Chapter 1386034

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Chapter NumberBOOK III XXII
Chapter TitleGATHERING IN THE THREADS.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article1386034
Full Date1875-12-18
Page Number3
Corrections0
Word Count4988
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 - 1933)
Trove TitleHis Natural Life
article text

His-Nnturnl Life*

.' 'By Marcus Clarke.

, BOOK III.

Chapter XXII.

GlTIlEIUNO IN THE THREADS.

Maurice found his fin nble expectations of

Sydney fully realised His notable cbcipe from death at Micquine Harbn, his alliance with the daughter of so respected a colonist as Major Vickers, aud his reputations as a convict du ciplinanan, rendered bun a mm of note He received a vac mt magistracy ind became- even moro noted for h irdneas of la ir>- and nrt'ulness of prison krowledge thin bcf ic The convict population spoke of bim us ' tint-Fiue and registered \ ins cf ven^cinco against lum which he laughed-in his bluUncss-t > scorn

One anecdote ejiiciriimg the method bj which he shepherded his flock « 11 sulhee to show his character und his value It was his custom to a Hit the priBon J ard at Hy do Park B irmcl s twico a week Visitors to convicts were, of

ourse, armed, and the two pistol butts that peeped from Frere s w ustcoat attracted many a unking eye How easily woull it bo for simo fellow to pluck one foi th and slatter tho smiling, hateful f ico of the noted disciplinai inn ' i rere, however, bruie to rashness ncici would heston lu weapons more safely, 1 ut bunged thiough the Yards with his 1 anils m tho pockets of his shooting coat, mid the dcadlj butts read} to the lnnd of an) one bold emin "li to take them

One day a ni m named hal m ih, a c ipturcd abacondei, who hid < pcnly bnoin in the dock the death of the magistritt, walked quickly up to lum as ho was parsing through the yard, and snatched a pistil fruin Ins belt Hie jard i aught its breath, and tho attendant warder, If paring the chek of the lock, mstiuctiv ely turned

head away, so that hu might not be blinded by tho flash But Kuanagh did not fire At the instant when his hand was on the pistol, he looked up and met tho uiiguetic glauco of Frere s imperious eves An effort, and the spell would baie been broken A twitch ot tho finger and his enemy would have fallen de id lhere was an instant when that tiviteh of the finger could have been cn en but Kavanagh let that instant pass The duutillc-s eye f isciiiatcd him He pin}ed with the pistol butt nervously, while all lemained btupified Treio Btoort, never withdrliving his hinds from the pockets into which they weic i lunged

" 1 bat s a fine pistol, J ick, he saul nt last

Kavanagh, down nlnse white fuco the sweat was pouimg, buist into a hideous laugh of relieved terror, and thrust the weapon, cocked as it wt*, back again into the magistrate s belt

Freio slowl} drew one hand from his pocket, tock the cocked pi toi and levelled it at Ins recent assailant " 1 hat s the best chance you li e\ cr get. Jack,' said he

Kav anagh fell on his knees " Tor God s sako, Captain lreie ' '

Jrero looked down upon the trembling wietch, and then une eked the pistol, with u hugh of ferocious contempt "Get np, }0U dog he said " It takes a better man than you to lest me Bring lum up in the morning Hawkins, and we 11 give lum five and twent}

As he went out-so gicat is the admiration for Povvei- the poor devils m the }ard cheeied

him

One of the first things that this useful officer did upon his arrival m S}duey v\ns to enquire for Sarah Pin foy. To his astonishment, he dis covered that she was the proprietor of lui go cipirt waiehouses in Pitt street, owned a neat cottage on one of tbo points of land which jutted into the bay, and was reputed to possess a banking account of no inconsiderable maçni'ude He in Mun applied Ins bruns to solve tins mi story His cost oil mistre s h id not been nell when she left Van Dicmaus Lind-lit least, so she had assured lum, and appearances boio out her assurance How had she accumulated this (Aulden werith? Above all, why had she thus invested iti He mudo enqunes at tho banks, but was snubbed for his pains S}dncy banka m thoso days did some queer

business

"Mrs Purfoy had como to thom fully ac credited, said the mauagci, with a smile

"But w bel e did she get the money?' asked the magistrate "I am suspicious of theso sudden fortunes The woman vv as a notorious character m Hobart Town, and when she left hadn't a penny '

