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XXXIII The Last Week: Sunday

IT was noon of a glorious sunlit day when I awoke. Two men were in my room—a hotel waiter, and a gentle-man of my acquaintance, Dr. James Cavanagh, a surgeon of great repute in the city. Beside the bed stood a table, on which reposed a basin of hot water, a case of instruments, lint, and salves.




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“Ah!” observed the doctor, with a genial smile, “awake at last, I perceive; we shall now be able to get to work; your left hand, is it not?” Dr. Cavanagh was a perfect modern replica of the great Roman, Marc Antony; his face, cut like an ancient cameo, was just as beautiful, just as clever, dissolute, and wicked; the skin was marble white, and seemed smooth as silk. He was a great figure in Sydney society, and charged two guineas a visit, cash! I looked at him stupidly, and thought of the hole about to be made in my little treasury.

“How did you know?” I gasped, and drew my injured hand from the clothes.

“Your fiancée, Miss Denton, called at my rooms an hour ago. She told me of your little accident; quite an adventure, was it not? Lucky for you the sea was smooth when you came round Middle Head. A dangerous spot that for a small boat, with broken paddles.”

“I'm sorry you were disturbed for such a trifle, doctor; on a Sunday especially. I should have gone round to you.”

“Not at all, not at all!” He examined my fingers.

“Was it a blow?” he asked. “The nails appear to have been torn off. Miss Denton said you knocked your hand.”

“I scarcely know how it happened,” I muttered. “The only thing I'm thoroughly sure of was that it hurt like the deuce!”

“The wounds look quite old,” said he. “They have commenced to heal already; your blood must be in first-rate order, and yet you don't look too well.”

“Oh, I'm knocked up; the long pull!” I explained.

He shook his head, glancing at me curiously; but presently he got to work, and in a few minutes my hand was washed, dressed, and very neatly bandaged.

“You'd better come and see me to-morrow morning: no need to dress it in the meantime,” he observed, and gathered up his things.

“Your fee, doctor,” I said, and pointed to my money on the dressing table.

“Was paid in advance,” he returned, with a smile. “I wish all my patients were as thoughtful. Good-day to you,


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Mr. Rowe. Eleven to-morrow morning I shall expect you!” and he closed the door behind him.

So Miss Denton had paid the doctor for me! I thanked Providence that I possessed even so much as four pounds. I determined to oblige her to take back the money, for I discovered a sudden fiery impatience of being indebted to her for anything.

“Where are my clothes?” I asked the waiter.

He pointed to a chair; my suit was beautifully pressed and folded, it looked as good as new: but my shirt and collar made me feel inclined to weep. However, the man for a consideration undertook to obtain for me fresh linen, and a new hat, from a shopkeeper who lived on his premises near by, and who entertained no religious scruples about Sunday trading. While he was gone, I indulged in the luxury of a good hot plunge bath, and by lunch time was able to present quite a respectable appearance to the world.

My first act was to properly bind up the Push Book, and all its loose papers; I made up my mind to give it into Miss Denton's charge as the best chance of procuring its safety, for I did not know how I was going to escape from Sydney without money, and I felt that in my possession it would be in constant peril of recapture by the Push. Counting over my money I found that I had £2 18s. left. Of this I had to give Miss Denton £2 2s. The room would cost me five shillings, my lunch 3s. 6d., and I must give half-a-crown to the waiter. This would leave me exactly five shillings upon which to commence life anew. I confess I found the prospect very disagreeable. I had now not a friend in the world from whom I could confidently expect even so much as a night's lodging. I had no profession to depend upon, and my broken University training had supplied me with the poorest possible equipment wherewith to fight the world. The most I could hope for was to seek and obtain some petty clerkship during the next day or two, while my five shillings lasted, and before my new linen became disreputable from constant use. After that I knew that I should have no chance at all, and I should be constrained to either enter the army of houseless beggars and Domain loafers, or else join the ranks of the sundowners, and make


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my way out into the country in search of work as a day labourer; and this, of course, provided that in the meantime I were not caught and “dealt with” by the Push.

