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XXXII The Last Week: Saturday

MY gaolers merely ungagged me for my breakfast, and not all my prayers could induce them to unbind my hands. I essayed everything; I even pretended to be violently ill, but they only laughed at me. The worst


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of it was I was quite strong. I felt that if I could have got one of my hands free everything would presently be well. Despair came because I gradually perceived how vain it was to hope that I should ever be released again. What reason could there be for such a thing? All they now required from me was my life. Of that they could most easily deprive me in my helpless state. It was my worst day. I thought of the past, the present, the future. I speculated what the few friends I possessed would think of my disappearance. I did not remember the name of one who would be sufficiently interested to make investigation. They would conclude that I had left Sydney in sorrow for Edward Shaw's death, then think no more about me. I supposed that my uncle had seized all my luggage and personal belongings the night he had captured me, and had conveyed them secretly to his own house. Every circumstance would, in that case, point to the fact that I had quietly departed of my own accord. No suspicion of unfair play would ever probably be excited in the matter unless my body should be subsequently discovered. Even then, I knew that the Push would so arrange that it must appear that I had committed suicide.

So much for myself. Now as to Miss Denton. If no kind providence prevented, she must infallibly fall into my uncle's hands and share my fate. What must happen then? When she arrived in Sydney, her first act would be to proceed to some hotel and there engage a room. In the evening she would take a cab out to the University gate. The police would be able to trace her so far, but how much farther? She, a well-to-do woman, could not disappear without remark. Her evanishment would cause a great stir, and the whole police force would be urged by her lawyers and the public to spare no effort in unveiling the mystery. The Push must know this; they must also know that her disappearance must probably be connected with mine. Were they relying on the hope that the public would think that we had quietly eloped? Impossible, even for such ignorant brutes as they! What then? Ah! I had it! They perhaps intended to depart from their time-honoured custom. They would not kick us to death; they would stab


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or shoot us, and dispose of our bodies in some lonely spot, so that it should appear I had killed my sweetheart and then myself. The romantic death of the poor Dacres was still fresh in the public memory. It would be supposed that in an insane fit I had sought to rival that sad tragedy.

I considered the chances which Miss Denton possessed of escaping my uncle's trap. They were very thin. She would have no suspicion, and would approach the trysting place without fear. Larrikins would be lurking in the shadows beside the bridge. It was a lonely spot after nightfall, although only fifty yards from a busy thorough-fare. A man would approach her from each end of the bridge. One would ask her a civil question, which she would answer. She would probably be stunned, bound and gagged, unsuspicious still, for no one, however quick-brained, can immediately comprehend the unexpected. The larrikins would have a cart waiting, in which she would be carried off to Glebe Point, to a boat. Her only chance then rested in remote haps of fate. She might fall ill in the train. An accident might occur to the cab while on her way to Forest Lodge, or a policeman might across the bridge and loiter there out of curiosity while she waited for me. I prayed to the Almighty in speechless fervour that one or other of these things should come to pass, and in such desperate imprecations and reflections the cruel day passed. My gaolers were ever stolid as owls; only at meal times did they exhibit any animation, and that was only in the hope of extracting some fun from the situation at my expense. But even of that they grew tired at last, and Pagney fed me at dinner with his own hands, and also gave me a glass of whiskey. The brute must have had some pin-point of heart hidden somewhere in his frame, which had perhaps been touched by my keeping faith with him regarding the hundred pounds. Bill Jones never opened his lips. The hate which existed between the two was something to marvel at; it was so deep and sullen, and yet held under such constant, fierce restraint. I asked them once if they had been socked for killing Edward Shaw. They said “No,” and laughed grimly. I spoke to them of Judith Kelly, and tried to stir them into a more active enmity.