"M) den Captain Ticrc," said tho a°uto banker-his fathei had been one of tho buildoi s of the ' Rum H spital ' -" it is not the custom of our b ink to inuko theso enquiries into the pro viois history of its customeis The bills weio good, }o« miy depend, or« e should not have honored thom Good morning I '

' Hie bills i ' Tieie saw but ono explanation Sarah had recoiled the proceeds of some of Revs loguorics Tho l euiembranco of Rex s letter home to his father, and the mention of the sum of money ' m the old house in BIuo Anchor Yard," flashed across him Perhaps Sar di hud got the money from the îoceivcr and ippropmted it But why invest it m an oil and tallow warehouso? He had nhvays been sus picious of the woman, because ho had novoi understood her, and his suspicions redoublod Convinced that theie was some plot hatching ho determined to use all tho ahnntiiges that his po ltion gave bun to di covei the seciet and bring to light the myster} The namo of tho

mau to w horn Ko\'s letter had been addres«ed was "Blick" He would find out if any of the convicts under his cue had heard of Blick Prosecuting his enquiries in the proper dirction, he soon obtained a reply Blick w as a London receiver of stolen goods, known to at least a do?eu of the black sheep of the Sjdne) fold He was reputed to be enormously wealthy, had often been tried, but never convicted Frcro was thus not much nearer enlightenment than befoie, and an incident that occured a few mouths afterwards increased his bew lldorinent

Ho had not been long established in Ins magis

tracy, when Blunt came to claim his payment for tho voyage of Sauh Purfoy "There s that "Clioouei going begging, one may say, Bir, ' said Blunt, when the oflico door waa abut

" What schooner ?" "IheFiauLlin "

Now the Franklin was a vessel of 320 tons, which plied between Norfolk Island aud Sydney, as tho Osprey li id plied ni the old days hetw eon Macqinno Harbor and Hobart Town "Iain afraid tint is rather stiff, Blunt,' says Trcro " That s one of the best billets going, } on know I doubt if I hav e enough interest to get it for von Beside«," ho added, eyeing'tho sailor cntically, "y ou aro getting rather oldish for that "ort of thing nm't y ou ? '

l'ltnioas Blunt stretched his rums wide, and opened his mouth full of Bound white teeth

I am good for twenty years more yet, Blr, ' ho «aid " My father w as trading to the Indies at seveuty five years of age J m hearty enough, thank God, for, barring a drop of rum now and then Ive no vices to speak of However, I am t m a hurry, Captain, for a month or so , only I thought I'd jog your memory a bit,

d ye see

'Oh, you're not in a hurry, whore aro you

going then ?

' Well, says Blunt, shifting on his seat, uneasy un 1er Frere's convict disciplined eye, "Ive got

i job on hand "

Glad of it, I m sure What sort of a job Ï '

"A job of whaling, says Blunt, more uneasy

thau before

' Oh, that's it, is it Yourold hue of business And who employs you now?' There was no suspicion m the tono, and had Blunt chosen to ci ide the question, he might have dono bo without difficulty, but ho seemed to reply as one who had anticipated such questioning, and had been advised how to nnsner it

Mrs Purfoy"

Vi liât I cries Trere, scarcely able to believe

lus ears

"Shes got a couple of ships now, Captain, and she made me skipper of one of 'em We look for beshdellauiaie,t and take a turn at hirpoouing sometimes "

I rere stared at Blunt, who stared at tho window There wn3-so the inner conscience of the magistrate told him-some strange project a foot Yet that common sense which so often misleads us, urged that it was quito natural that enriched Sarah should employ whaling vessels to increase her trade Granted that there was

nothing wrong about her obtaining tho business, there was nothing strange about her owning a cwplc of whaling vessels lhere were people m Sydney of no better origin who owned half a

Tho copyright of "His Natural Lifo lias been pur V,1'«1") the proprietor« of Thl Qucciulantler from Mr

t Bícheile In mer

dozen.._üOh,'2_Baid-he,. ".And.when-'do -you

Btartl'.; , .

