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Book I High Water

Chapter I To Play the Game Out

WHEN Sir William Heans first reached Hobarton, Tasmania, he was placed in the Government Architect's office on the strength of having erected additions to the family home in Ireland. Thus he spent a good deal of time designing penitentiaries, riding, reporting himself at the prison, “punting,” and visiting among a few friends to whom he had brought letters. Indeed, when he first reached the island, on the strength of his family connections, he walked for a fine and chequered summer in quite exalted society. And it is of this prolific year—prolific of so much terror and good—that we have first to tell.

A great deal had occurred before he met his friend Mr. Jarvis Carnt, also a prisoner. Not that he would have looked down on Mr. Carnt, if he had met him then; he always had a fine eye for a male acquaintance; but he was living a somewhat protected life for a gentleman prisoner (or “long-coater”) at that time, and being careful not to compromise his friends by frequenting the lower clubs, he had not come across Mr. Carnt.

It is strange how the world will give a man a second chance—especially if he be a good-looking one. This perennial instance of man's patience is no more evident in our male clubs and criminal courts than in the cabinets of the women. Sir William Heans' crime—his sin—which we shall touch on most briefly hereafter, and the committing of which had pushed him from the places that he loved into exile and boredom in a wild island at the bottom of the world—his sin seemed like to have been forgiven him by certain of his new acquaintances, one of whom, in particular, was a woman. This had not arisen from a rumour which had arrived with him—it is said, his own opinion somewhat too freely expressed—that he had been as much the sinned upon as the sinner, nor yet altogether from the far more potent argument of his good health and handsome face.

Captain Hyde-Shaxton and his wife, Matilda, had received him from the first with kindness, and even with warmth. The Captain, a man of forty-six, had some four years previous left a regiment and a young wife in India for a trip to Sydney, then in


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its first fashionable primenote; and afterwards, to his lasting glory, had voyaged thence to Hobarton, in the now famous Beagle, with Captain Fitzroy and Charles Darwin—whom he ever after elected to bring into his chuckling conversation as “young skins and bones.” Unlike Darwin, who could say even of Mount Wellington that it had “little picturesque beauty,” he fell in love with the island, and returned northward only to resign his commission and return with the young wife to Tasmania. Here, taking up land in the ranges near Flat Top Tier, the scenery and solitude had palled on both, and both had been glad when the restless busband had been given a small staff appointment in Hobarton, and moved into a secluded red brick house, facing down the bay over the shingles of the town.

The influence of an aspiring woman for good and peace is incalculable. (What men rare Queen Elizabeth made, giving them something they could not but revere!) Not only in her casual acquaintances did she inspire trust, but even (as a certain Mr. Daunt put it) in her husband, he, in his large way, entrusting her with the financing of both their large establishments—a matter she carried out with her fine financial head, with only the rarest and most hugely forgiven of blunders. This woman with the dreadful name and the Bedouin husband—a man always with his mind's eye over the next mountain—this by no means extraordinary woman, by achieving something every once in a while without a tinge of self in it, drew soon a circle of hard-eyed people about her, whose smiling faces, if they did not become more natural, went away as determined as they came. It seemed her desire to steal rather than to aid, teach, or pass judgment. Her sweet face seldom smiled. It was high, small, bright, and shyly serious. She seemed taller than she was; would have been active if she had not been delicate; and was straight as a needle. You would see her talking with someone in her drawing-room, near a chandelier, with that fine antagonistic eye of hers wild and full of a strained yearning.

Incidentally she was a beautiful woman—if not for exhibition purposes. She seemed to put it away from her as she talked, much as she would thrust back her hair—so golden. She admitted it, but it was not the fact apparently which she most wished to urge upon you. Even had it been it would have bothered but little the kind of women and men who sought her. They went there in homage—most of them—for some clever, invisible unselfishness in which they had caught her, and into which they could argue (clever as they were at scenting them) no slight to themselves or anyone else except herself and her private interests. The prisoner Carnt called her, in his wild, amusing way, “the carpet serpent.” We don't know whether


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he was referring to her selfless subtleties or what. It seems the convict never forgave her for once distinctly bowing to him from a fly—when walking with Sir William Heans—though, with what he curiously described as the remnants of compunction, he had not bowed in return. Carnt, by the way, was not at all a bad fellow. He had been a steward or land-agent in England. He drank seldom, but when he drank heavily, it is said he became a devil of selfish treachery and calculation.

Heans, with his high black collarless stock, matchless claw-hammer, plaid breeks and hunting air, had received slight after slight on landing, and came at last, pale, proud, yet still on his dignity, to the Shaxtons' door. His health had really suffered on ship-board, and he had obtained a Government Pass to ride beyond the town bounds in four directions: the village of New Town, and five miles towards the ferry; Sandy Bay, but not more than two miles towards the Probation Station; and a gallop up the Storm Mountain track towards the Springs. On pain of the withdrawal of the pass, he was to call at no ale or dwellinghouse besides that known as “Muster-Master-Mason's Place” above the Cascades Prison: this being within sight of the courtyards.

As Captain Shaxton's house was a mile outside the Boundary he had, of necessity, applied for a fresh pass giving permission, for one day, to leave the Mountain Road and break his ride at Pitt's Villa. He had obtained this on producing a familiar letter of introduction from an aunt, showing he was distantly related to this family, with the proviso that he would be within boundary before dusk.

In the drawing-room, Daunt, of the foot police, was sitting with Mrs. Shaxton. He was a dark man, quick and neat, in a high-shouldered, kerseymere frock-coat, and duck breeches strapped over Wellingtons. He had slighted Heans (or Heans had fancied that he had) once already on the Hulk, and when the latter came in, having recovered himself, grey and quiet, he recognised him instantly, and entreated something of Mrs. Shaxton in a low voice near the mantel-piece. It sounded like “mauvais sujet.” She rose, however, with her shy, staring, antagonistic look. It was hot and the drawing-room had been darkened: one of those dusky, dreamy interiors of the summer antipodes generally filled with dreamy women. Heans' face and head were in the line of the one raised blind, and he stood gravely before her, fine, pale, and wonderfully dignified. She withdrew her staring eyes in a strange way, and gave him her hand warmly. She was an earnest woman. Her welcome was unmistakably sweet, and kind; but she did not look at him again, searching about her, even while he bowed over her hand, for a chair on which he might sit. She introduced him to Daunt, who had risen. Daunt said darkly that they had met, but Heans, with some appearance of


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good-humour, begged his pardon for a “devilish bad memory for faces.”

“Ah,” said Daunt, “I've a good one.” And he made his little hearty, silent laugh. He was a very witty man in another way. It was he who had given vent to the clever saying: “He did not admire the gossiping ladies: their lips were too red.”

Matilda said into her embroidery, that, “we heard about you, Sir William Heans, from the Gairdeners. Your Aunt wrote one of her wonderful letters.”

“She said she would write,” said Heans.

“She must be eighty-three. She wished to know what had become of Mr. Macaulay, the young orator. He was in Calcutta when I came out to my husband, and people were saying great things of him. I myself heard him say at a dinner-party, in a voice that rang with feeling, that he ‘would not give one fallen pillar of Rome for all the marvellous Colonades of Hindostan.’ ”

They all laughed at her way of saying it.

“Ah,” said Heans, with some patience. “Macaulay has been her hero ever since the death of old Sir Walter. I protest, she would meet Scott wherever she went according to her own account, though, as she would say, ‘he has lately written such dreadful things about us women!’ ‘The great poet,’ she would say, ‘was there with Lady Buccleugh: I knew him by his déshabillé and faithful eyes.’ ”

Matilda glanced at the speaker with her own strange orbs. A soft look lay at the root of their strained stare. She let her chin drop into her needle-hand, and looked into the distance.

“Ah,” she said, in a soft voice, “it is a pleasure to answer Miss Gairdener's letters. Anything will interest her with a great or good wish in it. You can begin a despatch with Mr. Macaulay and end it with a receipt for plum chutney. She tells me she has been reading Pope's Homer, and that she finds Mr. Crabbe's poems so rousing. She begged us to look out for you, Sir William, and see that you took care of your health.”

“Ah,” put in Daunt, with decency, “the old lady will be glad then to hear safe news of you.”

“She has a great heart, sir,” said Sir William, in a fine even voice. He leant a little back in his chair, put a tortoise-shell eyeglass into his eye, and glared at Daunt through it.

Daunt laughed again hissingly. “Great heart, great anxiety,” he said, not so pleasantly. He turned in his neat, brisk way to Matilda. “When you write, don't make us out such bugbears, Mrs. Shaxton. You are inclined to think us severe, but you would be surprised how politeness begets politeness, and contentment a return of tolerance and help, here in Hobarton.”

Mrs. Shaxton frowned and shook her bent head.

“Contentment under suffering—yes, that is what you are always demanding,” she said, into her embroidery, and rather


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fiercely. “Mr. Daunt, you approach every one with a list of rules and a club—isn't that the weapon? Shouldn't suffering be approached with shame—shame and pity,” (A sort of quiver in her breath stopped her.) “I have no experience, but it numbs them I think.”

“Oh, the club's only to save one's head,” said Daunt, with his hissing laugh. “The shame's there, but experience has taught us to take a stick in with it.”

“You're always rappin' 'em,” said Sir William, oh very fine and pale! “Isn't that what Mrs. Shaxton means?”

“I agree,” said Daunt, with a sharp grin. “But what can you do with assurance? Where would you be with pity in one hand, and shame in the other, with a fellow that has none?”

“With the great—and Mr. Robinson,”note said Matilda, steadily.

“With the Chaplains, Mrs. Shaxton, and the unleavened dough they leave for our baking. I'm an advocate, I fear, for less mauling and more discipline. The law or some local rule invariably stops you just as you have your hand upon some old offender. Egad, I'm anything but a convert of Paul Shaxton's! I cannot endure this silent-cell miasma.”

Matilda turned towards Heans, dropping her work, her eyes at first on the window. “You must forgive us,” she said, feelingly. “We have got into a too common Hobarton groove. With the best of intentions we cannot prevent our conversation from tottering back towards the improvement of the prisons. So many here are connected with, or interested in, them.” (Heans felt suddenly easier.) “My husband has just invented a scheme for dealing with the desperado: silent confinement. To me it is hideous beyond words.” (He found her steadily staring at him, her face glowing with excitement.) “He has made plans for a prison in which a man may live for weeks with open air exercise, and yet see no human face, and hear no sound, but that of a slippered warder and clergyman for a few moments in the week.” (Her voice quivered. She seemed entirely unaware, or to have forgotten in her intense interest in the subject, the barrier she was erecting between her husband and herself in Sir William's mind.) “Mr. Daunt,” she added, “if you do not agree with Captain Shaxton, why do you not prevent him?”

“It's of no use,” said Daunt, with his sharp laugh; “they are all wild about it. Government wants to experiment at Port Arthurnote. The Commandants want to try it on the confirmed absconder. The doctors are ardent upon it for the malingerer and the sham. Every warder's grabbing at it as a new handle for discipline—I declare it is marvellous


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clever the way Captain Shaxton gets the light and air into so many massive walls. I really believe Hobart Town has, at least, one architect to be proud of!”

Daunt's shrugging smile and averted eye seemed to emphasize that she was anything but proud of the others. Sir William Heans flushed a little. He was vain of his architectural re-birth, and with a slight tightening of his eyelids towards Daunt, took a masterly triumph.

“Surely it was Captain Shaxton's plan which I was asked to elevate this morning,” he said, with an elegant quietude, “though possibly, being a prisoner, I was given only one half of the prison.” (He lightly brushed his grey plaid trousers with his left hand which clasped, and on which remained, a mourning glove of lavender.) “The passages, all radiating apparently from a central hall, struck me as especially economical. One man might stand in the centre of the building and see any one of the iron signals move at those icy doors.” He sat forward in his chair and slowly removed his eyeglass from his eye. A maid-servant had set some tea beside Matilda, and she was pouring it into the large green cups with a dazed grey face. As he lounged there, he glanced at her with a covert look of regret, seeing doubtless that he had troubled her by his plunge into tragedy, and wishing that he might unsay it for so kind a woman.

“Oh, you got that,” said Daunt, deliberately. “I hope you are giving them sufficient light.”

“Seven inches by three,” said Sir William, with a steady glare at him, “crossed by two iron bars.”

“Glass, I suppose?”

“Ribbed, opaque glass, half-an-inch thick.”

“Egad!” ejaculated Daunt, with a shake; “glad I'm not responsible for it! Thank you,” he said, as he took a cup of tea from Mrs. Shaxton, adding very gently, “Why, your hand's shaking, Mrs. Shaxton! This beastly subject's worrying you.”

There was an uproar in the hall at that moment, and the drawing-room door opened with a clatter and a swish. A man with bushy little whiskers, a depressed moustache, and a jocular little voice, whirled into the room. He bundled heartily to the window and lugged the blind half-down, saying “Too much light for this climate.” Then, with a laugh, he turned and approached the others. “Ah, Daunt,” he bowed, “how are you?” Then to the other, “Sir William Heans, isn't it? I heard you were here. I've seen you in the street. We heard from your aunt. I'm glad to have the honour of making your acquaintance.”

“Thank you—thank you,” said Sir William, in his grey, grand way. The other, who never seemed to see anyone out of his curious little eyes, rolled nautically to a chair in his military uniform, dragged it nearer to the tea-table, and squatted on it.

“Everlasting smash,” he said, seizing his tea-cup, “down at the cantonments. Billy Bannister” (he swallowed his tea and gave a


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great bushy laugh) “brought a woman to a rout in the—oh, this'll be too strong for you, Matty! You fellows—presently! Bannister” (still laughing)—“the new cadet—has arrived with the idea that there's no Mrs. Grundy in this small starched town. You know the way they talk about the place at home. When old Neames gently remonstrated, young Sawyer replies: ‘It wasn't a woman, sir, it was a female prisoner.’” He chuckled so much that a crumb stuck in his throat, and Daunt had to smack him on the back. Meanwhile he was holding out his cup for more, and Heans, who handed it to his wife, saw in the instant that his eye touched her face that she was flushed and cowed.

Daunt had resumed his seat and cup of tea. “Sir William Heans has been telling us, Shaxton,” he said, “how he's been told to put your plans in order. He thinks them wonderfully clever.”

Shaxton looked a little green. “You thought it good, Heans, did you?” (He nodded over his cup after a sharpish glance.) “Keep the expense in as much as possible. They're growling over all those cut edges. He!” (he began to chuckle again), “you'll have a booby old time with the round roof!”

“That was in the right rear court-yard,” said Sir William calmly. “I have a scheme for that. I'm bothered if I know what to do for the middle lighting. What was the suggestion?”

“I'd put the old ship's skylight on it,” said the other, all agog with his subject. “Why—the old three-decker skylight Governor Philip brought with him; had a flat roof where the skipper put his spy-glass—unless, indeed, we need a lantern.”

He began to explain volubly his scheme to Heans.

Daunt drew his chair nearer to Matilda and began to talk to her in a rapid and courteous undertone. He seemed to have a great deal to say. Heans seemed ill-at-ease under the discussion of the prison, and looked once or twice towards his hostess as though, though interested, he could not forget her distaste for it. Shaxton seemed conscious of his stiffening manner, and was trying to pierce it with good-natured jesting. Perhaps Daunt's cold movement towards his wife had brought, for the first time, to his comprehension the peculiarity of the situation for the prisoner. His manner grew warmer.

“Why, Matilda,” he cried, laughing, “hang it, you've been pitching into Sir William Heans about my prison! He's frightened to say a thing. I can't get a word out of him.”

She gave a little, blind look at Heans.

“You know how agitating it is to me,” she said, in a low voice. She seemed to stoop, and her hand fingered among the tea-cups. “Could you not take Sir William Heans to the study?”

“Why yes, come,” Daunt cried, springing up with chivalric impatience. “The ladies don't want the thing in their very drawing-rooms!”

“Indeed, I must be taking my departure,” said Heans. He


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gave a grey look under the blind where the fire of the day was dying stubbornly among the leaves. The three others knew instantly from his tone what was in his mind.

“Nonsense!” cried Hyde-Shaxton. “Daunt will manage that for us. What's it? Must be past the Boundary before five, Mr. Daunt?”

Daunt left a black silence for a full minute. “No, I'll see him past Boundary,” he said, with a look of steady, careful courtesy towards Heans.

“Come, Daunt,” cried Shaxton, “you'll get him a pass to break his rides at Pitt's Villa?”

Daunt gave a sharp, good-natured laugh, saying: “We'll see—we'll see.” Then he added, “Now, Captain Shaxton, what is this that you wish to do with Sir William Heans?”

The Captain was chuckling. Heans' grave dignity was perfect. “Ah,” cries the former, “Daunt's one of these dangerous men! I'll have to have you for my turnkey, Daunt—ha! ha! Why, Matty—have you told Sir William about our chapel? I protest, if ever my plans are used, we'll get a dispensation and put you in the wooden pulpit!”

“Does Mrs. Shaxton, then, think even the malingerer a subject for sentiment?” asked Sir William, with a lame lightness. “I declare I'd throw up the work if——”

“Oh, please, no,” cried Mrs. Shaxton, with a flashing look at Daunt. “Don't do that, Sir William Heans.” She gave him her staring glance in which was something of a proud beseechment.

“Ah,” said Daunt, “we won't require that of you!”

“Ho-ho! it's the ‘poor’ malingerer, the ‘poor’ absconder, to Matty!” chuckled Shaxton, not without signs of pride in his remarkable possession. “She's so soft-hearted, everything's sentiment to Matilda. Don't let her proselytise on you, Heans. She's a dangerous woman. She'll have you buildin' St. Marys and St. Judes all over Tasmania—ho-ho! It was Matty prevailed upon me to put in the chapel. I had to go and invent stalls for it so that the poor fellows couldn't see anyone but the parson. Did they give that to you?”

“Half of it—wasn't it?” said Daunt.

“I have the chapel,” said Sir William. “It will be rather an unpleasing place.”

“Well, that's an outcome of Mrs. Shaxton's sentiment,” cried Shaxton. “There was another one when she had old Thomas Thou to experiment on the grog—I mean the garden. You can't shake her faith. It's all sentiment to Matilda—sentiment and self-discipline. She won't have you disciplining anyone else.”

He gave a great bushy laugh, and whisked out of the room, beckoning the men after him. They went out. His chuckling voice was heard subsiding down the hall. “That reminds me,


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I've got a laugh for you fellows over old Clisby, the corn contractor. It seems that old Miss Milly Shadwell, the old maid” (even this appeared to be a fact of some amusement), “wouldn't marry him because she said he looked too goody-goody. Ho-ho ho!”




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Chapter II High and Dry

HEANS and Shaxton became rather thick on architecture during this and the next month. The “Silent Prison” was still a castle-in-the-air, however; though two sites—one near the Cascades Women's Prison and another on the opposite side of the Derwent at Kangaroo Point—had been discussed and gone over. Suddenly the whole matter had been shelved—and art and Sir William with it into obscurity—for one more important in the eyes of the officers, the gallant explorer Governor, Hobarton society, and even of Hyde-Shaxton himself: the arrival of the bombships Erebus and Terror in the Derwent, under the intrepid captains James Ross and Crozier, to refit for a hair-raising thrust into the ice of the pole. The Captain and his wife had been summoned by Sir John Franklin to an explorers' dinner at Government House, and all the winter months the former was on and off the Erebus, or chuckling among the prisons and waterfalls with her officers.

The Captain would come home and chuckle over the day with his wife—and Daunt and Sir William Heans, who were sometimes with her—over Sir John Franklin's “family prayers” before the quail-shoot, or “old-lady” sermons to the prisoners. “How those men listen to him without exploding,” he would say, “I don't know! I give you my word, I can't! Yesterday he was up with the women in the Cascades. There they were ranged up in one of the yards in their aprons and white bonnets, lounging and smirking and bobbing at the sailor-boys as gay as paroquets. Says he, taking off his hat to them and stepping forward in his uniform, with his funny old black tragedy eyes blazing with good intentions, ‘Now, women,’ says he, ‘any little goodness or kindness will do for your Governor. Just take that to heart. God Almighty's looking down on you in His mercy. He sees your troubles. Take a reef in, there's good girls; and see and shape a kinder course.’ All the while there was young Willie Bannister nudging my arm, and asking who the woman was in the black shawl, with the brown hair: ‘A stunning girl, Shaxton,’ says he. Entre nous, Daunt,” cries the Captain, turning on that officer, who, with Sir William Heans, was calling that afternoon on Mrs. Shaxton, “who is the convict in black?


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Everybody's asking about her. If she's a common prisoner, why don't they clothe her like the others?”

“That would be the woman known as ‘Madame Ruth’,” pondered Daunt; “a long, thin, lofty face, had she?”

“You couldn't see her eyes,” said Shaxton; “she held them down, much to Bannister's annoyance. She stood with another woman at the back near a wall, a bit apart from the line, with a black shawl on her hair. A regular Juno! I heard old Franklin ask Leete, the Governor, about her. Leete starts nodding in his short, angry way … such stunning, beautiful hair! My heaven, what hair!”

“That was who it was,” said Daunt, as one speaks who is about to thrust aside the subject. “You must ask Leete about her. She's of good birth, or pretends to be. I suppress the details.”

“Go along with you!” laughed Shaxton. “I knew you wouldn't be open … I'd like to hear that woman's story—if only for Franklin's stare of amazement.”

“He is not made for this work,” said Daunt, whose subsequent quarrel with Sir John is history. “Whensoever he is brought into touch with the prisoners—which is as little as convenient—he asks for plain dealing and bother the elaborations of experience. He thinks he can ye-ho-heave-ho at them as if they are unruly sailors. After he's gone, they're off their balance and quite unmanageable.”

“Mr. Daunt,” said Matilda, who looked soft pink and white to-day, and whose eyes blazed almost eerily, “I don't think you understand Sir John Franklin, any more than he does your convicts. He is always trying to put heart into them, when they are all too full of spirit already. And you are always expecting him to understand that these men he condemns you for condemning are untiring and would wear down an angel. Surely it is better to have somebody like this here for a few years. It is giving you a lot of trouble, but it is making us all better. You say yourself they're all—oh so tired of cold, level-headed punishment.” (She shook her serious head with a frown and a shiver.)

“Come, Mrs. Shaxton,” said Daunt, grimly, “what would you do with a prisoner with the energy and temper of a fiend, who won't control either of them—turn Sir John on him with that passionate note of his and a little scripture?”

The three men laughed. Matilda, though daunted, glared on in her blazing way through the French-windows.

“Give him a week's ‘solitary’ and silence,” cried Hyde-Shaxton, “and let him try his energy and temper on our three-foot walls. Eh, Heans—they'll come crawling to me for my snuff-box yet? Some man'll drive 'em mad with his talking and ‘For Heaven's sake, Shaxton,’ they'll say, ‘put it up and give us some peace.’ ”

“Yes?” said Sir William, leaning on his knees, and swinging


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the ribbon of his glass with veiled eyes. (He looked very pale, gentle, and handsome that day.) “And what shall it be called—a motto for your lintel, Captain Shaxton: Dulce Domum—Hotel Dieu—Væ Victis?

He gave a quiet look at Matilda Shaxton, and her eyes dropped.

The Captain put up his hand for peace, and with his head down, racked his brains. “Ut prosim,”note he presently hauled forth, with a somewhat laboured solemnity.

Lex talionis,”note hissed Daunt, in his dark way.

Mrs. Shaxton had risen-with a jerk and taken her Souvenir from the what-not behind her chair.

“I have my motto too,” she said. “Paul knows it well enough.” Before her husband could speak, she read out, as she stood, with her sweet face pale and half-turned from the window: “Homo sum, et nihil humani a me alienum puto.note




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Chapter III The Brave Fellows

FOR the first two months of his acquaintance with the Shaxtons, Heans had seen very little of Matilda. Once and again he had taken tea with her—when the weekly meeting in the study had finished late—but more than once he had himself been responsible for a curtailment of the discussion between himself, Shaxton, and two or three “silent-treatment” enthusiasts, that he might, as he said, “get the alterations worked in that evening.”

He had not much to which to return.

At that time he was allowed a phantom salary from “the Crown,” and rented a “registered lodging,” under the shingles, from an old prisoner-landlady in a two-storied brick tenement in —— Street. Several causes (one of which we shall soon learn) had reduced him to this room. It was a long, low attic, but quite sumptuous in its way.

Dotted about a ripped and faded amber carpet were some little chairs of sun-blistered marquetry, roughly mended with pine, and against the walls, quite a sumptuosity of stowed-away, old-time furniture—heavy, fan-backed arm-chairs, bursten and threadbare, their legs straight and uncompromising; Grecian sofas, black, with faded terra-cotta cushions, such as we see in David's portraits, and since become so universal an object in our Colonial huts and homesteads; also dolphin-armed and even gilt chairs, and others yet with corkscrew legs and remnants of tasselled cushions. There they were along the walls: little but the patched wood left of their travelled pride: the seats of some of them mere webs or nests of cloth, whose ends hung to the floor in curious and amazing festoons. His landlady, Mrs. Quaid, after a week of sordid, sulky exteriors, had solemnly apologised for the torn cushions and rickety legs, but Sir William had politely admired the wood-work.

Against the left-hand wall was a tall, red rosewood bookcase, with bars instead of glass, inhabited by a drunken row of casuals in one shelf:—a tattered novel called Lochandu, a tome entitled Literary Gems, described as “from grave to gay, from lively to severe,” The Wolf of Badenoch, some odd remnants of Gibbon's Decline and Fall, a stray from The Hobart Town Magazine, and six green-marbled volumes of Langhorne's Plutarch, the last named having been purchased in Mrs. Quaid's past from “a


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distressed soldier—a bad un'—who'd never read them”; the others during Sir William's tenure for some dark reason connected with “cultured manners,” and carried up with some kindling wood (like so many cabbages or roses) for the “cheerfuller appearance” of the prison. At the moment, Sir William had omitted to examine the titles, but had passed the “Ancients” through his fingers, remarking how pleasantly their key-patterned backs reminded him of his schooldays.