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They glared at each other when her name was uttered, but made no reply; and when I persisted Pagney gagged me into silence. It was my last chance of making any attempt at escape, for I was kept gagged thenceforth until midnight, about which time my uncle arrived, accompanied by his council and twenty of the Push. The councillors carried between them the body of a woman. I could not see her face until she was laid upon the floor at full length beside me. She was bound hand and foot, and gagged, like myself, with a thick linen bandage covering a wedge of wood, but I met her eyes, and saw it was my sweetheart. She was perfectly conscious, and her eyes did not seem afraid. The Push remained outside the cabin door grouped about it. They nearly all carried lighted candles, which smoked horribly. Only my uncle and the councillors entered the cabin. When they had deposited Miss Denton, they seated themselves upon some iron cans and boxes arranged beside the wall opposite my mattress. Not a single word was spoken. I noticed that Pagney and Bill Jones had disappeared. The silence lasted for several minutes. I gazed always into Miss Denton's eyes. I was trying to tell her of my terrible grief for her. Her glance was very sorrowful, hopeless, and resigned. There was a dreadful purple bruise upon her forehead; she had evidently been shamefully ill-used. My heart beat so fast that I was almost suffocated. Constrained to breathe through my nose because of the gag, my breath came and went in sobbing, snoring gasps. The air in the cabin quickly became thick and foul, and many of the Push commenced to smoke cigarettes. At length the crowd at the door parted, and Pagney appeared, carrying in his hand a small tinsmith's brazier filled with glowing coals. Thrust through the bars were three thin pencils of steel, having handles of wood. The brazier was deposited just outside the door.

My uncle moved for the first time. He opened his vest and drew out the Push Book, then commanded Pagney to fetch a box. A gin case was quickly deposited on end before him. Upon this he placed the book, a small bottle of ink, and a pen. He then addressed the Push.

“You know, boys,” said he, “this is the worst affair we've


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ever engaged in, and you've all been selected and picked to take part as the best men in the Push. None of the rest of the Push knows what we're goin' to do, and it's not our business to tell them. But there's been a traitor among us, and that traitor's sprung from your own king's family. Well, it's not likely I'm goin' to rate my own less than any one of you. When Lucas Rowe turned traitor, I reckon it's time for each and all of us to take precautions, and for each man to distrust the next. For that reason I'm goin' now to ask each and all here present to sign a paper I've written out, not that I distrust one of you, but it's a protection to me, and will be a protection to you all. You can't grumble, for the council is going to sign first; and as you'll all sign the same sheet you'll all be equally bound and equally protected. I reckon after that we can breathe easy. Well, boys?”

“Read it!” they cried.

He opened the book. “We, the undersigned, hereby state and declare and solemnly swear that we killed Lucas Rowe this —— day of —— for being a traitor to the Push, and his girl, May Denton, for being concerned in his treachery, by cutting their throats with his own razor, and leaving their bodies on the embankment at Glebe Point so as to look as if they committed suicide. So help us, God.”

“That's the ticket,” added my uncle. “Jack Robin, you sign first.”

Not a single murmur was raised. The councillors one by one signed the paper, and then the Push silently filed in and followed their example, returning thereafter to their places without the door. My uncle at last turned to me. “Pat Daly,” he commanded, “free the male prisoner's hands, and take off his gag.”

I almost swooned with joy. The blood rushed so wildly to my heart I thought it would burst. Daly kneeled on Miss Denton's shoulder to get at me. In a second my bonds were slashed off, but I quickly found that my hands were still too cramped. I needed a little time to rally my strength.

“Sit up!” said my uncle.

With an effort I obeyed.

My uncle got to his feet, and, reaching across Miss Denton, placed the Push Book upon my knees; then a loose


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sheet of paper upon the book; lastly he handed me a pen, and resumed his seat.

“I want you,” said he, “to write a short letter explainin' to the world that your girl's jilted you, and that you've made up your mind to kill her out of jealousy, and then yourself.”

“What if I refuse?” I muttered hoarsely. I hardly recognised my own voice.

He pointed to the glowing brazier. “I'll damn soon find a way to make you, my boy. I'll burn out your tongue first, and if that doesn't do—well—— Sam, hand me one of them solder irons.”

Pagney extracted one of the steel pencils from the coals, and gingerly handed it to the king. Its free end was red-hot. My uncle flourished it in my face.

“Will you write?” he asked.

“Yes!”

I stooped over the paper, but my hand was numbed; I could not form a single letter. “You'll have to rub my fingers!” I gasped. “They're so cramped I can hardly hold the pen.”

My uncle signed to Robin and Daly, who at once came forward, and grasped my hands, which they vigorously chafed for about five minutes. I felt the blessed life returning to the members, but I still required strength for the task before me.

