Gentleman George's Bride

Chapter I.

  ― 25 ―

“WHEN it was known at Bullocktown that old Keturah Gow was going to be married to Gentleman George, there was somelaughter and much shaking of heads.

“Keturah was a woman of hard middle age. Scotch by birth, and Presbyterian by religion, she had come to Australia as the nurse of Flora McLeod, now Mrs. Marrable, of Seven Creeks, and had lived twenty years in the bush. The man whom she was about to marry was named George Harris. No one knew whence he came, or how long he had lived in the colonies. He had no religion worth mentioning, and no accomplishment save that of horsemanship. His age was three-and-twenty, or thereabouts and being impatient of temper, handy with his fists, prodigal of his money, and possessed of a certain gipsy beauty of face and figure, the intelligent stockmen called him ‘Gentleman George.’

“In vain did the gossips of Bullocktown animadvert upon the match. In vain did Longbow borrow Muniford's spring-cart and Coppinger's grey mare for the express purpose of making a pilgrimage to the Gap, and warning Neil Gow, the shepherd, of the misery which awaited his sister. ‘She must just gang her ain gate,’ said crippled Neil, wagging the stump of his arm in a feeble circle as though he would fain have waved the hand that was wanting. ‘I've said a' I can, I'll say nae mair.’‘Shall I speak to her?’ asked Longbow. ‘As ye please,’ quoth Neil ; ‘but Kitty's the deevil's temper, and maybe she'll claw oot ye're e'en, man!’So Longbow sighed and shot ducks. In vain did Mrs. Marrable implore the headstrong old woman to reconsider her determination. ‘The fellows a ne'er-do-well, Keturah—John says he is: he only wants your money (for Keturah had saved some £200 during her servitude). He's a bad man.’ Keturah only sighed and vowed that all the world was prejudiced against puir Geordie. In vain did John Marrable—not without a hearty English curse or two—command Gentleman George not to make a fool of himself and to let the old woman alone. ‘If she's minded to marry me,’ said the young man, with a droop of his thickly-lashed lids, ‘It isn't for you to interfere, sir— excuse me. I suppose a man can marry anyone he likes.’ ‘I suppose he can, confound him,’ replied honest John Marrable. In vain did Coppinger, the publican, suggest—over a nobbler of P.B.— that George was throwing himself away. ‘You'll have the whole township laughing at you, George.’‘ Shall I?’

  ― 26 ―
returns George, fiercely, and catching Alick, the blacksmith, in the very dead waste and middle of a grin, forthwith pitched him into the sandy street. ‘Folks won't laugh at me twice, I'll pound it,’ said he, and Alick—his mouth full of sand—re-echoed the sentiment with spluttering humility. So the pair were married in due form, and the wedding feast was held at the ‘Saw-pits.’

“The ‘Saw-Pits’ was a public-house situated half-way between the Gap (where, under the shadow of the hills, nestled Neil Gow's hut), and the distant Glimmera, on whose farther bank smoked the chimneys of Coppinger's and drowsed the world of Bullocktown. The High Road was wont to run through Bullocktown and bend abruptly westward to avoid crossing the chain of water-holes called the Great Glimmera River; but three floods and a new Postmaster-General, with a turn for economy, had altered all that. The mail-carrying coaches had been directed to take the shortest cut, and a bridge had been built, in order that they might do so with convenience. The building of this bridge had established a colony of sawyers, and the bridge completed, the mill was converted into a tavern. Where the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together. Where is liquor, there flock the bushmen. It is thus that townships are formed.

“The keeper of the ‘Saw-pits’ was one Trowbridge, who with his two daughters had migrated from Bullocktown. Neil Gow was a great crony of his, and despite the orders of Marrable (who, when a public-house was established on his run, thought the end of the world was come) frequently rode the bob-tailed pony through the sweet summer night, and ‘hung him up’to Trowbridge's verandah-post. Trowbridge and the one-armed boundary rider had often seriously conversed on the subject of Keturah's approaching marriage, and it had been agreed that the wedding feast should be held at the ‘Saw-pits.’

“‘She may do what she likes, lad,’ said Trowbridge ‘and if the match turns out ill, neither thou nor I will be to blame. But if we don't make every mother's son of 'em as drunk as a fiddler's bitch, my name ain't Tom Trowbridge!’

“ The laudible purpose of the publican seemed likely to be fulfilled. Before the wedding party arrived, the ‘Saw-pits Hotel’ was crowded. Trowbridge's Sunday shirt had come to torment him before the time, and Alick anticipated the daily period of his intoxication by full three hours. In the hollows round about the creek were camped tilt-waggons galore, and in the half-acre of mud that did duty for the stable-yard of the ‘Saw-pits,’ the brand new buggy of Jim Porter, the lucky reefer, lay stranded like a skeleton-wreck upon a bleak, inhospitable shore. Festoons of such wild flowers as were procurable, decorated the front of the hostelry, and wreathed themselves lovingly about the transparent beauties of Hennessy and Otard, while in the long room, where dancing was to be undergone, the air was pungent with the exhilarating odour of smashed gum-leaves.To these preparations arrived presently, in a cloud of dust, the bridal party.

  ― 27 ―

“Let the classical reader recall the triumphs of old Rome, the glittering spears, the hollow-clanging shield, the sound of the trumpets, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting. First, galloping furiously, a crowd of horsemen, bearded and long-haired, cracking their whips like pistol-shots, and filling the air with Homeric laughter. Then a mass of vehicles, bumping, jolting, leaping, filled with men in white shirts, and women with yellow shawls. Then were stockriders, some with led horses, in order that the swift pace of the morning might be preserved on the homeward journey. Now behind, now before, in the midst of this fury and clamour, borne along, and overwhelmed by dust and friendship, clattered the triumphal car—a hooded buggy lent by Coppinger, to which were attached four grass-fed nags, postillioned by the two sons of Archy Fletcher, youths to whom, in the matter of rapidity of locomotion, Jehu, the son of Nimshi, would have appeared but as a farmer's wife, jogging with egg-laden panniers to market. From the buggy— erked to a swaying standstill in the most approved bush method when the fore legs of the leaders threatened the skillion window of the inn—descended, to shouts that rent the hot heaven, the happy pair.