On the other side of the room, near the chimney, was a row of brown samplers in frames, to the verses of which Sir William gave, through his eyeglass, some pondering contemplation. We may suppose that he gained, like the cynical ladies who worked them in with their cotton, some consolation from that dry passage from Aurelius:—

Thou seest how few the things are the which if a man lays hold of, he is able to live a life which flows in quiet.

Of a tonic sadness from this little poem:—

SIC PASSIM.

The world's a stage; and players know full well
That they must part, when rings the caller's bell.
Yea, they must part and mourn their faithful loves;
The cote is silent; sundered all the doves!

To the right of the samplers, in the dark corner, was a large, dim painting in a gilt frame, with indistinct boats and a muddy blue sky punctured by three holes, such as might have been made by a musket bullet. The landlady, with a sort of mourning air, for something which was peculiar, and couldn't help it, said she had been told by a certain Mr. Six, a prisoner, and “a gentleman with learning,” that it had been painted by “a mad artist,” with a “kind of gambler's name” like “Totem.” There was yet another picture to the left of the chimney, hardly decipherable under a covering of soot and age. An ash-coloured sea spread back to a gleam of cliffs. A little to the right, a jumble of old vessels fought in mist and smoke. Yet further to the right, gummed, as it were, upon the sea, as from a child's transfer-paper, stood line upon line of stiff regiments of soldiers—mitres and cornered hats spreading back to giant pennants and heads of barred steel. It was not very well done. The artist's name had been obliterated; nor was there any title to the old piece; but Sir William, in a homesick moment, had christened it “England—and the English!”

It was Sir William's habit to sit at the fire in a low, walnut-wood chair, having a seat of vari-coloured patterns, while he took his meals off a tiny gilt-legged table, propped for security in the corner of the whitewashed chimney. It was here that he,


  ― 23 ―
subsequently, made his study of the jailed volumes, having, in a jaundiced mood, freed one of the Plutarchs of its bars, and been spurred to further reading by this highly interesting discursion: “Speaking of the power of women, he said, ‘All men naturally govern the women, we govern all men, and our wives govern us.’ But this might be taken from the Apophthegms of Themistocles. For his son directing in most things through his mother, he said, ‘The Athenians govern the Greeks, I govern the Athenians, you, wife, govern me, and your son governs you; let him then use that power with moderation, which, child as he is, sets him above all the Greeks.’ ”

What more he found in these remarkable volumes we have presently to tell.

For writing or drawing out his plans, Heans used the desk of a little travelling escritoire, yellow, brass-handled, and covered with voyage-marks. Near this, for the convenience of writing, he had drawn up a great armless, 'cello-backed chair, having in its back a carved Greek vase, and from which the green brocade had rotted and the gimp hung in shreds.

His landlady, a little, old, pinched woman with long grey ringlets and large, passionate black eyes, gradually changed the expression of tragic hostility, with which she had received him into her house, to one of tragic anxiety. She would watch him go from her door, up the street, with her seamed hand on the post. (She was very fond of opening doors and looking out.) Thence she would ascend to his room, and desultorily dust. Afterwards she would go down to her kitchen and cook for him. To Heans, she was a funny, passionate, asperse, tragic, kindly, uncordial, evasive, cheerful, smiling, grim old womam; and if he had been asked, he would doubtless have said that he had “conceived quite an attachment for her.”

The first floor was rented by a Mr. Boxley, grocer, retired, who paled when he met “the notorious Sir William Heans” in the passage. The front ground room was haunted by a young man named Pelican, with whom, for some reason mysterious to his landlady, Sir William was at pains to perpetuate a precarious bowing acquaintance.

On his arrival at Pitt's Villa, by appointment, one afternoon at the end of January, Heans was told of the Captain's wild departure an hour previous, and taken by a distressed Matilda to the hanging garden, from which she was shown the bomb-ships Erebus and Terror, motionless upon the mountain sea, their pennons flying in honour of Governor Franklin.

They stood listening to the “o-o-m” of distant guns, and talking—Matilda a trace hectically—of the grim men who were to force those blunt-bowed ships, past roaring beaches, into the unhumaned ice. “How inspiring,” she cried, pointing down among the cots and buildings of the slopes, “to all these humdrum people, steadily living and dying, that a man should


  ― 24 ―
attempt this—this outrageous thing in his life!” Sir William, in his beautiful shepherd's-plaid trousers, towering stock, and short nankeen riding-coat — Sir William, sad of face to day for something that he had missed—agreed, and spoke of “the seasoned look of the hulls—brown like a good cheroot and of the flat bow like a scutcheon.” The leading vessel would be the Erebus—James Ross's ship. How would Sir John let them go out without him!

“How fast they fold the sails against the varnished yards!” said Matilda breathlessly. “It is just as if they vanish!”

“Line of battle style,” said Sir William. He struggled up his eyeglass and put it into a grey, excited eye. “Good God, Mrs. Shaxton,” he said, “do you think they'd give a fellow a berth in them?”

He was staring out in his fine way, and if his grey face chimed with his tragic question, he did not move, even when Matilda turned to him her fearful and shy face.

“You have been suffering, Sir William Heans,” she said, breathless, yet eager. “I am afraid you are finding—finding the life difficult.” Sir William did not answer for a moment. He dropped his head and tapped his cane upon the wooden rail.

“These men are voracious against misfortune—against a sentence—in one of my standing,” he said, in a quiet voice. He went on to tell how Head-warder Rowkes or Captain Jones, who have raised themselves, and from whom temper and selfishness have barred the goal of their ambition, oppressed him with a secret and careful resentment. In the strangest way did the most successful, commanding-looking men disclose some private disappointment by a severity or a grim snub which they knew he was powerless to return. “The resentment of the prisoners in the Hulk, when I go to report myself, against my clothes” (he looked upon his gauds with a sighing laugh) “is kinder than the hate of these deluded men.”

Sir William stopped, drew himself up, and tapped his expanding chest with his riding-cane. He had surprised himself in an honest moment, and—like most of us when we let ourselves fall for a moment into the honest—growing tragic and selfish. He simpered a little as he withdrew his eyeglass. “Don't let my cause interfere, Mrs. Shaxton.” he said, “with these inspiring vessels. I am one of your humdrum people now. I must be content to grow excited from the shore. I must try, Mrs. Shaxton” (removing his grey top-hat to her with a hoarse if merry laugh), “to imitate your wonderful feminine enthusiasm for other people's honour.”

“This is national honour,” she said in her strained voice, but when she stopped quickly with her eyes on the ships, her lips twisted with sympathy and bitterness still unspoken. She trembled suddenly and spoke. “I am so sorry, Sir William Heans, to hear of your terrible difficulties, but so very glad and


  ― 25 ―
so proud that you have spoken openly to me about them. I knew—from what my husband has told me—and—and from what I know of the world—that presently wicked men would make you feel your position. But we were hoping that you would find in our house, and in the faces of some of our friends at least, a refuge of private acquaintance. Will you come up oftener, sir? This will always be a friendly garden. If I am down in town, will you not come down to this seat and take tea—but I am here nearly always, and—and—I want you to think—always steadfast for you and for your good.”

Heans had kept his hat in his hand. His handsome face, with its full hair and French moustaches, was flushed, stern, and moved. He had dropped his grey head a little.

“I spoke foolishly, Mrs. Shaxton,” he said, jerking out the words with nervousness and difficulty. “It was the English fog in those old sails creeping about a fellow's heart. I knew John Ross's second officer. He may be there with his ardent face—in one of those ships. I can't comprehend readily that I have no share in all the bravery and heartiness of their coming in—that I'm—pardon—pardon” (he tried to simper again and put his eyeglass heavily up). “How Englishly the flowers grow in your garden, here, Mrs. Shaxton—those hollyhocks with their stakes.”

She looked about and nodded wildly. Her grey cashmere shawl had fallen down her heavy sleeves till it reached her hands. Sir William gazed at her. A libertine onlooker might have asked: “What did this earnestness with so much beauty! What did this flower with a stern and feeling soul!” The soft white of her dress brought out her faint colour and bright gold hair. But that struggling earnestness, with its hint of a strain, that serious concern, peered striving through her star-like face like the head of some angelic soldier.

Above them the sun was dipping behind Old Storm Hill, and below the shadows of late afternoon were creeping over the ships towards the opposite mountains. It was dark down the great channel, and sea-horses were leaping in on a rising wind. Mrs. Shaxton's hair fluttered and she put her hand upon it. One end of her shawl flew out and hit Heans on the mouth, and he caught it in a flurry and gave it to her quietly. They both stood looking at the approaching storm, and the thoughts of each fled slowly to the same thing: the coming winter.

Matilda looked pale and frightened.

“You will find the winter hard, Sir William Heans,” she said, hurriedly. “You must come up often—often—and never forget how anxious we all are about you. It is such a—such a stern place. I am so frightened of your being worn down—as some have been.” (She turned to him, staring earnestly at him.) “You will want to be so careful—especially as you are not very happy. Perhaps some of them are wicked, and will watch for discontent. It is unbelievable, but I have been told how some


  ― 26 ―
have played upon it, when they were jealous of a prisoner; and one false step and they all must harden. I am afraid you are one who will create jealousy. I am afraid of your pride, sir, and that you will bring some annoyance upon yourself. You will need all your tact, and all your good temper, and patience—do, sir, try and be patient. I know—it is the disappointed man you will have to fear—no gentleman will harm you. But some are highly placed and very powerful. Indeed, if they once begin to hate, their good impulses seem to go.”

“Steady for a year, they say,” said Heans, smiling a little through his eyeglass. “Then a fellow has a chance. 'Pon my word, you're goodness itself, Mrs. Shaxton! I'll come up as often as you will allow me.”

“We feel very responsible for you,” said Matilda, “after Miss Gairdener's letter.” And she turned and led the way across the terrace into the drawing-room. “The storm is coming,” she said, looking back out of the window; “will you get down in time?”

“What a good thing the ships are in!” said Heans, with a glance down the black harbour.

“Be very careful, Sir William Heans,” she repeated, as she said good-bye. “I have heard my husband speaking.” She seemed almost frightened to let him go.

He kissed her hand. The rain pattered on the shingle roof.




  ― 27 ―

Chapter IV Sir William is Late

MATILDA had seen a great deal of Sir William Heans during February. Several times among his many calls he found her alone, and then, suddenly, with no word of explanation, their genial tête-à-têtes had ended, and she seemed to become absorbed with Captain Shaxton in the hospitalities to the explorers, and such engagements. Heans, calling now and then, was compelled to take tea alone upon the terrace in the increasing cold.

Whether Sir William was aware of some cause for this is not clear, but his face in these days grew somewhat blue and thin, while a certain dark-eyed, scowling servant-maid—a convict—seemed to think his somewhat bowed attitude anything but calling for sympathy, eyeing his back with a dark hate as she brought him his tea.

Sir William thanked the woman with politeness.

One evening, on a lonely visit in April, Mrs. Shaxton hurried down from the drawing-room, and greeting him palely, said how sorry she had been to miss so many of his visits. She did not look at him intently, and Sir William hardly seemed to see her. She spoke excitedly, as if she were abstracted with her hurry or possibly at the aspect of his figure alone upon the seat. He was very proud, and spoke of the happiness of being made free of her garden, and the beauty of the ride up.

Now it was palpable that he had lost some indefinable something since she had last seen him. His face was thinner and paler, and, worst sign of all, his eyes, rather hollow, had a curious white glare of excitement, strain, or desperation in them. The woman must have noticed that he was in some way beshadowed and different—some way fallen in his pride—for, her face breaking suddenly into an almost foolish panic, she asked him if “all was well—and if his health was good.”

He said “All goes well enough, Mrs. Shaxton,” in a rapid tone, but stood as if he had not told all. She did not seem to know how to express her anxiety. Her hand was on the seat-back, and she moved her fingers to and fro a little, as hardly knowing what she did. She asked suddenly, in an earnest voice: “Oh, I hope some refreshment was brought out instantly; I shall—I shall hope to be at home more.”




  ― 28 ―

“Indeed — I hope I do not inconvenience the woman,” Heans brought to her rescue. “I feel that I am something of a nuisance——”

“My maid tells me you have been later coming—half-past four instead of three—I think. They were taken by surprise. It may have made them seem slow in attending upon you!”

Heans interrupted with a singular thickness of speech.

“I have been later getting here only on the last three occasions,” he said, with a sort of abruptness, and the blood died slowly out of his face until he was deadly white. He suddenly put round his hand and caught the seat-back, sitting into it with a jerk. His grey top-hat hung loosely from his lavender fingers, and he looked about him in a wild way like a man clutching at a point.

“I am sorry,” he said. “I feel a faintness for some reason.”

She remained where she was, but slid her hand a little nearer along the seat-back, her shawl trailing and trembling, her face in its heavy bonnet as white as that near her hand. She said at last, with fright in her voice: “Sir William Heans, what have you been doing?”

He raised his drawn face, and stared grimly into her eyes long that they had time to soften with tears.

“Why, what would I do?” he said, breathlessly.

She was standing there behind him, leaning away a little—he staring up white and sharp—when a man's voice rang metallically from the top of the terrace: “Ah, there she ia!” Both glared up towards it, and then smiled. Grey Heans rose up with a heavy ceremonious air.

Daunt, of the Police, immaculate in his grey coat and Wellingtons, had just emerged from the drawing-room, followed by two officers, one in naval uniform. They made at once for the side-steps leading to the lower terrace, and came bowing down. The sailors were brown-whiskered men in little naval caps, great stocks enwrapping choking collars, voluminous holland bags, tight single-breasted waistcoats and high-waisted ill-fitting frock-coats, very high of collar and very tight of sleeve. Daunt, very yellow in the face, ushered them energetically along. There was a wild look beneath his heartiness.

Matilda went across, met, and welcomed them. She seemed to know them, and bowed a little over some little complimentary jest. When she turned for Sir William, he came forward in his fine way, and was made known by name to the sailors, who were somewhat awed out of their jollity by his reserve and pale, grave air.

Mrs. Shaxton took a seat by a rustic table, and Daunt, with a long peculiar stare and stern nod at Heans (a form of greeting which seemed to surprise the officers), drew a chair near Matilda's, and began a string of rapid sentences. Heans was


  ― 29 ―
left talking with the sailors. This he did, swinging on his legs, and tending gradually to the light and witty. His eyeglass was up, and soon the three of them were grinning. Down in the vast valley the ships were drying sails, but he never once looked towards these or mentioned them.

“We met Captain Shaxton on the wharf,” said Daunt, with a sudden distinctness; “and I asked if we should find you at home. He said you would be leaving the Hall about five. You would be busy dressing, he thought, but Boyd and Cooke were both eager to see the view, and thought they might get you to keep them a dance! You know what sailors are!”

(How often does it happen in life that we have a Daunt fellow-secret-holder with us!)

In a moment Heans was out of it, and the sailors were “ ‘hanging’ the view, madame,” and protesting round his shoulders that they had made the ride solely for the honour of an engagement.

“Sir William Heans has forestalled us,” cried Boyd, with an outcry of pleasant laughter. “How many do you entreat, sir, for the gallantry of the assault?”

Sir William laughed steadily. Before he could speak, even if he had found anything to say, Matilda said rather wildly, “Sir William Heans does not dance.” Then, shaking her ringlets over a sudden laugh, she asked Cooke if he thought the ride worthily recompensed with two.

Both officers, wreathed in smiles, took off their tiny naval caps and made their gallant bows. Daunt, turning a little with them, bemoaned in a sort of rueful monotone that he must take his chance, as there was a late meeting at the Colonial Surgeon's.

“Mrs. Shaxton,” began Sir William Heans, laughingly (and both Matilda and Daunt looked slowly up at him), “has not even told me the name of the ball! Is it for to-night you are in such good fortune?”

“Hallo, sir!” cried Lieutenant Boyd, staring round. “It's His Excellency's birthday, sir! You must be a hermit!”

“Ah,” said Daunt, hissing suddenly in, “Sir William Heans is too much of a student: chained to his books—isn't that it?” But the ladies haven't chosen a convenient night for anybody but you idle sailors. Mrs. Shaxton, you should hear Montague and Leete on the subject. I heard Montague say, shrugging his Norman shoulders, ‘When Neptune's here, what woman considers poor Vulcan!’ ”

“Why Vulcan?” cried Boyd.

“Leete's Governor of the Cascades, and Montague is our eminent Colonial Secretary.”

“Forgers of chains,” said Matilda, “we may not consider you!”

“Fair too,” said Sir William. “Who should lionize poor


  ― 30 ―
storm-beaten Neptune if not the ladies! In a little while it's ‘Come aboard, sir,’ and gone all the beauty and gentleness of home life but a daguerreotype swinging on a hook—and yet,” looking for the first time at the ships, “which of us but is not deeply envious?”

“Oh, we're snug enough when the wind's favourable,” said Boyd, chuckling. “But you should come, sir.” Magruder (with a cock of his eye at Heans)—“old Magruder tells us all the supremest ton of Hobarton are gathering to do it honour.”

All the rest laughed politely, including Sir William.

“Should not even my grey hairs omit me?” said the latter. “I honour you fellows by envying you—rancorous envy, I can assure you!” He ended with a little brief, defensive bow.

“Sir William Heans has fallen in love with your ships,” said Matilda. “I remember his saying on the night you came in, ‘They have the fog of Old England in their sails.’ We were thinking how wonderful you were, and how you broadened life for all us humdrum people. Here we sit on these slopes with our fixed joys and troubles, and in you sail with your stern little ships, and lo, all is sublime and hazardous!”

Sir William did not move, but Daunt raised his eyes upon her slowly. The flushed officers were laughing with her, and beneath their deprecating badinage, Daunt's gaze passed from her to Heans. The latter was now looking towards the ships, but one hand which he had placed upon the seat-back was trembling. The police-officer's mouth seemed as if it were laughing with the rest, but no sound came from it.

“Ah,” he presently threw in, “you lucky gentlemen with your grand adventures! May I mention it—I got a bang from an ankle chain this morning.” (He touched his knee carefully). “The anklet was intended, but through a native sharpness I received the chain.”

“Mutineer or escapee?” asked Cooke.

“The savage seditionary with a brain he fancies quicker than yours! Nothing will do for him but proof. I am nothing if not a ‘frustrator of hopes,’ Mrs. Shaxton. For Heaven's sake find us something sublime in our humdrum bruises!”

“I have praise even for the stern frustrator of hopes,” said Matilda. “But some one has written or said: ‘The sailor into the unknown sea hurts no one with his heroism.’ ”

Heans alone did not turn his head.

“You stopped him?” cried the sailors again.

“Stopped him? Yes, I stopped him,” echoed Daunt, “there are many ways. See,” he said, springing upright in his chair, “I have a little invention of my own here, which, domestic article as it is, I have known stop an assaulting prisoner.”

Leaning forward, he produced a flint-steel: a little thing shaped like a horseshoe, which (he explained) you could conceal in your


  ― 31 ―
hand, or fix on your thumb or forefinger. At once, having closed his left fist, he fixed it as if it had been a ring on his third finger, and held both up that they might see how the “striker,” not blunt, as was usual, had been filed to a razor's edge.

“That is one way,” he said. “Here is another. Permit me to take your hand a moment, Sir William Heans.”

He rose and came forward, and, as Sir William, whose back was half turned to him, lifted his right hand, as much in instinctive amazement as consent, from the seat-back, took it powerfully in both of his and twisted the side of the palm up and over till, as the wrist resisted with a twinge, the hand and arm doubled in against the baronet's back, forcing him to bend a little over the seat in front of him. Sir William, pale with surprise amid the laughter (Matilda was laughing), tried to straighten himself, but met by a stubborn twinge, stooped again. In the instanat Dunt had dropped his hand.

“An old grapple,” said Daunt. “Now, sir,” he said, putting out his hand and turning his back on Heans, so palely smiling, “try it on me.”

Heans made just the breath of a movement towards him, then laughed and shook his head. A trifle haughtily he said something about being “too old for horse-play.” Boyd said, “I will,” and pushed forward, half-laughing, with the intention of seizing Daunt's hand, when the latter suddenly subsided into his chair, saying, “No, I know you sailors.” Boyd drew back from his dark, immaculate face a trifle crestfallen. He saw amazedly that it was stern.

“Ah, an experienced man!” he burst out, lamely. “You shouldn't have let him do it, Sir William Heans. By Heaven, he's a slippery gentleman!”

“Quite an entertainment!” said Sir William lightly, clutching the seat; “I am the misguided victim who lends his watch, with which the fellow does his tricks!” (He lifted his lavender glove and shook it laughingly). “My hand has come back to me not much the worse. Ha-ha, I leave my revenge with you, Lieutenant Boyd! Mrs. Shaxton, I hear the mare whinnying. Forgive me, I must get away. Gentlemen, your most humble, obedient servant.”

He advanced quickly towards Matilda, but she, as she rose to meet him, said, “Oh, I will come up to the house with you, Sir William Heans.” She made her excuses, quick and greyly, and led the way to the steps. Heans simpered his grey chimney-pot at this one and that. The officers waved their preposterous little caps. Daunt, who had risen, bent his brisk back with a kind of tragic courtesy. Slowly up the steps went Matilda and Sir William, saying little, pale and tense.

“Can't we make him change his mind,” said Boyd. “It's such a pity, a jolly fellow like that. I'll hail him again, Daunt. If he's so set on the old ships, he must come on board.”




  ― 32 ―

“You would hardly think it,” said Daunt, bluntly, “but that poor fellow is a prisoner.”

“A prisoner!” They edged nearer to Daunt, tugging their whiskers, very pale and aghast.

“Heavens, man!” cried Boyd. “Why did you do that beastly business with him?”

Daunt was looking after them, ill now and yellow.

“A kindly feeling—well——” (He hesitated in a half-bitter manner). “Don't ask me! This place seems to have a curse of looseness for men in his position.”

The two officers watched the two figures—now smiling a little—pass in through the French-windows; pallor on their whiskered faces.




  ― 33 ―

Chapter V A Rough Night for the “Sailors' Ball”

ON the same evening, Matilda Shaxton, sitting at her toilette, was hailed by her husband from his dressing-room with the remark: “Have you seen Sir William Heans this week?”

Matilda answered: “Sir William was here to-day, Paul.”

“Looking well?”

“Yes—pretty well.”

“Daunt has got a beastly story of his being mixed up in some affray in Tout Street, at a gambling room. He oughtn't to go there.” Matilda smiled in a wild way, and the tears pressed into her eyes. “Was Mr. Daunt stern about it?”

“Daunt says it's a bad downward step. He protested he would come against all sorts of undesirables there: prisoners, low ship's-officers, and drunken soldiers. Some of the prisoners are Government constables, and they listen to what a prisoner says when he's taken too much, and watch whom he associates with. He'll have to be doubly careful if he haunts those places. Daunt says Heans hadn't been inside the door a half an hour when he was told of it. The police don't like his airs. Half of this is Daunt's hocus pocus, but it's a pity to think of its getting about. I told Daunt to close his mouth about it. He's” (chuckling suddenly) “not fond of Sir William Heans.”

“Was he—was he gambling his money?” asked Mrs. Shaxton, putting up her soft hair.

“Yes, and drinking more than was good for him—if all's true. He came out with a convict named Carnt—a swindler of all people—and a shady fellow named Stifft, who's been suspected of connivance in escape, and lost a schooner and twenty lives off the Iron Pot. Went to his rooms. He mustn't take up with those fellows—can't you go for him about it, Matty?”

Mrs. Shaxton's prisoner-maid was arranging her mistress's lace with impassive face. Matilda turned her head aside and a sudden sob shook her. “Is it too tight, madam?” said the woman, pausing and looking up, and seeing her mistress's eyes, she bowed her head and continued.

“Mr. Daunt is so stern now,” Matilda called, with a little quaver of fear. “I don't know what is coming to him. I used to think him brave and just.”




  ― 34 ―

“Gracious G—d, bring these fellows up against a prisoner, and out come their claws! Daunt comes up here with his police-brand in his pocket, and he can't help testing it against Heans. But Daunt's a careful man. He wouldn't say a thing like that if it hadn't some truth in it.”

“Yes,” said Matilda, “but he's very stern, and very clever. He might exaggerate. He has not been kind in his manner to Sir William Heans. You remember he was here when Sir William first called. He intimated to me, when he was shown in, that he was not very desirable. Oh, I was so glad I had Miss Gairdener's letter!”

“Egad—that's what he said, is it! What do you think he said to me on Thursday? Ho-ho!—he said he didn't like his manners towards you—Mrs. Providence! Yes, I laughed. ‘Speaking of a nunnery,’ says I, ‘it must have been virulent if Mrs. Providence passed it!’

“Ah, poor Heans!” said Shaxton, in a lower key; “he's paying heavily for that business. Talk of dignity—people are always asking a fellow to know who he is! Higgs of the Guiding Star was asking me only last week (ho-ho-ho!) if it was the military commandant! There was Heans riding by with his eyeglass. Hanged if I know what to tell them!”

“And—was he drinking—Sir William Heans?”

“I don't think he was taking much—singing a song and that. (Where are my dancing-pumps?) Made'em all laugh the way he sang—so stiff and such a funny little dandy voice. I'd ha' given (bah! there's no buckling this cravat!)—I'd ha' given a quid—he-he—to have seen Heans singing.”

Mrs. Shaxton threw open her jewel-case, and fingered blindly among its contents. Her wild and determined eyes were on themselves in the glass. Her fingers slipped through pearls and garnets, and caught upon an old silver cross. This she drew out, and clasped by its hanger about her neck. It seemed too heavy for that frail pillar, but not yet for those wild eyes.

