no next

  ― 185 ―

Book III.

Now I will set forth a Parable, or (not to be Prophane) a Ridle. What is that which by giuing encreaseth? One may say, an Usurer, one a Bellows: a third may make bawdy answer. Not to teize further such ingenious Diuiners I will say, A woman. And not her bodie, for that may fructifie by force, but her immortal part. What of her own Motion she giueth quickeneth, that which she hath of another to give, like a Child's groat of Sundays, profiteth not. From her owne Entraills must she endow, bestowe, and spinne out Contentment.…

—A Limbo For Ladies.

  ― 187 ―


STANDING before the map on the end wall of his room, Flusky erased from it features which had been provisionally marked; Captain Forbes' apocryphal stream, Kindur, the plains Babyran, the burning mountain, Kourada. All these first took shape in the imagination of an escaped convict, who thus endeavoured to lend his breakaway some glamour of exploration; now an expedition had disproved their existence, substituting barren words, Scrub Country, Swamp Country, for the life-giving River Flats. Flusky erased with reluctance, repelling symbolically one more raid upon the white spaces of the map. The attackers had mastered no key position, but only one more of the eternal escarpments by which the country's secret life was defended.

“Ought to be having news of Dixon's expedition soon,” said he to console himself. “He's been gone nigh on half a year.”

Winter answered, looking up from neat papers:

“No doubt, sir.” He added, hesitating: “Of Mr. Adare, too.”

Flusky received that with one of his silences. The secretary went on, in a voice louder than he intended,

  ― 188 ―
because the words were forced out by his will: “Excuse me, sir. Can something not be done, a search-party be sent out? If we could have some assurance of his safety, I think her ladyship——”

He stopped. Flusky eyed him, bringing his look and his will to bear as a wrestler uses a grip. When the secretary's face was colourless, he spoke:

“Adare's his Ex's cousin. It's for the Governor to move.”

He returned to the map. There was silence for a couple of minutes until the secretary once again took courage to address the broad back. It was a new subject, but one hardly less dangerous.

“Sir, is it necessary that I should answer this letter? I have no right to say it, perhaps, I am convinced from—my own observation——” he left Mr. Adare out this time, a measure of precaution—“that this woman is mischievous. It is not my affair. But from what I have gathered, and for her ladyship's sake——”

This time Flusky made interruption in words, catching, as was not unusual with him, at the name which had not been spoken.

“You bloody gentlemen! Your observation, what you have gathered, you and Mr. Adare. Where's this letter?”

Winter handed it, one sheet of paper, written in a hand angular yet unformed.

“Mr. Samson Flusky, Sir, Hearing that there is now no just cause or impediment, and being disengaged, beg to offer myself for the position given up in March last. Will

  ― 189 ―
be glad of an answer by return owing to many applications and oblige your respectful humble servant, Milly.”

Flusky read it to himself, mouthing one or two of the words soundlessly as he spelled them. When the secretary judged that he had finished he began to make an appeal, hardly audible, which Flusky checked.

“Stow the patter.”

“No,” the secretary answered, beginning to tremble like a man walking to the triangles. “No. I must not be silent. Lady Henrietta is not yet overcome. She is fighting her horrible weakness gallantly—Sir, if you bring this woman back it will be the end, indeed it will. Milly procured her the means of——” He broke off, with an inadequate gesture.

“What's that? Adare said that, you've parroted it from him.”

“No, sir—though he did speak of it to me.”

Flusky made a contemptuous sound.

“I go bail he did. What's the idea, Milly getting the stuff for her? What's Milly get out of it?”

“I don't know,” the secretary answered, “I don't know, but I do beg you to believe, sir——” Despairingly, flinging himself at the danger in that impassive face, he cried out: “What do I get out of it, come to that? Won't you understand that if I speak like this it's because I can't bear to see a woman, a lady——”

Flusky's gesture checked him, a doubling and with-drawing of the fist. His eyelids trembled, but he stood,

  ― 190 ―
gamely enough, to take the blow. Flusky unclenched his hand.

“You talk too much. It's the same with all of you gentlemen, you like the sound of your own voices. Talking shops; that's your fine schools. No good out here. By Cripes, I wish somebody'd tell me what's the good of gentlemen.”

The secretary did not answer that. Flusky threw at him Milly's letter, which dropped on the floor between them.

“Write Milly she can come.”

The secretary came forward to pick it up, observing as he stooped that his employer was at a drawer where employment and assignment forms were kept. He stood with the woman's letter in his fingers, quite still, like an animal threatened with the last danger. Flusky observed him not at all, investigating the papers with a thumb. When he had found the one he sought he sat down, and began laboriously to fill it in.

William Winter   Form of Application for the Return of Male Convicts.
To the Magistrate for the district of Sydney.
I have to request that the convict named in the margin now in my assigned service, may be returned to government, because
be object to take orders and not trustworthy in house.
I have the honor to be,
Your most obedient Servant.
Signature of assignee or his Overseer
Samson Flusky

  ― 191 ―

When he had completed the formula he looked up. Winter still stood, and was very white; his imagination travailed with the unknown, conjecturing what punishment this defiance might bring. He had no words. His throat was dry with the beating of pulses in it, and a sick twist of his mind translated those pulse-throbs to a beating of hammers on the road, a rhythm of whips descending. He dropped his head and waited.

“Get on with your screeve.”

William Winter sat down and dipped his pen. His writing, neat from much recording of Latin verse, bent to feminine curves from much copying of Greek, informed a Nonconformist cook in polished phrases that she might, so soon as suited her convenience, enter again upon her duties at the house in Woolloomooloo. Flusky watched with curiosity the fluent words appearing, folding Form F meanwhile into a square which he put in his pocket.

“I won't send this off yet. All the same, Mister Winter——”

The secretary looked up, a passion of relief in his eyes, and half-rose.


“Don't use your nose so much. Stick to your pen.”

He went away. The secretary, in whose mind, a city stricken with panic, no discipline now reigned, laid his forehead on the wet paper while phrases beset him. Nose as sharp as a pen—than a serpent's tooth—thy sting is

  ― 192 ―
not so sharp as friends remembered not, friends defended not; not so sharp as the iron of a coward's own fear entering his soul.


ENCOUNTERING Lady Henrietta by chance that same evening, the secretary told her hurriedly what had been determined, noting with unhappy eyes that her gait had taken on something of its old swiftness; a gait like that of a very young child, pressing forward in pursuit of its own centre of gravity. She heard his announcement with that old too gracious inclination of the head, but said nothing. He persisted:

“It cannot be agreeable to you, madam, I know. I thought it might be less shocking—that you might be better prepared if you knew to expect it. I spoke against it so far as my capacity allowed.”

She said, smiling and swaying:

“Good of you, Mr. Winter. Obliged to you. Mistaken, though. You were mistaken. I have no objection to see Milly back. No longer any objection.”

He bowed and could say no more. She did not, however, depart at once. Looking about her, she beckoned him closer.

“Tell me. No news?”

He understood that she spoke of Adare, and answered that so far as he knew there was none. She nodded as

  ― 193 ―
though this were what she had expected to hear. He went on, despite a pang of terror which took him at the thought of Flusky, and Form F lying folded in Flusky's pocket:

“But, madam, don't give up hope. In this country —at this time of year, men don't starve. He's making history, perhaps. Five months is not long.”

“I know,” she answered, as if at random. “He won't come back, though.”

She went away along the corridor dirty still with the dust of a storm that had blown two days ago. The women neglected their work; Winter could not deny it, nor that there was waste, food spoilt, disorder everywhere. His common sense could not blame Flusky for wishing to make an end to such a state of affairs.

Two days later, in a spring cart with three neat small boxes stowed behind the seat, Miss Milly arrived.

She found the household sullen. Having learned, by some keyhole method of their own, that the tyrant was due to reappear, the women had taken their last opportunity. By pledging kitchen implements they had obtained a sufficiency of liquor from the fishermen, and in company with their benefactors caroused till a late hour. Towards two o'clock the secretary, tumbling out of bed, had gone downstairs to quell an outburst of noise, and found the wives from the huts engaged in fighting the female servants with fists, skewers and buckets. Being sober and having right on their side they had soon overcome resistance, and marched their husbands off, swearing and singing, to legitimate beds.

  ― 194 ―
But the kitchen betrayed signs of conflict, a splash of blood here, a plate smashed there, and the tin lid of the fish-kettle, which had been used as a shield, was crumpled like a piece of paper. Amid this disorder the three women slept, and woke unwillingly when the sun already was high to find Miss Milly, bonneted, hands on hips, standing in the doorway.

It was her hour. Scorpions lodged in her tongue, her hand was lifted, she overrode protests as an armed man in his chariot. Old Sal, by virtue of her seniority, and having a better capacity than her juniors to hold and recover from liquor, ventured upon an exchange of abuse. She told the newcomer that the Almighty might like a nose,note and have chosen the Jews for his own people on that account, but that she, Sal, could never feel aught but contempt for one. That if there was a thing she could not endure it was a needling,note nailing,note manchester-wagger,note the mere view of whose mug was enough to knap the devil the glim.note Miss Milly heard Sal out, folding her lips in upon each other; then without any words struck the old woman on the head with a long basting spoon. She added with a kind of humour, as blood started up along the cut:

“I'm ready for the devil, I'd have you know.”

When she had set the rhythm of the kitchen going—it started with surprisingly little trouble, like a good old clock rewound and set—she went over the rest of the

  ― 195 ―
house, noting ravages. It was not only a question of dust. Curtains hung crookedly, with here and there a tear unmended. From furniture in the drawing-room scraps of veneer had been knocked with the broom-head. The beds showed signs of slovenly making, and under them flue lay flaked. She remade the bed in Flusky's room, noting with jealous care an unfamiliar clumsy darn at the back of a sock thrown beneath it. When this room was neat as she could make it she went along the passage and knocked, walking in before there could be any answer.

Lady Henrietta was asleep, though the sun was over her forehead and beginning to shine upon her eyes. This room too was in disorder; Miss Milly, however, had no care for the room. She stood looking at the big woman whose hair strayed to cover her pillow, whose face had grown thinner and clearer in the months since Milly departed. The eyes were hollow, blue-lidded, beautifully framed by their bones. The mouth even in sleep was red. Miss Milly marvelled at this renewal of beauty, hated it, and regarded the bottle upon the table with satisfaction, smelling it for better assurance that it was the right stuff, the wrong stuff, the stuff to do the trick.

“Milly!” She turned, quick as a cat, and slid the bottle down with a hand behind her. Lady Henrietta was awake, gazing at her without surprise.

“It's me all right,” the righteous woman answered, disconcerted.

“Ain't you getting up?” She added, maliciously:

  ― 196 ―
“you're not looking any too well. Any news of Mister Adare?”

“He is dead. We are back where we started from.”

The woman could make nothing of that last sentence. She answered the first.

“And there's fools don't believe in a judgment!”

“Milly, if you please. Will you take over the ordering of the house as you did before?”

“It's time someone took over. Dirt everywhere, those women selling the very saucepans off the stove for drink and their other games.”

“There is some money, I think, in the purse there. Will you take it?”

“I never have and I never will. There's one thing, though, if I'm to take over. The keys.”

Lady Henrietta put a hand under her pillow and pulled out the keys on their ribbon, no longer smooth, no longer the colour of an Irish lawn. Miss Milly took them with a disdainful look, and at once untied the ribbon, picking at it viciously with her strong blunt fingers. Holding one finger hitched through the steel ring she swung them, making them jangle like miniature bells for a victory. Her voice was milder when she spoke again.

“You don't need move for dinner. Bed's more easeful when you're not yourself.”

“You're kind,” Lady Henrietta answered, astonishing the woman by the sincerity in her voice. Easeful; that word came as an echo too. “So very kind.”

  ― 197 ―

“I do my duty,” Miss Milly answered, folding the grass-green ribbon carefully to put it away, “or so I hope.”


SAID Mr. Samson Flusky to his secretary, between such pauses as his cigar demanded:

“A letter to the Governor. Put in all the flourishes.

Here's what I want said: Government at home don't send out the men we want here. You can't expect it. A sign-painter, say, commits a felony, he's got to be transported same as if he was a useful man. Gentlemen, too, that can't do a hand's turn beyond shove a pen. What's wanted isn't Grammar Schools, or places like this King's School, as they call it; a lot of kids dressed up in uniform to learn Greek. It's schools for teaching trades this country wants. I'm ready to back my words. I'll give the land, and build the school, tell him, if so he'll agree to it. That's the lot. His obedient humble servant, and I'll sign.”

The secretary, without replying, chose a sheet of finer paper, trimmed his pen carefully, and bent over the desk.

“Make it plain. A school for men to learn to use their hands. I don't give two chatsnote for Latin and poetry. Wait; say they'll be taught to cipher. That's got some sense to it, too. Learn 'em to keep an eye on their money when they make it. Poetry——”

  ― 198 ―

He made a contemptuous sound at the thought of that. Winter bent lower, teeth caught upon his lip; aware of himself, not for the first time, as the whipping boy of Mr. Charles Adare.


ORDER was returning to the house called Why Are You Weeping? The fishermen came of a morning bearing samples of their catch strung on reeds: mullet, garfish, and bream, and departed discreetly. The blacks drifted no further than the kitchen door, and there were fobbed off with valueless articles, corks, candle-ends, and string, instead of bread or meat. Flo, indignant at being cast down from her consequence as cook, rebelled and went, under the irrevocable direction of Form F, back to Government. A young woman replaced her for whom Miss Milly took almost an affection; a cheesemonger's widow, cleanly, methodical, whose shop had been the meeting-place for certain too noisy partisans of Reform. Old Sal subsided into a Sunday-school sobriety of language. Tradesmen's bills went down. The trays which mounted to Lady Henrietta's room were models of what invalid trays should be.

The house, as it adjusted itself to this outward rule, as its corridors began to shine again and its windows to be neat, resumed the mysterious inner life which had found

  ― 199 ―
symbolic statement in its name. The silence that held by day, by night was broken. Once, as in early days, the secretary met his employer's wife wide-eyed on the stairs. He spoke respectfully to her. She looked at him, frowning, shaking her head in an endeavour to focus vision; steadied herself and sighed:

“Pray for me. No. No, couldn't have that, don't think of it. Pray—pray excuse. What I meant.”

He answered, as though gentling a frightened animal:

“Won't you let me give you my arm back to your room?”

“Must think of Sam,” she said gravely. “Mustn't trouble Sam. I assure you, assure you——” very earnestly—“he's my only thought and care.”

She swayed, pursing her mouth, and again looking intently at him.

“Forgotten how it goes. Easeful—something. It torments me.” Suddenly clapping her hands to her ears, she cried out: “It torments me, oh, oh! Always echoes, voices. Hurts to think—drink. Mustn't say that. Mustn't drink it—think it, on any account. Tell me the words, the verse.”

William Winter, at a loss, recollected suddenly a book lent him by Mr. Adare.

“I can't quite tell what you may be thinking of. Is it a line of John Keats, perhaps?”

Face strained to attention and thrust forward, she had the very poise and stillness of a ship's figurehead, and for

  ― 200 ―
an instant he saw her transformed to one, ploughing unknown waters.

“ ‘I have been half in love with easeful Death.’ Is that what you had in mind?”

She smiled wonderfully, the whole posture slackened, a hand was lifted to drop heavily upon his shoulder. She nodded again and again, murmuring:

“Go on. Go on.”

“I can't recollect. I'm sorry, madam.”

He saw her look over her shoulder, heard some person coming towards the stairs. He had a qualm of fear; it was not possible, however, to withdraw from the hand on his shoulder, or change the posture in which, almost like a lover, he stood looking up at her. It was Lady Henrietta who abandoned him, turning and running unsteadily towards her room. The voice of Miss Milly accosted him:

“What did she want?”

“Lady Henrietta was asking——” But he could not reveal the matter of that plaintive quest. “She was asking the time.”

“What made her squeal? I heard it in the kitchen.”

“I can't tell why she cried out.”

Miss Milly was turning away when Winter came after her, suddenly stirred out of prudence.

“But perhaps you can, perhaps you know.”

She faced him, nostrils pinched with a quick drawing-in of breath. “Another of Belial's sons! I do my work for God, and my work for Mr. Flusky, and if there's no complaints from either of them, who are you, I'd like

  ― 201 ―
to know? Look out for yourself, mister. The wicked may flourish, but at the last they shall be cut down, and cast into the pit, and be utterly consumed, Amen! You, indeed!” He took a step towards her. “You touch me, you lag! Only touch me, that's all!”

“I am trying to pass you, to get to my work.”

“About time you remembered your work. Speaking poetry to her—you did ought to know what comes of that.”

“You were listening?”

“Why not, pray? Was you talking so extremely private?” She became the housekeeper arraigning an assigned servant, speaking with a condescension which he found less easy to bear than her shrewishness. “Now you know very well you got no call to be in this part of the house. Be off before you get into trouble.”

He went, telling himself that he had been a scholar of Magdalen, that the crest on his ring had been borne by his family since Queen Elizabeth's day, that these humiliations were of his own purchasing. None of the considerations brought comfort. His thoughts were a rack, and where a free man might have tired himself by action, a bondman had no way of escape. He went to the room with the map, and standing under it felt envy of Adare and those other men pressing forward upon its white spaces, giving their everyday names to gullies and flats, suffering distresses which, because free will commanded them, were easily borne. He hated himself because he could not wholly control his indignation

  ― 202 ―
nor wholly yield to it, because he was helpless, and because he was afraid.

