Chapter 33149886

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Chapter NumberI.
Chapter TitleNone.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article33149886
Full Date1898-02-04
Page Number53
Corrections2
Word Count2153
IllustratedN
Last Corrected2012-01-23
Newspaper TitleWestern Mail (Perth, WA : 1885 - 1954)
Trove TitleThe Wealth of the West
article text

THE "WEALTH OF THE WEST."  

BY LOUIS MONTCALM.

[WRITTEN FOR THE WESTERN MAIL.]

PART 1.

CHAPTER I.

It was the maddest, merriest time of all the glad new year. Divine youth was there, and high spirits, and foolish- ness. The company had come to the conclusion that there were too many commonsense people in the world, and believed very much in the motto of "folly and charity." They were met, this time,   for the purpose of showing the folly ; and they were succeeding very well—and folly has its place among the good things of the world, as well as other things that are more highly thought of and

have not half as much value.

The meeting was far from sad. They had sung, and they had shouted, and the odour of cigars was thick in the air. It was at the Lamb, in Oxford. Frank Conyers was leaving college, and he was that much-to-be-envied-person—the                     popular man. Of course, we have all heard of fair-weather friends, and other words of wisdom ; but taste of the charm, my friend, taste of the charm of being the popular man, and see if you won't look back at it when you are an  

old boy, and thank your stars that you   had the luck, before the evil day came when life and its bathos had marked   you for its own. The cheer for a good stroke in the cricket field ; for the

quickly run race; for the stroke oar;  

or the good song and the story that   brings the smile—life has its pleasant   green spots as well as its little wells of irony. Fair-weather friends ! Are we  

not all in the same boat if it comes to  

that? Is not the wonder that we have friends at all? Yea, moreover, among these roysterers are the men who will give the half of their last guinea to the friend who is on his uppers—and that is good enough for friendship on this side

of Jordan.

Frank Conyers was leaving, and they had met at the room he had taken for the evening, to bid him bon voyage in the good historic way that has brought some of the best poetry to the mind of men that man has ever written. Some of it was being sung at this moment. It had a very obvious air :

He who can pass in college class, And bravely bear his honours,

Pledged should be with three times three, Pledged is he accordinglee—

Here, old man's, our hand to thee— Good luck, to you, Frank Conyers !

Come, landlord, fill the flowing bowl, &c. Ah! slippered paterfamilias, haven't you been there ? Doesn't the memory come over you like the sweet breath of the south ?—And you wonder that your   sons do the same immemorial things.

A bad training—who knows ? That man over there with his hat at an im- proper angle—is he to go where the bad boy in the tract goes ? By no means. Fortune has it in store for him that he shall one day be a bishop, and go to far lands that he dreams not of on this hilarious night, and the Pacific waves are one day to dash against the foot of a cliff whereon will stand a white stone which shall mark where he has lived a saint's life and died a martyr's death for the religion that he loved better than his life—lonely and in despair, but that he had the companionship which many a saint has claimed to have enjoyed.

And that other man, who is laughing at what is inscrutable to those about him—he is some day to find how much sorrow the heart can bear without breaking, and bear it without murmur, too—one who shall expend himself for a great cause, not understood by those for whom his life is to be spent, and sus- tained alone by the intimate companion- ship of a great ideal.

And that other, and that, and that— they are to go this way and that, along the road that leads to the same conclu- sion, part of the long story that makes up life—and so an end to the colours in the kaleidoscope. Voila! And who knoweth more ? as Adam Lindsay sayeth.

Only a moment of the scene and the moralising—the company is breaking up, for the sound of the cock-crow is heard in the land, and headaches will come with the breaking of day.

"Bates," as the last of the crew is   about to go.    

Bates had got as far as the door. He turned as he heard his name called. Conyers had sunk on the sofa. It was

he who had called.

"No more to-night, old boy ; I couldn't," he said, soberly.

"Don't go, Bates. I want you. Lord,   my head !"

"A headache come to buffet you be-  

fore its time ?"  

"A drink, Bates—water."

"Pardon, m'soo, there is here much   to drink, but there is not of the water— but there are pens, ink, and paper."

"I'm bad, Bates—bad."  

Conyers rose, and staggered as he went to the window. Now, Bates knew that the stagger was not justified by anything that had happened that night and was surprised thereat.

"There is more in this than meets the   eye of the careless observer," he re-

marked, and took his friend's arm.

"What's the matter, Frank ?"    

"The window—fresh air—I shall be all right—"

"You look half way to a cadaver now.   Lay your melancholy length along this sofa while I fix you up."

Conyers groped his way to the sofa like a man moving in the dark, and then collapsed into a half-sitting, half-lying position.

Bates loosened the things about his neck. Conyers moved his head quickly and uneasily from side to side, as if he were strangling, and a blue livid look was stealing over his face that rather

alarmed Bates.

"If I know anything of men and   manners," he said, "this is not a case that will be dealt with by water. This calls for brandy of a superior quality."

Conyers took the drink, as if it had been the water he had asked for. The other looked on and waited for a sign.