“Oh, Paul, he is in terrible danger!” she said, as she put on her long ear-rings. “I must see Mr. Daunt and try and win him over. Sir William Heans is very sensitive. His manner is all fineness and bravery. Perhaps—perhaps Mr. Daunt could privately shut those places to him. It is just their terrible temptation!”

“No—no,” answered Hyde-Shaxton. “Be careful how you interfere with a man's liberty. He's little enough of it—poor fellow, and jealous enough of that, I suppose. Think of it, after the way he was lionized in London! I'd put it to him yourself. He's very fond of you, Matilda. Get him up here on Friday (I'll be up at Risdon with a surveying party). Tell him that story about Megson and Relph, who were sent to Macquarie Harbour. Stay a moment, you've never heard that. Wait till I get this cravat buckled. It's bad, but it's Gospel truth. They


  ― 35 ―
were men of his own station, you know. It began, as I told you, by their going to those low places.”

Captain Shaxton here related a story which, for those interested, will be found at the end.note When he had done so, his voice dropped away, and for a while there was silence. Outside there was a pattering sound and a low roaring of the wind.

“Poor Miss Gairdener——” said Matilda, in a trembling tone, and then broke off. Presently her brave voice cried out: “I cannot bear to think of Sir William Heans even touching these places!”

“I can't think of the handsome old ‘Marquis’ on the downward path at all,” chuckled Shaxton, in a subdued way, “though it's getting an oldish tale with him, I suppose. I can't help seeing the joke of it, though, gracious G—d! it can be a black business. What would he do with his eye-glass at Port Arthur—ho, ho! It tickles me to think of it!”

“Don't!”

“Bless you, he's too fastidious! There's no danger!”

“Oh, do not!”

“Egad, it would be like thinking of somebody who was buried in a chimney-pot!”

No answer came from Mrs. Shaxton. There was a sound as of the Captain rising from a chair in his dressing-room.

“Beastly night, Matty! Wasn't that sleet on the windows? Ha,” he cried, “there's the carriage! Hurry up!” Then in the distance, as he opened his door: “Be kind to the poor fellow, Matty; he's got no decent woman but you to go to. You're not very kind to him—are you? Short—or something! He's out here alone. You've been treating him to some of your high moods, haven't you now?”

He seemed to wait in the passage for an answer, but none went to him. In her room Matilda whispered, “God forbid!” as, with pale throat up, she wound a shawl about her cheeks and side-curls.




  ― 36 ―

Chapter VI Fidus Achates

ONE evening in the month before these happenings, Heans, returning frozen in mind and heart from a lonely vigil upon the terrace at Pitt's Villa, had unlocked his little cabin chest of drawers, and taken from a pigeon-hole at the back of the desk £20 in gold and notes. Hitherto, in his precarious respectability, he had solaced his evenings with a little wine, a tobacco-pipe, and those more congenial inhabitants of the “jail”: the green-marbled volumes of Langhorne's Plutarch. Of the latter, the shrewd worldly sense, truth, and determination to be interesting amazed him, and with a little more ease in his day-lit life, he might have passed his evenings in this quiet way. Now his pipe and his wine, together with a volume of Plutarch open at the life of Themistocles, lay set for him on the gilt-legged table beside the bare chimney. A silver pocket-comb lay across the page below the following remarkable passage: “For when elected Admiral by the Athenians, he would not despatch any business, whether public or private, singly, but put off affairs to the day he was to embark, that having a great deal to do, he might appear with the greater dignity and importance.”

In connection with these books, Sir William had discovered a curious old Colonial manuscript, which had given him considerable food for thought, and for some time highly, and almost entirely, engrossed his mind. In turning over, one evening, the second book of the set, he came upon an MS. letter, written across the white paper which covered the inside of the back. The caligraphy was strange and not readily decipherable—part of it, if not all, written in agitation—the ink, or whatever the pigment, faded to faint sepia. But if the ink was old, the passion and agonised bereavement in which the lines were steeped were as fresh as when written. Their sublime force, seemingly, would last as long as the writing could be read.

It was written in a species of loose print, closely resembling the letters we see cut on tombstones, known as Old English; and done rather from habit, one would say, than with idea of elaboration. In that style, therefore, we reproduce it, though giving a somewhat colder and far less intimate impression than the grim and untrammelled original. Here follows, then, the letter which


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Sir William found of such engrossing interest, and the romantic “directions” written above it:—

           
Gully-hole.  Nov. 23rd. Walk here 11 on 1st. Famine Assembly 5 after 10. Hope you not hungry. 
Gully-hole.  Dec. 7th. Wander by here 11th. 25 after 2. 
Gully-hole.  Dec. 16th. Wander here 23rd. Foot-boy J.S. sharpening eyes on me. Don't give him more of your coins. 
Gully-hole.  Dec. 30th. You sadden me. Don't forsake me. Did you give Spars money? Muster Roll Jan. 5th, 4. 
Gully-hole.  Jan. 20th. If no answer, don't hang about the hole. For answer I will hammer three times thrice. Alarum Assembly 5 after 4. 27th. 
In the Cave.  Jan. 29th. 

My angel Moicrime,

I hear you are to be punished, and sent away to camp-life with the black, Ondia. This you have never known, you so dainty reared, so much petted by the grand folk. Oh, my darling, I can't consider of it! I am so terrible sad. The agony this causes me, I cannot tell you! I am in Hell. My heart is swelling with fury. You, my darling Moicrime, degraded to camp-life, what will happen to you, what shall I do! I am to be whipped and confined for the while—perhaps for ever—out of the garden. They have shut me in the cave. Damnation seize them—if they put me to my chisel again, I will do something awful! His Honour shall know of me. I will carve something awful out of these men-stones.

Oh Moicrime, my poor, my dear Moicrime, I shall win after you or die! Peter Naut will pass this to Joe, for Joe to put in the Gully-hole, in case you wander by once more.

Your despairing

WALTER SURRIDGE.

P.S.—When Spars reads this, if he do not put it in your hands by my oath, he'll know of me.

W. SURRIDGE.

Here was an interesting relic, the date and mystery of which much occupied Sir William. A grim romance, the place, date, and meaning of which were obscure, of the secret attachment of a prisoner artificer for a young native girl, and its attendant tragedy, seemed clear. Sir William, being of an elegant turn, thought of Pyramus and Thisbe: “Wall, that vile Wall, which did these lovers sunder.” “Did he escape?” he would ask-somewhat ruefully puffing his new tobacco-pipe among the web,


  ― 38 ―
hung chairs: “did he escape, or did he weep away his wild and angry heart in his cavern?” And she, was her love equal to his (Indeed, God forfend!), or did she soon forget the white man's petting, and find a charm in the way of her blood and people? Such passion interested Sir William—interested and indeed, if it did more than entertain, perhaps enlightened him. Poor love's young dream! Those were grimmer days! Well, well—how long may a man live in the romance of another?

At about eight o'clock Sir William drank two glasses of wine, and descended the rickety stairs as decorously as the height of the ceiling, his dignity, and the darkness would permit. His grey top-hat bumps against a beam, falls, and must be groped for. With a knocking upon the street door, the tragic landlady comes up from the nether regions with a key in her hand. She opens the door and looks after her lodger. Her rough hand, which rests on the post, shakes a little. Heans turned down the street a few yards, and then hurried along a series of back lanes towards the sea. The rain was pattering chillily, and he put up his umbrella. Just where the waves began to lash at the bottom of the road, and a chemist's red light was dipping, he turned to his left into a sort of court-yard, and approached the door of an out-house built against the hill. A man was hovering near the door, and he came in front of it with a sweeping quietness as Heans arrived. With his hand on the handle, he opened the door a little so that a bright light fell on Sir William's hat and plaid neck-cloth.

Heans passed a few pence into his hand, asking if these were “Fraser's Rooms.” There was a subdued noise of nasal voices within, and a sudden shrill laugh; a soft grating as of metal spoons, and the sharp ringing of a little bell. The door was opened and shut behind Heans. Within there was a smell of damp broadcloth. He found himself in a vestibule boarded-off to the width of the building, in which some Benjamins and cloaks were hanging upon pegs. Inside, in a long, squarish room, whose walls were shabbily if ingeniously covered with green baize picked out with framings of pink tape, he found many tragically grave flushed men, sitting or standing round a green table, on which was a splash of cards, and roughly drawn in red and yellow chalk, the compartments and four diamonds of Trente-et-quarante. Across from this table two others swam in the smoke, upon the nearest of which a chalk line about the cloth edge told that Faro was in play. The farthest had a plain wooden surface and was haunted by a grim and shabby crew. Here was being whirled, by individuals in turn, a large wooden top, having four corners marked T (totem), A (all), N (none), and P (pay), the stakes being coppers, sleeve-buttons, snuff-boxes, sham seals, sham neck-chains, and even squares of Caporal or Cavendish tobacco. There was a bar beside the first table, where an attendant in brownish knee-breeches and a white


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frock-coat was opening a bottle: the while keeping an eye on the game. At the top of the room were two loo tables, at one of which a silent party of five was seated. A sort of tragic and polite sternness was the more general fashion of this place of entertainment. The dark, shabby-grand room was a House of Hideous Risk, and the men who walked in it had the faces, many of them, and the brave diplomacy of men besieged in a hopeless hold.

Sir William changed some money at the bar, drank a glass of wine, and strolled over to the table. He presently took his seat on the form nearest the “taillier,” shouldering along a young wild man with black whiskers who was sprawling on his elbow.

“Have a care,” the fellow growled, in a flashing mutter.

“I must have room,” said Sir William, seating himself not very gently. The other with a sour snarl gave his back to him, subsiding again a little further down with his elbow on the table. There was an air of character and individuality about the inmates of this gaming-room which a general sameness of napless top-hat and shabby short frock or surtout could not wholly subdue. There seemed a predominance of charming people with quick strong smiles and flashing teeth; so many seemed to touch, but yet fall short of, the status of an accomplished gentleman. The bow and the smile would be a trace too low and too wide; the air a little too sharp. Even the most forlorn and tragic loser seemed yet to possess the faculty of suddenly and brilliantly smiling.

A fine, tall, pale man, dark, with a handsome countenance creased by tragic worry, rose angrily on the other side, crying: “You are surly, Jarvis; give Sir William room.”

The other sat down again without a glance at Heans. It was Henry S——, a well-known gentleman of Bristol, here a writer in one of the public departments, transported for life for forgery, deserted by his wife, and predestined to undergo the second sentence of Port Arthur and die there in the hospital.

Among others punting at the Faro table were several officers in military cloaks and shakoes, very much the worse for liquor. These young men kept jesting among themselves, and staking wildly. The web was evidently yet a joke and a pleasure to them.

The dealer was a plump, dark Jew, very handsome and sleepy-looking. This was “Fraser,” the owner of the place, so drowsy, so ready to be blind when necessary, such a manager of men. His was one of those personalities, cited by a great statesman, in the category of “diplomats, women and crabs,” as always going when coming, always coming when going. When he beamed, things were all over with you; when he frowned, you were not yet his. He was one of the few people in his grim rooms whose meteoric history had not formed the theme (and


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was not still) of some wild crime or scandal. Fraser's history was mysteriously untragic.

Sir William's shepherd-plaid trousers commanded something of a sensation. Eyes shot glances at him, and shot back to play again. There was a groan in some of them; in others a curious birdlike interest; in some yet a black, angry look; in others a sticky and obsequious welcome. The “banker” made a heavy inclination towards him, and then proceeded to deal the cards.

Heans staked alternately on Couleur and Inverse, but lost as persistently. The man beside him, who had been addressed as “Jarvis,” changed his cheek for his chin as the game went on, and watched Sir William's play with a sort of sulky and despairing cynicism. By slow graduations his face, with its respectable little black whiskers and die-away air, changed a little. His expression of snarling dislike dropped gradually to a snarling blasé tolerance. This did not seem designed altogether to put Sir William off his play. Though the man was visibly younger than the new-comer, there was a worldly fatherliness in his cynical demeanour.

“You bore me with your play, sir,” he said at last, in a hissing undertone. “There are the red and black. Why lose with such monotony?” Sir William pushed along to him a half-crown bit. “Put that on the red or black, if you wish it,” he said.

The other, not moving his cheek from his hand, took the coin and tossed it on the black. Heans, meanwhile, continued staking as before. The man named Carnt won another half-crown. Throwing the two coins on the red he won four. Then with the four, eight. With the eight, sixteen. With sixteen (staked with the same appearance of tolerant cynicism) £4. He then pushed back a half-crown to Heans, who staked it, with a nod of thanks, upon the Inverse, and lost it.

At this moment S—— rose and asked Heans by name if he would make one for a game of loo. Heans, with a glare through his eyeglass at S——, bowed and began to gather up what change remained to him. S—— then asked Carnt if he would join them, but Carnt; who was playing with his wins on the table-edge, shook his head, stating that he had a whimsy to start a charitable institution. At this the other stepped backward over the form, and beckoning to a man with a fixed grim stare of enquiring disapproval—probably a natural feature helped by art and practice—and to a little pale fellow with a tremendous air, led the way to one of the tables at the top of the room. The gentlemen so summoned rose and followed with deprecatory coughs of acquiescence. Heans sat at play with these three and another (a silent man who through the evening stared for long periods at every one in turn with strange fixed eyes) till a late hour.

At about eleven there was a scattering of men about Sir


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William's table. The four were playing still, and there was spirit beside them. The new-comer had been loo-ed constantly, but in the last quarter of an hour the tide had turned and Heans was not so far from making good. About this time there was an attempt on the part of a little clique of men behind S—— to hustle Heans with several careful but, of course, impalpable rudenesses. A funny fellow with a strange, unsmiling face had placed a paper eyeglass in his eye, and was cutting a jocose caper in the shadow of a friend. They would ponder with a burlesque heaviness when Sir William pondered, and nearly collapse in their ecstasies of wild anticipation when Sir William elected to play. A lank, black Jew, who was standing at S——'s elbow, made a false signal to Sir William as to the number of that gentleman's trumps by holding up four fingers against his chin and slowly spreading them up his cheek. When the luck was with him they were careful to show their tolerant acquiescence; when against him, their sudden antagonism and unveiled contempt. Heans became conscious, presently, that an old decrepit man was seated in a chair a little way back and outward from his elbow. A glance at him showed high aristocratic if dissipated features and an impressive dignity. He was too far from the table to admit an objection to his presence, and yet near enough to make it difficult for Heans to conceal his cards. As if to himself, Heans heard him murmur: “Rowdyism, eh?” and presently, in an angry whisper: “Too much intoxication here tonight.” On several occasions he spoke a critical word upon the game, but always heavily and impersonally, if with a touch of age's privilege. A small eruption from S——'s backers screwed from him the indignant mutter that “the place was rapidly being made uncongenial for the older men.” Unfortunately for his bona-fides, he pronounced uncongenial as “uncongenni-al;” and this mistake rioted in Heans' ears.

Heans was much embarassed by the presence of this friendly, quiet-speaking, yet, he was certain, evil-intentioned man. Beyond the flurry of an actual protest, he could, however, think of no way of ridding himself of it. Meanwhile the unrelieved antagonism was beginning to tell upon his play; he made several slips, though his cards were good.

Every faculty he possessed was now engaged in his play. His luck holding, he won on the next two deals; and he was conscious of a private chuckle in his ear, and a secret pat from the old man upon his chair-back. On the next round—which was “unlimited” and all players playing—he lost remarkably and of course heavily.

Earlier in the game Sir William's tranquillity had been a little steadied by the approach of Carnt, the gambler to whom he had lent money. He had caught his figure among the others round S——, his arms folded, his rusty top-hat cocked over a morose eye. Now, as he played, he had a strange vision. Once and again, in the course of that disastrous deal, he fancied he had caught a fresh glimpse of Carnt, but with his face yellow with anger, and


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standing close in to the right of the table, his eyes bent with a curious intentness on some spot on a level with Heans' shoulder. Sir William, fierce as was the game, several times shrugged his right shoulder under the influence of this strange impression.

Suddenly, during a fresh deal, when Heans, being elder hand, holding back two trumps in sequence, nine and seven (S——, sitting opposite, having taken the first trick with the eight of trumps), and winning the second, finessing with his seven—at that moment, there was a sharp scream like a sheep's bleat, and his chair was violently pushed forward. Springing round in it, with anger and promptitude, he discovered Carnt with one hand holding the old man's hand against the chair, with its index finger waving over Hean's back, while with the other he threatened to impale it with an open penknife. There was an outcry of anger about the table, but whether for the liver-coloured, chattering old man, or against him, was not clear. Carnt's triumphant, angry, yet amused face, was calm and pale. “You know me, Rudstone,” he hissed. “Keep it still or by Heaven I'll split it! Here S——, here's a trump, look! Egad, a big one! See it wriggle!”

“Who's a cheat in his liquor?” someone called from the Totem-table.

“Begad, Mr. Jarvis is the Christian when he's sober!”

“A—h—twitch away, would you!” said Carnt. “You scandalous blackguard! Take that, then!” There was a horrid scream, and the old man, suddenly released, hobbled out of the room, holding a maimed hand.

S—— had risen, tall and noble, beside his chair.

“I hope,” he said, turning huskily on the rowdies, “that you will understand, gentlemen, how great a service has been done to this room by Mr. Jarvis Carnt. The treachery on our visitor, to-night, was no greater than the detestable insult offered to me.” He graciously bent forward over the table.

“Your hand, Carnt—a very noble service, sir.”

Carnt was glooming at his knife. “You know my practice, S——,” said he. “I never shake hands in this place.”

Sir William, still turned in his chair, was eyeing Carnt with his rather queer eyeglass. Slowly he drew out and proffered him a fine chequered silk handkerchief. “Take my handkerchief,” he said, “and clean your knife.” Carnt took the article; drew the knife through it; pondered over it a moment; and then threw it under the chairs. Sir William laid down his cards, and bowing to S——, the little important man, the disapproving gentleman, and the man with the silent examining eyes who was at the moment examining S—— (all of whom returned his bow not much disturbed), gathered up his change, and rose. Carnt was moving away down the room, and Sir William pushed after him through pale faces and charming teeth. Fraser, standing near the bar, bowed with a sort of deference in his grave smile.




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“Mr. Carnt, it is barely the half hour,” said Heans. “A word and a glass of wine.”

The back of the other's clawhammer seemed inclined to move on without answer, but suddenly turning, disclosed a pair of dark harassed eyes and a slow pale smile. “What's this?” he said. “Wine?”

“What have they got?” said Sir William, drawing his arm through his in his stately way.

“All sorts,” said Carnt, rubbing his blue hands over the counter. “There's an old brandy somewhere. Fraser, here's a specially bad case! This gentleman honours us by treading the inclined plane in our company. Let us fittingly celebrate his first step. What about French Sally! Is she extant?”

That giddy party known as Fraser, with a moment's stern glare at Heans, suddenly bowed and came with a simpering ceremony into the bar, where he procured from a back cupboard a green coloured flask. From this, with care and mystery, he filled two glasses with a liquid the colour of bronze—putting these before the two “gentlemen” as from one who regretfully but finally confers. Carnt was still grey of face from what he had done, and Sir William, with a grave if somewhat voluble tact, discussed with him the intricacies of a certain game of “Patience,” in the moves of which the other made an effort to become engrossed. S—— brought his friends to the bar, and owing to Sir William's increasing volubility, the conversation soon became general. Half an hour later the bar was thronged, and a low ship's-captain named Stifft, with a tiny mouth and a beautiful silvery voice, was singing a French song. Sir William Heans was (with little difficulty) induced to follow this friendly gentleman—a luckless skipper of wrecks and suborner of absconders—with a ballad given in a very small formal pipe. Carnt alone did not seem happy in these amenities. He stood with his arms folded against the bar, white and bored. At Sir William's invitation not only Carnt and Captain Stifft, but a pawnbroker and bric-à-brac man, of the curious name of Six, accompanied him to his room.




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Chapter VII What Happened at the Birthday Ball

AS they descended in the carriage, over the quiver and shriek of the heavy break, with now a splash of sleety rain and once a boom of thunder, a tragic idea came to Matilda, that if she could manage it, she would speak with sympathetic Lady Franklin about Sir William Heans, and see if some organising secretaryship or honorary post could not be obtained for him by which he would be bound among a better set, and the suffrages of “one side” of Hobarton society be gradually opened to him. She put it to herself as “one side.” There was another side of Hobarton society over which she was aware the Governor's wife had less power, and with whom a prisoner had less chance: that of the old families, led by Mr. Montague, the Colonial Secretary, whose famous quarrel with Sir John Franklin was already simmering above the surface.note Matilda, though she disliked her pretty ladyship's stern and masculine attitude, her ill advised and too forcible championing of her husband, yet believed her at bottom a kind-hearted, sensible personage, and like many another distracted woman, determined to penetrate the attitude and besiege the good for her purpose.

At the wharf they descended, into the Erebus, the high pent-house awnings of the Arctic ship glowing and tugging in the lowering night. The moon shone for an instant on Kangaroo Point. It was all half-wild. Flying, gauzy clouds sped across the light blue satin of the sky. The sea was green-black, flecked with foam about the shores, and crying free. There were a few—a few silver stars.

The quarter-deck was hung with bunting, giving a fine floor broken only by the companion-way; while astern, a beflagged opening gave to two small rest-rooms, where among the decorations stood the embowered wheel. The grim, clean smell of hemp and tar exuded from the walls, upon which were sewn


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great laurel wreaths of silver paper, with the motto: Animo et Fide (misread by the jealous landsmen for “Ann and Fido”), while across from screen to screen great ropes of monthly roses, hung by the young ladies of Hobarton, met a fine wreath hanging from the centre.

Perhaps no decoration could have been discovered so moving to the hearts of the men and women gathered there as this mingling of bunting and roses—the scent of flowers and stern hemp and tar. Franklin himself must have thought of it when, years after, he walked the deck caught in the ice of William's Land. Everywhere were immaculate white breeches and waistcoats; the plain beside the epauletted coat. The whiskered sailors jested merrily in their high cravats. Little ladies looked up out of chignons and swinging curls. The ship suddenly shook with thunder, under which the wave of cheerful voices clattered shrill and unmoved. A band began bumping in a corner.

In the ballroom things happened very differently from what she expected. Her ladyship was unwell, and Miss Sophia Crackcroft, who had taken her place beside Captain Ross, was, at their entrance, somewhat flurried by the congratulations of another party. Swarthy, round-faced Sir John Franklin himself, with Mr. Bedford, the Colonial Chaplain, and old Mr. Duterreau, the artist of the natives, came forward to receive them. On the very edge of distraction as she was, Sir John took her wild and pretty face for a picture of enthusiasm, and gallantly jested with her as “the presumptive belle of this occasion.” “You make me,” he said, “regret my young days, madam.” She curtsied and laughed, and from her mourning heart returned some witty answer, which, echoing among the men, and in her husband's chuckles, made a little triumph for her, at the feet of which his gallant Excellency begged a dance, and put that still unsilenced name upon her programme for a quadrille.

Sir John strode up the deck with round, bare, cheery face. Behind him, among a little group of uniforms, went a thin, active man, clad in black, and leaning on a Neapolitan cane. His brow was dark, and now and then he gave a low, most courteous bow. It was Mr. Montague, the Colonial Secretary.

Matilda Shaxton, as she danced with this or that sailor, or discoursed on the wildness of the night with some old police-magistrate or bronzed young settler, watched the Governor's face as he slowly talked his way through the room, and suddenly, in the midst of a discharge of sleet which nearly drowned the music, made up her mind to lay Sir William's case before the tragic kindness of it. Her ears were used to ridicule among her associates on the “softness” of Sir John's prison legislation, and although her instinct warned her that this was the exaggeration of harsh, experienced men, and that he was a ruler with plenty of sternness where his just-heartedness or anger called for it, yet she was certain if she could chance upon


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a subject that would help her in bringing up a prisoner's name, she would be met with kindness. As she looked or laughed into this or that stern or beseeching face—for wild-eyed Matilda had a belle's triumph to-night—she quivered inwardly at each thunder-clap and gust of wind, and saw the prison-cutter plunge out upon it with the fallen, gale-deafened Megson and Relph—out upon a yellow sea towards the bare, wind-blown ditch of Macquarie Harbour. How could these kind-eyed sailors, these fine old magistrates, witty Mr. Montague, satirical Mr. Daunt, gallant Colonel Snodgrass, honest Sir John himself—these feeling gentlemen—jig and jest, while a fellow, a man more gently reared than themselves, tottered and struggled, so bravely and so much alone, upon the brink of terror and ruin? She would tell that man there if she could, the one with the round ugly face and tragic eyes (eyes which seemed yet to harbour the glory and smoke of Trafalgar and Copenhagen)—she would tell him what temptations and dangers were at the proud feet of this gentleman, and how no hand troubled to stay them. In her bosom she had a letter of Miss Gairdener's. The old woman wrote how her nephew, Sir William Heans, had been loved and honoured by his tenants. The letter was full of loving admiration, chattering hope, and brave proud humour, and though it never so much as hinted at his fast life or his disgrace, was palpably the wail of his own people for a loved and trusted figure brought low by a sin which for some reason—some woman's reason—they found not unforgivable. This letter, with its garrulous, well-bred recommending of a favourite and petted nephew, its purposeful ignoring or innocent misunderstanding of his hideous disgrace or danger, so increased by its innocence the horror of possible catastrophe as to constitute an argument for his succour—and such protection as a woman might need who stood forward with his name on her lips.

Matilda, so determined and loving-hearted, was perhaps too confident in her woman's armour of precocious experience. Her friend, the Superintendent, Mr. Daunt, in speaking of women, has said of her wittily that “she hardly resorted to the evasive with the accustomed roguishness.” She seemed, in a word, to have an unnatural distaste for “practising,” even where the interests of those she loved were concerned. This is, I suspect, as much as should be expected of any good woman, just as we may well expect something more, in like difficulty, than the lying, stab-in-the-back methods, the treacherous use of youth's belief in her saintship, of the ordinary wicked one. Surely life holds few contrasting facts so confusing as its vulgar-minded woman—than which no man can be so little or so base—and its angel, rich or poor.

