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CHAPTER XVI. THE WEDDING MORNING.—AN UNBIDDEN GUEST.




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ALL things looked gay and bright in the valley where Mr. Butler's dwelling-house lay; it was morning, one of the gayest of even Australian mornings: it was a joyful morning to two beings, for it was to consummate their happiness. At twelve, the ceremony which would unite our old friend Dr. Arabin with Miss Martha was to be performed.

Arabin was in town. He was expected to arrive with the clergyman and one friend at twelve o'clock; at one the clergyman would do the duties of his office, and at two an early dinner was ordered. If a fine afternoon, they had agreed to ride into town immediately afterwards; but if the weather seemed unsettled, the whole party would spend the night at the station.

We need hardly add, that the bride did not sleep much the night before, and that she was up early. Before a single soul in the house had moved, she crept from her bed-chamber, opened the lattice, and jumped lightly into the little garden. The flowers were more beautiful than before, and appeared to invite her caresses. She was sad. The little plants, and the tender flowers she used so often to care for, were weeping for her loss; the sun was rising, and his warmth revived them. The dew dropped from their petals,


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and they laughed again in the morning lustre. She could not wait here, and she wandered down the beautiful valley in which the settler's house was situated: the bell-birds tuned their little throats, and warbled beautifully. Morning in Australia is more agreeable than any other season of the day, and the heart of the young lady was sensible of balm which floated on the glistening dew-bright earth. But thoughts of her own prospects were first in her heart— the change so long looked forward to, as the door to future bliss was now nigh at hand, and she loved— yes! even in the Colonies there has been a case of love. She had never had but two lovers: one was kind and gentle, and everything she could look for; and the other was wild and daring, and she could not love him—she would have been afraid to have loved him, he was so untameable and so like a madman. Yet she was interested about him, very sad and anxious about him; she wondered where he could have gone to, and whether her refusal could have driven his mind wrong and unhinged his fine faculties; and there was even a tenderness in this feeling, which she would hardly allow in her own mind. From these thoughts her attention was called to a rustling at her side; and on looking up, she perceived Willis close by—the person whom she had been thinking about, the person of all others whom she least wished to see. She did not lose her presence of mind; she was not afraid, for what had she to fear? the blush of female delicacy and purity was in her cheek, and she had a higher opinion of Willis than to think that he would harm aught so lovely, so pure.




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He very soon gave her the opportunity to judge of his intentions. At first he seemed a little startled; but he advanced boldly, and addressed her.

“Have you,” he said, “a heart as tender as your angelic countenance would indicate? Look upon one who is the victim of your displeasure, who wanders about the world hating the light of the day, and say if you do not compassionate me, and deeply feel for the evil you have wrought. I have been wandering the country communing but with uneducated savages, and loathing nourishment. My heart is scorched and blighted, and you have done all this; do you not pity me?”

“You must not speak this way to a young and unprotected female,” replied the bride. “This day I am to be married to a most deserving young man. I have before told you that your suit was vain, and you ought not to presume so much on my good nature as to surprise me in this manner.”

“And you are to be married, then!” said Willis rather sharply. “You have determined at last to cast me on the wide world without hope; and you are to be married to a canting, whining hypocrite—a ravenous professional, without honour or honesty!”

“Stop," almost screamed she; “I am a bride, and will not hear a word against the honour of the man I have resolved to wed.”

“Hear me out,” replied the settler. “When I crouched at your feet a poor suppliant, you regarded me as a ruined flock-owner—as a man involved in endless schemes and mysteries. I humbled myself then, because I loved you; but you thought you would not be safe with such a character—that I would neither


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keep you from the chills and colds of winter, nor shade you from the sweltering sun of summer. But I can alter all this. My future prospects you never knew, because I wished to wed you as an outcast. Now know that my father is, or was rather, a nobleman; although I am but his youngest son, I can mingle with the peers of the land. Circumstances gave me a distaste to home; I quarrelled with my father, and he struck me, when I fled an exile to these Colonies, where I have lived for years unknown. I saw you, and loved you; but when in this valley I asked you, you despised me—perhaps not despised, but slighted my suit. I laughed then in my agony; I gnashed my teeth to think that I, who might marry with the noblest and the fairest of Britain's daughters, should have been unable to win the heart of an unsophisticated maiden in the Bush of Australia. I never believed in the possibility of such an event; and so deeply, so bitterly, so poignantly did it sting, that it finished what dissipation had commenced,—it unsettled my reason. It was a sad event for me. For many weeks I wandered among the natives, and subsisted upon their scanty hospitality. Chance drew me into town a few days ago, where I found that my concealment had been discovered. My brother was dead, and I was the only son now remaining to succeed to either the titles or the estates. My wildness has departed; I am calm now: what I may have been is of little consequence—I am henceforward to redeem my character. I determined to see you once more before you threw yourself away upon that wolf in sheep's clothing, to offer you wealth, rank, power, admiration,