“A drop of whiskey!” I pleaded. My uncle nodded.

While it was sought for I looked into my sweetheart's eyes and tried to convey to her some message of hope. But her regard was fixed and scornful; she probably thought me a coward for my prompt obedience.

The whiskey warmed every fibre of my body, and stimulated each nerve to action.

I signed that I was ready to write, for by this I could move my stiff fingers back and forth, and I took up the pen. But Daly stood stolidly before me. He was too close.

“You are in the light!” I grumbled. He stepped back, and as he did so, stumbled over Miss Denton's feet, and fell to the floor, cursing horribly. It was my opportunity. For a second the eyes of all were bent on the stumbler. I slipped my hand under the mattress, felt for, found, and snatched


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at the revolver, then with pounding heart pointed it at my uncle's breast. I cried out to them all:

“One move and your king dies!” I gazed, however, only at my uncle. His face wore a dazed and stupid look; for several seconds he seemed unable to comprehend the position. Suddenly, and I daresay without knowing what he was doing, he stood up. I pulled the trigger sharply; there followed a blaze of light—a terrible noise—loud as a clap of thunder, a wild shriek of pain, and a confused babel of rushing sounds, oaths, curses, and shrieks. In the flash I saw my uncle throw up his hands and pitch forward. All the candles were extinguished by the concussion, and though the lanthorn still burned, nothing could be distinguished for the thick sulphur-smelling smoke. I thought that the Push were rushing forward to cast themselves upon me, so I fired twice more blindly in the direction of the door.

Cries followed the reports, but distant cries. In a second I realised that panic had seized the Push, and that they had fled. The brazier of coals, which had been overturned, burned red as blood through the black haze. I dragged myself over to it by my hands, and tore from the bars one of the glowing solder irons. With this I seared through the cords which bound my legs, and tottered upright. I heard a stamping of many feet on deck, and wondered what to do. After a moment's wild irresolution I seized the lanthorn, and staggered and stumbled through the door along the passage of the hold, until I almost reached the mouth. A number of heads leaning over the orifice were framed in weird silhouette against the sky; it was raining heavily without, and a drenching shower pattered into the hold, while a thick stream of white smoke swirled upwards, only, however, to be pushed back and spread out in mushroom form by the rain. “Is that you, sir?” muttered a voice.

I took steady aim, and fired my fourth shot. It evoked a fearful howl, and every head instantly disappeared. With a recklessness born of a total suspense of my reasoning faculties, I lumbered to the ladder, and painfully toiled up the steps. There was the larrikins' opportunity; I was helpless for more than a minute, having both hands engaged, but they had not the courage to avail themselves of it.


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Perhaps, however, they could not see what I was doing, for I had dropped my lantern on firing the last shot, and the night was dark as Erebus. I sat upon the deck at last, and looked around me, my legs dangling over the hold. A mass of figures was grouped before the gangway, elsewhere the deck was clean. I dragged myself to stand, and staggered towards the bunch, my pistol in advance. I wanted to kill them all. I fired my fifth shot, and they melted before me; many of them hurled themselves over the side of the hulk into the water. When I reached the bulwarks not one remained. I glanced over, but could see nothing. To encourage them, however, I fired my sixth and last shot into the water. It was then that reason revived in my brain. I realised, with a gasp of horror, that did they return now they would find me defenceless; my pistol was empty. With a groan I tottered over to the hold, and slipped and slid down the ladder, falling heavily upon the sharp iron fragments at the bottom. But the pain helped. I got up and forced my numbed limbs back towards the cabin, seizing the lantern on my way. The smoke had by this much thinned. The brazier and its scattered coals had ceased to glow, finding no food to feed on in the iron rubbish heap upon which they had been cast. My uncle lay face downwards on the floor, across Miss Denton's feet, moveless as stone. I put down the lantern, and turned him over in order to search his pockets for a knife with which I might free Miss Denton. I found two loaded revolvers before I came upon a knife, and felt happy, and a match for twenty pushes. My uncle's head was covered with blood. I thought him dead, but was not at all troubled; I had intended to kill him when I shot. I opened his knife with teeth and fingers, and then quickly slashed my sweetheart free. When I took the gag from her mouth I noticed that her lips were cut and bleeding. I said as I helped her to her feet, “I have been a prisoner here since Wednesday night. That is why you have suffered these indignities. I could not go to help you, nor give you any warning.”

