Skip to main content

Full text of "Outlaw and lawmaker"

See other formats




^^AV^VVV^•^,- ^^■'^V*^^V^^' 






The person charging this material is re- 
sponsible for its return to the library from 
which it was withdrawn on or before the 
Latest Date stamped below. 

Theft, mutilation, and underlining of books 
are reasons for disciplinary action and may 
result in dismissal from the University. 


APR 2 3 197) 
APR 1 U76 

m 3 137?, 

|iU^ 2 ?!lf!f« 




THE REBEL QUEEN. By Walter Besant. 3 vols. 
THE SCALLYWAG. By Grant Allen. 3 vols. 

Frank Barrett. 3 vols. 
TO HIS OWN MASTER. By Alan St. Aubyn. 

3 vols. 

A WASTED CRIME. By David Christie Murray. 

2 vols. 


Praed. 3 vols. 
A TRYING PATIENT, &c. By James Payn. i vol. 
DR. PASCAL. By Emile Zola, i vol. 
THE GUN-RUNNER: a Romance of Zululand. By 

Bertram Mitford. i vol. 
' TO LET,' &c. By B. M. Croker. i vol. 
SUSPICION AROUSED. By Dick Donovan, i vol. 

London : CHATTO & WINDUS, 214 Piccadilly, W. 











^ u b It 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2009 with funding from 

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign 





XIII. 'hearts xot in it' I 



XVI. trant's warning ..... 













The greater number of the guests left on the 
morrow. The Horace Gages, and Elsie, as 
well as the Barolin gentlemen, the Garfits, 
and one or two of the Leichardt's Town 
people had been asked to stay a day longer, 
to join a riding party, which Frank Hallett 
had organised, to a picturesque gorge up the 
Luya. Hallett had done this partly to com- 
pensate Elsie for her disappointment in the 
matter of the picnic, and also because she 
had promised to ride Gipsy Girl, and he 

c. VOL. II. B 


thought that he should thus have a chance of 
riding with her. He was a Httle disconcerted 
when Blake suggested to Mrs. Jem that since 
Point Eow, their destination, was not far from 
his place, Barolin Gorge, they should ride 
over in the morning, have luncheon with 
Trant and himself, in their bachelor domicile, 
and take Point Row on their way homeward 
— or go to Point Row first, dine at the 
Gorge, and ride back the ten miles by moon- 

It was the first plan which was decided 
upon. Before twelve o'clock the outsiders 
liad all departed, and the remaining guests 
were on their way to Barolin. Trant had 
started at daybreak, to make preparations for 
their reception. 

Pompo, the half-caste, remained to drive 
the pack-horse, and, as he expressed it, 
' make him road budgery.' Pompo was an 


elfish creature devoted to his master Blake, 
and curiously attracted to Elsie, perhaps 
because he saw that Blake was attracted in 
a greater and different degree. Pompo did 
not like Elsie's riding Gipsy Girl, and pointing 
to The Outlaw, with an air of reproach, asked, 
' What for you no like it yarraman, belonging 
to Blake ? ' 

' But I like your master's horse very 
much, Pompo,' said Elsie sweetly. ' Only, 
you see, I rode it instead of Mr. Hallett's 
the other day, and it wouldn't be fair to 
ride it again.' 

Pompo did not fully enter into this 
reasoning, and he made Frank Hallett cross 
by coming perpetually to examine Elsie's 
girths, or to ask her if she wanted him to 
' make him road budgery.' He rode ahead 
with a tomahawk slum? over his shoulders, 
and would stop every now and then to 

B 2 


cut away some overhanging vine, or to 
remove a piece of driftwood which the 
February floods had brought down. The 
impish creature's bead-Hke eyes continually 
turned to' Elsie in a half-amused inquiring 
way, while he acted as guide, and did the 
honours of the road to Barolin Gorge, which 
was certainly rough enough for a guide to 
be necessary. 

Tt. ran along the river bank — a track in 
places barely distinguishable from the cattle- 
tracks, which sloped sideways to the water, 
with here and there stony pinches, and 
steep gulleys, almost hidden by the rank 
blady grass. 

Now it ran through a patch of scrub or 
among glossy chestnut trees, with their red 
and orange blossoms, or between white 
cedars on which the berry sprays were 
already yellowing. When the scrub ended 


there were melancholy she-oaks, and every 
now and then a shrub of the lemon-scented 
gum, which Elsie would snatch at as they 
passed and crush between her fingers, for 
the sake of the curious aromatic perfume it 
gave forth. There was something strange and 
dreamy in this ride along the bank of the 
Luya — here scarcely to be called a river — 
a ride so wild that for the most part they 
had to go in single file. It all harmonised 
with that phase of mental exaltation 
which had come over Elsie during the last 
few days. Anything might happen in this 
enchanted forest. 

In places the creek would make a bend, 
winding round a little flat, and then there 
would be a quick canter, with a warning from 
Pompo to look out for paddy-melon holes. 
And then they would mount a stony ridge, 
with weird-looking grass trees, lifting their 


blackened spears, and gray-green wattles, and 
lanky gums, and sparse blady grass. And 
then, perhaps, they would get away from the 
river for a little way, and the gum trees would 
close in around them, and the whirring of 
the locusts would be almost deafening, and 
the dreaminess more intense. Elsie would 
almost call out in terror as an iguana scuttled 
up a gum tree, or a herd of kangaroo made a 
dash across the track. Once they had an ex- 
citing spin after an ' old-man ' kangaroo with 
all the dogs in full cry, but he escaped them, 
for the river had twisted round again and they 
were in scrub once more. And here were 
deep rippleless pools surrounded by beds of 
poisonous arums, with the wrack of the flood- 
mark clinging to their pulpy stems ; and 
horrid water-snakes showed themselves from 
under decaying logs ; and the fallen chestnut 
pods had rotted, and there was a moist fetid 


feeling that Elsie said reminded her of Hans 
Andersen's witch stories. 

They seemed to be going right up into the 
mountains, which began to close in round 
them, all the seams and fissures in the preci- 
pices showing distinctly. Presently at its 
narrowest part the valley opened out in a 
chain of flats, and Frank pointed to a gully 
cutting down into the neck and said, ' That's 
our show lion — Point Eow — what we are 
coming out for to see. We shall stop there 
for tea, and then, if you don't mind a climb, 
we'll get down the rocks on the other side, 
and the black-boys shall take the horses round 
to meet us, and we can come home by the 
Dead Finish Flats, and have a moonlight 
gallop, if you like.' 

' It would be heavenly,' said Elsie. 
' Look ! Isn't that Mr. Trant coming across 
the flat ? ' 


It was Trant, who, mounted on a fresh 
horse, had ridden out to meet them. 

' You can canter all the way now to the 
Gorge,' he cried. ' Come, Miss YaUiant, 
luncheon is waiting.' 

He contrived to get beside Elsie. ' 1 
expected to see you riding with Blake,' he 
said ; ' but it's a bad road, isn't it, for flirta- 
tion ? ' 

' Why do you always drag in that horrible 
word ? ' 

' Is it a horrible word ? I thought it was 
one you were particularly fond of. You 
won't pretend that you haven't been flirting 
outrageously this last day or two. I hope 
you observed that I haven't given you much 
chance to-day of flirting with me.' 

' I wondered why you had gone away so 
early this morning.' 

' In order that you might have something 


to eat for luncheon. No, it wasn't that. 
Blake said he'd go. Or a message by Sam 
Shehan would have done as well. The truth 
is that you're beginning to make me uncom- 
fortable, and I don't like it.' 

' I thought it was you who generally made 
people uncomfortable — at least you told me 
that you could make them afraid of you.' 

' I told you that I could generally make a 
woman like me if I wanted to.' 

' You said that you made them afraid of 
you as well. I suppose it's the same thing.' 

' I shouldn't say it was the same thing at 

' Well, I should think it would be very 
uncomfortable to be made to like a man you 
were afraid of,' said Elsie. 

' I don't intend to let you make me un- 
comfortable, Miss Yalliant.' 

' I am very glad to hear that, Mr. Trant.' 


' Perhaps you won't like it so much when 
I tell you that the alternative is that you 
should be afraid of me.' 

' I don't feel in the least bit afraid of you 
now. I don't know what there is to be afraid 

' Don't you ? Well, perhaps some day you 
may find out. If I set my mind on a thing I 
always carry it through.' 

'Eeally, Mr. Trant, you are quite melo- 
dramatic. When you talk like that, and 
when you sing as you did the other night, you 
make me sorry ' 

' Sorry for what ? ' 

' That you forget your engagements with 
me in the very rude way in which you forgot 
them last night.' 

' I suppose you mean my not coming to 
claim my dance ? ' 

' Naturally.' 


' I didn't choose to be thrown a dance as 
you might throw a dog a bone, when you 
were sitting out half a dozen apiece with 
Blake and Hallett. I wanted you to sit out 
with me. x\nd, besides, you wouldn't take my 

' I didn't know that you warned me 
against Mr. Hallett.' 

' No, but I warned you against Blake. It 
made me mad to hear people talking about 
you and him — knowing him as I do, and 
knowing very well that it was only because 
you were the prettiest woman in the room, 
and because Frank Hallett is said to be 
engaged to you, and he didn't choose that 
anybody should beat him — more especially 
Frank Hallett.' 

' Do you think it is very nice of you to 
talk about your partner behind his back in 
that way ? ' 


' It is only what I have said to his face, 
and you are quite at hberty to repeat 
every word. Blake knows it is true. But 
I've put myself in your power in another 

' How ? ' 

'By letting you see that I am jealous.' 

'Now, Miss Yalliant, this is good going 
ground.' Blake had cantered up and reined 
in his horse for a moment. 

Elsie touched Gipsy Girl with the whip. 
Blake rode The Outlaw. They were soon 
striding on in advance of the others. ' So 
Trant is jealous ! Poor Trant ! You must be 
nice to him. Miss Yalliant. He is a very good 
feUow in his way — Trant.' 

Elsie was struck by the cool, half- 
contemptuous tone in which he spoke. ' Is 
Mr. Trant very much your inferior ? ' she 


' Good gracious ! Inferior ! In what way ? ' 

' In birth and position, I suppose. You 
speak as if lie were.' 

' I am sorry I gave you that impression. 
Trent is — well, perhaps his ancestors tilled 
the soil when mine rode over it. I don't know 
that that makes much difference.' 

' You said once that you came of a wild 

He laughed. ' Ah, that's true, and I think 
I've done my best to carry on the family 
traditions. I've been wild enough, too, at 

Elsie was silent for a minute. At last she 
began impulsively and stopped. 

' I wonder ' 

' What is it that you wonder ? ' 

He bent down from his saddle, and looked 
at her with that curiously sweet smile which 
he had. 


' I was wondering, Mr. Blake, that you, 
who I suppose belong to some great old 
family, and who have lived in Europe, and 
care so much for excitement and — and all 
that you have talked to me about ' 


' That you can be content to live in the 
bush, and in such a quiet place as Barolin 

' But I don't live in Barolin Gorge. At 
least I haven't lived there much as yet. And 
then you forget that I am going in for the 
maddening excitement of the Australian 
political arena. What more could I have?' 

' I should have thought you could liave 
had much more in Europe, and that at least 
you would have had the society of people you 
cared about.' 

' I have society that I care about in 


' How long is it since you left England, 
Mr. Blake ? ' 

He seemed to be thinking. ' It is about 
twelve years since I left Ireland.' 

' Ireland — yes, I forgot. Do you care 
very much for your country ? ' 

' I sucked in patriotism with my mother's 
milk. It was born in me, with many other 
things that I should be better without.' 

' Better ? ' 

' Happier, at any rate.' 

' But you — you ought to be happy,' said 
Elsie falteringly. 

He looked at her lingeringly. Her eyes 
were turned away. She was sitting very 
erect. Her profile was towards him. There 
was a lovely glow on her delicate cheeks, a 
still more beautiful glow in her eyes, and her 
lips were sweet and tremulous. 

' Yes, I ought to be happy,' he repeated. 


' and especially at this moment. Well, I am 
happy, Miss Yalliant. Or it would be truer 
to say that the one man in me is happy.' 

' I don't understand.' 

' Don't you know,' he said, ' that in most 
of us there are two beings ? Sometimes the 
one is kept so utterly in subjection by the 
other that you hardly know it is there. But 
in some people the two natures are both so 
strong that life is always a battle. It's the 
Celt in me that gives me no peace.' 

' I don't understand,' she said again. 

He laughed. ' No, I don't suppose you do. 
For your own sake I hope not. And yet 
sometimes I fancy that you've got a little bit 
of the same nature in you, and that, to a very 
faint extent, we are companions in misfortune.' 

' Misfortune ! ' 

' Isn't it a misfortune to have the rebel 
taint. You couldn't bind yourself down to 


the sort of life which would content that very 
estimable young lady, Miss Garfit.' 


' Nor could I lead the calm decorous 
existence of — shall I say Mr. Frank Hallett ? 
— an existence made up of going out on the 
run managing a model station, observing all the 
social, domestic, and religious obligations, 
amassing an honourable fortune by strict 
attention to business and by prudent invest- 
ment, loving one woman and cleaving to her. 
No, I do the Celt injustice there. His morals 
are his strongest point — my grandmother was 
French. Miss Yalliant, have I offended you ? ' 

'Yes.' Elsie had turned to him bright 
dilated eyes. ' I will not have you speak in 
that sneering way of Frank Hallett.' 

' Forgive me, I did not mean to sneer. And 
I ought to have remembered what I was told 
last night.' 



' What was that ? ' 

' That he is to be your husband.' 

Elsie rode on with flaming cheeks, distanc- 
ing The Outlaw by a few paces. They were 
a long way in advance of the others. In the 
distance was to be seen a cluster of buildings 
standing back against a hill, which was . 
covered with dense scrub. A little to the 
right rose Mount Luya, a majestic object, with 
its encircling precipiced battlement of grey 
rock, making it look like some Titanic fortress. 
Its strange rents and fissures and the black 
bunya scrub clothing its lower slopes made it 
seem still more grim and gloomy. 

' I don't wonder that the blacks think that 
Debil-debil lives on Mount Luya,' said Elsie. 

' Do you see that dark ravine with the 
two spurs of rock going down from the preci- 
pice — just as if a thick wedge had been cut 
out of the mountain ? ' asked Blake. ' Do vou 


think it will be very easy to reach Barolin 

' Is that Barolin Waterfall ? ' 

' Yes, the dread abode of the great Spirit 
Barolin. Captain Macpherson may " blow," as 
you say in Australia, but I am certain that he 
and his merry men never got beyond the foot 
of those rocky spurs. There's a pretty little 
cascade there, but it is not the real Barolin 
Fall. That will not be the scene of your spring 
picnic, Miss Valliant, unless you are prepared 
to force your way on foot through scrub 
as impenetrable as an Indian jungle.' 

' How do you know all this, Mr. Blake ? 
I thought you were almost a stranger on the 

'Trant has told me, and he has heard it 
from Sam Shehan, and Pompo, and Jack Nutty, 
who, in the days of their nefarious practices, 
probably " nuggeted " a good many of Mr. 

c 2 


Hallett's calves up here on theLuya, and know 
every inch of country practicable for that 
purpose. Here we are at the sliprails, 
Miss Yalliant. I am glad we have reached 
them before the others, and that I am the one 
to let them down for you.' 

He dismounted and waited at the sliprails 
till she had ridden through. Then before 
mounting again he came to Gipsy Girl's side 
and held out his hand. ' Welcome to Barolin.' 

She put her hand in his. Their eyes met. 
In her look there was a troubled consciousness. 
In his there was consciousness too, but it was 
nevertheless a bold and masterful gaze. 

' Will you forgive me,' he said, ' and 
believe that I meant no disrespect to Mr. 
Frank Hallett? I admire him immensely. 
He is a good fighter and a gallant foe. I got 
to like him ever so much during the election, 
and I hope you will be happy with him.' 


Elsie did not answer. He released her 
hand. There had been something very- 
strange, she thought, in his clasp. It had 
given her an odd tingling sensation, which 
no other touch had ever produced. She 
wondered whether there was any truth in 
the idea that some people were mag- 
netic. He looked at her all the time. He 
went on. 

' Yes, I admire Frank Hallett. I don't 
beheve he would do a dishonourable thing to 
save his life. He has all the sterling virtues. 
But he is — you must own it — he is something 
of the Philistine, and I am a Bohemian rebel 
to the very core of me, and can't be expected 
to feel that deep sympathy with his views of 
life which perhaps you feel, Miss Yalliant.' 

' I think,' she said slowly, 'that I have a 
little of the Bohemian in me, too.' 

He laughed. ' Oh yes, I know that. 


Didn't I tell you that we were something akin ? 
Well, I wonder if you will be as generous 
a foe as Mr. Frank Halle tt.' 

' As generous a foe,' she repeated, startled. 

' We are fighting, aren't we ? Don't you 
remember that challenge of the other night ? 
I accepted it. Don't you recollect our talk 
that evening — before I told you of my friend- 
ship with Jensen? I beg your pardon for 
alluding again to what you said was disagree- 

' I understand,' she said coldly ; ' you want 
to avenge Mr. Jensen's wrongs. That is what 
you were thinking of.' 

' I beg your pardon,' he said again. ' It 
wasn't to be a case of avenging anyone or 
anything — nothing so melodramatic. It was 
to be a trial of skill, a tournament between a 
young lady, who frankly owned that she had 
played with a man's heart — and who had 


ruined his life — for an experiment, and another 
person who confessed to having played justly 
or unjustly for amusement at the game of 
flirtation. That's all. There is nothing melo- 
dramatic about it. And it was understood 
that hearts were not in the business.' 

'Mr. Blake, you are cruel — you have no 
right — it is unfair.' 

' If you think a moment,' he said gently, 
' you will see that it is all fair — a challenge 
given to a tournament — on certain lines — 
given and seriously taken up. I suppose the 
laws of knightly warfare hardly apply to a 
lady, and that your word must be my law, 
but still you will admit that to draw back 
would seem ' 


' Forgive me, but wouldn't it seem a little 
like a confession of cowardice ? ' 

Elsie flushed, and her eyes gleamed ; and 


a spirit of recklessness took possession of her 
' Very well ; whatever I am, I am not a coward, 
and I am not in the least afraid of you, Mr. 

He bowed. ' That I can perfectly under- 
stand It is I who have cause to be afraid.' 

' Why shouldn't we play the game, since 
it amuses you and it amuses me — since it is a 
case of hearts not in it ? ' 

'Why not, indeed?' he answered. 'It 
seems to me that one of the objects of living 
at all is that one may cram as many experi- 
ences as one can into the few years in which 
experience can be enjoyed. You are fond of 
drama, Miss Yalliant, so am I. You don't get 
the sort of drama we should enjoy ; on the 
Australian stage it is too crude — too much of 
the blood and thunder, " Unhand me, villain !" 
sentiment — not complex enough for people 
who by right of nature belong to an advanced 


civilisation. We don't get an advanced civili- 
sation out here, do we ? and so we must make 
our own drama. I am quite certain that one 
in which you played the principal part would 
be bound to be exciting.' 

' Thank you.' 

' And then,' he went on, ' you hke making 
experiments in human chemistry, and so do I. 
You remember that book you were reading 
the day we first met. Experiments in a 
laboratory are sometimes dangerous. Experi- 
ments in human chemistry maybe much more 
dangerous. But I never really cared for 
anything in which there was no danger. I 
perfectly realise the danger in this case. . . . 
Here come the rest. I think I may leave the 
putting up of the sliprails to Trant.' He 
mounted again, and they rode together up to 
the house. 




BAHbLiN was only a bachelor's house, and a 
bachelor's house of the roughest kind, as 
Trant & Blake impressed upon their guests. 
But there were things in it which one does 
not usually find in a bachelor's dwelling 
in the bush — notably a piano, which Lord 
Horace insisted on trying, while they were 
waiting for luncheon, and which he pro- 
nounced to be one of the best cottage pianos 
he had ever played on. Trant sang at Elsie's 
request one of his passionate love-songs, 
which produced a sort of reflex emotion in 
several of the persons present — excepting 


perhaps Miss Garfit, who remarked that it 
was sweet ; Miss Garfit had a trick of saying 
that things were ' sweet,' and the epithet was 
not quite in keeping with her robust person- 
ahty. Then there were various odds and ends 
which betokened a more refined taste than 
one discovers as a rule among lone squatters 
— some fine bits of Eastern embroidery, a 
silver perfume sprinkler, two or three 
jewelled daggers, and so forth, which Lord 
Horace pounced upon. 

' These are Algerian,' he said. ' My sister 
has got a lot of 'em. Fancy finding Algerian 
embroideries in an Australian hut ! ' 

' I am sure,' said Miss Garfit, ' this is far 
too sweet a place to be called a hut. Have 
you really been in Algiers, Mr. Blake ? ' 

Blake laughed. ^ Ask Trant. He was in 
a regiment of Irregulars. That's how he 
learned to speak French so well.' 


' And you ? ' said Elsie. ' Was that where 
you learned to speak French ? ' 

' As I have told you, my grandmother 
was a Frenchwoman, Miss Yalliant. But I 
have knocked about among the Arabs a good 
deal, and I learned to speak ' 

There was a sudden crash. Trant had 
jumped up hastily, and had overturned a 
chair. Blake's sentence remained unfinished. 

' By Jove, you've got some nice firearms 
here,' said Lord Horace, who had been 
examining a rack of guns and pistols over the 
chimney-piece. ' These are stunners — all the 
latest improvements. I see you are prepared 
for Moonlight.' 

Was it Elsie's fancy, that as Frank Halle tt 
and the other men came up to examine the 
weapons, a sudden glance was interchanged 
by the partners? anyhow she thought that 
Blake rather hastily interposed. ' Never mind 


those, Lord Horace, I am sure luncheon is 
ready. Come — Trant, will you bring Miss 
Valliant ? Lord Horace, please show Miss 
Garfit the way.' 

He offered his arm to Ina, and Elsie 
accepted that of Trant. Luncheon was not 
quite ready, but the delay afforded oppor- 
tunity for admiring the view from the 
verandah of the dining-room, which looked 
out on Mount Luya. Trant was full of 
apologies for his bachelor housekeeping, 
which, however, were unnecessary, for the 
meal was excellently served, and he was much 
complimented by Mrs. Jem Hallett, who con- 
sidered herself an authority in such matters, 
and who made a mental memorandum that 
she would always in future give her guests 
coffee after luncheon. 

It was mid-afternoon before the coffee had 
been drunk, they were again mounted, and 


on their way back to Point Row. Frank 
Hallett got beside Elsie at the start, and Blake 
was fain to content himself with Lady Horace. 
Ina did not care much for Blake, but she 
made herself as agreeable as she could, because 
she wanted to keep him from Elsie. Lady 
Horace was beginning to be a little frightened 
of Blake's influence over Elsie. 

Hallett was not quite himself, or was it 
that Elsie was disturbed and preoccupied ? 
' Have you enjoyed your day ? ' he asked. 

' It is not finished yet. Call no man happy 
till he is dead, you know.' 

He laughed, and then said with some em- 
barrassment, ' You and Blake seemed to be 
talking very earnestly when you were waiting 
by the sliprails.' 

' Were we ? I forget.' 

' He was holding your hand.' 

' You have very keen eyes, Mr. Hallett.' 


' But he was holding your hand ? ' 

' Yes, then he was.' 

' That was odd, wasn't it ? ' 

' It isn't at all odd when a person holds 
out his hand and asks you to forgive him. 
You naturally take it.' 

' Oh ! he asked you to forgive him ! Had 
he offended you ? ' 

' Yes.' 

' By something he said ? ' 

^ Yes.' 

' I wish I knew what he had said.' 

' How inquisitive you are. Well, it was 
about you,' said Elsie. 

' About me ? ' 

' He spoke of you in a way I didn't like.' 

' Indeed. I don't mind in the least what 
Mr. Blake says about me.' 

' Your tone shows that you do. He spoke 
very nicely of you. He said you were a 


generous foe, and that he admired and 
respected you.' 

' That was very kind of him. Did you 
object to his praising me ? ' 

' I objected to his calling you a Philistine.' 

' Oh ! now I understand. Thank you, 
Elsie.' His whole face beamed. ' You are 

' Am I ? I am afraid not. Don't be a 
Philistine, Frank. I don't like Philistines.' 

They were able to canter almost all the 
way to the turning off to Point Row. At the 
bend where the Point Row gulley fell into 
the Luya a great rock bulged out into the 
stream. It was covered with a wonderful 
growth of ferns, birds'-nests, and staghorn, 
with branching antler-like fronds, which so 
fascinated Elsie that she wanted to get off her 
horse and clamber up the boulder to gather 
them. But Pompo stepped gallantly forward. 


' Ba'al ! ' he cried, ' White Mary plenty 
garamon. Suppose white missus go up that 
fellow rock she tumble and break her neck. 
Then mine dig him hole to put her in.' 

The creature swung himself up, grinning 
all the time, and presently came back with an 
armful, which he slung on to his saddle. They 
went very slowly now. Pompo first, with the 
packhorse, all the rest following in single file. 
The hills closed in on either side, and the 
gulley was in deep shade. There was a little 
wind, and the she-oaks by the creeklet made 
a melancholy sighing. The stream ran over 
a pebbly bed with big boulders here and 
there, breaking its course and damming it 
into a deep black pool. In some places 
the pool was covered with a strange opaline. 
Now a rocky wall rose ahead. The gulley 
made a bend, and the creeklet wound 
between two fantastically- shaped ridges of 



grey rock. It was impossible to ride further, 
and they all dismounted. Pompo unsaddling 
the packhorse and carrying the saddlebags 
with the tea-things down through the rocky 
heads, whence he led the way into what 
seemed the heart of the hills, while Jack 
Nutty, the other half-caste twin, and two 
black-boys drove the horses back and round 
the ridge to meet the picnickers on the other 
side of the gorge. 

The ladies tucked up their habits, and each 
with her attendant swain picked her way over 
the rocks, and across the stepping-stones, and 
through the tangle of fern and creeper, which 
choked the entrance to the ravine. It was 
rough walking. The ravine was a rocky 
trough. On each side rose a wall of grey 
volcanic stone hollowed in places at the base, 
and making tiny caves rich in maidenhair 
fern. It was broken in others and overgrown 


with the red kennedia and the fleshy wax 
plant, and had tufts of orchids, creeping 
jasmine and tiny shrubs, with blue-green 
leaves that gave out a strong aromatic scent. 
The creeklet was here a chain of dark clear 
pools, the last hemmed in all round by rock, 
black and looking unfathomable. A sort of 
natural stair led to a higher plateau, and it 
was here that Pompo had laid the saddlebags 
and was building up a fire of brushwood for 
the making of the quart-pot tea. 

The quiet place echoed with talk and 
laughter, and the scared rock wallabies darted 
out of their holes, and made for the higher 
level and for the impenetrable scrub. Some 
of the party climbed above the plateau, and 
from here the sun could be seen, a golden 
flame, through the trees. Among these 
adventurous ones were Blake and Elsie. 
Frank, in his capacity of host, remained 

D 2 


below with Mrs. Jem, and lifted off the quart 
pot and sugared and cooled the tea. Eose 
Garfit held one pint pot and he another, and 
backwards and forwards they poured the 
smoking beverage. Elsie did not care for 
quart-pot tea ; she said that she liked the 
spring water better, and that she wanted to 
see if there were any late mulgams. Blake 
was of her opinion, and the two did find 
some untimely berries. They had climbed 
some fifty feet. Up here the hoy a grew 
luxuriantly, and there were clusters of the 
waxen flowers sweet as honey, which Elsie 
gathered, and with which she pelted those 

' Elsie, Elsie,' Ina cried ; ' come down, 
you'll be losing yourselves up there, and we 
shall never get to the horses, and Mr. Hallett 
says the place is full of snakes.' 

