― 187 ―

Chapter XVII. Love in the Bush.

IN the mean time the major, with the vigilance of an old soldier, had kept a good look-out. On the departure of the mate he had pushed forward a couple of scouts to give notice of anything indicating danger.

It was not long before one of them came back with the intelligence that footsteps were heard approaching. The major went to the outside of his fortifications a little in advance, and placing his ear to the ground was enabled to distinguish plainly the sound of the tread of many men. Giving instant directions to the crew to be on their guard, and retiring his two scouts within the breast-work, the sturdy sailors stood with their

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arms ready and prepared to repel the attack of the natives, which they now were convinced was on the point of taking place.

The major was by no means at ease in respect to the result of the conflict; for he was aware of the power of numbers, and the advantage which a night attack, under such circumstances, gave to the attacking party. He hastily spoke a few words to re-assure his daughters' confidence, with some brief instructions as to the course they were to pursue in the case of his being overpowered by numbers.

Helen, and especially Louisa, could not help feeling the alarm natural to their sex at the prospect of an encounter with savages, not only on their own account, but for their father's sake, who was not a man, as they well knew, to be backward where fighting was going on, or to shrink from danger when his presence and example were needed to encourage others.

But, with the strong-minded Helen, the tremors which the first alarm had excited, quickly subsided, and, arming herself with a ship's cutlass, she planted herself before the entrance of the

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rock to guard from harm her less courageous sister.

“Shall I fire, sir?” asked one of the sailors, who held in his brawny arms a huge blunderbuss, the threatening aspect of which was alone sufficient to scare away a whole mob of natives, had there been light to distinguish the capaciousness of its expanding muzzle:—“I can hear them coming on, and my blunderbuss covers them nicely; shall I let fly?”

“No, no,” said the major, “never fire, man, till you have hailed your enemy; always give fair play; don't fire.”

“Avast, there!” cried out the mate, who heard the word “fire,” and was by no means desirous of receiving such a compliment from his friends. “Avast! we are friends, all of us. Here is Mr. Silliman come to life again, and a party of soldiers come to join us; and now, by Jupiter, we'll have the old brig again; and I'll take the liberty to tell Master Mark Brandon a bit of my mind. And, with your leave, major, we'll make up a fire, for we are strong enough now to defy the bushrangers, even if they were to come on shore,

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which they won't do, for it's not their game; they will be trying to get the vessel through the opening and out to sea; but we 'll put a stopper on that, or my name's not Jack Northland.”

“Major Horton,” said Ensign Trevor, introducing himself by name, “I think I cannot do better than put myself under your orders; your knowledge and experience in these matters are far superior to mine.”

This deferential offer Mr. Trevor made by no means with the desire of propitiating the major, but entirely from the impulse of his natural modesty, so becoming in youth. But the major replied with military decision, in terms not less courteous:

“By no means, Mr. Trevor; you are on duty, and I am retired from the service. But I shall be happy to give you the benefit of my advice if you should think it worth having. But, your name! I had the honour to be acquainted abroad with a gentleman of the name of Trevor; is it possible that I can have the pleasure of meeting him again in this most extraordinary manner? And now, that the fire begins to burn up, I can see by the

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light that I am not mistaken. Helen, my dear, you may come forward; Louisa, my love, there is no danger. I have a surprise for you both; here is an old acquaintance. Mr. Trevor, my dears, whom you knew in Germany, is in command of the party that has joined us. Strange meeting this, Mr. Trevor! My poor little girl, you see, has not recovered from her alarm at the thoughts of the natives. Where is Helen, my love? She is generally foremost when there's danger; not that there's any danger now, and especially from you, Mr. Trevor. I see that the expectation of a brush has excited you a little. Oh! here comes Helen! My dear, why do you walk so slowly? Are you ill? Is anything the matter with your sister, Louisa? I am afraid, Mr. Trevor, that her spirits are too much for her! She is quite a heroine, sir; an Amazon! I believe to defend her poor father and her sister she would fight like a lioness! Helen, my dear, look up; this is Mr. Trevor; don't you remember Mr. Trevor? Surely you can't forget the long walks we used to take with him at Vienna! There—there—don't be making formal court'sies in the bush! This is not

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a place for ceremony, nor a time, neither. You are heated and flushed, my dear, with the excitement of our preparations for the natives. Well, upon my word, I never saw so much bowing and courtseying before! Mr. Trevor, I admire the deference due to the ladies as much as any man, but there's no need to be so very formal among gum-trees and opossums.”

“I am happy to see Mr. Trevor,” at last said Helen, in a low voice, which faltered slightly, and with an air of dignity which might have become a queen on her throne receiving an ambassador.

“Circumstances,” began Mr. Trevor, ….

“Major,” said the mate, coming forward from the rock, by which another fire had been kindled, “we want your assistance here about the provisions: our men say they ought to have some grog.”

“Excuse me,” said the major, “for a moment; I must attend to my fellows. Sailors, you know, Mr. Trevor, are an unruly race wherever rum and brandy are in question.”