She shuddered so violently, and swayed so, that I had to support her. “Is he dead?” she asked.

“I think so.”




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“And the others?”

“They have gone for the present, but I think they will return when they recover from their panic. You must pull yourself together at once, and come with me on deck. If they find us in the hold they will shut us in, and it will be our death-trap. They will starve us to death here! and no one could ever hear us, however loudly we cried for help!”

She stood erect, still swaying a little, but her will was very strong; she pointed to my mattress. “Bring that—it is the Push Book, is it not?”

I stooped and quickly gathered up the scattered papers of the portfolio, marvelling at her forethought the while. But I wanted my hands, so I slipped the book under my vest as I had often seen my uncle do. Then I turned to her, boiling with a sudden fever of haste and apprehension. “Come!” I cried, “come quickly!”

We hurried from the cabin; I did not stay to assist her, but went in advance with the light, for I heard strange, dull noises and thudding sounds against the side of the hulk. I sprang up the ladder without a thought to Miss Denton, so great was my alarm. I was not an instant too soon. The Push were already swarming over the side of the hulk, and they waved in their hands what seemed like logs of wood. When I appeared they came at me in a body, in a quick, silent run. I fired in their faces—twice. One man fell to the deck, the rest paused, halted in confusion. I had by then a revolver in each hand. I cried to them: “You had better go; I have a bullet ready for each one of you. I shall commence firing as soon as I count ten; if by then you have not left the ship—one, two, three, four, five, six——” I paused between each word about two seconds. When I reached “six,” they retreated; “nine,” they were scrambling into the boats; “ten,” the deck was clear. I walked to the side and peered steadily over: a great stick whirled through the air, and pounded the railing within a foot of my left hand. I made out the form of a boat, because the splashing of the heavy raindrops was interrupted in a certain space. As the raindrops fell in every other place, they gleamed. I fired at the dull tract, and the shot was


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answered by a volley of iron and wooden missiles. Several struck me on the body, and one grazed my forehead, but I felt no great pain. I called out to them, “Pull off, or I'll smash your boat with bullets, and drown every mother's son of you!”

Jack Robin's voice answered, “We want to talk with you!”

My reply was a shot, and it evoked a low howl and much groaning. I called out, “I have nothing to say to any of you. If you are wise you'll clear out; someone is bound to hear the shooting soon!”

“Where is the king?” demanded a voice.

“Dead!” I shouted, “and more than one of you with him!”

I heard sculls splash the water and the creaking of wooden rowlocks. Presently the sky was illumined with a brilliant stream of forked lightning. During the flash I saw that the Push were making towards the city, in two big boats very close together, each loaded heavily and riding deep in the glass-calm water. I fired a last shot to speed them on their journey. The lightning had revealed no sign of life on the whole bay save what I have described; but it showed me an overturned skiff floating beside the hulk, and fastened to the bulwarks by a painter. A low moan from the rear made me turn swiftly round. Miss Denton was kneeling on the deck attending to the man I had shot down, and whom I had utterly forgotten, by the light of the lanthorn which she had brought with her from the hold. I walked over to her.

“Is he much hurt?” I asked.

The man was Pat Daly. He was quite conscious, but seemed very weak.

“He is wounded in the arm,” replied the girl. “I think he will bleed to death if it is not bound up.” I ripped open the fellow's sleeve, which was drenched with blood, and between us we bandaged his wound with our handkerchiefs and a strip of muslin which Miss Denton tore from the bottom of her skirt.

“I suppose you are saving me for the gallows?” said Daly when we had finished, and had propped him up under the shelter of a broken piece of deck house.




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“Suppose what you like!” I retorted. “Keep silence, if you want to live!”

I moved to the gangway side of the hulk, still fearful that the Push might venture to return. It rained and rained a perfect deluge, but, curiously enough, the water was quite warm, although the middle of winter had barely passed. I was sodden through and through, and my boots splashed with every step. I judged that dawn could not be far off, for the darkness seemed much less dense than it had been. While straining my eyes into the water, trying to make out the boats, Miss Denton gave a sudden scream. I spun round just in time to avoid a sledge-hammer blow from a long iron bar swung in a man's hands. The man himself lost his balance from striking only the air, and sprawled on the deck. I pointed a revolver and waited for him to rise; but he lay still save that he moaned. “Bring the light!” I cried.