With a shoulder shrug, and the reflection that crying would not cure my state, I took up the Book, and passing into the corridor, sought the dining hall. Miss Denton was seated alone in the farthest corner of the room. I went straight up to her, bowed, and asked might I share her table.

“Why of course!” she replied, but she did not meet my eyes. She was perfectly dressed, and looked so composed and beautiful that I could have thought the wild happenings of last night the dream of a fevered and diseased imagination. It was with a sense of strange coldness and diffidence that I took a chair and sat to face her.

“I have a favour to ask,” I said.

“Yes.” She did not look up.

“I want you to take charge of—of the Book.” I placed it on the table before her. “You see I shall not be able to leave Sydney as soon as you, and in my custody it can never be safe—while I am here. Do you mind?”

“No.” She took and placed it on her lap. Still she did not glance at me.

I put before her two sovereigns and two shillings, while a waiter was helping me to soup. “Thank you very much for sending Dr. Cavanagh to me,” I said; “I think, however, it was unwise of you to disregard my advice. You should not have left the hotel.”

She blushed hotly, took up the money, and gave it to the waiter; a creature of impulse she was ever, and ever will be. The man stared at her aghast, quite unable to realise his good fortune.

Miss Denton stamped her foot. “Go!” she said.

The fellow hurried away, muttering incoherent thanks. Then we looked at each other, long and full. I know that my eyes were hard and defiant. My heart burned with angry pride. Whatever her feelings may have been, her eyes were hot and brilliant; their message was illegible in everything, save that I knew she disapproved me.

I held up my left hand, and pointed to the ring, steadily holding her glance the while. “I cannot give it to you yet,”


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I said, “you see it is on my bandaged finger. You must leave me your address, so that I may send it after you. I am very sorry!”

Her lower lids showed swift tracts of light above the lashes, and two diamond tears overflowed and trickled down her cheeks.

“You are very cruel!” she muttered, and rising suddenly, left the table and the room without a single backward glance. The Push Book fell to the floor, but she did not heed. I picked it up, and thought at first to follow her, but on a swift reflection refrained. What right had I to intrude upon her; what right to dare impute her tears to anything but a sudden woman weakness, or perhaps a sense of angry resentment at my ingratitude?

I called in philosophy to my aid; I told myself that this was probably the last proper lunch I should have a chance of discussing for years. In truth, I was very hungry, but such was my preoccupation and the turmoil of my feelings, that though I ate what was placed before me, every mouthful tasted bitterly, and in my throat was a painful constriction which often made me choke.

I was glad to have done. I hurried back to my room, and having hidden the book beneath my vest, placed in my coat pockets my uncle's two revolvers, and then made my way downstairs to the office to pay my bill and go. I had made up my mind, acting on a blind emotional impulse, to leave without saying “good-bye” to Miss Denton. Indeed, I feared to, I was so worked upon, and strung to such a pitch of nervous feeling, that I dreaded breaking down before her, and rendering her final impression of me, one of unmanly weakness, meet only for contempt. Issuing from the office, I came face to face with her. She wore a hat, she carried a sunshade, and was dressed completely for the street. Her face was white as milk, but her eyes shone like stars.

“You are going out!” I cried.

“Are not you?”

“Oh!” I said, impatiently. “It is not the same. I must. I have no excuse to linger here. Besides, I am a man, and armed!”




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“You were going for good; you would not have said ‘good-bye’ to me!” she muttered, huskily, it seemed to me.

I was silent.

She swept past me. She descended the steps and turned to the left, towards the gardens and the Domain.

