Project Gutenberg Australia
a treasure-trove of literature

treasure found hidden with no evidence of ownership
BROWSE the site for other works by this author
(and our other authors) or get HELP Reading, Downloading and Converting files)

SEARCH the entire site with Google Site Search
Title: The Squatter King
Author: George Hurdis Purves
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 1402401h.html
Language: English
Date first posted:  July 2014
Most recent update: July 2014

This eBook was produced by: Walter Moore

Project Gutenberg of Australia eBooks are created from printed editions
which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice
is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular
paper edition.

Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the
copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this

This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions
whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms
of the Project Gutenberg Australia Licence which may be viewed online.

GO TO Project Gutenberg Australia HOME PAGE

The Squatter King
and other Stories

by George Hurdis Purves

Published in The Australasian, Melbourne, Vic.
May 29, 1886 - November 2, 1889


My First Murder
A Question of Identity
A Day in the Silver Market
The Squatter King
My First Mount
Dot: A Reminiscence
A Bay Cob


The following is the Obituary of George Hurdis Purves, published February 23, 1889 in The Australasian.


Mr. George Hurdis Purves, who has been ill for some months, died early on Thursday, February 21, at his residence, Drummond-street, Ballarat, and the news of his death was received by the community with profound concern. The Ballarat Stock Exchange, of which he was the chairman, adjourned for the day, and flags were placed at half-mast on some of the principal buildings. Mr. Purves became unwell some months ago, and early in December he was compelled to absent himself from the Exchange, as his indisposition assumed a very serious character. The spleen was affected, and his medical advisers found that the only chance for him lately lay in the radical operation of severing that organ. This was performed on Sunday by Mr. T. N. Fitzgerald, surgeon, assisted by Dr. Morrison and several local medical men, and for the first two days the patient stood the strain very well. On Wednesday, however, he slowly sank from exhaustion, and died next morning at about 3 o'clock. Mr. Fitzgerald visited him on Wednesday night, and his brother, Mr. J. L. Purves, Q.C., was with him up to the end. The deceased gentleman was 42 years of age, and he leaves a widow and four children.

Mr. Purves's death is a great loss to Australian literature. He was a highly capable story-writer, having a vigorous style and keen powers of observation. Many of his sketches were transcripts of actual scenes, with variations introduced merely to prevent the parties concerned from being identified with living individuals. At the same time, he had large powers of imagination and invention, and all his plots and characters were his own creation—or drawn from nature. Mr. Purves was engaged upon a novel at the time he fell ill—one that we had hoped to place before the readers of The Australasian in the course of the present year. A number of short stories from his pen have appeared in this journal. The principal one was the illustrated Christmas story of 1887—"The Squatter King"—which had what many readers might consider a disappointing ending, an ending that did not wholly satisfy Mr. Purves's own judgment. He felt cramped in the concluding chapters by having to keep within a limited number of columns, and thus was prevented from making the dénoument as effective as he had wished. Although Mr. Purves gave most of his time to business—having the cares of a household to provide for—his heart and soul were devoted to literature, and his highest ambition was to become a novelist. He had many high qualifications for the literary calling, and, we have no doubt, would have achieved his desire before long. His death, at the age of 43, was, in truth, untimely. During his last stay in London, when trying to obtain a connection with some of the magazines, Mr. Purves formed the acquaintance of several leading novelists, who gave him many a friendly hint, the one whose advice seems to have been of the most service to him being Mr. James Payn. He took some pride in putting Mr. Payn's suggestions to practical use. Between Mr. Purves and The Australasian, the most cordial relations existed, and he was aware that our columns were available for everything that he could find time to write.


By George Hurdis Purves.

Published in The Australasian, Melbourne, Vic.
Saturday, May 29, 1886 and Saturday, June 5, 1886

I believe that mine is a unique case, but, if not, it is the only one that I have ever heard of. Men whose lives have been spoilt by their failures are common enough, but how many are there whose existence has been rendered insupportable by success? Yet this is my case, and I drag a lengthening chain of dissatisfaction because I was forced to earn a victory where defeat—constant defeat—might have made me a comparatively happy man. Do not turn from this page, gentle reader. Do not shrink from reading my story, classing me as you do so with Palmer, with Brinvilliers, with the Borgias. Though I am weak and nervous, though I lack resolution and self-assertion, I am not a bad man, and I am, I confidently assert, undeserving of the fate that I have met.

I was perfectly aware, long before my mother-in-law told me so, that I was "marrying above me" when I led the blushing Winifred Drisbergh to the altar, but, at the time, it was a pride and a pleasure to acknowledge it. Thus I felt no annoyance when Mrs. Drisbergh, drawing me aside, after we had partaken of a somewhat frugal wedding-breakfast, put the case to me in, I must admit, a slightly unpalatable form.

"John Smith," she said in her verdict-with-the-black-cap manner, "never forget that you have this day married a Drisbergh. Do not imagine because the Drisberghs are poor, and their daughters for the last few generations have not been dowered as in the palmy days of old, that you are conferring a benefit on our daughter (Mrs. Drisbergh always used the plural as if she were of Royal blood) because you yourself are in affluent circumstances. Remember that wealth is eminently plebeian unless associated for many years with broad acres. Riches may be at times a subject of congratulation—of pride never. Birth is the only attribute which gives a right to pride, and, though I say it with all modesty, not wishing to make a point of our descent, it is the thing which is far above rubies."

I stammered out that I was not likely to forget it (which was quite true, whilst she was at my elbow), and that I fully recognised that I had contracted an alliance far above what I might have expected.

"I am glad to hear you say so," she said, still in that awe-inspiring voice. "Your obscure origin—excuse me for putting it so plainly—is certainly a matter of regret, but during your honeymoon I shall review your social position, and consider what can be done to ameliorate it."

That was the last thing she said to me before we drove away, and it amazes me now to recall the indifference with which I heard the words—words which were to exercise such an important influence on my life. But I was carried away by the intoxication of the moment. As we drove to the station I thought of nothing but the blushing maiden at my side, and deemed myself the luckiest dog in the world!

We spent our honeymoon at Bath, for Mrs. Drisbergh, who had kindly taken the direction of everything into her hands, had urged that that was the proper place to go to, adding, by way of confirmation, that she herself had spent her honeymoon there, which statement, of course, settled the question. Whatever our motive in going there, the result far exceeded my most sanguine expectations. I still look back on our sojourn at Bath as an oasis in the desert of my married life. Not only did we visit with appreciative delight all the local sights, but I rented a little pony chaise—for Winnie "adored," she said, that description of vehicle—and we drove to all the objects of interest for miles and miles around. My wife, who had seen but little of English scenery, was in ecstasies with everything, and her delight enhanced my pleasure. Good-looking as she had always been, she never showed to such advantage as then. A sparkle of excitement brightened her eyes, and a flush of pleasure lit up her cheeks, which made her more attractive than ever. "Dearest," I whispered in her ear a hundred times a day, "are you happy?" And a hundred times a day she answered me (accompanying the remark with suitable action), "Yes! dear John, quite!" She had only one regret, that her mother, that dearly-loved, admirable being, was not with her to share her pleasure. That regret was no sooner expressed than silenced. I promised her that I would take the whole family down there the very next holiday I took, which promise I then considered was amply repaid by a warm kiss of gratitude. But honeymoons, like other moons, are subject to eclipses, partial or otherwise—alas! that ours should have been a total one!—and one bright spring morning, with many regrets, we turned our backs on Bath, and came back to London to face our new life.

We dined the first night—at my wife's particular request—at her mothers. It was a family party. Besides ourselves there were only Mrs. Drisbergh, her daughters Eleanor and Boadicea, and her son Norman who derived his name from "The Conquest," their descent from which the widow Drisbergh was always thrusting under one's nose. I was still so much under the influence of recent events that I managed to overcome my usual reserve, and chatted away the whole time. I even went so far as to praise my mother-in-law's Amontillado—that is what she called it. What is more, I drank it freely. But at last dinner was at an end, and I rose and opened the door for the ladies. Mrs. Drisbergh marshalled out her three daughters, and then turning to Norman, who was a lad of eighteen at the time, told him that she had something particular to speak to me about, and that for once she would like him to join his sisters in the drawingroom. Norman grumbled but obeyed. How gladly would I have changed places with him.

Mrs. Drisbergh took a chair next to me, and, without any preliminaries (she always prided herself on "coming straight to the point"), broached a subject which was to be ever afterwards of paramount importance to me.

"John Smith," she said, she always gave me my name in full when she wished to be impressive, "you will remember that in the last words I spoke to you before you left I promised that I would review your position, and consider how the lamentable accident of your birth and name could be got over. Since then that question and that question only has occupied my mind."

Mrs. Drisbergh here gave me a look over her spectacles which made me so nervous that I upset the wineglass I was fumbling with, and with it also upset what little equanimity I had left. Mrs. Drisbergh was the neatest of women, and the cloth was a clean one, so I fully expected a home-thrust in answer to my muttered ejaculation, "Dear me! How awkward." But my mother-in-law was for once too engrossed with her subject to heed minor matters. I filled up my glass again, and drained the said in one gulp, which fact alone could attest the state of mind I was in.

"Now, of course, your birth cannot be remedied," Mrs. Drisbergh went on.

"No! I can't be born again," I interjected with a nervous laugh.

"Your birth cannot be remedied," repeated Mrs. Drisbergh sternly. "You were born John Smith, and John Smith you alas! must remain. But if you cannot have the status which blue blood gives, you must endeavour to wipe out the—the drawback which attaches to the fact that you are of bourgeois birth. Conspicuous merit can alone do this. It cannot, indeed, place you on the highest rung of the social ladder—that is reserved for us—but it can secure you a highly respectable recognition."

Mrs. Drisbergh walked to the bookcase, and took down the volume of an Encyclopaedia labelled PUE to SOU, and, opening it at the Ss, placed her hand on the open book.

"On consulting this work," she said, "although I do not find that any John Smith has distinguished himself I see that several of your surname have attracted considerable attention. There was Adam Smith, a writer of some eminence. Sydney Smith, also a writer, and a wit of repute. I do not recall others, but . . . .

Now I do not know what possessed me to make such an ill-timed jest, whether it was the Amontillado (which, though vile stuff, had intoxicating properties which were not to be ignored) or the exuberance of my spirits consequent on recent events, but I boldly made a suggestion.

"Oh! there was Goldsmith," I said.

Never had I seen such a look in those awful eyes as they gleamed at me over the spectacles. It annihilated me. Mrs. Drisbergh slammed the book to, and marched like a grenadier to the bookcase.

"Mr. John Smith," she said, as she turned round after replacing the book, "I take your levity as a personal insult."

What would anyone have done in my place? Would they not have done as I did? I protested that the name had come into my head. I knew not how, that without motive I had let it escape me, that nobody could have been in reality more attentive, and that I would work heart and soul to carry out her wishes. So in the end she came round, and explained the designs she had made on my behalf. She had watched me carefully, she said, ever since our first acquaintance, and had been, in consequence, the more easily guided to the only possible result. She knew that I had no taste for, or knowledge of, art, and she had more than once reproved me for attempting to sing, on the ground that I had no notion of time or tone, and had no ear—"one of which qualifications is at least desirable in a musician," she had said. I was not sufficiently well off to go into Parliament, and was too old to enter a profession.

"What remains?" she asked me, as if she were doing a subtraction sum.

I did not answer—not because my one answer had not been a happy one. Besides, no reasonable reply suggested itself.

"Literature remains," she complacently answered; "and through literature you most redeem your lowly birth and homely name. I should die satisfied if I knew that one day you would lie in that Abbey, where so many of our great are buried." She said our great, as if the dead spoken of were her ancestors and relations to a man. "What department of literature do you propose taking up?"

That was "a staggerer" and the worst of it was that Mrs. Drisbergh stopped, evidently meaning to have an answer. Now what department of literature did I mean to take up? I asked the question two or three times, and finding no answer. I repeated it aloud.

"Yes; she said, quietly. "What department do you propose taking up? Poetry?"

I shook my head.


I shook my head again.

"Political Economy?"

"Heaven forbid!" I exclaimed.


I declined again.

"Well, light literature," she said, in a tone which implied that that was as easy as A B C. "Sketches, travels, and novels."

"Light literature be it," I said in desperation. "I will do my best, Mrs. Drisbergh, but don't blame me if I fail."

"Thank you, John," said my mother-in-law, with an amiable smile, as she took my arm. "We will join the young folk in the drawingroom now. You know," she said in the passage, "you need not start with a novel. You can graduate, so to speak, with short stories."

During the evening we talked the matter over en famille, and it was agreed (I use the impersonal pronoun, for really I had so little to do with the matter that it would not be true to say I agreed) that I should start my literary labours the next day, and that Thursday evenings should be set apart for me to read over my week's work. By general consent the plot of my first story was left entirely to me, though Norman, in his boorish way, suggested that it should be a love story.

Chapter II.

The next morning, memorable day! I began my literary labours. That is to say, I bought five quires of manuscript-paper, new pens, new ink, and new blotting-paper. Then, going into my study—for so my smoking-room was already called—I sat myself down before a blank sheet of paper, and for a time merely looked at it. Not but what I had an idea of my ultimate plot, for I had lain awake the whole night, thanks to Mrs. Drisbergh's infernal Amontillado, and had thus had plenty of time to study it, but that the difficulty of commencing it seemed to me almost insuperable. It was to be called "Thou Shalt Not Marry Thy Grandmother," and was to be the story of a lad who falls in love with a woman older than himself. The main incidents being true, and having come under my personal knowledge, I thought that I should have no difficulty in writing it straight off. But somehow my sentences got involved, my antecedents quarrelled with their relatives, and I, who had hitherto prided myself on my correspondence as a model of style and grammar, found myself making slips that any schoolboy would be ashamed of. Then again, when I had written a few pages a new "opening" would suggest itself, and when I had torn up what I had written and adopted my second thoughts a third scheme would suddenly come into my head which I felt bound to employ. Thus after three days' work I found myself with three pages written, and three pages with which I was thoroughly dissatisfied. I went out for a walk, hoping to get some ideas. I got more ideas than I wanted, for during my peregrinations I thought over my story, and on reflection its plot not only seemed to me trivial, but utterly absurd and impracticable. Not only this, but another plot suggested itself to me, which I immediately recognised (I am describing my feelings at the time) as vastly superior to the first. The next day I started that story, but with no better result than the first. When the first Thursday arrived, to my own shame, and to Mrs. Drisbergh's bitter indignation, I had nothing to read.

At my mother-in-law's solicitation I stated in detail my difficulties, and invited the deliberation and advice of the family thereon. I must say that the matter was thoroughly discussed—for we sat from nine till twelve "hard at it" the whole time—though it has since struck me that in these family councils my convenience and feelings were hardly as much considered as they might have been. However, in the end a definite plot was arrived at, and, what was more, sketched out on paper, and I went home, to quote Mrs. Drisbergh, "with the backbone of a charming story, which I had to convert into flesh and blood.

The next day, before breakfast, I started to perform this feat, but, by night, confessed to myself that convening backbones into flesh and blood was not the sort of miracle I was likely to effect, at any rate for the time being. However, within the week I managed, by dint of constant corrections, interlineations, and re-writing, to read to the Drisbergh family the first half of my story. They were alive with expectation and excitement. I was glad to find that on the whole, they were pleased with my first effort, and that, too, notwithstanding my nervousness, which greatly impaired my reading. By the next Thursday the story was finished, and the verdict was favourable.

"For a first attempt," Mrs. Drisbergh admitted, "it is highly creditable."

Now, I have no intention of entering into particulars of the various stories which succeeded "Thou Shalt Not Marry Thy Grandmother"—that, after all, was my first story— for I gradually found the management of my plot easier, the treatment of dialogue less troublesome, and the mere scrivener's work less irksome. It is true that sometimes I got myself into difficulties; placed my heroes and my heroines in positions whence I found it impossible to extract them, and got my plot into an inextricable tangle. But after a while I learnt many "tricks of the trade," and avoided like annoyances by a wise disposition of my plot before I put my pen to paper. Thus before twelve months were over I had twelve complete stories written, and though I had learned to abhor the work, and the very sight of pen and ink made me recoil, I still slaved away for hours daily, "graduating with short stories" that I might ultimately (to please Mrs. Drisbergh, for I was utterly indifferent myself) write an imperishable work of fiction which should secure me a niche in our Walhalla.

Alas! long before my third story was completed I had found out that it was one thing to write, another to get what you have written published. Mrs. Drisbergh and the girls had studiously copied out the various "Directions to Correspondents" which are inserted in the magazines as a guide to would be contributors, and these directions I carefully carried out. I enclosed the required "stamped envelopes," and directed them to myself (which at first seemed to me to resemble somewhat Mr. Toota's memorable proceeding) in a large bold hand. But my contributions came back to me with a marvellous persistency. Sometimes an editor condescended to notice them; sometimes he enclosed a printed form, which stated that he "returned the enclosed MSS. with thanks"; but as often as not the stories came back unaccompanied by any letter. These reverses would have quite satisfied me that "light literature" was not my forte had it only depended on myself. But the Drisbergh Family Council was behind me, alas! and when a story came back they complacently observed, "Well! you must send it to another magazine," pointing out truly enough, that the requirements of all journals are not alike, that what does not suit one might suit another, &c. Thus at the end of twelve months I had as many stories in circulation. (I use that term advisedly, for were not my stories "going the rounds" of the publishers?) No sooner did one come back than off it went again by the next post elsewhere; and the very process of doing up, and undoing the parcels, weighing, stamping, and addressing them was in itself no mean labour.

But this was not all.

At first, when only a limited number had been written, I could "carry in my head" the magazines to which I had despatched the particular articles, but, after a while when the bantlings of my brain had attained double figures, I found that I was in danger of sending the same story twice to one editor, which, in fact, did happen to me once. Under the circumstances, I devised a plan which at least preserved me from making such a mistake again. I bought a ledger which I had ruled and "headed" as follows:—

In the middle of the page, just over the word, "back," I would write in red ink the name of the story to the use of which that particular page was dedicated, and I blush to admit that some of the stories had very soon to be "carried forward" over several pages.

With this ledger under my arm, I used to go to the Drisberghs of a Thursday, who would go through it with never-failing punctuality, and whose first question now was, "How many have come back this week?" Then we used to hold that infernal council, and the "Remarks (if any)" column of the ledger used to be eagerly scanned by the family in the hope that some faint glimmer of encouragement might be derived from the answers of editors, which were duly chronicled under that head. There you might read that "Just His Luck" was utterly unsuitable for our columns, that "your plot is a great deal too involved, and your story much too long and wearisome;" that "Born to Glory" is not of a character to suit our requirements and a hundred other items of useful but unpalatable criticism. But, after all, it was from "Remarks (if any)" that Mrs. Drisbergh derived the piece of information which was to ruin me.

I had just executed my long-standing promise (I had been married fifteen months), and had taken the whole family to Bath—a place to which I had (between ourselves) frequently consigned them in the interim. On my return to town there was quite a heap of parcels for me, about half of them being accompanied by letters. With a sigh, I proceeded to enter them up in the ledger, and had duly "noted" three or four when I came across a letter which differed so much from the rest that it arrested my attention. An editor, in returning "A Seaside-Idyll," "ventured to give me some advice." He pointed out that once a fortnight for twelve months he had been receiving stories from me, all of which he had returned, and suggested that, unless I struck out in a new direction, I should cease sending to him. "You seem to have got into one groove," so the letter ran, "and, in my opinion, a very bad one. Your stories deal with one phase of life only—the mawkish sentimental; your characters are too superficially sketched, your dialogues are wearisome, your situations not dramatic. I would suggest to you the advisability of having your plot very clearly defined in your mind before you start writing, and that you should try something totally different from your previous efforts. For love stories you have no talent. Why not try the sensational?"

There was to be an "extraordinary meeting" that night in honour of our return, and, with my wife on one arm and the infernal ledger—I have not read it, but I have my own idea as to why Dante called his chief work the Inferno—under the other, I walked over to the Drisberghs. You can have no idea of the depressing effect of those "Council nights." I used to feel as miserable as a body at an inquest while it was being "eat upon" by that delightful family. Everyone felt that they had a right to have "a dig" at me. Even Norman, whom I had endeavoured to propitiate by sundry tips, one night produced what he termed "A design for a bust of John Smith, Esq., to be erected in Westminster Abbey," and which, if it was like me, also bore a suspicious resemblance to the ordinary donkey of commerce.

The letter I have quoted immediately caught Mrs. Drisbergh's eagle eye. The last sentence especially engaged her attention.

"Why not try the sensational?" she repeated, looking at me over her glasses. "I understand that it is Mr. Wenkam Lake, the distinguished novelist, who edits The Cornucopia. His advice is surely worth following, and you will not be foolish enough to disregard it."

I need not say that the result of the sitting was that I promised to bring a sketch of a story for the ordinary meeting on Thursday. That evening I went to bed, as always came about when I had passed the evening at my mother-in-law's, with a bleeding heart, which, perhaps, after all, was the proper condition for a man who was resolved to commit murder.

"To commit murder!" you exclaim.

Yes! But not the crime which you would naturally impute to me, namely, the dissolution of Mrs. Drisbergh. The deed I planned that night was but another offspring of my brain. My murder was to be done on paper.

I submitted the plot at the next meeting.

Maud Poynings is a sad flirt, and at the opening of the story is engaged to the Rev. John Jones. The wedding day is fixed, "the wedding clothes provided," when Maud evinces a preference for a recently made acquaintance, Plantagenet Volauvent, a captain in the Guards. Maud is up to the requirements of the situation, and stabs the Rev. John Jones to death in the lonely dell by the cross roads. Captain Volauvent, deeply as he loves Maud, turns away from her now, having an inkling that she is guilty of poor Jones's death, he swears a terrible oath that he will leave no stone unturned to unmask the murderer, though, naturally, he reserves to himself the right to marry the queen of his soul if he proves her innocent. Piece after piece of evidence turns up to prove Maud's guilt, and just when disclosure is imminent she commits suicide. Of course, Volauvent's life is blasted, and so he states, looking very thin in his black clothes, in a soliloquy with which the tale ends. It is called, "Once I Loved a Maiden Fair," after a charming ballad, which my wife sings admirably.

The idea was received with rapture, and so imbued was I with it that I dashed off four chapters (it was to be in nine; before the next Thursday arrived. For once I bent my steps towards the Drisberghs with some pleasure. I had received three stories back that very morning, which fact was recorded in the ledger under my arm (Vol. II. this was!) but I felt that Mrs. Drisbergh's comments would be less bitter when she knew the progress that I had made with the new tale. I had just got to the point where the Rev. Jones has to disappear. In order to make his death the more lamented, and "to heighten the agony" of the situation, I had lavished all the praise my pen was capable of on Maud's victim, and had endowed him with the characteristics of Raleigh, Bayard, and goodness knows whom besides. So I read what I had written with some confidence, which rose as I heard Mrs. Drisbergh comment favourably from time to time under her breath on the way I had performed my task. When I had finished I was greeted with applause and congratulation on all sides. It was admitted by all that I had been especially happy in my pourtrayal of the poor little curate. Nothing could be better.

It was then that Norman made a most unfortunate remark.

"Oh! what's the good of him being interesting? He's to be killed in the next chapter."

The fact was, of course, true enough, but Mrs. Drisbergh and her daughters had been so engrossed in what I had written that for the moment they had forgotten it. No sooner had Norman pointed it out, however, than they were unanimous that the death of Mr. Jones would be a serious mistake. It was in vain that I protested that his murder was the pivot on which the whole story turned; that Mr. Wenham Lake's advice should certainly be followed; that they were urging me to failure. I was met by the simple statement that Mr. Jones was so well drawn that it would be a shame to remove him from the scene so early in the story. It was suggested "Couldn't I kill somebody else?" When I pointed out that if I killed Maud I should have no heroine, and that if I killed Volauvent it would be impossible to find a motive for the crime, I was only met by an opinion that anyone's death was preferable to Jones's.

Now I had stood a great deal in that house and had borne it like a man, but somehow that night—to my subsequent grief and sorrow—I asserted myself. Notwithstanding Mrs. Drisbergh's indignant comment that "It was simply brutal," I determined to carry out the story on its original lines. I received but a cold shake of the hand when I left, and the usual "We shall see you, of course, next Thursday," was omitted. I saw that my poor little wife had tears in her eyes as we walked home, and that she held down her head, which certainly made me feel somewhat a brute. However, like the fine little woman she is, just as she was going to bed she put her dear arms round my neck, and, as she kissed me, hoped my story would turn out well. "You know," she faltered, "that mamma's suggestion is meant for your own good." How I have regretted since not taking it!

Ten days afterwards the story was finished, and my wife, who happened to be in the study, not only entered it herself in the ledger, but did up the parcel with her own neat little fingers. Not only that; she ran up stairs and put on her bonnet, insisted on accompanying me to the post, and would not let the precious parcel out of her own hands. "Oh! Mr. Wenham Lake," she said, as she looked at the MSS.—it was to be sent to that literary light—"Oh! Mr. Wenham Lake! be kind to us, and deal tenderly with our little story!" and I could have kissed away the tear which stood in my darling's eye, though it was in the street and broad daylight, for the kind heart which prompted the speech.

I could not believe my eyes! My hands trembled so that I could hardly read the lines before me! I felt cold all over, and, my knees giving way, I sank into my chair as if I had been shot! By a quick revulsion of feeling the blood rushed back into my face, and, with a hysterical laugh, I dashed out of the room, and, snatching up my hat, rushed along the street to the Drisberghs. I knew my wife was there (she had gone there to patch up the unfortunate misunderstanding which had arisen in connexion with the late Mr. Jones), and though I would have preferred to tell her the news when by ourselves, I felt incapable of keeping it for a minute longer to myself. The door was no sooner opened than I ran across the hall, and dashed up the stairs. I burst into Mrs. Drisbergh's drawingroom, to the utter amazement of that lady, who happened to be seated there with her entire family, and, with an inarticulate gasp, sank into an arm-chair.

Mrs. Drisbergh, waving her daughters majestically back, took the letter which I held out to her from my hand. Even she, Roman matron though she is, changed colour. Her voice, too, faltered when she spoke.

"This is, indeed, news!" she said at last. "My dears! John's last story has been accepted by The Cornucopia, and will appear shortly."

My wife threw herself into my arms. She only said, "You dear, dear, old John," but the simple words were more eloquent than any Demoethenes could have found.

That, gentle reader, was my first murder, and though I have committed scores since the only one that has ever appeared in print I have long since used-up, I may say, all the crimes. I have poisoned, shot, and drowned men, women, and children. I have committed bigamy. I have been divorced, I have married my deceased wife's sister, I have robbed the widow and the fatherless. But all to no purpose. Editors and publishers are blind to my merits.

Thanks to my first success Mrs. Drisbergh has implicit faith in my literary future, and, though I cannot get anything accepted by the editors, confidently asserts that I shall yet lie in Westminster Abbey. And as I am utterly under her thumb and my dear wife is as sanguine as ever, I still grind, grind, grind away at my desk, and have just bought a new ledger, on the back of which, in gilt letters is the number VII. Though I hate the work, and it is a perfect holiday if I am laid up in bed with the gout (which I have contracted, thanks to Mrs. Drisbergh's infernal Amontillado), I can blame on one but myself. I am forced to admit that it was in face of the representations of the whole Drisbergh family that I committed "My First Murder."





By George Hurdis Parves.

Published in The Australasian, Melbourne, Vic.
Saturday, October 16, 1886 and Saturday, October 23, 1886

Part I.

I was born in the year 1809, a year memorable as having given birth to Mr. Gladstone, at Gaude-Petre in Cheshire, a village which owes its name to our family, whose broad acres have surrounded it from time immemorial. Our politics have been consistently of a Tory character, of that "stern and unbending" school, too, at which the greatest of Whig historians has thought fit to sneer, and immediately that I came to man's estate, I adopted them with a warmth that has been a source of satisfaction to me throughout life. Thus at Oxford, as I was a man of means, I was looked upon as one of the most likely men of our party. When a few years afterwards I succeeded my father as head of the family, I more than once made a vigorous effort to represent the home of my fathers at St. Stephen's. But alas! disaffection had even spread to Gaude-Petre! Factories had been established there at the beginning of the century, and, alas! for the reputation of our historical hamlet, Gaude-Petre was the first constituency to send to Westminster that political monster known as a Radical. True to the motto of my race, Semper eadem et invicta, I put up for the constituency election after election, but finding the Liberal majority swelling on each successive occasion, I gave up the fight till the horizon should be clearer, and remained content with a seat in our local "House of Commons," of which I was a prominent and enthusiastic member.

I was not only a Conservative in politics. In social ideas, even in dress, I was true to the traditions of my race. It was with regret that I saw breeches and gaiters give way to trousers, the beaver to the silk "chimney pot," the old-fashioned fob to the watch pocket. Nor have I been able to adapt myself to all these changes. Though my appearance in consequence constantly challenges criticism, I still adhere to the old-fashioned high collar, attached to the shirt; the bird's eye neckerchief, which I wear lightly tied round my throat, seems to me the fittest compromise between "the stock," to which I was so long used, and the ties and scarves of these degenerate days. Waistcoats have undergone many a change, but the cut of mine has remained the same—slightly open, and with a small, turn-down collar. Other garments, too, have varied with the fashions, but I still adopt the mode of twenty years back, and, as likely as not, shall do so to the day of my death.

If I have been a consistent Conservative in my politics and my clothes, I have been none the less so in other matters. Not only have I inherited a family distaste for new ideas, but I have an equally strong aversion to new men, carrying this feeling so far as to extremely dislike even a change of servants. This fact will explain my having kept Tomlins, my man, for forty years. Tomlins has defects which but few masters would put up with. He is old and slow, and he sometimes presumes not only to argue with me, but even to criticise my actions in a manner that does not become his position in life. I have given him notice more than once, but have relented on each occasion. How can I, as a man of Conservative principle, turn away a man whose grandfather waited on my grand father?

I don't know that I could claim any good looks, but I have heard that up to August last I was considered "a remarkable-looking man." My head was a large one, my forehead wide, and rather prominent over the eyes. My face was broad, and clean-shaven (if I except a scanty fringe round my throat), and deep lines not only marked with their crows' feet the corners of my eyes, but indented my cheeks with two deep furrows from the nostrils to below my mouth. My eyebrows, heavy and straggling, were grey; my hair, which was thin, was snowy white; my eyes large, with heavy lids. My nose was straight (remember this!)—my nose was straight, having no pronounced bridge, and was unusually wide at the nostrils. Alas! that this description—true of me but in August, 1885—has to be written in the past tense—alas, that it is true of me no longer.

I had long made a practice of running down to Leamington of an autumn to spend a week or ten days with my brother and his family, and in August, 1885, I paid my visit as usual. Being myself unmarried, I naturally, as the head of the family, took an interest in those who would inherit the name and fame of our ancient race. I had, and have, every reason to be satisfied with them. Herbert's family are good-looking, intelligent, and full of spirit, and, moreover, thanks to their careful tuition, and possibly to inheritance, are likely to profess and transmit the true political faith. Though I saw but little of Herbert and his wife, who never seem to have a moment to themselves, I was thoroughly enjoying my visit in my own way, sauntering about the grounds of The Larches, chatting with my nephews and nieces, or even falling asleep in the garden chairs, and I should doubtless have continued to enjoy it had not my satisfaction been cut short by an event which has cast an impenetrable gloom over my life.

It was a bright, sunshiny afternoon. I had been lazily watching my nephews and nieces playing lawn tennis, taking, however, but little interest in the game. Suddenly my niece Maud aged thirteen—she had always been a great favourite of mine, that girl!—ran up to me, and, catching me by both hands, dragged me to my feet, and insisted that I must join them. It was in vain that I urged my age, my stiffness, my ignorance of the game. Maude hauled away at me with both hands, and at last, idiot that I was, I gave way. I was forthwith provided with a racquet, was divested of my coat, and in a few minutes there I was dancing briskly about the lawn, notwithstanding my seventy odd years, and heedless of the perspiration which had reduced my collar to a pulp. I must confess, moreover, that I soon got thoroughly interested in the game, and after ten minutes' play already meditated its immediate establishment at Gaude-Petre. Whether this idea would have been carried out I know not, for, just as the thought entered my brain, it was knocked on the head—which you will allow, on knowing all, is a happy phrase.

Maud frequently complained that I took balls which should have been returned by her. Notwithstanding her remonstrances, I rushed at every ball, making vicious and generally ineffectual "swipes" at them. Thus Maud and I had frequently come into collision. As yet, however, no harm had resulted therefrom. William returned a ball rather harder than usual to Maud, I must allow. I rushed at it, bending down to make the most of my reach. My partner didn't see me. She struck at the ball with all her force (she has an arm like a smith!); the racquet hit me full on the nose; I saw "all the firmament on high," and dropped on the lawn, the blood streaming from my face. Now, Herbert and his wife were away for the day, but had they been at home I doubt whether Tomlins would have allowed them to have anything to do with me. On occasions like this he brooks no interference. I felt very faint, and when he suggested that I should go to bed, I did not offer any resistance. Nor did I pay any attention to an impertinent comment, which he offered under his breath, that "there are no fools like old fools."

I have always fancied that Tomlins took a malicious pleasure in my discomfiture, especially when he was washing my face with sponge and hot water. Each time that I winced (for my face was most painful), he would make some comment, such as, "It do smart, sir, doan't it?" "She'd ha 'hit yer fur six, if yer 'ad bin a cricket ball," and so on; and then he would dig away into the crevices with a sponge, causing me exquisite pain. It was in vain that I asked him to desist, protesting that I was not particular about every trace being washed off. He was inexorable, asserting that he knew the proper treatment; had not his uncle, the Cheshire Slogger, fought Tom Crib for twenty pounds a side?

Now I have no intention of entering into particulars of what I suffered for a week after my mishap, or of describing the grief of Herbert and his wife when they came back the next day and saw my plight. Nor shall I relate in detail Tomlins's brutality, for such I consider it; how he was more insubordinate than ever, suggesting, as his infernal sponge brought tears to my eyes, that "he was glad the winter was comin' on," as I might try my hand at skating; or stating his opinion that "boxin' was a nice amoosement for gentlemen o' sporting perclivities." Even such a week as that must pass!

Directly I felt sufficiently recovered I started off for home, notwithstanding that my nose was considerably swollen, that both my eyes were blackened, and that my face bore other evidence of the terrible blow I had received. I leave you to imagine that I must have been sadly disfigured, as Mrs. Somers, my housekeeper, did not know me, and burst into tears when she at last recognised me.

As Mrs. Somers and Tomlins were both certain of it, and I had my own misgivings, I determined to have a professional opinion on the subject, and, accordingly, our local doctor was called in. He at once confirmed our supposition. My nose was broken—a very bad compound fracture, too.

"Will it never come straight again," I asked anxiously, "for it seems to me,"—I was looking in the glass at the time—"to have a decided cant, as sailors say, to the right."

"Well! If you left it alone it never would; but—" the doctor began.

"Just wat I told the master, sir," interrupted the irrepressible Tomlins. "I sed e'd never be able ter follow 'is nose again."

The doctor laughed.

"But I fancy that, with a little mechanical assistance," he proceeded, "we shall be able to put things straight" He gave a little laugh at his joke. "We might use splints, but the nose is an awkward thing to bandage. I fancy the best thing would be a nose machine. I suppose you have heard of them. They are contrivances invented for altering the shape of noses should people be dissatisfied with the article supplied by nature, but are very useful in cases like this. You will find it inconvenient, I daresay, for a time, but you will suffer, I trust, but little pain."

As the disfigurement was considerable, I immediately accepted the suggestion, and told him to procure one as soon as possible. The same afternoon he called again with the apparatus in question.

"I didn't recollect," he observed with a laugh, "what order of architecture your late nose belonged to, and have brought with me what its makers term, 'A Roman Improver,' " saying which he produced a little machine from a box, and proceeded to apply it, adjusting the screws according to directions on the box. Apparently satisfied with the "fit," he wished me good afternoon, bidding me have patience.

I had need of it! For nearly three weeks I used to lie back with that infernal invention on my nose—at first in considerable pain and always terribly inconvenienced by its application. I had not been able to read without glasses for many years, and now, of course, could not put them on. Even if I had not needed them I could not have seen past "the Roman improver" which interfered on either side of my nose with my line of vision. I was thus reduced to the employment of Tomlins as a reader, and if you had heard him acquit himself you would have acknowledged it was a desperate extremity. It was not only that he mispronounced, which be did abominably, but he used to run words together, and he never altered the tone or his voice paragraph after paragraph. But not only this. He knew perfectly well what strong Conservative views I held, and he took a malicious delight, as he read me the Standard or Post, in not only picking out Mr. Gladstone's speeches for my entertainment, but in pretending that he was under the impression they were those of Lord Randolph Churchill, or the "Markis" as he called Lord Salisbury. I had long known, that, if a Conservative at all, he was a disaffected one, for I had heard him express views as to "the duties of capital" and such rubbish. But he was too wise to openly avow his heresy. That was the one thing I could not have forgiven him.

My brother Herbert had been away in Germany, and I had been three weeks "undergoing restoration," as the doctor termed it, before he returned to England, and visited me. I shall never forget his look of astonishment when he saw me. He peered into my face again and again before he spoke.

"Dear me, William!" he said. "This is most wonderful! I shouldn't have known you! Your nose is quite a different shape!"

Again he looked at me with extraordinary interest.

"Not only is your nose different," he said, "but your face bears a strange resemblance to—to someone or other," he paused and passed his hand across his forehead, "but to whom I cannot recollect for the moment."

He repeated his expressions of surprise the whole time he stayed with me, without, however, hitting on the person whom I resembled to such a strange degree.

At the end of August I drove to the local station, it was the first time I had been out, and took the train for London. The journey would not deserve mention but for one incident. At a station where we stopped for a few minutes, some people who were on the platform caught sight of me (it must have been me, for there was no one else in the carriage), and began to cheer me lustily. One man, he looked like a navvy, called out, "Give us a speech, governor!" and his suggestion was warmly received by the others. However, seeing that I made no sign of doing so, and did not in any way acknowledge the demonstration of which I was the object, they gradually moved away from the carriage door, though still casting sidelong glances at me from time to time.

When I drove to my hotel, to my surprise the porter, whom I have known these thirty years, did not recognise me. When I told him who I was, he looked at me in much the same way that Herbert had done. At last he came out with this extraordinary speech—

"I thought as I knew you, sir, but I didn't recognise you as you."

If it had not been for Tomlins establishing my identity I believe the man would have given me in charge as an impostor.

"The clothes, the collar, the necktie is Mr. Gaude-Petre's right enough," he told Tomlins, "but I'm d— if the face is! He's as like somebody," he could not recollect whom, "as two peas."

Tomlins told me this as I was going to bed,

"There ain't no doubt as you're the livin' immidge o' somebody, sir," he said, ''but the wust of it is nobody can't say who. There was Mr. 'Erbert, sir, he seed the likeniss. The crowd at the station took you for a dook, at least, sir, an' here's Bob, wot's known yer thirty years, as didn't know yer."

After Tomlins had gone out of the room I got out of bed, lit all the gas, and looked at myself earnestly in the glass. But it told me very little. I saw, indeed, that my nose was slightly larger than it had been previous to the accident, but I could not gauge the alteration, which, of course, had been gradual, and had literally been taking place "before my eyes" or, should I say, "under my very nose."

The next morning, after a poor breakfast—the inevitable result of a restless night—I went out for a walk, hoping to clear my brain and see some solution to my difficulty. I turned down Bond-street, walking very slowly, and with my eyes cast on the pavement. But even thus I had not gone far before I was aware that I was attracting considerable attention. People turned round and stared at me, pointed at me even, and made comments in a whisper on my appearance. The effect of this behaviour on my overstrained mind is indescribable. I was inclined one moment to question them, the next to take to my heels and leave my critics behind me. Moreover, I felt, curiously enough, as if I were a criminal, and as some "sandwich men" passed me with advertisements of Madame Tussaud's establishment, I reflected bitterly that, if things went on at this rate, I might soon by confronted with the announcement that I had been "just added" to that lady's Chamber of Horrors. One or two persons were inclined to speak to me, but, seeing the cold and forbidding look I gave them, they passed on, leaving the greeting which was already on their lips unspoken. I turned disgusted from one of these latter, and looked into a shop window, not at first seeing what was exposed for sale, so engrossed was I with my thoughts. But suddenly my attention was riveted on one object, and as I looked at it I turned pale, my jaw fell, and my eyes ached with the intensity of my gaze.

It was a photograph of a large size, representing a man in his shirt-sleeves, resting from his labour. He had evidently just felled the tree at his feet, for in his hand he still held an axe. But, though I give these particulars here, I did not see them then. It was the face that at the time engaged my attention—the face of Gladstone, THE GREAT APOSTATE! I recognised with a shudder to what resemblance I owed the attention I was attracting.

I was determined to test the matter. I went into the shop and bought the photograph. As I tendered the money, the shopman remarked that "it was one of the best I had ever had taken." Surely no further confirmation was needed. Yet, when I reached my hotel, with trembling fingers I untied the parcel and compared the features with mine, hoping against hope that I was mistaken. Whilst I was thus engaged, Tomlins came in. He no sooner caught sight of the photograph than he exclaimed, "Why, sir, if yer haven't bin an' 'ad yer portray took in yer shirt sleeves." That settled the question. Tomlins, if anybody, should be acquainted with my personal appearance.

There was only one thing to be done, that was to see Dr. Rowell, to whose malpractice I owed my appearance. I ordered Tomlins to pack up at once, and we went to Gaude-Petre by the next train.

When I entered the surgery Dr. Howell rose to shake hands with me, but, as he caught sight of me, that look which I had first observed on Herbert's face, but which I had now learnt to know so well, came over him.

"Dear me!" he said, with a nervous grin, "if I had not known it was you, sir, I should have said it was Mr. Gladstone."

So, then, the resemblance was confirmed out of his own mouth! For a moment I lost my temper, and gave vent to passionate reproaches, upbraiding the doctor in terms which, as he has since told me, would not have disgraced the vituperative reputation of the Home Rule party. When I had exhausted my vocabulary of abuse and reproof I sank on a chair, and listened without interruption to what he had to say. He pointed out modestly, but firmly, that he could not be held accountable for the effect that had resulted; that my nose, from a medical point of view (which, after all, was the only one which justly concerned him), was a wonderful success; and that I was fully as likely to know the result as he was, and should, therefore, have protested before the improver was applied at all.

"Instead of blackguarding me like a pickpocket," he said indignantly, "I think you should thank me warmly for saving you from a life-long disfigurement."

It was in vain that I pointed out to him that there was no disfigurement which I would not have welcomed in comparison with this infliction. He did not see it in my light. However, at my earnest solicitation he went into the case, and, after a long and careful consideration, gave an opinion.

"The bones have knitted so firmly and well that I don't think a nose-machine would any longer effect a change. It would only subject you to pain for nothing. Remain as you are for three months, and see if any alteration takes place. If none does, we will see what can be done."

I took his advice, and at his suggestion I had my photograph taken once a week, in order to accurately estimate at the end of the term any alteration, if any, which might have taken place.

Part II.

Oh! the trials I underwent, the insults I received, the disappointments I experienced in those three wretched months! Every week—every day—subjected me to fresh humiliation, fresh disappointment, fresh despair! Every night I was so tortured by the terrible same sleeplessness born of a disordered brain!

I found the stay at Petre-court during the autumn months, when I had been accustomed to go up to Scotland, irksome to the last degree. But I would not show my face (I should say his face, for it was not mine) in public again, whilst there was a chance, however remote, of presenting my old self. Mr. Gladstone was thoroughly well known in that part of Scotland which I annually visited. If I went I would only meet with fresh discomfiture, with fresh ridicule. So I buried myself in the library at the Court, sent out notes to the friends who annually helped me to keep down my game that there would be no shooting that year, and gave myself up for a time to grief and despair.

I have mentioned elsewhere that I was mainly instrumental in the institution of a local "House of Commons." I had been accustomed, from its initiation, not only to take a great interest in its debates, but to join in them. Though I was long wearied of my solitude, and often felt inclined to walk down to the village and take my old seat in "The House," the fear of ridicule for a time prevented me. But one night that my loneliness and grief weighed on me more than usual, I put in an appearance. As I walked into the well-lit hall, I pressed my hat down over my eyes, and, when I sat down, folded my arms, still keeping my hat on. But this did not prevent my unfortunate predicament being recognised.

A prominent Liberal member—a glib-tongued, lying little attorney, who, I need not say, was not my lawyer—was on his legs. He was arguing that the general feeling of the country was tending towards Liberalism—that his party made ten converts to one that ours did.

"But it is not only in ideas, gentlemen, that this reformation is going on," he proceeded, glancing maliciously in my direction. "It even extends to customs, to manners, aye! and to dress. I have noticed, Mr. Speaker, with no small pleasure, that a gentleman, who has hitherto been considered one of the local props of that tottering structure, Conservatism, has so far conformed to the spirit of the age that he has adopted not only the clothes, but the manner and even the features of our great leader, Mr. Gladstone. I have always understood that imitation is the sincerest flattery, but I have never known a case carried to such lengths as this."

He sat down amidst roars of laughter.

There was no misunderstanding his allusion.

I rose to my feet, boiling with wrath, and regardless of the consequences. But such, uproarious laughter had greeted the sally, and still continued, that I found it impossible to make myself heard. At each fresh gesture the laughter broke out afresh. My assertion that I rose to make "a personal explanation" was received with brutal derision. It is true that I heard entreaties to "let Mr. Gladstone explain, Mr. Gladstone can explain anything," but the mere application of that hated name to me only tended to infuriate me the more. Luckily Dr. Rowell happened to be in "The House," and he prevailed on me to go home without offering any explanation.

Again, on my birthday I received a rather heavy parcel, and with Tomkins's assistance I at last unrolled the contents from its numerous wrappers. It was an axe, and on a label attached was written, "The only thing wanted to make the impersonation complete." I flung it from me with fury, but Tomkins quietly picked it up, saying, "It might come in handy, he'd put it in the storeroom."

It was over this axe that I committed my only weakness. My stay at the Court was terribly dull. I found time hang very heavily on my hands. I had not the heart to go out shooting, it would have reminded me too faithfully of the happy past. To riding I had suddenly taken a distaste, and to fishing, which would have been a great resource, I had been, alas! never addicted. Whilst in this unsettled mood I one day bethought me of the axe, and made the wondering Tomkins fetch it. That afternoon, when I thought I was secure from observation, I stole out, axe in hand, and made for the spinney at the foot of the mill hill. Once there I threw off my coat, selected a stout limb, which was lying on the ground, on which to operate—for I was not ambitions enough to attempt to fell a tree "right off," and set to work to cut it into two-foot lengths. Although I was very clumsy, and found a great difficulty in bringing the axe down true (the wretched thing would come down on the side of the blade), by dint of perseverance I cut off one piece to my satisfaction. I started on the second "length," and, as I was warming to it, put more "go" into my work, bringing down the axe with a ring worthy of an experienced woodman. I should doubtless have finished this piece as satisfactorily as the other had I not met with an accident A piece of wood flew up and struck me a violent blow on the head, which absolutely knocked me down. How Tomkins came to be there I know not, but I found his arm very useful on the way back to the house, nor did I reprove him when he suggested that if I went wood-cutting again he'd advise me to use a cross-cut saw. "Yer can only saw orf a finger or so at that business, sir," he dryly observed, "whereas at this 'ere axe game yer might knock yer blessed 'ed orf."

It would be idle to recount any more instances. Not a day passed without something turning up to remind me of my awful position.

* * * * * *

It had been agreed between Dr. Rowell and myself that we should not see each other during my three months of retirement, in order that he might form a better opinion of the alteration—if any—which had taken place in my appearance during that time. This compact had been strictly observed, with the exception of our rencontre at "the House of Commons " narrated above. My time was up (the phrase suggests a prison, and what was I but a prisoner) on the 2nd of December, and you may be sure I was up at daybreak, and at the doctor's the first thing after an early breakfast.

I had taken the photographs with me. These Dr. Rowell carefully examined, comparing them not only with my face and with each other, but with a large assortment of likenesses of Mr. Gladstone, which he had procured at my suggestion. To my surprise and disgust I saw an ill-repressed smile on his lips, and an ill-concealed twinkle in his eye. When he pronounced his opinion, that "the resemblance was more remarkable than ever." he fairly gave way to his mirth, and laughed till tears came into his eyes. Before he could dry them I was out of the surgery, and roaring out to the coachman to gallop to the railway station, slammed the door to, and sank back in the cushions.

Yes! I was determined to dilly-dally no longer, but to go to headquarters, see my hated "double," and endeavour to come to some reasonable understanding with him. This idea had long been growing on me, and the doctor's want of feeling had clinched the matter. I knew Mr. Gladstone habitually professed a policy of mutual concession, and hoped to come to some satisfactory arrangement with him.

In answer to a letter requesting an interview, I received a post-card, saying that though excessively busy be would spare me a few minutes next day at 10 o'clock. "Bring this with you—its presentation will procure you admission. — Yours truly, W. E. G." Yours truly, indeed!

The next morning, at 10 o'clock to a minute, I presented myself at Downing-street. As I walked down I attracted, as usual, much attention, especially after I passed Charing Cross. But I hoped to reap so much from my interview that I disregarded for once the odious notoriety, and it was with a lighter heart than I had borne for nearly four months that I asked the porter at the door if Mr. Gladstone was in.

I never saw such a look on anyone's face in my life, as on that man's, when I asked this question. As he had seen me approach he had touched his hat with the most obsequious gesture, but now his face assumed, as I have said, the most extraordinary look—a mixture of astonishment, mirth, dismay, and yet civility. I shall never forget! I repeated the question, to the man's further discomfiture, and added, "Why the deuce don't you answer?"

"Why, Sir! He! He!" giggled the man. "It seems so strange you're askin', sir, if you're in."

It was no use explaining matters to the fellow. I told in him a voice of thunder to show me to Mr. Gladstone's room, which I must say he did with considerable alacrity.

I am forced to acknowledge that Mr. Gladstone received me politely, listened to my story with patience, examined the photographs most minutely, and went into my case as fully as he could have done had I belonged to his own party. He was greatly struck by the likeness.

"I must confess," he said, as he made me stand by his side before the glass, "that the resemblance was a most extraordinary one!" which phrase he repeated over and over again, when he sat down. "A most extraordinary one! But what do you propose that I should do, my dear sir?"

I told him that I had hoped he might suggest some remedy—he who is so full of expedients—for obviating the inconveniences of my situation.

"Well, my dear sir," he said with a smile, "I should suggest, if you will pardon me for saying so, that you should, in the first place, cease imitating my dress, doff the costume, and especially the collars, of the day, and wear a scarf or some other modern description of tie."

Cease imitating him! I liked his impertinence! I who for half a century had not altered in any one particular item of my costume! I told him so—and in no measured terms! I must confess, however, that his reputation for polite retraction has not been exaggerated. He made me a most handsome apology.

"I'm glad to find that such is the case," he said, "but I still must urge that to a certain extent I have a prior right to the appearance, which I admit we both identically present. Even if I was not born before you, which it seems I was not, I've so long occupied a prominent position that my identity has become the property of the nation, and any alteration would be resented by what I may term my proprietors. Your case is different. You occupy no public position, the knowledge of your face—what I may term its circulation—is confined to a small circle. Posterity will take but a limited interest in your features, and that only because they happen to be mine. My modesty forbids me to point out how different is my case. Give my suggestion a trial, my dear sir. If it proves useless, you can easily resume your old costume."

It was in vain that I tried to effect a compromise. Mr. Gladstone was obdurate, and I found (as my party has often found) that though he can be yielding enough with aliens, with his countrymen he is firm as a rock. What chance had my halting, ill-formed phrases, my crude, ill-digested arguments, with his close reasoning and regal eloquence? Need I say I gave in, making the required promise. I solicited another interview, in order that he should judge of the efficacy of the change. He turned to his secretary, who sat at a table near, and asked him what time he had to spare.

"What have I to do to-morrow?" he asked.

"At ten to-morrow, sir," said the secretary, consulting a ledger, "Miss Mary Anderson is coming to breakfast, and—"

"I didn't ask you to let me know whom I had asked to breakfast," interrupted Mr. Gladstone, with considerable acerbity, whilst the poor secretary winced under his flashing eye. "Pray be more careful, sir. After breakfast, what appointments have I?"

"At eleven you have to see Lord Rosebery," proceeded the secretary, in a voice which betrayed his discomfiture.

"About the New Hebrides," muttered Gladstone, under his breath. "How troublesome those colonists are! They are always wanting something or other."

"On Thursday, sir," said the secretary, "you have promised sittings to four photographers*, if it is a bright day, in the morning, and in the afternoon you are going to cut down an oak at" . . . .

* Mr. Gladstone is said to have had his portrait taken oftener than any man living.

"Am I engaged at ten on Friday?" interrupted Gladstone, somewhat pettishly, and on his secretary replying in the negative, he made an appointment with me for that hour.

As I had not the slightest idea of the prevailing fashion, I placed myself unreservedly in Tomlins's hands. He knew my reasons for the projected change, and entered into the matter, I must say, with the greatest zest. Under his tutelage I found myself dressed on that memorable Friday morning in a costume as unlike the one I had hitherto worn as it is possible to conceive. I noticed that Tomlins frequently consulted a highly coloured lithograph, in order to see if the tailor he had called in was carrying out in detail all the alterations necessary. I looked at the picture—it was called "The Masher King"—and groaned in my spirit when I saw the result aimed at. However, I submitted quietly—doffed the tight trousers, and the paget coat buttoned across the chest, without a murmur; did not resist when my old-fashioned "flap" collar was replaced by what Tomlins called "an all-rounder," and took as a matter of course the infernal spats and curly, brimmed hat that my extremities were respectively furnished with.

Thus attired I presented myself at Downing-street. This time I took dare to drive. I couldn't face the crowd in that "get up." I shall not notice the effect I produced on the porter, and I shall do no more than mention the fact that a large number of the clerks were evidently on the look-out for my appearance, and treated me with a levity and disrespect which do not speak well for the discipline of the Civil Service. But these incidents affected me strongly at the time, and I was boiling with rage when I was at last shown into Mr. Gladstone's room.

When I entered he was talking to a gentleman, whom I directly recognised as Earl Granville, but he immediately broke off the conversation, rose, and greeted me.

"Granville," he said, "let me introduce you to Mr. Gaude-Petre !"

