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Chapter XXV.

Now what avail all prudent fears,
All counsels of the good and wise,
All honest bargains, social ties,
All soft relations, household's tears?
The golden mouth'd has spoken, 'tis enough,
So farewell conscience, love, and all such stuff.

S.M. HERALD.

Tho' long of winds and waves the sport,
Condemn'd in wretchedness to roam;
Live! thou shalt reach a shelt'ring port,
A quiet home.

Where'er thy lot, where'er thou be,
Confess thy folly—kiss the rod;
And in thy chast'ning sorrows see
The hand of God.

A bruised reed he will not break;
Afflictions all his children feel,
He wounds them for his mercy's sake,
He wounds to heal.

MONTGOMERY.

TUDOR'S apprehensions that his purchase would prove in want of the owner's presence, were not unfounded. It had been a superior place, which had been suffered to fall into premature decay.

The orchard trees were grown over with lichens, the fences out of repair, the dwelling and out-houses requiring prompt attention.

He had been necessitated to purchase without seeing the place, at the representation of a gentleman whose opinion he considered reliable; but though the first feeling, was one of disappointment, a careful survey of his dominions satisfied him of its intrinsic value.

The persevering energy of his character had abundant cause to display itself.

“Mr. Tudor, I do think you find a comfort in having so much to do; had the farm been in order, it strikes me you would have felt at a loss.” The speaker was the gold-seeker.

Tudor turned an enquiring eye upon him.

“I am the reverse of pleased to find things in ruins; but since they are so, I must use every exertion to get them to rights—it must be done.”

The little man was silent, watching Tudor, who was engaged in some carpenter's work; and then enquired, “Why toil so—a life long, when one stroke, one lucky moment, might make you rich?”

“It might, and it might not; and while there is a counterpolling risk, I prefer a steady certainty; the words of old were ‘In the sweat of thy face thou shalt eat bread,’ and though I would not bind down the enterprize of any, I cannot conceive that a precarious and hazardous course, is one most likely to be beneficial.”

“Many have made fortunes at the diggings.”

“They have, and many lost their all;” he went on sawing.

“Mr. Tudor, I have seen indications—will you and your men help me? we must succeed, we shall succeed—there is gold there, gold, gold, sir.” Each enunciation of the word was more vehement, but his companion was unmoved.

“Is it on my ground these indications are?”

“Yes—there—just below those rocks, in the hollow.”

“I give you permission to search, if you desire it; but Mr. Rigden, I tell you candidly, I would far rather see you occupied in some steady calling, more suited to your years and education.”

The young man fixed his eyes gravely and kindly upon the prospector, who shrunk before the look. The force of Tudor's character was gaining an ascendency over him; and the firm manly bearing could not fail to impress him favourably with his principles; but the love of gold is mighty in its way, and day by day found him toiling at the foot of the rocks, which formed the bank of a small ravine, traversing Tudor's land.

The old man was a study for an artist with his brown skin, his keen little eyes sparkling with eager expectancy, his white hair and beard waving in the wind, and the gay red frock of the digger, and the long leather boots. To his host he was a sad sight, a being wasting life, and all those noble powers which God has given to man, which elevate him above the beasts of the field, and declare to us that he was made in His image, and he has the glorious heritage of mind and knowledge wherewith to break up the dark fallow of ignorance and untruth.

Tudor's time and attention were so incessantly occupied and taxed, that he rarely, if ever paid a visit to the scene of the gold-seeker's labours; but day by day he saw him move more wildly hopeful, and intent on the pursuit, till at length one morning, he left Burrengumbie-house, with the expressed opinion, that before night, he should have reached the deposit. The afternoon advanced, and Tudor began to wonder what had become of Eber Rigden; he was so eccentric, that had not his leather saddle-bags remained in his dormitory, and the old tanned pony grazed in the paddock, he should have concluded that he had extended his tour. Some weeks had now been expended upon the excavation he was making in the gully, and he had dug a large pit with infinite labour, and no golden return; still he would not give up, but expected each day's toil to reward him by a rich deposit.