Daunt arrived very late, but Matilda, though her programme was full, gave him a little walk between two dances. He was very kind and amusing, until quite suddenly he began to talk


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about Sir William Heans: “We are somewhat bothered about Heans,” he said, with his eyes on his excellent white breeches as he walked. “I am afraid you will not thank me for dragging in a business matter to-night, but may I ask you a question—about him?”

Matilda, who supposed, in a breath of fear, he referred to the affray her husband had mentioned, said: “Oh, certainly. But my husband heard all he has told me from you. What do you want?”

“Nothing more than I can almost prove, Mrs. Shaxton, I am glad to say. I think he was up at your house, was he not, on the 27th?”

“Yes—on the 27th,” she said, with a sort of shivering gladness. “I am sorry I wasn't in. But what is the reason for proving that?”

“I have no reason yet. It is just the curse of my work that I have to go round poking in my nose where I have no business. It was a wet afternoon, and he arrived at your house—say—at three o'clock.”

Matilda caught him looking at her with a pale, sharp deference. “No, it was later than that—half-past four. He has usually been early.” She caught her breath and pondered a moment. Then rapidly, with precision, “I wonder whether I am right. He has been up so often. It was possibly half-past three—on that day. Indeed, I could discover the time from the servants. What is it about, Mr. Daunt?”

“It is nothing. Since this business at Fraser's we have been deluged with information about your friend. It is always the way when a prisoner takes a foolish step of the kind, and we must sift it all. You would be surprised at the vicious rubbish which has reached us. If you could give Sir William a hint to be careful who he mixes with—above all to be constant in his punctuality.”

“Yes, I can tell him that.”

“These men are so devilish clever at inventing the likely.” There was a look almost of pity in his dark and deferent gaze.

“We may not know then,” she said, “this new rumour against Sir William Heans?”

“I would not assoil your hearing with it,” he said, in an indifferent tone. “Don't think any more about it, madam. Only for a while it would save us a world of trouble if he is careful to take his pleasure in your direction.” In the midst of music he bowed and went off, friendly, smiling, if a little drawn and stern. Matilda, as she turned to look for her next partner, drew a deep breath. Indeed, she could have cried out, The strange man's rumours and warnings, the double-meanings she knew him to employ, his kind actions, his excellent cleverness, his deferent, polite, sharp eyes, his lawful activity, filled her with distrust. She knew him for an alarmist; a man who,


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if with a sharp guard upon himself, instinctively exaggerated While dismissing much that he said as a sort of fussiness, her excitement for Sir William, facing unknowingly this man's activity (this man's—was it jealousy or stern probity?) was feverishly increased.

At that moment the great Mr. Montague, ambling by with his tremendous coat-collars and high old-fashioned airs, bowed low to her, saying: “What a fey night! Only we Derwenters would think of dragging out our ladies to dance in a storm!”

There was a hoarse growl of thunder.

She bowed towards his dark, experienced, weighing eyes. “We women, sir,” she said, “must think of it as part of the brave decorations.”

“Flags and guns—good! good!” He laughed a quick, dry laugh. “The convicts have it,” he said, “that the devil has a fort of his own up on Old Storm Hill. Listen! There they go! “You'll see the smoke of 'em hanging about his old head in tomorrow's sun.” He laughed and nodded himself away.

Immediately after the next dance, Shaxton called to Matilda that Sir John was “exploring” for her. She at once walked more towards the centre of the room that he might see her, her heart beating painfully. He came towards her, his round, swarthy face rather strained upon the short neck, but very dignified, with those splendid tragic eyes which had seen men languish, and yet had drawn the weak body beneath them from camps of the dead—came to her—she, Matilda Shaxton—and bent to her that small limb of flesh and blood which was to stiffen against years and acres of white sleet, and at last to hold fast among those howling winds—a monument—for good.

The east wind was pulling and harshing at the awnings, the ship was groaning at her ropes, and the thought came to her: “These wonderful men!”

Up the room a rather severe and dignified set of notabilities were preparing for a set of quadrilles. She recognised Mr. Montague, Captain Crozier of the Terror, the Colonial Surgeon, and Mr. Bichino. The fans of several ladies fluttered upon her with some wonder, but whether at Sir John's choice, or some visible sign of the excitement and anguish that was in her heart, she cared little. Sir John called some jests at her in the intervals of the music; but on whole he seemed distrait, with a fierce eye upon his dignity.

As she danced, she learnt something of the little treacheries which assail the great. A glance at Mr. Montague's pale face, strangely attenuated; at his malignant smile; at his eye, which never touched Sir John Franklin's; at his carefully pruned and deliberate dignity; above all at his grim unreadiness, which infinitesimally kept the dance waiting on him, reminded her of the rumours of political trouble, and (as had been whispered by


  ― 49 ―
Mr. Montague himself) “of a local North-West Passage still undiscovered by Sir John.”

The rain stopped with the music, and Matilda, suddenly very pale, was led by Sir John to a flagged-off enclosure about the wheel. There he took his seat beside her upon a couch. Beside themselves, there were two old ladies, with fine, remote faces, talking serenely in a corner. An aide-de-camp came quietly to the door, looked in upon his chief in a troubled manner, and as quietly departed.

Feverishly excited, and with only a short time in which to bring up her plea, Matilda turned to Sir John and expressed for a second time her regret at Lady Franklin's indisposition. She continued that she had hoped to have spoken to Lady Franklin about a prisoner—a sort of relation of her family—about whom the Hon. Miss Gairdener had written from England. She had wished to ask her ladyship if she could help him a little. It was a gentleman of good family who was likely to go under for want of a few friends and a more congenial atmosphere. She and her husband had done what they could, but some one in authority only could save him from his sensitiveness to his position, by perhaps giving him some little literary secretaryship or organising work. She took then the letter from the breast of her gown and put it in the Governor's hands as he sat beside her somewhat amazed.

“It is there, sir, the Hon. Miss Gairdener speaks of this gentleman,” she said, in a low violent voice, approaching tears.

Sir John took the letter and opened it. As he began to read it, he said: “It is not easy to do anything for these men.” Suddenly he let it dangle from his fingers, and looked up and outward. “Do I not know that name?” he said: “Heans? Pray wait a minute.”

He seemed to recollect something and began slowly to fold up the letter. His face seemed to have deepened in tragedy a shade.

Matilda must have seen this. Her head drooped a little. “We have known Sir William Heans since his arrival here,” she said, a faint trace too desperately; “it has been dreadful to see the difficulties a man in his position is faced with. Up to now he has bravely resisted temptation to join the lower clubs—though he is entirely alone.”

Beneath his formality, the Governor's dark face, under its auburn hair, had taken a stunned look. He was very polite and spoke in a low voice. “I don't know what to say, Mrs. Shaxton. This letter in my hand” (his voice quavered) “is not the story I have heard.”

The blood rushed to Matilda's face: “No,” she said, “but that letter shows how the prisoner was respected and loved in his own family. Miss Gairdener asks our help for her nephew. I knew Miss Gairdener. She is a dear old woman. She would not—she would not ask a favour——”




  ― 50 ―

“For anyone unworthy of it?” said Sir John. He raised his hands in a foreign sort of way. “Oh these old mothers, madam!”

Matilda was silent for a long while.

At length Sir John said kindly: “How old now is your experience of this Sir William Heans?”

“He has been often to our house, Sir John Franklin,” she answered, “being engaged with my husband on some prison plans. And we have encouraged him as much as we could to come to us. Lately the plans have been put aside and engagements with the explorers have claimed a great deal of our time. We have seen much less of Sir William Heans. Oh, I think it must sometimes have seemed as if his only friends had forsaken him! And I fear his loneliness has driven him to one of the halls where cards are played. It seems such a little thing—if a man could be kept straight, and such a terrible—terrible thing if he goes wrong—in this place.”

Sir John nodded several times in a sort of tragic confirmation, but his mind was not in it. He got up and took a quick, sedate walk past her: his head bowed. As he came back he glanced up at the pretty, determined face of his partner out of anxious eyes, and though the glance was still veiled with politeness, seemed to see something that quieted them. He re-seated himself, inclining towards her with plain kindness.

“A woman who has the courage to come to me,” he said, “with a word for a man of such a reputation shall have what aid my wife and I can give her. As you must know, a prisoner not only needs courage, but indeed immaculate behaviour, to even touch on the fringes of the proud little society here. There is strong prejudice against the name. You have much troubled me, Mrs. Shaxton, by this tremulous handwriting” (he gave her back the letter), “and by the danger of this man. I promise you I will see a Superintendent of Police, who is, I think, here this evening, and if this Sir William Heans has done nothing worse than some preliminary haunting of gambling rooms, some organising matter may be found for him.”

He rose again, hesitated an instant, and passed over to the door of the ballroom. Pausing there, he beckoned, and the young aide-de-camp appeared. Him he dismissed with an order and returned. On the quarter-deck, the band began suddenly blaring, and the two old ladies, as if fascinated by the old summons, rose and tottered with smiles and trembling yellow ringlets towards it.

“I have sent for the officer,” said Sir John Franklin. “He will tell us in two words all we want to know. Who are those two old angels, Mrs. Shaxton?”

“It is old Mrs. Ordway, of Saltin Island, and Miss Meurice, sir,” said Matilda, who was near to weeping. “Thank you—thank you, sir, for doing so much for our prisoner. But,” she


  ― 51 ―
added, hastily, “if the police-officer is Mr. Daunt, he knows Sir William Heans well and has often met him at our house.”

At that moment Daunt entered from the ballroom with the aide-de-camp, and the Governor rose and went forward a little way to meet him. They were out of earshot, but Matilda was reassured much by the quiet ease of Daunt's face as he talked, and the look of helpful friendliness and familiar acquaintance he several times threw towards her. They stood a short time talking earnestly. Presently Sir John turned and came rather heavily towards her. “It can be done—possibly, Mrs. Shaxton,” he said. “Mr. Daunt says he thinks the news of Sir William Heans is satisfactory, and that he has as clean a bill of health as himself. I am glad of this.” (Yet he did not smile.) “Accept my compliments for a brave woman.” He offered her his arm, and she rose and took it. They passed Daunt as they traversed the little enclosure, and he gave a brisk shadow of a smile and a nice little bow. There was something so pleasant and unexacting in what he surely had kept to himself, and how it had all been done, that a rush of gratitude flooded Matilda's heart and she bowed to him affectionately. She looked back as she passed into the ballroom and thought how thin and pale he looked. Sir John Franklin said very little to her as he took her along, erect and fine, beside the flags. His conversation had become polite and brief. Once he said: “Mr. Daunt tells me he is your husband's oldest friend here. According to Mr. Charles Lamb, the ladies are chary of their husband's friends. Your happy circle seems an exception.” She laughed a little, wondering, yet thanking him once again. His chieftain-like eyes seemed a little tired as he bade her a somewhat grave good-night.




  ― 52 ―

Chapter VIII Love and Death

THE Captain's house was, perhaps, the highest on the left of the town. It can be seen to-day, reared aloft on stone retaining walls, above the golf-links; while the precipitous road leading up to it, now open to gazers in the Reservoir Valley, was then hidden in wild scrub and trees. Still well above the later born houses, the place lies secluded beneath the impregnable woods of the hills, its walls starred with the crimson blossoms of knotty old geraniums.

On an afternoon, not many days after the ball, a tall man in a pea-coat and small, black, flat-crowned slouch, started to ascend the Pitt's Villa Hill, stopping, however, before he reached the retaining wall across the top. Here, in the shadow of the hanging woods, he gave up his climb, and began to stride about among the logs and bushes by the wayside. He seemed pale with the upward tramp from the town. His face was peaked, small, doubting, and gaunt; and curious brown leather half-boots poked from the broken straps of his black frieze trousers. He had a very small mouth like a button, an immense sharp nose, and watery, uncertain eyes. His movements were stiff—his air even stupid—and he looked about him, his hat somewhat back upon his head, as if he had been born uncertain into this world, and was still far from being confident of his foundation. This dull and temporary air was not only a characteristic of his countenance, but seemed to sit even in the hang of his still aspiring neckwear.

The man, after a little, wandered from the right to the left hand of the road, and here stood with his foot on a recumbent tree, looking dully down into the wood. He was there, singularly quiet, for a matter of twenty minutes, when, a noise of galloping rising from behind the trees, he immediately returned into the road and began to descend. He again stopped, however, as Sir William Heans turned into the road on a bay horse and galloped easily up the hill.

His somewhat fevered eyes were on the man from the first, and not till he was close up under the wall did he rein in, trotting up with spurring heels.

“Captain Stifft sir.” he cried. “you will have to scuttle from


  ― 53 ―
here. The police are awake to some faddle on the way. The good lady, above, wrote yesterday. The fellow Daunt is testing the ground about me—poking into my coming and going. Give me my news, sir. Get down by the wood and in by the beach.”

“Why,” said the other, his dull eyes yellowing a little, “some servant-woman up there must have turned on you!”

“One of the young women, you think—more possibly a mere nosing into my business. Basset was at the Boundary and saw me as I came through. Some of them want to take away this pass. They may take a gallop along here.”

“Hang it, have you been dallying with some young woman, Sir William?”

“'Pon my word,” said Heans; “it doesn't always require such strong measures, does it! Come, Captain, I'll spare you two minutes!”

“Well, if they've got a vapour of evidence you've been meeting me,” said Stifft, dully, “they'll never take eyes off us. I'll take my hook through the scrub. Mr. Daunt has never stood me since I dealt with Shelk. I don't know how he found out. We landed him with the sealers on Kangaroo Island. Daunt all but spoke to me.”

Sir William began to shake his reins.

“Wait a minute,” said Stifft. “I've got a piece of good news. Here, I have a provisionary receipt for the Emerald—yes” (he hastily held up a paper to the rider), “that's all right now, if you've got the £400. She's dirty and not much as to bottom planking, but she'll do the v'ige with a red-leading and a bit of a scrape. She goes for the seal-skins again. That's repeating my last venture with the Jargonelle; but Dawson and O'Neil made that reputable. It's a piece grim, my buying her myself.”

Heans took the paper. His voice was high and his hand was trembling.

“And Dawson and O'Neil won't move?” he asked.

“No, they won't do it.”

“What are they propping at?”

“They've been to look at her. They don't favour with the ship. But she's well enough. She'll do Vansittart Island.”

Sir William crushed the document into his waistcoat pocket. “My Heaven, Stifft,” groaned he, stretching out a lavender glove and touching the other's shoulder, “so you've done it, have you! Why, it's too good to believe!” (He drew away sharply, staring behind him.) “These great lanky trees!” he said, “I can't believe I shall ever rid my eyes of them! How shall I get those notes to you?” he finally asked. “Ought I to see you after this?”

“No,” said Stifft. “I can't come again. Better not risk it all.” He looked at Heans' face with a dazed, peculiar, shy look. “Would the lady—Mrs. Shaxton—er—do something for us in that line? Look, sir, I'd be at the turning into Davey Street on


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Tuesday after three, and she could drop them out of the fly as she drove down.”

Heans glared down the hill again with his hand on his croupe. He was white in the face, but calmer.

“Would she do it?” hazarded Stifft, with that dull, peculiar stare.

“Yes, I am sure she would do it,” said Heans.

“Well then, I'll wait under the oil-lamp at the corner. You can describe my features,” he explained, with a facile naiveté, “and she'll hear me call out ‘Stifft’—so—as if I was sneezing. I needn't see you after that for the four weeks. I'll tar her outside, get the red-lead in at once, and pick the boy. When all's ready, I'll go to Fraser's and hang about. Don't speak to me. I'll pass a message to you, somehow. Just give me a nod like a respectable gentleman.”

“Well, Captain,” said Heans, “it will leave me—so to speak—cleaned out. You must do with the £400, and I must give up my Burgundy. 'Pon my soul, I'd sell my bed and take to ‘pink champagne’ for a chance of that schooner!” He flushed slowly over the face and temples. “The good woman,” he said. thinking possibly of his landlady, “she'll do that much!”

“Name of Quaid, isn't it, 25 —— Street?” asked Stifft.

Sir William nodded, looking back and listening.

“Ah, faithful soul!” he sighed, settling his reins. “Thanks, Stifft. I'll get away up—I'll get her—madam—to do that, and,” he put his hand again on the other's shoulder, gazing at him sternly, “help a poor devil out of it.”

Stifft eyed him darkly, with his dazed, disappointed eye. “I don't know whether to warn you for or against the blessed women,” he cried, in a sudden high panic. “In my knowledge, they've saved men, and they've brought men to the roads, for a lark as I see it. Spitfire beldams—beauteous, kindly natures—you can trust this one, ye can nurse that one, ye can pray to the one yonder, ye can take and dub that one in the rivulet and be in your rights. Yes, and this will go over to the enemy of its father, while that'll sit with its mother's son all its life. Oh, mercy upon us, I leave it to you gentlemen, Sir William Heans—to your gentleman's honour and cunning, if that'll tell you!”

The man snatched his hand from Sir William's saddle, and with a cry of warning, sprang away across the road, and down the embankment into the broken logs and wattle of the lower wood. Sir William did not pause to listen, but, to cover Stifft, slashed down his cane and shot his horse to a gallop. In a few terrible jerks he was round in the shelter of the retaining wall.

On this same Wednesday following the Sailors' Ball, Matilda had gone out into the front to gather some white valerian for a child's burial, and was tragically picking among the blowing bushes, when she heard the distant thumping of a horse in the


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wood. In some alarm because of the pace, she listened with the valerian in her hand, while it thundered nearer, till—suddenly bellowing into a gallop below the garden—the horseman appeared flashing up along the sea-wall towards the gate. This was near the house-door, and some twenty yards to her right, and through its slats could be seen the grey-green channel flecked with storm-waves. Next instant the rider dismounted between sea and gate, and Sir William Heans came in, with his face much flushed, hurrying behind him his frightened horse. He swiftly latched the gate without looking about him. He then urged his horse along the walk across the house front. The quiet and trembling Matilda he did not see. Pausing beside a hitching-post in some uncertainty, he eventually came to a decision, and continued along the drive to the stables, through the high wooden gate of which he led the animal. He was out again almost as soon as he had entered, but, still blind to Mrs. Shaxton's tearful figure among the flowers, returned at a swift pace to the front. In a few seconds the lowering maid opened the door and let him in.

He had no sooner gone than Mrs. Shaxton ran to the stable gates, pushed the great prison-bolt to, locked the staple and removed the key. Then, still clinging to the flowers, she fluttered after Heans to the front, where she was met by the servant-maid, who held aside the door.

Not five minutes afterwards, a fresh guest appeared behind the sea gate. It was actually. Daunt of the foot police himself. He entered in a leisurely way, though his brown cob glistened with sweat; and with a glance of some intentness about the garden, took the animal to the hitching-post.' Buckling it securely, he did not approach the door, but strode on as if to stretch his legs, past the stable, the entrance to which he stared at, but did not closely approach. The next instant, he took a running leap at the gate, pulled himself up with splendid and finished agility, and sprang over. A few minutes after, he appeared again on the gate, wiping his hands with his handkerchief, and jumped into the garden. Returning along the drive, he seemed hardly flustered by his exertions, but his alert face was stern as death.

The same maid—a large brown woman with a sinewy step—let him in. She greeted him with a little, hissing, serene smile—a sort of half-angry familiarity—as if she half-expected he would ask her more than the whereabouts of Mrs. Shaxton.

Matilda came into the drawing-room with the valerian, and greeting Sir William, told him of the child for whom she had been picking it. Sir William touched the flowers in her hands with his lavender glove, and, remembering death, was dumb. She looked up at him with her staring eyes.

Presently she went to a table, on which were some vases of cut green, and a buckram shape in the form of an anchor. Here


  ― 56 ―
she sat down and began to cut and plait the leaves. The man—hot and flushed—took a chair, and watched her through his eyeglass.

“You're making new moorings for the little ship?” he said.

“Yes—that's for hope,” said Matilda Shaxton.

The channel wind howled up and shook the windows.

“Ah, there's the wind!” said Sir William; “I'm sorry the little child's dead.”

“She was like my own,” said Matilda, dropping her face a little nearer the flowers. “She would come here in the morning, and I used to tell her what I could of the world—and there—she's not to be troubled!”

“You too—not in love with life!” said Heans. “The dead child has missed nothing—you think?”

“Missed!” said Matilda, reaching slowly among the green. “She might have been beautiful for a little while; used it for good—she was a good little girl—she might have married; yes; might have helped and aided by her patience. Men's and women's patience—it's wonderful. Don't you think” (suddenly staring at him) “it's wonderful!”

“Yes,” said Sir William, dropping eyes and head floorward; “somehow the grave shows us where we sit. There are only one or two things.”

“We sit here in this room,” she said, “a little way behind the child.”

“Soon we're gone,” agreed Sir William, looking hungrily at her lit hair. “And the room's empty of us.”

“Yes—all go,” she said chokingly, breathlessly. “She's gone a little sooner. But she knew affection and kindness. She'd seen the beauty of the world. She'd enjoyed and—and helped. There wasn't much she'd missed. I think, with her, love meant help.”

“Help!” cried Heans. “But the child might have been loved for her beauty!”

“Oh——” (looking away at the grey window), “she might have loved.”

“She might have loved passionately,” whispered Sir William Heans. “Would not her silent chamber be the warmer for that?”

“But there's the wind goes by the window, sir,” she said, wildly, “crying ‘What were they all wearying for; what was it all about? They're gone now—gone—gone, and at peace!’” Suddenly she was weeping as she looked out.

He had risen to his feet. “And here's the silent room,” he said, in a shaken whisper, “and yourself gone, and the flowers, and none to treasure your beauty or your kindness——”

A sudden thumping of hoofs came up the passage and Sir William stiffened. Pale Matilda seemed to hold her breath, and suddenly dragged her eyes from the window, and rose. She


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stopped, however, as she was sidling past him, shrinking away with a grave face. “I will leave the anchor,” she said, in a wraith of a voice, putting it upon the table, “and go from here, Sir William Heans. You speak of my beauty, sir,” (in a voice almost baleful) “as if it were of value. I tell you it is the least part of me: a poor, ephemeral summer's garment. Here stand I among my bones—Matilda Shaxton. Am I not your friend? They will bury my bones, like those of the little body here” (she pointed down at the wreath), “and I will still be that.”

He turned and would have stayed her—he with his heated, pallid face, shame, shrinking, recklessness of imminent danger, and all—but she had slipped to the door with her dark dress and her fair head.

Sir William went to the window, and putting his foot upon a chair, leant upon his elbow looking out. There was a gleam of sun on the lashing channel and the opposite hills. The trees heaved and the house sang. He was there still—but little calmer—when the door opened and Daunt was shown in by the woman: he dapper and smiling, she white-eyed, with significant mouth-corners.

Daunt's eye dwelt for a second on the cut flowers, and flashed about at Heans, who turned at that moment with a proud face, moved and pale.

“You here, Daunt?” he said, clearing his throat.

“Mrs. Shaxton has just gone away. There is to be a funeral.”

“So the maid tells me,” said Daunt, somewhat curtly, in spite of his amiable expression. His eyes, as he spoke, passed curiously from Hean's face to his coat, and from his coat to his trousers. “You rode?” he asked. “I did not see your horse in the garden?”

“I put it in the stable out of the plaguey wind,” said Heans, sitting down and throwing his head up. “What a place it is for wind!”

Daunt also sat down upon a chair by the table.

“Has Mrs. Shaxton been long gone?” he asked, swiftly.

“Just gone,” said Heans. “I must explain. Er—it was a little child—a neighbour's child. Mrs. Shaxton is sad about it.”

“Heavens! it must be little Emily Meurice!” said Daunt, with a dark flush. His amiable manner suddenly left him, and he became sharp and bitter. “You can tell me,” he hissed, “If the Captain is about to-day?”

“I do not know, sir,” said Heans, stiffening.

“What! You don't know!” (He gave his hearty little laugh.) “You haven't quarrelled with him, come now! He'd have been in, if he was at home?”

“I don't think he would have much to gain, sir!' said Sir William, forcing out a jerky laugh. “I tell you what it is”


  ― 58 ―
(with a glaring hauteur, if still laughing), “you do talk damnable rubbish!”

Daunt darted a look at him, “Indeed—indeed!” said he, holding himself calmly. “Indeed, who would quarrel with a man like that! An easy-going, unsuspicious, joking, hospitable gentleman! Heans, you have my sympathy about the neglected prison. I suppose, sir, you hang about here in hopes of your colleague's return?”

“I hang about here!” said Heans. He dropped his glass, and swinging it, said in a hoarse voice: “We must remember where we are!”

“Oh, very well—I merely understood you'd been about here all day. I agree with you, it is a thankless task waiting upon these restless fellows—these witty gentlemen so much in demand!” Daunt had his mouth in his cupped hands, and he was speaking into them as one might into a trumpet.

Sir William suddenly rose to his feet, saying, with a fierce reserve: “Whom have I the honour to discuss with you? Is it our hostess, Captain Shaxton, or myself—a prisoner at a disadvantage with you? This woman has by her kindness—her companionship——”

“This woman!” slashed back the other, with an upward glance. “This is a lady, sir—one whom I have known and revered dearly for these three years—years of honourable friendship and close intercourse.”

Each eyed the other in a fierce silence for a moment.

“Mrs. Shaxton has, I say,” continued Heans, “made my life bearable here——”

“Yes, and for comfort's sake, she may connect her name with yours—yes—yes——?”

“What!”

“I say, connect her name with yours—your name.”

“My name? My——name!”