Miss Denton did so, and I saw it was my uncle! He looked up at me with his little baleful eyes gleaming wickedly. His forehead was covered with congealed blood; but the flow seemed to have ceased. Evidently my bullet had only grazed his scalp, and stunned him for a time.

“I thought you were dead!” I exclaimed.

“Not yet!” he panted, and made as if to get up; but I put the revolver to his head. “I want to kill you!” I cried. “Give me the least excuse, and I shall!”

He fell back groaning.

“What are you going to do?” whispered Miss Denton in my ear.

“I don't know,” I replied. “We can't get away from the hulk without a boat, and the only boat there is is floating bottom upwards alongside. I cannot right it without help, at least in the dark. We shall have to wait for daylight.”

“How terrible!”

“Are you brave?” I asked, glancing at her sideways.

“What is it you want me to do?”

“Go down into the hold, and fetch me some ropes from the cabin.”

She gave a shiver of dread.

“Never mind,” said I.




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“May I take the light?” she asked in a minute.

“You are the bravest girl in the world!” I cried, warmly. “I hate to put this work upon you; but you see how it is—I cannot leave my precious uncle!”

“Is that man your uncle?” she asked, shuddering back a step, and gazing at him.

“I cannot help myself. I did not choose him!” I replied, and put the lanthorn in her hand. She descended the ladder step by step and was gone for five minutes, so that I became alarmed; but she brought me some papers as well as a coil of ropes, and I guessed what had been her business—the papers belonging to the Push Book.

I thrust them into my pocket, and gave Miss Denton one of the revolvers ready cocked, and instructed her how to use it. I made her stand immediately opposite my uncle, and him sit up, then bade her to pull trigger on him if he moved an eyelash; the light burned right in his face. For myself, I took up the iron bar with which he had sought to kill me, and, having forced him to crook his arms close to his sides, passed it through his elbows and behind his back. Then I roped him, and, when satisfied with the knots, turned him over, face downwards, flat upon the boards. In that position he was helpless, and even more entirely so when his feet were tied, for the bar protruding far on each side acted as a lever to prevent him from even rolling over. Through all, the rain beat pitilessly down, a solid flood sheet. There was no shelter to be had, and not so much as a rag of canvas could I find, for the hulk had been stripped of her top hamper years before, and only the bare sweep of lower deck was left, save for one or two bits of roofless cabin and the broken cuddy, in which Pat Daly lay. The shutter boards used for covering the hold were piled in a heap beside the mouth; but they were useless.

When I saw that I could do nothing whatever for the comfort of my companion, I strode to the gangway and peered out over the waters. It must have been almost three o'clock, for a haze of grey light swam on the horizon, and the dark sky gave faintly luminous signs of breaking. Nothing was to be seen of the boats, and the nearest light was a distant twinkling lamp on the northern corner of Goat


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Island. Beyond that lay Balmain, and, farther still, the city. I was wondering how I should win there, wondering what Miss Denton must be thinking, and feeling very worn out and altogether wretched, when she came to me.

“It is very wet,” she cried.

I found nothing better to say than “Very!” I almost added “ma'am.” A whole universe appeared set between us.

“Did they use you very badly?” she muttered presently.

I held out my left hand to the light. “They tore the nails off my middle fingers. That was the worst!” I replied.

“Tell me everything!”

I made shift in a halting, disjointed fashion to do as she requested; but I felt all the while like conversing with a stranger. She told me thereafter how they had caught her. She had proceeded to the Newtown Junction in a tramcar, and walked thence to the University Bridge. While she waited, under the shelter of her umbrella, a man came behind her, and as she turned, thinking it was me, he struck her half senseless with a club. In a flash others arrived, who gagged her, and made her walk between them across the deserted park to the Camperdown Road, where a cart waited, in which they drove to Glebe Point. There the Push awaited them in boats, in which they rowed out straightway to the hulk. There had been neither hitch nor hindrance to the Push's plans. Except for their own carelessness in not searching me when first they had me at their mercy, nothing on earth could have saved us, and we both knew that, at the time we spoke, we should, in all human likelihood, have been already dead. Miss Denton recounted her adventures with the utmost coolness. Her manner to me was restrained and chilling.

