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10. CHAPTER X.

HOW THEY RIDE IN AUSTRALIA.

note

Mr. and Mrs. Lang and their daughter Isabel, were up almost as soon as the sun, packing away chicken pies, tongue, cold beef, and other good things for the pic-nic. Kate made the breakfast, assisted by Mr. Fitz, who contrived that morning to be down three hours before his usual time. Before they all assembled at the table, Mr. Herbert walked into the stockyard and stables to see that his horses were taken care of. Mr. Herbert was particular about this; his and his sister's riding horses, contrary to the general custom of the colony, were well groomed and well fed. Willie Lang was admiring them, and wishing that his father would allow him to do the same. The stockman now drove in a mob of horses, and selecting those which were wanted, turned the rest out again.

‘Which horse is your sister going to ride?’ said Mr. Herbert to Willie.

‘Kate rides Bessie; and Isabel—I don't know which Issy will ride—she talked of driving Miss Terry.’

‘Put the side-saddle on my filly, and let me have one of the ponies,’ said Mr. Herbert to the man.

‘That'll be a poor exchange, sir,’ said he, with a grin. ‘Miss Isabel's horse has a queer trick of his own in pulling hard, besides now and then liking a buckjump; but Miss Isabel's used to him, and knows how to manage him better than any one else.’

Willie ran in to tell his sister what a treat was in store for her, to ride Pearl all the way! ‘And she's a beauty to jump! Wont we have leaping in fine style over the middle paddock, where the fallen trees are, that's all!’




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The difficulty now was as to who should drive Miss Terry. Mr. Lang said he would, which made his wife very angry, and declare she would not go at all; and Isabel said he really must drive Peggy in the gig, for no one else knew how to take her through the bogs. Mr. Farrant said he always liked driving better than riding, he should be most happy to do it. Mrs. Lang said ‘It was too bad to make such a fuss, why couldn't Miss Terry ride. Some people liked to be important; at all events Willie or Jem could drive her by turns.’

Mr. Farrant however persisted in preferring it, and it was settled accordingly, and some one remarked that no doubt old Mr. Jolly would be glad to change with him when he was tired.

Fortunately, Miss Terry was not present to hear all the difficulties, and when the children called her she found Mr. Farrant already seated in the cart with his whip in his hand. Isabel handed her in. She was surprised, for she had expected Willie or Jem would take it by turns, but the order to start from Mr. Lang prevented any further explanations. The gig and cart started first, and then followed the equestrians. Isabel on Pearl, who was prancing and curvetting and tossing her head, looking like the queen of the party. Kate and Mrs. Vesey set off at once in a canter, which made Miss Herbert withdraw her foot from the stirrup just as she was in the act of mounting, and say—

‘If this is the way they are going to begin, I wont go. We shall all break our necks.’

Mr. Herbert had to lead her horse to the slip rail, and afterwards kept by her side.

‘I think I shall propose an exchange with Mr. Farrant, by and bye,’ he said.

Miss Herbert looked pleased, but said nothing.

‘I wish to have a little talk with Miss Terry. I admired her quiet way of managing the children and taking her seat in the cart without fuss or nonsense.’

‘Quite the gentlewoman indeed, John. I should like to invite her to spend a day with us, only what should we do with the children?’

‘By all means, invite her and all the young ones. The two Miss Langs and myself can go out and make the long talked-of sketch of my mill.’

‘Pray don't ask so many; I wanted a quiet, cosy talk with poor little Miss Terry. I am sure she needs a little sympathy. I wonder what induced her to take such a situation. I heard some one say that she did not like her brother-in-law; but evidently it is pain and misery to her to be with -- '

‘Mr. Herbert—Mr. Herbert! we are going to try this fence,’ called


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out the boys. ‘Issy's pony is sure to clear it—only put her well at it, give a loose rein, and don't touch her with the spur, or she'll buckjump.’

‘Don't be afraid, Miss Herbert,’ said Isabel, riding back to her as Mr. Herbert cantered on.

‘Afraid! Who can help it with such—such extraordinary people as you all are? Really it is the very last expedition of the kind I will ever be tempted to join. Really, my brother should know better than to be such a boy.’

The two lower rails of the colonial gate—usually called a ‘slip rail'—being cleared by all the gentlemen, Willie shouted out for his sisters to try. Kate declined, although pressed by Mr. Fitz. Isabel looked at her horse. ‘Don't try,’ called out Mr. Herbert; ‘she is not a pleasant jumper yet.’ ‘Yes, do, Issy,’ shouted the boys.

‘It is not ladylike or feminine,’ remarked Miss Herbert. ‘You should not ask your sister to do such a colonial thing.’

‘Colonial!’ said Isabel. ‘Oh! if it is colonial I certainly will do it. I am not ashamed to acknowledge myself colonial; so now, Pearl, gently!’