Sir William stood there daunted for a moment. Suddenly he burst out: “She has made my life more tolerable, I say—a mode of existence, you appear to think, needs the addition of your flippancy and approbation!”

“My flippancy, you singed butterfly!” (Daunt rose with eyes balefully fixed.) “I put it to you, you'd find a flower to trifle with in the Garden of Eden.”

Sir William had been standing there, his hand in his velvet waistcoat, and scorn on his pale face. A great relief suddenly overcharged this, and possibly to hide a change he was aware of, he bowed his head with elaborate courtesy, stepping backward. Daunt whipped a glance behind him. Just inside the door, Mrs. Shaxton was standing, with her hand still on the handle. Her long forehead-curls vibrated about a face of tense anger. She pointed her hand at Sir William Heans.

“You are to blame, sir,” she said, in a strained, broken voice,


  ― 59 ―
“for” (and her voice suddenly broke altogether) “this behaviour in a house where you know that there is mourning. Stand back, sir—and you, Mr. Daunt, if Sir William Heans can so easily forget a friend's grief, you need not have forgotten the many days of friendship this room has seen—its record of goodwill which you have broken. Ah, Sir William Heans, is this a gambling-house that you should dare to speak as you choose in it? It is my home, to which I made you welcome. Mr. Daunt, you are an old friend here——”

“Always your servant, madam,” interrupted Daunt, with his frowning face hung towards her.

“Give it to me, then, with less show of sternness.”

“I serve you, madam, with such means as I am allowed; as an old friend I serve you.”

“A friend too eager—too eager—too bitter after fault, Mr. Daunt—too ready to punish—too doubting——”

“To a lady so fine-hearted—to an old friend?”

“Have I a fine heart, Mr. Daunt? Thank you—thank you! It's a heart helpful or hating, as its friends choose to make it. This has been a terrible day! Emily dead—ah, threats and anger in the house whose blinds are drawn for her! You had better go—my—my comforting friends—what have you for a bitter woman?” She turned back through the door, her hand still on the handle, yet again confronting them, as though she could not let them go with such sour words. Daunt stood among the chairs between her and Heans, and faced her with head slightly lowered, yet stern eyes lifted, as if he would probe her soul. Heans, glass in hand, with a sort of homage, yet with his pale, handsome face tense and unutterably dignified in its withheld anger, seemed patiently to wait until he might go. Yet the hand which held the eyeglass had dulled it, and the fingers quivered over some regret.

“Go now, please, Mr. Daunt,” whispered Matilda, “and please come back again when you can, and we are happier, and help me to forget the anger and dreadful words which have been spoken here.” She held out her hand, and he suddenly sprang forward and bent his head over it. He was going out, and Sir William Heans would have passed her without a word, when she touched him—speaking rather appealingly.

“Sir William Heans, here is the key of the yard gate.” (Daunt did not turn his head.) “We have locked your horse in. He is restive and the latch is loose. We were frightened that he would break his bridle and get into the garden.”

He started, almost snatching the key. “Thank you, thank you,” he said gratingly. “I am sorry he has given you this trouble. The confounded wind—it maddens him.”

It must have suddenly flashed upon him why she had done it, and why she had just been so hostile to him. Bending away, he gave a blind look into her face, repeating, “Thank you.” As


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Daunt passed down the four steps to the lower hall, he looked up and saw the tears falling from the woman's proud eyes as she stood against the door.




  ― 61 ―

Chapter IX A P.P.C. Card

WHAT a poor thing—this woman—at which the ages rail! Pray let us fashion a better and more miraculous gift from God and the spirit; from darkness, gloom, and dust! Empty the world of her airs, and her hair, and her loving, ironic, slightly wearied eye! Take her away, with her music, her wit, her strangeness, her frail body and her pain, her brave little feet walking beside us. Give us—the road without her! What a gimcrack companion for the grim road! Is it Galatea? Is it the draggled figure of Patience, come down from her monument, and defending us with arms meant for loving? Heavens! we scientists could fashion something with a less unexpected voice! What is it? What is it, with its head decked with gew-gaws, its dragging feet, its jewelled voice, its black and silver pearls? Is it a statue from the Pyramids? Is it Peron's Oura Oura from the Tasmanian forests? Take away her tragic face, grown thin with love: what does she mean by this for us! Cross those little arms? Away with the fair young head; it's been weeping! How strange! How unfortunate! Heaven and earth, evolve us something different!

When Sir William rode up on Saturday to Pitt's Villa, he found a little party at tea on the terrace. It was a close, breathless day. An unearthly sun flamed in the garden and woods. But the channel and hills were black-blue.

An old Mrs. Testwood; a minister, with a bitter mouth; and a young woman, with long copper-coloured ringlets, addressed as Henrietta, were sitting with Matilda before the windows. Sir William had fastened his horse at the door, and was shown in by the dour maid, who contrived in the short distance between front and drawing-room doors to convey a singular impression of familiarity and faithlessness. Matilda Shaxton, who looked exceedingly sad and pale, received him with a sort of gladness and took him to a chair between her own and that of old Mrs. Testwood. The latter only ceased her rapid, harmonious chatter when Matilda muttered Sir William's name, when, bowing elaborately if languidly, she resumed it without the faintest increase of emphasis. Old Craye, the clergyman, had ducked out of the mist of talk with a


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sort of daunted gleam. While the pretty girl with the copper-coloured ringlets pulled her shawl about her with a shrivelling timidity, and did not bow at all.

“Now would Miss Lecale be of use to you?” Mrs. Testwood was asking of the old clergyman. “She treads on everybody's toes, but, her tread being unintentional, leaves no bad impression. She is one of the most uncourtly ladies of my acquaintance, but for some reason the Hobarton world permits her tongue a licence for which it would ostracize another's. She is brave also. Nine years ago, when the Blacks were threatening the country between Hobart and Launceston, she brought all the girls home from school, at Ellenborough Hall, going herself in the fly-coach with the cavalry. Henrietta”—turning with a rustle of fringed shawl to the young woman—“you were one of the distressed Rebeccas!”

“Oh, indeed,” said Henrietta, flushing, “I shall never forget the terror of it. Some of the girls had pistols given them. She was just like a man—so brave and collected. The men were very reassuring. The most distressed of them were cracking jokes as they rode beside the carriages.”

The whole party was for a moment lost in reverie.

“I have already seen Miss Bullinger Lecale,” said the clergyman, in a gentle, acid voice. “She has somewhat lost her faith in subscriptions and indeed in the whole scheme. ‘The poor wretched creatures,’ she said, ‘do not want money or its equivalent. They are dying of home-sickness.’ The Bishop, she considers, should petition Government for their removal home.”

“Bishop Nixon has been Fidus Achates to the natives,” chattered on the old woman, “but he is stricken down with marsh fever. He has been a champion of Flinders Island.note But since he has been ill, the Blacks have sunk from people's minds.”

“If he be disheartened, what faith may we place in any one man's care of men?” said the clergyman. “Our health fails and our love sours for an instant. In that instant the devil of sternness or indolence is put in charge and some hideous wrong is done. Charity seems to demand machines of health—not men.”

“We are weak vessels,” smiled the old woman, with her crinkled lavender hands clasping her toy parasol. “Homer nods! Even that devoted ‘Father Clark’ of Flinders tells me how, one day, when not quite himself, he lost his temper with, and chastised, some women. Afterwards, he said, he went along the shore, trying to forget their piteous appeals. ‘They knew that I loved them, ma'am,’ he said.”

Sir William had become somewhat haggard and pale, as he


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sat by Mrs. Shaxton. He pushed his chair a little behind those of the two ladies.

Matilda's eager face was very small, and seemed almost lost in her hair.

“They—the natives,” she said, leaning forward, her neck rather sadly drooping, “have to rely on our mercy.”

“God has put them in our hands,” said Craye, “for some reason.”

“How can we deal with home-sickness?” said the old woman.

“We—we could lighten it,” said Matilda.

“Indeed—it might be lightened,” echoed the rather hoarse voice of Sir William Heans.

“Miss Lecale always said,” the sharp old woman muttered on over all obstructions, “that the ‘wretches would die out of some gentle ailment, just to aggravate us for calling them savages.’ I'm sure, from what I have seen, many of them are gentlefolk. I remember my mother reading to me from the Post, fifty-four years ago, when I was a girl of seventeen, how that they had won the hearts of D'Entrecasteaux and his Reign-of-Terror Frenchmen, by holding aside the bushes for them as they guided them into the Island. Was it not civil in them?”

(Sir William Heans had turned to Mrs. Shaxton, and was murmuring under the talk: “Grief in your voice—as I can't forget it—might have kept me away, madam. A grave reason has brought me up—or it seemed grave, before I sat here with these happy people.”

“Is there anything amiss?” asked Matilda, in a kind of crushed way.

“Amiss—oh no!” said Sir William, almost lightly. “Look—what a fantastic sea—what a sad sea—what a grim sea! I have never seen it look so strange. What would you do, Mrs. Shaxton, if you were situated as I am, and some one came and told you you could get out?”

She seemed to touch the tea-cups blindly. But her face was turned away from him. She seemed to ruminate, but he could not see what she did for her ringlets.)

Sly little Henrietta was saying, she did not think it would do to be lost among them, meaning the natives.

Mrs. Testwood answered, that she had been told by old Mrs. Mountgarret herself, how she had strayed as a girl from the Camp, in 1804, and been directed back from the forests by some natives. “It is these little refinements,” she continued “these humane doings, more than the terror of their stand, which made us women weep in the streets, when Monpeleata and the blacks of Frenchman's Cap walked in behind Mr. Robertson—eight Januarys ago.”

“Ah,” nodded the old clergyman, who sat with his back to the sea, “who will forget it, who saw it? I recollect some noble lines by ‘Hobartia,’ in the Hobart Town Magazine:




  ― 64 ―
They came like straggling leaves together blown,
The last memorial of the foliage past. …”

(“Would you bravely do this?” Heans leant towards Matilda on his plaid knees, and seemed to murmur, as if lost in his subject. “I cannot buy the schooner—The Emerald—Mrs. Shaxton. Captain Stifft must do it. My skipper—Captain Stifft—has narrowly escaped prison for some affairs of this kind, and, with heavy suspicion upon him—and these sharp fellows on me—our chance lies in not meeting. For me to be seen again with him is precarious. Fraser's Club, a mutual rendezvous, is full of convicts—many of them constables; registered rooms are not for secret meetings. Should he buy a ship, after he has again been seen with me—even if they do not see the money pass between us—I may be watched too closely. I fear I shall hardly trot my nag to Spring Bay.”

“Am I to give it—to him?” breathed Matilda.

“Can you?”

“Here—at this house?”

“No—not here,” said Heans, with a slight flush. “Some runner fellow may follow him.”)

They listened a moment to old Mr. Craye, who was reciting in a fine indignant sing-song: “The wounded were brained; the infant cast into the fire; the musket was driven into the quivering flesh; and the social fire, around which the natives gathered to slumber, became, before morning, their funeral pile——” But Miss Henrietta, who had espoused the side of the Colonists with unexpected fire, returned upon him pluckily with the tale of old Ibbens, who, having his wife and little children killed in his absence from home, followed the Eastern tribe, creeping upon them at dusk with his musket, till he had avenged their deaths.

(“There is danger after Mr. Daunt's inquiries?” Matilda said, half heedfully.

“Yes, with a fellow of poor Stifft's fame,” nodded Sir William Heans. “We met that day in the wood below your gate. We have been meeting there on my pass. We heard the sound of Daunt's horse and ran for it. Stifft hid in the wood. But for your letter, Daunt would have discovered the Captain and me in conversation. I am not certain whither Daunt's motives may be leading him. He may trace delay, but anything more, he does not! Latterly, Stifft and myself have had no open communication. We have been subtle as the grave. Yet—permit me—though a lady would not lightly be suspected of dropping a purse from her carriage to help an absconder; if a man like Captain Stifft came within touch of the house servants, there might be some after-clap.” He presently asked her if she would drop the notes from her carriage.




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“From my carriage?” with a slight look of straining. “Do I understand you——?”

“Yes, if you can and will. Time is limited. To be of any service it must be on the afternoon of next Tuesday. I have taken the liberty of writing down directions, and when and where Captain Stifft will wait.”

“On Tuesday?”

“Yes—on Tuesday—after three o'clock.”

“Someone, who saw him pick it up, might arrest him for stealing it.”

“I have explained that. He will run after the carriage with it, if he is seen. He will stand under an oil-lamp half-way up a lane ascending from Macquarie Road. You will face him as you turn into Davey Street.”)

“Ah, give them their due, ladies,” said the indignant old man. “They were treated shamefully. I was reading only yesterday in a back number of the Almanac: ‘Let them have enough of red coats and bullet-fare. For every man they murder, hunt them down and shoot ten of them. That is our specific—try it.’ …”

“Oh, but Mr. Craye,” cried Henrietta; “the little babies they speared! There was the child, brave Dolly Dalrymple, couldn't get through the door into shelter, because of the spear——”

(“Presently, if you will permit me, I will get up and go,” muttered Sir William Heans. “Where I pass through the drawing-room window, there is a small box on a fringed table. It has a picture in coloured woods. Is it not Tunbridge ware? I will put the money in that—if you will allow me?”

“Pray put it there,” she answered, at the same time smiling a little sadly at something Henrietta said. “I must think … I think I will help you.”

He too laughed; a kind of ironical laugh, for his face had grown pallid.

“How quietly, madam, you said those words!” he murmured. “When I'm a dying man, it will be there.”

“The danger—the danger!” she muttered. She had taken up her embroidery again, but her head seemed to tremble as she bent over it.)

“It is a sad fact,” said the inexorable Mr. Craye, “that the Blacks killed many of their own little children, during the war, that they might march the quicker.”

“Ah, Mr. Craye, there was pain on both sides!” said Matilda, possibly with an eye to Henrietta's heightened colour.

“I have always heard,” said old Mrs. Testwood, flowing in on the ebb, “that one of the causes of the estrangement was an incident which happened in the Government Paddock, where many tribes of Blacks, invited in by Governor Sorrell, were manœuvring before the whites. It seems a young native beauty,


  ― 66 ―
who had been much petted, suddenly threw a spear at Captain Hamilton—the aide-de-camp and a man of great dignity—narrowly missing him. When he complained to the Governor, for he was very angry, his Honour—as he was then, you know—sent the whole of the natives away. They retired, brandishing their weapons, furious at the discourtesy which they considered had been done them. … The native tribes never again accepted an invitation from Government, until, eighteen years after, Mr. Robinson brought in the dreaded enemy. …”

(“How the voice haunts,” said Sir William Heans quietly.

“Didn't you know it, sir?” said the bowed woman, sadly.

“No, I did not know it,” be said.

“Whither are you going, Sir William Heans?”

“Oh, we are going—how shall I tell it! Should the schooner be sound—some high-toned Chilian port, Santiago, Valparaiso! If she's leaky, as we fear, Gun-carriage Island, or the Babel Isles in the Sealer's Group, there to catch a seal-ship!”

“Did you know someone had spoken to Sir John Franklin about you——?”

“No, I did not. 'Pon my honour, I'm most thankful to them!”

“Stay—you had best consider of it—the life—here—before taking so terrible a risk. It is likely that her Ladyship or Miss Crackcroft will be requiring your services—in the Aborigines Society—or the new Circulating Library. Indeed, your surroundings would be happier——”

“No—no! I'm too old—too old. I'm grown—forgive me—beaten and close. … If Heaven will not let me choose—then nothing!”

“Ah—but what shall we do … if they——!”

“Don't say it”—looking downward with a harsh flush. “Say, ‘Friend, go in peace!’ ”

“Then—then,” she whispered, seeking the table with her fingers, “my hand must help you—Oh, God, pray Heaven, ‘in peace’!”)

The young lady with the brown ringlets, named Henrietta, warmly shifting her Indian shawl, was saying that when she was at school at Ellenthorpe Hall, a circular reached Mr. and Mrs. Clark recommending all owners of dwelling-houses to create trap-doors in the ceiling, by which the women might escape to the roof.

Sir William had risen, regretting with a somewhat drawn gallantry, and in a voice a little too excited, that he must interrupt so alarming a reminiscence. “Might he be permitted,” he said, “to give his casting vote to that young lady,” indicating Henrietta. He was certain that his friend in holy-orders stood in a false position—on the trap-door. There was a little reluctant clatter of laughter, and old Mrs. Testwood turned and looked at him out of her feathered poke, her glance strained and fetched from


  ― 67 ―
far, but intent, voluminous, and on the whole charitable. The Reverend Mr. Craye, rising ceremoniously, eyed him with a bitter little gleam; while the girl known as Henrietta blushed a little and smiled, but did not look towards him.

Matilda did not move from her place, but, when she had risen, and he had kisssed her hand, she said, quietly and gravely, “Am I to tell my husband the drawing is finished?”

Heans paused an instant, looking down over the terrace and sea as if he would reassure himself. “Pray tell Captain Shaxton,” he smiled, “that my drawing is concluded, even to his motto over the main door.”

The blue of mountain and sea had darkened, and the sun shone in patches on the descending landscape of the nearer slope like a light at night. Heans left Matilda, straining after him, dark-faced, if standing a little bowed, with her hands clasped upon her heart.

Striding towards the windows of the drawing-room, he stumbled upon the flag-stones, dropping his grey hat as he regained his balance. From within the glass, as he stooped, came subdued male voices. A step nearer and there was the red of a uniform, and Hyde-Saxton's broad, round face. His companion was Garion, of the mounted police.

Shaxton's mouth had a little melancholy drag at one corner, unusual to it, but he began laughing as Heans entered. “Ho-ho!” he said, “it's you, Heans! Here, Garion—Sir William Heans. Where's the drawing? Have you finished the drawing, Sir William?”

“Finished it! Yes, I've finished it,” said Heans, a little angrily. He had acknowledged the Lieutenant's somewhat steely obeisance. “When will you see it?”

“Oh, come, you're losing patience with me! You're giving me pepper! Has Matilda got tea there? Yes—I'll come into the office some day next week. Mark that. You must be sick of me. It really is highly civil of you. I'm nothing but a consummate puppy when I get going with those hero fellows. Now—you're a perfect pattern, Heans—aren't you—got all the possible virtues! I suppose you call it frittering away my time! Oh, now—you must have patience—like the woman in the tale—ho-ho!—who asked her husband what she ought to do when the men flattered her: ‘Give them time, my dear,’ he said; ‘it's only a freak of the moment!’”

He laughed, but there was something weak-winged in his bubbling merriment. His chuckle never entirely exorcised the hovering droop. He joked, but half-crossly, and in a subdued way, not quite like himself. There was a tinge of the puzzled pettish in it.

Matilda was heard calling from the terrace, “Wouldn't they join them at some tea?” Sir William, at that instant, said he must go, and bowing ceremoniously to both gentlemen, made


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through the chairs towards the door. Captain Shaxton, loudly laughing, ushered his friend through the French-window on to the terrace.

Sir William turned near the door, and crept back, yellow as death, to the red table. He fumbled some papers into the hand that held his hat, and as he drew back the lid of the pretty box and thrust in the papers, he glanced up. The terrace was gleaming with a wild light, and Matilda was receiving the two men with her sad face lit.




  ― 69 ―

Chapter X A Proud Moment

WHEN Heans reached his attic that night, he found Mrs. Quaid waiting, wild and tragical, among the classic furniture. She handed him a letter which she said had been left two hours previous by what she described as “a garringson gentleman in a cloak.” “Bad news or good,” she said, “I would not let him past the door, especially as he seemed undecided in his purposes. He spoke amiable however. Presently he asked if he might sit a bit ‘in Sir William's room,’ and I showed him into Mr. Boxley's sitting-room, where I left him staring at the ancient Almanacs. At last he summoned me and said he was afraid he could not wait, but left a message that he would be in the Private Secketry's Office at Government House on Monday morning, if Sir William Heans would be pleased to call.”

Heans approached the hooded windows with the letter. Mrs. Quaid removed her doubting old face through the doorway. The gusts were huddling past the dormers, and an old prisoner in grey hobbled across the street below, with his head bowed to meet them. A dull evening was closing in. There was a remote noise of hoofs, and a stout man in a caped overcoat, with a singularly rough, sly face and a small chimney-pot on his head, rode down the street, slopping forward in his saddle, and staring about him at the houses with wide, short-sighted eyes. Sir William, as he opened the letter in his hand, saw this fellow twitch his heavy horse about and come slowly back up the street.

The letter was headed Government House, May 4th, 1840. It said kindly that “Lady Franklin, hearing from Mrs. Hyde-Shaxton that he was a relation of old Miss Gairdener, whom she knew for a famous old blue, wished to know whether Sir William Heans were interested sufficiently in poetry and literature to aid them in the noble task of forming a Circulating Library for the industrial classes. Our humble friends,” she went on, “have so little chance of reading the nobler forms of literature, and so few suitable places in which to gratify the pastime, that several gentlemen and ladies have banded together to erect a reading room, and have already prevailed on mutual friends in the Old Country to provide suitable volumes. Half the funds for the building and sixty books are already at our disposal. Lady


  ― 70 ―
Franklin would be glad to know whether Sir William Heans, if proposed and elected, would accept the position of Secretary to the project and Treasurer of the funds. She wishes to be informed at an early date.”

A somewhat satirical look passed over Heans' pale face, and, as he stood by the attic window, he let the letter flutter from his hand to the floor. He saw the rough fellow stop in the drab street beneath him and dismount, with his capes flapping about his head. Heans snatched away his eyes. Far down through a vista of roofs the grey water slopped about a black pier.

He dropped an eyeglass from a pallid eye.

Then lifting the pale blue letter, with its lavender writing, from the boards, with his first and middle finger, he seated himself at the chest of drawers which did him for an escritoire, and ‘nibbing’ a quill, began to flourish off an epistle with the graceful elaboration of the beautiful hand of the day.

“Sir William Heans with his duty to Lady Franklin, and begs to reply that he will be pleased to offer his services for the position of Secretary if Her Excellency wishes it and those interested elect him. He thanks Lady Franklin for her kindness, and is prepared to further the project with such address and energy as he possesses.” (Gently swinging his eyeglass by its gold chain, Sir William looked away. His fire ducked under a gust and puffed smoke into the room. The fastenings of the blistered windows smacked taut and held. The rafters rattled above his head. His face slowly fell to a deep despair.) “Sir William Heans,” he suddenly flourished on, “will be very pleased to wait upon the Society.”

Again he stopped, and slowly erased a sentence. He rose, and there was a look in his white, tired eyes almost of panic. His fine face seemed to have crumbled. He drew a deep breath and put his eyeglass carefully back in his eye. Perhaps he thought he was growing too servile under the Hobarton weather—too eager in his attic—too hopeless in his great hope. Or was he possibly lying too well for his erection of a gentleman——?

Hurrying steps creaked on the stairs outside his door, and Mrs. Quaid knocked and put her head in. Her eyes were grim and dark. “A bearded gentleman,” she said, “is asking for you, sir. I can't make him out. He says he can offer Sir William Heans a service, if he will see him. But there's something about his face, sir, that I remember seeing. Do you know, sir, I don't think he's——”

“What is this?” said Sir William, with his face but half turned to the stairway.

“Why, sir, I've seen the man in uglier clothes than black—I'm certain about that.”

“Is this—tut—tut—is the man a prison-incorrigible?”

“No, sir. But the airs of the person. He's dressed up like a long-coater, but gives himself too many airs.”




  ― 71 ―

“Is it one of the policemen——?”

“No, sir, I've seen him once in a prison uniform.”

“You've seen him in the prison uniform! Aren't you mistaken?”

“No, sir. It's his short-sight I go by and his legs: a dangerous sort of man.”

“That would be some time back?”

“Fifteen years—perhaps. He must have made money. Oho dear!”

“He doesn't know you?”

“No,” she said, and cracked out wanly: “he doesn't know me no longer!”

“You had better show him up,” said Sir William. “Say ‘Sir William Heans will see you.’” (He returned and took his seat with a certain ceremonious abstraction at the chest of drawers, lifting and reperusing the letter of debate.) “This is highly extraordinary,” he muttered.

Mrs. Quaid disappeared, and presently there was a sound of heavy breathing on the stairs. A small, stout man in oiled jack-boots and Benjamin overcoat, with a thin growth of black-brown beard about a broad chin, hobbled into the room, his legs bowed as with too much riding. He held a whip and a small chimneypot before him on his stomach (it was a large, ornate whip, covered with much silver), and looked about with sly, blindish eyes. Detecting Sir William near the escritoire, he stopped, and said in a shrill voice, “I've found you, have I? S'cat, what a world! Aha” (looking about him as he shook his coat from his arm)—“so this is where Sir William Heans—lives.”

“Thank you,” said Heans, looking up rather testily, “it is. I did not catch the name.”

“Oughtryn—Charles Oughtryn—d—n it, honour, can't I put my hat down?” He went searching about for a chair. He seemed half blind.

Heans came forward, took the curious article, and deposited it with ceremony upon the escritoire. The other unbuttoned his cloak, disclosing a fine, over-long frock-coat, many-buttoned and tight-sleeved. He sat down slowly and somewhat carefully on a dilapidated sofa.

“Gentlefolk—gentlefolk! in such conditions!” he shrilled. “Well—well! I remember when I would have thought this a penny heaven. But see what uprightness has brought me to. I can sneer at you, Sir William Heans.”

“Can you?” said Heans, nodding at his letter. “Well?”

“Well, honour—I know all about you—but you don't know about me. I say that with all the satisfaction of the vengeful devil I am. Ha, what a mess your blood has brought you to—I suppose you say it's your blood!”

Sir William stared at him for a while. “By Heaven,” he said,


  ― 72 ―
laughing a little, “you are a rude creature! Have you brought me some better news from the—Penitentiary?”