With a curse on her folly, I followed her, but at a distance. It was my duty to defend her, my duty to see that while in the city which I had rendered perilous to her she should come to no harm. No more dangerous place could she have chosen for her walk. On Sunday afternoons both the Botanical Gardens and the Domain are invariably invaded by the more youthful class of larrikins in force. At such times their habit is to occupy the benches, or lie upon the grass, and, in their parlance, “nark the nobs”—that is, “guy” respectable foot passengers as they passed. Miss Denton walked up Bent Street and entered the Domain. Without a pause she proceeded down the long avenue of giant fig-trees leading towards Woolloomooloo Bay. I could not but think that her purpose was deliberate. For a Sydney-bred girl, she must have known that she was going to the heart of danger. It would have been better for her to have entered the Gardens, for there the crowd was always greater and more mixed, and consequently our peril less. The Domain was filled that afternoon with scattered groups of ill-clad folk. Stump orators, standing on benches, harangued the idlers on every subject under heaven; and wild-eyed religious fanatics danced in rings, loudly confessing their sins to the music of hand-organs and derisive outcries. Larrikins were much in evidence. When half-way down the avenue, we passed two large groups squatting on their haunches upon the damp grass about fifty yards apart, each mob pelting the other with twigs and gravel, and exchanging laughing but foul-mouthed “chiack.” Either group might have been composed of young Dogs. Fortunately they were too much occupied to notice us. Miss Denton walked with proud carriage, her chin in the air, as though defying fate. Her gait, like all about her, was beautiful to watch, but I should have been more content to enjoy its contemplation elsewhere. A stone hurled by a


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practised hand might at any minute bring her to earth, stunned and bleeding, dead perhaps. I confess I gripped my revolver continually. I should have drawn and used it on the smallest provocation. On reaching the Art Gallery, I saw two policemen mounting guard before the doors, and I muttered a prayer that she might be inclined to end her ramble there. But she passed on, and descending the little hill upon which the Gallery is perched, took a seat at last in a lonely glen, entirely shaded by myall and mimosa trees. Perhaps my fears made me over-anxious, but nevertheless it seemed to me to be mercilessly tempting fate to linger long in such a spot. It was hidden, certainly, from the gaze of passers-by but if any young Dog had chanced to mark our progress, it would have been child's play for him, with a few companions, to creep up and put a term to our existence with one flight of stones. Larrikins are practised and skilful stone-throwers. Many of the more youthful ones can depend upon hitting quite a small mark from a considerable distance, and it is their pride to excel each other in a pursuit which they have exalted to a science. Miss Denton did not appear to know that I was within a hundred miles of her. She laid her parasol upon the bench, folded her hands, and seemed to give herself up to dreams. Hot with anger, I strode over the grass and stood before her. She started a little, but made no pretence of surprise.

“So you followed me?” she said.

“Why did you do it?” I cried, bitterly. “There was no need to risk your life again.”

She looked at me with big inquiring eyes. “I wished to discover if you cared.”

“Are you still curious?”

“No, not now.”

“You think because I followed you——”

“I know,” she interrupted. Then, “Lucas, you were wrong—about—about the ring.”

“I was wrong? How—how do you mean?”

“I did not wish you to return me the ring I gave you.”

“What then?”

She looked down, blushing faintly. “I—I came back to Sydney to—to ask you—for—for another.”




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I did not understand. I told her so.

But she was cast in confusion. She turned her face away. “Think,” she muttered.

“I cannot,” I answered harshly, and added, “I shall not, I do not wish ever to think again. Would to heaven there were no such thing as memory.”

“Ah!” she cried, “you make it very hard for me,” and got to her feet. She was trembling; she hid her face in her hands. “We are not strangers,” she whispered.

“Not yet,” said I.

“You are cruel!”

“You repeat yourself!” I said, hoarsely; “but I am willing to confess myself the greatest brute in your regard.”

Suddenly she stood erect and faced me. Her eyes were luminous and tender, yet strangely defiant.

“It was a wedding-ring!” she said, and blushed to her brows.

I fell on my knees before her, of a sudden grown so miserably lonely, so craving to be comforted that I had to bite my lip to keep from tears. I kissed the hem of her gown, and cried, brokenly, “You are an angel of goodness, May, and I am almost cad enough to take you at your word! But not quite”—and I stood again. “You must go back at once to the hotel!”

She put her hand upon my arm. “With you?”

I nodded. I dared not look at her. We climbed the hill and turned into the avenue, citywards. It was a great while before I could conquer my emotion. She spoke to me only twice, and at long intervals.

“You are my lover—my lover!” she whispered first, and pressed my arm.

“I shall always be that,” I replied.

Then again, “We can be married in Melbourne.”

I shook my head. I think she smiled.

