teeth on edge. I have noticed that many of you youngsters crowd round the doors of the church on Sundays before the service begins, to the annoyance of quiet persons, and especially to ladies. Now, let me tell you boys, kindly but seriously, that such conduct is highly unbecoming in young Australian gentlemen who have had a Sunday-school training. There might be some excuse for the little ragamuffins in the street, if they were to do it, because they have never been taught to do better; but in you it is inexcusable. I should like to give another gerkin, or a little pickled pepper, to some of the older folks, who are so fond of hob-nobbing in the church porch after the service is over; but I have not time for it now. A man cannot treat all the nuisances of social life in one night.”

The gentleman in the audience who had previously spoken, then stood up and asked Mr Stubble to give them a little of his parliamentary experience.

Joe smiled and said, “There bean't much time to go into that concern to-night, though it would not take me long to tell you all my doings in the House. The good I did was of what is called a negative kind; that is, I took care not to do much harm. I used to sit still, and keep my eyes and ears open, except when I dozed off to sleep. I daresay I could tell you a thing or two that would make you feel sorry, only it bean't fair to tell tales out of school.

“If I were asked to state, in the fewest possible words, my experienced opinion of the great requirements of this country. I should say, ‘We want good legislation and emigration,’ and if I could make my voice heard through the length and breadth of the land, I would recommend the people in general to use their common sense in selecting wise representatives, and not to send men into Parliament who are no more fit for the responsible post than I was myself. Suppose now that any of you farmers were going to buy a cow for the dairy, you would certainly take a good look at her first of all; and perhaps you would try to find out her milking qualities from


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some of the neighbours around who knew her. I'll wager you would not buy a cow on sight-unseen. You would not pay out your money for a scraggy old crawler, with her udder as dry as a night-cap; nor you would not take one that was rolling fat, and only fit for the butcher. Not you indeed! And surely it is but reasonable for you to look well at the character and qualities of the men whom you appoint to represent your interests and to guard your rights. If merely for the sake of yourselves and your families, you should do that; but it is only fair and right to do something to advance the interests of the land you live in, and you cannot do anything better than to elect good, honest, clever men, to govern it properly. Then I say, let every man Jack of us in the land (for we have all got a vote), do our duty, and at the next general election use our vote with judgment, and by all honest means try to keep little-brained men like myself out of the House, for they are no more use there than a lot of old wooden-legged soldiers would be on board of an iron-clad frigate. There are some really noble men among our present rulers, and there is no scarcity of sterling talent to form a Parliament worthy of this great country, if a careful selection were made. If we neglect to exercise our common sense in this important matter, we deserve to be taxed up to our necks, and to see our money fooled away: that's all I've got to say about it.

“And if I could shout out louder still, so that my voice would echo round Cape Horn to the old country, wouldn't I tickle the ears of the thousands of honest men and women there who are toiling and pinching and wearing themselves out for a meagre livelihood! I would so. I'd say to them with hearty goodwill, ‘Come over here, friends! Make haste! Here is plenty of room for you, and you may shake off pauperism for ever, and make yourselves independent.’ My heart seems to swell out as big as a water-melon when I think of the lots of happiness there is in store in our wild bush for millions of poor mortals who will be here by and bye, when they are provided with means to come. Then let us do our best to secure wise legislators, friends, and systematic immigration will result as certainly as the young grass and yellow flowers spring up on our mountain-slopes when a general rain-fall comes after a season of drought.”

After that rhetorical effort Mr Stubble took a sip of water, and then in a more reverent tone he said,—“ ‘The earth shall


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be filled with the knowledge of God, as the waters cover the sea. I bean't going to give you a sermon, friends; so you need not be feeling for your hats. Preachiug bean't in my line exactly; but I be going to say a dozen words seriously, and then I be done. I have been told that the last words which the late venerable Bishop Broughton uttered was the text which I have just quoted. A wonderfully cheering text it is too. How that divine prediction will be brought about I cannot tell, but it will certainly be so, ‘for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.’ No doubt it will be, in some measure, wrought through human instrumentality, and that we all have a part to take in the great work if we do our duty. Some men seem to think that it is to be done by the power and might of their lungs; but I don't think it is myself—at any rate, I shall not try to do my share in that way. The plough does more work in the world than the thrashing-machine, though it does not make any clatter. Thrashing-machines are useful in their way, though one may be enough for a whole district; but we want at least a couple of ploughs on every farm. I know a few figurative ploughmen in Sydney who are always at work, though nobody hears the noise of them, and I am thinking that in the final day of account, when all our tallies will be made up, some of the great machinemen will be surprised to find that those quiet, unpretending plodders have the largest score of good marks to their names. I cannot stop to polish up that homely figure, for it is getting late; but I will just remark, friends, before I sit down, that it is likely I shall live till I die in this beautiful district. I have made my home here, and I shall try in my humble way to do all the good I can to every one around me. But I mean to be a plough, and do my work quietly. I certainly shall not set up for a thrashing-machine, and you may depend you won't catch me here again as an ‘orator.’ I make no secret of my religious belief nor of my political principles, and I mean to hold my own like a man, I'll never strike my colours to please anybody, or any sect or party. I will support my church and minister, both in a moral and a pecuniary sense, as far as I can, and I will do all I can to hold up the blessed light of God's truth to any poor mortal whom I see groping along in the dark towards the gulf of perdition, and who has no other human friend to guide him. But I bean't going to jar or quarrel or fight with any man because he doesn't think as I think, or do as I do;


