Chapter 33151485

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Chapter NumberVIII.
Chapter TitleNone.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article33151485
Full Date1898-03-11
Page Number55
Corrections2
Word Count1613
IllustratedN
Last Corrected2020-09-02
Newspaper TitleWestern Mail (Perth, WA : 1885 - 1954)
Trove TitleThe Wealth of the West
article text

CHAPTER VIII.

" Well, Yeend, my boy, I am glad to see you," said the Colonel. "I am a man, sir, that don't make many friends. I know too much of men to make many friends, but, as the poem says, ' but, oh, I love the better the few our Father sends.' Yes, by gad, I do."

" Thank you, Colonel. Praise from Sir Rupert Stanley is praise indeed. You do not know what a relief it is to see a friendly face of any sort on these places, I can tell you. And Miss Mar- garet, too—this is a pleasure. I am sorry I have to meet you in such a hovel as this, but it is all you can get here."

" And quite good enough, too. You know what was said when the Roman army was visited and found taking its leisure in slippers. No, sir. Too much pleasure enervates. I have lived in places where there was only a thin plank between here and the other place, and rejoiced in it, sir—rejoiced in it, by gad, up to the hilt —fought on it, lived on it, thrived on it. Spirit-talk of spirit— why, damme—that is, I beg pardon, but I have more of the boy in my old bones than half of the young fellows I see

about me."

" Quite believe it. Expect this is

next door to luxury to some of the things that you have gone through in your young days."

" Young days, be hanged, sir—say younger days ; why, I am in my young days yet."

" And stands England where it did ?" " Ha, ha, Shakespeare. That's right ;

don't forget your " Shakespeare—don't forget your bible—thank God, and keep your powder dry, and you're all right.

Carried me through many a tough place and will do again, for the curtain hasn't gone down on the old colonel yet."

" Oh yes," says Yeend, with an air of unostentatious goodness, " I always read a chapter or two, and upon my word it does me good. Does indeed; and there are not too many good influences away out here. I think one of the worst, if not the worst, is the want of good women's society. But how could a man ask any woman for whom he had an atom of respect or consideration to come and live with him here. What say you, Miss Margaret ?"

" Ask father. I gave him my opinion long ago on that point, didn't I, dad ?"

" Gad you did. The rankest little rebel in the whole of the three kingdoms, Mr. Yeend, upon my soul and honour. Ah, Maggie, Maggie, Maggie !"

" It's the rebels that make history, and the rebels we like best when we read it, sir," remarked Yeend.

" Bah ! The hottest place on the earth's surface is the Persian Gulf—you go there, Yeend, and don't pay humbug- ging compliments. You needn't look shocked, Maggie; you're a soldier's

daughter, and the sooner you get used to

the vernacular of the world the better

for you and the quicker death to what- ever nonsense you have in your head, and lord knows there's enough for two or !

half-a-dozen."

Yeend laughed and said, with charm- ing and playful familiarity—

" The Colonel wants to put you out of countenance, Miss Margaret. I can quite believe there are more than half-a-dozen who have reason to envy you your possessions."

" Simper and look pleased, Margaret

—do."

" Mr. Yeend was probably only quoting from Shakespeare again," said Margaret.

" Perhaps you would rather talk about mines now," put in the Colonel, " or have you anything else you would like to say about the want of good women's society?"

Yeend laughed good-humouredly, and said the want had ceased to exist.

" And what do you do to amuse your- self," asked the Colonel, "except blow smoke rings and read Shakespeare? Gad, I give you my word I never saw such a country. Dust—you talk of dust. Dust isn't the name for it . I washed myself in a pub. as I came along, and upon my word I thought I must be bleeding to death without knowing it, the water was so red. ' Be gad, ma'am,' says I to the girl, ' what might the colour of your hair be?' 'Faith,' she says, ' it was black when I started out, but now it's rid-black.' ' And when do

you think you'll be able to escape from the country ?' I says, ' for upon my soul I can't imagine any one staying that can get away.' ' Oh,' she says, ' that's when the Lord wills, and I hope he won't be long. Would you like a cup of tea, sir?' And when she brought the tea the dust was in that, too. And I never saw such dreary bush as yours—why, there isn't a sign of life in it from one day's

end to the other."

" If you want life you must come to the fields. We have plenty of it, such as it is. Personally, I feel my health is suffering, and I must really be off for a run in the old country in a day or two as soon as you continue your journey,

in fact."

" Couldn't you wait and go with us ?

" Nothing would give me more pleasure, But I am afraid it is not possible. I could not stand the coach travelling. My nerves—you will laugh when you think what a big, hulking fellow I am—but my nerves are in such a state that the jolting would be torture

to me."

" Laugh ? Not at all, my dear boy. I remember how it was with us out in India at times. And this place, bad as it is, is not in the same street with India when it comes to privation."

" Can quite believe it, Colonel, I am sure. I have arranged things here to my satisfaction while I am away. I am

longing for the blue Danube, and all the rest of it. You know the feeling. You must often have felt it—when you were

in India."

" I trust we shall have the pleasure of seeing you in England ?" said Margaret, who devoutly hoped they would do nothing of the sort.

" Don't know, I am sure. One never knows what may turn up, but if I can manage it nothing would please

me more."

" You will find changes. Poor Phyllis has gone away from us now—you remem-, ber her?—and I have never heard a word from her since. I heard that she had come out this way too."

Yeend's face did not alter by the flutter of an eye lid.

"Yes," he said: "All the world is

coming here. You soon lose the capacity of surprise. I would not be surprised

to see the Wandering Jew walk down the streets some day. I met an old school fellow the other day, and we had not stood at the same bar—you know to drink is an institution here : you can't avoid it however much you may wish, I

am sorry to say—we had not been standing at the same bar two minutes when in came a man I had last seen in

New York."

The Colonel thought of Frank Con- yers, but decided not to put any ques- tions. Margaret looked what she did not care to ask, and as is usual in cases of that kind, Yeend said

" By the way I have heard you speak of a certain Frank Conyers when I was in the old country—he is out here too."

" Yes," said the Colonel, doubtfully, " yes. And doing well, I—er—trust ? "

" Very well, I understand. Everyone

does, who has a mind to."

" Er—bears a good character, and all that sort of thing ?"

" Well, he and I are not the best friends in the world—not that that has anything to do with it—but I believe he

does."

" Was what we saw to-day a sample of his goodness? "

"Oh, excitement, you know—excite-

ment."

" H'mph. And that young scapegrace Bates—what is he doing ? "

" I think his luck and Conyers' run in couples. They are both very successful, or have the name for it. He is our lay

preacher."

" Your lay what ?" "Preacher."

"And what sort of commentary is his life on his preaching ? "

" Well we are a free and easy com- munity, and never make inquiries. He draws, the men all right, anyway."

" Ay, that was a trick the young beggar always had."

" You would like to see them, per- haps?"

" I think not—I think not," said the Colonel, after a moment's thought. " As a matter of fact we did not part the best friends in the world, as you put it, and may be bye-gones had better remain bye gones."

He looked at Margaret, and did not see a very hearty endorsement of what he had said, and concluded it was wisest to end the meeting.

" Possibly," he said, "sitting up too late talking to two people who ought to know better is just as trying as the jolt- ing of a coach. Good night."

(To be continued.)

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