At the Domain gates we came upon my uncle and John Robin. They seemed to be waiting for us. My uncle had his head bandaged, and wore a low slouch hat, which half concealed his condition. Both men were respectably attired, and their demeanour was nervous but restrained. Miss Denton turned deathly white to see them, and leaned


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heavily upon my arm. I was surprised and a little shocked, but I can honestly declare I was never cooler nor more self-possessed in my life. They came straight up to us and blocked our path. I did not, however, fear violence then, for within twenty yards two policemen were standing in converse. They bowed gravely to Miss Denton, and my uncle said to me in a low voice:

“Give me back the Book, and you and your young lady can go free. I swear it before God!”

I looked him straight in the eyes and said, “I am glad to have met you to explain. Neither you nor yours shall ever see the Book again. I have it, and shall keep it as a guarantee of the future good conduct of yourself and the Push. If ever you commit another murder, or if ever any person at Miller's Point mysteriously commits suicide or disappears (you understand my meaning?), well, the moment that I shall hear of any such occurrence—and I shall watch your conduct closely, no matter where I may be—that moment I shall place your Book in the hands of the police. Do not deceive yourself with the idea that I should not dare. The Book is in my power. I have already destroyed the papers which incriminate myself with you; therefore, I should be perfectly safe in giving it to the police, and you to justice. You know what must happen in such a case. You and your wicked associates must inevitably be hanged! This is my last word with you. I bid you for your own sakes reform, and reform at once, or as surely as there is a God in heaven you shall die the deaths you all so richly merit. Now go! No, do not open your lips to me, I forbid it! One word, and I shall give you in charge to the police yonder!”

They shrank aside silently, though the venom in their eyes seemed to poison all the atmosphere.

With a sharp breath I drew the girl on, and we passed them; she was shaking like a leaf. “Do not look back,” I muttered. “We must not let them suppose we regard them with a grain of fear.”

We reached the hotel and ascended quickly to the drawing-room. There arrived, I shut the door, and she broke down, in a sort of hysterical outburst, laughing and sobbing in a breath. On the hulk and throughout the perils she had


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passed she had been brave as any man, and exhibited no smallest sign of fear. She had indeed comported herself in such a manner as to make me often marvel at her extraordinary courage. But now she was attacked with an agony of terror as outrageous as it was unreasoning. Even when I finally soothed her from her tears, she could not find calm. She continually implored me to save her; shuddered at the slightest sound. With every step in the corridor without she stood up, her face pallid and deathly, and seemed on the point to scream. Her abandon was as absolute as had been her former immobility, and my heart bled to observe her sufferings, which I found myself powerless to alleviate. Fortunately the room was deserted save for us, and throughout the afternoon no soul intruded on our privacy. She seemed to be haunted with a vision of my uncle's baleful eyes. She cried out constantly for me to take them from her; she talked with them, and besought them to go away, wildly telling them that she had done them no harm. It was not till she was sheer exhausted that her reason gradually reassumed its sway. But at last she lay back upon the cushions, and, weak as a child, implored me to forgive her for the trouble she had cost me. My answer was to kiss her hands and warn her of the time. It was then almost six, and the train set out at seven.

She told me that her luggage was already packed, but I insisted that she should have some dinner before she went, and I noted that her disposition was to yield to me in all things. We dined together silently, I joining her, with a sad reflection on the waste of my last few shillings, but unable to refrain from the pleasure of remaining with her to the end. Afterwards she gave me her purse, and asked me to pay her bill while she went to dress. My own meal cost me four shillings, so it was that I came down to my last shilling. When she returned, cloaked and gloved, we descended the stairs and entered a waiting cab.

I said to her, “I am extremely sorry, May, but I shall have to ask you for a loan after all, or else I shall not be able to accompany you beyond the platform bar.”

She smiled, and handed me her purse. I took out a shilling and two pence, then returned it to her; she received


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it still smiling strangely to herself. I paid the cab, and bought a platform ticket, shrugging my shoulders to think that I should have to spend the night in the open air, for I had now not a penny in the world, and I owed Miss Denton the money I had borrowed. She walked to the ticket-office while I attended to her luggage, and presently we met again. I found her seated in an ordinary first class carriage. It was empty save for her. I said, “Not here, May. You must go into a ladies' carriage.”