The immediate task was to check household bills for the past month. Mechanically he ranged upon his desk the ill-written books and the bills, scraps of paper dirty with kitchen stains, speared upon a file. Beside them he laid a paper on which Miss Milly had set down the moneys received by her, and by her paid out during the course of the month. He checked the books by the bills, comparing both with her statements. There was no fault to be found, not a halfpenny which might not be counted to the housekeeper for righteousness. He acknowledged to himself, when he had done two or three of the accounts, that he had been looking for signs of peculation, and that the hope had lent his work unusual interest. The last bill was the wine merchant's, and this he scanned with particular care. If the woman supplied Lady Henrietta, the woman must first obtain the liquor. He therefore gave attention to each item on this bill, which was not inconsiderable. He found only Madeira, claret, brandy in authentic quantities. Some arrangement, his mind insisted, with the merchant; gin disguised as one or other of these wines. Flusky kept the cellar-book accessible in a drawer, though the cellar keys were about his person. Winter searched it, comparing quantities paid for with quantities entered. The dozens matched. He returned the book, folded the wine-bill, and reluctantly made against Miss Milly's figures the V-shaped pencil mark that approved her integrity.

  ― 203 ―


OLD SAL, seated on the verandah outside the kitchen and plucking a fowl for table, discussed with her less respectable compeer the joys of London life, where persons of the familynote all knew each other and traded as friends, where certain pretty skills of the hands were practised, where money was free and manners easy. Old Sal herself had been a fence or receiver; but in her younger days she boasted, tucking her petticoats up to show a leg no longer shapely, that she had been the companion in felony of James Hardy Vaux, most genteel of rascals. How she would cover him she related, while he put down his forks, light as a bird, and brought up handkerchiefs you could have sold to the Archbishop of Canterbury; how he once gave her a ring that he had pinched, he told her, off the little finger of one of the Newgate turnkeys; how he walked like a swell, and talked like a clergyman, and never addressed her in public save as “Sarah, dear love.”

Her companion listened doubtfully, recollecting no such days, skills, attentions. She came from a small country town where she had been the chief inn's chambermaid. Finding that her child's arrival coincided with that of lord in a coach, she, not choosing to lose tips or time, smothered the baby and went about her work. She was caught slipping out at night to bury the

  ― 204 ―
small body, which had the top of an old stocking for its winding-sheet. Her experiences lacked glamour, and for this reason she was unable to believe in old Sal. How came so clever a trickster to Botany Bay? And on a ten-year stretch, too.

But old Sal explained, loudly enough for the secretary to hear at his desk round the corner, that these things were all a matter of luck. You might be fly. You might be up in the stirrups and working well. But you had no protection, she explained, against the dirty devices of traps. These individuals would let a man alone, look the other way, until he committed a crime he could be hanged for—and how, asked old Sal of heaven, could you tell until after you had lifted a montranote whether its value was under the limit or over? £40 was the reward for bringing in a man wanted on a hanging charge. So the traps—blast them!—would say: We don't want him till he weighs his weight, forty pounds, see? This kind of duplicity no man could guard against, and thus it was that the traps had got their claws into James Hardy Vaux and herself.

The younger woman began a little pitiful story of some country constable's astuteness, how he had identified a highwayman by a patch on his boot. She spoke lower, and she was well within the room. The secretary waited for Sal's voice.

It came soon, overcalling the other. The country was nothing, it was easy as butter taking the stuff off countrymen.

  ― 205 ―
London was the place, plenty of crowds, London was the place for clever fingers. They all said in London that she, Sal, was as neat of her fingers as a man, more than one had said that. And she dared swear even now with her rheumatics she could lift the handkerchief out of Miss M.'s pocket, given half a chance, except for that one keeping everything on a key; why, she wouldn't leave open not so much as her bowels——

Laughter none too savoury ended the talk by the window. William Winter, accepting instructions from his employer, related what he had heard to what his own enquiry and imagination had discovered. The woman was honest, odiously so; the meagre trunks that came back to the house with her were evidence of this probity, the household books acquitted her. Yet he could not give up an irrational conviction that this was the channel——

“Answer, can't you?”

“I beg your pardon, sir.”

“Has that answer come yet from His Ex.?”

“This morning, yes, sir; by hand.”

While Flusky slowly read the letter he could escape again to his own thoughts. If the household books acquitted Milly, somewhere there must be other evidence. She was methodical, the expenditure considerable, she could not carry it all in her head——

“Are you hanging it on?note I'm talking.”

“Yes, sir.”

  ― 206 ―

“Take an answer. I'll come and see him, say. Obedient, humble, and all the rest of it. Like to see his face if I put Yours, bender! Any of their faces.”


WINTER, standing in the kitchen to read a list and check groceries while Miss Milly unpacked them, met the eye of old Sal over the housekeeper's bent back. Old Sal had a most pregnant eye. It conceived rapidly, giving facile birth to innuendo or query. Its roll was easy as the turn of a fish, its wink the flick of a snake's tongue. Meeting the glance of Mr. Winter its promise made him in one instant aware that he was about to lose eight ounces of tobacco. This, his month's allowance, he had saved for the purpose of a wager with Sal, which she made sure and jovial anticipation of winning. Praise from James Hardy Vaux and his associates was not lightly given, nor was the skill which earned it readily forgotten. Old Sal's eye, by a deft lowering of the lid, bade the other party to the bet mark what she was about, and admire.

“Candles, wax, 20 lbs,” read Winter.

Miss Milly dumped the package upon the scales beside her, calculated the weight and announced:

“Short! Seven ounces. Mark that down.”

  ― 207 ―

“Peppercorns, black and white, 2 lbs. Sugar. Four loaves.”

“One broken.”

In Sal's trade it was customary to work in twos, one party distracting attention while the other employed forks of the only kind not made before fingers. She now allotted to the broken sugar-loaf the former inactive but necessary rôle, shifting towards it step by step. Her left hand was at it: Winter, watching from the corner of his eye, saw how her fingers deliberately rustled the torn corner of paper, and observed Miss Milly look towards the sound. Sal's right hand simultaneously narrowed itself; three fingers went down like prongs into the housekeeper's skirt. He did not see them emerge from the pocket, which they did as Miss Milly in rage examined the other hand for stolen sugar.

“Fed like the Queen of England, and still you lags keep prigging!”

“I never took nothing, Miss M., so help me!”

“Not for want of trying, then.”

Later the secretary, back in the room with the map, recognized the whistle of old Sal outside his window.

“Well? What did you get?”

Old Sal answered, aggrieved, that they might both have known the nasty thing never kept a handkercher, too mean, blows with her fingers to save washing——

“But you got something?”

Old Sal had indeed got something, as good as a handkercher for that matter; it had Miss M.'s writing

  ― 208 ―
in it, and that showed it couldn't have come from no one else. She brought out of the deeps of her bosom a small black-covered book.

It was all there, two years' expenditure, steadily mounting the sums totted up week by week, month by month, to make an appalling total. Miss Milly, save for the brief period of Adare's visit, had expended almost the whole of her earnings on spirits for her victim. She could not have kept above a shilling a week for her own needs of clothing, and the mild pleasures her convictions allowed. The cost of the stuff was her bribe to conscience, the price of continuing to approve herself. There was a curious little appendix, showing prices obtained for dresses, petticoats and such, and to whom the money had been given; the Temperance Society, the Bible Society, a female orphanage. Nothing of Lady Henrietta's self-despoiling had been used for the purpose she intended. Nor had Miss Milly bought for herself any least credit by these donations. To this, to that, anonymous, the entries insisted. The righteous woman at her victim's funeral might say: with a great price obtained I this freedom.

“Hey, Mister! Didn't I win my bacca fair?”

Winter perceived old Sal again, and paid her off without a word. She went away, grumbling a little, having given her performance as much for the hope of applause as for the price of hire. The secretary began to tremble all over; his knees failed. The fire, which Flusky caused to be lit of a night for the pleasure of staring in it,

  ― 209 ―
tempted him now intolerably. It was newly built of short logs, piled together tent-fashion; through the opening at the top the little book might so easily pass and be consumed——

Flusky came in. The abstraction into which Winter had fallen had allowed no warnings from his senses to reach him. Thus the master found the servant sprawled in his chair, legs stretched out to the fire, studying a notebook which could by no means be related to any business of Samson Flusky, Esquire. Winter sprang up.

“Take it easy, mister. Take it easy.”

“Sir, I beg your pardon——”

“Stow that. What's that you got there?”

“A private document, sir.”

“Give it here.”

“No, sir.”

“Do you want to go back to Government?”

Too late to run away. Winter took a breath, trying to steady his heart.

“Sir, this book does not belong to me——”

“How you come by it, then?”

The secretary had formed, as yet, no plan. Nevertheless even his fears could not hide from him that it was necessary to speak, because the man would, one way or another, compel him to speak. He got out the first four words in a rush:

“It is Miss Milly's.” Now, urgently, he was proffering the book. “Look, her handwriting, you know it. It is

  ― 210 ―
hers. You must believe me. Here is proof. You can't deny it, sir, with this in your hand.”

“What's the matter with you? Why are you all of a shake?”

Winter stood, shaking indeed. Flusky took the book, deliberately turned its pages; then leaned out the window, shouting towards the kitchen quarters:

“Milly! Here!”

Turning back into the room he saw the bell-rope, grinned at the gentleman in his employ, and pulled it. Winter said nothing, did not look at the master. When Miss Milly came in, he took a step forward, but Flusky stood still, holding the book out so that she might see it.

Miss Milly looked, recognized the book instantly, and folded her hands high up on her stomach. It was the attitude she took in the kitchen before making some demand with sardonic politeness; “And why, if I may presume to ask——” She did not appear angry or guilty. Flusky asked:

“This yours?”

She did not look at it but at him as she answered:

“It is. And how do you come by it, I should like to know?”

“It's a list of drink bought.”

“And why not, pray?”

Flusky at that blinked a little. The secretary said in a low voice:

“She admits it, sir. You see, she admits it.”

“You answer me a question. Have I or haven't I got

  ― 211 ―
a right to turn an honest penny by trading as well as another?” She did not wait for the answer, but went on with mounting temper. “Strong drink's a mocker, but it don't make a fool of the man that sells it. Or woman either. You look in that book you make so free with. Look in that, and see how much I've paid into Temperance these last years.” As he fumbled with the pages, she laughed. “Liquor making a rod for its own back, see? If I sell drink, and pay over what I make to the glory of the Lord, whose business is that?”

“There's nothing here about selling.”

“You've only got the book with the outgoings. There's another, and you shall see it, if you're going to make such a song about what's my business, Mr. Flusky. How you come by that book you got, if you please? I want an answer to that, Mr. Flusky, if you don't have no objection.”

“She's lying,” said the secretary, still in a low voice, but urgently. He believed what he said; at the same time he could not but see the horrid plausibility of the woman's story. It was in character that her business sense should have perceived the profits to be made from drink, while her religious sense saw no reason why these same profits should not be diverted, converted, made to pay dividends in the Kingdom of Heaven. He repeated what he had said, trying to convince the master by the tone of his voice.

“Now listen,” said the woman, advancing on him. “You, I mean, mister. This is your doing. Making

  ― 212 ―
mischief, eh? Talking poetry to madam, eh? Don't want nobody with their eyes open about this house, that's about the facts of it.”

“You're buying drink for her,” the secretary said. “I know it, you know it, the proof's there if only he'd look for it——”

And he had an inkling of defeat coming from the other quarter; as if Flusky would not look, had a reason for not looking at proof. But the woman was speaking again, moving towards him without dropping her hands, which still were folded upon each other tightly, at the level of her waist. It was alarming, as though a statue had walked.

“If ever I took so much as a farthing that's not mine, I'll swallow it red-hot. Red-hot, d'you hear?”

“I don't accuse you of stealing——”

“No, you don't accuse me of stealing. There's one or two things you don't dare do, Mr. Nose. What for should I give her drink? You sneak round this house in places where you've no right to be, saying things you've no right to say, but you can't answer that, and why? Shall I count them pure with the wicked balances, and with the bag of deceitful weights? No, nor use them myself, nor take a penny I don't earn with these two hands——” At that she did move them. Palms held upwards and flat, she shoved her hands at the secretary, as though to show him at once their emptiness and their strength. “What's this you're at? Want to get rid of me, do you? I know why.”

“Mr. Flusky,” said the secretary, stammering. “I beg

  ― 213 ―
you won't listen to this woman. I've accused her, and brought proof.”

“And I say before the Lord, Mr. Flusky, that I've been to you a good and faithful servant, labouring late and early. If you find a penny missing, or so much as a farthing dip, I'll answer for it, if it's gone from this house while I'm in charge. What for should I give her drink? And where did he get that book from?. That's what I'm asking.”

Her gaze was steady, it held no fear, it demanded justice. Winter, in his consternation, spoke unthinking. The moment the words were out of his mouth he knew that he had committed the final folly, and was done for.

“I swear it's the truth. Ask her ladyship, for God's sake! She'll bear me out.”

Miss Milly interrupted him, clamouring:

“That's right, her ladyship, that's good, that is! Ask her, do, Mr. Flusky!”

In those words, that confident cry, Winter heard the enigma of Lady Henrietta's behaviour smoothly and unhurriedly solved; she knew and accepted her fate. There was a thing which remained to be done. Without the warning of an exclamation he ran from the room and upstairs, tearing as he ran at something stitched inside his shirt; a letter. He got it out as he reached the bedroom door, and Flusky the turn of the stairs. There was time, just time, to thrust it under the pillow on which her hair made cat's cradle; to speak one word—“Adare.” Then he heard striding feet in the room at his back. Nothing after.

  ― 214 ―


“MY friend,” the letter began. “Or no. Let us observe the formalities. My dear Lady Henrietta, ahem! (You are to suppose that I have tied my stock neatly, and that my hair smells of costly oils. I am a gentleman paying a call by letter.) What months since I've seen you, and what weather we've been having! Actually it is no more than half an hour since I saw you, but I must look forward to the time when Winter will deliver this missive into your hand. He has his orders, to give it you six months from the day of my departure. If I return before that time he is not to trouble you with it. If I delay, then you may need a little light conversation to keep you in spirits till I come back. This is the best I can contrive.

“How do you do, six months from now? Are you standing the test of time, my lady masterpiece? How does a poet, John Keats, say, feel when he turns up the sonnet that kept him awake and sweating blood a week of months ago? Well, never mind that question, there's nobody can answer it. But you might, at this point, take out the little list I made you, and examine your conscience with regard to Social and Domestic Duties. Are you ordering the dinner? Do you go about more? You should have a salon by now, full of gentlemen confidently holding forth, and ladies watching you narrowly.

  ― 215 ―
Are you taking an interest in the garden as you should? Are you writing home to my sister Alethea?

“I have a sufficiently good conceit of myself to suppose that you are obedient in all. Ridiculous it may be, but a young man who throws his whole heart into any endeavour is unwilling to believe that there will be nothing to show for it in the end. If I did not think that you were safe I would not leave you. (Confound it, we are back in the present tense again. No matter.)

“And now for a scolding. It is the matter of your attitude to this departure of mine. Why do you talk, look, protest as if your husband were trying to murder me? You cannot rationally suppose it. I grant there was uneasiness once, but we have talked that out, in so far as talking is possible with him. (He has a scunner, by the way, at gentlemen.) He is a man almost too simple for us to understand, who are sophisticated creatures. His manœuvrings are those of a child, and like a child he cannot speak out what he means, has not the words for it. Nor do I believe he always knows what he intends to do until it is done. He must do his thinking and talking by deeds. This money for equipment, this fifty pounds, is an amende bonorable for having at one time suspected me. There will be a new dress or a trinket for you, on the same account. It is not our way of doing things, but we are not for that reason to condemn it. Wear your trinket, as I take the money. He is a creature people could love if he would let them, like a sort of rough cantankerous retriever dog. I begin to see in him what

  ― 216 ―
you saw, the day you ran away with him out of Ireland.

“And that reminds me. Do you recollect S. Quaife of the petticoat? I saw her yesterday (damn these tenses) and I am taken with a sort of heartburn at the thought that it will be a good many months till I see her again. If she were not whose daughter she is, and had not a voice that I don't care for, I should be in danger of falling in love. What a phrase, falling in love! I could do you an extravagance à la Touchstone on the various degrees of falling—the slip courteous, the tumble with circumstance, and so forth. My adventure, despite that petticoat which might seem to witness the contrary, comes under fall number three, the trip modest. An odd thing, that while your beauty and tenderness could not touch me, S. Quaife should set me off like tinder. Perhaps it is not so. Perhaps six months hence, when this is in your hands, I shall have forgotten her. But it is too soon after seeing her to think so now. Will you, then——

“I can't ask it. The hangman's daughter! No, no. I have still some feeling for the proprieties left, Lady Henrietta. (My hands go under my coat-tails, and I make for the fireplace, that rostrum of the domestic preacher.) I have still some regard for the decencies, and therefore I do not ask your ladyship to go in person to a small barber's shop—clean, though—and enquire for S. Quaife. I only say that the shop may be discovered by the curious somewhere in George Street, not so very far from a stationer's, and that the lady in question may be recognized by her having a face shaped like a heart, dark

  ― 217 ―
hair, blue eyes, and a mole at the corner of her mouth.

