This narrative which I am now writing is neither more nor less than an account of what befell certain of my acquaintances during a period extending over nearly, or quite, twenty years, interspersed, and let us hope embellished, with descriptions of the country in which these circumstances took place, and illustrated by conversations well known to me by frequent repetition, selected as throwing light upon the characters of the persons concerned. Episodes there are, too, which I have thought it worth while to introduce as being more or less interesting, as bearing on the manners of a country but little known, out of which materials it is difficult to select those most proper to make my tale coherent; yet such has been my object, neither to dwell on the one hand unnecessarily on the more unimportant passages, nor on the other hand to omit anything which may be supposed to bear on the general course of events.
Now, during all the time above mentioned, I, Geoffry Hamlyn, have happened to lead a most uninteresting, and with few exceptions prosperous existence. I was but little concerned, save as a hearer, in the catalogue of exciting accidents and offences which I chronicle. I have looked on with the deepest interest at the lovemaking, and ended a bachelor; I have witnessed the fighting afar off, only joining the battle when I could not help it, yet I am a steady old fogey, with a mortal horror of a disturbance of any sort. I have sat drinking with the wine-bibbers, and yet at sixty my hand is as steady as a rock. Money has come to me by mere accumulation; I have taken more pains to spend it than to make it; in short, all through my life’s drama, I have been a spectator, and not an actor, and so in this story I shall keep myself as much as possible in the background, only appearing personally when I cannot help it.
Acting on this resolve I must now make my CONGE, and bid you farewell for a few years, and go back to those few sheep which James Stockbridge and I own in the wilderness, and continue the history of those who are more important than myself. I must push on too, for there is a long period of dull stupid prosperity coming to our friends at Baroona and Toonarbin, which we must get over as quickly as is decent. Little Sam Buckley also, though at present a most delightful child, will soon be a mere uninteresting boy. We must teach him to read and write, and ride, and what not, as soon as possible, and see if we can’t find a young lady — well, I won’t anticipate, but go on. Go on, did I say? — jump on, rather — two whole years at once.
See Baroona now. Would you know it? I think not. That hut where we spent the pleasant Christmas-day you know of is degraded into the kitchen, and seems moved backward, although it stands in the same place, for a new house is built nearer the river, quite overwhelming the old slab hut in its grandeur — a long low wooden house, with deep cool verandahs all round, already festooned with passion-flowers, and young grapevines, and fronted by a flower garden, all a-blaze with petunias and geraniums.
It was a summer evening, and all the French windows reaching to the ground were open to admit the cool south wind, which had just come up, deliciously icily cold after a scorching day. In the verandah sat the Major and the Doctor over their claret (for the Major had taken to dining late again now, to his great comfort), and in the garden were Mrs. Buckley and Sam watering the flowers, attended by a man who drew water from a new-made reservoir near the house.
“I think, Doctor,” said the Major, “that the habit of dining in the middle of the day is a gross abuse of the gifts of Providence, and I’ll prove it to you. What does a man dine for? — answer me that.”
“To satisfy his hunger, I should say,” answered the Doctor.
“Pooh! pooh! stuff and nonsense, my good friend,” said the Major; “you are speaking at random. I suppose you will say, then, that a black fellow is capable of dining?”
“Highly capable, as far as I can judge from what I have seen,” replied the Doctor. “A full-grown fighting black would be ashamed if he couldn’t eat a leg of mutton at a sitting.”
“And you call that DINING?” said the Major. “I call it gorging. Why, those fellows are more uncomfortable after food than before. I have seen them sitting close before the fire and rubbing their stomachs with mutton fat to reduce the swelling. Ha! ha! ha! — dining, eh? Oh, Lord!”
“Then if you don’t dine to satisfy your hunger, what the deuce do you eat dinners for at all?” asked the Doctor.
“Why,” said the Major, spreading his legs out before him with a benign smile, and leaning back in his chair, “I eat my dinner, not so much for the sake of the dinner itself, as for the after-dinnerish feeling which follows: a feeling that you have nothing to do, and that if you had you’d be shot if you’d do it. That, to return to where I started from, is why I won’t dine in in the middle of the day.”
“If that is the way you feel after dinner, I certainly wouldn’t.”