But Elsie only laughed. 


' Why should I climb down to climb up 
again ? We've got to get over the ridge 
before we find the horses. Mr. Blake will 
look after the snakes. You are to take care 
of me and show me the way,' she added 
demurely, to Blake, ' though we have agreed 
to be enemies.' 

' Are we enemies ? ' he said in an odd 
dreamy way. ' Let us suspend hostilities 
then for a little while. No, I don't think we 
are enemies.' 

Elsie turned from the precipice, and moved 
about among the shrubs and plants, gather- 
ing a flower here and there. There were 
many that she had never seen before, peculiar 
to these mountain places, and she gathered 
them and brought them to Blake with all the 
interest of a child. There were trees with a 
glossy green leaf and bright orange seed pods, 
and there was another plant with a cone of 


brilliant crimson berries. ' I wonder what 
sort of flower they had,' she said. ' If one 
only knew in autumn what things were like 
in spring.' 

' Do you know,' he said, ' that there is a 
great philosophical problem underneath that 
remark of yours ? If one could only know in 
autumn what had been the promise of the 
spring. If in the spring one could only know 
what the autumn would bring forth, one 
might in that case make a better thing out of 

' Oh ! ' she cried, ' to know in spring what 
the autumn is going to bring forth ! It would 
be terrible. It would spoil life. I should 
hate it. I don't want to know anything. I 
want to live from day to day, never looking 

' So that is your theory ! The mere joy of 
life contents you ? ' . 


' No, no,' she cried impetuously. ' I say 
so, but it is not true. I want much more than 
the mere joy of hfe. I am always looking 
forward — always w^ondering what is going to 
happen — always inventing situations — always 
expecting people who never by any chance 
come along.' 

' What sort of people ? ' he asked. 

' The people who seem to live in romance, 
and not in real life,' she answered lightly. 

There was a ' Coo-ee ' from below. Elsie 
peeped over the ledge. 

' They are coming. Now we are going to 
where the horses are waiting.' 

' They will not be waiting yet. Pompo 
and the black-boys have to lead them a good 
three miles round the ridge.' 

' And we have to climb down this ridfre. 
Do you know the way ? ' she asked. 

' No, but I'm as good a bushman, I think, 


as most people. I'll engage to strike the 
horses at the bottom of the gulley/ 

* Mr, Frank Hallett knows the way,' said 
Elsie. ' He is coo-eeing to us to wait for 

'I don't want to wait for Mr. Frank 
Hallett. I would rather show you the way 
myself. Will you let me be your guide ? ' 

' K you like ' she answered. 

'Come then.' He held back an over- 
hanging withe of a creeper, for her to pass 
through into the denser bush beyond the 
little plateau. The ground sloped downward. 
There was a faint track, but it was difficult to 
tell whether it was a cattle track, or made by 
the passage of man. On each side, and all 
down the hill, were cairns of grey volcanic 
stone, covered with a yellow-white lichen, that 
gave them a strange and hoary appearance. 
The white gums had something of the same 


eldritch look on account of the withes of 
greenish -grey moss which hung from their 
branches. Through their straight lanky stems 
could be seen glimpses of the grey precipice 
of Mount Luya. A few jagged grass-trees, 
some melancholy wattles, and stunted cinchona 
shrubs added to the wildness of the scene. 
As they got down into the gulley the rocks 
became more steep and slippery, and the way 
more difficult. Blake held out his hand to 
help Elsie over the stones. She slipped and 
fell into his arms, but quickly recovered her- 
self, and poised with the lightness of a fawn 
on a jutting rock. ' You don't seem to like 
taking my hand,' said Blake resentfully. 

' I am a very good climber,' she answered. 
' And besides, Mr. Blake, did you really mean 
what you said ? Is everything that you or I 
do or say to be counted as a move in the 
game ? ' 


' Most certainly, since we have determined 
to play the game. But you need not be so 
proud about accepting help over the stones. 
It will be I who run a risk, not you.' 

' I don't understand you.' As she spoke, 
she put out her hand to balance herself, for 
she had shpped again. He took it in his, 
and with his eyes admiringly fixed upon her 
face guided her down a bad bit. Again 
that curious thrill of contact of which Elsie 
was distinctly sensible. So also seemed 

' Can't you understand,' he said, in a voice 
unlike his usual deliberate utterance, ' that 
there might be a risk to a man in touching 
the hand of a woman like you, if ' 

' If? ' she asked. 

' If he were fighting not so much against 
you as against himself.^ ' 

' Ah ! ' cried Elsie triumphantly, quoting 


his own words. ' Doesn't it seem a little like 
a confession of cowardice ? ' 

' No,' he said, looking up to her from his 
lower level and then taking her bodily in his 
arms and lifting her down a miniature preci- 
pice ; ' whatever I may be I am not a coward, 
and if you make me love you, Elsie — well, then 
we shall be quits. You shall love me too.' 

' And then ? ' she said almost below her 
breath, looking at him with fascinated eyes. 

* Then,' he said, with a hght laugh, ' the 
frame will be a drawn one, the battle lost 
for the two of us. We shall go our ways 
both wounded, and perhaps — who knows ? — 
neither of us sorry, though we may have to 
bear the pain of the hurt till our lives' end.' 

She drew herself from him, throwing her 
body back against the rock. And at that 
moment there was a rustle in the dry leaves 
that choked a fissure almost at her elbow, and 


the gleam of something black and shining, 
which disappeared in the rank blady grass. 
Elsie gave a cry, and darted from the place, 
leaping past him on to a fallen log. 

' What is it ? ' he said. 

' Didn't you see a snake ? Ina said this 
place was full of them, and I had forgotten. 
I am terrified of snakes. When I have a 
nightmare it is that I am bitten by a snake, 
and that I am somewhere out of reach of 
remedies. What should I have done if that 
thing had bitten me ? ' She shuddered. 

' I should have sucked the poison from the 
bite, and then I should have given you 
ammonia — I always carry it with me in the 
bush ' — he touched his coat-pocket, ' and in 
the long run you would not be very much the 

* And you would have saved my life ? ' 

' Yes, I suppose so, always allowing that 


it was a deadly snake, and that it had bitten 

They did not speak for some time. Elsie 
was pale. She moved on hurriedly, looking 
to right and left as she picked her steps. 
They had nearly got to the bottom of the 
ridge when Blake gave a ' Coo-ee.' There 
was no answer. ' They are a long way behind 
us,' he said coolly. ' We have come down 
by a short cut.' 

' But where are the horses ? Perhaps we 
have come down quite wrong.' Elsie looked 

' No, we have not. It is they who have 
gone out of their way. The horses are 
down there,' and he pointed a little to the 


' How do you know ? ' 
' Oh, I know the country. You will see.' 
He called again, this time with a totally 


different note from the ordinary Australian 
' Coo-ee.' It was a strange wild sound, some- 
thing like the cry of a bird, a most peculiar 
and wailing sound. 

'They won't know that. What an odd 
coo-ee,' exclaimed Elsie. As she spoke, the 
cry was repeated, and from the direction 
which Blake had indicated. ' That is Pompo,' 
he said. ' Pompo knows my call. Now, Miss 
Yalliant, sit down on this log and rest till the 
others come. They will coo-ee fast enough. 
There, hsten. Didn't I tell you ? ' 

And from above and a good way off, to 
the left, there sounded Ina's coo-ee — then 
another, in a man's voice. 

' Sit down,' said Blake. ' You are panting, 
and you are quite pale. A few minutes ago 
3^ou had the loveliest flush imaginable.' 

Elsie flushed now. She did not sit down, 
but leaned against a white gum-tree tapping 


her riding-skirt with her whip in an embar- 
rassed manner. 

' Mr. Blake,' she began. 

' Well Miss YalHant.' 

' You were wrong — in what you said— in 
what you thought. I am not engaged to Mr. 
Frank Hallett.' 

' Ah ! I wonder whether that is so much 
the better for him or the worse.' 

' The worse. I am not the kind of girl to 
make a man happy.' 

' I think you might make a certain kind of 
man intensely happy — and under certain con- 

' What conditions ? ' 

' First of all, he must be free to love you 
— free to make you his wife. And yet ' — he 
paused for a moment, then went on — ' I can 
imagine the desperate sort of joy — a joy in 
which minutes would count as years, and a 


week as a lifetime — the joy of loving you, and 
conquering you, and teaching you the in- 
effable bliss of love — opening to you a whole 
world of new emotions and gathering the 
first-fruits of your heart, with bliss intensified 
to an ecstasy of pain by the knowledge that 
it must end in a week. Perhaps that short- 
lived rapture might be worth more than a 
long married life of decorous commonplace 
conventional happiness — a Frank Hallett kind 
of happiness.' 

' Don't, don't say things like that. I don't 
know anything about such feelings.' 

' No, but the time will come when you will 
know, and then you will remember my words. 
You will remember that it was as I told you, 
that you had in you the capacity for passion.' 

' Yes,' she answered in a low voice ; ' I will 

' You understand now what I meant when 


I told you that I realised the risk I was 

' No,' she exclaimed. ' You talk in 
enigmas. You speak of a certain kind of 
man — of certain conditions which don't apply 
to you.' 

' But if they did apply to me ? — If I was 
thinking, speaking of myself ? ' 

' How can that be ? You are free. Your 
life is your own.' 

' It is true,' he said slowly, ' that my life is 
my own. But it is true also that my life may 
be forfeited at any moment, and that I am not 
free to link the life of a woman like you with 
a career so wild and precarious as mine.' 

' Wild ! Precarious ! ' she repeated, in 

' You don't know what I mean. It is not 
possible that you should. I am saying to you 
what I have said to no other woman in the 

VOL. II. s 


world — to no other person in Australia. My 
life is wild and precarious — it is not necessary 
— not advisable that you should understand 
in what way. Only understand this — I am 
the last man to ask a woman I love to share 

' I understand.' she said — ' no, I shall 
never understand, but I know what you wish 
to convey to me. I thank you for your 
warning. It was not needed. Will you show 
me now where the horses are ? ' 




It seemed to Elsie that never, in all her life 
long, should she forget that moonlight ride. 
The sun was setting when they found the 
horses. They waited a little while in, as far 
as Blake and Elsie were concerned, a con- 
strained silence. Elsie talked to Pompo and 
the black-boys. She was a favourite with tiie 
blacks, and had picked up something of the 
Luya dialect. King Tommy of the Dell had 
been her instructor, and King Tommy was old 
and garrulous, and had even been beguiled 
into discussing the sacred mysteries of tlie 
Bora. Elsie had a theory that the most sacred 




initiation grounds of the Bora mystery were 
somewhere at the foot of Mount Luya, and 
that hence arose the superstitious dislike of the 
blacks to going anywhere near the Barolin 
Fall. But Pompo only grinned when she 
hazarded this theory, and declared ' that 
White Missus plenty gammon,' which is the 
recognised black formula for avoiding a deli- 
cate subject. He was more communicative 
when Elsie asked about the great Woolla- 
Woolla, the black parliament, and about the 
marriage laws of the Luya tribes, the Combo, 
Hippi, and Haggi families. Elsie had arrived 
at a due understanding of the fact that the 
child of a Combo-Hippi must marry a Hippi- 
Haggi, and their child in turn must wed with 
a Haggi-Combo, when the coo-ees of the 
rear party sounded nearer and louder, and 
presently Hallett and Lady Horace, closely 
followed by Lord Horace and Mrs. Allanby, 


made their appearance, and proceeded at once 
to mount. 

It was easy going all the way home. They 
rode across a series of flats made by the bends 
of the river. There was no excuse for loiter- 
ing in twos. Lord Horace and Trant started 
a chorus — Lord Horace's adaptation of Adam 
Lindsay Gordon's spirited lines. 

The moon was getting near its full, and 
cast ghostly shadows upon the flat and under 
the gnarled apple gums and the queer rocky 
knolls that had a way of starting up on the 
edge of a flat where the hills encroached 
towards the river. The way was not so 
picturesque as that which they had taken in 
the morning, but it was much better adapted 
to a night ride. Gipsy Girl knew she was 
going home, and went fleetly along — Hallett 
close by Elsie's side, for Blake made no 
attempt at any further talk, but rode by Lady 


Horace, who afterwards confessed to Elsie 
that he was certainly very agreeable. As for 
Elsie, she felt in a dream. She hardly knew 
what Frank Hallett was talking about, though 
she answered mechanically even and found 
herself laughing. He was telling her about 
his election campaign, and his coming tour on 
the Wallaroo, on which he was to start on the 

And the Horace Gages and Elsie were 
going too, and the party was to break up. 

They would meet no more till Parliament 
opened next month and Leichardt's Town 
gaieties had begun, and Elsie had, as she said, 
with her little laugh, got through her jam- 
making. Ina and Lord Horace were coming 
down to meet the Waveryngs, who were to 
turn up some time in the winter. All the 
while, Elsie was thinking of Blake's strange 
words, seeing in fancy the dark dangerous 


eyes which already imagination pictured too 
often for her heart's peace. What had he 
meant by saying that his life was wild and 
precarious — he whose hfe seemed so steady 
and safe, who had just been elected member 
for Luya, who was going through the usual 
Leichardt's Town routine, and who would be 
at Tunimbah for their picnic in the spring ? 
Why was he afraid of loving her ? Why 
should she not love him? Why might he not 
open to her that world of new emotion, of 
which in very truth she had even now caught 
a faint glimpse ? Why ? — Why ? 

The night sounds mingled with her 
thoughts and increased the dreamlike feeling. 
There was the strange pouring-water sound of 
the swamp pheasant, the little sweet guggle, 
like water trickling, and there were uncanny 
' gr — rr — s ' and swishes of wings and harsh 
screeches as the horses' tread startled the 


waterfowl in the creek, and the bandicoots 
and opossums from their lairs. And then 
from the scrub came the dingo's howl, 
weird and melancholy, and the curlews were 
wailing in the Boomerang Swamp. The 
liorses' hoofs sounded pat-pat on the dry- 
grass, and how curious the shadows were of 
the riders as they went by, like the dream 
shadows of the fairy story ! A wild sense of 
irresponsibility came over Elsie. She almost 
laughed aloud at her fancy. She imagined a 
masked and armed horseman on a coal-black 
steed dashing into their midst, and bearing 
her away — away into the black depths of the 
scrub ; away into an unknown life ; away 
from all that was prosaic and commonplace, 
to a land of intoxicating surprises, of daring 
deeds, and love rapture. And somehow the 
masked horseman had Blake's eyes gleaming 
through his visor. 


' Elsie,' Hallett said suddenly, ' I am sure 
that you are dreadfully tired. You haven't 
said a word for a quarter of an hour.' 

' Haven't I — not said a word ? I thought 
I was saying — oh, all kinds of clever and 
brilliant things. Yes, I am tired.' 

' We shall soon be at home. There are 
the lights across the creek from the men's 
huts. Have you enjoyed your day ? ' 

' Enjoyed my day .^ Yes, I have had a very 
happy day. I shall always remember to-day.' 

'I'm glad of that, since it was I who sug- 
gested the picnic, though, to be sure, Blake 
has had more to do with the carrying out of 
it. You have been talking to Blake a great 
deal to-day, Elsie ? ' 

' Yes.' 

' Do you like him ? ' 

'Yes — no. I don't know. I think I hate 


' Why, Elsie ! You began by saying you 
liked liim.' 

' I wasn't thinking.' 

' Then it is clear that it is not Blake who 
has made you enjoy to-day. And you ought 
to tell Lady Horace, for she was talking about 
him, and she seemed uneasy, and she made 
me uneasy too,' said Hallett. 

' What about ? ' asked Elsie. 

' She thought he was getting a kind of 
influence over you, and that it would lead to 
no good. It will be a relief to her to know 
that you don't like him.' 

' No, I don't like him. I will tell Ina so. 
Frank, tell me, do you think Ina is happy ? ' 

' Honestly, I don't think she is. But Lord 
Horace is a harum-scarum chap, and makes 
her anxious perhaps. By-and-by he will tone 

' I will tell you what I think. Horace is 


selfish, and he is fickle. He has fads. He 
had a fad for Austrahan pictures queness. He 
fell in love with Ina because she is Australian, 
and he thought she was picturesque. He 
would have fallen in love with me if I had 
allowed it, it would have been all the same 
to him. Just now he is a little tired of 
picturesque barbarism. He begins to see that 
the bush life isn't a picnic, and he is taken up 
with Mrs. Allanby because she is English, and 
because his soul begins to hanker a little after 
the flesh-pots of Egypt, and Mrs. Allanby 
represents the older civilisation. I have no 
patience with Horace. Ina would manage 
him a great deal better if she were not so 

Frank laughed. ' You don't mean to 
make that mistake anyhow,' he said. 

And just then they got to the creek, and 
the lights of the head station came into full 


view, and there was a chorus of dogs 
rushing out and barking to greet their 

Elsie had only a few words with Blake 
that night. ' Good-night and good-bye,' he 
said. ' We start at daylight to-morrow, and I 
shall be in Leichardt's Town by nightfall. 
Can I do anything for you there ? ' 

' I shall be there very soon myself,' she 

' Then I shall very shortly take advantage 
of your permission, and I shall present myself 
at Emu Point.' 

' You will begin your new duties very 
soon,' said Elsie. 

' Yes ; Parliament meets in a few weeks, 
and as I suppose you know, there is a talk of 
the Ministry going out on the Address. Will 
you come to hear my maiden speech. Miss 
Yalliant ? ' 


* I never go to the Ladies' Gallery,' she 
answered. ' I have never taken any interest 
in politics.' 

' You must take a little interest in them 
now, however— now that both Hallett and I 
have gone into public life. Which of us, I 
wonder, will be first in the Cabinet .^ ' 

' You are going in for that ? ' she asked, in 
slight surprise. 

'When I play a game I always play it 
thoroughly,' he replied. 

' Good-night,' she said abruptly, ' and 
good-bye.' She left him. Trant waylaid her 
as she was passing along the verandah to her 
room in Ina's wake. 

' Miss Yalliant, I have two things to ask 

' What are they, Mr. Trant ? ' 

' Will you let me come and see you in 
Leichardt's Town ? ' 


' Why, of course. I have told Mr. Blake 
that he may come.' 

'I am not Blake, and Blake isn't me. I 
shall come on my own account. The second 
request is that you will give me the first waltz 
at the May ball.' 

' I am afraid that is promised.' 

' Has Blake been beforehand with me ? ' 
Trant's face darkened. ' I won't stand that.' 

' I am under a standing engagement to 
dance the first waltz at all the May balls with 
Mr. Frank Hallett.' 

' Oh ! Is that engagement going to hold 
after you are married. Miss Yalliant ? ' 

' I don't see why it shouldn't.' 

' Your husband might object, that's all. 
Never mind, I'm not jealous of ]\Ir. Hallett. 
You'll give me the second ? ' 

' Promised, too.' 

' Blake ? ' 


She nodded. 

' Then the third ? ' 

' Yes, the third if you hke ; always sup- 
posing that his Eoyal Highness or his 
Excellency the Governor doesn't want to 
dance it with me.' 

' I have no doubt that his Eoyal Highness 
will want to dance with you, and the 
Governor, too ; unless he is a staid old 
married man. I'll risk it for that dance, and 
I shall book the engagement.' 

The cottage on Emu Point seemed smaller 
than ever after the comparative magnificence 
of Tunimbah. Nobody had made the jam, and 
Mrs. Yalliant was plaintively querulous. She 
was a delicate, rather would-be fine woman, 
who had once been as pretty as Elsie, but 
who had never had a tenth part of Elsie's 
brains and brightness, or of Ina's common 


sense. She looked a little draggled now, and 
had lost her hair and her teeth, and the badly 
fitting false teeth of the Leichardt's Town 
dentist gave her an artificial appearance. 

' I shouldn't have minded about the jam if 
you had come back engaged to Frank Hallett,' 
she said. 

' But I haven't, mother, and there's an 
end of it,' said Elsie ; ' and I don't see the 
remotest prospect of being engaged to any- 
body for a long time to come.' 

'It is your own fault,' moaned Mrs. 
Yalliant. ' You have got the name of being 
a flirt and of encouraging men who are no 
use in the way of marrying. These town men 
never are.' 

' They are very good to dance with,' said 
Elsie. ' Don't worry, mother. If the worst 
comes to the worst, and nobody will marry 
me, I can always end up as a barmaid, you 


know. I've got attractive manners — to men, 
at any rate. At least, so they say.' 

' And the women hate you ; I hear that 
old cat, Lady Garfit, has been setting it about 
that Frank Hallett has thrown you over 
because you flirted so abominably with that 
new man, Blake.' 

Elsie flushed. 'Lady Garfit is jealous 
because Eose was out of it, and Frank Hallett 
has not thrown me over. Oh, mother, let us 
forget for one whole evening that my mission 
in Hfe is to marry, and help me to look over 
my old ball dresses, and see what I can do 
with them for this winter.' 

They were terribly poor, the Yalliants, 
and it was not surprising that Mrs. Yalhant 
should wish to marry ofi* Elsie. No one but 
Elsie and Lia knew how they had to pinch 
and save, and to what straits they were some- 
times reduced in order that Mrs. Yalhant 


might have a decent black silk, with a high 
and a square-cut bodice, in which to take her 
place among the Leichardt's Town ladies at 
such functions as called for her attendance. 
No one but Ina and Elsie knew how the girls 
used to toil in the mornings to get their house 
work done to have the afternoons free for 
their visitors and for their flirtations, and how 
late they would sit up at nights to make the 
pretty, simple dresses which Elsie and Ina wore 
at the balls and garden parties, and which ill- 
natured mothers of less attractive daughters 
declared were bought at expensive shops with 
borrowed money, which Elsie's husband would 
one day have to pay back. But as a matter 
of fact it was Mrs. Yalliant's boast that they 
had never owed a penny, and that Ina had 
gone to her husband with as respectable a 
trousseau as any other Leichardt's Town girl 
could have had. Ina's wedding, however. 


had crippled the widow's resources for some 
time to come, and there was httle enough 
wherewith to fit Elsie out for her winter 
campaign. Yet in spite of their poverty 
they got along happily enough, and Elsie sang 
over her work, and Mrs. Valliant, in gloves, 
swept the floors, and made the beds, and did 
the clear-starching and ironing so beautifully 
that the Yalhant girls' white frocks were the 
admiration of the town. 

It was a pretty cottage in its way, though 
it was so small — only four rooms and a 
verandah and lean-to kitchen, but it had a 
little garden which Peter, the Kanaka boy, 
looked after — a garden with flaming poin- 
settia shrubs, and some oleander trees, and a 
passion-creeper arbour, and a small plantation 
of bananas, and some lantana shrubs growing 
on the bank which shelved down to the river. 
It was a great thing having this tiny bit of 

p 2 


frontage on the river, for tlie girls had had 
a boat, which Elsie now managed alone, and 
which saved her a good deal in omnibus fares 
and ferryage. The Leichardt Eiver winds 
about like a great S, and beyond Emu Point 
there lies the North Side, as it is called, 
where are all the grand shops and the Houses 
of Parhament, and Government House and 
the Clubs, and beyond, again, is the South 
Side, where smaller folk dwell. The big 
people have mostly houses with large gardens 
along the north bank of the river, or off Emu 
Point. The Yalliant cottage was not in the 
fashionable part of Emu Point, but lay in the 
neck, and was approached through a paddock 
of gum-trees, once part of a large property, 
now gradually being cut up and covered 
with little wooden houses, in which then 
lived the genteel poor of Leichardt's Town 


The verandah at Eiverside, as the YalHants' 
cottage was named, had a treUis of Cape jas- 
mine and thunbergia, and in one corner of it 
Elsie had estabhshed herself with her sewing 
machine and a garden table, on which were 
her books and workbasket. The soft April 
wind from the river fanned her cheeks, and 
had a touch of chill. Winter was close at 
hand. The poinsettia was beginning to flaunt 
its red leaves, and the bougainvillea that 
covered the verandah roof had a tinge of pale 
mauve. Elsie was working diligently, and 
she made a pretty picture as she bent over 
the machine. She was so busy, and the 
treadle of the machine made such a noise 
that she did not hear the garden gate chck, 
and it was not till a shadow came between 
her and the light that she looked up and saw 

' How do you do, Miss Valliant P ' he said 


quietly. ' I should have been here before, 
but that I did not get to Leichardt's Town 
quite as soon as I expected ; that is, I got 
here the evening of the day I left Tunimbah, 
but I had to go away again immediately.' 

Elsie got up from the machine and gave 
him her hand. She was oddly confused. ' I 
am sorry that my mother is not at home : she 
has gone over to the North Side. Will you 
sit here, or would you rather go in ? ' 

' I would much rather sit here, if I may ? ' 
He drew forward a canvas chair. ' I don't 
recognise you in your new character. I 
never saw you sewing before. What is it — a 
gown? It looks very pretty.' He touched 
the delicate fabric which Elsie was hemming 
and gathering into frills. 

' You will see me wearing it,' she said ; 
' and I wonder if you will like me in it — 
white muslin. It sounds very innocent and 


Miss Edgeworthish, doesn't it ? but it is to 
be glorified white muslin — copied from the 
print of somebody's picture — a Eomney, I 

' Yes, Eomney would have found you a 
delightful model — almost as good as Lady 
Hamilton, and he would have given all the 
soft richness of your colouring.' 

At his compliment Elsie recovered her 
self-possession. ' Never mind my colouring. 
Tell me what news there is while I work. I 
am going to sew all these strips together, if 
you don't mind.' 

' No, I don't mind at all. I like to see a 
woman working, especially if she is worth 
watching. One can stare at her without 
seeming rude, and then it makes one feel 
more at home. I have some news for you. 
Miss Valliant ; news which ought to interest 
you very much I don't think you can have 


heard it, for they had got it at the Club just 
as I left; 

'What is it? Is the date fixed for the 
first Government House " At Home " ? I 
don't know of anything else which will 
interest me particularly.' 

'Eeally, not even Mr. Frank Hallett's 
election ? ' 

' He has got in, then ? Of course I knew 
he would get in.' 

' Yes, he has got in, and by a good 
majority. I am honestly glad. By all the 
laws of justice he ought to have beaten me at 

' Why, I suppose the best man wins, 
wherever it is.' 

' I am afraid that in this case it wasn't the 
best man winning. If he had been an Irish- 
man, he would have had a walk over. The 
patriotic spirit was roused, and I got the 


benefit of it. Well, you will see now how 
we shall fight in the Legislative Assembly. 
Parliament opens, you know, next week.' 

There was another click at the gate. 
Blake cursed the untimely visitor. 

It was Captain Macpherson, who, since 
the races on the Luya, had developed a 
tenderness for Elsie. He looked a little cross 
at the sight of Blake, who scarcely stirred 
from his seat. Captain Macpherson threw 
himself on the edge of the verandah, with an 
air of easy familiarity. He had brought an 
ofiering, in the shape of banana candy, and 
Elsie nibbled at it daintily. 

' I wonder you aren't ashamed to come to 
town. Oughtn't you to be looking after 
Moonhght ? ' 

' Moonlight is the devil,' exclaimed Captain 
Macpherson. ' I beg your pardon. Miss 
Yalliant, but what can you say of a fellow 


who disappears from mortal ken on the Luya 
with the whole array of pohce and trackers 
on the look out for him, and then all of a 
sudden turns up, mask, black horse and 
everything else, close by Wallaroo ; and 
when the moon is new? Nobody expects 
Moonlight to be on the rampage unless it's 
full moon.' 

