Chapter XXVII.

Hither he came, and falling on his knees,
Like th' humble publican smote on his breast,
And this confession self-accusing made.



SIR.—I am induced to write this statement of facts to you, believing, that the subject will prove of interest. The confession given below, was made me in the strictest confidence; and with a promise to inviolably preserve it; but considering that from the part you had taken in the melancholy events, you should be acquainted with all the particulars, I pressed upon the dying penitent to permit me to confide them to you; and to lay a statement before a Magistrate. About three weeks since, I was summoned at midnight, to visit the supposed dying bed of a person who had met with an accident. I complied, and as I rode beside the messenger, learnt that the dying man was taking cattle to the Sydney Market; that in pursuing a stray beast, he had been thrown; and so seriously hurt that his end appeared to be very near. He was taken to a hut by the way-side, a place notorious for illicit spirit trade; but too seriously injured to be removed. He had been visited by Dr. C——

The room in which he lay was wretched in the extreme; dark, and cheerless; with a searching wind, laden with drizzling rain, penetrating the chinks between the logs, but I found him unmindful of these things, he was eagerly watching for my coming; and when the woman who entered the room with me announced “the Parson,” I could see by the dim light of the flaming candle which she carried, that he struggled to rise—he was perfectly sensible, but appeared restless and irritable—his sufferings were acute, and served to fever his mind, and imparted to his eye a wild brilliancy. During many succeeding days I visited and prayed with him—he continued to sink rapidly; and I could perceive laboured under some heavy mental disquiet; but it was not till his powerful frame was reduced to infantine weakness, and the faintest hope of recovery had faded, that in trembling and subdued whispers, he poured into my ears the account of the fearful crime of which unintentionally he had been guilty. His frequent mention of your name, it was, which induced my pressing upon him to consent to your sharing the dark secret; and it was not till all human pride and jealousies had fallen before a sense of sinfulness, and the penitent hung like the thief of old, to the merciful remembrance of his Lord, that I could gain his consent.

He described his temper as violent, and he was evidently very uncultured. It appears that the late Mrs. Doherty, had within the last two, or more years, a young person residing in her family named Gertrude Gonthier: that an attachment was formed between this unhappy young man, Charles Inkersole, and the young lady, or at least, if not reciprocated by her was by fits warm and sincere in his case; and so entirely did he consider the matter to rest with his seeking, that he did not hesitate to mention his approaching union, to many persons mutually acquainted. It would appear however, that he was absent some time at the Abercrombie; that after his return he began to have doubts of her affection for him, and to believe that he had been mistaken; he made her an offer, and was refused, in a manner firm, and decided, though kind.

Shortly after this, being about to visit Sydney, to make arrangements respecting the purchase of certain lands at the Crookwell, he determined once more to see, and endeavour to persuade Miss Gonthier to change her resolve. On visiting Murrumbowrie, he did not see her, but impelled by the hopes of meeting her in a sitting room, which you will know from his description, he entered the house—the room opens from a passage running through the dwelling, and communicates with the verandah by glass doors; in this room he found, not Miss Gonthier, but her guardian Mrs. Doherty; and warm words were bandied between them: he accusing her of defaming his character, by charging him with cattle stealing; she taunted him with the change in the young lady's feelings, which she had perceived; and expressed hopes or rather asserted, that the lady in question was, or would be affianced to yourself; irritated by jealousy, he struck her with the loaded handle of his whip on the forehead, as she rose from her chair; that she had fallen at his feet, and he had rushed from the room, mounted his horse, which he had hung up at a little distance, and rode rapidly away; subsequently he learnt that the blow was fatal.

Gleaning from his narrative the faithful attachment which had subsisted between yourself and employer, I have been induced to dwell with such minuteness on these details. For myself the circumstances have affected and interested me in no ordinary degree. To see a fine, and I may add handsome young man, the wreck of passion uncontrolled—tortured in mind and body—evidently approaching the grave, and ignorant almost of the name of religion; was a sight, the contemplation of which aroused in my mind the question, might not something more effective be done for the scattered population in the interior? I shall certainly feel stirred up to do my utmost for my own extensive parish.

Of a death-bed repentance I can never speak without much care, and apprehension; yet I trust that the young man's contrition was sincere; and his faith firmly fixed upon the Atonement of the Son of God. Such sir, are the principal features of this sad history. I direct my letter to your mother's residence, as the only place to which the departed man could guide me, in my search for you. If you should wish to see me, I shall be happy to give you any information in my power; and if you are aware of any suspicions resting falsely upon any one, I am sure I need not point out to you how desirable it is that they should be removed, &c.