Now Earl Granville may have a European reputation for manners, but all I can say is that he failed grieviously on this occasion. Directly be caught sight of me he burst into an immoderate fit of laughter, though excusing himself to me, it is true, between the paroxysms.

"I never saw such a thing in my life!" he said, as he wiped his eyes. "If Mr. Gaude-Petre would only consent to sit for your portrait, Gladstone, he would save the nation a lot of its Prime Minister's time," which remark I thought very impertinent, considering I had only just been introduced to him. These are Liberal manners, I presume!

We had a long consultation. Mr. Gladstone admitted that my "masher costume" made matters worse, that it attracted notice without detracting from the likeness, and must be immediately discarded.

"I have it!" he suddenly exclaimed. "Just fancy not having thought of it before! You must grow a moustache!"

But not all Gladstone's eloquence could prevail upon me to do that! Since 1542 no Gaude-Petre had worn hair on the face, and should I, who prided myself on my consistent Conservatism, be the first to break a tradition of my race! Perish the thought! I told him that nothing would induce me to consider the suggestion for a single moment.

"If you are so unreasonable, there is no use discussing the matter further," he said curtly. "I wish you good morning," and he turned to Earl Granville, whilst I indignantly left the room.

I told Herbert, who had come up to town, what had happened, and he suggested that I should go and see Sir James Paget. If any one could restore my features it was he. I did so, telling the eminent surgeon my story at length.

"There's nothing for it," he said, "but to break your nose again. Will you face that?"

I answered that I would face fire, torture, anything to be myself again.

"Very well," he said quietly. "I will go and fetch an assistant to give you chloroform." He went into the adjoining room, and soon afterwards appeared with another gentleman. They made various preparations, which I need not detail, and then he caught hold of my nose to feel "if there was any crepitation still." Suddenly he stopped, "dropped my nose," so to speak, and a grave look came over his face.

"I must warn you, Mr. Gaude-Petre, that though I can promise that you shall no longer resemble Mr. Gladstone to such an extraordinary degree, I cannot guarantee you against resembling other people. I should ask you, therefore, to consider whether you might not be tumbling from the frying pan into the fire. Mr. Gladstone is not a person whom a Conservative would wish to resemble; but what would your feelings be if when your nose was broken you were identical in feature with Sir William Harcourt, with Mr. Parnell, or O'Donovan Rossa, for instance, who—"

Sir James never finished the sentence, for I fled the house. As I rushed to the hall door I fancied I caught sight of Herbert disappearing down a passage; but as he strenuously denies it, it cannot have been he.

From that day I have rarely left Petre-court. I take more kindly to my books, and have even of late admitted Macaulay into my sanctum, just to see what "the other side" has to say for itself. This morning I came across the passage—"It must not be at all strange if Mr. Gladstone were one of the most unpopular men in England."

If all felt as I do, it would not be strange, indeed!


P.S.—The ink was hardly dry when the news, the glorious news, arrived of Gladstone's defeat on the Home Rule question. Since then, as "the whole civilised world" knows (I am even contracting his language, I find), the Conservatives have come in, and Mr. Gladstone has been relegated to the uncongenial shades of the Opposition benches. In this news there is a grain, but only a grain, of comfort. How can I thoroughly rejoice under my terrible infliction? Only last week I ran up to London, and, wishing to test my appearance, popped into the Carlton, once my daily haunt. I had only just passed the door when I met Lord Randolph Churchill arm-in arm with Sir Michael Hicks-Beach.

"I say, Beach, look there!" I heard the former say with a laugh, as he glanced significantly in my direction. "I thought the old boy was going off his head. I'm blessed if he hasn't come to the wrong shop."

Nice language that for a Chancellor of the Exchequer! 'Pon my word I have my doubts as to whether Lord Randolph is not a wolf in sheep's clothing after all.





By George Hurdis Purves.

Published in The Australasian, Melbourne, Vic.
Saturday, April 23, 1887

When Dugald M'Callum sold out of the grocery business he carried into private life not only the goodwill of his customers but a good deal of their spare cash. He had always been a saving man—there were not people wanting who averred that he was abominably near—but as his money had been fairly and honourably won, it was clearly a matter for Dugald, and for Dugald only, what he did with it. His business had been carried on in Prahran. It was not unnatural, then, that when he retired into private life he should have chosen to live in the same suburb. There in a modest weatherboard cottage, surrounded by a somewhat frugal garden, he enjoyed for many years an uninterrupted and well-earned rest, free from the anxieties inseparable from the retail distribution of tea, sugar, and coffee. When I add that he was a strict Churchman, and took his whiskey in moderation, you will understand that there was every chance of his leading a happy life.

As you will have divined, Dugald is a Scotchman, and belongs to the first of those two great divisions into which the Scotch are divided, viz., the Red and the Black. Yes! He is red-haired and red-whiskered, and were it allowed to grow, a fiery moustache would cover his somewhat long upper lip. His complexion is florid and freckled, and above his fat cheeks peer as keen a pair of grey eyes as you might wish to see. In figure Dugald is portly, as becomes the father of ten children (en pannthese, Mrs. Dugald had twins twice); his hands are large, fleshy, and freckled, and on hot days Dugald is wont to present a decidedly damp appearance.

On retiring from business, Dugald placed his money in the very best investments, he is a man who looks to the security more than to the interest. "I like eenterest as weel as any man," he averred, "but I couldna' sleep"—Dugald is very Scotch when he is emphatic "ef ma principles were at stake." (he meant his "principal." Dugald, for all that he was once a councillor of the town of Prahran, is wont at times to make lamentable lapses in the use of the English tongue.) Thus Dugald had a weakness for bank stock and Government securities—a weakness which, paradoxical as the assertion may appear, was his great strength—and had never been known to take a risky investment. I say, "had never been known," for alas! the present tense can be used no longer! Dugald has been tempted, and it is my painful duty to relate the how, the when, and the where.

About a year ago there came to live next door to Dugald a dapper little man, whose bright contented manner and well-to-do appearance attracted his attention. On inquiry it turned out that he was a stockbroker, that his name was Stephen Morse, and that he was reputed to be "up to the neck" in all the good things connected with the Broken-hill silver mine. Now, Dugald loved the discussion of monetary topics, and, after a few diffident advances, ended by making the acquaintance of Steve Morse—an acquaintance which ripened day by day. Oh! you should have seen Dugald's eyes glisten when Steve, who was a raconteur of the first strength, told the story of some great market coup! You should have seen his Scotch ears prick when his friend hinted at a coming "boom" in the market! You should have seen the beads of perspiration stand out on his fat forehead at the relation of the enormous profits made by the original holders in the big silver mine! "I'd ha' liked to ha' been een it," he murmured more than once. "I'd ha' liked to ha' been een it," and his greedy eyes attested that he spoke from the heart. A hundred times he was on the point of venturing, but his caution restrained him at the last moment. But caution, like the pitcher, can be tried too often, and a few days ago the habit of a lifetime came to grief.

On the 28th of last month Dugald was in town on business. He had purchased a "wee bit o' property" in his favourite suburb, and was so satisfied that he had made a good purchase that he was, as men in like predicament are wont to be, mighty well pleased with himself. The day was warm, and Dugald was, as usual, perspiring. As he walked down Collins-street, a pocket-handkerchief in the one hand, a brown-paper parcel in the other—this contained a plump crayfish which the frugal Donald, on such a prosperous day, had been unable to resist—a smile of contentment lit up his broad face. He was conscious of having done a good stroke of business, he did not owe a farthing in the world, and—oh! the happiness of it to a man of means!—he had no capital to speak of uninvested.

"You look as if you'd struck oil, M'Callum," said a voice in his ear, and at the same moment Steve Morse held out his hand. "I'd lay six to four that when you smile like that, somebody else is pulling a long face."

Dugald smiled the more. He had the vanity of his race, and liked to be complimented on his shrewdness.

"I dunno about your six to four," he laughed, "but you're a man o' perr-ception. I've med a bit this mornin'; not much for sic' as you, but—'

"Well! You must tell me that some other time, unless, indeed, you are going up the street," interrupted Steve, "because I'm up to the eyes in business. You're not the only man who can laugh this morning," he continued, and in proof of the assertion his lean face wrinkled-up in a broad grin, "and I'll take odds that before night I'll show a better profit for the day than you."

Dugald went up the street.

By "up the street" Steve meant the direction of the Exchange, and a few minutes afterwards they were at the entrance to that establishment. Steve had listened with resignation to the Scot's somewhat long-winded account of his successful transaction, and now by way of a set-off was recounting the state of the silver market. He told his attractive companion how the shares had been up to £110, then down to £100, then up to £103, then down to—but it is not necessary to give the fluctuations which he animatedly described.

"Now, on every one of those rises and falls I've made money," he concluded, and for the life of me I can't understand why everyone hasn't done the same."

Dugald's greedy ears had been drinking in every word. He was dying to speculate, but his courage failed him. Steve read him like a book. He had had his eye on Dugald for some time, and he saw that with but very little more trouble he should land his fish. He knew the card to play with a man of the sort, and rightly judged that the time had come to play it.

"Well! Good-bye, old man!" he cried. "Time is money just now. A market like this has to be carefully watched. I've just had the tip about Broken-Hills," he whispered, "and if you bought yourself some there's about five pounds a share. But what is the use of telling you?" he broke off. "You would be just as likely to back horses as to invest money in mining. So long, so long," and with that he prepared to enter the building.

Dugald was landed.

"Bide a wee," he said, as he caught hold of Steve's arm. "I'm no so sure o' that. D'ye think that et is safe?"

"As safe as a house."

"Perfectly safe?"

"As safe as the Bank of England."

"Well, then," cried Dugald excitedly, "I'm doomed ef I don't," when, as a matter of fact, he was doomed if he did.

There is no man who, breaking through the resolutions of a lifetime, does not feel qualms of conscience, and the heart of the Scot, as he followed Steve's quick feet up the stairs leading into the building, began to beat with a strange throb of anxiety, if not distrust. But a feeling of pride, not unmixed with a greed of gain, made him averse to draw back. So, mopping his great forehead, he followed Steve into a little office, where the particulars of his investment were discussed.

Steve was so positive that it was a really exceptional opportunity that he waxed quite eloquent over it, and his enthusiasm reassured his customer. But neither his enthusiasm nor his eloquence could prevail on the Scot to go in for more than one share. "Ech, man! Isna ninety poun' a nice beet o' money?" cried Dugald, and all that Steve could say would not induce him to alter his decision.

"Well, wait here a minute," cried Steve, and as he spoke he joined a crowd of brokers who were standing in the hall, and who, to Dugald's uninitiated eye, more resembled a football scrimmage than a collection of business men. "I've got you one," he said, reappearing a minute afterwards, "and cheap, too. I paid ninety-one, that's ninety-two to you."

Dugald's eyes opened.

"The pound is my commission," explained Steve, in answer to the look.

"Ees et not rather steel?" asked the Scot in amazement "Why, man, ye weren't a meenit!"

"Oh, I told you time was money," laughed the little broker. "I only wish that you'd bought more," he added impressively, "for they are going to go up like—like Brock's big rockets."

But they did not go up, and if the fireworks to which Steve likened them go up no better, I warn intending spectators against patronising the Melbourne cricket-ground. In fact, they began to go down, and rapidly too. Dugald's spirits went down with them.

"What air they noo?" he kept asking Steve every few minutes. He had at first sat in Steve's office, but now he was at his elbow in the market. "What air they noo?"

When Steve quoted the market, which fell, as he put it, "about thirty shillings an hour," the heart of the wretched Scot went down into his boots—and oh, the size of them!—and he cursed the hour that he had been tempted. What made him even more wretched was that Steve—Steve, who had cajoled him into his wretched position began to get tired of his importunate questions, and would only answer them with scant civility.

"Well, what the deuce is it now!" exclaimed the broker testily when Dugald accosted him for the twentieth time in an hour. "What is it?"

"They're eichty-seven, Meester Morse," whispered the Scot in a faint voice.

"Well! What if they are?" exclaimed Steve sharply.

"What am I to do, man?" asked Dugald.

"Oh! Sell your infernal share, if you're not satisfied."

"Why, man, I should lose five pound," cried the poor Scotchman, with an emphasis on the word "five" that would have been more appropriate had the "five " been "five hundred."

"Well! If you did, it wouldn't break you," commented the hard-hearted broker. "But don't bother me, I'm too busy."

Dugald's face flushed, and the perspiration broke out afresh on his anxious brow. In his amazement at his supposed friend's indifference, he wiped his face with the crayfish instead of with his handkerchief. But no words came from his lips. For the moment he was incapable of speech.

Steve saw his state of mind, and relented somewhat.

"I'm sorry that the blessed shares have come down, but—but they'll soon go up again, you know. Anyhow, there is no good your sticking about the market, and you can't expect me to devote my whole time to you. Why don't you go home and have your dinner?" he suggested, hoping to get rid of his troublesome questioner, "You dine early, don't you? It's past half-past 12."

Dugald's indignation knew no bounds.

"It's verra fine. Meester Stephen Morse," he cried, as he drew himself up, throwing out his chest as he had been wont to do in the council-chamber, "to talk o' goin' home, an' to say I'm botherin' you; but I'm bent on gien you a beet o' ma mind, an'—"

What the bit of his mind was we shall never know, for the latter, with a contemptuous "Pshaw!'' and a shrug of his shoulders, made off as fast as he could.

Now, this conversation had taken place just outside Steve's office, and every word of it had been overheard. A long, lean man with a hungry eye now turned to Dugald, and, as he did so, they mutually recognised each other. Some years before he had been a customer of Dugald, who, however, had lost sight of him for a long time. They exchanged greetings, and then Dugald, whose mind was occupied with the one topic, told the story of his misfortunes, ending up with a piteous inquiry as to what he was to do.

The man smiled.

"H'm! There are three courses open to you," he said in a dry tone. "You can sell, and put up with the loss."

Dugald's face fell.

"Or, you can wait till the shares recover."

Dugald nodded.

"Or, you can buy some more"—Dugald made a wry face—"and average, as it is termed."

"Well! What do you advise?" asked Dugald anxiously, as he bit his lip.

"I shouldn't hesitate," answered his new friend promptly. "I should average. You see," he explained, "if you bought one at eighty-seven—eighty-six, I daresay you can get one for now—you could make a profit on the two when they went to ninety.

"But suppose," interposed the unhappy Scot, "that they never went to ninety."

The lean man, Timpley was his name, smiled again, and as he did so, shrugged his gaunt shoulders.

"They'll go to ninety," asserted the man, in a tone that implied that there was no doubt about it.

"Well! I'll do it," he said, in desperation. "But who shall I get to buy it, as ma friend?"

Mr. Timpley gave a modest cough.

"That's easily managed," he said. "The fact is I'm a broker myself."

Dugald still hesitated. Twenty times he told his new friend to buy, and twenty times he withdrew his instructions. He always wanted to "just wait a few minutes to see if the market wouldn't go back to ninety." But in the end he gave way, and Mr. Timpley was definitely instructed to buy. Apparently he, like Steve, found no difficulty in making the purchase, for he rejoined the anxious Scot in less than a minute.

"I was lucky!" he said, as he made an entry in his pocketbook. "I picked up one at eighty-eight—that's eighty-nine to you. They're all after them now."

Notwithstanding this encouraging news Dugald pulled a long face.

"I expectit to get one aboot eichty-six," he said.

"They've never been that to-day, and you can bet your bottom dollar they won't," Timpley replied. "Well! Let's go and have a drink."

They adjourned to the well-known bar connected with the Exchange. They had just been served when a fellow broker accosted Timpley.

"Sales of Brokens at eighty-five," he called out, and he laughed as if the fact were a good joke. "The British public wants its money."

Poor Dugald put down his glass with such force that the whisky-and-water danced out on to the counter. He fell—the word absolutely expresses the motion—he fell into a chair, regardless of the fact that he had placed the unfortunate crayfish there, and mopped his face.

"I'm jest a ruined man," he gasped.

"Ruined be blowed," replied his friend, in a reassuring tone. "Wait a minute, and I'll ask Daventry what he advises."

What Daventry advised was to sell, and that quickly. In his opinion the shares were going to come down, and would see eighty before night. This advice was duly repeated to Dugald, but all that Mr. Timpley could say would not induce the latter to part with his shares.

"Ef I got eighty-five, man, I should lose"—and here he stopped to calculate his loss—"I should lose four poun' on one, an' seven on the ither." The bare thought of it quite upset him. He sat down again, as limp, and miserable, and befogged a man as there was that day in the city of Melbourne. "I'm jest wratched!" he sighed, and the tone of his voice proclaimed the truth of the assertion. "What will the missis saay?" And the probabilities suggested by the latter query seemed to cause him intense uneasiness.

Now I am not going to describe all that happened that afternoon—how Dugald's spirits rose or fell with each market move; of the piteous appeals he made to Timpley and Daventry and to Steve Morse, aye! and to everyone else who would listen to his tale of woe; how he "shouted" drinks, not forgetting to fill his own glass, to everyone that would put up with his lamentations; or how in the end his devotion to his national beverage began to tell on his excited brain. Nor shall I do more than merely mention the fact that, taking advantage of his condition, Mr. Timpley, who between ourselves, is a "fobber" of deservedly damaged reputation, wheedled a loan of ten pounds out of him after "sticking" him with a third Broken-hill at eighty-five, when the shares were only worth eighty-two.

There is one detail, however, which it is necessary that you should know. Before the market closed Stephen Morse prevailed on his bewildered client to sell his shares. He returned £79 for them, so that Dugald made a loss of £29 on the three shares. A blow like that might unnerve any man. Poor Dugald let his head fall on his faithful companion of the day (I refer to the crayfish, of course-not to Stephen Morse), and thought of his wife.

* * * * * *

Mrs. M'Callum is the most methodical of women, and would as soon think of having hot meat of a washing-day as of keeping her dinner waiting. But she ate the meal that day with a long face, and the children, though they were unusually well-behaved, had a very bad time of it. Two o'clock came, three o'clock, four o'clock, but no Dugald. At five Mrs. M'Callum, whose anxiety had now reached fever-heat, could stand it no longer. Securing the services of a neighbour who occasionally helped her with the washing to look after the house, she donned bonnet and shawl and sallied forth to find her missing lord.

As luck would have it, she met Stephen Morse as she got out of the train. He told her where Dugald was to be found.

"I wouldn't be in Dugald's place for a trifle," laughed the broker, as his eye followed the gaunt female's rapid strides. "No, not for a Broken-hill!"

Now the wretched Scotchman, worn out by the anxieties of the day, and perhaps somewhat overcome by unusual libations, had again fallen asleep. His head rested on the inseparable crayfish, which, thanks to the knocking about it had received, was now in a very invertebrate condition.

He was suddenly roused from this position by a shaking so vigorous that the teeth, and they were his own, literally rattled in his head.

"My did—did—dear—,"he hiccoughed.

"Don't 'my dear' me," cried his infuriated wife. "Be off home this minute."

Dugald prepared to obey. It speaks well for him that, even in that supreme moment of dejection, he did not forget the partner of his troubles. He took up the crayfish from the table, and made a drunken endeavour to cover it up.

"What's that?" roared the Gorgon at his side.


She snatched it from his hand, tore off the scanty covering, and then threw it with all her force to the other end of the bar, where it shivered into twenty pieces.

"Come home!" she cried, as she caught the wretched Dugald by the arm, and with one regretful glance at the "broken victuals" he obeyed.

It is needless to say—or at any rate to any married man—that Mrs. M'Callum does not know of the share transactions. If she did!







Published in the Christmas Supplement of
The Australasian - Melbourne, Vic.
Saturday, December 24, 1887



Part I. 1887.

Chapter I.
Chapter II.
Chapter III.
Chapter IV.
Chapter V.
Chapter VI.
Chapter VII.
Chapter VIII.
Chapter IX.
Part II. 1881 - 1883
Chapter X.
Chapter XI.
Chapter XII.
Chapter XIII.
Chapter XIV.
Chapter XV.
Chapter XVI.
Chapter XVII.
Chapter XVIII.



The preview ad below appeared in the Christmas Supplement of
The Australasian - Melbourne, Vic.
Saturday, November 26, 1887


The Christmas number of The Australasian, to be published on Saturday, December 24, will contain a story written for exclusive publication in our columns by Mr. George Hurdis Purves, of Ballarat. The title of the story is "The Squatter King," and it will appear in a special supplement of 16 pages, with numerous illustrations by the artist of The Australasian Sketcher. Mr. Purves is the author of some clever sketches that have been published in this journal; and he has already won considerable success as a writer of Australian tales. "The Squatter King" portrays some interesting phases of social life in Melbourne; incidents connected with Cup day are woven into the plot, on which they have a determining influence; and this is ground upon which Mr. Purves is thoroughly at home.

"Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
Thou art not so unkind
As man's ingratitude;
Thy tooth is not so keen,
Because thou art not seen.
Although thy breath be rude."
As You Like It


PART I. 1877.

Chapter I.

Everything pointed to the Barrons being well-to-do people, and yet the Melbourne world, with strange perversity, lost no opportunity of expressing their doubt of the fact. It was in vain that Mr. Barron bought town property, on which he erected buildings acknowledged by the press and the public to be ornaments to the city, it was in vain that Mrs. Barron gave little dinners, at which the wines and the cooking were alike irreproachable. It was in vain that both husband and wife spoke airily of expenditure which frightened even the most wealthy of their neighbours. The Melbourne world, in spite of the evidence of their eyes and their ears, doubted. That a good deal of this ill-natured opposition arose from jealousy there can be little doubt. The Barrons were very particular—the phrase is their own—as to whom they asked to their house, and the fact that their guests were invariably drawn from the wealthy and influential classes was not, you may be sure, lost sight of by those to whom the merchants' doors were closed. "I should like to know who the Barrons are," people asked with a sneering emphasis on the name, "to give themselves such airs?" and then details of their past life were sure to come out, in which nothing to their disadvantage or discredit was left untold. Even those who were admitted to their table were half afraid of them, and the more careful of them buttoned up their pockets the while they drank their host's " '47" port.

That people should be so unpopular and be unaware of it is impossible. The Barrons perfectly appreciated the active hostility of which they were the object. But they were wise enough to ignore it. When kind friends repeated ill-natured criticisms they merely shrugged their shoulders, and "wondered that people could be so spiteful," adding that they never spoke disparagingly of anyone, which in the main was true enough. When paragraphs appeared in the society journals from time to time, in which they were held up to ridicule, they discreetly ignored the reference, and thus destroyed half the force of the blow. But the fact that they were invulnerable made them the more disliked, and it would be safe to assert that at the time of which we write there were no two such well-hated people in Melbourne as David Barron and Elizabeth his wife.

Yet their personal appearance and their manners were alike strongly in their favour. David Barron was a tall spare man of a florid complexion. His close-cropped hair was almost white, as was his moustache, which contrasted strongly with his black and strongly-marked brows. His eyes, though deep set and unusually glittering, were frank and pleasant, and his smile a singularly engaging one. His hands, of which he was inordinately proud, were plump, white, and long-fingered, and he had a habit, not unusual with active-minded men, of feeling the edge of the nails of the one hand with the points of the fingers of the other. When I add that his voice was full and round, you will see that David Barron was a man likely to impress people favourably on a first acquaintance.

And so was his wife. Like her husband, she was tall, and though she was unusually stout she carried herself so well that one was apt to lose sight of the fact. Those who had known her as a girl said that she had been wonderfully beautiful, and even at 50 she was still a fine woman. Her nose was clean cut; her mouth, though large, shapely; and her eyes, which were of a light hazel, keen and lustrous. Yes, she was still a fine woman, and would have been absolutely beautiful but for a somewhat heavy jowl and an objectionably high colour.

However, "beauty is but skin deep," and when the Barrons were criticised their good looks did not silence a single tongue.

Even the house that they lived in was brought up against them. "What business have people like that to live in a house fit for a millionaire?" indignantly asked their neighbours (and the most indignant were those who had never been inside the door), and then they would go on to enumerate the particular items which gave them offence. Now, indignation is apt to make critics untrustworthy, if not absolutely untruthful. "Heimweh," the home of the Barrons, was a charming little house, but it was a little house, and in no sense a house for a millionaire. The luxury with which they were supposed to be surrounded existed principally in the imagination of their detractors. The cottage was a pretty one, and furnished throughout in the excellent taste, but it was only a cottage, and Mr. Barron only spoke the truth when he referred to it as such. "Come out to Toorak and take dinner with us," he would say. "Pot-luck, you know; just what's going. Our little place does not unfortunately permit us to entertain. We have no suitable accommodation, and times are so bad that I don't see my way to build for the present; but if our rooms are small, I think you'll find that we rub along pretty comfortably. At times I wish that our house was larger, for Mrs. Barron and myself would like nothing better than to entertain on a liberal scale. We recognise that a duty is imposed on people who go out as much as we do of making a suitable return, but we do our best, my dear fellow"—he would here raise his eyebrows, and smile a modest smile; "and if we do not see more company our poor little place must be blamed, and not Mrs. Barron and myself."

Heimweh stood in charming grounds, and the position of the house had been chosen with considerable judgment. From the rooms at the back of the house there was an excellent view, extending over Hobson's Bay. The windows of the front rooms looked out on a terraced lawn, beyond which shrubberies and flower-beds were tastefully arranged. The garden was Mr. Barron's pet hobby, which gave rise to a rumour, utterly devoid of truth, of course, that he had started life in what he himself would have termed "a horticultural capacity." But that he was "a born gardener," in the vulgar sense, cannot be denied, and Mr. Barron himself would have accepted the designation as no small compliment.

Mr. Barron was in his garden when we first make his acquaintance. He had hurried home from business somewhat earlier than usual, as his roses required pruning, and that was a job which Mr. Barron entrusted to no hands but his own. He had just finished cutting a bush which grew at the side of the drawingroom window, and now was standing back with his head slightly on one side, judging the effect of his handiwork. Apparently the work was satisfactory, for he gave an appreciative nod, as much as to say, "That will do," and then took a step towards a neighbouring bush with the evident intention of operating thereon in like manner. At this moment the sound of voices, and angry voices too, reached him through the open window, and from motives which we shall better understand when we know him better, he stopped still and listened; and as he listened a crafty smile came over his face, in which satisfaction and triumph were equally blended. Leaving him standing there, we will go into the house and make the acquaintance of two young people, whose career is of no small interest to us.

"Then I presume we may consider our engagement off?"

It was a young man who spoke, and as he stood there with his head thrown back, his eyes flashing, and his brows contracted, the girl to whom the words were addressed instinctively drew back. She had seen him angry before, for they had often quarrelled, but never like this. Hitherto she had paid but little attention to his outbreaks of temper; now she was frightened of him. His eyes, which had so often looked into hers with love, now flashed like steel, and an angry flush that the shrinking girl understood but too well dyed his cheek.

As she did not answer, he repeated his question.

"Are we to consider our engagement off?"

"Our engagement, Cyril?" she said, in a low voice. "Have we—now, don't be angry!—have we ever been engaged? I mean," she added, as she saw a fresh cloud gathering, "I mean regularly engaged."

"I'd like to know what the deuce you call it, then," he exclaimed, with spiteful emphasis.

The girl's cheek brightened. She turned her face away and looked through the window as she spoke.

"I don't deny, Cyril, that there was some sort of understanding—"

"Understanding!" he repeated furiously, as he threw himself into a chair.

"But it was only a conditional one. My mother and father wouldn't hear of it on any other terms."

"You've got wonderfully filial all of a sudden," sneered the young man, as he threw one leg over the other. "Wonderfully filial, 'pon my soul."

"I've come to my senses, whether I'm more filial or not," the girl said in a firm voice, as she faced him, "and, what is more, you will find that I shall keep in them. When there was first any talk of our being engaged, I supposed, and everyone else supposed, that you were going to do something to earn a living. What have you done?"

"Never mind what I have done," interrupted Cyril sullenly. "If I'm not engaged to you, I presume my occupation concerns me, and me alone."

"Ah! That is always the way with you," said the girl sadly. "You never could bear to hear anything unpleasant—you would never face your difficulties."

Cyril Paton jumped up angrily from his seat.

"What has all this got to do with our engagement?"

"Everything to do with it," answered the girl quickly, and with some resolution, "and no one sees it more clearly than you. You know that I haven't a shilling in the world—"

"I know nothing of the sort," interrupted the young man sulkily. "Your parents are supposed to be well off," he added, with an undisguised sneer that brought a curious look into the eyes of the eavesdropper in the garden.

The girl held up her hand as if to ask to be heard.

"When I say that I haven't a shilling in the world," she continued in the same low voice, "I mean that my father has always given me to understand that I must expect nothing from him—"

"No one does!" interjected the young man somewhat brutally.

"And you yourself are heavily in debt," she proceeded, without heeding the interruption.

"Now, would not marriage under the circumstances be sheer madness?"

"I don't see it," he answered stubbornly. "I suppose we can wait, as others have done before us?"

"Yes —wait until you make your fortune!" cried the girl, with an unmistakable ring of contempt in her voice. "I'm sick of waiting, Cyril—sick of waiting."

The young man walked to the window, and stood for a minute or two in deep thought. There was a creeper growing outside. He leant forward, causing Mr. Barron no small uneasiness by the action, plucked a piece of it, and, as he stood there, rolled it slowly between his palms. His face, which but a few minutes before had only expressed anger, was now grave, and by his contracted brow he was evidently debating a knotty point.

Suddenly he made up his mind and turned towards her.

"I've listened patiently to what you have said, Gertrude."

She nodded.

"And now I expect you to listen to me for a few minutes. Whatever you may say to the contrary, we were engaged." She again expressed her dissent "We were, and there isn't a single person in our rank of life in Melbourne who doesn't know it. That your father and mother didn't exactly acknowledge it is true enough. They were bent on your making a grand marriage, and they hoped that our love for each other, seeing that for the time being we were not in a position to marry, would gradually wane. They said to themselves, 'Oh! She will get sick of waiting, and then we can carry out our little scheme. They are cousins, and their little flirtation needn't be stopped until we have a suitable match in view. Gertrude shall rebuild our tottering fortunes.' "

"Tottering fortunes, Cyril!" exclaimed the girl with a rising colour. "What do you mean?"

"Yes; tottering fortunes," he repeated with emphasis. "You don't suppose that I'm taken in with all this display." As he spoke he pointed to the ornaments and pictures with which the room was lavishly adorned. "I know David Barron too well—aye, and his position too—to be duped by a few hundred pounds worth of brass-work and carved wood. Yes, I saw through their plans, but I had such faith in you that I only laughed at the idea of your giving me up. I was a donkey for my pains," he said bitterly. "They knew you better than I did. You are not jilting me now because you love anyone else better than me. You have the chance of marrying money, and—and you mean to do it."

The girl jumped up from her seat. As she faced him there was as much anger in her face as in his own.

"How dare you say so?"

For a moment the two faced each other, and neither spoke. Though Cyril Paton tried to assume an air of indifference, he was conscious that he did not cut a very good figure, and his eyes fell before Gertrude's. He dug his hands deep into his pockets, and as he jingled his money beat a tune on the carpet with his foot.

"I have heard so, and I believe it," he persisted doggedly.

For a moment the girl faced him as if she would have struck him. If looks could kill, Cyril Paton would have been a dead man that minute. Gertrude Barron's face was the very incarnation of contemptuous rage.

"You shall have cause," she said, and as she spoke she drew so near that Cyril felt the hot breath on his forehead.

She stood for a moment as if she was going to say something more—indeed, she opened her lips with that object—and then, before Cyril's outstretched hands could detain her, she rushed from the room, slamming the door behind her.

Cyril whistled.

"Well, this is a pretty go!" he muttered. "And now what's to be done? By George! I didn't know she'd got such a temper. Phew! I'm blessed if the interview hasn't made me quite hot," he said as he threw out his arms. Then he repeated, "Well, what's to be done?"

Apparently he did not find a satisfactory answer to the question, for he got up several times, sat down several times, walked up and down the room several times, and gave other signs of impatience and perplexity. After a while, perhaps on the score that two heads are better than one, he walked up to the mirror on the mantelpiece, where he consulted his alter ego with no little care.

"It looks to me," he said as he pursed his lips at himself in the glass, "as if I had put my foot in it—up to the ankle, too. However, souvent femme varie! What I've got to do now is to keep out of the way for a few days. I'll lay six to four that she comes round," he exclaimed with some confidence as he adjusted his tie, and as he surveyed his good-looking face in the glass an inner voice told him that it was not six to four, but twenty to one, in his favour.

He was so reassured by the thought that, though he took up his hat and gloves, he dawdled about the room for some minutes in expectation that Gertrude would relent, and make it up before he left the house. But when she did not make her appearance he rang the bell for the servant, and left a message to say that he should not be able to call for a few days, that he was going up country.

"It that doesn't fetch her," he said to himself, as he passed along the hall, "I'm a Dutchman."

Now, just as he passed into the garden he ran into Mr. Barron, who expressed no little surprise at seeing his nephew.

"What, you here, Cyril?" he cried as he held out his hand, and never had he looked more amiable. "I thought that you had gone to Sydney to the races. I'm delighted to see you. Can't you stay to dinner?"

"Well! that's one point in my favour," commented Cyril as he walked away from the house. "I thought the old boy rather cool towards me of late, but, by George, he was quite cordial—quite cordial, I'm d—d if he wasn't," and as he recalled Mr. Barron's smile, he repeated the phrase, oath and all, with evident relish.

Had Mr. Cyril Paton been privileged to witness the metamorphosis that took place in Mr. Barron's appearance the moment he had left him, he would not have been so easy in his mind.

"So, Mr. Cyril Paton, it's a match between you and me," he muttered, as he watched the young man walking towards the gate. "Well, you hold a good hand, but I shall back myself. Especially," and he smiled as the thought occurred to him, "as I have had a peep at your cards."

The reflection seemed to please him so much that he stood at the door for some minutes with a droll smile on his face. Then suddenly turning on his heel he went into the breakfast-room, where Mrs. Barron was arranging flowers for the dinner table. Shutting the door carefully behind him, he described to his wife the interview that he had overheard.

"I think I may leave the rest to you, my dear," he concluded. "I needn't say that the less time lost the better."

Mrs. Barron threw at her lord a glance of indescribable craftiness.

"Mr. Dyke is going to dine here to-night," she said, quietly. "I think you might go into the club for an hour or two. Plead an engagement as an excuse for running away."

That night Mrs. Barron confided to Adam Dyke that her husband's position was a critical one.

"Believe me, dear Mr. Dyke," she said, and tears came into her eyes as she spoke, "my grief is not a selfish one. For myself, though I am old to begin life again, I could face poverty, if not with composure, with resignation. My husband would do the same, and Oliver has his profession to fall back upon. But when I think of my darling girl—" She here buried her face in her handkerchief, and left her companion to complete the sentence.

This scene was repeated with some slight modifications later on the same night.

"What we are to do, Gertrude, Heaven only knows," she cried. "The sneers of our enemies—and we have many, unfortunately, will be hard to bear. But it isn't the thought of that that is breaking my heart. I had so hoped to see you comfortably settled in life, and now what chance will you have of making a good match? Who will take you if our position becomes known?"

The girl's face had been pale all the evening, and a tell-tale circle round the eyes had not escaped the mother's vigilant eye. Now a bright spot came into either cheek, and her eyes, so unusually dim a moment before, shone like burnished metal.

"Adam Dyke will take me!" she said, with a proud toss of the head.

"Adam Dyke!" cried her mother, with well-simulated surprise. "Of course I noticed that he was attentive, and so forth, but I fancied, my dear—it seems I was wrong, but I certainly did fancy—that you treated him rather coldly, and—"

"I've altered my mind," interrupted the girl, with a forced laugh. "I have only just discovered that I'm deeply in love with him."


Chapter II.

Melbourne had opened its arms to Adam Dyke. The clubs had welcomed him as a member. Society had received him into its innermost circles. Mothers, with daughters to marry, had cast an approving eye on him. The right hand of fellowship had been held out to him by Government-house. As he walked the streets envious eyes followed him, admiring fingers pointed him out. Adam Dyke was a millionaire, and the people of Melbourne are only flesh and blood.

At first his popularity had not only somewhat perplexed him, but was at times a source of positive discomfort He was a man of simple tastes, who only asked to live in a quiet, unostentatious manner. Having long led a very solitary life, principally in the least populated portion of Queensland, he had acquired a certain seriousness, if not absolute dulness, of manner, which is not uncommon with men who live such lives as he. The flurry of the world disturbed him, and accentuated his characteristics. He had been of a retiring nature. He now became awkward. He had been slow at arriving at conclusions. He now might oftentimes be said not to have a mind of his own; and the consciousness that these peculiarities existed only made things worse.

It was only natural that, when he came to Melbourne, he should make the acquaintance of the Barrons, or rather that they should make his. The fame of his wealth had preceded him, and Mr. Barron had an uncommonly good nose for a strong bank account. It was equally natural that Mr. Barron's critics should feel it their duty to warn the newcomer of the real character of his new friend. But their spitefulness only recoiled on themselves. The more the Barrons were abused the more Adam Dyke liked them, and as it was not in his nature to quarrel with anybody, he gradually withdrew from the company of people who abused those whom he was proud and happy to acknowledge as his best friends. Yes! proud and happy. Proud, because he had an idea that they belonged to a different and a higher rank in life than himself. Happy, because he loved Gertrude, and to be in her presence was his greatest happiness.

It was of the Barrons he was thinking as he walked down Collins-street the morning after the interview with Mrs. Barron recorded in the last chapter, and that his reflections were not altogether pleasant was apparent from the troubled look of his face. The news that Mr. Barron, for whom he entertained the warmest feelings of gratitude and respect, was in difficulties, had been so unexpected that it had quite upset him. He was so little used to display that the style in which the Barrons lived had quite deceived him. "I'm blest if I can understand it," he said to himself. "They live like princes. You never get a dinner like you do there, nor wine, nor cigars, nor anything. There are no pictures like theirs in the colony—I don't know, but I've heard so; they've the best furniture in Melbourne, and the best turn-out. And then they're—. Well! it beats me." And thereupon his brow contracted afresh, and he looked more unhappy than ever.

Mr. Barron's office was in Queen-street, and there he was sitting at his desk when he was informed that a gentleman wished to see him. When he read the name on the card which the clerk handed him he could not restrain a movement of surprise.

"Ah! Tell Mr. Dyke to come in, Dines," he said, and, as the clerk prepared to go, he gave him strict injunctions that they were not to be interrupted.

A minute afterward Adam Dyke was ushered in. Mr. Barron greeted him with no small warmth.

"The last man in the world that I expected to see at this hour of the morning." he exclaimed, as he pointed to the clock on the mantelpiece, which showed that it wanted a few minutes to 10. "I, of course, have to be here—not from choice, my dear sir, not from choice, from sheer necessity" (he here thought it advisable to assume an anxious expression)—"but you, my dear Dyke, you, whose wealth is growing even whilst you sleep, can afford the luxury of breakfast in bed. However, what can I do for you." He added with an amiable smile, as he placed a chair for his visitor, and resumed his own, "what can I do for you?"

As Mr. Barron spoke an uneasy look came over Adam Dykes face. The consciousness of the errand on which he was bent for the moment overpowered him. As he looked at Mr. Barron a bright flush came into his cheeks, and he shifted in his chair.

"In fact, Mr. Barron, what I want to say is—is a rather—" and then he hesitated, trying to find a suitable phrase.

"A rather delicate matter," suggested Mr. Barron with a smile. "Is that what you mean?"

"Yes, that's it, exactly," assented Adam Dyke with some eagerness. "You see, I'm only a rough fellow—"

"My dear sir!" dissented Mr. Barron.

"Oh! but I know I am," repeated Adam, as he fidgeted nervously with his hat, "tho it's very good of you to deny it. Well! Mr. Barron, its no good beating about the bush," he added, as if he had made up his mind to take the final plunge. "Mrs. Barron told me something last night that has made me very—very uncomfortable. She said that your position just now was somewhat critical—those were her words, sir," he asserted, as Mr. Barron showed signs of interrupting him, "and I have come to tell you, sir, that I am anxious to help you—to help you in any way I can."

Mr. Barron had not waited for the last sentence to be completed, though he had taken care not to prevent its completion. At the mention of his wife's disclosure he got up from his chair with every sign of impatience, if not of anger, and, walking to the window, looked out into the street.

"My wife has acted very indiscreetly," he said in a low voice, but taking care that every syllable should reach his companion's ear, "and her gossip may do me no end of harm. It is one thing to be in difficulties, another thing to be known to be in difficulties. The former may mean only temporary inconvenience—the latter always means ruin. My wife has acted very indiscreetly—very indiscreetly."

He paused a minute as if the reflections suggested by his wife's garrulousness were too painful to pursue further. Then, suddenly turning round, he walked up to Adam Dyke and shook him warmly by the hand.

"However, my wife's indiscretion has nothing to do with your admirable behaviour," he exclaimed in a tone of profuse gratitude. "I cannot thank you enough for your generous offer—an offer, my dear sir, which confirms the high opinion that I have already formed of you. Though I can't accept it—"

"Oh, yes you will!" interrupted Adam Dyke anxiously.

"Though I cannot accept it," repeated Mr. Barron, in the most earnest tone that he could command, and again shaking Adam's hand, "believe me, I am none the less grateful. And I say this deliberately, that if at any time there's anything I can do for you, you will find that David Barron is not the man to forget an obligation."

Mr. Barron said this with a warmth and an apparent sincerity that might have deceived a far shrewder man than Adam Dyke. He drew himself up to his full height as he spoke, and as he stood there with head thrown back and a proud look in his fine eyes, the simple man that he addressed looked at him with undisguised admiration.

"You are very good to say so, Mr. Barron," he said modestly, as he cast down his eyes. "But really now—"

David Barron held out his hand as a sign to Adam to desist.

"I assure you, my dear friend, that Mrs. Barron has greatly exaggerated the position," he said quietly. "I won't deny that it is an anxious time. But I shall weather it, my dear sir—weather it as I have other storms."

Whilst he had been speaking he had been carefully observing his visitor. He rightly judged that the time had come for the introduction of another subject.

"Well, now that that is dismissed," he said, with an unusually hearty laugh, "I may say that when I saw you walk into the room I quite thought that you had come on a very different errand."

Adam Dyke shifted uneasily on his chair, and a deep colour came into his cheeks.

"In—indeed, sir?" he stammered, as he rubbed the back of his left hand with the broad fingers of his right.

"Yes, a very different errand," repeated Mr. Barron. "However, I can't disclose what I thought, though I may say this much, that both Mrs. Barron and myself would be highly pleased— h'm? I was nearly letting the cat out of the bag," he interrupted himself with a laugh. "Perhaps one of these days I shall be able to tell you my little secret, and in the meantime, my dear, dear Dyke," he took him again by the hand, which he pressed more effusively than ever, "believe me, your most obliged and obedient servant."

Adam Dyke had risen to go, but Mr. Barron's incompleted sentence not only impelled him to stay, but gave him courage to speak.

"Mr. Barron," he said, "you are right. I did come here for something else. The fact is, sir, I love your daughter Gertrude, and I want your permission to ask her to be my wife. I know that I'm only a rough man, sir," he continued with no little emotion, "that I'm not the sort of fellow that a girl like her might expect, but—but I'll do my best to make her happy," he added, simply.

Though Mr. Barron had great self-command, it was all that he could do to restrain a movement of exultation.

"I shall not pretend to be surprised at your communication," he said, "for my wife has led me to expect something of the sort. Women are so quick, you know. However, you must ask the young lady herself. In matters of this sort I need not say that neither my wife nor myself would interfere. The happiness of our dear child is supreme with us," he exclaimed, gravely. " 'Those whom God hath joined let no man put asunder.' "

As Mr. Barron pronounced these impressive words, which he had used without any special thought as to their appropriateness, he laid a hand on Adam's shoulder and looked into his honest eyes, which were bright with a look of happiness and gratitude.

"I think I can trust her with you," he said.

"Indeed, you can, sir!" exclaimed Adam, with no little warmth,

"Well, we shall see," laughed Mr. Barron. "And now I must attend to business. Good-bye, my dear Dyke; this is, indeed, a red-letter day."

"Good-bye sir, and thank you."

"And, I say, Dyke," he called out after him as he was opening the door, "are you going to the Drisberghs' to-night. You are? Well, someone will be there, you know, and—I wish you luck."

For fully a minute after Adam Dyke had left the room Mr. Barron stood there stock still with the self-same smile on his face which had accompanied his last words. Then gradually his smile broadened into a grin of extraordinary cunning, and he rubbed his palms briskly together in thorough enjoyment of the situation.

"Mrs. Barron is a wonderful woman," he exclaimed, as his eyes lit up with an appreciative twinkle, "a wonderful woman, I'm hanged if she isn't. And now I'll just drop down to the bank and see Barton"—Barton was the bank manager. "He'll be a bit more civil when he knows what's on the tapis."

So perhaps, after all, there was some truth in Mrs. Barron's assertion that her husband's position was a critical one.


Chapter III.

If the Drisberghs might be believed, they came over with the Conqueror, and their not infrequent assertion of the fact cost them many a friend. People whose pedigree is—what shall we say?—not quite the thing don't like to be reminded, however indirectly, of the fact. But if the Drisberghs were somewhat vain they were kind and hospitable, and one can afford to overlook a weakness for rank when it is accompanied by many excellent qualities. The Drisberghs' parties were renowned throughout the colony. Nobody ever dreamt of refusing an invitation to their house. They gave the best supper, they had the best floor and the best music, and, what is of more importance still, the prettiest girls. More engagements had taken place there than in any half-dozen houses you could name. Why I myself, in my young days, before my tailor suggested an alteration in the shape of my waistcoat, remember dancing eight times running with a blue-eyed girl in a pink book-muslin, who might have been Mrs.—Well, never mind these reflections. I say that if the Drisberghs were occasionally laughed at their parties never were.

Never had their ballroom been more crowded than the evening with which we have to do, and Adam Dyke, who had purposely gone early, was quite surprised to find so many people already there. He had hurriedly got rid of his overcoat and hat, but at the last moment, from an overpowering sense of shyness, hesitated to go into the room where his hostess was receiving her visitors. As he stood at the door fumbling with his gloves, Mrs. Dale, a voluminous matron, dressed in apple-green, and wearing a cap of the same colour with an eruption of salmon-coloured feathers, caught sight of him.

"Oh! Mr. Dyke," she cried, "how do you do. I've lost my husband—for the moment, you know. I don't mean that I'm a widow." She here gave her blushing companion a tap with her fan and a look that utterly disconcerted him. "And I must enlist you in my service."

As she spoke she passed her arm through his and led him off. He made one feeble effort to regain his liberty.

"I haven't said how-d'ye-do to Mrs. Drisbergh yet," he urged.

"Oh! you had better wait a little. The drawingroom is crowded to suffocation. Mrs. Drisbergh is doing her best to get her guests here," she observed as they passed into the ballroom. "Ah! here are some seats. Let us sit down and watch the arrivals."

And thereupon the lady sat down, and Adam, reluctantly enough, followed her example. He knew what he had to expect, and would willingly have made some excuse to avoid Mrs. Dale's chatter, but none suggested itself to him at the moment. So, with an inward sigh of resignation he took his place by her side and did his best to assume an air of attention.

"Ah! there are the Churchers" she whispered, as she put up her glasses and exhaustively scrutinised a couple who were passing, "so we may expect Mr. Champlin here to-night. What he can see in the woman Heaven only knows, though to be sure he can see enough of her, for the way that her dress is cut is simply scandalous. I really think that the police should interfere. It would be a different matter," she said, as she adjusted the lace in front of her own voluminous bodice, "if she had any figure to speak of, though even then it isn't consistent with my ideas of propriety. But she's a positive skeleton. I can only account for Mr. Champlin's infatuation by the fact that he is blind as a bat. If he ever saw her—I mean as she really is —he'd come to his senses quickly enough. Maude Darnton is making a hard fight of it," she went on, as she transferred her attention to another group, "but, though she makes-up wonderfully well, she can't take me in. I have a memory, Mr. Dyke, which plays me no tricks. I don't forget that Maude came out three years before my daughter Bella. Ah! there is Bella. Don't you think she looks well?

Adam faintly murmured that he thought she did.

"You'd hardly think to look at her that she has been eight years married, and has four children. D'you know our family are quite famous for keeping their youthful appearance. My mother at fifty was often taken for sister, and the same thing has occurred more than once about myself and Bella. Hullo! here are the Swaynes. Sir John looking amiable as usual, and Lady Swayne in a new gown. Oh! what a thing it is to be rich, Mr. Dyke—to be able to indulge one's taste to the full of one's bent, to be courted by everyone, and to be asked everywhere. Look at that mob round them, everyone of them only too happy if he gets a shake of the hand from Sir John, and a smile from his lady, and there isn't one of those men or women," she said with virtuous indignation, "who would waste five minutes on them if they were still plain Mr. and Mrs. Swayne. Ah it's an artificial world," she sighed, as she looked away from the group "an artificial world. Well, I wonder what Mrs. Keeley will come out in next. Did you ever see such bad taste?" she asked, quite unconscious of the flaring incongruity of her own costume. "Red and yellow! Red and yellow, with her red hair and yellow skin. I really think people are going mad."

On this point Adam offered no opinion, though his companion turned to him in evident expectation of one. He had just caught sight of Mrs. Barron and he knew that the rest of the party must be close at hand. The new arrivals had not escaped Mrs. Dale's keen eyes.

"Ah! here are the Barrons. Mrs. Barron in her grey velvet and Irish lace, and Gertrude in white—a new dress apparently. What wonderful people those are," she reflected, as she looked over the ladies of the party from tip to toe. "It's no secret that Mr. Barron is on his last legs—a normal condition apparently, for he has been so for the last ten years and yet there they are as well dressed, and apparently as well-to-do," she laid great stress on the adverb, "as any of us. Talk of the Delusion mysteries"— she probably meant Eleusinian, but her companion was the last man in the world likely to correct her—"why, they're a fool to the Barrons. Gertrude certainly is a pretty girl," she admitted in a condescending tone, "but she'll get just like her mother, who is an unpleasantly coarse woman, for all that she still has some good looks. But Gertrude will never have her mother's brains. In my opinion she is the stupidest girl I know. She thinks of nothing—"

Adam could stand it no longer. He had been on pins and needles, whilst his friends had been so mercilessly pulled to pieces. Several times he had tried to interpose, but Mrs. Dale's tongue had rattled on at such a rate that he had not found an opportunity. But when Gertrude was attacked, and as he considered so unjustly, he got up from his seat with a movement of unmistakable impatience.

"I don't agree with you at all," he interrupted hotly, and as he spoke he coloured up to the eyes; "and in any case I don't want to hear her spoken of in that way. I think she is a beautiful girl, and—and—er—charming, and—er—and I admire her very much," he blurted out, blushing more than ever, "and—and I don't care who knows that I do."

If Mrs. Dale had been sitting on a red-hot stove she could not have risen with greater precipitation.

"My dear Mr. Dyke," she cried as she caught him by the arm, "I hope that I've not offended you. I only meant that she was stupid to pay so much attention to dress, that was all."

"I'm so glad to hear you say so," exclaimed Adam frankly, as he took her hand, "for I do hate to hear any friend of mine run down. Well! can I leave you here? I want to ask Miss Barron for a dance."

As Adam walked away Mrs. Dale's face was a study.

"So those detestable people have landed the big fish," she said to herself, "and we are out in the cold. Well! I wish them joy of him," she added, spitefully. "He has got no more manners than a pig."

Meanwhile, the gentleman whose manners were so adversely criticised had made his way to Gertrude Barron's side, and was asking her for a dance.

"You know, Miss Barron, I'm not a very good dancer," he said, as he looked at her programme, "but I should like to have a waltz with you, if you—"

"I kept you one," she answered, with a gracious smile, as she pointed to a cross on her programme, "and two square dances, unless," she laughed, "that is more than you care for."

Adam Dyke's simple face beamed with pleasure.

"Oh! you are good, Miss Barron," he exclaimed, as he wrote his name on her programme.

Gertrude leant over towards him, so that those around could not overhear.

"I have reason to be," she whispered, "and I will tell you why when our dance comes."

A guilty blush came into Adam's cheeks as he looked up into her face, and his eyes fell before hers.

"I don't know what you refer to," he said, in a low voice, but his manner betrayed unmistakably that he did.

By the time that his dance with Gertrude came round poor Adam was in a fever of nervous excitement—a state of mind intensified by the necessity of keeping up a light conversation with his many acquaintances in the room. How he longed to be alone for a few minutes to collect his thoughts and to prepare a few phrases with which to plead his cause. But wherever he went he met someone he knew, and it seemed like a fatality that that evening no one that he knew, however slightly, would pass him without speaking to him. At last his dance came, and he made his way as quickly as possible to the place where Gertrude had appointed to meet him. Just as he got there he was met by a bright-looking, well-set-up young fellow with frank blue eyes and light curly hair. This was Oliver Barron, Gertrude's only brother, who was serving his articles in a lawyer's office.

"Hullo! Mr. Dyke! I've been sent for you," he said, as he caught Adam by the arm and led him to the other end of the room; "and I wanted to see you myself, too. By George, you were a brick to send me that tennis set. Its the best racquet—"

"Is she in the room, or—or outside?" interrupted Adam, whose eyes were searching for Gertrude.

"Oh! just outside; It's the best racquet in the place," continued the lad, enthusiastically, "and I'm going to keep it for the intercolonial, if I'm chosen. It's just my weight to a—"

"Oh, there she is!" cried Adam, as he caught sight of Gertrude. "I'll have a yarn with you, Oliver, later on."

"Well! he's a good sort," murmured the young fellow, as he walked away, "but a rum beggar all the same."

Gertrude was sitting in a cosy corner at the end of the verandah, which was tastefully decorated with palms and other foliage plants. As Adam approached she pointed to the chair beside her.

"You won't mind not dancing, will you, Mr. Dyke?" she asked, with a smile. "The fact is, I want to have a talk with you, and until I've said what I've got to say I really can't dance."

"Oh! I'd just as soon not dance," he answered eagerly. "In fact," he added, not seeing that his remark might bear an interpretation quite foreign to his meaning, "I'd sooner not dance when my dance is with you."

"Well! What I want to say is this," the girl proceeded, as she leant forward and looked into his face. "My father has told me of your unsolicited offer to help him. He has told me how kindly, how thoughtfully you put it, and how much you felt his position. Mr. Dyke, I've always heard that you were a generous man—"

"Pray, Miss Barron—" interrupted Adam, nervously.

"But I'm afraid that I never truly appreciated how nobly generous you really are. Mr. Dyke, I beg to thank you deeply for your kindness. It seems absurd to say that if I can ever repay it I will do so, but if the opportunity ever should arise you will find that I am neither forgetful nor ungrateful."