“That is not a description by a man in love, is it? Unemotional as those Wanteds by which criminals are made known, only the touch about the face's heart-shape, which will not quite do. Omit that, and the rest may stand for proof that I am not a lover yet. Remember, I have asked nothing of you.

“I had thought to leave half a dozen of these missives with Winter, so that you might have them delivered regularly, every fortnight. But that would be to take for granted that I shall be absent longer than six months, a depressing consideration. There is only this one letter, therefore, to hold you in talk till I can come and button-hole you myself. You looked heavenly with the light on your hair an hour ago. Why am I not over ears in love with you? Do not forget me.”

Lady Henrietta ceased to read. She was at that stage of her trouble when the perceptions take on a momentary delusive acuteness. The people lately thronging her room had been definite in outline as paintings, every detail of colour and texture clear. While they raged a bird flew past the window. In the half-second of its passing she had perceived the set and colour of every feather, and the expressionless roundel of its eye. So sensitive was she that her flesh had seemed to reflect the whole scene unquestioning, her blood, restlessness stilled, quicksilver on glass, served to record those movements which her mind could not interpret. The young man, grey in the face, who rushed in to thrust

  ― 218 ―
a paper under her pillow she had seen fall without any concern. Milly's triumphant look had neither escaped nor interested her. And she had answered nothing to any questions, lying still, mute, half in love with easeful death.

Only when they were gone did she remember the single word Winter had spoken, and move a hand to feel for the paper he had hidden under her head. This she read, simultaneously seeing and hearing, as though someone were speaking the letter aloud while her eyes followed the strokes of the pen. It meant nothing to her, entranced as she was. The letters and syllables were distinct, their meaning absent. She felt, however, a warning very subtle and far off, the kind of warning dreams give of some real pain to which the dreamer must wake. Raising her head she looked about her at the confusion of the room, and imagined herself dressing, moving with purpose amid that confusion. She saw her own fine nose, thickened chin, tousled hair, and surveyed them, while an echo gravely informed her that all love could do for you was to fill you up with gin. She could not at once discover what the purpose was that sooner or later would set her moving about the room. Her eyes closed again, her head sank back. Unconsciously her will imposed a duty upon the first finger of her right hand, which traced and retraced upon the counterpane two letters, S. and Q. unrelated to reality, but like abracadabra somehow giving assurance of protection.

She woke three hours later and remembered what she had determined to do. Also she was ashamed, as on

  ― 219 ―
that night when Adare, climbing up by the magnolia tree, had found her drunk. She touched his letter as a talisman, making no attempt to read it again. A clock struck, and now her ears were strained to number the sounds which three hours earlier had descended on them loud as a hammer on iron. It was six o'clock. She pulled the bell-rope.

It was Milly who answered. She came in bearing a neatly-dressed tray, shining, tempting, the very tray to wheedle an invalid out of indifference to food; set it down on Lady Henrietta's knees with an encouraging, “There now!” and began to remedy the room's disorder, talking as she stooped and folded.

“He's out of the house, Mr. Flusky said I was to tell you. I wouldn't have his back, this time to-morrow. Rushing in like that to a lady's bedroom! That's the end of Mister Winter.”

There was no answer from the bed. Miss Milly went on, drawing a stocking over her thin red hand, turning it, seeking for holes before she rolled it up.

“Accusing me, he was. But Mr. Flusky stood by me, and always has. We're better off without these young fellows that think they're somebody.”

The stocking showed no imperfections. Miss Milly rolled it with its fellow and gave the compact light bundle such a pat as a mother in good humour will give her child's bottom before she tucks it into bed.

“Now we can all settle down, no mischief-making, everything like it was. Try and eat some of that chicken.

  ― 220 ―
And I brought you a little draught the doctor ordered.”

Miss Milly was in command again. No longer did she show as that sour and raucous spinster who had watched Charles Adare and routed William Winter, but as the good servant, plain-spoken, who would run any house like a palace if only she might have her way. Lady Henrietta, eyes following her, knew that the purpose which informed this woman was stronger than her own.

When Milly departed, she made an effort, as a diver turns his hands upward and kicks himself towards the light. She got out of bed, and went to her work-box, feeling through its pockets, recognizing by touch those silks which should have clad the flocks and garlanded the crook of her shepherdess. She found a needle-book in which, one evening, she had hidden the scrap of tape with the name S. Quaife cross-stitched on it in big letters. When she had it in her fingers she could not remember what she had intended to do, and so went back to bed. She slipped the tape into Adare's letter before (Miss Milly's draught powerfully aiding) she fell asleep again, to dream urgent reasons why she should live, and to find herself clinging to a hangman's noose as to a rope of salvation.


MR. SAMSON FLUSKY, crossing his hall to the front door where a vehicle waited, was astonished to hear his wife's voice:

  ― 221 ―

“Sam, will you take me in to the town?”

He looked at her. She was dressed neatly enough; her gloved hands were clasped together in a gesture excessive for the request she was making; but then, that was her way.

“No reason why not.”

He surveyed her again, more closely than before; this time perceiving that she clasped her hands because they quivered, and that she was haggard in the cruelly clear morning light.

“If you've got some notion about Winter, it's no good. He's been rumpednote by this.”


And her voice held genuine surprise. She had forgotten the secretary. Winter was a messenger, a walking gentleman, who played a little part and now had made his exit unnoticed from the stage of her mind; in him she had never divined an ally. She frowned a little at the word which she knew meant a flogging and answered:

“He's gone, hasn't he? Milly said something.”

“He's gone all right.” Flusky's scrutiny satisfied him. His voice was genial. “Well, you feel able for it? Step out, then. If I drop you in George Street, will that do?”

She sat beside him, while the groom let the horses' heads go and sprang up behind, the toe of his boot treading for an instant one spoke of the moving shining

  ― 222 ―
wheel. Lady Henrietta sat up straight enough, but did not speak as Flusky pointed out new buildings with his whip; she was fighting nausea. At the turning by Hyde Park Barracks he seemed to hesitate; the horses' feet stopped their clatter, and the sound could be heard of St. James's clock striking ten. Flusky grinned, gave a brief whistle, and a cluck that sent his beasts off straight forward down King Street.

“Now, which of the shops d'ye want?”

She could only think of the name Quaife, and the vague direction, “by a stationer's.”

“You have an appointment, perhaps. Don't consider me.”

“Appointment,” said he. “I'm late for that, anyway.”

“With whom?” she asked idly, for time to gather her powers of invention. It was long since she had been in the town, the names of the shops were strange to her, the soldiers ludicrous in their shakos and tight coats; a striding black fellow in a flax-fringed cloak seemed less perturbed, took the bustle more for granted, than did she. “With whom is your appointment?”

“With His Ex. Dick Bourke,” Flusky answered. “It won't do him any harm to wait half an hour.”

He looked at her, but she did not make the appeal that might have been expected; ask him for news, ask him what will be done about Charles Adare. S. Quaife was the idea regnant. Little speculations flitted about the initial S. Did it stand for Selina, Sarah, Susan? Thus she had no comment to make upon this appointment

  ― 223 ―
with Sir Richard, unwonted and interesting though Flusky's glance proclaimed it. It did not occur to her to ask the question, nor would he volunteer the answer unasked. They drove in silence until she, desperately spying about her, perceived the sign of R. Bourne and Co., Family Mourning, Millinery and Baby Linen, and touched his arm.

“This? How long will you be?”

“An hour—more—I don't know.”

He looked at the draper's shop; a public-house neighboured it. He leant over as if to speak, pulled back, gave a shake of the reins and a nod, and so left her. It occurred to Lady Henrietta as she stood in the street that there was no reason in the world why she should not have taken her husband into her confidence about S. Quaife. But somewhere in her half-sleeping spirit a vigilant personage warned her against explanations, against any use of the name Adare. She stood for a minute abstracted, until she saw a man in the doorway of the shop look inquisitively at her. She smiled at him, asked (for something to say) where was George Street. He put her on her way, and returning to his counter conjectured, grumbling:

“New out. You can always tell, asking for George Street, as if there wasn't as good shops in Pitt Street or King. They learn, I suppose, if they live long enough.”

Lady Henrietta began to walk. She felt ill; there was money in her purse, and drink offering at every street corner, under emblems of fertility, patriotism, and

  ― 224 ―
caprice; “The Wheatsheaf,” “The Trafalgar,” “The Cat and Mutton.” She walked faster, until loungers with broad hats tilted over their eyes began to stare after her. It was a hot day, her dress of the kind they were accustomed to see floating a foot or two out of the dust, smoothly, to the rhythm of hoofs. She had, besides, a characteristic step, very light and free. The loungers, nonplussed, found outlet for their oafish bewilderment as usual in laughter. But she was concerned with her own growing faintness, and with the need not to miss the sign of a small barber's shop—“clean, though”—somewhere near a stationer's.

To the right lay the barrack square. Vaguely she remembered spectacles other than purely military ones that were to be witnessed there; a wall on the south side had iron rings set in it, just a little higher than a man's head, to which were tied the wrists of those about to be flogged. Upon instinct she turned left, and almost immediately discovered the inconspicuous sign.

Quaife's customers waiting their turn stared at her, halting conversations to do so. She stood rather helplessly, aware of activities behind a half-drawn curtain, men's heads swathed in towels, a voice holding forth:

“—when you can tell me why the duty on home-made rum should be ten and tuppence, when it's only three bob on other spirits——”

“Easy. Rum's cheaper to make.”

“Who says?”

Lady Henrietta stood still, looking about her for some

  ― 225 ―
means of summoning attention. One of the waiting customers, with a wink at the others, got up, made an elaborate bow, and asked what he could do for her. She murmured that she wished to speak to Miss Quaife. He misheard her and called to the inner room:

“Boss! It's your lucky day. Lady here wants you.”

Lady Henrietta saw the curtain jerked back to admit a large man holding a razor in his right hand, from which, without looking at it, his left fingers drew off and flicked away soap.

“We don't attend to females here,” a voice told her, the same that had demanded enlightenment concerning the duty on rum.

“Your daughter—I don't know her name, I fear—might I speak to her?”

The quality of the voice surprised the barber. He stood aside, motioning with the hand that held the razor for her to pass through the shop, where his clients turned grotesque faces to watch her go; eyes red with soap swung above snow-men's cheeks to follow her progress towards the inner door. The barber pushed this open, and bade her go straight up. A clamour of questions and soft whistles arose as he turned back to attend to his business.

The girl was mending towels. She sat in the window, a sliver of sun lying across her cheek, feet tucked up on the bars of her chair. In this attitude, like some forlorn heroine at the beginning of a fairy story, she sat for a moment gazing at the visitor. When she decided to get

  ― 226 ―
up, surprised though she was, she did so slowly, blinking a little as though to free her eyes from the sun, and said abruptly:

“Who is it?”

Having said that, from sallow she became deadly pale, and Lady Henrietta saw recognition in the blue eyes. Yet she had never, to her knowledge, seen the girl before. Charles's description was a good one, however, the girl represented his words come to life. Immediately, and for no reason, she felt a rush of hope. Her knees weakened. The girl said nothing, did nothing.

“I will sit down, if I may.”

There was only one chair. The girl pushed it forward and stood looking straight at her visitor, while her hands busied themselves folding the towel as her father had, without giving an eye to it, cleared his razor of soap.

“You don't know who I am. But I am here because of somebody you do know; Mr. Charles Adare. He has asked me to call on you—” ridiculous word for a visit to a barber's shop—“to give you a message from him.”

“Is he back, then?”

Eagerness sharpened the voice, languid, with slurred vowels; the sort of voice he could not care for.

“I have had a letter.”

“Oh, you had a letter.” There was resentment in that; the girl looked at her sombrely.

“In which he asked me to say——” But he had asked nothing. “To find out if you were well.”

“What's it to do with him?” said the girl uncompromisingly,

  ― 227 ―
and left to be understood the pendant to her question: Or with you?

That should have ended the conversation. But Lady Henrietta was becoming each moment more strongly conscious of reassurance in the girl's presence; she would not investigate the reason for this feeling, lest there might prove to be none; but the vigilante who had argued while she gazed unseeing at Family Mourning told her that here was an ally. At the back of it all, confusedly, ran a feminine syllogism: This girl is alive to Charles, Charles to her, therefore Charles cannot have died.

“I came also for another purpose. Pray don't be surprised, or think the request very strange. It was only this, to ask if you would come to my house.”

“I don't do hairdressing.”

“Forgive me, I explain myself badly. As a guest.”

“Me?” The girl laughed, awkwardly, too loud for the room. “I don't see what you mean.”

“Nor do I, altogether,” said Lady Hentietta, apologetically, softly. “You must excuse me.” The girl heard the difference in their tones, her face became alive with positive anger.

“What are you getting at? I don't know how to talk to ladyships—honourables either, for that matter. I know when a person's on the cross, though. I'll keep where I am.”

“My husband was a felon,” said Lady Henrietta without hesitation or emphasis, surprising herself. “He has been whipped before now, perhaps by your father, down

  ― 228 ―
there in the square.” The girl stared at her, wholly taken aback. “So you see, I cannot put on airs, I am not on the cross, I am not teasing you. I am asking in good faith. Will you come?”

“But I don't see what for.”

“Will you?”

The girl, striving to make difficulties, outmatched by her own curiosity, did not answer. She regarded the visitor, gave again her uneasy laugh, and looked about the room. It was poor, too sunny; the loud talk of customers, the smell of soap, was ascending to it all day long.

“Charles wrote to me,” Lady Henrietta said after a pause, “that you had a face shaped like a heart. It's true; the way your hair grows on your forehead.”

The girl shifted her feet, looked down at them frowning, and was understood to say that she was fly, had to be, she knew his sort. Then, lifting her head and looking straight at her visitor, she asked clearly:

“What would you want me for? I won't say anything without you tell me what you want me for.”

It was the vigilante who spoke, above physical malaise which could no longer be fought in that hot small room.

“I want somebody to be with me that I'm not afraid of, or sorry for.”

With that she drooped at last. The girl forgot to be wary, to detest the woman she had last seen on the Governor's arm from that peephole on the stairs where, lacking partners, she had gone to cry. She knew sickness

  ― 229 ―
when she saw it, George Street being a place where the ills of the flesh came often enough under the casual eye. Coming close suddenly, with a strong hand she forced the visitor's head towards her knees, calling out at the same time in no ladylike simulation of a shout:

“Dad! Here, quick!”

There was suddenly silence below, and her father's voice:

“What's up?”

“She's gone off. Fetch water.”

There was rumbling talk. After a moment Quaife appeared in the room bearing a glass half full of brownish liquor.

“Water, I said.”

“This'll do her more good.”

He advanced it to Lady Henrietta's mouth as his daughter, shifting her fingers, lifted the bowed head, remonstrating:

“She'd ought to have salts, or something—a lady.”

But Lady Henrietta took a mouthful and swallowed it. Quaife winked at his daughter, tilting the glass. A few drops ran out of the corners of her mouth, but she continued to swallow as though the stuff had in fact been the water with which convention supplied fainting ladies. When it was empty she gave a little cough, wiped her lips, rose; and in her beautiful voice said with dignity to the barber:

“Your daughter has been good enough to promise to pay me a visit. I hope you will allow it.”

  ― 230 ―

His daughter, incredulously looking from the empty glass to the lady, and inwardly from the lady to a young man in a beautiful waistcoat, found nothing whatever to say. She nodded, however, to her father's glance.


“WE need a school of this kind,” said His Excellency, “no doubt of that, Mr. Flusky. Here I have grumbles from men all up and down the country, that can't get a wheelwright or a carpenter for money. Look at this list of trades among the latest arrivals; a comb-maker, a man-milliner, two soap-boilers and a teacher of dancing. Who'll put in for that last individual, do you suppose? And if nobody does, what good will he be at breaking stones? We are like shipwrecked men on this deserted continent, we must take what the sea brings us, and be thankful. So far it casts up ten gauze bonnets for one good barrel of pork.”

“I've been out here longer'n you,” said Flusky. “You can't tell me.”

“I don't like the assignment system,” Sir Richard mused; “allotting craftsmen out of a hat the way we do now. I write to the Colonial Secretary once a month or so. He writes back: What alternative do you propose? And I have none. But if we can supply free men, trained, then I can say to him, keep your prisoners in the gaols, where they belong.”

  ― 231 ―

“You'll have the landowners agin you,” said Flusky. “They don't care what a man's trade is, so long's they don't have to pay him.”

“They care, though, whether he can do his work.”

“No,” said Flusky. “They think they can learn him with a whip.”

“Are you saying the magistrates flog without cause?”

“I'm saying nothing,” said Flusky.

The Governor looked curiously at the square man in his misshapen suit of Botany wool, so like in cut and colour to the convict's slops, and thought he saw the fellow's reason for wearing it. Once I wore this dress because I must; now I please myself, and by Nick I'll wear it still, and your best tailor, Mr. Maelzer of George Street, he shall cut the trousers like as to leave room for irons. To hell with the past! Or else wrap it round you like a flag. And His Excellency recollected how once, before the justiciary of his mind, he had arraigned the uniform ladies for their hankerings and flutterings after the past, their England, distant and for ever gone. Flusky, an unwilling migrant, yet had a better title to this new country than the uniforms could show.

