|Newspaper Title||The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939)|
|Trove Title||Gathered In|
JAMES OSWALD'S OBJECT IN LIFE.
IF Mrs. Oswald had any warm or dominant feeling at all it was, as we have before said, the maternal, and when her son James kept away month after month with the Ellertons she first
felt a littlo surprised, theu a little annoyed, and, lastly, a little uneasy. She did not miss his kindly office-", for Jim performed none, and Ken neth was her mesßeager to Castlehur<tt to dis charge her commissions, her aa.auuensis when Bhe wanted a letter or uoto written, and her counsellor in those matters of daily routine in which she liked to go through the form of asking advice. But she missed the sight of her own boy, and her talk about the things ho h;id doae, the things he oould do, aud the things be did uot think it worth bin while to do. At first she was glad to thiuk that Mrs. Ellor ton's influence t&iut have waned, becauae he did not return wheu he thought she was dyiug, and still more positive proof was afforded by his not hastening back when he heard she was recovering. Jim might do far better thau bang ing by a married woman's apron string, and might easily get a rich wife, either in the other colonies or in Victoria itself ; Lut when the ab sence was prolonged, whou the New Zealand and San .Francisco trip was suddenly dtcidrd ou, aud no opportunity given of countmuHiidiug it eveu by tolegnuu, Hhe grew, uot ho rretleesly unoaßy as bur husband, but, for btr, decidedly discomposed. Hor iguoraace whp certaiuly great, Imt. visions of cannibals in Nt.w Zralaud and of revolvers .iud bowie-kuivea iv California thrcateuing the lifo of her darling son, t lowly travelled over tho hazy field of her imagination. Uis letters wwo shorter and shorter h»li«tanxiety beeanii: greater, his drafts coatiuued heavy, and it appeared an if his t wuuty-lirat birthday, to which «ho h; d looked forward mo lonp, would be spent, n>»t .it Tiugiilp.i or at Melbourne, iv her company, but at. Sydney on his return vujuge home. For *vcii from Sidney he seemed to ol j.ct to hurry home. Wh«m tho acknowledgment of lu-r husband* liberality to tho brothers Diroin covi-ivd him with glory in the eyes of all his iii>ighboiiiu, nud fouud its way into the nuwHp;ipvra, (.lift did uot at all sympathise wi»li the popular feeing or with the gonerous impulsts that had prompt«d it. It was just po inudi taken from .Uiu ,ißd froua lu-r. hlie bad nc-wi roaliscd lu,w much her biMbaud po.s.-»-«-(Hl, aud how hardly he hiwl worked for it. Slio b|n-iit fm-ly, Lut. v.itJumt. any cuiuprebfiisii.n «if the iigßrn?-.tc air.inuit, thu<igli ahi! delighted t i tuil t-i <Vi r;, 1.-. Ui'y < v gentlemtii), wLoui :-hc I appcL^-d (?• t.. i.t, t!.< ; i .-.??'. of every article of drtsa t,be woro, .1: d <;;' tv.iy piece of furniture fin' crcwd.d her hvii.'f «i;!i. The tigureN wtro t.ouiev. B.it bi'.zy ;.ud varij;bi»', and übcj c/iild u»t bavo adileil up half-a-d' z- . v items to gave her lift-, so that i v was injpOfbiblq
for her to be consulted by her husband on any business transaction, even if she had felt interested in his affaire. Ten thousand pounds ! It was a fortune iv itself. How oould Mr. Oswald dream of giving away such an enormous sum ? And she recol lected that for the first time for many years her husband had refused her something she wanted very particularly (auch people always want everything so very particularly) on the ground that money was tight, and the outlay on the Ballywallock run had made him very Bhort of cash—«nd there he was throwing away £10,000 on these ungrateful Diroms, who had never bo much as given her a silk gown when she waa the manager's wife, or sent her a brooch or pair of earrings as the Robertsons had done to the wife of the man who took their runs on shares, and who had spoken ill of himself into the bargain, as she had heard. And Jim needed all the money his father would be able to leave him—he was free and very generous (£. c. lavish), and fond of travelling about He wrote when he wanted fresh supplies, and his father bad grumbled at his extravagance, when ho himself waa cbuoking away men a fortune at ono sweep. She ventured to remon strate, and to prophesy that he would bring her and Jim to beggary. " Houts, woman, you know nothing at all about it. Never you meddle with what you oannot understand," was all the reply she got, and ahe naturally felt very much aggrieved. She applied to Kenueth, who was bound to give her a more civil answer, but he fully sym pathised with the proceeding which he had indeed so strongly urged. She ooly got nut of him that Mr. Oswald could very well afford the