“Gentleman George was dressed in the height of bush fashion. A cabbage-tree hat, so browned and battered that it boasted the colour of a well-smoked meerschaum, adorned his handsome bullet-head. A short linen coat served but to enhance the purity of a white shirt, from the falling collar of which fluttered the ends of one of those gaily-coloured kerchiefs known to London costermongers as ‘Kingsmen.’ Round his supple waist was girded a red silk sash, and tightly-fitted breeches of creamy whiteness met, and defied boots, so marvellously black, so astonishingly wrinkled, that Mr. Rapersole, bootmaker and parish clerk, had forgotten an Amen in gazing at them. As this hero walked, the rowels of huge German-silver spurs, loosely fastened by one broad semicircular strap, click-clacked upon the boards in the musical manner so dear to the stockman's soul. Keturah, now Mrs. Harris, was none the less imposing in her attire. She wore a purple shot-silk dress, on the shifting surface of which played rays of crimson and gold, as shoot the colours of the prism across a mass of molten metal. From beneath this marvel two white boots played in and out—not so much like Sir John Suckling's mice as like plump mill-rats newly escaped from a flour-bag. Keturah wore a red velvet bonnet adorned with blue and white flowers; her shawl, fastened by a plaid brooch, was a glowing yellow with a green border, and her hands swelled in all the magnificent mockery of mauve kid gloves. Yet, with all this, her honest brown face shone with an honesty of purpose and a hopefulness of future happiness that rendered it almost beautiful.

“She hung lovingly on her husband's arm, smiling up at him, nor removing her eyes from his face but to gaze proudly at the cheering crowd. He walked rather quickly, and his lips tightly compressed, and his black eyes set forward steadily, seemingly wrought up to endure the scene, but anxious to be quit of it. She

  ― 28 ―
seemed to say, ‘See what a noble husband I have won!’ He seemed to say, ‘I guess your thoughts, but my marriage is none of your business.’“ ‘He's a temper, Jenny,’ said Susie Barnes. “ ‘My word!’ assented Jenny. “‘She aint such a bad-looking bit of stuff after all,’ said Jim Porter. ‘I'd rather marry herthan break my leg, blowed if I wouldn't.’“ So the wedding feast began. “ It is not for my feeble pen to detail the glories of that day. The little township—buried as it was beneath the shadow of the purple hills, and yet preserving in itself all the petty malice, the local jealousy, the blatant conceit of larger towns—gave loose on this one occasion to the wildest merriment. Local feuds were forgotten, personal hatreds forgiven or suspended. Even Mr. McTaggart, a rabid Orangeman from Derry, forbore to attack Mr. Michael Murphy, a rabid Ribbandman from Clare, and going out into the solitude of the bridge, drank in silence his favourite toast of ‘Here's the Pope in the devil's belly, and Martin Luther pitching red hot priests at him!’ a toast which was wont to cause Mr. Murphy's ‘bhlood to bhoil, bhoys,’ and to bring about wrathful combats. Fighting Fitz, the poundkeeper, who was at daggers drawn with Dick Mossop, Scabby Barton's overseer, on account of a brindled poley bullock branded P.W. over T.S. on the off rump, with a notch in both ears, and a star on the forehead, consented to be friends again, and even offered to sell Dick a certain bay mare in defiance of the Impounding Act. Rapersole, of course, could not be kept from politics, and insisted on putting what he was pleased to call ‘supposititious’ cases in such numbers that Neil Gow, vowing him a bletherin' bumbee's byke, took him by the collar, and flourishing the stump of his arm menacingly, deposited him in an empty buggy. The breakfast was an immense success. Tom Trowbridge presided, having formally asked permission to lay aside his unaccustomed coat, and carved a noble round of beef with the air of a gold stick in waiting. But a round of beef was not the only viand. There was mutton broth and cow-heel, and an ox's head decorated with flowers, and rump steaks, and sweetbreads, and a haggis, and lamb's head, and sheep's trotters, and cold saddle of mutton, and preserved peaches, and tins of jam, and sago pudding, and plum duff, and bottled ale, and tea, and sweet cake, and brandy, and rum, and one bottle of champagne for the ladies. “‘My eyes that's a merry tightener!’ said Chirrup, the mail-boy. ‘Could you eat any more, Archy?’‘No fear!’ said Archy, ruefully, ‘them blessed puff-tillooners did my business.’ After the breakfast and the speeches—you should have heard Rapersole's!—and the digestive smoke, drinking and dancing commenced, Trowbridge doing his best to carry out his promise to Neil Gow and vindicate his self-impugned title to his name. Some notion of the result may be gleaned from a glance at his bill, duly paid by Mrs. Keturah Harris two days afterwards.

  ― 29 ―

“To Mr. George Harris' weding brakefast:-

... ... ... Pounds shilg. d. 
The brakefast ... ... ... 10 
Noblers ... ... ... 
8 spiders ... ... ... 
Dit o ... ... ... 
Refreshments for lades ... ... ... 
Peppermint drops ... ... ... 
ginger Bear and bitters ... ... ... 
Drinks, phromiskus ... ... ... 10 
Squar gin for six ... ... ... 
Kake speshul ... ... ... 10 
Shout round ... ... ... 
Dit o ... ... ... 
Music ... ... ... 
Drinks for same ... ... ... 10 
Rossin ... ... ... 
10 noblers ... ... ... 
24 spiders ... ... ... 
Tobaco ... ... ... 
24 noblers ... ... ... 
2 broken chares ... ... ... 
1 winder ... ... ... 10 
Hoarse feed ... ... ... 
Shout all round ... ... ... 10 
Dit o parting ... ... ... 10 
Beds for 12 ... ... ... 
Shampane for lades ... ... ... 
Tottal ... ... ... 58 
Received by cash ... ... ... 58 

“In the consumption of such items as those mentioned above did the day wear out; and Trowbridge nobly fulfilled his promise. Of the sixty or seventy persons present, but a very insignificant number went home sober. Indeed, had it not been for the coquetry of Jenny Joyce, who, riding her father's bay horse, Walkover, dared any of the young men to give her five minutes' start and catch her before she reached the Bluff, there is no saying what might have happened. Eight or nine of the best-mounted followed laughing Jenny, but no one got within arm's length of her supple waist save Harry Scallan, and they do say that she checked her nag to let him snatch the kiss he had begged for in vain. However, Harry never confessed the fact; but as Dick Mossop, his rival, broke his horse's knees at Mount Hopeless, but half-way to the Bluff, and Jenny became Mrs. Scallan a month afterwards, Harry could afford to be generous. Two or three horse-accidents happened that day. Jim Porter saddled his new buggy-horse, and attempting to ride him, despite the advice of Gentleman George himself, was bucked ignominiously, and his collar-bone ingloriously fractured. Lucy Sperrin's grey pony kicked Chirrup in the stomach and hurt him badly. ‘Serves him right for fossicking round me,’Miss Lucy had said. ‘I told him the mare was handy with her heels.’ Poor Cooke—Mad Cooke, who wore a silver plate on his head, to the wonder of Bullocktown—must needs bring out his old stock-horse and witch