So saying, he withdrew.

His daughter, Louisa, feeling, with the instinct

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of her sex, that George Trevor and her sister would prefer that their conference should take place without the presence of a third person, had the complaisance to accompany him; and the ensign and Helen were left alone together.

The spot on which the two found themselves in this most strange and unexpected meeting was one of the most romantic of that beautiful island, abounding, as it does, in varied and romantic scenery. It was a spot worthy of the pencil of Salvator Rosa. Nothing could exceed the gloomy grandeur of the scene, and the lights and shadows cast by the fires around added to the solemn beauty of the picture.

Scattered about were huge masses of rock, interspersed with dwarfy shrubs, among which appeared one or two umbrageous peppermint trees of enormous height, whose leaves presented towards the fire the vivid tints of their bright green, while the masses of boughs behind were involved in impenetrable shade. In the background, about a hundred yards from the fire, near which George Trevor and Helen were standing, arose a lofty mass of brown and rugged rock,

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disclosing in its front a natural cave of gigantic proportions, the entrance of which was now revealed by the light of the fire which had been kindled by the sailors, and who, with their muskets in their hands, were grouped around it in picturesque disorder. To the left, the bay, on which the moon now shed a feeble light, might be faintly traced to the base of the hills in the distance; and on its tranquil bosom the masts of the devoted brig were indistinctly visible. Still further, and to the left of the great rock, the open sea appeared, its undulating surface still crested with foam which glistened in the white beams of the rising moon beyond.

As George Trevor and Helen were standing on the side of the fire farthest from the rock, their persons could be but imperfectly seen by those in the vicinity of the sailors' fire, and the sentry in advance was removed from sight and hearing by the obstruction of the temporary fortification of timber and branches which had been thrown up for the protection of the major's party. Thus secured from the observation of eyes or ears, the two had full opportunity to make their mutual

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explanations; but it was some time before the ensign could muster up courage to break silence, as Helen stood, with her arms slightly folded, in an attitude of freezing rigidity.

“Miss Horton may think, perhaps,” he began, “that she has reason to complain—”

“Sir,” said Helen, “I make no complaints.”

“I mean,” resumed the gentleman, “that my seeming neglect—after what had passed—I mean, the declaration which I made—”

“Mr. Trevor,” interrupted Helen, “I require no apology for the neglect that you speak of, and it is superfluous for you, therefore, to offer it. This meeting, in these wilds, is not of my seeking—nor of yours, doubtless,” she added, with some degree of bitterness; “but such as it is, sir, we must be to each other as if former meetings had never been. I require from you, sir, nothing but respect—and forgetfulness of all the rest. Permit me, sir, to join my father.”

“Stay, Miss Horton! Helen! for God's sake do not go away with such an erroneous notion of my feelings! When I quitted you at Vienna, I was called away by the sudden and

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dangerous illness of my nearest and dearest relation ….”

“And the lady, sir, who accompanied you? Was she a near and dear relation too?”

“That lady was the betrothed of one of my dearest friends. It was to serve them both that I accompanied her to a village not five miles off, where her future husband awaited her. It was for the purpose of giving a false scent to those who might pursue her, that I consented to act the part I did, and which I have felt since might have given rise to the most fatal misconstruction. The lady is long since married to my friend; and as I am sure that you will not doubt my sacred word of honour, I hope I may trust that you will believe in the truth of what I tell you, which I now sacredly affirm. I addressed a letter to you at Vienna. .”

“I never received it!!”

“… to which I received no reply; but as the letter was not returned, I conceived, perhaps, an erroneous opinion of you from the slight, as I felt it, of your silence; and feared. … but I will not dwell on that point. In short, I do not hesitate to avow, that I searched for you

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through a great part of Germany, and afterwards in England; but, as you are aware, without success. My travels in pursuit of you occupied me for an entire year ….”

“Can this be true?” said Helen, her voice faltering with emotion.

“You cannot doubt my truth, Helen. At last, wearied with a vain search, and suspecting, from your not having replied to my letter, that—that—I am ashamed even now to breathe such a suspicion—in short—that you were trifling with my affections ….”

“Oh—no!—it was not that!” said Helen, her eyes suffused with tears.

“And wishing to fly from the misery of remembrances too bitter to be borne …”

Helen sobbed! …

“I determined to try if a total change of scene and new occupations would have the effect of making me forget one whom I had loved so tenderly—and who had treated me, as I thought, so capriciously—but whom I was determined to forget!”

“George—George—you have done me wrong

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I never was capricious. I thought you had wronged me;—and it was the thought of that neglect that reconciled me to exile—to this distant part of the world—where I might bury my grief and disappointment far away from the eyes of all observers. And I, too, have tried to forget—but I could not. No! a woman cannot forget! How often have I wished that she could!”

