Ultima Thule, by Henry Handel Richardson

Chapter V

1

THE SUN HOTEL,

BARAMBOGIE.

MY OWN DEAR WIFE,

I HOPE YOU GOT MY NOTE ANNOUNCING MY SAFE ARRIVAL. I COULD NOT WRITE MORE; THE TRAIN WAS LATE AND I TIRED OUT. THE JOURNEY TOOK EIGHT HOURS AND WAS MOST FATIGUING. ABOUT NOON A NORTH WIND CAME UP, WITH ITS USUAL EFFECT ON ME OF HEADACHE AND LASSITUDE. THE CARRIAGE WAS LIKE A BAKING-OVEN. AS FOR THE DUST, I’VE NEVER SEEN ITS EQUAL. BALLARAT IN SUMMER WAS NOTHING TO IT. IT ROSE IN WHIRLWINDS TO THE TOPS OF THE GUMS. WE WERE SIMPLY SMOTHERED. BUT WHAT A COUNTRY THIS OF OURS IS FOR SIZE! YOU HAVE ONLY TO GET AWAY FROM THE SEA-BOARD AND TRAVEL ACROSS IT, TO BE STAGGERED BY ITS VASTNESS. — AND EMPTINESS. MILE AFTER MILE OF BUSH, WITHOUT THE TRACE OF A SETTLEMENT. AND ANY TOWNSHIPS WE COULD SEE FOR DUST, VERY SMALL AND MEAN. OF COURSE EVERYTHING LOOKS ITS WORST JUST NOW. THERE HAVE BEEN NO RAINS HERE YET, AND THEY ARE SADLY NEEDED. GRASS BURNT TO A CINDER, CREEKS BONE-DRY AND SO ON. HOWEVER AS IT WAS ALL QUITE NEW TO ME, I FOUND PLENTY TO INTEREST ME. THE LANDSCAPE IMPROVED AS WE GOT FURTHER NORTH, GREW HILLIER AND MORE WOODED: AND BEYOND BENALLA WE HAD A FINE VIEW OF THE HIGH RANGES.

SO MUCH FOR THE JOURNEY. AS I MENTIONED, RUMMEL MET ME AT THE STATION, WALKED TO THE HOTEL WITH ME AND STOPPED FOR A CHAT. HE IS A MOST AFFABLE FELLOW, WELL UNDER FORTY I SHOULD SAY, TALL AND HANDSOME AND QUITE THE GENTLEMAN— I SHALL FIND CONSIDERABLE DIFFICULTY IN COMING AFTER HIM. I WAS TOO TIRED THAT NIGHT TO GET MUCH IDEA OF THE PLACE, BUT NOW THAT I HAVE HAD A COUPLE OF DAYS TO LOOK ABOUT ME, I CAN HONESTLY SAY I AM DELIGHTED WITH IT. TO BEGIN WITH, I AM MOST COMFORTABLY LODGED; MY BED IS GOOD, THE TABLE PLENTIFUL, LANDLADY VERY ATTENTIVE. IT IS A LARGER AND MORE SUBSTANTIAL TOWNSHIP THAN THOSE WE PASSED ON THE WAY UP; THE HOUSES ARE MOSTLY OF BRICK— FOR COOLNESS IN SUMMER— AND ALL HAVE LUXURIANT GARDENS. THERE IS A VERY PRETTY LITTLE LAKE, OR LAGOON AS THEY CALL IT HERE, SKIRTED BY TREES AND PLEASANT PATHS; AND WE ARE SURROUNDED BY WOODED RANGES. VINEYARDS COVER THE PLAINS.

