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CHAPTER XVII. DESCRIPTIVE AND GENERAL.




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WILLIS seemed perfectly recovered. He took possession of his station, paid off the fine which had been levied upon him, and prepared to leave the Colony. Although he appeared well in the eyes of the world, he was not even convalescent. His black servant could have told strange tales regarding him; for, with a cunning peculiar to those in his state, he would only keep this person in the house, who was of so taciturn a disposition, that a bench of judges or a bar of counsellors would have been fairly at a loss, and unable to extract a single sentence from him. He had been a long time in his service, and looked upon his eccentricities as matters of course. With the world Willis mixed little, and exercised due precaution when compelled to go out. Could he have made up his mind to live on low diet, and abstain altogether from ardent spirits, we have every reason to believe that he would have recovered. Then what was there for a young man like him to do all alone in the country?—it might be agreeable to those who had their families with them, but what was he to do? There is something worth noticing in this. Every emigrant who can land in Australia with £500, and who is contented to lead the life of a farmer of stock, ought to bring a wife with him. He is safe in ordinary times, and so long as


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sheep are low, in coming out with that sum clear: when sheep are high, more would be required. The only thing he has to dread is disease amongst the flocks; and with proper care this, too, might be avoided.

To live in town until a vessel was ready to sail, Willis considered would be worse, because he knew he should very soon fall into his old habits; thus he continued upon his station.

Dr. Arabin continued in the town. His practice was now extensive, and although not remunerative, was yet sufficient for his wants. The station was more profitable than he had expected; and indeed it appeared evident that Captain Thomson had thrown it away, in his anxiety to go home and settle up the other person's business. He had the stock some time, and found when he sent his wool to market that it fetched, as Captain Thomson had said, the highest price. He saw that in an ordinary year he could pay his men and have at least a couple of hundred pounds to himself from the wool, with the capital doubling every two years, and he was for the first time cheered by the prospect of plenty and to spare.

The long struggle had ended; he no longer wished to leave the country and wander about the world. The comfortable had charms for him, as well as the beautiful and the sentimental. For weal or woe he had cast his lot among the sheep-farmers and merchants of Australia, and he must be contented to remain. He had been well repaid for this; for he had an amiable and accomplished woman, who was not however above work when necessity demanded exertion. He had a comfortable home—he had all his real wants satisfied,


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and if at times he sighed after adventure, or after literary and civilised Europe, that wish never formed itself into language, but died away unuttered and almost unnoticed. He had the comforts and even the luxuries of life; he could procure the latest works without much trouble, Colonial and Home newspapers, and, in a word, everything that a country gentleman in England could have got. Then the climate was the finest perhaps in the world. In the summer months the heat is oppressive at certain seasons, and when the wind blows from the north. These hot winds seldom continue beyond a week, very often not longer than two or three days; for nine months in the year the weather cannot be equalled. Occasionally a week of rain breaks it up in winter, but for months upon a stretch the days will be beyond measure beautiful.

And his lady, our reader's old acquaintance, and we hope favourite, Martha Waller, was happier than the majority of her sex: she respected her husband, and she also respected herself; she was comfortable in circumstances, and near her sister; she had all her old favourite books to read, and a little flower-garden to cultivate. At times a sensation of dread would pervade her delicate frame, as she thought of Willis and remembered that he was still near her. He was often present in her mind, always as a dark phantom, such a figure as Salvator Rosa would have delighted to paint. It was a singular trait in his character, that he obstinately remained in the Colony. There was no question but that he was the person he had described himself to Martha on the morning of her marriage. He appeared at one time eager to be off, but,


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with an inconsistency inseparable from a lunatic, he changed his mind and quarrelled suddenly with the person who was in treaty with him for his station. He did not attempt to sell it after this; very few knew what he was about, and for some days he would be invisible even to his own shepherds. The only person who seemed in his confidence was the Asiatic servant. Dr. Arabin was peremptorily forbidden, and he had experienced too good a sample of his hospitality ever to press his services upon him. Mr. Butler was also disliked by him. Thus his two nearest neighbours were on bad terms with him, and the others did not care anything about the matter.

It is an excellent thing for young men to experience misfortunes in early life. The man who has been so tried acquires both caution and experience. It is bad for those who have to push forward in life, to have been reared in the lap of luxury; they seldom make good adventurers in new Colonies. They fear nothing, and regard nothing: so long as they have money in their hands to spend, they will spend it; and when it is gone, they are left to have recourse to mean expedients. Willis was reared in affluence, and had mixed with the nobles of England: a family quarrel was the reason of his forced exile, and his own unfortunate temper, which preyed upon itself and scorched up the purer affections. It is more than likely, it was a family complaint, that he had an hereditary taint. The melancholy which preyed upon his mind obliged him to mix promiscuously with the young settlers of the wildest class, and squander money in extravagant living. The little he had was soon gone, and he was now worse off


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than ever. He was nobody with the settlers unless he drank and revelled with them, and money must be had. He had recourse to disgraceful expedients—he carried on his illegitimate still for years, and kept his pockets filled with money. It is also strange, that although he was a severe and eccentric master, yet neither of his servants would betray him. Latterly he indulged in dissipation at home, and from time to time his mind was clouded; he could often keep well for weeks, especially when anything excited him, and with kind and proper treatment he might have been reformed, and perhaps the seeds of the disease been eradicated. Providence had willed it otherwise. The shadows of night fell very fast upon the young man. In a few weeks he would have been lost beyond redemption; but even this brief career was not afforded him: the short span of his existence was snapped asunder by an accident which we shall relate in due time.

Let us now, in contradistinction, look for a single instant at the character of Arabin. He was of humble parentage, and born to earn his bread by the sweat of his brow. In his youth he had been severely tried, and well was it for him that such had been his fate. He entertained the most scrupulous regard for his honour; he would not have descended to conduct such as Willis had been guilty of, although the latter had received a superior education, and was before him in many respects. Dr. Arabin could not have willingly hurt the feelings of any man, or wronged any person of a farthing. He would not have mixed with the class we have described; he would not have been seen in the company of any one who belonged to it. The deep vein of sentiment


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which mingled with his thoughts and actions was a beautiful trait in his character: it might lead him to commit many eccentric acts at which the worldly-wise would sneer, but it was also a certain guarantee for the probity and honesty of his actions. He succeeded well in life, but not one whit better than his perseverance and probity deserved; and we affirm, without fear of contradiction, that all who act like him, either in the Colonies or in Europe, must sooner or later be successful.

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