She held out her hand and showed me two tickets. “I shall be quite safe with you, dear,” she answered, and smiled divinely. A great temptation assailed me. I said to myself, “Why not take her at her word? As her husband you will be able to forget the past, and your life will be one long dream of happiness.” But then I thought, “No, she cannot love me; it is not possible. She is influenced by compassion!” I turned sharply away, and strode towards the bars, my eyes burning with tears forced back. I thought it was for ever. I felt I had not the strength to say farewell to her. I intended to hurry off, where I did not know—anywhere, so that it was a lonely place, would do. It was the sight of a face which made me pause, a cruel, venomous face, with little twinkling hate-filled eyes, which glared at me from the window of a second class carriage—my uncle's face! Quick as a flash I swung on heel; it was almost time for the train to leave. Porters were locking the doors, and the stationmaster stood by the clock, bell in hand. By some magic, May Denton stood before me. She was panting, and her face was very white. “You would not dare to leave me!” she cried. I hurried her back to her carriage, and springing in, sat beside her. The door clanged, the bell rang, and with a great shrill of steam we were off.

May shook my arm almost fiercely. She still breathed very quickly.

“You would have left me! Why was it?”

“Ask me rather why I returned.”

“Tell me.” Her eyes grew big with alarm.

“They are on the train, in a carriage behind us—my uncle, and probably others of the Push.”




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I had thought she would have shown some of her former terror; but, on the contrary, she smiled.

“You are not afraid?” I asked, amazed.

“Bless them!” she answered happily. “They sent you back to me,” and laughing and crying in a breath, she threw herself into my arms.

I had still strength enough to put her from me. I forced her to meet my eyes, and said, “You should not tempt me too far, May. You pity me, I know; but remember that I love you, and am not over-strong.”

She put both her hands upon my breast. “Lucas,” she murmured, gravely, and her voice and eyes were very tender, “you once asked me how much I loved you—and you spoke of crime—do you remember what my answer was?”

“I do.”

“Well, I do not think you have committed any great crime, dear. I have thought and thought, and tried to see how you could have acted differently, but I could not. But even if you could, and failed, even had you been a much greater sinner—— Stay, you say that your uncle is on the train. Well, if it were possible, and you were he, with all his guilt, my love for you could not change. It is true I would loathe your crimes, true that I could never marry you; but truer than all is this, which is truth itself, no man but you could ever be my husband.”

I gazed at her adoringly. “You love me!” I cried; “you love me!”

“Ah,” she said, “I have behaved ill to you, ill to love. I should never have left you, never have caused you the pain of believing that my heart had changed. It had not, dear. I knew, I felt all the while that in my deepest depths I should always be utterly yours, and in my deepest heart I had nothing but pity for your past, for your undeserved sufferings, and admiration for the manner in which you had raised yourself above your cruel surroundings; but—and this is my confession, Lucas—a black, pitiful pride came over me. Because you had deceived me, I thought, I dared to think you had lied to me in love. Worse than that—ah, dear, I am sore ashamed to say it—I thought of what must happen if by any chance your connection with those men, and your


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birth and parentage should become known. And I thought of the sneers of the world which, as your wife, I should have to share! Was it not base of me?”

“No,” I cried, “it was not base of you to think such things, but it is base of me to dream of allowing you to incur such risks. May, I can never marry you!”

She smiled in my face, and answered very gravely, “Lucas, dear, you shall marry me, and to-morrow, when we arrive in Melbourne. If you refuse, I give you my word of honour I shall return to Sydney, and stay there until you are reconciled to your fate! Is it such a dreadful fate, Lucas, dear?”

Another and better man, more strong in his duty, and his honour, may have withstood such powerful temptation. But not I. I could not, and the crowded happiness of six perfect years has reconciled me to my failure. I took my sweetheart in my arms, and usuriously repaid myself for the wasted hours of our separation, nor did I think again to combat her sweet will.