The sun set, and still he was absent, and his host began to make enquiries: he had been seen early in the morning with pick and shovel, taking his way to the glen—no one knew more. Tudor turned his steps in that direction—it was full a mile from the house, but a rapid walk shortly brought him to the place—an involuntary cry of horror escaped him, the bank undermined by the old man's work had fallen upon the pit; where it had been was a mass of rock and earth, piled in a confused mound. He lost no time in lamentations, but returned to the farm—spades, pickaxes, and lanthorn, for it was now dark, and every likely requisite were hastily collected; and every male inhabitant of Burrengumbie repaired to the spot. Tudor worked, and directed the operations of the others. The earth and smaller stones were with comparative ease dug away, but then a tremendous obstacle presented itself in the shape of a huge block of stone, that they could not lift.

“It must be propped up, and we must dig away from under it.”

The master's commands were obeyed; but not without long and arduous exertions.

“To think of the old critter burying himself alive,” said one.

“Alive! He's as dead as that”—and the speaker kicked a stone emphatically.

“He may be alive,” remarked Tudor, in a tone which conveyed his apprehensions.

It was a dark foggy night, and the profound stillness was hardly broken by the occasional cry of a curlew, or duck.

It was awful to reflect on the condition of a fellow-creature beneath that boulder of stone, and embankment of earth. At length, an opening was effected—the rock had preserved the pit from being filled with the falling rubbish.

Tudor had arranged that the ground should be lowered, so that when by the help of levers, the rock was raised, its own weight should slide it down the bank, and props were at hand to prevent its tipping into the hole.

How eagerly the rays from the lanthorn were turned into the black tomb beneath; at the bottom crouched the old man, alive, but with a vacant scared look, and almost suffocated. They lowered a ladder, and Tudor descending by the aid of ropes and those above, lifted him out.

He did not speak—he did not appear rejoiced, he looked bewildered, and knelt on the sod above, with his hands hanging listlessly by his side, as he had knelt in the pit.

They bound the two ladders together, spread coats, lifted the old man on to them, and then carried him home.

Once he spoke, and said, “God help me,” in such a tone as he had spoken whilst entombed: a voice which asked nothing of earth; which expected no help, but from on High. So through the night as Tudor sat by his side, he now and then caught the same agonized “God help me.” He talked to him, modulating his voice softly and hopefully; for a while he did not heed him, but at length he fixed his eyes upon his face, a great tear coursed down his weather-beaten cheek, the flood gates gave way, and he wept till nature was exhausted, and a merciful and refreshing slumber succeeded.

Eber Rigden was not to awake well, or nearly so; but to all human calculations he was slowly traversing that painful path which leads into the valley of the Shadow of Death—it seemed that even then the funeral shades brooded over him.

Day and night Tudor watched over the sufferer: those who did not know him, nor the motives which actuated him, were surprised: but they who felt as he did the value of a soul, appreciated the longing desire, the same impulse, nay settled principle, which extorted from Paul the words, “Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer for Israel is, that they may be saved.” He would not weary, he would not be discouraged, but he would find an entry through the avenues which love unlocks, to the old man's heart; he would not rouse his pride by dictating, but gently, as opportunity served, he would drop a guiding, or cheering word; he would light the lamp of religion, and lure him by its flame, not drag him to it: thus patiently for awhile the young man laid by the engrossing pursuits and cares, which the casual observer would have thought him to deem all important: so energetically and thoroughly did Edward Tudor bring every power to bear upon what ever was his occupation at the time.

The last mellow rays of the setting sun were filling the room, gilding every object, burnishing the simple furniture, like the glad song of angels proclaiming good will to men.

The old man was better, but he lay in utter helplessness upon his couch. Tudor was seated near him, an open book upon his knee, but he was silent, and had long ceased to read, for the invalid had but just awoke from slumber.

“Are you there?” he enquired presently. The young man bent over him. “I have been thinking,” he said, passing a thin hand across his brows, as if to collect his scattered ideas.