AS TO THE INFORMATION I HAD FROM PINCOCK, IT WAS RATHER UNDER THAN ABOVE THE MARK. BARAMBOGIE IS UNDOUBTEDLY A RISING PLACE. FOR ONE THING, THERE’S A GREAT MINE IN THE NEIGHBOURHOOD, THAT HAS ONLY BEEN PARTIALLY WORKED. THIS IS NOW ABOUT TO BE REORGANISED: AND WHEN STARTED WILL EMPLOY NO FEWER THAN A HUNDRED AND FIFTY MEN. EVERY ONE IS SANGUINE OF IT PAYING. — I WAS OUT AND ABOUT ALL YESTERDAY AND AGAIN THIS MORNING, INTRODUCING MYSELF TO PEOPLE. I HAVE MET WITH THE GREATEST COURTESY AND CIVILITY— THE BANK MANAGER WENT SO FAR AS TO SAY I SHOULD BE A REAL ACQUISITION. I THINK I CAN READ BETWEEN THE LINES THAT SOME WILL NOT BE DISPLEASED TO SEE THE LAST OF RUMMEL. HE IS BY NO MEANS THE UNIVERSAL FAVOURITE I SHOULD HAVE IMAGINED. BETWEEN OURSELVES, I FANCY HE TAKES A DROP TOO MUCH. HE IS STILL SEEING PATIENTS, BUT INTENDS LEAVING IN A COUPLE OF DAYS. THE CHEMIST SAYS I SHOULD EASILY DO EIGHT HUNDRED TO A THOUSAND PER ANNUM. AND RUMMEL HIMSELF TOLD ME HE HAS HAD AS MANY AS A HUNDRED MIDWIFERY EASES IN A YEAR. THERE ARE THREE OR FOUR NICE FAMILIES, SO YOU, MY DEAR, WILL NOT BE ENTIRELY CUT OFF FROM SOCIETY. IT IS SAID TO BE A SPLENDID WINTER CLIMATE. EVEN NOW, IN LATE AUTUMN, WE HAVE CLEAR BLUE SKIES AND BRACING WINDS FROM THE SOUTH. AND WE SHOULD CERTAINLY SAVE. NO ONE HERE KEEPS MORE THAN ONE SERVANT, AND GRAND ENTERTAINMENTS ARE UNKNOWN. NO CLUBS EITHER, THANK GOD! YOU KNOW WHAT A DRAWBACK THEY . . . OR RATHER THE LACK OF THEM HAS BEEN TO ME AT HAWTHORN. THEY’RE ALL VERY WELL IF YOU HOLD THEM YOURSELF, BUT PLAY THE DICKENS WITH A PRACTICE IF YOU DON’T. I SHOULD ONLY BE TOO GLAD TO SETTLE SOMEWHERE WHERE THEY’RE NON-EXISTENT.

THE DIFFICULTY IS GOING TO BE TO FIND A HOUSE. THERE ARE ONLY TWO VACANT IN ALL BARAMBOGIE. ONE OF THESE IS IN POOR REPAIR, AND THE OWNER— THE LEADING DRAPER— DECLINES TO DO ANYTHING TO IT. BESIDES HE WANTS A RENTAL OF EIGHTY POUNDS P.A., ON A FOUR YEARS’ LEASE— WHICH OF COURSE PUTS IT OUT OF THE QUESTION. THE OTHER IS SO SMALL THAT NONE OF OUR FURNITURE WOULD GO INTO IT. BUT WHERE THERE’S A WILL THERE’S A WAY; AND I HAVE AN IDEA— AND I THINK A BRILLIANT ONE. THERE’S A FINE OLD ODDFELLOWS’ HALL HERE, WHICH IS IN DISUSE AND UP FOR AUCTION. IT’S OF BRICK— LOOKS LIKE A CHAPEL— AND IS SIXTY FEET LONG BY TWENTY BROAD. WELL, MY PLAN IS TO BUY THIS, AND CONVERT IT INTO A DWELLING-HOUSE. THE BODY OF THE HALL WILL GIVE US SIX SPLENDID ROOMS, WITH A PASSAGE DOWN THE MIDDLE, AND WE CAN ADD KITCHEN, SCULLERY, OUTHOUSES, ETC. I WOULD ALSO THROW OUT A VERANDAH. THERE’S A FAIR PIECE OF LAND WHICH WE WOULD TURN INTO A GARDEN. THE ALTERATIONS WILL BE EASY TO MAKE AND NOT COST MUCH; AND THERE WE ARE, WITH OUT AND AWAY THE BEST HOUSE IN THE TOWN! — I FEAR, THOUGH, EVEN UNDER THE MOST FAVOURABLE CIRCUMSTANCES WE SHALL NOT BE ABLE TO USE ALL OUR FURNITURE HERE. I HAVEN’T YET SEEN A ROOM THAT WOULD HOLD YOUR WARDROBE, OR THE DINING-ROOM SIDEBOARD.

IF I DECIDE TO STAY, I SHALL LOSE NO TIME IN CONSULTING A BUILDER. YOU FOR YOUR PART MUST AT ONCE SEE AN AGENT AND PUT THE HAWTHORN HOUSE IN HIS HANDS. I FEEL SURE WE SHALL HAVE NO DIFFICULTY IN LETTING IT.

