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Book I.

I have read that Capricornus, the heavenly Goat, being ascendant at nativitie, denieth honour to persons of quality, and esteeme to the Vulgar. Can a Starre do so by onlie shineing on a Woman in her pangs? Shall Capricornus bind a poore man the world ouer, no part, no Land undiscouered, where hee may shake free? I will not belieue it: nor that Honour (not forfeit) can be for euer hidd by decree of this distemperate Starre.

A Limbo For Ladies.




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(i)

THE year, eighteen hundred and thirty-one. The place, Sydney; a city whose streets were first laid by men in chains for the easier progress of the soldiers who guarded them. This city, growing slowly about a population of convicts and soldiers, had at that date no very penitential air. The harbour water, lively with sun; the many windmills, leisurely bestirring themselves; the ships at anchor, hung with marine laundry, ensigns trailing; the smoke of domestic chimneys: all these things contrived to lend Sydney an air of expectancy rather than despair. Maps show where the habitations were gathered; they were not many, though diarists and letter-writers of the period agree that they were tasteful, and showed up cleanly against the dark universal background of trees. “Not,” says one lady, “that I should like it in a picture so well as our softer and more rounded perspective, but in a new place, where one likes to see everything plainly, it is very pleasant.”

So much for maps and for prose. Poetry of the place and period lacks, or is not much to the purpose. Still, the Chancellor of the University of Cambridge did, in the year 1823, announce Australia as the subject with


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which his would-be medallists must concern themselves; and since one of the unsuccessful competitors was William Charles Wentworth, born in the new continent, his descriptions must be allowed to possess some authority. After an account of Cook's discovery, with a digression upon the fate of La Perouse, Mr. Wentworth proceeds:

Lo! thickly planted o'er the glassy bay,
Where Sydney loves her beauties to survey,
And ev'ry morn, delighted, sees the gleam
Of some fresh pennant dancing in her stream,
A masty forest, stranger vessels moor
Charg'd with the fruits of every foreign shore.
While landward—the thronged quay, the creaking crane,
The noisy workmen, and the loaded wain,
The lengthen'd street, wide square, and column'd front
Of stately mansions, and the gushing font,
The solemn church, the busy market throng,
And idle loungers saunt'ring slow among——
Shew that the mournful genius of the plain
Driv'n from his primal solitary reign,
Has backward fled, and fixed his drowsy throne
In untrod wilds, to muse and brood alone.

His account almost fills in the picture, which yet needs to complete it a sense that this new country was no mere copy of the old, but had already taken on a character of


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its own, defiant, tough, indolent; as though the idle loungers of Mr. Wentworth's poem were to be viewed with their hats cocked, pulling in their belts upon hunger with a laugh, and having a loaded pistol somewhere ready about them which they were prepared upon slight occasion to use. There was freedom, derived as usual from slavery. There was money, derived about equally from labour, land, and luck. There were social gatherings, junketings, as there are upon a ship in mid-ocean. And for the whole company of exiles, bond or free, there was hope.

It will be seen that Sydney, in the year 1831, may very well serve as setting for a highly-coloured, improbable, and yet simple story.

(ii)

AT about five o'clock in the afternoon of December 3rd of that year, a ball hoisted upon the south yard-arm of the flagstaff at the entrance to Port Jackson showed that a sail had been sighted, approaching from a southerly direction. Later, a flag with St. George's Cross was run up, signifying that the sail in question belonged to a Government ship, full-rigged at that. Almost immediately after, down came this flag, and was replaced by a Jack.

‘Excitement became evident among the boats in the Pilot's anchorage. At South Head the semaphore


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began to function, reporting, in a series of jerks and flickers:

A Government vessel. Between 2 and 3 leagues S.E. of the Head.

To which Fort Phillip, above Sydney Cove, responded in the same lingo:

Report all movements of vessel signalized. Is there much sea between the Heads? State all particulars.

South Head:

This is the vessel expected. Vessel has signalized probable arrival before nightfall. Correct: previous signal should read, vessel does not expect to anchor before morning, owing to lack of wind.

Fort Phillip:

Confirm. Repeat.

South Head:

Vessel does not expect to anchor before morning, owing to lack of wind.

Fort Phillip:

Be more attentive.

Despite this rebuke Fort Phillip was not displeased to have twelve hours' respite. In twelve hours buttons might be polished, arms burnished, the fear of God be put into a guard already drilled to unthinking unanimity. In twelve hours some sort of a reception could be arranged, with flags and bunting, down by the Quay; the citizens' enthusiasm was more likely to show itself freely at the beginning of a hot December day than at a similar day's end. There were speeches to be memorized, beavers to


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be brushed, children's locks to be put in paper; for all this twelve hours was by no means as much time as could be desired, but it would have to serve. The Commandant sent off runners into the town, to the Colonial Secretary, to the President of the Legislative Council, and the Principal Superintendent of Convicts, then sat down, hooking up his close military stock, to an evening meal with his officers, which ended with the health, drunk in Maderia that had taken a six months' roll round the Horn, of the newly-arrived Governor, Sir Richard Bourke——

“And may he not be another of these prigs that we have to foot out of the Turf Club,” said the Commandant as he set down his glass.

The Governor at this moment, in a costume by no means conventional, was lying full length on the deck of that interesting vessel from the south, Foxbound, about which the air clung, never stirring. He said to the young man at his side:

“The climate's giving us a warm welcome, anyway.”

“It's an omen,” the young man returned, “don't build on it. They threw out Bligh, they threw out Darling. For a Governor that's tired of life, I'd say this was a delightful appointment.”

“Did you ever hear how they shifted Darling? It was at a Turf Club dinner. They drank his health, all very civil; but when it came to the Jolly Good Fellow that should have followed, the band broke out with ‘Over the Hills and Far Away.’ Darling looked like a sick hen, one


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of the soldiers told me that was there; sent in his resignation from the Club, and got out of the country soon after. By God, if they'd done that to me I'd have known what answer to make.”

“You'd have whistled, ‘Will ye no come back again,’ all on your own.”

“I might, if I'd thought of it. It will take more than a couple of fiddlers to get rid of me.”

“There's some of this Irish boasting we hear so much about. You'll change your tune when it comes to making a nation out of the scum of England.”

“I know plenty about the scum of England. If you can make an army of it good enough to beat Boney, you can make a nation.”

“Well, be quick about it. I don't want to be half a century out here making my fortune.”

The Governor laughed; and looking at the stars, which kept their places upon the chequer board made by spars and rigging, observed:

“I never can get the lie of these upside-down planets into my head, after all these years.”

“My idea,” the young man went on, following his thought, “is to benefit by corruption. I can't make my fortune any other way; not by fighting, it's too late for that; not by inheritance, I haven't a relative left that's solvent. As for work—true, you can make money working, but it spoils you for the enjoyment of it. And I won't marry an heiress, the pick of them's gone, the only ones left weigh twenty stone or grow beards. I


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like reading poetry with my feet on the hob, but it takes money, that kind of innocent life. So all that remains for me is to be the Governor of New South Wales's sixth cousin.”

“Why can't you write poetry for a living? Lord Byron, I believe, did very handsomely out of his books. You were always a scribbler.”

“True,” answered the young man with a bitterness which made the Governor turn his head, surprised. “I was always a scribbler.”

“I had no notion of being offensive, Charles.”

“The truth is never offensive; distasteful, perhaps. I am a good enough poet to write little stuff for the keep-sakes. That is the best I can do, though I sweat blood. Therefore, my dear sir and cousin, I won't do it. And therefore, my dear sir and cousin, I propose instead to batten on you.”

“I'll disown you once I'm installed.”

“I'll lead a faction if you do. I'll invade Government House and rout you out from under the bed covered in fluff, like Bligh.” The Governor did not heed him, still staring up, hands locked under head. “Stars! What good are stars to a Lieutenant-General, except to remind him of his damn decorations? Stars are poetical stuff. I'm going below. Are you staying here on deck all night?”

“I am.”

“Where's your sense of discipline? Do you think the sailors will think much of a Governor when they


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can see he has less hair on his chest than themselves?”

“Go to your cabin, young fellow-my-lad, and get some sleep if you can. We have a long day to-morrow.”

“Pleasant dreams to your Excellency. Mine, I hope, will be about shameless great bribes.”

“I don't have dreams. Good night.”

The stars moved steadily as a clock's hands; steadily the water reflected their lights, which wavered now and then and were lost in shining furrows, a shark's fin breaking the surface. The lantern on South Head stared, never blinking. His Excellency regarded all these things in turn as the ship swung about, and fell asleep thinking of Spain, where he had served, and where the nights had something of this quality. His last conscious thought was dredged up out of memories he did not know himself to have acquired; the Spanish word guardaamigo, which, as he recollected, meant the prop set under a criminal's chin while he takes his flogging.

(iii)

TOWARDS morning a breeze came up from the south which caught the waiting ship broadside. The captain had been waiting for this, and his Excellency woke to a sound of bare running feet on deck and the shouts of the second mate ordering men aloft. It was almost dawn. As the canvas was set it took shape against the lightening sky, squares, triangles of darkness, soon to be turned


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a triumphant white by the sun. They began to move forward; the chirrup of water sounded again under the figurehead; and the brown rocky coast, in which as yet there appeared no opening, began to march beside them like a guard of honour. His Excellency stretched, regarded his dominion through a glass for some few moments, then went below as bugles sounded in the soldiers' quarters.

He disappeared as a civilian none too particular in matters of dress. He came on deck a soldier, magnificent in red, with a plumed hat and a sword-belt golden as Orion's, while stars more gaudy than distant Arcturus were disposed about his left breast. His staff in a lesser degree glittered round him, buttons winking their tale of hours of labour, gold-lace only a trifle dimmed by weeks of sea air. Only the young gentleman, Mr. Adare, His Excellency's sixth cousin, appeared at a disadvantage in sober bottle-green, with the paltry chink of seals for accompaniment as he moved, in lieu of a sounding jangle of spurs. But he was not abashed; he criticized the popinjays with his head on one side, and ridiculed the delicate care with which they avoided maritime contacts for their white trousers. They for their part eyed him with the traditional disdain of the military for free agents, and put on formal brisk voices, reporting to the Governor, as though he had been blind, the topography and incidents of Port Jackson:

“Pilot coming aboard, sir. Quarantine station, sir, on the right. Passing the lighthouse and signal station,


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sir. Shark Island, sir. The fort known as—h'm—Pinchgut, sir.”

All this information the Governor acknowledged with nods, as though he were not as capable as these gentlemen of reading the chart unrolled in front of him. His eyes were taking in other things; a foreshore which reminded him of coasts in the South of France; the many bays, deep water evidently, by the sheer slope of their rocks; the situation of the distant town, not clearly seen as yet; the green of the foliage, uniform and dull as a rifleman's jacket.

“A number of small boats, sir, coming out to welcome you, I imagine.”

The staff officer's observation was not at fault. Small boats were all about the Governor's ship as she moved into Sydney Cove, their occupants evidently out for a spree; young men managed the sails, long brown youngsters, watched by their womenfolk from under bonnets trimmed with English flowers—artificial daisies, roses, violets. The boats very skilfully accompanied His Excellency's ship, and from time to time one of their occupants would raise a hand, or a woman would lift a child's brown pud and wave it in greeting. There was no cheering.

“Well, I don't know,” said His Excellency to an officer who commented on this fact; “they can't tell yet what they're in for. The Duke used to say he valued the cheers he got after a battle, but didn't give a rap for any that went before.”




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At the landing-stage, however, things were more formal. Persons could be seen there, grouped, and shifting from foot to foot as the December sun bore down upon their trappings, which glinted in an official manner and showed in outline all the authentic terror and exaggeration of the warrior's dress. Those shakos, tall feathered stove-pipes, had for ancestor the brazen casque of Paris, whose plume most horribly did dance. Those epaulettes, jutting from the shoulders, were contrived to awe innocent naked savages accepting them as earnest of the gigantic deltoids below. Those chains, studs, spikes of metal terrified by their very irrelevance, their threat of dreadful purposes not understood. Yet shakos, epaulettes and the rest of the costume were comfortable to the eyes of His Excellency's staff, who saw in them only the norm, and found reassurance in shining thus familiarly upon a foreign strand.

A naval cutter came out to meet the ship as she anchored. Into this His Excellency stepped with his party, and was rowed ashore to receive salutes, cheers, and a speech of welcome delivered by some civilian dignitary. A regimental band played “Blue Bonnets.” Against this the Governor heard, behind his shoulder among the crowd, an echo of “Over the Hills and Far Away.” The whistling ceased as he turned. With a tightened lip and hands folded quietly upon his swordhilt he waited for silence, then spoke. His voice, clear of any parade-ground quality, yet made itself heard beyond misapprehension.




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“Gentlemen: I am new to your country, and therefore, at this stage, I say nothing of my intentions concerning it. I say only that I am sent by the Government at home to guide you to prosperity as far as the judgment of one man may do so. Your problems are to be my particular study, and your well-being my particular care. I am not unaware that there have been clashes in the past between governed and governors, nor shall that knowledge weigh with me. I am here to perform my duty; which, as I see it, is to promote the order, good feeling, and increased wealth of this Colony. I rely upon your co-operation to attain these ends. I am prepared to work with any man, whatever his station, who will help me to attain them, and to punish any man, whatever his station, who by his conduct imperils them. Gentlemen, I have nothing further to say at this moment, only that I am greatly obliged to you for your welcome.”

Mr. Adare was impressed. It was the first time he had heard his relative speak as one who had seen men and cities, served in epic wars, and borne rule in the continents of Africa and America. Other listeners too found this kind of talk to their taste, and the civic dignitary, walking beside the Governor towards the carriage in which they were to ride, made approving comment on it:

“That's the kind of thing we never heard from Governor Darling. Always roundabout; never took responsibility where he could dodge it——”

“I don't care, sir, to discuss my predecessor.”

“Oh!” said the civic dignitary, taken aback but not


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daunted. “Certainly. The less said of him the better. Well; and what do you think of our harbour?”

(iv)

NEXT morning, having unpacked and distributed his staff (rather a tight fit) among the rooms of Government House, His Excellency said to his cousin, whose decorative idleness he found irritating:

“There is something to be done that you may as well do. Go to the offices of the Bank of New South Wales; introduce yourself as coming from me, and deliver this letter to the Secretary, or one of the Directors. It only concerns me, in so far as I promised Lord Goderich I would deliver it. Talk to the Secretary, and invite him in my name to dine. These fellows know more than Government men about conditions in a country. You might ask him for a little advice on your own account; prospects for investment, and so on.”

“I don't view with any gratification the prospect of earning money by work in this heat. His Excellency's cousin may use his nose, I suppose, to find out what sinecures there are?”

“His nose; not my name.”

“Sea-green Incorruptible! Or shall we say in deference to the climate, lobster-red? Adieu, adieu. Remember me!”

Mr. Adare put the Colonial Secretary's letter into his


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tail-pocket and sauntered out into the sunlight. Sydney Cove was on his right, quick with shipping; on his left the trees of the Government Domain proffered a thin shade. He kept to the left, not for this reason only, but in order to beat the marches of the city, of which Macquarie Street formed, at this point, the boundary. His eyes, alert as the infernal brickish dust of passing vehicles would allow, considered houses and people dispassionately, the horses with unaffected interest. They were worth a hunting man's attention. Their unkempt appearance, shaggy legs and manes, could not cheat an Irish judge accustomed to pierce such disguises. Mr. Adare, having seen in the course of ten minutes' walking almost as many rideable horses, began to have a better opinion of the Colony.

As for the streets themselves—he had turned at right angles and was surveying King Street—they were unpaved and damn dirty. They were full of masterless dogs. They offered no picturesque black men, such as Cape Town afforded, no woolly heads adorned with branching horns, or strings of beads, or trophies not easily identified. They resembled, in their undisciplined dusty straight lines, the streets of a manufacturing city at home, save for the depth of the shadows that fell across them, and the height of the Cornstalks who marched along them, trees walking. No colour. No signs of wealth. No signs of pioneering and danger. Why did the place exist?

The answer to that question, at the very moment his


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mind asked it, came round the corner of an intersecting street to its own odd musical accompaniment. Against the regular beat of soldiers' feet sounded a shuffling, and above the shuffling a chinking, not rhythmic, never ceasing. Mr. Adare stood, and at his ease reviewed a convict chain-gang as it passed along. Their dress was uniform, spattered with a pattern of arrows; only their caps varied from the fisherman's knitted jelly-bag to beavers not yet wholly devoid of nap. These last perhaps had been worn in London, where their owners exercised those arts for which thieves' jargon found such enlivening terms; smashing of queer screens, shaking of skins, ringing of castors, working the cat-and-kitten rig, or nibbling while Oliver whiddled. Most of them held up their chains as they walked by means of a string hitched to their belts; even so the dulled chinking made itself heard. No man stepped out as a free man may, as the guards did; the chains hobbled them too securely. All kept their heads down against the sun, all shouldered their long-handled, small-headed road-maker's hammers because that was the easiest way to carry them; and the effect of this uniformity was a slavish, hopeless air such as might hang about duppies, those dead men who labour for a witch's profit among Jamaica canes.

