|Newspaper Title||Adelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904)|
|Trove Title||The Falling Cross - Two Christmas Days|
THE FAILING CROSS—TWO
CHRIST MAS DAYS.
The general advanoe of intelligence was becoming too muoh for Edward Treffle, pro duce broker in the city of London, and, like the silversmiths of Epheans, he became -conscious of the fact-that his araft was in danger. The peril, however, did notarise, as in their cate, from an external cause, nor was it to be averted by any means, high handed or otherwise. On the oontrary the danger oame from within, and prooeeded from a gradual ohange in conditions; the fact being that through keenness of competi tion the people who formerly had engaged his services were beginning, both buyers and sellers, to go directly to each other, and were learning to dispense with brokers altogether fa the articles whioh were his particular forte. Under theBe circumstances the best -course for him to take was to find some other -occupation as quickly as possible, but the difficulty was how to do it. He was thoroughly master of this business, but had no special knowledge of any other, end special knowledge he knew to be essential to suocess where the race is to the swift. More over, he had very little capital, whioh was not needed in an occupation depending, as his had done, mainly npon personal qualities; -but it would be required in starting a new one, and he felt that his position was serious.
Vague dreamB of an easy and pleasant life
in sunnier climes in which he had often in dulged before he had married and settled -down, as he thought, for good, now returned to Treffle, and he began Berlonely to think of migrating to one of the colonies. He gained confidence by the perusal of some bookB, which (whether designedly or not) led him to infer tnat if things oame to the worst agricul ture always remained as a means by which a living could be easily gained with little or no previous knowledge and about the same amount of oapital. Land waB to be had from the colonial Governments -on ridiculously easy terms, and there was little more to be done than to scatter the .seed and to reap the harvest—to lie under the tree and let the fruit drop into the mouth. The whole affair had the air of a perpetual picnic, and the few difficulties that were in the way were treated lightly, as not to be -seriously reckoned by a man of ordinary in telligence and capacity.
Treffle was about thirty years of age, good looking, tall, and strong. It was eight years since he had launched into business for him self, and six since he had taken the more important Btep of matrimony. His wife, Lucy, was four years younger than he,
and ehe bad been the rentable sunshine of his existence. Fair, slight of figure, and .scarcely up to the medium height, ehe pos sessed great courage and decision of char acter, united with sweetneeB of disposition and tact. Her principles were of the soundest, and though she at first contem plated with some dismay the idea of leaving England and going to the uttermost parts of the earth, she schooled herself
to think that if carried out it would be for the beet. The kinsfolk upon both sides of the bouee had been stay-at-home people in their traditions, a very oooaeional trip to the Continent, undertaken not without great preparation, being the extent of their travels, so that a long voyage was a formid
able affair to them. There had been one I exception to the rnie in a oouein of Treffle's, who twenty years previously had migrated to Australia with her husband, bnt she had not •been heard of for a long time, though she was believed to be living in Melbourne. The families in some degree Bhared the hazy ideas • of geography common to a large seotion of •" educated" English people, who think that any one coming to Adelaide or Sydney mnst necessarily meet Diok Smith or Bob Jones -who went ont to Queensland or Victoria some time ago, though they themselves laugh at their own country cousins who assnme that they probably know an individual because he happens to live in London, where they are located.
Treffle himself knew a little better than I that, and his knowledge grew rapidly when be became Interested in the snbject, reading it up, and talking with any people he oould i find who had experience of it. From one of
these he received the advice to make Ade laide his destination in the first instance,
partly on acconnt of the greater salubrity of
the South Australian climate, and partly j
because that would be a convenient poet in which to leave his family should he desire to . go ronnd and spy out the land in the other
Everything was settled in time, and the Rubicon was crossed, that historic stream being represented in this instance by the portion of the Thames lying between the . shore and the anchorage of the steamer TelemachuB. One raw morning in December . saw Treffle, his wife, and their three chil
dren embarking for' Adelaide amid the good j
•wishes and the misgivings of the relatives
who had come to see them off. The travellers | had not more than the nsual quantity of nn ; necessary impedimenta, and among the part
ing gilts received by Treffle was a revolver, , with his name engraved upon it, which was ! destined afterwards to play an nnexpeotod ]
part in his fortunes. .
The Telemachus was a pretty large Steamer, - tbongh somewhat slow, and oalcnlated rather for the conveyance of cargo than living freight. This oironmstanoe did not prevent ber from being advertised as having un rivalled accommodation for passengers, and
ss those who presented themselves were bat J ten in number, while there was room in the - cabin for two dozen, there was plenty of
space in which to torn. Besides the cabin
> passengers there were abont 100 emigrants in |
the steerage. The young Treffles were re - sportively Robert, 5 years old, Nelly, 3 yean,
and Effie, or baby, jnst able to walk. Bright,
interesting children they were, and they I - became great favourites on board, while their
mother, in virtue of her being the only lady I passenger, received all the homage consquent j npon such a position.