  ― 30 ―
the world with noble horsemanship. ‘Heigh, boys! Heigh, boys!’ he would cry while at full gallop. ‘There's none of ye can go up the hills like Ballie!’And indeed no one attempted to do so, all standing aghast at the feats Ballie performed upon the side of the steep hill that shadowed the inn, until poor Ballie put his foot into a hole, or slipped on a rolling stone, and his master came to earth with a fresh brain concussion—the third in his short mad life-time.“ Amid such sports the hot, sweet day wore out to cool evening. The pure perfume of grass, and earth scented the air. The red sun sunk in glory behind the ragged shoulder of the bluff. A purple mist slowly enveloped the hills the laughing jackasses, merry fellows, set up a tremendous chattering; the frogs began to babble in the marshes, the sheep to move off their camps, the cattle to make for water. The wedding-day was over, and as, amidst a hurricane of cheers, Gentleman George handed his wife to the spring-cart that was to bear them to their home in the Swamp Hut, the great stars came slowly out and looked with tender eyes upon this hopeful, ill-dressed bride.

“A week afterwards frolicsome Fitz, wandering in search of prey wherewith to feed his ravenous Pound, met jolly Polwheal, the butcher, coming from the Swamp Hut.

“‘Have you seen the bride’ asked Fitz.

“‘Ay, and a comely wench she's grown. She looks a young 'oman, Fitz.’

“‘Does she?’ says Fitz, ‘That's rum, too.’

“Polwheal laughed. ‘you're not a felosopher, Fitz ! Don't you know,’ he added, borrowing a metaphor from his own profession, ‘that a working bullock, if you get him fat after a spell, makes the best beef.’In regard to the appearance of Keturah Harris, Mr. Polwheal was right. She had become a very comely woman. The lines in her face had faded, her spare figure had rounded, her withered arms had fattened, her grey eyes had a youthful sparkle, and her step a youthful lightness; she seemed a younger woman by twenty years. If you passed by the Swamp Hut, at any hour of the day, you could hear her singing, and the good-tempered woman who brought you out a pannikin of tea, or asked you to have a slice of sweet cake, was a very different being from ‘old Ketty,’ of the home station, the shrewish-tongued and withered maiden who was the terror of wandering swagmen. Bullocktown wondered at the change, and were not disinclined to roughly jest upon the subject with Gentleman George. That worthy, however, went about his business of stock-riding in silence, and seemed determined by honest attention to his business to merit the kindness shown him by Mrs. Marrable, and deserve the ‘married couple’ billet which John Marrable had bestowed upon him.

“The astute reader will no doubt have come to the conclusion that this conduct of Gentleman George was but assumed for his own ends; and the astute reader will be right. Gentleman George had

  ― 31 ―
not the least intention of passing his life as a stockrider to Mr. Marrable and as the young husband of an old woman. He had married Keturah for her money, and intended, as soon as he could obtain that money, to take himself off. Until he was in a position to do this securely, it was his interest to be kind and gentle, and the scoundrel was kind and gentle accordingly. I trust, however, that the astute reader who has discovered this will not consider Mr. Harris a very great villain. For a young man to marry an old woman for her money, is not such a very rare thing, nor have there been wanting cases in the best society where the lady has been deserted afterwards. I admit, however, that to perpetrate such an offence for two hundred pounds does show a coarseness of intellect. If Keturah had been possessed of two hundred thousand pounds now, the case would have been different, and good society might have admitted Mr. Harris to its bosom without a pang. Yet men can but act according to their opportunity, and I am sure that had Gentleman George seen his way to marry a lady with two hundred thousand, or even one hundred thousand pounds, he would have left poor Keturah alone.

“There is no necessity to protract the story at this period. In six months George had got possession of the endorsed deposit receipt of the Bank of Australia, Quartzborough, for £201 8s. 0d., had kissed his wife, told her he was going to look after the mare and foal last seen in Ponsonby's paddock. Once clear of the hut he saddled his own nag Peppercorn, secured his swag already ‘planted’ on the river bank, set out a smart canter for Quartzborough; drew the money, and slept that night at Hamilton, doing ninety-five miles in eleven and-a-half hours.

“ Poor Keturah was like a mad woman. At first she thought that some accident had befallen him, then that he was detained at a neighbouring station. She would fain have roused all the station to look for him. She ran to her mistress raging and upbraided her for not suffering the dam to be dragged. Then she began to suspect, then to weep, then to vow revenge. ‘He's left ye missis,’ said the wife of the other boundary-rider. ‘He's a bad lot. Ye'd better forget him.’

“‘I'll no forget him, the black villain,’ said the deserted woman. ‘I'll pray to God on my bended knees that I may meet him, and if he's a heart o' flesh I'll wring it.’

“ ‘Come, Ketty,’ said her mistress, some days after, ‘It's no use greeting, woman. The fellow's gone.’

“‘Let him go,’ said Ketty. ‘I'll find him oot. Ef he's on his dying, bed, I'll find him oot, and dinna let him ask me to raise a finger to save him.’

“‘I must take her away,’ said Mrs. Marrable to her husband. ‘She can't bear the sneers and looks of the folk about.’

“‘All right, take her with you to town when you go,’ said, John Marrable.

“Thus it came to pass that having been twenty years in the bush, Keturah Harris became Upper nurse in the family of Mr. Thomas Marrable, of the firm of Marrable and Davis, softgoods-men.”

Chapter II.

  ― 32 ―

“THE soft-goods firm of Marrable and Davis was a wealthy one. The Marrable interest consisted of Thomas Marrable (the brother of the station-owner) with his son Harry, and Mr. Israel Davis, once chief clerk, now partner. The office was in Flinders Lane—a big stuccoed building of four soreys, having swing-doors embellished with double plates of brass. Mr. Marrable was a politician and an importer. His son dressed in the latest London fashions, played loo and billiards equally badly, and cherished a secret ambition to belong to the Melbourne Club. He was a thin young man, with a blotched face; rode fairly to hounds, had large private expenses of a disreputable sort, and avowed a profound contempt for cads—which was unselfish. Mrs. Thomas was the daughter of a buttonmaker of Birmingham; she brought ‘money’ into the business, painted her face daily, had four unhealthy children, and compelled Marrable to reside at Toorak, in case she should ever ‘go into society.’“ Mr. Davis lived in a cottage at St. Kilda, and was remarkable for his bachelor parties. He was a tall, slim man of irreproachable manners, and the slightest suspicion of an accent. He drank the best wine procurable, smoked the best cigars, was a patron (and a judicious one) of the fine-arts, owned a cultivated musical taste, and flattered himself that he was utterly without principle. ‘My dear fellows,’ he would say to the guests (gentlemen who ate his admirable dinner and d——d him going home ‘for an infernal Jew, sir’), ‘I have no principle, and no religion. My father was a slopseller in Monmouth Street. What's that to me ? I am myself with a good dinner, and a good digestion. You call yourself Christians—bah—you're asses. Every man his own creed, that's my motto. I am Israel Davis—that's my religion. Harry, here, who has been drinking too much claret, thinks himself superior to me. Let him—that's his religion, and quite sufficient for him.’