Mr. Adare, impressionable, but fortunately volatile; wax to receive, but water to retain; Mr. Adare did not care for the mixed feelings this encounter had roused in him. Pity without the means to relieve is emotion wasted; anger with the human race in general on account


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of the cruelty or folly of particulars is not to be justified. So he told himself as he walked on towards George Street, while the shuffling and chinking took itself off in another direction. Nevertheless, the generosity in him was uneasy at finding no outlet, and he stared offensively at passers-by who took convicts in chains for granted. A quarrel would have quieted him down by allowing him to translate emotion into action; a translation, in which, as happens often enough, the original impulse might be lost. But he went unsatisfied. No man took exception to his looks, no woman observed him. In a mood still half-truculent, he found the turning for George Street, and entered the premises of the Bank of New South Wales.

The Secretary, whose manner, whiskers, and excellent brown sherry were not to be distinguished from similar attributes of Bank secretaries in England, was glad to welcome His Excellency's sixth cousin. He took Lord Goderich's letter with just the right bow, accepted Sir Richard Bourke's invitation to dine with just such another, and seemed, having given this faultless performance, to wish to take up his labours. But Mr. Adare was disinclined to move out of a pleasant room into the strengthening sun. He began earnestly to talk, to enquire, and the Secretary was obliged to make answer.

“What openings should you say promise best for a young man—for myself, let us say?”

“As to that, it is not easy for me to speak. If you


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could give me some notion as to your interests, your capacities——”

“My capacities? Considerable in some directions; riding, drinking. As far as intellects go, I won't boast.”

“I referred to the question of money; money to invest. I believe that land in the neighbourhood of this town, for instance, is bound to appreciate. In twenty-five years, let us say, I can very well imagine a capital increase of a hundred per cent in the value of land in certain localities.”

“That's a long time to wait.”

“Not for such a considerable increase, Mr. Adare. A man does very well, let me tell you, if he is able to double his fortune in that time.”

“I haven't a shilling, though.”

“Then,” said the Secretary, losing that faint breath of enthusiasm which had informed his voice at the thought of a hundred per cent, “it becomes quite another matter.”

“That's to say, I've got a hundred pounds.”

“Well, Mr. Adare, it is not much, I tell you frankly. It is not much. With a great deal of industry, and frugality, and foresight I don't say it may not be made to do——”

“But I've no wish to work, my dear sir. That's not my intention at all.”

A clerk knocked, thrust in his smooth head decorated at the ears with two quills like those of a Secretary bird, and announced:




  ― 20 ―

“Mr. Flusky to see you, sir.”

“Pray ask him to wait a moment. Just a moment. Say that His Excellency's cousin is with me just now.”

“I won't detain you. Curious name, Flusky. Where have I heard it?”

“One of our most considerable citizens,” said the official, rising. “Rich; a landowner.”

“No, it's not that. Something, somewhere——” Mr. Adare snapped his fingers at the elusive memory and let it go. “Well; so you haven't any formula for getting rich overnight?”

“The old one, Mr. Adare; only the old one, I fear.”

“No good to me. Flusky! Now where the devil have I heard that remarkable name?” He observed the Secretary looking a trifle nervously at the door, which, however, his retiring clerk had shut safely. “Oho! He's a what-d'ye-call-it, is he?”

“Emancipist. Yes.”

“I like that. Emancipist—I must get used to it. What was his crime, anything spectacular?”

“Mr. Adare, allow me to give you a warning. Out here we don't talk of the past. The future, sir. This is a country of the future.”

“Landowner and lag—yes, I like that very well. Introduce me, will you? Come on, man,” as the Secretary looked dubious, “I'll behave myself.”

The Secretary, unwilling to keep his richest client waiting yet reluctant to blend him even for an instant with the aristocracy, bowed helplessly and held open the


  ― 21 ―
door. A figure in shapeless woollen clothes turned towards them, and Mr. Adare was able to note a flabby bulk, a nose pendant after the Jewish manner above a lip that might have lengthened in Wicklow, and a pair of unwinking mild eyes before Mr. Samson Flusky was formally introduced.

“Mr. Adare,” said the Secretary with a nervous laugh, “has come out from Ireland to make his fortune.”

Mr. Flusky smiled without speaking and replaced a warm right hand on the knob of his stick.

“I understand,” said Mr. Adare, “there's something to be done in land; but I don't want to wait for the money till my beard's as long as your arm.”

“Ireland,” Flusky repeated, looking at the Secretary; then transferred his gaze to the young man's face. He pronounced the word as no Englishman ever does; his deep voice had a smooth easy quality. “Is that where you come from? What part?”

“The West. D'you know it?”

“I might,” Mr. Flusky answered without expression. “So you want to make money. You're not the only one.”

“And make it quick,” said Mr. Adare briskly. “I don't feel any call to stay long in this country. Not but it has a deal to say for itself, no doubt; only it doesn't talk my language.”

“You'll stay, surely, during His Excellency's time of office at least.” The Secretary spoke to Flusky: “Mr. Adare is related to Sir Richard Bourke; came out in his ship.”




  ― 22 ―

“Lagged yourself for fear the King should do it for you, eh?” said Mr. Flusky disconcertingly. “How much have you? There's money in land, when the Commissioners will let you buy.”

“I told him so,” the Secretary offered immediately. “Money needs time, as I told him, to grow.”

Mr. Flusky seemed to meditate, both hands upon his stick, under-lip shooting out, eyes cast down. Mr. Adare in this moment attempted to sum up the impression left upon him by his first encounter with an emancipist, convict turned citizen. He found himself staring at the thick unmoving fingers, trying them in this position or that; steady upon a trigger, bunched about the haft of a knife, crooking to strangle. He could not fit them to sly tricks with pockets, or skilful tricks with pens. They proclaimed violence. And when, lifting his eyes, he met the mild gaze of their owner he had a little shock, as though a naked man had in the wink of an eye clothed himself. Flusky was saying:

“All the same, Mister, if you've time to listen there's something might interest you.”

“My office, gentlemen,” the Secretary offered. “Quite at your disposal.”

Flusky moved to it, not thanking him. He sat square in one of the chairs, and rested his head upon the interesting hands which his stick supported. He continued to wear his hat. Adare swung himself on to the Secretary's desk to face him, but from perversity or perhaps curiosity, would not be the first to speak;


  ― 23 ―
marvelling, not for the first time, at the power which hedges the man who can hold his tongue, and determined to try his own hand at the game.

Mr. Flusky seemed to have nothing immediate to say. He sat unthinking to all appearance, challenging the younger man's patience. Mr. Adare began to give himself away. He would not speak, but he could not keep still. The manœuvres of a pair of flies were a relief to his eyes, a sudden itching of the nose afforded him a gesture. He became conscious that the situation was a ridiculous one. The flabby fellow with a hat on, the youngster point-device, both with tongues in their heads, and not a word between them to throw at a dog—Mr. Flusky earned his gratitude by releasing a sentence first.

“I don't know how my proposition'll strike you, Government House and all. Maybe I better let it alone.”

“Don't lump me with His Excellency. He's not responsible for me.”

“Well,” Mr. Flusky considered. “But it might be awkward, all the same.”

“I assure you I didn't come out here to wear gloves, Mr. Flusky.” The mild gaze surveyed his faultless tailoring. “These are all the clothes I have, but if you feel you could talk more freely to a cabbage-tree hat I'll step out and buy one.”

“Do you know anything about land out here?”

That was a surprising question, coming as it did with no change of tone or expression; Mr. Adare made frivolous answers as was his custom when taken aback.




  ― 24 ―

“They tie a string to a dog's tail, don't they, and hit him a kick, and when he stops running that's a mile.”

“You're thinking of Van Diemen's Land,” Flusky said, not smiling. “The man that could kick hardest got best measure. That's how it did ought to be, in a new country.”

He went back to his silence. Mr. Adare, amused and a trifle irritated, began to guess.

“Your proposition has something to do with land.”

“Well, you see,” said Flusky irrelevantly, roused from meditation, “the Regulations are made by Englishmen. You can't run three sheep to an acre here. A sheep to three acres, more like. You got to have room to move stock about.”

“I suppose you can get as much room as you want, if you're prepared to pay.” Mr. Flusky shook his head, rolling it sideways upon his fingers that were laced upon the stick's knob. “You can't? Why not?”

“No more grants. Land all to be sold at auction, and a Board to see one man don't get more than his share. You come at a bad time for pickings, Mister. August the first, that was the start of it.”

“Wait a minute,” Mr. Adare bade him. “This is interesting. I was always good at drawing-room games. Don't tell me what you want me to do, let me see if I can divine it——”

“I won't tell you,” said Flusky briefly.

“Now wait a minute. Plenty of land available. Correct?” He looked at the white face, took a blink


  ― 25 ―
for assent, and went on with his deductions. “Land—but a Board to see a man doesn't get all he can pay for. What's the answer to that? If a man were to get someone else to put in for the land he wanted—am I getting warm?” He perceived the beginnings of a smile. “I'm on to it, I believe. Aha! The drawing-room's no bad training ground.”

“A man that puts in for land has to go before the surveyor and show the purchase-money in cash,” Flusky said without expression.

“What of it? I've got a hundred pounds.” A smile commented. “Not enough? Well, damn it, I suppose I could borrow.”

“You might.”

“Perhaps from the man that wanted the land. I dare say he'd stump up enough to show this surveyor.”

“He might, then.”

Mr. Flusky, setting his stick between his legs, leaned back to seek a wallet. He pulled it out, and chose notes from it, cracking each one, holding watermarks up to the light. Mr. Adare watched and reckoned the total as he laid a bundle down; a thousand pounds.

“Five bob an acre,” said Flusky, “that's the Land Board price.” He took out another note. “No need to show this one to the surveyor.”

“Fifty,” said Mr. Adare, craning to look at it. “Fifty for a signature, the first day of landing. No need to ask if this sort of transaction's legal.”

“It's not legal. I tell you that flat out.”




  ― 26 ―

“But it's the way to get things done?”

“I'm not saying nothing. I'm not asking you, Mister.”

The young man came nearer, picked up the bundle, laughed.

“Why, good Lord, for all you know I might put it on a horse.” Flusky was silent. “Don't you want a receipt?” Flusky shook his head. Mr. Adare had a qualm. “Are the notes bad 'uns?”

“There's a lot of coves out here haven't forgot their old trade, I'll allow. But those is right 'uns.”

“This is the maddest transaction I ever put a hand to, and I've been in a queer rig or two. If I had a grain of caution—but I haven't, thank God. It's a bargain, Mr. Flusky.”

“There's nothing on paper, I'd remind you.”

“Well, but between Irishmen,” said Mr. Adare impulsively, and held out his hand.

How much part in this impulsive decision was played by recollection of the chain-gang, Adare was not able to determine; but he was aware, as he struck hands with the emancipist, of a glow, a release of feeling which might not improbably be traced to that source. The clasp over, he laughed.

“Courtesy title of Honourable!” said Mr. Adare. Then, but to himself. “What the deuce have I let myself in for?”

He was perfectly ignorant of the Colony. The man's statement concerning land might be true or it might not. The bare facts were that he, a guest in the Governor's house, was conspiring with a total stranger to do the


  ― 27 ―
Government. He reassured himself; it was only in principle that the Government would suffer, what could it matter to the Treasury whence came the purchase-money for land; an ungenerous whisper reminded him that the interview had been private, there were no witnesses, no documents—there his thoughts checked sharply.

Mr. Flusky appeared to be troubled by no ironical questionings. He reached out the knob of his stick and rapped on the open door with it. After an interval for dignity, the Secretary answered this summons.

“Business concluded, gentlemen? Satisfactory, may I hope?”

“Mr. Adare wants a word with you.”

“I am at Mr. Adare's service.”

“He wants,” said Flusky, interpreting the young man's quick glance, “to deposit a thousand pounds.”

The Secretary bowed, looking from the square flabby man to the thin rosy man. His glance was enquiring. He said, however, nothing of that hundred pounds previously mentioned as the sole fortune of his new client, who began nervously to talk:

“I take your advice, sir, as you see. I buy land. Well, I have seen two foot by four of painted canvas change hands for a thousand pounds, to say nothing of five foot two of womanhood. How far will it go in kangaroos, do you think? By George, gentlemen, I hope landowners in your country have a better standing than they do in mine. They shoot us from behind hedges, like partridges.


  ― 28 ―
It is not the way a man of spirit would choose to die, winged by a Whiteboy with his dirty coat inside out——”

Mr. Adare prattled on. He found the entire trust reposed in him by this stranger oddly touching, and it was his form of self-defence to talk when silence would have revealed emotion. The emancipist received this patter with no change of expression and said nothing. The Secretary, making out a receipt for the money Adare handed him, observed the numbers of one or two of the notes, familiar owing to certain odd groupings of numerals. He knew to whom he had paid them out. But he too said nothing, having learned that discretion is the first recommendation of a banker, more especially where his richer clients' interests are concerned.

(v)

LIFE in this newest of worlds was patterned in circles upon much the same plan as life in the old. Outer darkness, the convicts, merged into a twilight existence of emancipated men; traders could be dimly perceived, country landowners took the air with a vague grandeur, becoming visible at certain periods, like the remoter stars; but the innermost circle, that which accepted the full light of His Excellency's countenance, wore or had worn uniform. A red coat or a blue one, a wig and gown or the beaver of banking, with an occasional pair of clerical gaiters—this uniformity represented right thinking,


  ― 29 ―
and true dogma, and the power to bind and loose. Uniformity prevailed, as might have been expected, at the parties attended by uniforms and their moieties. There would be offerings of wine from Portugal and France; cheeses brought by sea from cool English dales; sugared fruits that had travelled half the world round. These were consumed to an accompaniment of talk well suited to London dining-rooms, but to which the warm Australian air and a pertinacious humming of insects gave the lie. Proverbs turned head over heels in this new uneasy country, and the gourmet's maxim, Tell me what you eat, that I may know what you are, ran in Australia thus: Tell me first what you are; thence I may deduce what you eat, what you wear, the matter of your talk, and the shape of your wife's coiffure; besides making a tolerably accurate guess at your past income, and a reasonable forecast of the income which will be yours in future.

So much Mr. Adare had discovered in the course of a few weeks' sojourn. He wore no uniform himself, but the glamour of the regulation dress was all about him; he was distantly related to shako and sabretache, vicarious spurs chinked upon his heels, and he was received with all the interest and respect due to a bearer of such emblems. However, at the end of a brief period he had begun to weary a little of the uniforms and their wives, and said as much in His Excellency's hearing.

“You're a thankless pup,” returned Sir Richard. “They do you well enough, don't they?”




  ― 30 ―

“Well enough. But I'm getting to know all the faces by heart—well, not that; not by heart. By my liver.”

“That's something you can't avoid in a small community. The officers in a regimental mess get sick of the sight of each other's faces in peace time. So they do in a man-of-war. It has to be put up with.”

“But their smugness I can't endure. Twenty-five, thirty thousand people in this town, and the same dozen self-satisfied phizes at every dinner-table, like wooden nags on a roundabout.”

“What else is to be done? You can't mix a society, it gives too much offence. Consequence is all that many of these people get in exchange for exile. Besides, no man cares to drink with the fellow that may have picked his pocket in the old country.”

“Would His Excellency's credit be involved, for example, if his irresponsible cousin were to accept this?”

The Governor held out a hand for the letter his irresponsible cousin offered. It was an invitation to dine with Mr. Flusky, signed not by but for him; per pro. William Winter, secretary. The paper was good, the writing copper-plate, the wording conventionally civil; only the astonishing address—Minyago Yugilla, Woolloomoolloo—betrayed the letter's New World provenance.

“Who is this fellow?”

“Rich. A decent sort of an Irishman. Emancipist.”

“What was his offence?”

“I can't find out.” This was true. Adare's curiosity had uncovered as yet nothing of his benefactor's past.


  ― 31 ―
He repeated the Bank secretary's phrase: “Anyway, what's it matter? This is the country of the future. And besides, damme, isn't there old Uncle Lawrence at home that we can't trust with the spoons?”

“There seems no reason why you shouldn't go. We've got to mellow these individuals somehow before we find ourselves sitting beside them on a jury. Wait a moment. I remember something now about this man.”

“So do I, but for the life of me I can't tell what.”

“Something about his wife——” The Governor pondered, then dismissed the puzzle. “My dear fellow, do as you please about this, so you don't involve me. What d'you suppose those extraordinary words are?”

“It's where he lives, evidently.”

“Yes, but the meaning.” He looked up as a youngish civilian entered, carrying a portfolio. “Banks, you know something of the aborigines' tongue; can you tack any meaning to this?”