“All the most amiable feelings in the human breast,” continued the Major, “are brought out in their full perfection by dinner. If a fellow were to come to me now and ask me to lend him ten pounds, I’d do it, provided, you know, that he would fetch out the cheque-book and pen and ink.”
“Laziness is nothing,” said the Doctor, “unless well carried out. I only contradicted you, however, to draw you out; I agree entirely. Do you know, my friend, I am getting marvellously fond of this climate.”
“So am I. But then you know, Doctor, that we are sheltered from the north wind here by the snow-ranges. The summer in Sydney, now, is perfectly infernal. The dust is so thick you can’t see your hand before you.”
“So I believe,” said the Doctor. “By the bye, I got a new butterfly today; rather an event, mind you, here, where there are so few.”
“What is he?”
“An Hipparchia,” said the Doctor, “Sam saw him first and gave chase.”
“You seem to be making quite a naturalist of my boy, Doctor. I am sincerely obliged to you. If we can make him take to that sort of thing it may keep him out of much mischief.”
“He will never get into much,” said the Doctor, “unless I am mistaken; he is the most docile child I ever came across. It is a pleasure to be with him. What are you going to do with him?”
“He must go to school, I am afraid,” said the Major with a sigh, “I can’t bring my heart to part with him; but his mother has taught him all she knows, so I suppose he must go to school and fight, and get flogged, and come home with a pipe in his mouth, and an oath on his lips, with his education completed. I don’t fancy his staying here among these convict servants, when he is old enough to learn mischief.”
“He’ll learn as much mischief at a colonial school, I expect,” said the Doctor, “and more too. All the evil he hears from these fellows will be like the water on a duck’s back; whereas, if you send him to school in a town, he’ll learn a dozen vices he’ll never hear of here. Get him a tutor.”
“That is easier said than done, Doctor. It is very hard to get a respectable tutor in the colony.”
“Here is one at your hand,” said the Doctor. “Take me.”
“My dear friend,” said the Major, jumping up, “I would not have dared to ask such a thing. If you would undertake him for a short time?”
“I will undertake the boy’s education altogether. Potztausend, and why not! It will be a labour of love, and therefore the more thoroughly done. What shall he learn, now?”
“That I must leave to you.”
“A weighty responsibility,” said the Doctor. “No Latin or Greek, I suppose? They will be no use to him here.”
“Well — no; I suppose not. But I should like him to learn his Latin grammar. You may depend upon it there’s something in the Latin grammar.”
“What use has it been to you, Major?”
“Why, the least advantage it has been to me is to give me an insight into the construction of languages, which is some use. But while I was learning the Latin grammar, I learnt other things besides, of more use than the construction of any languages, living or dead. First, I learnt that there were certain things in this world that MUST be done. Next, that there were people in this world, of whom the Masters of Eton were a sample, whose orders must be obeyed without question. Third, I found that it was pleasanter in all ways to do one’s duty than to leave it undone. And last, I found out how to bear a moderate amount of birching without any indecent outcry.”
“All very useful things,” said the Doctor. “Teach a boy one thing well, and you show him how to learn others. History, I suppose?”
“As much as you like, Doctor. His mother has taught him his catechism, and all that sort of thing, and she is the fit person, you know. With the exception of that and the Latin grammar, I trust everything to your discretion.”
“There is one thing I leave to you, Major, if you please, and that is corporal chastisement. I am not at all sure that I could bring myself to flog Sam, and, if I did, it would be very inefficiently done.”
“Oh, I’ll undertake it,” said the Major, “though I believe I shall have an easy task. He won’t want much flogging.”
At this moment Mrs. Buckley approached with a basketful of fresh-gathered flowers. “The roses don’t flower well here, Doctor,” she said, “but the geraniums run mad. Here is a salmon-coloured one for your button-hole.”
“He has earned it well, Agnes,” said her husband. “He has decided the discussion we had last night by offering to undertake Sam’s education himself.”
“And God’s blessing on him for it!” said Mrs. Buckley warmly. “You have taken a great load off my mind, Doctor. I should never have been happy if that boy had gone to school. Come here, Sam.”