“To go back to this matter of the school.”

“Ay, well, what I say——” Flusky frowned, endeavouring to put into words just what he did say, when he collogued with his own thoughts. “What I say: in a country where everything's to do, the hands has a chance to put themselves equal with the head. A gentleman, a scholard, will do pretty poor thinking

  ― 232 ―
without a roof to his head or food in his belly.”

“I don't know about that,” the Governor answered easily. “I've had to think fast many's the time in Spain, with never a shelter and my stomach touching my backbone. Wellesley didn't take excuses.”

“That's soldiering,” Flusky answered. “We don't have to reckon for soldiers here. We have to reckon for peace. That's a thing what people here don't understand, they're new, it's all new——”

“People that know not their right hand from their left; besides much cattle!”

“That's about right,” Flusky answered, nodding. “That about hits it. Only it had ought to have been sheep.”

The Governor laughed, glanced at his clock, and put papers together, hinting dismissal, while he summed up the interview.

“It's understood, then. I'll see that the land's allotted for your technical school. Government has reserved an acre or two here and there within the town. It must be easy of access for the kind of young men we want to catch. Leave that to me, I'll do my best for you.”

“Good enough,” Flusky answered.

“Shall I bespeak the services of the Colonial Architect?”

“Give me a note to him. I'd like to say a word or two about the plan. He'll want to waste money; rams' skulls carved on the pillars. I'll get him some real skulls if he want to nail 'em up.”

  ― 233 ―

“The Greeks, whose Corinthian style Mr. Lewis imitates, did just that, I believe. Real skulls.”

“Showed their sense.”

He rose, obedient to the Governor's lightly tapping fingers; Sir Richard sat for the three or four seconds during which his mind was divided; get up for a damn gaol-bird? It's your business to make these fellows self-respecting. But I'm the King's representative, by God, and he's—— That's past; to hell with the past! Sir Richard stood up, offered his hand.

“I'm obliged, Mr. Flusky. You shall have the letter to Lewis.”


“Lady Henrietta well?” Before Flusky could answer he went on: “I have a message for her—for you, too; you too will be glad. They have found young Adare. In a bad way, but still—where's the letter from Dixon?”

The secretary, starting forward, found and handed a thick budget. His Excellency sought among the pages, talking:

“A messenger came in this morning. Dixon, you know, has been exploring the source of the Bogan—ah, here's the passage. But you'd prefer to read it to yourself.”

Flusky took the sheets as though they were weighty, and laboriously, under Sir Richard's eye, perused Mr. Dixon's message.

“As I was reconnoitring this spot for the purpose of making out the camp, I came suddenly upon a party of natives, one of whom giving a short cooee first made

  ― 234 ―
me aware of the circumstance. I went towards them with a branch, which always serves as an assurance of peaceable intentions. They seemed by no means disturbed at our appearance, and an old man coming towards me pronounced an unusual word which I repeated after him as well as I could understand it. He continued to speak in their language, several times pointing to my beard and eyes. For the most part they point to articles which they expect, or hope, will be given to them. I therefore could make nothing of his gestures, on which he repeated the former word, taking pains to articulate it. What was my astonishment to recognize in these syllables the name ‘Adare.’ I repeated the name, therefore, pointing myself to my eyes and beard, which are something the same colour as Mr. Adare's. He seemed delighted to be understood, and taking my sleeve endeavoured to pull me in the direction of their camp, to which I yielded, only requiring Burdett to hand me my musket and load his own.

“The camp consisted of some forty persons of both sexes, including children, and there, not to spin out the suspense, I found Mr. Adare. He was in a most pitiable condition, though the blacks had done their best for him, in a high fever, and not able to give any account of himself. I proposed by signs to the chief that the invalid should be transported to my camp, offering in exchange a clasp-knife and the skins of two wallabies we had shot that morning. This was agreed upon, and we made a litter of blankets and poles which served to convey him thither.

  ― 235 ―

“Happily the encampment was near good water, and we were not short of provisions, owing to the supply of game we had encountered, and which, no doubt, accounted also for the presence of the blacks. Mr. Adare continued delirious for a further twenty-four hours, after which our broths and brandy seemed to revive him. He owes his life to his youth, for I hardly suppose that an older man could have survived the hardships he has since described to me——”

The Governor's voice broke in upon Flusky's reading; reckoning at the speed of an educated man's scrutiny, His Excellency misjudged by two pages the progress of the slower eye.

“Adare, you know, is a sort of cousin of mine. This is as good a moment as any to thank you for what you tried to do for him. He made no secret that you had advised him, as did I, against this adventure. If he survives now, it is not for want of prophecies to the contrary.”

Flusky made no comment.

“Dixon says nothing, you see, about any gold. It's true he has not been able to get much out of the boy yet in the way of information. But I interrupted you; you hadn't finished.”

Flusky shook his head, restoring the letter.

“Well, it is briefly told. He is leaving Charles behind at the house of a settler, who will look after him until he is fit to travel. We shall not see him in Sydney before December. I don't know how it takes you, Mr. Flusky, but I have a kind of weakness for young men who won't

  ― 236 ―
do as they're told. It is the thing I like best about this country, none of the currency generation will do as it's told. Charles is a misfit in England, in Ireland he is lost in the crowd; but in New South Wales he may do very well if he lives.”

Sir Richard's clock struck eleven. The interview had lasted nearly an hour, and His Excellency was fatigued by it. He respected Mr. Flusky, he proposed to help Mr. Flusky to the full of his powers, he had faith and hope in Mr. Flusky; all the same——

“Talking with this fellow is like beating a bale of wool with a blunt cleaver; you tire yourself out, and devil a thing to show for it. He's off at last, and best of luck to him, but for all that, thank God!”


DOWNSTAIRS Flusky sat at the desk in his room, a lamp by his elbow, papers under his hands, which moved among the written sheets as awkwardly as their owner through a drawing-room confused with ladies. The room was warm, and his cigar-smoke scented it pleasantly, lazily twisting in the upper reaches of the lamp's light. Windows shut against a mizzle of rain prevented the usual inroad of voices from the kitchen. No sound came from the blacks' camp, their songs about dingoes, rainbows and food were being howled to other stars. Even the fire no longer spurted, but lay quiescent, glowing

  ― 237 ―
with the pink hue of burning cedar, more like light than flame.

Miss Milly came in with tea. He did not look up or thank her, but gave a grunt, fumbling still among the papers. She said, watching him:

“Can't I give you a hand, Mr. Flusky?”

He sighed suddenly, and became aware of her.

“Putting in for another secretary. No more gentlemen, though. Can't any other sort of a man read and write?”

“No, we've had enough of them,” Miss Milly agreed. “Look, I've made the tea just how you like it.”

Flusky took the cup she poured out for him, stirred it and drank. She went on with a kind of domestic calm and naturalness:

“I shall be wanting another female soon for the kitchen. That woman's due for her ticket any time now. Going just as she's begun to be useful.”

“Keep her, why don't you?”

“Now, Mr. Flusky, she's not worth wages, not when we can get help free only by asking. Help, do I call it? Hindrance, more like. I won't have you pay out your good money just to save me a few weeks' trouble.

He said nothing to that, so that she was obliged to make her own complimentary acknowledgment.

“I like managing, always did. Why, even nowadays I don't have all I can do. Work's my holiday.”

She poured tea into the empty cup he held out, sugared it, and with a grotesque little coquettish movement stirred it for him before she returned it. He

  ― 238 ―
observed none of this, and she saw with vexation that he used the spoon as freely as before. She sat down on the edge of a chair by the fire.

“Will you excuse me if I have a sit-down? It isn't that I'm tired, but—well, the fact is, I can't have any what I call conversation, so to speak, in the kitchen. Ladyship's comfortable, I've seen to that.”

“How is she to-night?”

“Why don't you go up yourself and see, Mr. Flusky?” He did not answer. “I know you don't care for to see her the way she is sometimes.” She added, after a brief pause: “We shall all be able to have a bit of peace now that Winter's gone, with his nose poked into all your concerns. My concerns too, for that matter. But you're a just man, I can take that to my comfort. Him to say I was keeping her supplied! What for, I should like to know? He couldn't answer that. No, nor anyone else.”

She settled back into her chair, and taking from her pocket (guarded now against depredations by a brooch made of bog-oak) a stocking and wools, began to occupy her hands as was her custom. From time to time she looked into the fire as a cat will do. The atmosphere of the room was tranquil.

“Of course, as you know very well, Mr. Flusky, she's taking brandy. The doctor won't have her deprived altogether; might go out of her mind if we did that. It's against what I think right, but I give her the dose, and I measure it out like as if it was poison—which it is, for that matter.”

  ― 239 ―

He had finished his tea, and now stood lighting another cigar. She said irrelevantly:

“You always stand on both your feet at once. Excuse me. I was thinking of that young fellow, Mr. Adare, that always used to be lounging and leaning about.” She began to match wool against the stocking she held. “This house is a very different place from what it was with him here. Winter, too. You're like me, Mr. Flusky, penny plain as they say. We can't do with fal-lals.”

She smiled as she bracketed herself thus with her employer, and looked about the room, neat, warm, her own creation.

“You've come on, Mr. Flusky. Since I came here five years back, you've come on like the righteous man in the Psalms, of whom it says: wealth and riches shall be in his house. You'll be able to leave off working one of these days. There's a funny thing to think of; not to have to work any more.” The voluntary briskness left her for an instant. “It would be acceptable, very.”

“How much are you giving her?” said he to the smoke of his cigar.

“That's something I won't speak about, Mr. Flusky, excuse me. Still, it's true she's gone down hill since that young Adare went from here. There's no good my denying what you can see with your own two eyes. He kept her going with-well, I say other interests. Now she don't care.”

“What does doctor say?”

“Oh, him! They can't afford to what I call dot their i's. It pays a doctor to be cheerful.”

  ― 240 ―

She put out her left hand towards him; the grey stocking drawn over it made the attempt at a tender gesture ridiculous.

“We've all got to go, Mr. Flusky. You'll feel it, but it's got to be. It's the best thing in the end for all, and that you can't gainsay. One go, another come, it's the Lord's plan for the world. But there's one will stand by you——”

Who this might be, the Almighty or Miss Milly herself, was left indeterminate. Flusky in any case paid no attention, disregarded the hand, and moved abruptly away towards his map, taking the lamp with him so that Miss Milly was left without light to darn by. She dropped the sock in her lap and sat quiet, doing nothing at all, savouring the funny, the acceptable delight of leaving off working, while he stood tracing with his eye the distance from the Fish River to the Bogan, and reckoning, with breath whistled in, the ranges, flats and forests between.


SUSAN QUAIFE, turning up out of the blue with a small hair-trunk at the house in Woolloomooloo, had her first encounter with Miss Milly on the doorstep.

“Ladyship's orders. I'll just see about that.”

Miss Milly closed the front door, and the girl heard the key turn. She was frightened enough, out of her depth completely, and would—or so she thought when she first

  ― 241 ―
descended from the cart—have been glad of the chance to run. But that click of the key angered her. She sat down upon her trunk. Miss Milly returned.

“There's been a mistake. Ladyship says she never heard of you.”

“I dare say,” Susan Quaife answered. “Nobody can't hear if they're not told.”

“Perhaps you'll give me a little more information, if I might presume to ask. What do you say you've come for?”

“To visit.”

“Oh, indeed! Very good. Come to visit! Whose invitation?”


Miss Milly gave a laugh; then, composing herself and putting on her manner of the trustworthy and decent servant, leaned forward:

“Ah, I see. Very sorry, Miss. The fact is, Madam—she's not always what I call herself. By no means.” She paused, making a slight lifting movement of one hand, which recalled to the girl instantly that emptied tumbler of rum. “She don't always remember what she's said or done. That's how it is. So here's what we'll do. Come in a minute, and I'll have the cart got ready to take your box. A young girl like you! She's never done such a thing before, to my knowledge.”

She stood aside, and the girl walked, hesitating, into the hall. It shone darkly, it was cool; it was the biggest apartment, churches and the Temperance Hall apart, that

  ― 242 ―
Susan Quaife had ever set foot in. Her defiance found its match in the order and spaciousness about her rather than in Miss Milly's assurances, and in the silence, intimidating to one used to the clatter and eternal voices of George Street.

“In here,” said Miss Milly, opening a door, “I'll bring you a nice cup of tea after your ride.”

She withdrew. The dining-room was more alarming to Susan Quaife than the hall. How deep was its carpet, thick as lush grass! How the handles of the sideboard gleamed! They were elaborately cut in brass, swinging between pairs of lion heads, of which every hair and hollow shone. The pictures were darkly impressive, the inlay upon the table nowhere was dulled; the marvelling eye of Susan Quaife counted twelve chairs exactly of a pattern. Nowhere was there anything unsymmetrical or out of place, nowhere a speck of dust. The room silently but with conviction offered a testimony to the character of Miss Milly which the intruder could not but accept. She had not been offered one of the twelve chairs, and did not like to take one. She stood, feeling a fool.

The cup of tea did not come. She could hear no sound. She began to move about; stood at the window, and so escaped for a little the room's insistence that Miss Milly was to be esteemed. It occurred to her that Adare had sat at this table, on one of the twelve chairs; she turned back to stare at the furniture, imagining him with a glass of wine in his hand. But she could make no clear picture of his face. Her practical mind enquiring sardonically what was

  ― 243 ―
the use, she abandoned this effort of imagination and resumed her blank attitude of waiting.

The tea did not come, there was no clock in the room, no sound in the house. She fidgeted with her nails, which were a little ragged, and allowed herself to be beset by the notion that somehow it would be satisfying to cock a snook at this too righteous room. A cupboard in the corner tempted her. It might, from its appearance, hold salt which could be spilt, pepper to be artfully shaken out near the door on the chance that Miss Milly would catch a whiff of it and sneeze with the tray in her hands; a satisfying cataclysm. Susan Quaife, with a grin that was pure George Street of the gutters and the docks, gave the handle a twist and a tug. The cupboard opened; she saw among decanters a leaning, sleeping human head, its hair stiff and yellow as straw, the patterns on its cheeks standing up like flesh under a whip.

She did not cry out, nor at once shut the door. She continued to look at the head, while in her mind the evidence of the calm polished room, the orderly hall, strove with that offered by this new silent witness. She was not shocked by it, she had lived too long by the barrack square to be squeamish, but she was angry to think how nearly Miss Milly had bluffed her. Any house that casually kept such a curiosity in a cupboard was not innocent, however its brass might shine, however cool might be its rooms. That defiance mounted which had impelled her to sit on her trunk before the shut front-door; the recollected click of the lock dictated her next move, to

  ― 244 ―
turn the key of this room, thus momentarily disconcerting Miss Milly.

She slipped out on the verandah, remembered that her enemy's footsteps had marched one way, and stole in the direction opposite, peering in at windows as she moved. There was a big room with a pianoforte in it that looked forlorn, though spotless as the other. This monopolized three long windows, and the verandah went no further. She climbed down on to grass, and stood looking up at the windows above. A sound reached her, knocking and rattling to which she could assign a cause; she listened pleasurably, her eyes busy the while, assessing as a good bet a window with green curtains showing behind white ones. She hollowed her hands and called softly towards it:

“Cooee! Ladyship!”

There was no answer, and she could hear that the struggle with the locked door had been abandoned. She lifted her strong little hands to the first branch of a magnolia tree that was trained by the wall, easily found a footing, mounted towards the window. She caught at the sill as scolding voices broke out on the verandah below, whose roof concealed her now that she was above it. She put both hands upon the sill of the upper window, heaved herself up, lay flat across it for a moment, then tumbled into the room, panting. As she lay, the voice remembered from yesterday, which she loved unwillingly for its likeness to that of Charles Adare; this voice spoke, a trifle blurred with laughter, from the bed.

  ― 245 ―

“That will be the first thing for you to study; how to come into a room.”


“WHAT'S these other places laid?”

“That's for Ladyship coming down, with a visitor.”

“What visitor?”

“Well, that's it, Mr. Flusky, I've been waiting for you to come in. Of course, I'm only a servant.” She paused. “I'm not consulted, quite so. It's your orders she's to do as she likes within limits. But it's my opinion this goes beyond. You may well ask what visitor. It's Quaife's daughter.”


“You know very well, Mr. Flusky. The hangman that was. Now, what do you say? I done my part, laid the table and all, it's for you to say whether you'll sit down to it. It's not my business. ‘Be not curious in unnecessary matters,’ says the son of Sirach.”

Flusky, surveying the table conventionally set, gave a cluck with his tongue.

“Where's Ladyship now?”

“Drawing-room.” Miss Milly gave a laugh. “Old Quaife's daughter in a drawing-room. You'll excuse me, but it does look what I call comical. All things considered. Drawing fowls is more what she be used to.”

Flusky went out by the open long windows, and

  ― 246 ―
turned in to that room which S. Quaife on her exploration had summed up as forlorn. His wife sat in a low chair, dressed, her hair tossed up and held by yellow tortoise-shell combs. A dark girl sitting awkwardly, her legs slewed sideways, was looking towards him with all the silent insistent appeal of an animal compelled to take part in nursery games. She got up and stood as he entered, while Lady Henrietta told her husband that this was a guest, giving no further explanation. He did not offer to shake hands, nor did the girl. He said to his wife:

“You'd ought to be in bed.”