"Better?"

"For a moment. The call's come, Bates. I can feel it."

"Feel what?"  

"That was not water you gave me surely. Give me water. Thanks. Now

listen."

Bates looked at his watch.

"Unless you particularly wish, I   won't," he said. "In the first case, I don't think you have anything   to say that is worth the telling, and what you want now is sleep, dear boy—sleep, that knits up the ravelled sleeve of care, and makes us rather bear the ills we have than fly to others that we know not of. Peace, and sleep."

"Don't go yet, Bates—I—I want you."

Bates took off his top coat with a determined air, and put his hat on the

table.

"I'll get them to make you up a bed on the sofa," he said. "For heaven's   sake stop that gasping. It's a most un- comfortable noise, and makes me

nervous."

"Bates, you know a little about men,  

and a little about medicine."    

" 'In nature's infinite book of secrecy a little I can read'—proceed with the

narrative."

"Bates, we all have our skeleton in   our cupboards."

"We have," sympathetically. "Mine's     whisky ; what's yours ?"

"I'll tell you. You've known me for   three years ?"

"To my sorrow—yes."

"And during that time you have   noticed nothing ?"

"A friend is always blind to a friend's   faults. Many things I could mention, Franky, my boy. But you anticipate. Begin again."

"You have heard of haunted houses.   Have you ever heard of a man with a haunted soul?"

"Oh, Conyers, hang it, you know, the   hour is advanced. You are wandering and maundering, and several other things I could mention. Go to sleep, there's a good boy. I want to go home.

You mean the man with the iron mask?"    

"I am serious, Bates. Listen. I am   the man with the haunted soul. You

have seen nothing ? No ; because I have   hidden it with the cunning that comes

of madness. As sure as heaven is above us I am mad—mad—mad !"

Bates looked on with imperturbable good humour, and nodded.

"You don't believe me. You think it is the wine. It is not. I have not had half a dozen the whole night through. Bates, I am telling you the truth. Be serious, if you ever can. I am mad.

You remember the time we had that mill with the navvies—town and gown ?  

You saw me tackle my man. Why did you pull me away ?"

"Navvies—navvies? I remember.

I thought you had let your temper get a shade the better of you, and—and things were becoming unhealthy for the navvy. You showed good style that night."

"Because you thought I would kill   him, Bates—kill—kill—kill," cried Con- yers, drawing himself up on the sofa, and gazing at his friend with unpleasant

intentness.

A new expression crept into Bates' eyes. He looked back attentively, but said nothing.

"That is what is the matter, Bates.

And that is my mania—to kill."     He paused, and drew his hands across   his eyes.  

"Oh, Bates—Bates—what a man can   bear and still live. I remember how my mother used to watch me when our doctor spoke to her when I was a boy. I won't go into family history, but she had had reasons to expect it. I had met with an injury to my head when I was a youngster. I have prayed—I tell you I have prayed as surely no other man has prayed—I have prayed like Paul for this thing to be removed from me. I have gone out into the dark alone, and only the stars, like God's eyes, were looking down on me, and there I have wept and agonised and felt the thing go from me, and life has become good and pure again to me, and I have said—ah, how often?—it has gone, gone for good! And then I have hoped and waited and watched, and then—and then, oh, my friend," he went on with a quivering sigh," the thing has sprung on me   again. The doctor said if it left me for three years it would leave me for ever. Only three short, short, short years— and Nature, that is so rich, that has sent

so many other men and let them be  

happy, could not do that for me. It has    

tantalised me. I have looked at my mother, and she has looked at me, and the words that were in both our hearts

were in our eyes too. 'A few little   months,' we seemed to say, 'and it is

over.' But they never passed without bringing my devil with them. I have hidden it from you, my friend—I have

hidden it from the world—but now—but   now I am tired. I can—and care to— hide it no longer. Let all the world

know. I am mad—mad—mad, and no man can help me, and God has deserted

me."

Bates smoked and looked solemnly on.   "But that is not the worst. For  

nearly three years I have been free. I  

was a fool to think it, but I did ; the

old hope was springing up in me. I had hopes—hopes, Bates, that wife and     children and all that makes life precious to other men were for me, too. And— and now the bitterness of it. Oh, God,

my punishment is more than I can bear. And now that hope is gone with the others. I must break with Margaret. But how? I can't tell her the truth,

but something I must do. What can I

do?"

"H'mph. I don't know."  

"And to-morrow I must see her."   "To-morrow?"

"Yes, to-morrow. It will be past then —past till it comes on me again."

"Pick a quarrel with the old gentle-  

man—tell him a lie—get kicked out—   anything. This—this distresses me, old boy. Only what's the use of my saying anything ? It's no use snivelling. A man has to take his gruel as it's served

out."

Conyers looked at his watch, and laughed bitterly.

"I'm madder every minute. Another     ten minutes, and you will see a grinning ape where you saw a man and your friend. Don't leave me, Bates."

"Don't trouble. I won't run away."

(To be continued.)