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Chapter XX. Rosa Gets Initiated in Mining Parlance.

IF there is one quality a Sydneyite prides himself upon possessing above all other created beings, and reverences above all other virtues, it is “ 'cuteness.” He may have his failings as regards non-observance of the ten commandments, but, dash it! he is smart, or else he is nothing.

Arthur Chester, solicitor of the supreme courts of New South Wales, and embryo mining expert of the coming colony, almost swooned with unadulterated shame when he realized that he had been M. U. G. enough to be taken in with this thin and threadbare confidence trick. He fell limply into the chair that he had so lately occupied, and laid his head upon the table, feeling as if he could never lift it again.

“Ain't you well, sir?” asked the waiter, who had followed him into the room.

The lawyer pulled himself together and smiled in a sickly fashion.

“A sudden spasm. I often have them, but it is passing away; fetch me in a small bottle of champagne.”

The loss of the money was the least of his troubles, although that also touched him deeply, but at the moment it seemed a trifle. It was the

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awful shock to his self-confidence that stunned him.

“By George, if Rosa should hear of this, I may as well cut my lucky.”

He must keep it dark from her and every one, also get her back to the steamer as soon as possible. As for Bertrand Decrow, or whatever the shark's name was, and his accomplice, he resolved to let them go; better the loss of the money than a shattered reputation.

He drank off the pint of champagne, then lighting a cigar, with the remainder of the match he set fire to the bogus cheque and watched it burn with sombre satisfaction. After this he went out to look for his bride, concocting a story for her benefit as he went along.

He met Rosa as he was crossing Victoria Square. She had seen as much as she wanted to see of the South Australian capital, and as there was nothing overpoweringly magnificent here to raise her jealousy, as there had been in Melbourne, she was in a genial mood, and declared it to be a sweet little town and well worth a visit.

“It is ever thus with woman,” thought her husband bitterly. “When a man is in the dumps she is always in a merry mood, and vice versa.”

He was diplomatist enough, however, to conceal his mood from her and affect equally high spirits; the wine he had taken helped him in this; therefore, it was quite in a holiday sort of manner that he proposed lunch, which she, with that ever ready

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appetite that youth and health has at command, assented to.

“Where is Bertrand?” she asked—an hour serves for a cornstalk to speak of the latest friends by their christian name.

“I don't know, nor do I expect we are likely to see either that card or his brother-sharper, Green, again.”

“What do you mean, Arthur?”

“What I say, Rosa, that they are a couple of Victorian sharks who tried to nibble New South Wales, only it didn't come off—not exactly, nor any way near it.”

He told her about the game they had played, with a slight alteration which redounded a good deal to his credit as a smart fellow.

“I saw through this dodge the moment they asked me to plank down the ready.”

“I should say you did—any juggins of six years old could do that,” replied Rosa, scornfully. Arthur winced and smothered a groan, as he continued playfully:

“I got the cheque into my hands and then gently told them I'd trust them after I had been to the bank. By George, you never saw such a pair of jays as they looked when I left the room—green—yellow—blue, with black murder in their eyes. I guess this favoured admirer of yours, Rosa, won't try that game on again with a Sydney boy—you thought him such a charming fellow, didn't you, eh?”

It was a mean retaliation, but it gave him a

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momentary surcease from his own hidden anguish to reflect it on her.

“I didn't think about him either one way or another,” answered Rosa calmly. “He had his uses on the passage, and did for me what you could not—got me the best seat at the table and the most sheltered nook on the deck, also prevented me from absolute starvation; therefore, I used him as I would utilize any handsome and agreeable fellow, as I suppose that is what good-looking and nice men are made for, to amuse and serve pretty women.”

“And chisel greenhorns,” snarled Arthur.

“Never mind, old boy, since he didn't chisel you. If he had, you would have deserved being put under restraint as an imbecile, therefore, don't you go and flatter yourself that you have done anything smart in evading that open ruse, for you haven't.”

Chester drank a good deal of champagne that day before they went on board their steamer, and smoked a great number of cigars, the consequence being that as they had it pretty rough after leaving Albany and across the Bight, he was forced to confine himself to the limits of the cabin, and cultivate the friendship of the steward.

Rosa, however, had by no means a dull passage, for although it was her first experience of rough weather, she was the only lady who was able to show up at meal-times and on the deck amongst the adventurers going west.

There was no rushing on this boat, as the rough element was confined to the steerage.

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The men who occupied the saloon were nearly all speculators, mine owners who had been to England to float their mines, and were returning with full purses, or young gentlemen accustomed to Piccadilly and Bond Street, who had come out to pick up what they could, as their Norman ancestors had done in the dim and misty past.

Those exquisites had the natural polish of centuries on them, while their clothes gave Rosa her first insight of what a gentleman is like in his outward appearance and manners. The speculators and mine owners likewise had been often enough in England to get a coating of varnish over their original habits, while they also had patronised Poole, and as they all vied with each other in flattering her and paying her attention, the hours flew for her between Adelaide and Albany, however much they might have crawled for Chester, with his basin, below.

There were representatives from nearly every nationality there, and all were united together by the one bond—Gold. They spoke of it from morning to night, and as it was a subject which interested Rosa, her admirers initiated her into all the mysteries of the stock and share market. She quickly understood the quotations, and astonished her husband, when he joined her at King George's Sound, by her fluent gabble about the different mines and their chances.