‘Well done! well cleared, Issy—capital,’ shouted Willie and Jem and Mr. Fitz, while Kate seriously thought of following her sister's example, but before she had time to do so, Mr. Herbert had dismounted and was taking out the long heavy rails to allow the sober riders to go through.

‘Pearl is not a bad jumper, Mr. Herbert,’ remarked Isabel, as she patted her steed's neck.

‘If you were my daughter—my sister,’ Mr. Herbert said, sharply, while putting up the rails again, ‘you should not do that a second time.’

‘But I am not—I am not! and never shall be, luckily,’ she answered, laughing, and putting Pearl into a canter.

Mr. Herbert followed in a slow walk, and did not overtake them till all the party assembled before Mr. Jolly's farm. Old Mr. Jolly was, as he said, in his ‘dishabil,’ superintending the salting a bullock which had been cut up that morning. Three or four men with rough gloves were rubbing the pieces of beef, another was packing it tight into a cask, and Mr. Jolly himself occasionally waved a branch of gumtree to keep off the large yellow bottle flies which swarmed around.

‘Hallo!’ he hallooed. ‘Didn't expect ye yet—and there is my wife and myself as busy as bees. Must be done, you know, younkers—business must be minded. Will ye wait in the parlour or go on, and we'll overtake you? Where is Mrs. Jolly, d'ye ask? Bless you, she's in the kitchen, I suppose—never was such a careful woman as she is—not a scrap goes to waste. Such soup from the shins—'twould surprise you!’

Here Mrs. Jolly peeped out of the kitchen window, smiling in the most


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good-humoured way, and holding up a piece of beefsteak.

‘Have you all breakfasted? O, then, Mr. Jolly, we must make haste and not keep them waiting; or suppose, my dear,’ added she, coming out into the yard, and touching her husband's sleeve with her arm, ‘suppose they go on and we can follow. Tom is so busy to-day,’ said she, turning to Isabel; ‘so disappointed, my dear; but a man has just arrived about the bullocks, so he must stay. He is so sorry and vexed; for he says he has seen nothing of you for such a time; and Amelia has gone to visit her uncle. However, my dear, we have a beau for you—a great acquisition—young Mr. Henley, from England—looking about him, you know; and my husband, having once known his father, invited him up here, just you know to see what a settler's life is. Ah! how d'ye do, Mrs. Vesey, ma'am? I'm glad to see you. Excuse me, for this is a busy day;’ and she laughed again as she pointed to her curl-papers.

Mrs. Vesey looked through her glass and let her horse take a bite of some green barley which a man had just been cutting, and which stood in a wheel-barrow near.

‘How very pretty!’ said she, ‘quite rural; I admire the colonial taste so much, Mrs. Jolly, in always having the entrance to their houses at the back. No show off, but so primitive and simple-minded of them.’

Mrs. Jolly smiled, and said ‘Indeed!’ not understanding or hearing it all; while her husband went close up to Isabel, and holding Pearl's silky mane, said in a confidential, important voice—'Issy, Henley is the son of an old friend of mine—an old schoolfellow—beat me always at dead languages. A fine young man—just arrived with a snug little purse. Wants advice. Told him to have patience and look about with both eyes wide open; but he is of an impatient age you see. Wants to be settled all of a hurry. Can't ride a bit, my dear—all new to him. Don't be too hard upon him, hey? I have had in old Music, you know, the quietest creature ever was, but there are nasty bogs about. Fine-grown young man—see, here he is, bowing to Mrs. Vesey. On my word, he beats our Tom in his bow, whatever he may do at a leap.’ Pearl did not approve of Mr. Jolly's grasp, which tightened in his eagerness to fix Isabel's attention—she pranced and fidgeted; Isabel promised to be very attentive to the young stranger, and Mr. Jolly waddled off to equip for his drive.

Meanwhile Mr. Herbert had persuaded Mr. Farrant to allow him to drive the spring-cart for the rest of the way. At first he was abrupt and grave, and made short answers to little Miss Terry's attempts at conversation; but it seemed at last that the ice was broken. They were in eager, animated talk, and Miss Herbert remarked to her companion, Mr. Farrant, that she was glad to see her brother agreed with herself in


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finding that nice little creature agreeable.

‘Where is Miss Isabel Lang?’ said Mr. Farrant, looking back.

‘Oh, with that strange gentleman, depend on it. The Langs always court strangers. Ah, you have not lived here long enough to know them!’

Miss Herbert was right. Isabel was waiting for Mr. Henley to mount. ‘Music,’ a long-backed, narrow-faced horse, was led out. Mr. Henley said he knew nothing whatever of riding, but made a spring which startled Music.

‘Stick fast, I suppose,’ said he, gaily.