' Ah ! ' said Blake indifferently. ' And 
the police have no clue ? ' 

'None in the world, and never will have, 
unless one of the gang turns traitor.' 

'That's my belief, though perhaps I am 
not the person to state it.' 

Another visitor appeared, one who had 
come in a boat to the landing, and now 
approached through the banana grove, a 
young man, very neatly got up, and with 
a town air, and an evident determination to 
be equal to all circumstances. He was, in 


fact, a clerk in the Post Office, and was also 
honorary secretary to a new club. His 
ostensible reason for coming was, in fact, to 
give the information that the committee of 
this same club had fixed the date for their 
house-warming ball, and that it would take 
place the night but one after the Government 
House birthday ball. He had brought his 
offering, too, in the shape of two first-blown 
camellias of the year, which, he said, he had 
got from the curator of the Botanical Gardens. 
Elsie accepted the flowers graciously, and 
took them up and looked at them alternately 
with her nibblings of Captain Macpherson's 
banana candy. She seemed to take the 
offerings for granted, and Blake could not 
help saying, 'I see that it is the custom to 
lay propitiatory tribute at the feet of the 

' That is a very horrid way of putting it,' 


said Elsie, flushing up. ' They call this sort 
of thing my verandah receptions,' she added. 
* A lot of gentlemen always turn up when 
there is anything going on.' 

One or two others turned up later, and 
Elsie went in and came out presently, followed 
by the Kanaka boy with a tray and the tea- 
things. Then Elsie requested Mr. Saunders, 
the young man in the Post Office, to cut some 
bread and butter, and there was some joking 
about the next cake-making day, and it 
transpired that on one occasion Elsie's ad- 
mirers had been turned into amateur cooks, 
and had helped to bake a batch of biscuits. 
Certainly there was very little formality about 
Elsie's verandah receptions. The Kanaka 
boy in his gardening clothes stood gravely 
waiting to get hot water as required, and 
Elsie requested her guests to help themselves 
from the various bunches of bananas hanging 


from the verandah rafters. ' Eiverside is 
famous for its bananas,' she said to Blake ; 
' bananas and strawberry guavas, those are 
our attractions, not counting the chucky- 
chucky tree by the river. Will you come 
some time and help me to get chucky- 
chuckies ? ' 

Mr. Holmes, one of Elsie's army of detri- 
mentals, proposed a pull on the river before 
the weather got cold, and Elsie gravely made 
the appointment and accepted an invitation 
to meet somebody else on the North Side, and 
get an ice at the Leichardt's Town Gunter's. 
About sunset Mrs. YalHant appeared. She 
made Blake think of the descriptions he had 
read of the American mother. She was a 
personage equally unimportant in the general 
scheme of things. 




Every one said that this was going to be one 
of the gayest winters there had ever been in 
Leichardt's Town. The Birthday Ball was 
heralded by several smaller entertainments. 
The Garfits gave an impromptu dance, to 
which they were compelled to invite Elsie, 
though before Ina's marriage she had not 
been asked to the Garfits' less formal enter- 
tainments. The Prydes had a picnic, which 
wound up with a dance, and the arrival of 
the new Governor was an occasion for social 
functions of a public character. Lord Horace 
and Ina came down and established them- 
selves in an hotel boarding-house on Emu 


Point, and Blake found it convenient also to 
take up his temporary abode there, though 
he had to cross the river to get to the Houses 
of Parhament. A great many gentlemen 
lodged at Fermoy's, as it was called, its 
proprietor being a certain widowed Mrs. 
Fermoy, who took a motherly interest in her 
lodgers and carefully made it known that she 
had no matrimonial intentions. Mr. and Mrs. 
Jem Halle tt did not patronise Fermoy's. They 
took a small furnished house on the North 
Side, and Mrs. Jem at once made it evident 
that she intended to belong to the Govern- 
ment House set, she was so ultra-English in 
all her ways. Frank Hallett naturally stayed 
with them, but very few days passed on 
which he did not on some pretext or other 
find his way across the river to Emu Point. 
Indeed, at this time Miss Valliant's admirers 
were a small source of revenue to the pro- 


prietors of the Emu Point ferry, there were 
so many of them, and even if they did not 
actually call at Eiverside they haunted the 
Point in the hope of meeting Elsie on her 
way to and from the North Side. They were 
certainly a great worry to Mrs. Yalhant, who 
thought that the detrimentals kept off desir- 
able suitors, and who was afraid that Frank 
Hallett's constancy would give way under the 
strain to which Elsie subjected it. She 
consoled herself by the reflection, since Elsie 
gave her the assurance, that the two under- 
stood each other. In any case it was useless 
to try and curb Elsie's humour. 

The girl was in a wild mood. She had 
never before rushed so eagerly into excite- 
ment. She seemed to live for amusement, 
getting through her household duties by dint 
of rising at an unearthly hour in order that 
she might rush over to the North Side on 


pretence of shopping, and stroll about the 
streets and the gardens with Minnie Pryde, 
seeking whom she might entrap into her toils. 
It was not a very dignified or a very womanly 
manner of proceeding, and, as Elsie sometimes 
told herself, a nice girl, like Eose Garfit, for 
instance, would have behaved very differently. 
' But I'm not a nice girl,' Elsie said passionately 
one day to Ina, who had been remonstrating 
with her upon her conduct. ' A nice girl 
would never have done the things I've done. 
And what does it matter, Ina ? If I disgust 
Frank Hallett — well, so much the better. I 
think that is why I do it.' 

But Frank Hallett was always the same, 
always devoted, always timid of obtruding 
his devotion, very quiet sometimes, often sad, 
but ready at any moment to answer at Elsie's 

He was a good deal occupied just now 



with his new duties. There was a great 
measure coming — a great measure for 
Leichardt's Land, involving the destinies, so 
its opponents said, of that promising young 
colony, and if it were carried — indeed so also 
its opponents said — involving the immediate 
ruin and destruction of the colony's best 
interests. The question was one of a loan to 
which Sir James Garfit's Ministry had pledged 
themselves, and it was whispered loudly that 
Sir James Garfit's Ministry would be defeated. 
Elsie was not at the Opening of the 
Assembly, which was performed in all manner 
of state by the new Governor, a prosy, rather 
pompous old man, with a wife who had set 
herself the difficult task of reforming the 
morals and manners of the Leichardtstonians. 
Elsie listened to the salvo of guns which 
announced the conclusion of the ceremony 
while she ironed a white frock to wear at a 


concert the next evening, to which she was 
going with the Prydes. She felt a little out 
of things and cross because Minnie Pryde was 
more favoured than she was — to say nothing 
of Eose Garfit. The thought flashed across 
her mind that perhaps next year she might 
be taking her place as the wife of one of the 
Ministers in that august pageant, and that 
Minnie Pryde would be nowhere, and even 
Eose Garfit obliged to give way to her. 

' I wonder if he ivill do anything,* she said 
to herself. ' He is certain to be asked to join 
the Ministry, if Sir James Garfit keeps in, 
and Mr. Leeke really resigns for him.' 

Mr. Leeke was the Minister for Mines, and 
he was in precarious health and anxious to 
get to England, and it was generally supposed 
among the squatting politicians that he was 
keeping his post only till Frank Hallett was 
ready to step into his shoes. 



Elsie put the iron back on the stove, and 
took up another, testing its heat against her 
dehcate face. Her eyes took a far away look, 
as she stood for a moment or two with the 
iron in her hand. ' I wonder if he will 
remember the violets ? ' she murmured, but it 
wa^ not of Frank Hallett she was thinking. 

She was to go with Ina to the House that 
afternoon, when Frank Hallett would move 
the debate on the Speech. It had been said 
that Blake would speak also. Ina and her 
husband had asked her to lunch with them at 
Fermoy's, and she wondered whether there 
was any likehhood of Blake being there also. 
She knew that there was no chance of either 
Blake or Frank Hallett calling that forenoon, 
but she expected Minnie Pryde, and perhaps 
some of her various admirers, who would 
give her the news of the opening. 

Minnie Pryde came early. She came 


fortified with banana candy, and sat down on 
the verandah steps prepared for what she 
called a 'jabber.' 

' The Garfits have fastened on to Lady 
Stukeley,' she announced, ' and so has Mrs. 
Jem Hallett. I think she must have got her 
dress from England.' 

' Who, Mrs. Jem — yes, I know she did — 
why? ' 

' It was the very cut of Lady Stukeley 's. 
Oh, Elsie, why can't we have our things from 
England ? I declare I'd marry anybody who 
would let me have a box every year from 
London. . . . There were a lot of new 
men there,' continued Minnie, 'several new 
Western members, and then the private 
secretary and aide-de-camp — only he is 
married, and his wife is a dowdy, I can tell 
you. Well, I can tell you, too, that I was 
rather glad you weren't at the Opening,' said 


Miss Pryde, with an air of fine candour. 
' The new men wouldn't have paid so much 
attention to me. You always cut us poor 
things out. As it was, I rather enjoyed 
myself.' Just now there was a truce between 
Elsie and Minnie Pryde. Minnie thought it 
more diplomatic, on the whole, to be good 
friends with her rival. 

' Well, I'm glad of that,' said Elsie, a little 
disdainfully. ' I don't know why you should 
say that I cut you out.' 

' With a certain sort of man,' replied Miss 
Pryde, weighing her words as though she 
were mentally discriminating. ' There are 
some men who might like a girl hke me 
best. But the English sort — and some of the 
Australian, for of course the Halletts are 
Australian — and men of a mysterious kind — 
heroes of romance — such as Mr. Blake — go 
in for you. You are more — more, well, I 


don't know how to put it — more like a girl 
in a book.' 

Elsie laughed, not ill-pleased. 'And Mr. 
Blake ? — he was there, of course ? ' 

' Of course. He came in with the rest 
when they were sent for, like a lot of school- 
boys, and stood at the Bar of the House. 
How funny it seems ; I don't know why they 
shouldn't have been there all the time. And 
then the Governor read his speech, with the 
aide-de-camp in a tight red coat and the 
private secretary in another on each side of 
him, and Captain Briggs, of the surveying 
schooner, in a blue uniform — to represent the 
Naval forces of the colony, I suppose — and 
Captain Macpherson for the military! Oh, 
it was funny, I can tell you. I felt inclined 
to call out to Macpherson, "What about 
Moonlight ? " — and Lady Stukeley, who was in 
green velvet, and sucli a diamond star fasten- 


inor her bonnet, nodded when the Governor 
came to anything impressive. And after- 
wards, when all the swells had gone, we went 
over the House. And Mr. Blake came and 
spoke to me, and asked me where you were.' 

' And you told him, I , suppose, that since 
I didn't happen to have a father or brother 
or cousin or very great friend in the Cabinet, 
I was naturally not invited. Are you going 
to hear the speeches this evening, Minnie ? ' 

' Well, I will, if Ina will let me go with 
her,' said Miss Pryde, ' though I'm not as a 
rule keen on speeches. But somebody said 
that both Mr. Blake and Frank Hallett are 
going to speak, and that there's to be ruction 
over the Loan Clause. I should like to see 
Eose Garfit's face if Sir James is beaten.' 

It was settled that Minnie Pryde should 
walk with Elsie to Fermoy's and see Lady 
Horace about five o'clock, and in the mean- 


time Mrs. Yalliant went on with the ironing, 
and Elsie consulted Minnie about her dress 
for the May ball and other festivities. They 
were in the middle of their finery when Mr, 
Dominic Trant appeared, and he was followed 
by several other of Elsie's and Miss Prvde's 
admirers. On this afternoon, when the 
Public Offices closed early, there were always 
sure to be some young gentlemen atEiverside. 
Mr. Trant attached himself at once to 
Elsie. He had puzzled her a little by his 
manner of late. Sometimes he had been 
sullen, even morose, sometimes tragic, some- 
times he was ardent, and his dark eyes glowed 
with a sort of fierce excitement which was 
almost alarming. But Elsie had been a good 
deal taken up with other thoughts, and had 
not paid much attention to Mr. Trant. He 
amused and distracted her, and fed her 
vanity, and that was all. 


To-day he was in a tragic mood. 

' When are you going back to Barohn ? ' 
Elsie asked. 

' You can answer that question better 
than I,' he said. 

' How ? ' 

' It is you who keep me in Leichardt's 
Town. Do you suppose I care in the least 
for this fooling about hotel bilhard-rooms and 
tea-parties, and for philandering up and down 
Victoria Street? And yet I hang about 
Grandoni's half the morning, and eat ices and 
drink sherry cobblers in a way that plays the 
deuce with my digestion, on the chance of 
your turning up anywhere about ; and I 
haunt the ferry steps, and I parade up and 
down the bunya walk in the Botanical Gar- 
dens — all for you.' 

' That is very foolish of you, Mr. Trant.' 

' Is it foolish .^ ' He bent towards her. 


They were sitting on the boat-house steps in 
the banana grove, whither Elsie had gone 
on pretext of finding some still ungathered 
' Lady's fingers ' which had ripened on the 
stem. Elsie was now daintily peeling one of 
the bananas, and Trant watched her with 
fixed eyes. ' I don't think it is so foolish, 
though it may seem so to you now, ]\iiss 
VaUiant, because you don't care for me. Do 
you suppose that I am not aware of that ? If 
you care for any one in the world it is for 
Blake ' 

'Mr. Trant!' Elsie half rose. 'You 
have no right to say such a thing.' 

He put out his hand to detain her. ' No, 
don't go, don't be indignant. After all, it is 
only what everybody else is saying, and I 
know of two chaps who have a bet on as 
to whether you will marry Blake or Frank 
Hallett within the year. I'm out of the run- 


ning altogether, you see, but for all that I'm 
not afraid to enter the lists, and I think I've 
as good a chance as either of them ; though 
you won't let me tell you how fond I am of 

' Oh, please go on, Mr. Trant. It is very 
interesting. I don't think anybody ever, ever 
made love to me quite in this way.' 

' I'm not making love to you just now. 
That will come later, and when I do make 
love to you I warn you that I shall be a 
tornado. I shall sweep you off your feet ; 
you'll have to listen to me. I'm only stating 
facts now. Of course I know very well that 
Blake is much more the kind of fellow for a 
girl to fall in love with than I am. I don't 
imagine for a moment that you will ever fall 
in love with me. I shall make my cou2? in a 
different way. 1 shall carry j^ou off.' 

Elsie laughed outright. ' Oh ! really, Mr. 



Trant ! Like a Border knight, or Moon 

light ? ' 

' Yes,' said he grimly, ' hke Moonhght.' 
' And how shall you manage it ? Will 
you appear booted and spurred at one of the 
Leichardt's Town tennis parties and seize me 
— gallop off with me in front of you ? Or 
will you waylay our jingle when we are going 
to the Government House ball ? Or will you 
wait till we are on the Luya again, and 
imprison me in some stronghold in one of the 
gorges ? ' 

' That would probably be the wisest thing 
to do,' answered Trant, still grimly. ' We 
shall see. Miss Yalliant. Many a true word 
is spoken in jest, you know. In the mean- 
time I don't mean to bother you except for a 
dance or two now and then, and there's no 
occasion for me to leave Leichardt's Town 
just yet. I shall wait and watch the game. 


Only listen to this, I've warned you once, re- 
member, and it's disinterested of me to warn 
you again. Don't let Blake fool you. He 
will never marry anyone ; he has got other 
things to think about. He only cares about 
women for the sake of amusement ; but is 
quite capable of making you beheve that he 
is madly in love with you just to cut out 
Frank Hallett, or for the excitement of the 
thing, and then he will throw you over as he 
has thrown over other women before you.' 

Elsie turned quite pale. ' Mr. Trant, you 
amuse me rather when you talk like that, 
it is unhke other people. But there are 
limits even to amusement, and I beg that you 
will not speak to me of either Mr. Blake or 
Mr. Frank Hallett in that way again.' 

' Very well,' said Trant doggedly, ' I 
have warned you, remember. As I said, it is 
against my own interest. My game is to let 


Blake have his way. After that will come 
my turn, and then I shall clear the course by 
sheer strength of will. It will be a coup 
detat. You know I told you that I always 
succeeded in what I had set my mind on.' 

' I congratulate you.' 

' I don't intend to live this sort of life for 
much longer, Miss Yalhant. I don't mean to 
bury myself at Barohn. I have done that for 
a purpose ; T wanted to make money. When 
I marry, my wife will be in a position to 
enjoy herself, and to see the world.' 

' That will be very nice for your wife, 
Mr. Trant, when you have one.' Elsie got 
up. ' Do you know I think it is time for me 
to get ready to walk to Mrs. Fermoy's. I am 
going to have tea there, and afterwards Ina 
is to take me to hear the speeches.' 



IX THE ladies' gallery 

The Ladies' Gallery was crowded. It had 
been set about that Blake was an orator, that 
his speech would be a stirring one, and 
already the picturesque personality of the 
man had impressed Leichardt's Town society. 
Besides this, it was known that Frank Hallett 
would move the Address, and people were 
interested in Frank Hallett as a coming 

There is no tiresome grating in front of 
the Ladies' Gallery in Colonial Houses of 
Parliament, and any member who chose* to 
look up might have easily recognised the 
stolid features of Lady Garfit and the placid 


pink and white prettiness of her daughter, 
and just behind, they might have seen Ina 
Gage's dehcate, rather pensive face, Miss 
Minnie Pryde's black eyes and brunette com- 
plexion, and Elsie Yalliant's more distin- 
guished beauty. Both Blake and Frank 
Hallett did look up. and Elsie noted the 
different bearing of the two men, each of 
whom was to make his maiden effort in that 
assembly. Frank was evidently nervous — 
grave, absorbed, and hiding embarrassment 
under a mask of reserve. Blake was 
indifferent, imconcerned, always giving a 
sense of latent power, always with a certain 
kingliness of bearing, and at the same time a 
certain dare-devilry of which Elsie was keenly 
conscious. It seemed to her that his eyes 
sought hers, and that his face changed ever 
so shghtly when their glances met. Her 
heart was beating strangely. She gave a 
VOL. II. 11 


violent start when Frank Hallett's voice 
sounded behind her. 

' Are you quite comfortable ? ' he asked. 

' Yes, quite, thank you,' she answered. 

'I am afraid you find it rather dull up 
here,' he said, ' and it will be a few minutes 
vet before we get to my part of the business.' 

' You are looking rather pale. Are you 
nervous ? ' 

' Horribly nervous. I am sick with 

' But that won't last.' 

'No,' he said, 'once I begin I shall get 
on well enough. It's the interval of waiting 
that sets my nerves going. It's like lying in 
the trenches, you know, before the enemy 
have come up. Now I must get back to my 

He ran downstairs. He had hardly 
settled into his place when the Speaker began 


to read the speech which the Governor had 
delivered that morning. The instant the 
reading was done Halle tt got on his legs and 
set himself to his task of moving the reply to 
the Address. Elsie went through a moment 
of breathless anxiety while he was standing, 
waiting before he spoke, and then she heard 
his voice, and felt reassured. After a minute 
or two of nervousness Hallett went on with 
his speech composedly and well. Elsie did 
not care very much about the substance of 
the speech, but it seemed to her to be well 
composed, and was delivered with the fluency 
which only just stopped short of being 
monotonous. It went over a great variety of 
topics, to which she paid little attention, but 
she could hear that it was received with great 
favour on Hallett's side of the house, and 
with respectful attention on the other. She 
was glad to find that there were no ironical 


cheers or bursts of interruption, not, perhaps, 
quite reahsing that a speech which escapes 
from these tributes of opposition is seldom 
a speech likely to make a name for the 

Hallett sat down amid very cordial ap- 
plause from the house in general. She could 
see that everyone was glad to find the 
young man doing well in his first attempt, 
and she felt all but delighted at the result. 
He had certainly not failed. On the con- 
trary, he had evidently succeeded. It was 
exactly what she had expected of him, and 
she was content with him. Perhaps she 
could have wished for something a little 
more dazzling, something thrilling, like that 
speech slie had heard from the verandah of 
the hotel at Goondi, of which she had been 
able to catch only the voice, not the words. 
But still to wish that Hallett should be 


dazzling would be to wish that Hallett were 
not Hallett, only somebody else. 

Then a rough and mumbling voice was 
heard, and she became aware that somebody 
was seconding Hallett's motion. This was a 
poor and scrambling performance, and had 
only the merit of being quickly done. Then 
the Speaker put the question, and then the 
Leader of the Opposition spoke. 

Mr. Torbolton made a severe attack on 
tlie policy of the Government on all its lines. 
The girl could recognise by the sound and 
movement of the house that the attack was 
a heavy one, and told severely. Then there 
was a reply from the Ministerial side, de- 
livered by Mr. Leeke, the Minister of Mines, 
into whose shoes it was said Frank Hallett 
was to step, and she was getting into rather a 
drowsy condition when suddenly the Minis- 
terial speech came to an end, and in an 


instant she heard again the voice that had 
thrilled her at Goondi. She saw that a new 
vspeaker had arisen from the Opposition side, 
and bending eagerly forward she recognised 
the face and figure of Blake, and in another 
five minutes the girl had learned for the first 
time in her life the difference between a born 
debater and a man who makes a good speech. 
Blake's voice sometimes fell to such subtle 
modulations that it seemed to caress the 
listening ear, and at other times rang out 
with the vibrating strength of passion, or 
hissed with the scornful tone of sarcasm. 
The assembly which had listened with such 
patient approval to Hallett went wild over 
Blake. From the Ministerial side there came 
angry interruptions and contradictions. 
From the bench of the Opposition came 
bursts of enthusiastic cheers and shouts of 
dehghted laughter. She hardly knew what 


it was all about, but she knew well enough 
that it was a vivid and pitiless attack upon 
the policy of the Government, and that the 
Ministers seemed to quail under its effect. 

Some member standing in the Ladies' 
Gallery said to Lady Horace when Blake sat 
down, ' Well, now. Lady Horace, whether we 
like it or whether we don't, I think we must 
call that a great speech.' 

Sir James Garfit rose at once, thus paying 
the quite unusual tribute to Mr. Blake's 
speech by rising at that period of the evening 
to reply to a new member. When the 
Premier began his speech, Elsie's interest in 
the debate collapsed. 

Lord Horace, who was in the men's 
gallery, separated from that in which his wife 
and Elsie sat, leaned excitedly over the 

' I say, Elsie, Blake's stunnin'. I wish it 


was our man. In the face of that there's no 
use in consoHng ourselves with the reflection 
that dear Frank is safe and respectable.' 

A little later Elsie knew almost without 
turning round that Blake had come into the 
gallery and was behind her. She turned to 
him in her quick impulsive way, and said, 
'- Oh, why didn't you tell me you could speak 
like that ? ' 

' Did I do it well, really ? * 

' Yes, splendidly,' she said. ' The house 
felt it. I never heard a real speech before.' 

' I am glad of that,' he said, quietly 
bending over her — 'glad, that is, that you 
were pleased. I wanted to please you.' 

There was a short interval, in which the 
House emptied, and the party in the Ladies' 
Gallery went out and snatched a sort of 
dinner at an hotel not far off. After they 
came back the debate droned dully on. 


Blake came up again, and lingered in the 
gallery. Most of the time he talked in 
whispers to Elsie, and more than once 
Lady Garfit turned angrily and frowned 
on him. 

It was now nine o'clock. 

' I am sorry,' said Blake, ' that there is no 
terrace here, where I can ask you to come 
and have coffee.' 

' No terrace .^ ' repeated Tna vaguely. 

Lord Horace, who liad caught the remark, 
looked annoyed. ' Blake means the terrace 
of the House of Commons. Don't ask 
Waveryng what it means, or he will think I 
have married a ' 

' An Australian girl, who doesn't know 
anything about your fashionable London life,' 
put in Elsie hotly. ' You had better prepare 
Lord and Lady Waveryng, Horace, for the 
depth of barbarism they'll be plunged in here. 


otherwise they mightn't survive the shock of 
an introduction to Ina and me.' 

' When do the Waveryngs arrive ? ' asked 

' Lady Stukeley told me at the Opening 
to-day that she had heard from my sister, and 
that they would very likely be here for the 
May ball. They are going to stay at Govern- 
ment House,' said Lord Horace, a little 
sulkily. He w^as annoyed because Lady 
Stukeley had not taken quite kindly to Ina, 
and that was Elsie's fault, for Lady Garfit had 
prejudiced the lady of Government House 
against these forward Australian belles. 

Elsie got up. At that moment Frank 
Hallett entered the gallery. She turned to 
him. 'What is going to happen? I am 
tired, I want to get back ; Ina is tired, too. 
If Horace likes to stay, I dare say somebody 
will see us across the river.' 


' I wish 1 could,' exclaimed Hallett, ' but 
Leeke is going to speak ; I ought not to leave 
the House.' 

' Since I am not so anxious to hear Mr. 
Leeke, Lady Horace, please let me take you 
to Fermoy's,' said Blake. 

Lord Horace announced his intention of 
going to the club. It was Frank Hallett 
who escorted Ina down the stairs. She 
turned her pale face to his with a sisterly 
smile. ' Frank, I haven't had an opportunity 
of saying a word. You did speak splendidly.' 

' Thank you, Ina ; you don't mind my 
calhng you Ina just once, do you ? I feel 
horribly down to-night. I'm nowhere beside 
Blake. He is the coming man.' 

' Is it Elsie who has vexed you, Frank ? ' 

' Oh no ; not Elsie, not, at least, any more 
than usual. But she has altered somehow 
lately. Don't you see it ? ' 


' Yes, I see it. But Elsie was always 

' You know I care for Elsie more than for 
anyone in this world, Ina.' 

' Yes, I know that.' 

* I'm not jealous of Blake — not in the 
ordinary way. I have been keeping myself a 
little aloof from Elsie lately on purpose. She 
has given me her promise that if her prince, 
as she puts it, doesn't come along within a 
year, she will marry me ' 

' Ah ! Elsie's prince ! ' Ina laughed ner- 

' Ina, a horrible fear has struck me these 
last days. Suppose that Blake should turn 
out to be Elsie's prince.' 

' Oh no, no ! ' Ina cried. ' I cannot bear 
that man. There's something about him ; I 
can't describe the feeling he gives me. He is 
not true.' 


' He is good-looking, and he is a gentle- 
man ; and I believe, judging from liis speech 
to-night, and the effect it has had, that he 
will very soon make a mark. I don't know 
anything against hira. Why shouldn't slie 
marry him ? If she is in love with him I 
shall not put myself forward — I shall not 
stand in the way. I shall wish her happiness 
with all my heart, and I shall always remain 
her friend.' 

' And yet you said that you had a horrible 
fear. You can't help feeling as I do about 
Mr. Blake.' 

' Ah ! ' Frank cried, ' I am human, and 1 
love her. It's because of that that I want 
her to have her chance, and Blake, too. I 
won't let myself think ill of him, if I can heh). 
but a fellow is a man after all, Ina.' 

They went out into the night. Minnie 
Pryde came beside Lady Horace. ' I know 


that you two, anyhow, won't be talking senti- 
ment,' she said. ' I saw pretty soon that I 
had better make myself scarce, as far as the 
other two are concerned.' 

Ina and Frank both laughed discordantly. 
' Ob ! I forgot,' cried Miss Pryde. ' Don't 
mind me, Mr. Hallett, and look here, oughtn't 
you to go back and listen to Mr. Leeke ? He 
had got up just as we left.' 

Hallett bade good-night to Ina, and paused 
for a moment to shake hands with Elsie. It 
seemed to him that she and Blake were 
lingering a good deal behind. 

' Good-night,' Elsie said sweetly, ' and 
please when you get into the Ministry, see 
that I have a place at the Opening.' 