The voyage, whioh was made via the Cape, was without mnch incident, an average . amount of disagreeable weather being en
countered, and only one episode oocurred worthy of speoial mention. By Christ • mas day the steamer had got into
pleasant latitudes, bnt though the sea was then smooth a long swell gave indioation of the passage of a reoent storm, Lnoy Treffle bad oome on deck early—very early in fact, as the matutinal sornbbing prooess had just begun, and the sun, though near the horizon, was still below it. Seeing the captain on the bridge Lucy wished him a Merry Christmas, npon which he invited her to come up to his
post, away from the splashing of the water ' that was being ponred on the deck, and from that elevation she looked ronnd over the sea. There was no wind, and the surface was like : heaving glass, but a mist hung over it, eir
cumBcribing the view within a somewhat
,narrow limit. Lucy's thoughts were upon
(JbiUtmaa, and the friends whom she had left behind, some of them perhaps never to eet again upon earth; and the was picturing to herself now they would spend the day, when her attention was arrested by what ap peared to be a cross rising from the sea and looming indistinctly through the mist. It wsb only for a moment that she saw ' it, as tbe vapour closed again and bid it from her view : and although the appropriateness of the apparition to the day gave a peculiar thrill to her spirit, she waa almost inclined to believe that she had merely seen a fantastically twisted wreath of mist. She told the captain of it, and he, who was a prosaic and thoroughly practical individual, with a kind and gentle heart under a somewhat rugged exterior, re marked that her dreams of Christmas must have followed her on deck. She kept her eyeB fixed, however, on the place where she had eeen the object, which was right abeam, and when it presently reappeared she quickly pointed it out to the captain. In a. moment his manner was changed, as his practised eye recognised a boat's mast, with a email cross spar, about half a mile from the eteamer, and he snouted to have the helm put hard aport, and eignalled " dead slow" to the engineer. Then tbe object came clearly into view, and a frail shell was disclosed floating upon the waBte of waters.
Three inanimate forms had been trans
ferred to the eteamer, apparently those of a father, a mother, and their child. The first two were beyond human aid, but toy assi duous care tne last waa brought baok to consciousness. The morning sun, which quickly dispersed the mist, revealed nothing further on the water, and the captain's con jecture waa that the other boats, if there were any from the wreck, which must have taken place, had been picked up. The casualty, perhapB a collision, had probably occurred at night, as the eoanty oovering of the boat's occupants showed, tne child being the best protected by being rolled in a blanket. A small fragment of biscuit waB in its hand, but there was no other food in the boat, and if there had been any the parents had probably given all to their cbild. It was a mystery now these three came to be by themselves, and the most likely theory, that the boat had gone adritt as soon as they had been put in, was after all mere surmise. The father, perhaps, had afterwards stepped the mast and tried to hoist a sail, but did not understand how to do tbe latter. The trio had apparently been passengers, but who they were or the name of the ship could not be discovered, as there was nothing in the boat to indicate it. Mot a scrap of paper appeared, and no marks beyond the initials G. N. on the nightdress, even the boat being without the ship's name,
Tbe child was a girl of about 4 or 5 years of age, but little information could be gleaned from her. She was " Ella," the others being "father" and "mother," but her answers about the ship were vague and contradictory, and it seemed as if her memory upon all points bad been impaired by what she had unoergone. Lucy, of course, took charge of the little waif, who bo endeared herself to the Trebles by her winsome ways that before tbe voyage Wbs over they arranged with the captain that they would adopt her, subject to a legitimate claimant turning up. They accepted her as a lleaven-sent Christmas present, and by the addition of a syllable the pet name of Moella was conferred upon her in memory of the day,
To beguile the monotony of the voyage, and in order, as he put it, to study human nature. Treble was in the habit of occasionally going into the steerage and conversing with the emigrants. One of these, a man named Jenkins, particularly interested him, from the fact that he had already been in Aus tralia, and waa able to give him a great deal of information, whether genuine or not Treble was not competent to say. At all events he was a great talker, and acoording to his own account had seen life in all itB phases, while occasional indications seemed to suggest that he had been nurtured in a better social position than he had been able to retain. He had made a "pile" in gold digging, and having gone home to spend it, was now retnrning for more. He alleged that he possessed a secret, and knew exaotly where to find gold in abundance; but at this point he always became mysterious. Though tbe man amused him at first, Treffle had not yet acquired that sense of liberty and frater nity which colonial experience afterwards brought to him, and Jenkins's familiar—not to cay slightly patronising—air began to dis gust him. The study of human nature.loBt its charm, and hiB visits to the steerage became lees frequent, at laat ceasing alto gether, though he still bestowed an occa sional nod across the border.