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love. Do not think I mock you; I have the documents now with me to prove that my statement is correct. You have but to say the word, and we shall leave this country and enter upon a new sphere of action. Whatever may be urged against the character of Willis, the Australian Bushman, will be forgotten when he is metamorphised into the great and powerful English Milord.”

“I have heard you, Mr. Willis,” said the lady; “not that I wished, but that it was beyond my power to stop you. I do not doubt that all you say is true, but wealth and rank are worthless in my eyes. For your good fortune I am glad—I sincerely rejoice that you are to reform your course of life, and turn towards some nobler course of action; but I cannot express myself farther. My sentiments towards you are unaltered. I have promised to marry Arabin, and for weal or woe I will keep my word.”

“I see that you think I have condescended to a trick to gain my point,” replied Willis, “but I assure you solemnly that it is a mistake. I swear to you that these documents are not fictitious; that, on the contrary, they are real. Examine them with your own eyes—read them, and you will find that I am not a villain. I may have been rash and tricky in some transactions, but am incapable of doing aught mean towards you.”

“I believe it from my heart,” replied the lady; “I really and truly believe it from my heart.”

“You speak earnest]y,” said the young man; “you seem as if your heart inclined towards me. Oh! then harden it not. If you decide against me, I am but a


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wretched being for life; my honours and riches are but a mockery.”

He seized her hand as he finished, and held it. The tears gushed from the eyes of the bride. It was a fearful moment; and she had a hard struggle. She spoke not, but disengaging her hand with dignity, she said, “I have already answered you, Willis, and it is cruel of you to ask me farther. Let me depart in peace, or I will call; I am not far from the house, and it may be worse for you.”

“I have no desire to detain you against your wish; but is it thus we are to part?”

“I cannot, will not, ought not to remain longer; I shall be glad to see you with my friends, but I ought not to continue any longer alone with you; therefore I return.”

“Then you will not listen to what I have got to say?” the young settler replied.

“I have given you my answer,” she replied, “and must return, for I ought not to remain longer alone with you.”

Once more the rage of the young settler outweighed his love; he actually foamed with suppressed passion. His horse was concealed in a thicket close by, and he had half a mind to lay hold of the girl and ride off with her. His sense of honour and right prevailed. She was a young, artless girl, and it would be a shame to show her any disrespect; he would be a villain who could have heart to stain the unsullied reputation of one so innocent, and the thought was spurned. Unconscious of her danger, the young woman walked towards the house. The distance was not very far,


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not more than half a mile; she did not increase her pace, because she deemed it unseemly. She had no fear, for she never considered Willis in his wildest moods capable of doing her any serious injury. At the same time, it afforded her no ordinary satisfaction that he did not follow her, and pester her with his importunities. She felt for him; she regarded him as a relation almost; but scenes such as she had just trembled under, must in future be avoided for her own sake, and for her own peace.

She entered the house, and now that she was safe beneath the shelter of her sister's roof, her forced composure forsook her; she burst into tears, and surprised her sister, by rushing into her room in a state of feverish excitement.

“What is the matter, Martha?” inquired her more matronly sister, in a tone of mingled kindness and tenderness. “What is the matter, my own dear sister? Why, this is a bad omen; it is your wedding morning, my own little Martha—tell me all about it.”

“I just walked out there,” replied Martha, “and I met Willis.”

“Met Willis!” said Mrs. Butler, very much startled. “How, where did you meet him?”

Martha explained how and where the meeting took place, and what passed.

“Well, now, my dear sister, you must not let your spirits down about this. Willis was civil, and although I wish the event had not occurred, yet I am thankful nothing worse happened. I do not like Willis—he is a very bad young man in some respects, although he is generous, and I believe kind; but he is a lunatic,


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or at least he is liable to periodical fits of insanity, and we never would have allowed you to marry him. I wonder Butler did not see you, for he has but just gone to see the sheep counted out and looked after.”

“I wish, sister, I had not met him,” said the young lady, sobbing.