AND NOW I MUST BRING THIS LONG SCRAWL— IT HAS BEEN WRITTEN AT VARIOUS ODD MOMENTS— TO A CLOSE. I HAVE APPOINTED TO SEE RUMMEL AGAIN THIS AFTERNOON, TO HAVE ANOTHER PARLEY WITH HIM. NOT THAT I SHALL DEFINITELY FIX ON ANYTHING TILL I HEAR FROM YOU. FROM NOW ON I INTEND TO TAKE YOUR ADVICE. BUT I DO TRUST THAT WHAT I HAVE TOLD YOU WILL PROVE TO YOU THAT THIS IS NO WILDGOOSE CHASE, BUT THE VERY OPENING OF WHICH I AM IN SEARCH. IT DISTRESSES ME MORE THAN I CAN SAY, WHEN YOU AND I DO NOT SEE EYE TO EYE WITH EACH OTHER. NOW TAKE GOOD CARE OF YOUR DEAR SELF, AND KISS THE CHICKS FOR ME. FORGIVE ME, TOO, ALL MY IRRITABILITY AND BAD TEMPER OF THE PAST SIX MONTHS. I HAVE HAD A VERY GREAT DEAL TO WORRY ME— FAR MORE THAN YOU KNEW, OR THAN I WANTED YOU TO KNOW. IT IS ENOUGH FOR ONE OF US TO BEAR THE BURDEN. BUT THIS WILL PASS AND EVERYTHING BE AS OF OLD, IF I CAN ONCE SEE THE PROSPECT OF EARNING A DECENT INCOME AGAIN. WHICH I AM PERFECTLY SURE I SHALL DO HERE.

YOUR OWN

R.T.M.

2

THE SUN HOTEL,

BARAMBOGIE.

MY DEAR MARY,

I MUST SAY YOU ARE THE REVERSE OF ENCOURAGING. YOUR LETTER THREW ME INTO SUCH A FIT OF LOW SPIRITS THAT I COULD NOT BRING MYSELF TO ANSWER IT TILL TO-DAY. IT’S BAD ENOUGH BEING ALL ALONE, WITH NEVER A SOUL TO SPEAK TO, WITHOUT YOU POURING COLD WATER ON EVERYTHING I SUGGEST. OF COURSE, AS YOU ARE SO DOWN ON MY SCHEME OF REBUILDING THE ODDFELLOWS’ HALL, I WILL LET THIS UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY FOR A BARGAIN SLIP, AND DISMISS THE IDEA FROM MY MIND. PERHAPS, THOUGH, YOU WILL TELL ME WHAT WE ARE TO DO— WITB NOT ANOTHER HOUSE IN THE PLACE VACANT— OR AT LEAST NOTHING BIG ENOUGH TO SWING A CAT IN. AS YOU ARE SO SCATHING ABOUT MY POOR PLANS, YOU HAD BETTER EVOLVE SOME OF YOUR OWN.

I HAD THE NEWS ABOUT THE MINE ON RELIABLE AUTHORITY; IT WAS NOT, AS YOU TRY TO MAKE OUT, A MERE WILD RUMOUR. NOR IS WHAT I SAID ABOUT PEOPLE BEING GLAD TO GET RID OF RUMMEL A PRODUCT OF MY OWN IMAGINATION. I RECEIVED MORE THAN ONE PLAIN HINT TO THAT EFFECT, IN THE COURSE OF MY VISITS.

HOWEVER, SINCE I WROTE LAST, I HAVE BEGUN TO DOUBT THE WISDOM OF SETTLING HERE. IT’S NOT THE HOUSE-QUESTION ALONE. I’VE SEEN GREATOREX THE DRAPER AGAIN, AND HE HAS SO FAR COME ROUND AS TO AGREE TO RE-FLOOR THE VERANDAH AND WHITEWASH THE ROOMS, IF I TAKE THE HOUSE ON HIS TERMS. I REPEAT ONCE MORE, IT IS THE BEST HOUSE IN BARAMBOGIE. SIX LARGE ROOMS, ALL NECESSARY OUTHOUSES, A SHED FITTED WITH A SHOWER-BATH, AND A FINE GARDEN— WE MIGHT INDEED CONSIDER OURSELVES LUCKY TO GET IT. RUMMEL LIVES IN A REGULAR HOVEL; THE PARSON IN A FOUR-ROOMED HUT WITH NOT A FOOT OF GROUND TO IT, NOR ANY VERANDAH TO KEEP OFF THE SUN. GREATOREX’S IS A PALACE IN COMPARISON. OF COURSE THOUGH, AS YOU EXPRESS YOURSELF SO STRONGLY AGAINST THE FOUR— YEARS’ LEASE, I SHALL GIVE UP ALL IDEA OF COMING TO AN AGREEMENT WITH HIM.