“I thank God I have been able, so far, to guard your life,” I said at last. “The pity is, that we are not yet out of the wood. The Push may return at any minute, armed; and in that case nothing can save us.”

“But,” said she, “it is no more than two hundred yards to the shore. I can swim.”

“I cannot,” I replied; “besides, the water is alive with sharks! It is but a choice of deaths!”




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“Do you think they will return?”

“I do.”

“God help us!” she muttered, and for awhile we were both silent. From time to time my uncle cursed, or Pat Daly groaned, and always the rain poured down perpendicularly from the leaden skies. There was not so much as a breath of wind. I commenced to entertain a sense of injury, or, rather, to perceive that I entertained it. I thought that Miss Denton, however much I had wronged her, might have shown me a warmer manner, for, after all, I had saved her life. No first-met stranger could have been more cold, not once did she even look in my direction.

“I am cramped,” she said at last. “I must walk to warm myself,” and she left me. I watched her proceed right to the stern and peer over the side, where she rested for a time. I bitterly told myself that she had gone there to escape my company, but of a sudden she came running back. “Lucas,” she muttered, “there is a little boat fastened to the rail—at least, it looks like a boat.”

With an excited thrill I sped to look, bearing the lantern with me. Sure enough a small dingey, at the end of a long painter, swam on the stream. I pulled it in, and lowering the lamp with a bight of rope, found it furnished with sculls and lug sail all ready for us to embark. It was, no doubt, the boat used by the caretakers of the hulk in going shore-wards for provisions, and the Push had forgotten it in their confusion, although they had taken care to sink the skiff before they departed. In a very few seconds I had lowered Miss Denton into the dingey, and was about to descend myself, when suddenly I recollected I was penniless, and possessed nothing in the world save the clothes in which I stood. Muttering an excuse to the lady, I slipped back and searched my uncle's pockets, despite of his curses. I found in all upon him less than four pounds, but it was something. I then despoiled Pat Daly of his hat, and, so accoutred, rejoined Miss Denton.

Pushing off, I headed, not straight for Balmain, but in a slanting course down the harbour, so as to mislead our enemies should they return and seek to pursue us. An


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hour's hard labour at the oars brought us opposite Circular Quay and Miller's Point. It was still very dark, but guided by the pier lights I worked quietly into the little crescent bay, and presently brought up alongside of Prince's Stairs. Not a soul was in sight, not even a policeman, for the rain had driven all the loafers and night hawks to cover. We landed, and I pushed the dingey back into the stream, to drift where it or the tide should decide. Then, making our way to the splashing wood-blocked road, we stood for a moment before the Custom House. The clock told us half-past three.

“Where are you staying?” I asked, and the words broke a silence which had lasted since we left the hulk.

“At the Metropole,” she replied.

“Let us go there at once, then.”

“May I have your arm? I am very weary.”

I offered it to her with a forlorn bow. I was almost dead myself, and in this manner we climbed up Young Street, and in less than five minutes halted in the porch before the great door of the sleep-wrapped hotel. Miss Denton looked terribly bedraggled and forlorn. She had lost her hat, and her long hair streamed about her. Woman-like, however, she kept her back to the light, and I could not see her face.

“You will come in?” she asked.

“No,” said I.

“Where will you go?”

“I do not know. I have nowhere to go,” I replied dejectedly.

“You have no money?”

“About four pounds which I took from my uncle; nothing else in the wide world, and not a rag to my back except what I stand up in. They despoiled me of everything.”

“I received the thousand pounds which you sent me.”

“Which I returned to you,” I corrected.

“Let me lend you some money,” she whispered.

“No thanks,” I answered, rudely, I think, for I felt a scorn in her words, and my pride was stung.

“What will you do then?”

“I shall go somewhere and sleep when I leave you—afterwards, I neither know nor care.” Indeed I was past caring.




  ― 309 ―

“You have the Book safe?”

“Yes.”

“Then you should not say you do not care what you do. You have a duty to perform—a duty to society.”

“You mean I should go at once to the police?”