“Oh, you must cheer up, as it is your wedding day; forget all about it, my good girl; it will be a bad thing for any person to see you crying on the morning of your marriage.”

Her sister endeavoured to compose the poor timid girl, and after some time she succeeded. Mr. Butler now returned, and having heard the story, commenced firing off his batteries of raillery against the bride. This had a perceptible effect, and after breakfast was over, she dressed herself in better spirits than any of them had expected. She resolved, however, that so long as Willis remained, she would not go out without protection.

The eager bridegroom and the clergyman were there before the appointed hour. It was the wish of the young lady and all connected with her, and the bridegroom had expressed the same opinion, that the marriage should be solemnised without display. The Bush soon wears down the desire for finery, as well as for splendour of any kind. A plain but substantial meal was served up early, almost immediately after the conclusion of the marriage ceremony, and the party was ready to start for town.

And shall we notice the feelings of either the bride or bridegroom? A new world had been opened to


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them. They no longer lived for their own pleasure, they had another to look to. It was a hard struggle for the young lady to take leave of her only sister, who had protected and cherished her, and of the house where so many days had passed pleasantly by. “She look'd on the vine at her father's door,
Like one who is leaving his native shore —
She hung on the myrtle once call'd her own.
* * * * * *
She wept—yet laid her hand awhile
In his, that waited her dawning smile;
She lifted her graceful head at last —
The choking swell of her heart was past.”

What need of farther description? She was happy, and likely to be happy, but naturally loath to throw off the kind feelings which had chained her to the home where all she loved was. That anchor was now raised. A home of her own would invite her; the domestic ties of her wedded life would endear her humble home, wherever it might happen to be.

They started early in the day, to allow them time on the road; it was not oppressively hot, and the ride was agreeable. They cantered across the plains, and at last struck into the road. When about five miles from town, they came up with two men walking along. It may not be uninteresting to know that these men were the two persons we took a hasty leave of in the public-house, when Willis walked away; and who, our readers may remember, were wandering about in quest of bullocks, to start a timber-dray. The big man, whose eye was never at ease, detected the party many miles off, and informed his more stupid companion


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and co-partner in the timber speculation, that “he seed a mob o' men a-comin, and it was a mercy they had nothin that was not their own, or they would have had to go and look for someweres to plant themselves.” By and by, he could discover them plainly, and he pronounced them as “a set of snobby swells from the cove's old station. By—! there is a lady. Oh! I'm a-blessed, but the precious cove's been a-marrying the gal!—whew!” They soon overtook this worthy couple, and the tall man gave them a most ferocious scowl as they passed. Had they spoken, he was determined to insult them; but they rode onwards without taking any notice.

“I think that fellow looked at us in a most impertinent manner,” remarked the clergyman.

“I know the scamp,” said Arabin. “When I was put in charge of Willis's station, I found that fellow comfortably settled down as master of the station. He had all the men in a state of mutiny, and I was compelled to discharge him, very much against my inclination.”

“There they go, Jim!” said the bullock-driver, “and may they drown themselves in the river before they get home! I hate that cove; he deserves to have his hide well tanned. I wish old Willis would come back; he was a brick, that feller, with all his temper. You see, when the fit of passion had blown over, he would let you take your own way. But this other cove is always civil; and he said to me in the perlitest way possible, says he, ‘You may go, and here is your wages.’ Who would stand that from a stupid man who would not know a fat bullock from a two-year


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old steer? I say, Jim, ain't he an hugly one?—he's no treat, is he?”

“Don't know—can't say,” said Jim. “When shall we have a ball of rum?”

“You are always a-thinking about rum,” replied the other, testily.

“And what is there else to think about?” inquired the other, simply.

“Why, ain't there bullocks, man?” said the more knowing one; “and ain't there sheep?”

“That there is,” replied the other.

“And ain't there baccy?”

“Ay.”

“And grog?”

“Faith, ay.”

“I wish we could find a lot of bullocks without any brand upon 'em, or a brand as could be done up; it's a sin as two old-stagers can't find no bullocks.”

“We must be quiet, or we may have a chain-gang again for a treat,” replied the other.

“Ah, never mind; the best are subject to misfortunes. I have a mind, as the cove's out, to go back to the old place and bring two bullocks away at night. I know two as would follow me like dogs.”

The two came to a halt and held a council of war on this point. At length they agreed to proceed towards the old station, and pick up any stray cattle they might see.

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