‘My dear fellow, don't lay into her with that stick,’ exclaimed Mr. Jolly, as he came out tying on a black handkerchief. ‘She has plenty of spirit, and will want a curb more than a stick. Ah, there's Dr. Marsh, I declare! Well, sir, glad to see ye. My wife and I are coming directly; go on, sir, pray.’

‘Upon my word, Mr. Jolly,’ said the Doctor, a stout little roundabout man, ‘I think I shall do better to keep with your gig. An old navy surgeon like myself cannot ride like those young Bush men and women. Just look at them, already,’ he added, lifting himself in his stirrups, and pointing with his whip. ‘There they are, jumping and scampering; really, upon my word, Miss Isabel, yours is a spirited nag. Ha—well—gently, gently, if you please; gently . . . .’

The Doctor's horse was eager to go, whatever he might be, and he was obliged to follow Isabel; and very soon the three overtook the others in the long flat paddock which almost surrounded the farm. On they went—the very numbers adding excitement and speed—Kate and Mr. Fitz, Isabel and her brothers, Mr. Henley and the Doctor, on they went—till another slip rail checked them.

‘Jump it,’ hallooed out Willie Lang. ‘Come, Kate, show what you can do; loosen your rein. Tippoo will do it, and no fear!—that's right!’

‘I think you and I, my good sir, had better wait till those adventurous people get a-head a little. Gently, gently, Sultan, my good fellow; on my word I don't admire this. Slip rails, Mr. Henley, are one of the pests of the colony; don't attempt it, my good sir! that horse can't do it!’ said the Doctor, nervously, and applying his pocket-handkerchief to his forehead, while he endeavoured to soothe his horse's eagerness. Mrs. Vesey was over—then her husband.

‘Now for it!’ said Mr. Henley, and he recklessly applied the stick, and notwithstanding a considerable swerve in the saddle, got safely over. The prudent doctor, after coaxing and patting Sultan into something like a state of resignation to his hard fate, dismounted, and proceeded carefully to take out the rails.




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‘You are very gallant, doctor,’ said Mr. Farrant, as he and Miss Herbert passed through. The Doctor bowed and shifted his spectacles as he saw Miss Herbert—remarking that it was a hot day for riding hard. The spring-cart now came up, and the Doctor having remounted, trotted alongside, telling Miss Terry how the Miss Langs had ridden, and that they were very ‘fine young women; but too adventurous.’ Miss Terry smiled, but Mr. Herbert made no reply but an impatient look and a smart crack of the whip over the horse's head.

‘And how do you like this country, ma'am,’ pursued the Doctor, looking benevolently at Miss Terry.

‘Pretty well. It takes time, you know, to recover after being transplanted.’

‘Good! ah! very good; that is exactly it. But I may venture to whisper in your ear, but don't let your neighbour hear,’ the Doctor looked sly, ‘that no one would stay here unless obliged.’

‘Indeed! is Mr. Herbert such a staunch defender of this country? I was hardly aware of that,’ said Miss Terry.

‘I admire the country as nature has made it; but not—Ah! what are they doing? what can this be about, I wonder? O, Mr. Herbert, you are called,’ said the Doctor. A party of the foremost equestrians were seemingly at a stand-still. Soon Willie Lang galloped towards the cart.

‘Mr. Herbert, is that bog passable? It looks ugly, but Issy will have it we can go on; she is mad, I believe, she and that young Englishman.’

‘Let him try the bog, if there is any doubt about it,’ said Mr. Herbert, rather sarcastically. ‘He seems to be a bold rider.’

‘Go on!’ roared Willie.

‘Do not go on!’ called out Mr. Herbert; ‘you are all mad, I believe.’ At the same time urging his horse to such a trot that poor Miss Terry was obliged to hold fast, so rough were the jerks from the hard, stiff tufts of coarse grass, which being rejected by the cattle, grew wild and strong in patches among the more eatable kind.

‘Now, then,’ said Mr. Herbert to the expectant group who stood round the margin of the bog. ‘Now, then, Mr. Farrant, may I trouble you for the horse, since I am to judge of this formidable danger.’

Mr. Farrant quickly dismounted, and took his seat by Miss Terry with every appearance of satisfaction at the move. Mr. Herbert gravely and cautiously guided the pony to a part of the bog which had no traces of steps. ‘Follow!’ he called out, in a military tone of command, ‘one by one. Let your horses have their heads; and hold on!’

‘Come, Doctor, we want you to go first,’ said Isabel. ‘We know you to be a safe person.’




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‘Excuse me, my dear young lady, but I would far prefer following the others,’ he answered, while reining Sultan back.

‘But it is always better, Dr. Marsh, to be first, before it is much trodden down,’ said Kate.