" I'm expecting to get the word every day," returned Blunt, apparently relieved, "and 1 thought I'd just come and see yon first in cate of anything falling in." Frero played with a penknife on the table in silence for a while, allowing it to Ml through his fingers with a series of sharp elicka, and then he said, "Where does she get the money from ?"

" Bleat if I know," savs Blunt, ill unaffected simplicity. " That's beyond me. She aays bho saved it. But that's all my eye, yon know*."

" lou don't know anyibing aboutit, then!" cries Frere, suddenly fierco.

" No, not I."

" Because, if there's any game on, she'd better take care," he cried, relapsing in his excitement ¡iii« the convict vernacular. "She koowa me. Tell her that I've got my eyea on her. Let her remember her bargaiu. If »he runs any rigs on me, let her take care." lu hia suspicion's wrath he so savagely and unwarily struck downwards with the open penknife that it shut upon his

fingers and cut him to thu bene.

" I'll tell her," snid Blunt, wiping his brow. "I'm sure she vvouldii' go to sell you. But I'll look in when I come back, sir." When he got outside he drew a long brenth. "By the Lord Harry, but it's a ticklish game to play," he said to himself, with a lively recollection of tho dreaded Frere'» vehemence ; "and there'«.only one woman in the world I'd bo fool enough to play it for."

.Maurice Frere, oppressed with suspicions, ordeied bia horse that afternoon, and rode down to see the cottago which the owner of " Purfoy Stores" had purchased. Ho found ita low white building, situated some four miles from the city, nt the extreme end of a tonguo of land which ran into the deep waters of tho harbor, A garden, carefully cultivated, stood between the roadway and the house, and in this garden ho saw a man digging.

" Do.is Mra. Purfoy live here ?" ho asked, pushing open one of the iron gates.

The mau replied in the affirmative, staring at the visitor with some suspicion.

" Is she at home ?" "No."

" Y'ou are sure I"

" If you don't believe mo, ask at the house," waa the reply given in the uucoiirtooua tone of n

free man.

Frere pushed his horse through the gate, and walked up the broad and well-kept carriage drive. A mau-strvaut in livery, answering his ring, told lum that Mrs. Purfoy had gone to town, and then shut the door in his face. Fröre, more astonished than ever at those outward and

viaible signs of independence, paused indignant, feeling half inclined to enter despite opposition. As he looked through a break in tlio trees, he Baw the masts of a brig lying at anchor off tho extremity of the point on which the houso was built, and understood that tlio cottage com- manded commuuicatiou by water aa well as by land. Could there be a spccinl motivo in choosing such a situation, or was it mero chance ? Ho was une isy, but strovo to dismiss

his alarm.

Sarah had kept faith with him so far. She had entered upon a new and moro reputable life, and why Bhould he seek to imagine evil whore perhaps no ovil was ? Blunt waa evidently honost. Women like Sarah Purfoy often emerged into a condition of comparativo riches and apparent domestic virtue. It waa likely that, after all, Bome wealthy merchant was the real owner of house and garden, pleasure yacht, and tallow warehouse, and that he had no cause

for fear.

The oxperiensed convict disciplinarian did not rate John Hex's ability high enough.

From the instant the convict had heard his sentence of life banishment, ho had determined upon escaping, and had brought all tho powers of his acute and unscrupulous intellect to the consideration of tlio best method of achieving his purpose. His first caro was to procure money. This he thought to do hy writing to Blick, but when informed by Meekin of the fato of his letter, ho adopted the-to him-Icbs pleasant alternativo of procuring it through Sarah Purfoy.

It was peculiar to tho man's hard and un- grateful nature that, despito tho attachment of the woman who had followed lum to his place of durance, and lind made it the object of her life to set him free, ho had chorished for lier no affection. It waa her beaut)- that attracted bim, when, as Mr. Leopold Craven, ho swaggered in tho night-society of Loudon. Her talents and her devotion wero secondary considerations useful to him as attributes of a creature ho

owned, but not to bo thought of when his fancy wearied of its choice. During the twelve years which had passed Bince his rashness had delivered him into tile hands of tho law at tlio house of Green, the coiner, ho had beon oppressed willi no regrets for her fate. Ho had, indeed, seen and suffered so much, that the old life appeared to havo been put away from him. A now set of impressions had been stamped upon his memory, and so ßharp wero they, that the old ones were almost effaced by them. When, on his return, he heard that Sarah Purfoy was still in Hobart Town ho waa glad, for he knew that lie had au ally who would do her utmost to help him-ßhe had shown that on board the Malabar. But he was also sorry, for he remembered that the price she would demand for her services was his affection, and that had cooled long ago. How- ever, he would make use of her. There might be a way to discard her if she proved troublesome.