They had got out of the lighted space 
round the House of Assembly, and were walk- 
insf down a dim street bordered with houses 


and gardens, which led to the ferry. On one 
side lay the Botanical Gardens. At the end 
of the road they had left, and beyond the 
House of Assembly, were the great gates of 
Government House with their flaring lamps. 
The heavy fragrance of datura bloesoms 
weighted the air. Ina and Minnie Pryde 
walked on alone. 

' Won't you take my arm ? ' said Blake. 

She put her hand within his arm, and they 
walked on for a few moments in silence. He 
put his hand out and touched her cloak. 
Are you sure that you are warm enough ? 
The nights are beginning to be cold.' 

'Yes,' said Elsie. There was an odd re- 
strained tenderness in his manner which set 
her pulses tingling. 

' Did you miss me to-day P ' he asked sud- 


' Yes,' she answered. 

'But you had your usual crowd, your 
verandah reception ; you didn't want me Y ' 

Elsie did not reply for a minute. ' It was 
too early for my verandah reception,' she 
said coldly. ' No,' she exclaimed presently 
in a hard tone, ' I didn't want you in the 
least. It was a day off, you know. I wasn't 
playing the game. I hadn't got to be think- 
insf all the time of the next move.' 

' The next move,' he said seriously, ' what 
is it to be? We have gathered chuckie- 
chuckies and sat on the boat-house steps, and 
danced, and sat out, and ridden, and done all 
the usual things that belong to the game of 
flirtation. There remains onl}^ one yet of the 
minor experiences.' 

' The minor experiences ? ' 

' The experiences which belong to the 
initiatory stage of flirtation. I have found 


you perfectly charming, horribly dangerous. 
I confess it.' 

Elsie turned her soft face towards him, 
and their eyes met. He could see by the 
faint light of a growing moon that she 

' Yes, horribly dangerous,' he repeated. 

' What is the other experience ? ' she 

' A row by moonlight. I should prefer it 
with you alone, but I suppose the proprieties 
forbid. Shall it be Lady Horace or Miss 
Pryde who chaperons us ? ' 

' I will go for a row with you the next 
time you come in the evening. I am glad 
you warned me that it is part of the game.' 

They had reached the ferry steps. Miss 
Minnie Pryde called a fairy musical ' 0-o-ver.' 
The plash of the oars sounded nearer and 
nearer as the boat approached. Blake stepped 



on to the bow, and held out his hand to each 
of the ladies. One or two others were 
crossing as well. The stern was filled, and lie 
took his seat in the bows. Several of the 
passengers were from Fermoy's, and knew 
Lady Horace and her sister. The talk fell on 
the evening's debate. Mr. Anderson, one of 
the young men, praised Hallett's speech. 

' I tell you what it is though, Lady 
Horace,' exclaimed another, ' that cliap Blake 
beat him into fits. I say, can you tell me 
who he is? They call him Monte Cristo. 
He chucks half-sovereigns to the railway 
porters, and rides thoroughbreds fit for a 

' Oh, hush ! ' murmured In a faintly, and 
turned the conversation with some rapid ques- 
tion. Blake had probably not heard the 
remark — at least so Elsie imagined. He sat 
still in the bow, looking like a Monte Cristo 


indeed, only his eyes were tenderer, surely, 
than those of Dumas' hero. Elsie's young 
bosom fluttered. At last she was in the land 
of romance. And yet there was a dim terror 
in the background of her maidenly satis- 
faction — a terror of unknown forces which 
might at any moment break from their 

When they had got out of the boat and 
mounted the ferry hill there was a halt. 
Fermoy's lay in one direction, Eiverside in 
another. It was only a httle walk to Eiver- 
side, and the sisters had often gone across the 
paddock alone. To-night Ina seemed par- 
ticularly anxious that Elsie should wait at 
Fermoy's for Lord Horace to escort her. 

'Then I might wait all night,' said Miss 
Valliant. 'No, thank you, Ina, I shall go 
straight home, and you get to your bed.' 

'You will let me see you to your gate,' 

1 2 


said Blake, in a low tone. Mr. Anderson 
stepped forward, entreating that he might be 
the favoured escort. Minnie Pryde, who 
Kved quite at the end of the Point, had 
secured her own particular swain, who was 
also a lodger at Fermoy's. 

'No,' said Elsie firmly. 'Mr. Blake is 
o-()inor to take me, and you, please, look after 
my sister. Good-night, Ina. Good-night, 
Minnie. Ina, I shall come down to-morrow 
and see how we are going to the Garfit's.' 

The Garfit dance was to take place on the 

Elsie and Blake were alone in the soft 
scented night. Many of the eucalyptus in the 
paddock had been left standing. Elsie said 
that they made her think of the Bush and of 
the Luya. 

' And, perhaps, of your future home,' said 


' Perhaps,' said Elsie coldly. ' If it is 
going to be my fate to marry a bushman.' 

' Do you know what your fate ought to 
be ? ' said Blake. ' You should marry a rich 
man, who would take you to Europe and 
place you in a position to which your beauty 
entitles you. You should have everything 
that the world can give to a beautiful woman. 
You should be caressed, flattered, feted, 
adorned, surrounded by every luxury, and set 
in a fitting frame.' 

' Thank you,' said Elsie ; ' you draw a 
pleasant picture.' 

'But that will not be your fate,' Blake 
went on. ' You will marry Frank Hallett, or 
another. You will never rise above the level 
of prosperous Australian Philistinism. You 
will never taste the finest aroma of romance 
and of enjoyment. You will never know the 
fascination of danger. You will never ex- 


perience the subtle emotions which make one 
day better worth living than a hfetime.' 

' Have you gone through all this ? ' 

' In part. Life has always been for me a 
drama. I started with the intention of get- 
ting all I could out of it. I think I have suc- 
ceeded pretty well, though it has been as 
much bad as good. I don't care in the least 
about life as life. But, as I told you one day, 
there is something in me fierce and untam- 
able, and I confess also morbid, which craves 
for some other outlet than that of the de- 
corous Philistine routine.' 

' And so you contrive to get that outlet ? ' 

' Yes.' 

' I can't imagine how ! Surely not in the 
life I see you lead ? ' 

' There are excitements even in the life 
which you see me lead,' he answered 


' Such as this evening, for instance. But 
that can mean nothing. It must be easy for 
you to excel among such men as are in the 
Assembly here.' 

' You should not disparage them. The 
Governor was telling me that he has been 
deeply impressed by the abihty and states- 
manlike foresight of Sir James Garfit. Look, 
Miss Yalliant. Did you ever see the river so 
beautiful ? What would you not give to have 
a row to-night ? ' 

He pointed to the shining flood, flecked by 
the moon's rays, and with the mysterious 
shadows of the bamboos on the opposite shore 
mirrored on its surface. 

' If it had been the days when Ina and I 
were alone here, we should probably unmoor 
the boat and cro.' 

' May I not be Lady Horace for to- 


' All ! Ina would not do it now. She has 
grown so staid since her marriage. Horace 
would tell her that it was not the sort of 
thing an English lady would do.' 

' Come ! ' He held open the wicket which 
led into the garden. The banana trees 
looked weird in the moonlight. The cottage 
was all dark. There was a light only in Mrs. 
Valliant's room. At the click of the gate, 
the casement was opened, and Mrs. Yalliant 
said ' Elsie.' 

' Yes, mother, I am coming presently. 
Mr. Blake has brought me home, and I have 
an irresistible longing just to go down to the 
boathouse and see the moonhght on the 

' Can't you see it from the verandah ? ' said 
Mrs. Valliant weakly. 

Elsie laughed. ' Poor mother ! I shall 
come presently, dear. You can't think how 


hot and stiiiFy it was in the gallery. I 
couldn't sleep if I went to bed now.' 

' Oh, well ! ' said Mrs. Yalliant resignedly, 
and she closed the window. 

The whole proceeding struck Blake as 
amazing. The mother was more amazing 
than the daughter. He was still more 
astonished when, as they walked along the 
little path, Elsie turned to him, and said 
abruptly ' Good-night.' 

' But you are not going in ? ' 

* No, but I don't want you. Good-night.' 

' But the river, and the row ? ' 

' Good gracious ! What do you think of 
me ? ' she cried fiercely. ' I understand you 
very well. You are playing your game ; I 
am playing mine. Good-nighi.' 

She walked on, and disappeared among 
the bananas, without again turning her head. 
Jle heard her go down the steps. He heard 


the sound of the boat pushing off. He saw 
her a few minutes later seated with the oars, 
rowing to the opposite side. It was quite 
bright enough for him to observe the grace 
of her movement, and the poise of her figure, 
and of her flower-hke head upturned to the 

She was on the water about a quarter of 
an hour, long enough to row across and back 
again. She gave a start when she saw him 
standing just where she had left him. 

' Why didn't you go home ? ' 

' Because I wanted to see that you got in 
without any harm coming to you. I couldn't 
insist upon going with you, but I could at 
least give myself the satisfaction of watching 
for you.' 

'Thank you.' She held out her hand. 
And then he saw that her eyes were wet, and 
that there was a great tear-drop on her cheek. 


' Elsie ! ' he exclaimed. ' You have been 
crying ? ' 

' Yes,' she cried recklessly, 'and do you 
know why ? Because I, too, have something in 
me that is fierce and untamable, and because I 
am not like you — I can find no outlet in my 

She darted from him and ran into the 
house. He walked slowly back to Fermoy's 
through the paddock. 




Elsie wore at the Garfit's the white dress that 
Blake had seen her stitching. She had copied 
it from an old print. It hung in soft folds to 
her feet, and she had a little frilled fichu of 
mushn knotted at her breast, and where it 
was knotted there was a big bunch of Parma 
violets, and she carried a large bouquet of 
violets in her hand. The violets had been 
sent to the cottage that morning. Elsie krew 
who had sent them, and perhaps the sending 
of the violets had something to do with her 
radiance. Eveiyone said that Elsie had 
never looked so beautiful. 

The Garfits had a large verandahed house 


some little way out of town on the north side. 
They always gave pleasant parties. Sir 
James was a jovial, red-faced person, who on 
these occasions dropped the cares of State as 
though they had been a garment. Eose was 
always amiable and ladylike, and Lady Garfit 
was at her best in her own house. 

Sir James was, however, on this evening 
more pre-occupied than was usual with him. 
There had been another stormy debate that 
day. Mr. Torbolton, leader of the Opposi- 
tion, had been seen in the refreshment room 
in close conclave with Blake. The talk ran 
that Blake's speech had done more than 
anything to shake the Ministry. Sir James 
had given particular instructions to his 
womenkind that they should ' cotton up ' to 
Blake. Blake was an enemy whom it might 
be well to conciliate. 

Lady Garfit, therefore, had arranged that 


Eose should dance the first dance with Bhike. 
Eose was not an exhilarating companion. 
Her conversation consisted mostly of remarks 
to the effect that Lady Stukeley was too sweet, 
and that the Prince was almost certain to be 
in Leichardt's ToAvn for the Birthnight Ball ; 
which— -had Mr. Blake heard ? — was put off 
till the 12th of June on account of the uncer- 
tainty about the Prince. Lady Stukeley had 
told Lady Garfit that they were expecting a 
telegram every moment to ^^ the date. This 
was not deeply interesting to Blake. He 
fired a little when Miss Garfit asked him if he 
did not think Miss Yalhant looked lovely. 
It was such a pity that she was such a 
dreadful flirt, and got herself so talked about. 
Miss Garfit was getting up riding parties 
- — they were to be Parliamentary riding 
parties — it was only on Wednesdays and 
Saturdays that the members were free. 


Would Mr. Blake join them, and had he that 
lovely horse which Miss Yalliant rode at the 
Tunimbah races, in Leichardt's Town ? ' 

' Yes ; ' but Blake made a bold shot. It 
had been promised to Miss Valiiant, and he 
(Blake) was bound to escort her. 

Oh ! but Eose Garfit would be greatly- 
pleased if Miss Yalliant and Lord and Lady- 
Horace would join their riding parties. Lord 
Horace was always amusing. Didn't Mr. 
Blake think so ? 

No, Blake could not quite agree with her. 
He thought Lord Horace was a bit of a cub, 
and that his wife was much too good for him. 
The only decent member of that family was 
Lady Waveryng. 

Miss Garfit looked a httle horrified at this 
familiar criticism. Had Mr. Blake known 
them in Ens^land ? 

No, not in England ; at least, only by 


hearsay ; and he changed the conversation 
with a comphment on Miss Garfit's dress. 

He got his opportunity at last with Elsie. 
There were certainly no traces of tears on 
her radiant face this evening. She lifted her 

' Thank you ever so much. It goes so 
beautifully with my dress.' 

' I have something to confess. I have 
committed perjury for your sake.' 

' For my sake ? ' 

' I swore just now that The Outlaw was 
devoted to your service this winter, and that 
I was in duty bound to escort you. I think 
Miss Garfit wanted to borrow The Outlaw. 
She is getting up Parliamentary riding 
parties, and I believe that she intends asking 
you and Lady Horace to join them.' 

' Do you really mean that I am to ride 
The Outlaw ? ' 


' If you will honour me so far. He is 
here, at your service, as I said. You have 
only to say when you want him sent over.' 

'Horace has horses. I am sure Ina 
would like to ride. Mr. Blake.' 

' Yes, Miss Valhant.' 

'Please forget what I said last night.' 

' Once before, when you asked me to 
forget something that you said, I told you 
that I could not promise to do that. But 
I'll promise that I v/on't remind you of 
it. Besides, you said nothing that was not 
altogether charming and womanly.' 

They were just going to join the dancers. 
Trant passed them with Minnie Pryde, and it 
seemed to Elsie, that there was a meaning 
expression in his eyes. But she forgot all 
about Trant while she was dancing with 
Blake. Later on she had a waltz with him, 

VOL. u. K 


and he complimented her on her dress and 
upon her violets. 

' I know that Blake sent you that 

' Yes, he did.' 

' If I send you a bouquet one night, will 
you wear it ? ' 

' Certainly, with pleasure, if it matches 
my dress, and it won't be a matter of great 
difficulty to arrange that, for my dresses are 
not so various or so numerous.' 

' You couldn't have anything prettier 
than the one you are wearing to-night. 
Everyone is saying that you look lovely.' 

Trant's conversation was this evening 
carried on in the strain of somewhat 
extravagant compliment. Perhaps Elsie was 
wanting in fine discrimination, anyhow she 
preferred it to his more tragic mood. She 
was having her fill of admiration just now. 


Frank Hallett was the only drawback to her 
enjoyment. He looked sad, she fancied, 
reproachful, and he did not very often ask 
her to dance, but devoted himself to Ina. 
' Oh, why hadn't he fallen in love with Ina ? ' 
Elsie said to herself. ' That would have 
settled everything, and she would have suited 
him far better than I ever shall.' 

One of the riding parties came off. 
Before the second could take place the 
Ministry had gone out, and Mr. Torbolton 
had formed a new cabinet. 

It was no surprise to anyone that 
Blake was offered an important place in it. 
Certainly, to secure a seat in the Government 
after having been in the House only a few 
weeks was an achievement, but Mr. Torbolton 
was only too glad to gain such an acquisition 
to his ranks. 

K 2 


The re-elections occasioned a temporary 
absence from town on the part of the new 
Ministers. Blake was, however, returned 
without a contest. 

And meanwhile the little whirligig went 
round. Elsie was very gay. She had 
several new admirers, and the verandah 
receptions became a feature of the day. 
Lord Horace started a four-in-hand, and was 
in boisterous spirits. Mrs. Allanby was 
usually on the box seat. Poor Ina looked 
paler than ever and more anxious ; but she 
was a loyal little creature and said nothing of 
her domestic trials even to Elsie. During 
Blake's absence at Goondi, Frank Hallett 
came a little more to the fore, and was a 
frequent visitor at Eiverside, but he still 
kept to his line of not obtruding his love. 
One day Elsie asked him why he had so 


' I have not changed, and I shall never 
change,' he answered. ' I am always here — 
always ready to do anything that you want 
me to do. But you are quite free, Elsie, and 
I wish you to feel so. It is not I who have 

' Do you mean that I have changed ? ' 

'Yes, you have greatly changed, and I 
can only guess at the meaning of the change.' 

' Tell me how I have changed,' she said. 

' You are restless, and your moods vary. 
Sometimes you look perfectly wretched ; at 
others wildly happy. You are a barometer, 
Elsie, and the influence which affects your 
moods is Blake. You are expecting him 
now ? ' 

'Frank, you insult me.' 

' I don't want to. I think that you are 
under the spell of some evil enchantment. It 
is not wholesome, honest love. That is why I 


am patient, and why I feel certain that it will 
pass away.' 

' And then ? ' 

' Oh then — then it may be my turn.' 

'Frank, I deny everything. Mr. Blake 
and I are playing a game — that is the whole 
truth. We agreed to see which could hurt 
the other most.' 

' It seems to me a dangerous game, Elsie 
— and, as you play it, not a very womanly 

' Dangerous ! Perhaps ; but for whom ? 
Do you think that I am going to let myself be 
beaten? He has hurt other women, he shall 
not hurt me. You think I am unwomanly 
because I flirt with him openly ; because I sit 
out dances with him, and allow myself to be 
talked about ; because my manner gives 
people some reason for saying that I am in 
love with him. Well, we shall see. When 


he asks me to marry him I shall refuse him, 
and all the world shall know it.' 

' Elsie ! You are undignified. I say 
again, you are unwomanly.' 

' So Ina tells me. Well, you can give me 
up! Frank, I sometimes think that there is 
an evil spirit in me, and that you are right — 
that I am under a spell. It's true that I am 
eaten up by a demon of vanity, and selfish- 
ness, and reckless pride. I want to be first. 
I cannot bear that any man should get the 
better of me. It is horrid, I know it. Very 
well, but I am myself. I want to do some- 
thing wild ; I want to feel, I want to know. 
Ah ! ' 

She gave a sudden start, and then drew 
back and kept very still, for at that moment 
Blake entered. 

They were spending the evening in Lady 
Horace's sitting-room at Fermoy's. Lord 


Horace and some choice pals were in the 
verandah smoking. There was whisky on the 
table. Ina was sewing, and Trant had just 
gone to the piano. 

He began his song as Blake came in, 
' Ninon, Ninon, que fais-tu de la vie ? ' and only 
nodded at the sight of his partner, and went 
on singing. It was a song that always 
affected Elsie curiously. Blake shook hands 
silently with Lady Horace, and seated himself 
beside Elsie. Hallett moved away. 

When the song was over, Blake said, ' I 
came to tell Lord Horace that the UUagong is 

Lia, who had moved towards them, gave 
a little start. ' Then the Waveryngs will be 
here to-night.' 

' Not to-night, Lady Horace,' said Blake, 
pitying her evident alarm — ' at least not till 
the small hours of the morning.' 


' Oh ! do you think,' said Ina tremulously, 
' that I need go with Horace to meet them ? ' 

' No,' he said ; ' why should you ? It will 
be far too early.' 

' I am so nervous about them,' said poor 
Ina, ' and it may make a great difference to 
Horace their likinor or dislikino^ me. That is 
what Horace says.' 

Ina was off' her balance, or she never 
would have so betrayed herself. 

' They are quite sure to like you,' said 
Blake ; ' and you will like them. Lady 
Waveryng is a charming woman — kind and 
unaffected, and he is a good fellow.' 

' Do you know them ? ' said Elsie, in 

' I know all about them,' he answered. 
' They will not know me^ but some of my 
people lived in Ireland near the Waveryngs.' 

' Oh ! I know,' said Ina. ' Then you are 


one of the Blakes of Castle Coola. Horace 
was wondering.' 

' I have relations in Ireland, and they hve 
at Castle Coola,' answered Blake. 'That is 
how I come to know about the Waveryngs. 
But I would rather you didn't talk about it, 
Lady Horace, if you don't mind, though there 
is no particular secret. The fact is I wasn't a 
credit to my family, and I left Ireland in dis- 
grace, and have never had a word of com- 
munication with my people since. I am as 
dead to them as if I were dead in reality.' 

Elsie looked at him in a startled, pained 
way. It was the first time she had ever 
heard him speak of his people in Ireland, or in 
any definite manner of his past. Ina looked 
surprised, too, and a little pitiful. She was 
beginning to like Blake better than she had 
done at first. 

' You need not be afraid of my talking 


about what you have said, Mr. Blake,' she 
answered ; ' I shall not even tell Horace if you 
would rather not/ 

'Thank you. Lady Horace; certainly I 
would rather not. You are very good, and I 
am sure you are very loyal to your friends.' 

Ina flushed. ' I must let Horace know 
about the Ullagong,' she said. ' I hope he 
won't go over to the north side to-night.' 

She went out to the verandah. Lord 
Horace was greatly excited at the prospect of 
his sister's arrival, and declared he must start 
off to the north side at once, and find out 
when the Ullagong would really be in. He said 
that he would stay at the club and beguile the 
time at billiards, and proposed that Hallett 
and Trant should accompany him. Trant 
accepted the invitation, and Ina cast an im- 
ploring glance at Hallett, who had not in- 
tended to go over yet. He changed his mind, 


however, when he saw that Elsie seconded 
Ina's beseeching look, and the three lelt 
together. The other men followed shortly. 
Blake remained chatting with Lady Horace 
and Elsie. He told them about his second 
Goondi election. They discussed his new 
post, and the responsibilities attaching to 

' One very serious responsibility you will 
have, at least,' Ina said laughing. ' We shall 
blame you now, Mr. Blake, if Moonlight bails 
up any more coaches, or robs any gold escorts. 
Horace says that the police are in your de- 
partment, and that you are now Captain Mac- 
pherson's chief.' 

Blake laughed too, a little strangely, Ina 
and Elsie thought. 

' Yes, that is so. Odd, isn't it ? Odd that 
I should have to sign the warrant against 
Moonlight, if it ever comes to that.' 


'I hope it will never come to that,' said 
Elsie. 'I have a curious feeling about Moon- 
light ; I don't know why. I want him to 
escape. I want him to go away and take his 
money with him and begin a new life.' 

' Perhaps,' said Blake, ' that is what he 
means to do. Perhaps it is some grim fate 
which has pushed him into his evil ways ; some 
terrible necessity of his nature which makes 
the excitement of robbery and adventure an 
outlet for all his fiercer passions, and his 
better self may — for all you know, Miss 
Yalliant — be struggling with the baser self, 
and urging him to flee temptation.' 

Something in his tone made Elsie look at 
him wonderingly. He seemed uneasy under 
her gaze, and got up restlessly, and with a 
forced laugh added, ' It would hardly do to^ 
advance these theories, would it, in defence 
of Moonlight at a meeting of the Executive ? 


Miss Yalliant, I see you making a move ; may 
I be permitted to take you home ? ' 

' Thank: you,' Elsie said simply. ' I ought 
to go now, Ina dear ; you should get to bed. 
Don't bother about the Waveryngs. Leave 
them to Horace.' 

She kissed her sister, and presently she 
and Blake were walking along the dim, 
straggling street on their way to the Eiver- 
side paddock. 

They hardly spoke at first. At last he 
said abruptly, after some banal remark about 
Leichardt's Town gaieties, ' Have you missed 

' Yes,' she answered fearlessly. ' And 
now tell me, have you missed me ? ' 

' Oh, no — not in the least. I have only 
thought of you in almost every hour of day- 
lif^ht, and in some few hours durinor the ni^^ht. 
I have only counted the days till I should get 


back to Leichardt's Town and to you. Does 
that satisfy you ? ' 

She did not answer for a moment. Her 
heart was beating wildly. Presently she said, 
' Is this another move in the game ? ' 

' K you take it so. I am going to ask you 
something, a great favour : will you pull me 
across to the other side and back again ? ' 

' Yes. Come.' 

She ran on a little in advance of him and 
reached the Eiverside fence first. Instead of 
taking the path which led to the cottage, she 
went down another, through the banana plan- 
tation and to the river bank. The boat was 
lying at the steps. The tide was at full, and 
lapped the drooping branches of the chuckie- 
chuckie tree with a caressing sound. 

Elsie threw off her cloak and stepped into 
the boat, which she untied. She looked, he 
thought, like some nymph of Greek days in 


her white dress and with her shm, erect form 
and well-poised head bare to the night. The 
stars shone brightly, and the sky was intensely 
clear. She motioned him to sit in the stern, and 
shook her head when he asked if he should 
take an oar, then pushed off into mid-stream. 

Her strokes were long and vigorous. He 
watched with fascinated eyes the movements 
of her lithe young body as she bent backwards 
and forwards to the oar. She never spoke a 
word, but rowed straight across and then 
turned and rowed him back again. 

' Now,' she said, ' don't ever say that I 
made any fuss about doing what you asked 
me. Give me credit for being courageous at 
any rate, when you think of the way in which 
Lady Garfit would tear my character to shreds 
if she could see me now.' 

' Elsie,' he exclaimed, ' I believe that for a 
man you loved you would brave any danger. 


I believe that you have it in you, and that you 
neither know yourself nor does your world 
know you.' 

She stooped to fasten the rope on the boat 
— they were on shore again now. When she 
answered it was in a serious and altered tone. 

' No, I don't think I have ever known 
myself. I am quite sure my world doesn't 
know me. And I think you are right. I 
do think it is in me to brave danger for the 
sake of a man I loved. But then I never be- 
lieved it was in me to love a man like that.' 

' Ah ! ' he cried, ' you know it now, and it 
is I who have taught you. You love me.' 

They were walking up the little hill to the 
cottage. Both paused. She turned on him 
her big, troubled, star-like eyes. 

' Elsie,' he repeated triumphantly. ' I 
have won the game ; you love me ! ' 

He put out his arms and caught her to 



him in a wild embrace. There was something 
almost brutal in his impetuosity. He kissed 
her cheeks, her hair, and then her lips. Elsie 
had never dreamed of kisses so passionate 
and unrestrained. For a moment or two she 
yielded to his ardour, and then a swift and 
agonising sense of humiliation overcame her. 
' How dare you ! What right have you ? ' 
she cried — ' Oh, you are cruel, you are base !' 
She tore herself from him and he saw her 
no more. 




Elsie sobbed all night the sobs of outraged 
maidenhood. He had conquered. She knew 
it too well. His kisses burned on her lips, 
and the burning was sweet agony. She 
loved him ; but — and here came the hideous 
doubt — did he love her ? Had he only been 
amusing himself? Had he only been 
revenging dead Jensen ? Oh ! what con- 
cerns of his were this dead man's wroncfs ? 
Had he only been playing out tlie game at 
which he had challenged her skill ? 

If he loved her, she told herself, he would 


come on the morrow. He would come in 
proud humility, and ask her to forgive him, 
certain of her pardon. 

She heard the steamer bells as the 
UUagong, with the Waveryngs on board, 
steamed up the river. She got up and 
looked out through the blurr of her tears. 
It was grey dawn — the dawn, she thought, of 
her day of destiny. Would he come ? She 
determined that she would torture herself no 
more with speculations. She got up and 
dressed, and set herself savagely to her 
household tasks. 

It was perhaps fortunate that Mrs. 
Yalliant was too pre-occupied with the 
thought of the Waveryngs' visit, and the 
effect it would have upon Ina, to notice the 
pale face and wild eyes of her eldest 
daughter. She could talk of nothing but 
Lady Waveryng. Would Ina meet her 
sister-in-law at the wharf? Would she call 


at Government House that afternoon ? Lady 
Stukeley would now be obliged to take some 
notice of Ina's family. It was she who 
suggested that Elsie should walk down to 
Fermoy's and learn something of Ina's ar- 

Lord Horace was in the verandah, talking 
excitedly to a plain, rather heavy, good- 
natured-looking man, in a light tweed suit, 
and with something of the tourist air. The 
man's eyes rested admiringly on Elsie as she 
stepped along the side path, not daring to 
look at any of the other windows which 
opened on to the verandah, lest, perchance, 
she might encounter Blake. But Blake was 
at his office, as befitted a new minister 
anxious to learn his duties ; and there was no 
need for that startled flush which cauglit 
Lord Waveryng's attention. 