Sam came bounding into the verandah, and clambered up on his father, as if he had been a tree. He was now eleven years old, and very tall and wellformed for his age. He was a good-looking boy, with regular features, and curly chestnut hair. He had, too, the large grey-blue eye of his father, an eye that never lost for a moment its staring expression of kindly honesty, and the lad’s whole countenance was one which, without being particularly handsome, or even very intelligent, won an honest man’s regard at first sight.
“My dear Sam,” said his mother, “leave off playing with your father’s hair, and listen to me, for I have something serious to say to you. Last night your father and I were debating about sending you to school, but Doctor Mulhaus has himself offered to be your tutor, thereby giving you advantages, for love, which you never could have secured for money. Now, the least we can expect of you, my dear boy, is that you will be docile and attentive to him.”
“I will try, Doctor dear,” said Sam. “But I am very stupid sometimes, you know.”
So the good Doctor, whose head was stored with nearly as much of human knowledge as mortal head could hold, took simple, guileless little Sam by the hand, and led him into the garden of knowledge. Unless I am mistaken, these two will pick more flowers than they will dig potatoes in the aforesaid garden, but I don’t think that two such honest souls will gather much unwholesome fruit. The danger is that they will waste their time, which is no danger at all, but a certainty.
I believe that such an education as our Sam got from the Doctor would have made a slattern and a faineant out of half the boys in England. If Sam had been a clever boy, or a conceited boy, he would have ended with a superficial knowledge of things in general, imagining he knew everything when he knew nothing, and would have been left in the end, without a faith either religious or political, a useless, careless man.
This danger the Doctor foresaw in the first month, and going to the Major abruptly, as he walked up and down the garden, took his arm, and said —
“See here, Buckley. I have undertaken to educate that boy of yours, and every day I like the task better, and yet every day I see that I have undertaken something beyond me. His appetite for knowledge is insatiable, but he is not an intellectual boy; he makes no deductions of his own, but takes mine for granted. He has no commentary on what he learns, but that of a dissatisfied idealist like me, a man who has been thrown among circumstances sufficiently favourable to make a prime minister out of some men, and yet who has ended by doing nothing. Another thing: this is my first attempt at education, and I have not the schoolmaster’s art to keep him to details. Every day I make new resolutions, and every day I break them. The boy turns his great eyes upon me in the middle of some humdrum work, and asks me a question. In answering, I get off the turnpike road, and away we go from lane to lane, from one subject to another, until lesson-time is over, and nothing done. And, if it were merely time wasted, it could be made up, but he remembers every word I say, and believes in it like gospel, when I myself couldn’t remember half of it to save my life. Now, my dear fellow, I consider your boy to be a very sacred trust to me, and so I have mentioned all this to you, to give you an opportunity of removing him to where he might be under a stricter discipline, if you thought fit. If he was like some boys, now, I should resign my post at once but, as it is, I shall wait till you turn me out, for two reasons. The first is, that I take such delight in my task, that I do not care to relinquish it; and the other is, that the lad is naturally so orderly and gentle, that he does not need discipline, like most boys.”
“My dear Doctor,” replied Major Buckley, “listen to me. If we were in England, and Sam could go to Eton, which, I take it you know, is the best school in the world, I would still earnestly ask you to continue your work. He will probably inherit a great deal of money, and will not have to push his way in the world by his brains; so that close scholarship will be rather unnecessary. I should like him to know history well and thoroughly; for he may mix in the political life of this little colony by and by. Latin grammar, you know,” he said, laughing, “is indispensable. Doctor, I trust my boy with you because I know that you will make him a gentleman, as his mother, with God’s blessing, will make him a Christian.”
So, the Doctor buckled to his task again, with renewed energy; to Euclid, Latin grammar, and fractions. Sam’s good memory enabled him to make light of the grammar, and the fractions too were no great difficulty, but the Euclid was an awful trial. He couldn’t make out what it was all about. He got on very well until he came nearly to the end of the first book, and then getting among the parallelogram “props,” as we used to call them (may their fathers’ graves be defiled!), he stuck dead. For a whole evening did he pore patiently over one of them till A B, setting to C D, crossed hands, poussetted, and whirled round “in Sahara waltz” through his throbbing head. Bed-time, but no rest! Whether he slept or not he could not tell. Who could sleep with that long-bodied, ill-tempered-looking parallelogram A H standing on the bed-clothes, and crying out, in tones loud enough to waken the house, that it never had been, nor never would be equal to the fat jolly square C K? So, in the morning, Sam woke to the consciousness that he was farther off from the solution than ever, but, having had a good cry, went into the study and tackled to it again.