“Hannan's,” “Lady Loch's,” “North and West Boulders,” “Great Fingal Reefs,” etc., etc., she had them all, as pat as a parrot. She also bewildered

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him with her remarks about “Soaks,” “Swampers,” “Sandgropers,” “Speilers,” and “Boomellers,” and other strange expressions which were as yet darkly unintelligible to him.

“The hotel is the thing, Arthur, but we must order any amount of champagne, as my friend, the Hon. Billy Shatters, tells me it is the tipple for Kalgourlie. Twenty-five shillings a bottle up there they charge, and they suck into it like ginger-pop.”

Arthur listened in a dazed way, for his head seemed empty and his stomach, likewise in the same condition, felt moving like a swing-boat, although they were now in the peaceful waters of the lovely Sound.

“I could do a bottle myself just now,” he muttered feebly, “only not at the price.”

“Come and I'll introduce you to the gang, and you will get it for nothing, my boy,” she said promptly. “They have drank enough the past three days to ballast a China clipper.”

Chester was received with great civility by these scions of nobility, and capitalists, for Rosa knew them all by name—each had introduced the other to her—and her husband was delighted to find himself amongst men who could talk about hundreds of thousands as if they were shillings, or with gentlemen whose names and ages could be found in “Burke.”

The champagne flowed, as Rosa had remarked, like ginger-pop at a Manly Beach Temperance pic-nic.

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They were all exultant in spirits and full of humour and good-natured chaff. The land they were going to was every man's country for the time. The hell of fever, dust, condensed water and gold. It was not a country to boast about as a home, that is, the portion where they were bound for. No man would think of making it his home, therefore there was no patriotism nor even politics in their talk; the latest quotations or fresh discovery were all that interested them.

Albany is one of the cleanest, sunniest, sweetest, sleepiest and least go-ahead townships in Australia. As it was ten years ago it still remains. The people live on their visitors, and the visitors look at the town and bay, till the steamer or train leaves, and then they run on to other destinations, yet Albany as a sanatorium is delightful, and its government officials about as red-tapy as they can be and be permitted to live.

The natives will not move out of their confirmed habits for king or kaiser. They are accustomed to be sworn at by the maddened visitor, while they can blaspheme in return as fluently as could be desired. Their wants are few, their demands exorbitant, and their minds independent, therefore the visitor, not being able to get anything he requires, learns to expect little when he comes again.

The voyagers had not longer than a couple of hours to wait in this delightful and picturesque port of call, while the porters and wharfers leisurely loaded up the train, then they were off once more

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across the salt marshes to the capital of West Australia.

Many of the passengers continued by boat round the granite cliffs to Freemantle, but Chester had experienced enough of life on the ocean wave, therefore he took the train.

“That hotel idea of yours, Mrs. Chester, is a veritable stroke of genius,” murmured the Honourable Billy Shatters in the ear of Rosa, as he stood on the platform waiting to see her away; he was going round by boat.

“It is what we want up Kalgourlie, almost as much as the electric light, to make us perfectly happy; a house where we can have the reforming influence of a lady to keep us straight. By Jove! I'll be your first lodger, so remember your promise and reserve a bed for me.”

“I won't forget,” she answered, with one of her studied upward glances.

“You'll recognise me when we meet again, I trust, Mrs. Chester; we are all rigged out alike up there, you know, and high hats are strictly prohibited according to miners' law.”

“I'll recognise you by your eye-glass,” she replied saucily.

“Alas, then I am forgotten, for that is the outward insignia of a mining expert, and none of us care to take such a responsibility.”

“By your Piccadilly drawl then,” she said with a vague remembrance of having read this expression in the Guillotine.

“The boys would lynch me, if I tried it on with

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them. I leave the eye-glass, high hat, drawl and other etceteras in my hotel at Perth until I come back again. Is there nothing else you will recognise me by, my dear Mrs. Chester?”

“Yes,” murmured Rosa. “There is no fear of me forgetting you. I shall think often about you.”

“And I of you—and our stormy passage across the Bight. Well, ta-ta, till we meet again at Kalgourlie the thirst-provoking.”

“Here ‘Duke,’ they are wanting you over here, there a game of ‘Two up’ going on,” were the last words Chester heard as the train rolled out of the station. He quickly banged his head over his wife's through the window to see where the “Duke” was, but could only see the Honourable Billy being dragged away by one of the other gentlemen.

“Why do they call him the Duke, Rosa?” he asked.

“I'll tell you presently,” answered his initiated bride, who was engaged waving her handkerchief and kissing her hand to the friends she was leaving behind.

“You must know, you guppy,” observed Rosa, as she settled herself after the train had steamed out of sight of those on the platform, “that a man is called a ‘Duke’ on the gold fields who can throw double heads six times in succession at ‘Two up.’ ”

“And what the dickens is ‘Two up?’ ”

“Oh, hang it, I cannot be bothered teaching you

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the A B C. Go to an infant school for that. Two up—if you must know—is pitch and toss with a slight difference. However, I don't doubt but you'll find it out yourself before long. I won a tenner on it the other night in the saloon in less time than you could have put down a whisky and soda.”

Saying which Rosa took out of her bag one of half-a-dozen of the latest London novels, which Billy had given her, and settled herself down to a two hundred and fifty-six miles' read.