' By Jove ! ' she heard him say, ' do they 
breed 'em like this out here ? ' 


' My wife's sister, Miss Yalliant,' said 
Horace, as she opened the gate of the 
verandah. ' Elsie, this is Waveryng. Brought 
'em straight along to see In a, in spite of the 

' Lady Stukeley will understand perfectly,' 
said Lord Waveryng. ' Em made it straight. 
Of course Em wanted to see the new sister-in- 
law.' And thus Elsie gleaned that the 
Waveryngs meant to be nice. ' 

' They're bricks, ain't they ? ' said Horace 

In a was in the sitting-room, where a very 
trim, very handsome, very decided, and 
rather voluble lady had taken possession of 
her. Lady Waveryng was a beauty. She was 
very like her brother, Lord Horace, and had 
charming manners ; though her once lovely 
complexion had got a little spoiled in the 
hunting-field. Hunting and yachting were 


the two tilings she hked best in the world. 
Elsie heard her say she only wished their 
yacht had been big enough to go round the 
world in, but on the whole she wasn't sure 
that she did not prefer ocean steamers ; and 
the passengers made it more amusing. They 
had had a perfectly lovely time in Ceylon. 
Singapore was so interesting, and the whole 
Torres Strait route delightful. 

' And this is Elsie, I am sure,' and she got 
up as Elsie entered. 

' Horace sent us your photograph with 
Ina's, to show us how easy it was to fall in 
love with Australian girls.' 

Lady Waveryng shook Elsie's hand 
warmly, and then she kissed Ina. 

They must fly. She did not know what 
the Stukeleys would say to her. And there 
was so much to be done. And she under- 
stood there was to be a ball that evening 


somewhere ; and her maid had been so upset 
with sea-sickness that she would have to go 
and do her own unpacking. 

They started off, Horace with them. 
Lady Waveryng kissed her hand as she 
turned the Ferry Hill, and walked along 
leaning on her silver mounted stick, looking, 
in her neat tailor-made dress and dainty hat, 
Elsie thought, unapproachably simple and 

' You see, Ina, you needn't have been 
frightened of them,' said Elsie. 

' They're coming to the Dell,' said Ina. 
' They say that they're longing to do some 
Bush travelling. Lady Waveryng wants to 
hunt kangaroos. She says I must call her 
'' Em." We are to dine at Government House 
this evening — a family party ; and, oh ! Elsie, 
I am so sorry, but you'll arrange to go witli 
the Prydes or Mrs. Jem Hallett, won't you, to 


the Club Ball, and wait for me in the cloak- 
room ? ' 

' The Club Ball ? ' said Elsie. ' Oh ! I had 
forgotten.' And in truth her heart and mind 
had been too full for the thought even of a 
ball to find a place there. ' It doesn't 
matter,' she said. ' Yes, I'll arrange some- 

' And your bouquet, Elsie,' said Ina. 
' Do you think Mr. Blake will send you one 
this time ? ' 

' No,' exclaimed Elsie almost fiercely ; 
' he will not send me one. Why should he ? 
Let us go over to the gardens, Ina, and beg 
some azaleas and camellias from the curator.' 

She did not get back to Eiverside till her 
verandah reception hour. She had a wild 
fancy that Blake might be there waiting for 
her. Ministers were not tied to their offices 
like the humble fry of civil servants and bank 


clerks. The bank clerks were there — and 
Dominic Trant was there, but no Blake. 

It was Trant who brought her a bouquet ; 
and a very beautiful one of tea roses and 
maidenhair fern and crimson double gera- 
nium. He had been at some pains to find out 
from Lady Horace what Elsie's colours were 
to be. 

No other bouquet had come, and she said 
she would wear this one, and thanked him 
very prettily. He wondered what had 
happened to her, and why her manner was so 
strained and conscious. Man-like he attri- 
buted it to his own influence. Was it 
possible that he was beginning to affect her ? 
He had an immense faith in his power of 
influencing women. His dark eyes glowed 
passionately upon her face. To flirt with 
him at that moment was a distraction, and an 
anodyne to the fierce pain which tormented 


her. She felt a wicked pleasure in playing 
with him as a cat might have played with 
a mouse. Yes, she would give him some 
dances. She would not say how many. 
They would wait until they were in the 
ballroom. What was it that he wanted to 
say to her ? If it was going to be anything 
very interesting and exciting, she would listen 
with the greatest pleasure. She wanted to 
be amused, taken out of herself. Did he 
think he could do that for her ? 

' Yes,' Trant ansAvered deliberately. He 
thought he could at least interest her. He 
would not promise not to offend her. Perhaps 
a Httle at first she might be jarred ; women 
were always jarred by what was real in a 
man. He meant to be his real self. 

Mr. Anderson and Minnie Pryde came in. 
Minnie was dying to hear all about Lady 


They sat in the verandah till it was 
nearly dressing time ; and no one else came. 
Blake never appeared. 

In the evening the Prydes called for her 
in the jingle — Minnie and her father, who 
was in one of the Government offices — there 
was no Mrs. Pryde — and they drove round 
by the bridge, and along the river 
embankment, till they got into the string of 
carriages waiting to pass towards the awning 
stretched out from the entrance to the Club 
House. The club was a pretty, low building, 
with wide verandahs and a big garden, gay 
with coloured lanterns. The covered way 
from the street was hung with flags; the ball- 
room looked very brilliant with its deco- 
rations of flaming poinsettia against a back- 
ground of palms. Where had all the crimson 
flowers come from .^ There was nothing else — 
garlands of red geraniums and euphorbia and 


vivid pomegranate, deepening into the darker 
tones of the red camellias and azaleas and the 
great flags of poinsettia. Minnie Pryde 
bewailed her pink dress which was quite out 
of harmony with the prevailing colouring. 

' Oh, Elsie, how clever of you to find out 
what they were going to decorate with,' she 
cried, looking admiringly at Elsie's cloudy 
white gauze with its splashes of crimson at 
waist and bosom. Elsie's cheeks were almost 
as bright as the crimson flowers, but the 
colour came and went, and there was a 
frightened look in her eyes. 

Frank Hallett, who was one of the 
stewards, was waiting near the doorway. 

' Your sister asked me to tell you not to 
wait in the cloak-room,' he said, ' She may 
be late. We've been dining at Government 
House, you know, and Mr. Blake and I 
managed to get away before the rest, because 


of being stewards. Mrs. Jem will chaperon 
you till Ina comes.' 

Mrs. Jem was gorgeous in maize and 
black lace, which suited her brunette 
colouring and her affectation of matronhood. 
She had taken her place among the higher 
magnates, and did not smile quite as sweet a 
welcome to poor pariah Elsie as Frank 
Hallett would have wished. But Mrs. Jem 
was wise in her generation, and she had a 
shrewd notion that Lord Waveryng would 
take to Elsie, and it was quite evident that 
Elsie's position in Leichardt's Town society 
would be somewhat changed by the 
Waveryngs' stay at Government House, and 
the admission of Lady Horace into that inner 
circle from which she had been in her girl- 
hood so rigorously excluded. 

' Yes, lovely,' said Mrs. Jem, in answer to 
a remark of Lady Garfit's. ' But you know I 


always said that Ina was so much better style, 
and the rouge is quite evident to-night. It is 
such a pity.' 

But even as she spoke Elsie's cheeks 
belied the accusation. The girl went deadly 
white for an instant, and then the crimson tide 
welled up again. Blake was coming towards 
them. There was not a shadow of conscious- 
ness in his manner. He stopped to salute 
Mrs. Jem and engage her for a set of Lancers. 
Yes, he had been dining at Government House. 
He had thought that Miss Yalliant might be 
with Lady Horace. He bowed ceremoniously 
to Elsie. ' How charming Lady Waveryng 
was, and how nice to see her so devoted 
already to Lady Horace ; though, of course, 
she was certain to be that.' 

Was it Blake who was uttering these 
banalities ? Elsie waited. He had not yet 
asked her to dance. Trant was hovering near, 


watching her with jealous eyes, and now he 
pushed himself forward. ' Miss Yalliant, this 
is my dance.' 

Elsie looked at her card. It had got 
pretty well filled already. Frank Hallett's 
name was down several times, and the bank 
clerks had been given a sop apiece, and the 
more important dancing men — the unmarried 
members of the Assembly — and some strangers 
from a neighbouring colony, had each set 
down their initials. But Elsie had kept some 
blanks, on which she had placed a hieroglyph 
of her own. 'No, you have made a mistake. 
It is the next one. This is a gallop. They 
are not keeping to the programme.' 

' Oh, they won't do that until the great 
people come,' said Blake. 'And here they 
are, and we stewards must go and receive 

The band struck up ' God save the Queen.' 


There was a little confusion at the entrance, 
and presently the Governor's fine head 
appeared, above the blue collar of his uniform, 
and Lady Waveryng's tiara of diamonds at his 
shoulder. ' How handsome she is, and how 
like Lord Horace ! ' murmured Mrs. Jem. 
The Leichardtstonians wondered that they 
had not thought more of Lord Horace, and a 
pang shot through Lady Garfit. Oh ! why 
hadn't she managed to marry him to Eose ? 
Lady Waveryng's diamonds and aristocratic 
head seemed the visible symbol of poor little 
Ina Gage's unmerited social advancement. 
Lady Waveryng had an air and an aplomb that 
could only belong to an aristocrat. And she 
was so simple and so unaffected, and looked 
about with such evident interest, pointing to 
the poinsettia leaves, and saying something to 
Blake as she passed him that produced a bow 
of evident acknowledgment of a compliment on 


the taste of the stewards. Lady Waveryng's 
eyes went back to Blake in a puzzled sort 
of way. ' Do you know who he is, and if 
he belongs to the Castle Coola people ? ' she 
said to the Governor. ' I can't get rid of the 
impression that I know his face. But I don't 
know which of the Coola people he could be. 
All the brothers are dead.' 

Sir Theophilus Stukeley did not know. 
He had never met any of the Castle Coola 
people ; always avoided Ireland, and thanked 
Providence that he had not been born an 
Irish landlord. 

Lady Waveryng laughed. ' Oh, but the 
Coolas are of the landlord type — thorough 
Tories ; at least, Lord Coola is at any rate. 
Waveryng has some fishing near them, 
and that's how I came to know them. But 
he has all the traditions. It's so sad that all 
the sons are dead, and the property must go 
to some dreadful English lawyer, whom one of 


the daughters married. It seems quite out of 
keeping that the Castle, Banshee and all, 
should go into Sassenach hands. Oh! Mr. 
Blake, I beg your pardon.' She became 
suddenly conscious that Blake was close to 
her, and that he was devouring what she said. 
' I am sure you are one of the Coola people, 
aren't you ? Please tell me, are you related 
to Lord Coola ? ' 

' In a hundredth degree,' he answered. 
'AH the Blakes, I suppose, came originally 
from the Coola stock.' He withdrew reflecting 
that he had involved himself in complications: 

The Governor and Lady Waveryng went to 
the upper end of the room. Lord Waveryng 
had Lady Stukeley on his arm. Ina came 
in with the aide-de-camp, and Lord Horace 
with the private secretary's wife. 

' By Jove, that sister-in-law of Horace's 
beats them all to fits ! ' said Lord Waveryng. 

M 2 


' I am going to ask her if she will dance with 
me.' He led Elsie out for the first waltz after 
the state quadrille, in which imposing cere- 
monial she had naturally no place. He found 
her very charming, so he confided to his wife, 
and with a delightful sense of humour. She 
had asked him how he and Lady Waveryng 
bore the shock of the introduction to Horace's 
barbarians. She had also informed him that 
lords and lesser members of the aristocracy 
were at a discount on the diggings, and they 
had never been able to get up a sufficient 
sense of the honour to which Ina had been 
raised. She thought, however, that acquaint- 
ance with Lord Waveryng might now enable 
them to realise their advantages. She said all 
this with grave simplicity, looking into Lord 
Waveryng's face with her beautiful, shy eyes, 
always keeping that expression of vague pain 
and alarm. 


All this time Blake had never asked her to 
dance. He had danced with Lady Waveryng, 
with Ina, with Eose Garfit. He had smiled 
at her in an absolutely conventional manner 
when their eyes met, but he had never shown 
the least desire for any private conversation. 
What did it all mean? Had he been mad 
last night? Had she been mad or dreaming? 
Or was it merely that the game was played, 
and that he wished her to understand this, 
and that her claims upon his attention were 
at an end ? 

Well, he should see that she did not care. 
She smiled upon Trant with reckless witchery, 
and let him take her into the square of 
garden behind the Club House — a dim patch 
of fairyland — palms outlined against the pale 
moonlit sky, coloured lamps hanging on the 
fantastic branches of the monkey trees and 
gleaming in thickets of bamboos. The 


bamboos made a soft rustling in the night 
wind ; the datura flowers scented the air 
with their heavy fragrance. There were 
little tents here and there, and cane lounges, 
with bright red cushions, set in secluded 

To one of these Trant led her. Her 
shoulders were bare, and she shivered slightly 
as he came close to her. 'It is too cold to be 
out in the garden,' she said. 

' Cold, no not in the least ! But see how 
thoughtful I have been.' 

He lifted his arm and showed her a white 
wrap which he had been carr^dng half con- 
cealed by her bouquet. He had asked per- 
mission to hold that for her while she had 
finished her dance with Mr. Anderson. 

' It is Ina's,' said Elsie. * Thank you.' 

He put it on her shoulders. She took 
her bouquet from him. ' Thank you,' she 


said again. ' I don't think there's anything 
you can do for me except amuse me.' 

' I shall not amuse you,' he answered, ' T 
am too deadly serious for that.' 

' Deadly seriousness may be amusing 
sometimes. Go on, Mr. Trant. Talk — 
talk ' 

'What shall I talk about — you or 

' Or both. Do 3^ou like my dress ? Do 
you think I look nice ? ' 

' You look beautiful,' he said deliberately. 
' Every time I look at you, I — I want to 
kiss you.' 

She shrank. ' Don't please talk like that.' 

' I said I should jar upon you if I allowed 
myself to be real, didn't I ? That's what I 
really feel though. I want all the time to 
take you in my arras, and cover you with 
kisses. I would do it too — if ' 


She got up. ' Please take me in. I don't 
like you when you say wild things.' 

' Don't be afraid. I have too much 
respect for you to offend. Besides, my time 
isn't yet. When I kiss you it shall be with 
your permission — unless ' 

' Unless what ? ' 

' Unless I see that you will never freely 
give me permission. Then I shall take it. 
But I do things in a big way, Miss Yalliant — 
not in a hole-and-corner fashion. It wouldn't 
suit me to snatch a kiss in a garden, and see 
you go off in a fit of indignation, thinking me 
an odious cad. You wouldn't think me a cad 
if I seized a kiss in some wild lonely place, 
with not a soul in earshot ; a place like 
Barolin Waterfall, let us say, where you 
would be utterly helpless, and at my mercy. 
There'd be something big about that ; you'd 
be too frightened to tell yourself I was a cad. 


You'd be frightened enough almost to imagine 
me a hero. And then, perhaps, I shouldn't 
take the kiss. Perhaps I should act a 
chivalrous part, and in the end, maybe, you 
would give it to me of your own accord.' 

Elsie laughed. There was something in 
his wooing that, rough as it was, appealed to 
her. Instead of moving away, she sat down 
again, and leaned a little towards him, 
huddled in her cloak. 

' Well,' he said, ' I am beginning to 
interest you, am I not ? I know exactly 
what sort of woman you are. I think a man 
might have a chance with you, if he carried 
you off by force. Elsie listen ' 

She shook her head, and made a gesture 
of rebuke. 

' Yes, I shall call you Elsie, this once. 
Elsie, Elsie. It is a beautiful name. I 
dehght in the name. Elsie. I say it to 


myself when I am alone. I kiss you in 
imagination when I am alone. Elsie, I love 

' Mr. Trant ' 

' You can't prevent me from loving you ; 
I have the right to do so, just as much as 
Blake ; only he doesn't love any woman, he 
is not capable of loving anybody but him- 
self ' 

Elsie gave a little inarticulate cry of 

' Something happened last night between 
you and Blake. Oh, I know it as well as if 
you or he had told me. I haven't been with 
Blake all these years for nothing. I know 
the signs of his face. I know what it means 
when he puts on that sort of mask he is 
wearing to-night. It means that the devil is 
in him, and that he will go his way, come 
what will. Don't be his victim. Miss Valhant. 


It's for your own good I say it ; don't believe 
in Blake.' 

Elsie turned on him, her face quivering 
with passionate anger. 

' Be silent on this subject ! Say what you 
choose about yourself — that doesn't matter, 
it's only amusing, it interests me in a wa}^ — 
but don't insult m.e by mentioning Mr. Blake's 
name in connection with mine. I will not 
have it ! ' 

' Very well. But I have warned you . 
And I have as good a right to make love to 
you as Mr. Frank Hallett, and that, according 
to Leichardt's Town gossip, means a good deal, 
if, as they say, you were engaged to him before 
Blake came on the scene. There, I am offend- 
ing again. We'll leave Blake out of the 

' I was never engaged to Mr. Frank Hallett. 
Now you have said what you wanted to say, 


and there is an end. You are quite right, no 
one could prevent you. But when I have 
given you my answer, the incident will be 
closed, as they say.' 

' I haven't asked you for an answer,' he 
said imperturbably. ' I don't want to close 
the incident. I intend to open it again. I 
love you and I mean to marry you.' 

Elsie laughed nervously. ' Eeally, Mr. 
Trant, am I not to have a voice in the 
matter ? ' 

' Oh yes, later on ; but you must get ac- 
customed to the idea. I'm not a poor man, 
Miss Valliant — it may be as well that I should 
mention this — and I intend very shortly to 
cut this life — for good and all. I have had 
enough of it. I propose in a few months to 
leave Australia, and to take my money out of 
the place. I shall not have done such a bad 
thing out of Australia' — Trant laughed his 


odd laugli — ' and then I shall go to Europe, 
and I shall enjoy life.' 

' I am glad to hear it.' 

' I shall be in a position to give my wife 
most of the things that a woman likes — travel, 
amusement, society, dress, luxuries, and what 
ought to count a little, unbounded devotion. 
That does count for something with a woman, 
doesn't it ? ' 

' It depends on who offers it.' 

' I'm not such an odiously unattractive 
fellow — at least, I've managed to make some 
women care for me. I know I could make 
you care for me, if I set to work in the right 
way. Anyhow I mean to try.' 

' It will be no use at all, Mr. Trant. It 
will be only waste of time.' 

' We shall see. I think you will have to 
admit later that I am a man of determina- 


'Miss Valliant, I have been looking for 
you everywhere ! This is our dance.' 

The speaker was Lord Waveryng. Elsie 
got up and took his arm, and they went into 
the ball-room. 



LORD ASTAR's attentions 

As they went in from the dim garden and 
through the verandah, which was hke a con- 
servatory, with its decorations of palms, Elsie's 
dazzled eyes seemed to see in the glare of the 
ball-room beyond only one face and form, and 
those belonged to Blake. 

He was standing close to the doorway. 
Elsie wondered whether he would move away 
when he saw her ; but he turned straight to 
them. But Elsie noticed that he kept his eyes 
on Lord Waveryng, and she noticed, too, an 
odd, watchful expression in the eyes that she 
had never seen there before. Lord Waveryng 
spoke a word to him. He, too, kept his eyes 


with a hard, puzzled stare on Blake. He said, 
^ You see we weren't so long behind you in 
getting here after all. But old Stukeley is 
hard to move when it's a case of Mouton 
Eothschild '68 — capital wine that ! — not 
damaged in the least by the voyage.' 

' Not damaged at all,' replied Blake in a 
mechanical tone. 

' I say,' said Lord Waveryng abruptly, ' do 
you happen to remember what Lafitte Coola 
used to give us at the Castle on high days ? ' 

Blake returned the look which Lord 
Waveryng gave him quite unflinchingly. 

' No, I don't remember,' he said, and 
turned to Elsie. ' Miss YalHant, I am afraid 
I am rather late in my application, but I must 
plead my steward's duties as a claim on your 
mercy. May I hope for the honour of a 
dance ? ' 

Elsie's heart throbbed so violently that 


she instinctively put the hand which her 
bouquet shielded against her side. She dared 
not look at him. The thought of the wild 
scene of the night before maddened her almost 
into fury. What right had he ? How dared 
he think that he could trifle with her so ? 

' I am sorry,' she said, and her words fell 
like drops of steel, ' but I am engaged for 
every dance.' 

Blake said nothing. He only bowed, and 
Lord Waveryng put his arm round Elsie, and 
steered her into the dance. 

' I can see,' he said, when they paused pre- 
sently, ' that Mr. Blake is not quite in your 
good books. I wonder how he has offended 

' Oh no,' said Elsie, trying to speak calmly, 
' he has not offended me, but of course at this 
time in the evening I have no dances left.' 

' I would give a good deal,' said Lord 



Waveryng, 'for the cheek to ask that man 
whether he is Morres Blake come to Hfe again. 
T think I shall do it by-and-by/ 

' Who is Morres Blake ? ' asked Elsie. 

' Lord Coola's brother, a fellow that fell 
over a cliff, and was carried out to sea and 
drowned ; at least, so they said. But you 
see somebody might have picked him up, and 
he might not have been drowned ; and what 
gives the theory a spark of probability is that 
Blake would have been had up to a certainty 
on a charge of inciting his regiment to 
Fenianism, if he had not got killed at the nick 
of time for his family and for his own 
reputation, we won't say his life, since if he 
was drowned, he lost that anyhow.' 

' Ah ! ' Elsie drew a deep breath. Things 
seemed to suddenly become clear to her. 

' It must be ten or twelve years ago,' 
Lord Waveryng went on. ' I met Blake — the 


Morres Blake, you know — twice at Castle 
Coola, and I don't often forget a face. In 
fact, I've got an astonishing memory for faces, 
Miss Yalliant. I ought to have been a 

They went on again. In the next pause 
Lord Waveryng talked of Lord Horace. ' I'm 
going up to see the Dell,' he said. ' I hear 
Horace's works have come to a dead stop for 
want of funds. Well, if he is likely to keep 
out of mischief — and he ought to with such 
a charming wife — I might see if I couldn't 
do something. He is my wife's favourite 
brother, though I can't say I ever had a 
great opinion myself of Horace's capabilities ; 
but he is a good-hearted chap, and I had a 
lucky haul with the Two Thousand — I 
suppose you know that I go in for racing a 
bit, Miss Yalhant — and I might give Horace 

N 2 


a helping hand. He'll not get another penny 
from his father.' 

For Ina's sake Elsie rejoiced at Lord 
Waveryng's benevolent intentions, and 
thought how pleased her mother would be 
to hear of the excellent impression Ina had 
made. That was very evident. Lady 
Waveryng was sitting now beside her sister- 
in-law, and they were on the most 
affectionate terms. 

Frank Hallett came next on the list of 
Elsie's partners. ' Why are you not dancing 
with Blake this evening ? ' he asked abruptly. 

' I don't know,' said Elsie simply ; and it 
liurt him to hear the note of pain in her 
voice. ' Frank,' she said hurriedly, ' please 
don't talk to me about Mr. Blake. Let us 
talk of other things — of how I am enjoying 
myself, for instance,' 

' Are you enjoying yourself, Elsie ? ' 


' Of course I am. I have had a success. 
Every one has been telUng me that I look very 
v^elL Lord Waveryng has been charming. 
I have been honoured by an offer of 
marriage.' She laughed hysterically. 

' An offer of marriage ? ' he said 

' I did not accept it ' — she still laughed 
— ' but it was — exciting. Come, Frank, 
don't let us lose any of this lovely waltz. I 
am in wild spirits to-night.' 

Poor Elsie ! And yet when she went into 
the cloak-room in the early dawn it seemed 
to her as though her heart must break, so 
agonising was the pain of it. All the pretty 
colour had gone from her face. As she 
stood in the corridor waiting for the jingle 
which was to take them over the bridge to 
Fermoy's, she looked like a ghost, with wild 


'Are you very tired, Miss Yalliant ? ' said 
Blake suddenly, beside her. 

She gave a great start. He was still 
impassive. 'Yes, very tired,' she answered. 

' Have you had a pleasant evening ? ' he 
asked, in the same tone. 

'Yes, thank you,' she answered. She 
lifted her eyes, which had not dared to meet 
his. They met them now, and something in 
the expression of his eased her pain. For 
there was pain, too, in his eyes, and a great 

' Mr. Blake,' she exclaimed involuntarily, 
and made a faint movement of her hand 
towards him. He put out his hand, and took 
hers. ' Good-night, Miss Yalliant,' he said ; 
' do you see that faint red streak in the sky, 
and do you know that in another hour it will 
be sunrise ? Sleep well, and when you wake, 
don't ' he hesitated, and pressed her hand 


as he relinquished it. ' Try not to think too 
nardly of me.' 

The girl said not a word. She moved 
proudly past him. ' Ina, I am sure the 
carriage is there,' she said, and at that 
moment Lord Horace came crossly to them. 
Lord Horace had taken • a httle more 
champagne than was good for him. ' What 
an infernal time you have been with your 
cloaks,' he said. ' Come along, I can't see 
the thing, and we may wait here till 
Doomsday for it to fetch us. Come and get 
into the first jingle we can find that will take 
us to the ferry. We can walk the rest of the 

A few minutes later Blake stood on the 
steps of the club house lighting his cigar. 
He was going to walk to the ferry. Lord 
Waveryng joined him. 

' You are going to walk, I see. So am I, 


and our ways lie together as far as the 
turning to Government House.' 

The two men stepped out into the fresh, 
scented air of the early morning. There 
were faint sounds of awakening birds and 
insects, and the greyness was so clear that 
the colour of the begonias, which festooned 
some of the verandahs along the roadway, 
showed curiously brilliant. They exchanged 
a few commonplace remarks about the 
scenery, the vegetation, and the beauty of 
the river. Then Lord Waveryng halted 
suddenly, and turned on his companion 
deliberately, taking his cigar from his mouth. 

' I think I ought to tell you,' he said, 'that 
I never forget a face, and that I recognised 
you almost as soon as I heard your name this 
evening. T presume you liave good reasons 
for not wishing to be identified as Captain 
Morres Blake of the ? ' 


' I have the best reasons that man can 
have,' said Blake. ' Lord Waveryng, I'll be 
as frank with you as you are with me, and 
you know my reasons almost as well as I do.' 

'It's twelve years ago,' said Lord Waveryng, 
' and things have changed a good deal since 
then. This Parliamentary movement has 
made a difference. I don't suppose the 
authorities would want to rake up that 
business. The reason why I tackled you at 
once is that I don't know whether you know 
that Lord Coola's two boys died of diphtheria 
last year, and that you stand next in succes- 
sion to Coola.' 

' No,' said Blake startled ; ' I did not 
know it, and I am truly sorry.' 

'It is worth your thinking about,' said 
Lord Waveryng. 'I thought I had better 
tell you.' 

Blake was silent for a few moments. At 


last he spoke. ' There were four Hves between 
me and Coola when — when I left Ireland, and 
there seemed a probability of several more. 
It was not to be supposed that my brother 
would not marry again after Lady Coola's 
death ; and who could have dreamed that my 
brother William would have been carried off 
so young — and now these boys ! Poor chaps ! 
It is like fatality.' 