‘Is it? Then here we go!’ cried Mr. Henley, giving his horse a determined lash. ‘Music’ floundered. Mr. Henley laughed, and urged her on with stick and heels. She gave a sudden spring and slide. Down came the rider flat on his back. He was up again in a moment and waded through the stiff mud. Isabel caught the bridle as ‘Music’ reared her big head and stumbled up the bank. Mr. Henley's coat was thickly plastered with mud, and there was of course a general laugh as soon as the party were safely over, in which the gay young man joined as heartily as any one. The Doctor had resigned himself to his fate, and with a few muttered exclamations against all colonial customs, that of having bogs after rain in particular, he reached the other side. The spring-cart, too, wonderful to say, survived the danger, and Miss Terry nearly bit her lips to prevent a scream. Mr. Herbert watched her, and immediately rode up to congratulate her on her courage, and offered himself to drive again, but Mr. Farrant would not give up his seat. Miss Terry blushed and smiled as she entered into the badinage which followed, and Miss Herbert remarked to the Doctor that a blush was very becoming. But again everyone's attention was directed towards Mr. Henley, who was being ‘scraped clean’ by Mr. Fitz.

‘You are dubbed a Bushman for ever, my young friend,’ said Dr. Marsh, patting him on the shoulder patronisingly with his whip.

‘Henley's bog shall be the name of this place henceforth!’ said Isabel. ‘But, come, who will follow me? Let the cart and the timid keep in the track, let the brave and admirers of a fine view follow me!’ She waved her whip, and led the way up a steepish bank of rough iron stones, interspersed with weeping native cherry-trees.

‘Pretty safe, hey?’ said the Doctor, who wavered between his dislike of rough-riding and sustaining his character of a ‘great admirer of nature, particularly in her wildest freaks,’ a favourite phrase of the Doctor's, by the bye. ‘Pretty safe, hey?’ cautiously guiding Sultan between the bushes and stones. ‘Ha, a rolling-stone, very dangerous,—careful, Sultan; bad for ladies' habits, my dear Miss Isabel; a steepish pinch here, Henley—take care of yourself. Ah! indeed, Miss Isabel, you say right—worth the attempt—really a magnificent view!’ and as he pulled up his horse, and shifted his spectacles, he breathed a long sigh of admiration, or relief, whichever it might be.

‘Well! Mr. Herbert,’ said Isabel.




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Mr. Herbert bowed.

‘Well, we wait for your remarks. Come, describe the scene—point out its beauties—its points—to Mrs. Vesey and Mr. Henley. Nature requires a showman occasionally,’ said Isabel. ‘You used to be eloquent when we reached this spot, I remember.’

‘That was many years ago,’ Mr. Herbert replied.

‘Perhaps—if—Miss Terry were here, it might—probably it would, inspire the gentleman,’ softly whispered the Doctor to Miss Herbert. ‘Didn't you think he talked a good deal during the drive?’

Miss Herbert did not catch what he said—she answered—

‘Certainly—I quite agree with you—far too forward—quite bold.’

And Miss Herbert and the Doctor, who looked ‘posed,’ went on, following Mr. Herbert in a track which led back to the road to Sugar-loaf.

There was a great deal of laughing and talking amongst the rest of nature's admirers on the hill. Mrs. Vesey mimicking Mr. Herbert's air and manner inimitably well.

‘What is that you are singing, Mr. Henley—an ourang-outang and the bush? What is it? let us hear,’ said Mrs. Vesey, riding on.

‘A song? O, then reserve it for after dinner, pray,’ said Isabel. ‘I shall be so thankful for anything of that kind,’ added she, looking suddenly grave.

‘I could not venture on such a song in such a company. They would call me out,’ said Mr. Henley.

‘O, then! by all means let us have it!’ exclaimed Mrs. Vesey. ‘It would be quite a divertissement to see Mr. Budd, or Mr. Jolly, or even Mr. Herbert—’

The front riders were now in a canter, so the conversation was broken off. They had emerged from the thick scrub of gnarled tea shrubs and native currant bushes, and were now in an open clear space, called in the colony a ‘flat,’ where the trees grew naturally in park-like groups. The conical hill, named Sugar-loaf, from its peculiar shape, appeared in front, rising almost abruptly from the plain. It was a tempting place for a gallop. Isabel was passing them all on Pearl, and Mr. Fitz complimenting her on her horsemanship. Then she reined in Pearl a little and kept by Kate, talking and laughing, the quick pace at which they were cantering through the air raising the spirits of each. Turning round presently she saw Mr. Herbert riding alone, and apparently in one of his unsociable fits. Pearl was a little pulled in, and she dropped behind her sister and Mr. Fitz. Still the hint was not taken. Mr. Herbert kept his distance. At last she turned on her saddle and said—




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‘We had better exchange steeds in returning, Mr. Herbert. I fear my pony has given you trouble. He understands me.’

‘The pony goes very well, thank you.’