BESIDES, AS I SAID ABOVE, I HAVE PRACTICALLY DECIDED NOT TO REMAIN. YOUR LETTER IS CHIEFLY RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS. I CAN SEE YOU HAVE MADE UP YOUR MIND BEFOREHAND NOT TO LIKE THE PLACE. AND IF YOU WERE UNHAPPY I SHOULD BE WRETCHED, TOO, AND REPROACH MYSELF FOR HAVING DRAGGED YOU AND THE CHILDREN INTO SO OUTLANDISH AN EXILE. I QUITE AGREE IT WOULD BE HARD WORK FOR YOU WITH BUT A SINGLE SERVANT— BUT I CAN ASSURE YOU, WE SHOULD BE EYED ASKANCE IF WE TRIED TO KEEP MORE. IN A PLACE LIKE THIS, WHERE THERE IS ONLY ONE STANDARD OF LIVING, IT WOULD RENDER US MOST UNPOPULAR. BUT EVEN SHOULD YOU CHANGE YOUR MIND, MY ADVICE WOULD BE, NOT TO COME FOR AT LEAST THREE MONTHS. BY THAT TIME I SHOULD KNOW BETTER HOW THE PRACTICE WAS SHAPING. OF COURSE THINGS MAY LOOK BRIGHTER FOR ME WHEN RUMMEL GOES, AND I BEGIN TO GET SOMETHING TO DO. I’VE BEEN HERE NEARLY A FORTNIGHT NOW, AND HE SHOWS NO MORE SIGNS OF LEAVING THAN AT FIRST. HE IS STILL ATTENDING PATIENTS; THE PEOPLE RUN AFTER HIM IN THE STREETS. HE HAS BEEN EXTRAORDINARILY POPULAR; WHICH IS NOT TO BE WONDERED AT, WITH HIS GOOD LOOKS AND INGRATIATING MANNERS. ONLY A FEW TRIFLING CASES HAVE COME MY WAY. IT IS VERY DISHEARTENING. TO ADD TO THIS, I HAVE BEEN FEELING ANYTHING BUT WELL. THE CHANGE OF WATER HAS UPSET ME. THEN MY BEDROOM IS DARK AND AIRLESS; AND THE NOISE IN THE HOTEL ENOUGH TO DRIVE ONE CRAZY. IT GOES ON TILL LONG PAST MIDNIGHT AND BEGINS AGAIN BEFORE SIX.

ANOTHER THING THAT WORRIES ME IS THE FACT THAT I SHOULD BE ALONE OF THE PROFESSION HERE, IF I STAYED. I DARESAY I SHOULD GET USED TO IT IN TIME; BUT JUST NOW, IN MY POOR STATE, IT WOULD BE AN ADDITIONAL STRAIN, NEVER TO HAVE A SECOND OPINION TO FALL BACK ON. — I DON’T NEED YOU TO TELL ME, MY DEAR, THAT A HUNDRED CONFINEMENTS IN THE YEAR WOULD BE STIFF WORK. BUT THEY WOULD ALSO MEAN A PRINCELY INCOME. HOWEVER, I HAVE NO INTENTION OF DRAGGING YOU HERE AGAINST YOUR WILL: AND SHALL NOW CAST ABOUT FOR SOMETHING ELSE. I HEARD TO-DAY OF A PLACE CALLED TURRAMUNGI, WHERE THERE IS ONLY ONE DOCTOR AND HE A BIT OF A DUFFER. I WILL GO OVER BY COACH ONE MORNING AND SEE HOW THE LAND LIES.

BUT DO TRY AND WRITE MORE CHEERFULLY. I AM SURE YOU HAVE NO NEED TO BE SO DEPRESSED— IN OUR PLEASANT HOME, AND WITH THE CHILDREN TO BEAR YOU COMPANY. I AM SORRY TO HEAR YOU HAVE HEARD OF NO LIKELY TENANTS. WE OUGHT TO GET A RENT OF AT LEAST TWO HUNDRED, WITHOUT TAXES. AS I SAID BEFORE, YOUR WARDROBE AND THE SIDEBOARD WILL HAVE TO BE SOLD. PERHAPS THE INCOMING TENANT WILL TAKE THEM.

THE FLIES ARE VERY TROUBLESOME TO-DAY. I HAVE CONSTANTLY TO FLAP MY HANDKERCHIEF WHILE I WRITE.

SHALL HOPE TO SEND YOU BETTER NEWS OF MYSELF NEXT TIME.

R.T.M.

3

THE SUN HOTEL,

BARAMBOGIE.