Gertrude's words were simple enough, but she spoke with an earnestness that gave them an especial value. There were tears in her eyes, and her voice was strangely low as she pronounced the last words. Her emotion did not escape Adam, who was distressed beyond measure that his offer of the morning should have been repeated.

"I'm—I'm afraid you are making a great deal of a very little matter," he said nervously, "and—and I'd be awfully obliged if you wouldn't say anything more about it. I just happened to hear, you know, and—and it wouldn't matter twopence to me, and—and—and we'll say no more about it."

Gertrude gave him a grateful look.

"Well! as you like, Mr. Dyke," she said. "I shan't say anything more, but you can't prevent me thinking about it. Well!" she added, as she prepared to get up, "now that's over shall we go inside?"

Adam caught her by the arm. His hand was a great strong hand, but he touched her so lightly that she hardly felt the pressure of his fingers.

"One moment!" he exclaimed in an eager whisper. "I, too, have something to say, and something that I have longed to say for many a long day. Gertrude, I love you, and if you'll be my wife I shall be the happiest man on the face of God's earth."

Gertrude had tried to prepare herself for the scene, but Adam had declared himself with so much abruptness that she was quite disconcerted. She turned very pale, and two great tears came into her eyes. For a moment she seemed as if she would speak, but apparently the effort was too great and with a subdued sob she let her head fall on her hands.

Adam's grief and consternation knew no bounds.

"Gertrude! Miss Barron I mean! Forget that I've said anything at all," he cried. "I was a perfect brute to take advantage of the situation. But 'pon my soul I had intended to ask you before I made that wretched offer this morning. I never thought of it until after I'd spoken. If I had I wouldn't have been mean enough to press the matter just now. I know that I'm only a rough fellow," he said, applying the same phrase to himself that he had used at the morning's interview, "and that I haven't quite the polish and—and the style of the people you are used to, but I'd do my best to make you happy, and I think," he added in a touchingly simple way, "that my love for you would teach me the way."

As he said these last words he leant forward, and gently removing one of the girl's hands from her face, held it in his own.

"I'm sure that you would make the best and most indulgent of husbands" she said in a low voice, "and so sure am I of it that I will be your wife. May God help me," she cried, as she broke afresh into tears, "to make you a good one."

Adam took her face between his great palms, and turning it up towards him looked into it with a look of inexpressive love and admiration. He was a plain man, but the feeling of exultation which possessed him that moment transfigured his homely features. He leant over her and kissed her on the forehead, and the action was one of reverence even more than of love.

"God bless you, my darling!" he whispered. "God bless you!"

At this moment footsteps were heard approaching them, and the next moment Oliver Barron accosted his sister.

"I say, Gertrude, this is our dance!" he said in a highly injured tone, "and its half over already. It's a beastly shame of you! You're always doing me out of dances. And I could have danced it with Polly Devrient, too," he went on, in a more aggrieved tone than ever; "and you know she—, Hillo! What's up?"

He had caught sight of Gertrude's face, and the tears, which still stood in her eyes, did not escape him. He glanced from her to Adam Dyke who looked very uncomfortable as he did so, and then from Adam Dyke to her.

"What's up?" he asked again.

"Nothing, Oliver—I mean, nothing much," she answered, whilst Adam stood, to borrow Oliver's elegant expression when subsequently describing the scene, like a "stuck pig." "I haven't been very well, and—and—and I fancy that I'd better go home."

The boy's face showed no little concern. He was much attached to his sister—they were mates, as he termed it—and her tears quite alarmed him.

"By Jove! I'll fetch the Mum!" he cried; and then, with an emphatic injunction to Adam to "stick to her," off he went for Mrs. Barron as fast as his legs would carry him.

Mrs. Barron's concern at her daughter's state was quite touching to witness, especially whilst Adam Dyke and Oliver were standing by. However, when they had gone, in obedience to her advice, that "Gertrude would be better if she were quiet for a little while," she picked up again quicker than one might have expected.

"Well, dear," she whispered anxiously, the while she pressed a scented handkerchief to the girl's burning head, "did you accept him?"

Gertrude looked up at her mother, and there was something in the girl's eyes that made Mrs. Barron, old soldier as she was, lower hers.

"Yes, I did!" Gertrude answered in a low voice. "I suppose that you're happy now."

"Indeed I am!" returned her mother; "and so ought you to be, unless you are a regular goose. You'll have the richest husband in the place, and, believe me, money can purchase anything. Why, you ought to be the happiest girl in the world!"

But somehow Gertrude was not what she ought to have been. Letting her head fall on her hands, she began crying again as if her heart would break.

Later in the evening, after Gertrude had been sent home under Oliver's charge, Mrs. Barron dodged about amongst her acquaintances, and artfully spread the news of Gertrude's engagement

"Only think, Mrs. Dale," she said to the lady in apple-green, after she had mysteriously bound her over to eternal secrecy, "only think of my surprise this evening when dear Gertrude told me that Mr. Dyke had proposed to her, and that she had accepted him."

"What? he has proposed?" cried Mrs. Dale, as an angry flush brightened her cheek, for all that it was elaborately painted and powdered.

"He has indeed, and been accepted, too," answered Mrs. Barron, in a tone of triumph that she could not repress. "But it's to be kept a dead secret"

"Oh, of course!" interjected Mrs. Dale drily.

"Yes, dear Mrs. Dale!" returned Mrs. Barron more blandly than ever, as she rose to impart the news to someone else, "and I trust that you won't even drop a hint about the matter."

Next day the whole of Melbourne was in possession of the news.


Chapter IV.

No sooner had Gertrude taken her departure than Adam Dyke prepared to take his. As he passed through the hall, hat in hand and with his coat on his arm, Mrs. Dale accosted him.

"What, Mr. Dyke," she exclaimed, "are you off already?"

"Y—yes, Mrs. Dale," he stammered. "The fact is I'm rather tired, and—and—"

"The attraction is gone," laughed Mrs. Dale as she completed the sentence. "I'm afraid you're a very sly man, Mr. Dyke, but I've guessed your little secret. Am I to congratulate you?" she asked, as she gave him a look full of significance.

Adam blushed, and said something to the effect that he didn't quite understand her, on which she shook her fan at him, and, wishing him good bye, passed into the ballroom. He didn't like Mrs. Dale, and, as a rule, her conversation bothered him; but for once he felt a curious sense of pleasure at her badinage.

"I suppose that I look so happy that she has guessed the reason," he argued as he told a waiter to call his hansom, "and if I look as happy as I feel I don't wonder at it."

On his way into Melbourne he thought over the scene of that night, and a strange sense of exultation seized him. It seemed to him almost beyond belief that Gertrude Barron, acknowledged by all to be the handsomest girl in Melbourne, should have consented to be the wife of a homely fellow like him.

"I ought to be the happiest man in the world," he reflected. "Ought to be? I am the happiest; and, by Heaven, if it depends on me, Gertrude shall be the happiest wife. When I think of it, I can hardly believe my good fortune!" and then, as is usual with men of his simple, modest disposition, he began to underrate himself. "What the deuce she can see in me, Heaven only knows."

By the time that the cab pulled up at the club he was in such an excited state that he felt that sleep for the time being was out of the question. He asked one of the waiters if any one was in the club, and was told that there were some gentlemen in the cardroom. Thither he went.

He had hardly opened the door when he heard a voice, which he immediately recognised as Cyril Paton's.

"May I ask you what objection you have to change that I.O.U.?"

The question was put in an angry tone, though Cyril spoke almost in a whisper. The young man to whom it was addressed was also evidently somewhat put out, for he made a movement of impatience, and his face flushed.

"It seems to me," he said, as he evidently restrained himself, "that I am not bound to change I.O.U.'s at all, at any rate until the end of the game."

"I say you are!" retorted Cyril, bringing down his fist on the table, "and I'll leave it to the table."

"Well? I'll leave it to the table!" acquiesced the other, as he cast a look round the board. "What's your decision?"

The others—there were three of them—looked at each other, and it was evident they had no intention of interfering.

"Oh! settle it between you," said one impatiently. "If there are going to be any rows, I'm off."

The young man with whom Cyril was disputing—Herbert Grainger was his name—shrugged his shoulders.

"Well! if you won't settle it," he said, trying to assume an air of indifference, "I shall stand my ground, and refuse to cash the I.O.U."

Cyril bounded out of his chair, and, leaning over the table, again asked Herbert Grainger his reason for refusing to cash his paper.

"Well! If you insist on my speaking," said the other, "I shall do so, but don't blame me if the result is unpleasant. Well, then, gentlemen, Mr. Paton last Tuesday week—now, shall I go on?" he asked of Cyril, who was still standing up.

"Go on! and be d—d to you!" roared Cyril, whose face was quite disfigured by passion.

"Last Tuesday week Mr. Paton lost £642 to me."

"I did!" interjected Cyril.

"And has never paid me."

If a strong arm had not held him back, Cyril would have rushed at the speaker.

"It's an infernal lie!" he cried. "I gave you an I.O.U., payable next Tuesday. I told you I had some money coming then, and that I was a bit short for the moment."

"I don't call that paying," Grainger said with contemptuous emphasis. "I decline to accept any more of your paper until that I already hold is paid."

Cyril would have spoken, but at that moment the same strong hand that had held him back forced him into his chair.

"Excuse me, gentlemen, for interfering," said Adam Dyke, "but I have overheard what has passed, and—and I think I see my way, with your permission, of course, Mr. Paton—to settle this matter. To begin with, I'm afraid that I myself am in no small degree responsible for the situation."

The men looked from one to another in no little surprise, but on no face was amazement so clearly written as on Cyril Paton's.

"The fact is, that Mr. Paton has a considerable sum of money to draw from me over—over—over the sale of a station," he stammered, colouring as he did so, and avoiding Cyril's eye, "and I very foolishly never considered that he might want the money. If I'd given the matter a thought," he went on as he leant over Cyril, and looked into his face with an expression that plainly implored him not to undeceive the rest of the party, "I should have given him a cheque ten days ago, and not waited for the matter to be completed."

Cyril Paton's head fell on his breast, but he didn't speak a word. Herbert Grainger got up from the table, and, walking round to Cyril's side, held out his hand.

"Well! All I can say is, that I'm devilish sorry over the whole matter," he said in a frank manly way; "and I offer you ten thousand apologies. If you'd only given me a hint of how the land lay, I'd have sooner cut my tongue from my mouth than have said what I did just now."

Cyril still hung his head, and did not speak; but he accepted the proffered hand.

"Thanks, old man," exclaimed Grainger, as he shook Cyril's hand warmly. "I hope you won't think any the worse of me over this wretched business."

"Well! I suppose the game is finished?" said one of the others.

Within five minutes Adam Dyke was left alone with the man to whom he had proved such a friend in need.

For a moment there was an awkward silence, and then Cyril, rising from his chair, seized Adam by the hand. There were tears in his eyes, and his voice trembled as he spoke.

"I don't know, Dyke, what I have ever done that you should befriend me in this way," he cried; "but as sure as there's a God in Heaven, if the opportunity ever offers, I'll do my best to make you some return."

Adam Dyke had the modesty of simple men. Nothing distressed him more than expressions of gratitude. In a few broken phrases he assured Cyril that he had nothing to thank him for, and implored him to say no more about it.

"And I may tell you this, Mr. Paton," he said in a singularly earnest tone of voice, ''that I would have done for any one else what I have done for you. To-night I have met with the greatest good fortune that I've ever had, and it makes me even happier than I was before to know that on this day of all others I have been able to do a friend a good turn. No! don't thank me!" he exclaimed, as Cyril was on the point of doing so. "Come to me in the morning, and we'll go into your affairs, and see what it will take to put you straight. Well, good night."

Cyril watched Adam as he left the room, and the expression of his face was one in which shame and astonishment were equally represented.

"Well! That beats everything I ever heard of," was his comment. "What he did it for—what his possible motive could be—is more than I can understand. But, by the Lord Harry," he cried, "he's a white man!" which expression was the strongest in Cyril's vocabulary.

The next morning Cyril interviewed "the white man," and came away with an even better opinion of him than he had held overnight. Adam Dyke had entreated him to make a clean breast of his difficulties, and after some hesitation he had confessed that he was considerably in debt. But he shrank from acknowledging how much he really owed. His debts were principally due for gambling and betting, and he was frightened that if Adam really knew the sort of man he was, he might draw back from helping him. He little knew Adam Dyke. Adam only saw in him a friend in difficulties, whom it was in his power to help; and if he had asked for ten times as much as he did, he would have been lent it without demur.

A suspicion that he had not made the most of his opportunity crossed the young man's mind as he sauntered down Collins-street to cash the cheque he had just received.

"If I'd known that he'd have shelled out so handsomely," he reflected, "I would have tapped him for more—for enough to pay everybody. It's so much more convenient only to have one creditor."

The truth of this conviction was strongly impressed on him before he had gone a hundred yards further. At the corner of Swanston-street he was accosted by a little Jew, whose fingers were covered with diamonds, and whose clothes had evidently been "built" with an eye to an advertisement.

"Now, I thay, Mithter Paton," he said in a hoarse whisper, "it's no uth talkin'! I can't vait any longer. It ithn't as if you'd taken off-goods, but you 'ad the real pick o' the bathket"

"Don't talk nonsense!" interrupted Cyril angrily. "Directly you thought I had lost what I could pay on settling-day, you would not lay me anything that had a ghost of a show of winning."

The little Jew shrugged his fat shoulders.

"Ach! yer always full of eggscuses!" he said with an undisguised sneer.

"Excuses or no excuses, I can't pay you just now," said Cyril bluntly.

"Well! I'll tell you vat it is, then," said the bookmaker in a passion, "if you don't pay, I'll post you."

"Post and be d—d to you!" was Cyril's rejoinder, but he didn't look as indifferent as his words might imply.

"I vill!" returned the little Jew. "You're a regular shuffler. Ven I goes to the club I shouldn't go, or else you ain't in. Ven I meets you in the street I shouldn't meet you, and, o' corse, I shouldn't speak to you. But if you puts your nose on the course, don't you make any mistake, I'll—"

What his last threat was Cyril could only divine, for with an impatient gesture he turned his back on the little man and walked briskly towards the bank.

"By George! I made a mistake not to get enough to clear me!" he reflected. "I wonder whether he would stand me again."

He went into the bank and cashed the cheque. He was standing on the steps outside wondering where he could see Grainger, when that young man passed within a few feet of him.

"The very man I was looking for," he cried as he joined him. "What was it I owed you?"

And thereupon, passing his arm through his, as if nothing had ever ruffled the calm waters of their friendship, Cyril led Grainger off to the club to settle with him, and to play him a game of pyramids. They played a pound a ball, and at the close of the afternoon Mr. Grainger received another very handsome dividend out of Adam Dyke's cheque.

"Well, I'm in great form just now," said Grainger, as the marker set up the balls after dinner, when Cyril Paton was to have his "revenge" for his afternoon's ill-success. "I was devilish nearly going to the Drisberghs' last night. I'm deuced glad I didn't, as it turns out. By-the-bye, do you know Gertrude Barron? Oh! of course, you do. She is some relation of yours, isn't she?''

Cyril was just going to "break the balls." He looked up, and nodded an affirmative.

"Well! she's engaged to be married."

"What!" cried Cyril, starting up.

"She's engaged to be married," repeated the other. Cyril drew a long breath.

"Who to?" he asked quickly.

"Your friend, Adam Dyke."

Cyril stood for a moment as if he couldn't understand the news, and then with a terrible oath brought his cue down on the edge of the billiard-table, and it shivered into pieces.


Chapter V.

Cyril Paton's rage on receipt of the news of Gertrude's engagement arose fully as much from wounded vanity as from grief at losing his sweetheart. His name had been coupled with hers for such a long time that he winced at the idea of the comments which were sure to be made when the news became generally known. "They'll say that he has cut me out, and probably think it a good joke," he reflected ruefully. "Gertrude has treated me shamefully. To think of her giving me up, and for a fellow like that, too;" and as he thought of his successor he instituted a mental comparison between Adam Dyke and himself, which I need hardly say was wholly in his own favour. But what cut him to the quick was that he should have laid himself under such an obligation to his rival and at such a time. "Pon my soul, I think I'm the unluckiest beggar in the world!" he sighed, as he recognised the utter impossibility of repaying the sum that he had borrowed. "And they talk about the constancy of women. Bah! They're only constant when there's nothing to be gained by being otherwise. But I'm blessed if I give her up without a struggle. If I can only see her I will test the question as to which is strongest—her love for me or Dyke's money. In any case," he added with spiteful emphasis, "I shall have the satisfaction of letting her know what I think of her conduct."

But even that was denied him. When he went out to Heimweh, though he especially asked to see Miss Barron and Miss Barron only, it was Mrs. Barron who received him; He was in no mood to mince matters, and in a few blunt and indiscreet sentences told Mrs. Barron why he had come.

"I was quite prepared to hear something of this sort," Mrs. Barron said quietly, after she had listened with the greatest patience to his somewhat lengthy complaint, "and I may tell you at once that I don't recognise that you have been badly treated, as you call it, in the least, and Gertrude is quite of my opinion."

"I don't believe it," bluntly interjected Cyril.

"You may please yourself as to whether you believe it or not," Mrs. Barron proceeded, with a coolness that exasperated him to the last degree, "but I am only stating the bare truth. Gertrude has chosen for herself."

"It's untrue!" Cyril exclaimed, excitedly; "she has been forced into it."

"Nothing of the kind," Mrs. Barron said with provoking coolness; "her choice was quite unfettered, and it happily fell on a man of whom both Mr. Barron and myself highly approve."

"There's no doubt about that," sneered Cyril, "and the reason isn't far to seek."

"Well! I see that you have come here to create a disturbance," said Mrs. Barron, as she moved towards the door, "and you shan't be gratified. I needn't say that after the way you have behaved our doors will be closed to you."

Cyril made a step towards her.

"I'll see Gertrude in spite of you," he cried, absolutely shaking his fist at her in his rage. "She was engaged to me, and I'll take my dismissal from her and her alone."

"Gertrude denies that she was ever engaged to you, and I shall certainly believe her in preference to a man like you."

"She was engaged," reiterated Cyril, "and we were to be married when—when I could afford to keep her."

Mrs. Barron laughed derisively.

"When you could afford to keep her! May I ask when that would be?"

"That was our understanding, anyhow!" interjected Cyril doggedly.

"A man talking of marrying," sneered Mrs. Barron, as she opened the door, "who has to let his friends pay his gambling debts."

The thrust was so unexpected that Cyril was dumb. He waited for a few minutes after Mrs. Barron had left the room, half expecting that she would return, and then, feeling dispirited and enraged almost beyond endurance, he took his departure.

At the gate whom should he meet but Adam Dyke, who greeted him with no little warmth.

"I have often heard of your being here," he said; "but somehow I have always missed you. I have reasons—I'll tell you what they are some day— for feeling very glad that you are a friend of the Barrons."

Cyril mumbled something about being very glad to hear it, and then, with a hasty shake of the hand, hurried away.

"I wonder whether he knows anything about Gertrude and myself," he reflected. "No! he can't! If he did, great blockhead as he is, I think he'd have more tact than to speak to me as he did. By Heaven! I can't stand it, and if Gertrude doesn't come round I shall clear out"

Gertrude did not come round. Though Cyril made several attempts to see her, they were ineffectual. Sometimes he saw Mrs. Barron, sometimes Mr. Barron, and sometimes Oliver, but whether he went to Heimweh morning, noon, or night, Gertrude was denied him.

When a young man feels that his luck is "dead out," he generally does his best to ensure the truth of the surmise. Cyril had always been a gambler, but he had never played as high or as consistently as he did now. When there was no poker or loo, he played billiards. When there was nothing "on" at the Club, he went elsewhere in search of speculation. He had never dabbled in mining; he now plunged heavily whenever he could get a broker to sell him stock on terms. At the end of a month he was in desperate straits again. There was only one man in the world to whom he could look for any help, and—though there is not the slightest doubt that he would have accepted Adam Dyke's assistance had it been proffered him— he could not bring himself to ask it.

Whether he would have overcome this feeling or not I cannot say, but just at a time when the necessity of doing so presented itself to him in the strongest light, he was called away from Melbourne. His mother, who lived in Adelaide, was taken seriously ill, and he was summoned from gambling and dissipation to what was expected to be her death bed.

Meanwhile Adam Dyke was the happiest of men. Though Gertrude did not respond to his love as warmly as he would have wished, she was invariably kind and gentle, and poor Adam did not expect more. She was so immeasurably above him—so he thought—that the most ordinary attention transported him into the seventh heaven. He heard her praises at all hands—for every one, Mrs. Dale included, now lauded her up to the skies—and the more he heard them the more he wondered at his singular good fortune.

"What she could have seen in me," he reflected in his simple way, "is more than I can understand. I should have thought that she could have had anyone she liked. Now, if she had taken a fancy to Cyril Paton, for instance, who is a good-looking young fellow, and clever, and agreeable, I shouldn't have been surprised; but me," and then he would laugh to himself, the while his great heart was brimming over with thankfulness.

The engagement was not to be a long one, and even before Cyril's departure the preparations for the marriage were actively prosecuted. The Barrons were bent on making a grand affair of it. The Bishop was to officiate. There were to be eight bridesmaids, and two pages to hold up the bride's train. There were to be 300 guests to the breakfast, and there was to be a ball in the evening. And I need not say that Adam Dyke was to pay for it all.

"Now, Mr. Barron," he said one day, "you must excuse me if I put a delicate matter somewhat bluntly to you. I know that all these preparations will cost a great deal of money. Now I happen to know that you cannot very well stand an expense of the description, so you will—now do, like a good fellow—allow me to take it on my shoulders."

Mr. Barron protested that he would do nothing of the kind, but Adam was so earnest that at last the worthy merchant let him have his way. Indeed, he not only let him have his way, but showed him various way's of spending his money which assuredly would never have occurred to Adam's unpretentious mind.

"If one does a thing one may as well do it well," smiled Mr. Barron, as he viewed with an approving eye some extensive alterations in the house which had been effected in view of the coming ceremony. "What do you think, Adam?"

Of course, Adam thought as he did.

Gertrude threw herself into the preparations with as much warmth as either her father or mother. She felt the necessity of doing something. Inaction meant reflection, and reflection misery. To do her justice she did her best to forget her old lover, and to appreciate the touching devotion of the simple man who was her slave. But oblivion is not at our beck and call. Cyril Paton was away, and when he was in Melbourne she had refused to see him; but his memory was alive, and each day the hunger to see him again gnawed with increasing strength at her weak woman's heart.

Not that she showed it. Had anyone seen her selecting her trousseau they would have thought her happy enough. Had they seen her furnishing the house in Collins-street that Adam had bought for her they would have concluded that she was delighted with the prospect before her. But if she deceived the world she couldn't deceive herself, and when she was alone she would break down, and curse the unhappy fate which had brought her to such a pass.

I have said that she deceived the world, but though the world in the sense that I have used it would decidedly include Mrs. Barron, she did not deceive that lady.

"My dear David," said Mrs. Barron one night that they were discussing the state of affairs, "it's just as well that the marriage is coming off as soon as it is. I can't depend on Gertrude. I never gave her credit for as much feeling as she has. I knew that she was—was spasmodically emotional at times; but I certainly thought that at the bottom she was—what shall I say?—" (Mrs. Barron here coughed behind her plump hand), "a little worldly. Had an eye to the main chance, in fact."

"You thought she took after her mamma," laughed Mr. Barron.

"Let us say after both of us," retorted the lady. "Now, of course, it's very dreadful that Mrs. Paton, your sister Emma, should be so ill, but it really is most fortunate that something should have happened to take Cyril out of the way."

Mr. Barron was sitting in front of the fire. As he looked at the kindling blaze he felt the edge of his nails, a sure sign that he was turning something over in his mind.

"Do you know, Bessie, that I've had my doubts of Gertrude lately, though not quite in the same way that you have. If Cyril were to come back now, though it would cost her much to refuse him, she would refuse him, and marry Dyke. But it is about ourselves that I'm uneasy."

"Ourselves!" interjected Mrs. Barron.

"Yes, my dear, ourselves!" replied her husband, as he looked more intently than ever into the fire. "Of course we have expected, we still expect, to profit by her marriage."


"It has lately struck me that if Gertrude sacrifices herself—that is what she would call it—she will do so for her own benefit, and we may be left out in the cold."

Mrs. Barron's brow contracted.

"We'll see about that!" she said quietly. "Gertrude has a lot to learn before she is a match for her mother."


Chapter VI.

At the moment that Mr. and Mrs. Barron were rubbing their hands with satisfaction at the fact of Cyril Paton's absence in South Australia, that young gentleman was already on his way back to Victoria. His mother had taken a turn for the better, and had he been asked he would probably have given that as his reason for the step he was taking. As a matter of fact it had but little to do with it, and I'm afraid that had her case been infinitely more desperate than it was he would have returned to Melbourne. Two powerful motives impelled him. The Melbourne Cup was to be run on November 6, and on the Wednesday after Gertrude's wedding was to take place. At first sight there seems but little connection between the two events, but they bore a close affinity in Cyril's mind, and he had good reason for coupling them, as we shall see further on.

Though Cyril's position with the Ring had been most unsatisfactory for a long time past, he had but little difficulty until quite recently in getting bookmakers to bet with him. He had been in difficulties before, and had always managed to scrape out of them, and there were few of his creditors but believed that he would pull through this time, though if they had been asked how he was to do so they would have been puzzled for an answer. Besides, he had always been a man who "took a good price," and a bookmaker's heart goes out to a careless backer.

Cyril had backed several doubles over the Derby and Cup in the winter, and had even taken some large wagers on the same races quite a year before they came off. Some of these were "dead," as it is termed, the horses having been either not entered or scratched, but some of them were in great request, and had advanced to a very short price indeed.

Now, though the bookmakers had a kindly feeling towards Cyril, the feeling was somewhat modified when their pockets were in danger. They could now lay a very short price about the double he had backed (it was Chester and Chester for the memorable Cup of 1877), and the "metallician" dearly likes a good mark for his really "good goods." Cyril was quite aware of all this, for he had been in the same predicament before. He was not, then, surprised to find three letters from members of the ring awaiting him on his arrival, which requested him to post the money for his wagers before the Derby day. He pulled a long face as he crunched up the letters in his hand.

"Post the money! How the deuce am I to do it?" he reflected. "Post it, indeed! I wish that all the Jews—aye, and Christians, too—that ever made a book, were at the bottom of the sea; d— them!"

But curses and ill wishes did not help him to arrive at a solution of his difficulty. Lighting a cigar, he went into the club smoking-room and sitting down in a chair tried to think his position out.

"However I get the money," he reflected, "it must be got. I never had such a strong presentiment of success as this time. And so much depends on it, too. I wonder whether old Naumann," this was a well-known money-lender of the day, "would stand me for a few hundreds. I hardly think it. He never forgave me for not paying him up when I won over Briseis. But who is there to put it up for me?"

As he asked himself the question, a figure appeared in the doorway which answered it. Cyril's heart gave a great bound, but his face coloured; for, debased as he was, he had some sense of shame left in him.

Adam greeted him with the greatest cordiality. He liked Cyril, and had greatly missed him,

"I am so glad you are back," he said, with no little warmth, after they had exchanged greetings. "You'll be able to be at my wedding, to-day fortnight. Oliver Barron is to be best man, but I would take it as an especial favour," he said earnestly, "if you would be one of the groomsmen."

Cyril turned scarlet.

"Well! the fact is—" he began.

"I won't take a refusal!" laughed Adam Dyke, good-naturedly.

"I was going to say," stammered Cyril, feeling and looking most uncomfortable, "that my stay is so uncertain. You know my mother—"

Adam Dyke's face grew grave.

"Oh! say no more, my dear fellow," he said gently, as he laid his broad hand on Cyril's shoulder. "I can quite understand that you wouldn't like to be present at anything of the sort, whilst Mrs. Paton's case is so serious. Well! how have you been getting on?" he asked in a cheerful tone. "I hope that you have been doing well."

For the moment Cyril did not answer. Then, impelled by a sudden impulse, he held out the crumpled letters, which he still held in his hand, to Adam Dyke.

"Read those," he said, "and you will see."

Adam Dyke took the letters, and straightened them out on his broad knee.

"Do you really mean me to read them," he asked.

"I shouldn't have handed them to you unless I did," growled Cyril, throwing himself back in his chair and nursing his knee.

Adam read them, and as he read his face grew grave.

"I don't quite understand—I'm not a betting man, you know," he explained; "I don't quite understand all this, but I gather that you are in difficulties, and—"

"Well! the fact of the matter is this," interrupted Cyril excitedly. "They know that I've the best of them, and now, just because I owe them a few hundreds, they want to force me to scratch the bets. If I had backed horses that had no show they'd take their chance of getting the money fast enough."

Adam Dyke leant forward and again placed his hand on Cyril's shoulder, as he looked him earnestly in the face.

"I wish—I wish you didn't bet," he said gravely. "You know—"

"What does it matter?" interrupted Cyril "One must do something! Why not bet as well as anything else?"

Adam Dyke leant back in his chair, and bit his lip.

"As you will, Paton." he said quietly, and taking up the letters he read them again. "Now, Paton," he asked, after he had perused them, "what would it take to put you straight? I don't mean only to defray these debts—"

"I don't owe those yet," blurted out Cyril.

"But to put you absolutely on your legs, so that you won't owe a shilling in the world." Cyril reflected a moment.

"Oh! I can't say for certain," he answered. "A couple of thousand I should say. Three thousand at the outside. But what is the use of discussing the question," he exclaimed impatiently, "when I have no more chance of paying than of floating a company to work gold mines in the mountains of the moon."

 Adam Dyke again straightened out the letters, and then folded them up with no little care into the original creases, before handing them back to Cyril.

"If you—you will accept my assistance," he stammered—"I mean as a loan, mere temporary assistance—I think that—"

Cyril Paton jumped to his feet, and pressed his hands to his head.

"I can't do it, Dyke; I can't!" he cried whilst tears came to his eyes. "I'm sure that I should be able to pay you, but if by any chance I couldn't, I—. No! I can't accept it! I can't."

Adam Dyke persisted in his offer, and Cyril for a while held to his refusal. But, in the end, the money was accepted—as a loan, of course—and Cyril's heart was easier than it had been for months.

"It's hard lines," he reflected afterwards, "to have to accept help from the beggar, but what the deuce am I to do? After all, I can pay him back soon enough. Chester is a moral certainty for the Derby, and if he wins the double Dyke can have his money back with interest."

After dinner that evening, Cyril, accompanied by Grainger and one or two others, went round to the betting-rooms and, having settled up all his old scores, insisted on posting the amount of his bets over the Derby and Cup.

"Oh, there is no necessity for that now," said one of the bookmakers, taking him aside. "Everyone is satisfied that you are good for the money. They didn't like your betting so heavily when you owed them so much money over the Metropolitan. That was all. You see, you haven't shown yourself here lately, and—"

"And, by Heaven, if a man doesn't show himself for a few weeks, he's to be treated like this," interrupted Cyril angrily, as he opened one of the letters, and struck the page with the back of his hand. "Show myself! They'll wish I'd never shown myself to-night. What price Chester to five hundred pounds cash?" he called out, addressing the room at large, as he took a roll of notes from his pocket and held them up in his hand.

"I'll lay you twelve hundred to it," said a bookmaker, as he elbowed his way through the crowd; "but put your money in your pocket. I'd book it to you."

"I'll take it," said Cyril, as he wrote down the bet on his cuff. "I'll take it again."

A little Jew stepped forward, the same that had threatened to post him the day that he had cashed Adam Dyke's first cheque.

"I'll lay you two huddred and fifty to a huddred, sir," he lisped out in a quite deferential tone.

"You will not," said Cyril decisively.

"You'd, better take it, sir," the man said persuasively, but with an uneasy look in his face.

"I'll see you hanged first," exclaimed Cyril angrily. "I don't forget what you said to me in Collins-street, if you do. Here, who will lay me odds to £500 more about Chester for the Derby?"

The little Jew, with a shrug of his shoulders and a smile of ill-simulated indifference, turned on his heel.

"If I ever gets Mithter Paton on the hip," he said to a brother bookmaker, as he clenched his fist and struck the other palm with great force, "I won't let him off as lightly as I did this time. I'll be even with him if it costs me a huddred guiddees."

Meanwhile those bookmakers who had Chester to lay were round Cyril Paton as thick as bees. "Take mine, take mine, take mine," cried 20 voices at once. They fought for possession of him. Those who were not able to lay him bets viewed with greedy eyes their more fortunate confréres. They elbowed their way to the front in the hope of making a wager with him. They cursed their ill-luck, aye and they cursed him, though the curse was not uttered, when at last he declared that he had taken all he wanted.

"I've got £2,500 to £1,000, haven't I, Grainger?" he asked of his friend, who had been keeping a tally for him.

"Yes! that's it! Don't take any more," whispered Grainger, who had long been anxious for Cyril to go back to the club. "Let's go! This atmosphere suffocates me."

Passing his arm through Cyril's he dragged him off, to the disgust of those bookmakers who had still money to lay.

At the door they were met by one of the principal bookmakers, who had been absent during the greater portion of the evening.

"Want anything for the Cup, Mr. Paton?" he asked in his most polite tones, for he had heard that Cyril had settled up his old score.

"Yes! what will you lay me Chester?"

"Hundreds to four, sir; a fair price."

"How much?"

The bookmaker had his book in his hand. He consulted it for a moment, chewing the end of his pencil as he did so.

"How much do you want, sir?" he asked.

"Five thousand to two hundred."

"I'll lay it to you," answered the bookmaker, as he booked it.

"Are you raving mad?" asked Grainger angrily, as they descended the stairs leading to the street. "Why, if Chester doesn't win you'll lose thousands."

Cyril laughed. His face was flushed, and his eyes shone like burnished steel.

"He'll win, right enough!" he cried. "Now, let us have a game of poker."



With no member of the Barron family was Adam Dyke so popular as with Oliver. Mr. and Mrs. Barron had been attracted to him in the first instance by wealth alone, and though they had ended by being won over by his unselfishness and his kindly disposition, a certain tincture of contempt blended itself with their liking for him. Gertrude, too—though she was touched by his unflagging devotion to her—could not forget, poor girl, that he had supplanted Cyril. But Oliver's feeling for him was one of unmitigated affection, he had met with great kindness at Adam's hands, and he had the enthusiastic gratitude of a boy.

"My word, Gertrude," he said one day to his sister, "you don't half know what a good fellow Adam is. He's too good—'pon my word he is. Everyone seems to get everything out of him they can."

"Do they?" she asked languidly.

"Yes; that they do. He's always got his hand in his pocket, and some of the fellows who are loafing on him are real duffers. Now, do you know, I think he's lent Cyril Paton money. I'm sure he has."

"No, no," exclaimed his sister, turning pale.

"Ah! But I'm sure of it," resumed Oliver emphatically. "Mr. Grainger was talking about it at the Drisberghs' yesterday afternoon."

"Then Mr. Grainger ought to be ashamed of himself," interjected Gertrude, flushing to the roots of the hair.

"Not a bit of it!" retorted the boy. "Why should he be? You know that Cyril Paton hasn't a shilling, and yet he turned up at the betting-rooms the other night with a hatful of money, and the notes were South Sea Bank ones too, and—and he had an interview with Adam in the smoking-room, and—and —"

Gertrude put her fingers in her ears, and tears started to her eyes.

"Stop, Oliver! you cruel boy!" she cried.

The boy's face grew grave, and he sat down beside her on the sofa. He put his arm round her waist and kissed her cheek.

"Poor old Gertrude!" he said. "I always thought you were fond of Cyril, but I hoped that you had got over it."

"So I have!" interjected Gertrude, trying to regain her composure.

"No you haven't, Gertrude! You haven't by a long way," Oliver said seriously, "and I'm awfully sorry about it. I can't see what you see in Cyril. He's beastly selfish and bad-tempered, and he thinks a dashed sight more of himself than anyone else does. He owes money all over the place. Why there isn't a tradesman—"

"Oh! of course Mr. Dyke is much richer," Gertrude admitted.

"Oh! It isn't on that account that I like Adam the best," exclaimed the boy with no little warmth. "No; Adam is so straightforward and thoughtful. Why you have only to mention a thing and it's done if it's in his power. Why you know yourself that when I said how much I'd like to have a horse, I had no idea of getting one out of him. I didn't know that he was even listening to me—and there he went and made me a present of Banjo."

"Yes, it was very good of him," Gertrude murmured.

"Good is no name for him," cried the boy enthusiastically. "He's the greatest brick I ever knew, and worth a paddock full of Cyril Patons."

Oliver propounded this comparison with a warmth that precluded the possibility of reply, nor did Gertrude attempt to redeem Cyril in her brother's eyes. She knew that much of what he said was true, and her heart sank as she recognised the futility of defending her old lover.

"Oliver," she called out, as her brother was leaving the room, "I want you a moment. I don't want to discuss this subject any more, dear," she said in a pleading tone, "because—because I feel it very much. Please don't talk of it to me again. And Oliver," she added, as she caught him by the hand, "you won't say anything to Mr. Dyke about Cyril and me, will you, dear?"

The boy promised, and he kept his word.

But there were those who were not bound by any promise of secrecy, and the news came to Adam's ears, notwithstanding precautions taken not only by Gertrude, but by Mr. and Mrs. Barron. His feeling was one of pure sorrow and sympathy for Cyril.

"Poor devil!" he reflected, as a compassionate look came into his honest eyes. "No wonder that he's going to the dogs. I wonder that he doesn't hate me. I wonder that he can stay here. I couldn't. But, then, if Gertrude were to give me up—it would kill me, I'm sure it would," and the very idea brought a still graver look into his eyes. "I only wish that I could tell him how much I feel for him, but I suppose I can't," he reflected.

"Poor beggar! If I can do anything for him I will."

Meanwhile the young man whose position caused him such grave uneasiness was doing his best to do him a great wrong. Whilst there was no other lover in the field, Cyril had taken matters very coolly, content to be on intimate terms with Gertrude without pressing for any definite engagement. But her acceptance of Adam Dyke had kindled a fire in him of which he had never conceived the existence. Whilst he was sure of her, he was but an indifferent suitor; now that he had lost her, he became an ardent lover.

He had written to her repeatedly, but his letters had invariably been returned to him unopened. He had called at the house, as I have said, several times, but Mrs. Barron was true to her word—the doors were stubbornly closed to him. This was before his trip to Adelaide, and now on his return he made renewed efforts to effect his object. He met with unexpected success. The very first day that he went out to Toorak he caught sight of her in a part of the garden remote from the house. A moment afterwards he was by her side. She started back when she saw him, and turned as white as if she had seen a ghost.

"Cyril! Cyril! you here," she cried, as she thrust him away and looked from side to side in an agony of fear lest they should be seen together.

"Yes, my darling!" he answered, and he drew her towards him, and kissed her with more passion than he had ever displayed when he was permitted to do so. "Yes, and what is more, I intend to remain."

Gertrude still struggled to get free, but her efforts were but half-hearted. Her joy at seeing him outweighed her fear of detection, and the tears that came into her eyes were not tears of grief.

"Come here, Gertrude, where we've sat so often and been so happy," he said, as he led her to a sheltered seat, "and let us talk the matter over. There's much in the past that we must both regret, but for Heaven's sake let us make no more mistakes. In your hands lies the happiness of us both. There's yet time to avert what would be—"

"There's no time, Cyril! It can't be thought of," she cried, distractedly.

"I tell you there is! You don't know this man—you don't know him as I do. That he loves you I haven't the slightest doubt, and loves you well, but I tell you that if he thought that by marrying you he was giving you pain he'd rather cut off his right hand than carry it through."

"What am I to do?" asked Gertrude, biting her lip, whilst tears streamed down her face.

"Do? Why put the case plainly before him. Tell him the truth, Gertrude—that's all I ask you—tell him the truth."

A bright spot came into the girl's cheeks, and she cast down her eyes.

"I can't do it," she said.

"You can!" Cyril cried angrily.

"I cannot," she repeated, "how can I go to him at this last moment and acknowledge that I have loved another man all along. Think what it would be," she exclaimed passionately, as she turned her face to Cyril, and laid her hands on his arm. "He is so good and thoughtful. He seems to study my lightest thought, to live but to please me. How can I shatter his happiness at such a time and with such a blow?"

An angry gleam came into Cyril's eyes.

"You didn't consider me a few months ago," he cried, as he cast off her hands from his arm, "when you sent me off like a dog. Why should this man be treated with more consideration? What has he done to deserve it? Has he loved you better?"


"Then treat him as you did me."

"I can't," faltered the girl, shaking her head and sobbing bitterly.

"By Heaven, you shall," he cried, as he jumped up from the seat, and, utterly regardless as to whether he was seen or not, took several hasty steps backwards and forwards on the gravel path. "Now look here, Gertrude," he said in a calmer voice, as he sat down again and laid a hand gently on her shoulder, "I want you to thoroughly understand me. If I can't have you by fair means, I'll have you by foul. Now, will you explain to this man how matters have stood between us, and trust to his magnanimity to release you from your engagement?"

Gertrude hung her head but did not speak.

"That means that you won't. Very well. Then I shall take other measures."

"Oh, Cyril! What will you do?"

"Do? I'll tell you later on. First of all, give me your word that you will meet me here on Monday at the same time."

"I can't, Cyril, I can't," sobbed the girl.

"If you don't you'll only have yourself to blame," cried Cyril, with threatening emphasis.

Gertrude looked into his eyes, and he read her answer before she spoke.

"I'll meet you, Cyril."

He caught her in his arms, and kissed her again and again.

"Thanks, my darling," he said.

* * * * * *

Who that takes an interest in racing could ever forget the excitement over the Derby of 1877, an excitement which was heightened by the fluctuations in the betting market for a month beforehand. It is true that Chester, the winner, had almost always been first favourite, but at different times First King and Woodlands ran him close. There were rumours, as there are every year, of wonderful trials. First King was reported to have done a mile and a half down at Geelong that broke the record, and Lockleys, so late as November 2, did a gallop which caused him to be in great demand. Then it was reported that if sufficient inducement were offered Woodlands would start, and there were not those wanting, and good judges too, who averred that if he did he would lower the great gun's colours. No one anticipated that it would be as easy a victory as it turned out, and even Chester's most enthusiastic supporters were not prepared to see him win as easily as he did. "There isn't a horse in England could beat me this day," his trainer was reported to have said, but people, and especially trainers, make such wild assertions when the merits of a favourite horse are being discussed, that but little attention was paid to the remark. However, the result almost justified the assertion. Slightly before the turn Chester began to leave the field, and though Pluto made a gallant bid for victory, the issue was never in doubt

Cyril Paton's good fortune was as much discussed as the racing itself, and many an envious eye was cast at him as he was paid over his winnings on the Monday morning. He had won some £7,000, and as he had coupled Chester with all the favourites for the Cup, the probabilities were that he would land a very handsome stake over the meeting.

The first thing that he did was to pay Adam Dyke, for that debt weighed like lead on his usually elastic conscience.

"Oh! Dyke," he said to the latter, as he took him aside after lunch on settling day, "I want to square up with you. Let's see; how much was it that I owed you?"

The possession of money makes all of us more independent; but Cyril's independence was of such an exaggerated type that it would have disgusted anyone more observant that Adam Dyke.

"It was four thousand," said Adam, as he consulted his pocket-book; and then he added, in a hearty tone, "I'm so glad that you have had a stroke of luck, and are in a position to get out of your difficulties."

The words were kind, and were kindly meant, but they jarred on Cyril's nerves as few words had ever done before.

"What do you mean?" he asked, testily. "That you weren't going to get paid unless I won?"

A look of surprise as much as of pain came into Adam's face.

"Not in the least," he said earnestly. "I only meant to congratulate you on your good fortune, which gave me great pleasure. If I have hurt your feelings I heartily apologise."

Cyril of course accepted the apology, and the matter dropped; but the look of pain lingered on Adam's face long after Cyril had left him.

"Poor fellow," he reflected. "My engagement must be a great blow to him. I'm afraid that we can never be friends."

That afternoon Cyril went to Heimweh. Gertrude was at her post. She looked pale and ill, and at first her languor contrasted strongly with his excitement; but as he told the story of his good fortune, and described to her the further luck that might be in store for him, she caught some of his spirit, and her face brightened.

"I'm so glad, dear," she cried, "for I couldn't bear to hear of you being badly off."

He caught her in his arms and thanked her with a kiss.

"Now listen, Gertrude, and don't interrupt me," he said, putting his arm round her waist and pressing her close to his side. "I bet more heavily on the Derby than I ever did in my life; but I had more to win than money, though the money may win me—may win me—will win me that which I value most in the world. The only bar to our happiness was that I was a poor man. I've now a few thousands, and if Chester wins the Cup I'm a rich man. The obstacle to our marriage no—"

"Stop, stop, Cyril!" the girl cried, as she buried her face on his chest.

"I say the obstacle no longer exists," repeated Cyril, "and that you must marry me. Say that you will, Gertrude, and make me the happiest man in Australia."

A faint sob was the only reply. Cyril repeated the question, and as he did so lifted her head up and looked into her eyes.

"Well, dear?" he asked tenderly.

For a moment longer the issue was in doubt, but for a moment only. "May God forgive me!" Gertrude cried, and again hid her face.

* * * * * *

At the identical time that this meeting was going on Gertrude's father was pacing his office in a very unenviable frame of mind. The firm of "David Barron and Company" had seen many ups and downs, but it had never found itself in such a desperate strait as on that day. To do him justice Mr. Barron was, as a rule, a man of nerve, and in the past his pluck had often averted an apparently certain ruin. But now he was at his wit's end, and a succession of reverses had for the time being utterly unnerved him.

"Well! my hopes rest on this man," he reflected, as he felt the edge of his nails impatiently, and walked up and down the room with a quick step. "If he fails me it's all up with me. I haven't a friend in the place who would help me. A friend? There's hardly a business man here but would give a sly chuckle at my downfall. Well; I wonder when he will be here!" he went on, as he looked at the door with some anxiety, and listened for footsteps in the outer office. "I hope he has got my message. If he has he is sure to come."

He sat down at his desk, and taking up a pen began tracing lines on the blotting-pad. His face was unusually pale, and any one who knew him had only to look at him to see that he was greatly upset.

"It's the most unlucky thing in the world that it should have happened at this precise time," he went on as he threw the pen impatiently from him, and leant back in his chair, "a month earlier or a month later it would not have mattered so much. I could have asked a favour of the sort much more readily a month ago than now, and a month hence there would have been no difficulty at all. Well! I've got to take my chance. If he'll help me, well and good. If he won't there is only one thing to be done—turn insolvent," and at the thought he bit his thin under-lip with a strength that left the mark of each tooth. "I've been near it before, too near to be pleasant, but it's hard at my age to have to face the possibility—the probability of it. However, there is no use anticipating evil. Dyke can pull me through if he chooses, and as he is to marry my daughter—"

The thought was left uncompleted. There was a heavy step in the outer office, and the next moment one of the clerks announced the man whose name was on his lips.

Mr. Barron went forward to meet him, and shook him by the hand.

"Sit down, Adam," he said, pointing to a chair, whilst he himself turned the lock in the door. "I've something very particular to speak to you about."

Adam's thoughts were so occupied with Gertrude that he immediately jumped to the conclusion that the impending revelation concerned her.

"I hope it's nothing about Gertrude," he said anxiously, as he looked with uneasy eyes at Mr. Barron's serious face.

The merchant drew up a chair near him.

"Not exactly," he answered in a low voice, "and yet it may reflect, so unjust is the world, it may reflect on her."

"I hope not!" interjected Adam.

"It may, however," resumed Mr. Barron; "but of that you can judge for yourself. Adam Dyke, I am a ruined man. Unless assistance falls from the clouds—for I know no other place whence it may come—the firm of 'David Barron and Company' must go insolvent. A series of misfortunes has overtaken me—misfortunes that it was impossible to provide against. In the past I have had difficulties, great difficulties, and I have overcome them, but I tell you candidly that there is no hope of doing so this time."

The news was so different from what Adam had expected that he gave an unmistakable sigh of relief.

"Of course you will have at once understood my reason for sending for you," resumed Mr. Barron. "I know that when you proposed to Gertrude you were not actuated by anything except your love for the dear girl, but now that our circumstances are likely to be so very different—so painfully, painfully different," he said, as he leant his head on his hands, "it is only fair to you to release you from your engagement."

Adam's colour rose, and he gave a nervous cough.

"It isn't—it isn't Gertrude's wish to be released, is it?" he asked anxiously.

"Not at all!" Mr. Barron exclaimed, with unusual quickness.

A look of satisfaction came into Adam's face, which Mr. Barron rightly read as a good omen for his cause.

"Then nothing more need be said about it," said Adam, speaking with no little warmth. "Nothing could alter my desire to make Gertrude my wife."

As Adam Dyke said this he got up from his chair, somewhat to the dismay of Mr. Barron, who half thought that he was going off without taking the bait which had been so prominently tendered him, and took a few paces up and down the room.

"I hate dealing with fools, useful as they are at times," reflected the worthy merchant, as he stole a cautions glance at the man whom he thus contemptuously described. "I hope the beggar will make the first advance; it's so devilish unpleasant having to ask a favour without any assistance from the man one asks it from."

The matter was not long in doubt. Adam Dyke was too well used to considering others to be long engrossed with his own affairs.

"But, I say," he cried, pulling up short in his little walk, "the first thing is to see what can be done for you. Turn insolvent, eh? Not whilst I have a penny to my credit."

It was Mr. Barron's turn to give a sigh of relief.

"I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your kindness," he said, with warmth; and for once his manner was the genuine expression of his feeling. "But I'm afraid that I'm too heavily involved for even your purse."

"Not a bit of it" interrupted Adam, heartily. "Let us go into the matter, and we will soon see, at any rate."

Though Adam had been long used to large figures, the revelations of Mr. Barron as to his indebtedness somewhat took his breath away. However, he expressed his willingness to "see him through," as he called it and gave him a large cheque on account to tide him over for the time being.

"I thought he was a clever man, but it strikes me he's a donkey," mused the fool as he left the merchant's office: "of course, I mean in money matters," he hastened to add, as if he had wronged the reputation of Gertrude's father. "My money is gone, but it can't be helped. I would pay three times the sum to save poor Gertrude the grief of knowing the truth."

The merchant sat looking at the cheque which he held at half-arm in his lean fingers, and as he did so a look of indescribable triumph lit up his mean eyes.

"A fool and his money are soon parted," he reflected, as his thin lip curled with contempt. "And what a fool, and what money!" He here cast an approving glance at the cheque. "I think if he had known the precise value of my correspondent's paper, that even he, rich as he is, would have shirked the business."


Chapter VIII.

Cyril's confidence in Chester's ability to win the Cup did not abate one jot as the hour for testing the question approached. He was unaffected by the State of the betting market, and he did not care two pins whether Chester was first favourite or not. When tipsters, and tipsters that he had hitherto paid no little attention to, assured him that Savanaka, and Woodlands, and Robinson Crusoe—ay, and half a dozen others—were sure to beat his selection he listened to them with what patience he could command, but stuck to his opinion more resolutely than ever. When it was pointed out to him that as he had taken most of his money at long prices he could "hedge" it so that he would still stand to win a large sum at a minimum risk, he bluntly returned that he "wouldn't lay off a shilling."

"I quite appreciate all you say, my dear fellow," he said to Grainger, as they drove out to the course, "but you are only wasting your time trying to persuade me. Savanaka may have cleared out the whole of Wilson's stable, as you say, and I allow that he will be bad to beat, but I tell you that I have such a strong presentiment—"

"Presentiments be hanged!" impatiently interrupted Grainger. "Just fancy backing horses, in the nineteenth century, too! by presentiment."

"I admit it sounds nonsense," Cyril acknowledged, with a nervous laugh, "but nothing can shake me in my determination to see it out."

On which Mr. Grainger shrugged his shoulders, and expressed his opinion that as Cyril was such an obstinate fool he deserved to lose his money.

Even the rain and a nasty drizzle that had set in from early morning did not affect Cyril's composure. He would have preferred a fine day, but merely because it was unpleasant to stand about all day in the wet. He did not think that the rain would affect Chester's chance of scoring a victory, and it was from that point of view that he considered everything that day.

But if Cyril did not mind the rain there were plenty of people who did, and loud were the complaints and lamentations of the ladies in the densely-packed stand. Their hopes had been riveted on that day for months. Dress had occupied their minds every hour of the day—and perchance some of the night—for weeks and weeks past. Costumes, so it was reported, had arrived from Paris on which Worth and Rodriguez had lavished all the resources of their art, and the curiosity of those who had to be content with the productions of the local modistes was strung to concert-pitch. But there were those who took a malicious delight in the discomfiture of their friends, and of this class Mrs. Dale was a prominent representative.

"It is really most unfortunate that poor Mrs. Churcher won't be able to show off her new Parisian dress," she said to Mrs. Drisbergh, with a little laugh, as she thought of her own last season dress which was hidden under her waterproof, "They say that it cost £100, and that the passementerie on it is alone worth half the money. I really think it most absurd for a woman of her age and appearance to spend so much money on dress."

"Mr. Champlin evidently doesn't think so," said Mrs. Drisbergh, as she cast a significant glance towards the Governor's box, from which Mr. Champlin was speaking to Mrs. Churcher, who was seated immediately behind it, "and I suppose that he is the chief person to be considered."

"And a monstrous thing it is that it should be so," cried Mrs. Dale in a sudden paroxysm of virtuous indignation. "I really think that society ought to put its foot down, and stop that sort of thing."

The faintest trace of a smile curled old Mrs. Drisbergh's thin lip. She remembered that some years before Mrs. Dale's name had been on everyone's tongue, and that very hard things indeed had been said about her.

"Perhaps you are right," she allowed in a cautious tone, "but who will be the first to take the matter up? Ah! There are Mr. and Mrs. Barron, and Mr. Dyke," she exclaimed, as she caught sight of the Heimweh party, "but I don't see Gertrude."

"Gertrude isn't well. I saw her yesterday, and she told me that she wasn't coming. Do you know I begin to think that she is repenting her bargain. And it is a terrible thing that a young and pretty girl like her should sell herself to such a boor as Adam Dyke."

Mrs. Drisbergh gave a dry cough. She was fully aware how industriously the speaker had angled for Adam Dyke on behalf of one of her own daughters, and she could not resist a sly thrust.

