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  ― 171 ―

Chapter XIV. Rosa's Second Marriage.

“DASH it all, Arthur! You don't mean to say that you expect a girl of my colonial spirit to go on leading the same hum-drum existence after we are married that I have done so long.”

Rosa and her cousin were sitting on a little rock on the Clontarf sands one afternoon a few days before the celebration of their wedding. They had come here for quiet and a chat over affairs, and the prudent Chester had raised her just ire by suggesting that it would be wise for them to lie low, like Brer Fox, for a time.

“With all the money we have I mean to cut a splash in Sydney,” she said energetically and with flashing eyes. “Therefore you may as well drop those mean ideas, Arthur, as fast as you like. Nothing less than a house at Potts' Point will satisfy me, with a proper set-out in the way of horses and carriages, and all the rest of the flummery. We can easily afford it, therefore drop your preaching and let me boss that show, or your bed won't be rose leaves, I can tell you, my boy.”

“As far as cash goes, yes, I daresay we could afford Potts' Point and the other etceteras if we were anywhere else than in our native city, but, Rosa, don't you forget this, if the police don't suspect us at present it is only because we are


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not making any extra splashing. If we do so, we shall have them down upon us with a hundred nasty inquisitive questions as to our means of keeping it up, which will be extremely difficult for us to answer to their satisfaction. You see, my dear, our townsmen all know us, and what we were before Milton came on the scene, while if my books are called for, I cannot show a bigger income than four hundred a year, and that won't run to Potts' Point by a long chalk.”

Rosa beat the sands with her shapely feet while an angry glow burned on her cheeks. What tenderness she had felt towards her cousin, while he was forbidden fruit, seemed to have vanished now that the law was about to sanction their union.

“Well, what do you propose to do after we are married, Arthur?” she asked at length.

“Take a little house and furnish it modestly, if you are tired of Trumpet Tree Cottage, and live quietly on my income for a year or two until this affair is forgotten, then come out by degrees——”

“Goodness gracious — a year or two?” cried Rosa aghast. “Thank you kindly, but I have no intention to wait till I am hoary-headed before I partake of the sweets of life. No, I mean to enjoy it while I am young or not at all—give us another suggestion?”

“To leave this and go to London or Paris where no one knows about us, then we may do as we like.”

“This is as bad as the obscurity you first proposed. It is just because I am a Sydney native, that I want to show off in Sydney. There would


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be no fun showing off anywhere else, and I'd die amongst strangers. I'll tell you a much better idea, that ought to cover all your miserable and cowardly objections.”

“What is that, Rosa?” he asked meekly, for he dared not resent her words, and was already tumbling into the proper condition of a Sydney husband.

“Let's take a wedding trip to the west instead of the Blue Mountains, and so kill two birds with one stone.”

“What do you mean, Rosa?”

“Go to the goldfields of West Australia where Jack is trying to reach, and stay there for a time. You can start a business as solicitor and mining expert and speculate a bit, and I'll open a hotel. We need not stay there long—only long enough to satisfy ourselves as to whether Jack gets through or not, and give our friends in Sydney a good reason for our fortune, d'ye twigavous, Arthur?”

“By George! Rosa, I believe you are a bit anxious about Jack, now you have chucked him,” said Chester jealously, and with not a little dread in his voice.

Rosa looked at him with twinkling eyes, and uttered a mocking laugh.

“Yes, I am anxious to learn the last of Jack Milton, for after all he wasn't white-livered, but not for the reason you suppose, Cousin Arthur. You are much better suited to me than he was. I don't feel mean with you as I did with him, and


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when a fellow makes a woman feel mean she is bound to hate him. That is why so many of us take up with Chinamen, and like them as we do; they don't expect too much from us. I want to see if Jack gets through safely and keep him under my eye if he does until he is past blabbing on us, then we need have no fear in the future—and if I take a hotel I'm sure to learn something about him if he turns up on the other side.”

“And then, Rosa?”

“Oh, I'll manage that part of the business without bothering you, Arthur—the then—I'm good enough looking to get some man to do for him if he comes to hand on the diggings. You leave all that to me.”

Arthur Chester dared not look at this creamfaced modern Lucretia, but kept his glances fixed on the point of his walking-stick. He was a craven to the core of his false and crafty soul, and for a moment again he meditated sneaking away with the loot before the wedding took place, but the next instant's reflection showed him the futility of such a plan with that telegraphic belt of Puck's round the habitable globe. No, he had as helplessly meshed himself as ever any of the subjects of the Borgia, and was as much dependent upon her caprice as were the suitors of that fair but fatal Italian dame.

An icy chill struck his heart as if already he felt the first symptoms of the aqua tofana, and a deadly abhorrence filled his whole being for the handsome wanton at his side; if he could only


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have been sure about hiding her corpse he would gladly have strangled her where they thus sat, but that also was not to be thought of. He must marry her and let her do as she liked, and look out for his own carcase.

“Well, Arthur, what do you think of my plan?”

Arthur roused himself and replied smoothly: “It is good enough, Rosa—perhaps the best under the circumstances, if you are willing to rough it amongst the ‘sand gropers.’ ”

“Ah, I'll rough it for the short time we are there. Besides, there is money to be made and good fun to be got out of the boys. We'll cart round my piano, and make our hotel the swagger canvas establishment on the fields, while the mining expert business will just suit you. You know little Tony Jenkins is doing well at Kalgourlie. He'll put you up to all the wrinkles, so we may consider that settled, I suppose?”

“Yes, since you wish it, Rosa.”

“There now, you are once more the model husband I expected you to be, dear old boy. Set to work at once and sell your practice, also secure an agency or two for wines, etc., and we'll manage our honeymoon without any expense, and have a roaring time of it as well. You see what it is to have a practical girl at your elbow, you dear duffer.”