' Yes,' assented Lord Waveryng, ' seems 
like a fatality, don't it ? Anyhow, you may be 
the next Lord Coola.' 

' Coola will marry again now,' said Blake 
decidedly. ' He is bound to do it.' 

' I don't think he will,' said Lord Waveryng. 
' He believes in his first wife's ghost. It's a 
kind of mania. You Blakes are all a little 
queer, you know.' 

' Yes, I know very well,' answered Morres 


Blake bitterly. 'It's in the blood. That 
queerness is responsible for a good deal.' 

Lord Waveryng looked at him keenly. 
' You are sane enough,' he said. 

' Am I ? ' cried Blake passionately. ' I'm 
mad, I tell you — mad — mad ! ' 

' You were mad when you threw your 
chances away and went in for that Fenian 
business : but it was the aberration of youth. 
They tell me that you make a good colonial 
politician. Curious, isn't it, when one comes 
to think of it, that you should be Colonial 
Secretary of Leichardt's Land P ' 

Blake laughed strangely. Again there 
was silence. 

The men walked on, puffing their cigars. 
They had reached the place where the street 
divided into two, one leading to the ferry, the 
other past the Houses of Parliament to the 


great gates of Government House. Here they 

' Lord Waveryng,' Blake said impulsively, 
' I trust you.' 

' I never betrayed confidence in my life,' 
said the other, ' at least, I hope not willingly. 
If you wish to be thought dead, why, as far as 
I am concerned, you are dead. But I think 
you make a mistake in not facing the music' 

They shook hands and parted ; but Blake 
did not go straight to Fermoy's. 

Careless of what might be thought of him, 
he walked on through the paddock in which 
Eiverside Cottage stood. He looked wistfully 
at the little closed-up house and at the 
verandah in which was Elsie's chair, and 
where her work-basket still lay on the rough 
table. He was only driven away by tlie sight 
of Peter the Kanaka, up betimes to gather 
rosellas for the shop on the Point, which 


bought sucli garden stuff as the widow had to 
dispose of. He shpped down among the 
lantana shrubs that grew close to the garden 
fence, and made his way back by a circuitous, 
but less public track, along the river bank to 

During the days that followed the Club 
Ball, Elsie Yalliant's mental and moral con- 
dition might have been expressed in the plaint 
of Mariana, though, to be sure, the outward 
circumstances of her life were very different 
from those of the lady of the Moated Grange. 
Life at Leichardt's Town was at high pressure ; 
life at Eiverside Cottage was at high pressure 
too. The verandah receptions were more 
brilliant and more sought after than ever, and 
gained eclat from the presence of the Waveryngs 
and an admixture of the Government House 
set ; not, certainly, in ^he persons of Sir 


Theophilus and Lady Stukeley, but in the 
shape of the aide-de-camp and private secretary, 
and of the more or less distinguished strangers 
who frequented Government House at this 
time. There was always some bustle of 
coming and going, of flirtation, or of making 
ready for flirtation. But still Blake came 

They met often, and yet not so often as 
would have been the case a month before. It 
seemed to Elsie that Blake avoided all the 
informal parties which once, for the sake of a 
waltz or talk with her, he had welcomed so 
eagerly. And at the more ceremonious func- 
tions, there was an excuse for the formal 
nature of their intercourse. Naturally, at 
the public balls and at the Government House 
At Homes it was not to be supposed that the 
Colonial Secretary could devote himself ex- 
clusively to one pretty girl. Blake paid 


attention to a few of the Leicliardt's Town 
young ladies, and to Elsie there was in this 
fact a faint consolation. At any rate she 
could not feel jealous of Mrs. Torbolton, or of 
the wife of the Minister for Works, or even of 
Lady Waveryng, who declared herself charmed 
with Blake, and made him into a sort of 
cicerone. But in truth the girl's own being 
was torn in tatters. Wounded pride, love, 
the sense of humiliation, and insult, made her 
days an anguish and her nights a terror. 
And yet she laughed all the time, and she 
flirted with everybody and made herself into 
a very scorn of Leichardt's Town matrons by 
reason of her unblushing levity. 

Just at this time, one of the minor Eoyal 
Princes, who was making a tour of the 
colonies, paid a long-expected week's visit to 
Leichardt's Town, and the occasion was one 
of wild excitement and of enthusiastic de- 


monstration of Antipodean loyalty. Elsie had 
the satisfaction of seeing Blake in official 
capacity, taking part in the various pageants, 
as one of the committee of reception ; and in 
spite of her misery, and her anger against him, 
she felt a savage pride in the manner in which 
he acquitted himself. She was at the great 
ceremony of the landing, and at the Mayor's 
Ball, at the School of Arts, in the evening. 
She was also at the races, at which one or two 
of the horses which had exploited at Tunimbah 
ran, with less credit to themselves and their 
owners ; she was at the picnic in the Govern- 
ment steamer, in which the Prince was shown 
the bay and the islands ; and at all the func- 
tions for which Frank Hallett's efforts and the 
reflected glory of the Waveryngs secured her 
a place. It was all very brilliant, and she had 
her fill of admiration. The Prince was 
greatly taken by her beauty, and danced with 


her so often as to fill his guardians with a 
half-amused alarm. Perhaps this was why 
Lord Astar, one of the Prince's suite, made 
violent love to Elsie, and short of absolutely 
proposing marriage, did everything which 
could be expected from a suitor for her hand. 
Lord Astar found the verandah receptions 
very much to his taste, and on the days when 
he was off duty during the latter part of the 
Prince's visit, might usually be seen seated at 
Elsie's feet, with his legs dangling over the 
edge of the riverside verandah in the most 
approved colonial fashion, or else lounging on 
the steps that led to the boat-house, another 
favourite scene for Elsie's flirtations. The 
Prince would have liked to take part also in 
Elsie's verandah receptions, but on this point 
the Stukeleys and the noble Admiral who had 
him in charge were inexorable. 

Lord Astar was amusing, and clever, and 
VOL. n. o 


fascinating, and he was very mucli a man of 
the world. Elsie had never met any one of 
his type, though since the arrival of the 
Waveryngs her experience of the English 
aristocracy had extended somewhat beyond 
her brother-in-law. It struck her that Lord 
Astar's type was most nearly approached by 
Morres Blake in his lighter moods. Certainly 
nothing more widely removed from the type 
could be conceived than Frank Hallett. 

It mav have been with some wild idea of 
making Blake jealous that Elsie flirted so 
desperately with Lord Astar. All Leichardt's 
Town — that is, the portion of it which con- 
stituted society — remarked her behaviour on 
the day of the races. They were in the Grand 
Stand — Ina and her husband in that portion 
which was railed off for the Government 
House party and the higher officials, but Elsie, 
with the Prydes, in a less exalted position. 


She was looking lovely in a grey dress witli 
soft lace at the neck and a bewitching bonnet 
made out of the breast of an Australian bird. 
Lord Astar admired her dress, and Elsie told 
him that she had sat up all the night before 
to finish it. She also informed him that the 
bonnet, or at least the l)ird which composed 
it, had been a present from King Tommy, of 

' And so the Prince is not your only royal 
admirer,' said Lord Astar. ' Are lower 
mortals privileged to lay tributes of loyalty 
at your feet ? ' 

As he spoke, Elsie became suddenly aware 
that Blake was passing along the gangway 
behind her chair. She felt that he stopped, 
knew instinctively that he had heard LorYl 
Astar's speech and was waiting for her reply. 
A demon of recklessness seized her ; she looked 
coquettishly up at Lord Astar and answered 



very distinctly, ' Certainly. Tributes are 
always welcome.' 

' Miss Yalliant,' Blake's incisive tones 
seemed to cut the air, ' Lady Horace has gone 
down to the saddling paddock, and she asked 
me to bring you to her.' 

Elsie started. Blake moved a chair beside 

' You will come ? ' His eyes were full 
upon her. 

She rose obediently ; it would have been 
impossible for her to disobey the mandate of 
those eyes. Lord Astar bowed and made way 
for her. 

' I shall not forget,' he said very low. 

Blake piloted her down the stairs of the 
Grand Stand. When they stood on the lawn 
he turned and said deliberately, ' Lady Horace 
is not in the saddling paddock. I don't know 


in the least where she is, and she did not send 
me for you. I brought you here to tell you 
that you must not accept presents from Lord 
As tar.' 

' Surely,' said Elsie bitterly, ' that can be 
of very little consequence to you.' 

' No, it is not of consequence to me,' he 
answered, ' but it is of consequence to your- 
self. I know Lord Astar. I know the sort of 
reputation he has in regard to women. You 
compromise your reputation by allowing him 
to pay you the attentions which have been 
making you so conspicuous these last few 
days. Please take my word for this. He 
is a more dangerous opponent in the game 
which we have been playing than I have 
been. Don't play that game with him ; the 
consequences may be disagreeable.' 

' In what way ? ' 


' In this — Astar is quite capable of insult- 
ing a woman who places herself in a false 

' And you,' she cried passionately, ' have 
you not shown yourself capable of insulting a 
woman who was fool enough to place herself 
at your mercy ? ' 

He turned very pale. An impetuous 
answer rose to his lips. He uttered one 
vehement word and checked himself. 

' I beg your pardon,' he said. ' I have 
nothing else to say. I have no justification 
for the impulse that made me take you in 
my arms that night. I can only ask you to 
believe that there has never been in my mind 

a disrespectful thought of you. And then ' 

he paused and went on in a different tone, 
' the situation was understood between us. 
It had been a challenge. There had been an 
open fight, and I had suffered severely enough 


to make me feel a savage wisli to show you 
that you were beaten.' 

They had walked on, not in the direction 
of the saddling paddock, but among the gum 
trees at the back of the Grand Stand, where, 
the view of the course being obstructed by 
the building, there was little or no crowd ; 
indeed, except for a few stragglers in care of 
luncheon carts, the spot was almost deserted. 
Elsie turned fiercely upon Blake. Her eyes 
were flashing ; her bosom heaving. 

' What right have you to say that I was 
beaten? You said that I — that I cared for 
you. What reason did I give you for think- 
ing so ? Wasn't I playing the game too ? 
Do you think I have fallen so low as to give 
my heart to a man who- — who has shown me 
that he despises me ? I despise you, Mr. 
Blake ; 1 hate you ! ' 

Blake stood perfectly immovable. ' I am 


glad of that,' he said quietly. ' I wish you to 
hate me. But you are quite wrong in the 
other thing. I do not despise you.' 

' Why — why ? ' stammered Elsie. ' Why 
should you wish me to hate you ? ' 

' Because it would not be for your happi- 
ness that you should love me.' 

' And why ? ' she repeated with the per- 
sistency of a child. 

' Because,' he answered, ' I cannot ' 

He stopped, and added more calmly, 'Because 
in my scheme of life, marriage has no place.' 

Elsie turned, and they walked a few steps 
back without speaking. 

' You have not given me credit for much 
cleverness, Mr. Blake,' she said. 'You evi- 
dently don't seem to think that I am able to 
take a hint. I fancy that you warned me 
before we — before we challenged each other 
— against cherishing any false hopes.' 


The bitterness of her tone hurt Blake 

' Thank you,' he said. ' It is a wholesome 
lesson for me to be made to feel that I am a 
conceited ass/ 

Again they walked on in silence. They 
were near the Grand Stand. 

' Please don't go up for a minute or two 
yet,' he said. ' We have wandered from the 

' And the question is ' 

' Lord Astar's obvious intention of making 
you a present, which will probably take the 
form of an article of jewellery. Miss Yalliant, 
I beseech you, for your own sake ' 

' Hush ! ' she exclaimed passionately. ' I 
don't want you to say anything more. I am 
old enough to take care of myself; and if not, 
I have others who have a better right to 
protect me.' 


' Very well. Forgive me for my pre- 
sumption. I will not offend you again.' He 
turned deliberately. ' We had better go 
back now,' he said, and conducted her to the 
stand, leaving her in her place beside Minnie 
Pryde with a ceremonious bow. 

Elsie did not speak to him igain that day. 
Lord Astar came back presently, and hardly 
quitted Elsie's side the rest of the day. 
When they got home, Minnie Pryde insisted 
on telling Mrs. Valliant of Elsie's conquest. 

The silly woman was beside herself with 
delight. Elsie married to Lord Astar ! Ina's 
marriage was as nothing in comparison. 
Why not ? If the Prince admired Elsie, why 
should not Lord Astar marry her ? She had 
been quite right in giving Frank Hallett an 
imdecided answer — quite right in keeping that 
pushing, handsome Mr. Blake, and his less 
handsome and more pushing partner, at a 


distance. Ah, Elsie was her pride and her 
joy ! Elsie would yet be the glory of her old 

The girl burst into a passionate fit of 
tears. 'Oh, mother, mother!' she cried. 
' For pity's sake leave me alone, and expect 
nothing of me.' 




It was the last night but one of the Prince's 
stay, and the Birthnight Ball, long after date, 
had been fixed for that evening. The occasion 
was to be one of unusual splendour. 

Mrs. Valliant, in her rather shiny black 
moire and a feathered cap, had been persuaded 
to emerge from her retirement and to chaperon 
Elsie, Not that there had been any difficulty 
in persuading her. She had always made it a 
point of duty to attend the ' Queen's Birthday ' 
Ball. At the other balls she had allowed Ina 
and Elsie to be chaperoned by any obliging 
neighbour, but upon this occasion she felt that 


loyalty demanded an effort, and moreover it 
was lier only opportunity of witnessing her 
pretty daughter's triumph. She was a good 
deal assisted in the effort by Lord Horace's 
present of a lace shawl, which, as she said, 
made her look fit to stand even beside Lady 
Waveryng in all her diamonds. To-night she 
was in a state of feverish excitement, almost 
as great as that of Elsie herself, and her deli- 
cate face, which had the remains of Elsie's 
beauty, was flushed like a girl's, as she put the 
last touches to Elsie's hair and dress. Elsie's 
dress had been a present, too, from Lord 
Horace. It was white, and floated about her 
in fleecy clouds, the little satin bodice moulded 
to her pretty, slight figure, and great bunches 
of Cloth of Gold and La France roses at her 
breast and on her shoulders. There was a 
bouquet of roses, too, on the table, which she 
had made herself. Oddly enough, Frank 


Hallett had sent her no bouquet this time. 
Perhaps he thought she would wear Blake's 
or Trant's ; perhaps he remembered that she 
had once before discarded his for one that 
Blake had sent her. But Blake had sent her 
none now, and Trant had been called suddenly 
to Barolin, and was hardly expected to be down 
in time for the ball, and so Elsie had been 
obliged to go herself to the curator of the 
Public Gardens and beg for the roses, which 
were not as perfect as she would have liked. 
There were so many more important persons 
to be provided with flowers. 

But while she was dressing, a special mes- 
seno-er arrived with a box. Peter, the Kanaka, 
brought it to Elsie's room. The messenger 
had said that he must take back an assurance 
that Miss Valliant had received it, and so Mrs. 
Valliant went to the door. The messenger 
was a suave, gentlemanly person — Lord Astar's 


servant, and he had come from Government 

The box contained another bouquet, wired 
as if it were straight from Covent Garden, and 
tied with pale pink streamers. It was com- 
posed entirely of the most exquisite La France 
and Marechal Niel roses, and was in a silver 
holder. At the bottom of the box lay a little 
packet and a note. When Elsie opened the 
packet she gave a cry of surprise and delight. 
The light flashed from a star of pearls 
and diamonds. It was the temptation of 
Marguerite ; and Elsie, notwithstanding her 
many Leichardt's Town seasons, her numerous 
flirtations, and her daring unconventionality, 
was in truth as innocently ignorant of evil 
intent to herself in the mind of man as was 
Marguerite when she opened Mephistopheles' 
casket. Elsie's lovers had always been chival- 
rous. The note was only a few lines : 


' If you will honour me by wearing the 
accompanying little trinket this evening, I 
shall interpret it as a sign that you accept 
my love, and that I may hope for the fulfil 
ment of my most ardent wish. 

' Devotedly yours, 


Elsie drew a deep, long breath. It was 
almost like a sigh of pain, but it was not pain 
or dismay or indignation which brought it 
forth. To her the note had but one meaning. 
It had never entered her mind that a man 
could approach a woman with words of love 
meaning anything but the one thing — mar- 
riage. Of course, he wished to marry her. It 
was very strange, very sudden. That was all. 
To-night she must make up her mind whether 
or not she would accept this brilliant destiny, 
nay, she must decide now, this very moment, 
since her destiny depended upon the clasping 


round her neck of the jewel Lord Astar had 
sent her. Well, there was no great difficulty 
in deciding. Here was some balm for her 
poor torn heart and wounded pride. Now, at 
least, she could prove to Blake that she had 
never loved him. She could show him that 
if he despised her there were others more 
highly placed than he who thought her 
worthy of being lifted to a rank far beyond 
any that he could offer her. And yet — the 
stab was agony — she loved him. She had 
never realised it so keenly as now. 

Mrs. Yalhant watched her in breathless 
interest. She, too, had seen the flash of the 
diamonds, and she had no doubt of what the 
note contained. She, too, was in her way as 
innocent as her daufrhter. She knew nothintr 
of the wickedness of the world or the ways 
of men like Lord Astar. 

' Elsie ! ' she cried. ' Oh, tell me, what is it ? ' 



' It is from Lord Astar,' replied Elsie 

'Yes, yes, I know. But show me — how 
beautiful ! ' She held the ornament to the 
light and then away from her, and gazed at it 
in an ecstasy of pleasure. ' It is magnificent 
— a present for a queen ! Oh, Elsie, and it 
is settled ! And you let Minnie Pryde go 
on with her chatter, and you never told me 
— me, your mother, and I have been so 
anxious. He proposed to you to-day. I 
knew it was coming — I saw that it was 
coming ! No one could have watched him 
yesterday without seeing — he couldn't tear 
himself away, he couldn't keep his eyes 
from you. Was it to-day, Elsie, that he 
proposed ? ' 

' No, he hasn't proposed to me.' 

'But the letter?' said Mrs. Yalliant be- 
v/ildered. 'What does he say.^ It can only 
mean that 


'Yes,' said Elsie slowly, 'I suppose it 
means that.' She gave the note to her 
mother, who read it eagerly, and then looked 
at Elsie with an expression of bewildered 
joy, mixed with a certain vague terror. 
Then she read the note again aloud, and 
her expression became one of confident 

' Yes, of course it means that. " His 
dearest wish — that you will accept my love." 
I think it is beautiful, so delicate, such a 
romantic way of putting things ; and to send 
this ! It's like what one reads in books — oh, 
Elsie, and he is so rich — Horace was telling 
me. Of course, it's quite natural. Ina 
married to Horace, and the Waveryngs so 
taken with her, the difference in position 
wouldn't strike him. Oh ! what will the 
Garfits say now, and Mrs. Jem Hallet, who 
didn't think you good enough to be her sister- 

p 2 


in-law ? And now — Lady Astar ! Oh, Elsie, 
it is so wonderful ! I can't believe it ! ' 

The poor woman ran on in her delight, 
never for a moment doubting her daughter's 
good fortune. Elsie said not a word. 

At last Mrs. Valliant exclaimed, ' Elsie, 
how strange you are ! Areii't you happy ? 
Tell your mother who is so proud of you.' 

' Yes, I am happy,' Elsie said. ' And so, 
mother, you wish me to wear Lord Astar's 
star ? ' 

' Why, of course. He will understand, as 
he says, that you accept his love.' 

' Accept his love,' repeated Elsie. ' And 
I have none to give him in return. But that 
doesn't matter, mother.' 

' It will come,' said Mrs. Valliant. ' How 
can you love him, when you have only seen 
him about five times .^ Though it seems 
to me that it would be hard to help loving 


any one so good-looking and fascinating as 
Lord Astar. I am not afraid of that.' 

She fastened the star round Elsie's throat, 
where it gleamed, as Mrs. Yalliant said, like 
an electric light. They tried it in several 
positions — in her hair and in front of her 
dress, but decided that it looked best upon 
her neck. 

Elsie was strangely silent. All the way 
to Government House she was silent too. It 
was a long drive, round by the south side 
and across the bridge. Minnie Pryde and 
her father were with them, an arrangement 
by which Mrs. ValUant was spared half the 
price of the cab. They did not have a 
jingle this time. That was well enough for 
a club dance, or a private party, but for 
the Queen's Birthnight Ball — and the Prince 
there — and Lord Astar ! — No ! At the last 
moment Mrs. Valliant had done violence to 


her economic soul, and had countermanded 
the jingle, and had asked the Prydes if 
they would go halves in a closed landau. 

' Oh, Elsie, look ! ' cried Miss Pryde, as 
they drove in at the great gates. 

The grounds had been turned into fairy- 
land. The avenue of young bunyas was hke 
an avenue of overgrown Christmas trees — 
pyramids of coloured lamps. And all the 
paths were outlined in coloured lamps, and 
Japanese lanterns were dotted about the 
trees and festooned the colonnades, and over 
all the full moon shed a ghostly radiance. 
Within, it was even more like fairyland still. 
Canvas rooms had been thrown out — bowers 
of palm leaves, poinsettia, flowering yucca, 
and rich calladiums, and all the rarest tropical 
plants. In one place a miniature fern-tree 
guUey, with stuffed birds perched on the huge 
fronds as if about to take flight. Murmuring 


cascades, mossy grottoes, and banks of 
maidenhair and rock lilies. And further on, 
a mass of azaleas, and then a camellia tree, 
and here and there tnoss-bordered pools with 
fountains playing and waterHlies floating about. 
Of course Ina and Lord Horace were with 
the Waveryngs and the inmost circle of the 
Government House party — Lady Stukeley, 
in the magnificence of crimson velvet, rose 
point, and diamonds that paled somewhat in 
glory beside Lady Waveryng's tiara, that was 
celebrated, but which were, nevertheless, 
finer than anything of the kind which the 
Leichardtstonians had ever seen. It was 
really an imposing sight, and Elsie wondered 
whether a dramng-room could be mucli 
grander — the great ladies in their jewels, the 
Prince and his suite with their decorations, 
and the uniforms and gold lace, and cocked 
hats and swords, that made up a background 


to the central figures. Everybody who had 
any sort of right to wear a uniform had put 
it on to-night, even to Minnie Pryde's father, 
who had once had some kind of appointment 
in a volunteer corps, and Mr. Torbolton, the 
Premier, who looked very uncomfortable, and 
nearly tumbled over his sword. 

When Elsie had got over her entrance 
greeting, and the little bob to Eoyalty, to 
which a course of six days' state pageantry 
had already accustomed her, she found some 
amusement in watching the Leichardtstonians 
as they filed past and performed their obeis- 
ances. Frank Hallett came presently, and put 
liis name down for some dances, and found 
Mrs. Yalliant a seat, from which she could see 
the dancing when it began. He gave a startled 
look at Elsie's glittering decoration ; the girl 
ilushed crimson in contrast to his sudden 
paleness. It seemed to her that every eye 


in the room must be fixed on that star. 
Certainly the eyes of Blake were arrested by 
it, and he, too, turned a shade paler, and his 
own eyes gave out a flash as he noticed the 
ornament and guessed its history. 

' I congratulate you, Miss Yalliant,' he 
said, very low, in a voice of concentrated 
fury and bitterness. ' Lord Astar has 
excellent taste in jewellery.' 

' Lord Astar ! ' Frank Hallett caught the 
name, and turned to Elsie with a sudden 
passionate jealousy. ' Come out with me,' he 
said hoarsely, forgetting Blake's presence — 
forgetting everything but a sudden awful fear 
that seized him. ' I want to say something 
to you.' 

' Not now,' answered Elsie calmly. 
' Please forgive me, Mr. Hallett. I forgot 
when I let you put your name down for tlie 
first waltz that I cannot dance it with you.' 


' You are engaged to me for that waltz,' 
said Blake. 

She looked at him. His eyes never 
flinched from her face, but held hers with 
a compelling power. Elsie realised what a 
subject of hypnotism must feel in the 
presence of a master of that gift. She would 
have given worlds at that moment to have 
been able to assert her will and contradict 
Blake. It was impossible. She was spell- 
bound. She began to speak, and the words 
died on her lips. 

' You are engaged to me,' Blake repeated. 
' In the meantime may I offer you my arm, 
till,' he added as they turned away, 'Lord 
Astar is at liberty to claim his property ? ' 

Still Elsie was spellbound. They walked 
on a few steps. At that moment the music 
began, and the formal reception ended. The 
first quadrille — a state business — was being 


formed. The knot of men behind the Prince 
broke up ; the Prince was leading off Lady 
Stukeley. Lord Astar came hurrying to 
them. He was flushed, and looked excited. 
There was the light of an evil triumph in his 

' I have been watching you, and watching 
for you,' he said to Elsie. ' That abominable 
bowing and scraping seemed never ending, 
and of course I was tied. Miss Yalliant, I'm 
tied still, you understand, for this quadrille, 
and I believe it's Mrs. Torbolton — one of 
the wives of an official dignitary — sounds 
Mormonish, that speech, doesn't it ? I'm on 
duty, you understand. Once this dance is 
over I'm free till supper time. I claim the 
first waltz — the dance after the quadrille.' 

Elsie looked at Blake. She stammered — 
' I think — I believe — I am engaged.' 

'No!' exclaimed Blake, making a pro- 


found, and it seemed to Elsie an ironic, bow. 
' I resign my claim. Lord Astar has an 
evident right.' 

* You are very good,' said Lord Astar 
coolly and somewhat superciliously, glancing 
at Blake. ' But you needn't take the merit 
of the sacrifice, though I am much obliged all 
the same. Miss Yalliant was enofao^ed to me.' 

' The next waltz, and ' — he whispered to 
Elsie — ' don't let too many fellows put their 
names down. It's to be mine — this evening ; 
oh, if you knew how beautiful you look ' 

He hurried off to where Mrs. Torbolton 
was sitting ; poor lady, she would much 
rather have danced with one of her husband's 
colleagues. Blake gave his arm again to 
Elsie ; he had turned aside while Lord Astar 
had been speaking. 

' Shall we dance ? I will find a place 
among the lesser fry.' 


He placed her opposite Minnie Pryde and 
Mr. Anderson. Minnie's eyebrows went up 
in astonishment at the sight of Elsie's star. 
* My goodness ! ' she exclaimed, ' to think of 
my not noticing it when you took off your 
cloak in the dressing-room ! Who is it ? 

Not -' and she gave a significant flash in 

Blake's direction. 

Elsie held herself haughtily erect and 
vouchsafed no sign. Miss Pryde was not to 
be rebuked. ' It's not His Eespectability of 
Tunimbah, that I'll swear ! I always said he 
had no chance. Oh, Elsie,' and Miss Pryde's 
voice sank to an awestruck whisper, ' it's not, 
it cant be, the Prince ? ' 

' How do you know it isn't paste ? ' whis- 
pered Elsie back, as they parted hands. It 
was in the contact of the ladies' chain that 
Miss Pryde had jerked out her interroga- 


' Tell your grandmother ! ' replied Miss 
Pryde, with more pertinency than elegance. 