He underlined the curious address with his thumb-nail and handed the paper over. The newcomer read, and ventured:

“I happen to know—this is the name of Mr. Flusky's house, is it not? The meaning is, Why weepest thou? I have always wondered why Mr. Flusky should choose it.”

“The wife, perhaps. A romantic, Byronic, sort of a female might fancy such a name.”

The civilian made no comment, but his correctness of attitude, his portfolio, recalled the Governor to a


  ― 32 ―
working frame of mind. He dismissed his cousin abruptly, and settled down to consider the Colonists' proposal, shortly to be submitted to the Parliament at home, for a Legislative Assembly of their own.

(vi)

MR. ADARE, thus licensed to accept, accepted; having no least notion of what he was about, or what forces he was setting to work. He was not accustomed to look forward, or to calculate sequels; even had he possessed the highest degree of prudence, he could hardly have read these few polite written words as the warrant setting forth a new course of existence for several people. First, the receipt of his letter produced a remarkable effect in the pleasant capacious dwelling in Woolloomoolloo, which Mr. Samson Flusky had elected to call by so odd a name. (He had no idea of the words' meaning; but hearing the house thus referred to by blacks perpetually encamped in his garden, he had adopted their outlandish phrase, the more readily that he had no wish to preserve, as so many of the other exiles did, any memory of a home on the far side of the world.) Mr. Adare's letter set half a dozen activities taking direction. Miss Milly, a large woman in carpet slippers, upon whom the domestic authority of the establishment devolved; Miss Milly, surname forgotten long ago, who could slap up a dinner, kill a rat, or—as had once been proved to the


  ― 33 ―
discomfiture of a visiting clergyman—deliver an excellent impromptu prayer; Miss Milly was summoned, and bid look to her staff, that they behaved themselves and were up to their work on Wednesday week. This order she received with a sniff, and withdraw to convey the sense of it to a mixed lot of female convicts, who, accustomed as they were to fight bloodily, to drink rum when they could get it and eau-de-Cologne when they could not, took philosophically her command to “act ladylike for once.” Then it was the turn of William Winter, secretary, a gentlemanlike person doing time for the seduction of a minor. He was new to his assignment; indeed the first task that had been set him was the drawing up of a menu for Wednesday week. He demurred; knew nothing of the resources of the country, what meats were procurable——

“Don't trouble for that,” said Flusky easily. “Anything you say, I can get.”

William Winter searched his memory. Meals in France; the delicate ridiculous ices of the Palais Royal, wine-dark soup of snails; meals at Oxford tables; méringues, a boar's head whose glass eyes stared from buttered sockets, larks with a bay leaf on their breasts; meals less clearly remembered, by reason of the ladies and wine that had accompanied them. He conferred with Miss Milly, summoned from among her kitchen furies to aid, and between them a programme of courses was assembled, to which William Winter gave French names. When the plan was drawn out he submitted it to Flusky,


  ― 34 ―
who glanced at the paper, counted the courses with a moving thumb, and asked:

“Is this a slap-up dinner?”

William Winter reassured him. Everything of the most expensive, everything out of season or reason would appear upon the table, in order serviceable as the bright-harnessed angels of Milton. Flusky nodded, and turned away. Winter stood, wondered, risked a suggestion.

“Am I to show the menu to Madam?”

Flusky stood still.

“To who?”

William Winter knew that his employer must have heard, and did not repeat his question. He was aware that somewhere in the large house there dwelt Flusky's wife, though he had not seen her, and though Miss Milly brushed aside questions. He waited therefore; but he had met his match at that. Flusky took up the paper on which the list of dishes was written, put it away in one of his sagging pockets, and sat down tranquilly to light a cigar such as he smoked perpetually, throwing the butts away before half the smoke was done: his one extravagance. When the cigar was going he gazed wildly through the smoke at William Winter, and the gaze was a challenge. The seducer (who had cut no very gallant figure when pursued by angry brothers on horseback, flourishing long-tailed whips) did not meet it. He busied himself mending a pen, and prepared, with every appearance of earnest attention to business, to receive orders.

These took the form of a command to write out


  ― 35 ―
further invitations. William Winter had not been long enough in the colony to understand how improbable it was that any of them would be accepted, but he was inclined to question his employer's insistence: “Say it's to sit down with the Honourable Adare.” Commissioners of this and that, elderly Colonels and Judges, were not, in his experience, lured to dine by the promise of meeting an Irish sprig, aged twenty, of no particular influence or notoriety. But the solecism had to go down, repeated ten times, and a servant was sent off on horseback with the notes, sealed and impressed by the Secretary's own signet ring, a proud crest which he was perfectly well entitled to use.

The dignitaries, unexpectedly enough, found themselves able, pleased, delighted, free to wait on Mr. Samson Flusky at the time he named. Their wives, however, with gospel unanimity, could not come. Flusky took the news with only one comment, a slightly bewildered question to his secretary:

“But don't they know I've got the Honourable Adare?”

They knew it. But they did not want him as sugar coating to the pill of Mr. Flusky's wife, about whom nothing was known, and upon whose respectability they were unwilling to stake that consequence which was their all. William Winter, casting about for a formula which should convey a hint of this to the giver of the feast, observed that individual toss away his cigar, a gesture habitual with him to underline a decision, and heard him declare, without heat:




  ― 36 ―

“Well, but, damn them; she shall be there. Henrietta shall be there.”

This was the first time William Winter had heard Mrs. Flusky's name. Its prim ladylike quality puzzled him, for he had added to his vague suspicions a fact or two; cries heard from her room sometimes at night, and rich dresses, torn and soiled, coming downstairs over Miss Milly's arm. The mistress of the house gave no orders, took no walks, ate alone, living a life of her own, meaningless yet apparently content; the life of a goddess without worshippers.

But she was to come to the dinner, and take her place at the foot of the long table. William Winter, setting out in copper-plate on cards the guests' names and titles, looked up at the sound of an order:

“My wife at the foot. I'll take the head. Write her name: Lady Henrietta Flusky.”

“But that's—excuse me, sir. That's what is called a courtesy title. It is borne by daughters of nobility. The wives of—private gentlemen—can't claim it.”

“Write what I say.”

William Winter shrugged, swallowing down further comment, but a little sorry to see how his employer persisted in social error. To atone for the various enormities Flusky had obliged him to commit, he took trouble in composing the table, allowing precedence due, constructing harmonies upon a figured bass of dignity as the Colony understood that word. The Governor's Private Secretary he set at Mrs. Flusky's


  ― 37 ―
left hand. On her right, as a newcomer and the guest of honour, was to sit the Honourable Charles Adare.

(vii)

THE night of the dinner was hot; nevertheless, most of the servants kept sober. Miss Milly maintained them so. She raided all cupboards in the morning, and locked up any liquor that might conceivably be employed as stimulus or soporific; marching to the clank of keys at her waist as to a solemn music, and with her own hand adding the final glorification of sherry to the turtle soup. Her eye was an arrow, her tongue a flail. She had all the attributes of deity, save omnipresence; she could not, unhappily for the issue, be everywhere at once. Thus at an hour when the hostess, dressed, curled and becomingly restless, should have been awaiting her guests' arrival, only Flusky was in the withdrawing-room, standing four-square, never shifting the cigar from under his drooping nose, nor moving his hands from his pockets. William Winter's alertness had perceived a kind of scurry among the maidservants at one period, following the departure of Miss Milly upstairs, and read a kind of satisfied thunder in that personage's brows when she returned, the expression of one justified in an ominous prediction. But nothing more. There was nobody to question. He had to make what he could of the fact that Flusky stood waiting alone.




  ― 38 ―

The dignitaries arrived. Flusky, correctly waistcoated and cravatted, received them with an odd dignity of his own, and made his wife's excuses:

“My wife isn't any too good, can't be with us. She hopes another time you'll give her the pleasure.”

The dignitaries eyed one another, and at once became more at ease, though it might be supposed that one or two of the married men regretted they would have nothing of interest to tell their wives. Mr. Adare even voiced this regret, saying that a dinner without ladies was no better than a board-meeting. There was laughter, and they went in to Miss Milly's turtle soup.

Mr. Adare and Banks, the student of aboriginal tongues and Colonial conditions, found themselves separated by the empty chair, the glasses and knives and forks, that should have accommodated their hostess. Both looked idly at the card, then quizzically at each other. As the first glass of sherry went down and the noise of gentlemanly talk grew louder, the Irishman said to the student:

“What is she, really?”

The student shook his head, and lifted an empty glass with significance.

“That way, is it? I meant the name, though.”

Banks again shook his head, looked for a moment at his host, and shrugged.

“I see,” answered Mr. Adare; and felt a moment's compassion for the man who could buy his wife, if she chose, diamonds for her garters, but not keep her sober.


  ― 39 ―
He turned to his neighbour, a soldier, and they fell to a discussion on the technique of flogging, and the scandal of Sudds and Thompson, one of Sir Ralph Darling's legacies to the incoming Governor.

It was just as the dessert was being set on the table; (walnuts from England; wine darkly glowing, that had rounded the Horn); at this moment, when the meal had done its duty, and the gentlemanly voices at last were loud and easy, their hostess appeared framed in the long window. She wore the leaf-green skirt of a ball-dress, with a cambric bodice which did not cover the rising points of her stays; red hair hung free on her magnificent shoulders, and her bare feet were shod with ancient red cloth slippers that flapped as she moved. She looked like a goddess careless of human clothing, or some heroine of antiquity run nobly mad.

Flusky did not see her at first. As the heads turned and the talk ceased he sprang up, with a face which Mr. Adare saw later in dreams, and put out a hand to keep her back. She took the hand with a pretty readiness, smiled, pressed it, and passed on to her place, the vacant chair at the table's foot. There, leaning on the chair's back, she graciously bent her head and spoke:

“Pray, gentlemen, excuse me. I was not aware of the hour. It is not too late, I hope, to take a glass of wine with you.”

Her speech was blurred, the syllables ran together as though written on damp paper, but the quality of the voice was not to be mistaken. Mr. Adare, for something


  ― 40 ―
to do, moved back the chair for her. She thanked him, and sat rather suddenly. The guests still stood, glancing under their brows at each other, until Flusky's voice loudly bade them sit down, sit down. Uncomfortably the dignitaries took their chairs, but the talk could not rise, it had been knocked on the head. A sentence or two, and the chink of a decanter's lip against glass, was the best they could do, while they directed their glances so as not to perceive the hostess's bosom or the host's face. Thus every man in the room heard what was being said at the foot of the table, where the red-haired woman was peering into the face of Mr. Adare.

“You have a look of somebody I knew. Long ago. In Ireland, was it? Somewhere——”

“I come from Ireland. Queen's County. Ballaloe. Adare is my name.”

“Ballaloe. I remember. Have you not a sister named Alethea?”

She made two attempts at the name; her tongue was thick; for all that Mr. Adare could recognize it and be astounded.

“You know her? You know Alethea?”

“Alethea Adare. We used to ride together. Riding——” She looked at Flusky, and laughed. “Riding's dangerous. How did you leave them at Ballaloe? My father—oh, but I was forgetting. My father died, not so very long after.”

At that Mr. Adare fairly jumped in his chair. With a glance at the card, on which William Winter had so


  ― 41 ―
doubtfully set out the courtesy title not borne by private gentlemen's wives, he said aghast and aloud:

“Lady Hattie; my God! Lady Hattie Considine, that ran off with the groom!”

“Not Considine,” said she correcting him, and kissed her hand, vaguely, in the direction of Flusky's chair. “He married me, you know. Was it not good of him? But he is such a good man. You mustn't believe the things they say.”

She rose suddenly and superbly from her chair, swaying a little with the grace of a blown tree; filled a tumbler with port and drank it down, not blinking; bowed one hand on the table for support, and made for the door. Adare ran to open it. As she reached him she paused mysteriously, a hand groping for his arm; the guests heard her whisper, after a backward look of triumphant cunning:

“Are you any kind of shot with a pistol?” He nodded. “Pray come with me upstairs. There's a something, I can't quite tell what, on my bed.”

Three minutes later, as the uneasy gentlemen sent port round the table, a shot was fired somewhere in the house. Each halted an instant the movement which engaged his hand—lifting, pouring, stretching—and Flusky made insufficient answer to the question thus mutely asked:

“Finish your wine.”

Dubiously the gentlemen obeyed. Whatever their speculations may have been, relief showed itself plainly when Mr. Adare reappeared in the doorway, betraying


  ― 42 ―
no sign of a struggle in his demeanour or his dress. He said with simplicity, and as though unaware that anything out of the way had passed:

“She'll be all right now.”

With that he sat down. The gentlemen longed to question; they waited for his uprising as for a signal, that they might all depart together and question him on the way home. But he sat on. At last the dignitaries, labouring jokes, and reminding each other of business to be done in the morning, gave up hope of Mr. Adare and departed, aware that the unfinished story would earn them a wigging from their wives. The adieux were cordial; the wine had been sound. At last they were gone, clop of hooves softened by dust, voices rallying and dying abruptly as the vehicles turned the hill.

On the shadowy verandah some blacks and their wives had gathered unnoticed. When the door closed they ran forward, and began to stuff nuts into their clothes, and, like so many monkeys, into the pouches of their cheeks. They sampled the wine, spitting out claret, sour stuff, but gulping brandy down. One of the gins drank from a little vase that adorned the epergne, pulling out the flowers, and looking mystified to find that these had imparted no sweet savour to their water. Another bound up her head in a white napkin. They talked, with sudden bursts of chatter that sounded angry, like monkeys. They were blissful; the cigar-ends and brandy would have been enough to make them so, without the added fun of plundering, which lent savour even to crumbled bread.




  ― 43 ―

Suddenly their leader, a man wearing a brass half-disc engraved with the name “Ketch,” signalled for quiet. They listened; then, with a final swig, a final fistful of raisins, scampered off, and were lost in the night. Two men came into the deserted dining-room, and one looked askance at the disorder.

“Never mind that,” said Flusky, “it's the blacks. They'd steal your big toe.”

Mr. Adare sat down, choosing a chair not damp with spewed claret, and asked his host point-blank:

“Is there anything we can do? Why don't you let her go back to Ireland?” Flusky looked at him. He amended the question. “Make her go back, then.” Flusky did not answer, which troubled Mr. Adare. “I don't like this. This isn't right at all. Coming into a roomful of men like that. And then afterwards—I had a pistol on me. I shot her bogy.” He pulled a little weapon from his tail-pocket. “Get her away out of this, can't you? For God's sake.”

“Her old father cut her off, he's dead, her mother's nothing but an old nanny-goat,” said Flusky rapidly and suddenly, and he imitated a kind of Irish country bleat. “Me-e! Me-e! All the time. What for do you say send Hattie back? What is there for her there? She can show her marriage-lines; who cares for that? They'd respect her the more, they'd take her back the sooner, if she'd none to show.”

“What started her drinking?” asked Mr. Adare in the merest conversational tone. “They don't


  ― 44 ―
get the horrors, women, till they're in pretty deep.”

“I was assigned here in Sydney,” Flusky answered, after a pause so long that the young man had time to draw his handkerchief through the pistol's dirty barrel. “I got into a piece of trouble once and they gave me up the ladder and down—there's the marks on me yet. Hattie—she'd followed me out. She went to the Superintendent, told him who she was. He made fun of her. She never used her rightful name after that—it's years ago, now. There was a bit of money from some old brooches she'd sold, bits of lace, I don't know what. She lived on it; but the drink got her before I'd got my ticket.”

Mr. Adare looked at the flabby man, involuntarily picturing the scars running ladderwise up his back.

“What did she say?” Flusky went on, with a jerk of the head towards the stairs.

“Not much. I shot the bogy for her that sits on the bedpost. She gave me a thank you, and started undressing for bed. It seemed to me time to be leaving then.”

Flusky nodded, and after a moment irrelevantly told him:

“I was their groom, ye know.”

“I'd heard the story.”

“It's her own people she misses. Not relations. Just the sort of women; ladies. Since I've made the money I've taken care to have gentlemen about the house. There's one now, my secretary, that was at some great school in England. She won't look at him, though,


  ― 45 ―
squeals when he's mentioned. She don't like the idea that he deceived some girl. Before him was a clergyman, a very quiet man, a forger. He's got his ticket now. There's always gentlemen getting into trouble; I can always be sure of a gentleman, no one else will put in for them, they can't make themselves useful, ye see; no offence. But you don't get ladies transported. So there's no company for her, and she don't take to the others.”

Mr. Adare was silent, unable to reconcile the simplicity of this recital with the reputation of his host as a man cunning, mysterious, and blunt to rudeness. As he sat puzzling, he was aware, as before in the bank secretary's office, of some compulsion being put upon him. Before he could recognize whence it came, and draw back to resist it, the words were out of his mouth:

“Let me have a word with her. Let me try.”

“Done,” answered Flusky at once, “why not? You're welcome.”