Nine miles from Sydney the train stopped at Strathfield Junction, and two gentlemen entered our carriage. I was far from regretting their presence, although it constrained us thereafter to be decorous and converse in whispers. My uncle passed the window, and glanced in, but made no sign of recognition; no doubt he cursed to mark our reinforcement. At Moss Vale we halted for twenty minutes for dinner. Our fellow-travellers departed to seek refreshment, but I did not dare, for I thought my uncle would be waiting some such opportunity to work us ill. I closed the door, and waited beside it, pistol in hand. I had not to wait long. In a very few minutes the platform was quite deserted. Three men sprang from the shadows and approached our carriage. They were my uncle, John Robin, and Dave Gardner. My uncle seized the handle and threw open the door. I presented the revolver in his face. “You cannot come in here!” I said, sternly.

“Bah!” said he; “you dare not use it. You can't play bluff with me. I want the Book, and I'll have it. No use calling the guard. We've got first class tickets, and just as much right here as yourself!”




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What he had said was true. I dared not use the pistol except as a last extremity, for I had no wish to figure in a trial for either murder or manslaughter. Seeing his point, I stepped back and sat beside my sweetheart, who was, I believe, in a great terror. “Come in if you want to!” I called out, quite genially. “I cannot say that you are welcome, but if you must, you must.”

The villain looked rather disconcerted, but he entered, and, with his companions, sat immediately before us. Miss Denton was beside the window. I whispered to her, “Go out and enter a ladies' carriage. I shall keep them here.”

“And leave you; no, never!” she muttered.

“It is for both our lives.”

“No.”

I looked her in the eyes. “I command it!”

She gave a little sob, but she obeyed.

The three ruffians watched her departure with the greatest solicitude.

“Where's she off to?” growled my uncle.

I smiled. “Just to have a word or two with the guard,” and taking my sweetheart's place, I crossed my legs, with affected nonchalance. I placed my revolver on the seat between my thigh and the carriage wall, but arranged the stock ready to my hand, then calmly lighted a cigarette. My cool assurance evidently tortured the feelings of my enemies; they shifted about most uneasily.

My uncle cried out: “See here, Lucas, give us the Book, and you can go! I mean it, s'elp me Gord!”

I contemptuously puffed a smoke wreath in his direction.

“My dear uncle!” I replied, suavely, “I am grieved, but what you ask is impossible. Even if I could depend implicitly upon your word—and, pardon me, I am afraid I cannot—I should not depart from my present attitude. You see I have determined to reform the Push. If you will trouble to reflect you must remember that I always had an ambition in that direction, and once was sufficiently a fatuous fool to believe your sworn promise, and the Push's, that the Push would never again dip its hands in blood. My ambition has not relaxed in spite of your broken vows, and now I possess an assurance of your good behaviour which I prefer


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to trust rather than all the oaths in the world. As reasonable men, you cannot blame me for refusing to part with it, eh?”

“It only means we'll have to kill you!” he grated out.

“You tried recently, and failed!” I observed.

“We are all armed,” he cried.

“Indeed.”

“And we're desperate; we're sworn to die rather than go back without the Book. You'd better give it up!”

“I'll take my chances!” I answered, coolly; for all that I was shaking in my shoes.

They put their heads together, and started muttering, and so they were engaged when the two gentlemen, my former fellow-passengers, returned. Presently a bell rang, and the train recommenced its journey. My uncle stared at me, looking as though he could not believe his eyes on the failure of my sweetheart to return; but I affected to take no notice of him. The gentleman who sat beside me asked me how far I was going.

I replied, “To Melbourne; and you, sir?”

“Wagga Wagga. You must be cold without a rug; these warming pans are not up to much; share mine, won't you?”

I thanked him civilly, and we entered into a conversation which lasted until we had passed both Goulburn and Yass. Then he commenced to doze; his companion was already fast asleep, propped up against the further window. I prepared myself for a struggle, and gripped my revolver under cover of the rug. My uncle said, in a low voice, “I give you one last chance!”

I sat up and cried out very loudly, “Are you addressing me, sir?”

My companion opened his eyes with a start, and looked round.

My uncle spread out his hands; his face grown sickly pale. “No offence, sir; no offence!” he protested in a choking voice.

“I'm glad to hear it,” I said, sternly.

“What was the matter?” asked my companion.

I shrugged my shoulders. “That fellow made a silly remark to me, which I resented. That's all!”




