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CHAPTER X. THE ARRIVAL.—BUSH HOSPITALITY.—THE ESCAPE.




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WE may safely affirm, that never was man welcomed more cordially than Dr. Arabin when he entered the dwelling-house of Mr. Butler. The ladies had been unwilling to remain with their visitor alone, especially as they expected the violence of his disorder would increase with the wane of the evening. He had several times talked violently and frightened both, and it was lucky that our old acquaintance Bob was in the outer hut. They had looked for Mr. Butler's return, but, to their great disappointment, he had not come. By a fortunate turn of the conversation, they managed to engage his attention.

He was asked some question which caused him to speak of home—of the home of his early days; his mind was abstracted from the present to the “long-forgotten past;” the tears started as they heard him recall one whom he had loved and reverenced before he came to wander, but she was dead.

And here we cannot help remarking, that the tie which links the mind of man so firmly to his birthplace appears to us more extraordinary than the ties of consanguinity or love. What can withdraw the human heart from the love it cherishes for the home of early years? Demand of the rover by land or on the sea— the wanderer of the desert—the exile who has acquired


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honour, fame, wealth, power abroad, if they ever met a spot they loved half so well as that on which they first looked upon life—the home where they were affectionately loved and cherished by care which only a parent could bestow. The scene may be rugged and barren, the habitation mean and destitute, the parents ground in the dust by poverty and wasting disease; but from the softest skies and the brightest scenes— from the highest pinnacles of power and the most gorgeous abodes, the mind will unconsciously wander to the season of infancy and the home of early years. Years, changes, distance, cease to be impediments, and but serve to impress the past more indelibly—the past dim, yet how vivid! Other times and other things may be forgotten,—the persons we associated with yesterday —two years ago,—but those rotting in the “pest-house” we never can forget. The mind is, when disengaged or in deep sleep, once more in the scenes long past. Even an outcast like this could think of home.

Dr. Arabin's entrance had the effect of recalling the singular illusion which haunted his mind, and he asked him sharply if there were any men with coffins coming? Arabin found him sensible upon every other subject as on a former occasion, and he began to consider his disease might be monomania. He could direct his attention from the morbid delusion which oppressed it for some time, but in the end he was almost certain to return to the same subject, and discourse incoherently about the man he had buried in the coffin. But his glance showed evident insanity.

“He was not quite dead,” he would say with a glance of terror; “do you think he will recover?”




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“Oh, no,” they replied; “he must have been quite dead.”

“I covered him over,” continued Mr. Willis, “but I assure you he was not quite dead.”

He would talk quietly and sensibly for some time; then he would start, and his countenance would cloud, and looks of withering agony would cross it. “The coffins!” he would shout; “there they come!” During these fits the ladies were terrified, but they soon found out that the best remedy was to withdraw his attention as soon as possible.

It is unnecessary to say, that the opportune arrival of Dr. Arabin afforded ease to the minds of the ladies, who did not suspect he had followed the lunatic; indeed, they conceived his coming was the result of accident. He soon informed them that he was on his way to Captain Thomson's station, and inquired how far off it was.

“It's twenty miles from here,” replied Willis— “from this house, and you have gone out of the way.”

“I am not sorry,” replied Dr. Arabin, “since it has afforded me the pleasure of seeing you.”

“Do you see them?” whispered Willis, with the manner of Macbeth when the ghost of Banquo rose, and he said— “Ne'er shake thy gory locks at me.
Thou canst not say I did it !”

“Do you see them, man?” he continued, with a glance of terror; “they want to run me on the plains again.” He then recounted to Arabin once more


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how he had been chased by men with coffins, and likewise how effectually he had done up one of his pursuers. He concluded with once more expressing his fears that he was not dead, but alive, and would return and kill him.

Dr. Arabin had seen, the moment he entered, that the ladies were alarmed. He began to think that it was monomania or temporary insanity under which the young settler laboured, and that a few days' rest might soothe and perhaps lead to his speedy recovery. The married lady took Dr. Arabin out during the time the servant was arranging the multifarious contents of the side-board. It was agreed that Willis should be under the espionage of Arabin for the night, and that he should take him home if practicable on the following morning. The ladies were particularly anxious to have him removed.