Lord Astar claimed Elsie directly the 
dance was over. He had found no difficulty 
in depositing Mrs. Torbolton on a chair, for 
the good lady was scant of breath, and glad to 
secure a permanent position till supper time. 
His dance had not been unproJStable. He had 
taken advantage of the pauses in the quadrille 
to lead the conversation to the subject of 
Elsie. Miss Yalliant, he soon discovered, was 
not a favourite in Leichardt's Town. Mrs. 
Torbolton thought it was really her duty to 
warn the young man — he was quite young, 
and no doubt he had a mother who would be 
sorry to see him fall a victim to the most de- 
signing flirt in Leichardt's Town. Elsie, it 
may at once be said, had refused Mrs. 
Torbolton's son, and the young man had gone 
to the diggings, and had lost his money and 


taken to evil ways, a second instance of the 
fatal effect of Elsie's charms. LIrs. Torbolton 
hated Elsie, and perhaps it was not unnatural 
that she should. ' Yes, she was certainly very 
pretty,' Mrs. Torbolton grudgingly admitted. 
But then everybody knew that Elsie painted, 
and made herself up in a way that was not 
respectable. And she took presents from 
gentlemen, and went to lengths that really 
would astonish Lord Astar if he knew. In 
proof of it there was the fact that in spite 
of her undoubted beauty she was not yet 
married. Mr. Frank Hallett was supposed to 
be in love with her, but Mrs. Jem herself had 
declared quite lately that Mr. Hallett was 
evidently doubtful about tying himself to a 
girl so talked of — now that he was hkely to 
take a prominent position in politics, and 
when it is so important tliat the wife of a 
public man should be above suspicion — 


' Caesar's wife, you know,' added Mrs. Torbol- 
ton — and she had gone on to a highly- 
coloured relation of some of poor Elsie's esca- 
pades, the Jensen episode among them. Lord 
Astar was not at all ill-pleased at Mrs. Tor- 
bolton's confidences. He had often been just 
a little uneasy on the score of the Horace 
Gages and the Waveryng connectionship, but 
clearly it counted for very little. Lady 
Horace was a harmless little creature, utterly 
ignorant of the world, and not likely to assert 
claims of any sort. Lord Horace, as every one 
knew, was the scapegrace of the family — the 
half-witted scapegrace, which was a far less 
dangerous person than the clever black sheep 
— and but for Lady Waveryng's infatuation 
for him, and consequently the help that Lord 
Waveryng gave him, no one would ever 
trouble their heads about Lord Horace's 
personal or family dignity ; no, that would 


not matter at all when the Waveryngs left 
Australia, which would be very shortly. It 
was unlucky that they should be on the scene 
just now, but with a little management things 
could be kept dark. And as for Elsie, the 
penniless daughter of a defunct scab inspector, 
and a pretty dressmaker — Lord Astar had 
informed himself on the subject of Elsie's 
parentage, and he smiled in amused apprecia- 
tion of the hereditary instinct which aided her 
in the concoction of those very tasteful 
costumes to which she so frankly owned — the 
girl who ' made up ' and who accepted presents 
from her admirers ; the girl of whom the 
Leichardt's Town matrons fought shy, and of 
whom the Leichardt's Town young ladies were 
jealous ; the girl who was a sort of Pariah 
among her kind, and who loved dress, and 
luxury, and jewels, and who was devoured 
with a curiosity about hfe, about the world, 



who wanted to travel, who wanted 
' experience ; she did not mind what kind of 
experience ' — so poor Elsie had stated — ' as 
long as it was experience ; ' ah, well, was not 
this the natural and fitting conclusion ? And 
he would give her experience, and of a not 
very unpleasant kind. The battle would be 
even ; the bargain would be a fair one ; after 
all she deserved her fate. For Lord Astar 
was quick enough to see that the girl was not 
in love with him, and that it was only the 
glamour of rank, wealth, and perhaps a 
glamour of the senses which had intoxicated 

There was in his manner a certain fami- 
liarity, a certain freedom, when he came to 
claim her, which jarred on Elsie, and roused 
in her the first faint feeling of alarm. But 
this had vanished when he piloted her into 
the dance, and guided her swiftly, surely, and 


with a perfection of finish of style and move- 
ment which was very dehghtful to Elsie. She 
herself was one of Nature's dancers. She 
loved the exercise, and she danced as few 
women can who have not made it a profession. 
When the dance was over, he took her out 
into one of the canvas conservatories. ' I 
have been all round,' he said, ' I know the 
quiet nooks. Here is one you'd never sus- 
pect.' He pulled back a corner of the canvas, 
which was flapping loosely under an overhang- 
ing branch of palm leaves, and drew her 
through. They were in a little vine trellis, 
naked now, and with the moon shining 
through the interlacing boughs of an old 
Isabella grape vine, and at the end of the 
trellis was a small summer-house, unlighted, 
except by one Japanese lantern. He led 
the girl, half shrinking, half wretched, half 
glad, to a bench in the summer-house. 

ft 2 


Then he took her two hands, and drew 

her to him, leaning a little back himself 

while he looked at her with bold admiring 


' My own darling. You are so beautiful ; 

and I love you so. If you knew how I 

watched the door this evening, and how my 

heart jumped when I saw the flash of those.' 

He placed a sacrilegious hand upon the girl's 

warm soft neck. 

She shrank from his touch. 

' You were glad that I wore them.' 

' Glad I I told you what it meant — my 
dearest wish ! Darhng, you didn't hesitate. 
You knew what it meant ? ' 

' I asked my mother if I should wear 
them,' said Elsie simply. 

' You asked your mother. By Jove ! ' 
Lord Astar stroked his moustache. And 
then he laughed, and put his arm round 


Elsie's waist, and would have kissed her, but 
she eluded the caress. 

' What a shy little thing we are ! Not 
one kiss ? ' 

' Not — not yet,' she said, still shrinking. 

He bent down and kissed her neck, and 
then her arms, and then her gloved hands, 
and back again to her dimpled shoulder- 
She put up her bouquet to shield herself 
from the rain of kisses. She had kept her 
lips — but these scorched and hurt her. 

' No ; let us talk.' 

' Kissing is better than talking, when one 
has such a delicious soft thing as you to kiss. 
Haven't plenty of other men found that out, 
and told you so ? ' 

' I don't know whether they have found it 
out. They have not told me so.' 

' Not, really ! Am I the first ? ' he asked 
jestingly, incredulously. 


'Almost the first. Yes, the first.' She 
made a mental reservation — the first man 
whom she had freely allowed to kiss her, and 
whom she intended to marry. Blake had 
kissed her, but that had been a theft, an 

' You all say that,' he said laughing. 
' But the ladies of Leichardt's Town tell a 
different tale.' 

' Ah ! ' She gave a little wounded 
exclamation. ' Please don't tell me what 
they said. I know it was something cruel. 
Tell me ' 

' Tell you what ? ' 

' Anything that is not too hard for me. 
Tell me what made you first think of this ? ' 

' If I had a looking-glass I'd put it in 
front of you and ask you to read the answer 
to that question in your own face. I love 
my love with an E, because she is — hang it, 


there's not an adjective for Elsie, except 
elegant, and that does not express you. I 
love my love because she is the loveliest 
woman I've ever seen. Will that do ? ' 

' And you will give up everything for me 
— only because I am pretty? ' 

' Give up everything ! ' he repeated. 
' Gain everything, you mean.' 

' It is giving up — when you don't know a 
girl, and when it's a girl like me, with no 
connections — or — or anything to speak of, 
only a little Australian savage, and when 
even ' 

' When— what ? ' 

' When she doesn't even love you as 
much as she ought.' 

He turned himself to her and looked into 
her face with a curious surprise. She was 
looking out into the night, and her expression 
puzzled and her indifference piqued him into 


still wilder admiration. He laughed in a 
strange way. ' I think I could make you 
love me — quite as much as you ought, if you 
will trust yourself to me.' 

Now she turned to him seriously. ' Very 
well,' she said. ' I will trust myself to you. 
If I had not thought that you would make 
me love you, and if I hadn't wanted to try, I 
would not have worn this.' She touched the 
diamonds at her neck. 

He threw his arm round her. She knew 
that he wanted to kiss her, and something 
in his eyes made her shrink. She got up 
hastily. ' Not now,' she said. ' I think I 
should like to go back to the dancing.' 

'No, no,' he pleaded. But she was firm. 
Nor would she let him kiss even her hand. 
He thought this was coquetry, and told her 
he bided his time. 




The dance that should have been Frank 
Hallett's was claimed by the Prince. Of 
course the royal request was a command, 
and Elsie danced with the distinguished guest 
of Leichardt's Land, to the envy and admira- 
tion of the Leichardtstonians. Lord Astar 
liad written his name down for the dance 
following, and he came almost immediately 
and took her away. They went round the 
room once, and then he said hoarsely in her 
ear, ' You are fooling me and playing with 
me. You won't listen to what I have to say, 
and yet you have as good as promised to be 


Elsie's hour had come. She let him lead 
her into the garden. They went to the little 
summer-house to which he had taken her 
before. All the way he poured out words of 
ardent devotion. 

Frank Hallett watched her go out with 
Astar. He watched for her return. It 
seemed to him as though some horrible fate 
were keeping him from her. He could 
hardly prevent himself from going up to her 
when she was dancing with the Prince, and 
when she was on Lord Astar's arm. There 
was something about Elsie to-night wdiich 
filled him with uneasiness. He was certain 
that she was very unhappy. He had 
watched her face while she was talking to 
Blake, and told himself that it was Blake she 
loved. Why was she flirting with Lord 
Astar ? What was the meaning of that 
glittering star.^ He was standing moodily 


against a background of palms at the entrance 
to the ball-room, when he heard his own 
name spoken, and in Elsie's voice, — 

' Frank ! ' 

He hardly knew the voice, it was so thin 
and so frightened. He turned. She was stand- 
ing there alone ; he could not see Lord Astar. 
She was deadly pale except for a bright red 
spot on each cheek, and her eyes were like 
flames. 'Frank,' she said, still with that strange 
quietude, ' will you take me away somewhere 
— somewhere where nobody can see me ? ' 

' Elsie,' he exclaimed, ' what is the 
matter? Come with me, my dear. I will 
take care of you.' 

He gave her his arm. As she clung to it 
he felt a tremor all through her body. 

' Not there,' she cried, fancying he was 
going to turn into the ball-room. ' Take me 
home. Oh, Frank, take me home.' 


' Your mother is there,' he said. ' She 
was asking for you a moment ago. I told 
her you were with Lord Astar. Won't you 
go to her ? ' 

' No, no ' She shuddered. ' I can't go 
in there — I can't, I can't.' 

Her composure was deserting her. He 
threw a hasty glance round. Another dance 
had begun. To the right was a refreshment 
room, now empty. He took her in there and 
put her on a chair. By this time she was 
trembling violently. He went to the table 
and poured out a glass of champagne cup, all 
that he could find in the way of stimulant, 
and made her drink it. ' I am sorry it is not 
something stronger,' he said. ' Elsie, tell me : 
are you ill ? Has anything happened ? ' 

'Yes — yes — I am ill. Take me home, 
Frank ; now, at once. If I stay here I shall 
faint, or go mad. Take me home. 


' Tell me where your cloak is/ he said 
quietly, ' and if you will wait here for a few 
moments I will fetch it, and will send for a 

She felt in the bodice of her dress for a 
cardboard number. He noticed then for the 
first time that there was a great scratch upon 
the white skin, and that the diamond orna- 
ment was gone from her neck. 

He asked no questions, but went silently 
to the cloak-room. After a few minutes he 
came back with her cloak, and wrapped it 
round her. She was cowering in a corner of 
the room, having moved from the chair in 
which he had put her, and she had her face 
turned from the door, as if she were afraid of 
being seen. 

' Come,' he said. ' I was lucky. My fly- 
man was just outside the entrance, and I got 
the cab at once.' 


He led her out into the colonnade. She 
had a lace scarf over her head, and she pulled 
it round her face, still in the same dread of 
being recognised and spoken to. ' Do you 
want me to tell your mother, or to send any 
message? Would you like her to go with 
you ? If you would I will take you a little 
way down the drive, and you will be able to 
wait in the cab while I bring her to you.' 

' No,' she said. ' I would rather go with 
you alone. Mamma will think I am with 
Lord Astar ; she will not mind.' Elsie gave a 
wild little laugh, which broke into a sob. 
' Stay,' she said, and taking her programme 
she wrote upon it, ' I have gone home with 
Mr. Hallett. Please don't mind about me, 
but stay with Ina. I am tired.— Elsie.' She 
folded the programme and wrote her mother's 
name upon it, all with the same feverish haste, 
and put it into his hands, while he helped her 


into the cab. ' Give it to some one to give to 
her,' she said, ' and then come back to me and 
take me away. I can't bear it any longer. 
Oh, Frank, make haste and take me away.' 

He went back for a moment to the entrance 
to the ball-room, bidding the cabman to drivfe 
on and wait a little lower down the drive. 
He looked round for a trustworthy bearer 
of Elsie's message. By good fortune Lady 
Horace was comino; out of one of the tea 
rooms on the arm of Morres Blake. He went 
up to her. ' Lady Horace, may I speak to 
you for a moment ? ' 

Blake withdrew a few paces. Ina looked 
at him anxiously. ' Where is Elsie ? ' she 
asked ; ' I cannot find her.' 

' Elsie is with me. Ina, something has 
happened to upset her — I don't know what, 
unless that cad. Lord Astar ' 

' Lord Astar ! ' Ina repeated. ' Oh, 


Frank, mamma said something — nothing is 
settled. I will not let Elsie be carried away into 
doing what she will all her life regret. Trust 
me, Frank. I have been looking for Elsie ever 
since. You mustn't judge poor mamma 
hardly. You mustn't be hard on Elsie.' 

Ina spoke in great agitation. She laid her 
little hand on his arm beseechingly. He looked 
at her puzzled. 

' I don't quite know what you mean,' he 
said. ' I judge Elsie hardly ! You know how 
I love her. Lady Horace, you may trust her 
with me. She wants to go home. She 
doesn't want Mrs. Valliant — ^I asked her. 
She wants to go home with me. Perhaps she 
will let me help her. She asked me to send 
this to Mrs. Yalhant. Will you explain ? ' 

Ina took the folded programme and read 
what Elsie had written. 

' Yes, I will explain ; I think I understand 


why Elsie doesn't want mamma. She thinks 
mamma might be angry. Poor Elsie ! Take 
her home, Frank, and be kind to her.' 

Ina's voice was trembling. Frank 
wondered why she showed so much emotion, 
but he did not wait to ask any questions. 
Ina turned towards Blake, who was standing 
apart watching them, with a curious ex- 
pression on his face. 

' I beg your pardon,' Ina said with quiet 
dignity, ' Mr. Hallett wanted to tell me that 
my sister wasn't very well, and that she does 
not want to frighten my mother and to take 
her away. She is only tired, and there's 
nothing wrong ; and so he is going to take 
her back to Kiverside, and I will explain to 
my mother. It would be such a pity to 
interrupt mamma's pleasure, for she is enjoy- 
ing the sight, and she so seldom goes any- 
where, and there is nothing really wrong with 



Elsie,' Ina added conscientiously. ' She is 
only tired.' 

Blake bowed, and she took his arm again, 
while Hallett made his way out to where the 
cab was standing. He gave the order to the 
driver — ' Eiverside Cottage, Emu Point, 
round by the bridge,' and got in beside Elsie. 
He saw that in those few minutes her com- 
posure had been broken down completely. She 
was crouching in a corner of the cab, and was 
sobbing hysterically. He took her hand in 
his, and soothed her as if she had been 
a child. ' Elsie, dear, try not to be unhappy, 
Elsie ! Nothing can happen to you now. I 
am here to take care of you. If I can't be 
anything else I can be your brother, dear; 
and I can take care of you.' 

' You don't know ; you don't know,' she 

' I think I can guess,' he answered grimly. 


* Lord As tar dared to send you that diamond 
thing that you wore — and he took advantage 
of your — your ignorance and thoughtlessness 
in accepting a present of which you probably 
didn't know the value. You took it as 
you might have taken a flower from me, 
and he inferred from it that you cared for 

' No,' she said ; ' don't think better of me 
than I deserve. He did send it to me. He 
asked me to wear it as a sign that I would 
accept his love. I thought he wanted to 
marry me ; and I would have married him 
for his rank and his money, though I didn't 
love him. I was bad enough for that, Frank. 

And then ' She fell again to shuddering 


' Go on, Elsie.' Frank's voice was deep 
with passion. ' Tell me everything.' 

' I can't, I can't. How can I tell you of 



my disgrace? How can I expect that you 
will ever speak to me or look at me again ? If 
you knew how low I have fallen — what men 
think of me.' 

Frank gave a low, grim exclamation. 
' Well, Elsie, tell me as if I were your brother. 
Try for to-night to think of me as your 

' It was mamma who said I must wear 
that, and the bouquet ; it came while I was 
dressing. I had told him at the races that — 
that he might send me something. I did it ; 
how can I make you understand ? Mr. Blake 
was behind me ; he warned me against Lord 
Astar. He had no right ; his speaking made 
me mad. I wanted to show him that I did 
not care.' 

' Ah ! ' Frank drew in his breath, as if 
with pain. ' I understand. It is Blake whom 
you love.' 


' No, no ! ' 'she cried with passion ; ' I 
hate him. I never wish to see him again.' 

' Is that true, Elsie ? ' 

' Yes, Frank, I will tell you the truth. I 
did think I cared for him. We were playing 
at a game that was deadly for me, and I 
wouldn't own it. I thought I would make 
him care. It was a fair challenge. I can't 
blame him for anything. One of us had to 
be hurt. It is I who was hurt, but I would 
not let him know. I hate him now. He 
exulted over me. He dared to tell me that 
he had won. And I said no, no. I wanted 
to show him that it didn't matter to me. It 
was for that, partly. You know I always 
meant to make a great match if I could. I 
never hid that from you. It was partly 
because of Mr. Blake, and to get away from 
everything, that I wore Lord Astar's diamonds. 
Mamma thought that he wanted to marry me. 


We were both of us blind ; foolish, oh, how 
utterly foohsh ! we didn't think how I must 
seem to him fair game. And he must have 
laughed. It makes me laugh now.' 

She burst into hysterical merriment that 
was terrible to hear. 

' Don't, Elsie ; don't — don't laugh like that, 
my dear. There is no shame to you, because 
he was a villain. The unutterable cad. He 
has dared ' 

'At first I thought he meant that we 
should run away, to be married. He said if 
I would meet him the next day, and he 
would get off going with the Prince, and take 
me to Sydney ; and afterwards to England. 
And then — when I understood ' 

' What did you do ? My God ! if I had 
heard him ' 

'I don't know what I did. I tore the 
thing off, I think I threw it at him. And he 


tried to keep me. And then I came to you ; 
I thought at once of you, Frank. I knew 
that you would take care of me.' 

He took her hand in his, and put his arm 
round the little trembling form. 

' I will take care of you, with my life. 
Only give me the right.' 

' The right,' she repeated, as if she did not 
realise what it meant. 'Oh, I knew that I 
could trust you, Frank, there is no one like 
you.' She clung to him, and her shivering 
ceased. ' Frank,' she went on, in a broken 
childlike way — ' he didn't kiss me ; I didn't 
let him kiss me. That's all the comfort I 

have. No one ever kissed my lips except ' 

and she fell to shivering again. 

For answer, Frank Hallett bent down very 
quietly and kissed her forehead. He laid her 
head against his shoulder, and she seemed to 
find comfort in the caress. ' Elsie,' he said, ' I 


want you to listen to me. You know how I 
love you — no, you never can know quite how 
I love you. I would have given you up to 
Blake, if he had wanted to marry you, and 
you had loved him so that to marry him would 
have been for your happiness. I have kept 
away from you these weeks because I didn't 
want you to feel bound in any way, or to 
have any remorseful thoughts. I said from 
the beginning that I would take my chance, 
and wait your time. But I think that the 
time has come now for me to speak.' 

' It is generous of you,' she said, very low ; 
' now, when no one can respect me ; when I 
have given the two — when Lord Astar and 
Mr. Blake have a right to despise me.' 

' They have no right,' cried Frank. ' You 
are yourself, pure, sweet, womanly as you 
have been always. I don't know what has 
passed between you and Blake. I don't want 


to know. No man can be so unutterable a 
scoundrel as to despise a woman for loving 
liim — and you love Blake, my poor Elsie. It 
breaks my heart to see it, and yet I know it 
quite well.' 

' And in spite of that, you — you want 

she said breathlessly. 

' And in spite of that, I want you to marry 
me — that's what I want, Elsie. I want to 
liave the right to protect you. I want Lord 
Astar — ^I want all the world to know to-morrow 
til at you are my affianced wife. I am not a 
great match, Elsie dear, but I am great enough 
to protect you now. And you mightn't do 
better,' he added, with an odd little laugh. 

' Oh, Frank, you hurt me.' 

' I don't want to do that. And I don't 
want to take any advantage of you — and of 
your weakness to-night. If you don't want 
to bind yourself, let it be understood between 


US that our engagement is only before the 
world, and that in reality you are as free as 
you were yesterday. I shall not vex or 
worry you, Elsie. I shall not even ask you to 
kiss me. Everything shall be as you wish. 
I understand you and how you feel.' 

' No, Frank, you can't dc that. And I 
couldn't sacrifice you, just to my pride, for 
that's what it comes to. If I were to accept 
you now, to-night, it would be for always, and 
because I meant to try and make you as good 
a wife as it is possible for me to be.' 

' Will you have me, then, Elsie ? ' 

'Frank, you don't want to marry a girl 
who has just told you that she cares for a man 
who — who would not marry her and has let 
her see that he despises her.' 

' Yes, I do want to marry that girl. It is 
nothing to me what any other man feels about 


' But it should be something to you — what 
she feels about some other man.' 

There was a short silence. At last Frank 
spoke. 'I am willing to take my chance 
of your being cured of that. I have been 
watching you. Perhaps you thought I was 
too dense to see or to understand. But love 
makes people quick at forming conclusions. 
I formed mine about you and Blake. I 
thought he didn't care for you in the way that 
a man cares when he means to marry a girl 
in spite of every obstacle — I can't help feeling 
about Blake that there is some obstacle — some 
mystery in his past.' 

' Ah ! You feel that too ? ' 

' Yes. It may be nothing disgraceful ; I 
don't know. Why should I think so ? The 
man is a gentleman. I like him in a kind of 
way, though he is my rival. But when a man 
loves a woman beyond all things, he goes 


away, or else he does his honest best to win 
her. He doesn't play at a game of flirtation 
to amuse himself and gratify his sense of 
power, and let her run the risk of being hurt 
in it, as you have been hurt, my poor Elsie.' 

'Don't speak of that. I will cure myself. 
I will not let myself be beaten.' 

' It's because you say that that I am safe 
in taking the risk. I know you, Elsie ; how 
true and good and pure you are in the very 
depths of your nature. You have only been 
playing at life, and at love. You haven't 
known anything of evil, or of the realities of 
the world. It may be that only in marriage 
you will learn what love means — and oh, if it 
might be for me to teach you ! You have 
never cared for anyone in the real sense of 
the word. Of course I know that you don't 
care and never have cared for me in that way, 
though I believe that you have a more solid 


affection for me than you ever had for any 

' That is true, Frank.' 

' I don't beheve that you have ever loved 
Blake in the real sense either. You were 
dazzled by him at the beginning. There was 
a glamour of romance about him, and he has 
a way of compelling interest and admiration. 
Oh, I saw it all at Goondi, at the election 
time. And Ina saw it too. Ina always said 
that you were only fascinated, and that it 
would pass away. Ina has been my best 
friend all through. If it hadn't been for her 
I should have given up hope.' 

' Frank, it is Ina you ought to have cared 
for, not me.' 

Frank winced. He did not answer. There 
was a little silence. Presently he said, ' Elsie, 
I am right. You will get over this girlish 
fancy ; I am not afraid. I will wait.' 


They had crossed the bridge, and had 
passed out of the long straggling street of the 
South Side, as it was called, and now they 
were in a quiet road, bordered with gum trees, 
which gave out an aromatic fragrance into the 
night. Elsie had grown calm. Frank still 
kept his arm about her, but he had attempted 
no closer caress. They drove for some little 
way in silence. The hghts of Emu Point and 
of the houses in Eiverside Paddock began to 
show in front of them. 

' Elsie,' Prank said, ' will you tell me what 
you are thinking ? ' 

' I will tell you when we reach home,' she 
said quietly. ' I will give you your answer 
then. Don't speak to me till we reach home.' 

He obeyed her, and they did not speak 
another word till the cab drew up in front of 
the little garden gate of the cottage. There 
was a light in the drawing-room, and Peter, 


the Kanaka, was acting as watch-dog in the 
verandah. Frank helped Elsie to get out, and 
told the cabman to wait. ' I will see you in,' 
he said in a matter-of-fact way, ' and then 
I shall go back to Government House, and 
bring Mrs. Valliant home. 

Peter, the Kanaka, had got up from his 
blanket, in which he had been sleeping in the 
verandah, after the fashion of an Australian 
Black. He rubbed his eyes at sight of Elsie. 
She bade him wait and watch still for Mrs. 
Valliant, speaking quite composedly, and then 
turned to Frank. ' Will you come in for a 
minute and hear what I have to say ? ' 

He followed her into the httle drawing- 
room, which was lighted by one lamp, turned 
low. She raised the wick and stood by the 
table, a little tremulous again now, but never, 
he thought, had he seen her look more beau- 
tiful. She had let her cloak drop, and the lace 


from her head. Her pretty ball-dress was 
scarcely crushed, and the roses on her bodice 
were fresh and overpoweringly sweet. She 
had thrown away the bouquet. On her face 
were still traces of tears and humihation, and 
her eyes shone very brightly. On her neck 
was the deep angry scratch which the point 
of the diamond star had made. She put out 
her two hands to him, and he held them in his 
and stood looking at her. 

' Well, Elsie ; what is it to be .? ' 

' It is to be as you wish,' she said. ' Only 
— only Frank, don't expect too much from 
me yet. I will try — I will try hard to 

' Thank you, dear,' he said gently. ' That 
is all I ask. God bless you, Elsie, you have 
made me very happy.' 

' Tell them, tell them to-night,' she said 
feverishly. ' I want everybody to know — tell 


them at the balL Tell mamma. But don't 
tell her anything else, Frank. Let that be 
between you and me. Let it never be spoken 
of again from this night. Only see that Lord 
Astar knows.' 

' He shall know,' said Frank grimly. 
' And I will tell your mother. She wouldn't 
have been sorry six months ago. Perhaps she 
will be disappointed now. But,' he added, 
' Lia will be glad.' 

' Yes, Ina will be glad,' Elsie said thought- 

They were standing, he with her hands in 
his, both with trouble in their eyes. ' I must 
go,' he said, rousing himself from the contem- 
plation of her face. ' Good-night, my dear,' 
he added wistfully. ' Try to sleep happily.' 

Still he did not relinquish her hands. 
' Frank,' she said falteringly, ' it seems a 
strange way to be engaged.' 

VOL. II. s 


' Yes, we are engaged,' he answered, with 
an effort at brightness. ' We are engaged to 
be married ; and you have made me very 
happy. If it seems strange — but the strange- 
ness will wear off in time, Elsie.' 

He let her hands go. ' Good-night, dear.' 
' Frank,' she said, appealingly, ' Frank, I 
didn't mean — won't you kiss me, Frank ? ' 




IxA Gage was waiting anxiously for the re- 
appearance of Frank Hallett. Mrs. Yalliant's 
uneasiness about Elsie had been quickly 
allayed. She had soon got into the fretful 
mood. Mrs. Valliant was one of those women 
in whom sweetness is apt to turn to a pettish 
sense of ill-usage. ' There's never any calcu- 
lating on Elsie's moods,' she said to Ina. ' She 
was quite well and happy when she got here. 
Something has gone wrong. Ina, you don't 
think it's possible that she has refused Lord 

' I think it is very possible,' said Ina ; 



' and if she has refused him, and feels that you 
will be vexed, it is quite easy to understand 
why she went home.' 