sum, and that he had prolonged his Ufa by doing what he thought handsome. Kenneth endea voured to distract her attention from the ex* penditure of money which she counted aa her own and Jim's, and to awaken some different feelings in her narrow soul by pointing out the honour and glory which she derived from it along with her husband—but the sense of injury had iaken possession of her, and was hard to dislodge; a&d when she perceived that her husband aud Kenneth had taken counsel to gether on the matter she felt that the latter came in for a great part of the odium. So she sat down to write to her son Jim her self—the rarest of things—to say that hiß father and Kenneth between them (and she thought that his cousin had been the prime mover in the matter) bad sent the Diroms no less a sum than £10,000 ; and very fine indeed in him to give away other people's money, after all he had cost his uncle first and last ; seven years of the most expensive education that wis to be had in England, and his passage and all his expenses paid—and he always dressed as well as Jim himself, and riding and driving about as if the place belonged to him ; tint he should have got Mr. Oswald to give away that mint of money, and they had all had their pinches in conse» queuoe. Many a thing she had wished for lately that his father Baid she must do without, and put her off by saying it was the lliverina station that swallowed up all, and there was this M. the back of it all. And his father begrudged Jim's own travelling expenses too ! And now everybody, the very papers, were saying what a fine thing it was for Mr. Oswald to do, and he waa so uplifted about it that he might be giving other tmtnu in the same way. Mrs. Oswald waxed ditfiae when she bad once fairly started, and she •aid to herself, "If this does not bring Jim back from waudering abont with that fellow Ellerton, I do not know what will." But neither Bbc nor anyone else knew what was Jim's real secret motive in this prolonged companionship with this man, who waa living on him, and whom he did nat like, after the first novelty was off of getting intimate with a nob who had seen life, and who could put him, James Oswald, up to a thing or two. Jim had not a large mind or a large heart, but he had a singularly large appreciation of the im portance and the desirability and the possibility of getting what he wanted. And at the present time this desirable object was Sybil Ellerton. To get her from her husband, to induce her to leave a poor beggar without sixpence to bless himself with, except aa he won it from greenhorns, and who behaved so badly to herself, appeared to him in his tirat hot impatience to be a feasible plan. He saw, however, on further acquaint ance, that it would be exceedingly hard—nay, quite impossible—to win her in this way. No, he must have it in hie power to offer her lawful marriage before she could be brought to listen to his solicitations, and with his prospects, and his personal advantage (for he believed him self the bent made and the best looking fellow about Oastlehurst), he had no doubt of his success then. She knew the value of Tingalpa, and how much his father was worth ; the old fellow could not last for ever, and the heir-apparent would enter into his kingdom, and she, and she only, should share his throne. And so, with this intense concentration of a aelfish \nd very narrow mind, he elected to be Herbert Kllerton's companion by night and by day, at sea and on land, in crowds and alone, in hopes that some chance .night present itself by which he could rid Mrs. Ellerton of a very worthless husband without running himself into any risk? of uftur trouble about it. Thin caution proceeded both from his natural cowardice and the coiu«iousueas that if Sybil suspected hU dexiguu it, would injure him fatally with her. Janice Oswald was too profitable a companion for Mr. Ellerton to desire to shake oil", and, although the latter sometimes wondered that tho young fellow did not think he had had enough of plucking and snubbing and being made a convenience of, he simply set him down as a greater fool and himself as a cleverer fellow than he had believed previous to this experience. Every allusion to the stage as a fitting field for Sybil* voice—i-vory visit to the theatre where EllerUn proposed she nhould appear — every conversation which he overheard with managers and theatrical people in which he either apoke of hia wife's vescu or showed her Hken«B», stirred up fre.»h wrath in Jiui'h soul, and a Htronger desire t<» cut fihurt Etl*rtou's career. James Oswald had been strangely transformed by the strong puaeesdion of this overmastering idea. He never forgot Sybil, as his father re proached him with doing. He would have liked to watch over her when she was fll, and to have