MY DEAR WIFE,

A LINE IN GREAT HASTE. I HAVE JUST SEEN AN ADVERTISEMENT IN THE “ARGUS” CALLING FOR APPLICATIONS FOR MEDICAL OFFICER TO THE BOORANDOORA LODGE, AND HAVE MADE UP MY MIND TO APPLY. I HAVE WRITTEN OFF POSTHASTE FOR FURTHER PARTICULARS, IN ORDER TO GET MY APPLICATION IN BEFORE FRIDAY. AFTER SPENDING CLOSE ON THREE WEEKS HERE, I HAVE DECIDED ONCE AND FOR ALL THAT IT WOULD BE INFINITELY MORE SATISFACTORY TO MAKE AN EXTRA COUPLE OF HUNDRED A YEAR AT HAWTHORN, WITH A DECENT HOUSE BEHIND US, THAN TO BURY OURSELVES IN THIS WILD BUSH. A THIRD LODGE WOULD GIVE A TREMENDOUS FILLIP TO THE PRACTICE. AND THE MORE I SEE OF THIS PLACE, THE LESS I LIKE IT.

OF COURSE, MY APPLICATION MAY NOT BE CONSIDERED. LAMBERT, WHO HAD THE BOORANDOORA LAST, HELD IT AT TWENTY-ONE SHILLINGS A HEAD, AND FOUND MEDICINE. I MEAN TO TENDER SEVENTEEN-AND-SIX, WITHOUT PHYSIC. GRAVES, I KNOW, WON’T LOOK AT THEM UNDER TWENTY. SO I THINK I OUGHT TO STAND A VERY GOOD CHANCE. DON’T TAKE ANY FURTHER STEPS ABOUT THE HOUSE IN THE MEANWHILE.

SINCE I WROTE LAST I HAVE HAD A LITTLE MORE TO DO. I WAS CALLED OUT SEVERAL MILES YESTERDAY. AND THE PEOPLE I WENT TO TOLD ME THAT IF I HAD NOT BEEN HERE, THEY WOULD HAVE SENT FOR THE MAN AT TURRAMUNGI. SO YOU SEE RUMMEL IS NOT PERSONA GRATA EVERYWHERE. HE IS STILL ABOUT, AND AS MUCH IN MY WAY AS EVER; FOR AS LONG AS HE IS ON THE SPOT, PEOPLE WON’T CONSULT ANY ONE ELSE. I WISH TO GOD I HAD NOT BEEN IN SUCH A HURRY TO COME. HOWEVER, ONE THING MAKES ME MORE HOPEFUL: THE DATE OF HIS AUCTION IS FIXED AT LAST, FOR MONDAY NEXT.

IN HASTE

YOUR OWN

R.T.M.

4

THE SUN HOTEL,

BARAMBOGIE.

MY DARLING MARY,

SO YOU APPROVE, DO YOU, OF MY IDEA OF PUTTING IN FOR THE BOORANDOORA? I GOT THE INFORMATION I WANTED FROM THE SECRETARY OF THE LODGE; AND IF I RESOLVE TO OFFER MY SERVICES, SHALL DO SO FOR THE SUM I NAMED. IT IS ALL VERY WELL, MY DEAR, TO TALK ABOUT IT BEING BENEATH MY DIGNITY TO UNDERBID OTHERS, AND TO ASK HOW I MYSELF SHOULD ONCE HAVE CHARACTERISED SUCH A PROCEEDING. (PERSONALLY, I THINK YOU MIGHT KEEP REMARKS OF THIS KIND TO YOURSELF.) WHAT I DO IS DONE FOR YOUR SAKE. IF I COULD GET THIS THIRD LODGE, IT MIGHT SAVE YOU HAVING TO TURN OUT AND PART WITH YOUR FURNITURE; AND TO MAKE THAT POSSIBLE I AM READY TO SACRIFICE MY PROFESSIONAL PRIDE. THERE ARE SO MANY OTHERS, YOUNGER MEN THAN I, WHO ARE ONLY TOO READY TO STEP IN. AND I LOOK ON IT AS MY SOLE REMAINING CHANCE TO EARN A DECENT LIVELIHOOD WITHIN REACH OF CIVILISATION.

HOWEVER, I MUST CONFESS, I HAVE AGAIN BECOME SOMEWHAT UNDECIDED. THE FACT IS, RUMMEL HAS GONE AT LAST: AND HE GAVE ME HIS WORD, ON LEAVING, THAT HE WOULD NEVER COME BACK. THE AUCTION TOOK PLACE AS ARRANGED; HOUSE AND GROUND SELLING FOR A HUNDRED AND NINETY POUNDS. SINCE HE WENT, I HAVE BEEN GENUINELY BUSY. THE PARSON IS ILL WITH INFLAMMATION OF THE LIVER; AND I WAS CALLED OUT YESTERDAY A DISTANCE OF FIVE MILES. THE HIRE OF A BUGGY COSTS SEVEN-AND-SIX— LESS THAN HALF WHAT I HAD TO PAY IN HAWTHORN. THIS AFTERNOON I GO BY TRAIN TO MIRRAWARRA, AND SHALL WALK BACK. IT BECOMES DAILY MORE EVIDENT TO ME THAT THERE IS A VERY FINE PRACTICE TO BE DONE HERE. AND EVERY ONE I MEET IMPLORES ME TO STAY. SOME, INDEED, GROW QUITE PLAINTIVE AT THE IDEA OF LOSING ME.