"I fancy there are plenty of girls who would not mind being in her shoes," she said quietly, "and plenty of mothers who would give their ears to have him for a son-in-law."

"Well, I'm not one of them," interjected Mrs. Dale, with unnecessary warmth.

"Quite so. But you must admit that there are some," persisted Mrs. Drisbergh.

"Well, I won't discuss the matter," said Mrs. Dale, who did not look in the best of tempers. "I can only say that I wouldn't have him for a son-in-law if he went down on his knees to me this minute. Just look at him! Now, I ask you, my dear Mrs. Drisbergh, if a sensible woman is likely to run after a man who looks so utterly ridiculous as Mr. Dyke does to-day?"

Certainly, Adam did not show to advantage. He was standing on the asphalte path in front of the stand, talking to Mr. Grainger. He wore a white hat, and light gloves, which emphasised the size of his enormous hands. He had a light frock coat, which set in a series of creases on the back, and his great feet were encased in patent leather boots. In his ordinary clothes the clumsiness of his figure escaped notice; but now everything seemed to draw attention to it, just as the tawdry jewellery of the Sunday-out servant girl advertises her vulgarity. Mrs. Drisbergh put up her glass, and took in all these details.

"If a man is to be judged by his clothes," she said, quietly, "I must admit that Mr. Dyke is not a desirable acquaintance. But I must confess that I really like his face. Though his features are not particularly good, there's an expression in his face which is really quite—quite winning; and you must admit that his eyes are good. Such blue, frank, honest eyes I've rarely seen."

"And what about those awful, ill bred hands," snapped out Mrs. Dale, who was working herself into a frenzy of indignation with the poor unoffending squatter, "and his round shoulders, and his great feet? I really think that one of the reasons the Barrons have secured him is that it will give people an opportunity of comparing the couple to Beauty and the Beast."

Mrs. Dale's adverse opinion of him did not prevent that lady being most attentive to him when shortly afterwards they met at lunch.

"What a charming man Mr. Dyke is," she whispered to Mrs. Barron, in such a manner that every word came distinctly to Adam's tingling ears: "so attentive, so good-natured, and so full of information. Oh, thank you!" she exclaimed, as she looked up into Adam's blushing face with a gracious smile, when he brought her a plateful of boned turkey, "I really don't know what I should do without you." Nor did her equanimity entirely desert her when a few minutes afterwards Adam upset a large spoonful of trifle over her dress.

The appearance of the weather when they went to lunch had been favourable, and though threatening clouds were still to be seen to the south, the rain had ceased. The lull, however, was of short duration, and the hopes of the holiday-seekers, which had risen high at the prospect of fine weather, now fell as rapidly again. Lunch was hardly over, when a heavy downpour set in, and for the rest of the day umbrellas and mackintoshes were the order of the day. Every now and then, when there seemed a prospect of the rain ceasing, a few adventurous ladies bravely essayed a promenade on the asphalte, but they were never able to stop there long. Even the sweepstakers, if I may be permitted to coin a word, found it advisable to seek the refuge of the stand. It was only those who bet who faced the rain.

Of these, of course, Cyril Paton was one. He didn't want to bet, for he had registered a vow, which for once he kept, that he wouldn't "touch" anything until the great event was decided. But a certain nervous impatience kept him in the vicinity of the ring, and he would have undergone a martyrdom of anxiety had he been compelled to await the solution of his position in the stand. So there he was in the saddling-paddock, ankle-deep in mud and wet to the skin, but indifferent alike to mud or rain. He had not bet on the first races, though as a rule he bet on every event. His hopes were concentrated on the one race, and on that he was prepared to hazard all.

He was standing at the scratching-board, comparing the scratchings with his book for the hundredth time, when Adam Dyke caught him by the arm.

"I've been looking everywhere for you," said Adam heartily. "I should like to be with you when the race is run, old man. As you know, I heartily wish you luck."

Cyril mumbled something about being awfully obliged, and pulled his hat over his eyes. He couldn't help wishing, however, that Adam had not preferred his request.

"You don't mind me being with you, I hope," said Adam, who, dull as he was, had an idea that his proposition was not entirely welcome.

"Not in the least," Cyril hastened to exclaim.

"Well, let us go and have a look at the big gun," said Adam, and, passing his arm through Cyril's, he led him off to the corner where Chester was undergoing his preparation.

There was a great crowd round him, but at last they got inside the ring, and had a really good look at the horse on whose performance so much rested.

"What do you think of him?" asked Cyril, as they walked towards the judge's box, while the horses were leaving the paddock to take their preliminary canters.

"Think of him?" answered Adam, as he tried to throw as much confidence into his tone as he could. "Think of him? Why, I think he'll win; and, by Heaven," he added, earnestly, "I only hope he may—for your sake."

They had selected a spot immediately behind the judge's box to see the race from, and there they stood without speaking whilst the horses took their preliminary canters. It was only when the horses were at the post that Cyril gave any signs of impatience.

"Take my glasses," he said, in a hoarse whisper, to Adam, as he thrust them into his hands, "and tell me when they're off."

Scarcely had Adam time to put up the glasses when a hoarse roar, taken up by fifty thousand throats, proclaimed that the horses had started.

"They're off!" roared the hill. "They're off!" roared the flat. "They're off!" roared the stand. It was which should roar the loudest.

"What are those left at the post?" asked Cyril, as he stood on tip-toe and anxiously endeavoured to make out the colours of the riders.

"Robinson Crusoe and Amendment," answered Adam, who, though he didn't bet, knew every horse in the race. "Chester's right enough. He's in a very good position."

"Thank God!" muttered Cyril.

"Savanaka and Filibuster are in the lead," continued Adam, "then come Peerless and The Diver—at least I think it's The Diver. Chester is pulling Piggott out of the saddle."

"And so is Sava pulling double," said a bookmaker standing near, "and take my word they've got to travel before they get to him. A hundred he beats anything in it."

"Done!" cried Cyril. "I'll back Chester."'

"It's a bet!" cried the bookmaker.

Adam lowered his glasses and turned hastily to Cyril.

"For Heaven's sake," he implored, "don't bet any more; you have quite enough on."

Cyril paid but little attention to the request. His eyes were riveted on the horses. He seized the glasses from Adam, and endeavoured to make out Chester's position. But his excitement was such that he couldn't bring the glasses to his focus.

"Take them," he said, as he handed them back to Adam, "Where is he now? and where is Savanaka?"

As they passed the stand Savanaka was fourth, and his rider, a mere child, seemed to have all his work to hold him. Chester was lying about eighth, and, as Adam put it, going as strong as a lion. Along the river Savanaka was third, and Chester had not improved his position. At the bridge, however, he seemed to be creeping up, and when Adam announced the fact a bright flush of excitement lit up Cyril's pale face, but every trace of colour left it a moment afterwards.

 "Great Heaven," cried Adam, "there's something down!"

Cyril turned livid. He tried to ask what horse it was, but his tongue clave to his palate.

"It's Waxy, I think," exclaimed the bookmaker who had backed the little grey against Chester. "He nearly brought Sava down," he added, with a terrible oath.

But now as they come to the turn for home the battle begins in earnest, and the ear of the stand waits for the hill to proclaim the winner, a moment more, and a name is yelled that makes every drop of blood in Cyril's veins tingle. "Chester! Chester!" roars the hill, and 50,000 necks are craned forward to see the tussle up the straight. Sure enough Chester enters the straight in the lead, Tom Kirk and The Vagabond being close up.

"It's all over, old man," says Adam, trying to master his emotion. "They'll never catch Chester."

Never catch Chester! The words are hardly out of his mouth when another name is on everyone's lips—"Savanaka! Savanaka!" and as the name is pronounced the little grey cuts down Tom Kirk and The Vagabond as if they are standing still, and lessens the distance between himself and Chester at every stride.

There was no need now to post Cyril as to the position of the horses. As he saw Savanaka drawing up to Chester, he ran down to the fence, and then, impelled by some spasmodic influence, he rushed along towards the judge's box, "riding Chester every yard," as a horsey eye-witness afterwards described.

"Go on, Paddy! Go on!" he yelled, frantically, to the jockey, as if the lad could hear him.

There was a babel of tongues, and both horses were proclaimed the winner, for opinions differed (and, maybe, differ to this day) as to whether the little grey had quite "got up" or not. There were those who thought it must he a dead heat, and of these Adam was one. But the issue was not long in doubt; and, as Chester's number went up, Adam seized Cyril's hand and congratulated him.

"I am glad!" he said; and his emotion amply testified the honesty of his good wishes. "I would sooner have lost ten thousand pounds than that he shouldn't have won."

There is no man so bad but that in his innermost being there is some remnant of conscience; and even Cyril, lost as he was to all sense of honour, felt a pang of shame, as he felt the grip of Adam's honest hand.

"Thanks," he said; but he did not meet Adam's eye as he spoke. "It is very good of you to say so. But for you I shouldn't have been in a position to land such a stake."

Two minutes afterwards, Cyril went to the telegraph-office, and sent the news to Gertrude.

"Chester won," so ran the telegram. "Be at the old place at eleven sharp to-morrow."

As he turned from the office, he came across Adam Dyke once more.

"I've just sent Gertrude Barron a telegram," said the latter, forgetting for the moment the old relations which had existed between his betrothed and Cyril. "She asked me to do so, and I am sure that she will be so glad to hear you've won."


Chapter IX.

Gertrude's state of health gave her mother no little anxiety, but it was more because it was awkward that she should be indisposed at that precise time than for any other reason.

"Really it's most provoking," she said to her husband when they were discussing the matter. "There's such a lot to be done, and so little time to do it in. I feel quite worn out, what with shopping, dressmaking, and preparations for the ball, and what not. I really think that Gertrude might make an effort."

Mr. Barron looked up from his paper at his wife, and half closed his eyes as he did so, a sure sign that he was considering something with unusual care.

"Don't you think, Bessie, that the prospect of her marriage is at the bottom of it?"

"Prospect of her marriage! How so?"

"Well, I may be wrong," said Mr. Barron in a tone which implied that he was satisfied that he was right; "but I am of opinion that she was really in love with Cyril Paton, and—"

"That fellow!" exclaimed Mrs. Barron, with a look and gesture that spoke volumes.

"Fellow or not," resumed Mr. Barron, "I am of that opinion. I think that we underrated her affection for him all through, and that but for my sister's illness you might have had no little trouble to keep Gertrude from breaking off her engagement."

"Well! I disagree with you," exclaimed Mrs. Barron shortly, "and you will admit that a woman is the best judge of a woman's motives. Gertrude meant to marry the man from the first. She would never have accepted him unless she meant to carry it through."

Mr. Barron shrugged his shoulders.

"Have your way, my dear," he said quietly. "I shall say no more," and then he directly belied that resolution by declaring, with no little warmth, that he would be heartily glad when it was all over.

This conversation took place on the Saturday night after the Cup, and though Mrs. Barron expressed her confidence in her own opinion, her husband's misgivings set her a-thinking, and she ended by having misgivings of her own.

"Well! If it is so, it's a pity," she reflected. "I have no patience with such nonsense. I always took Gertrude to be a sensible girl. If she is going in for sentiment, and that sort of thing, she is laying up for herself a nice store of trouble in the time to come."

All Sunday and Monday Mrs. Barron carefully watched the girl, and the more she watched the more she was won over to her husband's opinion,

"What a mercy," she reflected with, with a sigh of gratitude, "that that young scapegrace didn't win his money before. Six months earlier, and it might have upset the whole thing."

Before bed-time that night Gertrude furnished her with still further food for reflection. Mrs. Barron had occasion to consult her about some matters connected with the wedding, and hearing that she had gone to bed, went to her room. To her surprise, and to her infinite disgust, she found her in tears.

"Gertrude, how do you think it would do to—. Why, what on earth is the matter?" she broke off, as Gertrude buried her face in her hands.

"What has happened?"

The girl did not answer, and sobbed bitterly. "Come, come," said her mother, not unkindly, as she stood by the girl and gently smoothed her hair; "don't be silly, Gertrude. If anything has gone wrong say what it is, and we'll see what can be done."

As Gertrude still remained silent, Mrs. Barron drew up a chair by hers, and, sitting down, passed her arms round the girl's waist. Gertrude's head fell on her mother's breast.

"I'm afraid, my dear," whispered the latter, in as kindly a tone as she could command, "that all this fuss and bother has upset you. I don't wonder at it, for I myself feel quite exhausted. I shall be heartily glad when it's over."

The girl fell on her knees, and buried her face in her mother's lap.

"Oh, I'm so unhappy," she cried, and her voice attested the truth of her words. "I think my heart will break."

"Oh! nonsense, nonsense!" exclaimed her mother, trying to master her impatience. "What have you got to make you unhappy?"

The girl lifted her head, and looked into her mother's face. There were tears in her red-rimmed eyes, and her lip trembled as she spoke.

"Everything, mother, everything." she cried. "Oh! can't this marriage be put off? —put off? broken off. Can't I go away somewhere, anywhere."

Mrs. Barron pushed her chair back with a gesture of angry impatience.

"Are you mad, Gertrude?" she asked. "What has come over you?"

The girl bit her lip, and the tears flowed faster than ever.

"Don't be angry with me, mother;" she said in a pleading voice. "I've tried hard to keep up, but I—I couldn't do it."

"Stuff o' nonsense!" interrupted Mrs. Barron, as she rose to her feet and prepared to leave the room. "I have no patience with you. Here you are engaged to the very best match in Australia, to a man that worships the ground you tread on, to a man who is universally liked and esteemed, to a man that—that will let you have your own way in everything, and then, forsooth, you must indulge in hysterical emotion that would better become a servant girl. I have no patience with you."

The girl rose to her feet, and dashed the tears from her eyes.

"Mad or not mad, mother," she cried, "I tell you this, that if you don't do your best to break off the match, and to-morrow too, it will be you, and not I, badly as I shall feel it, that will feel it most."

Mrs. Barron raised her eyebrows and smiled.

"My dear girl, you are raving," she said as coolly as she could. "I hope we shall hear no more of this nonsense. Good night."

She had no sooner left the room than Gertrude fell on her knees at the bedside.

"May God forgive me!" she cried, and sobbed as if her heart would break.

Though Mrs. Barron had done her best to retain her composure whilst she was in the room, she was too much disturbed to keep up appearances when she got outside. Mr. Barron indulged in a cigar and spirits and water in the study before he went to bed, and to him his wife rushed off at a speed which she had not displayed for many years. She slammed the door behind her—a sure sign that she was out of temper.

"And what the deuce is up now?" asked Mr. Barron, as he sat up in his easy-chair with so much precipitation that he distributed the cigar-ash all over his waistcoat.

In a few hasty words Mrs. Barron explained the position.

"Ah! Just as I said," her husband exclaimed, as he threw himself back in the chair with a conscious air of prophecy. "What did I tell you?"

Mrs. Barron made an impatient gesture.

"Well, it's no use arguing who was right and who was wrong," she said. "What we have to consider now is what is to be done."

"Great Heaven!" cried Mr. Barron; "you don't think it will fall through."

"Well, I won't be sure," replied his wife, shrugging her shoulders. "When a girl, and especially a girl like Gertrude, gets such ideas into her head one can never tell what they will lead her to."

Mr. Barron drew a long breath.

"If it does," he said, "I'm a ruined man."

For a minute neither spoke. Mr. Barron sat picking at his fingers, Mrs. Barron pursed her lips.

"When is your appointment with this man?" she asked at length.

''To-morrow at 12."

"Well! At all risks she must be prevented from seeing him till then. Once the interview is over we must take our chance. Gertrude spoke of the necessity of breaking it off to-morrow. If it is broken off, David," she said, as she leant forward and threw him a significant glance, "it must be in the afternoon."

"You are right, Bessie," he assented with a nod of approval. "I'll leave it to you to see that lunatic doesn't do any mischief till our business is settled."

As Adam Dyke walked down Collins-street the next morning he was in the highest spirits. It is true that Gertrude's state of health had lately caused him no small concern, but he was so strong himself and so little used to the duration of any ailment that he had lent a ready ear to Mrs. Barron's assurances that Gertrude's indisposition was merely a temporary one. His head was full of schemes for making her happy, and the very thought that the next day would make her his, wholly his, made his heart beat like a boy's. "I hope she will be happy," he kept saying to himself, and an inner voice assured him that she would.

On the way he stepped into a jeweller's shop to see if his present, a magnificent suite of diamonds, was ready. The jeweller handed him the case, and as Adam looked at the beautiful gems, he thought of her whom they would adorn, and a blush of pleasure lit up his kindly face.

"Are you pleased with them, sir?" asked the shopman, and then he added, knowing their destination, "I am sure that Miss Barron will be."

Though Adam had been congratulated hundreds of times he had not yet got over a certain feeling of constraint whenever his name was coupled with Gertrude's.

"Y-yes! I—I hope she will," he stammered, as he shut the lid of the case, and held it out to the man.

Whether the man was not looking, or Adam did not place it in his hands, I cannot say, but the jewels fell with a crash to the floor.

There was a common-looking but rich Irishman in the shop at the time. He knew Adam well, and had been watching him inspecting the jewels with an amused eye.

"That's a bad omen," he exclaimed, with a good-natured laugh, as he picked up the jewels.

Adam was superstitious, as men of his stamp not infrequently are. He hastened to ask the speaker if he really meant what he said. The Irishman, of course, protested that he meant nothing by it. In spite of his protestations, however, Adam's spirits fell. He had a presentiment of evil, and though by the time he reached Mr. Barron's office he had somewhat recovered, he was not quite himself again.

Mr. Barron heard him announced with a sigh of relief, which was enlarged into one of satisfaction when Adam told him that he had not seen Gertrude that day.

"Poor Gertrude hasn't been herself the last few days," Mr. Barron said with no little feeling. "The fuss and the worry of the preparations have quite knocked her up. She must take things very quietly for a few months, but that," he added with a smile, "you'll see after, Adam, won't you?"

Adam protested, with what warmth I need not say, that Gertrude should not be allowed to do anything until she was quite herself, and then for a few minutes a general conversation ensued. But Mr. Barron was too anxious to get his business completed to waste much time, and within ten minutes of Adam's arrival had introduced the subject which to him was the all-important one.

They had just begun going into figures when the door opened and young Oliver Barron came into the room. His father could not restrain a movement of impatience.

"How's this?" he exclaimed sharply. "I gave express orders that we were not to be interrupted."

"I'm afraid it's my fault," said Oliver, who was shaking hands with Adam. "The fact is I have a letter for each of you—one for you from the Mum," he added, as he handed one to his father, "and for you from Gertrude. She gave it me last night."

As Oliver gave Adam the letter his father turned livid. For a moment an insane idea possessed him of seizing the letter from Adam's hand and tearing it up.

"Damnation!" he cried, and as he did so he brought down his hand on the desk with such force that the ink danced out of the ink-bottle.

But David Barron had been too long used to exercising self-restraint for a paroxysm of this sort to be of long duration. Had nothing else brought him to himself the plainly-written surprise on Adam's face would have done so.

"I beg ten thousand thousand pardons," he said. "I—I was—was seized," he here placed his hand to his side, "by a sharp spasm—liver, you know, liver."

"You ought to see to that," said Adam, who looked somewhat concerned. "Excuse me," he added, as he proceeded to open Gertrude's letter. "I wonder what Gertrude says."

As Adam opened the envelope and unfolded the letter Mr. Barron's eyes were riveted on his face. He never attempted to open the letter that he himself held in his hand. He felt that everything depended on that which Adam had received, and as he thought of what it might contain his face blenched with apprehension.

Adam had hardly read a line when his head fell on his hands, and he uttered a groan that drove all the blood in Mr. Barron's body to his mean, calculating heart. The wretched man would have fallen had not Oliver luckily been at hand to support him.

"May God have mercy on me!" he sobbed.

Mr. Barron jumped up from his chair, and thrusting Oliver on one side, caught Adam by the arm.

"What is it, man?" he cried, absolutely shaking him in his impatience. "What is it?"

For answer Adam held out the letter to him. He snatched it from Adam's hand with such force that he almost tore it, and read it, muttering the words as he read, with avidity. And as he read his face from white turned an ashen hue, that made him resemble the dead more than the living.

"I wish that she had died," he cried, as he struck the letter with the back of his hand, "before she had written that.''

Oliver had witnessed the scene in open-mouthed amazement. Adam's grief and his father's rage were alike incomprehensible to him.

"What has happened?" he at last ventured to ask.

His father thrust the letter into his hand.

"Read that," he exclaimed, and then sitting down at his desk he let his head fall on his hands. "I'm a ruined man!" he sobbed. "A ruined man."

Oliver took the letter, and this is what he read:—


"When you receive this I shall be where your just reproaches cannot reach me. I have long wished to tell you the truth, but the shame of confessing how cruelly I have wronged you has prevented me from speaking. Believe me, when I promised to be your wife I meant not only to keep that promise, but to do my best to make your married life a happy one. Alas! I didn't know how weak I was. I had loved another, and we had quarrelled. I thought that I could forget. I thought that I was forgotten. Even when he came back and claimed me I tried to be honest to you, and for a time held out.

"Don't grieve over me. Pity me, and try to forgive me. Go far away, and cast me from your thoughts as if I had never been.  "Gertrude"

As Oliver read his face grew red and white by turns—red with shame, white with anger. For a moment he stood looking at the paper as if he had hardly mastered its contents; then, with a movement full of sympathetic kindliness, he placed his hand on Adam's shoulder.

"Poor old chap!" he said. "Poor old chap!"

At this moment Mr. Barron, whose head was still buried in his hands, again bewailed his fate, whining that "he didn't really know what he had ever done to deserve such a blow."

An angry look, and yet a look of shame, came into Oliver's honest eyes. It made his blood boil to hear his father selfishly bewailing his fate, when Adam Dyke, struck down by such a terrible blow, did not complain.

"Stop, father!" he cried, stamping his foot impatiently. "What we suffer is nothing to what poor Adam must feel. Oh! if I had only suspected," he added bitterly, "this might have been prevented."

Adam rose from his seat, and gave Oliver his hand. His face seemed suddenly to have grown old, and when he spoke his voice had none of the old, cheerful ring in it.

"Thanks, Oliver," he said, in a low sad voice. "Thanks! But knowing what I do now I would not have had it otherwise. God forgive me," he said, as he pressed a hand to his eyes, "I thought she was learning to love me. If she couldn't love me—if she loved anyone else—she would only have been unhappy. Oh! if she had only broken the news gently to me," he cried, as tears came into his eyes, "I think I could have stood it better."

The sight of his tears brought afresh a blush of shame to Oliver's cheek.

"Listen to me, Adam," he cried, as he clenched his fist, and shook it in the air. "If I have ever a chance of running that infernal scoundrel to earth, I'll do it, if I ruin myself in the attempt. As to Gertrude, I'd sooner—sooner die than speak to her."

Adam drew back horror-stricken.

"Oliver! Oliver!" he cried. "Withdraw your words. Remember she's your sister. Remember that she probably never loved me, and dearly loves this man. Think of what—"

There was a cry from Mr. Barron, and both Oliver and Adam turned to him. He had opened Mrs. Barron's letter, and was now staring at it with a glassy eye. Suddenly he burst into a peal of unnatural laughter, and then, with a groan, fell on the floor in a fit.

They lifted him on to the sofa, and a doctor was sent for. But before the latter could arrive Mr. Barron regained consciousness. For a moment he looked about him, hardly knowing where he was, and not remembering what had happened. Then all came back to him, and he closed his eyes with a groan.

"Is it true, Oliver?" he asked in a faint whisper.

"Never mind just now," whispered the boy, as he leant over him.

"Read me the letter—read it, read it, read it!" cried his father impatiently.

Oliver again tried to soothe him, but finding that his efforts only served to excite him, he went to the desk, where the letter still lay, and picked it up. When he caught sight of its contents he started.

"How could she have done it!" he cried, and he cast a glance full of pity not at his father, but at Adam Dyke.

The latter sat with his head bowed into his breast. At Oliver's exclamation he looked up.

"What is it, Oliver?" he asked.

The boy went to his side and put his arm round his neck as he leaned down and whispered to him.

"She is married, Adam," he said, "and left our house during the night to join her husband."

There was a wail from the sofa, and turning to Mr. Barron they found him wringing his hands.

"I'm a ruined man!" he cried. "A ruined man!"


Part II. 1881 - 1883

Chapter X.

Elopements are as a rule only a matter of wonder and gossip for the proverbial nine days. The couple come back from their impromptu honeymoon, and, after a little fencing, a reconciliation takes place, and every one falls on every one else's neck. But there were manifold reasons which served to keep the case of Cyril and Gertrude alive in the scandal-world, and it is safe to say that the interest in their marriage was fully as keen in 1881 as it was on that memorable day four years before when the news first startled the Melbourne public. To begin with, there was an element of uncertainty about their pecuniary position, and that alone is always sufficient to create gossip. Every one knew that Cyril had won largely over Chester's Cup, but even admitting that he had won £25,000, and that was the largest sum with which he was credited, his expenditure was a matter for speculation. The house and grounds that he had bought at Toorak must have cost £7,000—he lived at the rate of six or seven thousand a year—he had five or six race horses, and Heaven knows what expenses besides. "How on earth," asked people, and the question was a natural one, "is it managed?" and the more they tried to solve the difficulty the greater the difficulty seemed.

But it was not only the Patons' pecuniary position which furnished the gossips food for comment. Though they had at first lived happily enough, it was now an open secret that Gertrude and her husband did not get on at all well together. The fact is that Cyril was not cut out for a domestic life. To do him justice, he did his best "to cut his old connection," and for a while succeeded. But home-life was too tame for him, and little by little he gave way to his old courses. It is just possible that if Gertrude had been a woman of a different character she might have "kept him straight," to use a pet phrase of his own, but the course she adopted was the very one to drive him away from his home. When he first began to gamble and bet again she showed temper, and Cyril had too strong a temper of his own to stand temper in others. Her temper gave way to tears, and I need not say that tears only exaggerated his impatience of domestic life. Then a not unnatural result followed. Finding her requests ignored, her recriminations laughed at and her grief derided, Gertrude became indifferent, dried her tears, and sought an antidote elsewhere. She was young, pretty, fond of society, and fonder still of admiration. In the whirl of the world of fashion she soon ceased to care for her husband's absence. He was welcome to stay away, to bet and gamble to his heart's content. Her last tears on his account had been shed,

A woman thus situated is likely to meet with but scant justice from society, and Gertrude was not spared. Mothers who had daughters "on the shelf" did not forget that she had robbed them of their chance of hooking Adam Dyke, and the fact that she had discarded him in favour of a poorer man only served to add fuel to the flame. Ladies who had ceased to be attractive themselves viewed with envious eyes her manifold conquests, and the less danger there was of their own virtue being put to the test the more they inveighed against her supposed lapses. It was in vain that some of the more good-natured endeavoured to take her part, pleading the neglect of her husband, her youth, and her beauty. The Melbourne woman-world shrugged its scantily-covered shoulders, and declared, almost with one breath, that Gertrude Paton's conduct was scandalous. They might have saved themselves the trouble. Gertrude was fully aware of the hostility which she had aroused, and instead of annoying her it gave her no small satisfaction. So long as she had enough money to spend (and Cyril had hitherto been excessively liberal), and had a fair share of admirers, she was content to laugh at the spite of her critics. She had never sought the good opinion of the world, and, in truth, would not have valued it if she had possessed it. So it came about that the more people talked the more cause she gave them for talking. Like Ishmael of old, she felt that every one's hand was against her, and every fresh attack spurred her on to fresh excesses.

That she might have been very different had she been differently situated there can be little doubt. Cyril's neglect she felt but little, and had he been the most attentive of husbands it is possible that the result might have been the same. But there were those whose neglect she felt most keenly, for all that she assumed a thorough indifference. Oliver had kept his word. He never spoke to her after her marriage. She made advances, and advances which cost her much to make, but he turned a deaf ear to them. By her conduct to Adam Dyke he had judged her, and from the moment that she had played him false she had ceased to be his sister. It was Oliver's loss that she felt most, for it was Oliver's influence that could have done the most to save her from ruin. But her mother's indifference she also felt, though in a less degree. Mrs. Barron had set her heart on Gertrude marrying Adam Dyke, and she never forgave her the disappointment she had caused her. She called at the Patons, was on visiting terms with them, to use the jargon of the world, and occasionally asked them to Heimweh, but the old intimacy had for ever ceased. There was one other person with whom Gertrude would willingly have been reconciled, and that was Adam Dyke. She felt, and keenly felt, how badly she had used him. She recognised, when it was too late, what a terrible mistake she had made. She had learned to respect his character, and an inner voice told her, whenever she thought of him, that his honest love might have taught her to be a far different woman. But these thoughts only troubled her now and then, and at very distant intervals. As a rule she thought only of the present, took life as it was, and made the most of her opportunities.

On her return from a party one evening in the month of July, 1881, Gertrude was surprised to see a light in the breakfast-room window, and going in found Cyril smoking a cigar in front of the fire.

"Ah! You've come at last," he said rather testily, as he looked at his watch. "Where have you been? It's half-past 2."

Gertrude took off a wrap that she had worn on her head, and sat down before she replied.

"Well! If you had been with me as you ought to have been," she answered in a tone which plainly foretold an intention to show fight, "there would be no necessity to answer the question."

Cyril's brow contracted.

"I asked you where you've been," he exclaimed angrily, "and I presume that I'm entitled to an answer."

Gertrude shrugged her shoulders.

"As you will!" she said with a little laugh, that brought an angry flush to Cyril's cheek. "I've been to the Churchers;" and then she added in a bantering tone, as she gave a yawn and leant back wearily in the armchair, "Is there anything else you wish to know?"

Cyril's face was at no time a good-tempered one, but now such a lurid light of rage lit up his eyes that even Gertrude, used as she was to his tempers, noted it with surprise.

"Look here, Gertrude!" he cried, "whenever I ask a question, be it what it may, I expect it to be answered, and civilly too."

"Indeed!" she interjected.

Cyril jumped to his feet with an oath.

"You don't suppose that I stop up till this time of night without an object," he began.

"Considering that you are out till all hours every night of your life!" interjected Gertrude with undisguised contempt.

Cyril clenched his fist, and struck the table with such force that some flowers fell out of a jardiniére which stood in the centre.

"Do you want to drive me mad?" he cried. "Will you listen to me or not?"

Gertrude drew herself up, and met his angry look with a firmness that there was no mistaking.

"If you have come here to bully me I will not listen to you," she said. "Your treatment of me has not disposed me to put up with just anything you like to do or say. If it is anything that concerns me personally—personally, you understand—or concerns us as man and wife, I will listen to you, but for goodness sake be quick, I'm tired out and want to go to bed."

Cyril laughed, but it was an unpleasant laugh to hear.

"It's very good of you to condescend so far," he said with a sneer. "Perhaps when you've heard what I've got to say you won't be so anxious to go to bed."

"Well, what is it?" interjected Gertrude impatiently.

"For the last year or two we haven't seen very much of each other—now! don't interrupt me," he said, as Gertrude made a gesture of impatience— "and when we have our conversation has been of a very limited nature. I haven't cared to discuss my affairs with you, and you, for very good reasons I fancy, haven't cared to confide in me. A necessity has arisen for making an alteration and I am going to make the first step by imparting a piece of information, which may or may not take you by surprise." Cyril paused, and a look of perfectly demoniacal satisfaction came into his mean eyes. "I am utterly, irretrievably ruined. I may be sold up any moment. The house we live in is mortgaged to the last farthing. There's a bill of sale over the furniture. In fact, I haven't a shilling in the world."

Though Gertrude tried to maintain her composure, all the colour fled from her face. She had never inquired into her husband's affairs—indeed, as long as money was found for her expenses she preferred to remain ignorant of the source whence it was drawn. But she had never contemplated such a blow, and the suddenness of the disclosure took her breath away. Cyril saw her emotion, and was not generous enough to spare her.

"Ah! that touches you," he sneered triumphantly. "Money and money alone can speak to a woman like you. It was Adam Dyke's money at first—"

Gertrude rose to her feet, and as she faced him she looked a very queen.

"You coward!" she cried, as she clenched her hands. "How dare you mention that man's name ?"

"It's true!" persisted Cyril, but in a low voice.

"You lie!" she returned furiously. "I would have married Adam Dyke because I had quarrelled with you, and would to Heaven that I had done so."

"Would to Heaven you had!" assented Cyril.

Gertrude caught up her wrap, and with an indescribable look of disdain turned on her heel. Cyril caught her by the arm.

"Stay. Gertrude!" he said. "I want a talk with you. It's no good abusing each other. Let us see if something can't be done."

Gertrude resumed her seat

"Well! what do you suggest?" she asked wearily;

Cyril looked at her for a minute without speaking. He cared but little for her opinion. He knew that she appreciated his character at its exact worth. And yet he hesitated to speak. A sense of shame, which had long been foreign to him, tied his tongue.

"Well! what do you suggest?" repeated Gertrude, turning to him with a look of surprise.

Cyril saw that there was nothing to be done but to face the difficulty and brazen it out.

"The remedy lies in your hands," he said abruptly, but he did not dare look at her as he spoke.

"In my hands," interjected Gertrude.

"In your hands," he repeated. "You have only to apply to Adam Dyke and our troubles are over."

Gertrude started to her feet.

"I would rather starve than do it," she cried. "God knows that I am not what I ought to be, that I am not what I might have been, but I haven't fallen so low as that."

Cyril shrugged his shoulders, and, putting his cigar to his lips, took two or three sharp pulls at it.

"Then you have named the alternative," he said, speaking with excessive deliberation. "I can't hold out for another month, and so I tell you."

Gertrude threw herself into her chair again, and covered her face with her hands.

"Oh! why did I ever marry you?" she exclaimed bitterly.

"That's easily answered," Cyril returned. "You fancied yourself in love with me. I was under the same impression, and encouraged you. However, that has nothing to do with it. You can save us if you will. The question is, will you do it?"

"Never! never!" cried Gertrude passionately.

"Then you know exactly what to expect," Cyril said, speaking with well simulated indifference as he turned to her. "I haven't exaggerated my position. If some one doesn't come to the rescue, and within the next few days too, everything we have in the world will have to be sold off."

Gertrude shivered, and tears came into her eyes. "Is it really as bad as that?" she asked earnestly.

"Every bit," he answered firmly, seeing that Gertrude was beginning to waver. "And I put it to you, who will feel it most, you or I?"

"What have you done with your money?" sobbed his wife.

"My money was made by betting and gambling," answered Cyril, confessing the fact as if it was such an evident truth that there was no necessity to state it. "It has gone the same way," and then he added, with an undisguised sneer, "I think you have done your share towards spending it too, eh?"

"But I didn't know, Cyril. I had no idea—" she began.

He threw his cigar with such force into the grate that it bounded out, again on to the carpet, where for a moment or two he left it smouldering.

"Didn't know!" he cried angrily. "Two months ago I told you what we might expect if you didn't stop your cursed extravagance, or if I didn't have a turn of luck."

"You were in such a temper," pleaded Gertrude, whose courage had quite evaporated at the dismal prospect which Cyril held out, "that I thought you only wanted to frighten me."

Cyril rose from his chair, and reaching up to the gasalier, began turning out the gas.

"Well, we can't stop up all night discussing the question," he said. "A night's reflection may bring you to your senses. That Adam Dyke will help us—will help you, I mean—is absolutely certain. The man's conduct for the last four years is a positive proof in my eyes that he has never ceased to regret his loss," Cyril's lip curled as he used the phrase; "and I—I—I have reasons myself for knowing that he—he is of a very forgiving character."

"But I can't do it, I can't!" protested Gertrude, though not as firmly as before. "What would people say if it ever came to their ears? And it would come to their ears. As soon as they knew we were reconciled every one would guess the reason."

"Bah! You are getting very thin-skinned all at once. You are the only one of your family that has any compunction about the matter," he sneered. "I think the old people have bled him pretty freely, and I should think that infernal brother of yours has had a pretty good harvest too."

Half an hour before Gertrude would have defended her kin with no little warmth. She now hung her head, and two great tears fell on her jewelled hands.

"Think how it would compromise me," she sobbed.

Cyril cast a look of contempt at her, which it was as well she did not see. "Compromise you!" he repeated. "Isn't it me rather that it would compromise?"

"But if I took money from him," urged Gertrude.

Cyril stepped to her side, and caught hold of her left hand, the fingers of which were covered with costly rings.

"All these were given to you by your friends," he cried. "Have they compromised you? That necklace, which must have cost £100, was a gift. Has it compromised you? You have done nothing for three years past but get everything that you could out of everybody. Has that compromised you?"

"But all that was so different," Gertrude began, when Cyril with an oath left the room.

An hour passed—two hours—and still Gertrude sat there, with her burning head in her hands. The fire went out, and the cold morning air crept into the room, and still there she remained thinking out the problem of her life. The past rose before her, the old old past, when she was a modest, contented, and happy girl, and it appeared brighter than it had ever seemed. She thought of girls of her own age, girls who had married about the same time that she did, girls whom she had despised in the past, and whose lot she had never envied, and a great yearning filled her heart. "If I had married a good man," she cried, "I might have been as one of those. Oh! Adam Dyke, Adam Dyke! why did you let me slip through your hands?" And then the future rose before her black with misery and trials, and she hid her face in her hands afresh, and wept the most bitter tears of her life.

The light of dawn, streaming into the room, called her to herself. Cold, exhausted, and miserable, she went to her room.

"If I could only pray," she cried. "If there was only some one to help me to be my old self once more, some one to take an interest in me, some one to hold me back from being worse than I am."

At this moment the cry of a child resounded through the still house. Gertrude started. She had but the one, a little girl, and in her spasmodic way she was fond of the little creature. As a rule when the child cried she would go in and pet her, but that night an undefinable feeling restrained her.

"If she should ever be like me!" she sobbed.


Chapter XI.

On the morning after the interview just described Adam Dyke and Oliver Barron were breakfasting together in the well-furnished diningroom of a house in Collins-street east.

The house was the same that Adam had prepared so carefully for Gertrude's occupation, and in which he had lived ever since her marriage. At his earnest solicitation Oliver had come to live with him, and though the latter found the life there somewhat dull after that of Heimweh, he had such an affection and a pity for Adam that he had never repented the determination.

"Dines called in just before you came down," said Adam, "with a message from your father, he wants to see me on business, and then take lunch with him. So I shan't be home to lunch. You had better lunch out too, unless you'll come to the office about one and join us."'

Oliver pushed his plate away with an impatient gesture.

"I say, Adam," he said, "I wish to goodness you would have a settling-up with the governor, "and get a statement from him to show you exactly how you stand. It seems to me that you are getting a great deal too deeply involved; and as for the governor, though I have no doubt he means well, he'll go into anything as long as he can find the money to finance it. If I were you I should cut the whole business. You're not a business man. Neither is the governor, for all that he thinks he is. His whole commercial life proves that he isn't.

As Oliver spoke an uncomfortable look came into Adam's eyes.

"Oh! I—I've a pretty good idea as to what risk I run," he stammered, trying in vain to assume an air of ease. "Your father is such a good fellow," he added with some warmth, "that I shouldn't like him to think that—that I doubt him, or the truth of his—"

"Doubt him, nonsense!" interrupted Oliver impatiently. "It's purely a matter of business, nothing more nor less. You have a large sum at stake, and I tell you candidly, as my father's son, that I want you to find out exactly how you stand."

Adam looked surprised.

"I—I don't quite understand you!" he exclaimed.

"Well! the fact of the matter is, that every one is discussing the governor's speculations," said Oliver, taking the bull by the horns. "I hear on all sides that he always buys when he should sell, and sells when he should buy. He has no judgment, and, as far as I can find out, never had. He's too sanguine and too easily carried away."

"If he isn't right, I'm sure he means well," interjected Adam.

"Means well! Of course, he does!" impatiently returned Oliver. "But one wants more than good intentions as a security for one's money."

Adam assented with a nod.

"Now your carelessness encourages him. When he knows that he has only to apply to you, let the sum be what it may, and you'll see him through, he doesn't take the trouble to exercise the little judgment he has. I may tell you I've spoken to him on the subject—"

"Oh! Oliver, I wish you hadn't!"

"And he didn't quite like it. He looks upon me as only a boy, and somewhat resented what he called my interference. Now look here, old man," he said, as he got up from his chair, and placing his hand on Adam's shoulder looked into his face, "I want you to promise me that you won't go into anything new without consulting me. You know how grateful I am for all your kindness to me, and how fond I am of you, so I know that you won't think that I am interfering from interested motives."

"My dear boy, I couldn't think such a thing!" exclaimed Adam, with a look that attested the truth of the assertion.

"Well, be more careful. Go through your accounts! or, if it's too much bother, give them to me to go through for you. As far as I can see, helping my father is just like pouring water into the sea. The more he gets the more he wants. Now, I ask you, Adam, have you ever had a profit out of anything?"

"Oh well—yes, yes! some small sums," Adam faltered, as his face grew red. "Not quite what I expected, but it'll be—be all right some day, I suppose."

"Some day! Nonsense!" exclaimed Oliver impatiently. "Some day you'll wake up and find that it will cost you half of what you've got to pull you through. Well, I must be off to business" he said, consulting the clock. "You won't go into anything more, will you? Not without consulting me?"

"I'll speak to you first," Adam assented, and with that very unsatisfactory answer Oliver had to be content.

The conversation made a deep impression on Adam, the more so that he had long recognised the truth, though he had hesitated to admit it. He was very fond of Mr. Barron, and could not bear the idea of doing anything which might be construed into a doubt, not of his integrity, but of his ability. It was, therefore, with no pleasurable feelings that he made his way to the office. Mr. Barron was eagerly awaiting him.

"My dear Adam," he cried, "I'm so glad that you have turned up to time. I've the best thing on that I ever had in my life."

Adam's colour rose, for Oliver's words were still ringing in his ears.

"I hope it's—it's nothing fresh," he faltered, trying to pave the way for a refusal, if it should be necessary, "for I've made up my mind not—not to go in for any new speculations for the time being. For the time being," he repeated in answer to an unmistakable look of astonishment in the merchant's eyes.

Mr. Barron had aged in the four years that had elapsed since his first business transaction with Adam Dyke more than that period warranted. He had been grey enough before but his florid complexion had made him appear younger than he was. Now he looked fifteen years older, if he looked a day. The colour except in moments of excitement, had left his cheeks; his eyes were sunken in his head; and not only was there a network of crow's feet at the corners of the eyes, but two great lines ran down between the nose and the cheeks, which even his heavy moustache did not hide. Moreover, he stooped, and his voice had already the asthmatic weakness of declining health

"Why you're not going to decline before you hear what it is?" exclaimed Mr. Barron, in a tone which betrayed his disappointment.

"Oh! no, of course not!" faltered Adam anxious to allay the old man's disappointment. "But the fact is this, I've been thinking over things lately, and I really don't see what the use is of—of bothering oneself over business. I've got ten times as much as I can possibly spend though I've had some very heavy losses, as you know, and I don't care—"

A flush came into Mr. Barron's thin cheeks and his deep-set eyes glittered like jewels.

"You've been talking to Oliver," he interrupted angrily, "and I should like to know what he knows about business matters," he added, as he saw a guilty look in Adam's eyes.

Adam in a few broken words acknowledged that Oliver had spoken to him, but protested warmly that the advice was given as much in Mr. Barron's interest as his own.

"That for his advice," cried Mr. Barron, snapping his fingers. "I should like to know what business it is of his. To think of his interfering at this time, too, when I've here," he took up a bundle of papers, "a certain fortune. There's fifty thousand pounds in it in three years. Fifty thousand? A hundred thousand! and not a shadow of a risk. Oh! Adam, Adam!" he cried, as he caught him by the arm, "I beg of you, I beseech you, to at least have a look at it. We've been unlucky together, I don't deny it. Now when we've a chance of making up all our losses—all our losses—in one coup, don't desert me."

The old man pleaded as if it were a question of life and death. As he finished speaking, his voice gave way, and he sat down in a chair, apparently quite overcome by his emotion.

His evident grief was quite enough to win over Adam Dyke.

"Oh! I'll look into it, of course," he said in a cheery voice. "The only thing is, that I really don't care twopence for making any more money."

"Consider my position, Adam," cried the old man, as with eager fingers he undid the packet of papers. "Think what it is to owe you what I do without a prospect of paying you."

"I've often told you that if I'm never paid I shan't feel it," said Adam hastily, and then he added with the evident intention of turning the subject, "Well, let us have a look at the papers."

That evening at dinner Adam told Oliver, to the latter's outspoken indignation, that he had gone in for "just one more speculation," but gave a half-promise that that should be the last.

"May I ask what this last Eldorado is?" asked Oliver stiffly.

"A sugar plantation in Queensland," answered Adam, and then he proceeded to give him a graphic account of the profits which must accrue from his new investment. "For once I'm enthusiastic myself. Now don't you think it's a good thing, Oliver?" he asked when he had finished his description.

"It may or it may not be. I don't know and don't care," answered Oliver with some temper, and then, seeing a pained look in Adam's eyes, he hastened to apologise for his gruffness.

At this moment a servant entered the room, and handed Adam a letter. He took it carelessly from the salver, but he no sooner caught sight of the writing than he fell back in his chair with an exclamation of surprise, if not of pain, and every scrap of colour left his cheeks.

"What is it?" Oliver asked, jumping up and going to his side. When Oliver saw the handwriting he, too, started.

Adam's finger was already on the flap of the envelope, and in another moment it would have been opened, when Oliver caught him by the hand.

"Think before you open it!" he cried. "Think what it may lead to. Ought you to do it?"

There was a look in Adam's eyes that Oliver read but too well. He knew that Adam had been yearning for that summons for years, and with a sigh he withdrew his hand.

"Poor Adam!" he said in a strangely quiet tone. "Poor Adam!"

Meanwhile Adam had opened the letter, and devoured its contents. His face turned pale as he read.

"She wishes to see me! She's going away! Oh! Oliver, read what she says," he cried as he tendered the letter to Oliver, who thrust it back with an impatient gesture. "Read it, and you would forgive her as I do."

"That I'll never do," exclaimed the young man angrily, "or the scoundrel that she married. No more will you, Adam, if you are wise. Oh, for Heaven's sake, don't go and see her!" he implored. "I know that if you do it will end miserably. They have some object in view, depend upon it, and nothing to your benefit, you may be sure."

Only twice in four years had Adam caught sight of Gertrude, and then only at a distance. She had carefully avoided the risk of meeting him, and he had been equally desirous of avoiding her. Shame had dictated her action, a desire to avoid pain his. But all the time his heart had yearned for a reconciliation. He had not now the resolution to refrain from what he felt might endanger his future. If he had been certain that the step would wreck his life again he would have taken it.

"Oliver, I must see her!" he answered. "If you knew what I've gone through the last few years—if you knew how I've longed to see her—if you knew how my heart has been breaking—you wouldn't ask me not to."

Oliver hung his head.

"I've known it all," he said sadly.

"Then don't try to dissuade me. Oh! Gertrude, Gertrude!" Adam cried, as he held the letter in his trembling hands, and read again the few lines which had moved him so much, "you have ruined my life, but you can do much to repair it."

* * * * * *

The mental conflict which Gertrude Paton went through before she acceded to her husband's suggestion was a most severe one, but once she had given in she threw herself into the development of the plot with a feverish enthusiasm. She never doubted for a moment that she would be successful. Whilst her triumphs in the world of fashion had bred in her confidence in her powers of fascination, her knowledge of Adam's simple character assured her that those powers would not be exerted in vain. The shame which she had felt when Cyril had proposed the step to her had already waned, and when her conscience pricked her, as it necessarily did from time to time, an inner voice found ready excuses for her action. "Poor fellow! he loved me so that he'll be only too happy to see me," she said to herself, and, as not infrequently happens when people are anxious to explain away base motives, she ended by considering that she was acting absolutely in Adam's interest, and that his welfare solely dictated her action.

I say that she "ended" by coming to this conclusion. This was hardly so. Just at the last moment her conscience gave her several awkward twinges, and the old feeling of shame revived to a most unwelcome degree as she awaited Adam's coming. That he would come she never doubted. His life for the last four years only too strongly attested the depth of the wound she had inflicted. She heard at all hands that he had never got over his loss, and her knowledge of the man told her that he never would. It is not a matter of wonder, then, that the thought of meeting him should bring a blush of shame to her cheek, or that a burning desire to have the awkward moment over should make her heart beat as it had not beaten for years.

But if Gertrude Paton was thus moved she did not show it as she lay on a sofa in her drawingroom awaiting Adam's arrival, no one would have guessed that she was in the slightest degree nervous. There was no unusual colour in her cheeks, and though her eyes were bright they were not brighter than they often were.

Gertrude had always paid great attention to dress, for she had a keen eye for the mise-en-scène, but this night she had dressed herself with peculiar care. She wore a brocaded tea-gown, and round her neck a deep collar of delicate lace was caught in at the throat by a diamond brooch. Her hair was loosely coiled at the top of her head, and a thousand mutinous ripples overshadowed her white unwrinkled brow. Even the light had been a matter of study. As a rule gas was burned in the room, but that evening the only light was from a lamp which stood on a small table slightly behind her. On this table were also a fan, a pocket-handkerchief, and a bottle of smelling-salts, which were to be used should occasion require.

Gertrude had calculated to within a few minutes when Adam would arrive, but though her calculation was verified his arrival took her by surprise. She had begun to hope that something might put it off, and from hoping she had ended by believing it. When the bell rang she started, and a blush of shame dyed her cheek. But every atom of colour left her face when the man she had so cruelly wronged stood in the room before her. She had nerved herself for that moment. She would do so-and-so and so-and-so. She had even prepared phrases of welcome, prayers for forgiveness, avowals of her guilt, and appeals for clemency. The moment had come, and she was dumb.

For a moment Adam Dyke stood there, just inside the door, motionless. His eager eyes were riveted on Gertrude, who hung her head, and a feverish colour lit up his worn face. Then with a cry he rushed to her side and caught her outstretched hand. As he did so she raised her eyes to his, and a blush of shame set her cheeks aflame.

"Can you forgive me?" she asked.

The question was answered before Adam spoke. There was a light in his eyes, a light of gratitude, a light of happiness, a light of love, which Gertrude's practised eye read at a glance.

"I never blamed you," he said in a low voice.


Chapter XII.

Mrs. Dale's virtue, like old wine, improved with age. She grew more exacting as years went on, and though she took no practical steps to stamp out the abuses which so sorely exercised her, she criticised them with a freedom and vigour that redounded to her credit. Mrs. Paton's reconciliation with Adam Dyke was a glorious opportunity, and Mrs. Dale seized on it with avidity. She pronounced it scandalous, which in the primary sense of the word it certainly was, and enlarged on the enormity of Adam's conduct fully as much as on that of the Patons. Ill-natured people suggested that Mrs. Dale was actuated by no little malice in her attacks on poor Adam. They averred, with what truth I cannot say, that she had left no stone unturned to secure him as a son-in-law, when his engagement to Gertrude had fallen through. Her visits to Collins-street east were certainly very numerous at that time, but I ask any person of an unbiassed mind if it is not a monstrous thing that interested motives should be imputed for such an obviously well-intentioned and kindly-prompted proceeding.

"My dear Mrs. Churcher," she said one afternoon to that lady, whom she was visiting, "I've called in on purpose to ask you if you are going to the Patons. I really don't think we ought."

Mrs. Churcher raised her eyebrows.

"And why not?" she asked, with a smile.

"Well! really—you know—it's somewhat—it's a somewhat delicate matter to discuss," stammered Mrs. Dale, with an uneasy glance in the direction of Mr. Champlin, who was, apparently, deeply interested in a photograph album at the time, "and I hardly like to go into particulars. What I mean is, don't you think people who are so much talked about are better avoided?"

A curious look came into Mrs. Churcher's eyes, but was gone again before Mrs. Dale could notice it.

"Talked about, are they?" she exclaimed innocently. "What have they been doing? Pease tell me."

As Mrs. Churcher spoke she leant forward with an expression of the greatest interest, and Mr. Champlin, who caught sight of her, held up the album before his face to hide his laughter.

"Oh! It you've heard nothing it's just as well that you shouldn't," said Mrs. Dale sharply, with an unmistakable tinge of vexation in her voice. "Of course you'll go. There's no reason why you shouldn't. Only I thought that everyone in Melbourne, everyone of any standing," she added, as she rose to go, "was full of what I must say I consider a disgraceful, scandalous—er—er—state of affairs."

Mrs. Churcher raised her eyebrows more than ever, and her thin lips parted in surprise.

"I'm so sorry to hear it," she said, as she shook hands with Mrs. Dale, who could hardly restrain her anger; "but please don't tell me until after their party. They always give such good dances, you know, that I should be quite sorry—"

"Oh, I shan't say anything more," interrupted Mrs. Dale, shortly. "I shall leave you to hear of it elsewhere."

Mrs. Churcher accompanied her to the door as Mr. Champlin rang the bell for the servant.

"Well, good-bye, dear Mrs. Dale," she said, affably. "I'm so sorry that we shan't see you at the Patons."

Mrs. Dale was no sooner at a safe distance than Mrs. Churcher burst into a fit of laughter, in which she was joined with no small heartiness by Mr. Champlin.

"By Jove! good as a play," laughed the latter, as he looked at Mrs. Churcher with no small admiration. "How you scored off the old party, eh? I wonder how you could keep your face."

"Oh! I've had some practice." Mrs. Churcher returned, with a significant smile, as she sank into an arm-chair. "Now, come here," she went on, as she pointed to a footstool near, "and I'll tell you what will happen now."

"Well," exclaimed Mr. Champlin, as he obeyed her.

"She'll turn her attention to us. I've had my laugh, but it will cost me dear. There isn't a house that she will visit for the next week that won't be regaled with the terrible misdemeanours of Alice Churcher and Fred Champlin." As she spoke a somewhat serious look came into her eyes. "Well, never mind that!" she exclaimed, with a wave of the hand as if she were dismissing an unpleasant subject. "Go on with what you were telling me about Cyril Paton."

"Well! you know there was going to be an awful row. He'd had a bad run of luck, and hadn't paid anyone for months and months. Well, one day last week he turned up, to everyone's surprise, with any amount of money—just as some of them were talking of bringing him before the committee, too—and— and he paid everybody."

"Well, that certainly is suspicious," admitted Mrs. Churcher. "If you remember the same thing happened just before he was married, and though it has never been proved, there's no doubt whatever that he got the money from Adam Dyke."

"That's what I said!" exclaimed Mr. Champlin with a nod of satisfaction. "And I ask you, from who could he get the money now but from Dyke?"

Mrs. Churcher smiled.