“Later.” She went on smoothly: “It is very good of Miss Quaife, is it not, to give me her company?”

“Is this what you——” He stopped. “I supposed it's all right. Dinner's nigh on ready.”

He went out, and almost at once a gong sounded. S. Quaife, intimidated by the thought of those twelve identical chairs and by the secret of the cupboard, which she had no business to know, hung back a little; but Lady Henrietta's hand was on her arm, that fine slender hand, untouched by the circumstances whose power her face acknowledged. They moved forward together.

At table began a period of uneasiness for S. Quaife. She was in two minds; the defiant mind which knew itself as good as anyone else or better; the mind more timid, which wished to melt into its surroundings and felt safe there. She contemplated the mahogany and silver with an eye which her will kept from widening; inwardly the most astonishing thing about the table was the

  ― 247 ―
discovery of her own legs under it. This mental see-sawing preoccupied every minute while she sat; with each dish, almost each mouthful, a decision had to be made—whether to eat fish as was the custom in George Street, to the tune of I'm as good as you; or to take up unfamiliar implements such as Lady Henrietta was using, and be safe in sameness. She had an odd sensation of embodying in herself the two other people at table; for if Lady Henrietta handled her forks delicately, she used them only to break and leave the food, while Mr. Flusky, selecting forks at random, and shifting them from hand to hand as convenience dictated, managed to make a very good dinner. Questions asked themselves. Ought ladies not to eat much?

“Better try a glass of this, Hattie. Madeira wine; just a toothful.”

“I think I'd rather not.”

But he filled her glass and poised the decanter.

“What about Miss?”

“Oh, certainly. Miss Quaife, you'll take some?”

So it was all right to drink wine, Miss Quaife understood. She swallowed her glassful in one or two gulps, being thirsty, which was one of the only two reasons she was aware of for drinking. The sweetish nutty burning taste disconcerted her, and increased her thirst; somewhere under her ribs warmth began to diffuse, as from a small brazier secretly lit. Her host had barely spoken to her, she observed that, so far as he was concerned, the decanter existed for show. “He has been whipped, perhaps by your father——” and yet here he was, could

  ― 248 ―
buy up her father's shop and never miss the money, hobnobbing with His Ex., and married to a ladyship. Currency declared at once and hotly that excellencies and ladyships were naught, but was obliged to recognize that to rise to them from the puzzling-sticksnote in the barrack square must be reckoned something. For currency was shrewd; knew that while there was nothing like five shillings' worth of silver in a dollar, yet a dollar bought five shillings' worth of goods.

The meal ended amid these confusions of thought, with a slight inviting bow of Lady Henrietta in Susan Quaife's direction, once the decanter had come to anchor in front of the host whose glass held water only. She observed that the hostess had not touched her wine. Her mind's eye set an empty tumbler beside this spindle-shanked glass, compared the quantity and power of the brown liquor in each, but could not make a sum of it. Again, they were in the drawing-room together, and the awkwardness of S. Quaife's legs became evident once more. She made conversation to distract attention from them.

“Who's that let me in to-day?”

“It would be the housekeeper, I imagine.”

“Do you like her?”

“She is useful. Very economical.”

“But you don't have to look at money both sides.”

Lady Henrietta lifted a hand, smiled, was going to answer—

“I don't like her,” said Susan Quaife in a rush,

  ― 249 ―
“she tells lies, too. Said you knew nothing about me.”

“Nor I did. Nor I do.”

At that, which seemed to herald some sort of questioning, the girl blushed suddenly and violently, and knew why. She could not say it, but she was in this house by reason only of Charles Adare, copying a way of holding forks in his honour, enduring for his sake a hundred blank misgivings, irrational fears, and scoldings from her currency conscience. She did not turn away, nor attempt to cover the blush. Lady Henrietta's eyes dropped first, and she spoke, looking at her hands:

“You must have wondered very much that I should come the other day and speak to you. You may hear them say—Milly say—that I am not always very well. That is true, but you must not think that I did not know what I was doing.” She saw an expression—“Milly told you something like that?”

“I locked her out, anyway,” said Susan Quaife, evading the question.

“There's something I want to show you. It will make us known to each other better than anything I can say.”

She took a paper from the long swinging gold bag upon her arm, and held it out; the girl backed a step or two.

“It is from somebody you know. Won't you take it?”

The girl said, the blush burning away under her eyes till they shone:

“I can't read. Not writing.”

“I see,” said Lady Henrietta with simplicity. “I'm

  ― 250 ―
sorry. Would you care for me to teach you while you're here?”

Before the answer, Miss Milly came in quietly upon them both.

“Time you was in bed, ladyship, if you please. We don't want you tired out. It's been a long enough day.”

It was the abrupt but devoted servant speaking, but she handled her keys as she spoke, beating with the bunch upon the palm of her left hand, a gesture which had its own significance for the girl. Men with just such keys went about their business in the gaol quarters, and spoke jovially to her father, beating time to just such a commanding measure. She owned an antipathy to gaolers, who, rather than judges and juries, made felons out of free men. She answered Lady Henrietta's question, not choosing to observe Miss Milly.

“I'd be thankful.”

“Very well,” said Lady Henrietta; but the acquiescence was spoken to Miss Milly first, her eyes sliding up for an instant towards the righteous woman's face before she smiled at the girl.


“There's only one thing Ladyship's doing to-night, and that's bed. I'll bring you up your little something when you're settled.”

Lady Henrietta's eyelids flicked once or twice above her smile.

“Perhaps it would be better. Perhaps, just for tonight. I'm a little tired.”

  ― 251 ―

“Tired! So you'd ought.”

Miss Milly said no more, but she tightened and elongated her lips. The girl, coming out of her own excitement, saw that in fact her hostess did look deathly ill. On impulse she went to her chair.

“She's not used to you,” said Miss Milly; and that sentence, too, might have been addressed to either of the hearers. “Here, you let me.”

She pulled the girl aside, and taking Lady Henrietta behind the elbows, pulled her up. Her hands looked unpleasant against the white skin, but they were strong, they knew their business, and Lady Henrietta obeyed them. She went out to the clink of keys. Once again S. Quaife was left, alone and ripe for mischief, in an unfamiliar room.

She walked about it. No mittened governess had told her not to finger. She had the illiterate's pleasure in things that may be handled, and the young creature's delight in novelty. She fingered, therefore, such novelties as china shepherds whose knee-breeches were beautifully patterned with French lilies; small oval pictures in which each hair seemed separately painted; boxes made of tortoiseshell with designs in silver nails; and a fan whose ivory sticks, held against the light, showed lattice work and little climbing Chinamen. This last she was holding before her face when a shadow across the lamp lost her the Chinamen.

“By yourself?” said Mr. Flusky. “Where's my wife?”

  ― 252 ―

“Bed,” S. Quaife answered briefly and rather rudely, because he had surprised her spying on his possessions.

He did not take the tone amiss. They spoke on equal terms.

“How did she get hold of you?”

“Came and asked me. I didn't know her. I thought it might knock up a lark. She spoke very nice.”

“What's the idea?”

She spoke, with difficulty hardly surmountable, the name of Charles Adare; something about a letter.

“What's he got to do with it?”

“He told her to——” She stopped; but in fact, that was all there was to say.

“Ay,” said Mr. Flusky as if to himself. “All right. You're very welcome.”

He went out with that, and left her again to the toys. But she could no longer give them her attention, so engrossed was she with the spectacle provided by herself moving about in this house, its question awake and dinning in her ears.


THE mornings came, greeted by locusts. Gradually the air thickened with the scent of hot grass, and clouds which floated above Sydney's hills at the sun's rising sank below them, leaving the sky clear and very pale. This was a month of hot days.

  ― 253 ―

Susan Quaife was beginning to know that true horror of being suddenly pitchforked from one way of life to another, the difficulty of discovering a new endurable routine; lack of occupation beset her, like a foe fighting by the clock, from seven until twelve in the morning. Had it not been for certain expressions in Mr. Adare's letter which she had come to decipher she would have packed up her hair-trunk and gone back to the hot rooms and never-failing occupations of home. Her boredom was such that she had even truckled to Miss Milly, begged for dusters, and received a refusal too civil by half.

“Oh, I couldn't think of it. Ladyship's guest—oh, no. Servants is quite another matter. Unless you was complaining of the dust anywhere. If that's so, point it out, I'll have it seen to, gladly.”

Miss Milly had not forgiven the locked door and the evasion. S. Quaife had not forgiven Miss Milly's attitude at their first colloquy, nor her: Ladyship says she never heard of you. It was as much the wish to give battle, as the desire to come within the shadow of Adare, that kept her in the house. She watched Miss Milly with young eyes that missed nothing and did not know their own cruelty. She tormented her in such ways as suggested themselves, George Street ways, imitating her strut so that the kitchen women could see from their window and laugh, seeking out beetles to put in her slippers. Miss Milly knew well whence the offences came and was silent, taking no measures beyond locking her door, and resolutely wedging her window shut.

  ― 254 ―

Skirmishing thus, Susan made for the kitchen quarters, feeling the sunlight lift and fall like a series of soft blows as she passed one by one the thick wooden supports of the verandah. She looked in at the kitchen window from outside; Miss Milly was not there, old Sal stood by the stove toasting herself a bit of bread, the murderess sat at ease by a basin of water and a heap of potatoes. It was an agreeable picture, and the girl envied both women their air of belonging to the environment, their occupied hands. They spied her head at the window. Old Sal whipped away the bread into a fold of her skirt before she recognized and laughed.

“Cat's away,” said old Sal jovially.

Susan accepted this as an invitation to enter and make one with the kitchen garrison amid its unladylike activities and smells; she began to help with the potatoes.

“You put me in mind of that young gent,” said old Sal, lavishly spreading dripping. “He was a proper nib, what's this his name was, gone off with the blacks somewhere—Adare, that's it.”

“Adare,” echoed S. Quaife, halting her knife. “What about him?”

Old Sal, rocking with pleasure, told how Mr. Adare would come into the kitchen and take a hand in what was going on. Many's the time he had accepted from her just such a slice of nice dripping toast as that which she was preparing. And she recounted the adventure of the poached eggs, pointing in proof to the fly-blown decorations from which three roses still were missing.

  ― 255 ―
S. Quaife looked long at the gaps, and encouraged old Sal.

“Go on. What more did he do?”

“I tell you one thing he did. Got her out of the house.”

Old Sal indicated with her head the slippers, Miss Milly's emblems, now restored to their place. “ ‘She getting your lady the lush,’note he says to the master. ‘If ladyship's on the lush I know who she gets it from.’ He was sharp, Mr. Adare, he was fly to her.”

“What did Mr. Flusky say?”

“Oh, she took herself off, but she left him with a flea in his ear. ‘It's not the lush,’ she says, ‘she's off the lush,’ she says. (And so she was, while Mr. Adare was here.) ‘That's not what you got to look out for,’ she says, ‘it's her dabnote you want to keep your eye on.’ Have a bite of toast, duck?”

S. Quaife, understanding and taken with a horrid sick qualm, yet could not resist the temptation to know more.

“What happened then?”

“Oh, after that ladyship come and give the orders. Him too, Mr. Adare come. ‘Madam Sarah, would you give your attention to the bacon?’ he'd say. ‘Just a glance from those eyes as you dish up, that'll curl it proper.’ He was a nib.”

“Was that right, that about——”

  ― 256 ―

She could not finish the question. Old Sal, however, understood, and rolled her eyes sentimentally.

“Ah, I don't blame nobody. When a woman follers her heart——”

“No, but was it?”

“He never,” said the murderess unexpectedly from among her potatoes, “for all Mr. Flusky thought so. I was housemaid, used to make the beds then, and I'd take my oath——” She stabbed ferociously with her knife in the direction of the slippers. “It was her. She want a man herself, for all her tex's. She didn't care for to see ladyship getting right.”

“Nor didn't Mr. Flusky, come to that. Well, he was jealous, oh, something terrible. Put me in mind of Mr. Vaux one day when I'd been out with a friend, one of the family—But I won't say he had any reason. No, you don't catch me talking ill of the dead, it's unlucky for one thing.”

“Who's dead?”

“This Mr. Adare's dead, you wasn't listening. Mr. Flusky, he fixed up a rig with Ketch the black, and this poor young feller Adare, he was a go-alonger, why you could gammon him a penny was a dollar by daylight——” Old Sal sighed sharply, and sucked dripping off her toast. “Off he went.”

“But Ladyship's had a letter. She's read it to me. He's all right——”

“Well, she may. I don't say no. But Mr. Flusky, he's not one to put his hand to the plough—chah, I'm talking

  ― 257 ―
like Milly. He's not one to slip up. If he says croak,note croak it is. Ladyship or no ladyship, letter or no letter, Mr. Flusky didn't want him, and he's gone. Same as that Winter.” She ate her toast luxuriously, dipping the crust in a cup of water to soften it. “But it's Milly at the bottom of it. He gets his way, so does she.” Old Sal winked above chumping jaws. “You'll see, once Ladyship's gone, somebody'll be in her shoes.”

At that, her sharp ears catching a warning jangle in the passage she thrust the remains of her bread into the fire, smeared her mouth with the heel of her hand, and became attentive to a seething pot. Miss Milly, entering, observed Susan Quaife by the table and ignored her.

“Ladyship's tray. Ladyship won't be down to-day.”

Susan Quaife had learned a good deal. One of the things learned had sunk already below the surface of her mind, where it ached—Adare's presumed death, and the reason for it. A violent anger, the alternative to tears, possessed her, together with a feeling of powerlessness. She dropped her potato knife deliberately, and went across the kitchen to where Miss Milly's slippers, stately twins, reposed under their chair. She picked them up, dressed her hands in them, and made them scamper ridiculously over the chair-back.

“Pardon me. That's my property you're making so free with.”

Susan Quaife did not answer, beyond obliging the left

  ― 258 ―
slipper to perform a pirouette. She heard behind her back one of the women snort.

“You heard what I said—miss.” The right-hand slipper gave a kick and came down in the fifth dancing position. “Will you kindly put them shoes down? I'm asking you. I shan't ask twice.”

Susan Quaife, letting her shod hands fall by her sides, turned to face Miss Milly.

“If I don't, what'll you do?”

“Never you mind.”

Susan Quaife laughed offensively at a retort which revealed that the threatener had no further plan.

“Who are you, I'd like to know, coming into my kitchen and taking up my property as if it belonged to you?”

“You've got to call me Miss, anyway,” Susan Quaife answered, clapping the slippers against her thighs.

“And a right Miss you are, too. Jest not with a rude man, it is written; nor girl neither. I know my place, if you don't know yours.”

“Why don't Ladyship come down?” Susan Quaife asked, defiantly.

“Because she don't choose. She's took ill again.”

“Whose fault's that?”

“Ah, there I wouldn't like to say.” Miss Milly put off the shrew, and chose another manner from her armoury; that of the preoccupied housewife, too busy to attend to children. “Now you put down them slippers and run along. And keep quiet.”

Susan Quaife hesitated a moment, dropped the

  ― 259 ―
slippers, and marched out. It was not the retreat of a beaten army, but rather of one outmanœuvred, which must seek another position, more favourable, before challenging again.

But at two o'clock as usual, most punctually, Lady Henrietta did come down; restless, her hands quivering, she descended to the drawing-room and the lessons began, Susan sitting at the desk, her legs gathered ladylike under her. She worked a while to the pointing of a pencil, then observing how the other's hand now and then dropped like a dead creature, said in a burst:

“Don't go on. You're sick.”

“A little nervous,” Lady Henrietta admitted. “It's because I wouldn't take my medicine.”

“You'd ought to take it, then.”

“I don't think so,” said Lady Henrietta, smiling, but uneasily. “I do better, I believe, without it.”

The lesson proceeded. Reading from the Bible, and from a book called Tales, by Miss Edgeworth, whom Lady Henrietta had known in Ireland. It was the phrasing of these pages, perhaps, that touched Susan Quaife, or a description of one of the young men, or the voice of the reader; for after a page had been stumbled through, when Lady Henrietta read it again aloud, to show how it should go, she broke out of a sudden, jumping up from the low chair:

“What's the good?”

Lady Henrietta closed the book, seemed to gather and reserve herself, sitting completely still.

  ― 260 ―

“What's the good, what did I come here for? I knew it was silly, I knew that the first day.”

“Has somebody been unkind?”

“I don't care what they say, it's not that.”

“If you're not happy—— But it is such a pleasure to me to have you with me.”

The girl did not speak, only looked sulkily and long at her feet, as during their first meeting.

“You are so much younger, it is dull for you. I forget that at seventeen one wants to have done with schooling.”

The girl hesitated, and went forward, breasting her trouble.

“That letter—you know.”

“Yes? The letter?”

“Oh,” said Susan Quaife loudly, “what's the good? It's cruel, I call it, when you knew all the time he was dead.”

Lady Henrietta heard herself speaking the truth, slow and hollow, a voice out of a wall.

“I did not wish to know that.”

“I was a proper softy,” the girl went on angrily. “A proper flat. Lessons——” she spurned Miss Edgeworth. “As if it would ever have been any good.”

Lady Henrietta said:

“It was for myself. To keep Charles alive in myself. I can't explain wholly. You are too young.”

Susan, astonished for a moment, went back to her anger and the jealousy that drove it, of whose existence she was not so much as aware.