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that sort of thing would not tally with my notions of Christianity.

“Friends, I be an Englishman, as you may tell by my lingo; but thank God I have a heart open to feel for a brother man, be he white, black, or copper-coloured. If he is hungry, I'll give him a loaf without asking him first of all what part of the world he was born in. I love my native country dearly, but I am not absurdly clannish. Irishmen and Scotchmen are as dear to me as Englishmen, and here is my hand of fellowship for them, if they be true men. They are Britons like myself, and long may we remain so. May no bitter, seditious spirit ever tarnish our loyalty to one of the most virtuous monarchs that ever wore a royal crown. Long may we unitedly shout ‘God save the Queen!’ Ha, ha, ha! Well done, boys! That was a noble shout! Shout again, all of us, ‘God save the Queen!’ Ha, ha! that warms my heart like woman's love. I can't sing, friends, but I'll talk you the best end of a merry old song to finish up with—

‘May the sons of the Tweed, of the Thames, and the Shannon,
Drub the foes that dare plant on their confines a cannon;
United and happy, at loyalty's shrine
May the Rose and the Thistle long flourish and twine,
Round the sprig of Shillelah and Shamrock so green.’ ”

Mr Stubble then sat down amid rapturous cheering and clapping, and shouts of “Bravo, Piccalily!” from the boys at the back. Peggy got so excited that she poked the floor with her umbrella, and made as much noise as two men. There was a short complimentary speech from the chairman, and then, after much shaking of hands, the company dispersed.

As Mr and Mrs Stubble drove homeward in the cart, Peggy was quite enthusiastic in her commendations of her happy spouse; and when Bob rode on ahead to take down the sliprails, she could no longer restrain her feelings; she put her arms round Joe's neck and kissed him twice, and said “her dear old man was ten times more clever than she ever thought he was.”




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Chapter XX.

CONCLUSION.

MR STUBBLE'S oration was what is commonly called “a great success,” and was the talk of the town for many days. He was soon afterwards requested to deliver another address in behalf of some other useful institution; but he firmly declined the honour. Perhaps he had in mind the example of an influential neighbour of his in the country, who on one memorable occasion made a brilliant speech in the House of Assembly, which astonished every one present, foreigners as well natives; but he never made another speech. The reason for his subsequent silence was left to conjecture, for he was not so candid as Mr Stubble, who confessed to the second deputation that he had told them all he knew. No amount of persuasion could ever induce him to give another oration.

Mr Stubble still resides on his farm, and is much respected by all his neighbours. He works sufficiently to keep him in health, and he devotes a good deal of time to reading. His favourite books, after the Bible, are histories, biographies of great and good men, and other works of a solid, useful character. He was recently offered the honour of a seat on the bench, but he modestly declined it, on the plea that there were many gentlemen in the district better fitted for the office than himself. His farm is a good one, and he works it well; so it yields him a fair return for his labour. He is enabled to live in comfort, and to save a little money besides. Mrs Stubble is in good health and good spirits; and in various ways the happy pair strive to be useful in their neighbourhood.

Their son Bob lived with them for two years, and took the active superintendence of the farm, and in his leisure hours he diligently applied himself to his prescribed course of study. He kept up a regular correspondence with Sam Rafter, and at the end of a year Bob had made such good progress as to call for especial encomiums from his friend and monitor.