I HAVE ALSO HAD A PLEASANT SURPRISE ABOUT THE HOUSE. GREATOREX NOW SAYS HE IS WILLING TO LET FOR THREE YEARS INSTEAD OF FOUR, IF I PAY THE FIRST YEAR’S RENT IN ADVANCE. THIS SEEMS TO ME AN EXTREMELY FAIR OFFER. YOU SEE IT WOULD ONLY BE LIKE PAYING A SMALL SUM DOWN FOR THE PRACTICE. I AM GOING OVER THE HOUSE WITH HIM AGAIN TO-MORROW, AND WILL THEN LET YOU KNOW WHAT I DECIDE. THE POINT AT ISSUE IS, SHOULD I NOT DO BETTER TO ACCEPT THIS CERTAIN OPENING, WITH ALL ITS DRAWBACKS, THAN TAKE THE UNCERTAIN CHANCE OF HAWTHORN WITH A THIRD LODGE . . . IF I GET IT!

YOUR VERY OWN

R.T.M.

5

THE SUN HOTEL,

BARAMBOGIE.

MY OWN DEAR WIFE,

WELL! THE DIE IS EAST; I HAVE FINALLY MADE UP MY MIND TO REMAIN IN BARAMBOGIE. I DID NOT PUT IN FOR THE LODGE AFTER ALL, BUT RESOLVED TO GIVE THIS PLACE A FURTHER TEN DAYS’ TRIAL. AND WELL THAT I DID! FOR THE PRACTICE HAS LOOKED UP WITH A VENGEANCE: IT IS NOW AS PLAIN AS A PIKESTAFF THAT I HAVE CAPITAL PROSPECTS HERE, AND SHOULD BE A FOOL INDEED TO LET THEM SLIDE. IF I HAD NOT POPPED IN WHEN I DID, THERE WOULD CERTAINLY HAVE BEEN OTHERS— AND, FOR THAT MATTER, I AM STILL NOT QUITE SURE THERE MAY NOT BE ANOTHER SETTLING. IN THE MEANTIME I AM SEEING FRESH PATIENTS DAILY, AND HAVE NOT HAD MY CLOTHES OFF FOR THE PAST TWO NIGHTS. THE DAY BEFORE YESTERDAY I WAS CALLED TEN MILES OUT TO ATTEND A CASE WHICH GUTHRIE OF COORA HAS NEGLECTED: AND I HAVE BEEN BESPOKEN FOR THREE FUTURE EVENTS. THIS MORNING I DROVE SEVEN MILES INTO THE BUSH; FOR WHICH I SHALL CHARGE FIVE GUINEAS. IN THE MONTH I HAVE BEEN HERE— TEN DAYS WITHOUT RUMMEL— I HAVE TAKEN FIFTEEN POUNDS AND BOOKED CLOSE ON FIFTY. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THAT? I FEEL QUITE SURE I SHALL EASILY TOUCH A THOUSAND A YEAR. OF COURSE IT WILL MEAN HARD WORK, BUT THE MERE PROSPECT OF SUCH A THING KEYS ME UP. IT WAS THE DOING NOTHING AT HAWTHORN THAT PREYED SO ON MY MIND. IF ONLY I CAN EARN A GOOD INCOME, AND PROVIDE FOR YOU AND THE DARLINGS IN THE STYLE TO WHICH YOU ARE ACCUSTOMED, I SHALL BE A HAPPY MAN ONCE MORE.

THE PEOPLE HERE ARE OVERJOYED AT THE PROSPECT OF KEEPING ME. THEY CONTINUE TO DECLARE I CANNOT FAIL TO SUCCEED. EVERYBODY IS MOST CIVIL, AND ALL INVITE ME TO DRINK WITH THEM. I HAVE CONSIDERABLE DIFFICULTY IN MAKING THEM UNDERSTAND THAT I DO NOT GO IN FOR THAT KIND OF THING. IT SOMETIMES NEEDS A GOOD DEAL OF TACT TO PUT THEM OFF WITHOUT GIVING OFFENCE: BUT SO FAR I HAVE MANAGED PRETTY WELL. FROM ALL I NOW HEAR, RUMMEL MUST HAVE BEEN A SEASONED DRINKER— A REGULAR TOPER. I SAW THE BANK MANAGER TO-DAY. HE WAS VERY QUEER. HAD EVIDENTLY BEEN TAKING NOBBLERS. HE HAS BEEN IN CHARGE OF THE BANK HERE FOR OVER TWENTY-YEARS, AND THINKS THERE IS NO PLACE LIKE BARAMBOGIE. VOWS I SHALL MAKE MY FORTUNE.