  ― 261 ―

“Young, am I? Don't you trouble for that. I know all I need to. It was your husband sent him away, wasn't it? What for did he do that?”

“You've been listening to kitchen talk.”

“That's where I belong, the kitchen. That's where I'm best off. I'm not one for drawing-rooms, never could be.”

“His letter——”

“His letter, yes, written just the way he and you talk, so's a person like me can't understand, so's not to mean anything. Rude about my Dad, about my way of speaking——”

Susan Quaife's anger was coming close to tears. Lady Henrietta stood up. She spoke low.

“I have become very fond of you. I never had a child. But you are free, of course.” The girl did not look at her, fighting tears. “When I brought you here it was because your existence, your face—so like as he described it—gave me some kind of assurance that he was not dead. I cannot explain my thoughts very well. Only you must be sure I did not mean to make you unhappy.”

The girl turned away, took up the ivory fan out of its box; the lattice-work was blurred to her eyes. Behind her, painfully, Lady Henrietta's voice went on:

“You spoke of my husband. I don't know what they may have told you. But here is something that I will tell you. Years ago, in Ireland, I shot at a man and killed him. My husband took the blame for it; transportation for seven years, and other punishment besides. I spoke to you of that. So you see——” The voice failed, and

  ― 262 ―
resumed more strongly: “You may think of me what you please. But when you say my husband sent him away, was responsible for his death, that isn't true. That is a thing nobody must say.”

Susan Quaife muttered:

“I never said it was his fault.”

She felt that Lady Henrietta had come behind her; a dry fine hand closed over hers that held the fan's sticks together. She said sharply:

“Don't do that.”

Susan began in good earnest to cry, with a first rasping sob that surprised and dismayed her so that she could make no further resistance. She had a vision of her own hand ridiculously prancing in an embroidered slipper an hour ago, now for no reason brought out of its sphere to lie between these two ivories. She wrenched it away; then, awkwardly turning, with her head sought the comfort of the other woman's warmth. She wept standing, hands by her side, one still clenched upon the fan, while Lady Henrietta held and very gently rocked her, not speaking.

When the tears ended, and she was drawing away ashamed, Lady Henrietta said, not as a question:

“You won't leave me.”

“Not if you want.”

“I do. I do want.”

  ― 263 ―


No secretary, pallid from five months' voyaging under hatches, was despatched by the Assignment Board to the house in Woolloomooloo. Whether Flusky's refusal to take gentlemen stumped them, whether among the combmakers and dancing masters was none who could handle a pen, Winter's place was not filled; and Miss Milly, coming in to the map-room of an evening with tea, was accustomed to find the master deep in papers, moving lips as he slowly and heavily ciphered.

“It's too bad, Mr. Flusky, as if you hadn't got enough work of your own, with this new school and all.”

“I'm not much of a screever. What's that, tea?”

It was tea every night, and every night he asked the same question. Miss Milly poured a cupful as he liked it, strong, with plenty of sugar.

“Isn't there any writing you'd like to pass on to me?”

“You got your own work, plenty of it.”

“It's not work so much as keeping an eye——” She sat down; another nightly custom. “But of an evening like this I've nothing to do. What's a pair of hands for only to work? Of course there's some thinks different.”

It was as near as she could come to a hit at Lady Henrietta and S. Quaife, idling out their afternoons over poetry, or stitches on canvas no use but to frame. As though Flusky had understood her true meaning—and yet it was his nightly question, invariable as that about the tea—he asked:

  ― 264 ―

“Ladyship all right?”

“Well, Mr. Flusky, you seen and heard her yourself at dinner-time.” But she had something of her own to add. “She's not taking what the doctor said she should take.”

He swallowed his tea, frowning, and put down the cup near her to be refilled.

“You know my views, so to speak. It's not for me to force brandy down anyone's throat, without it's a matter of life and death. Still, I got to speak for myself. She'll be getting the horrors, we'll have her howling round the house like a kangaroo dog, and it's me that'll have to settle with her, not that bit of a girl, and not you neither.”

Miss Milly checked and went on, holding the filled cup out to him:

“Mr. Flusky, what's this girl here for? Ladyship's sick, and I'm paid to put up with her, whatsoever she may do. But there's a thing I won't put up with. Immorality I won't put up with. That you know. And, if I make no mistake, we've got some more of that young man's leavings here.”

Flusky with an impatient movement of his big hand tried to possess the saucer; she held to it, a frail bridge. He took up the cup without it, and walked away to the end of the room. She followed.

“Why, that young Adare before he left, it seems he had this girl's petticoat off of her. I heard them laughing, her and Ladyship; a petticoat, fancy that!” She halted the upward lift of her voice. “Wait on Ladyship,

  ― 265 ―
yes; she's your wife, Mr. Flusky. Wait on Mister Adare's leavings, no. Dead though he may be.”

She was ineffectual and knew it, standing with a blue saucer shaking in her hand, addressing a back that would not turn. She caught at self-control, knowing that to play her old card was to throw up the game, and spoke in another tone:

“Excuse me. I was going to say, come what may, I'd never make trouble for you.”

“Ah,” said he to the map's sterile white spaces, and turning, put down his cup upon the saucer which she automatically held to take it.


ALL her life Susan Quaife had worn without self-consciousness Botany wool in winter, prints in summer; in all her life she had donned one grand dress only, that with the gum flowers in which she had appeared at the Patrick's Day ball; and this, even, had been a loan from the gad-about wife of a sergeant. Now it had been determined, after study of the fashions in such collections as La Belle Assemblée or The Ladies' Elegant Souvenir, that Susan should endeavour to possess a waist, bosom, shoulders; in one word, a shape. She had no true inclination to this, appreciating the loss of liberty inherent in a shape; yet the prospect of for once being fine was not without temptation for her. Currency (be under no

  ― 266 ―
obligation) striving with natural vanity, lost the encounter.

The establishment kept by R. Bourne was chosen. The proprietor recollected Lady Henrietta and set out his best on the counters, pleased to find his own prophecy come true. They learn, mused the proprietor, that there's shops as good as George Street; they learn if they stay long enough.

Susan, out of a kind of shyness, the desire not to seem too eager, hung back a little from the preliminaries. She heard, however, the shopman's question:

“Would it be for self, madam, or daughter?”

Lady Henrietta, smiling at the girl over her shoulder, answered clearly:

“For the young lady. You must not show me pinks or browns.”

“The colour of the eyes, madam, blue, quite so. I have a periwinkle here, very suitable——”

Susan, drawing nearer gradually as a bird to crumbs, put out a finger and thumb. There was no rasping sound as she rubbed the stuff; idleness had brought her fingertips to a softness correct for such ladylike purposes as feeling silk.

“Miss prefers that shade? Very sweet, very much the young lady——”

Susan restrained the muttered denial: No young ladies here. The shopman draped her, casting extravagant silks upon her shoulders like some Eastern potentate adorning an odalisque, rapturously bringing out his most

  ― 267 ―
treasured blandishments, standing back, darting forward:

“Certainly, madam; harmonizes if I may use the word—new out from England this last week—nothing at the price to be seen in Sydney, don't care where you look—if His Excellency had a lady, she couldn't do better—three shades, periwinkle, sea-green, white—— And the styles, madam, have you any, so to speak, notions?”

They discussed the styles; shoulders widened with lappets, three flounces or four, not so much lace being used nowadays, beautiful piece of Limerick on madam's gown, nothing too elaborate, nothing conspicuous, nothing in the way of a spencer, Sydney very warm, quite so.

Susan, standing apart, heard this polite interchange of shopping jargon with contempt, yet felt a pang of fear. Silks and muslins, with the behaviour necessary to and consequent upon silks and muslins, set bonds invisible upon their wearer. No walking in dust, no impromptu meals, no running out hatless for any young lady cased and billowing in these materials. They implied too complete acceptance of a new way of life; the road to escape was closed by them, George Street cut off, invisible behind their sheen. She came behind Lady Henrietta to say:

“It's too much, too many. One's enough—I don't really ought to have even that.”

The shopman, silenced by this interjection unique in his experience of young ladies, heard Lady Henrietta make an answer which rendered the situation less intelligible still.

  ― 268 ―

“My dear, allow me this indulgence.”

“I'll never be able to wear them.”

“We'll get plainer things for morning.”

“For mourning?” The girl took the word at its sinister value, stammered out something about having no right and turned away. The shopman, shrewd, puzzled, stood looking from one to the other. Lady Henrietta rose quickly to go to her.

“I didn't mean that. Indeed, I think you have a right—But I meant, dresses for the day.”

“I couldn't wear those at home, it would look—they'd laugh.”

“But you'll be with me.”

The girl's look denied that and dropped. She hated herself for seeming ungracious, all the while a vision of George Street closing frightened her.

Lady Henrietta said no more, leisurely returned to the counter.

“Be so kind as to put aside lengths of those colours I have selected. The matter of the style and making I prefer to leave for the present. We have other establishments to visit.”

She called to the girl, bowed pleasantly to the shopman dashed down from his heights, and went out. He, bowing, ruminated:

“There's a queer start. Smooth, the lady, very smooth. A girl jib at silk dresses, that's new. That's never her daughter, I'd tell my oath; speaks too rough. Something up there. A madam picking up a girl? That's like it,

  ― 269 ―
getting her in her clutches, price of shame, eh? My silks——”

And he regarded them, turning to do so; had some momentary idea of making a noble scene when the madam came back, as she would surely do, having paid; relinquished this on second thoughts as not being business; and contented himself with watching from his door and shaking his head at the progress of the two figures down the street.

The figures were arguing:

“You said——”

“I know.”

The heat had increased while they were withdrawn in the shop; it was now insistent. Dust suddenly lifted above a crew of cur dogs darting from a side street, and hung after they had passed, drawn up almost like vapour by the power of the sun. The flies were pestilent.

“It is of no use, then, to go to other shops?”

The girl answered by catching at her companion's arm; a vehicle had almost run them down while they marched thus blindly, voicing alarms and persuasions. From this vehicle, unexpectedly, a voice first and then a gentleman descended.

“Lady Henrietta, surely! Do, if you please, give me the pleasure of taking you up out of the dust, and your companion too.”

They halted, and within the next minute Susan Quaife, elated (for which she reproved herself), had shaken hands with His Excellency. She kept her mouth

  ― 270 ―
shut while her companion and this legendary being exchanged amenities.

“We became tired of our shopping, and there is an hour before the carriage meets us.”

“I might offer you a chair at Government House; but I believe we should all be cooler in Mrs. Macquarie's seat.”

“Oh, by all means. That would be delightful.”

The vehicle turned, making for that pleasant road three miles long which a Governor's wife had caused to be made within the Government Domain. One rocky point near the shore still was known as her Chair, and no place could be cooler on such a day. As the horses swung, the harbour water shone like pewter between the trees; it was too windless a day for colour. At the Chair they dismounted, the Governor scanning his watch.

“It so happens that I have an appointment half an hour from now. Wilks shall set me down and come back for you. Meanwhile, let us be easy. It is this matter of your husband's school, by the way, that takes me from you.”

Lady Henrietta bowed, after an instant's hesitation. She was smiling, and appeared to the sidelong eye of Susan Quaife untroubled; not the same woman who, in the dust of King Street, had almost tearfully pleaded. Sham, thought Susan; stalling it off; but she envied this armour of manner, so supple, so readily donned, proof as her own silences could never be against social ambush.

“This country must stand on its own feet, says your

  ― 271 ―
husband; breed and train its people to its own conditions which are unique, rather than depend upon the caprices of English crime for craftsmen. At present the malignancy of individuals at home is such that you cannot catch them in misdemeanours; all the farmers and carpenters and builders that we need are resolutely respectful of the law, they will not be criminals, the law cannot transport them. Meanwhile our horses here go unshod and our houses blow away. It is a state of affairs which Mr. Flusky designs to alter.”

“Are you telling me that my husband has said all this?”

“Well——” His Excellency laughed. “Mr. Flusky believes in deeds rather than words. His view is that you cannot mistake the meaning of a blow or a five-pound note, whereas you may listen to a lawyer for hours and be never the wiser. But I don't need to interpret Mr. Flusky to his wife.”

He addressed a remark to Susan Quaife:

“I believe that deeds alone will not do for young ladies, though. They like something more poetical.”

“Miss Quaife was born here,” said Lady Henrietta quickly. “She knows the value of performance very well.”

“Does she? Then she is something rare among young ladies. I had one refuse me once because I could not read a charade for her.” His Excellency went on, staring at the ships lying like logs, their ensigns drooping, down in the airless bay. “Someone like Charles Adare; there is your real ladies' man. He has other stuff in him too, but it has

  ― 272 ―
been overlaid with chat and agreeableness. It remains to be seen what this country will do for him.”

There was no answer to that. His Excellency, looking round at his audience, perceived that both faces were perfectly white, and that the elder's eyes were fixed upon him. Swiftly he recollected the gossip that had prevailed before Adare's departure. Some truth in it, then? Well, no harm done if there were. He went on, through the silence:

“Six months of wandering may have taught him something other than how to cross a drawing-room. He has paid for the lesson, though. I daresay Mr. Flusky told you of his illness after the rescue.”

“What?” interjected Susan Quaife. The word came out like a shot fired among the rocks of the Chair, loud enough to echo. The Governor looked at her, a quick questioning glance.

“My husband told me as much,” said Lady Henrietta in a voice level as the water in the bay. “It has been a most cruel experience.”

“They found no gold. I'm glad of that, at least. A young country, like a young man, should not start life with too much or too easy money.”

“What is your latest news of Charles?”

“Why, there is nothing beyond what I gave your husband three weeks ago, that Dixon's messenger brought. The next, I hope, will come from our young man in person. He will be in time for Mr. Flusky's foundation-stone-laying, where——” His Excellency

  ― 273 ―
took out his watch and rose—“where I shall most certainly meet you again.”

“Most certainly,” she echoed, and gave him her hand, not rising.

“Good luck to your purchases. Wilks shall return for you both.”

Susan was looking at him without moving, mouth open as if to speak; then, suddenly, she thrust out her hand and he felt it cold through the silk glove. Another of them? questioned his Excellency's eyes. Not Charles, surely? Odd company for her Ladyship. A pretty creature, though.

The horses went off at a languid trot. Susan Quaife took a quick deep breath, and let it out, half-whistling, looking after the carriage. She stood with her feet apart like a boy, and surveyed Lady Henrietta as she sometimes watched Miss Milly, cruelly alert. She said, obscurely:

“Well. So that's all right.”

Lady Henrietta did not budge. Her head was leant backwards, her eyes had closed, as though she were recollecting or intently listening. The girl went on:

“I never shall get what your game is. You knew all the time—all this time.” Silence; no denial. “Why isn't there nobody that will talk straight?” She paused, forging jealous suspicions, then voiced them. “Was it to show me up? I know how I look by you. You talk right, I don't. Knives and forks and reading—all that. If anyone saw us together it's me would look the fool. In spite of

  ― 274 ―
everything, all that brandy what the doctor ordered. Fond of me, bender! I'm off home.”

She stood a moment, gave a little stamp like a horse, and set off, almost running, down Mrs. Macquarie's road.


THE girl walked fast. The hot roads seemed short to her; the dust, though she blinked at it, was powerless to annoy. She was on a pinnacle of anger up above it all. Her young pride puzzled away at its wound like an animal at a thorn. She was white in spite of the day's heat as she turned in at the doorway under the barber's sign.

Half-way across the shop on her way to the stairs she stopped. A nose that she incredulously recognised was between her father's fingers, his razor was clearing soap, together with some very fine fair hair, from a lip more familiar in dreams than in fact. She stood; and for the first time in her life the thought came to her mind: How do people feel that are going to faint, going to die? Then Mr. Adare, one cheek white, the other ruddy, was beside her. She held to him instinctively for an instant.

“I'm back, my dear.”

“I see you are,” said she; pitiful translation of all that was in her heart.

“Can I speak with you?”

“You better let Dad finish,” said she, her eyes on his soapy cheek.

  ― 275 ―

“Damn Dad. (No offence, Mr. Quaife.) Where can I talk to you? Let's go and walk somewhere.”

Mr. Adare impatiently wiped the soap off with a handkerchief. She said nothing, steadily looked at him. She heard her father's voice:

“No going out of my shop like that, like a half-clipped prad.note No, you don't, Mister.”

Susan pushed open a door that led to the kitchen. The customers waiting, of whom one had already established himself in the forsaken chair, exchanged glances. Mr. Quaife himself executed a complex gesture involving both hands and one eye, of which the meaning was not to be mistaken; Gent, spoony, on the square, she's hobbled him. Adare shut the door.

The kitchen was small and hot. It smelled soapy; steam rising from towels drying on their horses clouded its one small window. Susan, for something to do, was wiping this with her hand.

“That's it,” said Mr. Adare. “Plenty of light. Turn round now, let's look at you.” He took both her hands, the damp and the dry, and turned her. “Different, a little. Your hair is done another way. I like it. Susan, have you remembered me?” She nodded. “Is that all? Remembered now and then? With kindness? Or indifferently? That fellow I ran away from on the night of the ball, that silly young man who talked too much and made me angry. Is that how you thought of me?” She moved her head slightly; do what she would, she could not

  ― 276 ―
look at him full in the eyes. “Not like that? Well, I'll tell you a secret. It isn't the way I've been thinking of you either, away in the bush.”