“ Flinders Street respected Mr. Davis. ‘He's a crafty beast, that beast Davis,’ said Mr. Podosokus, the bill-broker. ‘He did me out of £50 as easy as kiss my hand. Dam him. I like that fellow. He's such a beast.’

“‘A thorough business man,’ said Cammolard, of the Border Bank. ‘A hard head. A hard heart. A thorough business man.’

“‘I don't like that Mr. Davis,’ said Milly Smith, who met him at the Marrables' once. ‘He's so polite.’

“‘What do you mean, dear?’ asked Mrs. Smith, but Milly couldn't explain.

“‘I wonder if he has as large an interest in the firm as young Mr. Marrable,’ said the mother.

“‘I don't like young Mr. Marrable, either,’ said poor Milly. ‘He's so rude.’

  ― 33 ―

“‘That wasn't what I asked you, Miss,’ said the old lady sharply, and fell into a financial reverie.

“Now, despite his hard-headed and hard-heartedness, Mr Davis had done one kind thing. He had ‘taken up’ a bill signed ‘Marrable and Davis,’ which was written by Mr. Harry. This bill was for £250 and had been discounted by Mr. Davis's unacknowledged brother, Zebulon Davis, the proprietor of the Victorian Loan and Discount Company, capital £300,000,000, offices 29 Elizabeth Street East. Mr. Zebulon Davis was the ‘Company,’ and the capital was supplied by Mr. Israel. When some poor devil of a borrower took his miserable acceptance to the offices at 29 Elizabeth Street, he would be received by Zebulon, who would scan the oblong slip doubtfully, saying, ‘It ish an unushual transhaction, Mr. Blank, but I'll lay it before the Board,’ and so send a messenger round to Israel, with particulars. If Israel said ‘Yes,’the cash, less 90 per cent., was handed to applicant. If Israel said ‘No,’Zebulon would put off the transaction for a day or two, on pretence of making inquiries, and then suggest that, perhaps, ‘with another namesh’—&c.

“When a bill for £120, with the signature of the firm, was presented to Israel, he saw the state of the case at once, and being a business man he directed it to be discounted on easy terms. ‘It is a forgery,’ said he to his brother when they met that evening. ‘It is sure to be taken up.’ Sure enough it was taken up by Mr. Harry in person, who had borrowed £120 from Davis ‘just for twenty-four hours.’ The next day Harry brought the company another bill for £250— ‘I don't like to put it through the bank,’ he said, ‘but it's all right.’ By his brother's directions, the ‘Company’ cashed this second forgery, and on the day it fell due, Mr. Davis called Harry into his private room and showed him the document.

“‘Do you see this?’

“Harry turned very pale.

“‘The money-lender to whom you took it had his suspicions, and brought it here. Fortunately I saw him, and not your father. I have paid it.’

“Harry, stammering thanks and excuses, stretched out his hand for the document, but Mr. Davis twitched it away.

“‘Oh, no,’ he said. ‘Excuse me, dear boy, I shall keep this until you repay me the £250.’

“It was after this transaction that Harry Marrable's face became blotchy, and that he had that awkward fit. Dr. Dignato knew it was brandy, so he said it was blood, and ordered the boy to go into the country. Thomas Marrable sent him to his brother's station.

“At last Harry Marrable saw a way of paying his debt to the hated Davis—the very way by which he had incurred it. Honest Jack Griswold's ‘Trumpeter’ was certain to win the steeplechase, and as the ‘talent’ didn't think so, Harry could get 20 to 1 about him. A simple outlay of £12 10s. would free him from Mr. Israel Davis at once and for ever. Honest jack Griswold was a man of honour (so the sporting world thought), and his horses ran straight, which

  ― 34 ―
was more than did those of some other men. The ‘talent,’ —consisting of Mr. Blackadder, Mr. Samuelson, Mr. Barnabas, Mr. Mephisto, and little Tobyman—had been assured that the horse for ‘this event’ was ‘Bandoline’ (by ‘Cosmetic,’ out of that famous mare ‘Bearsgrease’), and laid their 20 to 1 accordingly. Harry got on his money, and being informed by some broken-down hanger-on of the ‘Ring’ that ‘Trumpeter’ was ‘meant,’ felt happy. Mr. Israel Davis (who betted a little also) had invested against Honest John Griswold's stable, simply because he believed that a man who was called Honest must necessarily be a rogue.

“Such were the conflicting interests that revolved round the house at Toorak in which old Keturah was upper nurse.

“Now there is—or was—a place called the Casino de Carambole. It stands midway in the street of Bourke, and is frequented by wicked people. Its pillars are mock-malachite, its glass is mock-crystal, its gooseberry-juice is mock-champagne, and its love-making is mock-turtle. The ostensible landlord of this saloon was one Oily O'Connor, a fighting man; the real owner was Zebulon Davis, and behind him was the gentlemanly partner of Marrable and Co. Not that Israel ever went there. Not he. His taste was too refined for such vulgar debaucheries, he simply drew a share of the profits. The sort of people who went were overseers of stations, juvenile owners of the same young men of fashion (Heaven help them!) who came out from England superfluously oxygenated, betting-men, card-sharpers, day-waiters at hotels, and now and then some stray newspaper-man, or officer of the Frolicking Five Thousandth.

“‘It isn't that I am a moral man,’ said Davis, when urged to visit this scene of revelry, ‘but the place is so deuced unwholesome.’ He was right, it was very unwholesome. Perhaps one of the most unwholesome elements in it was the perpetual presence of the ‘Talent.’ Mr. Blackadder, shiny of eye, and Rat of head; Mr. Samuelson, small of stature, and red crimpy of hair, freckled and moist of countenance. Mr. Barnabas, cold and reserved; Mr. Mephisto, perpetually grinning at the world through the horse-collar of his own whiskers; and little Tobyman, that loathsome pretender to childish gaiety and innocence. These worthies would knot in corners like vipers, would lean over bars until the crowns of their bran-new hats were the only objects visible to the spectator, would hoarsely ‘shout’ champagne, or dance on the waxed floor with exuberance of gesture. A variety of dimly-lighted bar-rooms surrounded this delightful spot, and to these such pigeons as Harry Marrable were admitted—as into traps. The ‘talent’—presumedly under the influence of gooseberry-juice—were wont to drop awful hints of ‘stable secrets,’ upon the knowledge of which ‘pots’ of money could be put with absolute safety. When Mr. Davis spoke of the Casino to his brother, he always wiped his hands with his handkerchief.