They were alone on the shore, so she flung her arms round his neck and kissed him effusively, while he responded as best he could to that embrace. Her kisses no longer had the same flavour


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to him as they had when he was robbing another man of them, therefore there was all the more necessity for feigning, although as far as she was concerned he need not have done so, as she had long ago lost all verve for such lover-like demonstrations, if ever she had taken pleasure in them. Callous and utterly depraved by nature, deceit was the only caviare that could raise her appetite.

Arthur Chester had one strong hold over his cousin, and this he did not mean to relinquish if he could retain it by fair or foul means. He held the money, some of it invested and banked in his own name, and the bulk of the last haul concealed. He would not tell her where he kept it in spite of all her blandishments, but yet he knew that the possession would not be his long if she chose to give a hint to the police and a diligent professional search was conducted. Thus they were held together by a more powerful bond than love or kinship would have proved to such natures, and that was mutual interest.

Rosa trusted that he would take this money with him on their trip west, but, much as he hated to leave it behind, he was too wary to carry so much money about; therefore, after a good deal of agonized cogitation, he decided to bury it under his own house and shut the place up during their absence.

This he did at such times as he could get Rosa and his housekeeper out of the way, by lifting the flooring and digging into the earth under it. First he dismissed his housekeeper with an advance of


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her wages, then he locked the door so that Rosa might not surprise him, and before afternoon, had his treasure secured and all traces removed. As it chanced, that day Rosa was busy with her trousseau shopping, so that he was not disturbed.

He did not sell his practice, but handed it over instead to a solicitor to manage for him during his absence, still keeping his door-plate up and the offices open. The house only he fastened up and left untenanted.

Rosa's father and mother were mighty indignant at her idea of leaving them and going in for the hotel business in Western Australia. They did not, of course, know how she had been provided for, for Australian children do not make confidants of their parents as a rule, but look after their own business from a very early age. They might also have condoned the hotel business, although it seemed to be a drop, had their daughter been more generous with them, but Rosa gave them very plainly to understand that after her second marriage they would both have to look after themselves, as she had no intention of contributing any longer toward their support.

This behaviour almost broke the heart of the gentlemanly loafer. To have to set once more to seek for work was a bitter and a desolate outlook, which turned Trumpet Tree Cottage almost into a house of mourning.

The marriage was a very swagger affair altogether, and the lunch arranged by one of the most fashionable caterers. Rosa was allowed to take


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her full fling here, and she spared no expense to make the exhibition a complete success. Her costume was a dream of angelic purity, shimmering silk, satin, gauze and orange flowers. Her blushes were almost virginal as she softly murmured the necessary responses, a lovely, timid, yet trusting and beautiful bride she looked at the altar that any amorous husband might well be proud to possess.

The champagne was excellent that flowed afterwards, for Chester had secured the Kalgourlie agency of the best wholesale firm of wine and spirit importers in Sydney, and they stood the liquor for the marriage feast. Already a large consignment had been forwarded by rail to Adelaide en route for the west, and paid for by the lawyer. He could afford to pay on the nail for what he ordered without raising any suspicions, therefore there was nothing to do now except to follow the stores which he had sent in advance.

The usual speech-making took place, and good wishes expressed from those who envied them their luck, while Rosa had the soul-satisfying delight of knowing that her female friends would be ill for days after viewing her trousseau, which is quite enough to make any bride cheerful during the early days of her honeymoon.

Her father and mother wept bitterly at parting from their dear child—real heartfelt tears these were on the parents' side, as they thought ruefully upon the ten sovereigns which she had given them as a farewell and final gift. After these were


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melted, the desolate couple would once again have to take up the weary burden of life.

“Ah,” they sighed, wiping their eyes as they returned to their lonely cottage, “Arthur Chester may be more respectable as a son-in-law, but Jack Milton would never have cast us adrift like this in our old age.” Those two hearts that ought to have beat proudly at the change in their daughter's life felt a pang of regret for the divorced and vanished housebreaker.

The happy couple went by train to Melbourne, halting for the first night at Goulburn, where they put up at the best hotel and enjoyed themselves thoroughly.

No one suspected them to be on their honeymoon, as they conducted themselves like a wellmarried couple. There was none of that maudlin gushing that usually denotes the freshly yoked, nor any attempts to get into empty compartments. Arthur Chester read the papers, while Rosa made herself agreeable to her fellow-travellers, and as she was stylishly dressed and sprightly, she had no lack of attentive admirers on the way.

They spent two days at Melbourne, going about and looking at everything with the prejudiced and disparaging feelings of all true-bred cornstalks towards things Victorian, and decided with gleesome alacrity that its days were over. The magnificent houses of parliament, the splendid buildings of Collins Street, the library and picture gallery in Swanston Street, the gardens and arcades, even that wonder of the world, “Coles” book arcade,


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failed to impress them with any other feelings save disgust, or at least jealousy seemed like disgust to them. They sneered openly at the post office, and boasted about their own ornate establishment with happy pride, asking scoffingly, according to the wont of Sydney visitors, what there was about this wretched mud flat to be compared with that glory of creation, “The Harbour.”

The Melbourne people, being accustomed to this sort of ignorant and narrow cackle, laughed good-naturedly at the infantine criticism, and chaffed them genially, as grown-up people will chaff children, which made this gentle pair depart with rage in their hearts at these rivals who considered themselves big enough to laugh at the virulent passions which their superior qualities created in their narrow-minded neighbours.

“I never saw such a rotten hole,” remarked Arthur vindictively, as he stood with his wife on the deck of the Adelaide steamer, while she steamed from the Yarra-yarra. “The buildings are perfect botches.”

“And the women hideous frumps,” echoed Rosa; then more reflectively she added, “the men, however, are not so bad.”

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