No good! Breakfast time, and matters much worse! That long peaked-nose vixen of a triangle A H C, which yesterday Sam had made out was equal to half the parallelogram and half the square, now had the audacity to declare that she had nothing to do with either of them; so what was to be done now?
After breakfast Sam took his book and went out to his father, who was sitting smoking in the verandah. He clambered up on to his knee, and then began:—
“Father, dear, see here; can you understand this? You’ve got to prove, you know — oh, dear! I’ve forgot that now.”
“Let’s see,” said the Major; “I am afraid this is a little above me. There’s Brentwood, now, could do it; he was in the Artillery, you know, and learnt fortification, and that sort of thing. I don’t think I can make much hand of it, Sam.”
But Sam had put his head upon his father’s shoulder, and was crying bitterly.
“Come, come, my old man,” said the Major, “don’t give way, you know; don’t be beat.”
“I can’t make it out at all,” said Sam, sobbing. “I’ve got such a buzzing in my head with it! And if I can’t do it I must stop; because I can’t go on to the next till I understand this. Oh, dear me!”
“Lay your head there a little, my boy, till it gets clearer; then perhaps you will be able to make it out. You may depend on it that you ought to learn it, or the good Doctor wouldn’t have set it to you: never let a thing beat you, my son.”
So Sam cried on his father’s shoulder a little, and then went in with his book; and not long after, the Doctor looked in unperceived, and saw the boy with his elbows on the table and the book before him. Even while he looked a big tear fell plump into the middle of A H; so the Doctor came quietly in and said —
“Can’t you manage it, Sam?”
Sam shook his head.
“Just give me hold of the book; will you, Sam?”
Sam complied without word or comment; the Doctor sent it flying through the open window, halfway down the garden. “There!” said he, nodding his head, “that’s the fit place for him this day: you’ve had enough of him at present; go and tell one of the blacks to dig some worms, and we’ll make holiday and go a fishing.”
Sam looked at the Doctor, and then through the window at his old enemy lying in the middle of the flowerbed. He did not like to see the poor book, so lately his master, crumpled and helpless, fallen from its high estate so suddenly. He would have gone to its assistance, and picked it up and smoothed it, the more so as he felt that he had been beaten.
The Doctor seemed to see everything. “Let it lie here, my child,” he said; “you are not in a position to assist a fallen enemy; you are still the vanquished party. Go and get the worms.”
He went, and when he came back he found the Doctor sitting beside his father in the verandah, with a penknife in one hand and the ace of spades in the other. He cut the card into squares, triangles, and parallelograms, while Sam looked on, and, demonstrating as he went, fitted them one into the other, till the boy saw his bugbear of a proposition made as clear as day before his eyes.
“Why,” said Sam, “that’s all as clear as need be. I understand it. Now may I pick the book up, Doctor?”
History was the pleasantest part of all Sam’s tasks, for they would sit in the little room given up for a study, with the French windows open looking on the flower-garden, Sam reading aloud and the Doctor making discursive commentaries. At last, one day the Doctor said —
“My boy, we are making too much of a pleasure of this: you must really learn your dates. Now tell me the date of the accession of Edward the Sixth.”
“Ah! I thought so: we must not be so discursive. We’ll learn the dates of the Grecian History, as being an effort of memory, you not having read it yet.”
But this plan was rather worse than the other; for one morning, Sam having innocently asked, at half-past eleven, what the battle of Thermopylae was, Mrs. Buckley coming in, at one, to call them to lunch, found the Doctor, who had begun the account of that glorious fight in English, and then gone on to German, walking up and down the room in a state of excitement, reciting to Sam, who did not know delta from psi, the soul-moving account of it from Herodotus in good sonorous Greek. She asked, laughing, “What language are you talking now, my dear Doctor?”
“Greek, madam, Greek! and the very best of Greek!”