"I really must ask Mr. Churcher to borrow some money from you," she said drily.

Now for all that Mr. Champlin had till quite recently been attached to Government-house, and was in great request in Melbourne society, his pecuniary position was not at all a desirable one. He fired up at Mrs. Churcher's remark.

"You're deuced rough on a fellow, Alice," he grumbled.

Mrs. Churcher shrugged her shoulders.

"Well, let us change the subject," she said. "I'm out of sorts this afternoon."

Meanwhile Mrs. Dale, who was devoting her afternoon to paying calls, for which purpose she had hired a cab by the hour, was well on her way to the Patons. A consciousness of discomfiture had not improved her temper, and by the time that she was shown into Gertrude's drawing-room she was ready to find fault with anything and anybody at the slightest provocation. But there was one person at whom she was itching to have a thrust, and that person was Mrs. Churcher. The latter had prophesied that she would turn her attention to her. She little knew how soon her prediction would be verified.

"I've come straight from the Churchers," said Mrs. Dale to Gertrude, as she helped her to a cup of tea, but in reality addressing the whole room, which was full of visitors, "but I need not say that I didn't stay there long. I think that our sex is not in great request in that household, especially when—"

"Yes! especially when?" interjected one of the company, as Mrs. Dale hesitated, with a view to stimulate the curiosity of her hearers.

"Well!'' said Mrs. Dale, with a glance round to see that there was no one present whose modest ears her disclosure might offend. "Especially when Mr. Champlin is having a tête-à-tête with the mistress of the house."

Mrs. Dale said this with a significant emphasis that was not to be misunderstood. Her hearers were used to such remarks from her lips, and hitherto had paid but little attention to them. But that afternoon they looked at each other, instead of laughing as they were wont to do, and kept a discreet silence. Gertrude coloured to the roots of her hair. She knew what was passing through their minds as if they had spoken, and a feeling of indignation and shame filled her.

"I really think you might be more charitable, Mrs. Dale," she said, with no little warmth. "I have yet to learn that a lady forfeits the good opinion of the world it she has a friend of the opposite sex."

It was Mrs. Dale's turn to get red.

"Oh! I really, really didn't know that I was mentioning anything I shouldn't," she stammered. "I'm sure I'm the last person in the world who would say anything ill-natured of anybody."

Gertrude had by this time recovered her presence of mind. She felt that she had made a great mistake in exhibiting such warmth over the matter, and now hastened to repair her error.

"Of course you are!" She laughed. "Well, are you coming to our ball, Mrs. Dale? I hope you are, and that you will bring the girls."

"Coming? I should think I was," replied the old hypocrite with an amiable smile. "I wouldn't miss it for anything."

After this the conversation drifted into a variety of topics of no interest to us, and half an hour later Gertrude was left alone.

"What a fool I was to lose my head," she reflected, as she watched Mrs. Dale and another lady walking to the gate. "What can have come over me? And to think that that transparent old mischief-maker should have induced me to forget myself!"

At that very moment Mrs. Dale was returning to the subject which had caused Gertrude's discomfiture.

"How these women stand up for each other," she remarked to her companion. "You have only to attack one and you bring the others about your ears like a swarm of bees. And did you notice Gertrude's colour when I spoke?"

"I should think I did!" assented the other.

"You did! Well, you may believe me," said Mrs. Dale with an impressive nod, "that Gertrude Paton's friendship with Adam Dyke isn't as innocent as that young woman would have us believe."

The opinion which Mrs. Dale thus openly expressed had been gaining ground in Melbourne ever since the reconciliation between Adam and the Patons four months before, and it must be confessed that it was not to be wondered at when a woman is but rarely seen with her husband, and is constantly in the company of another man, it is only natural that unfavourable deductions should be drawn. There were especial reasons why the intimate relations existing between Adam and Gertrude should be thus unfavourably criticised. Not the least of these was that to which Mr. Champlin referred in his conversation with Mrs. Churcher just recorded. When people who are head over ears in debt suddenly pay off all their liabilities the world speculates as to the source of their wealth. No one who considered the improved position of the Patons doubted for a moment that Adam Dyke's purse was at the bottom of their prosperity. Once that granted, criticisms of a very unpleasant character immediately followed, and whilst the conduct of the Patons was condemned in unmeasured terms, that of Adam himself did not escape severe comment.

Though Gertrude had long known this, it was only that very afternoon that she had realised her actual position, and long after her visitors had gone she sat in the drawingroom, sadly and seriously thinking it out. It was in vain that she tried to console herself with the reflection that she cared but little for the good opinion of the world. Those who protest the loudest that they do not value it often feel its loss the most. When people enjoy it they think that they are independent of it. When they have lost it they say they are independent of it. The silence of her visitors that afternoon had brought this home to her, and it was a bitter lesson. But no tears came to her eyes. She formed no resolutions to regain her good name. No! her heart was steeled against public opinion, and the more she thought of it the more she was resolved to fight the world to the bitter end.

She was still wrapped in such gloomy thoughts when a servant came in to light the gas, and she was reminded that it was time to dress for dinner, Adam was to dine with her, and they were going to the theatre afterwards, where Cyril had promised to join them. She was soon dressed, and when she went into the drawingroom again Adam was there.

The excitement of the afternoon had brought an unusual colour to her cheeks, an unwonted brightness to her eyes, and as Adam looked at her his face betrayed his admiration,

"Do you think my dress a pretty one?" she asked him with a smile "I hope you do, for I chose it purposely for you. I know that you are so fond of light colours, and I'm told that pink suits me."

Suit her! Indeed it did! Cleopatra herself never looked the queen more than Gertrude Paton did that night.

"You are told the truth, then," said Adam, in his deliberate way, and then he added, blushing as he spoke, "I think you grow more beautiful every day."

"I'm afraid that that is only in your eyes," she laughed. "However, it's pleasant to be told so, especially as I rarely get such compliments from the quarter whence I might expect them," she added with a sigh.

Adam's face darkened.

"I wish Cyril kept at home a little more than he does," he said earnestly. "I can't understand him staying at the club when he has a home like this to come to. I'm sure that if I had—"

Then he stopped, and as his face flashed a pained look came into his eyes. Gertrude laid her hand on his arm.

"Never even think of what you were on the point of saying," she said gravely. "It's best for both of us to wipe it from our memories as it had never been."

The phrase may have been used designedly, but more probably it was the outcome of her thoughts of the afternoon. Be that as it may, it caused Adam's heart to beat as it had not done for years, and he hid his face in his hands.

They had often dined together before, but never till then had they felt awkward in each other's presence. But the consciousness of altered conditions made them both nervous and uncomfortable. They were both glad when dinner was over.

Gertrude rose from table the first, but Adam was not long in following her to the drawing-room. As he passed through the hall he took a packet from the table

"Wait a minute, Gertrude," he said to her as she was going to leave the room, excusing himself for doing so on the plea that it was time to get ready. "I want to speak to you for a few minutes."

Gertrude sat down on the sofa, but she didn't speak, nor did she raise her eyes.

"Just now you asked me not to mention a certain—a certain thing." he said, speaking very slowly and in a low voice, "and after this I shall try to obey you. But there are reasons why I must speak of it now."

Gertrude cast an appealing glance at him, and she bit her lip.

"I must!" Adam persisted. "When we were to be married, Gertrude, I proposed settling one of my properties on you, the most valuable one that I then possessed, the most valuable that I possess now. I wished you to feel that you had something of your own, and that you were independent of my purse. The settlement that was then drawn up I wish to carry into effect now."

Gertrude shook her head violently, and as she looked up there were tears in her eyes.

"I couldn't accept it!" she cried.

"You must accept it!" he exclaimed with warmth. "Do you think that it doesn't cut me to the quick to know how badly off you are? Do you think it hasn't wounded me deeply to know that you are compelled to accept my assistance? Accept what I offer, Gertrude, and it spares us both, you the shame of asking, me the shame of giving. Think, my dear girl," he said, as he sat down by her and took her hand in his with the gentleness of a woman. "It would be nothing to me, and so much to you. I have more than I can possibly spend. I haven't a relation in the world, and beyond Oliver and your parents there isn't a soul who has the slightest claim on me. Accept it, then, Gertrude. You don't know how happy you would make me."

For a long time Gertrude held out, but her opposition, which was genuine enough at first, grew fainter and fainter, and at last she gave in.

"Well, here are the deeds," cried Adam, as he undid the parcel with eager fingers: "and may God give you a long life to enjoy your property." He laughed as he spoke, and as he opened one of the parchments his eyes were bright with pleasure and merriment. "Here you are," he said, as he pointed to Gertrude's name in the deed. "Gertrude Paton, wife of Cyril Paton, of Toorak, gentleman, and every acre of it your own—your very own."

There was such a heartiness in his manner that Gertrude caught some of his spirit, and laughed as she looked over his shoulder.

"They always call you the Squatter King. Do you think they will call me the Squatter Queen?" she asked.

Adam looked his answer before a word passed his lips.

"Indeed I do," he said heartily. "And, by the by," he cried, as he caught up a packet which had been enclosed in the first, "here is something more to effect the transformation."

As he spoke he undid the parcel. There was a leather case inside. He opened it, and disclosed a magnificent necklace of diamonds.

"I bought this for you, you know when," he said, the merriment dying out of his voice as he spoke, "and I have kept it by me ever since. There my dear girl," he said, as he placed the case in her hands, "at last it has reached its right destination. Wear it to-night."

Gertrude left the case lying in her lap. She raised her eyes to Adam's face, and there was gratitude and pleasure plainly written in them. She caught him by the hand.

"Thank you! oh, thank you a thousand times!" she cried, and then in a sudden freak she took the jewels from the case and placed them in Adam's hands. "Now you must put them on."

With a trembling hand Adam did so, and as his fingers touched her snowy neck a strange thrill went through him.

"How do you think they look?" she asked, as she turned to him, and herself looked down to where the brilliants were rising and falling on her breast.

For a moment, and a moment only, Adam looked at the jewels, and then his eyes looked into hers as they had never looked before.

"Gertrude, my darling! my darling!" he cried, and catching her to his arms he kissed her.

The action was not that of a lover, and Adam assuredly did not look upon it in that light, and yet as their lips touched a guilty feeling leapt into his heart and he gently thrust her from him.

A time came when he would have given his right hand to have resisted the temptation.


Chapter XIII.

There is no appointment which a man is more likely to forget than one with his wife. Cyril Paton, who had dined at the club, went home almost immediately after dinner. He had quite forgotten that he was to join Gertrude at the theatre, and was surprised not to find her at home on his arrival.

"Where have you been?" he asked somewhat gruffly when she made her appearance.

Gertrude was usually pale, but a bright spot came into either cheek at the tone in which the question was asked.

"The theatre!" she answered curtly, as she threw herself wearily into a chair, undoing her wraps as she did so. "You promised to be there."

"By Jove! so I did!" exclaimed Cyril. "I forgot all about it. The fact is I met—. Hello! where the deuce did you get that?" he asked as he caught sight of the necklace.

"Mr. Dyke gave it me," said Gertrude quietly. "It was to have been my wedding present."

Cyril laughed, and a hard look came into his mean eyes.

"It's just as welcome now, eh? as it would have been then!" he exclaimed. "Let me have a look at it"

Gertrude undid the necklace, and handed it to him.

"By Heaven! they're beautiful diamonds," exclaimed Cyril, standing up and holding them near the chandelier. "They must have cost a thousand if they cost a penny," he added, as he handed the jewels back to his wife.

There was something in Cyril's manner which provoked Gertrude beyond measure, and it was with no little warmth that she expressed her opinion that Adam had not considered the cost when he bought them.

"I don't suppose he did, as they were for you," retorted Cyril, savagely. "Your family, certainly, have the knack of bleeding him. I can understand his having a weakness for you, and not minding spending money on you, but why the dickens he should keep the whole family passes my comprehension."

Gertrude started to her feet, her face aflame.

"You coward! You mean, paltry coward!" she cried. "How dare you say such a thing? You, who forced me into asking this man to help us! You, who accept his money, and lose no opportunity of reviling him!"

Cyril Paton held up his hand.

"That will do, Gertrude," he interrupted. "I was wrong. The fact is I'm hipped. I'm out of luck, and worried. I don't mean half I say."

Gertrude caught up her wraps, and with one contemptuous glance at her husband turned on her heel.

"Stay, Gertrude," he cried. "I want to speak to you."

Gertrude faced him.

"What is it?" she asked wearily.

"Sit down, because it will take me a few minutes," he said, and he didn't look at his ease as he spoke. "It's most unfortunate that we should have had a bit of a row, especially over Dyke, as—as I want to discuss money matters with you."

If ever contempt was legibly written on a woman's face it was on Gertrude's.

"That means that you want me to apply to Mr. Dyke for money," she said.

Cyril nodded.

"I do!" he said. "The fact is that unless I get about £400 or £500 to-morrow—to-morrow, d'ye hear?—I'm done for. I can't ask him, you know that. He gave me £500 only 10 days ago, but you—"

Gertrude stamped her foot.

"If your life depended on it, ay, and mine," she added, striking her breast, "I wouldn't do it."

"I've known you refuse before, and then come round," he sneered.

"And would to Heaven that I had never done it" she cried passionately!

"Well! it's rather late in the evening for heroics," said Cyril contemptuously. "Perhaps you will be more reasonable in the morning."

But the morning saw no change in Gertrude's position. In spite of Cyril's entreaties and threats she kept to her determination.

"What the deuce I'm to do Heaven only knows," reflected Cyril. "I can't ask the man for the money, and yet I must have it. When he lent me the £500 the other day, he told me plainly enough that he wouldn't lend me any more if I gambled, and he's the sort of man who'll stick to his word if he once makes up his mind. What a donkey I was to quarrel with Gertrude. She would have pulled me through."

These reflections were passing through his mind as he stood at one of the club windows with his hands deep in his pockets. There was a troubled look in his eyes, the look of a man who is at his wit's end for expedients, and he bit his lip with nervous irritability as no solution to the difficulty presented itself,

"I wonder whether old Naumann would stand me for a few hundred," he reflected. "It's just possible that he mayn't have heard that our house is mortgaged."

But "old Naumann" would not "stand him" him for a penny, and the old money-lender told him so in the plainest of terms—terms so plain, in fact, that they extracted a very vigorous expression of opinion from Cyril as to the old man's nationality and antecedents.

"I may be a blood-sucker and a d—d Jew," roared the old man as Cyril flung himself out of the office, "but I don't make my living out of cards and betting, and I don't use my wife as a means—"

Luckily Cyril was out of earshot before the last sentence was commenced, and I for my part shall leave it incomplete.

With his spirits at the lowest ebb, feeling discomfited and worried almost beyond endurance, Cyril made his way back to the club. But even there a fresh annoyance met him. He had hardly set foot inside the door before he was accosted by one of his creditors.

"Good morning, Paton! You're the very man I want to see. Can you spare a few minutes! I want to speak to you."

The speaker, Captain Petrie, was a man of about thirty, good-looking, well-set up, and carefully dressed. He spoke in rather an affected tone, and when he smiled it seemed with a view to show his teeth, which were unusually white and even, rather than as a sign of amusement.

With an inward curse Cyril acceded to the request, and the two young men went into a corner of the hall, where for a few minutes they were engaged in earnest conversation. There is no necessity to give at length what passed between them. Captain Petrie had won a large sum from Cyril and he wanted to be paid. It was in vain that Cyril pleaded for time, and promised an early settlement. Captain Petrie was inexorable. He had lost heavily himself. He had had to pay, though it was inconvenient Cyril must do the same.

"I really don't understand such a thing," exclaimed the captain with virtuous indignation. "When you win you pocket the money. When you lose—"

Cyril made an angry gesture.

"That will do," he exclaimed angrily. "You shall be paid, and today too."

To this Captain Petrie returned that that was all he wanted, and turning on his heel left Cyril to digest the several unpleasant truths he had told him.

I suppose that I shall hardly be believed when I state that Cyril considered that he had been very badly treated, and looked upon his case as a very hard one indeed. But that was the view that he took of his position. The question of the morality of contracting debts that he could not pay never entered into his head. He himself was a lenient creditor, and he thought it "devilish rough on a fellow" to be pestered for payment when payment was inconvenient

"However, something must be done," he said, as he passed through the hall into the street, "if I have to pawn my—"

At that moment a thought flashed on his brain, and he stood still at the idea. His house was mortgaged to its last value. He had given a bill of sale over his furniture only a week before. In fact, he had exhausted all ordinary channels of credit. But the word "pawn," which he had used carelessly enough, suggested a new source of assistance, and as he used it the thought of his wife's diamond necklace flashed on him with a fearful joy.

"How can I get them? She would never lend them to me for such a purpose. She's too devilish selfish!" reflected this most selfish of men. "And what excuse could she make to Adam Dyke?"

At that moment a hand was laid on his shoulder. If he had already committed the mean theft that was in his mind he could not have been more disconcerted. He started and turned as pale as if his thoughts had been detected.

"Why, what's the matter?" asked Adam Dyke, with no little concern. "Come into my place and sit down for a bit."

To this Cyril made no reply. He had never been inside Adam's house. Oliver lived there, and for good reasons he had no desire to come across him. His hesitation was immediately divined by Adam.

"Oliver is away!" said the latter. "He's in Sydney, and won't be back for a month."

They went into the house, where Cyril was soon himself again, thanks to an unusually stiff glass of whisky-and-water, which Adam insisted on his drinking almost as a draught.

"That will pull you together," he said kindly. "Now sit down there and have a smoke or a read, or a snooze if you like, but—keep quiet. I tell you that you did look bad. You couldn't have looked worse if you had suddenly discovered some horrible crime or seen a ghost. Now, you stop quiet while I do some writing," continued Adam, as he sat down to a writing-table and took a cheque-book from one of the drawers, "I've got a nice lot of bills to pay, and want to get them off my mind."

The writing-table was in a bow-window, and from where Cyril sat he had an undisturbed view of Adam, who was between him and the light. And as he looked at him his old feeling of contempt revived in him with greater strength than ever.

"To think of that fellow having the command of such money," he reflected, as he looked at Adam's bent figure. "Of course, he's good-hearted and liberal, and all that, but so abominably commonplace, not only in mind but even in person."

Meanwhile Adam was hard at work over his accounts. As he wrote a cheque he pinned it to the account it was in payment of, and placed it under a paper-weight.

"Ah! Thank Heaven! I've finished," he at last exclaimed with a sigh of relief. "I do hate writing. I suppose that that's because I'm not a very good hand at it. Now look at the difference between those signatures," he added, as he handed Cyril two cheques for comparison. "I often wonder that they don't refer to me before honouring them."

Cyril took them, and did as Adam asked, acknowledging that there was great dissimilarity.

"But that's nothing!" exclaimed Adam with a laugh. "You should see some of them when I've a pen that I don't like! My signature might be anything but Adam Dyke."

At this moment the servant brought in a note.

"I say, Cyril, will you excuse me?" he said, as he read it "Mr. Barron wants to see me particularly. You'll wait for me, won't you, like a good fellow? I shan't be gone long. We'll lunch together. Here's the paper to amuse yourself with."

For a few minutes after Adam had left the house Cyril sat there without moving. A dastardly crime was hatching in his brain—a crime which even he, desperate and unscrupulous as he was, dared hardly contemplate. But with men like Cyril but little time elapses between the evolution of an idea and its performance. Time was of moment. Adam might be back at any instant. With one hasty glance round the room, and another at the windows at the opposite side of the street, Cyril sat down at the writing-table, and with eager fingers tore a cheque from the end of the book. The body he filled up hastily in a feigned hand for £725, and then, taking one of the cheques from under the paper-weight, he proceeded to imitate the signature as closely as he could. Adam always put a stop at the end of his name, and Cyril was just about to add this when a servant came into the room. With a muttered oath Cyril hastily blotted the cheque and put it into his pocket

"I can add the stop at the club," he reflected, as he heard Adam's footstep in the hall.

About five o'clock that afternoon, as Adam was sitting in his study, the servant came in and told him that there was a gentleman wished to see him. When the visitor came in Adam at once recognised one of the clerks at the South Sea Bank.

"Well, Mr. Howard, what is it?" he asked.

There was an air of mystery about the young man that excited Adam's curiosity. He looked about the room as if to make certain that they were alone.

"H'm! I've come on somewhat important business," answered Mr. Howard, as he took a paper from a leather case, which he held in his hand. "Have you drawn any large cheques to-day, Mr. Dyke?"

Adam thought a moment, "I have drawn a number of cheques to-day," he answered, "but none for any large amount. I think there was one of £40 odd—that, certainly, was the largest.

"You haven't drawn one for £725!"

"Seven hundred and twenty-five!" echoed Adam, in surprise. "No, certainly not."

"Then it's as I thought," exclaimed the young man in a tone which betrayed his satisfaction at the verification of his prediction. "An impudent forgery has been committed. Look at that cheque, sir," he said, handing Adam the paper as he spoke. "Is that your signature?"

Adam took the cheque and carefully looked at it.

"Upon my soul, if I wasn't certain that I hadn't written a cheque for the amount I should say it was," he said with a puzzled look on his face. "I can see no difference between the signature and the ordinary one I use."

"Well! I'm glad to hear you say so for the sake of the clerk who cashed it," said Mr. Howard; "but there are some points of dissimilarity. Now you always put a stop after your name. There's no stop here. Then you invariably make a loop at the top of the down stroke of the A. You will observe that that is absent"

Again did Adam look at it, and the puzzled look on his face was more marked than ever.

"Well! Let us look at my cheque-book,'' he said.

An inspection of the cheque-book betrayed the fact that a blank cheque had been extracted from the end of the book, the number of which coincided with the forged cheque. Adam then, with the assistance of Mr. Howard, compared the cheque with those that he had written that morning. The signatures were in Adam's eyes identical.

"Well! There's no time to be lost," said Mr. Howard, as he carefully placed the cheque back in the case. "We have a clue to the man who cashed it, and I have no doubt that we shall run the scoundrel to earth. In the meantime, Mr. Dyke, just turn the matter over in your mind, try and think who has been in here lately—who would have access to your papers, and so forth."

For ten minutes after the clerk's departure Adam sat at his writing-table puzzling his brains over the matter. He looked at the cheques he had written, he looked at the cheque-book, and then from the cheque-book he looked back at the cheques, but no glimmer of the truth did they convey. But when he made a discovery that the forged cheque had been blotted on an unused sheet of blotting-paper, and had evidently been blotted that day, a horrible suspicion flashed on his mind, and drove all the blood to his heart.

"Great Heavens!" he cried aloud; "if it should be. Why, it would break her heart."

He was so appalled at the very idea that for a few minutes he sat there incapable of thought or action. Then, with a cry of dismay, he dashed into the hall and seized his hat. The next minute he was driving to the bank as fast as an extra fare could induce the cabman to drive. He rushed into the bank just in time to catch Mr. Barton, the manager, who was going home.

"I want you a moment," he cried, catching him by the arm. "A clerk of yours came to me with a cheque—a cheque supposed to be forged."

"Supposed to be! It was forged. Mr. Howard informs me that you distinctly said so."

Adam's face had been pale, but now a bright flush lit up his cheeks.

"I made a mistake," he faltered. "The cheque is all right. Debit my account with it."

It was the manager's turn to exhibit astonishment. He had trained himself for many, many years to subordinate his feelings to his banking duties; but if he had been given all the monies in the bank coffers he could not have withheld his amazement.

"The cheque all right! The devil it is!" he cried, and he looked as if he expected him to eat his words.

But Adam stood there with downcast eyes, and made no farther remark.

"Well! it's your business," said Mr. Barton, shrugging his shoulders, "but it seems to me that a person couldn't write a cheque for such an amount and be ignorant of the fact. Your instructions are to honour it in the usual way? You recognise it as yours?"

Adam nodded his head, but still did not raise his eyes.

"Very well," answered Mr. Barton, pursing his lips, "It shall be done." As he spoke he began to put on his gloves, and Adam, thinking the interview at an end, mumbled some words of farewell, and prepared to take his departure.

"Stay a minute," said Mr. Barton, "I should like to speak to you for a few minutes, Mr. Dyke. Come into the office."

Adam followed him into his room, and, in obedience to his invitation took a chair.

"Now, I hope that you won't take what I'm going to say in bad part," said Mr. Barton, with a serious look in his keen grey eves. "I have my own ideas of the duties of a bank manager to his customers. I don't consider that I'm placed here merely to do what is suggested by my customers. I consider that I have a very strong duty towards them to discharge, whether that duty be claimed or not. Thus if I see a customer doing wrong—I mean going on the wrong track—I feel it incumbent on me to speak to him. Mr. Dyke, I think that you are lately going on the wrong track—I mean in money matters, of course," he hastened to add.

Adam looked up, but did not speak.

"Of course you are still enormously rich," continued the old man, "and you can stand many losses—infinitely greater losses—than you have lately sustained, but I would beg of you, my dear sir, to be more—more careful. Your carelessness breeds carelessness in others, and you are associated—excuse my plain speaking—you are associated with the man of all others who is likely to take advantage of your failings."

The old man spoke with a warmth that betrayed his earnestness, and he laid his hand on Adam's shoulder as he spoke, and looked into his face.

"You mean Mr. Barron."

"I do," answered Mr. Barton. "Beware of that man. Not only is he over-sanguine—itself a serious drawback in a business man—but he isn't, I'm sorry to have to say it, he isn't a man to be trusted overmuch."

And somehow Adam could find no words to defend his friend.

Mr. Barton drew on his gloves, and prepared to take leave. But suddenly a thought occurred to him, and he turned back again.

"Perhaps you would like to give another cheque for this," he said as he handed it to Adam, and at the same time he rang the bell and told a clerk to bring a blank cheque.

"It is a forgery!" he said to himself, "and David Barron is the forger."

Thus for the second time did Adam Dyke, a truthful, honest, and straight-forward man, lie—I will use no other word—to save as good-for-nothing a scamp as ever disgraced the face of God's earth.


Chapter XIV.

As I have remarked before, when a man who has been notoriously in difficulties defrays his liabilities speculation as to the source of his new-gotten wealth is sure to be set going. But though Captain Petrie and Mr. Grainger and others of Cyril's creditors considered the subject exhaustively they did not arrive at any reasonable conclusion.

"After all," said Captain Petrie philosophically, as he pocketed the crisp notes with no little satisfaction, "it doesn't matter where it comes from so long as it comes," an argument to which his hearers readily assented. Nor do I think it improbable that they would have accepted the money had they suspected the means by which it was acquired. Gambling begets a lax code of morality, and its votaries wink at actions which the world would brand with very hard names indeed.

So pleased were Cyril's creditors with their unexpected good fortune that they invited him to dinner, and two or three magnums of "Pommery, très sec., '74," served to clear away the last traces of any awkwardness engendered by their recent relations. With Cyril's money in their pockets his creditors were quite willing to forget that it had been a long time reaching them, and by the time the coffee was served, if they thought of the matter at all, they probably considered that Cyril Paton had not been treated as well as he might have been.

"Poor old chap!" said Mr. Grainger to one of the company as they went into the billiard-room after dinner; "he has had a very rough deal, and I'm devilish glad that he has been able to come up to time. Did you notice how excited he was at the commencement of dinner?"

The other nodded

"The poor beggar felt awkward, I'm sure he did. Look at him now, how flushed his face is, and how bright his eyes are."

In truth there was an unusual colour in Cyril's face—an unusual light in his eyes.

"Come on. Let us have a game of pool," he cried, as he selected a cue from the rack. "Five pounds I divide against you, Grainger."

"Right you are," assented the latter.

"Five pounds with you, Petrie."

This wager was also accepted.

The balls were dealt out. Cyril had the red ball, and was thus the first to play. As he stooped down to make his stroke a voice accosted him—the voice of all others that he most dreaded to hear.

"If you haven't started playing, Paton," said Adam Dyke, for it was he, "I should like to speak to you."

"Oh! that be hanged, Dyke," interjected Captain Petrie. "Wait until the game is over. I've a fiver on with him, and I feel in good form."

"Come in yourself," cried another of the party. "Take the last ball."

Meanwhile Cyril had stood up again. He could not look Adam Dyke in the face, nor could he answer him. The colour, but a moment before so pronounced, had died out of his face, and his eyes seemed to have sunk into his head.

"I'm very sorry to interrupt the game, gentlemen," said Adam nervously, "but I want to speak to Mr. Paton about something very—very particular indeed. If you could spare him I—"

Cyril placed his cue on the table.

"I'll come with you," he said in a low voice, and turning to the players he told them he would be back shortly.

Down the stairs, out into the street, and then into Adam's house the two went, and neither spoke a word. It was only when they were in the room where they had had the interview of the morning that Cyril summoned up courage to ask Adam why he had been brought there.

"Sit down," said Adam, in a low voice, "and I will tell you why."

As he spoke he sat down himself. Not only was his expression most grave, but there was a look of pain in his eyes, which did not escape Cyril's stealthy glances.

"I have asked you to come here as an old friend," said Adam seriously, "I want to tell you something that has happened to-day—something that has given me more pain than anything, one thing only excepted, that ever befel me."

Adam paused, and cast a nervous glance at Cyril, whose eyes immediately fell.

"I was writing cheques here to-day, and very carelessly left my cheque book lying on the table. In my absence some one took a cheque from the book, filled it in for a large amount, and—and signed my name to it. The cheque was cashed."

Adam paused, but did not look at Cyril. Had he done so any lingering doubt that he might have had as to the latter's guilt must have been obliterated. Cyril's face was livid, and he grasped the arms of the armchair on which he was sitting with such convulsive force that he left the mark of each separate nail on the morocco.

"Yes, the cheque was cashed," continued Adam, taking out his knife and cutting some tobacco; "but after it was cashed a doubt arose as to the genuineness of the signature. It was brought to me, and so well had it been for—imitated, that I myself was at first deceived. However, I hadn't written a cheque for such an amount, and I—I told the clerk so. He left here under the impression that it was a forgery—(as Adam used the word a bright colour came into his cheeks)—and with the intention of running the criminal to earth."

Cyril Paton fell back in his chair, his eyes starting from his head.

"Do they suspect any—anybody?" he gasped. .

"They did suspect someone," resumed Adam, as he ground the grains of tobacco between his great palms; "or rather they had a clue to—to the forger. I say they did suspect someone. They may suspect someone still; but if so their suspicions will never be verified."

Cyril gave a sigh of relief.

"How so?" he faltered.

Adam did not answer, but, getting up from his chair, he took the blotting paper in his hand, and opening it at the page where the cheque had been blotted held it out to Cyril.

"After the clerk had gone I found this," he said, "and then I knew that the forgery had been committed here. I went to the bank, acknowledged the cheque as my own, and, to avoid any farther investigation, gave another for it. Here it is," he said, holding it up.

For a moment an insane idea seized Cyril, of snatching it from Adam's hand and throwing it into the fire, which was burning brightly. Had he done so it would only have anticipated Adam's action. Stooping down to the fire Adam put the cheque between the bars, and the next moment it was in flames.

"There dies the last record of a foolish deed," he said.

Cyril started to his feet, and seized Adam by the hand. There were tears in his eyes—genuine tears of gratitude.

"You're a good fellow!" he cried with warmth, "the best that I ever met.

Adam shrank back. Had Cyril acknowledged his guilt he would have forgiven him freely, but his want of candour turned his pity into a feeling of repulsion.

"I've only done what anyone would do in my place," he said coldly. "I had others to consider besides," he was on the point of saying "you," but substituted "the forger."

As the last word passed his lips their eyes met. If Adam wished revenge he had it that moment. There was a look in Cyril's eyes which no man worthy of the name cares to see in another's eyes, the craven look of the coward who dares not face the position he himself has created. Adam turned from him in undisguised disgust.

"I needn't keep you any longer from your game," he said in no friendly tone.

For a moment Cyril stood undecided. He wanted to go, but he had a favour to ask, and that was an opportunity which might not present itself again.

"Mr. Dyke," he said eagerly, his voice sounding strangely hoarse as he spoke—so strangely hoarse that Adam turned to him with no little surprise. "You won't say a word about this, will you?"


"Not to the Barrons, or—or Oliver."

"I will not."

"Nor—nor to Gertrude."

"Nor to Gertrude," repeated Adam. It was the first time that he had called her by her Christian name to her husband, and a bright colour came to his anxious face as he spoke.

"Thanks!" said Cyril with a sigh of relief, and then holding out his hand he wished Adam "Good night."

Whether Adam saw his hand or not I cannot say, but he merely said good night, and sitting down by the fire took up a newspaper from a table near and proceeded to read it, or pretended to do so. His action was not lost on Cyril, and was thoroughly understood, as Cyril's flaming cheeks amply testified. But when a man has gone as far as Cyril on the downward path it does not cost him much to take one step lower. He stepped to Adam's side and again held out his hand.

"Shake hands," he said.

The words were spoken in a cowardly, whining whisper that Adam, slow as he was in reading character as a rule, understood at once.

"Very well," he said carelessly, and he took Cyril's proffered hand, but there was no cordiality in the grip.

Cyril muttered a word or two of thanks, and then, feeling meaner—ay, and looking meaner than he had ever felt or looked before, he left the room. When he reached the street he gave a whistle, and a smile of wondrous significance curled his thin lip.

"It's deuced lucky for me that I'd got such a soft fellow to deal with." By "soft" he probably meant "stupid." "And it's just as well that he can stand the loss," he added selfishly, as he jingled some sovereigns in his pocket. "There's one thing certain, and that is that Gertrude can get anything she likes out of him."

Five minutes afterwards he resumed his game of pool, offering to bet more heavily than before, and grumbling because he could not get bets of sufficient amount on the game. But whether it was that the other players were too good for him or that the interview had upset him he played but indifferently, missing easy shots, and leaving his ball invariably in a dangerous position. Then he fell to cursing his luck, and from that to abusing the players.

"You've won about thirty pounds from me," he said angrily to Grainger, "and now you'll only bet me a fiver. You might give me a chance to get even."

"Do you ever give anyone a chance?" asked Grainger, with emphasis.

"Yes, I do! I've often given you a chance," returned Cyril violently. "But when you've got a fellow's money, a nice chance he has of winning it back."

Mr. Grainger had a temper and a tongue. His temper had been sorely tried that night, and as yet he had remained silent. But endurance has its limits, and Cyril's last remark, perhaps because it went home, exhausted Mr. Grainger's patience.

"If you can't lose without crying over it you oughtn't to play at all," he exclaimed angrily. "A man who makes his money as easily as you do! Bah! I'm disgusted."

Cyril's face turned livid, he caught hold of the cue with the evident intention of striking the speaker, and would infallibly have done so had not Captain Petrie caught hold of his arm.

"That will do!" the latter exclaimed, as he motioned to Grainger to leave the room. "Don't let us have a row."

Cyril meanwhile was struggling to free himself. "Leave me alone!" he cried.

"Not a bit of it," said the captain, resolutely, "unless you promise to behave yourself. Here Grainger!" he said to the latter, who was still standing near, undecided what to do, "give him your hand."

Mr. Grainger expressed his readiness to be friends, saying that he could not understand how anything that he had said should have given such offence. After a few phrases of regret on both sides the young men shook hands, and champagne was ordered in with a view to removing the last traces of unpleasantness.

But champagne was powerless to dissipate a certain nameless dread which had seized on Cyril. With a few hasty words of farewell he left the club, and jumping into a hansom told the cabman to drive him home.

"Could Grainger have suspected the truth?" he asked himself. "No, that's impossible!" and the reflection gave him no little relief. "Great Heaven! what I've gone through to-day! And," he added bitterly, "I might have been saved it all if Gertrude had only lent me a hand."

Gertrude was sitting up reading. When Cyril entered she closed her book.

"You're very early," she said, as she looked up at the timepiece, "and I'm glad you are, for I want to speak to you about something important."

Cyril threw himself into an armchair.

"What is it?" he asked, bad-temperedly. "If it's anything particularly unpleasant leave it till the morning. I've had enough worry to-day to last me a week."

An unmistakable sneer curled Gertrude's lip. Had her news been of the most unpleasant nature she would not have spared Cyril.

"Well! I suppose that you have yourself to blame," she said, unfeelingly, "and as I don't share your pleasures I might be excused the relation of your misfortunes."

Cyril started up.

"Have you anything to say, or not?" he asked angrily.

"I have, if you'll listen quietly," answered Gertrude, not in the least disconcerted.

"Well, go on, for Heaven's sake!" exclaimed Cyril.

"Last night I told you that Adam Dyke had made me a present of that necklace," said Gertrude.

"You did."

"I meant to tell you something more, and should have done so if you had kept your temper."

"Well! well! What is it?" asked Cyril, impatiently.

"He not only gave me the necklace. He made me a present of Tarcoota, his principal Queensland station, and I—"

The words died on her lips, for Cyril, with a shriek, rushed at her and caught her roughly by the arms. His eyes were starting from his head, and beads of perspiration stood out on his brow.

"I wish you were dead!" he cried, with a terrible oath.


Chapter XV.

Mr. John Barton enjoyed a high reputation as a banker, was a shrewd man of business, was careful where care needed, but could at times take risks which bankers of less grasp of mind would shrink from. In Mr. John Barton's eyes banking (he spelt it with a large B) was a science that but few are permitted to thoroughly master. He did not believe that it could be learnt from the most exhaustive treatises on finance, nor would he admit that the most extensive practice could make perfect. He maintained that a banker must, so to speak, be born to the business, and that he must have certain natural gifts, without which pre-eminence would be hopeless. Of these gifts he held a good judgment of character to be indispensable, and he prided himself, and with no little justice, on his own ability in that line. "Give me 10 minutes' conversation with a man, and I'll tell you what he is," was a favourite boast of Mr. Barton's and those who knew him well averred that his assertion was amply justified by results. But Mr. Barton went farther than this. He held that a banker should go into society, and should himself entertain as far as his means permitted. "I've saved many a bad debt by dining out," he once said. "A careless expression or two after the second glass of port has more than once cost a customer his credit. Besides, if you see a man entertaining expensively when he is giving you 10 per cent for money, you may be sure that the time has arrived for putting the screw on." Thus Mr. Barton combined business with pleasure, and whilst he went to every ball, and dinner party, aye! and race meeting, which he could conveniently attend, he kept his eyes very wide-opened indeed.

Adam Dyke's relations with the Barrons and the Patons had long been an interesting study of Mr. Barton's, but whereas at first it had been merely an object of amusement to him, it—this was about a year after the event related in the last chapter—it had gradually developed into a much more serious matter. The speculations of the firm of "David Barron and Company" had now assumed such large dimensions that Mr. Barton had found it necessary, to use his own phrase, "to put on the brake." Adam Dyke had been "good enough" a year before, but what with his gift of Tarcoota, his enormous private expenditure, and three bad seasons running on two of his stations, Mr. Barton thought it prudent to place a limit on his credit. He felt the less compunction in doing this, inasmuch as he cordially detested Mr. Barron. He had always disliked and distrusted him, but after the affair of the cheque—with the forgery of which he (wrongly as we know) credited Mr. Barron—he utterly loathed the sight of him. For Adam Dyke he had a very different feeling. Though Adam's carelessness and unsuspicious faith occasionally roused his contempt, he could not help being attracted by the nobleness of his general character. No one called Adam harder names, but there was no one, even Oliver Barron included, who was more keenly alive to Adam's interest than the grey-haired manager of the South Sea Bank.

Mr. Barton had seen from the first that as long as Gertrude exercised her sway it would be impossible to save Adam, and his heart fell as he recognised the fact; but after a while his spirits rose somewhat. He fancied that he saw signs of a coming estrangement, and he argued, and I fancy rightly, that if Gertrude and Adam were again parted it would be for the last time. This thought was very prominently brought before him one day that he was having a conversation with Mrs. Dale, whose friendship he assiduously cultivated as a gossip of the first rank.

"Well, I'll tell you what it is, Mr. Barton," said Mrs. Dale mysteriously behind her fan to the attentive old banker. "The Patons are getting a little sick of their ex-millionaire."

The old man smiled pleasantly, showing a broad expanse of false teeth as he did so, and raised his eyebrows.

"Ex-millionaire! Surely Mr. Dyke is enormously rich still?"

Mrs. Dale lightly rapped the old man across the knuckles with her fan.

"How discreet we are," she laughed, "when a customer's position is in question. You know as well as I do that Tarcoota was worth any three of Mr. Dyke's other stations, and that he has had disastrous seasons for years."

"But he is enormously rich," repeated Mr. Barton.

"And so have others been before him," snapped out Mrs. Dale, whose husband had once been reputed (it never went beyond repute), reputed a rich man. "Believe me that we shall see that man come to grief, and before long too. I hear that 18 months ago old David Barron got him to go into a large sugar plantation in Queensland, and if that doesn't finish him up," she exclaimed, with the warmth of a prophet, "I'm a Dutchwoman."

Mr. Barton made no comment, but, pursing his lips, seemed plunged in thought.

"Do you think he'll ever get over his infatuation for Mrs. Paton?" he asked at length,

"Get over it, never!" exclaimed Mrs. Dale. "He's wrapped up in her. If she were to turn black he would never see it. No, he'll never get over it, but—she will."

Mr. Barton suddenly displayed a lively interest. "Indeed!" he exclaimed. "How's that?"

"Well, to begin with, she never cared for him—never really cared for him. She had treated him very badly, and she felt ashamed. When an opportunity arose for their reconciliation she was glad of it, and for a time liked his naive admiration. I needn't say that his money made both husband and wife view with a lenient eye his deficiencies, and if he hadn't been an egregious donkey he would never have deprived himself of his strongest weapon. The day that he gave her Tarcoota he left himself at her mercy."

Mr. Barton nodded.

"By Heaven! You're right!" he said.

"Of course I am," proceeded Mrs. Dale volubly, and not ill-pleased at the compliment. "Immediately that they were independent of him they began, or rather she began, to get tired of him. In common decency she couldn't get rid of him altogether. She dropped him by degrees—no, that's not exactly what I mean either—she accustomed him to see less of her, and now, if what I hear is true, he only goes out there once a week, if so often, and is absolutely never seen with her alone, as he used to be six months ago."

Mr. Barton again nodded. His habitual caution restrained him from making any comment.

"You'll be glad to hear this too," said Mrs. Dale, growing more enthusiastic as her gossip met with such favour. "Captain Petrie and Mrs. Paton are having a violent flirtation, at least the world calls it a flirtation, but I think that term too charitable—and Mr. Dyke's attention will, consequently, be more unwelcome than ever. I fully expect that he will receive his marching orders before many months are over."

Mr. Barton looked at Mrs. Dale without speaking, and as he looked at her debated the advisability of disclosing a scheme which just then had suggested itself to him. I have said that though habitually a careful man, he would at times take risks that other men would shrink from. This was one of them.

"Don't you think that this separation might be precipitated," he asked. "If Mr. Dyke was acquainted with the fact that this man Petrie—"

"If he was acquainted!" interrupted Mrs. Dale, contemptuously. "Don't I tell you that no evidence on earth would induce him to believe a word against her. No; that would never do. But there is a way of influencing him, and I more than once have felt inclined to use it."

"Indeed!" interjected Mr. Barton, with apparent indifference. "What is that?"

"Adam Dyke, for all that he's an arrant donkey, is—apart from his connection with this woman—a keenly sensitive, honourable man. If he thought that he was injuring Gertrude by his attentions (such a thought has never entered his head, you may be sure), he would give her up though it broke his heart."

Mr. Barton nodded an assent.

"Now, if I said so, or you, or in fact any ordinary person, we might talk till we were black in the face and never convince him. But there is one person who might speak to him, who would speak to him if he was properly approached, and if he did speak success would be assured."

"And who is that?" asked Mr. Barton, whose opinion of Mrs. Dale's ability was growing apace.

"Oliver Barron," answered Mrs. Dale, conscious of the effect she was producing.

"Oliver Barron!" repeated Mr. Barton in amazement.

"Yes; Oliver Barron," resumed Mrs. Dale. "I assure you that he's quite innocent of the relations which are supposed to have existed between his sister and Mr. Dyke. Ever since his sister's marriage he has lived the most retired life, and would be the last person to hear of such a thing. You may be perfectly sure that if he had heard of it he wouldn't have lived with Adam Dyke a single day."

"But how could he be convinced," asked Mr. Barton, "and who would be bold enough to attempt it?"

Mrs. Dale smiled mysteriously.

"He could be convinced easily enough," she said, "and for two pins I'd set about the job myself."

Mr. Barton looked at her carefully. He had felt all along that temper was at the bottom of Mrs. Dale's interest in Mrs. Paton's misdemeanours, and now determined to test the question.

"You don't appear to like Mrs. Paton," he laughed. Mrs. Dale's brow grew black as night.

"I hate her!" she said with emphasis, "and I'd go a long way out of my road to do her a bad turn. I've evidence of her guilt that she little knows of," she added with warmth, "and if she isn't careful I'll bring her house about her ears."

Mr. Barton in vain endeavoured to find out to what it referred, but Mrs. Dale, who had disclosed rather more than she had wished to do, suddenly became silent, and the conversation dropped.

Now it so happened that that very evening Mrs. Dale was cut dead by the lady she had so freely criticised, and she was on Mr. Barton's arm when the event occurred.

"Did you see that woman cut me?" she asked, trembling with rage.

Mr. Barton, with a pardonable want of truth, said that he had not observed it.

"Before to-morrow night she'll repent it," exclaimed Mrs. Dale with flashing eyes.

On which Mr. Barton, though his face did not disclose that he was affected one way or the other, enjoyed an internal and very satisfactory chuckle.

"Was anything ever more opportune?" he said to himself.

Gertrude, who was on Captain Petrie's arm, broke into a merry laugh when she was at a safe distance, in which she was joined by her partner.

"I've long meant to cut that odious woman," she said, "but I suppose it would have been wiser to remain on the old footing. She's an old Gorgon."

Captain Petrie laughed.

"Gorgon, eh! Rather Gorgonzola. Don't you see," he added in answer to a query in Gertrude's eyes. "A Gorgon is a monster, and Zola is a manufacturer of horrors. What happier name could there be for her?"


Chapter XVI.
Oliver's advice, and what came of it.

"Was that you coughing in the night?" asked Oliver, as he looked at his friend across the breakfast table the morning after the event just described.

Adam nodded.

"Yes! I've got a nasty cold," he said, "and I can't shake it off. I'm glad now that I didn't go to the Drisberghs' last night."

"I should think you were," exclaimed Oliver. "You'd have been out of your mind to go with such a cough as you're got, and on such a cold night too."

"I should like to have gone, though," said Adam, in a tone of regret.

Oliver cast a searching glance at his friend, and his expression, from being one of inquiry, became one of pity.

"Adam, my dear old fellow," he said with no little feeling, "I wish to Heaven that you would leave Melbourne, cut all your—your connections, business or otherwise, go and look after your stations or go home, or, or do anything but what you're doing. Here you are worrying yourself to a shadow, and—and what can it all result in? I don't know much of your life outside this house, I have never asked you any questions about it, and I—I don't want to know it. But I should be blind, indeed," he exclaimed, with no little warmth, "if I didn't see that something is going wrong, and I ask you, old man, as an old and—and well-meaning friend," he walked round to Adam's side, and placing his hand on his shoulder, leant over him as he spoke, "to cut the whole concern."

Adam took Oliver's hand and shook it warmly.

"It can't be done," he said, sadly, shaking his head. "I must remain here."

Oliver made a movement of angry impatience.

"Must remain!" he cried, contemptuously. "Rubbish! It might be a wrench to go away, but time does wonders."

Adam shifted uneasily in his chair.

"Well, just now I'm too much involved in business matters to think about it," he said, speaking with no little hesitation, "and I—I couldn't go if I wished it ever so much."

Oliver's face flushed.

"I begged of you a year ago, ay! more than that, not to go any deeper in the governor's business, but you wouldn't listen to me," he said, bitterly. "I had a presentiment nothing good could come of it, and nothing good has come of it or will come of it. Even now it isn't too late. Draw your money out of the business at any sacrifice. If you make a loss put up with it"

"I'm afraid it has gone too far," said Adam. "If I took my money out it would ruin your father, and I would rather face ruin myself than injure him. No! I won't desert a sinking ship."

Oliver had long had a suspicion that Adam's position had greatly changed, but there was something in his tone and look that moment that implied a possibility which Oliver had never contemplated.

"You don't mean to say that your ruin is possible," he asked, anxiously, with a white face.

"We have made enormous losses," answered Adam, quietly, "and have to face further ones still."

For the moment Oliver looked at him as if he didn't understand him. He had been so used to considering Adam's wealth as something abnormally stupendous that he couldn't at a moment grasp the truth that even wealth such as his may be squandered in a very few years. Adam's admission had literally deprived him of speech. Adam saw his emotion, and as he saw it his lip trembled.

"Come, come, Oliver, old man," he said, with a painfully-forced assumption of cheerfulness, "we may yet pull through. Perhaps I take a too gloomy view of it."

But Oliver was not to be put off by such speeches. He was thoroughly alarmed on his friend's account, and insisted on Adam making a clean breast of his liabilities, making a rough balance-sheet as he went, and as he proceeded his face grew longer and longer. Adam had described the losses of the firm of "David Barron and Co." as "enormous." As Oliver's eye scanned the figures he recognised with dismay that the term had been no exaggeration. But suddenly a thought flashed on his brain that brought a colour to his anxious cheek, a new light to his sorrowful eyes.

"Why, we've never put down Tarcoota!" he cried, as he struck the table with his fist, and broke into a laugh at the joy of the discovery. "What is it worth, Adam?"

His joy was short-lived. One glance at Adam's face told him something was wrong.

"Tarcoota isn't mine any longer," Adam said in a low voice, and he cast a look at Oliver as if to ask him to spare him any further questions on the subject.

"Not yours!" cried Oliver, as he fell back in his chair, and looked at his friend in undisguised amazement. "Have you sold it?"

Adam bit his lip.

"No! I've given it away," he answered in the same low tone.

"G-given it a—" began Oliver, and then the truth burst on him like a flash of lightning. With a groan he let his head fall on the table, and for a full minute he remained in that attitude, neither he nor Adam speaking a word. Then he suddenly leapt to his feet, and folding the accounts up put them in his pocket.

"There's no time to be lost, Adam!" he said, "not a day, not an hour. The ship may sink, but for God's sake let us make an effort to save her."

Adam offering no resistance to Oliver's suggestion, they went together to Mr. Barron's office, where they found the old man "up to his eyes" in business. For some time Mr. Barron had suspected that Oliver did not hold very favourable views of his business capacity, and he had resented what he, perhaps, somewhat naturally considered unfilial impertinence with a warmth which had caused Oliver no little pain. It was, therefore, with no friendly eye that he saw his son enter the room with Adam, and carefully shut the door behind him. However, he bade them both good-morning in his usual effusively-cordial tone, adding that he was glad that Adam had come, as he wanted him particularly.

"Is it anything pressing that you've come about?" he asked, turning to Oliver with a look which the latter rightly interpreted as a request, or, at least, a permission to be gone. "I'm rightfully busy, Oliver. Adam and I have a lot to talk about."

Oliver drew himself up, and for a moment a blush of nervousness lit up his cheek. But when he spoke the last trace of hesitation had died away, and his voice had a manly ring that lent an additional force to his words.

"I've come on Adam's business and on yours, father. I've been away too long. Had you—either of you—taken me into your confidence, who knows but that I might have stumbled on a means of averting what looks like certain ruin."

The old man started to his feet with a gesture full of rage.

"What the deuce are you interfering for, and in things you know nothing whatever about?" he asked angrily. "Ruin! What has put such nonsense into your head?"

Adam's eves were on Oliver's face, and he read there a determination which strengthened him in his newly-formed resolve to take his friend's advice.

"Oliver is here at my wish," he said turning to Mr. Barron, and speaking with the greatest firmness. "Our affairs are in a critical position, and I for my part am anxious to take some outside advice. I have every confidence in Oliver's ability, and you must acknowledge that it is preferable to consult him to calling in some stranger."

Mr. Barron was so used to having his own way—to his every suggestion being accepted without discussion—that for the moment Adam's opposition took away his breath. But he quickly regained his wits, and pleaded with no little earnestness to have the sole management of the business left with him.

"Oliver spoke of ruin just now," he said, "and ruin may result from interference. Trust me, Adam," he implored, "trust me as you have in the past, and I pledge you my word that we shall pull through."

But Adam was not to be turned from his purpose, and Mr. Barron, after an obstinate resistance, agreed to Oliver being taken into the firm's confidence. A long conference then ensued, in which the affairs of the firm were exhaustively discussed. It was remarkable that in spite of his opposition to Oliver being admitted to the confidence of the firm, Mr. Barron sought his son's advice at every turn. When they had finished he asked him bluntly what he recommended.

During the interview Oliver had been most self-contained, but now there came into his eyes an expression of hesitation and pain.

"I think the firm ought to go insolvent," he said in a low voice. Again did the old man leap to his feet.

"Insolvent! Never!" he cried with violence, as he struck his palm with his fist.

"Can't that be avoided?" asked Adam, whose face was pale and grave. Oliver sighed.

"Yes! It can!" he answered gravely. "It you can get a sufficient guarantee."

"A sufficient guarantee!" repeated Adam, biting his lip.

"Yes! a sufficient guarantee, and there is one person, I need not say who it is, that should not, that cannot, refuse you."

What little colour there was in Adam's face fled at this suggestion.

"I wouldn't have her know my position for all the world," he exclaimed hoarsely. "I couldn't apply to her."

But the old man had caught at the idea with avidity. He now rushed to Adam's side and pleaded with feverish earnestness for a favourable consideration of Oliver's suggestion. He pointed out that everything was in favour of the Patons complying with the request.

"If they have a spark of common gratitude, of common decency in them, they must come to your assistance," he cried. "Why, you gave them everything they have! If they lost all they would be no worse off than when they started."

"If they refused you they would be meaner and more contemptible than even I think them," muttered Oliver.

"Oh! they would help me in a minute if they knew that I was in such straits," Adam hastened to interject with warmth. "If it comes to the worst, I'll tell them how I stand, and you'll see," he added with no little confidence, "that they won't shirk the responsibility."

Oliver stamped his foot impatiently. "Comes to the worst!" he cried, as he caught up a letter from Mr. Barton which had been received that morning, and which was written in what that gentleman called his "imperative mood." "You see what Mr. Barton says, and you ought to know by this time that he never says what he doesn't mean to be taken literally."

In the end Adam gave way, and it was understood that that very afternoon he should see Gertrude and make a clean breast of his position. This was the most that he would promise to do. No threats, no entreaties, would induce him to ask for assistance. If he was to be assisted by her the suggestion was to come from Gertrude herself.