He stretched out his hand across the table. Mr. Adare for the second time took it, and once again felt a fleeting wonder at himself. Flusky got up to look for a clean glass, with some liquid in which to drink the partnership's success. But the blacks had been thorough, every drop of liquor was either drunk or spilled. Flusky, surveying the table, found an unbroken horseshoe of bread, and held it out to the other man.

“What's this?” said Mr. Adare, not understanding.

Flusky smiled, spat on the baked horseshoe, and


  ― 46 ―
tossed it over his shoulder out of the window behind him.

“For luck,” said he.

(viii)

NEXT morning, before Mr. Adare had well recovered from his night's sleep, which was apt to lie about him, like mists in a valley, till the sun rose high, a servant knocked to say that His Excellency would be obliged by a word with him. The message had a kind of official peremptory ring to it. Why summon a man to an interview at break of day, whom you can converse with over a meal or a cigar at any more civil time you please? Mr. Adare's mind gave forth tremors. His conscience was not uneasy, but he had fears for his comfort, vague disquiets, blank misgivings. He presented himself, looking neat, within twenty minutes of the message arriving.

His Excellency was in his study, not standing or marching about, as was his custom, but sitting at a big table on which packets of papers lay. He looked up at once, and Mr. Adare heard something resembling, had he known it, his cousin's orderly-room voice:

“Sit down. There's something I'd like you to explain.”

He did not add, If you can. But his gesture as he handed over a small paper, half-printed, half-written, allowed those words to be understood. Mr. Adare


  ― 47 ―
took, and in an instant recognized, the document.

To the Surveyor-General.

Application of Donough Charles Adare of Government House, Sydney, for permission to purchase land.

Dated, December, 1831.

Sir,

Being desirous to purchase the following sections of land, I request you will obtain the Governor's authority that they may be put up to sale at the minimum price determined by the Government, agreeable to the Regulations of the 1st August 1831, viz.:

200 acres in the County of Cumberland, district of Newcastle, sections numbered 17 to 217.

I am free, and arrived in the Colony by the ship Foxbound from London in the month of December 1831.

I have the honor to be, sir,

Your obedient humble servant,

D. C. ADARE.

“Is that your signature?”

“It is, yes. Let me explain this matter, there's nothing to be concerned about——”

“But it is not your writing in the body of the form?”

“No. I can explain that. You see, I am acting on advice. This land will appreciate in value. I shall make money by it if I wait. I can explain the whole affair. It's really a very simple matter.”

The Governor suddenly sat back in his chair.




  ― 48 ―

“Very good. Let me hear.”

Mr. Adare was still a little drowsy. He had not yet quite understood that here was danger, nor had he, when signing and presenting it, studied the document at all closely. Flusky had assured him it was the merest matter of form.

“I've been talking—you recommended that I should do so—to men of experience. They all have the one thing to say; one must get land. The more acreage the better. This is not like England; small holdings, they tell me, will not do here; one must put in for a considerable acreage, to allow, don't you see, for accidents such as drought or any other kind of bad season. Two hundred acres; it is equal, in fact, to a farm of fifty acres at home. It is all a question of degree. As you know, I have no ideas of grandeur. As Tom Moore says, ‘The pride of former days, and glory's thrill is o'er.’ ” He had done; and humming the tune that accompanies those words, waited more or less indifferently for the Governor to bid him take himself off. His Excellency, however, pondered, tapping the document.

“A farm,” repeated the Governor. “Well, I won't insult you more than I'm obliged to, but you are a liar, Mr. Donough Charles Adare. Don't make matters worse, don't make a fool of yourself.” (The young man had given an angry start.) “Did you look at the map, down there at the Surveyor's office? You did not, or you wouldn't have offered me that nonsense about acreage and droughts. What you have put in for is town land,


  ― 49 ―
valuable land. The price set by the Board runs to five pounds an acre and more. That's a thousand pounds' worth; it's land with the obligation to build, what's more, if your application should be granted. Don't humiliate yourself or me by any more explanations, as you call them. The truth, if you please.”

Not easy; for truth was in itself so improbable. Mr. Adare put together something resembling a review of the facts, which included the meeting in the Bank and the loan; but insisted that he had followed his own judgment in the selection of land to buy—“one of these fellows said it was a coming-along district, and I backed the numbers, the two seventeens——”

“But the money; you must have had money to show the Surveyor.”

“He lent it me—this same fellow—just for the day.”

“What security did you give?”

“He asked none, sir.”

“I see. Did you make use of my name, then?”

“I did not.”

“I'm serious, this is a serious matter. What did you promise the man in exchange for this money? I must know how you stand.”

“I repeat, nothing at all, whatsoever, of any kind, nothing.”

“Come; you're this man's bonnet, aren't you? Buying in his name land he wouldn't be likely to get on his own application?”

“I am not, sir.”




  ― 50 ―

The Governor rose at last, and looked at Adare steadily. The young man cocked his chin and stared back. The Governor gave a kind of quick sigh, then spoke with firmness.

“Your application is refused.”

Adare bowed as jauntily as he dared.

“Furthermore, I must make other arrangements for your domicile while you stay in the Colony. This is the sort of transaction——” he flicked the document—“that I can't have carried on from Government House.”

“I'll arrange at once, sir. Don't put yourself to any trouble.”

“I make no further comment on your conduct. You have a good deal to learn in the way of worldly wisdom; but don't buy your experience at the cost of honour. That's no sort of bargain. I shall be happy to know from time to time how you do. Moreover, some sort of allowance is due to you, in money, I mean. Your parents contemplated your being my guest in the Colony——”

“Excuse me. I shall do very well.”

“As you please. I am at your service, should you change your mind.”

“Mr. Flusky, I believe, will be good enough to house me until I can settle my affairs.”

The Governor at that put off his orderly-room manner altogether and disturbingly. He came round his big desk, took the still young man above the elbow and walked him about as he talked.




  ― 51 ―

“You remember I had something in my mind about this man. So had you; we couldn't hang it on to any peg, either of us. I've got the facts at present.”

“So have I, sir.”

“All? You know he ran off with one of the Considine girls? And the rest of the circumstances? Why he's out here?” The young man was silent, and Sir Richard halted their march a moment. “The bad part of the business, you see, was this. He shot James Considine dead, that went after them. Shot her brother. They gave him the benefit of the doubt; said James pulled first. That's how Flusky comes to be a rich man instead of a dead one. But it's not a story to associate with; a nasty, bloody, derogatory story. Keep away from it, Charles.” The young man stood mulishly; Sir Richard shook his arm with a trifle of impatience. “No chivalry, now. No wild-goose chasing. He's a murderer, and she's all to pieces, by what I can learn. You owe the fellow no debt, and you've done what you could. Give him his money back, and start fresh.”

But Mr. Adare was in the grip of that obstinacy which comes from the sense of having behaved like a fool; an obstinacy not peculiar to the young, but more common in them, since their dignity is a new and precious pedestal. This obstinacy did not reveal itself as such to the individual possessed by it. Hastily, it put on the trappings of generosity, and displayed Mr. Adare to his own gaze as a noble figure forsaking the fleshpots, a Quixote. He burst out now with something of all this,


  ― 52 ―
much garbled; a new country, old scores should be forgotten, hands of friendship, and so on. Sir Richard listened and lost patience. He too had his dignity; it was not for him to persuade. Two sentences ended the matter.

“Yes, yes, that would sound all very well in a story, my young friend, but we can't afford posturing in a real situation.”

“I won't trouble your Excellency with my postures any longer.”

A bend of the young man's shoulders. A lift of the Governor's shoulders. The sound of a door impetuously closed.

(ix)

“ ‘——I THINK I can picture you, not working in any way, for that is against your avowed principles, but most pertinaciously and tirelessly watching others do so. Since there has not been time as yet for any letter to arrive, I amuse myself very comfortably, seeing you in this situation or that, without any danger of imagination stumbling over truth. Have you seen any black men? Do they make anything of interest that you could send home? It is tiresome having to abide the bragging of Mrs. Synnott, with a trumpery ensign nephew out in the East, who sends shawls and ivory elephants.

“ ‘When will this scrawl arrive, I wonder? Perhaps it


  ― 53 ―
may not reach you at all. The ship may go down, or be taken by pirates, who will light their smelly pipes with the best I can do in the way of literary composition. It is not very well worth while writing beautifully for pirates, you will agree, and so I wander about over the paper, on which you may find, I shall be surprised if you do not, the print of a dog's paw here and there. They, Bess and Punch, will come in, and they scramble about so, there is no keeping them in their places. Bess has had a litter since you went away, two dog-puppies and three others. There was the usual talk of drowning, but it ended as usual, with Bess enthroned under the kitchen dresser, and everyone coming to pay respects to the full number of puppies.

“ ‘What else? Three or four of the women in the village are praying for you, and there was talk of a candle being set up by old Philo Regan. I told her it would do a Protestant no good, she had better keep it for St. Anthony, to find her calf that strayed away. She said, whether a creature went straying to Australia or only into the next parish, it was all one in God's eye, so you may share the petition of the candle between you.

“ ‘Dear brother, dear Charles, to be serious for a moment, you are indeed very far away from us, and I can't always think with composure of the many months that must pass before you are home again here. Please write. It is not that which you do most easily, I know it, but say to yourself that two poor silly women are fond of you, and will not be easy until they have assurance that you are safe


  ― 54 ―
and happy. I will say it again, in red ink if I can find any. Please write. And again, WRITE, in capitals, so that you, who once complained of my “feathery fist,” cannot but make that one word out.’ ”

Mr. Adare paused a moment in his reading.

“And then she signs her name and her love. And that's the end.”

“Thank you,” said the red-haired woman. She did not ask to see the letter, but Mr. Adare caught her looking at it, not inquisitively, and gave it into her hand. She weighed it between her fingers as though quite unused to handling such things, read the superscription, smiled, and dropped her hands above it in her lap, where embroidery silks, much faded, lay heaped.

“And so, have you written to your sister?”

“Not yet. The ship is only now in, I've not had the letter an hour.”

“When you do answer—I have no right to ask this, no right to conjecture what you may do, or forbid it—I hope you will not speak of me.”

“Not——? But it is the only thing that will interest her, my one good reason for writing. Why do you forbid it?”

Lady Henrietta did not answer, but began again to load her blunted needle and draw the silk in and out, making knots for the fleeces of a canvas flock. She spoke away from the previous matter, looking sideways at her knot as it flattened:

“This is all I remember of all my old governess taught


  ― 55 ―
me. Shakespeare, the History of England by Question and Answer—all gone, except this.”

“Your sheep will thrive,” said Mr. Adare, following the needle and the cue. “Milton fed his, you recollect, on knot-grass dew-besprent, and they did well, or so he says. But listen to me; why mustn't I write about you to Alethea?”

She said in a low voice:

“The night you first came to this house, how long ago? Ten days only? That night—I don't clearly recollect it. But I know, because of that night, and because of certain other things, other happenings—”

She stopped. Adare said, sympathetically and easily:

“You mean, because you were drunk.”

She stood up at that; the silks and scissors slipped from her knee. The young man unconsciously took a step back, afraid lest she had been wounded by his bluntness, but she followed, putting out her hands to him.

“Do you know that's the first open word that's been said? He never speaks. He won't let them speak, or look, not even Milly. I get the bottles. When they're empty I hide them until there's a pile, and then, one day, they're gone. Nobody speaks of them. I do something outrageous, come down half-naked, scream—nobody speaks.” She gripped his hands more tightly. “That night, how did I appear? Was I—was I decent?”

“You were covered,” Adare answered. “Don't trouble for that. Only you were not quite, we'll say, the glass of fashion.”




  ― 56 ―

“Thank God for it. And for you, that gives me the words of comfort I've needed. ‘You were drunk.’ My dear, you'll never know how I've longed to hear a human creature's voice just saying that.”

They stood together. Suddenly Adare began to laugh. She followed the lead a moment later, rocking, half-weeping. Flusky came out on to the verandah from his room astonished at the sound, and stood in the long window of the drawing-room wondering at the laughers, who confronted each other helplessly, their feet upon the fallen silks, and regarded by the round eyes of a scissors that had dropped point downwards to stick upright out of the floor. His wife saw him first, and still catching her breath came towards and past him. As she reached his side she held his arm for an instant and leaned her cheek against it; then went out, swiftly and majestically striding, towards the shades of the garden. Adare remained. Without self-consciousness he wiped his damp eyes, and set about picking up the silks.

“What's funny?” Flusky asked him.

“I don't know,” said Adare; for with all his impudence he could hardly confide to this man, who himself never referred to it, the subject of the jest. “Just something or other made the pair of us laugh.”

Flusky said nothing, noting the embroidery, which for ten years he had not seen in his wife's hands. He turned away.




  ― 57 ―

(x)

“I'VE been talking with your husband—why didn't you dine with us, cruel fair—as the poets say, the silly fools. How I hate poets! Why don't you ever take a bite with us? We get on very well, but we're a little heavy together, like brandy and cheese. Is it because you're sick of food by the time you've ordered it? I've heard my mother say that.”

“I seldom order it.”

“I thought the stranger within your gates might have transformed you to a model housewife. What a damnable thing—Venus into Dorcas! Still, you know, it would give you something to do with your time.”

Again she was silent.

“Oho! There's something in the way. Now what?” But he did not wait for her answer. “Is there anyone I could kick for you?”

She laughed, and spoke at last.

“It does me good to have you here.”

“I know that. I'm little Ferdinand of all the tracts come alive. ‘O mamma, pray put that ugly bottle down!’ I take my duties seriously, it's a mission I'm on; to restore you to that society, of which you ought to be the jewel and ornament. Let's plan the campaign together.”

“How about making your fortune? I thought that was what had brought you here.”

“I'll make yours instead, lend myself lustre that way.


  ― 58 ―
Where's pencil and paper? Here we are. Now! Programme of Social Activities, (a) domestic, (b) in social circles. Lord, lord, those social circles! How I pity you, being obliged to shine in them. Lux in tenebris—and the darkness did not comprehend it. All the same, it is your duty.”

He looked up suddenly from his absurd task. She was seated in a chair backed by sunset. The noble shape of her head could be seen against red feathers of cloud, dark, calmly brooding. By strong daylight the skin showed thickened and blotched, the whites of the eyes were not clear, and the whole scheme of her beauty appeared half-spoiled, like a great drawing sketched upon some spongy substance. Withdrawal of light gave back this beauty again by lending it mystery. Adare said impulsively:

“You are the loveliest creature ever I saw in my life, I believe—except a mare I once had that died of the strangles.”

He laughed at his own conclusion. She did not, making almost passionate answer.

“No, no. I know there's nothing left, nothing—”

“Don't you ever take a look in your glass?”

“There are no glasses here.”

That was true. Nowhere in the house had he seen one, except the round small mirror he shaved by, and he now perceived the reason; she could not bear to be reminded of the passing of a beauty that had been sterile, that would light no memories; of which, in this new


  ― 59 ―
country, no man would say when she died, “Ah, but Henrietta Considine was the loveliest thing!” Adare was touched with pity. He whipped off his dark green coat, and holding it behind the French window within whose opening stood her chair, made a mirror impromptu, in which as she turned she could see something of her head's outline against the ghosts of cloud.

“Can you see yourself? Enough to convince? I tell you what we'll do, we'll drive together into Sydney to-morrow, and cause a nice scandal, and I'll buy you the biggest looking-glass I can find. It's to stand for your conscience. Every day you must look in it, and say to yourself, Sister Hattie, Sister Hattie, do you see anybody coming? And every day you must answer, I see myself, myself, myself coming back hell-for-leather to make me like I was when I was young.”

He took away his coat, swung it on to his shoulders, and when he viewed her again found her head sunk, and her hands at her eyes. She was crying; indeed his own outburst had made a kind of clot come in his throat. He took refuge from emotion in talk, and seizing the pencil again began to make calculations aloud.

“We haven't got far with our plan yet. Activities Domestic; yes, those must be considered first. What the devil does a woman find to do in a house? I have it—back to the beginning of our conversation. One, you must order the dinner yourself.”

He set this down, neatly.

“Two, you must take up your needle. I disallow your


  ― 60 ―
knotted sheep. Embroidery will not do, there is no reclaiming virtue in embroidery, it is frivolous, old ladies in mouldy castles do miles of it, for which nobody's the better. The new world demands something sterner. Socks! Not flocks. I'll give you one of mine to start on, and your husband, I dare say he'll wear out a pair or two to oblige you. Task domestic Number Two.”

He set it down.

“What shall Three be? I think I have it. To appear every evening at the dinner you have ordered in the morning. Yes, and eat it, too. I know how it is, you have no appetite, I know that. But that will come along. You must dress for us; you must adorn our table, not leave us to munch together like a pair of bullocks. And you must take a glass of wine with us. How long since you've had a drink in public? Well, that's undoubtedly Three.”

She had recovered from her tears he saw, looking sideways at her, and as he wrote she spoke:

“You are talking nonsense, but please go on.”