“And what does Sam think of it? I should like you to learn Greek, my boy, if you can.”
“I thought he was singing, mother,” said Sam; but after that the lad used to sit delighted, by the river side, when they were fishing, while the Doctor, with his musical voice, repeated some melodious ode of Pindar’s.
And so the intellectual education proceeded, with more or less energy; and meanwhile the physical and moral part was not forgotten, though the two latter, like the former, were not very closely attended to, and left a good deal to Providence. (And, having done your best for a boy, in what better hands can you leave him?) But the Major, as an old soldier, had gained a certain faith in the usefulness of physical training; so, when Sam was about twelve, you might have seen him any afternoon on the lawn, with his father, the Major, patiently teaching him singlestick, and Sam as patiently learning, until the boy came to be so marvellously active on his legs, and to show such rapidity of eye and hand, that the Major, on one occasion, having received a more than usually agonizing cut on the forearm, remarked that he thought he was not quite so active on his pins as formerly, and that he must hand the boy over to the Doctor.
“Doctor,” said he that day, “I have taught my boy ordinary sword play till, by Jove, sir, he is getting quicker than I am. I wish you would take him in hand and give him a little fencing.”
“Who told you I could fence?” said the Doctor.
“Why, I don’t know; no one, I think. I have judged, I fancy, more by seeing you flourish your walking-stick than anything else. You are a fencer, are you not?”
The Doctor laughed. He was, in fact, a consummate MAITRE D’ARMES; and Captain Brentwood, before spoken of, no mean fencer, coming to Baroona on a visit, found that our friend could do exactly as he liked with him, to the Captain’s great astonishment. And Sam soon improved under his tuition, not indeed to the extent of being a master of the weapon; he was too large and loosely built for that; but, at all events, so far as to gain an upright and elastic carriage, and to learn the use of his limbs.
The Major issued an edict, giving the most positive orders against its infringement, that Sam should never mount a horse without his special leave and licence. He taught him to ride, indeed, but would not give him much opportunity for practising it. Once or twice a-week he would take him out, but seldom oftener. Sam, who never dreamt of questioning the wisdom and excellence of any of his father’s decisions, rather wondered at this; pondering in his own mind how it was that, while all the lads he knew around, now getting pretty numerous, lived, as it were, on horseback, never walking a quarter of a mile on any occasion, he alone should be discouraged from it. “Perhaps,” he said to himself one day, “he doesn’t want me to make many acquaintances. Its true, Charley Delisle smokes and swears, which is very ungentlemanly; but Cecil Mayford, Dad says, is a perfect little gentleman, and I ought to see as much of him as possible, and yet he wouldn’t give me a horse to go to their muster. Well, I suppose he has some reason for it.”
One holiday the Doctor and the Major were sitting in the verandah after breakfast, when Sam entered to them, and, clambering on to his father as his wont was, said —
“See here, father! Harry is getting in some young beasts at the stockyard hut, and Cecil Mayford is coming over to see if any of theirs are among them; may I go out and meet him?”
“To be sure, my boy; why not?”
“May I have Bronsewing, father? He is in the stable.”
“It is a nice cool day, and only four miles; why not walk out, my boy?”
Sam looked disappointed, but said nothing.
“I know all about it, my child,” said the Major; “Cecil will be there on Blackboy, and you would like to show him that Bronsewing is the superior pony of the two. That’s all very natural; but still I say, get your hat, Sam, and trot through the forest on your own two legs, and bring Cecil home to dinner.”
Sam still looked disappointed, though he tried not to show it. He went and got his hat, and, meeting the dogs, got such a wild welcome from them that he forgot all about Bronsewing. Soon his father saw him merrily crossing the paddock with the whole kennel of the establishment, Kangaroo dogs, cattle dogs, and colleys, barking joyously around him.
“There’s a good lesson manfully learnt, Doctor,” said the Major; “he has learnt to sacrifice his will to mine without argument, because he knows I have always a reason for things. I want that boy to ride as little as possible, but he has earned an exception in his favour today. — Jerry!” (After a few calls the stableman appeared.) “Put Mr. Samuel’s saddle on Bronsewing, and mine on Ricochette, and bring them round.”