As Adam and Oliver passed out of the office, Dines, the clerk, stepped up to Adam and asked him if he could speak to him for a few minutes.

"The fact is, sir," he said, when Oliver was out of ear-shot, "I want a little temporary assistance. The poor old governor," he pointed with his pen over his shoulder in the direction of Mr. Barron's office, "has had a bad time of it lately, and hasn't paid us our salaries for the last few weeks. It isn't the first time it's happened, sir, and it won't be the last, but as he's a freehanded gentleman when he's got it, I never worry him when he hasn't. I've been payin' the others myself for the last three weeks, but now I'm run clean dry. I hope you won't think it a liberty, sir."

A liberty? No! Before Dines had got half way through his story Adam's hand was on his cheque-book, which he happened to have in his pocket, and he had sat down at a desk.

"I'm much obliged to you, Dines, for asking me," he said warmly. "How much do you want?"

"Thirty pounds will do, sir," answered Dines hesitatingly.

"Well, there's fifty," said Adam, filling in the cheque for that amount. When he had signed it he handed it to Dines, and then shook hands with him with no little warmth. "You're a good fellow, Dines," he said, "and I hope that you will always look upon me as a friend."

As the hour approached for him to see Gertrude Adam's courage began to fail him. Of late he had fancied that if she had not absolutely avoided him she had not sought nor cared for his society. When first the reconciliation had taken place he had been to the Patons' house daily, had been received as one of the family and had felt thoroughly at home. But now he not infrequently found the door closed to him. Mrs. Paton was indisposed, Mrs. Paton was out, Mrs. Paton was this, that, and the other, and when he was received he felt strangely ill at ease. At first he had been the guest, whoever might be present. Now he had lapsed into a nobody, only noticed by Gertrude when Captain Petrie and other admirers were not present. He didn't blame Gertrude for her behaviour, though it cut him to the quick. He was blind—alas! he was always to be blind—to her shortcomings, and his forgiving heart always found excuses for her. It was her husband who forced her to act as she did. She was led away, and would some day be her old self again. She couldn't know that her conduct wounded him. It was carelessness, nothing more. And so it had come about that the worse he was treated the more ready he was to forgive.

It was about 4 o'clock in the afternoon when he reached the Patons'. As he walked up to the house—it was a roomy cottage, the windows of the drawing-room and dining-room giving on a large lawn in front of the house—the sound of voices reached him through the open windows, and he recognised with a shiver of dread Gertrude's laugh above the general chatter.

"Poor girl," he said to himself; "I'm afraid that my news will be a sad blow to her!"

It was with a sinking heart that he rang the bell, and when the servant—a pert, be-fringed, little woman, with a voice like a rasp—appeared, he could hardly summon courage to ask if Mrs. Paton was in. To his surprise the woman answered that Mrs. Paton was not at home.

"N—not at home!" he stammered. "You must be making some mistake. I distinctly heard her voice not a minute ago."

The feeling of servants towards their mistresses is, as a rule, one of absolute good-will or absolute ill-will. They rarely adopt the medium of indifference. The Patons' housemaid had been some little time with them, and her sympathies had been from the first strongly enlisted in favour of her mistress, who was easy-going, and (what is more to the purpose) excessively liberal. She perfectly understood the relations existing between Adam Dyke and Mrs. Paton, and she had made up her mind to lend her mistress what assistance lay in her power to get rid of him. She thought the present a very opportune moment for letting Adam Dyke know the truth.

"Mrs. Paton's instructions was that I was to say she was not at 'ome, excep' to certin' parties as she told me the names of," she said snappishly, as she prepared to close the door.

Adam turned scarlet.

"Mrs. Paton probably forgot my name," he said, as he placed his hand on the door. "I'll write a word or two on my card. Please take it into her."

The servant mumbled an unwilling assent. There was something in Adam's voice that told her that he would see her mistress in spite of everything. So, with an ungracious invitation to "step into the 'all," she took Adam's card in to her mistress. Two minutes afterwards she made her appearance again, and showed Adam into Cyril's smoking room.

"Mrs. Paton will be here directly," she said, as pertly as ever, and then whisked out of the room with an air of contempt which was fortunately lost on the object of her indignation.

Gertrude did not keep Adam long waiting, and when she greeted him the heartiness of her manner served to revive somewhat his drooping spirits.

"What a very awkward thing to happen!" She laughed as she shook his hand, and sat down quite near him. "Emma certainly is the stupidest girl in the world. She said I was out, didn't she?"

Adam nodded an assent, and his joy at the discovery of the mistake brought a colour to his anxious face.

"As if I should ever be 'out' to you," laughed Gertrude. "You, to whom I owe everything. But you say here," she referred to the card, "that you want to see me on important business. Now what is it, Adam?"

Though her manner was light, and nothing in her voice betrayed any anxiety, Gertrude in reality felt some what uneasy. She knew Adam so well that she recognised that something serious must have happened for him to send such a message to her. His appearance did not tend to reassure her. His face was drawn and anxious, and she noticed that his lip trembled as she referred to his errand.

"Well! the fact is, I've come here to tell you something about my position—I mean something about 'our' position, I mean the firm's position," he stammered; "something that you must have known sooner or later, and that—that it has been thought advisable you should know now."

Gertrude's brow contracted, and there was an angry dash in her great hazel eyes.

"Yes, since I can remember," she said sharply, "my father has been in difficulties. His commercial life has been a succession of disasters. What has happened now?"

Adam hesitated. The fear of wounding her for the moment tied his tongue.

"Go on, Adam," she said resolutely. "I am prepared to hear anything. "

Adam cast one look at her before he spoke, and he saw a resolution in her face that told him that he need not hesitate to speak the whole truth.

"The firm is on the verge of insolvency—in fact, if no assistance is forthcoming, it must go. Your father's private means are exhausted, and I—I—I have given all the assistance that I—I can spare. It is thought—Mr. Barton thinks, Oliver thinks, I think, and your father thinks—that if the firm received a little assistance for a year or two, or perhaps only for a few months, the danger might be averted. Cash is not required. A guarantee would suffice."

As Adam spoke the cloud on Gertrude's fair brow deepened, and she bit her lip.

"I suppose that a large portion of your fortune has been swallowed up in my father's harum scarum schemes," she said.

Adam gave a nervous laugh. The question was not answered and was one that he did not wish to answer truthfully. Bitter experience had taught him a certain cunning and he felt that her knowledge of the actual truth would not improve his position.

"I have lost a great deal of money," he answered, "but I may get it all back, and—and with interest."

Gertrude shrugged her shoulders. Then she rose to her feet, and walking to the window, looked out into the garden for fully a minute.

"It would be affectation for me to pretend that I don't see why you have told me all this," she said at length, walking quite close to his side. "You wish, or rather my father wishes—for you would never have made such an application of your own idea—my father wishes me to guarantee the solvency of his firm, and he sends you, knowing that I am under a deep debt of gratitude to you, as an ambassador to negotiate the business. He knows how terribly difficult it would be for me to refuse you anything you ask. Now, if you ask it, I shall not refuse—if, indeed, it is in my power to grant your request—but before you do so I would ask you whether it would be right to throw away what has been given for the maintenance of me and my child in a harebrained attempt to save from ruin what never can be saved. If the firm went insolvent I should be in a position to help my father, and, believe me, I shouldn't shrink from the duty, But if our money was also engulfed in the disaster we should all be steeped in beggary alike."

Gertrude spoke with no little warmth, for behind her selfishness there was a feeling which told her that she had reason on her side. Adam was visibly affected, he did not speak, but rising to his feet he took her hand in his.

"If you ask it, Adam," she said, "all that you gave me is freely yours again."

He drew back a pace. There was a manly resolution in every line of his face, and his honest eyes flashed out his answer.

"I shall ask nothing," he said, "but your pardon for having been induced to consider the possibility of such a thing. I haven't the slightest doubt that if the necessity arises you will nobly fulfil your promise to assist your father, and I," he added, purposely concealing how serious the matter was for himself, "shall never require any, I hope."

There was something in his attitude and manner which compelled Gertrude's admiration. She caught him by the hand, and shook it warmly.

"I hope you never will," she said.


Chapter XVII.

If the political arena had been open to women—Heaven forbid that it ever should be!—I feel assured that Mrs. Dale, notwithstanding her advancing years, would have taken a high place in public life. It was not that she was a particularly good speaker, nor a particularly good business woman, but she was possessed of a shrewd unscrupulous cunning, which Machiavelli himself might have envied, and which (in my non-political eyes) seems a gift of superlative value to any one desirous of making his mark as a statesman. She was communicative when it suited her purpose. She could be as discreet as Burleigh himself when the occasion needed. But her especial strength lay in innuendo. She would sow a crop of slanders with such an artful hand that the most exhaustive inquiry could not trace their origin. People might suspect—for instance, the suspicions of the Churchers and Patons almost amounted to conviction—but the charge, though often preferred, was never brought home to her. Thus she lived on, breeding mischief wherever she went, and yet not only tolerated but actually welcome in a society of which she was the greatest curse.

If such a woman hates she is a good hater, and Gertrude Paton would have done well not to push her to extremities. When Gertrude "cut" her she transformed a passive dislike into a hatred of the most active type. Mrs. Dale accepted the challenge, and meant to give no quarter.

When Oliver, with an aching heart, entered his office after the interview with his father and Adam Dyke, he was told by his clerk that there was a lady waiting for him in his room. He found it was Mrs. Dale.

"Well! Mrs. Dale, what can I do for you?" he asked, as he sank wearily into a chair.

Mrs. Dale looked round the room with an air of mystery. She knew the value of a little by-play on occasions like this.

"There's no danger of our being overheard, is there?" she asked.

"None whatever!" he answered.

"Well! Oliver, I've come here on a very serious, and, I'm sorry to say, a most unpleasant errand," Mrs. Dale said, "and I can honestly say that it is only a strong sense of duty which makes me speak at all. Before I say anything further I wish you to bear in mind the position that I have always occupied towards your family. Your mother I knew before she was married, and, as you probably know, I was one of her bridesmaids. Your father and my husband were intimate friends for years. You and your sister I nursed on my lap as children, and though I recognise with no little grief that I have ceased to enjoy her friendship, I hope that I do not state anything but the truth when I assert I retain yours."

Oliver hastened to confirm this statement, and he did so with no little warmth. In the days when the Dales were well off they had kept open house, and no one had profited more by the fact than he had. Of course, he had heard rumours of Mrs. Dale's shortcomings, but as he had never come across any proof to substantiate the charges, he had good-naturedly dismissed them from his mind as unfounded.

"You do, indeed!" he interjected heartily, "and I hope you always will."

"That at least is satisfactory," said Mrs. Dale, with a virtuous sigh. "And now for what I have come about. I believe that you and your sister have not spoken for some years."

Oliver's brow darkened, and he made a movement of impatience.

"No! We have not," he admitted. "But if you have come to speak to me about my sister, Mrs. Dale, I would ask you not to say anything further. She goes her way. I go mine."

"My dear Oliver, you may be sure that I have taken your position into consideration," she continued earnestly, "and that if what I wish to tell you did not affect you, did not demand your interference in fact, I should hold my tongue."

"Demand my interference!" interjected Oliver in amazement. "What do you mean?"

"I mean that your sister is taking a road—alas! she has gone far on it already!—which will infallibly lead her to ruin," continued Mrs. Dale impressively. "I mean that her name is in everyone's mouth, that things are said about her that I dare hardly repeat to one of my own sex, and that, alas! there is only too much ground for believing that what is said about her is true."

Oliver started to his feet, and an angry flush dyed his cheek a deep scarlet.

"I don't believe a word of it!" he cried indignantly. "I'm not friends with her. I probably never shall be; but I would forfeit my right hand," he exclaimed with a passionate gesture, "that every breath against her is an infernal lie."

Mrs. Dale watched this paroxysm in silence, pursing her lips, and apparently deeply moved.

"Oliver," she said at length, "your emotion is only natural. When first I heard rumours affecting Gertrude's fair fame I felt as you did. I had known her as a sweet innocent girl, and my whole being revolted at the idea of her being anything else. But little by little I was unwillingly convinced that I was mistaken, and a few days ago I accidentally came across proofs of her guilt, which I must—"

"Proofs! Produce them!" interrupted Oliver angrily. "I tell you, Mrs. Dale, that nothing will convince me that Gertrude is anything but a pure woman."

Mrs. Dale looked at Oliver with a compassionate expression, and paused a moment before she spoke.

"I knew when I came here that I came on a thankless errand," she said with well-simulated sorrow, "and it is only the hope of saving one that, however badly she has behaved, I still love, that makes me risk losing your friendship too. Will you listen to me quietly, and I will tell you all."

Oliver threw himself into a chair, and covered his face with his hands. "Go on!" he said in a low voice. "I shall not interrupt you."

"You will remember," said Mrs. Dale, "that your sister was engaged to Adam Dyke at the time that she married Cyril Paton. For the first four years she was married she saw nothing of her former lover. Then a reconciliation took place, and Adam Dyke became a friend, the friend of the house."

Mrs. Dale paused with the artfulness of a clever raconteur, and gave a sigh to enhance the interest of her narrative.

"Well?" said Oliver hoarsely.

"At first this reconciliation gave nothing but satisfaction to everybody. It was so universally recognised that Mr. Dyke had been shamefully treated, and his grief at his loss had been so touching, that every one was pleased to see him apparently happy again, and, believe me, no one was more pleased than I. But after a while strange rumours got abroad; his constant attention to Gertrude was so excessively marked that it would have been strange had they not got into circulation, and people, from suspecting evil, were forced to admit that there were more than grounds for suspicion. I still clung to my belief in her virtue to the last. I thought that she had been foolish—very, very foolish—nothing more. But two days ago my hopes were dispelled, and I was forced to acknowledge the truth. Adam Dyke has been more than her friend," she whispered, "and I have proof of their guilt."

At Adam's name Oliver leapt to his feet, and such a fury of rage and shame flashed from his eyes that Mrs. Dale instinctively drew back.

"Adam Dyke!" he cried. "It's a d—d infernal lie!"

Again did Mrs. Dale pause, and when she spoke it was in a perfectly collected voice.

"I have the proofs," she said quietly.

"Produce them, then, instead of talking of them," he exclaimed angrily. "I'll stake my life on Adam's innocence."

Mrs. Dale made a movement of impatience.

"If you don't restrain yourself, Oliver," she said, "it will be impossible for me to go on. I'm not strong, as you know, and really any violence would quite upset me."

"Go on! Go on!" muttered Oliver, trying his best to master his emotion. "What is your evidence?"

"The evidence of an eye-witness," continued Mrs. Dale. "A servant who was in the Patons' employ is now our housemaid, and it was from her that I received the information that has brought me here to-day."

Oliver burst into a derisive laugh.

"The evidence of a servant!" he cried. "Some badly-behaved wench who was dismissed Gertrude's service, and takes this means of wreaking her vengeance. I shall want better proofs than that before I believe anything against my sister or Adam Dyke."

Mrs. Dale shrugged her shoulders.

"The matter is easily tested," she said. "Hear what the girl has to say, and repeat what she says to Adam Dyke. If he denies it, I suppose you must take his word. If he doesn't the girl is telling the truth. In any case, you will be able to form some opinion of his guilt or his innocence. If he is guilty, I have done you a good turn in opening your eyes to a wicked man. If he is innocent, he will benefit by it. It will enable him to clear his name of an odious imputation."

For a long time Oliver steadfastly refused to see the girl, who, it appears, had been waiting in the outer office the whole time. But in the end he gave way, and Mrs. Dale brought her into the room. She was a modest-looking girl of five-and-twenty, and told her story with a certain hesitation that added in no small degree to its probability. She testified to the intimate relations that seemed to exist between Adam Dyke and Mrs. Paton, to their having constantly dined and spent the evening tête-à-tête, and to their having called each other by their Christian names.

"Please tell us about the necklace, Rose," said Mrs. Dale.

"Well, ma'm, it was one evening after dinner," said the girl. "Mrs. Paton had been dining alone with Mr. Dyke, and as he usually did he went with her into the drawing-room directly after. As he passed through the hall he took a parcel off the table, and he began undoing it as he went towards the drawin'-room. Well, ma'm, they always had their coffee served in the drawin'-room, an' a few minutes afterwards I went with the tray. When I got to the door it was half open."

"The door of the drawingroom?" interjected Mrs. Dale.


"And what did you see?" asked Mrs. Dale.

The girl gave a nervous glance at Oliver, whose head was bent on his breast.

"I see Mr. Dyke with the missus in his arms," she said, "and he kissed her, ma'm, I couldn't say how many times."

"Yes, Rose."

Oliver jumped up from his seat, and the sight of his face froze the coming revelations on the girl's lips.

"That'll do!" he cried, turning his head away, and holding out his hand towards the girl as if to shut out the possibility of seeing her. "I want to hear no more!"

Long after Mrs. Dale had gone did Oliver sit with his heavy head on his hand. His faith in Adam had been so complete, his love for him so trusting, his belief in his integrity so unbounded that he was utterly crushed by the blow. Though he still sought excuses for his friend, an inward voice that would make itself heard told him that the girl had spoken the truth. He recalled Adam's frequent absences from home with painful exactitude, and his recent taciturnity, which he had ascribed to mere shyness, now assumed a very different aspect. But what brought the hot tears of shame to his eyes, and a burning blush to his checks, was the thought of the gift of Tarcoota, a gift hitherto ascribed to a noble liberality, but which he now could only look on as a sinful bargain.

"To think that I've been living with this man the whole time," he cried, clenching his fists in a paroxysm of rage; "that I've accepted favours from his hands over and over again, that everything I've got in the world I owe to him! Great Heaven! It's enough to drive me mad! But, late as it is, it's as well that I know it!" he exclaimed, as he seized his hat and stick and prepared to leave the office. "If he doesn't deny what this woman says, ay, every word of it, the same roof won't cover us another night!"

He jumped into a cab, telling the cabman to drive at his best pace. The cab had hardly pulled up at the door before he was out and pulled the bell with feverish impatience, which was not lessened when he found that Adam was not in. He went to the little room which Adam and he used as a smoking-room, but which had been originally intended for Gertrude's boudoir. There he threw himself into a chair, eating out his heart with impatience for the coming interview.

But Adam's coming was so long delayed that Oliver had time to think the matter out over and over again, and if his indignation was in no degree mitigated, the violence of his passion assuredly was. It gave way gradually but surely to a profound grief that everything about him only served to increase. As he looked round the room a thousand pleasant memories rose before him, memories of kindnesses received, memories of patient forbearance, memories of manly, uncomplaining grief. There was not a thing in the room that had not some association. There were little gifts from Adam lying about everywhere. His own photograph was the principal ornament of the writing-table. The little room, every nook and corner of it, was identified with sadly-pleasant recollections.

"Oh! Adam! Adam!" he cried. "How could you be so weak and wicked? How could you? How could you?"

The words were on his lips when the door opened, and Adam entered. There was a weary beaten look on his face that Oliver at any other time would have noticed in an instant. But at the sight of him all his impatience, all his indignation, all his shame returned with overwhelming strength, and leaping to his feet, he faced him with an angry brow and flaming eyes. At that moment their long and tried friendship was forgotten. The man who stood before him was an enemy until he proved his innocence, and everything in Oliver's attitude announced that it was as an enemy that he looked on him.

"I'm glad you've come at last," he said, and his voice almost whistled as it left his dry lips, "for I want a matter cleared up, and cleared up before either of us leaves this room, which will settle whether we are to be friends or enemies for life."

Adam started back, and turned pale. Astonishment and pain were written in every line of his face.

"Oliver, my dear, dear Oliver!" he interrupted. "Are you mad?"

"Mad! No! I've come to my senses, thank God!" exclaimed Oliver with bitter emphasis.

Adam made an impatient gesture, and it was in a voice of absolute anger that he interrupted Oliver.

"I don't know what has happened, Oliver, for you to go on like this," he said, "so the sooner you let me know the better. What is it?"

There was something in Adam's voice that sobered Oliver's anger.

"Listen, Adam, and I'll tell you," he said in a lower tone. "I've learnt to-day for the first time the amount of intimacy that has existed for the last fifteen months or so between you and—and Gertrude."

Adam's face flushed scarlet, and he bit his lip nervously. "We've been great friends," he admitted in a low voice.

"Friends! Have you been no more?" cried Oliver as he leant forward and anxiously awaited an answer.

"No more?" repeated Adam in amazement.

"Haven't you given the world cause to call your friendship by an uglier name?" exclaimed Oliver.

Adam shook his head, and the sorrowful look on his face deepened. "I trust not!" he answered with fervent emphasis.

"Well, listen to me," cried Oliver, "and if you can disprove what I've heard, Adam, you'll make me the happiest man in the world. You dined one night at the Patons' house alone with Gertrude?"

"I often have done so," admitted Adam.

"And after dinner you went into the drawing-room with her?"


"As you passed through the hall you took a parcel from the table?"

"I did."

"Which contained a diamond necklace?"


"You fastened that on yourself?"

Adam bit his lip, and the colour in his thin cheek deepened tenfold.

"I did," he admitted in a low voice, and his eyes fell as he spoke.

"Adam Dyke, the door was open when all this took place, and a servant who was there—"

Adam started back, and the last trace of colour left his cheeks. In his eyes there was an expression of absolute horror, and his lips turned livid. Oliver saw it, and the words he was speaking died on his lips. For half a minute he stared at Adam without speaking, and his cheeks were as colourless as Adam's own. Then he broke forth in a perfect frenzy of sorrow.

"Say it's not true! say it's not true!" he cried. "I've been such friends with you, Adam, that it would break my heart, it would, indeed, if you couldn't deny it The servant says you took Gertrude in your arms and kissed her. It's a lie, is it not? it's a lie. Deny it, Adam, for the love of God, deny it."

As he spoke he drew near his friend, and catching him by the arm looked into his face, and as he looked the scene that he had described rose before Adam Dyke and sealed his lips. One glance told Oliver the truth, and with a cry of horror he leapt back.

"It is true, then," he cried, as he shook his fist in his rage, "and all this time that my heart has been full of pity for you, you have been a man that I would have avoided like a leper if I'd but known the truth. I thought you were an honest man who had been foully wronged—a man so honest that he would shun the very thought of an evil deed. For you I parted with my own flesh and blood, ay! and if you had been what I thought you were I would never have regretted it. When Gertrude married that scoundrel, who felt for you as I did?" he asked, as passionate tears started to his eyes. "Who tried as hard as I did to heal the wound she had caused! Heaven knows I didn't ask anything in return," he cried, "and that I don't want to claim any credit for what I did; but I say this, Adam Dyke, if by giving my life I could have added a hairsbreadth to your happiness, I would gladly have shed every drop of blood in my body."

Adam Dyke stood with downcast eyes, his face as pale as if it had been hewn of marble. No word passed his lips. He had even lost the power of thought.

"I'll say that I would have done all this if you had been what I thought," said Oliver. "Now I curse the day that I ever saw your face. You have loaded me with presents—there isn't a thing I have that isn't your gift—the watch I wear," he took it off and flung it on the table, "the money I have in my pocket," he took the money out as he spoke and put it by the watch, "the very clothes I have on my back. And now I tell you this, that if I have to work the nails from my fingers you shall be repaid every farthing you have expended on me or mine, for I can't breathe while I'm indebted to you. I shall leave Melbourne, I shall leave the colony, and I hope that one of these days, when sorrow overtakes you—as it assuredly will—the thought of how you've treated me will add an extra pang to the bitterness of your grief."

Before the man he had so cruelly misjudged could guess his intention he had flung out of the room, and a moment afterwards the slamming of the front door told that he had left the house.

They never met again.


Chapter XVIII.

Discussing with a friend the inventions of this century I ventured to remark that the institution of "afternoon tea" was not the least important, when he, who is possessed of an aggravatingly correct memory, reminded me that Dr. Johnson was wont to drink a dish of tea with Mrs. Thrale of an afternoon, and referred me to my Boswell for confirmation of the fact. Now I don't care twopence—though I didn't acknowledge it to him at the time—whether "afternoon tea" is a new institution or not I am devoted to the meal, and if it goes out of fashion as suddenly as it came in, it shall still retain its place in my household.

Afternoon tea was a great institution with the Patons, and Gertrude, who assuredly was the best hostess that ever lived, spared no pains to make her tea-table attractive. She was not content with providing the thinnest of bread and butter, but there were scones, and cakes, and biscuits of such artful manufacture that even the most fastidious palates were tempted. Then the tea was such as you rarely get, and though her tea-cups were not unusually small, a second cup was the rule and not the exception.

It was at afternoon tea on Christmas Eve, 1883, that we resume our acquaintance with the Patons, and we could not resume it on a finer day. Though the sky was cloudless, and in the morning the sun had been somewhat hot, there was just enough wind to temper the atmosphere. The table was laid in the broad verandah at the side of the house, and could not have been laid in a pleasanter place. There, with a group of friends about her, Gertrude did the honours of her tea-table, and though I am not animated by the kindliest of feelings towards her, I acknowledge that she did them well.

On the lawn some young people were playing tennis, and here and there in the garden were groups of people watching them. On a rustic seat, shaded from the rays of the sun by a large clump of arbutus, sat Mrs. Churcher and the ever-faithful Mr. Champlin.

"I never see Mr. Barron without feeling sorry for him," said Mrs. Churcher, as she looked to a remote part of the verandah, where Mr. and Mrs. Barron were seated, "though I'm told, and may say that I feel sure, that he deserves no sympathy. He was so utterly crushed by his insolvency. He seemed to be transformed at once into a decrepid, almost imbecile, dotard. He loved his business, and with the loss of it went his interest in life."

"Oh! he was a beastly selfish old fellow," exclaimed Mr. Champlin impatiently, "and doesn't deserve any pity. Now, if you had said that you were sorry for Adam Dyke I could understand it. Though he was an awful donkey, it was his good qualities that ruined him—if, indeed, he was ruined, for the matter is still open to doubt."

"I don't think it," said Mrs. Churcher.

"Oh! but it is. Grainger told me for a fact that he is still very well off— that the loss of his money quite turned his nature, and transformed him into a perfect miser. He says he's worth £50,000 if he's worth a penny."

"Well, I tell you that he isn't worth fifty thousand pence," said Mrs. Churcher, in a tone which implied that her statement was beyond dispute. "Are you sure that we can't be overheard, and I'll tell you something."

Mr. Champlin took a careful survey.

"All right, Alice," he said; "fire away."

"To begin with, don't call me Alice except in my own house," said the lady with a frown. "How often am I to warn you of the danger of doing it?"

"All right; fire away," reiterated Mr. Champlin in a slightly snubbed tone.

"Well, you remember when the firm of 'David Barron and Company' went insolvent Adam Dyke disappeared, and various rumours got into circulation as to what had become of him. Some said that he had gone to England, others that he was in hiding about Melbourne, while some went so far as to say he had committed suicide."

"Well, it has never been cleared up as yet, has it?" asked Mr. Champlin with some interest.

"Yes, it has," answered Mrs. Churcher, "but only in the last few days. It seems that Adam Dyke was, after all, irretrievably ruined."

"Who told you?" interjected Mr. Champlin eagerly.

"Mr. Barton, who is winding-up the affairs of the firm. When Adam Dyke disappeared he went to Queensland, and—I know you will hardly credit it—accepted a billet on a station at a pound a week."

"Great Heaven!" cried Mr. Champlin. "Can it be true?"

"Oh, it's true enough," replied Mrs. Churcher; "but that isn't what I was going to tell you. A week ago, as Mr. Churcher was walking up Bourke street, he saw a man sneak into a pawnbroker's shop, a man who evidently didn't wish to be seen. As he passed under the lamp at the door Mr. Churcher thought that he recognised him. Wishing to make sure, he waited until he came out. His suspicions were confirmed. It was Adam Dyke."

Mr. Champlin started to his feet and his face betrayed no less horror than astonishment.

"Goodness me," he cried; "that's awful!"

"It is indeed," said Mrs. Churcher, gravely. "And when one considers that every penny these people are spending was his, it does not make one take a brighter view of the world."

The path, which led from the gate to the door of the house, was a few feet of where this conversation took place, and as Mrs. Churcher uttered this moral reflection steps were heard on the gravel path close at hand. A moment afterwards a man appeared walking towards the house—a little, ill-dressed, travel-stained man, who limped as if he were footsore.

"To think of a man, whose lot but a few years ago filled us with envy, coming to such a pass," moralised Mr. Champlin gravely. "Why he may be in as sorry a plight as that poor devil," and he pointed to the man, who was now ringing the bell.

When the servant-girl answered the door the little man asked to see Mrs. Paton. It was the same girl who had once refused Adam Dyke admission, and with a look, which plainly expressed, "I like your impertinence," she asked the man what he wanted.

"I want to see your mistress, I say," repeated Robert Dines, for it was he. "And you will oblige me by asking her to see me."

"May I ask what name?" said the girl with ill-concealed contempt, as she took him in from head to foot.

Dines gave his name, and the servant, with every sign of unwillingness went to her mistress with the message. To her surprise Mrs. Paton immediately expressed her willingness to see him.

"Show him into the library," she said to the girl, and then, turning to her guests, she explained that Mr. Dines was an old and valued clerk of her fathers.

When she entered the room she greeted the little man with no little heartiness. No one knew better than Gertrude Paton the value of occasional condescension.

"Take a seat, Mr. Dines," she said, as she herself sat down. "What can I do for you?"

The little clerk did not accept the invitation, but stood in the same place with an uneasy look in his dim eyes. Gertrude repeated her question.

"You can do nothing for me, ma'm," he said at length, and he spoke with a serious deliberation that aroused Gertrude's curiosity; "but you can do a good deal for someone on whose behalf I've come."

Gertrude raised her eyebrows.

"Indeed, she exclaimed. "Who is that?"

The little man paused before he answered, and when he spoke it was almost in a whisper. But low as his voice was the name he uttered reached Gertrude's ears as surely as if it had been yelled into them by a thousand voices at their loudest.

"Adam Dyke."

With a scream Gertrude fell back in her chair, and every trace of colour left her cheeks.

"You really should—you really should have prepared me for such—for such a blow," she gasped. "What does he ask? What does he want? Where is he?" she asked almost in one breath.

The attitude of the little man had hitherto been no friendly one, but at sight of Gertrude's emotion he unbent, and when he spoke there was a ring of joyful gratitude in his voice that he did not try to conceal.

"You'll come and see him, Miss Barron," he cried eagerly, calling her in his excitement by her maiden name. "you'll come and see him, won't you? The very sight of you, ma'm 'll be the saving of him. He's so bad, poor fellow—so lonely, in such bad spirits. You'll come, won't you ma'm? Me and my wife has done what we could for him; but, Lor' bless you, what can we do for a man like him?"

Gertrude leant forward, and her colour came and went as she spoke.

"Of course I'll come and see him," she said in a low voice, "the very moment that I have a minute to—"

The little man rushed to her side, and in his excitement caught her by the hand.

"Now! now!" he cried. "There's not an instant to be lost. The man's dying—I tell you he's dying."

Gertrude bit her lip.

"I can't possibly go to-day," she said. "As you see, I have company, and—"

Robert Dines leapt back as if he had been stung.

"Company!" he cried. "Can you weigh your company against a man's life?"

Gertrude burst into tears and pressed her embroidered handkerchief to her eyes.

"It's really most dreadful," she exclaimed, "but you don't know what's expected of a person in my position, Dines, or—"

"Thank God that I don't!" interrupted the little man with a passionate gesture of contempt. "If a person in your position is not to obey the ordinary dictates of humanity, then I say that your position is a curse, and I wouldn't change places with you for all the wealth of the Indies."

Robert Dines was a plain little man, with a head of tangled red hair, a red tuft on his chin, and a freckled face. But as he spoke these words the indignation that fired him transfigured his homely features, and Gertrude could not restrain a feeling of admiration for him.

"Well, I'll see what can be done," she said in a low voice, "and will come if I possibly can. Is—is he at your house?"


"Down on the Richmond Flat?"


"Well, you may expect me either to-day or to-morrow," said Gertrude, as she rose from her seat.

Dines took up his hat and prepared to go. There was a look on his face which told of deep disappointment and sorrow.

"It had better be to-day, ma'am," he said gravely, "or you may be too late."

"I'll come as soon as I can—I will indeed," said Gertrude earnestly, as she walked with him to the door of the room. "Mr. Dines," she whispered, as she laid her hand on his arm; "you mustn't be offended, but if—if you're in want of money I have some in the house, and—"

Robert Dines drew away his arm, and his face went scarlet.

"I'd sooner sell everything I have in the world," he began indignantly, and then he added almost in the same breath, "I beg your pardon, ma'am—we don't want any assistance."

As he limped down the path Gertrude's eyes followed him, and the flush of shame which had brightened her cheeks did not leave them till long after he had passed out of the gate.

"I know that it must appear most heartless of me," she said, as she bit her lip; "but what was I to do, with all these people here?"

* * * * * *

Christmas morning was ushered in by a mist which soon gave way before the rays of the sun, and as Robert Dines, who had been up all night with his patient, saw the prospect of a fine day, his spirits rose somewhat, and as the day crept on his hopes rose higher and higher.

"If he can only live through the day," he whispered to his wife, "I have a presentiment that he will pull through. The only thing I'm frightened of is his regaining consciousness before Mrs. Paton comes. If he did, and found that she hadn't been here, I think it would kill him right off."

A grave look came into Mrs. Dines's eyes.

"Do you think that she will come at all?" she asked.

"Come!" he exclaimed. "Well, if she doesn't—" and then he broke off short and the hope died out of his eyes.

Just then the doctor arrived, a man highly esteemed both in his profession and by the public, a man of marked ability, and of a kindliness of disposition which had endeared him to all classes.

"How's your patient?" he asked in a low voice, and without waiting an answer he went into an inner room, where Adam Dyke had lain moaning and muttering for many a long day. "Has he ever regained consciousness?" he asked.

Robert Dines shook his head.

"No, sir," he said sadly. "He talks away like that night and day."

The doctor pursed his lips, and as he felt the patient's pulse and tested his temperature Robert Dines's anxious eyes never left his face.

"Is there any hope?" he asked in an eager whisper.

The doctor's face was as grave as his own as he answered him. "None whatever," he said.

The little clerk sat down on the edge of the bed, and his head fell on his hands.

"If Mrs. Paton would only come," he cried. "If she'd only come there might be hope."

The doctor shrugged his shoulders.

"Well, there's no harm in trying," he said. "Suppose you go and fetch her. My buggy is outside. Jump in. You can be back here within the hour. I'll look after the poor fellow; your wife here will give me any assistance I want."

There was a certain chivalry in Robert Dines's nature which never asserted itself more strongly than on this occasion. Though he was filled with indignation at Gertrude's heartlessness, nothing would have induced him to acknowledge the truth.

"I'll go, sir," he said, and without more ado he went into the outer room to get his hat. The sick-room was very dark, and as he passed out of it the strong light almost blinded him. And it seemed to the simple fellow as if the glorious light of day which streamed in at the window, lighting up the pattern of the shabby carpet and revealing in naked truth the poverty of the wretched furniture, was a mocking light and he went to the window and with a careful and silent hand turned the Venetian so that the room was in half darkness.

"We have no share in the joys of to-day," he reflected bitterly.

Meanwhile the doctor sat by the patient's side, and with an attentive eye and ear watched every movement and sound. And as he looked at his face bitter thoughts indeed came into his mind. He had known Adam Dyke in his days of prosperity, had seen him courted and fawned upon, had recognised his solid worth, that no adulation nor flattery could tarnish, had admired him as he had rarely admired anyone. And here he was "fallen from his high estate," "deserted at his utmost need by those his former bounty fed."

"Merciful God!" he said aloud. "It makes one doubt the justice of Heaven."

As he spoke the suffering man moved slightly, and his words, which hitherto had been indistinct, now were plainly audible.

"Gertrude—Gertrude, dear Gertrude. You said that if the opportunity ever came you would—you would repay. She'll come, Dines, she'll come. She wouldn't leave me. And Oliver will come too. I can—No, Oliver, no! I swear it by all I hold sacred. She'll come. . . . Gertrude, Gertrude!"

Mrs. Dines went to the doctor's side.

"It's a good sign, isn't it, sir?" she asked eagerly. "He's talking more clearly—did you notice it, sir?"

The doctor shook his head.

"There's no hope, Mrs. Dines," he said dejectedly. "He may linger on for a few hours, but that's all. If he hadn't been a strong man he would have been dead days ago. He's making a gallant fight for life," he added, as he watched the face of the sufferer with sorrowful eyes, "but it does not require much skill to foretell that the battle won't be a long one."

A long one! It was over already. With a sigh and a shiver poor Adam Dyke turned on his side and gave in.





By George Hurdis Purves.

Published in The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic.)
Saturday, November 3, 1888

Also published in The Maryborough Chronicle, Wide Bay and Burnett Advertiser (Qld)
Saturday, November 10, 1888 through Saturday, December 1, 1888



Aye! a trainer's life's rite enough, once he's fair started, 'as a nice string o' horses, an's trainin' for the rite sort. If he is a bit anxious when races is on, there's plenty o' times that he don't bother 'is 'ed 'bout nothin', an' if he's got a good man in charge o' the stables, why, he can take things jest as easy as he likes. An' it's only rite as he should, for he 'as a pretty rough time of it afore he comes a trainer, leastways as a rule. O' course there's some on 'em as comes trainers rite off, gents as 'as a likin' for horses princerply, but that sort ain't common. Most on 'em goes through much the same as me. They starts as stable-boys, getting a mount—a pretty rough un most times—ev'ry now an then, an' by the time as they're through their time they generally thinks they knows enough to train on their own hook, an' most on 'em does—if they can get anyone to give 'em a start. O' course there's some on 'em as ain't fit to blister a rockin'-'orse, an' ha' got no more sense in their 'eds than a wooden immidge, but even some o' them lasts a long time afore they're found out. You've no idea wot a fool the public is once it's took a notion as a feller's clever. Why! There's Bob Goslin' as big a fool as ever lived, an' knows no more about a horse than . . . . Well! that ain't neither here nor there. I meant to tell you how I started, so I'll let Bob slide. The public 'll find 'im out sure enough in the long run, an' then they'll drop 'im like a 'ot pertater.

Talkin' o' Bob Goslin' brings me quite nat'ral to my yarn, for Bob was bound to Ike Blosely when I went there to serve my time. I was only a lad o' fifteen at the time, an' a wery small un at that: but small as I wos an' young as I wos, I'd already done a bit of ridin', an' 'ad scored a win or two. My father 'ad a bit of land up Warruambool way, an' when there wos races anywheres near, I used always to get a mount. Ike Blosely saw me ride, an' thought as there wos the makin' of a good lad in me. He spoke to the old man, an' in ten minutes the thing was fixed up. My mother, poor old soul fought 'ard agen it at first. I can see the tears in her eyes this very minute I'm speakin', as she sed it 'ud break her 'art to part with her boy, but the old man's mind was made up, an' wot he wanted to do he always did. So it come about one fine mornin' he took me up to town an' left me in a bran-new suit o' clothes with a big cake in my box, and two bright sovereigns in my pocket, at Ike Blosely's place, where I stayed for five long years.

Now I ain't goin' to talk much o' wot went on in them days 'mongst the lads in trainin' stables, for it wouldn't do no good if I did. Things are a bit better now, thank God, than they was then, tho' a stable ain't nowadays the place as a careful father 'ud choose for 'is son. But in them days the life as the lads led wos real bad an' no mistake. There wos five other lads there asides me, an' for all that they was on'y jest a shade older than me, they bet, an' they gambled, an' they swore, an' they drank, an' there wasn't nobody as wos man enough to put a stop to it. Put a stop to it, indeed! Why, I think Ike Blosely liked to see such goin's-on. Any ways, he used often to come to "the lads' room," as it wos called, an' the flasher a lad wos the more he took to 'im. An' he'd play cards with 'em, an' do 'is level best to win their money, too, an' if he did, Lor', how he'd laugh, tho', mind you, he'd give 'em credit if they had him. So long as they did their work he didn't care what become of 'em, so it ain't no wonder as 'is lads bore a terrible name.

There was one of 'em as I took to rite off, more I 'spect cos he took to me than cos there wos any p'ints about 'im as a lad wos likely to cotton to. 'Is name was Willum Iles, but you might ha' lived at Ike Blosely's for a year an' never found that out, for he wos always called Crumpets; some sed cos his face was wery white and all covered with marks from the small-pox, as he must ha' had wery bad, an' some sed cos he was wery partial to them kind of wittles, which I think's wery probable, as he wos a terrible big feeder. Anyways Crumpets he wos called, an' as he didn't object, it wasn't nobody's business. He wos a long thin fellow wos Crumpets, nigh on six feet high, an' though he wos very thin, he wos orful strong, an' could put through the best lad in the stable. Not as he ever blowed 'bout 'is strength, or showed off, or anythin' o' the kind, but ev'ry now an' then, as you'll hear directly, he had to use 'is fists, and, I tell yer, 'e 'ad quite the perfessional touch about 'im. An' the way it come about wos this. Yer see Ike Blosely afore 'e wos a trainer wos a prize-fighter, an' for all that 'e never went in the ring no more, 'e liked to keep is 'and in. So wot did he do but buy some gloves, an' 'tween times wen there wos nothin' else doin' 'e'd put on the gloves with the biggest o' the lads, an' bet 'em a bob as they couldn't 'it 'im in the face in five minutes. O' course he never paid 'em, if they did; he never did pay nobody. If he'd 'ad to pay Crumpets 'e'd ha' gone broke, for Crumpets got that smart as it took Ike all 'is time to 'old his own, o' course I mean with the gloves. If it 'ad come to fightin' Ike would ha' knocked 'im out in no time, for Ike wos a tremenjus powerful man, an' Crumpets, yer see, for all that 'e wos strong for a boy, wos ony a boy, an' a wery light-made 'un at that. Still with the gloves he wery near 'eld 'is own, and when Ike wosn't in tip-top form, or 'ad been drinkin', an' that happened 'bout twice a week, Crumpets would give 'im What For I can tell yer. Lor', how we fellows used to larf when he'd land Ike a real good 'un. "Go it, Crumpets!" we'd sing out. "Go it, old man! Give 'im beans!" an' we'd pertend as 'e'd put Ike thro'—not as 'e ever really did, you know, fer all that he shaped so well, but jest to please 'im an' to annoy Ike, who thought no end o' hisself at the game.

But I was sayin' as I took to Crumpets rite off, an' the way of it wos this. Late in the evenin' the furst night as I wos at Ike's we wos all sittin' in the lads room, an jest thinkin' o' turnin' in. Our beds wos all put round the room—eight on 'en there wos—an' mine wos next to Crumpets', who wos lyin' on 'is a readin' of The Orstralasian. The other lads wos playin' cards most o' the evenin'—an' terrible they swore over 'em too—an' smokin' an' tellin' yarns. I sat on my bed a watchin' 'em, an' feelin' jest like a fish out o' water, wishin' misself at 'ome, I can tell yer, and 'arf inclined to cry. They asked me to play when they begun, an it wos then as I first heard Crumpets speak.

"Stash that," he seys, frowning like. "Let the lad be."

I didn't understand quite wot he meant an' why he interfered.

"I—I don't play cards," I seys, hesitatin'.

"Don't yer?" seys the lad as asked me, with a sneer. "I suppose yer ma—"

He 'adn't got no further than that when up jumps Crumpets from 'is bed.

"Leave the lad alone," he seys, "or I'll give yer somethin' as 'll make yer keep a civil tongue in yer 'ed." Then, turnin' to me, he gives me part o' The Ostralasian—ony the advertis'ments, it's true, which ain't what you'd call pop'lar readin', an' as I never could tackle kindly—an', without speakin' another word, laid 'is self down on the bed agen, an', turnin' 'is back to me, started readin' the paper agen.

That wosn't the ony time that night as he 'ad to take my part.

When we wos goin' to bed I opened my box to take out my nightshirt, and wot should there be at the top o' the box but my cake. They'd all been lookin' at me, an' winkin' an' larfin' an' carryin' on, but when they sees the cake an' the nightshirt (for they never uses none, but jest sleeps in their shirts) they bust out larfin' fifty times worse than ever, an' begun teasin' me real cruel.

"Ain't ma good?" seys one. "He's got 'is sister's shimmy!" seys another. "A bloomin' weddin' cake," seys a third; "let's ask Ike inter the nupshalls." An' then the young chap as 'ad asked me to play cards— Danny Miles wos 'is name—whips 'is 'and inter the box, an' collars the cake in one 'and and the nightshirt in the other. "Allow me to assist you, my deah fellah!" seys he, imitatin' the swells, an' holdin' up the things to show 'em to the rest.

"Put them down," says a woice behind 'im.

"Wot business is it o' yourn?" seys Danny, mighty sulky, "I ain't 'urtin you."

"Put them down!" seys Crumpets—o' course, you'll ha' guessed it wos him—"or—I'll—make—yer," speakin' the words jes' like that, wery slow.

Danny looked for a moment as if he'd jib, but 'e saw summit in Crumpets's eye as he didn't like the look of.

"I'll get even with you for that, Crumpets," seys he under 'is breath, as he shoved the things back; but Crumpets, if he heerd 'im didn't take no notis, an' jest went an' laid down as afore, readin' the paper with 'is back to us.

I crept inter my bed feelin' wery miserable, an' wishin' more than ever as I'd never left 'ome. I closed my eyes, for I wos frightened to watch the lads, for fear as they'd catch me at it, tho' I felt sure, from the way as they wos whisperin', as they wos talkin' of me. I took a sly peep at Crumpets ev'ry now an' then, wishin' as he'd turn round, an' see wot they wos up to, but there he lay, with his back turned the whole time, an' takin' no more notis of anybody than if he'd bin by hisself.

Presently they puts out the lights, an' soon I hears most on 'em asleep. But I couldn't sleep. I wos thinkin' o' my home, an' my old mother, an' the kids, an' I felt jest as homesick as ever a lad did in this world. An' I hope as you won't think the worse o' me for it, but the lights bein' out, I jest began cryin'. Now I never knowed whether Crumpets knowed it or not, but jest then he leaned across towards my bed. "Young 'un," he whispers wery low, "wot's up?" "Nothin'," says I. "Keep your pecker up," seys he, still under his breath like. "You'll soon get used to it," seys he, speakin', as he always did, in a wery gruff sort o' way, but meanin' kindly enough.

It wos all wery well to talk, but jest them kind words o' his made me all the worse. I didn't cry much more; I wos frightened as I'd be heard, an' that stopped the pipes, I fancy; but I jest lay there wide awake, an' feelin as if my heart wos broke. It most ha' been an hour or more, an' all wos as silent as the grave, when I heard Crumpets move, an' saw 'im turn his face my way, for he slept under the window, an' I could jest see 'im; an' I'd bin thinkin how good it wos o' him to interfere, and that I'd never really thanked 'im as yet. So I jest slips out o' bed, an' layin' my 'and on 'is shoulder, "Mr. Crumpet," says I.

"Wot is it, young un?" says he, quite sharp.

"I only want to tell you as I'm wery much obliged, Mr. Crumpet," says I.

I'm sure as a frown come over 'is face tho' I couldn't o' course see it.

"All right!—All right!" he says quite snappishly, and tarns 'is back on me agen.

The next mornin' the cake was gone; an' the two bright soverins as my father had give me when he left me, but I didn't tell Crumpets.


Now I hates anythin' like blabbin', special' on one's mates, but it wouldn't be no use me tellin' this here yarn if I didn't tell the truth. I don't want to set up as bein' any better than the rest o' them. I'm free to confess as arter I'd been there 12 months I wos a reglar young rip—a puffick out-an-outer. I smoked my pipe, I drunk my arf pint (or my pint for the matter of that), an if I couldn't deal misself the two bowers at euchre I 'ad a pretty rough idea o' when Danny Miles did. Them things is easy learned, an' the road to the devil ain't a hard un to travel.

Wot did Crumpets think on it? I'm blessed if I know. I don't think he troubled 'is 'ed about it. Yer see, he'd seen so many go to the dogs afore me—he was 19, wos Crumpets—as I suppose he didn't think it no use a interferin'. Jest at first I fancy he'd a mind to speak to me, for once or twice he giv' it me 'bout playin cards an' so on, but I suppose as he seen it wosn't no use, an' let me go my own way. An' to tell the truth I wos wery glad at the time as he did, for—ungrateful young scamp as I wos—I begun to feel 'shamed like o' the poor old chap's pertection, thinkin' as it lowered me in the eyes o' the other lads. They seys "there's no fool like a old fool." They're fools as seys it. "There's no fool like a young fool," an o' all young fools I was jest about the biggest. Yer musn't think for all that as I wasn't friends with Crumpets. Not a bit of it. We got on right enough, ony yer see—yer know—we wosn't as thick as yer might ha' supposed we would ha' bin.'

Ike Blosely 'ad a fine string o' horses in them days, indeed yer might say as 'is was the leading institooshun o' the colony. He trained for some o' the best men as ever owned a horse, Ike did. An' mind you, he could train, could Ike. If there was a race in a horse he'd 'ave it out o' him, an' I never knowed his ekal for spottin' a duffer. How wos it then, seys you, as he went broke, an' as it come as nobody 'ud give 'im a horse to train? Ike Blosely couldn't go straight; he's 'ave 'is own father, an' as the sayin' is, rob a sick brother o' his gruel. That's how it wos, an' if you listen for arf a minit I'll tell you how he lost 'bout 'is best customer.

O' course you know'd Mr. Reginald Roethorne, and—you didn't? Well, then it wos your loss let me tell you, for a finer young chap never stood in shoeleather. It wosn't only as he wos a well set up an' good lookin' man  for 'is outside, good as it wos, wosn't arf the best part o' him. He wos jest the kindest-'arted, freest-anded man as ever I come across. 'Art. He had the 'art of a bullock! Well, Ike Blosely trained for Mr. Roethorne, an' 'ad trained for 'im ever since he come on the turf, which wos jest arter I jined the stable, an' a wery good thing Ike 'ad made of 'im. Yer see Mr. Roethorne wos jest the sort as a trainer likes to get hold of, a chap as'll put the money on like water if he gets the wink, an'll lay you arf 'is winnings to nuthin'. Wos he pleased when he won? Aye! That he wos, but he didn't whine for all that if he got a doin'. He wos the rite sort, wos Mr. Roethorne, an' could take a lickin' or a win better than anyone I ever seen.

Well, I'd bin five years at Ike's w'en the spring meetin' was comin' on, an' we'd got a big look in for three or four of the best races o' the meetin'. We'd two as 'ad a show for the Cup, the Darby was a clean gift to Shanticlere, *Filly D'lary was reckoned the best two-year-old o' the year—aye, an' she wos too—an' it looked wery like as if we 'ad the Hurdle and Steeple double in the stable. Our leppers wos mostly Mr. Roethorne's, who didn't care tuppence for flat racin', an' wen the books opened on the double over the sticks Mr. Roethorne's pair become the fav'rit' double afore you could say Jack Robinson.

*Fille de l'Air.

"Wot do you think o' my chance?" he seys to Ike Blosely the day the weights come out. "I like Quickstep," (he wos the steeple horse, wos Quickstep). "I like Quickstep well enough," he seys; "but don't you think Cinderreller has a bit too much weight?"

"Not a' ounce," seys Ike. "She'll waltz in."

I saw by Mr. Roethorne's face as he wos pleased.

"I'd better back her, then," he seys. "Wot price ought I to take?"

Ike larfed.

"Price!" seys he. "Any price you can get."

Just then Ike was called away, an' Mr. Roethorne an' me wos left together. We wos standin' at the door o' the loose box where Cinderreller wos.

"Let's 'ave a look at the mare," seys he.

So on that in we goes, an' I takes off the clothin', an' I tells you, as I stood back with the clothin' thrown over my arm an' looked at her, I felt as proud of her as if she'd bin my own flesh an' blood, as they say. An' Mr. Roethorne was proud of her too—it wos easy to see that; for a kind o' colour gathered on his cheek, an' 'is eyes fair gleamed with pleasure.

"She does you credit, Chipping," he seys. "She does you credit."

"Thankee, sir," seys I, an' then I adds. "She'll do me more credit arter the Hurdles is over," seys I.

He larfed.

"You think she'll win," seys he.

"I'm sure on it," seys I.

An' then he larfs agen.

"I hope she may," he seys, an' he tells me to put the clothin' on her. I'd jest finished puttin' the straps tidy, wen he seys, sudden-like as if somethin' was runnin' in 'is 'ed. "You've always rode 'er in 'er work, Chipping, haven't you?" seys he.

"Yes, sir," I seys, noddin'. He stopped a minit.

"How'd you like to ride her in the race?" he seys.

I near jnmped out o' my skin. I'd often rode, yer know, but as yet I 'adn't made misself no name, an' Billy Button did all the ridin' over sticks for us wen we 'ad anythin' big on. I suppose my face showed wot my feelins wos, cos he didn't wait for me to speak.

"You'd like it, eh?" he larfs, "Well! you shall 'ave the mount," seys he. "I was talkin' to Mr. Blosely 'bout it, an' as he don't object you shall 'ave it. An' it's ony a fair thing," seys he, "that you should ride her arter lookin' arter her so well."

As he left me to go to Ike, who was standin' at the other end o' the yard, talkin' to Bob Gosling, he slips a note into my 'and.

"There's a losin' mount," seys he. "I'll lay you two hundred to nuthin' 'bout winnin'."

When he was gone I looks at the note, an' wot d'yer think it was? A fiver? Yes, an' more! A tenner? Yes, an' more! It was a twenty-pun note, as true as my name's Richard Chipping, an' if yer don't call that comin' down 'andsome yer've got wery different ideas on the subjick to me.

Lord! how I did graft* them three weeks afore the race. I was the first up in the mornin', the last to bed o' night; aye, an' many's the time I'd get up in the night an' sneak across the yard an' 'ave a look at her, I wos that frightened lest anythin' should 'appen to her. I tell yer I didn't know whether I was standin' on me 'ed or me 'eels. I don't think it was the money as I stood to win as made me the most anxious. Yer see it wos my first mount in a big event, an' yer've got to be a jockey startin' life to know wot that means.


Ike Blosely noticed the way I wos workin' at her, an' one day he seys to me—

"Anyone 'ud think you'd got your bit on her," he seys, larfin.

I seys nuthin, for he wos that greedy he'd a made me lay 'im arf to nuthin', or else he'd ha got Mr. Roethorne to take me off.

"She's fust favrit, ain't she, sir?" I seys, careless like, as I puts on her roller.