“Uh, the old scold told you that! A vulgar passionate person—I remember her in mutch and duffle. I see through her. I've a daughter now—but no wife. Look, honour” (with a shrill heave), “I've seen you at Fraser's, and on your pleasure-horse. I know all about you. You're ginned. You haven't got a chance. I've been waiting till you reached low enough for me to offer you a service.”

Sir William grunted just audibly. He was rather white and frowned a little.

“A singularly modest nature!” he said. “You're quite certain that it is—the moment?”

“If any one wants, he'd better move soon.”

“Even—the man known as Charles Oughtryn—you put it that way?”

“Yes—I want a gentleman for my business.”

“Devil take you, fellow!” burst out the other, breathlessly. “Get up! Take your gross figure from this room.”

The man rose from the box with a shrill cry.

“No, wait a moment,” he cried, stretching out a blind hand, “I'm before my time, perhaps. If you listen to me I'll be respectful. I have a farm at Bagdad, and a fine stone house in Macquarie Street. Money and sneers! I'm here about this child. She's a thin, young child, plain to look at, and it's my whim to see her brought up to ride and that in the company of a gentleman. She won't look at a horse yet, and is clumsy and blind. I want her made to take an interest. Now, need I explain to you, honour, any more what I came here to—to—offer you?”

There was a tense silence for a few moments while Sir William raised his despatch before him and continued to stare upon it. Presently he said with calmness, “No, you need not explain. I do not wish to hear anything further about you or your daughter.”

“Trust you!” said the man. “I know you gentlemen. You must have your feelings touched—the girl's as unpleasing as I am; it's no favour I'm asking. It's a sacrifice, dammee! Fancy a man asking that for his young child!”

Heans' face had softened a little. Before him was the letter to the Governor's lady, and he had taken up his pen and dipped it carefully in the ink, as if about to continue it. Indeed, his eye was half-consciously re-reading as the man spoke: “Sir William Heans with his duty to Lady Franklin——”

“They used to call me ‘Belial,’” said the convict, “so I call her ‘Abelia.’”

Heans began a kind of polite laughing.

“You make me very curious, Mr. Oughtryn,” with a sort of merciful irony, “as to the arrangements you may have formed


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for the acquiring of a luxury like myself. Forgive me for laughing.” (He suddenly bowed his head.) “I have so few jokes. I am at present in great demand. It is rather overwhelming. Let me initiate you into this letter on my desk here. I am asked by a lady, the wife of a high official, to become the organiser of a society charity. I am just now accepting this responsibility. This was gained for me by the efforts of an angelic soul, Mr. Oughtryn, a lady of great beauty and goodness. Had this not been done—and but for a private matter—I am not certain but that I would have accepted the care and instruction of your daughter.”

The man's beard trembled and he put up his hand and pulled at the yellow handkerchief which did duty for a neck-cloth. His eyes glared into Heans' face.

“Ah,” he cried, with an oath, “it's hopeless, is it? The child must go begging for her gentleman! I'll never get such another chance; you're ginned, for all your great ladies; and she—poor ignorant person—she'll remain the shrinkable chit she is.” He rose, and waddling forward to the escritoire, took the hat Sir William held towards him. The former rose kindly from his chair, with his quill in his fingers. The other turned and walked towards the door without saying anything. At the door he turned and looked back. “When the notables has done with you,” he said, in a small bitter voice, “and you go back to Fraser's, Charles Oughtryn will keep his sneering eyes to himself.”

The door banged upon him as if it would thrust him out, and his tread went heavily down. Again the sea-gusts huddled against the dormers. Sir William, with a somewhat ironical smile, returned to his escritoire. Even while the man was yet upon the stairs, he took up his letter of reply and slowly tore it into small pieces. He then began an answer in the negative. Presently Mrs. Quaid appeared, her anxious face lit by the soft beams of two home-made candles.




  ― 74 ―

Chapter XI He Makes a Good-Bye

ONE morning some weeks on, Heans was waked by a loud rapping upon his door. He was instantly conscious of Mrs. Quaid's voice telling him from the stair that the constables had just called and informed her that 2749 (the exalted number of her listener) was to report himself at the guard-room at the jetty-head at ten o'clock. Heans had no word yet of the Emerald or his money. He had drunk rather heavily of some cheap wine before retiring (for economical reasons he had resigned his Burgundy), and as he rose and called tragically for his breakfast, his brain surged with fears for Stifft and a wrecking of his hopes. Habit, rather than will, dressed him with leisurely detail. When he had fitted his breeches over his devotedly varnished boots, “mounted” his satin stock, assumed his black-velvet waistcoat, his chains, seals, and wonderful spotless clawhammer; combed his French moustaches, arranged with exquisite neatness his slightly-curled grey hair, he came less shakily up the few steps into his sitting-room. A wan sunlight was on the windows, and his egg, toast, and favourite jelly lay on the precarious table by the chimney. He was about to breakfast, all standing, when Mrs. Quaid appeared with the grey earthenware coffee-pot. Instantly he grew his ceremonious self, and she, from a somewhat agonised entry, stiffened to a grumbling defence.

“The police have gone?” he asked, settling himself in his chair and opening a handkerchief over his trousers.

“Oho yes, they're gone,” she sighed out. (She had a trembling stealth about her.) “What have you been doing, fetching the constables to my poor house, Sir William 'Eans?”

“You're certain they have gone?” he said, as he carefully cut his egg.

“There's not a soul in the lane—that I know,” she informed him, placing the coffee before the fire and moving covertly here and there. “That's why your egg's hard. Young Bertram's gone up the street. When he comes back he's to whistle—hark, sir!” She put up her trembling hand.

“Whistle if the road's clear?”

“Yes, sir.” (She had gone back to the door, and was listening.) “I can't bear them constables coming here, sir. I must speak plain.


  ― 75 ―
Oho dear! I hope there's nothing wrong. No lodgers 'll stop where there's police. I'll lose all my figure—I will. They know where I've been.” (She was listening as hardly knowing what she said.) “Mr. Boxley 'ardly sees you, sir, without threatening me under the table-cloth to Mrs. Boxley, though he do copy your honour's cravats and—hark, sir!—waistcoats. There's whistling now, sir. That's my boy Bertram. There's no one about.” Her seared old face, as she looked into the room, and her numb lifted hand were grim with gratitude.

Inwardly Sir William was easier. He rearranged his handkerchief upon his knees and began to approach his egg. Possibly he had witnessed the arrest of an absconder. The stubborn inexorability of that operation in no sense resembled this mere visitation—this tainting touch and light evanishment. He was also familiar with the bottomless strategy of the police—their preference for arrest in the open, and pains to accomplish it—yet was calmed by the conviction that neither his own nor his landlady's defences (nor even consideration for the eclectic cravats of Mr. Boxley) invited to any such refinement of method. The face of his prisoner-landlady would alone have confirmed him that he—the plotter Heans—was safe yet with such vague usage.

Mrs. Quaid waited a moment on the second stair, the door at her shoulder.

“Mr. Daunt 'as a room at the jetty,” she stated. “He's severe on some of 'em.”

“At the jetty—yes—yes—so he has. He's severe, is he?”

“Oho, dear, a fair gentleman, but severe on some. I hope he'll get no down on my house! He's quick to detect good—and kind to improvement, I'll say that. He's been very kind to me. (Yes, Bertram, we 'eard you.) ‘You're past the Rubicon, Mrs. Quaid,’ he says; ‘keep this up, and you've nothing to fear from me.’ Oho, dear, it was a great day for me when I saw Mr. Boxley walk out of my door with his high collars. If you could consider Mr. Boxley a bit, sir, and give him a bow now and then? It's not only my respectability I'm serving.”

“We will put it down to your conscience, dear Mrs. Quaid.”

“Well, sir, I get into such a fright. It's anxiety! If gentlemen come here and make mistakes I can't be blamed—— You're looking pale this morning, sir.” This was said with a trace of sympathy.

“In mourning for my Burgundy, madam. I'm better already for your enchanting Mocha.”

She stared steadily, yet not quite at him, her ringlets dangling about her scarred ember of a face.

“I'd ha' given up my horse, Sir William, I would,” she said, “sooner than take in that stuff of Braxley's.”

“Come, Mrs. Quaid, what is your quarrel with old Suffolk? I can't give him up?” (He seemed moved.) “Wait—I shall


  ― 76 ―
want him this morning. Pray, tell Master Bertram to fetch him.”

“What time, sir?”

“About ten.”

“They said ten.”

“Did they indeed … well—well, you will give him my order. I will ride from here at ten.”

“Ah, them constables … I've no right to speak with a gentleman of experience! They never moves, Sir William, I'll warn you, never without intention.”

“Why, Mrs. Quaid, I have been fretted abominably by these fellows: pulled up for nothing here, reported for less there. I am acquainted with Mr. Daunt—I know their arrogant, abusive methods. This is my ‘circulating library’ affair, in which more than likely Mr. Daunt has thrust his altruistic oar. Ha—ha!” (he began to walk rather wickedly)—“our careful Mr. Daunt! Quick to detect anything and kind to improvement—well—well! It would never do, dear Mrs. Quaid, if I improved myself quite out of touch with these constables—now would it?”

“I get in a fright when I think of you, sir,” she cried, “so innocent-like among these men.” (For the instant her face looked among its ringlets as full of memories as that of an old galley-witch.) “That's Mr. Boxley calling for his shaving-dish! Coming, to your honour's pleasure—coming! Oh, for the love of Heaven, sir, be obedient! That's an officer who's an influential man, sir! I'll never listen to a word against Daunt in this house. I've lived in Hobarton too long not to know my rock and defence, and the good advice and remembering I've 'ad from him. There—that's what he's done for a prison-woman! I'd swear to that gentleman's conscience afore a court of law!”

Sir William rose and irritably shook his kerchief napkin into the fire. He then carefully dusted his shepherd's-plaid legs with it. His face was somewhat sad and angry. “You will not, Mrs. Quaid,” he said, “forget about my horse?”

She had pushed the door before her till the little stair was disclosed, and, five steps down, Sir William's bedroom, and the dark tea scented mouth of the well.

“Your honour, Mr. Boxley's pleasure, sir,” she shrilled; then threw her ringlets up with a glare of anger. “Ah, I'll order your horse,” she said, in a trembling voice, “and you'll ride down the town with it. I wish you a brave journey—a brave journey—and may God keep the crumbs off your honour's fine pantaloons!”

The door banged behind her, and Sir William, flashing round, put a hand tremblingly towards the logs. Suddenly he swung back to his “escritoire” and seizing a sheet, began a letter with the words, “My dear Stifft,” only to pause with a wide eye, and presently pitch it carefully on the fire. With his eyeglass in, he now took his seat again, and ceremoniously opened his Plutarch. He began reading at the eighth page of the life of Cato the Censor. “This contrast was found, not only in his manners,


  ― 77 ―
but in his style, which was eloquent, facetious, and familiar, and at the same time grave, nervous, and sententious. Thus Plato tells us, ‘The outside of Socrates was that of a satyr and buffoon, but his soul was all virtue; and from within him came such divine and pathetic things as pierced the heart and drew tears from his hearers.’” (Here Sir William heard a slow foot mounting his stairs, looked up, paled, stilled his shaking hands, and read sternly on.) “One day, when the Romans clamoured violently and unreasonably for a distribution of corn, to dissuade them from it, he thus began his address: ‘It is a difficult task, my fellow-citizens, to speak to the belly, because it has no ears——’”

There was a summons upon the door, and it was drawn back. A shabby man, with a handsome die-away air, stood in the gloom of the stair. He had little dyed whiskers and a seared top-hat worn awry. Successful—in better heart and better dress—he might have been a sardonic young doctor; now, black clawhammer, strained breeches, boots, and even his harrassed, tragic, petulant, unshaven face, seemed one and all infinitesimally in decay.

He stood in the dark, smiling and swinging his cane, until Sir William, breaking off his reading, gave him a glassy if ceremonious stare.

“Well?” called Heans, in a faint, sharp tone.

“Carnt,” said the visitor, with a sort of sharp laugh. “Can I see you?” He was staring in openly and darkly.

“Heavens, come in, Carnt!” said Sir William, struggling slowly up. “How is your Piccadilly influenza?”

“Catching—plaguey catching,” said Carnt. (He came up; threw his hat and cane upon a battered ottoman which was producing some promising iron-grey beards, and with his hands on his high hips, stood gazing at Heans.) “Cornered by Mrs. Quaid in the passage,” he continued, “who seemed afraid of me—a grim sensation. She is in my catalogue as the angelically rudest woman I beard.”

“And you with your lively ladies,” said Heans (for Carnt was then clerk to the women's prison at the Cascades), “should have experience. I suppose, sir, you get soured?”

“I do,” said Carnt. “Yet the lowest of them flaunts one high moment in her face if you could but tap it.”

“Why, Jarvis,” cried Heans, with a light laugh, “still digging after marsh-lights in that miasma!”

“Jack-o'-lanterns!” laughed Mr. Carnt.

“Light-o'-loves,” laughed Sir William Heans, and then turned deadly pale.

Carnt was silent, swinging a little.

“Bromley was at the prison last night,” he began, “togged up for some state dinner. I was hauled out of the office into the gateway, and questioned as to my goings to and fro. I was asked when I had last seen S——, then Henry Six, then Weighton, Starkey, Dalgleish, and you.” (He stared for a moment rather


  ― 78 ―
sheepishly at the other.) “They wanted to know whom you played with, and whether I was one. I said I had seen you playing with Six and, I thought, Starkey, but not with Weighton or Captain Stifft. I told them you were rather a duffer at cards, but were very careful whom you played with after I pinked Rudstone. I said, moreover, that I seldom played with you because your play bored me——”

“Rather untruthful of you,” said Sir William, greyly testy, “seeing that I beat you against the cards three consecutive nights in Six's shop.”

“Pooh—pooh—‘a game of chance in the nursery,’ as old Rudstone says when they catch him cheating. Moreover—d—n it!—you had all the aces! They know me better than you do. I think I was believed, a peculiar sensation from Bromley. Careful as he was to hide it, I gathered Daunt has a secret contempt for you—a golden asset I did not corrode with heroics; though not clever, that man has a sort of feminine intuition. How have you deceived him?”

“Heavens, the feminine intuition is not always right!” said Sir William, rising and dropping out his glass with a puff of relief. “The fellow is a hazing booby. I am, believe me, favoured with a visit from constables this morning. My presence is required at the quay office at ten o'clock. (Oh, don't be alarmed—yes, they're gone, sir!) Through Shaxton, and his generous lady, I am offered a secretaryship among the literary people which I have refused. I am—hang it!—possibly to be inquired into for that!”

“Singular!” said Carnt. (His thin lips were twisted in his high-coloured face, and he seemed inclined to shadow some sardonic morality at the other through a startled look.) “Deuced singular! But stoopid—heavenly stoopid! Heave the anchor! All hands to the sails! Ah—and all your friends—and the lady, Mrs. Shaxton—with what a romantic interest you will remember the old prison station, Heans!”

Sir William Heans grew haggard as he stood eyeing the speaker. Carnt slowly dropped his eyes, and began to draw from the tight sleeve of his coat a small uneven packet, which he handed to Heans with a somewhat sour irony. Sir William took the enclosure in a short wild way, with a face half ecstatic, half touched with amazement and confusion. Perhaps the smell of tar upon it had reached his nostrils with a hint of open sea.

Carnt turned away to the window, swinging with wide eyes and hands on hips. “There was another row,” said he, “last night at Fraser's. Silk and Goddesden fought like cats over a story about Silk's murder case. Stifft moved up while the row was on, and passed this into my hand with the debt of a quid owing. He said, ‘Pass that in to Sir William. He'll give you five pounds for that.’ Singular way he talks. We then had some words about the woman dropping the money from her fly——”

“Did he—was he so little of a gentleman——?”




  ― 79 ―

“As to mention names—yes, he was! Stifft is too talkative. I think you're a fool to trust a man with such a little mouth.”

“Faithful,” mumbled Sir William, terribly moved.

Carnt, in his light way, swore before G—d he was lucky.

They were silent for a while. Carnt seemed to grow harassed and tragic as he looked through the little windows over the brick walls and black shingle roofs to the dipping green waves, on which a tarred skiff with a long stack and great paddles was heaving her way slowly across from the Point. Her whistle went dimly. There was a far-off noise as of heavy logs falling on iron: an organ note. He went to the window and put his hand upon it. Presently he spoke from there. “Pray give me my money and let me be off,” said he.

“Certainly,” said Sir William, “I have it here—I would it were fifty. One moment—don't go yet—let us see what he says.”

He reached for the comb in the Plutarch, and slit the package. Unfolding this with a slight increase of colour, he eyed the few words: “Money to hand. Secured boys. Emerald near dry. Launch next Saturday. Sail on Wednesday morning, August 22nd. Hang off Spring Bay on Thursday, where boat will wait near mouth of creek after dusk.”

“Listen, Carnt——” he began hoarsely.

Carnt flashed round, “Stop,” he said. “D—n you, I mustn't hear it! I can't listen to you!”

The other looked at him with a flash of grey amazement in his face.

“I am still a prisoner here,” said Carnt, with maddened dignity. “You knew I was dangerous.”

“And a d—n fine fellow, Carnt,” Heans said gravely; “ah, I'm grateful to you, sir; this is for my friends to hear!” But he dropped his head, for he remembered once having seen this sentimental, worldly brother under the transformation of wine, eloquent, convincing—an accomplished cheat—giving away a friend's soul-secrets in a malignant rattle of treachery.

“The poison of asps was under the lips” of poor Carnt when he had been drinking.

He moved slowly round, and pulling open his writing drawer, took from a pigeon-hole a green netted purse, in which were some fifteen sovereigns. From this, screening the action with his person, he worked out ten coins upon the desk lid. Then sweeping them into the drawer, he rose and advanced towards Carnt.

“Accept this purse,” he said, “it is valueless, but done with devoted fingers.”

Carnt held it up, dangling it cynically in the window light.

“Feminine, I suppose!” said he.

“You refer to the women with some bitterness, Mr. Carnt!”

“Oh, I haven't your method for referring to them lightly!”

Sir William turned away. “No,” he said.

“I would to G—d you could leave me your remainder in


  ― 80 ―
another of them!” Sir William was grey as ashes. Carnt was still in the window. “D—d if you couldn't take your wide free skies, and me these bonds with her.”

“And how would you have won her?” asked Sir William quietly.

“I'd obtain a promise from her to drop a purse to a drunken skipper—and all the rest of it. Then when I went to say ‘farewell,’ I'd——”

“What?” in a somewhat brokenvoice.

Carnt was looking at the dipping green water and the life-empty hills of a thousand trees.

“G—d—I'd go,” he said, hoarsely; “yes, I'd cut myself of man and place! I'd fall, like you, and be my petty master. I'd leave the lady—and the others—leave 'em to bleach, blast 'em, and never think of them again!”

He turned with his sardonic face sad and dark, and put the purse carefully into the lapel of his breeches.

“You speak hardly, sir,” said Heans.

“Away with you,” said the other; “away with you, Sir William, like Flora in her car. But, by Heaven, don't get grabbed! Possibly you wouldn't bleach so prettily as me.”

“Let us end it, then, in this familiar strain,” said Sir William, acidly.

“Let us enumerate our pleasures together,” hoarsed Carnt, throwing his body up.

“Why should that word touch me?” cried Sir William.

“Heaven knows—excuse me! I'm in love with some of the women!” said the other; and both were silent.

Drip—drip—drip! a rainy mist had begun to patter from the gables on the sills of the little windows. Carnt had been swinging in the centre of the room, his hands in his lapels, his gay head down. Suddenly he threw it up and laughed gently. “Ha-ha-ha!” And he began to walk, a trace ruefully, towards the stair.

“Why, Carnt,” said Sir William, from his desk, “I shall go a sad man for life, with these words upon us, Carnt. I'm getting freedom, but losing people I desire to speak with, in life—the irony of it. The little world won't give them back—no. And I—I am not such a God-forsaken egotist I can speak words of anger and go out—anything but shamed and cut to the heart. From my own, I know how cruel and bitter is the life I'm leaving—made bitter by small men and our pride—eh, our pride. I wish I had the strength—I'd be better no doubt—to wait it out with you.”

Carnt turned near the door, laughing gently.

“You wouldn't,” he said, shaking his head. “You mistake me. I have business—cards—wine—dominoes—totem—and ‘lively ladies of the Cask-Hades,’ ever new, changeable as an April day. What more will you have in Dieppe? I'm even


  ― 81 ―
something of a poet, Sir William, and can find considerable pleasure in our ‘exquisite surroundings.’ It is so large to us English—eh! Yet under the mountains there's many a little hill and trickling water. Now, now, here's a hand—indifferent clean, Sir William! Stifft keeping his button shut, you'll get now out of it, thank Heaven!”

He strolled back and the two men locked hands. Carnt turned, strolled out of the door, and went humming down the dark stair.

Now, the reader may be interested to read how curiously the irony of Fate played with the relations of these two men.




  ― 82 ―

Chapter XII Nearing the End

SIR WILLIAM, in a graceful variant of that over-clawhammer known as a spencer, and a tall straight-brimmed hat, arrived in a drizzle at the pier-head. To the right, running out of sight along the stone shore-wall, was a line of massive brick buildings, closely alike, many-windowed, low and shingle-roofed. At a door in the blind wall of the nearest—over which hung an oil lamp—stood a triangular sentry-box, and by it a soldier, with a waterproof covering on his shako (from which his long neck-hair draggled in the wet) and a cape half-covering the white bandoliers and double breast of his coat. On the glass of the lamp were the printed letters: “Sub-inspector.” To his left, and behind him, rose an abrupt knoll of small-dwellinged streets. There were few people about. A squad of constables in clawhammers and leather top-hats (and carrying short, heavy guns) tramped sullenly up into the town. Two stiff-linened old men clad in frock-coats, very high-waisted and full-shouldered, walked across with their hands stuck in their breasts and their old precise heads nodding together. A few carts, with names of river stations upon them, were drawing or drawn up at a bar behind the offices watched by convicts in grey, with black straw hats, and grim mouths cropped of hair. Over the water to the left, piles were being driven to support a new pier, and an army of prisoners-for-life, in yellow uniforms, with flaps of their leather caps drawn down over their ears, were raising, by a pulley, on wooden shears, a great mass of iron, which fell every few minutes on the iron-capped pile with varying notes.

The Erebus lay against the side of the pier, a red-coat pacing her quarter-deck, her masts moving solitary against the hills. Nearer the shore-end, two ship's officers and a gentleman in a short soldier's cloak stood waiting above a boat which swung a little on the waves, its whiskered, black-hatted crew sitting with vertical oars. Some ships were lying out, pulling heavily at their chains, while, splashing the water like a lame duck, one heavy steamboat with a machicolated funnel was paddling slowly into the channel, while another, with a tarred body, was dwindling slowly out of the opposite trees.

As Heans dismounted on the wet flags, a gipsy-like convict,


  ― 83 ―
incongruously devil-may-care with his felt jacket and shaven face, approached, brilliantly smiling, and made proffers for his horse. The man professed to admire the animal: qualifying his praise, however, with the wager that “the beautiful gentleman's honourable legs had straddled a neater barrel.” Behind his volatile flattery, he was significantly, if half-sneeringly hostile: a form of approach familiar to Heans from the prisoners. It was as if the convict—unable to help forcing the fact that he knew him, as did many in the town—would have given this man his championing as a fellow prisoner, and one, moreover, who carried it off so cleverly, could he only have resisted the chance Heans' situation gave him of making one of the “swell-mob” feel his position. The temptation seemed tragically irresistible.

Pale Sir William, who had gained in confidence after his unmolested ride, tossed the man his bridle, asking his name with an admirable kindness. The man's eyes returned him a black look, answering abruptly:

“Jack Marback.”

“Indeed—well, Jack, keep him walking,” he directed, “while I take my honourable legs into yonder door. I shall be gone but a few minutes.”

“The Honourable John Franklin himself has just arrived,” said the man, with a covert enthusiasm, as he took the horse. “He went in that very door like a hadmiral. There's the gig there, with the jacks in her, holding up their oars to dry 'em.”

“They'll wet their brave laps,” said Sir William, as he hopped off.

The door of the office was now open, and in it stood a colossal constable in a top-hat, muttering and flipping his fingers at Heans. Sir William was engaged in avoiding the puddles between the flags. The sentry was grinning from his box. Heans glanced a polite glass at the warder as the latter said, vibrant with cold anger, “Late, No. 2749. Pass in—pass in!”

“Ah—ah!” said Heans; “most sorry, most sorry.”

The door gave on a great bare hall, the size of the entire front of the building. It was full of waiting police with guns: some like him at the door; others with black blouses, belted, and heavy peaked caps strapped about their whiskered cheeks; others yet, in the grey uniform of the prisoner, with muskets and single shoulder-belts, the latter divided into two compartments, or canvass bottles, with nozzles hanging in finger-reach on right hip. Sir William, as he strode through them at the order and beckoning of a second constable of a horse-power integrity, endeavoured to forget the smiles and slights—the herding of dissipated, wondering-eyed men—the lining up—the silencing—in that very room on the day of landing.

A Heep-like man who was taking down names at a table at a far window ostentatiously leant back in his chair and contemplated the new-comer with the tips of his long fingers


  ― 84 ―
touching. Further down the room, two officers, in full uniform, stood in the channel windows, talking with their cloaks on their arms. As Heans was led towards a great stair in the wall at the right end, one of these gentlemen turned and put his hand to his cocked hat. It was Daunt. But he did not come forward—the other did not turn his head. Sir William's glass whipped out as he ascended the boards of the deadly shoe beaten stair. With him this was evidence of a brain very heavily taxed.

“Some inspection?” he inquired, as he turned the corner and ascended towards two great doors that opened against the walls.

“Inspection—country-wards,” smacked that brisk and weary self-sufficient in a steam-power voice somewhat restrained.