So Sam, walking cheerily forward singing, under the light and shadow of the old forest, surrounded by his dogs, hears horses’ feet behind him, and looking back sees his father riding and leading Bronsewing saddled.
“Jump up, my boy,” said the Major; “Cecil shall see what Bronsewing is like, and how well you can sit him. The reason I altered my mind was that I might reward you for acting like a man, and not arguing. Now, I don’t want you to ride much yet for a few years. I don’t want my lad to grow up with a pair of bow legs like a groom, and probably something worse, from living on horseback before his bones are set. You see I have a good reason for what I do.”
But I think that the lessons Sam liked best of all were the swimming lessons, and at a very early age he could swim and dive like a black, and once when disporting himself in the water, when not more than thirteen, poor Sam nearly had a stop put to his bathing for ever, and that in a very frightful manner.
His father and he had gone down to bathe one hot noon; the Major had swum out and was standing on the rock wiping himself while Sam was still disporting in the mid-river; as he watched the boy he saw what seemed a stick upon the water, and then, as he perceived the ripple around it, the horrible truth burst on the affrighted father: it was a large black snake crossing the river, and poor little Sam was swimming straight towards it, all unconscious of his danger.
The Major cried out and waved his hand; the boy, seeing something was wrong, turned and made for the shore, and the next moment his father, bending his body back, hurled himself through the air and alighted in the water alongside of him, clutching him round the body, and heading down the river with furious strokes.
“Don’t cling, Sam, or get frightened; make for the shore.”
The lad, although terribly frightened at he knew not what, with infinite courage seconded his father’s efforts although he felt sinking. In a few minutes they were safe on the bank, in time for them to see the reptile land, and crawling up the bank disappear among the rocks.
“God has been very good to us, my son. You have been saved from a terrible death. Mind you don’t breathe a word to your mother about this.”
That night Sam dreamt that he was in the coils of a snake, but waking up found that his father was laid beside him in his clothes with one arm round his neck, so he went to sleep again and thought no more of the snake.
“My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not”— a saying which it is just possible you have heard before. I can tell you where it comes from: it is one of the apothegms of the king of a little eastern nation who at one time were settled in Syria, and whose writings are not much read now-a-days, in consequence of the vast mass of literature of a superior kind which this happy century has produced. I can recommend the book, however, as containing some original remarks, and being generally worth reading. The meaning of the above quotation (and the man who said it, mind you, had at one time a reputation for shrewdness) is, as I take it, that a man’s morals are very much influenced by the society he is thrown among; and although in these parliamentary times we know that kings must of necessity be fools, yet in this instance I think that the man shows some glimmerings of reason, for his remark tallies singularly with my own personal observation; so, acting on this, while I am giving you the history of this little wild boy of the bush, I cannot do better than give some account of the companions with whom he chiefly assorted out of school-hours.
With broad intelligent forehead, with large loving hazel eyes, with a frill like Queen Elizabeth, with a brush like a fox; deep in the brisket, perfect in markings of black, white, and tan; in sagacity a Pitt, in courage an Anglesey, Rover stands first on my list, and claims to be king of Colley-dogs. In politics I should say Conservative of the high Protectionist sort. Let us have no strange dogs about the place to grub up sacred bones, or we will shake out our frills and tumble them in the dust. Domestic cats may mioul in the garden at night to a certain extent, but a line must be drawn; after that they must be chased up trees and barked at, if necessary, all night. Opossums and native cats are unfit to cumber the earth, and must be hunted into holes, wherever possible. Cows and other horned animals must not come into the yard, or even look over the garden fence, under penalties. Black fellows must be barked at, and their dogs chased to the uttermost limits of the habitable globe. Such were the chief points of the creed subscribed to by Sam’s dog Rover.
All the love that may be between dog and man, and man and dog, existed between Sam and Rover. Never a fresh cheery morning when the boy arose with the consciousness of another happy day before him, but that the dog was waiting for him as he stepped from his window into clear morning air. Never a walk in the forest, but that Rover was his merry companion. And what would lessons have been without Rover looking in now and then with his head on one side, and his ears cocked, to know when he would be finished and come out to play?