Nothing could be more matter-of-fact than these words; yet the tone in which they were spoken struck Isabel. Some voices have so much power of expression!

She looked at him for a moment, and then, being one to speak as her heart prompted, she said—

‘Then—what ails you?’

A sudden, and perhaps involuntary, prick from his spur caused Mr. Herbert's steed to give a buck jump, gathering up all four legs, and heaving the back in an indescribable, and nearly impossible-to-sit way. Mr. Herbert, however, was a good rider, and perhaps his success in sitting firm, and his skilful management of the pony, pleased him, for he threw off his silence and talked cheerfully to Isabel as they cantered on; and in a few minutes they reached the spot where they were to dine. Mr. and Mrs. Budd were already there, and by the time the horses were comfortably fastened to trees, and shawls and gig cushions spread in the most shady spots they could find, Mr. and Mrs. Jolly made their appearance.

‘You asked me just now what was the matter,’ said Mr. Herbert, coming up to Isabel, who was for a moment resting against a tree without a smile on her face. ‘Suppose I turn questioner and ask what calls forth so grave a look?’

But while he spoke it was gone, and in its stead the peculiar bright, half saucy, half coaxing expression, which she generally wore, returned.

‘I was trying to follow the example of my betters, that's all,’ said she, pushing back her hair and gathering up her habit, which had before been allowed to fall on the ground. ‘However, I have done considering—now for acting,’ and she moved on a step.

‘Can I assist you?’ asked Mr. Herbert, following.

‘You can do so, if you will,’ said she, looking at him.

‘I am willing, if it be to unpack pies and bottles, but if it be to talk—you know as well as I do how incapable I am, and I have talked enough to-day to last a silent man, like myself, a week.’

‘I pity your poor sister, then, if half an hour's brisk conversation with a lady in a spring cart dooms her to silence for seven days. But, however, your assistance would be very acceptable beyond the laying out dinner. Parties—certain parties you know, Mr. Herbert—must be divided. Who will you take? Let me see; there is Mrs. Vesey?’

‘Any one but her!—I can't stand her—pray do not get intimate with


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her!’ he added, in that dictatorial tone he sometimes assumed.

‘And pray why not?’ said Isabel, quickly; ‘pray what do you know of her?’

‘Quite enough to see that she is not an improving acquaintance,’ said he, casting a glance towards Mr. Fitz, who was flirting with Kate.

‘I have known you since you were children in sun bonnets and pinafores,’ he added, half apologetically; ‘and I can't help feeling sorry and disappointed if—if I see you led away from good taste.’

‘Thank you,’ said Isabel, curtseying low; ‘but now to our task, if you wont help me, I will find some one else,’ and she tripped on towards Mr. Farrant, who had seated himself by Miss Terry. ‘Mr. Farrant, do be so kind as to assist my mother, will you? Miss Terry, I am sorry to disturb you, but will you sit by my father; he always likes your company, and you can slice the cucumber to please him—will you be so very kind.’

Miss Terry, whose good nature never failed, and who besides saw that Isabel had a reason for her request, immediately complied. Mr. Lang was busy unpacking the basket, and she offered to help him.

Isabel then managed to divide the thoroughly good-tempered Mr. and Mrs. Jolly among those who were more irascible and easily offended. Mrs. Vesey was seated among an undue share of cushions, heaped up by Mr. Jolly, who implicitly believed all she said as to her delicate health and extreme fatigue, and actually robbed his wife of her only shawl to spread under the lady's feet, saying, in reply to Mrs. Vesey's not very eager exclamations against the monopoly, ‘O dear, my wife don't mind such things, she has been used to roughing it. She is the best natured creature I ever met with.’

So Mrs. Vesey resigned herself to the cushions, and shawls, and her companion's good nature, and looked through her glass at the preparations, casting many a sly side look at her brother or husband, which made Isabel's colour mount high. Kate, too, was a ‘drone,’ as her father said, and Mr. Fitz tied a shawl fantastically over head on the lower branch of a tree, to form a canopy between her and the now powerful sun. Mrs. Jolly laughed as she said, ‘What a sweet pretty picture it made. She only wished poor Tom was here to see it,’ and then Mrs. Vesey looked through the never-failing glass and nodded at Kate in a meaning way, which made Kate blush. When all was arranged, Mr. Henley contrived a seat for Isabel, declaring she had well earned her dinner and a comfortable seat, and now she must depute him to be her messenger. She cast a quick, and a close observer might have said an anxious, look around, before she suffered herself to be seated. All seemed, however, to go on smoothly. Mr. Budd droned out his long stories to Mrs. Jolly, who had a


