Chapter 33151135

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Chapter NumberPART I. VI.
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article33151135
Full Date1898-03-04
Page Number64
Corrections0
Word Count4487
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleWestern Mail (Perth, WA : 1885 - 1954)
Trove TitleThe Wealth of the West
article text

UR SERIAL STORY.

THE "WEALTH OF THE WIST.»

Br LOUIS MONTCALM. . .

^WHITTEN FOE THE WESTEBN MAIL.]

PART Î.

CHAPTER VL

Hiram Skeggs was happy with the happiness that" only conies to the Bohemian. He did not show it in his face, because he could not. Nature had made his face as expressionless as a knot of wood. But Iiis hands were deep in . his pockets ; the air was thick with the

smoke of his cheap cigars. He smelt success in the atmosphere. He felt as Voltaire felt at the Comédie Française. He was at the head of a popular move- ment. He had advertised bis show, was advertising it yet again-was, moreover, leading the popular movement in the direction of his tent, which'was the best advertisement of all.

The tent was to be ready for the first performance on the following evening. There was a big 'fire blazing before it; workmen were busy. A group . of men bad gathered. As Hiram arrived at one side of the group, a mounted trooper,

arrived at a walking pace at the other,. accompanied by a native, who was hold- ing the stirrup leather.

Trooper Clancy dropped off his horse. He was travel-stained and tired, and had been riding so long that he staggered slightly as be came to the ground.

" Only away for a couple of weeks," he said, looking round, "and now half of you are new faces. Begad if there was all the gold in the world here, there wouldn'tjje enough to go round."

, " Who s your friend, Clancy ?"

*'An Old acquaintance of mine. I picked him up a mile back, .and he's a man with a sense of his dignity. "You must be a new mau in these parts if you ''don't know Coolaloo alias Billy from the Wire Fence."

The man addressed put out his hand to the black, who looked at him for a moment and then knocked his bat off and said wrathfully :

" Me King Coolaloo. You take him

hat off."

The black finished off bis sentence with a turn of words that showed he had

long been familiar with civilisation, but

which will be betterleft untranslated in a work which is intended for wide and popular reading. The diggers laughed.

" You think mésame as dam mau that

sell you clothes props; If you think that, you liar. You see "all that ? " he said; turning and making-a sweeping gesture with his arm. "All belong to Billy once. Now," and he picked up a handful of sand, and let it trickle through his hands with a suggestion of dignity and sorrow that looked humor- ous, coming from a man whose clothes were as primitive as those of John the Baptist, and which hung so precariously together that, to a delicate mind, his every movement was à source of appre- hension-like unto the garments of the Irish belle Sir Walter Scott spoke of, *. A ^single pin at night let loose the robes that veiled her beauty " " Now all gone like that. King Coolaloo once. "Only Billy, -now .-King : to commou digger yet though,'Nand he gave a hitch to his blanket, and his language became untranslatable again. He bad an Oriental wéMth of expletive, and never repeated himself. ' " Though .me clean Missa, Yeeud's boots," he added after a pause. , " '

The' divinity that hedges à king was suspended on that occasion, for< as Billy spoke, a voice called- -

"Billy!" - And Billy's royalty shrivelled and fell from him as a garment that is -old".

" Coming, Missa Yeend," he answered. The darkness had closed, insufficiently to make it impossible for the men to see much beyond the ring of light thrown hythe fire.

" You soulless black Jin'rite,1" the voice

went on, "haven't J,,.-told,,.:jyouw^ofjfcen: enough to. put., tie saddle; -upside down when you. .take:. it off .at- hot "-horse. .. Haven't I told you to wait till .X return, and here you are wandering around the country-11-il'-:'. The rest' was-lost 'In a sound as of slashing with a whip and" in. the whines1 Of the black. > "Wh'y' don't you learn ! Why don't yon work ! Off with you ! : Treat this saddle as you did the other and yon Imowsvhatíto expect." - The black passed through the- ring of

light, leading a ^tíórse^ aiid followed by Yeend, who glared à moment at the group-aiid then went into eclijp.se again. He'still had the spiky moustache) the look Of health, the broad shdñláérs-^but. the^gbod.búmonr''wáp,,.'.not so .apparent;

perhaps because Of the encounter with " the Jjlack, perhaps because the light frojn the fire was not bright enough to display it.