“‘I wish that confounded den of yours was burnt down,’ he said one day. ‘It is positively a disgrace to the city.’

  ― 35 ―

“‘Oh, no, yer don't, Israel,’ said Zebulon, grinning with all his yellow fangs (the teeth of this honest fellow were ringed near the gums, as though they were posts stuck into a spongy soil, which had sunk since their first embedding). ‘Oh, no, yer don it. It's worth five thousand pounds any day.’

“‘ I do with all my heart,’ repeated Israel, earnestly. ‘It's a disreputable hole, that's what it is, and—and I've just insured it for ten.’

“‘I can't understand how that ruffian O'Connor keeps that sink of iniquity going,’ remarked Tom Provis the same evening at the dinner-table of Mr. Davis, ‘I suppose the Jews—’ and then he felt his host's keen eye upon him, and paused.

“‘Go on, dear sir,’ said Davis; ‘you would say the Jews help him. So they do. O'Connor isn't his name. His name is Levison. I am connected with his family. We are all connected; we all help each other. Do you ever see a Jew dig, or beg, or do menial service? Did you ever have a Jew servant? Did you ever know a Jew, however poor, who hadn't a sovereign to lend at interest? My dear sir, we Jews rule the world. Freemasonrystuff! Priestcraftbosh! When we were turned out of that ill-built and inconvenient town, Jerusalem, we made a vow to take possession of the Universe—and we've done it, too.’

“‘But how ?’ asked Provis, ‘how?’

“‘By sticking together,’ said Mr. Davis. ‘All Jewry my dear Provis, is one great firm—a huge bank which keeps the table against all Christendom. By the way, talking of banks, shall we cut the light pack or call the rattling main?’

“‘All right,’ said Provis, and presently proved his birthright as a Christian by losing £50.

“Now into this Casino there strolled one evening Mr. Finch, the gentleman who was to ride ‘Bandoline.’

“‘Can you tell me where I can find Mr. Blackadder,’ said he ‘I want to see him immediately.’

“Harry Marrable, who, in company with a cigar and a friend (of equally bad odour in different ways), was gleaning ‘information,’ heard the question, saw that the long coat and neat boots belonged to a horsey-man, and guessed that something was wrong with Mr. Blackadder's property.

“Blackadder came out of an adjoining pigeon-hole, and bent to hear the news. ‘I'll be out in the morning, Finch,’ he said, and as Finch turned to go, Harry jumped up with an exclamation of surprise.

“‘George Harris, by Jove!’ said he, and clapped him on the back.

“Gentleman George turned very red and then very pale when he saw who it was—the pair had often ridden together at Seven Creeks and made as though he would fain get away. Harry held him fast, ‘Look here, George,’ he said, ‘your old woman's living nurse at my mother's, do you know that?’

“‘Don't say you saw me,’ said the other. ‘Well,’ returned Harry, ‘I don't see why I shouldn't. Come in here, and let us have a talk.’

  ― 36 ―

Herewas the Yorick's Head, a theatrical tavern kept by one Porboy, and a place not likely to be visited by members of the Ring.

“‘Sit down and have a drink,’ said the young man, pointing to a chair situated beneath a portrait of G. V. Brooke. ‘So you are going to ride ‘Bandoline.’ Two whiskies, Mrs. Porboy, please. Hot? No; cold. Cold, my girl. Now, George, look here. Where have you been hiding ? There's been a jolly row over this bolting.’

“‘I don't see what business that is of yours, Mr. Harry,’ said the stockman, his false eyes drooping. ‘It won't do you any good to set my wife on to me.’

“‘Well, no; it wouldn't do me any good,’ returned the boy, sipping the whisky: ‘but it ain't right, you know, George. 'Pon my soul it ain't. The old soul's awfully cut up about it.’

“‘What does she say ?’ asked Gentleman George, looking very hard at James Anderson as Ingomar.

“‘She don't say much,’ replied the other, ‘ but she thinks a lot. She'll make it hot for you when she meets you, you be bound. It'll put you on the roads, my boy, or something like it,’ he added with a shiver.

“Gentleman George seemed to read all the petty soul of the wretched young profligate in the evil glance he cast at him.

“‘Would you like to make some money, Mr. Harry?’ he asked.

“‘Should I? By Jove, I should!’ said Harry, thinking of the accursed bill, and the thrice-accursed Davis. ‘Do you know a way?’

“‘I ride “Bandoline” next week. Lay against him.’

“‘I have.’

“‘Then you'll lose.’

“‘Well, you're a queer fellow. If I shall lose, why tell me to risk my money.’

“‘If you won't say anything about me to the old woman, you shan't lose your money, for “Bandoline” shan't win!’

“‘You are a pretty scoundrel!’ said the young forger, feeling quite indignant at the mention of a sin to which he was unaccustomed.

“‘Think of the money you can make,’ said Gentleman George.

“‘If I pull “Bandoline,” you can put the pot on “Trumpeter,” and make money both ways. It's only holding your tongue for a week after all.’

Harry Marrable took a turn up and down the room.

“‘I won't tell your wife until after the race, at all events,’ he said ‘and if “Bandoline” wins—’

“‘He won't win, Mr. Harry,’ returned the man. ‘I've no wish to meet that old skeleton any more, I can tell you.’

“With this tacit agreement, they then parted.”

Chapter III.

“THE appearance of a racecourse is much the same all the world over, and the Melbourne Racecourse differs only from that of Epsom in the regard of an octave. The melody of the turf is

  ― 37 ―
set a little lower to suit the less refined ears of our musicians. The grand opera of a steeplechase varies only in the class of singers; our tenor is not so good as he of London, our prima donna would not be thought much of at Liverpool, and our corps de ballet is neither so well dressed nor so well drilled as that which dances on the springy sward of the Downs, or joins in the tremendous chorus which salutes the winner of the Grand National. But we do our best to put the production of Signor Sathanas on the stage, and our libretto is translated into Australian by the best man we can discover. Our resources may be insufficient, but no one can doubt our willingness to please. The dramatis personæ jockeys, fine ladies, lorettes, Jews, three-card-men, loafers, swindlers, gamblers, pickpockets and police—are represented to the best of our ability, and if we do not raise the curtain upon so splendid an array of beauty and fashion as that which yearly beams from the dress-circle of the Epsom Grand Stand, we have at least equalled the legitimate theatre in our transpontine luxury of villains. The ‘Ring’ is overpoweringly admirable. No racecourse in the world can boast greasier, flashier, hoarser-voiced, or dirtier-handed bookmakers than Mephisto, Blackadder, Samuelson, Barnabas & Co.