Hia pretended piety bad accomplished the end he had designed for it. Despite Front's exposure of his cryptograph, ho had won the confidence of Meekin : aud into that worthy creature's ear lie lind poured a strange and sad history. He waa the son-he eaid-of a clergyman of the Church of England, whose real name, rucIi waa bia reveienco for tho Cloth, photild novel pasa his lips. Ho was transported for a forgery which he did not commit. Sarah Purfoy was his wife-his on ing, lost, and yet loved wife. She, an innocent and trusting girl, had determined, Btroug in tho icmembrance.of that promise she had made at the altar, to follow her husband to his place of doom, and had hired herself aa lady's-maid to Mrs. VickerB. Alas! fover pros- trated that husband on a bed of sickness, and Maurice Frere, tho profligate and tho villain, had taken advantage of the wife's unprotected state to ruin her ! Rex darkly hinted how the Beducer made hia poweroverthe sick and helpless husband a weapon against the virtue of the wife ; and so terrified poor Meekin, that, had it not "happened so long ago," he would have thought it necessary to look with some social disfavor upon the boisterous son-in-law of Major Vickers.

" I bear him no ill-will, sir," eaid Rex. " I did at first, Thero was a time when I could have killed him, but when I had him in my power, I-as you know-forbore to strike. No,

sir ! I could not commit murder."

"Very proper," says Meekin, "very proper

indeed."

" God will punish him in His own way, and His own time," continued Rex. "My great sorrow ¡B for the poor woman. She is in Sydney, I have heard, living respectably, sir ; and my heart bleeds for her." Here Rex heaved a sigh that would have made hia fortuno on the boards.

" My poor fellow," Baid Meekin. " Do you

know where sho is?" -

" I do, sir."

" You might write to her."

John Rex appeared to hesitate, to struggle with himself, and to finally take a deep resolve. "No, Mr. Meekiu, I will not write."

" Why not ?"

" Y'ou know tho orders, sir-the Commandant reads all the letters sent. Could I write to my poor Sarah what other eyes were to read ?" and he watched the parson slyly.

"ÎÎ-no, you could not," said Meekin, nt last. "It ia true, sir," Baid Rex, letting his head

sink on his breast.

The next day, Meekin, blushing with the consciousness that what he was about to dn vvas wrong, said to his penitent, "If you will promise me to write uothiug that the Commandant might not see, Rex, / will send your letter to your wife."

" Heaven bless you, sir," eaid Rex, and took two days to compose an epistle which should tell Sarah Purfoy how to act The letter was a model of composition in one way. It stated everything clearly and succinctly. Not a detail that coiildassist.was omitted-not a line that could embarrass was suffered »to remain. John Rox's scheme of six mouths' deliberation was set down in the clearest possible manner. Ho brought his letter unsealed to Meekin. Meekin looked at it with an interest that was half sus

picion. " Havo I ' your word that there íb nothing in this that might not be read by the

Commandant P

John Rex waa a bold man, but, at sight of the deadly thing fluttering open in the clergyman s hand he felt his knees knock together Strong in his know ledge of human nature, however he pursued Ins despei ito plan " Read it sir ho sud, turning aw 1} his fice reproachful)} "ion aro a gentlem in I can trust you

' No Rex., said Mcekm w liking loftily into the pitt ill, " I do not re id pnv ite letter« It was teded, and John hex felt as if somebody had withdrawn n match fr m a powdir birril

In a month Mr Mcekm teeeived a letter, beautifully written from SirahRe-c statute, briefly that she had heard of his g wdiicss til it the enclosed letter was f r her husband and that if it w ns against the rules to give it t > bim she bigbed it niiLfit be returned to lu runic ii