Ike larfed, an' a nasty kind o' larf it wos.

"Yes, she is," he seys ; "but that won't make her win."

"An' it won't stop her," seys I.

Ike looked at me suspicious like, 'an bit 'is mustache; and he 'arf opened 'is lips, as if he was goin' to say summut. But he changed 'is mind if he wos, an' walked out o' the stable wistlin'. I didn't think nuthin' of it at the time, but it wosn't long afore I remembered them words of 'is, an' that look, an' when I did I understood the villin as well as if 'e'd told me wot wos passin' in 'is mind.

Now, I've sed as Ike had a big string o' 'orses, an' trained for all sorts o' people, an' one o' 'em was Rafe Hyam, a Jew bookmaker, an' in them days one of the biggest men in the ring. Well, this here Rafe Hyam owned Parmesan—or he and Ike did atween 'em, as it turned out—an' Parmesan wos in the Hurdle Race (in the Hurdle Race—aye! he wos, up to 'is eyes, if the mare ha' bin out of it), so you can bet your life I kept my eyes an' ears open in case Mr. Ike should try an' come the double on Mr. Roethorne. I knowed that Ike would never run the two to win—'e'd ha' bin' a fool if he did—an' I couldn't make out why they was graftin' at him a good deal more than the mare, if they didn't mean spielin'.*

*Going for the money.

Well, a few days afore the race, out comes Mr. Roethorne to see his mare. He 'as 'is missis-that-is to-be with 'im—as pretty a girl as ever yer set eyes on, an' that merry an' bright that it ud make a sexton light 'arted jest to see an' listen to her. O' course they goes into the box an' 'as a look at the mare.

"Wot do you think on 'er, ma'am?" seys Ike to the leddy. "Ain't she a beauty?"

An' she jest claps her 'ands when she sees 'er, an' turnin' to Ike she puts jest the tips of 'er dainty fingers on 'is shoulders.

"Indeed she is! A most beautiful creature," seys she, an' then she seys, her pretty face turnin' quite grave-like as she speaks, "I 'ope she'll win. It ud break my 'art if she lost."

Mr. Roethorne he larfs at this.

"H'm! It needn't do that," seys he. "But she'll win, won't she, Blosely!"

An' Ike, if you'll believe me, lookin' at that dear girl as straight as I'm lookin' at you this minit, seys to 'er—

"Aye, that she will. She will if I can make 'er."

"Thank you so much, Mr. Blosely," seys she, lookin' real grateful at 'im. "I feel quite in good spirits agen."

Now I give you my word an' 'onour as they'd 'ardly driven off wen Rafe Hyman comes puffin' into the yard. He wos very fat, wos Rafe, an' the weather wos pretty warm, an' as he shook 'ands with Ike he seys—

"Let's get out o' this d—d heat," seys he, "or I'll melt away. Where'll we go? I want to speak to yer a minit."

They wos standin' at the door of our room, an' Ike looks in.

"We can go in 'ere," he seys. "There ain't nobody in."

An' on that in they goes, alockin' the door arter them.

Now I don't know 'ow it come into my 'ed, but sudden-like it flashed on me that some villainy wos up, an' I made up my mind that I'd know wot it wos. At the end o' the room furthest from the door there wos two winders, an' tho' the blinds wos down the winders themselves wos open. In a twinklin' I'd took off my boots an' 'ad crept round to the winders. I wos jest in time.

"Back 'er agen!' I heard Rafe Hyam say, an' he must ha' bin sittin' on Crumpet's bed, for his woice seemed right in my ear. "He's never done. I laid 'im another thousand to three hundred last night, an' he'd ha' gone on. The only thing is if I keep on layin' he'll begin to tumble that the mare's stiff, for he knows as I've a interest in Parmesan. My brothers laid 'im three thou for me, an' I daren't trust nobody else."

"Keep on peggin' away,"says Ike. "I'll crack* it wos pure bad luck."

*Spread about.

"Who's goin' to ride her?" seys Rafe.

"Young Chipping," seys Ike.

"He rides well, don't he?" seys Rafe.

"Yes, wery fair," says Ike "But if he wos Fred Archer he couldn't win on 'er w'en I've fixed 'er up."

Rafe coughed.

"There mustn't be no mistakes," seys he.

Ike larfed.

"Leave that to me," seys he. "We don't make any mistakes o' that sort here."

"All right, old man!" seys Rafe, confident like. "I like 'em scratched best, but—

"That's out o' the question," says Ike.

"Well, lay the lad £20 to nothin' about Parmesan," seys Rafe. "It's always safest to give 'em a bit o' interest in another 'orse."

They went on talkin' for a long time, but I'd heerd enough. If you believe me, I turned as cold as ice an' then as 'ot as fire, an' so on an' so on four or five times.

"Wot infernal villins," I seys, a'most aloud, I wos that indignant, an' then I creeps round to the mare's box, an' I sits down on the beddin' an tries to think it out. But thinkin' didn't bring me much comfort, an' arter 'arf a 'our I feels that miserable as I could ha' near cried. For all that I wos determined as the mare should 'ave fair play, tho' how I wos to bring it about I didn't know no more 'n a new-born babe. Sudden I hears footsteps, an' in a moment I 'ad all my wits about me.

"Ullo!" seys Ike. "You 'ere, Chips!"

"Yes, sir," seys I, yawnin. "I wos 'arf asleep."

"He lives with the mare," seys Ike, larfin. "He's goin' to ride her."

"As she got any show? asks Rafe.

I puts on a long face.

"She'd 'ave a good enough show if that cove wasn't in it," seys I, pointin' to a box across the yard, where Parmesan wos looked arter by Bob Goslin'. An' then I turns to Ike, an' I seys, "Couldn't you give me the mount on 'im, sir," I seys. " It's doosid hard lines to 'ave to ride all the stiff uns."

Both on 'em larfed.

"You think she 'as no show," seys Rafe.

"No more 'n you'd 'ave on foot."

"Well," seys Rafe, "you shall be in it a bit. I'll lay you a score to nuthin."

He winked at Ike, and they larfed agen; but o' course I thanked 'im jest as if I wos wery pleased.

"You couldn't let me ride Parmesan?" I asks agen, well knowin' as Ike wouldn't put up nobody but Billy Button once his sugar wos on.

"You shall 'ave a turn directly" seys Ike.

As they walked away I leans my head out o' the half-door.

"Chips don't like 'is mount," says Rafe, with a laugh.

"He'll like 'er less wen he tries to set 'er goin," seys Ike, an' then they both started larfin fit to bust.


Wot wos I to do? That's wot I asked misself over and over agen, for I tell yer I wos fair flabbergarsted, an' no wonder, at the game as the ojus villains was up to. Wot wos I to do? All manner of things come into my 'ed, an' wos no sooner there than somethin' else ud come. I thought o' runnin' away with the mare. I thought o' barricadin' misself in the stable with 'er, an' keepin' Ike and his mates orf with the pitchfork or anythin' else as come 'andy. I thought o' flyin' at Ike an' telling the scoundrel wot I knowed on 'im. But wot I thought on most wos to rush orf to Mr. Roethorne an' let 'im know wot was up. An' I'd ha done it, too, if it 'adn't bin for wot Ike 'ad said. "If he wos Fred Archer he couldn't win on 'er wen I've fixed 'er up. He'll like, er less wen he tries to set 'er goin'." Wot did he mean? Wot was he agon' to do? I'd heered o' poison, an' I tells yer the wery thought on it brought out the sweat on me like a two-year-old filly at her first handlin'. "No!" says I to misself, "I'll stick to the mare, an'll take my chance o' bestin' 'im." And jest as I'd made up my mind who should walk into the stable but Crumpets, as wos my mate in lookin' arter the jumpin' 'orses.

Now I've sed as how Crumpets an' me wosn't over thick arter the first few months as I jined Ike; but for all that I 'ad more respect for Crumpets than for the whole boilin' of 'em. He wos a wery quiet chap, wos Crumpets; 'adn't a bad word 'bout nobody, an', as far as I knowed, wos as straight as a arrow. Directly I seen 'im it flashed on me to tell 'im, an' I felt a kind o' relief like, an' wondered as I 'adn't thought on 'im before.

So, takin' a look round to see as there wosn't nobody a listenin, I jest out an' tells 'im the whole thing, beginnin' with the way as Ike 'ad kidded Mr. Roethorne as the mare couldn't lose, an' finishin' up with wot I'd heerd pass atween Ike and Rafe Hyam. I wos that full on it, an' that excited, that I run through' the whole thing without drorin' breath as yer might say; but when I come to the end and I stopped short like, an', lookin' at Crumpets, waited to 'ear wot he 'ad to say. An, if yer'll believe me, Crumpets sat there like a blessed statute without sayin' a word an' pickin' 'is teeth with a bit o' straw, jest as careless as if nothin' out o' the way adn't 'appened. It waited arf a minit, an' then, wen he don't say nothin', I asks 'im straight wot he thinks o' the bizness, an' why the doose he don't answer.

"Keep yer 'air on," he seys, in his slow quiet way. "Yer won't do no good a-bustin yerself over it."

"But Crumpets," seys I, indignant, "Did yer ever 'ear o' such a piece o' villainy."

Crumpets looked at me, an' he arf shuts 'is eyes, an' a kind o' smile curls 'is lips.

"Taint the first time as he's pulled a 'orse," seys he, "an' yer ought to know it, for yer've helped a bit in yer time," seys he.

That wos true enough, an' I sed so. "But," seys I, a good deal more quiet, for Crumpetses look an' 'is manner 'ad some'ow taken the fire out o' me, "Mr. Roethorne's 'orses, Crumpets! an' 'im sich a supporter o' the stable."

"O, it's a jolly shame," seys Crumpets, "but if yer'll take my adwice yer'll keep yer mouth shut."

An' with that he turns on 'is 'eel an' wos goin' out. I couldn't stand it no longer, I catches 'old of 'is arm.

"Crumpets." seys I. "The mare can win if she 'as a show. Parmesan 'as to give 'er twelve pound, an' he can't give 'er a ounce, for I've riiden 'em both. If you'll give me a 'and we can stop their little game," I seys; "an' yer'll do it, won't yer, Crumpets?" I seys.

He looks at me arf a minit.

"If yer come that game Ike'll break ev'ry bone in yer body," seys he.

"I don't care," seys I, as bold as brass.

He looked at me agen.

"All right," seys he, "that's your lookout. I'll give yer a 'and."

That night jest afore we went to bed he come to me and tells me as Ike 'ad told 'im as the mare and Parmesan 'ud do a gallop in the mornin'.

"The mare's to win," he seys, "for Mr. Roethorne's to be there." Billy Button 'll ride Parmesan. I suppose yer know wot to do," he seys, with a wink.

As we walks down to the course the next mornin' he comes up alongside. "I wouldn't say nothin' to Mr. Roethorne," he seys. "Yer see yer only a stable lad, an' he believes in Ike, an' 'ud take 'is word afore yours. Keep yer mouth shut till arter the race. If yer lose there ain't no bones broken, an' if yer win"—and then Crumpets larfs an' scratches 'is 'ed,—"Ike 'll be that mad that he's as like as not to let the cat out o' the bag himself."

Sure enough, Mr. Roethorne wos there, lookin' as proud o' the mare as a mother o' her fust babby. He wishes me good mornin' in 'is nice cheery way, an' while we're saddlin' up 'as a chat with Ike. Jest as I comes near I 'ears Ike say to 'im, "A'most a certainty, sir. I can't see nothink to beat yer. That cove," he says, pointin' to Parmesan, "might ha' 'ad a show if she 'adn't been in it. 'Is owner will start 'im," seys the artful old dog, "but arter they've 'ad their gallop yer won't be afraid o' him."

Jest as we start he gammons to be shortenin' my stirrip.

"Make a good gallop on it," he says. "Keep with Billy from the jump, an' make yer run at the turn. Billy 'll manage the rest."

Well, we went at a good gallop, an I beat Parmesan three lengths. I did a lot o' kid, an' gammoned as I wos tryin' to get ev'ry ounce out o' 'er. I knowed as Billy never went a yard arter the tarn home, an' I told 'im so wen we wos walkin' the horses back to where Ike and Mr. Roethorne wos standin'.

" 'E goes better in company, seys Billy, with a wink. " 'Ave a fiver on 'im, Chips, for he'll beat you."

There was some talk o' the time not bein fast-rate, an' I seen as Mr. Roethorne wosn't quite pleased, so wen I gets 'im by hisself I jest tipped 'im the wink as I could ha' done much better if I'd bin wanted.

"I'm glad to hear it," he seys, brightenin' up.

"The mare'll win in a walk," I seys. "You needn't be afeard o' that."

When Ike come home (for we'd took the horses straight back to the stable) he come to me.

"Wos that the best as the mare could do?"  seys he.

"Wery near," seys I. "If I 'ad 'ad somethin' with me I might ha' got a little more out of 'er, but wery little."

Ike whistled.

"Then she's gone clean orf," he seys, an that's jest wot I wanted 'im to think.

The day afore the race out comes Mr. Roethorne agen in a tyemenjus bustle. The mare 'ad been fair knocked out o' the bettin' the night afore, and 'e'd come to see wot was up. He made straight for the mare's box, an there, o' course, he finds me—'cos I never left it.

"Is anything up?" he asks, clean out o' breath.

"Nothin', sir," seys I.

"Wot the doose does it mean, then," he seys. "Yesterday mornin yer couldn't get two to one, an' in the evenin' eight to one went a beggin'."

I takes a look round to see as nobody wosn't about.

"Let 'em lay wot they likes," I seys. "The mare'll win."

"But they're backin' Parmesan," he seys, a wipin' 'is fore'ed with 'is ankercher, "an' the right men, too—Rafe Hyam an' that lot. He's a strong fav'rit, an' Hyam laid me two 'undred to one as he'd beat me."

"Will he, that's all?" seys I.

"It 'ud be infernal 'ard luck to be licked by one in the stable," he says. "If he's better than the mare, I ought to know it."

I could see he wos in real bad spirits, an' I made up my mind all of a sudden to spit the 'ole thing out an' take my chance of how he'd take it. An' I'd ha' done it, too, if at that wery moment Ike adn't come in. Ike 'ad 'ad a drop, an' yer should ha' heerd 'im pitch. Lord! he did put it in strong, I can tell yer, callin' Rafe Hyam all the damned fools as he could lay 'is tongue to, an' swearin' by all that wos 'oly as the bloomin' mare ud walk in.

"I suppose I'll lose Rafe's 'orses," he seys; "an' he's welcome to take em away for all I care," seys he.

An' as he speaks I sees Mr. Roethorne's eyes a kindlin', an' wery nice eyes he 'ad too, light grey, with wery black lashes, an' he shakes 'ands with Ike, an' seys he's glad to 'ear as he's that confident.

"Chips is as confident as you are," seys he, larfin', an' then, lookin' at 'is watch, he seys it's time for 'im to be orf, an' orf he goes.

Wen he's clear o' the place in comes Ike into the box agen, an' he starts a larfin' fit to bust, the tears fair streamin' down 'is cheeks, an' I joins 'im, you can bet.

"Wot a lark," he seys. "Wot d'yer think on it, Chips?" An' then he larfs that 'arty as I thought he'd ha' 'ad a fit, an' started a coffin'. Well, yer should ha' heered 'im coff. Why he couldn't stop hisself.

"I'm blessed if I ever 'ad to do with such a mug," he seys. "O Lord! O Lord! It'll be the death o' me."

That evenin' he goes into town to the bettin' rooms, an' wen he comes 'ome goes round the stables with Bob Goslin'.

"Ullo, Chips!" he seys, "ow's yer mount? The books don't like 'er to-night," he seys. "They're layin' any price about 'er. Wot ha' yer bin doin' to 'er, yer young devil?" he seys, a pokin' me in the ribs.

"I'm jest givin' 'er the finishin' touches," I seys larfin. "If the books seen the way she's a tacklin' 'er food to-night, they wouldn't lay a penny agen 'er, would they, sir?"

I seys this by way of a blind, for he'd told me to stuff the mare with all sorts o' rubbish, bran mash an' green stuff, an' that sort o' thing, an' right glad I wos wen I seen 'im clear out. Then I whips on the muzzle, an' lyin' down in the beddin', I never leaves the mare the 'ole night. Lord! I thought it ud never be mornin', but wen it did come I wos almost sorry as it 'ad come, I got that nervous an' excited. Lucky for me things went a bit crooked in the stable that mornin', Danny Miles gettin' kicked by a two-year-old, and our best 'andicap 'orse gettin cast in 'is box, else I might ha' been twigged.

Well! at last it come time to start for the course, an' Ike comes to me, an' a nice temper he wos in.

"Everything's gone wrong to-day," he seys with a oath as I wouldn't put down in writin'. "There mustn't be any mistake about you," he says.

"Send the others on a bit ahead," I seys. "I'll give 'er a bucket o' water. Jest you watch to see as there's nobody about."

An' then I thinks wot a fool I wos. If he come in he'd give 'er the water in spite o' me, for he'd ha' twigged in a moment if I wos only gammonin', an 'ud ha' took me orf the mare as sure as eggs is eggs. But my luck was dead in. He stood looking over the gate at the 'orses walkin' away, and never turned 'is 'ed until I called 'im.

"She won't catch the judge's heye arter that," seys I, showin' im the bucket, which was a'most empty.

"Take care as you don't catch the judge's heye over it," he says larfin'. "A man's 'ad six months afore this for the likes o' that."


I s'pose everyone as 'as ridden a race remembers every little thing about it the same as me, but anyway there aint a thing as I've forgotten—not about this 'ere race—there ain't a thing as I'm likely to forget. I could tell yer what clothes I 'ad on, wot people I spoke to, where I saddled up—there! I could tell yer everything! If a man don't remember 'is first mount wot the doose will he remember?

It was a lovely day, an' there was a big crowd. The Hurdles was the first race, an' the bettin' was wery lively, for tho' Parmesan wos a good favrit, there wos a good many others backed, an' Cinderreller wos a bit fancied for all that she'd bin fair knocked out for a couple of days or so. Yer see wen 'er clothing wos orf people seen as there wosn't much amiss with 'er, an' most on 'em liked 'er a deal better than Parmesan as wos saddlin' up next door. "Well! he may be the best," seys a young squatter as wos plungin' terrible that year, to a friend, "but I think I'll 'ave a 'undred," that's wot he sed, "a 'undred on the mare I can get ten to one about 'er, an' it's a dev'lish good price." An' then he comes alongside me. "I'm goin' to back 'er," he seys, "an' I'll lay yer a 'undred to nothin'." There wos scores as asked me if I liked my chance—there always is whatever yer ridin'—an' I give 'em all the same answer. "The mare 'll win," I seys— jest that an' nothin' more. "The mare 'll win." An' 'pon me soul I'd got that confident as I didn't think I could lose.

Jest as I wos goin' out into the runnin', Ike Blosely and Rafe Hyam come to 'ave a look at the mare, an' I could see as there wos somethin' up, Rafe looked that heated an' excited. When he seen the mare—an' he knowed a bit about a 'orse, did Rafe—he got redder than ever, an' he whispered somethin' in Ike's ear.

"If yer don't b'lieve me, ask the lad yer self," seys Ike, quite short.

"I'm hanged if I don't," seys Rafe, on'y usin' languidge as aint fit for yer ears; an' he comes alongside me. "Ha' you got any show?" he asks in a low voice.

I larfs.

"Wot show would you have with a bucket o' water on board?" I seys. "An' bran mash an' greenstuff aint eggsackly the stuff to feed a winner on."

He give a sigh o' relief—I pledge yer my word he did—an' went back to 'is mate.

As I left the paddock Mr. Roethorne come to me, an' with 'im wos the dear lady as I've spoken of afore.

"Oh, Mr. Chips!" seys she, for she didn't know as Chipping wos my name, an' as I was ony called Chips for short, "you'll do yer very, very, very best to win, won't yer?" an' I seen a tear in her eyes for all that she pertended to larf over it. O' course, I sed as I would, an' I thought to misself as I looked at them two young people as I'd sooner die than be beaten.

I'd bin nervous-like an' queer the whole mornin' for all that I was confident; but somehow or other, once I wos at the post I wos as cool as a cucumber. Crumpets 'ad walked across to the start with me, an' on the way we talked as to wot wos the best way for me to ride. Ike 'ad given me instructions to cut out the runnin' for Parmesan, an' we come to the conclusion as it wouldn't be a bad plan for me to go to the front right off, and ride wot they call a waitin' race in front. I'd drawn a good number; there wos a terrible big field, an' if I rode a waitin' race I might get blocked, an never set up. So we decided that the mare should make her own runnin', an' trust to her light weight an good condition to bring 'er 'ome.

We wosn't long at the start, an' I tell yer I wosn't the last to get orf. Afore the flag wos fair down I wos a length an' a arf ahead o' the field, an wot wos better, next to the rails. I cut out the runnin' at a merry pace for the first 'arf mile, when I must ha' been full eight or ten lengths ahead o' the field, an' then, findin' as nothin' wos comin' arter me, I took a pull at 'er for a quarter of a mile or so, an' let the mare selttle down inter wot you'd call a good stridin' gallop. Two of the Ballarat division lay next to me, but though they didn't let me get too far away, they didn't take much account o' me, thinkin' as I was makin' the runnin' for Parmesan, as everyone else did. Parmesan wos lyin' 'bout three lengths behind them, then there wos a clump of bout four or five, an' then they tailed off terribly. Jest at the start the mare 'ad bin jumpin a bit wildly, but arter we'd gone over a couple o' 'urdles she cooled down an' cleared the le'ps as neat as I could ha' wished. I could hear the rest on 'em a rappin' away behind me, an' the second time round there wos a gap or two I promise you, but Cinderreller never laid a toe on nothin'. An' wen we'd gone nigh on two miles things wos pretty much the same, for all the lads wos sayin' to themselves as I'd come back to 'em, for, o' course, they'd heard as I wosn't a spieler, and they wosn't goin' to lose their chance a chasing me. But wen we'd gone another 'arf mile some on em begun to think as it wos time to set sail arter me, an' set sail they did. I saw 'em comin', o' course, but I didn't take no notis. The mare wos goin' strong as a lion, an' as yet I 'adn't asked her to go. The first un that come to me was the Ballarat big gun, Whitechapel, with Tommy Frost up.

"I say Chips, are you on the job?" seys Tommy, meanin' wos I goin' to try an' win.

"That I am," seys I, for I wosn't goin' to tell 'im a lie.

"The devil you are!" seys he.

All this time I 'adn't seen nothin' o' Parmesan, an' I 'adn't thought to, for I knowed as Billy wouldn't come till the turn for 'ome. But jest as we come to the turn I took a 'urried look an' I see 'im a creepin' up, lyin' abreast o' Whitechapel as 'ad fallen back a couple o' lengths. Now for it, seys I to misself, an' I shook myself together, as the sayin' is, knowin' as I'd got my work cut out. Round the turn we went, me close in 'longside the rails, Whitechapel and Parmesan lyin' still two lengths behind me. The mare cleared the last 'urdle but one as beautiful as ever, but, though my ears wos cocked mighty sharp, I didn't hear Parmesan touch it neither. "By Jove!" seys I to misself, "it's goin' to be a fight. There ain't no walkin' in 'bout it." So I jest niggled at the mare, an' shook 'er up a bit, for I knowed as at any moment I'd 'ave to stave off Billy's rush, an' the beauty under me seemed to know wot was wanted of 'er, an' answered me as game as a pebble. Already I could hear the voices o' the crowd, and I could see the judge's box, an' my 'art gave a great jump as I thought as I'd only got a quarter of a mile more. But there wasn't much time to think. I can tell yer, for afore you could say Jack Robinson, Billy wos on my girths, an' I knowed as I'd got to do my best.

"Haul off, will you, you young—!" shouts Billy with a oath.

"Haul off yourself," seys I, for all my blood wos up.

I didn't turn to see 'is face, but it must ha' been a picture.

"D— you!" seys he, only worse than that, an' I heered 'im put the whip into Parmesan, each stroke goin' like the shot of a pistol.

I give the mare a couple o' cuts misself, an' then, puttin' the spurs into her, I sat down on 'er and rode for my life. For my life! By heavens I had to, for Parmesan was goin' like a demon, and Billy rode as he'd never done before. At the last 'urdle I 'ad gained a trifle on 'im, for the mare wos jumpin' over everythin' in the race that day, an' that 'ad jest got me clear of 'im. But I wosn't clear long. He was on my quarter—at my girth—he got to my shoulder—an' then for a hundred yards we wos dead level, or close on it. But all the spirit that wos in me wos roused to make a last effort, an' 'ard as I'd bin on the mare it wos nothin' to wot I did the last fifty yards. I couldn't use my whip, for Billy wos that close to me, so I took hold of her 'ed, an' rammed my 'eels into 'er. Yard by yard we neared the winnin' post, but there wos Parmesan wherever I wos, an' I couldn't shake 'im off. Yard by yard as if we wos one 'orse, and the crowd shoutin' like madmen. Yard by yard till we passed the winnin' post.

Had I won? I'm blessed if I knowed. When I pulled up I looked with an anxious eye to see wot number wos up. Lord! wot a time they wos a puttin' up the numbers. Ah! there they wos at last. Wot wos it? My eyes wos that dim, I could scarce see. Number 9. That wos me. I'd won! I'd won! I'd won!

"You imp of hell!" says a voice in my ear. "Ike'll break ev'ry bone in your body."

It wos Billy Button, but I didn't answer. Wen a man's won a race like that he don't take no notis of a bit o' temper.


Ike Blosely wosn't at the weighin' in, an' I tell yer I didn't perticler want to see 'im. Billy Button 'ad sed as he'd break ev'ry bone in my body, an' as I rode up to the scales the words rang in my ears, and I thought as like as not he would. But wen Mr. Roethorne came to take the mare's 'ed an' sed, "Well done, Chipping! You rode a grand race!" an' so on, I forgot all about Ike. Lord! what a ringin' cheer went up wen it wos "All right!" at the scales, an' wot a greetin' I received from the crowd. An' so did Billy, for the matter o' that, an' deserved it, too, for he'd rode the race of 'is life.

It wos Crumpets as led the 'orse out o' the weighing yard. As we passed inter the saddin'-paddock he give a anxious look about.

"You'd better be off 'ome," seys he. "Ike'll break ev'ry bone in yer body," them wos the words he used—funny, wosn't it?—"if he catches you while 'is blood's up."

Jest at that wery moment up comes Danny Miles.

"My word Chip, you're in for it!" says he with a whissle. "Ike's clean mad. He an' Rafe Hyum as jest 'ad a fite."

"A wot?" I seys, for I knowed they wos that thick.

"A fite!" he says agen. "Wen you won Rafe comes at Ike foamin' at the mouth an' callin' 'im all the thieves and rogues as he could lay 'is tongue to. 'You've ruined me, you d—d scoundrel,' he seys, an' he flies at Ike's throat. 'Dont be a fool,' seys Ike, shakin' 'im orf, but Rafe was fair mad an' went for 'im agen. Then Ike stood orf, an' give 'im a couple in the mouth, as'll make 'im wery careful 'ow he cleans 'is teeth the next week."

I laughed, not quite comfortable, yer understand, but still I laughed. Crumpets, he looked grave, an' turned to me agen.

"Get orf 'ome," seys he, "or keep out o' the way. If Ike catches yer yer'll 'ave a bad time of it."

I didn't like the thought o' leavin' jest then, for tain't often as yer 'ave a win like that, an' it's pleasant to stand about an' listen to the nice things as everyone says to you. But Crumpets wos that earnest that I took 'is advice, an' cleared out at once.

Crumpets wos the first to turn up arter the races, an wery soon arter 'im come all the rest o' the lads. Of course, all the talk wos about the Hurdles, for all that we'd won the Derby, and wot Ike would do to me wen he caught me. If I wosn't frightened it wosn't their fault. Then wosn't one of 'em as didn't swear, like Billy Button, as Ike would break ev'ry bone in my body. Not one! Yes! there wos Crumpets, 'as 'ad bin standin' by listenin' an' never sayin' a word, come sudden to my side.

"Keep yer pecker up," he says, layin' 'is 'and on my shoulder. "He can't kill yer."

The words wos 'ardly out of 'is mouth wen we heered the gate o' the yard bang to. We wos all in a little inner yard atween the house an' the stables, an' afore you could look round Ike Blosely rushed in, his eyes fair startin' out of his head.

"Where's that young devil?" he yells with a oath, for he didn't see me for the moment, as I was standin' alongside Crumpets. "Ah! there you are, d— you!" he yells, louder than ever, and he rushes at me with 'is fists clenched an' with murder in 'is eyes.

Now I don't know wot come over me for the moment. I've heered o' animals bein' that scared as they's parrylised, an' I suppose as summat o' the same thing 'appened to me. Anyways, I never stirred a peg, but stood there like a stuck pig. The' next moment I was lying on the ground, with the blood pourin' from my nose and mouth, an' a couple o' teeth—them two, sir, yer see the gap—down my throat.

Wen I come to—an' I wosn't 'arf a minit lyin' there—I'm blessed if there wosn't Ike and Crumpets at it as 'ard as ever they could.

Jest for a moment I looks on, and then, all of a sudden like, my blood got up, an I jumps up and rushes at Ike. I wos too late. Crumpets slipped at the moment, an' Ike, catchin' 'im a tremenjous upper-cut, landed 'im five yards away, where he lay like a log, an' never took no more part in the biz'niss. On that Ike turned on me, an', drorin' back 'is great fist, made as if he'd knock me down agen. An' knock me down he would ha' done 'adn't a strong arm shoved me aside, an' another kept Ike at a distance. It was Mr. Roethorne.

"What the doose does this mean?" he asked angrily, takin' a 'asty glance at Ike, at Crumpets, at me, an' then at Ike agen.

Ike stood there like a wooden man, never sayin' a word. But if he'd meant to speak he'd 'ad to be mighty smart, for the words wos hardly out o' Mr. Roethorne's mouth afore I'd rushed up to 'im, an', catching 'old on him, 'ad told 'im the whole biz'ness. I 'adn't cried when Ike 'ad 'it me—and he'd 'it me precious 'ard, I can tell yer—but now the tears fair streamed down my cheeks, an' my woice wos that thick I spoke by jerks as it were.

"It's all along o' my winnin' with the mare," I says. "She was a stiff un, sir, an' he told me not to win. W'en he come 'ome he knocked me down," I seys, puttin' my 'and to my bleedin' face, "an' knocked Crumpets down." I seys, pointin' to the poor old chap as 'adn't moved since he fell; "an— an'—an' he'd ha' killed me if—if—if you 'adn't come wen you did."

I see a frown come on Mr. Roethorne's face, an' his grey eyes went clean black.

"Is this true?" he says, turnin' to Ike, an' gently pushin' me back.

There wosn't no need to ask if it wos true. The truth wos written in Ike's mean eyes as plain as print.

Mr. Roethorne drew in a big breath.

"You scoundrel!" he says. "Put up your 'ands."

Afore you could say Jack Robinson there they wos at it; 'ammer an' tongs, an' me lookin' on, a-ringin' my 'ands an' beggin' Mr. Roethorne to knock off.

"He'll kill you sir," I shrieks out, dancin' about as if I wos mad. "He'll kill you!"

For all that Mr. Roethorne ud ha' given 'im 'is work to do from wot I've heerd since, 'ad it bin left to the two of em. But as I've sed I was clean mad, an' catchin' up a shovel that wos lyin' there, I swung it round my 'ed, 'an puttin' all my strength inter the blow brought it down on Ike's ed. He jest giv' one cry, an' then fell all on a heap as if he wos dead.

Mr. Roethorne snatched the shovel from my 'and an' chucked it to the other end o' the yard.

"Lend us a 'and 'ere, you lads," he seys to Bob Goslin an' the others. "We'll carry 'im inter the house."

When they'd carried Ike inter the house he comes back to us, an' the first thing as he did wos to 'ave a look at Crumpets.

"The lad's badly 'urt," he seys. "He must go to the orspitle. My trap's outside. I'll take 'im. You'd better come with me too, Chips."

It was a long drive from Ike's to the orspitle, an' it seemed longer cos we drove wery slow. Mr. Roethorne 'eld poor old Crumpets in his arms the whole way, an' I seen 'im give many a anxious glance at 'is face. But he didn't say nothin', only once he asked the man to drive a bit more careful.

W'en we got there they carried 'im in. I wos for givin' a 'and, but Mr. Roethorne told me to keep where I wos, so' I jest sat in the trap an' waited for 'im to come out. An' a long time he wos, an' w'en he did come he'd a face as long as your arm.

"This is a bad bizness," he says. "A bad bizness."

We drove to Scott's 'Otel, an' he takes me up to 'is room, an' arter I'd 'ad a 'ot bath an' a cup o' tea with a glass o' brandy in it, he makes me sit down in a arm chair.

"Now, Chips." he says, "I want you to tell me the whole thing. I know you'll tell me the truth," he seys, "an' remember it is the truth, an' only the truth, as I wants to 'ear."

So I jest told 'im all about it, an' if you'll believe me he sat there an' never sed a single word, not as much as sayin' wot a willin Ike wos, nor swearin' as you might ha' expected considerin' the way as he'd been treated.

"This is a bad bizness," he says agen w'en I'd finished, an' that wos all.

* * * * * *

An' that's about all as I 'ave to tell you, though I s'pose as you expects me to let you know wot come of Ike, an' Crumpets, an,' maybe, misself afterwards. Well, Ike wos laid up in bed for a couple o' weeks, an' went about with 'is 'ead in a bandage for another couple o' weeks, an' to this day he as a partin' in 'is 'air as 'ain't been made by a comb. At first Mr. Roethorne 'talked o' bringin' 'im afore the stewards, but he wos that kind-'arted that w'en it come to the p'int he let him orf. "He's bin punished enough," seys he, an' he let it drop.

Crumpets 'ad a bad time, an' no mistake. Poor old chap, he wos orf his 'ed arf the time, for he 'ad wot them doctors call—wot is it?—'cussion o' the brain, an' 'tween you an' me he ain't right in his 'ed even now at times.

An' me! Wot come o' me?

"Chips," seys Mr. Roethorne to me the wery next day, "I've taken my 'orses away from—from that man's!" I could see he couldn't abear to speak Ike's name, "an' I've got an idea."

"Yes, sir." seys I, for he'd stopped an'  wos a pluckin' at 'is moustache.

"You oughter know somethin' 'bout trainin' a 'orse now," he seys, "an' I'm goin' to start you in life. I've heered o' some nice stables as is to let, an' I'm goin' to set you up as my trainer; that is you an' Crumpets together."

I jumped out my chair an' caught 'im by the 'and, an' there wos tears in my eyes, an' no gammon.

"Oh! you are a brick, sir," I cries, an' he laughs an' seys he's glad to 'ear it.

An' set us up he did, an' we've got the best stables there is about, an' if you don't believe me—why come out an' see 'em.

There, that's all, except—Well! I may as well tell yer.

One day as I went to see the old feller at the orspitle, wot wos my surprise to see a pretty girl sittin' 'longside the bed with Crumpets's 'and in 'ers, and a lovin' look in 'er eye. "Ullo!" says I to myself, "Wot's this?" for you see Crumpets wosn't wot you'd call a ladies' man, an' I'd never seen 'im speak to one in my life.

"It's all right, Chips," he seys in his quiet way, an' larfin more'n he'd larfed for many a day. "It's ony my sister Jessie."

So I goes up an' shakes 'ands with 'er, 'an for a minit or so gammoned to be lookin' at the old chap. But, Lord bless yer 'art, I ain't the bit o' stuff as can sit 'longside a girl like 'er 'an not look at 'er, 'special wen she wos the sister o' sich a friend as Crumpets. So 'tween whiles I stole a look at 'er, 'an the more I looked at 'er the more I liked 'er. She 'ad light brown 'air in ripples on 'er fore'ed—none o' your fringes but nat'ral curly—she'd a pair o' merry eyes as danced even in that dim light, 'an a face as bright 'an a skin as fair as a bloomin' baby o' six months. If you'd bin there you'd a looked as 'ard as I did.

Ain't I puttin' it in a bit strong? Well! if you don't believe me come an' see 'er for yerself, for Jessie Crumpets—or rather Jessie Isles—is—is—you've guessed it, an' you're right—is Mrs. Chipping, 'an wot's more, the best wife in the wide, wide world.




Published in The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic.)
Saturday, March 16, 1889

* A pathetic interest attaches to "Dot." The following note by Mrs. Purves accompanied the M.S., which was entirely written in pencil:—"My husband intended to make this little story run into five or six chapters, but when suddenly the doctors found it necessary to have an operation, he thought of a different ending for it. He finished it the day before the operation, and read it over the next morning—the day he died, I may say, for he only lingered in agony of mind and body. He told me to send you the story if anything happened to him, and to write and tell you it was the last thing he wrote."



There was so need to bawl out the name of the station as far as I was concerned, or to tell me that there was a stoppage of 20 minutes, or to announce that all baggage would have to be removed to the Customs shed for examination. The train had no sooner left Roosendaal than I had begun to get ready for the coming detention and examination, and even before we stopped at Esschen all my packages—they did not amount to much—were deposited on the seat opposite me. When the porter flung the door open I at once secured his services (I was riding first-class, which a Continental proverb declares is only used by Englishmen and princes, and therefore was looked on as "a good mark"), and handing him down my things, stretched myself a couple of times, and then leisurely followed him to the Customs shed. "The large baggage would be unloaded immediately," so we were informed at intervals by the head officer of the Customs, who likewise politely advised all those who had trunks to get their keys ready.

I stood back leaning against the wall and watched the crowd with no little amusement, especially those of my unfortunate countrymen who could not speak French. There was one family especially that almost monopolised my attention, so flurried, so impatient, and so little versed in the ways of travelling were they. They all had different ideas of what should be done; they all wanted possession of the keys: and they one and all bitterly regretted that Sam, who probably was a relation, was not there to get them out of their difficulty.

"To think of the money that's been spent on 'em, Jane," said the father, wiping his perspiring forehead with one hand, as he pointed to two schoolgirls and a lad of eighteen or so with the other, "and not one of 'em able to say what these infernal fellows want."

Seeing a countryman in a fix, I stepped forward, and in a few minutes put matters right. The whole family were so profuse in their acknowledgments that (having had my own packages marked) I made my way to the refreshment-room, through which all passengers had to pass to the train, to escape their thanks. But as I turned away, my hat being still raised as I took leave of them, I came face to face with a lovely girl, who had evidently not only watched the scene, but watched it with no little enjoyment. There was a twinkle in her eye of the keenest appreciation, and though on meeting my glance her face became at once comparatively demure and grave, a smile hovered still about the corners of her mouth. I fancy that my eyes brightened as I saw the merriment in hers, but as I could not stare her out of countenance, I moved past her and gradually was hustled and bustled into the refreshment-room.

The face was such an unusually pretty one that as I placed my things on a seat I turned round towards the door by which I had entered, and by which I knew she, too, must come in, determined not to lose an opportunity of seeing her again. And very carefully I watched too, for she was of such diminutive size that I thought it quite possible that she might pass by in the crowd and that I might miss her. I was not kept waiting long. Two minutes after I had entered I saw her deftly making her way amongst the tough, pushing crowd, with her lips just sufficiently parted to show her bright, even teeth, and a slight colour of excitement in her cheeks. She was carrying a medium-sized bag and a parcel of umbrellas, parasols, etc., and was making her way with difficulty. I was just on the point of proffering my services, when to the amusement of the bystanders, no less than her own, she let all the baggage fall to the ground, and as a bright colour came into her pretty cheeks, and a look of uncontrollable merriment into her eyes, began to laugh as if the whole thing was an excellent joke.

Now I have said that I was on the point of proffering my services. I had, in fact, made a step or two towards her. Directly, then, that I saw her luggage fall from her hand, I made a dive for the things, and rescued them before any damage was done. The next moment she was beside me, and as she sat down with a sigh of exhaustion on a bench close by, she thanked me with no little warmness for the assistance I had rendered. Of course I made light of what I had done (taking the opportunity of having another good look at what was the very prettiest and most captivating little face I had ever seen in my life), and professed my willingness to do anything I could for her. She gave me a smile of gratitude, and then laughed again even more heartily than before, but what she laughed at I did not then discover. Just then the doors leading to the platform were opened, and the guard of the train requested the passengers to take their places. The announcement had for the moment distracted my attention from the girl, and when I turned round again she had risen to her feet, and was preparing to tackle her bundles again, little as she had shown herself competent to carry them before. But even before I noticed this I had caught sight of her face, and was rather amused to see that the look of gaiety had given way to a thoughtful and even business-like expression. She was pursing her plump little lips, her brows were contracted, and indeed the whole of her face denoted that she was debating a knotty point.

"Can I do anything for you?" I asked again. "Please allow me to carry those bundles."

She hesitated for a moment, and then apparently made up her mind. She looked up into my face with a trustful pleading expression in her eyes, and then, coming quite close to me, said in the very lowest voice

"I've noticed your good nature, sir, twice since we left the train. Would it be too much to ask you," she here faltered, but looked at me more pleadingly than ever, "to do me a further favour?"

I protested my perfect willingness in a tone the genuineness of which was not open to doubt.

"Well then, it's just this," she said, still speaking low, but at a great rate. "I got in at Rotterdam, an', of course, as I was only a girl travellin' alone, a great big porter got hold o' me and shoved me into the first first-class carriage he came to. I'd only mounted the first step when I saw the company wouldn't suit, but the porter went gabbling on at me—and in Dutch, too, the wretch, which he must have known I did not understand—and just fair shoved me into the car. The door had hardly closed when the train started. There were five in the carriage already—you know them, the five you helped just now—an' what room they weren't occupyin' they'd stuck their traps on. I looked round"—she here turned her pretty head round, so that I caught a sight of her exquisite little profile—"but, they never offered to move, or make a place for me. The father was deep in a newspaper, the mother was knittin' a family shawl, the boy was readin' a novel and suckin' an orange, and the two girls were eatin' peppermint at such a rate that I thought they meant breakin' the record."

The girl here burst into a merry laugh not a loud one, but a crisp, joyous chortle that was pleasant to hear. The moment she had opened her lips I had known she was an American; and though, perhaps, her conversation may not read well, I can pledge my word that it was delightful to listen to. Her face was so alive with merriment that it alone would have held one spell-bound, as, indeed, it did me for the time being, had not the gruff voice of a porter peremptorily summoned the passengers to take their places.

"Well! you want to get away from these people?" I asked.

She nodded vigorously.

"And get into another carriage," I proceeded.

"Oh! that's just it," she intercepted with a grave face, as we made for the platform. "The porters say there isn't another seat anywhere.

Now it so happened that I had a coupé to myself. What could I do but offer it to her? I did so on as polite terms as I could.

"I shall easily find a place elsewhere," I added.

She caught hold of my arm.

"Ain't there room for both?" she asked in surprise.

I hesitated a moment

"Why, yes!" I answered at length. "But you see I'm alone, and—and—perhaps—perhaps—"

"Then what do you want to go for!" she asked, opening her eyes to the widest extent. "I'd like you to stay," she added emphatically; "and—and," here she laughed right merrily, "you ain't goin' to run away from me."

There was no time to argue the question, had I been anxious to do so, which, indeed, I was not.

With a smile, I gave in, and we got into the carriage. The door was closed, the train started, and I was left alone with my pretty little acquaintance. Just for the moment I felt the situation rather awkward, but my little friend, for all that she looked but a schoolgirl, soon set me at my ease.

"Now, what comes first?" she exclaimed with quite a grave air. "Oh! allotment of seats. Which side will you have?"

I said it was a matter of indifference.

"All right!" she said. "I'll take the seat with the back to the engine. You don't get any sparks there, an' have a chance of keepin' yourself clean. Now you understand, sir, that that is your side, an' this is mine. Now, the next thing," she said in a tone that implied that she had arranged the whole programme, and that this was especially a matter of grave moment "is the introduction. I think," she said, after some consideration, "that you had better introduce yourself first."

I happened to have my card-case in my pocket, and taking out a card presented it to her with a bow.

" Sir Charles Crossley-Crossley,
"Dimé Oaks."

She looked at the card, then at me, then at the card again. Her face was quite grave, and she bit her lip.

"Are you a lord?" she asked, her pretty eyes opening their widest.

"No, indeed!" I laughingly answered. "Only a baronet, but my—"

I have often wondered since whether our acquaintance would have become as intimate as it did had I finished the above sentence. I do not wish to disguise anything, and will at once acknowledge that at the time I was a married man, My wife was entitled to the prefix "Lady" in her own right before I succeeded to the title, and it was this little fact I was on the point of divulging.

"But my—!" she repeated after me, still holding the card up, but looking at me with great interest.

I laughed at her persistence, and then mumbled out something about a cousin of mine being a lord. But I am afraid that I blushed a little as I spoke, for I instinctively knew, even as the words left my mouth, that my sharp little friend knew perfectly well that I had kept something back from her.

She stopped just a moment, and then took another look at the card.

"A baronet ain't much, is it?" she asked, playing with the card. "Bout the same as a colonel or judge with us?"

I could not help laughing, but explained that there were baronets and baronets, and that there were plenty of families who bore no title at all who were of very old stock indeed, going back, indeed, much further than half the peerage.

As I entered on this explanation she fell back in her seat with a disappointed look.

"Oh! I am sorry you ain't a lord," she said with a sigh. "I've always been dyin' to meet one. Yes! just dyin'! An' what am I to call you?" she asked, "for I'd never be able to say all this without keepin' the card in my hand."

She looked so puzzled that, from a smile, I broke into a hearty laugh.

"Call me Sir Charles," I said. "That won't be a great tax on you. And now for your introduction."

"Do you think Geraldine a pretty name?" she asked with an anxious look in her eyes,

I vowed that it was my favourite name.

"Well, then, that ain't my name!" she said with the glee of a schoolgirl who has caught her master. "What do you think of Doretta?" she asked again.

I shook my head.

"Once bitten, twice shy," I said.

"Now this time you are wrong," she laughed, "for Doretta is my name; an' if you hadn't made that pretty speech over Geraldine, you could protest that Doretta was your favourite name. Well! my whole name is Doretta Vanloo, an' what do you think of it?"

I said it was a very pretty name.

"Now, if I tell you something more you'll promise you'll never make any use of it."

I protested against being asked to enter blindfold into any bargain. But she insisted, and in the end I gave way.

"Strike your heart!" she said.

The formula was new to me, but I obeyed. "The boys call me Dot," she said gravely.

"Because you are so sm—," I began.

"No!" she interrupted, with a vicious little stamp. "Because it's short for Doretta."

After this we drifted for a time into a general conversation from which we were each enabled to pick up some information. We thus found that we were each bound for Brussels by that night's express; that her party was only to join her on Friday night (it was then Monday); that I expected my "friends" (thus, I admit, I was mean enough to designate my wife and two thumping boys) over on Saturday; and that neither of us knew a soul at Brussels. I had asked, and gained, her permission to look after her things at Antwerp, and there was some sort of arrangement that I should act as her chaperon in the train to Brussels.

"How long do we stop at Antwerp?" she suddenly asked.

"About an hour and an half," I answered, "and a great nuisance it is."

"Well, you may think so, but I don't," she exclaimed vehemently. "I've had nothing to eat since breakfast. It was then five o'clock, an' I tell you, sir, that have somethin' to eat I will, whatever it is an' wherever I get it."

Referring to Bædecker, I named several restaurants quite near the station, which were recommended, with the all-powerful asterisk.

"Suppose we try Bertrand?" I suggested.

"We!" she exclaimed, raising her eyebrows. "I thought it was me that was hungry."

I explained that I, too, had not eaten since breakfast, and proposed that we should have our meal together. But to this she would not at first listen. She had no objection to travelling with me to Brussels, or to me looking after her luggage, &c., but to deliberately set out and eat a meal together was a very different affair.

"Is there a buffet at the station?" she asked.

I replied haphazard that there was not, and renewed my entreaties for her to join me. For a time she resolutely refused, but in the end she gave in a little, suggesting that we should walk on opposite sides of the street, and should have our meal at separate tables. And to this arrangement I was forced to accede.

Arrived at Antwerp I gave our luggage in charge of a porter, and we started on our divided way. But after we had walked a few hundred yards the whole thing seemed so ridiculous that we both, as we looked from time to time at each other across the wide street, began laughing immoderately. Suddenly the little lady stopped and beckoned to me with her parasol.

"Why," she said, laughingly, "this is just too ridiculous. I give in, but mind," she added firmly, "I'm to pay my share."

Seeing the little woman so independent, I had to agree to this, and we quickly made our way to Bertrand's. Just as we turned in at the door she plucked my sleeve, and, turning round I beheld the family from which I had rescued her at Esschen.

"We're done for," she said. "The two peppermint girls spotted us."

"Whatted us?" I exclaimed, in surprise at such a phrase in the mouth of a young girl.

''They saw us," she corrected herself quickly, and then added with a pout--"You are partic'lar."

We sat down and ordered something to eat, and though it was "between meals," as the head waiter informed us, we were very well satisfied, thanks, I fancy, to a tip that I gave that indispensable functionary. I must say that my little friend did justice to the meal, though she managed to get through a deal of talking between the courses.

"Well, I feel real good now," she said as we left to catch the train, "an'll last till supper."

"Till supper!" I said. "Shall you be hungry again to-night?"

"Well, I guess I will," she answered, as if it was a matter of course.

On our way to the station I bought her some chocolate. As we stepped out of the shop we came face to face with the father of the family already mentioned, he paid no attention to me, but he cast a look of undisguised contempt at my companion. His intention was so unmistakable that I felt no little indignation, and but for the restraining hand of my little friend should undoubtedly have given him a piece of my mind.

"Don't mind that," she said, with a twinkle of enjoyment in her eyes; "I've had all the best of him."

"How so?" I asked.

"Did you see me drop that heavy bag o' mine at Esschen?"


"Well! I took care it was in a plumb-line with his toes."

"Oh! it was our friend who swore then?" I laughed.

The little lady nodded and laughed.

"I shouldn't ha' liked to ha' missed the shot," she said. "He was complainin' o' corns the whole way."

I said something about her being a little savage, but I laughed all the same.


There were very few passengers for Brussels, and I had no difficulty in arranging for a carriage to ourselves. The train was some little distance from where our luggage had been left, so after seeing the little American into the carriage I went off with the porter to claim our luggage. When I came back I found her reading Bædecker—my Bædecker—which she immediately threw on to my seat.

"Well! I'm real glad you've come," she exclaimed with a yawn. "I was gettin' tired o' bein' alone, and I've read that fellow," she pointed to the discarded guide book, "until I just know him by heart"

Just then a boy put his head in the carriage-window and asked us if we wanted any fruit or papers.

"Have you a Brussels paper?" she asked.

"Yes, Mademoiselle," he answered. "L'Etoile Belge, to-morrow's edition."*

*All Belgian, and most French, papers publish three editions daily, "L'Edition du Matin," "L'Edition du Soir," and "L'Edition de Demain."

She pulled out a neat little purse and paid him.

"Well," she said, as she scanned the columns; "I guess this is 'bout the on'y thing that these foreigners beat us at. Ain't it mighty handy," she laughed, "to buy to-morrow's paper, if you only do get the news o' the day before yesterday?"

As she looked down the columns she repeated all the headings, making a running commentary, as she went, on what the several articles contained. I sat looking at her with an amused smile, and more decided than ever that she was the loveliest little thing that I had ever met. Perhaps her nose did not belong to any recognised style of beauty, but to my mind it was the only nose to suit her face. Perhaps her mouth was just a trifle large, but had it not been one might have missed the sight of the most perfect set of teeth that ever ate chocolate (which they were doing at that very moment). But these defects, if defects they were, would only have been noticed by an hypercritic; and if the mouth had pleaded its own cause, aye, and that of the nose, it would have gained a verdict from any jury—I mean a jury of men—in the world. As for her hair, her eyes, and complexion, they were perfect. No jury of British matrons could have condemned them. She had taken off her hat, and the wind just caught her hair and played with a hundred mutinous ripples that clustered about her temples. What hair it was! How profuse! How perfect in colour! And how naturally yet suitably coifed.

And her dress! It was simple enough, and yet I never saw a more charming or becoming costume de voyage. Everything, from her hat to the hem of her skirt, was red and blue—the brightest red, the deepest blue. I can't say in what proportion the colours were used; I can't say how it was made; and still less can I tell you what it was made of. But I can aver—and I am not considered a bad judge of such things—that the tout ensemble was perfect, and that bright as the contrast was, having once seen the effect, no one would have wished her otherwise dressed.

"Ah! here we are!" she cried. "Now we will see what's goin' on. No opera! There never is in summer. Two theatres open—the Eden, that's a new theatre with naughty plays, an' I can't go; an' the Molière, which is just a bit too stiff an' starchy for me. The opera band four nights a week in the park. I know the place!" she exclaimed with no little animation. "You sit under the trees, an' eat ices, or drink the sherry gobbler, as they call it, or the whythe wine gobbler; or the whischkey cocktails, an' listen to the music. Ah! Joseph Dupont is conductor, so the music is sure to be good. Do you like music?" she asked.

I assured her that I was passionately fond of it, and saw that the warmth of my assertion gave her no little pleasure.

"Well, I just live for it!" she sighed. "What sort do you like?" she asked, eagerly.

"Oh, pretty well all sorts, so long as it's good music well played."

"Ah! but what composers, do you like best?" she asked, anxiously.

I hesitated a moment, dreading to plump too irrevocably for any particular school, lest my ideas should not coincide with hers. But Miss Dot (I had received permission from her at Antwerp to use that form of address) awaited my answer with such evident impatience that I made a bold plunge.

"I think I prefer Liszt, and Berlioz, and Schumann, and especially Wagner."

Her eyes had lit up afresh at each name, but when I named Wagner she actually leapt to her feet and danced for joy. Then as suddenly sitting down, she began to tell me the effect which the works of such composers produced on her.

"Ah," she cried, clasping her little hands together; "give me something that makes you feel—that makes you go hot an' cold almost the same time, that makes you so excited that you can't keep your seat, that makes your hair go out o' curl, an' that finishes you up in one round, as the boys say. An' that's what their music does. Do you know that Hungarian Rhapsody—I don't know its number, I think it's two or four but it goes like this," and she began to sing the air.

I nodded an assent

"You know it begins—quite—slowly," she proceeded, dwelling on the last two words to add effect to the description, "and the same strain is repeated over an' over again in a quaint, unearthly sort o' way, and then come the twiddles."

"Twiddles!" I exclaimed laughingly, but still catching her meaning.

