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CHAPTER XIV.

FOURTEEN YEARS PASS BY—THE EMIGRANT'S WEALTH—A LETTER FROM THE GYPSEY'S DAUGHTER—DEATH OF CRAB.

IT was fourteen years after the occurrences which I have related in my preceding memoirs that I was sitting in my garden under a splendid mimosa tree which we had cherished for many years as a favourite spot—enjoying the calm of a peaceful evening.

I had for several years past resigned the active management of my farms, with my flocks and herds, to my eldest son, who, with his wife and family, resided with me in our large stone house, after the old patriarchal custom. My daughter Betsey, who had married George Beresford in 1827, had five children, and resided at Cherry-tree Bottom, in a comfortable cottage, of which Crab, now very far advanced in years, and who for some time past had grown very feeble, was the


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dissatisfied owner. Beresford, the elder, had married Lucy Moss in 1824, and they now resided on the banks of the Shannon River, surrounded by a numerous family.

It was the close of the summer season, in the month of March, and the face of the country had for some weeks assumed that brown autumnal tint which is the prevailing hue of the fields and foliage for the greater part of the year in Van Diemen's Land. Two tiny urchins, brother and sister, were playing, near me, on a plot of English grass whose lively green and thick close sward contrasted pleasingly with the brown coarse tufts of the native plains beyond. Rather too thickly clustered, in a space that was covered with fruits and flowers, were apple, pear, and peach trees; the former bearing the ruddy tint of the English fruit, and the latter in its full ripeness. A fine boy of eight years of age was coaxing a young kangaroo with sugar, and a white cockatoo, raising up his yellow-feathered tuft, screamed and chattered on the walk to attract the notice of his playfellows. In the park-like plain below were grazing some of the dairy cows,


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with two or three horses, and a small pet flock of merino sheep.

I was attentively reading a volume of a work which I had lately received from England, for being now able to indulge in my early taste for books, I had accumulated about twelve hundred volumes in a small library, which formed a room, looking on the river, especially devoted to my own serious contemplations;—but the gambols of the children interrupted me continually.

The perusal of my book had produced in me that feeling of melancholy which sometimes takes possession of one's mind without any definable cause. Indeed, of all men, I was one of those the least inclined to melancholy thoughts, and God had been pleased to bless me with such prosperity and increase, that if tears rose in my eyes it must have been from the very fulness of my satisfaction.

I laid down my book, and was revolving as I sat the many scenes of my busy and adventurous life, when my dear wife, the companion of my labours and the sharer of my prosperity, appeared at the end of the walk, with a letter in her hand


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and supporting on her arm her aged mother, who, with the assistance of a staff, was still able, though far advanced beyond the ordinary span of human life, to take her accustomed walks in the garden. My dear Mary was changed a little in her looks, but her heart was still as warm and as affectionate, as ever. She wore her own grey hair, disdaining the artifice of conventional disguise, and boasting that she was prouder of being the grandmother of such a family than of all the brown and clustering curls of her early youth. I could tell by her countenance that she had some agreeable news to communicate as she moved towards me. She gave me the letter with a smile; it bore the mark of England, and on its seal was the single word ”Georgiana.“

I ought to say here, that after the Gypsey's daughter had been received in my family, immediate steps were taken by me and the magistrate for securing her legal rights in England. Various letters passed, and at the end of four years an agent, duly empowered by her legal guardians, arrived in the colony to take charge of her on her passage home. Her uncle, John Shirley, he informed us, had obtained possession of the estates


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as next heir; but the elder brother, William, had made a will, by which he devised the whole of his estates and property to trustees for the benefit of George Shirley, should he ever return to England, or to his children. It was impossible to dispute the will, but the uncle denied the marriage and the identity of the child. These points were easily proved in the colony; but, as the trustees in England were desirous of her presence at home for their greater satisfaction and for the better prosecution of her cause, we took advantage of the opportunity of the return of a friend and his wife to the mother country to place her under female care, and, accompanied by the agent, she set sail in 1828. She was then eleven years of age, and one of the most beautiful little girls I ever saw, and beginning to be highly accomplished, for our governess had done her duty well, and the child had amply replied to the unmeasured attention which she bestowed on her.

I remember when I told my old friend, the magistrate, of her intended departure, and expressed my satisfaction that she would meet with no troubles in England, like those to which she had been exposed from the machinations of her


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uncle and from the caprice of the savages in this country, my worthy and facetious friend was pleased to observe that,

“Bad as that was she might be worse.”

“Why, what can they do worse with her?” said I.