"Clancy," he said, " I should like. to . .see yOu after . dinner," and passed- on töwards-'the.'hotel. ' .

Now the architecture of the Hessian Hptel: was peculiar. It had all the picturesqueness of the inevitable old English mansion one reads" of-iii' the dear old'romancés that lie oil our Upper shelves, where the dust gathers thickest, It had begun with weatherboards .. It bad gone on with unconsidered flotsam and jeteara that bore archaic inscriptions, as " tine side up with," " to hp usejl. on - the. voy," " er's .best' marmalade.'' . It

bad continued with squares of tin and Bheetsof corrugated iron. And in these last days had budded forth into along, ow, but withal comfortable dunner room,

Where there were cloths,on the tables, like snow, and without .spot or wrinkle or any such thing \ where serviettes sprang from their glasses as lotuses and lilies and in ¡diversé pendulous and cunning shapes ; and where waiters, who

were not as common waiters, con- descended, as gentlemen, to attend upon guests who were not quite as fine gentlemen as the waiters were, but were merely tiresome people who went through the formality of paying for what they perchance did or did not get. Not as common waiters. They wore their napkins, like plumes, with hauteur. They could give a well-bred stare. They had a supercilious air, as of those who have been suddenly elevated into great and irresponsible power, and who are intoxicated thereby. A guest was a mere circumstance, an interloper who might be tolerated, but who must be kept in his place. "Woe is me, i£ he were a bashful man. If he came late he was remontrated with, perhaps in an offended way, perhaps in a confidential

and friendly way, for even a Roman Inquisitor will sometimes lapse into modi- fied kindness, but still unequivocally and publicly remonstrated with. " Late this evening, sir; couldn't you manage to get in a little earlier, sir ? " ' " Pudden without sauce Í Why you always take your pudden with sauce. Why don't you give your orders plain." " This ain't Paris, you know, sir. We do our best, but I can't be in two places at once, now

can IP"

. Mrs. M'Tavish herself, who ordinarily never feared the face of man, was apologetic, in supreme moments, even grovelling, to the cook, who- was sus- pected bf being capable at any moment of marrying a successful digger or of

going to . that bourne vaguely* called : "the fields," where, the legend went, cooks earned " good money," and ".was looked upon as cooks, and hot scullions, and was as good as them that thought theirselves their betters." As for

M'Tavish, who bad knocked out many a man iii a fair stand-up, he bigged super-

fluous on the stage, and went about, among his hired servants with the air of

a mendicant.

It may sound like the *' Arabian ' Nights " come bfck again,, but it is solid fact nevertheless. . I speak of that

which I do know. It is one of the little

ironies of the democracy for which good ! men have died. j

There were windows and doors dotted

about the building, on.the principle that

it is the unexpected that always turns j up. Gentlemen, late returning after I eating too much cucumber or whitebait, or what not, at their clubs, 'or attending a prayer meeting, had a good chance of meeting a door, anywhere, which was au advantage. ; Another peculiarity . was that light was shed from all directions, for. windows were distributed over the walls like squares ou a chess board.

. On this particular evening there was a

flood of light falling from half a dozen ! Windows ; and.as Yeend, stepped on, tho j

verandah he came face to face with a man in digger costume, who said ; " Good evening, Mr. Yeend."

? '! Good evening, Mr. Conyers," ' be

answered mockingly.;, Then, Contriving . to get a suggestion of impudence even into the flicking of, : his riding whip, he

sa id : .