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Mrs Simon Goldstone and her uncle paid several visits to Mr Stubble's homestead at Unity Vale. On those happy occasions, Bob had always shown polite attention to his lady-guest: his modesty operated against his ever presuming to show more than that, for Lydia's riches seemed to place her high above his hopes. Perhaps she understood his diffidence—she had a large share of woman's wit—and she may have given him encouragement in some decorous way or other. Of that I am not certain; I cannot tell how it was managed (probably she helped him, as is usual in cases of the kind); but this I can record, that at the end of two years, Uncle Will's consent was asked, and was cheerfully granted; and soon afterwards Bob and Lydia were married. They are now living near to Sydney, in a quiet, unostentatious style, and are as happy as a pair of burgeré gars in a tree laden with ripe loquats. Uncle Will is living with them. His good old friend Simon left him a comfortable annuity, in token of his gratitude to the man who taught him the way to heaven.

The late Simon Goldstone spent much of the last days of his life in writing, and has left some valuable MSS., which may one day get into the printer's hands. Amongst them was an unfinished essay entitled “Advice to Parents on the Training of their Children,” in which he touchingly deplores the errors which he himself made in hoarding up wealth for his son, and neglecting his religious and moral culture; by which he reaped a harvest of sorrow for himself, and, worse than all, he bitterly feared his unhappy son would lose his soul.

Mrs Blunt died suddenly of apoplexy, and her property came into the possession of Bob Stubble as survivor of his late wife. It is not unlikely that Bob will have the honour of being the first Australian “Peabody,” if some other happy man does not make haste and forestal him in the plans which he is quietly maturing.

Dick Stubble was never heard of by his parents, who often sorrowfully longed to know what had become of him. It is well for them, however, that they did not know of his untimely fate. When he decamped from his home, he had led his friends to surmise that he had gone to the Bendigo diggings; but that was merely a ruse to prevent his real track being known, for he went in the opposite direction, towards Queensland. On his way he fell in with a gang of lawless young men who had taken to the bush, and for many months they kept that part of the country in a state of alarm. They


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committed many daring atrocities, and on two occasions fatally wounded persons who resisted their attacks. Eventually, however, all the members of the gang were captured by the police, and suffered the extreme penalty of the law. Dick had given an assumed name, and that is why his parents never knew of his terrible end.

Sam Rafter continues to advance both socially and intellectually. His business is very prosperous, and he is in a fair way of becoming a wealthy man. He has already had an intimation that he is looked upon as “the coming man” to represent a certain important constituency in the Victorian Parliament; but he has wisely resolved not to accept of any such responsible post until he is better qualified by mental culture and experience, and until he is in a position to attend faithfully to the duties which would devolve upon him, without neglecting his own business. He holds an office in the church to which he is united, and he takes an active part in temperance societies, bands of hope, ragged schools, penny readings, and other social reform movements.

Mr and Mrs Rowley have removed to Victoria, and are living in a nice cottage at Emerald Hill, not far from the residence of their daughter. If they do not make much noise in the world, they endeavour to show how Christians should live; and the example of a steady, consistent walk of faith is sometimes as effectual as more stirring ethical efforts, in inducing careless ones to seek to possess the Divine grace, which alone can produce such happy results.

Biddy Flynn is living with Mr and Mrs Bob Stubble, and is, at her earnest request, installed as nursemaid to their two children. Happy would it be for thousands of young Australians, who are now in little petticoats, if they had such judicious, tender nurses as Biddy. She not only attends to their material wants and wishes with almost a grandmother's fondness, but she is zealous for the purity and stamina of their young minds. Although she is as lively an old lass as there can be found in the colony, she is merry and wise when her children are near, and not a word reaches their quick little ears that their careful mamma would object to. Biddy never astounds their infantile reason with any such old-fashioned nursery nonsense as “The Cat and the Fiddle,” nor scares them into submission to arbitrary rules with ghastly legends of “Daddy Long-Legs,” or “Old Boggy.” But she has an inexhaustible stock of comical incidents which


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keen observation, through her eventful lifetime, has stamped on her memory; and her fertile fancy can dress them up into shapes highly amusing to her docile pupils; and “whin she is tired of invintin' true facts for 'em, she can read 'em no ind ov purty little stories an' lovely potery,” from the “Children's Friend,” and other illustrated books of that sterling character. It is her ambition to see them grow up a lady and gentleman: “an' shure she manes to tache the darlints all she knows about gintale manners; anyhow, she'll take care they don't larn no vulgar tricks at all. An' if they don't turn out ivery bit as illigant as Squire Bligh's childers, they shan't be able to say, by and bye, that the crayther who spoilt 'em was ould Biddy Flynn.”

If ten thousand of such faithful servants would speed across the sea, from the dear old lands at the antipodes, they would be gladly welcomed to our shores by all right-hearted colonists, whose proud aim it is to “ADVANCE AUSTRALIA.”

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