Suddenly she recollected the anger which had been startled out of her at sight of him, and pulled her hands away.

“What is it?” said he, letting her go. “I won't touch you, if you don't want. But I don't deny it's something I've contemplated more than a little these last months. Touch of you; sight of you. I saw you most clearly—here's a queer thing—the night I thought I was dying.”

“Have you been very sick? You're thin.”

“Very sick,” said he gravely. “Sick. Lost. Lonely. It was the devil of an expedition.”

“It'll put you off, I shouldn't wonder.”

He answered the half-expressed meaning, her fear lest these past unhappy and dangerous months should have sickened him of the country, with an outburst that astonished her.

“Susan, you don't know it, you've never put your nose out of George Street. Sydney's nothing, a makeshift. But the country's great and exciting. Susan, it's country that could feed the world and that you can be quiet in. Put me off! It's got me; I can never leave it now.”

“I'd have thought——”

“Don't think. You haven't seen it. You will, though, with me. Come on, and we'll forget all the barbers' shops in creation.”

She backed a step away from him, and at last met his

  ― 277 ―
eyes. They were honest and eager, above ridiculous cheeks that did not match. She said, watching for the expression to change:

“I've been out at Woolloomooloo these last weeks—”

“You have?” said he, catching her up. “God bless Lady Hattie! There's a dear, there's a great woman. No wonder you're changed; just a little, just enough to be delightful. I wrote to her, did you know? And asked her to find you.”

“She wasn't fair to me. She——”

“Susan,” said Mr. Adare with simplicity, “we're together again. We hardly know anything about each other yet. Does Lady Hattie matter?”

She would not give in so soon. Her instinct warned her that anger was barren; told her, too, that he was honest. But she could not yield up, with only this brief parley, her freedom. She said stubbornly:

“She's your sort. Talk, and the way she dresses.”

“What's that to do with it? What's the matter with you?” Susan said nothing. “One moment, just before we go on to more important matters, just to ease my mind. Is she keeping off the drink?”

“No,” Susan answered, too readily, triumphantly, “she isn't.”

“Observe,” said he, half-smiling, “the results of schooling. Six months ago you'd have said ‘She ain't.’ ” He was grave again, a young man in earnest, Lady Hattie forgotten. “Six months ago, I was a bit of a fool. I've learned too. If I'd stayed on in this town, coming

  ― 278 ―
here every day for a shave, carrying on playboy fashion—I don't say, my dear, it wouldn't have been an honest pursuit of you. But it would have been ignorant; it would have been the pursuit of a man who was still running after himself. Look at me.”

She obeyed, with an effort that was grievous to something in her, the coltish free spirit. He did not attempt to touch her.

“I'm not changed. (I still talk too much, you see.) Nobody changes, even in the shadow of death. But such as I am, I know and can use myself. Will you have me?”

She held back, still valiantly battling, refusing her own desire to give and have done. He went on softly:

“You are like the country I have been seeing. It is sullen, silent; but if its beauty is for you, then there is nothing to compare, nothing so near heaven.”

She said, feeling the nearness of tears:

“You're changed.”

“I believe you liked the playboy better. Did you? He's there still, he's in grain. You can't kill him, thank God, not with a hatchet.” He put a hand suddenly to the stubbed side of his face, laughed, and rasped fingers back and forth among the bristles. “Look at me again. You behold in Charles Adare's visage at this moment the epitome of his soul. Smooth, the playboy. Rough, the man. Choose which, and choose now. Ah, Susan, quickly, choose——”

With a queer little rueful smile she came to him, hesitated; put a hand first to this cheek, then to that; but at last kissed his mouth.

  ― 279 ―


“WHY only two places to-night?”

“That girl's not back.”

“Ladyship coming?”

“Oh, she's coming. There's no one else, without you'd ask me to sit down with you, Mr. Flusky.” Miss Milly laughed. “There's your favourite ox-cheek pie to-night.”

He sat down to wait for Lady Henrietta, dragging from his pocket a newspaper, tightly folded for convenience of handling. When she came in he looked up quickly as if to guess at her mood, and asked:

“Susan not here to-night?”

“She has gone home. It was only a short visit.”

He nodded, and began to help the dishes. When their two plates were filled, his with pie, hers with vegetables, he looked at her again, this time long. She answered with a shallow smile and began to play with her food; accepted the wine he poured for her but did not drink it, tilting the liquor, coloured like wallflowers, this way and that to catch the light. It gave her eyes occupation; they were steadier than her hand. They sat in silence until the hot dish, the remove, had been cleared. Then Lady Henrietta said, looking into the wine-glass held with both hands before her:

“Tell me something, Sam, if you please. How long have you known that Charles Adare was alive?”

  ― 280 ―

He took time to answer, and before the words could come she had forestalled them.

“You have known for weeks. Sir Richard told you. I begin—I begin to think you are not human. Did you want, then, to torment me? I have suffered.”

He got up, thrust his hands deep in his pockets, and began to walk slowly up and down beside the table.

“The girl, too. She had cause for suffering. Different from mine, but it made her wretched enough.”

“The girl!” The word surprised, halted him. “What's it to do with her?”

“She loves Charles.”

Flusky resumed his march. She went on:

“I should have explained, but I felt a kind of delicacy—We have not spoken much together these last months; and then, I was not sure you would understand my reasons. It seemed a natural thing, somehow, to take up and comfort the creature Charles had begun to love.”

“Natural?” said he, with a jerk.

“Why not? You have done harm there, too, more than you know. I had become fond of the child, and she of me, I think. She won't trust me again.”

He seemed not to hear. He was half a dozen sentences behind.

“Me torment you. What did you mean by that? Suffering—why?” He was at the back of her chair, hands on her shoulders, heavily pressing. “Hattie? Answer, can't you?”

She sprang up, lifting against his heavy hands as though

  ― 281 ―
they had been the fringes of a scarf. The glass of wine went over, in the hurry of that unthinking movement.

“You have waited all these weeks to ease my mind. Was it nothing that I have been thinking you a murderer? Did you not care?”

He stood quite still. She caught at his coat, shaking him, enraged by the immobility which seemed to show him indifferent to her distress. “I have not forgotten it for one waking moment. I understood, I did pity you, I was in despair because you had done a horrible thing for no reason. No reason! I had not even that consolation. I could only think that you had done murder because of me, right or wrong, and hate myself, and resolve——” She shook her head; the outburst of strength was failing. She sat back against the table. “All this time you have allowed me to be unhappy. Why? Why did you not tellme?”

Flusky picked up the glass, filled it, and held the wine to her mouth. She shook her head, straining backwards away from it. He hesitated, then emptied the glass himself, and set it down. He said, puzzling it out:

“It was because of me, then? Not because of him?”

The suffering, the drinking, the fantasies, the frenzies—it comprehended them all; much virtue in it. She answered pitifully:

“You should have known. What do I care for Charles Adare?”

He put his right hand behind her head, pulling it forward and upwards till her eyes were level with his a foot away.

  ― 282 ―

“You was different with him. You seemed ashamed, like, to be yourself for me. Old Quaife's girl—anybody; not me. You couldn't even keep off the liquor for me.”

“Because I was no use to you, worse than useless, and I was ashamed. Not of you. Of myself. And so I tried to escape. It was the only way I knew. I'm not very brave.”

That puzzled him. Before he could take her meaning she spoke again.

“Give me some water, if you please.”

He stood away from her, tumbled some water into a glass and held it out. She put her fingers in it, ran them over her eyelids and forehead, waited a moment. Her pallor, the moisture on her forehead, made her look like a woman dying. Obscurely Flusky seemed to feel this, for he frowned and brushed his sleeve across the drops to dry them. She said:

“This morning, when Sir Richard told me about Charles, I pretended I knew of it. Afterwards, Susan was angry; she thought I really had known. She was bewildered, she accused me. And then she ran away, thinking I had deceived and hurt her, purposely. I said nothing. I let her go. And I lied to Sir Richard, rather than—rather than allow them to suppose you and I were not at one.” She paused. “It cost me something.”

There was silence. A night bird cried, and cried again, passing the window unseen. Flusky put a hand to her hair; the head was bent, and candlelight showed a silver streak that by day she kept in hiding. She did not

  ― 283 ―
speak, nor he, until softly, stroking the silver hair, he asked almost timidly:

“Would he ever marry her, d'ye think? A lord's son——” He paused. His brief laugh implied recognition and astonishment. “It would be like us, only t'other way round.”

“With a better chance. Better hope. Both free.”

He turned his hand swiftly at that, stroking her above the eyes, round the ears; the movement of a man gentling a timid mare. She leaned her head to the hand, and said, with shut eyes, talking levelly as though in sleep:

“I have always failed. All my schemes have been too big for me. What great things I have tackled, what ugly places I have ridden at, Sam! Too big, at least for me. The first of them all it was that broke my nerve, my brother's death; I never got past that, it was always with me, the memory, even here where nobody knew. I ought to have stayed at home and married a nonentity, some squireen or other, and been safe. Instead, I took you, and did murder and never paid for it, and came out to the ends of the earth, and tried to die—— All too big for me, all a failure.”

Above her head he was expressionless, as always when he did not understand and would not commit himself. At the word failure, however, his hand paused.

“If only I had looked different—who was the queen once in Ireland, that had red hair and stood six foot high? That is how Charles saw me. But I could never reign or rule, I can only see and do one thing at a time—not the

  ― 284 ―
wisest thing. If I had looked like Milly, perhaps, I should never have tried all these heroics. Your hand makes my head feel cooler.”

He pressed the heel of his hand for a second hard against her forehead, then resumed the go and come of fingers lightly over her eyes. She said, as though it mattered very little one way or the other:

“I wonder is it too late? I wonder am I going to die after all?”

He said:

“None of that. I'll see to that.”

“Rub me well down, and give me a bran mash.” She laughed suddenly. “Young ladies require something more poetical.”


“Something Sir Richard said. Charles, he meant. But Charles is a difficult sort of poet. He can only work in flesh and blood. He made something of me for a while, only I was not young enough; and then, I didn't love him. She, though, Susan. He may turn her out an ode or, I don't know, a sonnet to Australia Felix.”

Flusky halted his hand to ask, in that lingo which best served his thought:

“Are we squared, then? You and me?”

She answered in the same slang of the hulks; the words sounded odd in her crisp speech:

“Fake away.”

He continued the stroking movements for a minute or two longer, his eyes fixed upon the cupboard

  ― 285 ―
in the corner of the room. She heard him chuckle.

“Sam, what?”

“It's just I was thinking; might as well bury that black fellow's head.”

She laughed, a relief from tension. He turned, reached to the cupboard and pulled the thing out by its stringy hair. As he held it a sound caught his attention and he stood fixedly. Lady Henrietta heard too the sound of footsteps on the gravel, whisperings, and a man's laugh. She rose at the laugh, but did not speak. It was Flusky who said:

“Somebody out there.”

Then the steps were on the verandah, coming towards them swiftly; like a pair of lovers in a play, Charles Adare and Susan stood in the long window, holding hands. Flusky very quietly, and not looking at the table, put the thing down upon it, and after one glance that identified the newcomers, watched his wife. She held out her arms, saying one word:


They came to her. She put an arm about each, bowed her head between them, and kissed the girl's cheek first, then the young man's. Flusky let out his breath as he had been used to do after watching a horse clear safely some dangerous leap. Adare, as usual, was the first to find words.

“I've brought this toad to make her apologies. She had the impudence to give you some uneasiness, running off in a temper. Do your civility, Miss. You

  ― 286 ―
see, she's obstinate, she can't bear to be in the wrong——”

“Let her alone,” said Lady Henrietta, and checked the girl's attempt to speak. “That's over. You're happy. Oh, Charles, how foolish you've been, and how glad I am!”

“Sit you down,” said Flusky. He brought forward two chairs simultaneously, one in each heavy hand, and Adare, with the insight that sometimes informed him, knew that Flusky did this by way of a gesture of friendliness which yet should dodge the ceremonial handshake. It is not his fault that I am not dead; but I can't detest the fellow rightly, blast his soul. Thus mused the young man, smiling, nodding his thanks.

His illness had left him a small legacy of nervousness; a knock on the door caught him midway to his seat and jerked him upright. But it was only Miss Milly entering the room to clear away, her satellite, the petty thief, following with a large tray held firmly against her waist.

Milly saw Adare at once. She stood in the doorway as in a frame; her mouth opened; then she shut it and came forward, beckoning the woman in, to go about her work. Adare would not have that silence. It threatened. He assailed it.

“Don't take our glasses away, leave them, the evening's only begun. D'you see me, Miss Milly? The bad penny, the black sheep, the rolling stone come home with devil a morsel of moss—no, Flusky, we never got sniff of any gold. Hullo, and there's my White Rose of York, isn't it? Promoted to the parlour. Long may she reign. And Milly too, so long as the Lord will let her. Did you know

  ― 287 ―
I was getting married? Here——” He dashed some wine out into a couple of glasses and held them out. “Toss this down to the health of the happiest pair, and the most improbable (present company excepted) that ever Capricorn threw together. Capricious—to spring about like goats; that's what the word derives from, that's us. Come on, now, haste to the wedding!”

He began to hum that tune, presenting glasses with a bow. White Rose stretched out a hand for the liquor eagerly enough. Miss Milly struck it away as her fingers touched it, with a jerky single movement of the arm, the rest of her body remaining still. She said to Adare:

“So you're back. Well, they've had their warning.” She turned to the thief. “Clear this table. That's what you're here for.”

“You can leave it, Milly,” Lady Henrietta bade her.

“What's your drawing-room for?” Miss Milly retorted. “Here it is, eight o'clock. How'm I to keep this house? Sitting over wine too. A new thing for Mr. Flusky.”

“Don't argue.” That was Flusky intervening. “If ladyship says leave the table, leave it.”

“I hope you've got no fault to find with me, Mr. Flusky. I do my work, and plenty more that isn't my work.”

“Yes,” said the girl suddenly and angrily, “plenty of that. What did you mean, they've had their warning?”

“I don't pretend,” Milly went on, speaking to Flusky, “to understand the Lord's ways, they're past finding out. I said to you months ago all I had to say, with respect to

  ― 288 ―
this young man. If you take him back you'll be sorry, you'll go down into the pit, that's what you'll do. And your wife with you.”

“Why can't you answer?” the girl badgered. “Go on, say out what you've got against him, without all this Bible——”

Miss Milly disregarded her, turning to Adare.

“It was always the way, from the moment you set foot in this house. Nothing how it ought to be, everything upside down, even to the women in the kitchen.”

Adare gave a frankly lewd laugh at that. She went on, trembling with anger, hands pressed together at her waist:

“Yes, you laugh. A mocker and an evil liver, that's you, Mister Charles Adare. This girl don't know what she's getting, but whatever she gets it's good enough for her, and that I go bail for.”

The girl had come forward, rejecting Lady Henrietta's hand that implored her to be quiet. She stood by Adare, feet a little apart, looking at the woman who, like a gaoler, carried keys at her waist. Her feeling for the young man, that possessiveness which could not find its way out except brokenly when she spoke to him, took this chance; happiness flowing into cruelty, lacking other outlet.

“He's going to marry me. That's more than you've ever been able to say, or ever will, for all your sermons.”

“I don't have to talk to you, Miss——” and the title carried a sneer; like the word ‘woman,’ used thus in quarrel. Miss Milly turned upon the thief, staring, the

  ― 289 ―
tray still pressed against her waist: “You be off to the kitchen.”

“Lady Hattie,” said Adare, a little alarmed by these feminine exchanges, “don't you think perhaps your drawing-room is after all the place for us?”

Lady Henrietta rose with a look at Flusky, who obeyed it. But Susan did not budge. Mr. Adare's hand at her waist felt a trembling; she took no notice of its gentle persistent pressure.

“Say that again, what you said about him. Say it again, and I'll tell what I know.”

“You?” Miss Milly laughed briefly. “What you know won't set the harbour afire.” She leaned forward, dropping her voice. “I don't wish you no ill, you're young, don't know no better. You think twice, that's all. I'm only a servant, well, a wise servant shall have rule over a son that causeth shame. And that's what he causes, wherever he goes.”

“Who wanted to marry Mr. Flusky?” Susan cried out suddenly, pointing, and beginning to dance like a street child. “Who wanted ladyship out of the way? Who's been planning, and scheming, and waiting to jacket her?note Mrs. Milly Meddler.”

At that there was a moment's silence; silence absolute. The tray broke it, dropping with a clang from the satellite's waist; her feet sounded a panic retreat as she fled. Flusky brought his fist down upon the table, and the

  ― 290 ―
glasses hummed to it. Lady Henrietta came swiftly back into the room.

“Oh, no, no! Sam, don't listen.” She was urgent, her pleading protected not Miss Milly's secret only, but her own. “And you, Susan—Charles, take her away, don't let her be loud and foolish. It's unkind, ridiculous, I can't bear it, I can't indeed. Milly——”

She went towards the housekeeper, stretching one hand in a gesture that said: It is not my fault. I pity you, I have not betrayed you. Miss Milly gave her a stare and moved at last. She put fingers to her waist, unhitched with a single wrench the bunch of keys from her belt, and slashed them down upon the open defenceless hand. Lady Henrietta gave a little gasp, but caught the keys, and turned quickly upon her husband, whose shadow she had seen move forward. He spoke, one single savage word.