"Anything I can have the pleasure of doing for you ?"

j " Ypu could possibly tell me if there are any letters for me. I km informed that you were bringing the letter bag with you. I expected some." : .

' " I, really cannot say. I brought over several. If tliere are any for you you may look for them," .

; " Certainly ' Where are they ?"

. "Mr. Conyers, by courtesy I allow myself to be burdened with other gentle- men's letters. Yours may be among them too," he said, with rather obvious witticism, " I cannot say." As for where . ihey are, ask my servant. Good even- ing""

j He took a few paces away, and then turned suddenly and Smiled maliciously. I ¡"By the way. thpugkj.possibly I can jjielp you. Billy," he caUed. to. the black?.

whp.wasihovering, about uncertainly .at á little distance. .-.Get .tliQserlettera iout

pf the saddle bags, .and bring them here.... Smart,.no,w:!" . : j,...;_/.;., ,.- ''nth:

j -Thetwo '--men,: '-^aiiii^.AW^'.fmynljual, antagonism: expressed; ali .over them^.tiU ; Billy came . cringing along.; -with, j the

leeters, and ¡then halted in.doubt whether : io deliver ^le.-letters an^^en , grovely or io-.giiqyel .-apd- then deliver ...tliö; letters,

teend? sua&hed-them, froni him,; and-:, looked over them hastily, a malicious.,' purpose lending more; and more expres- sion.tp,bis face. He tossed .a letter at Obnyers'feet and said : .. - j ";Paidon nie,- I .believe that .is'for you/' ? :.

¡ 5 He tossed.anpther> and.affected anothor. Apology: .......... . i-:-' ' r Again! How-clumsy! I really, think jbhatiftyoius,too." (...-..:.

I He-stopped and held ¡ap a laiige.torn, envelope towards the black. ; .

"What is this, sirP You baye torn open this letter;"

j ,}" Notnie, Missa Yeend," said the Hack, ishowing his teeth in a grin of nervous ?flight, and with a wriggle of; . bis shoulders. " ;i;...

i Conyers picked up the letters, his face, flushed with irritation. He : longed for an- excuse for a quarrel with Yeend (he

¡had a good- deal of human nature ¡about ¡him). -He stood watching. He had an idea; that ^presently. Yeend would beg"1 illtreàting the black, and the protection of aborigines was as good a cause for quarrel as anything else, '

A J

? Don't add lying to your offence, sir," said Yeend. ."1 bate a Uar," which was unselfish,- as Marcus Clark would say ; and he raised-his whip.

" No, no," whined Billy, with a more ghastly grin and another wriggle. " Not me, Missa Yeend, not me. Not more lash, not more lash !"

Yeend had contracted a keen sense of humour, and this wriggling lump of humanity amused him. He smiled. He glanced sideways at Conyers.

"I'll give you the same again and again till you leam your duty, sir, and till you quit lying."

Down came the whip. Billy pi'eparcd for it with much the same expression as a boy preparing for a shower bath. Conyers felt.his hate for Yeend and his enthusiasm in the cauee of the aborigines unite in a furious burst of .temper. He

snatched the whip, wrenched it from j Yeend's hand, and Bent him staggering ; backward. The black glanced .up, re-

lieved for a moment, and then looked as apprehensive as ever-he "was probably calculating the , interest that would accumulate, and which Yeend would liquidate, when he was less subject to interruption.

Yeend recovered himself, clenched a pair of muscular fists, and looked at Conyers with an expression of concen-

trated hate. :

"This is the second time you have

laid hands on me," he said in a harsh, j steady tone.

" The second time I have been com- pelled to, Mr. Yeend. Do you remem- ber what happened when I found you at your brutal Vork before!. You baye a short memory.".. . .. .'.'.'. .. . '. " You will sorae .day find I have .a long and faithful memory,, Mr. Conyers. [No ;, il have not f orgotten."