“The first time anyone has ever paid me that tribute. I used to write poetry once, did you know? Brought out—the impudence of me—a book. It even got a critique from the Scotch Reviewers. They said what you said, minus the last clause. Have I to come fifteen thousand miles to find my market?”

“Charles—that is your sister's name for you, isn't it? I will call you Charles, I think. You must believe that I am very grateful.”




  ― 61 ―

“My dear creature, I please myself by staying in this house—for I take it that's what you refer to. Indeed, if I didn't stay in this house, I should have nowhere to go. His Excellency the Governor has turned me out into the storm. You are not to thank me for your own charity, taking in an orphan.”

“But your plans—you cannot be always talking to me. You have some notion what you intend to do.”

“None.” He indicated the paper. “Unless it be this. I get the run of my teeth, goddess dear, as Milton has it, in return for the privilege of keeping you away from the bottle.”

She said, speaking with difficulty, very low:

“Charles, it isn't only that. That came—because I had lost courage. It is not the cause.”

“Cause or effect, we'll get rid of them together. We'll present you to the world, you'll burst upon it like Pygmalion's statue, and the world shall rock, or I'll know the reason why. Lack of company, lack of women to chatter and stitch with—there's your cause, I believe. But my dear, my dear! They are a very deadly set of people, all the best ones.”

“I don't want to go among them. Pray don't insist upon that; I have no inclination to society.”

“I do insist upon it. I insist upon your staggering all the wives of the Chief Thises and Thats until they go home and beat their uninteresting children.”

“Perhaps—perhaps I have staggered them already.”

“That dinner party? Pooh, it told them nothing they


  ― 62 ―
hadn't invented beforehand. There must be more dinner parties. There must be races and balls. I'll see to it. I am not persona grata at Government House, but I am personable, and a Lord's son, thank that same Lord!”

She was beginning to speak when Miss Milly came in bearing candles. (It had grown dark while they spoke, like a curtain dropping.) The sallow woman came in, peering, for the lights she carried blinded her, and gave the pair at the window a look before she set the two silver branches down. She said nothing, however; licked her finger and thumb to snuff down one of the wicks that was flaming; withdrew.

“That's a nice sort of a family nurse, curse, worse to have about.”

“She is kind to me.”

“I wonder is she. I wonder does she.”

“Does she—what?”

“I don't know.” He had been looking intently at the door, but suddenly let his eyes come back to his hostess. “I never could stomach plain women. That's why I like you. The harp that once in Tara's halls might have been strung with your hair. Or the bow of Diarmed. There's a word for what you are.”

“There is indeed. There is a word for what I am.”

“Oh, not that side of you, not the drinking and the crying and the bogy on the bed. Well, I'll change my tune. There's a word for what you were and still could be. Only I can't find it. Nobody's ever found it. There's


  ― 63 ―
a young man, a poet, not long dead, and he said beauty was truth. And there was another man asked once, what is truth; but he never got his answer, not even though he asked God. Nobody knows what they are, truth or beauty. Not even poets; not even lovers. And so that's why I can't finish my little compliment.”

“But you are not in love.”

“No, thank God. And I'm not a poet.”

There was sincerity in that answer. He had for the moment no more to say; and with the unconcern of a young animal clenched his shoulders, stretching, then walked past her chair out into the dark garden. She did not look after him. She sat awhile watching insects that the candles had drawn round them with their silent Ducdame, then stooped to pick up the paper on which Adare had scribbled, idly, the list of her domestic duties. She read it, smiled ruefully, and put it away in her dress.

(xi)

THAT large confused warm room, the kitchen of Flusky's house, was busy after its fashion at eleven of a morning, with gardeners bringing in vegetables, blacks coming to cadge bacon-rind or corks, and occasionally men from the bay with unfamiliar-shaped fish strung on reeds. It was a room drab enough to the eye, but vivid to the ear with women's talk and the ejaculations of the stove. Miss Milly reigned there. Hers was the pair of


  ― 64 ―
slippers, embroidered with life-sized sunflowers, that reposed by the door. The nail beside the dresser was hers, on which she hung her apron after carefully, and with a look which the women did not miss, removing everything its pocket might contain. Her taste had directed the embellishments—a string of paper roses in three colours, much blown by flies, a print of Moses striking the rock, and a certificate of First Communion in French, unintelligible, but admired by reason of its illuminated border.

In this kitchen Miss Milly directed the preparation and conservation of food, holding absolute sway. It was the house's first line of defence, and she was entrenched in it. Hence, with a general's eye, she watched and directed activities of all those who came and went about the house. The house-women—one petty thief, one murderess (with extenuating circumstances) and one aged female fence who gave herself airs and talked ad nauseam about her former glories—these had friends among visiting grooms and tradesmen, who, for a consideration, would procure them drink. The blacks, too, and the fishermen were channels for the coming of drink into the house. Miss Milly knew and successfully blocked all these courses of supply, so far as her underlings were concerned; they raved at her for incorruptibleness, and drank hartshorn or paraffin, making themselves sick to spite her; but she observed their convulsions unmoved. She obliged her assigned women to work, even taught them something of house-pride and order; she trained


  ― 65 ―
motts and mollishersnote to make the kind of wives a rough-and-ready new world demanded. In the single instance of her employer's wife her efficiency appeared to fail. Somehow, into that upper room the bottles still found their way, and if the flow of liquor sometimes dwindled, at other times it came in flood. Lack of money could not settle the matter in a country where raw spirit was bartered against a set of buttons, a weight of flour, or even female virtue. Miss Milly, whose powers could baffle all the manœuvres of the assigned sots, was not able to discover a tactic which should be effective against gentlewomen.

Miss Milly, then, spying her ladyship's figure straying through the garden still young with morning, went into the upper corridor and looked about her. William Winter was coming upstairs. She beckoned him sharply.

“Give me a hand here. There'll be something to carry; I don't care to get up one of the women.”

From curiosity only he obeyed, and followed her into a bedroom whose door he had often eyed, from which in the night sometimes came whimpers and talking, endless talking, by one voice only. It was a pleasant room, with a vast wooden bed. He noted that one of the upstanding pillars of this bed was scored as though a bullet had whipped past it. The untidiness of the place was fantastic. There were clothes spread about the chairs and floor, enough for a dozen women's wearing; candles everywhere, one guttering still in broad daylight; an ancient


  ― 66 ―
trunk open, all its contents tumbled. Above the smell of scent was a sweetish pothouse reek of spilled rum.

William Winter was shocked by this disorder. He did not choose to let his eyes reckon it all, but observed instead the view from the window, which looked east, towards spurs of land as yet uncleared shutting out a view of the harbour's length. He could see, down in the bay, one or two craft moving slowly upon the light morning breeze, and a dark fin travelling fast like a tiny sail blown by some ill wind of its own. He did not look at the unmade bed nor the stockings cast upon chairs; he preserved a certain gallantry in his downfall, a corner of civility where he retired when he wished to reassure himself that he was still a gentleman. Miss Milly, too, did not gape about her, but told him sharply to look and find if the madam was still in the garden. He saw the movement of a yellow dress and reported it. Miss Milly, satisfied, proceeded to a cupboard where she bade him attend her, stripping on her way a sheet from the bed.

The cupboard held unnumbered dresses; and among the dresses, hidden below their skirts, wrapped sometimes in a petticoat or a shift, were bottles, all shapes, all sizes.

“Hold this,” said Miss Milly, gripping the four corners of the sheet so that it might take a load; and she picked up the bottles quietly, one by one, talking with affability:

“I have to do this while she's out of the way. Not under madam's nose, dear no! That wouldn't do. ‘How do they come there? What d'you mean, storing


  ― 67 ―
rubbish among my things?’ That sort never admits it. Well! Only ten this week—that's having something to occupy her. Mostly there's a couple of dozen. I'm sure I wouldn't have asked you, only I thought there'd be a heavy lot.”

“What am I to do with them?”

“Ketch the blackfellow is in the kitchen. He sells them to one of the men in the bay. There's an idea—what do you say? He's making the whole of one side of his house out of bottle bottoms. It's the only good use for bottles ever I heard of. For mortar, he shaves his dog. You need hair for good mortar. Why, one of the old governors, he used to shave the convicts all over; said animals was too valuable. That's how the barracks was built, against the direct command of God. ‘Ye shall not round the corners of your head, neither mar the corners of thy beard.’ Well, better be going. Madam's not dependable, what I call; may be on us any minute.”

They went down together, the gentleman manœuvring his burden awkwardly at the turn of the stairs, and along the passage which led kitchenwards. Passing through a baize door the two simultaneously heard a voice, unfamiliar in that place, speaking clear and high. Miss Milly checked with one hand the steps of William Winter following behind her.

“And why not?” the voice was asking. “This is my house, I will not have you argue with me. Which of you is the cook?”

A murmur answered. Miss Milly, tightening her


  ― 68 ―
mouth, came forward with no uncertain step, and marched in upon the situation. Lady Henrietta stood by the table, facing a pair of women, half-frightened, half-inclined to giggle, who eyed her with most eager curiosity. She held a kitchen knife by its point, rapping out upon the table a drummer's tune with the butt of it. As Miss Milly entered she turned.

“What's the matter with these creatures? Why can't they give me an answer?”

Miss Milly made oblique reply.

“The dinner's settled. It was all fixed last night. You go and take a bit of a saunter in the garden.”

Decision swelled in one voice as it fled from the other. Lady Henrietta seemed to stoop, almost to be wheedling.

“Milly, in future pray consult me. It is for me to make the arrangements.”

One of the women set up a laugh, uneasy at witnessing an interchange of which she could make nothing. Miss Milly turned on the noisy creature with a gesture which silenced her.

“In future—we must make a plan, Milly, do you hear? We must order the work between us. I've left too much on your shoulders, you are not to blame.”

Miss Milly still stood mute.

“In future, I will come—no, that won't do—you shall come to me, in my room, and bring a slate for the orders. Every morning. At nine o'clock. That will do very well. Do you understand me? And we'll settle the dinner between us.”




  ― 69 ―

Miss Milly answered at last.

“You'll give the orders, is that it?”

“And I had better—you'll let me have the keys.”

They hung at Miss Milly's belt, a dozen of them, their steel rods shining like daggers. She had laid open a convict woman's forehead once with a knock from her bunch; as she walked they rang authoritatively, like spurs.

“Oh, the keys?”

But she did not bring up her hand to unhook them. She went instead to the door, and beckoned in William Winter. He came unwillingly, set down his burden gently. It gave an unmistakable sound for all that, the chink of glass. Lady Henrietta looked at it, and stopped the tune that she had been playing with the haft of her knife on the table. She did not ask what was in the sheet tied by its four corners, nor did Miss Milly make any remark upon it. The convict women met each other's eyes, and one put her hand over her mouth, from which an uncleanly noise came bursting. This time Miss Milly did not rate her. She looked at the bundle, at her silent mistress, and when she judged that the bundle, had done its work, with a gesture bade William Winter take it up and away. He obeyed, only once raising his eyes; that single glance had showed him so grotesque a flood of red colouring Lady Henrietta's throat that he could not bear to look again. He heard, as he went out slowly under the humiliating weight of empty bottles, the sound of her step retreating, and found it odious that so much dignity


  ― 70 ―
and grace should march away at the threat, the empty threat, he thought, making some sort of forlorn play upon words, of a harridan. It had already caused him unhappiness that Flusky's wife never spoke to him, and shrank aside as he passed her. He had almost forgotten the uninteresting female minor whose reluctance had brought him to this strait, but she was now, vicariously and unknowing, taking vengeance upon him.

(xii)

THE dinner that night was neither better nor other than usual. Flusky's wife was not present; the two men found little to talk about. Adare had ridden in to Sydney on one of his host's excellent horses, he had visited the Club and acquired some small change of gossip which he was willing to distribute; but Flusky's dead weight pulled the conversation down, time and again, to silence. He listened, he answered, but it was with questions of the kind which show the questioner to be indifferent. Is that so, now? Did he indeed? Adare, as the walnuts came on, made a last effort.

“Do you see there's an order out forbidding those heads from New Zealand? Who the devil ever thought of importing the nasty things? Human heads tattooed, in pickle. You have queer notions out here of the beaux-arts.”

“It does them no harm,” Flusky answered, sipping water, “the blacks. They're dead enough.”




  ― 71 ―

“Well, but,” Adare persisted, glad to have struck even this spark, “you wouldn't care for one yourself, would you, as a paper-weight?”

“Not as a paper-weight.”

“D'you mean you've got one of the things?”

“Why not?”

Adare hesitated, laughed.

“Well—I don't know exactly why not. I shouldn't care for it.”

“You might,” said Flusky.

He got up with his usual deliberation, fumbling in one of his wide pockets for keys; opened a cupboard of dark wood that must, in the old country, have held china dogs, shepherdesses and cups; thence took out, sans ceremony, an object which he set down casually by the side of his guest's plate. It was a head, somewhat shrivelled and dwindled by the process of preserving, which had turned the longish lank hair a streaky yellow. On the skin geometrical patterns of tattooing stood out, enclosing the mouth, circling upon the cheeks and forehead, dark indigo blue weals upon brown. The eyes, mercifully, were shut.

Adare stared at it. The thing had a kind of helpless and horrid nobility; the individual was undoubtedly dead, the practice of embalming one approved by the ancients. For all that, the young man hurriedly emptied his glass of wine and pushed his chair back. As he did so, he saw Flusky looking at the head, nodding appreciation while he searched for a cigar. This he lit; in the act


  ― 72 ―
paused uneasily, and blew out his spill with the guilty expression of a child, offering an explanation that was an apology.

“I forgot. The port's on the table.”

And that troubles you, thought Adare. Pick out a human creature's skull and dump it down among the biscuits and raisins; but don't smoke with the port on any account. He was touched by the anomaly of this behaviour. Trying to change himself, thought Adare for her sake, the poor devil. Will she do as much for him? With this in his mind he spoke:

“Her ladyship doesn't honour us to-night.”

Flusky looked at him in wonder, mildly.

“Oh, I know she don't as a rule. But to-night I thought possibly—where is she, Mr. Flusky? Let's find her and make her sit down with us.”

“I don't know about that.”

“Why not? Put that thing away, she sees horrors enough, and I'll fetch her out from wherever she's hiding.”

“I don't think so.”

“Why not?”

Flusky's eyes, lifted from contemplation of the blue whorls upon the dead man's cheeks, met the live man's eyes for a moment with a stubborn absence of expression. Adare nodded.

“But she was all right this morning. Seemed better. I thought she might keep so. What's been the trouble, I wonder?”




  ― 73 ―

Flusky would not answer. Both stood for an instant quite still, then the young man flung his napkin to cover the Maori head, and went out on to the verandah, quickly down stone steps to the garden. There was a moon coming up. It seemed caught in the thin net of the pepper-trees' foliage, so slowly did it move; on the harbour water, here and there where a gust of air was dying, a star or two danced. Adare looked back into the room he had just quitted, and saw the heavy man, his host, looking down at that dark object from which he had twitched the covering away, the unlighted cigar still in one hand. He had a feeling of hopelessness, of meddling in affairs too big for him, travelling with a poor provision of wits and goodwill through unknown country. Sadness of youth took hold of him, the sadness compact of self-pity, which seeks a listener to whom golden lads and lasses may complain of time's cruelty, secure in the knowledge that the gold is with them still. He looked up at the window which William Winter that morning had preferred to the litter of the bedroom; and, though it was dark, smoothed the set of his curls (barbered that morning by an indifferent and homesick felon) before he called to the square of light:

“Heyo!”

A shadow moved within the room, but no figure showed against the light. He called again:

“Are you there? What's your ladyship doing indoors a night like this?”

She did not answer. He saw Flusky move to open the


  ― 74 ―
French window of the dining-room, obscuring the direct light of the candles with his heavy shoulders, and threw a word back to him, confidently:

“I'll have her out of there.” He spoke upwards again, hand on heart, burlesquing: “Your promise, your promise——

‘Thy vows are all broken,
And light is thy fame,
I hear thy name spoken,
And share in its shame——'

“D'you hear me? What are you at, Lady Hattie? Never mind, come down here, I'm waiting, I've got things to tell you. Come o'er the moonlit sea. That's it! A boat—will you? There is a moon, I've seen to that. Don't miss the moon.”

The shadow in the upper room stirred sideways, heaving itself wildly about after the manner of shadows candle-cast, and he saw her come to the window. Her hair was on her shoulders and she was huddling some sort of garment over her breast. She swayed against the window's side, caught the curtain with one hand, and so stood. She did not speak.

“Are you listening? What's the good of roaring to a statue up in a niche? Come down, come down——”

She answered, then. Her voice now hurried, now checked; words were for a moment almost shouted, then smothered; it had the confused quality of shallow water running over stones; the voice of a gentlewoman drunk.




  ― 75 ―

“Didn't order dinner.”

“Who's talking about dinner? Who gives a damn for dinner? I won't excuse you. What's become of your promise?”