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laugh, or a ‘really,’ or ‘very true,’ ready between the pauses. Once, indeed, Mr. Lang began scolding Kate because she did not eat a good dinner, but Miss Terry did her part well, and smoothed things over with great tact. Then came the champagne, and healths were proposed; and then, to Isabel's dismay, Mr. Budd rose, shifted from one long leg to another, and in his nasal tone of voice said—

‘And now, ladies and gentlemen, I have—that is, I beg to propose a toast—agreeable I hope to all parties who have any public spirit, and have the good of the district at heart—I say agreeable to all public spirited men—hem—I mean the proposed scheme of a new bridge and church at Bengala. I hope through my own, and the exertions of all this worthy company, especially our excellent minister (bowing to Mr. Farrant), to have the satisfaction of seeing a handsome brick church, which will, I am sure, raise the value of the land around it, and soon attract settlers. Besides—hem—besides the—the poetical, if I may be allowed the expression, the poetical effect of a spire rising from the forest. So—not detaining you any longer,’ added Mr. Budd, with energy, ‘Here's to the Bridge of Bengala,’ and he swung his glass round his head and waved himself to and fro in delight.

No one knew exactly what to do. Mr. Jolly said ‘ah’ several times, uncomfortably, and looked towards Mr. Lang, who muttered and frowned as he drew the cork from another bottle.

Isabel begged for Mr. Henley's song, but Mr. Fitz said they must drink the toast first, and he begged to propose the health of Mr. Lang, with three time three. This was done, and then Mr. Lang rose, and in a thundering voice stammered out something about his opposing that scheme with all his might. He considered, without boasting, that he had a right to a voice in the matter—that he always had, he always would oppose such a mad scheme. It should not be. He would eat his own head first. Mr. Budd might try—’

Here Mr. Farrant said he hoped that they would waive the subject for to-day, so unfitted to the occasion. It was hardly fair to the ladies. Mr. Herbert uttered many a ‘pshaw’ from under his moustachios, and fed his dog from the scraps. Mrs. Vesey with her glass seemed to be enjoying the whole scene, and in reply to Mrs. Jolly's remark, ‘how unpleasant such little jars were among friends,’ she answered, ‘O, not at all; it gives quite a piquante zest to the whole thing, it makes a variety; I enjoy it beyond measure!’

Great was the relief to many of the party when Mr. Henley said—‘Well, if you will all promise not to be offended at my song, you shall have it. I am not responsible for its merits or its faults. Mind, all must join in the chorus. Now then—

Off I set with cash in hands,
And on the map I chose my lands,
But found 'twas nothing but barren sands,
When I got to the bush of Australia!

CHORUS(which after the first was very heartily joined in by the party).

Illawarra, Woolongong,
Parramatta, Mittagong,
Famous subject for a song,
Thy charms, O bush of Australia!

Of sheep I bought a precious lot,
Some died of scab and some of rot,
For the deuce a drop of rain we got,
In the beautiful bush of Australia!

lllawarra, &c.

My convict rogues were always drunk,
And kept me in a constant funk,
When every night to bed I slunk,
I wished myself out of Australia!

Illawarra, &c.

That these woes are enough I'm sure you'll own,
But there's one thing more the whole to crown,
My little bark hut did tumble down,
And all in Australia!

Illawarra, &c.

Of house and land and all bereft,
My woolly farm I gladly left,
Making o'er by deed of gift,
To the savages of Australia!

Illawarra, &c.

I gladly worked my passage home,
And back to England I am come,
Determined never more to roam,
At least in the bush of Australia!

Illawarra, &c.




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Stones upon the road I'd break,
And earn my ‘seven bob' a-week,
Which must be owned is a better freak,
Than settling in Australia!

Illawarra, Woolongong,
Parramatta, Mittagong!
I like thee when no more among
Thy charms, O bush of Australia!note

This song was applauded by all parties. Another was asked for, and after some pressure, Mr. Fitz gave one. But it fell flat, and Isabel casting a quick glance round, saw ominous symptoms of fatigue and weariness. She did not half like the keen looks through her glass, followed by the hearty, though suppressed laughter, which came from Mrs. Vesey. Isabel did not mind an honest joke, but she grew redder and hotter, under this ‘fun’ of Mrs. Vesey's, which, whatever it might be about, was confined to the ears of her brother Mr. Fitz and Kate. Soon a pencil was evidently brought into play. Isabel resolved to try her best to destroy the picture, and rising quickly proposed their going to explore the top of old Sugar-loaf. ‘Let us have two parties under leaders, and each take a different route; we shall then settle the old dispute as to the easiest and quickest way of ascent.’

‘Here am I ready to lead one set, then,’ said Mr. Budd. And he began a long-winded repetition of his reasons for preferring one track, while Mr. Herbert took the other side, and maintained there was a shorter and better path.

‘Well, let us range ourselves under these two great captains,’ said Isabel.