GREATOREX PROMISES TO SET ABOUT THE REPAIRS WITHOUT DELAY. MY PRIVATE OPINION IS, HE’S IN HIGH FEATHER AT SECURING SUCH GOOD AND CAREFUL TENANTS. I WENT OVER THE HOUSE WITH HIM AGAIN YESTERDAY. THE ROOMS ARE NOT QUITE AS LARGE AS I THOUGHT— I WILL SEND YOU THE EXACT MEASUREMENTS IN A DAY OR TWO— BUT ALL HAVE FRENCH WINDOWS AND ARE FITTED WITH VENETIAN BLINDS. THE GARDEN IS WELL STOCKED WITH FRUIT, FLOWERS AND VEGETABLES. I SHALL KEEP A MAN TO LOOK AFTER IT. I THINK YOU HAD BETTER TRY AND INDUCE ONE OF THE SERVANTS FROM HOME TO ACCOMPANY YOU. PERHAPS ELIZA WOULD COME; AS THE CHILDREN ARE USED TO HER. HERE THERE IS LITTLE OR NOTHING IN THAT LINE TO BE HAD. SLIPSHOD DOLLOPS DEMAND TEN SHILLINGS A WEEK. THE PARSON KEEPS NONE; HAS NO ROOM FOR ANY.

ARCHDEACON COOTE OF TARALGA CALLED YESTERDAY, AND MADE QUITE A FUSS OVER ME. I HAVE ALSO BEEN INTRODUCED TO THE WIFE OF ONE OF THE LEADING SQUATTERS. LIKE EVERY ONE ELSE, SHE SAYS IT WILL BE A RED-LETTER DAY FOR THE PLACE IF WE COME, AND LOOKS EAGERLY FORWARD TO MAKING YOUR ACQUAINTANCE.

NOW, IF ONLY WE CAN LET THE HOUSE! THE MERE POSSIBILITY OF THIS, AND OF OUR BEING ALL TOGETHER ONCE MORE MAKES ME WILDLY HAPPY. TELL THE CHICKS THERE IS A SPLENDID SUMMERHOUSE IN THE NEW GARDEN, AND I WILL SEE TO IT THAT A SWING IS PUT UP FOR THEM. THEY SHALL HAVE EVERYTHING THEY WANT HERE.

YOUR OWN OLD HUSBAND,

RICHARD TOWNSHEND MAHONY.

6

THE SUN HOTEL,

BARAMBOGIE.

MY DEAR MARY,

I AM SORRY YOU WRITE IN SUCH LOW SPIRITS. I AGREE WITH YOU, IT IS MOST UNFORTUNATE THAT WE ARE OBLIGED TO BREAK UP OUR HOME; BUT IT WAS BLACKEST FOLLY ON MY PART EVER TO BUILD THAT HOUSE, AND NOW I AM PUNISHED FOR IT. I CANNOT SAY HOW DEEPLY I REGRET HAVING TO ASK YOU AND THE LITTLE ONES TO PUT UP WITH BUSH LIFE; AND YOU MAY REST ASSURED I SHOULD NOT DO SO, IF I SAW ANY OTHER WAY OUT. BUT IT IS THIS OR NOTHING.

IT DOESN’T MEND MATTERS TO HAVE YOU CARPING AT THE CLASS OF PERSON WE SHALL NEED TO ASSOCIATE WITH. FOR GOODNESS’ SAKE, DON’T GO PUTTING IDEAS OF THAT KIND INTO THE CHILDREN’S HEADS! WE ARE ALL GOD’S CREATURES; AND THE SOONER WE SHAKE OFF THE INCUBUS OF A FALSE AND SNOBBISH PRIDE, THE BETTER IT WILL BE FOR US. THERE ARE GOOD AND WORTHY PEOPLE TO BE FOUND IN EVERY WALK OF LIFE.

YOU ARE UTTERLY WRONG IN YOUR SUSPICIONS THAT I AM LETTING MYSELF BE FLATTERED AND BAMBOOZLED INTO STAYING. BUT THERE! . . . YOU NEVER DO THINK ANYONE BUT YOURSELF HAS A PARTICLE OF JUDGMENT.