She muttered something. Couldn't help, Not reasonable, Milly——”

“I can't hear what you say. Come into the garden, it will cool you down. Bring a veil if you like, the mosquitoes are troublesome. I've something to say to you.”

He saw her shake her head. Suddenly his eye caught the trick of the shadows behind her. There was one, square-shouldered like a man, which he now perceived to be that of a bottle standing on the table near her candle. A little breeze, shifting the flame, caused the bottle's shadowy shoulders to heave like those of a man laughing, and Adare was enraged by that shrug precisely as though a man had mocked him.

“You won't, do you say? I won't take that. You can't diddle me that way.”

Her dark outline changed its position, she was moving away from the window. On the ceiling the bottle-shoulders jerked to the death of an insect in flame.

“Are you dressed? Put something on. I'll give you two minutes, and then I'm coming up the wall.”

A tree stood against that side of the house, dark, thickly-leaved. Here and there closed white flowers showed upon it; the scent was heady. Adare took out his watch—no mere gesture, for the moon now rode clear, and he could read the numerals—and with this in his


  ― 76 ―
hand considered the possibilities of the tree. It was sturdy enough; it was nailed to the wall and would bear him. While the two minutes lagged by he became aware that Flusky still eyed him. He made a gay little sign with the right hand—Up I go, I must deal with this situation—and spoke towards him in a half-voice:

“Better stand by with the pistol again.”

The two minutes were ended. Adare dropped his watch in his pocket, sprang into the first branch of the tree, and made his way up it, rapidly all things considered, to the window under which its main trunk parted. Flusky moved. He went to the cupboard, his illegal trophy's coffin, and took out of it the small pistol which Adare had left behind him on the evening of the interrupted dinner. It was clean, as he discovered by squinting down the barrel. He, however, made no move to load it, but stood with it in his hands, listening to the cracks and ejaculations that accompanied his guest's progress up the tree.

“Lady, by yonder blessed moon I swear—you can't wonder at it. If my tailor could see me now! Ah! Half-way. Why do I risk my neck? That's it, I'm with you. Up and over. And now, madame, if you please——

(xiii)

HE sat straddling the sill, and reproached her.

“Now listen, now listen. I can't have it. What are you doing, making a guy of yourself this way?”




  ― 77 ―

She had drawn away towards the bed, against one of whose posts she clung, pulling the mosquito netting over her face as if for a veil. He could hear her breathing hard, great sobbing breaths. Mr. Adare went on, savouring with a sudden little gush of amusement which knocked the romanticalness clean out of him for the moment, his position as the apostle of temperance; climbing into a room like a lunatic instead of walking in by the door, having the chief of a bottle of port inside him that had been drunk in company with a convicted murderer and a parti-coloured human head.

“You were as good as gold yesterday. Have you forgotten what you promised me? I know it's not easy. I know it gets a grip on your vitals. But why won't you take it like a Christian, at the dinner-table? Decent wine, instead of this rot-gut. What is it?” He peered at the humped black bottle. Gin; empty. “Come here to me and let me talk to you. How can I talk if you wrap yourself up like an Arabian, Lady Hester Stanhope in Arabia Felix, Lady Hattie Flusky in Australia Felix? Come along, I won't hurt you, I won't scold you. Bring me that bottle.”

He held out his hand. She obeyed as if it drew her magically, came slowly forward, her hair tumbling about her face. But Mr. Adare was determined not to be defied by the hump-shouldered shadow any longer, and he made her pause by the table to take up the bottle. This, when she came near him, he took, and with a fling of his right arm sent it out into the garden. The squawking


  ― 78 ―
of roosting birds showed that it had landed in a tree.

“Where d'you get it from?” He took her hand as he spoke, holding her steady on her feet; the hand was damp and very hot. “Henrietta, now tell me. How did you get it?”

“Found it.”

She spoke in bursts of sound.

“Found it; is that true?”

“Sometimes——” she made a wide gesture with her free hand which unbalanced her, so that she swayed against him. “Sometimes find them. Never mind.”

“Here, in this room? Outside in the garden? Where?”

She answered at random, loudly and suddenly:

“Couldn't order dinner. Sorry. Can't explain——”

At that she slipped out of his supporting arm to the floor, and began a kind of windy crying. He considered for a moment; then pulled his left leg in over the sill, and leaving her where she lay, took up the candle to survey the room. He opened cupboards and trunks. He disturbed dresses. No more bottles were to be seen. When he was certain of this, he returned to her.

“Do you pay for the stuff? How? Who takes the money?”

She shook her head; or rather, swayed her whole body above the waist from side to side. It was not a negation, but a kind of lamentation in movement, a protest against ignominy. She was quite incoherent, and he saw that it


  ― 79 ―
would not be possible to draw any answer out of her that would make sense or truth in the morning. He spoke gently, therefore, in another tone:

“We'll get you to bed. Who puts you to bed when you're like this? Milly, is it? I'll ring for her. You'll take cold.”

She caught his hand as he went past her and bowed herself to it, kissing it through the mesh of her hair. He felt tears, and patted her head awkwardly with the other hand, as though its red gold had been that of his setter bitch. She let him go when he gently pulled away, and sank against the window, her bare feet sticking out straight from her, green dressing-gown tumbled, hair covering her face, without dignity, awkward as a doll thrown down.

Adare rang the bell. So still was the night that now the sighing in the room had stopped and the birds had settled down again in their tree, he could hear the chinkle of the bell, tossing on its wire in the kitchen fifty yards away, downstairs. He could hear, too, feet coming down the stone steps, slowly; into the garden, and knew that to be Flusky.

It was perhaps two minutes before Miss Milly turned the handle of the door—vainly, for it was locked. Adare went to it, and turned the key, with a flash of self-reproach—why?—that he had not thought to do so while he waited. Only when she looked at him did he appreciate the odd figure he cut, white trousers dirtied and torn by the tree, waistcoat riding up, coat with a feather from


  ― 80 ―
one of the cloaks on its shoulder. He said, however, as strongly as he could:

“You had better get Lady Henrietta to bed.”

“I'm to put her to bed?”

“Isn't that your work? Send someone else, then.”

“Looks more like it's your work.” This was spoken very low.

“Oho!” said Mr. Adare, and caught the woman's thin arm. “What's that you said? Say that again, will you?”

She did not obey; looked at the figure on the floor, and back at him.

“None of that, I won't have any of that sort of thing.” She eyed him without speaking. “Look here, now. Where does she get the stuff from?”

“How should I know?”

“That's what I'm asking.”

“And I'm asking something else, young man. What are you doing here, and her like she is?”

Miss Milly's voice issuing its vulgar challenge made him conscious of squalor. What power had the light of the moon, how could pity itself stand, when there were voices like that in the world, pondered Mr. Adare. He said to the figure on the floor:

“Good night, Henrietta. We'll talk in the morning.”

She moved her head from side to side, a sickening motion, abandoned, weary. But she lifted her face a little, and her hair fell away from it. The light showed it shining with tears, lids and lips swollen, cheeks deadly white. From her came a warm reek of drink. Adare was


  ― 81 ―
seized by a strong repugnance; but cancelling out, as was his habit, one emotion by the show of its opposite, he stooped to the wet face and kissed its forehead. Then he went out by the door.

(xiv)

FLUSKY'S room in which he sat for long periods smoking, or which he paced, slowly straddling, following the pattern in the carpet, three strides this way, two strides that, sideways, turn; this room was the barest in the house. It had the look of an office. There were no books, no flowers save when a branch of creeper, loosened by the wind, tapped on the pane. There was a cabinet, beautifully made of native woods by a carpenter who had been apprenticed to a man who learned his trade in Robert Adam's workshop. This held documents—leases and other papers with the red Government stamp; no private letters that any of his secretaries had ever been able to discover, and no money. There were no pictures, though on one wall hung a map, an outline of New South Wales as far as the discoverers to date had carried it. This map resembled the old cartographers' performances; rivers flowed and ceased abruptly, their sources unknown; hills started up and sank to a mere line of printing; whole tracts were indicated by words—Lofty Forest Ranges, Level Country with Sandy Brushes, Flat Country, Wooded Country, Country Impassable.


  ― 82 ―
Anywhere in the hinterland precious metals might be found, or new pastures, hidden by the interminably folding ranges. The men who pierced to the white spaces on the map might, like their forerunners in America and Africa, seize natural riches, but never any covetable thing made and used by man; no temple, no treasure. The blacks' tenements were frail and airy as those of birds. They made nothing but their weapons. They had so much of the wild in them that they could not even be enslaved and taught to labour. They hunted to live, and when they could not hunt they died. Their one spiritual possession, a pretty liquid language, the invaders had borrowed here and there, but the map-makers grudged space to such words as Warrawolong, Mandoorama, and preferred instead to acknowledge new discoveries under English titles: Parker's Flats, Gammon Plains, Brighton Flusky looked often at this map, observing how the English names advanced upon it. He had no scruple about dispossessing the blacks; land must belong to those willing to husband it. But though he had no scruple he had pity, as a man may have pity for a useless dog turned out to roam; thus, the aborigines' humpies were allowed to disfigure the foot of his garden. He expected nothing, neither work nor gratitude, from the wretches he harboured, they paid him no tribute, they disappeared and returned to a rhythm of their own like the tides.

Flusky stood now, looking down upon the bark sheds outside which black women sat smoking. Winter sat at a broad table. Miss Milly, nostrils pinched and white,


  ― 83 ―
stood just within the door. She was respectably dressed, her apron was spotless; below her meagre bosom two red hands were folded in all decorum. She spoke:

“It's me to answer for it all. If people go behind my back——” She brought her voice to a gentler level. “Now, you see here, Mister Flusky. It's no good, this house won't stand two giving the orders in it. You can't expect the women to put up with that. I know how to talk to them. Madam—do you suppose she could talk to old Sarah, that don't know what you say without you put it into flash language? She's a lady; well, let her sit in her parlour the way ladies ought. I'll do the work, work my hands to the bone for her. But I won't be interfered with, for all she means it well.”

Flusky did not interrupt her; walked slowly a few steps right, a few steps left.

“So I'll thank you to tell Madam.”

Flusky stopped his pacing as though confronted by a knot in the pattern too intricate to be stepped, and stood, feet well apart, staring down. His hands were behind his back, one holding a cigar. Its smoke trickled up to coil and fan about the room, bringing to the secretary, with a pang of nostalgia, two pictures clear to the least detail; a room at the Mitre in Oxford, the top of a coach in autumn weather. William Winter sighed, caught himself doing so, and bent to his work. The woman's voice insisted, growing louder as though to pierce and end Flusky's continued silence:

“I can't have it, that's flat. She makes work enough


  ― 84 ―
in other ways, excuse me referring to it, without this on top. And I'll tell you another thing.” She waited; but Flusky asked no question, and she was obliged to continue without that aid to revelation. “It won't do no harm for you to keep an eye on some of her goings-on. I'm saying nothing more, I'm a Christian woman. I give you fair warning.”

Flusky looked up at that.

“I don't say anything without I know. I can hold my tongue.” She resumed her earlier quiet way of speech: “Do you want anything more with me? I've got my dinner to see to.”

The secretary turned from his table at the window.

“Mr. Adare, sir, in the garden. He is making signs, whether he may come in.”

Flusky made an acquiescent gesture, which Winter, rising, interpreted with a beckoning hand. The young man appeared in the French windows. Miss Milly, whose expression had changed with his coming, stood her ground, neglecting the claims of dinner.

“You're engaged,” said Mr. Adare, his eyes on the woman. “I'll wait.”

“No,” said Flusky, and he too looked at the housekeeper.

“You'll speak to Madam, then,” the woman reiterated, meeting Adare's glance. “I'll do my work, but I won't have meddling. I won't stand that, not from anybody. I've got this house to see to, there's plenty of it, and I can't get through if there's meddlers about.”




  ― 85 ―

“What's all this?” Adare asked.

She ignored him, speaking to Flusky.

“So them as puts ideas into her head had better stop it, for everybody's sake. You can whistle for your dinner, if she's to order it.”

She had said her say, there was a righteous pink line along her cheek-bones, the ensign of victory, and she was going at last. Adare said suddenly, smoothly:

“Just one moment. If you please.” She opened the door. “Of course, I'll say it behind your back if you prefer.”

She shut the door and stood with her back to it, hands flat against the wood as though to press it more irrevocably shut. Her constant strife with tough and insubordinate women had taught her never to let a challenge pass.

“Very well,” said Adare. “Mr. Flusky, I'm beginning to get some notion of the situation here with regard to Lady Henrietta. Last night——”

Miss Milly could not resist that cue.

“Yes, last night, I could find something to say about last night if I chose to!”

Adare went towards her quietly, and took her nose between his thumb and finger. She scuffled with her hands to pull his grip loose. He pinched the tighter, reasoning:

“Be quiet and I won't hurt you. It's you who are hurting yourself. Quiet, now. That's better.”

“Let her alone,” Flusky ordered brusquely, advancing


  ― 86 ―
as though to come between them. “Damn all this crosstalk. Say what you've got to, both of you. Stash the row.”

Adare let the woman go at once, took a handkerchief from his tail-pocket and wiped his fingers.

“Well, you see, it's quite true (as Miss Milly so delicately suggests) that I've been meddling in your affairs, Mr. Flusky. I hinted, for instance, to your wife that she should find something to occupy her, even if it was no more than to order your food. I believe she went yesterday to the kitchen, and met some rudeness there. Last night something was troubling her; the dinner, the dinner, she kept repeating. Now, what could that have been, do you suppose? What do you think can have upset her, to do with the dinner?”

Miss Milly did not offer any speculation. She said, beating a ruffle with her fingers against the door to which she had once more retreated:

“He was there in her room last night, and the door locked. There's something for you to put in your pipe. There he was, and her with her clothes half off her. That's where she met some rudeness, as he calls it, and a good name for it too.”

Mr. Adare took no notice of this provocation, but repeated steadily:

“You had insulted her somehow. You did some offensive thing.”

“I turned her out of my kitchen, and I'd a right to do it, I'd do the same to you. It's none of your business.


  ― 87 ―
If she was at it again last night you best know why——” She was whipping herself to anger, as sometimes she whipped herself to prayer. “Yes, and so I tell Mr. Flusky, I've got better things to do than butter my tongue when his wife comes interfering, and I tell you too, Mister Nobody from Nowhere!”

“Excuse me.” That was the tremulous secretary, on an impulse rising and turning from his table. “Excuse me, I was present yesterday in the kitchen when her ladyship came in. She did receive an affront.” He hesitated. “I don't know how to describe it, no words were spoken——”

Miss Milly caught him up, triumphantly seizing her chance.

“Yes, indeed, you was there, he was carrying a load of bottles, you know where from, and in he came without waiting for a word and dumped them down in front of her. Done up in one of her own sheets, too. She knew what they was and where they come from, and she turned white like the sheet itself and went out, and that's your affront for you, if you want a grand word for a silly start.”

The pale secretary caught his breath, turning to Adare with a cry:

“Sir, you're a gentleman.”

It was Flusky who answered that, not moving, shouting from where he stood

“To hell with your talk of gentlemen! Get out of here, you. Milly, get out. I'll settle this.”




  ― 88 ―

“Settle that young fellow first,” the woman called, jutting her head forward. “I'm a Christian woman, I don't stay in any house with adulterers. You, young man! Don't cry when you burn in hell, like as you haven't had warning.” She began to pray, turning up her eyes, between which her nose glowed, still red: “Oh Lord, pay down upon the nail, after Thy manner, the wages of this man's sin. Let the fervent prayer of the righteous prevail, oh Lord, let not the wicked prosper, nor flourish as the bay tree and tree upon the wall. If Thou, oh Lord, wilt mark iniquity, shall a decent woman endure it? The wicked shall burn, we have Thy word for it, as we may take to our comfort——”

“Oh—” began Mr. Adare; but while he sought an expletive his sense of the ridiculous caught up with him, and he laughed. Miss Milly stopped her ranting, brought her eyes down to the level of his, took a great breath or two to calm the quick pulsing of her blood; then said, in another voice, the voice of the decent servant who has been put upon:

“I'm getting out of this house, Mr. Flusky. I'm free. This very night I go. And you can keep what wages is due me. I'd sooner sweep the Parramatta Factory than lend my face to iniquity.”

That, too, tickled Mr. Adare, whose imagination readily played and made pictures with words; Satan the Serpent trying on Miss Milly's face, shaking his head over the fit of it. He sat down upon the secretary's table, wiping his eyes. When he had recovered the secretary


  ― 89 ―
and the woman both were gone. Flusky remained in his place, brooding down, and making through his teeth a little sound that clearly indicated dismay.

“You're well rid,” said Adare with a jerk of his head towards the door.

“We shan't get on without her any too well,” Flusky muttered.