Of course, Mcckin gave it to Rex, who ne\t morning banded to Mcekm a most touching and pious produetiou, begging lum to read it Meekm did so, and any suspicuns he nay hive had w ere at onco disarmed He w as ignorant of tho fact tint the \ ions letter eontiu ed another pnv ito one intended for John Rex s pnv ate ey e winch letter John Rex thought so highly of lint, having read it twice through most attcn til ely, he ale it

Iho pim of escapo which had been conliivcd w is after all a simple one Sarah Purfoy w is to obtain fioin Blick tho moneys ho held in trust ami to ombark the sum thus obtained m am business w Inch w ould suffer her to keep a v csscl hoveling round tho southern coast of Vau Dilmon s Land without exciting suspicion lhc escape was to be made in the winter months, if possible, m June or July The watchful vessel was to be commanded by some trustvv c i thy person, who was to frequently 1 md on the south elstern side, and keep n look out for any cxtnurdiuary appearance along the coast Rex himself must be left to run the gauntlet of tho dogs and guards un tided " 1 his seems a des perato scheme, vv roto Rex, " but it is not so w lid as it looks I hav e thought ov ei a dozen otheis, and i ejected thom all lins is the only way Consider it w eil I h iv o my ovv n plan for cscaj e which is easy if rescue be at hand All depen Is upon placing a trustworthy man m charge of the vessel You ought to know a doran such I will wait eighteen mouths to give you time to mako all arrangements The eighteen months had now nearly passed ovor, and the time foi tho desperate attempt drew near ruthfn! to his cruel philosophy, lohn Rex lind provided scapegoats vv ho, by their v icarious agonies, should

assist him to his sall ation

Ho had discov ered that of the twonty mon in Ins gang eight had already determined on an cllort for freedom Iho names of theso eight vveio Gibbert, Veteh Bodonham, Coi minis, Greenhill, Sanders, called the " Moocher, 0>\, and Irivers Iho leading spiuts nero Vetch and Gibbott, who, with profomul reverence, leqiiestcd the "Dandy to join John Rex, ever suspicious, and feeling lepellcd by tho guilts strango eagcrncs« at hrst refused, lut by degrees allow ed himself to appeal to bo di ivv n into the scheme Ho would urge these men to then fate, and take iidv uiUge of tho excitement attend mt on their absence to cflect Ins own ccapc " While all tho island is looking foi theso eight boobies, I shall have a goi d chance to slip away uniuisscd Ho wished, how over, to have a compimoli Some stiong mm, who, if pie sed hard, would turn and keep the put

sueis at bay, would bo useful without doubt, and this corni ade v lctim ho sought to lind in the poison of Rufus Dawes

Beginning, as wo havo seen, fiom a purely selfish motive, to urgo his fellow prisoner to ab'cond with him, John Rex giadually found himself atti acted into something like fncndli ness by the v ery sternness w ith which his ov el

turo! weia repelled Always a keen student of huir m natal t, thu scoiiudiel saw ucucith the i oughness w ith vv Inch it had pleased tho unfoi

tunato man to shroud his agony, how faithful a friend and how ardent and undaunted a Krui it w as concealed 1 bel o was moi eo\ er, a my stci y about Rufus Dawes which Hex, the leadei of heai ts, longed to f ithom

"Have you no fneilds whom you would wish to seo? he asked, ono evening when Rufus Dawes had pioved mm o than usually deaf to Ins

ai juments

'No, said Dawes, gloomily " My /neilds

aie all dead to me

" \\ hat, all ? askod tho other " Most men hale some one whom they wish to see

Rufus Dawes laughed a slow, heavy laiifch

"I am better heic

' Ilion, aro you content to live this dogs

life?

' 1 nough, enough, Bimi Daw cs, " I havo

resolved

"Pooh! Pluck up n spiut, cued Rex "It can t fail I vo been thinking of it for eighteen months, mid it can t f ul

' Who are going 1 asked the othor, his eyes fixed on the ground

John Rex eiiumei ited tho eight, aud Dawes raised his head 'I won t go I havo had two trials at it, I dont want another 1 would ad use you not to attempt it cithei

"Whynot!