“Why,” replied my friend, “they can put her in Chancery!”

My children, who had become attached to their affectionate playmate, were very sad, I remember, at this sort of evil prognostication on the part of my friend, thinking that to be put in Chancery was some terrible disaster; and they conjured up all sorts of horrid ideas about a prison and looking through the bars; but, when I explained to them that the Court of Chancery was a place of refuge curiously and ingeniously contrived for the redress of wrongs and for the protection of the orphan; and that in twenty or thirty years, or, at least, in the course of half a century, the rights of their young friend would be in fair progress of restoration, as, shortly after that time, some future Lord Chancellor would probably declare when her case might be mentioned at some future time, with a


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view to its being begun to be heard, they were silenced; although, I am inclined to think, not quite satisfied with my well-meant explanation.

We had received many letters from Miss Shirley since her arrival in England, and the first news that we had of her was that she was in Chancery, which spread a gloom over my family, that was cleared up however when we were informed that she did not suffer in her health in consequence, and that in the meantime her guardians supplied all her wants with a liberal hand; for her case was so plain that no human being had any doubt of the success of her cause, excepting of course the high functionary who had to decide on it. We were very anxious, therefore, to hear of the progress of our young friend, and it was with lively interest that I opened the letter, and read aloud its contents. It was addressed to my wife in the inside, and ran thus: —

"MY DEAREST MRS. THORNLEY,

“MY previous letters will have taught you to expect that the most important event of my life would soon take place, and that I should again change my name; but the change, I assure you,


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has produced no alteration in the heart, towards you and yours, of your grateful Georgiana.—I may now break through the reserve which I have hitherto maintained in respect to some points relating to my marriage.

“My first acquaintance with my husband began at Milan, whither my guardian had taken me two years ago in the course of our travels through Italy. We had gone to the opera on the evening of our arrival, without being aware of the piece that was to be performed, or not thinking of its application to myself. The opera passed off very well, but the next piece was ‘The Gypsey.’ The scene brought back to my recollection my early sorrows in Van Diemen's Land, and by one of those strange coincidences which sometimes take place to our wonder in real life, the dark Italian eyes of one of the performers brought back so vividly to my recollection the look of my poor father when he caressed me shortly before his melancholy fate, that I became troubled, and a tide of painful thoughts rushing in upon me, I fainted. A gentleman—young—and handsome of course, assisted my guardian to convey me to


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our carriage, and such assistance accepted was a sufficient introduction for the next day. Our intimacy increased, and although he was eight years older than I, he became attached to me: but I struggled hard to prevent my heart from becoming engaged, fearful that, from his rank and connections, he might despise me when he came to learn the secret of the Gypsey's daughter. This continued for the two years that we remained abroad, when having learnt to appreciate his generous character I determined to reveal to him my terrible secret. He declared that he did not love me less, and esteemed me more for my confidence and sincerity. Shortly after this he quitted our society under the plea of his affairs in England requiring his presence; and on our return home he presented to me a packet of papers, and immediately retired. I was alarmed at this conduct, and instantly opened the packet, when I found documents completely exculpating my dear father from any share in the death of the gamekeeper, for his supposed participation in which, he had been condemned to banishment. That obstacle—which indeed existed only on my


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part—being removed—with the consent of my guardians, I resigned my future destiny to his care, and I now write to you as his happy wife.

“When I reflect on my present happiness, my dearest second mother, I cannot but feel my large debt of gratitude for your fostering care of the forlorn gypsey's daughter; and how can I repay you for all your kindness, and for the kindness of your children to me? Pray remember me to them all; to the grave William, the merry Betsey, or rather I should call her Mrs. George Beresford; to the good-natured Edward, and is he still called 'Sporting Ned?' to Mary, and to Lucy, and though last not least, to my dearest Ellen who used to romp with me; nor must I forget my dear old governess, Mrs. Ramsay, who I hope continues in your family, and who was so kind and good to the orphan wanderer. I am almost tempted to wish that you were very poor that I might have the delight of sharing with you what we possess, for we are very rich; but your flocks and herds I hear almost cover the island, and with your large estates, your carriages, and your horses, and your baronial house, and all your patriarchal abundance, I am at a loss to know


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what to send out to you. I wish you could convey your fifteen thousand acres of land to England! And only think of that acre of land which Mr. Thornley bought in Hobart-Town some years ago turning out such a valuable property; but of course as land is wanted in a town for building houses on as the inhabitants increase, every square foot as my husband says becomes valuable.