taken the part Kenneth was taking (for whioh he luted him) in her convalescence. He oould not trust himaelf to write to her, and he could not Bend messages through the detested Ellerton's careless letters. The first thing to be done was to get rid of him, and wherever these two in* separables went there was thinly disguised con tempt on the one side, and the deepest but moat carefully concealed hatred on the other. James Oswald had always delighted in low company, but his present eager wish for Beeing the very dregs of society, and calling it " life," sprang from his hope that Ellerton's insolent airs of superiority, and his questionable play, and the excitement of drinking and gambling, might awaken angry feelings among those reckless characters, and that a hasty stroke or a random shot or a general scuffle might rid the world and himself of the man whom he hated, feared, and envied. In every considerable colonial town there are places where auch men do congre* gate. Jim had introduced hia friend to some ohoice lots of Melbourne roughs before he sailed, then to the Adelaide rowdies, next to the Hobart queer customers, and then tried the temper of the dangerous olasses in Sydney, which he thought the most hopeful of all, as there must be hereditary tendencies from the old convict element which would flourish well in an old large city like Sydney. But out of all these low dens Ellerton emerged unhurt On his part he thought it a waste of time to take amusement among people not worth powder and shot, and openly sneered at Jim's vulgar and profitless pro* clivities in a way which did not soothe the young man's animosity. It seemed like an inspiration to Jim to suggest New Zealand and San Franciaoo, and Ellerton consented to it for two reasons. First, he thought a long voyage would do him good ; and, second, he wanted to see the 'Frisoo theatre and theatri cal people. He looked on himself as making a sort of agent's tour, for which Jim paid the expenses, though he loathed the business. Visions of the revolver and bowie-knives, and the wild devilry of Californian desperadoes, were much more vivid in Jim's mind than in Mr. Oswald's, but all these things were levelled in his imagination at Ellerton, and by no means at himself. In a wild stormy night close to the coast of New Zealand, when the steamer strained and cracked, and even the old hands saw some danger, Ellerton went up on deck, and close behind him crept Jim. Jt was dark as pitch, save for the partial light of the lamp at the helm. Ellerton was holding on by the bulwarks when a sadden sea swept him off his feet, and a triumphant feeling rose almost to Jim's mouth that now it waa accomplished; but lithe and quick hia enemy caught by a rope and saved himself. " That was a close shave, Jim," said he. " Look out for yourself. We are safer below." "Are you out of breath?" said Jim, as he stumbled on the top of him. " Not unless you mean to choke me. What the devil do you mean by sitting on a man's throat like that ?" " I can't see my hand beforo me," said Jim, and he got up reluctantly as one of the officers came forward aud ordrred them down at once. Then Jim lay and thought, would they be ship wrecked, and then might not Ellerton be drowned and himself saved ? But daylight brought calmer weather, and they pursued their voyage in safety. There were no large towns in New Zealand that Jim thought of any account for his pur poses ; and h« was disappointed with San Fran cisco—at least he found it impossible to make bis companion go to the places to which he him self wildly desired to take him. No, Mr. Eller ton had found the hotel good enough, and populous enough to answer his ends of amuse ment and of getting information. There were no bowie-knives or revolvers in the theatre bars and saloons which he frequented ; aud Jim Oswald felt that the money his father had so much grudged him had been completely wasted— worse than wasted ; for the two voyages to San Francisco and back had done Ellerton's health so much good that a life assurance agent would have predicted ten years' longer life to him, and taken him at a lower premium, if he had ever gone in for so prudent a thing for the sake of his wife. Baffled and thirsting for some indirect means of taking the life of his comrade, they returned to Sydney, which both of them liked—Ellerton, because it was not new or so bounceable as Melbourne ; and Jim, because it was a large city, where he was not known, and where he still thought something might be done. (to be continued.)