The evening passed, and the party were more comfortable than had been expected by any of them. The ladies played on the piano, and sang their favourite songs.

It is a strange contrast to listen to the voice of an accomplished woman in a Bush cottage; the comforts of England rush to the mind, oceans all but interminable are traversed at a thought. The imaginative may fancy that they are in London, in the heart of Lancasshire, or in the metropolis of Scotland or Ireland. They may wait to hear the deep clang of the church bell, warning the thousands of those Christian lands to their devotions, or the quiet muffled toll, ascending from the ivy-grey country church, speaking in soothing tones of consolation to the careworn heart. But once


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beyond the confines of the room, and the wilderness of Australia, or rather “the Bush,” dissipates such flights of imagination.

The settler's dwelling was in a valley already described, which bordered the plains. The vast ranges were thinly timbered in one or two places, and on one side the deep dark forest stretched away upon the banks of the river, the rocky ranges hardly perceptible in the distance, and the glorious cloudless azure sky above.

The evening passed off tolerably well. The ladies retired early, and Dr. Arabin was left alone with the lunatic. Their bedroom was situated in the rear of the house; the furniture was home]y, for few travellers intruded upon the worthy settler's hospitality.

Arabin was uneasy, and had no inclination to sleep; he therefore resolved to return to the parlour, and read for an hour or two. The other was in bed, and quiet; he locked the back door and put the key in his pocket, and left the door of the parlour and the door of the bedroom ajar, so that the slightest motion might be heard.

Dr. Arabin was excited, and wished to recover his usual tone by reading and reflection. It was a singular trait in his character, that with a mind of considerable and increasing power, he had for some time back had no great relish for reading. He had fixed his intellect upon particular studies, which range he pursued with avidity, and to the neglect of every comfort. His favourite speculations were, that knowledge would be progressive; that discoveries hitherto without parallel would be effected; that air, ocean,


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and land would be navigated by electricity; that the various nations of the earth would be amalgamated by communication almost instantaneous; that population would be equalised, and the beautiful wilderness and fruitful valley peopled in every part. of the known globe. The very plain over which he had travelled might, he considered, be fertilised; and during his journey across, he sketched a plan for irrigating the landscape, by cutting canals to convey the water to all parts, by means of which the country might be flooded, and the soil, instead of being hard and scorched, would be moist and fruitful. He thought of India, and its tanks and rice-fields; of Egypt, the riches of which depended upon the inundation of the Nile, even in the days of Pharoah, the oppressor, and Moses, the deliverer of the Israelites, as in the first chapters of the Bible, where it is upon record that when Abraham was driven into Egypt, he found that it was a land of plenty, for he departed from it "very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold." (Genesis xiii. 2.)

The most distinguished writers of Greece—Herodotus, the first writer of profane history—Diodorus Siculus, the universal historian, and a host of others, record the astonishing wealth of the first seat of the arts, caused solely by the rise of the famous Egyptian river once a year. It is a sad pity that no proper attempt has hitherto been made to irrigate the soil upon the banks of the great Australian rivers: instead of being a pastoral country alone, the small Colony of South Australia, or the yet more fertile district of Australia Felix, might export many thousand bushels of wheat to the English market. The Australian Colonies


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have but one fault, the want of inland communication to convey the produce of the interior to market.