“I did not see His Excellency?”

“H'Excellency in the ward-room.” He pointed up.

“By whose orders am I here?”

“Order last night through Government Offices for No. 2078, No. 160, No. 2749, No. 270, and No. 1350 to attend guard-room before ten. No. 160 and 2078 prompt to time—now attending His Excellency in ward-room. No. 2749 late. Message from Excellency wishing Sir William Heans to honour him with attendance on arrival.”

A stern old man at the stair-head called out: “Pass up—pass up.” He was all covert keenness and discipline, like a knife in a sheath. It was as if he had drawn himself just so much as to give a glint of the steel.

Sir William put up his eyeglass as he came into the upper room. “How d——d unkind!” he muttered, apropos of some inward thought. Near the door stood a little group of civilian gentlemen: one of which—a stout, little, short-necked man with whiskers and a tortoise-shell glass—glinted up at Heans and then quickly away. They were at the moment silent. None spoke. The room was long, bare, and narrow, with two windows on the street. A line of seven policemen, claw-hammered, white breeched, and top-hatted, armed with cutlasses and guns, stood at attention by a closed door in a wooden wall across the upper end; behind them a corporal's guard of red-coats. Two young constables held a prisoner in yellow in the first window. His face had been made grim by cropped hair and shaven lip, but his eyes were wild, angry, heroic, nothing-contenting, entirely-unappeasable eyes of those unfortunates of life born without the seventh sense of values. At Heans' entrance, this man pulled his guards round towards the window, with a deep, hysterical protest. They permitted him to stay in that position.

“Ruddy's got Port Arthur, I see, sir,” said Heans' conductor to an old, fine man, very hook-nosed and high-stocked, in white breeches and police buttons.

“Ah,” said the other, “Ruddy says ‘he'll get himself hung!’”

The speaker strode over to the door in the partition, knocked


  ― 85 ―
upon it, and presently entered and closed it. A shy murmur—three quarters rattle, one quarter boom—had been filtering through the wood. Again the door opened, and a sergeant in a red coat with a white breast came out followed by two soldiers. Behind them lurched out two chained prisoners in black and yellow: one a giant figure of a man, with a covert, cunning countenance; the other a little, gay old fellow, with a keen malignant face, and the erect athletic body of a child—indeed, it was difficult to judge if he were old or a mere boy. They were marched away to the window, and after them came a couple of constables. Reached there, the sergeant in a loud voice halted them, and began to look about him, pulling at his whiskers; his eyes then falling tentatively on Heans' guide, he shouldered his weapon and made over to him.

Sir William could not prevent himself from looking exceedingly pale. Many apprehensions must have occurred to him, as, some way inward from the gentlemen at the door, he stood looking through his glass about him; one immaculate, plaid leg a little in advance of the other on the coarse boards; his cane swinging gently from his canary fingers. On the one side he saw the chained “second-sentencer” condemned to Port Arthur; on the other, the little band of gentlemen; in the midst, himself, a convict, summoned seemingly on a matter of “literature.” While a certain benevolence of acceptance, since he had passed into the upper room, might have assured him of safety—nay, even of support—yet there was something in the manner in which he had been summoned to the Governor's presence, in company with a man sentenced to Port Arthur, which may well have sent a shudder of apprehension through him. Again, all this display of ordered force: what an unkind turn of fate which had thrown into it a secret absconder! “How d——d unkind,” he said, as he rose into the room. Last, Daunt's show of friendliness! What did the forgiveness of a man like Daunt mean?. He might well have asked: “Did Daunt credit him with the weakness of being confused by compliment? Was Daunt at the old game of stripping a foe's heart of armour for the next man's sword to play upon? Had Daunt, at sight of him forcing his way through that sea of police, been startled into one of his half-friendly moments? Or, more likely, had the man's mistrust been allayed by the sight of his (Heans') reply to Lady Franklin?”

(Devil or philanthropist, which was Daunt?)

The sergeant approached Heans. “His Excellency will receive 2749,” he said in a loud voice. Sir William stepped forward, and followed the man across the room to the partition door. There, while they waited an answer to their knock, he examined, with some curiosity, the side-arms of the sardonic line of police.

The Government Surgeon, a brisk, white-whiskered gentleman


  ― 86 ―
opened the door, and the sergeant, stepping aside, sharply beckoned Heans to enter. The old, fine man in the top-hat and police buttons, made way for Sir William as he came in, and departed with the doctor, who shut the door behind them. The small room was barish, with a window hung with heavy red curtains looking on the street. A dark, athletic-looking man, in a captain's uniform, was sitting back against a table, with his fine hairy hands resting on the edge. The sensitive lips gave the bald head and bull-dog face a half-sardonic air, belied somewhat by the quick and saddened concern of the wide bold eyes. There was no one else in the room.

It was an age of stiff and laudable pedantry; when Adolphus and Achilles were christian names of the vulgar; when man, in a fine endeavour to ornament his speech, to elevate his person, to “exalt his Maker,” often dropped to mere, cold precisionism—even hypocrisy; when common women read Scott, and spread his poems by the heart. We can afford to laugh—we who, in our own time, with our wild equalizing of human temperaments, are threatened with a drab end of formlessness! Franklin was one of these men, his precisionist air softened by a great and feeling heart; his religious, Dominie-Sampson face in strange contrast to the free, athletic grace of his person; the whole softened by that slightly sardonic, sensitive, dangertautened mouth. These were lips, whose love of man was such that they were incapable of forming the word “beast.”

Sir William remained just inside the door. He had removed his hat and stood fiddling at the buttons of his black spencer, somewhat constrained, his grey head bent. Franklin sat there a full minute, staring at him; then he said, softly and quickly, “Do me the honour to listen to me, Sir William Heans. I want to beg you to earnestly—to earnestly” (his voice was hoarse and he cleared it) “reconsider your position. A lady has interceded with me for you—a gentlewoman—and I am inclined to grant her request. You have had some visible token of what—with help from you and God's help—we may endeavour to bring about. Your refusal was a formal one. Tell me—is it your actual wish to” (hoarsely)—“to refuse to make this effort?”

Sir William took his eyeglass out, and fingering it a little pedantically, looked gravely into the street, where the carters stood staring up under their black hats.

“It was my regret, sir,” he said, pushing forth his words one by one, “it was my regret to answer the letter received in the negative. I could wish to accept the position perhaps, had I the power to—the power to keep my patience.” He flushed slowly as he fingered his glass and stared out of the window.

“I think—courage is all that is necessary,” said Sir John, with a compunction almost familiar in his voice, “courage and forbearance. … Wait! perhaps you had better think a little before you decide. I, at least, have felt it my duty to tell you so.”




  ― 87 ―

“I cannot think so,” said Sir William Heans, after a little.

The Governor was now very moved, and spoke quickly in his hoarse, quiet voice.

“Sir William Heans, I have seen men in the North-West sink to degradation and death under too adverse circumstances. The slow degradation of a gentleman is a torturing sight, for his very pride and heroism. I have seen a man's hands tied to prevent him injuring himself, and yet he would crawl about on his knees sooner than trouble a weaker brother with his wants. I have seen pride and I know its value, and how trivial is the worth of life when it is gone, but I do not care—like that good young lady, your friend, and I cannot stand—if an effort can prevent it—that we shall have to think of you with utter ruin upon you. This is a stern place; man's inconstant heart cannot manage man without iron laws. If once you stoop beneath a certain level, we are powerless; the law is written in iron that will deal with you. When the ship's loose of her anchor she must sail or drift. They tell me, Sir William Heans, you stand in a serious risk of drifting—aye, drifting deeper and deeper into the pack, till your sails rag on the mast. These are men who think they know my charge better than me.”

The Governor's daunted face; the firm, small, trembling mouth; the feeling, danger-deadened, care-nothing eyes, waited on the prisoner's—it seemed almost world-indifferent—for an answer.

Heans stood looking out of the window, but he said nothing.

“You will not move your proud foot thus far,” said the Governor, “in pursuit of an honoured life!”

“Your Excellency said ‘honoured life,’” said Heans, dropping his glass, with a wild, little bow. “Is there such a thing? And will you find it, sir—great traveller as you are—for a convict in this town? I put little value on existence. My dignity and honour none of your laws can touch. If I lose them, I shall cry out to no one. When they are gone, the more vulgar officials can use no more worse methods against me than have been used hitherto. Do not fear for me, kind sir. I am grown too old and grim” (with a bow) “with the grey side of difficulty to play with the young ladies. The worth of a man's life—what is it? I pray you credit me with a certain happiness in my own way of it.”

The Governor had risen, and was looking at him, one arm akimbo on the lace of his clawhammer, the other fingering the hilt-tassel of his grounded sword. Utter dismay, sadly withheld, was in his face. He spoke after a little—at first with difficulty. “Possibly I do not value life, sir,” he said, “any more than do you. But I believe in an honoured life, or a life deserving of it. We have to fight for our very sacrifices in this world. Not only that, but, when sacrificed, they may be written down as errors. That is what many a prisoner here runs foul of. He thinks his quarrel is against man. It is Life he is in engagement with. It is of Life he is asking justice. And Life often reserves its


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justice. …” (He stopped suddenly, as though conscious that his feelings had bolted with him.) “You talk of honour. Hush!” he went on, deeply moved; “I will give you my idea of it in a man. It is that he should not wound his friends by his falling. If a man have bravery and not compunction, he is no gentleman. What to him becomes mere life, must be to his friends a perpetual tragedy. If you must go your own way, Sir William Heans, see that you wound as little as need be that gentle woman who has tended you in your distress—by some unthinking bravery.”

Something of the sternness of Heans' position was echoed in Franklin's face. He stood looking at the other with a sort of mute invitation. Sir William Heans took up his glass, as he stood staring out (at the grey-clad prisoners in their black hats, at the wet town, and vastly above, the splendid frown of Old Storm Mountain, from whose forested bosom had come the shingles of the snuggling roofs), and put it carefully in his eye. Then he turned and bowed quickly and gravely.

Franklin swung round to the table, and, fingering for a second among some papers, lifted his hand towards a brass touch-bell. “I am waiting for your word to ring, sir,” he said.

Sir William Heans said, after a moment's hesitation, “Pray be good enough to ring, your Excellency.”

The bell clanged, and the door opened. The doctor entered, and saluting the Governor with a bright inquiry, stood quietly upon one side. The sergeant put his kepi round the door and nodded. Through the opening, the chimney-pots of the line of police bobbed oddly, as the men lowered bronzed or pallid faces.

Heans made a bow, which the Governor answered with a nod jerked sadly out of his high cravat. Then Sir William went again into the outer room, across which he followed the sergeant, not to the window where the other convicts were standing with their warders, but towards the incurious gentlemen at the stair-head (old Mr. Magruder, the magistrate; Mr. Duterreau, the famous artist of the Blacks; Dr. Jeanerret, the new Governor of Flinders Island; the volatile Mr. O'Crone, the travelling savant, a small, handsome, fair-whiskered, excited, intellectual personage, young, if rather old-fashioned as to costume, with a stoop, a shirt-frill (of all things!) and tasselled Wellingtons, just arrived in his pleasure yacht, the Quenosabia, from England, and very interested in prison-life; Major Leete, of the Women's Prison, stiff, handsome, grey, but somewhat falling to pieces; the famous Mr. Robinson, short, red-haired, wearing trousers without straps and a balloon crowned travelling cap, whose freckled face, so peculiarly gentle and commanding, had faced, with incredible courage, tribe after tribe of murdering Blacks, and, unarmed, brought in 450 in one year to lay down their arms in Hobarton; dangerous Mr. Montague, the Colonial Secretary, deep in conversation with old Mr. Gellibrande, the attorney)—through these


  ― 89 ―
incurious gentlemen at the outer door went Sir William, down those abominable stairs into the thronged hall, where Daunt, in animated conversation with his brother-officer, looked up, laughing very heartily, till his eye touched Heans, when it lost something of its jollity.

The Heep-like man at the table again relinquished his work, leaned back, and stared rigidly at Heans as he passed across the room. The door was crowded, and the sergeant had to push a path through surly shoulders. A prisoner was being brought in. He was a little, grey-bearded man, dreadfully quick-glancing and amiable, but deadly pale. His irons and his black and yellow dress were covered with wet sand. The constables were carrying him in with a kind of cynical compunction.

Heans passed close beside them, and reached the door as pale as he. Had the man's pride-stripped face troubled him?

Outside, the sun was shining on the wet flags, and the place echoed with the “splash—splash” of the paddle-skiff rounding into the pier. Sir William Heans paused beside the sentry and beckoned for his horse, which was brought up at a sort of prancing run.

Along the shining pier, the officers, above the swinging boat, watched him rise upon his horse.

“Has the beautiful gentleman caught a wigging?” asked the carter, peering up at him as he buttoned his spencer and straightened his hat.

“I should think I had,” said Sir William. “Here's your shilling, Jack Marback.”

“Lag's luck to your honour! I'll wet it with a mug of bull.”note

Heans smacked his whip down suddenly, and caracoled off towards the rise, his graceful tails slapping the back of his saddle.




  ― 90 ―

Chapter XIII Shaxton Nudges Daunt

ON the 19th there was a banquet to the officers of the bomb-ships at “Hodgson's celebrated Macquarie Hotel,” and Captain Hyde-Shaxton and Daunt, of the foot police, found themselves only divided at the table by Lieutenant Cooke, a mutual acquaintance. A rich globe-trotter and savant, Homely O'Crone, who sat on Shaxton's right, claimed much of the Captain's attention during luncheon, more especially as the former did not seem to be in good odour with the Colonial officials about him—neither with old Magruder, the police magistrate, who was grumbling his food in on his right, nor yet with Daunt, who twice ignored his approaches. This gentleman enveloped Shaxton in an excited discussion on navigation, in a rapid, cultivated voice. In the muddle of it, Shaxton laughed—agreeable—jolly—if, for instants at a time, lost and abstracted. He would lean over his plate chuckling as he related some anecdote of his Beagle voyage, but his gaze would float away sometimes as though he heard “voices in the wind.”

Duty took Cooke away before the speeches, and Shaxton, with a lack of ceremony which would have been brutal if it had not been somehow a part of his Bedouin nature, forsook his excitable friend, and slid talking into Cooke's seat. He seemed, though once he chuckled out a tale, mentally to lean on Daunt. He tittered gloomily.

“I'm sorry to hear that,” said Daunt, frowning about him with wide eyes and neat air. “Was she taken ill suddenly?”

“It seemed to me sudden enough,” said the other. “She had a sort of fainting-fit. Dr. Wardshaw won't say anything. We couldn't get her out of it. She'd had people calling about the young girl's death, you see. Heans was there. I thought him bad-tempered. He may have been losing his temper with the women.”

“Creating a scene—destroying the harmony, and that, you mean?” Daunt leant forward half-smiling, half-indignant. His hand was clenched on the tablecloth.

“Ho-ho-ho—indiscreet, poor beggar! The women were purring on his raw side possibly. But if that's it—he mustn't


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go up there when I'm away any more. Matilda feels for him. She's far too delicate for these tragic situations.”

Daunt was staring stern and concerned at his plate. The other gave a little look at his face.

“Of course your wife told you,” Daunt said, at last, very deliberately, “about my tiff with Heans in your drawing-room?”

“No,” said the other, chuckling, but turning white. “What's this? Quarrel?”

“Surely you've forgotten, Shaxton?” speaking very quietly. “She must have said something about it?”

“No,” said Shaxton, “I never heard of it.”

“Well, it was nothing,” said Daunt, briskly. “I'm afraid I lost my temper with the man for being there. His—I can't say it delicately enough—the idea of his gross behaviour—and all that, in connection with that pure bower makes me mad whenever I meet him there. I hated—forgive me, Shaxton—I hated to see your wife even look at him. I must remind you I'm a constable, and am not touched by the good appearance of a prisoner. I felt she wasn't discreet enough with him. See them as I saw them together. Finding him there, sitting like a full dog among my old friend's embroideries and flowers—and his languid greeting of the privileged guest—of ‘Oh Daunt—so it's you, is it?’—I say this drove me mad that afternoon, and for a moment I—I lost control of my feelings. I said he was there for no good. I beg your pardon. Indeed I beg your pardon, Shaxton. Your wife interrupted us. At the sight of her face, with signs of tears (she had been mourning her friend), I admit I was very much ashamed of my show of feeling.”

At this moment, old Magruder's growling voice rose in answer to some rattling of O'Crone: “You should take your pleasure-boat round to Port Macquarie, sir. There is some clever prison-building there. The scenery's wind-blown and harsh for those fond of it, and empty of human sadness, as you know—abandoned.”

“My skipper is frightened of your Hell's Gates,” said O'Crone, stooping a little, with his fingers in his beard. “Once in, and I and my schooner might stay among those abandoned prisons for life.” He turned suddenly to Shaxton. “Forgive me, Captain Shaxton,” he said, “but did I hear you mention a name, ‘Sir William Heans?’ I am acquainted with a certain Miss Gairdener, a relation of this prisoner, and knew him a little before his conviction. Indeed, I thought I saw him at the police muster. Has he passed down out of all communication?”

Shaxton puffed out his pale cheeks, and stirred himself in a frowning way.

“Oh, he's all serene,” he said. “You can meet him if you like—I can get him up to tea at my house, if you want to meet him.” He gave Daunt a nudge with his left arm. Now, Daunt was a strange man to nudge.




  ― 92 ―

“Can I—can I?” nodded O'Crone, with keen interest. “Well, I must say I'd like to see the man. Thank you—wouldn't it be putting Mrs. Shaxton in a curious position?”

“A curious position! Oh, bother it, no!” chuckled Shaxton. “We see a lot of Heans. She had a letter from your Miss Gairdener about him.”

“Indeed—indeed!” said the other, stooping over and feeling the table with his hand in a somewhat harassed manner. On his little finger there was a peculiar black ring with red hair in it. His nature seemed to be that either of an untactful intellectual, or one to whom life had allowed a peculiar and, perhaps, just egoism.

“I'll tell you what,” said Shaxton, with a hospitality half-bright, half-wounded; “Mrs. Shaxton's in ill health. Dr. Wardshaw orders a change to my place on the Tier. It's a grand drive. When you've lionized the Factory, you come up for the day with a party. Daunt, you'll bring Mr. O'Crone up. We'll get Cooke. Perhaps Captain Crozier would come. And Daunt” (with a drooping of the lips), “you could get Sir William Heans a pass out. I said I'd show him the place, and he'd meet somebody he'd known,”

Daunt poured himself out a glass of wine. His face was meditatively knitted, but he gave a little worried nod towards O'Crone. It seemed like acquiescence.

“Indeed, very happy!” said O'Crone. “It might be as well, Mr. Daunt, not to mention names. If he is the man he used to be, he might refuse to meet me.”

“Ah, I suppose he would come, if he was told directly?” asked Shaxton, looking palely round at Daunt; “he's a proud man.”

“Do you wish him particularly to come?” said Daunt.

“Yes, I do,” scrambled out Hyde-Shaxton, who looked suddenly almost drawn.

“I may say—I am not so prejudiced in this man's favour, Mr. O'Crone,” said Daunt. “He is one of a class which—as Sir John Franklin puts it—has no sense of compunction. Superior in manner, of course, but, still, to me, one of that class of men.”

“Ah, Mr. Daunt,” cried O'Crone, in his rattling, cultivated way, “you police are too prosaic! This is a man who was condemned on a woman's code. In men's eyes he committed a capital crime in the meshes of a net of intrigue and allurement. He was a man, by repute, peculiarly sought after by women.”

note

“Ah, sir,” returned Daunt, in a somewhat ironical tone, “you, with your pleasure-yacht and your musical-glasses, have leisure for these intricacies. I give you my word of honour as a gentleman, women are given as the excuse for their downfall by every four convicts out of seven! We police have come to regard it as a particular sign. Experience brings us to that decision. We are interested to hear it in so far as it tells us the kind of man we are facing.”

“Upon my soul, sir,” said O'Crone, with signs of anger, “you're a trifle stern, sir! You make me damn glad, sir, I'm not a prisoner in one of your prisons!”

He said this in such a significant way, and his heat was so sudden and evident, that Magruder and others bent over the table to see who it was.

“Oh, yes,” said Shaxton, chuckling out wildly. “That's Daunt—all over. Too stern—too severe! Now, Daunt—ho-ho!—have him up! Mr. O'Crone is interested! Matilda, too, will be glad to——

“You shall have the prisoner, Shaxton,” said the Superintendent, who, unusually for him, had lost control of himself, and seemed to speak for O'Crone's admonishing; “he shall come up to Flat Top Tier if I have to send a message by him to the District Constable at Jerusalem!”

“Pon my soul, you're good, Daunt! Thanks—thanks. Who's this speaking? Why, there's Jeanerret up!”




  ― 94 ―

A tall florid man was speaking, now with wit, now with a sort of bitter indignation. He was using impassioned gesticulations and such phrases as “Let a man put his hand to his heart and say” and “an arrearage of justice.” He seemed to be appealing for the exiled Blacks of Flinders Island, and said they “were dying like bears.”note




  ― 95 ―

Chapter XIV Heans's Ticket-of-Leave

POLICE NO.

POLICE OFFICE RICHMOND TOWN,

21st August, 1840.

The Bearer. WILLIAM HEANS, a Prisoner holding a Ticket of Leave, has permission to pass this day to the house of Captain Shaxton at Flat Top Tier, and return on or before ten p.m. of the 22nd day of August, to this office.

To whom it may concern.

JAS. MANWOOD.

N.B.—This Pass is to be taken on the Day the Bearer arrives in the District to Mr. Chief district Constable of Richmond, who will write his Name and date on which it is exhibited to him hereon, and enter the Pass in his Book. The Pass is to be returned to the Police Office at Hobart Town by the Bearer; and should he have occasion to return before this Pass is out, he must leave it at the Police Office on the Day he arrives at Hobart Town, and should he be unable to leave Hobart Town the day this Pass is dated, he is immediately to return it to this Office.

IT was a still, oppressive night, and very cold. Sir William had with difficulty settled himself to his Plutarch and his tobacco-pipe. The ragged, amber room, if outwardly the same, from being a permanent place of residence to which the chilled mind had endeavoured to yield itself, had become a dangerous and precarious lodging for three days—a restless place of harassment—a mutter with a half-a-dozen chiding ghosts. One of them more than muttered; it moaned incessantly, like the old clock of the poet, “Never—forever”; it had a bitter, beautiful image; it wept. Liberty! What was liberty? It was life! What was


  ― 96 ―
life? A little while! Oh, fair young head! Oh, kind heart! Oh, lost affection! Oh, voice with your: “Didn't you know it, sir?” Yes.

He thrust his book and pipe on the rheumaticky table, and took a stroll to the cold windows. Over the wet shingles, he could see a ship's light moving on the frosty water. A cart jingled across the top of the street, with a tilt and some rolling oxen. Heans looked a wild relief as he turned and strolled back, but, near the fire, the samplers drew him over:—

The world's a stage; and players know full well
That they must part when rings the caller's bell.
Yea, they must part and mourn their faithful loves;
The cote is silent; sundered all the doves.

There he stood, Sir William Heans; his irksome and tainting bars all crumbling about him; now excited and oppressed by the dark pall of danger; now exalted and cheered by the warm clasp of liberty, stayed yet—pained yet—by something of which a heaviness in his heart told him he would never again touch the like. His heavy-lidded eyes saddened as he stood. How curious! Had the dagger of her beauty gone so deep in the earth of his being? Was it bemoaning so great a bereavement? Crying after a woman: frail creature of ephemeral moods? Could earth weep for earth, grieve for earth? Could earth find an agony in good things spoken, in help given, in the things of simple intercourse? Be still, inward moan! Frail human cry—for the good of her—be still! He cherished a vision of Matilda Shaxton, with her eyes strained, and her brows drawn, beautiful, serious, eager, with that indefinable warring in her—that look of Galatea, elevated by life. “Heaven deal with me, if ever I trouble her!” he said, and went to the windows with his hands over his face.

For something like an hour he walked up and down the garret, past and past the ragged chairs, his handsome face pinched and small. At last he sat down, lit his pipe, and took his Plutarch. He elevated the latter towards the candle in a short-sighted way, and his expression seemed aged and pedantic. Slowly and with great pains he began to read aloud from the Life of Cato, the Censor: “He adds … that he never gave more for a slave than fifteen hundred drachmas, as not requiring in his servants delicate shapes and fine faces, but strength and ability to labour, that they might be fit to be employed in his stable, about his cattle, or such-like business; and these he thought proper to sell again when they grew old, that he might have no useless persons to maintain. In a word, he thought nothing cheap that was superfluous; that what a man has no need of is dear even at a penny.…” He was so concentrated in his book that he did not hear his landlady's knock, nor her rather heavy entrance


  ― 97 ―
as she came in, clasping a large blue haversack, and a letter. She looked perfectly calm, but her eyes were significant and mistrusting. She said nothing till she reached the escritoire, when something whistled from her lips, as she put down the haversack. At the word “Soldiers” Heans dropped his book with a great clatter, she observing him with a flash of terror.

“Upon my word, madam,” he jumped, “I didn't hear you!”

“No—it was Corporal Hares came,” covered she. “Did you think it was police?”

“Aha, that sycophantic fellow! He has left these, has he? Was the man rude to you?”

“Oh no, sir! Not rude. People know better in my house.”

“You look frightened yourself!”

“Oho dear, I've a clean hand whatever happens! Registered rooms is registered rooms! But it's a worry with lodgers! You gets your constitution touched!”

“Ah, poor human conscience, madam!” (as he took the letter), “how it discredits our discreetest precautions!”