“No, but listen to me. She's been keeping Lady Hattie supplied.” Flusky looked up. “I do think so, indeed. A woman like that—do you suppose she couldn't choke off the supply if she put her mind to it? Last night in the room upstairs——” He was aware that any mention of that scene was uncomfortable to his host; but the air had to be cleared. “It's true that the door was locked. She'd shut herself in—you know what for. So it's as well I went up by the tree, though I grant you at the time it looked a silly thing to do. That woman Milly; you can see for yourself she hates me. Now why? Because she thinks there are things I might be finding out. Lady Hattie talks to me, you see.” He pulled himself up, and sat back upon the secretary's table. “So you see, it's a good riddance if that's so. Of course, I've no proof.”

“No,” said Flusky. “No proof of anything.”

He suddenly flung away the cigar, which all this while had been burning in his hand. There was a scampering sound on the verandah outside; he cocked his head at it.

“One of the gins. They eat tobacco, give them the chance. Wait hours for a butt.” His puzzled heavy


  ― 90 ―
expression returned. “I don't like losing Milly. She's been here years.”

“But, good God——”

“There's only your word against hers.”

“You may accept mine, I think,” said Adare dryly.

“What, because you're a gentleman? So's Winter a gentleman. You back each other up. That's what you're taught to do, ain't it? In your schools. Back each other up against outsiders.”

He broke off, turned about. Adare watched him, and to check anger told himself that the man had scars on his back, that the man was suffering now, that the man was striking out like an animal, less to cause hurt than to ease his own. He did not speak, and could not, from Flusky's expression, make any guess at what plan of behaviour the man's movements were weaving for him. Flusky stood once more.

“I'd be obliged if you'd overlook all this. It won't be too comfortable, I daresay, with Milly gone. I'd be obliged if you'd stay on.”

Adare, who had had no thought of leaving the house, nodded carelessly.

“We'll have Lady Hattie right in a month, once the house is her own. Up with the lark, and to bed with the nightingale, or whatever bird you keep in this country for an example to the slothful. Don't worry your head. Take my word for it.” His host's face still was heavy, and the young man, alarmed by any emotion which did not swim to the surface, fired a question, as


  ― 91 ―
guns are fired across water to make a drowned body rise.

“You don't take seriously what the woman said? It's so mad I didn't trouble to deny it.”

Flusky looked at him with eyes deliberately blank. He might not have heard. Adare could not repeat what he had said; it sounded more preposterous, put into words, than in the silence of his mind. He took a half-crown from his pocket, spun it once or twice and tossed it, resenting even as he did so the obligation which was on him to make movements and speeches, to show himself a target for the emancipist's weapon of stillness. Playing with this coin he managed without further talk to escape into the garden, grateful for once to find himself isolated there.

(xv)

MISS MILLY departed, disdaining all assistance. Her gift for organization had procured from Sydney a cart for the transport of her boxes; they were light, quite certainly no heavier than when, years before, she had arrived to take charge of the house so oddly named, Why are you weeping? Opportunities for peculation, of a kind that the assigned women beheld in dreams, she had been consistent in despising. The money she earned she took; but the shining bunch of keys had been respected by her as the soldier respects his sword, used only to defend the right and to defeat barbarian onsets. She had


  ― 92 ―
prepared a final dinner, giving it pious attention. She had scourged the women for the last time with her tongue, so that each utensil shone, no shadow clouded tumbler or spoon. She paid a visit of inspection to each room; checked in each cupboard the list of contents that hung upon its door; detected a gin in an ill-timed foray and routed her; and returning to the kitchen, removed, with the sunflower-patterned slippers, the last emblem of her authority.

There was an interview with Flusky while the charged cart waited before the door. She wore black, as was her custom, with a bonnet on top of such jetted respectability that even the comment of the assigned women failed at sight of it; she bore a reticule jetted to match upon her arm, and in her right hand the keys.

“Here they are, Mr. Flusky. I hope you'll satisfy yourself that all's as it should be.”

The master of the house did not take the implements, but nodded that she should lay them down. She did so with a ceremonial stooping of the bonnet, and resumed:

“You won't find a ha'porth missing, whether it's stores or wine. It's my prayer you'll be able to say as much in a year's time—a year! A month's time. I done my duty, and there's no man nor woman nor counter-jumper——” a glance at Winter's back—“dare say contrariwise. Now, Mr. Flusky, there's the matter of my reference.”

Flusky rapped on the table for Winter's attention. The secretary found a paper, studied it a moment, and


  ― 93 ―
handed it to his employer, who took a pen which he tested upon his thumb-nail, and scored a clumsy signature below the thin elegant script. Miss Milly took the paper and read, her lips moving.

“Very handsome, I will say.” She paused; then, more harshly, proceeded: “There's one thing you've left out that might be asked me. Cause of leaving.”

“Your own good pleasure. That's all you need tell 'em.”

“I won't speak any word that's a lie. And it's a lie, Mr. Flusky, to say I leave you for my own pleasure. I've been here now five years with you, as agreeable as Christian woman could wish. It's no fault of yours, Mr. Flusky. But I won't look on at shameful things, nor I won't be hampered in my duty.”

Flusky said suddenly and strongly:

“You don't go putting that about, do you hear? I'm turning you up sweet,note sorry to see you go. None of your yarns.”

“You wait and see if it's a yarn. What you want, Mr. Flusky, excuse my saying it, but I've had it for years in mind—you want a woman about you that will see to things. What good's her ladyship——” She spoke that word mockingly, as a woman addresses a troublesome child: My lord.

She stopped as Flusky came towards her. His hands were behind his back, those hands which Mr. Adare had once in imagination seen strangling, and they were


  ― 94 ―
straining as though to escape from the invisible bond of his will. She was frightened.

“Oh, very well, I'm sure, if it suits you to have a wife the way she is. I'm not afraid of you nor anyone, the Lord's my guide, and I wish you well, Mr. Flusky. I wish you better luck than you've had, and better luck than you're looking for. And when they ask me the reason why I left this house, you can take your davy I'll tell them.”

Flusky said, this time without emphasis:

“You keep your reasons to your nabs. I'm not saying more than that to you.”

“Well, good-bye to you, Mr. Flusky. And you can depend I'll petition the Lord to open your eyes.”

She held out her hand, genteel in a black mitten. Flusky looked at it, remembered perhaps all he owed to that ill-shaped hard hand—delicate food, cleanliness and order in his household—and slowly brought his own forward to meet it. He did not look at Miss Milly's face, but Winter did, turning for a moment in his seat. In the corners of the Christian woman's small pebbly eyes tears were gathering. It was to hide these that she dragged her hand away before Flusky's grip had time to close upon it in strength, and turned to the door without more words. Flusky stared after her. Winter ventured a remark as he sometimes did—to ingratiate and fend off danger.

“Miss Milly, sir, is really sorry to be going.”

“Why quit, then?”

William Winter had his own ideas as to that, but they


  ― 95 ―
were not yet formulated; he would have welcomed a talk with Mr. Adare, a kind of synthesis of opinion concerning Miss Milly's aspirations and past conduct. He answered therefore, after hesitation:

“She has been used to consider this house her own province.”

Flusky mused, walking:

“She don't nibble,note though. So what's the objection to my wife giving a hand?”

“Well, sir, she may not have cared to see signs of recovery in Lady Henrietta. I've no proof, sir——”

That innocent expression angered Flusky.

“Proof! I've been tied up for a hundred and fifty before now, without proof. Proof, to hell!”

He picked up the bunch of keys and went along the verandah with them in his hand, to the room where lately, since the first week of Mr. Adare's arrival, his wife had been wont of an evening to sit. She was not there; but at the table whereon her needlework lay Mr. Adare was seated, his legs wreathed about a chair, very fluently composing a letter. He did not immediately hear Flusky, who stood looking in on him, watching with a sort of wonder the brisk whisks and starts of the goose-feather, hearing its cheerful sound upon the paper, a mouselike continuous cheeping. But no man can long be watched and not know it; Mr. Adare in the middle of a sentence looked up.

“You wanted me?”




  ― 96 ―

“My wife.”

“She'll be here in a minute,” Adare answered casually, dropping his glance again to the paper. He went on, in the toneless voice of one talking and writing together. “She promised a word to my sister under this cover. The Mary Patterson's sailing to-morrow.”

Flusky said nothing. He stepped into the room and sat down to wait, idly clinking the keys against his knee. Adare continued to write, strongly aware of that distracting presence. It was putting compulsion upon him to go, and he had to devote part of his attention to repelling the raid upon his will. He wrote, the sentences growing shapeless:

“—and so you see, while I am not yet in the way of making my fortune, I have at least found a temporary harbour. But ships that stay too long in harbour rot, and so I dare say it will not be long before I set out, knapsack on back, to make my fortune—” He struck the repetition out, biting his lip, and substituted—“to find El Dorado.”

Not a word further would come into his head. He dipped his pen freshly and began defiantly to write, in broken phrases, of that which he saw when he looked out into the bay.

“The darkness here is not like our darkness. There is a kind of light that comes out of cloudless night—not starlight, dark blue like Byron's seas. You cannot see by it, but you can feel shapes in it. The boats are obliged to carry lights, red, green, and white—I can see only


  ― 97 ―
red lights now, which shows the direction in which the ships must be swinging at anchor. Some fishermen's boats are moving very slowly out of the bay, one has a fire on it. That is an aboriginal's canoe, they lay a flat stone in the centre and so carry their fires from shore to shore. It is strange to see a frail shell of bark carrying the most destructive of elements so safely——”

Chink, clash of the keys against the big man's knees, rhythm pointing the strong beats of a tune as a pair of cymbals may do. Mr. Adare's ears were too strong for his eyes, they could not resist guessing at the tune, trying to fit those regular beats to music remembered. British Grenadiers? No, it was not a march; he could not get the hang of it; he resented his domination, which must endure until he had mastered the secret. Looking down again at the paper as though to read over and correct what he had written, he began in self-defence to hum a melody. The chinking beat against him for a bar or two, then slackened, stopped; his host's voice asked what he was singing. It was the first time he had defeated the big man in one of these wordless contests, and he was delighted with himself, with this proof that savage breasts might indeed be soothed, given the appropriate charm. He made answer in song, with the words belonging to that melodic phrase he had reached:

“—and around that dear ruin each wish of my heart
Shall entwine itself verdantly still.”

The door opened; he sprang up gladly.




  ― 98 ―

“Dear ruin, welcome. You're expected, we both attend you most passionately.”

Lady Henrietta, coming in, looked first at her husband; and the young man observed with a pang, not of jealousy, the pleasure that came to her eyes, seeing him sitting quietly there. Question succeeded this pleasure.

“Milly's gone.” Flusky answered the look, and held out the keys to her. She gazed at them, drawing down her mouth tragically. She repeated:

“Gone?”

And the word rang hollow, forlorn, unnecessarily despairing. Flusky again advanced the keys towards her hand, saying:

“You'll see to things in the morning.”

“But Milly mustn't go. It's not to be thought of.” Her voice began to hurry and stumble. “Milly mustn't go. I beg you'll bring her back, whatever may have happened. I beg you, Sam.”

Flusky looked at her very searchingly. She halted the stream of protest, put her hand to her throat, swallowed. Adare kept his eyes on Flusky, waiting to give the nod which would have meant: You see, I was justified, here's something like proof. But the big man would not look.

“It's her own notion. She don't want to stay. And here's her keys, you see. For you. That's as it should be.”

She accepted the keys, sinking teeth upon her lower lip as though to restrain herself forcibly from further speech.

“That's the way. Don't you worry. We'll do all


  ― 99 ―
right.” Flusky repeated his reassurance, the only words he could find to assure Adare that he believed no ill, his wife that he had confidence in her. “We'll do all right.”

“Perhaps if you paid her more money— She is used to the house, you see, and the women——” The voice relinquished its attempts at calm explanation. “I can't do without her. I must have her back, Sam.”

He said no more, but for the first time looked at Adare. His wife could read the answer in that movement of his eyes; Milly's accusations, Flusky's refusal to affront her guest by preferring the woman to him. She abandoned argument, taking the keys from his hand submissively, a symbolic acceptance of his trust. But immediately she held them out again.

“Pray won't you keep them, let me come to you when I need them? You know in such matters I'm apt to be careless.”

“Put them at your waist as Milly did. You can't lose 'em; nobody can't get 'em from you, that way.”

“No,” she murmured. “Very well.”

There was a green ribbon at her waist. She untied this now, and threaded the wide ring of the keys upon it. They hung heavily, bearing down the sash to a point on one side. She surveyed them, took a step or two in order to try the feel and sound of them, and smiled with wry tenderness at the heavy man. He beckoned her to him; she came with a lovely readiness. He put his hand at her waist and held her a little away from


  ― 100 ―
him; fingered a moment the steel ring that held the keys.

“We must get you a gold one. What's this they call it? To hang at a woman's waist——”

“An equipage?”

“Equipage, hey? Why, that's a coach and horses.”

“Not in drawing-rooms; it means keys and scissors there.”

“You talk drawing-room, I talk stable. No wonder we get to cross-purposes sometimes; what do you say, Mister Adare?”

He was moving his hand at her waist with the same gentleness and absence of mind that he might have shown rubbing a horse's nose. As he did so he looked mildly but very watchfully at the young man, who under this scrutiny could not wholly command his expression. He knew his own heart very well; he had fallen in love, taking it like a rash, three or four times since he was sixteen; he was no more in love with Lady Henrietta than with Cassiopeia in her chair. Yet he did resent the man's thick hand at her waist, for reasons which he could not at once disentangle. Flusky persisted:

“What do you say?”

“Who, I?” said the young man; and in a hurry unthinking, gave the true answer to his own perplexity. “Oh, she and I speak the same language.” He perceived at once that this truth might wound, and went on, picking up his letter. “Lady Hattie, I've left you a good four inches of paper, enough for greeting, not near enough


  ― 101 ―
for gossip. Do you write large or small? Mine, you see, is small. I thought once of being one of those individuals who write the Lord's Prayer on sixpenny bits. There is great scope for ambition in it. You begin with the Pater Noster, going on to the Creed; and end up by cramming the whole of the Epistle to the Corinthians on to his Majesty's profile——”

She was still standing near her husband, as though to defend him. She said without moving:

“Then you must write what I have to say to your sister.”

He sat down quickly and obediently, sideways on the chair, and dipped his pen.

“I can't go at speed. And I won't answer for the spelling. But my pen, such as it is, waits your command.”

She began, looking down at Flusky. He had dropped his hand from her waist, but she still stood near. The young man knew that she too was afraid lest his casual indisputable sentence might have gone home.

“My dearest friend, I may call you so still, I believe, and I do so with a full heart. Your brother will have told you something of my history and situation, but he cannot have told, for he does not know, how gratefully my husband and I look upon him, how happy we are to have him as our guest——”

The young man looked up from his scribbling to bow.

“She will not credit all this. She knows me too well. Tell her more of your own concerns.”

“—to have him as our guest while he looks about


  ― 102 ―
him in this strange new Continent. We cannot hope long to detain him, having few distractions to offer——”

“Few distractions,” Adare repeated, scribbling, and a series of pictures displayed themselves to his mind's eye; the dinner party; his hostess's entry, plunging among the notables like the figurehead of a vessel in tall seas; a human head among the nuts and raisins.

“Have you got that down?”

“I have. And what a lie it is!”

“Alethea will take my meaning.”

“Proceed. ‘Few distractions’——”

She seemed to read something of his thought, and could not again catch the thread of her own. The impulse to defend was ended, memory of the words which had set it in motion had begun to die in her mind.

“The four lines are filled up.”

“You have no notion of my capacities. I can fit in a Lord's Prayer more, at the very least.”

“Then say: I should be as happy to welcome you, my dearest Alethea, did Fate but permit it. I remember you daily and with affection. Pray write, pray think of me. The time seems so very long——”

The young man wrote, and turned, waiting.

“Long since we met, long till I hear from you——?”

“Whichever you please.” But the young man knew that she too had spoken the truth unconsciously, and that the sentence might stand without addition. “I send you from this distant country, hopes for your truest well-being, and my fondest love.”




  ― 103 ―

“That takes me to the margin. I have left this corner where you may sign.”

She took the pen he offered and wrote in slender sloping characters her full name; Henrietta Flusky. Her keys swung forward as she stooped, and rang against the wood of the desk.

(xvi)

IN the morning Mr. Adare woke and looked at his watch. It showed half-past eight. At first he mistrusted it, hearing no corroborating movements below in the house—women's voices, dull encounters of chair-legs with broom-heads, the sound of feet on the verandah. But his watch was faithful. He lay awhile listening to those other moving sounds which, with the quality of the light, gave the exile daily assurance of being from home: locusts were choiring, and in the distance, among the woods of the Domain, a laughing jackass mocked the folly of those who willingly exchange old worlds for new. But Mr. Adare could not, as on an ordinary morning, enjoy the kookooburra's good humour. Like other lazy persons, he liked his days to be set in a frame of other people's methodical observance of the claims of time; to know shaving water ready and ignore it; to be made aware of breakfast by appetizing smells at the appointed hour, and turn over again in bed.