“My dear husband has sent out two beautiful horses for Mr. Thornley, and some curious cattle and Saxon sheep for William; and I have sent a grand piano-forte with the latest improvements for Mary, which will stand very nicely at the end of your large room; and a harp for Ellen, with quantities of music. I have also to request Edward to accept the choicest double-barrel gun, with all sorts of apparatus which I don't understand, that can be purchased in London, and my husband has taken particular pains in selecting it. I was at a loss to know what remembrance to send to Lucy, but I have been fortunate enough to find a beautiful cabinet at a curiosity shop, made at Vienna for the empress Maria Louisa of France, with which I think she will be pleased, as it accords with the splendour of her romantic disposition.


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I have sent also a self-acting organ for Betsey, that she may have music, as she used to say she should like, without the trouble of playing. Don't you remember she used to say in her merry way, she would as soon grind the old portable corn-mill as a hand-organ? And now, what have I to say more? Oh! it is to ask you to send us another kangaroo, and some of the pretty Rosina parrots that we made such pets of. Mr. John Shirley is living abroad, and my affairs are still in Chancery; but as we are rich enough, we have the satisfaction, my husband says, of considering that the estates will some day come to our great-grandchildren. Mr. Shirley is inclined, I understand, to compromise the matter by his being allowed a small annuity for life of three thousand a year, which would be nothing for the property to pay, and our solicitors advise us to accept it; but my husband will not forgive him for endeavouring to steal me away as he did, and exposing me to the risk of being killed and eaten by the natives, in order to marry me to his son. My husband says he should have liked to know Musqueeto, for he was a fine fellow for saving my life, and he says it was a shame to


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hang him; but the atrocities and murders that he committed are certainly very shocking. And now, my dear Mrs. Thornley, and my dear friends, I bid you for the present adieu; wishing you a continuance of your present prosperity and happiness. And that you may long live to enjoy the many delights of children, friends, fortune, and independence, with which Providenee has blessed you, is the prayer of your ever affectionate and grateful

“GEORGIANA.

Postscript.—I declare I had forgotten to ask after my old friend Mr. Crab. He was very old, and getting infirm, I thought, when I left the country. Is he still alive? and does he still go on grumbling, and declaring that he will leave the ‘horrid, wretched’ country by the very next ship? Again,

“Yours,

“GEORGY.”

“Kind, good-hearted old man!” said I. “He will be glad to hear that the little girl, whom he was so fond of, has not forgotten her old friend; but I


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fear, from the account we received of him last night, that he will not be in this world long, to receive such remembrances.”

As I spoke, George Beresford arrived on horse-back, and in haste, to inform us that the symptons, which had exhibited themselves the evening before, had become more alarming, and that Betsey wished me to come over immediately. I desired a horse to be saddled instantly, and leaving my wife to follow in the carriage, I made the best of my way with my son-in-law to Cherry-tree Bottom.

On our way we called at the surgeon's, and mounting him on a led horse, which my groom had brought with him for the purpose, he accompanied us, to see if art could do anything to prolong the life of my old friend.

“I fear,” said the surgeon, “that all art is useless in this case; he is dying of sheer old age. How old really is he?”

“We don't exactly know,” said I: “he owns to eighty-two, but from his remembrance of past events in England, we think he must be much older.”

We soon arrived at Cherry-tree Bottom,


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which was situated in a little hollow, embosomed among the surrounding hills. Crab had made it the very model of an English farm, and the rick-yard contained in addition to several imposing stacks of wheat thatched to a nicety, and kept untouched, “because,” as he said, “they made a farm-house look warm and home-like,” a tolerable stack of hay made from native grass. The garden presented the autumnal maturity of luxuriance, which is so striking in this country, and an ample orchard of cherry-trees proclaimed that the name of the favoured spot was now deservedly bestowed.

On a stubble-field, enclosed within a hawthorn-hedge, two horses in a line were ploughing, with a Shropshire plough; Crab holding in abomination the colonial practice of employing oxen in ploughs and carts. Within sight of the house, a pond had with much labour been excavated to receive the waters of a little rivulet that took its source from a distant tier of hills. Indisputable English geese and ducks disported themselves in this capacious reservoir, gladdening the old man's eyes with the picture of his early youth. But those eyes were now about


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to close; and with a heaviness of heart which I did not attempt to suppress, I approached the door of my ancient friend's dwelling.

We found the old man seated in an easy chair, his silvery white hair hanging on his shoulders, by an open window, having a view at the same time of his wheat-stacks, his duck-pond, and his twelve-acre wheat-field, at which his servants were now at work. He had been complaining, Betsey told us, of the mistiness of the atmosphere, although the air was clear and pure—I well knew what this mistiness meant.