I "I thrashed you thent sir. I. wÜT jthrasb you again as you haye thrashed

this unfortunate wretch. I am not blind, Mr. Yeend "-^-kud he pointed with the whip to the black, without removing his eyes from Yeend's face-"I know what those marks mean-J know what those half-healed sores mean"-and then, slowly and with much disgust, " Are*-you not thoroughly ashamed of .yourself to treat a wretched fellow creature like that because the poor devil's hiders black. Your, heart, must be blacker than his skin."

# .# * # * . *

Inside the hotel, the company were seated at the long narrow table. The Colonel was at the. bead. Next to him was a mining expert of unquestioned expertness, but jvbose career, though popularly x'eceivea as being very much to his credit, could only be traced a very little way into the. past. He was of Au6tro-B,ussian-Italian extraction, with k name sufficiently.foreign to: guarantee genuineness. -It .was difficult to pro nounce-^-impossibe to a spell. / He -was usually called Smith. Also it was known that, he was as incorruptible as the Opposition press; and it was certainly true, for he said so himself.

: He was very glad to see the Colonel he was always glad to see the people in England taking such practical measures as to send practical men-really prac- tical and representative men, who knew their way about, to the fields. . He under-

stood the Colonel represented, a.ppwerful; Home syndicate. .«.;..

; " Yes," said the Colonel, " The Wealth pf the West." , - , . "

i "I,have, heard of that. The fact.of: your coming does ; not, of course, any, doubt in the minds of the peppier in England as to the stabüity/pf the fields,

indicatej>.'\>,r.,... -t. . *.. .:. í .

" Oh, certainly not. Our people, how- ever, are nothing if not practical., .They said the prospectuses are good; the. specimens are good; the assays are good; the expert's report is good ; but ocular demonstration is better. They said; ' Colonel, whom can we send ? ' I said. fMe'-^short and sharp." The Colonel nodded. " They said, * When ? '. I^aid, f To-morrow ' - shorter and sharper." frThe Colonel nodded again. " They said/ f Now, as- to expenses ? ' .-.Isaid^ ' I/will* ¡incur them and pay.fchein '-7-shortest and Isharpest. : ot ;ali. My style.'', -.Another inpd.'. "'And. here lam, aiid.here ls my ¡daughter. .We are au athjetic.,family,

¡Mr-Tcer-r, and wte haye made a forced: ¡march." > ,( ,

j .Sa\itb:gMnned and stared wi th foreign jgracè, and.Jielped ¿he Colonel by giving !the unpronounceable name.

."And what db you1 of. the. country

¡think ?" be asked. :- / í - ^-1; find,""'said the Colonel, weighing ¡his words, and conscious of being an

jorigiual observer and of making an j (original remark, "I find it has pecnli iarities of its own, as one may sayyand jthère does-there certainly does seem to ¡be an element of what one anight' tmu ¡monotony in the scenery." .: -ï

'? '"You have not yet, of coursé, any

jmines: inspected ? That to dp, you will1 jHave yet left ?"y .- ;"» 1 ?*.*',>' *

! >""í beg-I-on;; certainly, yes. I have 'yet to do that," said the Colonel, a trifle

confused by the inverted sentences. \ '.«. " This,*' said the_ expert, with a spoon ; arrested half-way to Iiis, mouth, " is the ; wealthiest country in the universe."

).,'?'t believe it has large claims-large claims,'' said the Colonel judicially. He suspected every other man he met of . being a newspaper man in disguise, whp lhad heard of the adventnof Colonel Page.

He :was . a military man^-rrather more militaiyjshice he bad come to the fields than before.- A plain man-a blunt man -a man who could read other people^-a man1 who could-do his duty and say-i nothing about it when it was dong. He4

~* - »

disliked show. He disliked newspapers.