Mr. Budd immediately turned to beg Mrs. Vesey to favour him, and she taking his arm, Kate, as a matter of course, followed, accompanied by Mr. Fitz.

‘You come with me,’ said Mr. Herbert to Isabel; which she agreed to do, after settling the elders comfortably, who preferred remaining still, to toiling up a steep hill.

Miss Herbert, Miss Terry, Mr. Henley, and the Doctor followed Mr. Herbert. The boys ran after the others. But it happened that Mr. Herbert, with Isabel, very soon outstripped their own party.

‘It was a good move of yours, Isabel. That woman's ill-bred quizzing is intolerable!’ Mr. Herbert spoke with strong annoyance.

‘How hypercritical you are. You never like any one!’ she said, not


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disposed to own that she in her heart agreed with him.

‘Yes; I like some persons. I like that nice little creature, Miss Terry.’

‘Indeed! Well, that is wonderful! She is highly honoured——’

‘Do you think there is no one else I like?’ he said, seeking her eyes as he spoke.

‘Do you mean by that, that you like me?’

‘Do I mean it?——’

He put out his hand, ‘Isabel! shake hands. I have been behaving abominably! Will you forgive me?’

‘I don't know what about,’ she said, yielding her hand, but looking shy. ‘What do you mean?’

‘Ah! you know. You asked what ailed me just now. Last evening, too, sulky and miserable as I was, you did not resent it as I deserved. But you see, Isabel, the fact is, I must learn to consider myself as on the shelf, and——’

‘On the shelf? To be read or eaten; what sort of shelf?’

‘Yes!’ he went on, gravely and sadly. ‘It is a difficult lesson, and we all find it so in our turn. To stand aside and let our juniors have their turn, to remember that time is in the natural course of things dividing us—that, in fact, you are growing into bloom, and I am approaching decay.’

Isabel laughed merrily at this, and rallied him for his dismal fancies. But he would not quite throw them off it seemed.

‘I may be—I know I am, or must seem to you, a cross, fussy old fellow. But the fact is, I cannot see you so taken and led by persons of such utterly bad taste, (oh, Isabel! so very different from those I should wish to see as your friends!) without a certain annoyance. I have no right, I know, to speak, or perhaps to judge, but there is something so thoroughly odious——’

‘Come, come, don't be too severe,’ she interrupted. ‘You have tried to sugar the pill, but I can't allow our ‘particular friends’ to be abused.’

‘Particular friends do you call them?’ he said with emphasis.

‘You should remember how sorely we do want a little variety and amusement,’ she went on demurely. ‘So long as we have been confined to one set—yourself, Tom Jolly, Dr. Marsh, and Captain Smith! really it is not surprising if we enjoy a little change and fun when it comes?’

‘Hem. . . . . Tom Jolly, Dr. Marsh, and myself! Thank you! I see what estimation I am held in,’ he exclaimed, working himself out of his late penitent, into an offended mood; ‘we three are classed as alike, are we?’

‘Dear Mr. Herbert, no! Not the least alike! I don't mean to compare you. You are not half so good as Tom! Surely you don't imagine that you are?’




  ― 100 ―

‘Oh, he is a very good fellow; an excellent young man, moral and amiable. I don't at all dispute his excellence, or even claim to equal it. But in what way do you compare us?’

‘In nothing, save that you are both such very old and particular friends, that you cease to be amusing. You are not more alike than that great iron bark tree is like a cherry tree. There you are—hard, and tall, and grim. The most unpliant man I ever saw; it takes a storm at least to bend you. And there is Tom,’ pointing to a native cherry tree, ‘a pliant, gentle, honest, clinging, and loving soul.’

‘Yet, even this superior, ‘loving,’ pliable, elastic youth fails to please, it seems, when any new, noisy and vulgar person comes in the way.’

‘Don't let the Veseys disturb your peace of mind.’

‘They do not. But, Isabel—once I had experience of a disposition, in some ways, as far as I can see, like Mrs. Vesey. If you knew all, you would not wonder at my warning you against that sort of ill-nature, though it is called clever quizzing. Some do say,’ he hesitated a little, ‘that you are inclined to it yourself,’ and again his penetrating eye was bent on her. ‘But I beg your pardon, I see—I have no right now—I forget that you are a ‘young lady.’ . . . . While Isabel played with her parasol, uncertain how to answer him, being rather touched by the earnestness of his manner, and also piqued at his sudden drawing in,—voices proclaimed the others at hand. Mr. Herbert and Isabel had reached the desired point, but, busy in their conversation, had taken no further notice than to stand still.

‘Here they are! How long have you been here? Did you look at your watch?’ was vociferated.

Mr. Herbert had proved his point, but had overlooked the exact instant.

Mr. Budd did not like giving in. He asked minute questions as to the route they had taken, and when it was seen that of all Mr. Herbert's followers only one was there, and that the others were anywhere, he maintained that it was not a fair victory. ‘He could show all his staff.’

