There are certain periods in the life of man when Fate seems to have done her worst, and any further misfortunes which may befall are accepted with a philosophical resignation, begotten by the very severity of previous trials. Fitzgerald was in this state of mind — he was calm, but it was the calmness of despair — the misfortunes of the past year seemed to have come to a climax, and he looked forward to the publication of the whole bitter story with an indifference that surprised himself His own name, and that of Madge and her dead father, would be on every tongue, yet he felt perfectly callous to whatever might be said on the subject. So long as Madge recovered, and they could go away to another part of the world, leaving Australia, with its bitter memories behind — he did not care. Moreland would suffer the bitter penalty of his crime, and then nothing more would ever be heard of the matter. It would be better for the whole story to be told, and transitory pain endured, than to go on striving to hide the infamy and shame which might be discovered at any moment. Already the news was all over Melbourne that the murderer of Oliver Whyte had been captured, and that his confession would bring to light certain startling facts concerning the late Mark Frettlby. Brian well knew that the world winked at secret vices so long as there was an attempt at concealment, though it was cruelly severe on those which were brought to light, and that many whose lives might be secretly far more culpable than poor Mark Frettlby’s, would be the first to slander the dead man. The public curiosity, however, was destined never to be gratified, for the next day it was known that Roger Moreland had hanged himself in his cell during the night, and had left no confession behind him.
When Brian heard this, he breathed a heartfelt prayer of thanks for his deliverance, and went to see Calton, whom he found at his chambers, in deep conversation with Chinston and Kilsip. They all came to the conclusion that as Moreland was now dead, nothing could be gained by publishing the confession of Mark Frettlby, so agreed to burn it, and when Fitzgerald saw in the heap of blackened paper in the fireplace all that remained of the bitter story, he felt a weight lifted off his heart. The barrister, Chinston, and Kilsip, all promised to keep silent, and they kept the promise nobly, for nothing was ever known of the circumstances which led to the death of Oliver Whyte, and it was generally supposed that it must have been caused by some quarrel between the dead man and his friend Roger Moreland.
Fitzgerald, however, did not forget the good service that Kilsip had done him, and gave him a sum of money which made him independent for life, though he still followed his old profession of a detective from sheer love of excitement, and was always looked upon with admiration as the man who had solved the mystery of the famous hansom cab murder. Brian, after several consultations with Calton, at last came to the conclusion that it would be useless to reveal to Sal Rawlins the fact that she was Mark Frettlby’s daughter, as by the will the money was clearly left to Madge, and such a revelation could bring her no pecuniary benefit, while her bringing up unfitted her for the position; so a yearly income, more than sufficient for her wants, was settled upon her, and she was allowed to remain in ignorance of her parentage. The influence of Sal Rawlins’ old life, however, was very strong on her, and she devoted herself to the task of saving her fallen sisters. Knowing as she did, all the intricacies of the slums, she was enabled to do an immense amount of good, and many an unhappy woman was saved from the squalor and hardship of a gutter life by the kind hand of Sal Rawlins.
Felix Rolleston became a member of Parliament, where his speeches, if not very deep, were at least amusing; and while in the House he always behaved like a gentleman, which could not be said of all his Parliamentary colleagues.
Madge slowly recovered from her illness, and as she had been explicitly named in the will as heiress to Mark Frettlby’s great wealth, she placed the management of her estates in the hands of Mr. Calton, who, with Thinton and Tarbit, acted as her agents in Australia. On her recovery she learned the story of her father’s early marriage, but both Calton and Fitzgerald were silent about the fact of Sal Rawlins being her half-sister, as such a relation could do no good, and would only create a scandal, as no explanation could be given except the true one. Shortly afterwards Madge married Fitzgerald, and both of them only too gladly left Australia, with all its sorrows and bitter memories.
Standing with her husband on the deck of one of the P. and O. steamers, as it ploughed the blue waters of Hobson’s Bay into foam, they both watched Melbourne gradually fade from their view, under the glow of the sunset. They could see the two great domes of the Exhibition, and the Law Courts, and also Government House, with its tall tower rising from the midst of the green trees. In the background was a bright crimson sky, barred with masses of black clouds, and over all the great city hung a cloud of smoke like a pall. The flaring red light of the sinking sun glared angrily on the heavy waters, and the steamer seemed to be making its way through a sea of blood. Madge, clinging to her husband’s arm, felt her eyes fill with tears, as she saw the land of her birth receding slowly.
“Good-bye,” she murmured, softly. “Good-bye for ever.”
“You do not regret?” he said, bending his head.
“Regret, no,” she answered, looking at him with loving eyes.
“With you by my side, I fear nothing. Surely our hearts have been tried in the furnace of affliction, and our love has been chastened and purified.”
“We are sure of nothing in this world,” replied Brian, with a sigh. “But after all the sorrow and grief of the past, let us hope that the future will be peace.”
A white-winged sea-gull rose suddenly from the crimson waters, and circled rapidly in the air above them.
“A happy omen,” she said, looking up fondly to the grave face of her husband, “for your life and for mine.”
He bent down and kissed her.
The great steamer moved slowly out to sea, and as they stood on the deck, hand clasped in hand, with the fresh salt breeze blowing keenly in their faces, it bore them away into the placid beauty of the coming night, towards the old world and the new life.
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Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:51