"Yes, twiddles!" she answered sharply. "What do you call them? Well, they go on for a bit, and jest when you're beginnin' to think you're bein' fooled, an' are gettin' that impatient that you could run a pin into the fat gentleman before you, the whole orchestra breaks into a furious tune, that makes you jump clean out o' your seat, and—and—"

"Sit down again!" I venture to suggest

"Don't steal American jokes," she said sharply, and added seriously, "If you can joke at all about it you don't feel it as I do. You should see me when I hear it. I get that excited I can't keep my seat—special if it's a spring one—an' I bound about just like quicksilver. I always tell whoever I go with to look after me, for I declare to goodness I'm not responsible for my actions."

I laughed heartily at her excitement, and said that I hoped that I might be fortunate enough to see her on an occasion of the sort.

"Oh! but I'm worse, much worse, when they're playin' the overture to 'Tannhauser,' " she proceeded, with even increased animation. "Then I'm just dangerous. I never dare go except with folk I know real well. Directly the orchestra strikes the first note I'm off. Bang! bang! bang! goes my heart as if it wanted to join in, an' I put an extra spike into my hat lest my hair should raise it off. Before they've finished the first theme there I am clean mad. An' how shouldn't I be? Why, the mere lookin' at the orchestra's enough to do it. After they've kept their hair on for about two minutes they begin to get excited. Then you hear spirits moaning in the 'cellos and shrieking in the clari'nets. Well, after they've been goin' it a bit like so many Will-of-the-wisps gone mad, the brass in the band can't stand it any longer. Then they begin, an' don't you know it too! That starts the fun. As the horns, cornets, and bassoons fill their cheeks till they look like so many young balloons, the violinists are caught by the fever, an' don't they just get it bad. Forty or fifty at once start to try and saw their violins in half with the bow, an' the violins just shriek back at 'em as if they was really doin' it. An' the more the horns bellow, the more the violins shriek, why the more the conductor hops about in his box as if he was dancin' a jig barefoot on a red-hot stove, an' lookin' sometimes at the brass, sometimes at the strings, as if to say, 'Come on, you ruffians! I'm ready for you.' Oh!" finished the little lady with a sigh out of all proportion to her diminutive size; "It's just too lovely!"

I had roared with laughter (the expression may be taken almost literally) as she gabbled off this animated description, and for a time I could hardly pull myself together to speak. At last I was sufficiently master of myself to put a question.

"And what becomes of you at the end of the performance?" I asked.

"Why, sir, I have been found sittin' on my neighbour's knee," she said simply.

Soon after this we drifted into a conversation about travelling, and I found that she had been in pretty well every important town of Europe. I could hardly believe my ears as she rattled off the names of the places she had been to. Up to that time I had considered myself a great traveller, but here was a girl half my age who could give me a good start and a certain beating. I looked at her in amazement, and rubbed my eyes. Had she been a woman of forty her information, her memory, and experiences would have been remarkable, but here a mere chit of a girl—. Well, I had heard that the Americans were a go-ahead people, but I had never recognised the truth of the assertion so fully as I did then. I purposely and perhaps a little meanly put questions to her about out-of-the-way places that I happened to know well, but she always answered without the slightest hesitation, and added further particulars which always proved her case. I had tried to puzzle her, and "as the boys would say," to adopt her expression, she had polished me off in one round. I just looked at her in amazement and sank back on the seat.

"Well, I'll be—," and then I just stopped in time.

"You'll be what, sir?" she laughed. "You'll be what Sir Curiosity?"

"Why, where the—I mean how the—I mean when have you found time to visit all these places? Do you travel night and day."

"Just depends!" she said, "If it's hot I like the night cars; if it's cold the day ones."

"But—you—don't—mean—to—tell—me," I said, sitting up and emphasising each word, "that you travel about just as you are, alone and unprotected?"

"No, I don't mean to tell you," she said, drily. "Anyway, what do you want to know for?"

I shrugged my shoulders with an air of indifference, which I indeed did not feel.

"Oh! I just wanted to know, you know," I said, inadvertently making use of a favourite slang phrase of the day.

She laughed a pert little laugh, showing those pretty teeth to the best advantage, and tilted her high straw hat at what I may term an alarming angle over her brows. Then she looked at me from under the brim.

"Well! perhaps he shall know, you know," speaking, upon my honour, as if she were soothing a child. "Have you ever played Diddle-dee, Diddle-dee, Do?" she asked quite seriously.

"No, indeed!" I exclaimed emphatically. "But I'm afraid that I'm a little old to start learning any new games."

"Oh, no! Not a bit!" she said, shaking her pretty little head quite gravely. "Any child could learn it. Now just you listen, and don't you forget. You play it on your fingers. You ask the question three times, and after each time you say 'Diddle-dee, Diddle-dee, Do,' and if the last Do comes on the little finger or thumb you win. If it comes on one of the other three I win."

"But," I urged, "you have three fingers to my two."

"An' so I ought," she laughed, "see the size of yours?" and she held up her diminutive hands to emphasise the disparity. "Besides, it's only three to two, an' that's fair odds, so the boys say. Now, then, I'm off. 'Shall I tell him? Diddle-dee, Diddle-dee, Do. Shall I tell him? Diddle-dee, Diddle-dee, Do. Shall I tell him? Diddle-dee, Diddle-dee, Do."

She held up her first finger. I had lost. I protested that she had cheated—for she had gabbled off the incantation at such a rate that it was impossible for me to say what finger the fatal Do had come on. She made me then do it myself, lending me one of her tiny hands on which to operate. The result was the same. I then averred that she had purposely framed the sentence so that I should lose. But she protested, both then and afterwards, that I had had "a fair show."

Vilvorde was passed, and looking at my watch I saw that we had only a quarter of an hour, if that, before arriving at Brussels. I had made up my mind—in fact, I thought I could not do less—to offer to see Miss Dot to her hotel, and proposed the matter to her as a matter of course, asking her where she stayed.

"Well, I've been thinkin' if I ought to tell you," she said, meditatively; "but I'll tell you what we'll do."

"No more Diddle-dee, Diddle-dee, Do!" I interrupted, hastily.

"No, no!" she laughed. "We'll each mark the name of the hotel we are going to stop at in our Bædecker, an' there we must stay, you understand, an' there's no altering it."

"All right!" I said.

"Strike your heart!" she exclaimed, earnestly.

Again I complied with the strange request.

"The name of my hotel is already underlined," I said, handing her the book; "so just mark yours and compare them."

Oh! the antics the little monkey went through before she would perform her part of the bargain. She huddled up the book against her, and kept looking at me, pencil in mouth, over the back of it. She turned her back to me, and suddenly looked round to see if I was looking over her shoulder. She went to the other end of the carriage and nestled right in the corner so that the possibility of detection amounted to nil. But none of these positions suited her. She was sure I could guess from the position of her fingers, and the probable position of the pencil on the page, which hotel she proposed marking; At last she insisted that I should turn my back. Even then the performance took some little time.

"Now, sir, you can turn round," she announced, as she caught up my book which was still lying on her seat; "but I'm to have first look."

Suiting the action to the word, her nimble fingers soon found the place in my book.

"You mean, horrid thing!" she cried, with an impatient shrug of her shoulders, and an indignant little pout, as she closed the book with a slam. "You knew where I was going, and you just—"

I interrupted with an assurance that a friend had marked it for me before I left England.

"Well, you will go somewhere else!" she pleaded.

I pointed out that that was impossible. My people—I still adhered to that phrase—were going to join me at that very hotel.

"An' so are mine!" she said dolefully.

For a moment or two she was silent and downcast, but it was not her nature to remain either silent or sad for long, and in a minute or two she was herself again.

"Perhaps, after all, it's for the best," she said. "You can act as my protector, you know, an' keep troublesome people off. How old are you?"

I was so taken off my guard by the question that I actually answered it without protest—


"Thirty-six!" she repeated. "Well, now, what will you be? I mean what is the best thing for you to be? You look too young for a father; besides that, you wouldn't like it—it would wound your vanity, and there are other objections. You'd have to call me Dot, and—and—" Then she suddenly broke off. "The same objection applies to a brother, and an uncle. I have it!" she cried. "You shall be my trustee, and I your ward. If that comes to the ears of our people, it can be easily smoothed over."

I said to myself that it might easily be smoothed over, as far as her people were concerned, but I drew a mental picture of my wife's face on receiving the news which was anything but reassuring.

"There's no necessity for them to know it at all," I suggested in a tone of assumed indifference, which I feel certain lacked the true ring, for I saw an amused smile light up my companion's face.

We had only a few minutes left before we reached Brussels, and during that time the little lady's behaviour was in marked contrast to her previous liveliness. She sat as quiet as a mouse (she was not unlike that frisky little creature, by the way), biting her lips, and with an air of reflection and gravity that was rarely met with there. Nor did this demeanour change when we arrived at our destination. We were going to the Hôtel de l'Europe, and there was an omnibus to take us and our effects. I helped her in, jumped in myself, and off we drove at a good pace. But still her face was quite grave. I did my best to arrive at a reason for this sudden change of manner, but for a time could not divine any satisfactory one. Suddenly, however, it struck me that, being a mere schoolgirl, she had now got frightened at the length to which her joke had been carried, and was apprehensive of the future. Under the circumstances, and perhaps more especially because I did not like to see such a cloud on her pretty brow, I made her what I considered a generous offer. I said that, after all, it would not inconvenience me to stop at another hotel till Friday night, and indeed, seeing the situation caused her annoyance, that I should prefer to do so. She absolutely refused.

"It's nice an' kind of you to think of it, Sir Charles," she answered gratefully, "but a bargain is a bargain. Besides," she added, "it won't make two cents difference."

Arrived at the hotel I took a room for my little friend—my ward she was henceforth to be—and ordered her boxes to be taken there.

Soon afterwards I saw her tripping up the stairs after the chambermaid, having promised to meet her in the reading-room immediately "she was fixed up." Then, with a budget of letters in my hand, which I had found on my arrival, I went up to my room to have a wash and peruse my correspondence. Though I skipped a good deal of the letters—even of my wife's, who, to be candid, is a somewhat diffuse correspondent—it was some time before I got down to the reading-room. The next moment in came Miss Dot, looking brighter and more charming than ever; Her hat was off, and her hair seemed to add a new charm to her beauty.

"Now, my ward," I said, sitting down near her. "I want you to enjoy yourself. I'm told there's a concert in the park. Would you like to go?"

I saw a bright light come into her eyes, and as suddenly go out.

"Do you think we dare?" she asked.

I protested that no one was likely to see us, that everyone went, and that we would pass unnoticed in the crowd. At last she consented, and ran off for her hat and coat. Two minutes afterwards she arrived and announced herself as "ready." Surely there never was a woman who dressed to such perfection! Every new thing she wore seemed to suit her better than the last. Her hat and coat seemed to me the prettiest articles of the kind I had ever seen, and I told her so.

"I'm so glad," she said, giving me quite a grateful look. "I'd like to look nice when I'm going ta-ta with my trustee."

On which we both laughed.

Well! we went to the concert, which, I must acknowledge was not up to its usual standard of excellence, and which did not excite Miss Dot to the extent I expected. We ate ices, drank coffee, I—at Miss Dot's request—smoked a cigar or two, and we chatted merrily till the concert was over. I enjoyed the concert none the less—call me conceited fool if you will, but I wish to confess the truth—that I could not help seeing the great admiration that my little friend excited. As I caught sight of appreciative glances or overheard whispered phrases of admiration I felt what I may term a pleasant feeling of proprietorship in my little companion; and, in fact, I do not know that I did not tell her so.

"What about the supper?" I asked, as we left.

She laughed.

"Well! I could eat somethin' if it was handy."

That was enough. I got a cab and drove to the hotel, and having got the address of the best restaurant went there at once. What a supper we had! What dear little dishes! What fruit and wine! But, above all, what merry jokes and conversation! I felt quite sorry to have to break up the feast, but a clock which confronted me forced on me the impropriety of "keeping it up" any longer. I ordered a cab, and two minutes afterwards we were on our way home.

As we shook hands on going to bed Miss Dot thanked me warmly for the pleasant-day she had spent.

"Do you know why I knew I could trust you—why I felt sure you were a gentleman?" she asked.

"No, indeed!" I laughed.

"Well!" she said quite gravely, "when I got in at Esschen I knew you had been smoking. Now all the way from there to Brussels I know you were dying to smoke."

"I was!" I admitted with a laugh.

"Yes! an' you never asked my permission. Then I knew you were a gentleman. If you could make a sacrifice like that—not even asking a permission I should readily have accorded—I knew you were a man to be trusted, an' I trusted you. Good-night, Sir Charles."

I watched the little fairy trip up the stairs, and then turning into the smoking-room took out my budget of letters, which I had only half read. But it was long before I could bring myself to read them. The events of the day had been of such a remarkable nature that they would thrust themselves on my mind. And it was the same when I went to bed. I could think of nothing but Miss Dot and the adventures of the day. I admitted that as a married man I had allowed myself to be flirted with (I protest the phrase is the right one) rather more than I should; that I had even encouraged her in her "quips, and cranks, and wreathed smiles," and that I had most certainly not attempted to restrain her from first to last. But, I urged in self-defence, what opportunity had I of shaping things otherwise? what else could I have done? and, finally, what harm had come of it? And it was with thoughts such as these that I at last fell asleep.

I awoke late next morning, and my toilette did not take as long as usual. I thought Miss Dot might be waiting for me, and I hurried down. There was no one in the salle-à-manger. There was no one in the reading-room. I sent up to her room. The waiter returned with a message from the chambermaid that Mademoiselle had left very early.

"You mean gone out," I suggested.

The waiter shrugged his shoulders. The chambermaid had said Mademoiselle had left.

I rushed to the office. The news was true enough. Miss Dot had left for Paris by the early train. I stood for a minute looking at the man—astounded, speechless, incapable of action or thought Then, turning on my heel, I gave vent to but one word, but it was a word of great strength.

I never saw Dot again—indeed, I never heard of her. I asked Americans without number—and I cultivated Americans for the express purpose—if they could give me any information, but Miss Doretta Vanloo was utterly unknown. Finding my researches so fruitless, I have latterly ceased an active search, hoping to come across a trace of her accidentally. But I fancy somehow that Dot and I will never meet again. I even doubt at times whether we ever did meet.

What do you think?
Feb. 16, 1889.




By George Hurdis Purves*

Published in The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic.)
Saturday, November 2, 1889

* This story, left with other MSS. by the late G. H. Purves, is published with the permission of Mrs. Purves. who reserves all rights.


I think I may say, without laying myself open to the reproach of boastfulness, that the little house to which I took my wife on my marriage was as snug a little home as the most exacting bride could demand. Not only was it comfortably—even luxuriously—furnished within, but the garden and surroundings were in excellent order. Creepers covered the pretty little rustic porch, and here and there encircled the window. Behind the house, surrounded by shrubberies, was a charming lawn, on which we sometimes played croquet. Behind that was a kitchen garden, plentifully supplied with fruit trees, and behind that again the stables, the doors of which opened on a small back street. The country town in which we lived was noted for its pretty suburban residences, and ours was admitted to be one of the prettiest.

Now, though I was comfortably off, I had spent so much money on the little place that I did not at first contemplate keeping a carriage, wishing by judicious thrift to recoup myself the large outlay before I entered on further expenditure. But somehow I never walked to the end of the garden and saw the empty stables than I was conscious of a longing to see them filled. If my wife happened to be with me on these occasions and as we had only been married eighteen months at the time of my story, she naturally frequently was—this longing was intensified, for Jemima had a way of making little observations which served to bring the matter more forcibly to my mind. "Oh! If we only had a little carriage!" or "Oh! how I love horses! If we only could afford to keep them!" or again, "When you have recouped the expenses of the house, dear Jacob, you will let me have a tiny, tiny, tiny," these adjectives Mrs. Oilcake in those days emphasised with little tender touches under the chin, "carriage of my own, won't you?" So one evening that the empty stables looked more reproachful than usual, we were walking round the garden after dinner, I forgot all my prudent resolutions and, quite as much to my own astonishment as my wife's, came out with an offer which was to be pregnant of results.

"Do you know, Jemima, I have made up my mind to let you have a carriage."

"Oh! you darling! Oh, how delightful!" exclaimed my wife with a beaming face, clapping her hands.

"We need only keep a boy," I continued as if to excuse my seeming extravagance, "and when he's not wanted to groom or drive, he can help in the garden, wait at table, and so forth."

"You'd have a pair of ponies and a basket-carriage, won't you, Jacob?" exclaimed my wife, putting one arm round my neck, as, with the other she fondled my willing cheek. "A pair of ponies have been the dream of my life."

"Well! I don't know about a pair of ponies," I answered as I kissed her dimpled cheek. "We'll see! I'll ask your brother John. He knows all about horses."

I did ask brother John.

"Pair of ponies and a basket-carriage be hanged!" rudely snarled brother John. "What will Jemima want next?"

Rather subdued by brother John's manner, I hesitatingly ventured to inquire it he thought it inadvisable to keep that sort of turn-out.

"Inadvisable!" he shouted, in a tone that aggravated the dread that I already entertained of the man. "Of course I do! What you want is a quiet medium-paced cob and a neat little gig."

Even in face of this positive assertion I ventured to hint that a gig, though a very pleasant conveyance for a man, was not the most suitable for a lady.

Brother John gave me a look that froze me.

"I thought that you came to me for advice," he said curtly. "I don't think that a gig is best for you—I know it is. A pony-chaise is well enough for a girl, or an old married couple, but a sledge in summer-time would be just as useful to you. Your wife will have her household and her children—I use the plural, old man, for you won't keep to the singular long"—he here gave me a dig in the ribs and gave his great laugh—"to look after. What does she want with a pony chaise."

When I left brother John I asked myself the same question, and the more I considered it the more I came round to his views. "What does she want with a pony-chaise?" I exclaimed again and again. I was still debating the matter when I ran into Blosely, whom I look upon as an incarnation of Ruffs Guide, and to whom in a few words I explained matters.

"How curious!" he said. "There's the very thing, as far as the horse is concerned, going to be sold to-day at Tattersall's. He's a bay cob, a good trotter, pretty as a picture, carries a lady, belonged to my brother once. He's a real treat to sit behind, and as sound as a roach. The gig, you know, you can get any time. By-the-by," he added, as he looked at his watch, "you must be sharp or you won't be in time."

I thanked Blosely profusely and jumped into a hansom, intent on making the purchase. All the way to the auctioneer's I repeated the "points" of the equine treasure I coveted, until I had them off by heart. "Bay cob—good trotter—pretty as a picture—carries a lady—belonged to Blosely's brother once." At first indeed the sentences got confused, and I occasionally made Blosely's brother "a good trotter," or "as pretty as a picture," but by the time I arrived at the sale yards I had "got him off" so accurately that I was satisfied I should recognise my cob out of fifty.

There was a large crowd round the ring, where the horses were being paraded prior to sale. I crashed my way to the front, and at last found myself in a position whence I could see the animals led into the ring and sold. I borrowed a catalogue from my next door neighbour—who I may state smelt strongly of the stables, and whose eyes I noticed never stopped blinking—and began to run through the lots in order to find out the one of which I was so anxious to become the possessor. To my surprise—my consternation—I found lot after lot which would suit my friend's description. Why there was lot 7, lot 8, lots 14 to 20, lot 32, lots 39 to 47, there were any number of lots that would exactly "fit" Blosely's brother's cob. They were all, as it seemed to me, bay cobs. All carried ladies. All were good trotters. All were quiet, and all were, no doubt, though it did not expressly state it, as pretty as pictures. I handed back the list to my odoriferous neighbour with a sigh. He gave a searching look at me, as he put the catalogue into his brimless cap, and asked, deferentially enough, if he could do anything for me.

How could I have been so stupid. Why here was the very man to help me. I plunged into the whole affair at once, finishing up of course with the inevitable description. "He's a bay cob—a good trotter—pretty as a picture—carries a lady—belonged to Mr. Blosely's brother once. Do you know him?"

The man took a long look at me before answering—his eyes blinking the whole time. There was no mistaking his profession. He was an ostler, if ever there was an ostler in this world! At last, when I had given up any hope of receiving a satisfactory answer, I heard a voice which proceeded from—well! I don't know exactly whence it did proceed, but some very low part of his body—exclaim in a contemptuous tone, "Do I know 'im?"

Upon this, without vouchsafing me any further information, he blinked away at me as if I were an electric light, or something of the sort, of which his eyes could not bear the strength. And curious eyes they were—devoid of eyelashes, and with bright red lids. I was getting impatient when the same stomach-generated voice surprised me with an observation—

"Stop 'ere, sir! Dun't move! I'll see vich lot yer frien's oss is."

I patiently awaited my friend's return, and watched meanwhile the efforts of the auctioneer to obtain good prices. A clever little fellow he was, too, with, it seemed to me, a prodigious memory. Bays and greys, browns and chessnuts, mares and ponies, carriage horses and draught horses succeeded each other in rapid succession, but the energetic little salesman knew them all immediately, and enlarged on their merits in the most surprising way. Nor was he in the least put out by the constant fusillade of jokes and banter to which he was subjected by the idlers amongst the crowd, but, single-handed, parried all their chaff, and gave them at least as good as they gave. He was describing the merits of a brown mare, and I was wondering what more he could say, even when my cob was "put up," when my weak-eyed friend returned.

"Well," I cried, "what number is he?'

The man, stroking his stubbly chin with his hand, blinked at me as if he were blinking for a wager.

"E's sold," he said, "a hower ago."

I could not help showing my disappointment, and probably made use of an oath. My friend meanwhile observed me carefully, blinking away as usual. At last he said—

"Ef yer wants 'im pertickler, I thinks as I cud get 'im, but it 'ud cost—"

"Oh, d— the cost!" I recklessly cried—I'm positive that I used an oath this time. "I've set my heart on him. I must have him."

At this the ostler gave a low whistle. He then informed me that the horse had been bought by a man that he knew slightly, and who was "allers open ter make a profit," and suggested that we should go immediately to his "place," lest the horse should be snapped up in the meantime.

So off we went (in a hansom, too!), my strongly-smelling friend and myself. Highly disagreeable as close quarters with him were, I solaced myself with the reflection that before night that cob would be mine. At last we stopped in the lowest part of the town, at a small public-house in a back slum, at the rear of which were situated some dirty little tumble-down stables. My friend got out, and telling me to wait, went in to arrange preliminaries with the recent purchaser of the cob. In ten minutes or so he returned, and bidding me jump out, we went together to the stables. Here another man met us, almost the double of my friend the ostler in personal appearance, and—gracious heaven!—with the same eyes! I looked from one man to the other, and rubbed my own to make sure that I was under no delusion as to the blinking of theirs. No! there they were. Four blear, bloodshot, blinking eyes, with the same absence of lashes, the same redness of lid!

"Good God!" I exclaimed, addressing the last comer, "what on earth is the matter with your eyes? Are you brothers?"

"Lor' bless yer, no!" he answered in, to my astonishment, much the same stomachic voice as the other. "My name's Tubbins, 'is is Sudds. We ain't no relations wotsummerdever. Yer see, sir," he went on, pointing to his eyes, "our heyes gits this 'ere way from our trade, likevise our woices, vich, yer'll observe, ain't eggsackly wot yer'd call soprarnees. Ven a man goes inter 'oss dealin', sir, 'e relinkervishes all claims ter beauty."

Our business was explained in a few words, and at first I was afraid that our trip would be a fruitless one. Mr. Tubbins was very sorry to disappoint me, but 'e 'ad bought the cob to the order of a nobleman in the country, whose custom was worth a "power of money." It had taken him months to pick up the thing he wanted: The cob was worth his weight in gold: and so forth. I was very much put out, and was on the point of going, when my first acquaintance whispered me that " 'e'd putt it right." Taking Mr. Tubbins by the arm, he led him away to a little distance and began talking to him earnestly.

I have no idea what pressure Mr. Sudds brought to bear on the seemingly obdurate horse-dealer, but presently they came towards me again, Mr. Tubbins's face wearing a very long look, that of Mr. Sudds being equally bright.

"It's all right," groaned out the latter, in what he meant to be joyous tones. "Yer kin 'ave 'im."

Mr. Tubbins, who apparently had not regained his good humour, gruffly requested us to "go inter the box, an ave a look at the blamed varmint" (which possibly is stable slang for "bay cob"), and you may be sure I was not slow to do so.

Now, I was ashamed of myself for it at the time; but I must confess I was rather disappointed in the cob. Indeed, I had admired many of the horses which I had seen that day much more than the one before me. I don't know whether it was that I had had my hopes raised too high—that I had expected too much—but I found it impossible, utterly impossible, to work myself up into enthusiasm over the animal before me. I repeated, I believe aloud, the description, so often quoted, that Blosely had given me of his brother's wonderful horse—"a bay cob, a good trotter, pretty as a picture, carries a lady, belonged to his brother once," and tried to make it tally with the horse before me.

He was a bay cob—nobody could deny that, and a precious ugly bay too, according to my ideas. He might be a good trotter, though, if he was he belied his looks; he might carry a lady, though I could not imagine any lady selecting him as a hack; and doubtless he had belonged to Blosely's brother. "But I'm d—d if he's as pretty as a picture," I said to myself, "and all the Blosely's in the world would never convince me that he is!"

However, Mr. Tubbins and Mr. Sudds were never tired of descanting on his good points, drawing my attention every minute to some new beauty, so that ultimately I began to come round to their views. As I grew familiar with his appearance I began to think that, perhaps, I had judged him too hastily. I reflected that, after all, I knew but little about a horse; that this horse would not have a reputation like he had unless he was something out of the way, and that Blosely, who was a racing man, should certainly know "what's what" in horseflesh.

We adjourned to the public-house to come to an agreement as to the price. Mr. Tubbins asked a great deal more that I had anticipated, or than I was willing to give, but, at last, thanks I must say to the representations of Mr. Sudds, he agreed to abate his demands, and condescended to accept an increase of thirty per cent on the sum which, he himself told me, he had that very day given for him. Even this he only consented to take on condition that he should be paid at once, and that I should accept delivery of my purchase that day.

Now I had intended to have got Blosely or brother John—both acknowledged judges of a horse—to see the cob before I actually closed for him, but, afraid lest he should slip through my fingers, I paid there and then for the horse, and wrote out a sale-note and a receipt for the purchase money, which Mr. Tubbins signed. The former was filled in from data supplied by Mr. Tubbins, and within an hour I drove off the proud possessor of (to quote the sale-note) "Pepper, by Saucebox out of All-spice," whom I knew to be, although the sale-note did not state it, "a bay cob, a good trotter, and as pretty as a picture," and who "had belonged to Blosely's brother once."

Mr. Sudds, whose eyes were now blinking at such a rate that it had become a matter of impossibility even to guess at their colour, was left at the stables with instructions from me to bring the cob home early the next morning but one, and to receive his reward for the services he had that day rendered me.

'"Is sire wos a great 'oss!" Mr. Sudds informed me as I left, pointing his thumb over his shoulder in the direction of the stables.

I was glad to hear it. I remembered Horace's maxim, "Est in equis patrum virtus," and I hoped that, notwithstanding his looks, my purchase might have inherited some of the great qualities of his illustrious sire.


Now I had made up my mind that I should give "my little wife" (it is as well to adopt the phraseology of the time), a pleasant surprise. It was my intention not to speak of my new purchase until I should present him at the front door, in all the accompanying glory of new harness and a new gig. Placing the utmost faith in Sudds, who I felt confident would never leave his precious charge until he had delivered him safe and sound into my keeping, and, being excessively anxious to complete all my purchases before night, I rose betimes the next morning, and, after an unusualy early breakfast, hurried off to town. Two courses were open to me, or rather I had the choice of placing myself under an obligation to one of two men— Blosely or brother John. Family ties would have dictated the choice of the latter, but having, as I have said, a "wholesome dread" of the man, I unreservedly plumped for Blosely, and rushed off to see him.

I found him in bed—which I might have expected. When I roused him out of what he called his "beauty sleep," and explained to him how urgently I required his services, he utterly refused to stir for "an hour or so" (you know what that means), stating that there was "lots of time in the afternoon! What was the good at waking a fellow up in the middle of the night?" I managed, however, in the end to extract some information, and was informed that if I went to Bunsel, the well-known whipmaker, he would put me in the way of getting a boy, and give me (that indefinite quantity called) "any amount" of information as to how a trap should be kept, and what was wanted so to keep it. Blosely having made this effort, turned on his side and fell asleep.

In Bunsel I found a highly respectable and obliging tradesman, and thanks to him I was soon in the way of getting everything necessary to make my turnout complete. Under his advice I bought a gig, which he declared a regular bargain, and which, curiously enough, considering the proposed destination of the bay cob when I bought him—had been made for "a nobleman in the country." I thought that under the circumstances the cob and gig were bound to match. I also bought harness, whips, horse-clothing, and a host of other things, which Bunsel, in whose hands I unreservedly placed myself, declared indispensable. He said he could even provide me with a boy.

"Call back here at one o'clock," said he, "and I'll have a tip-top young tiger for you."

I was very near protesting that I did not want anything of the sort, for I had no idea what "a tip-top young tiger" was—though I should certainly have said that the tiger I had seen the Sunday before at "the Zoo" was a tip-top one—but I promised Bunsel that I would be there punctually at one o'clock, and I was.

"Here," said Mr. Bunsel, as he placed his broad hand on the shoulder of a lad standing by his side, "is the young tiger what I spoke to you about."

I looked at him attentively, and, to tell the truth, discovered but little of the tiger about him, for he was in appearance—and subsequently proved himself to be in character—a modest and quiet young fellow. There was a good deal more of my acquaintances of the previous day about him than of any wild animal. His eyes were not so red, and—thank Heaven!—didn't blink to the extent that those of Sudds and Tubbins did, but still they were red, and did blink, and there was a sort of promise held out by them that, if all went well with them, they might even attain at maturity the perfection arrived at by the two gentlemen named. The lad's figure was very peculiar, owing to the disproportion between his legs and his back, the former seemingly having been destined for the use of some lad of seven, whilst the latter gave one the effect of being a misfit in "backs" of some well-grown youth of twenty. He wore a striped waistcoat (black and yellow), whilst his disproportionately youthful legs were encased in knee-breeches and gaiters. He affected an outrageously stiff and tall collar, so tall indeed that his jaws seemed to immediately rest on it, and left it a matter of wonder how he ever turned his head, and a matter of doubt as to whether he had any neck at all. I don't know whether it was owing to the collar aforesaid reaching up so far behind that he wore his hat so far forward. I content myself with stating that he did wear his hat, as it seemed to me, immediately on his eyebrows, and that it gave him an indescribably rakish appearance. Just then he stood with his hat poked under his left arm in an attitude of respectful attention, and waited patiently for me to ask him any questions I thought necessary. A part of my inquiries I may reproduce.

"What is your name?" I asked.

"Sam Chif," he answered in a remarkably shrill voice.

"Samuel Chiff!" I repeated. "C, h, i, double f?" I inquired.

"Nossir!" he jerked out. "Sam, not Sam'l. C, haitch, hi, hef, not double hef!"

"Curious name!" I observed, as I wrote it down. "So very short."

"Yessir!" said Sam, and relapsed into his respectful silence.

"Your father and mother are" . . . I began.

"Ain't got none, sir. I'm a orphin, a fondlin'. Mister Dossen"—I understood at the time, and have firmly believed ever since that by "Dossen" he meant Dawson, who is an eminent trainer, I understand; I know that he had been in some training stable—"Mister Dossen give it me when I fust went ter 'im."

The boy paused. I merely said "Indeed," seeing that the lad was nerving himself to make further disclosures.

"Yessir!" he went on. "I wos called Sam Chif, arter Sam'l Chifney, the great celebrated jockey." He drew himself up with pride. "But I'm most called Chif for short.

The boy took a breath after this long speech.

"It wos a toss-up as I wosn't Frank Butler, or Nat Flatman, or Tommy Lye; leastways so I've heerd."

I could only interject another "Indeed," not having the slightest idea who those gentlemen were, though Sam spoke of them as if their names were household words.

"Yessir! But I ain't got no reason for not to be content with the one as I as got. I have heerd," he drew himself up again, "as I has got cause to be proud o' my fam'ly.

I engaged that boy. There was something so cool about him, so eminently "groomy" in his appearance, so respectful in his demeanour, that I determined at once that Sam Chif, and no other, should take care of the wonderful cob. I had such confidence in him that I took him off at once to a tailor's and had him measured for a suit of livery, fully aware that if he should not suit me it would be impossible to get another lad to fill his clothes.

When I went round to the stables before breakfast the next morning I found Sam awaiting me—looking by the way as if he had never been to bed, for his clothes were arranged to a t as they had been overnight—who reported that "the oss is come, an' the 'arniss is arriv." Sure enough Mr. Sudds, with his coat off and a currycomb and brush in his hands, made his appearance that moment at the stable door.

"Good mornin', sir," he blinked out at me.

"Good morning," I answered. "So you've brought the cob over, eh! Bring him out, and let's have a look at him."

He brought him out and walked him round the yard.

"Beauty, ain't he!" asked Sudds, turning his red-rimmed eyes on me.

I did not answer. To tell the truth I admired "the bay cob" even less that morning than I had the night before. There was a squareness about his head, a straightness about his shoulder, a want of smoothness in his coat that I did not admire in the least. I did not like his ragged hips, his high, razor-like backbone, his mean mane and tail, and especially his enlarged joints and big knees. I noticed, too, that he had a remarkable way of drawing up his hind legs as he walked, and instead of answering Mr. Sudds's question I called his attention to this peculiarity.

"Vy," replied he in a compassionate tone that made me feel very small, "thet's the main beamy of 'is haction. All trotters, leastways all good trotters," he added, laying some stress on the adjective, "move their hind legs like thet, sir! Them as does it are allus the fastest—they shakes it orf ven they're warm."

"Then he's a good trotter?" I asked.

"Good's no name for it! Vy, d'ye know wot, sir," he dropped his voice to a mysterious whisper, " 'e can break three minits."

"Break what?" I exclaimed.

"Three minits!" reiterated the man. "It's my opinion, sir, as he can lick two fifty."

Not having the slightest idea what the man meant by this extraordinary announcement (I put down all his expressions as forming part of a turf-language to me an unknown tongue), and not wishing to display my ignorance, I merely told him to lead the bay cob back to the box. When Mr. Sudds had done this I thanked him for the trouble he had taken on my behalf, and paid him for it "like a real gem'men," to quote Mr. Sudds himself. Then Mr. Sudds, blinking in the most frightful manner, backed his way out, profuse in thanks, and hoping that it I ever wanted assistance in his line I would apply to him.

Sam Chif meanwhile was standing motionless as a statue, and patiently awaited orders. He had offered no remarks during the above conversation, and had contented himself with merely answering when addressed.

"Sam!" I said, "we'll have him out this morning." I pointed towards the loose-box where the famous cob was doubtless hard at work discussing his oats. "I suppose you know how to put him into the gig, and—and all that sort of thing."

"Ev coorse, sir," ejaculated Sam, in a tone which showed that he was put out at my doubting his ability. "Ain't I the groom, sir!"

"Well, let me see!" I said, looking at my watch. "It'll be nine before I start for the office. I shall want an hour there, say an hour and a half, Sam," I went on. "Meet me with the gig at the corner of the Quarry-road at half-past eleven."

"Yessir! Arf-pass 'leven!" repeated Sam.

"And Sam," I said to him as he was walking away, "Mind that your mistress doesn't hear you go out."

Though the little groom merely, as usual, answered "Yessir," I felt fully confident that the lad was clever enough to smuggle out the gig under Jemima's very nose, if need be, without her knowing that such a thing was in existence.


How I rushed through my business that morning! How I "skimmed" the firm's correspondence! How I put off this, that, and the other! And all in order to be at the corner of the Quarry-road at half-past eleven. I even got rid of my mother-in-law—whom I met in the street shopping, and to whom I usually (like a newly-married man) devoted half an hour at least—in ten minutes! I ran into brother John, too, just as I was stepping into a cab, but I did not tell him of my destination or of my purchase. I wanted to surprise my little world. I wanted to take its admiration by storm. So, as I said good-bye to brother John, I chuckled, "You won't be as ready to laugh at my knowledge of horseflesh when you have seen my turnout!" For, of course, I fully intended to take all credit for the purchase, and meant to place Blosely under a promise of secrecy as to his share in it.

Hundreds and hundreds of yards before I could possibly see the corner where Sam was to meet me I was anxiously on the look out for the gig, and hundreds and hundreds of times I imagined that I perceived the turnout before it was possible, according to the ordinary laws of vision, that it could be seen. When at last we did come in sight of the corner of the Quarry-road, and there I dimly made out what I intuitively knew was my gig (oh! the joy of that pronoun), I thought my heart would stop beating with exultation. We had passed all sorts of conveyances on the road—well-appointed ones too—and I had carefully observed them all. But to my mind, at any rate, there was not one turnout amongst them all which could come up to mine! There was not a gig like mine! There was not a cob like mine! Why, there was not a groom like mine! As to the tout ensemble, I defied competition!

It was perhaps attributable to the excited state in which I was at the time that, when I dismissed the cabman, I gave him a sovereign instead of a shilling.

Before I took my seat in the gig I took a look round at the harness, the cob, and the gig itself. Not, you understand, that I could possibly detect if anything was wrong but I had observed that "men who drive" always do so. Then I took the reins from Sam, who immediately jumped out and stood at the horse's head, and I proceeded to put on a recently-purchased and rather elaborate pair of driving gloves. This operation over I took one more look, pressed my hat firmly on my head (another driver's habit I had picked up), and prepared to start.

"Let go his head, Sam," I called out. Sam did so, and in a moment was at my side.

But, to my amazement, the cob did not move.

I jerked at the reins. I called out "get up!" I produced a tolerable imitation of a noise in use amongst coachmen for urging on of refractory horses, effected by an application of the tongue to the cheek, but all in vain. The bay cob was deaf to entreaty, and would not "get up." I repeated the measures I have described again, and yet again. The bay cob did not budge an inch.

Meanwhile a small crowd of idlers had collected on the pavement, and offers of assistance were freely proffered me "to lead him on a bit." Lead him, indeed! Lead my bay cob? No, never! Rendered desperate by his obstinacy—when I felt that he could go so well—and feeling that the reputation of my whole turn-out was at stake, I gave him, utterly reckless of the consequences, a tremendous "cut" with the whip, and awaited the result.

To my utter astonishment, and I must acknowledge, somewhat to my relief Pepper, after giving a flinch as he felt the whip walked very slowly on. I had not only expected that the very least he would do would be to gallop off, but I had considered it almost certain that he would kick the gig to smithereens, or rear up, or do something equally high-spirited and unpleasant. However, when I found that—the whip notwithstanding—he would only walk, and had apparently no intention of doing anything else, I "laid it about him" pretty severely. The crowd on the pavement had meanwhile increased, and several amongst them were now occupying their leisure time in a running commentary on myself and the horse. I heard the words "screw" and "moke" frequently used, but whether they were intended to apply to me or the horse I knew not. One man, addressing me and pointing to the cob, vouchsafed the unintelligible remark that "he was only fit to go to the kennel." I concluded at once that that man was drunk or out of his mind. It is incredible that any man in his sane, sober senses should not know that kennels are reserved for the exclusive use of the canine race.

Goaded to madness by my fruitless endeavours to make the horse adopt a decent pace, and wincing at the ever-increasing taunts of the onlookers, I handed the reins to Sam, who had never offered a suggestion or remark, and, bidding him "drive that infernal beast home" (thus I already designated the wonderful cob), I leant back in the gig, and dug my chin in my chest, a picture of disappointment and disgust.

Sam lost no time in getting to work to get the horse "to move on." He adopted a combination of coaxing and whipping, but notwithstanding his vigorous efforts the cob for a long time stood stock still. I was beginning to think that Pepper—how he belied his name!—had made up his mind to do nothing but walk that day, when at last we moved on at a gentle trot. It was only a very very gentle trot, and yet I was grateful for it. It removed us from our critics on the pavement. I whispered Sam to drive down a by-street, and at last—after the cob had stubbornly refused to turn down two or three, giving strong premonitory signs of stopping again—he suddenly trotted of his own accord down one, for I'm sure Sam had nothing to do with the movement, and pulled up (again of his own accord) at a little low public-house. I did not take long to make up my mind. Jumping out I told Sam to drive him home, and walked off as fast as I could. When I got to the end of the street I looked back—I could not resist it—and saw the tiny groom having a battle-royal with the cob on the subject of locomotion. When I lost sight of them the cob was in a fair way of winning.

The pleasant surprise I had prepared for Jemima was "knocked on the head," for I could not keep the matter any longer secret. I acknowledged to my wife that I was disappointed with a horse "I had on trial" (my first hypocrisy), but I took her down to see the gig and harness, with which she expressed herself highly delighted, she was equally pleased with Sam, though she was at first of opinion that he was rather small.

"Sam," I whispered when we were alone, seeing that I might as well make a clean breast of it, "I know nothing about horses" (how I winced as I admitted it), "I never owned a horse before in my life."

I stopped to give Sam an opportunity of making some remark—but he made none. It was hard to ask the next question, but—it had to be done.

"Is—is Pip—Pip—Pepper," I stammered out, "a really first-class ker—cob?"

For the first time I saw Sam show some animation.

"Nossir! Nossir!" he ejaculated quickly, whilst his already short nose assumed an even more snubbed appearance, to show the contempt in which he held the quadruped in question. " 'E ain't no good. 'E ain't wuth 'is oats."

On further inquiry I found that the animal was suffering from a disease termed "stringhalt" and that it was at his peculiar gait that the people had laughed; that he was a old and broken down, as his enlarged joints plainly showed; and that I had paid a great deal too much money for him—Sam asserting that he "wosn't wuth five bob," and that the best thing that I could do was to sell him for what he would fetch, as he would "ony eat 'is blessed 'ed orf " in the stable.

I did sell him, and "he went for a song," and I made up my mind that I would go about getting another horse very differently. On consideration I thought that Sam was the most likely person to get me what I wanted, and I accordingly despatched him into town, giving him carte blanche in his selection. The only thing that I impressed on him was that it should be a bay cob, for Blosely had so strongly recommended that description of horse for a gig.

I may as well here state what I subsequently learnt about Mr. Sudds and Mr. Tubbins. Though I had no intention of taking proceedings against them, for I am keenly alive to ridicule, I made some inquiries as to who and what they were, and tried, in a quiet way, to get some of my money back. My first supposition had been correct. They were brothers. Their name was really Sudds—the one, whom I had known as Mr. Tubbins, being commonly known as Soapy Sudds, or briefly Soap Suds; whilst the other was happily nicknamed Sore-eyed Bill. They earned a disreputable living, partly by dealings such as the one recorded and partly by the practice of "bishoping," which I am given to understand has nothing to do with clerical ceremonies, but is applied to a manipulation of teeth, by which the animals operated on gain the reputation of a youthfulness they are not entitled to.

The very next day Sam turned up. He had got a horse but wanted me to see him before completing his purchase. He was, for him, enthusiastic in his praises. "My heye!" he observed, when I asked him if he was satisfied. "Ain't I neither? 'E's a real clinker! A daisy!"

I could not judge, not knowing what the terms meant, whether he was "a clinker" and "a daisy," but he was certainly a very nice-looking horse, and after I had had a trial drive with him, I was so well satisfied that I bought him there and then. His name was "Blatherskite," and he was "by Home Rule out of Creeping Biddy," and moreover he was, to my joy, a BAY COB.


We had had him three days! three whole days! Three times had we been out for a drive (Sam generally driving, for I had some misgivings as to whether I was a good whip), and my wife who of course had sat behind the new bay cob on each of these occasions, was delighted. There never was such a compact well-put-together cob! There never was such a neat-actioned, good-shouldered well-ribbed-up little fellow in the world! There never was such a bright bay, never such a golden skin! No! Blatherskite was perfection, and everybody admitted it! Blosely the moment he set eyes on him, confessed that his brother's cob was nothing in comparison with ours, and even Brother John let out one day in confidence to Jemima "that that little bay cob was the handsomest little beggar that he had ever seen."

It was true that the gig did not hold three very well, and that we found that Sam's presence crushed us somewhat. But there were advantages which compensated for the inconvenience. I had, I repeat, but little confidence in my driving, and felt that Sam's services might be in request at any moment, and again Sam in his plum-coloured livery was the beau-ideal of a groom, and his presence ticked Mrs. Oilcake's vanity.

The fourth day I made up my mind that I would drive the whole time myself, as Blatherskite seemed so quiet, and I had had no difficulty with him before. However, at the last moment, being still somewhat diffident, I took little Sam with us, and directly after breakfast we started on a visit to Brother John.

All went well with us for some time, and, indeed, I was getting quite careless as to how I held the reins, when Blatherskite suddenly stopped short, and stubbornly refused to move. We were at the time crossing a common, and the rain water, which had collected on the high ground on one side of the road (it had poured for some days previously) was running in a series of miniature brooks across it. It was at the edge of one of these that Blatherskite stopped. I coaxed him, but endearments were lost on him. I struck him with the whip, when, to my surprise, he began "backing" at an alarming rate. In my dilemna I appealed to Sam, who I knew would never offer a suggestion until it was solicited.

"E's jibbin', Blatherskite is!" said Sam, quietly. " 'E won't cross the water;" and as he spoke he got out of the gig, and, whip in hand, set to work to make the refractory cob move on.

But for some time even Sam's artifices failed to convince the cob. When the little groom tugged at him he beat a retreat, and when Sam cut him across the fore-legs with the whip he either stopped still or danced from side to side. I was almost despairing of his crossing the obnoxious water, when suddenly a cry from Sam " 'E's orf!" and a simultaneous jerk, which almost threw my wife out over the back of the seat, announced the fact that the refractory cob had at last taken it into his head to obey orders.

Swish! through the stream, the muddy water flying into our faces; and Sam, who was climbing in, "sticking on", for bare life. Swish! through another pool, and another, and another, and another. Blatherskite's blood was up—was he not by Home Rule out of Creeping Biddy? Blatherskite was in a lather from excitement, and what cared Blatherskite for water now? Swish! swish! swish! Bump! bump! bump!

I shortened the reins in my hand, and, rather nervous about the pace we were going, tried to pull Blatherskite up. But he had no notion of being pulled up just then, and I found that what Blatherskite had determined on I had to put up with. We had already been going at a smart canter, which in itself was sufficiently alarming, when Blatherskite, notwithstanding my frantic efforts to arrest his progress, took it into his head to launch out into a mad gallop. In vain I "sawed" at the reins, and exerted all the strength I possessed to stop him—he would go! Our career before was nothing to this! Now we absolutely flew along the road, the wheels of the gig seeming only to strike the ground every now and then. One moment we were going along the comparatively even surface in the middle of the road, the next we rolled about in the gutters—first one and then the other—and shaved the kerbstones in the most alarming way. My wife from the first had never ceased her exclamations, and by this time had burst out into an unbroken scream. When, at the commencement of Blatherskite's unfortunate gallop, I had cried out to him, "Woa! woa! then!" and Blatherskite had paid no attention to me, Mrs. Oilcake had suggested to me, in a faint voice, that she was sure that "her pa" had always said, "Way! way!" to his horses when he wished them to stop. But she had long since given up offering any suggestions, and now abandoned herself to exclamations of terror and despair. Sam meanwhile sat as still as if everything was going on swimmingly. Anybody looking at him would have been under the impression that he was perfectly satisfied with all that was happening. His composure had its effect upon me, and I was in hope that I should soon be able to pull Blatherskite up (indeed, I had informed my wife but a minute before that it was a certainty that I should do so), when a new vagary of the little cob upset all my calculations, and threw us into a state of terror in comparison with which all we had gone through was nothing.

Blatherskite, who at the time was patronizing the gutter, suddenly rushed across the road, across the opposite gutter, over the kerbstone—(imagine the jerk we got—why our wheels were nearly off), over the pathway, and plunged frantically across the common.

I turned pale! This common was full of quarry-holes, and even where there were no holes the huge boulders, which were plentifully strewn about, presented almost as great a danger. One corner of it, bounded to the north by a succession of the dangerous holes, was given up to clothes-lines (there was "a washing colony" near), and it was to this corner we were making. Straight ahead of me I saw the forest of poles and the "cloud" of linen exposed on the lines, and I foresaw that unless Blatherskite changed his course we should do considerable execution amongst the washing.

Change his course! Not he! I believe that the brute made up his mind to charge those poles the moment he saw the white linen fluttering in the wind, for he made for them in an absolutely direct line. On we flew towards them—over boulders and over ruts, the gig meanwhile dancing up and down and from side to side to such an extent that it was almost impossible to keep one's seat. We were within a few yards of them! Then, as I uttered a cry to my wife to "duck her head," we passed under the first of the clothes lines.

But no woman from the time of Lot ever did what she was told to do in cases of danger and necessity. Mrs. Oilcake did not duck!

Instead of doing so, she actually caught hold of the clothes-line with both hands, and in a twinkling—notwithstanding the frantic efforts of Sam, who had instantly caught hold of her skirts and tried to hold her in the trap—she disappeared over the back of the seat, leaving Sam half in and half out of the gig, with a petticoat and half a skirt in his hands.

Poor Sam! It would have been better that he had followed his mistress!

I had no time to look round and see what had befallen my wife, and knew not whether, like Mahomet's coffin, she was still suspended in mid-air, or whether she had fallen immediately to the ground, for the cob, suddenly altering his course, placed us in such immediate danger that the struggle became a question of life and death.

Blatherskite was heading direct for the quarry-holes to the north!

In vain Sam and myself—for I had enlisted the assistance of the little groom pulled with all our might and main at the reins, and tried to avert the catastrophe, the obstinate cob was not to be deterred, and rushed headlong to destruction. When we were only some fifty yards away I sang out to Sam to jump out, and, as I did so, jumped out myself. I was conscious of rolling over and over, striking every part of my body, and performing a variety of involuntary acrobatic feats, and then—all was a blank!

* * * * * *

I came to myself very soon, for, strange to say, I had escaped with only a few bruises, and found myself surrounded by a crowd. My first thought was for my wife. I was informed she was all right. I closed my eyes and thanked God for that. It was some time before I even thought of Sam. I was then told that he was in a bad way, and that it was hardly likely he would recover. I gave my address to my informant and asked him to have the lad taken home. Within an hour my wife and myself were back at our house, and shortly afterwards poor little Sam was carried in.

Until the doctor had seen us we did not know precisely what damage had been done to any of us. I myself felt sore all over, and was certain that half the bones in my body were broken. I was assured that I had nothing more serious the matter with me than severe bruises. Mrs. Oilcake, who was in a highly hysterical state, was suffering from a shock to the system; her hands had been scraped by the rope almost bare of skin, one wrist had been dislocated, and she had a fair share of bruises. But little Sam! Ah, poor Sam! Poor Sam!

He, the doctor said, could never recover unless by a miracle. His skull was fractured, and his brain seriously affected. He might linger a while, he might rally a little, but— the end was certain. Poor little Sam would die. The doctor could not hold out any hope of recovery.

* * * * * *

You can form no idea of how we fretted over our little patient—of the joy we felt at any improvement, however slight, in his condition—of our feelings of depression when he "went back." We were bound up in that boy. We could not forget his pluck, that he had been the partner of our danger, that he had incurred this terrible illness in our service.

"Ah!" said a man who had seen the accident, and who insisted on helping to nurse Sam free of charge. "Yer shud ha' seen him, sir, arter yer jumped out! He fott," (fought) "with that 'oss, sir, like the little brick that he was, an' at times it was the toss-up of a shillin' if he didn't turn 'im. Lor! ter see 'im a tuggin' of them reins, with his little shoulders well set back, his little feet a-planted agen the splash-board, an' his teeth set! But bless yer 'art, sir, it wurn't no good, tho' the little 'ero stuck ter 'im like a little lion!" (The man had evidently made a zoological mistake. He meant, no doubt, a "little tiger," for had not Mr. Bunsel designated Sam as a tip-top member of that species.) "Fotty Sams, sir," the man evidently meant forty—"Fotty Sams, sir, couldn't a turned 'im, an'—an' down they went over an' over—" The speaker never got farther than this, but, with a sigh, would relapse into silence, and watch with an anxious face the poor little suffering figure at his side.

Week after week had passed and Sam had not regained consciousness. Some operation of a very "nice" and difficult description—a "forlorn hope" in surgery—had been performed on his head as a last resource, but seemingly without any good effect, when one night his nurse knocked at our sitting-room door, and informed us that Sam was talking coherently, and had asked after "the master."

My wife and myself hurried to the sickroom, and when I entered I saw immediately that some change, whether for the better or the worse I knew not, was imminent. Poor Sam's eyes were open, and he evidently, though in a confused way, recognised us. I immediately despatched his attendant for the doctor, and sat down at the bedside, whilst my wife, in tears, leant over the wasted little figure, speaking to him in those low soothing tones which women, and women only, have the gift of using at a sick bed. He still seemed to see us, but, as yet, he had not spoken. Suddenly he turned on his side, and, as he put his skeleton hand to his shaven head, gave a groan of pain.

"Oh, my 'ed, my 'ed," he said, articulating painfully. My wife placed an iced bandage on his burning temples. He gave her a look of gratitude, but, for another hour, did not speak again. About that time, however, a change again took place, and I rightly judged that the end was near.

"Woa then!" he exclaimed, now perfectly delirious. "Woa, then, will yer? Where are yer a-running ter, stoopid? Woa, then, Blatherskite. . . My name's Sam Chif, sir, with one hef, with one hef. Mister Dossen give it me, Mister Dossen give. . . Ain't got no father, sir; no mother. Never 'ad none. . . Chif, sir; Sam Chif. Orphin. Fondlin'. . . Now, then, Blatherskite. Woa. Look out, sir. Yer'll be rite inter it. Woa, yer beggar, woa. . . Oh, my 'ed, my 'ed."

At first the words had been uttered distinctly, but now they came with a dry whistle from his parched lips. He was fighting hard, very hard, for life, poor little fellow, but it was easy to see, when one considered his slight and wasted form, that the battle would not be a long one.

A long one! Why it was over already! With a gasp and a shiver the poor little fellow turned even then on his side and gave in.

* * * * * *

"How's your little groom?" asked Blosely of me that very day.

"The poor lad's gone," I answered, sorrowfully.

"Indeed!" said Blosely, drily. "Well, you may possibly fill his place, but," he added, as he smiled at his unfeeling and ill timed jest, "I'll swear you can never fill his clothes."

I've never felt the same to Blosely since.


This site is full of FREE ebooks - Project Gutenberg Australia