“I know you, if I don't know your talk, sir. But I'm anxious for my own, and the boy there; a woman can't do more. And my own's the lodgers, while they're in my house, and behaves theirselves. I gets taken up with them I'm working for, and feels uncomfortable-like if calamity threatens. ‘Respectable's’ my motto, and a ‘good name's’ my policy. But if my trial comes, I can't trust myself. Mr. Daunt, he says, ‘You're not hard-hearted enough, Mrs. Quaid. Keep shell-fish,’ he says, ‘and you'll keep a reputation.’ Ah, I'd do anything for Mr. Daunt—I say that where none can hear. Yes, in spite of feeling for all, I leaves 'em to their own keep, and holds my counsel. So I'm a sad woman.”

“What—never rejoice with your lodgers, Mrs. Quaid!”

“Well, as I was apologizing for my vapours, Mr. Daunt said, ‘Never mind looking down in the mouth, Mrs. Quaid. It's a sure sign of health in a prisoner.’”

“Well—you've one, here, sad enough, madam!”

“Now I see you, sir, you're looking sadder—I hope for good!” And she began to hobble out through the chairs, looking however as she did when she came in.

Sir William rose suddenly, with his eyes in his letter, and felt with his hand, as if for support, along the whitewashed chimney., “Heaven help us,” he hissed out, wildly, “all's against me!” His face grew livid and then flushed dark. With a swift oath he turned and snatched up the haversack, weighing it in his hand by the straps. He then drew it close to his eyes and examined the fastenings, both of which were sealed.

The old woman stopped in the doorway with a stern and tragic air, as if she would have uttered some word of sympathy—before she stepped down and let it fall.




  ― 98 ―

The letter was headed:

POLICE OFFICE, HOBART TOWN.

August 21st. 1840.

To William Heans, Ship, Juliana.

SIR,

Captain Shaxton has asked me to convey to you, as arranged previous, a request for the honour of your company, with that of several ladies and gentlemen, to meet Captain Crozier of the Terror, at his estate, at Flat-Top Tier, near Jerusalem, on Wednesday, the 22nd. inst. The Police Office encloses, herewith, haversack of papers, to be carried by you on that date to the District Constable at Richmond. With said packet is Ticket-of-leave, permitting you to pass with same, and break journey at the cottage of Captain Shaxton.

I have the honour to remain,

Sir,

Your obedient servant,

J. GATES, Chief Dist. Const.

To-morrow!

Heans swayed over to the cold windows. He saw again the ship's light, and followed it with his eyes, as it pitched slowly out into the dark.




  ― 99 ―

Chapter XV Shaxton Forgets the Canister

“Bingo is shy. We must give him a little line.” St. Ronan's Well.

OH very fine and grey, Sir William entered the large central room at Flat Top Tier! There must have been over forty guests. The morning had been clear and frosty: the day was sunny. Many of the men stood in their cord gaiters, and a few even of the women wore their riding-habits and male waistcoats of satin. Some lounged on the veranda—high over a plunge of forests; others simpered within over their tea, or Tokay, their spirited eyes laughing unseeingly through the four double casements of amber-coloured cedar, shipped by Shaxton from Singapore.

Sir William in a pair of exquisite duck breeches, with white leather straps, a high-shouldered clawhammer, and a “pudding cravat” of blue satin, held his grey hat and cane by the door. A few women placed pale eyes on him; a few looked coldly; a few stared evilly. How shocking is evil in a woman! The men—benevolent, courtly, diplomatic, grizzled, grave, jocose—treated the appearance of the newcomer after their several ways: some—of those that knew him—simulating surprise; others concealing discomfort; one or two speaking suddenly to him, as they passed, of the weather, this or that.

His eyeglassed eye passed slowly round. Daunt was not present—yes—there on the veranda edge in his Wellington grey—hatless, efficient, and rather wan—with a proud top-hatted young lady. Where was—no—no—no—pretty women, but no Matilda Shaxton! Just outside one of the windows, stood the Captain, his jolly, pale face half towards Heans, with a fine old lady in a poke and sable shawl. With them was a little man in a peaked tasselled cap, with a tight face and whiskers. That man was Crozier. Sir William saw and possibly envied the dapper, little gentleman. We see one doomed to achieve a series of singular heroisms—a burial of Sir John Franklin—a last letter from that starving army in the snow—an agonizing spectre-march through sleet—tracked—shadowed—swallowed—by half-told Fate.

Here and there were grim heads, poised like decapitated John the Baptists, on chargers of satin cravat, and offered up to some


  ― 100 ―
epicure Herodias in a wreathing of social smiles, which Heans had seen in situations less gentle. The transmigration, if convincing, did not seem to reassure the absconder, whose eyes, if indifferent, had a chilled look when resting on them. By the chimney, however, to the right of the cedar mantelpiece, there was a figure which had a much stranger effect on him. It was that of a small, aquiline-faced man, somewhat archaically dressed, with a white cravat loosely knotted up in a bow, showing a small frill, in wellingtons with tassels. He held a grey chimney-pot and a little tasselled rattan, and stood alone, rather shouldered out of a group of which he made one and yet did not make one. His eyes—his restless eyes—were on Sir William in a wild concentration, when the latter's, catching upon them, blazed to a grey dismay. Instantly—and very sharply—the other depressed significant brows, and a faint amazement flushed in on the pallor of Sir William's stately face.

At that moment someone touched his arm, and looking down out of his astonishment, he found Matilda, very haggard and unlike herself, passing out with the Colonial Chaplain in gaiters. She stopped and welcomed him; that old hero, who had reformed the wilder elements of old Hobart, bowing beside her. Matilda looked feverish and tremulous, and her forehead was shrunken in its fair ringlets. Her strained eyes, softening on him as he stood bowing, were steadfast, if not quite guiltless of fear. How proudly, how conventionally, in what pain of precarious change, with what burden of doubt and risk—did these two meet—for the snapping of their erring love. Matilda would have been better had she valued less the attachment of such a man. Sir William would have been better had he loved the woman just so little more that he could have seen no reason to regret leaving her.

“You have not been well!” said Sir William, with a slight hoarseness of sympathy. “I hope, madam, your health is better?”

“Thank you, sir. Have you met your friend, Sir William?”

He laughed a little. “Do you mean Mr. Daunt? I have seen him.”

“Yes, Mr. Daunt is here——” (She let her eyes wheel quickly round.)

“There is Mr. Daunt on the veranda. See, he is looking at us!”

“Yes. He is looking fine. I hardly recognised him.”

“Indeed, he is looking wonderful—But I mean Mr. O'Crone. He has come specially up in the hope of seeing you, Sir William Heans.”

“Mr. O'Crone—I don't know Mr. O'Crone.”

“It is an English traveller who says he has met you: a Mr. Homely O'Crone: a very learned little man.”

“Would you be kind enough to point him out?”




  ― 101 ―

“Mr. O'Crone,” said old Mr. Bedford, “is standing alone to the left of the mantelpiece.”

There is an alarm of movement, chuckling, and chatter, and Shaxton comes pushing through towards them. His moustaches fall in a good-humoured, hospitable grin, but he looks restless and out of place. “Matilda,” called he, “they are starting for the Waterfall. Ah! Heans! You've got up. Good of you. I asked Cooke and Garion if they'd seen you behind. Our party made a regular troop. Sheriff Fereday said it brought to mind the Bllack String days. Lacy told him he wasn't swell enough in his old cabbage-tree for The Line.note ‘'Pon my word, sir,’ says he, ‘you look more like a Five Pounds Catcher.note Ho—ho—ho!”

“Ah,” grinned the old Chaplain, “Lacy was one of the Elegant Extracts.note He was pitching into the Sheriff, who was chaffing the Battery Guard.”

“We're all King's Ownnote to-day,” chuckled Shaxton. “You're very late, Heans! Matilda, you'll look after your cousin! See that he gets some of that Indian sherry. Bedford, they're asking for you! Come along! Sir William Heans, you'll look after my wife. No, she's not to come. She's been unwell. Hang it, yes—very! Don't let her take you down the garden! Too restless—too restless!”

Matilda had moved aside to whisper to the young lady named Henrietta, whose copper-coloured ringlets were tucked away under her ears in imitation of pretty Queen Victoria. Old Mr. Bedford lumbered obediently towards the windows, and Shaxton butted after him, rousing this group and that with hospitable bursts of humour. Preoccupied group after group rose and stirred. People were departing on the veranda.

Natty Daunt of the foot-police, looking as depressed as if he'd been getting a wigging, gallanted out with an active old lady in gigot sleeves and buckles. As they talked their way by, he darted up a bow at Sir William, saying with a flash of surprise, “Why, Sir William Heans! What a giant you are, sir! A foot taller, 'pon my soul!”

In the general movement for the windows, “Sir William—Sir William Heans,” muttered a rapid, rattling voice, and Heans, drawing white eyes from Daunt's back, found beside him the solitary gentleman from the mantelpiece. The proud, agitated, aquiline face, with now a narrow, Jewish glare, and now a gleam of wonderful goodness, gave a strange impression of one not quite


  ― 102 ―
honest, aspiring after moral good. “I remember you, Sir William Heans,” he said, “if you have forgotten me.”

Heans was staring at him now with a courteous intentness.

“Ah, I remember you—your face—well sir,” he said, bowing twice, and speaking as with a great effort.

“Do you come with us up the valley?” asked the other, looking towards the windows where the people were departing. “The ladies and gentlemen are carrying tea and bushman cakes to the Waterfalls—quite à la champetre!

“'Pon my word, I hardly know! I am, I think, to take some refreshment here.”

“You are late arrived! May I make the remark that as you entered you struck me as looking very fatigued? Your health keeps well, I hope?”

“My health! It's well—I was delayed over some despatches for the police.”

“I am to have the honour of gallanting my Lady Grumpus up the valley. I should be happy to have had a few words with you.”

“You honour me, indeed—sir,” said Heans.

He was standing with white legs apart and hands behind back; and he looked away through the windows, his eyeglass up and a very faint smile on a sallow face somewhat wildly sad in the eye. The room was near emptied, though a few people still darkened the windows and veranda.

“Ha,” cried O'Crone, clutching up his cane, “Captain Shaxton calls me! I must go! Sir William, I shall discover from Shaxton where I may call on you. All the way to the Waterfall, Sir William, as I stumble over your mountainous trees, and thread your twenty-feet ferns, I shall be discussing the musical glasses, and endeavouring honestly to explain my presence in Hobarton. The Almanac, it seems, has been vague about me. Ah, sir, these funny human worms! They do not believe in nature—poetry! They cannot—will not—believe a sane being capable of keeping a yacht full of idle sailors from a love of nature!”

He seemed sensible of the agony in Sir William's pale, proud, preoccupied, yet would-be attentive face. Sir William, on his part, seemed to have discovered a hidden agony in what he said.

“Could you not persuade the lady,” said the latter, somewhat balefully, “to abate her curiosity over a poetical lingering, with which she cannot sympathise?”

“No. Let me reply in the words of Miss Fanny Burney: ‘Her character, and the violence of her disposition, intimidate me from making the attempt; she is too ignorant for instruction, too obstinate for entreaty, and too weak for reason.’ God forgive me, talking so of the women! This lady will ask me, grim enough, if I grow tired of Hobarton——” (Suddenly he dropped his voice). “What should I say, Sir William Heans, if I wished to confuse her?”

“Hardly a possible contingency, sir,” answered the other, with


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a slight hoarseness; “and one more tragic than I looked for as I rode up through those clear valleys” (he waved outward with his glass), “that you, so distinguished and high-hearted, as I remember you, should find a vital necessity for confusing any impudent woman!”

O'Crone stared steadily at him.

“And are you then so unchanged, sir!” he said, half-ironically. “Has adversity left your spirit unimpaired? Indeed, how little can the world change us! It has no respect for difficulty; but with a gentleman's heart it can do little. Hush, here's a lady approaching! (In a hearty voice) “I hope I find you of a calm mind, Sir William; with plenty of optimism. Congenial male companionship; the more kind sex, indeed, as your Aunt Miss Gairdener would say, not being accountable—ha-ha——! I hope I find you happier than—than we all might be?”

“You put calamity as the chance of all,” said Sir William, quietly. “Strange indeed, sir, if you had come upon it!” His voice trembled—either at some pleasanter recollection of his little acquaintance, or from the nearer presence of Mrs. Shaxton, who passed at the instant through the door.

“Now, now, sir,” laughed the other, “do I look like one struggling in a web of affliction!” (A voice shouted “Mr. Homely O'Crone” from the emptying veranda. He made to go off, waving his hat; but as suddenly returned.) “Look! I laugh, do I not, quite nicely! I discuss with acumen! I am courteous with the ladies! I sing—I am in good voice at the forte-piano. And yet, you, who hardly know me, hint that I am harassed.” He stared at him suddenly, with great sadness, in the face.

“Egad, sir,” said Heans, “it was your name that stung me!”

O'Crone—the last but Heans in the room—turned and went to the windows, a curious figure with his nervous and agitated face, his bent shoulders, and his tasselled boots. As he put on his hat in the veranda, he was greeted by an impatient summons. At the same instant Shaxton's voice called: “Mr. Daunt, will you bring a rug for the ladies!” O'Crone vanished past the windows with a nervous step. But for Sir William, the large room with its chairs littered with shawls, cloaks, pelisses, surtouts, paletots, and pea-jackets, was now empty. He stood for a few minutes where O'Crone had left him, his eyes looking across the room into the lit plunge of forests.

Matilda Shaxton came quickly in with tears in her eyes, and said—though she could barely speak—“I'll say good-bye now, sir. I think—I believe this is the last time I shall see you.”

He was pale also. He took from her the decanter and sandwiches she carried, and put them on a table. Then he said, “May a fellow have—those hands?”

She gave her hands to him, staring. Tears pressed out and dropped. She was not graceful in her love—no, she seemed an


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awkward woman. Neither was Heans his fine, grey self. He dropped on his knee, and put them against his forehead.

“Ah, friend, friend,” he said, “this is for life! Am I to yield up this? I'm a worldly fellow. No, madam, I am not a man to believe in love! What's this—what's this that begs God not to take you from me? What is it that would speak with you: that would not lose your face? My God,” he said, “I think there's faithful love!”

“Oh, yes … very faithful, sir.”

“I go to-morrow. The schooner is now off Spring Bay.”

“To-morrow—how dreadful!”

“Would you tell me—not to go?”

Her whole figure shivered. “Why, I shall lose you, sir,”

“Well … I'm going …” He raised his head, and his eyes stared on hers. “There's just one thing. Look away,” he cried, “those staring eyes won't let me speak.”

“Nay, Sir William. I'll not look away.” She did not move her trembling hands.

“How true they are! How brave! How proud! .. for whom are they sorrowful?”

“Why—when a friend goes——?”

“Turn them away, Matilda … This is the crying of a man's soul—I tell you—as he rides up those deep valleys. See, the sun leaves them! What a grey return!”

They both stared out in silence.

The faces of both were haggard and sad.

“As I came up, my escape to-morrow seemed a romance. With the schooner gone, and all my risk an afternoon's canter a few miles beyond my pass—I began to long for happiness—because freedom seemed so simple. Your guests passed me on the road, and I thought of them returning in the dusk to Hobart Town. I reflected that you would be returning with them, and that I might ride behind the coach, and see your face and—a stranger—hear you speak …”

The faces of both were haggard and sad.

“Then my heart cried, ‘My God, I can't lose her!’ If there is anything true in human love, she will come with me in the Emerald! If she knows anything of this agony of broken affection—this bitter sense of things snapped and finished—this longing for a face that—for all you had of it—might be vanished—torn away like a scrip—in death——”

“Ah—sir!”

He stopped.

“Good-bye, Sir William Heans,” she said. “Death—and, they say, a better re-uniting—nay, even a kinder affection—are not so far from us all … No—no—no, the other is not for me—no—nor you.”

He stared up and cried out: “Ah, you'll not come with me?”

She glared down … and he let her hands go, and groaning


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turned away. She was gone from the room when he rose to his feet. Stooping, very old, he walked over to the left of the French-windows, emerging presently on the veranda. Standing there, his nostrils were assailed by a strong odour of bruised rosemary.

Three minutes previous, a man had been sitting in the veranda on a low chair by this window. That he might shelter himself from the wind, he had sought guard behind the backs of some armchairs, and the view over that end of the veranda was hidden from him. Over to the left, however, he could observe Nature at her wildest; unimpeded by aught but a few English hollyhocks.

At first he sits far back, and very erect. Afterwards he leans a little forward. His hair is dark and neat. He wears a high-waisted, grey-frock-coat, a white cravat, and his cord trousers are stretched over wellingtons. There are flat surfaces in his face, which make it slightly too solid for his costume; for though thin to refinement, it is thickly boned, and gives promise, at some future day, of a heavy, aldermanic weight.

His expression is at first so stern that it seems—as he sits there—as if it is set in bands of black iron. Perhaps his very stillness increases its sullen energy. It is one of those faces which look as though they have been hardened with human hands, or like some species of rock have become indurated with exposure. Though a latent and almost malignant self-sufficiency invites opposition, you are forewarned it is already world-petrified.

He is not long in this resolution of mind. The demeanour of our doomsman gives way to something tragic, dark, and moved. Stay—has the brass armour of the punisher crumpled a little before some deeper reality—has the riveted ceremonial of justice backed aghast before unexpected pleas! Ho for our code dealing with the shocks of human contact—our police-book on the human heart—our learned inken precedent touching these documents in blood. Our justicer has some troublesome affection of the bowels, which still a tone too high can irritate—a breath too quick can inconveniently disturb. He would grace the bench better with a still tougher stomach.

See—he seeks to recall himself—to look his stern conviction. Nay, he cannot. Nay, a jaundiced judge. See him as he leans on his chair-arm, with his hand on his chin; a sharp, keen-edged efficient, yet momentarily at throat-grapples with frenzy. Order conquers! His small, delicate hand flings away. A dark stain is on his determined face. He springs more erect. See him, the reliable, the patient hearer, the man of feeling power—his mind is settled. He is right with himself. O just judge! It is the pillar of order, the hearth-protector, the experienced in violence, wickedness and bounce, with whom the scarifying of social “growths” is duty. He must work—stern


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orderer—even if his ears be assailed with sadness. Ah, the fortitude! It is a Daniel come to judgment, with arms custom-bound! See him push in, e'en though he have no stomach for it.

Hush! It is a kindly day! How prettily the near hollyhocks shine out against the mountains. The orderer's stony eyes look out upon these harmonies of Art and Nature. How far is he from seeing them! He draws from his pocket a revolving-pistol, and fixes the paper of caps under the hammer! This is ready on his left knee. Half out of his breast comes an iron gyve.

Tragic—dark—moved! Bah! a fine business if your Honour cannot go through with it better! A more even air—pray A less mercurial countenance. For very dignity, contemn. Scorn them, justice! Silence in this court! See, where his Honour crouches forward. He is about to admonish—nay, to cry us a mercy—nay, to grant time—nay, to cry “Death.” Grim execratory, if you must condemn, condemn less implacably. If pardon, come not so hardly at an admitting—finger not at credence with so cynical a touch. O drab judge—O shaken Judge—O dark, dispirited orderer, what tone unthought of, what inhuman plea has shivered those tense bands, and frenzied those hard eyes with hope unwelcome!

Pallid sentencer, what tickle of compunction stills thee! Stern man of order, what delays the march of proved, smooth precedent. Haste, dark efficient—haste, honest hand of retribution—veteran hound of the state—hungry fang for right! To your feet, reluctant minister! Oh, strange! Crouch not there half-risen—hands clenched to strike—eyes glazed outward on the sun-blessed gullies! Action—action! Strike, bloody lash! Snake whose venom is for right, dart in your stinged tooth and anguish out another good! Press in your stiletto, right's assassin! What hinders thee! Tried punisher, what tickle of compunction still delays thee! Ah, yellow Hamlet—what do you among the headsmen!

Hold! There is yet another doomsman upon the bench today! No judge, this; yet one singularly interested in the case. Is he one of those onlookers, who half in sympathy, half curiosity, attend these tragic functions—one of those strange beings who, with their feet in the quicksands, find a pleasure in contemplating the sinking of others? Is he there by some accident of eminence on a holiday; or for some selfish or some malicious interest? There he listens.

With the grate of the new-comer's footsteps, Daunt shrinks back. It is as well for his Honour's privacy that he has taken shelter from the breeze. For as the other lowers a basket to the veranda, he glances along among the cloak-hung chairs. Is he so certain of its emptiness? He does not give it another


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glance. Some thought or sound stops him in the very act, for he remains turned inward, his head down, and the basket-handle tense in his hand.

The new-comer's breeches and waistcoat incline to the mode, and like his broadcloth coat—so tight of sleeve and waist—seem over-nicely fitted for the stoutish face. On his head is a hat of rice-straw, cocked forward. His face is broad and sad. Who is it? Bah, what a pother over some old police magistrate or clipper-commodore! Some joking ancient (say you) and pet of the young ladies—some retired notable, with wit undaunted if legs surrendering. He seeks quietness. His soul—like his jocular face—has become grave. He would rest, and look at life grimly. We cannot all be joking with the children.…

Nay, he is restless! He turns away, and swings back again! Has he got a fright or something! Bah! no peace in the quicksands, even for your detached student of 'em! Yet what in Nature could be so fascinating and yet so aging! He turns purple, then white! God Almighty—the poor gossip's mouth hangs like a dead man's! Ah, listening Tom—listening Tom—here's treasure-trove of a fearful kind—here's grave gossip—here's a common crying in the court that spreads like a chill about the heart!

Hark, your Honours both, is it the prisoner speaking? Nay, it is an interruption from the prisoner's accomplice. Weigh it carefully. A grave fine voice: yet judging by your Honours' four white eyes, an unjust one, hardly tolerable! The eyelids of the doomsman behind the chairs are thin, however. He seems bitterly to mutter, “Duty and I will bear with this much!” But our contemplating clipper-commodore looks fighting-white. His fallen mouth whimpers: “God, I cannot bear with it!”

“Turn them away, Matilda. This is the crying of a man's soul—I tell you—as he rides up through those deep valleys. See, the sun leaves them! What a grey return!”

“As I came up, my escape to-morrow.…”

“Then my heart cried out, I can't lose her.…”

“This longing for a face that—for all you had of it—might be vanished—torn away like a scrip—in death—”

“Ah—sir!”

Would your Honours tell us who spoke at the end? Will your Honours have the sound investigated? Fetch the policebook, constable! It was like the cry of a point of granite in the ebb of the sea, or a woman's voice in travail. Of what? Of a soul, an't please your brooding lordships—of a fine soul—a soul, in verity, larger than life, oh sour incredulous! An anomaly in human regulations! Have it catalogued! A disconcerting sound in the grim routine of prisons! We have blundered into this! What, you sway forward! Shall the court rise?




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Aye, and you too, an't pleasure your straw-hatted excellency—of a little soul! Think you, the lady does as well as can be expected? A healthy woman—ready we think to tend another at pleasure! Your hat-brim nods against the wall, and your strong fingers loose the basket till it trembles on the ground! Greedy sib! These fine births, though rare for the gossip, smack something tragically upon the holiday palate!

“Good-bye, Sir William Heans. … Death—and, they say, a better re-uniting—nay, even a kinder affection—are not so far from us all. … No—no—no, the other is not for me—or you.”

Ah, old commodore, there you stand in the wind, with your face towards the wall! We might be reading into that cold stone and plaster—what? Hope—amazement—grief—despair—ruth—remorse! He sighs. Sick of courts, your worship! Let us spend our holiday with nature! Ho, for the waterfalls! He gathers up his basket with both hands, and, as he does so, stares round at the view. My God, what sunken eyes! What eyes! There! He turns away! He's gone! The path flings back his jerking footsteps!

And you—dark judge—have risen too! Those eyes show a glare of agitation. What is it that you would aid—what is it that you would spare? Nay, God defend us from that ugly brow: if it is not sparing, is it serving? Thou to serve—thou veteran punisher, what dost thou serve? An aroma of rectitude? A smell of honesty? Some small, smug tinkle of inner comfort? Indeed, where would we be, my lord, these wraiths dispersed!

Gyve and pistol slap slickly away. Risen, and holding to a chair-back, he glances this way and that. To the right, the long veranda, raised on a four-feet parapet, stretches before three drawing-room casements; to the left, a shorter and higher span runs to a lofty corner, past the fourth and another. Cautiously pushing aside an armchair, he creeps stooping to the parapet, and drops into the garden. There, crouching on his haunches, he creeps through mignonette and “ragged Robin” to the corner. His wellingtons bruise the rosemary, and its sickly smell rises about him. The thorn of a white lady slits his coat sleeve. The sun yet dabbles the far hillsides.

At the corner he rises, hurrying rearwards past woodbined windows, past kitchen and through stables, past coaches and diffident grooms—till, circling the house, he runs—runs—heavy-footed and fearful, sinister of face, to join the ladies at the Waterfall. Nay, it is a holiday, Mr. Daunt, for us lovers of Nature! Let to-morrow do for the treadmill of stern work again: “let tomorrow take thought for the things of itself.”

Above the lash of water, where, in a stepped gorge, behind the


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butterfly wings of ferns, the ladies could be seen exclaiming and laughing as they ascended, Daunt came upon his host, who had retraced his steps, it seems, for the forgotten tea-caddy and “a couple of those Indian cheroots for Captain Crozier.” Here he was overtaking his guests with a gleaming face.

He laughed out, when, staring back, he saw Daunt. “Here are the cheroots,” he said, thrusting the box towards the Superintendent; “will you run on and beg a hero's tolerance for the Captain?”

As Daunt received it in his efficient, steadying way, he met the other's eyes.

“You asked me, sir,” he said, “to bring a rug for the ladies, but I could find none in the drawing room or on the veranda.”

“Egad,” muttered Shaxton, pressing on with a bottomless stare, “you could find none in the drawing-room or on the veranda?”

“No,” answered Daunt, in a laughing voice; “but you would hardly tell me to go back!”

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