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The gentleman settled himself to sleep again, and I pretended to follow his example, but I watched my enemies narrowly through half-closed lids. In about a quarter-hour my companion commenced to breathe heavily. My uncle glanced at Robin; Robin nodded, and all three stood up. I waited, every nerve on edge; I wanted to lure them to an assault, so that I should have an excuse to use my pistol. They could only approach me from the front, for I was in a corner. All three took vials from their pockets, the contents of which they poured on their handkerchiefs. They glanced swiftly at each other, nodded, and as at a signal, Robin and Gardner sprang upon my fellow-passengers, while my uncle launched himself on me. The whole compartment simply reeked with the fumes of chloroform. I had long been prepared to act. Even as my uncle made his spring, I threw off the rug, and struck out with my pistol. He fell back dazed from the blow. Next second I was on my feet, and standing on the cushions. I struck him a second time, and not waiting to ascertain the result, gave Dave Gardner, who was nearest me, a terrible kick on the forehead, then fired point blank at Robin, who had his back turned.

I was master of the situation. My three enemies were, for a moment at least, quite hors de combat. I occupied my leisure by smashing the glass of the alarm, and pushing the electric button communicating with the guard's van, then I retreated to my corner, and waited. Robin, who had pitched over on his face, was the first to rise. My bullet had ripped along the whole length of his back, tearing a long strip from his coat, and had smashed through the carriage wall. He was not wounded; he turned and looked at me with the eyes of a trapped devil. I mocked at him. “The train is stopping! In five minutes you will all be in irons; no, up with your hands or I'll blow your brains out.” He had moved his hand to his breast, where no doubt was some weapon.

My uncle presently staggered up, groaning; his face was covered with blood, perhaps the wound of yesterday had reopened. “Air, air; open the door!” he gasped; “open the door and get off. I can do no more. I'm done, I'm done.”




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“Yes!” I said, “open the door and go!”

Robin turned the handle, and with one furious effort of his great strength, forced the lock; the door crashed back, letting in a stream of cold, exhilarating air. Only then I realised how near I was myself to suffocation, but the blast revived me. The train was by then going only at a moderate speed, with all its brakes jarring. Robin dragged Dave Gardner to his feet, and shook him vigorously; the fellow half came to his senses, and with the others jumped or tumbled from the carriage. I sprang to the aperture, and looked out, but could see nothing, except that we were apparently running down a long and steep incline. When I turned, one of my fellow-passengers was sitting up, gasping for breath. I had no time to give him explanation, for presently the train came to a standstill, and three faces almost instantaneously appeared at the open doorway—the engine-driver, and two men in uniform.

“What's the meaning of this!” demanded the guard, who seemed indignant at the stoppage of the train.

Very quietly I told them my story. Three passengers, who had boarded the train at Moss Vale, had, while my companions slept and I was dozing, attempted to chloroform and rob us. I had, fortunately, waked in time to frustrate their efforts, and, having a pistol, had been able to terrorise them while I rang the alarm. When they realised that they must be caught, they had broken open the door, and jumped from the carriage. I had fired at them as they departed, but thought I had missed. I pointed to the bullet mark in the carriage wall, and to one drugged and still unconscious passenger (the gentleman who had been assaulted by John Robin) in corroboration.

All was excitement and bustle. The guard forgot his indignation, and warmly praised me. The drugged gentleman was laid upon the floor, and restored to his senses by a liberal application of cold water; meanwhile the whole train woke up. Several passengers issued from the sleeping-cars, and joined our throng, and heads appeared out of all the other windows, of people, men and women, who were clamorously curious to know what had happened, if the train had broken down, and so forth. I had to recount my story