“Here's father, coming to see you,” said Betsey, raising her voice a little, for a little deafness had been for some time one of the old man's infirmities.

“Thornley, I'm glad to see you. Where are you? come closer; the air is very dim: I suppose it's the natives that have fired the country, and it's all smoke as it always is in this place!”

“There are no natives now,” said Betsey, “to fire the country; they have all been removed these many years.”


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“Have they? Ah! I remember something about those sweeping expeditions, and what fun it was! making a line across the country, and the natives behind us all the while wondering what we were after!”

“How do you feel, my dear friend?” said I, soothingly.

“Very weak—very weak indeed. You see, Thornley, this wretched country has killed me at last. I always said it would, but you never would believe me. But it serves me right—yes, quite right; I ought to have left it long ago. It was those hops that deluded me on.”

“You have shown the colonists how to grow hops,” said I, wishing to please him by a little praise which he well deserved.

“Ah! haven't I? And taught them how to make beer too! Betsey, my dear, tell them to get your father a jug of that last tap. Let me taste it.” They put the cup to his lips. “How's this? it tastes oddly! Get some more in another jug. Thornley musn't come to my house and not have a glass of ale! But I shall grow no more hops! and drink no more of my own home-brewed ale!”


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“My dear friend,” said I, “you have lived a longer life than is ordinarily the lot of man; and your latter years have been passed in a state of prosperity far beyond your early expectations. Let us hope that the Great Being who has blessed the latter part of your career with so much wealth and ease, will regard all your complainings in this life with an indulgent eye; and that your life hereafter may be such as he has promised to those who keep his word and trust in him .”

“I don't know,” said Crab—in a slow and feeble voice, his mind beginning to wander—“that I have done much amiss—except the coming to this wretched country, and the staying in it, which is worse; but I'll go home by the next ship. Not a drop of beer to be had in the country for love or money! What's the use of a public-house if there's no beer in it? Half-a-guinea for a bottle of stout! It's shameful! Did you ever see a chap plough a field that way before? Not know what lying fallow means! You're a cockney! I don't wish to be uncivil—but you're a cockney! I say you're a cockney!”

“His mind is wandering,” said the benevolent


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clergyman attached to the Clyde church; “but his life has been so innocent, and all his intentions so good, that if ever spirit ascended to the presence of its Maker with hope and trust, such may be the reliance of this single-hearted old man!”

My wife now arrived; but it was with difficulty that our dying friend could be made to recognize her; and when he did, his waning intellects referred to times and scenes foreign to the present.

“Mrs. Thornley,” said he, in slow and feeble accents, “your poor husband has been killed by the natives; but we must bear it—we must bear it. To roast him alive! The savages! But we'll all leave the country. I'm going to leave the country. Where's Betsey?”

Betsey took hold of the old man's hand, and spoke to him.

The clergyman now asked him if there was anything that he wished to say, anything that he wished to have done?

The questions of the divine roused the old man to a consciousness of his present state, and recalled his mind from its feeble wanderings. But


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his voice became weaker and weaker, and his pulse grew more feeble in its flutterings—and it was with difficulty that we could make out the meaning of what he uttered.

“I know,” he said, in a whisper scarcely articulate,—“that—we—must—all die!—but—I—wanted to see how that wheat turned out—in—the—new—field. George—never—plough with—oxen—and—don't—shoot—the bull, as you did—the—other one. I—am—going—I—am—going. Betsey—hold—my—hand. What do I feel? Betsey—am—stifling!—I—I—I—can't—breathe—my—breath—Thornley—I—am—going—at last—out—of this—wretch—wretch—wretch-ed—country—home—at—last.”

And so he died.

There was not a dry eye in the room. For my own part, I sobbed like a child; although my dear old friend had died full of years and prosperity, and in peace and hope. But he was my ancient friend, my earliest companion in the colony, and I loved him for the very whims and failings for which others laughed at him.

“That was one of the best hearts in one of the


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roughest husks that ever I had to deal with,” said the surgeon. And so thought we all, but for some time no one spoke, and I retired with a sad heart to the banks of the Clyde.

We buried our old friend in the churchyard which had been consecrated with the church by the Bishop of Australia. Over his grave I placed a modest tablet, with this simple inscription: —

HERE LIE THE MORTAL REMAINS OF SAMUEL CRAB, AN ENGLISH FARMER, AGED 86.
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