|Chapter Title||PHILLIP SIMPSON.|
|Newspaper Title||Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal (NSW : 1851 - 1904)|
|Trove Title||The Mount Macedon Mystery|
If in olden times all roads led to Rome, it is no less certain that Victorian history shows that all roads in this colony lead to Melbourne.
After the first great rushes to the gold- fields this was especially the case, and the money spent in the metropolis by success- ful diggers has done much to build up the great city. There is no need to repeat here how fortunes were spent in a few weeks in the gilded man-traps of Melbourne, which yawned to receive the lucky and foolish digger. Such things have been worn thread-bare by repetition. On the principle of "easy come, easy go," it was only to be expected that the simple pigeons would be pounced upon by watchful hawks, but taking all things into consideration, the history of these excited times proves that far more honesty and fair dealing was abroad than the many temptations which existed would lead one to believe. With less cause, San Francisco was in- finitely worse in this respect than the capital of Victoria, so that Melbournites have cause to look with some pride on the early history of their city. Of course, if any man with more money than sense wished to enter upon the downward course of dissipation he could find in Melbourne every opportunity of doing so, and many companions who would help him on the Avernian road. If he did not wish to act the prodigal he would find life and property as secure as in the most orderly city of the British Empire, and this fact undoubtedly in- fluenced many wealthy persons to permanently reside in the city, and ex- panded it in so rapid a manner." The Moliagal digger evidently took this latter view of life, and, instead of squan- dering his money in the drinking hells and other disreputable places, he took quiet and respectable lodgings in a ter- race in Nicholson-street, opposite the present Exhibition building. His liking for the tap-room and the whisky bottle had suddenly left him, and he walked in the path of rigid morality. Phillip Simpson was the name he gave the landlady, and, after a brief acquaint- ance, that good woman vowed her new lodger was the best she ever had. "He is no trouble, my dear," she con- fidentially informed a lady friend. " He never grumbles at his food ; his bed al- ways suits him, and I am sure," she added in a deep whisper, " he has plenty of money, because he thinks as little of a sovereign as I would of a shilling." " Is he a professional man ?" asked the
visitor. " I don't know ; he doesn't speak much, and when he does he avoids mention of himself." "There is a mystery about him, then. It must be charming to have a boarder who has a secret to conceal," she added, with a laugh, though not without a touch of malice, for she, too, kept a boarding- house, and had been unfortunate with her lodgers. "I don't know whether he has a secret or not, and I don't pry into my lodger's affairs. All I can say is that Mr. Simpson is a very nice man," replied the landlady, bridling up. Mr. Simpson, the "very nice man," was certainly widely different from the morose, solitary, and ill-tempered digger of Moliagul. Yet so it was. The leopard had changed his spots — the transforma- tion was complete. What had wrought the alteration could only have been the gold. The lucre, which debases some natures, had ap- parently elevated this one, and trans- formed the uncouth and brutal pauper into the polished and refined gentle- man. Mr. Simpson was also fond of society — another phase of character from that pre- sented at Moliagul, where he lived like a hermit. Society in those days was not very exclusive — that is, if the very highest and very limited circle be excepted — and the polite Mr. Simpson was soon wel- comed in many houses. His manner certainly entitled him to the invitations he received, and it was whispered that his wealth was much greater than he cared to let people know. He was not a boastful man, but what little he said, he did and, with a faculty for multiplication which did their arith- metical training credit, his acquaintances increased his banking account at least tenfold. Where he came from, or what he was — though it was generally under- stood he was a lucky digger — few people cared to ask. It was sufficient that he had money, and conducted himself like a gentleman. On a certain evening, about three months after he took up his abode in Melbourne, Mr. Simpson was invited to a rather select gathering at the house of a friend in Hotham-street, East Mel bourne. He had accepted the invitation, for he made it a point of never refusing one if he could help it. His landlady had re- marked that he never spent an evening at home, but passed them in society. It was nine o'clock when he reached his friend's house, and most of the guests were assembled. . His host, Mr. Evelyn, introduced him to those he did not know, and this rugged digger, of a few months ago, settled down to his enjoyment with the easy grace of a well-bred gentleman. Half-an-hour after his entry Mr. Evelyn approached and said : "Two friends of mine have just ar- rived, and I think they are strangers to you. Let me have tho pleasure of intro- ducing you." " I shall be most pleased," he answered ; and the two crossed the room to where a lady was seated, and a gentleman stand- ing at her side. " Miss Devereaux, my friend Mr. Simpson; Mr. Rennie, allow me to intro- duce Mr. Simpson." The young lady bowed, and formality ended ; the four entered into conversation on common-place subjects. In a few minutes Evelyn hurried away to receive other guests who were enter- ing, and the conversation flagged for a time. Neither Adeline Devereaux or Ernest Rennie felt in much humor for talking, and, indeed, they both looked as if they would rather be away from the gay scene. Simpson felt it rather irksome doing all the talk, and on the first opportunity, with a polite salute, he left them. "I would much rather I had not come, Mr. Rennie," the girl said, "but I could not refuse the kind invitation of my dear father's old friend." "I hope you will benefit by your acceptance, for you know that "all work and no play' and so on is not good for any one. You must not worry yourself too much with the sad business we have in hand," he said, anxiously. With forced gaiety he rallied the girl into having a dance, after which the Miss Evelyns carried her away and monopolised her for some time. She was seated conversing with the eldest daughter, when Mr. Simpson ap- proached and took the vacant chair be- side her, upon which Miss Evelyn re- tired.— (To be Continued) MM 6