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several times, and was presently the hero of the train. A suggestion was made to form a party and return to look for the robbers, but I assured the crowd that they had jumped off immediately the breaks were applied, probably some miles back. The guard came to my assistance, and sternly vetoed the proposal, because the train carried the mails, and it was already behind time. The passengers were presently hurried back to their cars, and once more we started on our way. For an hour or two I was obliged to listen to the perfervid thanks of my fellow-passengers, one of whom, in a burst of confidence, informed me that he was carrying a large sum of money on his person to pay the monthly wages of his employees, in a mine which he owned near Wagga Wagga. He seemed to think that his money was the sole objective motive of the attempted crime, and very glad was I to perceive him the victim of such a delusion. At Junee Junction I was able to communicate to my sweetheart the glad news that we had finally shaken off the Push, whereupon she insisted upon returning to my carriage. A police constable was presently haled before us. He proved a bucolic, slow-brained fellow, but possessed of a most exaggerated idea of his own importance. When he knew all, he was at first for insisting that I should leave the train and remain at Junee so as to be on hand when the robbers should be caught, to give evidence against them. This naturally I flatly refused to do, and taking a high hand, defied him to arrest me. He was plainly very puzzled how to decide; but I had the whole train with me, and he finally gave way before their increasing murmurs. He took my address, which I gave as Menzies Hotel, and then perceiving that I was a first-class passenger, and not a commercial traveller, became more respectful. My gentlemen fellow-passengers restored his complacency completely by informing him that they both intended to spend the night at Junee Junction before proceeding to Wagga, and that they could identity the robbers quite easily, and give evidence sufficient to convict them without my assistance at all.

When this business was satisfactorily concluded, and the train already quite twenty minutes delayed, the bucolic policeman ambled off to set the telegraph in operation.


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Really he had done everything in his power to give my uncle a good start. The mine owner, with a cautious tenderness towards his own pocket which he believed I had saved, then took off his hat, and proposed that the assembled crowd should contribute a testimonial to honour my heroism, in fighting and putting to flight three desperate criminals. The suggestion was heartily acclaimed. I protested and protested, but to no purpose, and presently was obliged, between laughter and indignation, to receive and pocket a hatful of miscellaneous coins, which amounted, as I afterwards discovered, to exactly five pounds, six and sixpence.

As we moved out from the station the people assembled on the platform gave me a rousing cheer, which was echoed by every soul aboard the train.

I turned to my sweetheart, my cheeks hot with shame. “I could not help myself,” I muttered in apology.

“You deserved it—deserved it richly!” she cried. Which asseveration proves that Miss Denton loved me with less discretion of rational judgment than emotion, but I take comfort on reflection, for though I have travelled far and studied the hearts and minds of diverse peoples in half the great cities of the earth, I have yet to meet the man who would not rather be loved for the sake of Love, who, like Justice, is a blindfolded deity, than for the sake of reason. The truth is, that if we poor humans were condemned to be loved in proportion to our intrinsic merit, with the exception of a few gloriously sweet and perfect women, in whose ranks is my sweetheart eminent, we should scarcely taste of happiness, if happiness consists, as I believe, in loving perfectly and being perfectly beloved. But Providence, lenient to our frailties, for which perhaps He is in some wise responsible, has mercifully decreed that love may achieve its highest state, in spite of our shortcomings, and often because of them.

For a long while I gazed out of the window, watching the flying spectres of rocks and hills and great, gaunt trees, which sped past, illumined during fragments of seconds, by the yellow carriage lights, or tricked into ghostly chiaroscuro by pale steam clouds from the engine. My mind was swelling with thoughts the like of which I had never entertained


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before; but they were welcome visitors, however much unknown, even though their joy was tinged with a sadness inexpressible of speech. I felt my unworthiness acutely, but my happiness still more. It is perhaps the appreciation of our poor deserts which enables us to cherish at their proper value the rich gifts of the gods, and I sometimes think that the happiness of perfect creatures, if there be any entirely such, must be marred of one of its keenest pleasures, by their consciousness of enjoying merely their due reward.

I wished to tell my sweetheart some of these thoughts of mine, and a little wondering, too, at her own silence, I turned to her at last.

She was kneeling, her head bent reverently above her folded hands, like a child at prayer, but as I moved she raised her face and looked at me. Her eyes were infinitely joyous though they shone through tears, and her lips were parted in a tremulous and tender smile. It was as though she were speaking, though silent, and my heart ached suddenly to know. “Yes, dear, yes?” I cried.

Her smile became ecstatic as she answered in a low, sweet whisper, “I am thanking God for His goodness to us, dear.”

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