“She will go,” said Lady Henrietta, pressing him back with her wounded hand upon his breast, the other clutching at his fist. “Don't hurt her, don't speak to her, let her alone. She will go now.”

Miss Milly went, not speaking, head erect. Flusky took his wife's hand, and looked at the reddened palm. Adare saw the man's face, and felt the curious discomfort which youth endures at sight of older persons moved by passions properly the patrimony of the young. At once he looked away, and thereby spied upon the table the impassive head.

“Flusky, what do you say? Let's have a wake!” The man's eyes questioned him; he nodded downwards. “This

  ― 291 ―
fellow. He ought to have Christian burial. Lady Hattie hates him, he's indecent, and he's been against the law of the land ever since Governor Darling's day. Well, I dare say he mayn't be a Christian, but burial's burial. Let's have up some of the blacks to howl for him.”

He was wrapping the head in a napkin as he spoke, hiding strawy hair, sea-blue stains, in linen whitened by Miss Milly's own hand. Flusky said:

“No fear. They'd dig him up and sell him again, and wear the money on strings round their necks.”

“You may be right,” Adare agreed, busy. “They are mercenary devils, different from us, who only want money for what we can do with it.” He finished his task, and straightened, holding the thing up by the napkin's ears. “Farewell to an unknown! Was he a hero? Or a nonentity? Or just a damn nuisance to all concerned, like most of us gentlemen? No answer. No matter. We'll do without the blacks. ‘So let me be thy choir, and make a moan Upon the midnight hours——’ Will you come, Sue?”

The girl came to him, but Lady Henrietta shook her head as the pair paused beside her. They went out together as they had come, through the window. Adare had taken up a three-branched candlestick from the table, and held this to light them down the path. Their steps sounded crisply at first, then were dulled by the grass. The two left in the room as the light dwindled found themselves assailed by scents from the antipodean garden, stirring memories to which these flowers had no claim,

  ― 292 ―
which were the due of lavenders or lilacs twelve thousand miles and twenty years away. Lady Henrietta spoke at last, on a deep breath:

“Perhaps one needs to be born here.”

He, for once, answered her thought unerringly:

“It's not the country for your sort. I'm all right here. That girl too; she'll do all right.”

“It has beauty,” said she, looking out at jacaranda trees showing ghostly through the dark, and stars appearing, suddenly as lamps lit, across the bay.

“I don't know for that,” said Flusky. “That's not my lay. It gives a cove a chance.”

Then they both sat quietly, listening to young voices downhill, and the pulse of the tide below them.


HIS Excellency Sir Richard Bourke stood up before a number of gentlemen by profession and one gentleman by courtesy, whose attention was focused upon his boots. To launch the expected oratory a platform had been erected, behind whose bunting rose the skeleton of a building not yet finished with bricks and mortar. This in turn took for its background the oyster-grey dullness, lucent, of a December sky. Said Sir Richard:

“I have not been long among you, but one thing I have observed, one characteristic of the inhabitants of the Colony. You have a strong desire of independence; you

  ― 293 ―
are ready, you are willing and able, to help yourselves. Let me say that these are qualities apt to command my most hearty admiration. I am a soldier, I have fought in two hemispheres, and I say, out of that experience, the best soldiers are not always the most biddable. You say: We are at peace now. Long may we remain so! But this is a matter of universal application, and I trust that, should war ever come, you will not let them drill this excellent independence out of you. Each man on his own feet, each man able to maintain himself honestly. That, I believe, is what you would wish as a community for the individuals who grow up and seek to thrive among you. You wish it and work for it. Nay, you are prepared to pay for it; and that is the criterion whereby, in any country, you may find out what it is that the people honestly desire. Mr. Archdeacon, I tread in your preserves, but we have authority for believing that where a man's treasure is there is his heart also. All honour to those who bestow their treasure and their hearts wisely.”

The gentlemen by profession swelled their chests, hearing themselves thus extolled. The gentleman by courtesy continued to regard his boots.

“A man finds himself—never mind the circumstances—in this newest of the colonies of our Crown. He works; he does well for himself through natural aptitude and constant labour. One day he rattles the money in his pocket, and he thinks: I had no help to make this money. But I should have been all the better for help. I should have been glad of a chance to study, and learn the ins and

  ― 294 ―
outs of a trade. So I will give to others, younger men, the opportunity I have not had myself. With that your respected fellow-citizen Mr. Samson Flusky”—more nods and glances—“says to me: Will you sanction the building of a Mechanics' Institute here in Sydney? A place where young men of the labouring classes may go and be taught letters and a trade. I say to him: Not only will I sanction it, but I authorize you to use for your building some of the labour at my disposal. When you have chosen your site and designed that building, let me know, and I shall make it my business to give it public approval.

“Here I stand, ladies and gentlemen, in pursuance of that promise. Your fellow-citizen is performing a public-spirited action. I believe that this Institute, when the roof is on it and the instructors at work inside it, will do service to your community. Under this stone which I am to lay have been placed, according to custom, three coins: gold, silver and copper. They may stand, the gold for opportunity, the silver for knowledge, the copper for application. I have no more to say, except to hope most heartily that the moral riches, of which these coins are emblematic, may ever belong to the young men of this city, and that these same young men, when they come to handle their riches, will not forget what they owe to Mr. Samson Flusky.”

There was dignified applause. A few ill-chosen spectators at the rear of the crowd shouted references to the need of a professorship of prigging, but were hushed down. The denizens of the platform exchanged remarks

  ― 295 ―
behind hands while a hod with mortar and a bright new trowel were preparing for His Excellency's hands.

“Confound the fellow, who wants free labourers? We shall have to pay 'em wages. Mark my word, this is the thin end of the wedge, they'll be stopping assignment. I haven't paid a labourer for fifteen years, I don't propose to begin. Still, it looks well, a Mechanics' Institute—progressive, independent. Oh, it looks well enough. I don't know which is worse, a Governor with notions, or a Governor without. Ah, but this one, say what you like, can sit a horse. Then, by God, he ought to know better than to cock up the emancipists and currency individuals in this way. Flusky won't make a speech, will he? Won't he? His Excellency's talking——”

“I declare the foundation stone of this Institute well and truly laid.”

The platform dignitaries raised a sound that was not exactly cheering, but a sort of decent approving clamour. Their wives at the front of the audience exchanged speculations.

“Her ladyship—absurd it sounds in these wilds—does not appear?”

“Her health—at least, that is the excuse.”

“May not this failing of hers be hereditary? ‘Drunk as a lord,’ you know. There is often some measure of truth in a proverb.”

“Oh, we shall soon have her about again. The young man, you know, is back.”


  ― 296 ―

“Yes, indeed, Mr. Charles Adare is back. And staying with them in Woolloomooloo.”

“Very interesting.”

Most interesting.”

“My husband tells me he saw them together yesterday in Sydney; she in high good looks.”

“And he?”

“Oh, my husband did not observe. Men do not notice other men, you know, unless there is business of some kind. There is your individual getting up to speak.”

The ladies, momentarily quiet, studied Flusky, then resumed their prattle.

“One cannot really blame her. Vulgar, gross, the way his hair is plastered! For a lady by birth, on a public occasion such as this! I too should make an excuse, I believe, not to be present.”

“Especially if you had somebody more presentable to occupy you at home.”

“Hush! He's to speak. Count the dropped h's.”

Mr. Samson Flusky was brief.

“I thank His Excellency. We got plenty schools for book-learning. This will be a school to teach hands their job, what this settlement needs, to my mind, more'n books. What we want out here is to think our own thoughts, instead of other people's. This school will do what it can. I thank you for giving it a send-off.”

He paused, there was clapping, but he did not sit down. The astonished uniforms heard him say further:

“It's a thirsty day. There's a tent rigged up——” his

  ― 297 ―
hand indicated its whereabouts. “If you care to take a glass of anything, my wife asks me to say you're very welcome.”

He sat down, and there was further clapping. Gentlemen sought their wives' eyes, exchanged twitches of the eyebrows and nods. The ladies, inquisitive, yet would not commit themselves. The Governor, they decided wordlessly, unanimously as a flock of birds, must give the cue; and when it was evident from his hand on Flusky's arm that the Governor was to honour the tent, they fell in with the utmost naturalness at his heels, agreeably commenting on the proceedings. So good to take the trouble, quite an impressive ceremony, if only there were a similar institute for cooks, surely not impossible, why not consult—the name twittered agreeably on their tongues—Lady Henrietta? The foremost group ceased its chatter, with interest perceiving that “my wife” was no mere civil formula, it stood for her ladyship in the flesh. They peered forward to catch sight of her.

She was coming out of the tent, a parasol tilted to keep from her eyes the glare of the leaden sky. By her side—the ladies glanced at each other—walked Mr. Adare, so deeply browned that his stock looked theatrically white, and the new whiskers that softened the angle of his jaw theatrically fair. A naval lady surveyed Flusky's expression in preference to watching the advancing couple, as a subtle artist studies his subject in a mirror to get its true proportions; thereby she derived small satisfaction, neither jealousy nor self-esteem could be deciphered.

  ― 298 ―
Lady Henrietta had a smile for Mr. Flusky; indeed the identical smile with which the Governor was greeted reached Mr. Flusky first, and in its full effulgence. The naval lady, cheated of scandal, could only murmur to her neighbour of the Survey:

“Of course, trust the aristocracy to carry off that sort of thing.”

Secret lovers, public drunkenness, plebeian husbands? The Survey lady's wondering glance demanded which of these Lady Henrietta might be carrying off under her parasol. But His Excellency was speaking:

“Well, we have made our beginning well and truly. Ah, Charles! You didn't listen to our speechifying.”

“It went to my heart, sir, to see you bury that guinea under a hundredweight of sandstone. Too much for me entirely. I kept Lady Hattie company, out of the heat.”

Delightful ease, the ladies granted Mr. Adare, eyeing him with the interest that attaches to a careless conqueror. Puppy! thought their husbands, the while they ponderously greeted him:

“Well, sir, what news from the interior? How much gold did you bring back? Any suitable grazing country? Water? You will be having your name on our maps, no doubt. You will be taking up land, I dare say. A change from Ireland! When I was younger——”

Thus the chosen few. In the distance lesser spectators, after wandering about among the piled bricks, and spelling out with their fingers, letter by letter, the inscription on the foundation stone, took themselves off to

  ― 299 ―
public-houses. The convict builders had been withdrawn while the gentry made speeches, in order not to affront enthusiasm by their incongruous appearance and dress; they were locked in a travelling cage half a mile from the site, while their soldier guards took an hour off for dinner. The Mechanics' Institute, as yet a matter of brick rectangles set in the ground, with one imposing sandstone square rising a couple of feet above the courses, remained unattended.

Inside the tent, hotter than the outer air, yet preferred because of its shade, a gentleman with nothing to say, but accustomed to public speaking, had taken it upon himself to propose a toast: His Excellency's health, coupled with that of their respected fellow-citizen. Mr. Flusky made a bow whose clumsiness, had he but known, did something to dispel a current legend: (“My dear, he cannot have been a footman as they say, any butler must have taught him to bow better than that.”) His Excellency responded with a smile in the appropriate direction, and reflected that for his part he must often have drunk good luck to a worse man.

“I wish to God, though,” protested that side of his mind where the prejudices lodged, “I could get the gaol smell out of my nose when I talk to him. They never quite shake it off. There's the walk; something in the look, too. Why didn't Pitt take Mattra's offer, and colonize this country with loyalist Americans after the Independence? It's no disgrace, I dare say, to have been gaoled. Stone walls do not a prison make, as Charles

  ― 300 ―
would say. No, but the imitation of one that they provide is damned convincing where a fellow like Flusky is concerned. What is there about him that could take her fancy?” He saw her face across the crowd. “And keep it, too.”

The champagne had been excellent, but it was finished. There was nothing to detain the ladies and gentlemen any longer from their vehicles and, eventually, their homes. They emerged from the tent, looking appealingly up, bending courteously down, parading their gentility before His Excellency's eye. But Sir Richard, accustomed to cast his glance round about on emerging from shelter to air, and more particularly thrown back towards this military mannerism by the fact that the shelter in question was a tent, had found other occupation for his eye; he stopped in mid-compliment. The uniforms, mutely enquiring the reason, saw that he was staring intently in the direction of that stone so well and truly laid half an hour earlier.

“By Jupiter!” vouchsafed His Excellency; the crowd swung to his exclamation. “The rogues! I wonder it hasn't happened before this.”

Sydney's most favoured citizens then perceived that the foundation stone had been heaved by main force out of its fresh mortar. They checked their steps to exclaim and to conjecture, then advanced, gentlemen leading, upon the phenomenon. Sir Richard did not hurry himself. He sauntered, rightly conjecturing what would be found. In fact, when the military and naval gentlemen, with gentlemen of bar and bench, arrived at the stone, it

  ― 301 ―
was evident that the silver and gold, emblems of opportunity and knowledge, had disappeared; only a penny, symbolizing application, had been left, from which the pop-eyed profile of the third George stared helplessly away from the denizens of his newest dominion.

“Mr. Flusky, if you wish, the ceremony can be repeated. Though I think, you know, that my meaning has already been taken.”

Thus the Governor. But at his elbow a gentleman of the press noted on a cuff: Outrage at Ceremony, and all about the insulted stone, faces of aides-de-camp, clergymen, justices and gentry stiffened or flexed with indignation, according to the temperament of the wearers, above the collars of uniforms.


LADY HENRIETTA spread a letter above the silks upon her knee, with a single glance upwards to thank the bringer.


“It was a great happiness to me to hear of you at last—after how long! I am into the fifth mystery, as the people here say, reckoning by their rosaries, forty-two, and you must be not far off. But there are more agreeable things to be thinking; we will not count the years.

“You have stayed too long in that distant hot country.

  ― 302 ―
Why do you not make a little change, pack your trunks, and come home to some rain and snow? It is blowing very hard to-day, there is quite a stir upon the lake, and the cows grazing have all their backs turned to it. But I dare say what I call a great blow is nothing to you, with your tornadoes and other tropical splendours. Or do you not have these? We know that you walk upside down, that your trees keep their leaves and shed their bark, that your pears are wooden, and your cherries grow with the stones outside. Your winds may be stillnesses for aught I know, and in that case I am sure you would like to see again the stirring of waves upon our lake.

“Charles in his letters says nothing of your circumstances, only that you have been kind to him, and that you are in great beauty. He makes no picture of your house or your life, and I am left to fill in the details with my imagination as best I may. Thus, remembering old days and your predilection for leps and dangers, I have painted an equestrian portrait of you. Is not New South Wales a land of horses? And, I do not know for what reason, in my picture you are always alone. This is nonsense, of course. You cannot be for ever caracoling among the—gum trees, is it? And your husband is by your side.

“I have much to say to you, but my pen is slow, and the ship that bears my thoughts, such as they are, slower still. Oh, for a talk such as in the old days we took so thanklessly for granted! It is a pity that women live so much by trifles, for these show less well upon paper than the

  ― 303 ―
important sentiments men have always at command; and though ours sound well enough in talk, yet to arrange them on paper makes us aware that they are nothing, and we ourselves no more than zeros till a man comes to stand in front of us like a digit and lend us meaning.

“You have your digit, bravely chosen. As for me, Charles told you, I make no doubt, that such meaning went out of my life ten years ago. I am not a clever or brave woman, I have neither ambition nor capacity to make a life for myself as you have done. I put all my eggs in two baskets, one has gone, but Charles may be reckoned still as a dozen new-laid. In plain words, he is all my heart has left. And thus I cannot very well describe, without seeming fulsome, the pleasure I had to hear of him safe in your kindest hands.

“My dear friend! Let me write that again, it gives me so much happiness after all these years. My dear friend, the time seems long, you wrote in your message. And yet as I sit here, with the dogs by me as they always used, and everything unchanged (save when I look in the mirror), time seems, not long, but at a standstill. There is a sound of hoofs now, outside. It might be you, come on a visit for the day as you used, bringing your music and needlework pillion in a basket. I know it cannot, but for a moment I allow my heart to play with expectation. Has it not often seemed to you strange, when the scene remains as it was, that the actors should not make their expected appearance?

“I could talk, but cannot write more. God bless you

  ― 304 ―
for what you and your good husband have done for Charles. May He bless you only for being alive, and for not forgetting me. Do, pray, when all your fortunes are made, come home. I promise you a welcome warm as the turf on our hearths. And now, shall I sign myself affectionately yours? sincerely, truly, gratefully? Take your choice, or better still, accept all four; since I am still, without any doubt, your affectionate, sincere, grateful, and true friend,


A barque, sails spread to a breeze which darkened the harbour water in patches, was moving towards the gap beyond which swung and lifted open sea. Her flags, each with a severely practical significance—departure, has been cleared at Customs, has pilot aboard—made the most of such wind as there was; they struggled in the air from time to time briefly and frantically as fish new-caught. The ship advanced unsteadily, obedient to shoves of the moody breeze, her escape watched and noted by authority in a flicker of signals exchanged:

Fort Phillip:

 Where is the vessel that left the Cove?

South Head:

 Vessel signalized now off Bradley's Point.

Fort Phillip:

 Report movements.

  ― 305 ―

South Head:

 Vessel signalized approaching Heads. Vessel has dropped pilot. Is vessel to proceed?

Fort Phillip:

 Affirmative. Departure in order.

The barque moved outwards, free.

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