“No, I do not mean that. You should at once escape from Sydney, taking with you the Book, and then make those terrible men know and realise the power you hold against them. Make them understand that they must never commit another crime. If you act wisely you can oblige them, through fear, to reform. They know you have the Book, and if you assure them that you intend only to use it in case they are wicked, but would certainly use it then, I am sure that they would never dare to resume their evil courses.”

“You are right, I think,” I answered wearily. “But for yourself, what do you intend to do? You must not stay in Sydney. Here, whatever happens, your life is in constant peril.”

“No more than yours.”

“Oh!” I cried, “what does it matter about me? Please answer my question.”

“I shall go away to-morrow night, by train, to Melbourne.”

“I am glad of that. You must never return to Sydney—never again. The Push know that you know their secrets. If you came back ten years hence they would kill you if they could. They never forget, they never forgive.”

“But if you hold the Book?”

“I would not trust them in your case or mine. It will be now with them a question of vengeance where we are concerned, and no consideration would affect them if they could ever get us in their power. Now, a last word of warning. To-morrow, keep to the hotel all day. Do not go out once until you leave; and when you reach the station get immediately into a ladies' carriage, not a sleeping-car. You must not attempt to leave your carriage on any pretext until you cross the border. Some of the Push may follow you to Albury, but I do not think beyond. Above all, do not sleep, and keep near the alarm-bell, so that you can stop the


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train should a man attempt to enter the carriage. If you follow these instructions I think you will be safe.”

“Thank you very much. But what of yourself, Lucas?”

“Lucas!” I muttered.

“I beg your pardon,” she said.

I swung off my hat. “I daresay I shall do very well. Of necessity, I have no plans just yet. I shall have to look around me a bit before I can get away. But be quite easy; I shall take excellent care of myself. Good-bye, Miss Denton,” and I bowed again; I dared not offer her my hand. I did not wish to, very much.

She did not offer to move, but in a second she muttered:

“You have not asked me why I returned to Sydney!”

“No.”

“Have you no wish to hear the reason?”

“I have, Miss Denton, but I have not the courage to ask it. I have done you so great a wrong that I felt myself committing an impertinence even in saving your life.”

“You feel like that still?”

“I do.”

“Shall I tell you?”

“If you please.”

She shook her head. “Do you know, sir, your humility savours of the pride of Lucifer. Confess, is it not true that you nourish a grievance against me?”

“It is true,” I said.

“What is it?”

A hardness came in my throat which tasted bitterly. It was difficult to articulate. I muttered, “You ought to know. I hate myself so much on your account that it seems unnecessary that you should hate me, too!” I was burning with a sense of great injustice as I spoke; it had been steadily accumulating, and was born of the coldness of her demeanour to me from the moment I had released her in the cabin of the hulk. Heaven knows I had no right to expect anything but coldness from her; but then one is not the author of one's emotions, at best their master, and at the moment I was far from even being that.

“I do not hate you,” whispered Miss Denton, “and you are not quite frank with me. Your grievance is not because


  ― 311 ―
you think I hate you, but because you think that I have ceased to love you.”

It was as though she were reading my heart like an open book. I shivered, and was silent.

After a moment she pursued: “I returned to Sydney to obtain from you a ring.”

Involuntarily I raised my hand. The ring which she had put upon my finger the night of our engagement was still there. I tried to remove it, but I had not the strength; for touching by chance the raw tip from which the nail had been so lately torn, I turned of a sudden sick, and almost swooned.

Miss Denton saw and vigorously tugged at the bell. The night porter opened the door, and I made no protest against entering; I was almost done. The man led me to a chair, and gave me a glass of spirit. As in a dream I heard the girl explaining away our plight with some specious story of a boating expedition, a broken oar, and a long pull against the tide with naught but a pair of broken paddles. Still dazed, and quite incapable of resistance, I was led to a room on the first floor of the building, and put to bed by the good-natured porter, who brought me a pair of pyjamas, and took away my sopping clothes. I do not remember saying good-night to Miss Denton. I had just sense enough left to collect the papers which she had brought me from the hold of the hulk, and to hide them and the book beneath my pillow. I did not remember to lock the door, but fell into a dull, heavy slumber the moment my head touched pillow.

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