“Young Harry Marrable, walking up and down the lawn—elbowed by bawling bookmakers shouting the odds beneath the charming noses of the soft-goods aristocracy—was ill at ease. He had not seen Gentleman George, otherwise Mr. Finch, since the evening he had met him so opportunely at the ‘Casino,’ and though he had followed the advice given him in the matter of backing ‘Trumpeter,’ he was by no means certain that the ingenious husband of poor Keturah would perform his promise. Mr. Davis—who, resplendent in white coat and lavender gloves, smoked a priceless cigar on the cynical retirement of a camp-stool—had taken occasion a few minutes before to remind him that he ‘wanted that £250 to-morrow, dear boy.’ The course buzzed with the name of ‘Bandoline,’ upon the result of whose performance the greatly little Tobyman was understood to have risked £2,000. In addition to these anxieties was the awkward feeling that he had no business there at all, for his father, Thomas Marrable, had been taken seriously ill two days before, and was even then in a ‘critical’ condition. So, with fevered hands, dry lips, and an unpleasant feeling as of mental indigestion, Harry watched the preparations for the event of the day.

“‘—refused the jump,’ and amid a furious medley of cheers, groans, and yells, ‘Trumpeter’ and ‘Bandoline,’ alone in the race, had but one fence between them and victory. ‘Bandoline’ led by half a length, Gentleman George sitting well back, composed, and easy.

“‘That fellow can ride,’ said Horsefall. ‘Who is he?’

‘A man called Finch, a horse-breaker, I think,’ returned Captain Pips. ‘I don't know anything—ah ! My God, he's killed.’

“ It was ‘Trumpeter's’ race, for ‘Bandoline,’ swerving at the final fence, breasted it, toppled, and fell, crushing his rider beneath him.

“Harry turned sick. Was this an accident, or had the daring scoundrel, recklessly faithful to Luck and his promise, ‘pulled’ the

  ― 38 ―
beast as he had agreed, and so brought about this catastrophe? Blackadder, muttering oaths, shouldered his way through the crowd.

“‘He has broken his neck,’ said he to Tobyman.

“‘Has he?’ said Tobyman, ruefully adjusting the hat upon which he had jumped three minutes before. ‘I knowd he was ridin' too 'ard at it.’

“‘He be damned,’ says Blackadder, roughly contemptuous, ‘I mean the horse.

“Harry felt a hand on his shoulder. It was that of Mr. Israel Davis, and its touch was not quite so firm as usual.

“‘How did you come off?’ he asked.

“‘I've won,’ said Harry. ‘I can pay you that money the day after to-morrow.’

“‘ I'm glad of that,’ said Davis. ‘ I shall want all the money I can get. I have lost a small fortune—for me. Curse the brute!’

“‘I don't think it—it was the horse's fault,’ said Harry. ‘ It—it seemed—’

“‘Of course it wasn't the horse's fault,’ snapped Davis, no longer a Russian but a Tartar;‘ I meant the man.’

“While they were cheering Trumpeter and Griswold, somebody brought a hurdle, upon which the unhappy rider of the dead horse was lifted and borne off the course. When Harry, trembling to know the worst, reached the spot, he saw only turf, trampled with boot-heels, and ploughed with an insignificant furrow at the place where ill-fated ‘Bandoline’ had literally bitten the dust. He made for the gates and home.

“His father was no better, and Mrs. Harris, who had been invested with the responsibility of nursing the invalid, shook her head when questioned. By-and-by Dr. Dignato came, in a carriage accompanied by a kennel of dogs, and remarked that ‘our patient must have quiet—perfect quiet. So I heard they killed a man to-day.’ Mrs. Marrable had retired to her own room, and sent down her ‘maid’ every hour to ‘make inquiries.’ The children had been ordered to refrain from noise, and were ‘playing at visiting.’ Miss Mabel was the lady of the house, and said, ‘ How do you do?’to Miss Fanny. ‘ Did you go to the concert? How are the dear children?’ After this they had a ‘dinner party’ at which little Toodles and Master Alfred personated the two ‘poor relations,’ and were instructed by Miss Mabel (a clever girl for her age) to refuse a second helping of pudding while Fanny (as footman) took care to only give them ‘once champagne.’ Harry went into the garden and smoked bitterly.

“He had won his money, and released himself from Davis. So help him Heaven, he would never run risks of this nature again. He hoped that George hadn't done that purposely. It didn't look as if he had, although it was rumoured that people near the chair had seen him pull the horse off the jump. He hoped he wasn't dead. Should he tell old Keturah? What would be the use? He would ‘sound’ her, and see in what mood she would be likely to take the news that her husband had been found.

  ― 39 ―
“He went to town next day as usual, and ‘ stuck to business.’

“ On the evening he said to Keturah, ‘Have you ever heard of your husband, Mrs. Harris?’

“‘No sir,’ said she, with a blush and a frown, ‘and dinna want to.’

“‘Ah! Somebody told me that they had seen him at—at Ballarat.’

“‘It's like enough. But, if you please, Mr. Harry, say nae mair; he's dead to me, let him be where he may, the black villain.’

“‘But, Ketty, suppose now that you heard he were ill, would you go to him ?’

“‘ No.’

“‘—if you heard he was dead.’

“She turned pale, ‘ What do you mean, sir—it's ill jesting wi' me. I tell ye, I'd not go if he were dying in yon room, unless he sent for me; and then I'd tell the villain what I thought o' him,’ and leaving her questioner with an iron face, she went straight to her own room and inconsequentially wept.

“The next day Mr. Marrable felt better.

“‘Bring Davis home with you to-night, Harry,’ he said ‘I want to talk to him.’

Mr. Davis started when Harry gave him the message, and asked if Mr. Marrable had quite recovered. ‘No, but he's much better, thank God,’ said Harry. ‘I say Davis, I'll get that money for you this afternoon.’ ‘ All right,’ said Davis, frowning. ‘I am glad to hear it.’ But when Harry Marrable had shut the door of Mr. Israel Davis's room, that gentleman took the trouble to lock it after him, and then sat down to ruminate on his own position.