' Gabbett bolted twice befoie, said Rufus Diwcs shuddering a^ tho remembinnco of the thistly object he hod seen in the sunlit glen at Hell s Gates " Others went with lum, but each

timo ho l eturnod alone

" \i bat do you mc in ? asked Roi, struck by the tone of his companion

' What became of the others ?

"Died, I suppose, said the Dandy, with a forced 1 lugh

' Yes, but how? Ihey were all without food If ovv carno the sun iving monster to In a

six w ceks ?

lohn Hot grew a shade paler, and did not reply Ho recollected the sanguinary legond that pel tamed to G ibbctt s rescue But ho did not intend to make tho journey in his company, so, after all, ho had no cause for fear ' Come with mo then, ho said, at length "We will try our luck together

"No I have resolved I stay hore

"And leave your innocence unproved I

"How can 1 prove it? ened Rufus Diwos, roughly impatient ' There aro crimes com initted w Inch aro never brought to light, and

this is one of them '

" Well, said Rex, rising, as if weary of the discussion, " havo it your own way, then lou know best The private detective game ts hard work I, myself, have fcone on a wild goose chaso before now Theies a ni} story about a certain shipbuilders son which took mo four months to unravel, and then I lost tho

thread

' A shi¡ uuildcr s son I Who w as ho '

John Rex pau»ed in wonderment at tho eager interest with w Inch tho question was put, and then hastened to take advantage of this new opening for conversation " A queer Btory A well known character in my time-Sir Richard Devine A mißerly old curmudgeon, with a Bcapegrace son '

KufuB Dawes bit his lips to avoid showing his emotion Thrs was tho second time that the name of his dead father had been spoken m his hearing "I think I lemembcr something of lum, he said, with a voice that sounded strangely calm in his ow n ears

"Acunoiis story,' said Rex, plunging into pist memories "Amongst other matters, I dabbled a little m the Private Enquiry line of business, and the old man carno to me He had a son who had gone abroad-a wild young dog, by all accounts-and ho wanted particulars of

lum ?

' Did you get thom 1

" To a certain extent I hunted him through Pans into Brussels, from Brussels to Antwerp, from Antwerp bock to Pans I lost him there A miserable end to a long and expensive search I got nothing but a portmanteau with a lot of letters from his mother I Bent the particulars to the shipbuilder, and by all accounts tho news killed lum, for he died not long after '

' And the Bon Î '

" Came to the queerest end of all The old man had left him his fortune-a largo one, I beliovo-but lied left Europe, it seems, for India, and was lost in the Hydnspes Frere was

his cousin '

"Ah!"

"By Gad, it annoys me when I think of it," continued Rex, feeling, by force of memory, once more the odv enturer of fashion " With tho resources I had too I Oh, a miserable failure ! The dayB and nights Ive spent w alking about looking for Mr Richard Devine, and never catching a glimpse of him. The old man gav e me his Bon's portrait, with full particulars of his early life, and I suppose I earned that ivory gungrack in my breast pocket for nearly three months, pulling it out to refresh my memory every half hour. By Gad, if the young gentle

man was anything like his picture, I could have aw ora to bim if I d met him in Timbuetoo

" Do you think you'd know lum again ' ' asked Rufus Dawes m a low voice, turning away his

head

Thero may have been something m tho attitude in which the speaker had put himself th it awakened memory, or pcihaps the subdued eagerness of the tone, contrasting so stiangely with tho comparative niconaepunco of the theme li id caused John Rex s 11 mi to perfoi m one of those feats of automatic tvnthesis lit which we afterwards wonder Hie prodígate s n-the hkeiic s to the portrait-the mystery of Dines life! The c nero the links of a galvanic chain He closed the circuit, and a vivid Moah revealed t) lum-lill MvN '

VA irdcr 1 roke, coming up, ] it lus h mil on Re\ « sh nillir "Dawes, ho sail, ' you re wanted at tho )ard , and then, seeing his mistake added w ith a gi in, ' Curse j on tiv o , ) ou re so much alike one c in t tell t other from w Inch

Rufus Daves walked off moobi) but lohn ReN s eui f ico tinned pale, and istrmgo hopo made Ins he irt le ip

"Gul, lrokos light we nie alike / li not plas him to c cape any more

lío 11 continuiii J