He sat up, therefore, feeling cheated by the house's


  ― 104 ―
drowsiness, and began to dress. There was no hot water outside his door. He cursed, but only as a matter of form; the water in his jug was tepid as water may well be after a night when the temperature has kept somewhere in Fahrenheit's eighties, it would serve his purpose very well. He noted, taking out a stock, that his supply of clean shirts was running low, and supposed that the laundress would soon vouchsafe others. The little mirror revealed an appearance as trig as any saunter down Dublin streets would demand. Satisfied, but inquisitive as to the morning's changed routine, he went downstairs. The secretary was coming through the baize door.

“Good day to you, Winter. What's doing?”

The pale secretary flushed, hearing himself addressed in the manner of an equal, and answered:

“I'm afraid, sir, there may be delay. The women took this chance to lie in bed a while longer.”

“While the cat's away—hell's delight of a cat, too. What was it happened that other day in the kitchen?”

“I was the instrument of that woman's rudeness, sir. I don't care to remember it.”

Pitying him, Adare let it go, and turned to another aspect of Miss Milly's departure.

“Do you suppose we shall get any work out of these creatures now she's gone? I look to you.”

“I'll do what's in my power.”

“Come with me now, then. Show me the geography.”

The bound man pushed the baize door open, standing aside to let the free man pass, and they went through.




  ― 105 ―

Miss Milly had laid down her sceptre some sixteen hours only; Mr. Adare, who had never before entered it, could hardly be aware what great changes had come already upon her dominion. Copper saucepans, scoured the day before, still shone upon one wall; the stove, having no work to do since yesterday's dinner reached a close, still kept its lustre. But the floor was littered with shoes not cleaned, among which a black woman sat, rolling her baby from knee to knee, and coifing it with a colander. A pile of vegetables in one corner had not been sorted; the mould they brought in with them had been trodden in and carried over the floor. Odds and ends of female clothing lay about. There was a smell of grease. The usual noise, too, had changed its quality. One woman sang, one shuffled feet to the tune as she scratched among her hair with a fork; and old Sal the fence, seated by the table snipping rind off bacon with a scissors, loudly instructed the black woman in such English phrases as her experience suggested might come in handy.

“Go on, you heathen covess. Alderman Lushington. Say it after me, the missus has been voting for the Alderman, say.”

They did not observe the two men until Adare spoke. He was used at home to something not unlike this kitchen, a place full of noise and irrelevant characters, unknown tongues and something very like squalor, to which, when he had slept disgracefully late, he came to wheedle tea and slices of toasted bread. He advanced,


  ― 106 ―
therefore, saying amid the uneasy silence which fell:

“Isn't there anything to eat? By the row, anyone'd think you were laying the eggs for breakfast.”

The prisoner women laughed, the black woman wrapped her baby in a cloth pulled from the table, and sidled away along the floor like a crab with her booty. The secretary slipped out of the room again, very quietly. Old Sal rose from her chair, and curtsying, assured Adare that he was just on the nick, that the breakfast would be with him if only he'd give them time——

“Time, is it?” said Mr. Adare, pulling on the vernacular like a glove, “I should have thought you'd enough of that, with what the judges at home gave you.”

The recipients of three and seven years' hard labour received this comment upon their misfortunes with hysterical approval, but old Sal possessed a sense of dignity which transportation had ripened.

“I'd have you know,” said she, “me lord, that whatever I may of done was from kindness of heart. Don't you go for to put me on a level with these, though I won't say but they're good girls—”

The other two women at once began to recite, looking at each other, and finishing on the old woman's behalf what was evidently a peroration perfectly known to them.

“——for it's my kind heart what brung about my downfall. And what I says is—when a woman follers her heart—she follers the road to ruin.”

Old Sal started up, the scissors gripped dagger-wise, to subdue them; but Adare caught her arm, and


  ― 107 ―
ceremonially offering his own, minced beside her to where the frying pans hung.

“Madam,” said he, “may I entreat you so far to forget your just grievances as to break an egg into that? And as for these other fair females—” who burst out with a fresh gust of giggling—“if they'll demean themselves to fill a kettle we shall soon get going. Now, one more word. Which of you's the cook?”

At once a clamour began, old Sal claiming that by reason of her antiquity and rectitude she had the right to be so considered, the petty thief declaring on oath that she had been the late Miss Milly's pet pupil, apt at the stove.

“I'm no Paris,” gravely said Mr. Adare, “but it rests with me to award the apple. Here's what we'll do. Take you each an egg and a rasher, and send them in to me in the dining-room fifteen minutes from now, on three dishes. As for which is which, we'll settle that, if you please, this way.” He reached up to the mantelpiece and plucked from its decoration three paper roses, red, yellow, and white, which he distributed ceremoniously. “Each put her rose with her egg on the dish; and whichever sends up a rightly fried egg—not flattened out like a yard of flannel; soft in the yellow, with a milky kind of veil—whichever sends up the best egg shall take the office of Cook. D'you understand me?”

All three ran clattering for bowls and spoons. He halted them:

“Wait. Listen. Her ladyship will be here at ten to


  ― 108 ―
give you your orders. You'll take her orders, do you hear? And curtsy. And call her my lady. And by God, if you're insolent, if I hear there's been the shadow of a shadow of impudence, I'll look to it.” He took out his watch. “To work!”

As he left the room he heard another outburst of laughter, but the sound had no malice in it. He went to the dining-room. There Winter, plate-basket in hand, was laying the table with amateurish awkwardness.

“That's a man! Is Flusky down yet?”

“Mr. Flusky was working with me at seven o'clock, sir. He's ridden into the city—some appointment.”

“Well now, that's a pity, because I'm going to bring his wife down to breakfast.” Winter ceased his laying of forks and knives to stare. “We'll make a day of it. What flowers are there in the garden? Go and pick some, we'll have them by her plate. A little bouquet. Go along now, you've put flowers together to please a woman before. The table's done.”

He ran out, and upstairs. Winter obeyed, went out into the morning sun, and gathered slowly, savouring this illusion of freedom, such tribute as the dry summer soil afforded; oleander, a stiff lily gilded with its own pollen. The birds in this garden were more brilliant than the flowers. A troop of visiting parrots surveyed him from their tree, flashing lavender wing-feathers, cocking their heads knowingly to show a spot of crimson on either cheek. They sidled and fluttered, and suddenly swung upside down, the clowns of the air, brightly


  ― 109 ―
habited, grotesque. He went towards the tree, and in alarm they were off with a great beating of wings, their colours lost as they became silhouetted against the glare of the sky. Winter returned to the assembling of his bouquet, which was stiff and scentless. He tied it, however, with a twist of clematis that gave out the faint pleasant aroma of lemon, and went indoors to lay it at the head of the table. As he stood fingering it he heard voices; and filled with shyness—for though he could forget his position talking with men, he never failed to recollect it when a woman spoke—he made his way out again by the window, and took refuge in Flusky's bare room with the map hanging on its east wall.

Adare, bringing Lady Henrietta towards the light, noted her haggardness, the shaking of her hands. She said nothing, seemed bemused. He told her to sit down, and putting the flowers in her lap as one might give a doll to quiet a restless child, went to the dark cupboard where he knew the decanters were put away. He shook the handle vainly, and turned to her.

“Those keys of yours—lend me them a moment.”

She fumbled at her waist, from which the hand fell away empty.

“Upstairs. What do you want with them? What are you doing?”

Her voice sounded almost shrewish. He pondered a moment, took out his pen-knife and manipulated the lock, which snapped back.

“I learned that trick young, on the door which guarded


  ― 110 ―
my mother's preserves. And here I am overseas, where all the pick-locks go. The criminal never escapes his due, take warning by my cruel fate——” He was pouring, while he spoke, from a decanter into a glass. She could not see, and her reiterated question had a sharp note.

“What are you doing?”

He turned away from the cupboard, coming forward with the filled glass in his hand. She, looking past him, gave a shriek and sprang up, pointing and retreating. He remembered. The ugly head lay visible, tousled and fallen sideways, as though the decanters had somehow contrived to exercise their dominion even upon death. Adare banged to the cupboard door with his left hand and held it so, while he extended to her steadily, as a man holds food to a nervous horse, the glass filled with brown liquor.

“It's only the trophy—can't hurt you. Here, drink this up, down, whichever way pleases you best. That's it. Now you're steady.”

She drank the brandy without gasping, gave a shudder, and set the glass clumsily down as she seated herself. She said, with a half-laugh:

“That thing—I see it sometimes in the night. It opens its eyes at me then. Sam paid ten pounds for it.”

“It's hardly a mantel ornament, indeed. Are you better? Isn't that what you wanted?” She looked at the empty glass, at him; then covered her face with her hands. He talked on. “Of course it is. You can't do without


  ― 111 ―
all at once. It's like a man with a nagging wife, he feels empty for a while when she dies, for all he's glad to be quit of her. A drop more?” He surveyed her thoughtfully. “I'd say not. You shall have a dram about twelve, if you eat your breakfast like a good goddess.”

“Ah, don't, Charles!”

“I'm not laughing. I grant I never saw a goddess go; but she might do worse than walk the way you do, when you're in command. Are you ready?” His voice promised entertainment. “I'm going to ring for our breakfast.”

She spoke with petulance again.

“The women—Milly's gone. They won't know, they can't do anything.”

“Wait!”

He listened. From the servants' quarters clamouring voices arose, wakened by the bell's thin sound. Adare sat down in his place, and primly, settling his stock, awaited the entry of the kitchen Graces.

Old Sal it was who first marched in, winking above a plated dish-cover. She sketched a curtsy to the lady of the house, set down her burden before the young man and stood back hands on hips, head cocked to challenge. The younger women deposited their dish-covers to right and left of old Sal's, and stood back too, menacing each other with glances. One spied the empty glass by the lady's place, and loudly sniffed; but the moment was too solemn for this impertinence to afford her full satisfaction.




  ― 112 ―

Lady Henrietta looked astonished, then angry, as they ranged themselves.

“What do you all do, trooping in like so many corporals?”

But Mr. Adare gravely rebuked her with his left hand; his right was lifting the dish-covers. This done, he drew back, contemplating with a connoisseur's eye the three fried eggs thus revealed, each nesting upon its concomitant bacon, each adorned in carnival manner with a tattered paper rose.

“Excuse the creatures. They had their reasons for coming all together.” He looked up from the eggs. “The roses, you see, might have had the misfortune to get shifted about, unless each one escorted her own.”

Lady Henrietta, wholly uncomprehending, gazed at him, at the three platters, and at the three faces behind the young man's shoulder. He, meanwhile, was delivering judgment in detail.

“Yellow rose. Her effort lacks shapeliness. It has a tendency to sprawl; an uncontrolled and (pardon the phrase) blowsy egg. No prize for Yellow Rose. White, now; let me see. Round enough, the veil drawn delicately over the yellow, which yet, I fear——” He took a fork and lunged with it; no trickle of yolk rewarded him. “Ah! The unforgivable sin, the stony-hearted egg. Failed, White Rose. Alas for York! Let's see what Lancaster can do.” He raised the third cover, sat back, surveyed. “Lancaster promises well. All the qualities are there; this egg is a very pretty production to the eye.


  ― 113 ―
Now for the test.” He plunged his fork; the yolk ran out in a copious flow. “Aha! Lancaster has it—You, what's your name?”

Above the noise that greeted this decision, the voice of the murderess (with extenuating circumstances) could be heard ardently crying:

“Me, Mister! Flo, Mister! It's me the red 'un!”

He hushed them down, beckoned Red Rose forward, and presented her to Lady Henrietta in form.

“Allow me to suggest for your ladyship's consideration this candidate for the high position of cook-in-ordinary to your ladyship. She will do as much as she's made to. She is a bit of a rascal, is Flo. I humbly submit that she has passed with credit a strict examination; not appearing now to great advantage, by reason of a smutty nose and intellects astray, but a willing sort of miscreant, I'd say.”

The willing miscreant dropped a curtsy, according to the implications of that traditional verb, with its suggestion of inadvertence and clumsiness. Lady Henrietta, for the moment steadied by brandy, could laugh, and summon enough control to dismiss the women. When the three had passed, wrangling, out of hearing, she said, suddenly dejected:

“I can't. I haven't the power any longer.”

“Lord, but I'll deal with them! I'm Grand Vizier to your Sultana.”

“No, no.”

“What's the matter?”

She answered dully:




  ― 114 ―

“I have been coming to life. It is unbearable. I can't face it.” She struck her hand on the flowers, again and again, seeming to take pleasure in belabouring their beauty. “I am useless. Even if I overcome myself I'm useless. The best thing I can do is to die and have done.”

“Everyone's in the dumps the morning after. I'll give you another dram.”

But she shook her head, and began to torment the flowers between her hands.

“You don't understand me. I'm thinking of him. I've done him wicked wrong, so many, many times. Wrong to love him, wrong to marry him. I was my brother's murderer, and he paid for it.” She halted. “No children.” The voice rose again strongly. “In this new country I make him a laughing-stock. The only thing I can do now, the best thing I can do, is to die.”

“You're the apple of his eye, and you know it,” said Adare, out of his depth.

“If I died, he could marry the sort of woman—Milly would do. Poor Milly, with her religion! That's why she put the bottles in my room.” She laughed. “Couldn't marry him, you see, with me in the way. Couldn't take a pistol and finish me outright, that would be sinful. So she set about it this way—killing no murder. For years.” She shook her head. “But I'm very strong, you see. And then you came, and now Milly's had to go away. All wasted.”

“Well, by God!” Adare was standing, flushed, unbelieving. “You knew she was trying to take your


  ― 115 ―
place, killing you, giving you drink. You knew what she was at!”

She found his incredulity absurdly out of proportion.

“The only queer thing was her doing it as a Christian. She often said that. A Christian woman. Ha!”

Her laughter was brief. Adare, the morning's gaiety wholly subdued, stared at her. The eggs, the bouquet, alike were neglected. He was at a loss. She spoke rationally and kindly, leaning towards him, the civil hostess explaining.

“So now you see how it is. I am obliged to you, I like you very dearly. It is beautiful, what you have been trying to do for me. But you only hurt me and hurt him. It is not any use.”

“Are you saying I must go away?”

She seemed, at that, to come out of her bitterness as from a trance. Her two hands were stretched to him:

“Charles, Charles! It's only because it can't last, having you here, and I can't bear it alone.”

That cry of weakness gave him the ascendancy again. He came to her chair and knelt by it, his face very serious.

“Listen. I am no more in love with you than with Britannia on the penny. You know that.”

“I know that.”

“Nor you with me.”

“Nor I with you.”

“But I treasure you, Lord knows why. Perhaps because I've never been able to write poetry. I've wanted to, Lord knows. There's something in me—but


  ― 116 ―
it can't get out that way. Nor by my hands. It looks as though I've had to come half across the world to find the way out, my way to beauty. You're the only chance I'll ever have to make a lovely thing. If I can give you back——”

She said, harshly interrupting:

“It's like giving a gold coin to a man crying for water in the bush. I'm useless, useless.”

The young man lightly shook both her arms, on which he had laid his hands.

“You'd die for that man.”

She cried out:

“Oh God, I would! Only I haven't courage to go quickly.”

“But the whole thing is to live,” said Adare loudly, holding her arms: “To live!”

“I'm not strong enough. I can't, Charles, I can't indeed.”

“I won't let you. I won't have you take your beauty, your fineness, and lay it away underground, like the man in the Gospel. I won't let you break yourself, and that poor devil that the sun rises out of your bosom for.”

“Too long! Too wretched!”

“I'm here, I'll stay, I'll help. Day by day, the small things—do you remember the list of duties I wrote for you? Ah, don't, for God's sake, give in, don't let it all go!”

She was silent, eyes closed, head drooping. He laid his forehead on her knees, still murmuring like a lover: “Don't, don't, my dear!”




  ― 117 ―

She gave a deep quick sigh, and put a hand under his chin, lifting his face. They looked at each other through tears. She spoke, gently now, and with a wondering tilt in her voice:

“You and I are nothing to each other. How can you do so much?”

“Friends. That's what you've been needing. Love's too highfalutin for this kind of job, too high-stepping; the chaser in the dray.”

“I can say things to you that he would not understand. But for him I'd die, and for you——”

“Darling woman, you're a beauty and a queer one, something out of a fairy hill. But my heart doesn't jump to be like this, holding you. I don't go blind with you.”

They were silent, so close that each could see the tears, feel the warmth of the other. She spoke:

“Help me. I'll try.”

“You'll try. You swear? Cross your heart?”

She made a little gesture with the point of her thumb upon her breast.

“Cross my heart.”

He got up, blew her a kiss, and to ease the tension of their spirits began laughing at himself and her.

Amor vincit omnia. The poets again. Fools, how little they know! All love could do for you was to fill you up with gin. Down with love, and let's have breakfast. Eheu, the prize egg's cold!”

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