“The fact was—Mr. Israel confessed it to himself with many self-reproaches—that his vaunted sagacity had been at fault of late. His dubious speculations in ‘bills’ had not turned out so well as he thought he had a right to expect. Much ‘paper,’ of a kind which the ‘Company’ had imagined to be of the ‘safest,’ had been returned upon him. Some obnoxious journalist, in want of a ‘subject,’ had chosen to attack the Casino de Carambole, and a series of ‘leaders’ upon that institution— ‘leaders’which bristled with moral sentiments and blazed with Latin quotations, more or less incorrectly printed—had appeared in the daily press. The unlucky accident to ‘Bandoline’ had placed Mr. Davis in sore straights for money, and he confessed dismally that the £250 which that accident would enable young Marrable to pay him would be but a small instalment of the sum the bookmakers would demand that evening. He had counted upon this ‘bill’ being a tower of financial strength to him in days to come. When Mr. Harry Marrable was admitted to a larger participation in the profits of the firm, the astute Davis had promised himself that he would not part with the forgery for less than three times the amount which he had paid for it. Mr. Marrable was ill. It was possible that he might die. It was probable that he would take a less active part in business, and that the time for the ‘sweating’ of the foolish Harry was nigh at hand. It was provoking that by a turn of fortune Mr. Israel was to be a loser in a double sense. He went to the safe and took out the

  ― 40 ―
bill. There it lay—worth £1,000, at least, if he could only keep it a few months longer. The signature was well forged. The words Marrable and Davis were capitally imitated. Mr. Israel smiled as he recognised the final flourish of his own ‘s.’ How provoking to be compelled to give up so splendid a prize! He began to wonder at the mood in which Master Harry must have found himself when he began forgery as a profession. He could imagine Harry Marrable with the door locked, as it was locked now—playing with a pen, as he himself now played—scribbling the signature of the firm, as he himself now—! A bright notion occurred to Davis. He thought he saw a way to receive the £250, and keep the bill into the bargain. He would try.

“He was engaged in ‘trying’ for some time, and having at last succeeded to his satisfaction, he put on his hat and went out. ‘If Mr. Henry should ask for me,’ said he to the chief clerk, ‘be good enough to tell him that I have gone home, and that I will see him at his father's this evening.’ The clerk delivered the message, and Harry felt a little alarmed. Surely, Davis did not intend to reveal the ugly secret! No, he could not imagine that.

“ He sat with the sick man, on thorns, until the grinding of Davis's cab-wheels upon the gravel proclaimed his fate at hand.

“‘Here he is,’ he cried. ‘ I'll fetch him up,’ and meeting Israel on the stairs, he dragged him from the stairs into the dressing-room adjoining the bed-chamber.

“‘Where's the bill?’

“Mr. Israel was very calm.

“‘I am sorry I was obliged to leave, Harry. How is your father?’

“‘Better,’ said Harry. ‘Have you got it with you ?’

“‘I have,’ said Mr. Davis, producing the bill from his pocket, and waving it gently in the air.

“‘Then here's the money,’ cried the poor boy, ‘ see, twelve £20 notes and a £10; count them.’

“‘I do not know, sir,’ returned Mr. Davis, ‘ If I am altogether justified in giving up this document. I really, think, dear boy, that your father ought to be informed of the business.’

“‘Oh, for God's sake!’ cried Harry in great alarm.

“‘I am sorry, dear boy, but really ——’

“‘Is that you, Davis?’ said the voice of the sick man querulously; ‘why don't you come in?’

“‘Oh Davis! give it to me!’ urged Harry, with dry lips. ‘Here take the money, I'll give you £50 more, I will, upon my honour Davis, I say.’

“Mr. Israel Davis seemed to relent. He set his back against the dressing-room door, and extending one hand for the money, held out the bill with the other.

“‘Here then,’ he said, nodding at the lowered gas-lamp, ‘take it and let me see it burned before I leave the room.’

“Harry clutched the bill, and had already held it towards the flame, when the door was flung open with that violence

  ― 41 ―
which is natural in a person who wishes to hastily enter a room, and who is ignorant that any impediment is likely to prevent him so doing with ease. The effect of this accident was to propel the elegant Israel forcibly forward.

“‘I beg your pardon,’ cried Keturah, the intruder, aghast, ‘but, the master's calling for ye.’

“Mr. Davis muttered something inelegantly like an oath, and Harry, seeing through the open door his father's face, was seized with a sudden impulse.

“He ran into the room, flung himself by the bedside, and holding out the forged acceptance, sobbed out his story in a few hurried words.

“‘I was in debt, father. They pressed me. I did this. Mr. Davis had it. I have paid him. See, here it is. Forgive me!’

“Mr. Israel Davis stood astounded. Of all things in heaven and earth, he had not calculated upon this!

“Thomas Marrable raised himself in his bed and called his Partner.

“‘What is this, Mr. Davis? My boy forged upon the firm—you should have told me. I would have paid it sooner than that this should happen.’

“‘I thought, sir,’ returned Mr. Davis, whose agitation had subsided into a wolfish calmness, ‘that you would be glad to be spared the pang of knowing such an—an indiscretion. The note was presented to me, and I paid it. Do you blame me?’

“‘—No,no,’ said poor Thomas Marrable. ‘You did it for the best, I have no doubt; yet——’

“‘Say no more, dear sir,’ said Mr. Israel. ‘Your son, I am sure, is truly penitent. Let us burn the bill, and forget that——’

“ ‘ Why !—Why!—Why, you infernal scoundrel!’ burst out young Mr. Harry, who had been staring at the fatal paper. ‘This—this is not the bill l gave you!’

“‘Nonsense!’ said Mr. Davis, showing his teeth in a vicious grin. ‘What else should it be, give it to me, and let me burn it.’

“In his haste he made as though he would absolutely tear it out of the young man's hands, but Harry held it fast.

“‘See, father. This is not the bill. I am sure it is not. That is not my signature.’

“‘Mr. Davis,’ says Thomas Marrable, ‘what the devil is the meaning of this? Where is the bill that you say my son has forged?’

“‘You have it in your hand, sir.’

“The old man looked from one to the other in bewilderment. He was an honest tradesman, and he did not comprehend such complications of finance. Harry—who was in advance of his father in knowledge of roguery, by virtue of the very forgery he had committed—came to the right conclusion.

“‘I see what it is, father,’ he said, ‘he has forged this, so that I might burn it. He has got the original bill himself.’

“ Mr. Israel Davis was no common rogue, and he saw that there was but one way to redeem his blunder.

  ― 42 ―

“‘My dear Mr. Marrable, your son is right. How much will you give me to return you the bill, and retire from the firm?’

“‘I'll—I'll send you to gaol!’ cries Marrable.

“‘—And have the transaction explained in court? No, that would be a blunder worse than mine. Give me £500 and we will exchange documents.’