Oh, memorable day, when Sam got separated from his father in the Yass, and, looking back, saw a cloud of dust in the road, and dimly descried Rover, fighting valiantly against fearful odds, with all the dogs in the township upon him! He rode back, and prayed for assistance from the men lounging in front of the publichouse; who, pitying his distress, pulled off all the dogs till there were only left Rover and a great white bulldog to do battle. The fight seemed going against Sam’s dog; for the bulldog had him by the neck, and held him firm, so that he could do nothing. Nevertheless, mind yourself, master bulldog; you’ve only got a mouthful of long hair there; and when you do let go, I think, there is danger for you in those fierce gleaming eyes, and terrible grinning fangs.
Sam was crying; and the men round were saying, “Oh! take the bulldog off; the colley’s no good to him,”— when a man suddenly appeared at Sam’s side, and called out,
“I’ll back the colley for five pounds, and here’s my money!”
Half-a-dozen five-pound notes were ready for him at once; and he had barely got the stakes posted before the event proved he was right. In an evil moment for him the bulldog loosed his hold, and, ere he had time to turn round, Rover had seized him below the eye, and was dragging him about the road, worrying him as he would worry an opossum: so the discomfited owner had to remove his bulldog to save his life. Rover, after showing his teeth and shaking himself, came to Sam as fresh as a daisy; and the new comer pocketed his five pounds.
“I am so much obliged to you,” said Sam, turning to him, “for taking my dog’s part! They were all against me.”
“I’m much obliged to your dog, sir, for winning me five pound so easy. But there ain’t a many bad dogs, or bad men either, about Major Buckley’s house.”
“Then you know us?” said Sam.
“Ought to it, sir. An old Devonshire man. Mr. Hamlyn’s stud-groom, sir — Dick.”
Well, as I am going to write Rover’s life, in three volumes post octavo, I won’t any further entrench on my subject matter, save to say that, while on the subject of Sam’s education, I could not well omit a notice of the aforesaid Rover. For, I think that all a man can learn from a dog, Sam learnt from him; and that is something. Now let us go on to the next of his notable acquaintances.
Who is this glorious, blue-eyed, curly-headed boy, who bursts into the house like a whirlwind, making it ring again with merry laughter? This is Jim Brentwood, of whom we shall see much anon.
At Waterloo, when the French cavalry were coming up the hill, and our artillerymen were running for the squares, deftly trundling their gun-wheels before them, it happened that there came running towards the square where Major Buckley stood like a tower of strength (the tallest man in the regiment), an artillery officer, begrimed with mud and gunpowder, and dragging a youth by the collar, or rather, what seemed to be the body of a youth. Some cried out to him to let go; but he looked back, seeming to measure the distance between the cavalry and the square, and then, never loosing his hold, held on against hope. Every one thought he would be too late; when some one ran out of the square (men said it was Buckley), and, throwing the wounded lad over his shoulder, ran with him into safety; and a cheer ran along the line from those who saw him do it. Small time for cheering then; for neither could recover his breath before there came a volley of musketry, and all around them, outside the bayonets, was a wild sea of fierce men’s faces, horses’ heads, gleaming steel, and French blasphemy. A strange scene for the commencement of an acquaintance! And yet it throve; for that same evening, Buckley, talking to his Colonel, saw the artillery officer coming towards them, and asked who he might be?
“That,” said the Colonel, “is Brentwood of the Artillery, who ran away with Lady Kate Bingley, and they haven’t a rap to bless themselves with, sir. It was her brother that you and he fetched into the square today.”
And so began a friendship which lasted the lives of both men; and, I doubt not, will last their sons’ lives too. For Brentwood lived within thirty miles of the Major, and their sons spent much of their time together, having such a friendship for one another as only boys can have.
Captain Brentwood’s son Jim was a very different boy to Sam, though a very fine fellow too. Mischief and laughter were the apparent objects of his life; and when the Doctor saw him approaching the house, he used to put away Sam’s lesson-books with a sigh and wait for better times. The Captain had himself undertaken his son’s education, and, being a somewhat dreamy man, excessively attached to mathematics, Jim had got, altogether, a very remarkable education indeed; which, however, is hardly to our purpose just now. Brentwood, I must say, was a widower, and a kindhearted, easy-going man; he had, besides, a daughter, who was away at school. Enough of them at present.