He disliked interviews. He was Colonel Page, and he would have none pf it so far as Be was concerned. He had not lived in^the world without finding out what it was made of, and he knew this man with the foreign grin from his head to his heart at the first glance. He was considering what would he the best means of checking him, when he was re- lieved of the difficulty. Circumstances did it for him. There was the sudden sound of a scuffle from the verandah, and a scuffle that seemed to indicate that the people who were making the noise were very much in earnest. There was the thud of b*lows, and then a window was broken, and the fragments came showering into the room. Everybody rose. There are two instincts that have not . yet been educated out of à man-he will always pause to make love or to fight. This was a fight. The men streamed to ¡the door; the women were caught by the

infection and were .mixed in the stream, and went along with it in the same frame of mind that draws people to the

chamber of horrors in a waxworks

though they would rather not be there.

Two men were struggling, as the "doors from the hotel opened. They stopped when the spectators appeared-but the swelling chests, the flushed faces, the clenched hands, the quivering muscles

told their tale. It was the Warden and

i Conyers. Conyers had his back to the light, and it was as well that it was so. There was an expression on Iiis face that i would not hare looked in. place, even in

! the pri^e. ring, much less in the^ case of .a geiitleni.aù at large who was protecting the aborigines. Yeend had an evil jkiiid pf self-possession.. He picked up : Iiis i, hat?:a-ód smoothed the lines out bf I his".façè't'.'with a quickness" that would

ihaye done credit to a variety artiste. iThere was blood on his band-lie had ¡evidently been associated with the break: lng of the window: Aud out of that ieVil self-possession he spoke-in a low voice of concentrated venom.

They went no further. The crowd was swelling on the narrow verandah. :Tiie foremost among them was Skeggs. He was the first to speak.

" Why," he said,, pathetically, " are gentlemen to be so constantly inter- rupted in their most devout and tender moments. Is this the price we must .pay for our advanced civilisation? Great beavens. Do I sleep-do I dream, or is visions about ? . Mr. Fr-r-rank Conyers!"

Frank turned at the voice. The first faces-he saw were those of Margaret and the Colonel. Perhaps under ordinary

circumstances he would not have known them, for there were time and distance between then and .their .last meeting. But there are times when the mind is in

an exalted condition, aiid when the every-day perceptions are quickened a hundred-fold. A: bout at fisticuffs may not usually be the best means of attain- ing this slate of mind, but still it was a kind of excitement that brought other things with it. The fact remains that at the first glance he recognised Mar- garet and her father, as .it were, in a flash, at the precise moment when his

nauis was mentioned:

; It was dramatic. Dramatic situations - ave as a general thing interesting to look at; destructive to actually go through. Conyers had been pretty roughly bandied by Yeend ; but the shock was iupt to be compared with what he felt as jthe rush of recollection crowded back on him;' He felt as if he had been hit On jthe head with a club. He was* dafced bewildered-he staggered, and put his baud to his eyes. There was a sense bf unreality about it. The ground swayed

beneath bim. He almost fell.

'Margaret was as quick as he was. The recognition-apart from the fact j^iat the naine had been called ont loud enough" for anyone within a hundred yards-jtP hear it-was instantaneous and jmutuâli äiid the momentary' paralysis flÉKpáyers'' mind-was ^reflected, in hers/' (Also the XÇoîôîiel^in spite pf his iron-

-bound self-possession, of which *be was" ivëry proud; and which was a part of a jsoldier's - equipment-even the Colonel ¡was'guilty Of a start, and made a move-:' I nient whicli'Che tried to* cover by .coii

ivérting it into the action of stroking his ¡moustache. He felt- . Margaret ieau ¡heavily on his arm* :Hè saw* ber put lier iband over her heart. He said to him- self; like Napoleon at St. Helena; f At .the head of the army ! . Remember your immortal reputation. .- Steady.'*

I But nature was nature.' He had to pause before he could puE'himself to« .gether aud gi-asp the situation. Then : he bent his head over his daughter, aiid

;said quietly, for the Old boy'dearly loved ? her, and would, have cut, his baud off tb

: save her a pang : ; \' "' .-- .' . :

". Margaret, -we had better gp " away. Come, dear." .!>... ..'*,.'.'