NO, THERE’S NOTHING IN THE WAY OF A SCHOOL— EXCEPT, OF COURSE, THE STATE SCHOOL. YOU HAD BETTER FIND OUT WHAT A GOVERNESS WOULD COST. ABOUT THE HOUSE, I AM AFRAID IT IS REALLY NOT VERY MUCH BIGGER THAN OUR FIRST COTTAGE IN WEBSTER ST— THE WOODEN ONE— BEFORE WE MADE THOSE ADDITIONS TO IT. I ENCLOSE THE MEASUREMENTS OF THE ROOMS. YOU WILL SEE THAT THE DRAWING-ROOM AND CHIEF BEDROOM ARE THE SAME SIZE— 12 BY 13 — THE OTHERS SOMEWHAT SMALLER. IT WILL BE AS WELL TO SELL THE PIERGLASS AND THE DRAWING-ROOM CHIFFONIER. AND IT’S NO GOOD BRINGING THE DINING-ROOM TABLE, OR THE BIG SOFA . . . OR THE TALL GLASS BOOKCASE. OR THE THREE LARGE WARDROBES EITHER; THEY WOULDN’T GO IN AT THE DOORS. BUT DO TRY AND NOT FRET TOO MUCH OVER SACRIFICING THESE THINGS. A FEW YEARS HERE, AND YOU WILL BE ABLE TO REPLACE THEM; AND THEN WE WILL PITCH OUR TENT SOMEWHERE MORE TO YOUR LIKING.

I RECKON THE MOVE WILL COST US ABOUT A HUNDRED POUNDS.

I AM STILL BUSY. BARAMBOGIE IS ANYTHING BUT THE DEAD-AND-ALIVE PLACE YOU IMAGINE. NO LESS THAN SIX COACHES A DAY DRAW UP AT THIS HOTEL. THE WEATHER CONTINUES FINE. I HAVE A GOOD APPETITE: IT SUITS ME TO BE SO MUCH IN THE OPEN AIR, INSTEAD OF COOPED UP IN THAT DULL SURGERY. I WISH I SLEPT BETTER THOUGH. THE NOISE IN THE HOTEL CONTINUES UNABATED. I HAVE THE UTMOST DIFFICULTY IN GETTING TO SLEEP, OR IN REMAINING ASLEEP WHEN I DO. THE LEAST SOUND DISTURBS ME— AND THEN I AM INSTANTLY WIDE AWAKE. THE OTHER NIGHT, THOUGH, I HAD A VERY DIFFERENT EXPERIENCE. SOMETHING VERY QUEER HAPPENED TO ME. I DROPPED OFF TOWARDS THREE AND HAD BEEN ASLEEP FOR ABOUT AN HOUR— FAST ASLEEP— WHEN SOME NOISE OR OTHER, I DON’T KNOW WHAT, WAKENED ME WITH A TERRIFIC START . . . ONE OF THOSE FEARFUL JERKS AWAKE WHICH THE NIGHTBELL USED TO GIVE ME. EXCEPT THAT IN THOSE DAYS, I WAS ALL THERE IN AN INSTANT. HERE, I COULDN’T FOR THE LIFE OF ME COME BACK, AND WENT THROUGH A FEW MOST AWFUL SECONDS, ABSOLUTELY INCAPABLE OF RECOLLECTION. THERE I SAT, BOLT UPRIGHT, MY HEART BEATING LIKE A SLEDGEHAMMER, POWERLESS TO REMEMBER WHO I WAS, WHERE I WAS OR WHAT I WAS DOING. MY BRAIN SEEMED LIKE AN EMPTY SHELL . . . OR A WATCH WITH ALL THE WORKS GONE OUT OF IT. OR IF YOU CAN IMAGINE A KIND OF MENTAL SUFFOCATION, A HORRID STRUGGLE FOR BREATH ON THE PART OF THE BRAIN. AND WHEN, BY SHEER FORCE OF WILL, I HAD SUCCEEDED IN FIGHTING BACK TO A CONSCIOUSNESS OF MY PERSONAL IDENTITY, I STILL COULD NOT LOCATE MYSELF, BUT IMAGINED I WAS AT HOME, AND FUMBLED FOR THE MATCHES ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE BED! IT WAS MOST UNPLEASANT— A REAL DISSOCIATION FOR THE TIME BEING— AND I DID NOT SLEEP AGAIN, DREADING A RETURN. I THINK IT CAME FROM WORRY— I HAVE BEEN MUCH UPSET. YOUR LETTER . . . AND ALL YOU SAID IN IT . . .YOUR GRIEF AND DISAPPOINTMENT. ADD TO THIS THAT I HAD NO PROPER REST THE NIGHT BEFORE, HAVING BEEN UP WITH A PATIENT TILL THREE. I SHALL BE MORE CAREFUL IN FUTURE.

MY LOVE TO THE DARLINGS,

YOUR OWN

R.T.M.

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Last updated Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 15:33