The next of Sam’s companions who takes an important part in this history is Cecil Mayford — a delicate, clever little dandy, and courageous withal; with more brains in his head, I should say, than Sam and Jim could muster between them. His mother was a widow, who owned the station next down the river from the Buckleys’, distant about five miles, and which, since the death of her husband, Doctor Mayford, she had managed with the assistance of an overseer. She had, besides Cecil, a little daughter of great beauty.
Also, I must here mention that the next station below Mrs. Mayford’s, on the river, distant by the windings of the valley fifteen miles, and yet, in consequence of a bend, scarcely ten from Major Buckley’s at Baroona, was owned and inhabited by Yahoos (by name Donovan), with whom we had nothing to do. But this aforesaid station, which is called Garoopna, will shortly fall into other hands, when you will see that many events of deep importance will take place there, and many pleasant hours spent there by all our friends, more particularly one — by name Sam.
“There is one other left of whom I must say something here, and more immediately. The poor, puling little babe, born in misery and disaster, Mary Hawker’s boy Charles!”
Toonarbin was but a short ten miles from Baroona, and, of course, the two families were as one. There was always a hostage from the one house staying as a visitor in the other; and, under such circumstances, of course, Charles and Sam were much together, and, as time went on, got to be firm friends.
Charles was two years younger than Sam; the smallest of all the lads, and perhaps the most unhappy. For the truth must be told: he was morose and uncertain in his temper; and although all the other boys bore with him most generously, as one whom they had heard was born under some great misfortune, yet he was hardly a favourite amongst them; and the poor boy, sometimes perceiving this, would withdraw from his play, and sulk alone, resisting all the sober, kind inducements of Sam, and the merry, impetuous persuasions of Jim, to return.
But he was a kind, good-hearted boy, nevertheless. His temper was not under control; but, after one of his fierce, volcanic bursts of ill-humour, he would be acutely miserable and angry with himself for days, particularly if the object of it had been Jim or Sam, his two especial favourites. On one occasion, after a causeless fit of anger with Jim, while the three were at Major Buckley’s together, he got his pony and rode away home, secretly speaking to no one. The other two lamented all the afternoon that he had taken the matter so seriously, and were debating even next morning going after him to propitiate him, when Charles reappeared, having apparently quite recovered his temper, but evidently bent upon something.
He had a bird, a white corrella, which could talk and whistle surprisingly, probably, in fact, the most precious thing he owned. This prodigy he had now brought back in a basket as a peace-offering, and refused to be comforted, unless Jim accepted it as a present.
“But see, Charley,” said Jim, “I was as much in the wrong as you were” (which was not fact, for Jim was perfectly innocent). “I wouldn’t take your bird for the world.”
But Charles said that his mother approved of it, and if Jim didn’t take it he’d let it fly.
“Well, if you will, old fellow,” said Jim, “I’ll tell you what I would rather have. Give me Fly’s dun pup instead, and take the bird home.”
So this was negotiated after a time, and the corrella was taken back to Toonarbin, wildly excited by the journey, and calling for strong liquor all the way home.
Those who knew the sad circumstances of poor Charles’s birth (the Major, the Doctor, and Mrs. Buckley) treated him with such kindness and consideration, that they won his confidence and love. In any of his Berserk fits, if his mother were not at hand, he would go to Mrs. Buckley and open his griefs; and her motherly tact and kindness seldom failed to still the wild beatings of that poor, sensitive, silly little heart, so that in time he grew to love her as only second to his mother.
Such is my brief and imperfect, and I fear tedious account of Sam’s education, and of the companions with whom he lived, until the boy had grown into a young man, and his sixteenth birthday came round, on which day, as had been arranged, he was considered to have finished his education, and stand up, young as he was, as a man.
Happy morning, and memorable for one thing at least — that his father, coming into his bedroom and kissing his forehead, led him out to the front door, where was a groom holding a horse handsomer than any Sam had seen before, which pawed the gravel impatient to be ridden, and ere Sam had exhausted half his expressions of wonder and admiration — that his father told him the horse was his, a birthday-present from his mother.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:10