Margaret mastered herseJLf with à great effort, and drew herself up and ,-nïet his eyes;- It was the same Maggie Page who had put him to rout in the garden-how long was it before ? . Nature was naturS again, and be felt it was coining. Efe squared himself for resistance, took a firmer grip of.the ground by placing his feet wider apart, and waited for the words that were on Margaret's lips wondering in a momentary way at. what

particular period it was that children ¡ became more themselves than*v their fathers children, and why they couldn't always be "their father's children, and do what they were wished fcp db; and what a lot of trouble it. would save^if humanity were regulated.tbat way.

m The wards came-hot and impulsive*:

"Father! For shame! There -is a time to forget as well as to remember."

And the Colonel said in a hurried aside :

" Yes, and there is a time to command and a time to obey, miss."

There is," flashes out Maggie, " and this is the time, and I am going to com- mand." (She wasn't his child at all ! The Colonel drew in his breath hard, and wished, ag he had never wished before, that she had been a boy. Ob, that she had been a boy. It would have been so simple to know what to do then. Rank rebellion !)

Skeggs had his eyes always on the

alert for an advertisement. He had taken a liking to .Conyers, and the two things came together this time. He took Conyer's hand with unobtrusive deli- cacy, and on the best dramatic principles, and kept on talking over Frank's : shoulder. Not far from him were the two

ladies, Maximiliana Sorboni and Flotilla Flotempski. There was a movement and vivacity about the whole situation that pleased them very much indeed, though they did not have any idea of what was at the bottom of it. They saw that it was very much like their own business, done into life ; and they watched with particular interest what was passing or seeming to pass between the Colonel and his daughter. It was tragedy, comedy, pathos, and they liked

it.

The whole of this by-play was rapid, : but. it took a certain measure of time, and during that time the Warden had come to a realisation of what the situa ;tidn required, so far as he was concerned. He had had meaus of knowing that the Colonel was. coming, of course, but he :had come sooner than expected. He waited for a good opportunity to turn

matters in his own favour.

"Come," said Skeggs, with an air of encouragement that had rather more good feeling than advertisement about it, " thesë ladies, sir, may seem more human, but sech is not- the case. They are just sisters to such ordinary lumps of humanity as you and me. They are brim full and slopping over with high sperrits and graciousness. Turn round, sir, turn round, and take one good

look-"

A sense that something specific was required dawned on Flotilla. She went up to Skeggs and touched bim on the

arm.

" Mr. Skeggs," she said, " there is something wrong here. These people have met before. They know one another. I think there is something between this gentlemen and the young lady over there. She was au awful good sort in the coach to us coming up. Help 'em out if you eau, thei'e's a dear old stars and stripes?'

" Think the two young things want a moment together ? Ah, Flotty, you've been there yourself. Come right along then, and we'll hedge iii the aged parient."

As Skeggs made his way up to the Colonel the landlady appeared.

" Au, the dear," she said as sbe saw the agitated condition Margaret was in, " lean on me, love. I'll take you to your room and I'll give you some stuif that will bring the pink into your cheeks again. Just let her go, sir " (to the Colonel). " Ah, but it's in these sort of cases a woman's a woman's best friend. Just let her go, sir-just let her go. It's in the nature of things I can do things for her a gentleman couldn't do.

Tba-k-^-at's à dear.'' :

The Colonel woke up to the fact that someone was saying to lum.

"You'll exciise me seizing a moment that may seem to the outside observer an inopportune one, but which on examination is quite the contrary."

The Colonel glared at Skeggs without very clearly understanding what' was taking place. Skeggs took from bis pocket a little model structure that looked like a church, and be and the two girls kept nianoavring so as to block up the view.

, (Tù hé continued.)