But where were the laggers? The boys set off to search, and after much shouting and coo-ee-ing, the ladies appeared, out of breath, wet-footed, and with damaged dresses. Such a path never was seen!

They came quite into a deep bog, and if it had not been for Mr. Henley and Mr. Fitz, they would all have stuck there now! Mr. Budd triumphed. It was this very bog he had known of and expected they would come across. Mr. Herbert knew a track which avoided it, but in his pre-occupation with his companion, he had wholly forgotten the necessity of cautioning the rest of the party. There was of course much rallying,


  ― 101 ―
and Isabel cleverly turned all joke from herself by fixing it on her companion, and saying ‘that it was just like him to be so absorbed with his argument as to forget everything else.’

Mr. Henley now claimed Isabel's attention, and described with spirit and humour their adventures.

‘We ought to be returning, I think,’ she said, and they led the way.

Mr. Herbert, who had been gradually growing graver and graver as the balls flew past his devoted head, now turned to Miss Terry and offered his escort and help down the rough path, hoping she would forgive his seeming neglect of her during their journey up. Very soon these two were in deep conversation. Isabel looking back, saw them, and nodded her head in a very pleased and triumphant way. The rest fell into couples, as they liked. As they gained the level land, they heard a great coo-ee-ing.

‘That is papa! He is tired and wants to go home,’ said Isabel. ‘Or something is wrong.’

This proved to be the case.

Isabel found her father vexed and irritated. Mr. Budd's horse had slipped his halter, and had caused disturbance among the others. Kate's pony, Tippoo, had made off in consequence, and Mr. Lang and the man who was in attendance had no little trouble to catch him again.

‘It was hot—the flies were unbearable—the locusts would not be satisfied till they gave every one a splitting headache. What was the use of staying in such a place? Pic-nics were the vilest inventions under the sun.’

Mr. Budd laughed loud as he disagreed. He thought they were the most charming parties possible. It was a lovely—a perfect day. Did not Mr. Herbert think so?

Mr. Herbert had not thought about it, he said, as he swung his cane, and walked off to see how Pearl had fared in the skirmish.

The Vine Lodge party and Kate retired to a shady spot, and had just made themselves comfortable when Mr. Lang insisted on starting homewards.

There were many voices raised against this. It was such a pity to start before the cool of the evening—the best part, the homeward ride, would be entirely spoilt if they had to go while it was so hot. But Mr. Lang said he should go—any one who liked to stay longer might do so, only they must beware of the bogs. Isabel said she should go too, and the Jollys thought it quite time to ‘think about it.’

So it ended in the whole party following Mr. Lang. Mr. Herbert drove the spring cart the whole way. He nearly got into a scrape once, he was


  ― 102 ―
talking so intently. Isabel did not fail to remark this to Mr. Farrant, who was a little behind her, both trying to keep up with old Peggy's jog-trot. It was, on the whole, a tame and silent ride, a cloud seemed to have settled on the spirits of every one. The boys whistled and laughed a little, and jumped over a few logs; but in spite of all their entreaties and hallooing, no one followed their example, not even Isabel, and their father called out for them not to make fools of themselves, he would have no scampering or leaping.

‘Well, to be sure!’ sighed Mrs. Lang, ‘I must say, Mr. Lang, you and Mr. Budd might have kept quiet for to-day. I can't think why you say anything to him, he's beneath your notice, in my opinion.’

‘A scoundrel! an impertinent, officious scoundrel!’ muttered Mr. Lang as he applied his whip over Peggy's head with so much vehemence as to astonish her, so dutifully was she rolling along in her best trot.

‘Well, never mind, Mr. Lang, don't call names—think no more of it! It has, of course, spoilt the party, and shocked poor Mrs. Vesey.’

‘Spoilt the party! and who spoilt the party, eh? Mrs. Lang, but that . . . .’

‘Pull up, pull up, papa,’ called out Isabel, ‘you don't see that awkward stump. How well Peggy goes to-day, I can hardly keep up with you,’ added she, as she cantered alongside of the gig.

‘Come, Issy, after all, that pony has a prettier action than that trumpery concern Mr. Herbert mounted you on to-day. Some people are uncommonly conceited, and think all their geese swans.’

As the daughter, riding so well, and smiling and talking so goodhumouredly kept beside him, Mr. Lang's mood changed. He laughed in delight as he kept the rest of the party behind. He went at such a pace, that Mrs. Lang declared he must be mad, and they should certainly be upset, and she desired Isabel to keep behind or before, and said that neither she nor her father had any mercy on her nerves.

She grew annoyed as Mr. Lang grew merry, till at last, as they came to the more open road, Isabel galloped on and left them to follow more at their leisure.

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