“I have been thinking much since I have been laying here— Do you think I shall recover?”

“I have now no doubt of it.”

“Thank you—when I am stronger, I will return home.”

Tudor had never heard that he had a home, and looked interrogatingly.

“I wish to tell you all.”

“Be careful that you do not fatigue yourself.”

“It will weary me less to tell you, than to lie here thinking— always thinking.”

“I had a wife long years ago,” he continued, “a good, gentle woman, who loved her husband and children truly, but she died. Mr. Tudor, you do not know what that word conveys. I was alone—she had been everything to me. I felt her loss at every turn, but more than all, I needed her influence, for she was a Christian. My children grew up following in her steps; they were three daughters; the first some years older than the others; for we had buried two babes. At length Alice married, and together we all emigrated to this colony. For some years we did well, and were happy: but then gold was found. I wished to go to the ‘diggings’, and persuaded Francis to accompany me: he was not used to labour, nor to endure hardships, and he died there—my girls took home their widowed sister, and her babes; and to support them, they taught a school for young children.

Sir, from that day, I have wandered about seeking wealth, seeking what I have never found. They have written to me repeatedly, praying me to return home: they have advertised for me, when through my frequent change of abode, they could not tell where to address me; but I always hoped to find a monster nugget, or a rich deposit, and to lift them out of poverty. But now, if God permit, I will return to them. I will help them if I can. May God have mercy on me.”

His prayer found a warm response in the heart of his companion.

“I highly commend your determination,” he returned.

“I never sent them a penny. I've wandered about, spending what I have made—but it's past now, for ever. Mr. Tudor, from the time I first knew you, I have been uneasy about it, if Christians would only think of the effect their example has.” He paused, for the agitation his narrative had awakened, had fatigued him.

The moisture which glistened in the eyes of his companion, was not derogatory to his manliness.

After awhile Rigden was able to leave his room, and sit in a large arm-chair beneath the shade of a cluster of mimosas, which grew at the end of the house, and here he passed many hours of solitude, with a bible for his companion; gathering instruction from its sacred pages, and holding communion with his own heart.

The perfect silence of an Australian landscape remote from towns, has been remarked by many travellers. A calm almost approaching to lassitude, appears to be the prevailing feeling of animate nature, and to be sympathised in by the inanimate. The soft light blue tints of the sky, perhaps an evening sky, scattered over by the most gorgeous tinted clouds, which the painter might vainly essay to represent on canvas. Crimson and rose in splendid zones spreading across the arch of heaven, with masses of golden clouds floating through the serene ether, the rich ray reflected upon the earth; scarcely a breeze waves the dark foliage of the eucalyptic forest; the birds chiefly retire to rest in silence, or only the occasional caw of the crow, the wail of the curlew, or the wild peal of the laughing jackass in retired valleys, or far in the bush, startle the echoes. The herds slowly seek a sheltered spot where they may take their night's repose. The labourer returning from his diurnal toil, goes to his home rather to seek rest, than to break the hush of nature. Later in the evening the children's voices are heard as they sport in the cool breeze which disperses the summer's day heat; and then the cries of nocturnal animals sound in the woods.

'Tis summer's eve, a gentle hour
The west is rich in sombre sheen;
And 'mid the garden's leafy trees,
Springs up a cool refreshing breeze,
And the pale stars are faintly seen.

There is no twilight, night immediately closes in, and the vivid hues, fade into grey, with the rapidity which characterises hot climates.

A decided expression of chagrin sat upon the face of Eber Rigden's ‘Rosinante,’ when the cumbrous leather-bags and saddle once more were placed on his back; his days of “living in clover” were at an end, and his long ears slouched mournfully, as he turned an anxious eye in the direction of his unwonted luxuriant pasturage, and uttered a farewell groan. His rider eager to return to his family, and the path of duty, gathered up the reins, once more pressed the hand of his kind host, and started on his way; the brief acquaintance fraught with many important events terminated, as acquaintanceships among an almost nomadic population frequently do, with the circumstances, which for a time brought the parties into association.

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