Dr. Arabin turned over the books on the side table. He made a running commentary upon their authors as he proceeded. “Shakspeare, the greatest man that ever lived, for intellectual power. ‘Falconer's Shipwreck,’ don't know him. Bulwer, a dandified author, but a writer of considerable repute. Shelley, my favourite, is not here. Pope, a fine versifier out of fashion. Byron, a powerful writer, but a little man. Virgil, pooh! ‘Hume and Smollett's History of England,’ a valuable work of reference. ‘Moroe's Works,’ a thing of tinsel, a peacock in the most gorgeous feathers; gay nonsense, which has nevertheless acquired for the author an ill-merited reputation.”He opened work with a sneer, and chaunted from it “Beautiful are the maids that glide,
On summer eves, through Yeman's dales;
And bright the summer locks they hide
Beneath their litter's roseate veils;
And brides as delicate and fair
As the white jasmine flowers they wear,
Hath Yemen in her blissful clime," &c.

“Fee-fa-la-de ! there is not a thought worth retaining in a cart-load of such poetry; one thought from Burns or Bunyan is worth the whole work, to a real judge of poetry. If I might guess the manner in which it was composed, I should say it was with a dictionary open before the poet, that he might extract fine, sweet-sounding words, and that these words were put down as ideas by mistake. I would sooner have Geoffrey


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Chaucer's original vulgarity, and that he had said the maids were ‘softer than the wolle is of a wether,’ or

“Winsing she was as is a jolly colt,
Long as a mast, and upright as a bolt.
He shoon were laced on hire legges hie;
She was a primerole, a piggesnie,
For any lord to liggen in his bedde,
Or yet for any good yemen to wedde.”

A goggling in the inner room startled him, and he returned the work to the table, and hastened to see what was wrong. The young man screamed as he entered—“Keep away!” he shouted; “I am down, but I will resist to the last.”

Dr. Arabin saw him sitting upright, glaring at something; so hideous was the apparition, that he shrunk back appalled. He conquered this feeling, and entered the apartment. The eye of the maniac was firmly fixed on the window. The blind was not exactly long enough, and a small crevice remained at the foot uncovered. At this opening he fancied men and coffins were entering. “Look at them!” he screamed; “they enter;” and he gibbered and contorted his countenance, until he could almost fancy he looked upon a demon. For a minute he continued in a state of terror, but reflection enabled him to overcome it. He came near, and the maniac directed his eye towards him; he started up, and before Arabin was conscious of his movement he had him by the throat, and, with a strength almost supernatural, dashed him on the floor against the corner of the room. The maniac yelled frightfully, and rushed through the


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front room into the garden, and from thence up the road and into the plains.

So terrified had the two ladies been at the yells of the madman as he rushed from the house, that it was an hour before either would leave their room. At last they found heart to peep out first into the outer room, next into the inner apartment, where they found Dr. Arabin lying in a state of insensibility. His face was covered with blood, his coat and vest were torn in front. They called up the servant, Long Bob. This functionary soon appeared, and carried the sufferer into the parlour and stretched him on the sofa. Long Bob had seen many skirmishes with Bush-rangers, and was in no degree frightened at the blood. He assured the ladies that there was no danger, only “all was as bad when they got a knock-me-down blow in the eyes, or a heavy fall.” He washed the blood from his face, which had proceeded from the nose or the teeth, and applied powerful stimulants, which were of little use. At last, he opened his eyes and looked round the apartment, which was strange to him; next his eye rested on those who waited upon him, whom he did not recognise. He soon began to be sensible of pain, and the circumstances which preceded the accident flashed upon his mind.

The two ladies were more perplexed than before. That the young settler had escaped was evident, and that something had occurred, although there was a mystery to be brought to light in the affray between him and Dr. Arabin. Some means ought to be immediately adopted to recover the maniac if possible; but there was only one male in the house, and he was


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engaged in attending upon Arabin, and neither of the ladies was disposed to remain to watch by the stranger, and the unfortunate was left to his fate until morning.

Dr. Arabin had fallen heavily upon his head, and been stunned. He soon recovered, and the ladies were agreeably surprised to find him much better in the morning. They were all anxious about the lunatic, and Long Tom was despatched to his station to warn the servants of his situation, and to give them instructions to spare no trouble in their endeavours to recover him.

Captain Thomson's station was in a different direction, and Arabin determined to pursue his journey, and look for the lunatic in the way up, and send out Captain Thomson's men to search the country.

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