“Then—at this spot—” exclaimed George Trevor—“I repeat the declaration of my love; and by this token,” unbuttoning his vest and displaying a locket, in which his mistress had formerly enclosed a lock of her beautiful hair, “I claim the promise which I received …”

“George, you have it before you ask it. There is something so strange and so romantic in this singular meeting on the other side of the globe, after so long a separation, that I think it is fated that we are to belong to each other! You know,” she added, smiling, “it is said that marriages are made in heaven! There is my hand; I need not tell you that which you have made me so often tell you before: but be sure that where my hand is given, there my heart is also.”

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The happy ensign bent down in reverence, and kissed devoutly the proffered hand that was extended towards him in sign of reconciliation; and he was about to repeat the homage, when the voice of the major suddenly interrupted his devotions.

“Hulloa! hulloa!” said the major; “what is the meaning of all this? Kissing of hands in the bush! Why, Mr. Ensign, you make your military approaches with promptitude, at any rate! We want you to join a council of war with me, and the mate, and the constable; as we are the four dignitaries it seems, on whom the fate of the bushrangers depends. Well, upon my word, sir, you do me very great honour! You tuck my daughter under your arm as if she belonged to you! That's the military fashion of modern days, I suppose?”

“You forget, major, that our acquaintance is of old date: it was begun at Vienna.”

“Eh! what? acquaintance! Mr. Trevor, what do you mean?”

“I mean, major, that the acquaintance and the addresses which your daughter permitted in

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Germany, she allows me to renew in Van Diemen's Land.”

“Addresses! and, renew! Upon my word, you make quick work of it, you young fellows. This, I suppose, is a new edition of an old story! Love in the Bush! And you say that all this nonsense began at Vienna! Well, I think, Helen, you might have made me a confidant in the affair. You know I never would cross you in such a matter; but a father is something, after all! One likes to be consulted, at any rate!”

“My dear papa,” said Helen, in her most winning tones, “it was our intention to ask your permission—”

“What! after you had fallen in love you intended to ask my permission to do it! Ah! that's always the way!”

“My dear papa!” interrupted Helen, in great confusion, “pray don't talk so! I assure you it was our intention—but—you forget we were more than a year in Germany with Mr. Trevor.”


“A whole year!”

“Well—what of that?”

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“Miss Horton means to say,” said the soldier, gallantly coming to the rescue, “that it was impossible for me to be in her society for a whole year—short as the time was—without becoming penetrated with a sense of her many excellent qualities ….”

“Ah! you're both in the same tale, that's clear enough: the one keeps the other in countenance.”

“Dear papa, if I had thought that you disapproved …..”

“Of course! If you had thought that I disapproved! Oh! then you would both have fallen out of love again, I dare say! But let me tell you, although you thought yourselves so clever, that your old father saw plainly enough what was going on; and if he had disapproved, he would not have allowed Mr. Trevor to improve his opportunities as he did: your father was too old a soldier for that ….”

“Oh! my dear papa!”

“Oh! my dear sir!”

“Well, let me see — some explanations are necessary, Mr. Trevor.”

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“Oh, papa! George has explained everything.”

“But not to me, miss. Mr. Trevor, you can do that when we have more leisure. Our first business is to get possession of the brig, and to capture these rascally convicts. Now, Mr. Ensign, you will have the opportunity of showing what mettle you are made of. Mark Brandon is a desperate fellow, and he will not be taken without blood-shed, depend upon it.”

“Oh, heavens! Papa, what does it matter about the brig now? we are all safe out of it, and I cannot bear to think that any lives should be sacrificed in attempting to get it back again.”

“We are all safe out of it,” replied her father, “but all my property is safe in it; and we must endeavour to get it again. Besides, it is the duty of Mr. Trevor to leave no means untried to take the runaway convicts. He is in the king's service now, and is not his own master.”

Their further conversation was interrupted by the mate, who, at the suggestion of the constable, took the liberty to break in on the conference of the higher powers, to warn the major that it was near midnight; and that if the boats which had

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been left at the creek were to be brought round, no time was to be lost in effecting that desirable object, in order to intercept the brig, should a change of wind enable the convicts to attempt to force their way out through the narrow entrance of the bay.

The constable was summoned to add his advice to the council; and it was resolved, that all the crew of the brig, with the two constables, should make the best of their way to the place where the boats were left, and under the direction of the mate, lose no time in bringing them round into the bay, where the military under the command of the ensign would meet them. A corporal's guard was to be left at the rock for the protection of the women; and as the corporal was a veteran whose looks inspired confidence, this arrangement was agreed to by Helen and Louisa with tolerable resignation, although Helen ventured to throw out a hint that she should like to be a spectatress of the fight; and Louisa insisted a little on the propriety of her father remaining to protect them. But, soldiers' daughters as they were, they would have been ashamed

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to urge the absence of their father or their lover from the dangers to which others exposed themselves.

The resolutions relating to the boats were put promptly in course of execution, by the departure of those appointed for that service; and the ensign, after having posted sentinels to prevent surprise, desired the rest of his men to lie down with their arms at hand, and to take such rest as they could snatch from the fleeting hours of the early morning. For himself, he determined to remain on the watch.

The major, with his daughters, returned within the cave, and soon the whole party, with the exception of sentinels and their officer, were buried in profound sleep.