“‘I'll see you —— first,’ says Thomas Marrable.

“‘Not first, dear sir, not first,’ returned Israel Davis, regaining all his composure. ‘Afterwards you may have that pleasure. Come, £500. I will forego 20 per cent. on my share in the business and leave on the day your cheque for the balance is honoured.’

“‘I will see my solicitors,’ groaned Thomas.

“‘I will see them if you like, dear sir; I shall explain matters more fully.’

“Thomas Marrable stared.

“‘Are you not ashamed to talk like this,’ he said at last.

“‘Ashamed! why should I be ashamed?’ said Davis, with coolness. ‘I was ashamed when you found me out—ashamed that I had allowed so trivial ill accident as the sudden opening of a door to disarrange my plans. But that is all, dear sir. You are a Christian, so is your dear boy there. You would be ashamed, perhaps. You have a “moral sense”, a “society”, a “parson.” Bah. I am Israel Davis.’

“‘You are a monstrous scoundrel! Go. I will write to my solicitors.’

“‘Good evening, my, dear sir,’ said Mr. Israel.

“They heard his cart-wheels crunch the gravel, and then old Marrable looked at his son.

“‘It was my fault, Harry. I should never have allowed you to come in contact with that scoundrel. He is enough to corrupt any one.’

Harry Marrable suffered the excuse to be made, and left the sick-room with stern promise of repentance and amendment. On his way he met Keturah, cloaked and hooded.

“‘0h, Harry, tell me,’ cried she, ‘Did you know anything?’

“‘What do you mean?’

“‘When you spoke to me last night about my husband. He's sent for me.’

“‘The, deuce he has!’

“‘A cab's come to fetch me. I have seen the mistress.I am going at once. Tell me, Mr. Harry is he sick or well?’

“‘How should I know, Ketty,’ said the young man, fearful of betraying himself. ‘He can't be ill if he has sent for you. Go and Make it up with him.’

“‘No, I'll never do that,’ said Keturah, her anger rising. ‘ I'll see him, and tell him my opinion o' him, as I vowed I would do.’

“ The cab which had been sent for Mrs. Harris was not a handsome vehicle. The wheels were disagreeably loose, the iron step was bent and twisted, the cushions were mouldy, the tarpaullin-hood ragged and insufficient. The conduct of the driver, moreover,

  ― 43 ―
was not calculated to inspire confidence. He was a large, loose man, with a white nose and a mottled face. His enemies said that he drank so much brandy that his nose had passed through the red stage and achieved a white heat. He wore a flapping Yankee hat, and drove at a great pace, shouting.

“So rapid was the manner in which the ricketty vehicle was whirled through space, that it was not until the panting horse dropped into a grateful walk at Prince's Bridge that the poor old woman felt herself enabled to ask questions.

“‘Who sent ye? and how far's Flemington?’

“‘Barney Welsher sent me,’ returned white-nose, ‘and it's about two mile.’

“‘Who's Barney Welsher?’ asks Keturah alarmed.

“‘He keeps the “Horse and Jockey” on the Flemington course there. I'm a Flemington car, I am. I driven Joe Blueitt and another bloke, ye see, over there, ye see, when—cck !—out comes Barney, and ses “Go to Toorak and find Mr. Marrable's 'ouse, ask for a Mrs. Harris, and tell 'er 'er 'usban' wants 'er. Bring 'er out 'ere,” he says, “and drive like 'ell” he ses. Ha'ay ! Gu-u- u-ur!

“—And the banging and slamming of the jolting car rendered further explanation impossible.

“ Keturah was considerably relieved when the man, who had never ceased to howl at his horse, or to thwack him violently with a lashless whip, pulled up in safety beneath the solitary lamp of a lonely public-house, and sat gloomily waiting for Mr. Welsher to emerge. At sight of this worthy hirer of cabs poor Keturah felt a strange terror seize her. Mr. Welsher was in his shirt-sleeves, a pipe decorated his mouth, and in his left paw he held a very greasy ‘hand’ of cards. Nevertheless, when he espied the old woman, he handed her out with a solemnity that—contrasted with his appearance and evident pursuit—had something bodeful in it.

“‘I heard that—that my husband was here,’ said Keturah.

“‘So he is, marm,’ replied Mr. Welsher, scanning her curiously. ‘Walk in. There's some coves in the parlour, but dont mind them. 'Ave a drop o' gin after your drive? No—well, then, this way.’

“The ‘coves in the parlour’ were not prepossessing. They were the sort of ‘coves’ engendered in the foul air of a stable; the sort of ‘coves’ to whom the inside of a prison would not he unfamiliar, it might be wagered. In the ‘parlour’ was that atmosphere of oaths and brandy, onions, cheese, and humanity, which may be found in apartments where seven foul-fed, foul-clothed, foul-mouthed ruffians have been playing‘euchre’ for nine, consecutive hours. The cleanly Scotchwoman drew her honest petticoats about her and walked daintily. This was a strange place to where she had been brought, yet she felt that no harm was meant. Mr. Welsher politely aided her entrance, by saying, ‘Now, then, make room there. Blarst yer, make room.’ The terms in which the request was couched were not elegant, but they were intelligible, and Keturah felt that the sentence was dictated by a spirit of the truest politeness.

  ― 44 ―

“She passed through the unsavoury crowd and entered a room beyond the adjoining passage. Something was lying on a bed there. Something bound up. Something which had candles burning at its bedside, and a cup of water within reach of the hand it could not move. Something which Keturah Harris would have taken for a corpse, but for the great black eloquent eyes of it, which gazed at her with all the dumb agony of a dying dog.

“Revenge melted into air.

“‘Geordie! my bairn! Geordie, my jo!’

“Mr.Welsher reverently damned his soul, and shut the door, for the old faithful wife was on her knees at her husband's bedside.

“But what became of Israel Davis?”

“ Who knows. He made good terms with the Marrables and left the colony—it is rumoured for America. But a man of his ability could get on anywhere.”

“And now tell us the end of Mrs. Harris.”

“I can only tell you this, that her story is true from beginning to end. Mrs. Harris is a ‘charwoman.’ She comes and washes stairs and so on at my house. When she gets her miserable wage, she goes home—to a wretched little house in a poor Melbourne suburb. In that house, there is a paralyzed and helpless man who has not yet reached middle-age. He is her husband. She expends her earnings in buying him nourishing food, and paying a child to mind him when she is away. She lives on scraps and pieces, and broken victual. He has brandy and tobacco. Aye, I've seen the woman hold the pipe to the speechless lips of the poor blackguard while he pulled at it!”

“Ah! there is a great deal of poetry in the lives of some very unpoetical-looking people, isn't there?