' But why couldn't she have come to me — 
why go off in that extraordinary fashion with 
Frank Hallett ? I am glad it was Frank 
Hallett, and not that Mr. Blake. Look here, 
Ina ; if anything has gone wrong about Lord 
Astar, take my word for it that the fault is 
Mr. Blake's.' 

In other respects Mrs. Valliant was enjoy- 
ing the ball. She liked the fine sight. Lady 
Waveryng had been particularly nice to her, 
and so had Lady Stukeley. Mrs. Valliant ex- 
ulted in the discomfiture of Lady Garfit, to 
whom it was quite evident that the Waveryngs 
had not taken a fancy, and though her enjoy- 
ment was considerably marred by Elsies 
departure, and though she suffered some 
qualms of doubt and disappointment thereat, 


especially as Lord Astar had taken no notice 
of her beyond the first greeting, she was of a 
hopeful nature and accustomed to vagaries on 
the part of Elsie, and trusted that all would 
come right in the end. 

She was at supper when Frank returned. 
Ina, who had been one of the privileged 
guests at the royal table, had got out before 
the general company, and he met her as he 
was looking for her mother. 

' Mamma is in the supper-room,' said she. 
* Tell me about Elsie.' 

She saw at once signs of emotion and 
elation on Frank's face. 

' Ina,' he said, ' you must congratulate me. 
She wished every one to know. She said she 
wanted them to know to-night.' 

A strange look came into Ina's face, an 
odd far-away look. He thought at first that 
slie had not quite taken in his meaning. 


' She has said that she will marry me,' he 
said simply. 

Ina drew a deep breath, and a faint colour 
came into her cheek, which had been very 

' Oh, Frank ! Then it is settled ? ' 

' Yes, it is settled ; as far as anything can 
be settled. I told her that she should be free 
to break it off at any time, if she felt that she 
did not care for me enough. She is still free, 
of course. But she says she does not wish 
that, and that her promise is a binding one. 
Will you tell Horace, and anyone else that 
you please ? ' 

' And Lord Astar ? ' 

' Lord Astar ! ' Frank exclaimed passion- 
ately. ' I have to thank Lord Astar,' he added 
with some bitterness, ' for having brought this 
about. Don't talk to Elsie about Lord Astar. 
She does not wish it. The day after to- 


morrow — no, to-morrow, for it's morning now 
— ^he will have gone out of our lives — for 
ever, I hope.' 

There was a rush of people returning from 
the supper- room. Ina turned. 'There is 
mamma,' she said. Mrs. Yalliant was on 
Blake's arm. It struck Frank as odd that 
Blake should devote himself to Elsie's mother. 
He went towards her, and Mrs. Yalliant turned 
with faded coquetry to Blake. 

' Here is Mr. Hallett come to give me 
news of my naughty daughter.' She made a 
step towards Hallett. ' Did you leave Elsie ? 
and will you help me to find our fly ? though 
I don't know what to do. It is so awkward. 
You see we came with the Prydes, and they 
won't want to go yet. Minnie is living on in 
hopes that the Prince will ask her to dance, 
but he has danced with none of the girls 
except my Elsie ; he has been devoting him- 


self to Lady Waveryng, which is quite natural, 
of course.' 

' My trap is at your service,' said Blake, 
' if you would hke to go back to your 
daughter. I am very sorry Miss Valhant was 
not well. I hope she is better.' 

' Thank you,' said Hallett stiffly ; ' Miss 
Yalliant was only tired. I have got a fly here 
and I will take you home,' he said to Mrs. 
YaUiant. ' Shall we go and find Miss Pryde, 
and explain that we are going ? I believe that 
I was engaged to her for the dance before 
supper. I must make my apologies.' 

Mrs. Yalliant took . his arm, and Blake 
went up to Lady Horace. As they walked 
through the ball-room, Hallett said — 

' Mrs. Yalliant, I have got some news for 
3^ou. Elsie has promised to be my wife.' 

Mrs. Yalliant turned on him a bewildered 
face. ' Lord Astar ! ' she gasped. ' Lord 


Astar had asked her to marry him. I 
expected to hear that everything was 

' Lord Astar did not ask Elsie to marry 
him,' Frank said sternly. ' He meant nothing 
more than idle flirtation, Mrs. Yalhant ; please 
don't speak to Elsie about Lord Astar. I 
have to beg this of you. She never cared for 
him. She wants to forget — to forget that she 
ever thought it possible for a moment that she 
could care ' 

' I don't understand,' said Mrs. Yalliant in 
a perplexed manner. 

' Elsie and I understand each other,' 
answered Frank. ' We understood each other 
this summer on the Luya. I was only waiting 
— waiting till Elsie had made up her mind ; 
and now she has made it up, she says, for good 
and all. There's nothing now but for you to 
say that you will give her to me. I am not 


afraid that you will say no. We talked of 
this before.' 

' Yes, we talked of this before,' repeated 
Mrs. Yalliant, still bewildered. ' Of course 
I'm very glad, Mr. Hallett — Frank, I suppose 
I ought to say now. I am very glad that you 
care for Elsie, and that she cares for you. She 
did not tell me there was any understanding 
between you — she rather let me think — but 
there, it's no use going back on what Elsie says 
— she will always go her own way, and she 
doesn't take me into her confidence. It's a 
little hard, considering that I'm her mother, 
and that I think of nothing but of her good. 
Ina was quite different, Ina always talked to 
me and told me things. I'm sure this evening 
when we started — if any one had told me that 
Elsie would go back from the Government 
House ball engaged to you I should have 
laughed in their face. If it had been Mr. 


Blake I should have been less surprised. But 
it only shows ' 

Mrs. YalHant stopped short, struck by the 
expression of Hallett's face. ' I beg your 
pardon,' she said humbly ; ' but you know 
Mr. Blake did pay Elsie a great deal of atten- 
tion when he first came.' 

' And that is past,' said Frank decidedly ; 
' and I know that the subject is almost as dis- 
tasteful to Elsie as the subject of Lord Astar's 
attentions. Elsie has promised to be my wife, 
Mrs. Yalliant. I mean to take care of her. 
I don't mean that she shall be vexed or 
worried by anything that it is in my power 
to shield her from. But never mind that. 
Won't you give me your blessing and accept 
me as your son, and tell Elsie when you see 
her to-night that you are glad ? ' 

' Yes, I will,' said Mrs. Valhant. ' It's the 
best thing that could have happened. I 


won't talk about Mr. Blake or about Lord 
Astar to Elsie or anybody, but this I must say, 
that I am glad it's you, and not Mr. Blake. 
I never liked that man somehow, and I'm 
certain — as certain as I'm standing here — 
that he is fond of Elsie. I could see it this 
evening in the way he looked, and the way 
he talked.' 

Frank said nothing. This should have 
been poor comfort, and yet there was an odd 
pleasure in the hearing of it. He was better 
pleased that Blake should love Elsie, and 
should be disappointed, than that he should 
have been flirting with her merely for the 
gratification of his own vanity and the humili- 
ation of hers. 

They found the Prydes. Mrs. Yalhant's 
excited manner told that something had hap- 
pened. She was not proof against Minnie's 
eager whispered questioning. 


' Is she engaged ? ' Minnie asked. ' Oli, 
do, only just tell me that.' 

' Yes, she is engaged,' answered Mrs. 
Valliant. ' It's all quite sudden and unex- 
pected though ; I am sure I might have known 
it was coming months ago, but Elsie is so odd 
and so reserved. She might just as well have 
told me it was Frank Hallett, instead of letting 
me beat about the bush and getting herself so 
talked about with other people.' 

' Frank Hallett ! ' exclaimed Minnie, in 
genuine astonishment. ' Well, I never thought 
it would come about like this. I thou^^ht 
there was something up with Lord Astar, 
though Daddy said it was nonsense, and that 
lie'd never be allowed to marry a girl like 
Elsie. I beg your pardon, Mrs. Valliant, I 
don't mean of course that Elsie wasn't as 
good as any of them, but you know what I 


' No, I do not,' said Mrs. Yalliant with 
dignity. ' Lord Astar had serious intentions, 
I know for a fact. Why Elsie has refused 
him I cannot think. But, of course, Elsie 
knows her own heart best, and if she has cared 
for Frank Hallett all this time ' 

' Eubbish,' said Miss Pryde. ' I know 
Elsie is not in love with Frank Hallett. Any- 
one could see that. If she is in love with 
anybody I should say it was with Mr. Blake 
— I am sure it seemed so in the beginning of 
the winter. But I think she is very wise, and 
I am sure I hope she will be happy.' 

Minnie Pryde was not slow in imparting 
her news to her partners, and amongst them 
to Blake. 

' Yes, it is really true,' she said. ' Mrs. 
Valliant told me, and Mrs. Valliant as good as 
told me that Elsie had refused Lord Astar for 
Frank's sake. I don't believe it, do you ? ' 


' I think Miss Valliant is quite capable 
of even that,' said Blake. ' When did the 
engagement take place? I am curious to 

' This evening. He must have proposed 
in the cab on the way home. What can 
have made Elsie go away ? There is 
something behind, I am certain ; and I shall 
find it out to-morrow.' 

The news spread through the ball-room. 
' So your sister is engaged to that typical 
young Australian, Frank Hallett,' said Lady 
Waveryng to Ina. ' I'm glad of it, my dear, 
for I think she is a young lady who will be 
the better for settling down, and I meant to 
give you a little hint that it was not quite 
wise of her to flirt so desperately with Lord 

' I'm sorry for Morres Blake,' said Lord 
Waveryng later, ' for IVe a very shrewd 


suspicion that lie was a good deal more gone 
than he cared to own on the beautiful Elsie. 
Well, she has done very well for lierself. 
Old Stukeley tells me that young Hallett is a 
rising man, and very well off.' 

' My dear, you look dead,' said Lady 
Waveryng kindly, struck by her sister-in- 
law's paleness. ' You ought to go home. 
Let Waveryng go and find Horace.' 

' Horace is in the supper-room,' said Lord 
Waveryng, rather grimly. ' Yes, I'll fecch 
him, with pleasure.' 

' Ina,' said Lady Waveryng, ' I want to 
talk to you. I want you to let us come up 
with you to the Dell as soon as the Prince 
has gone. You are too wildly dissipated, you 
Leichardtstonians, even for me. I don't 
think this hfe is healthy for Horace — too 
much larking round, driving four-in-hand, 
billiards at the club, and nipping and 


champagne suppers. Horry is so stupidly 
social and good-natured ; it has always been 
his fault. I think he is a little disheartened 
about the Dell, isn't he ? It hasn't paid as 
well as he thought. He was telling 
Waveryng that he wanted to take up more 
land and make a larger place of it ; and that 
would give him more occupation, wouldn't 

' Yes,' said Ina faintly, ' he wants more 

' You don't keep him in order, my dear,' 
Lady Waveryng went on. ' That's what 
Horry always wanted. He ought to have 
married a martinet, not a sweet, docile, 
submissive little creature like you ; you let 
him sit upon you too much. Did he tell you 
that I crave him a lecture the other niofht for 
leaving you so much alone .^ ' 

' No. But you mustn't, indeed. Lady 



Waveryng — Emily, I mean. Horace is very 
kind, and if I am sometimes alone, it is what 
I like. You mustn't ever scold Horace 
because of me. He is the best husband in 
the world.' 

'Well, I'm glad to hear it,' said Lady 
Waveryng, putting up her eyeglass. ' He 
has certainly got the best wife in the world. 
And what I want to tell you is that you must 
get him to go up to the Dell, and take us 
very soon. We haven't much longer to be 
here ; and Waveryng is quite ready to do 
something, if he sees that the money is not 
going to be thrown away — ^Waveryng likes 
the idea of taking up land and founding a 
sort of estate ; and we might come out again, 
you know, and see how you are getting on.' 

Ina expressed her gratitude. Presently 
Lord Waveryng came with Lord Horace, 
who was excited and full of Elsie's 


engagement. * I've been telling 'em in the 
supper-room,' he said. 'A capital fellow, 
Frank Hallett ; the best fellow in the world. 
By Jove, Astar was hit, I can tell you. You 
should have seen his face. I shall chaff Elsie 
about it to-morrow. Look here, Ina, you 
can get over to Fermoy's all right,' he said, as 
they went out after having said good-night 
to the Waveryngs. ' I'll put you in the fly, 
and then I'll go to the club. I've promised 
some fellows to look in.' 

Ina made no protest. Lord Horace was 
surprised at her quietness. 

' What has come to you ? ' he said. ' You 
are like a death's head. I wish you would 
brighten up a bit. You make people think I 
ill-use you. Em gave me a talking to the 
other night for neglecting you. If you want 
to make yourself out a martyr, for heaven's 
sake don't try it on with my people. You 

T 2 


won't get any good of that. Em is devoted 
to me. She always was.' 

' I am very glad,' said Ina faintly. ' I 
never complained, Horace. I want you to 
be happy in your own way. I am a little 
tired to-nioht, that's all. Em wants us to cro 
back to the Dell, dear, and to take them with 
us, and I think we had better go.' 

' Waveryng means to fork up, I suppose,' 
said Lord Horace sulkily. ' It's a little hard 
to drag a fellow up just when there's a 
chance of amusing one's self. But I suppose 
we had better go, and you can ask Elsie to 
come with us if you like. We'll get up a 
kangaroo hunt, or bush races, or something 
to amuse Waveryng.' 

So it was settled, and Ina rejoiced in the 
thought that for her the Leichardt's Town 
season would shortly come to an end. She 
was a brave little person, this poor Ina, and 


no one guessed that the fox was gnawing her 
under the cloak that she wore so decorously. 

Mrs. Yalhant had a few words with Elsie 
that night. What she had were not 
altogether satisfactory. The house was dark 
and Elsie had gone to bed when Mrs. Yalliant 
and Frank stepped on to the verandah. It 
was Peter, the Kanaka, who told them that 
Miss Elsie was in her room. Frank went 
away, and Mrs. Valliant sought her daughter. 

Elsie was lying awake, her tangled hair 
all about her pillow, and Mrs. Valliant 
fancied that she had been crying, her eyes 
looked so red and so bright. But she was 
now, at any rate, perfectly composed. 

'I suppose Frank has told you,' she said, 
as soon as her mother entered. ' You were 
quite wrong, mamma,' she went on in a liaid 
tone ; ' it would have been much better if you 
had not advised me to wear Lord Astar"s 


star. It only gave him the right to insult 

' Elsie,' cried Mrs. Valliant, ' how was I 
wrong ? What do you mean ? ' 

' You were wrong in thinking that Lord 
Astar could possibly wish to marry me. He 
only wanted me to run away with him. He 
made me understand quite clearly — T didn't 
at first — that marrying and running away 
with a girl were two different things.' 

' And you can tell me this — quietly like 
that?' cried Mrs. Valliant. 'I'd have 
wanted to kill him.' 

' I think I did want to kill him,' said 
Elsie, in a low voice. 

Mrs. Valhant raged hysterically after the 
manner of a wild woman. 

' Does he think that because you have no 
father or brother there is no one to call him 
to account ? There is Horace. Horace shall 


know. Horace is as good as he is ; and Ina 
has married into a great family. No one 
shall insult my daughter. I will go 
to-morrow to Government House. I will 
insist upon an explanation and an apology.' 

' No, mamma, you won't do anything. 
You will put the whole thing out of your 
mind, as I am going to do from this night. 
We brought it on ourselves, and I have 
deserved everything.' 

' And Frank Hallett knows ? ' 

' Frank is a hero, and a gentleman,' cried 
Elsie. ^ There is no one like him in the 
world. I shall marry him, mamma, and I 
shall make him as good a wife as it is in my 
nature to be. I don't think I'm really bad. 
I think I can make him happy. That's all 
that matters.' 

' I think a great deal matters besides 
tlicit,' said Mrs. Valliant. She was in a 


tearful mood, and kissed Elsie, and talked 
about the trousseau, and about the difficulty 
of finding money for it, and the disadvantage 
to a girl of having no male relatives, all in 
the same breath. Then seeing that Elsie was 
moody and unresponsive, she stopped, picked 
up the finery which the girl had taken off, 
smoothed the ribbons, put the roses in water 
and folded the gloves, and then came back 
to the bed. 'Well, good-night,' she said 
timidly. ' I shall not call you to-morrow. 
I shall watch and bring you your breakfast 
when I know that you are awake.' 

She was moving away when Elsie 
impetuously stretched out her arms from the 
bed. 'Good-night, mother; dear mother. 
We'll try to be better to each other, dear, 
than we have been ; I'll try to be more like 




Lord Horace's evening at the club and 
Minnie Prycle's confidences to her after- 
supper partners had spread the news of 
Elsie's engagement far and wide. At tlie 
meeting of the Assembly the next afternoon, 
Frank Hallett was congratulated both by his 
own side and by several members of Mr. 
Torbolton's ministry. 

' I thought it was going to be one of my 
colleagues,' said the Premier, with a signifi- 
cant look at Blake ; ' but this is much better, 
and I congratulate you heartily.' 

Frank did not ask Mr. Torbolton why 
this was much better, since presumably Mr. 


Torbolton should have wished his colleague 
to be preferred in any suit on which he had 
set his heart, but accepted the congratula- 
tions in a grave reserved manner which was 
not much like that of a triumphant lover. 
He took his seat, and went about his 
business, and even made a speech, and all the 
tmie there was present with him the wonder 
whether it was really himself — Frank Hallett 
— who was seated in that house on the front 
Opposition bench, which was next best to 
being in the Ministry, Elsie's affianced 
liusband, having gained his dearest wishes 
both of the head and of the heart, and 
altogether the most fortunate of men, and if 
so, why he did not feel more elated at his 
success? Perhaps the reason lay in the fact 
that Morres Blake was sitting opposite to 
hun. Morres Blake made a speech, too. 
All his speeches were brilliant, but this was 


more than usually so. As he listened, Frank 
Hallett had a dull sense of defeat and 
disappointment. He did not grudge his rival 
the glory, but was glad that Elsie was not 
there to listen to his eloquence. Perhaps it 
was remorse for his pettiness that made him 
congratulate Blake when, later on, he passed 
him in the lobby. 

' I hear that I have to congratulate you on 
a different and far more important matter,' 
said Blake, after he had thanked him. ' I 
think you have won a prize, and I do con- 
gratulate you in sincerity.' 

He did not wait for Hallett's answer, but 
turned away with an abruptness that was out 
of keeping with his ordinary courteous self- 

Another of Elsie's admirers received the 
news that day. This was Trant. He heard 
it at Fermoy's on his arrival there early in 


the afternoon. Some business had detained 
him at BaroHn, and he had not arrived in time 
for the Government House baU. It was Lord 
Horace who gave him the intelHgence. Lord 
Horace was loafing about the verandah, look- 
ing rather the worse for his late evening. He 
observed with a mischievous amusement the 
red flush that mounted to Trant's cheek, and 
took a delight in aofcfravatin<? his discomfiture. 
Lord Horace was quite aware that Trant was 
one of the number of Elsie's hopeless admirers. 

' Yes, it is quite settled. I think very 
likely tlie marriage will be soon. We are 
all delighted. She couldn't have done better, 
you know — not even if you had been the 
favoured individual, you know, Trant. You 
ought to go and offer your congratulations.' 

' Yes, I will,' said Trant sulkily. 

' We've had a stunnin' time, almost as good 
as the Goondi election,' continued Lord 


Horace. ' The Prince's visit has wakened up 
1 eichardt's Town a bit. Now we've all got to 
go back to the nursery, Hke the good children 
that have come in to dessert. I say, you must 
help me to get up something for Waveryng. 
They're coming up to the Dell, you know ; a 
kangaroo battue, or a bushranging lark, some- 
tliing typical and Australian — not that Waver- 
yng has much notion of the value of local 

Trant gave an odd sort of laugh. ' I dare 
say Moonlight would oblige you if he knew 
what you wanted.' 

' Moonlight has laid low this full moon,' 
said Lord Horace. ' Well, think it out, Trant, 
and in the meantime you go and wish Miss 
Yalliant joy, and if you see my wife there, tell 
her, will you, that I want her.' 

Trant went off. It was a little before the 
hour of Elsie's verandah reception, but he 


thought he should have more chance of find- 
ing her alone. Lady Horace was there, and 
the two sisters were sitting in the verandah in 
earnest conclave when he arrived. It struck 
him that Lady Horace looked very pale and 
ill, and that she had been crying. Elsie was 
flushed and excited. She laughed gaily when 
she saw Trant, and came forward with out- 
stretched hand. Perhaps she was pleased to 
be relieved from the tete-d-tete with Lia. 

' Why didn't you come down for the ball ? ' 
she asked. 

' I was kept on business,' said Trant. 
' You don't suppose I didn't want to be at the 
ball, did you. Miss Yalliant ? ' 

' I don't know,' said Elsie. ' It was a very 
good ball — at least, so they said.' 

' Why do you say " they said " ? ' asked 
Trant. ' Weren't you there ? ' 

' Oh, yes ; I was there, and I fulfilled my 


mission of making the Leichardt's Town ladies 
jealous. The Prince danced with me, and he 
did not dance with any other of the gh'ls. Ina 
was honoured ; but then she is not a Leichardt's 
Town girl now. He didn't dance with any of 
the others, did he, Ina ? ' 

' No,' said Ina, ' he danced with no one 
else — of the girls.' 

'There. Think of that, Mr. Trant. It 
may be written on my tombstone ! " She 
danced with a Prince." There was nothing 
possible for me after that. I came away. 
That's why I don't know much about the 

Trant looked mystified. ' Is it true ? ' he 

' Is what true ? ' 

' You know well enough ; what they are 
saying everywhere. At Fermoy's they can 
talk of nothing else.' 


' Yes, it is true. Ina, you are not going ? ' 

' By the way, Lord Horace told me to tell 
you that he wanted you,' said Trant ; ' it 
seems rather a blunt way of putting it. Lady 
Horace. I give the message as it was given.' 

Ina took up her gloves and parasol. ' It 
is to settle about going up to the Dell. Elsie, 
you will come ? ' 

' Oh, yes,' said Elsie. ' Anything for a 
change. Good-bye, Ina dear. I shall see 
yon in the evening.' 

Trant stood looking at Elsie. 

' Why don't you sit down ? You make me 

' Come down to the boathouse,' he said ; 
' I want to ask you something.' 

' Well, there is a horrid glare here,' 
replied Elsie coolly. ' If you like, we'll go to 
the steps.' 

When they were seated, she said, ' What 


is it ? Please be melodramatic. Please be 
interesting. Please do something that will 
make me for the moment think of you and 
nobody else.' 

' Does that mean that you are thinking of 
somebody else in a way that is disagreeable .^ ' 

' Yes.' 

' That's a strange confession for a young 
lady who has just gone and got herself 
engaged. It can't be of Mr. Frank Hallett 
that you are thinking ? ' 

' Wliat does that matter to you ? ' said 
Elsie. ' I suppose I may pity Mr. Hallett, if I 
Kke ? ' 

' Upon my soul,' said Trant, ' I think he is 
even more to be pitied than I am.' 

' I don't think you are to be pitied at all. 
What is it that you wanted to ask me ? ' 

' What has Blake got to do with this ? ' he 

70L. II. u 


Elsie flushed more deeply than before. ' I 
would rather, if you please, that Mr. Blake 
should be left out of the question. I think I 
have said that before.' 

'Yes, you have. I warned you, re- 
member. Now look here, you said I might 
be melodramatic. You remember what I said 
to you here, not very long ago ? I told you 
that I always succeeded in what I had set my 
mind on.' 

' I remember that you threatened to carry 
me off, and that it wasn't quite settled 
whether you were to perform that feat — 
you'll have to have a good horse, Mr. Trant, 
for I am very heavy — at one of the 
Leichardt's Town tennis parties, or at the 
Government House ball, or if I am to be 
imprisoned in one of the Luya gorges — do 
you recollect that ? ' 

' Yes, I recollect, and I meant it. I warn 


you. I am not a man to stand tamely by and 
let another man carry off the girl he loves ; 
especially when she doesn't love that other 
man. You in love with Frank Hallett, that 
solid lump of respectability ! You are meant 
for something different, Elsie. You are 
meant for life, for adventure, for emotion. 
You were meant to be a poet's inspiring 
angel, or the brave companion of a hero's 
reckless deeds.' 

' I — I have heard something like that 
before,' said Elsie faintly. ' But it was not 
you who said it.' 

' It was Blake. And he has said it to me. 
Blake has got blood in his veins : he under- 
stands you. Blake and I are alike in more 
ways than one. We are alike anyhow in 
understanding you. But you weren't meant 
for Blake, Miss Valliant. He wouldn't marry 
you, if he could. He has told me to " go in 

u 2 


and win," and I mean to win. Before the 
year is out, you will be my wife.' 

' Indeed, Mr. Trant, that is a bold 
prophecy ; and now I think you have been 
melodramatic enough. Let us talk of some- 
thing else.' 

' No,' said Trant, bending close to her, 
' not till I have told you again that I love 
you. I worship the ground you tread on. I 
worship the flowers you touch. Give me 
that rose ; it can't hurt you to do that — the 
one you have in your belt. Give it to me,' 
he repeated imperiously. 

It seemed to Elsie that his black eyes had 
something of the compelling power that was 
in Blake's eyes. They were fixed full on hers, 
and his hand was outstretched. ' Give it to 
me,' he said again. 

Almost against her will she took out tlie 
flower and gave it to him. He kissed it. 


and put it away in his breast. ' Do you 
believe that I love you ? ' he said. 

' I suppose that you do in a kind of 
fashion. I wish you wouldn't. It is of no 
use, and all this is rather amusing in its way, 
but what's the use of it ? I never gave you 
any reason to think ' 

' No, you never gave me any reason to 
tliink you could care for me, and perhaps 
that is why I am so madly in love with you, 
wdiy I would risk heaven to win you ; not 
that I believe much in heaven, except tlie 
heaven which you could make for me.' 

' Mr. Trant,' said Elsie, with some little 
dignity, rising as she spoke, ' let us be friends, 
and forget all this. I am sorry for having let 
you talk to me in the way you liave done. 
I have been a vain, foolish, heartless girl. 
I have only cared to amuse myself. I am 
afraid that I have sometimes done it at the 


expense of others. I want to change. I am 
going to marry a man whom I respect, and for 
whom I have the deepest affection. I should 
hke to think that from now I may do nothing 
that will make me unworthy of him. Let us 
start afresh, and be friends, and don't say any 
more stupid things.' 

' I don't want to start afresh,' said Trant 
doggedly. ' I mean to go on as I have begun. 
I love you, and mean to have you — by fair 
means, or by foul, if fair won't answer. I 
warn you. Don't ever say that I didn't. 
Only one thing I want you to know. You 
are the thing in the world that I have set my 
heart on, and I've never failed yet.' 

Elsie made no answer. She walked slowly 
back to the cottage, and Trant followed. 
Mrs. Valliant was in the verandah, and was 
talking to Minnie Pryde, who, as soon as she 
saw Elsie, rushed to her with a torrent of 


congratulations. And, oh, had it been Mr. 
Hallett who had given her the beautiful star, 
and would Elsie let her see it aofain? 

No. Elsie was sorry, but she couldn't let 
Minnie see the star. Elsie had become 
suddenly grave, and she seemed shy, and 
altogether, Minnie said afterwards, more like 
an ordinary engaged girl than one would have 
imagined possible in Elsie. 

Elsie had a great reception that afternoon. 
Mrs. Jem Hallett appeared, which was a 
wonderful condescension, but she had learned 
by some occult means that Lady Waveryng 
was going to call also. The Waveryng advent 
had considerably altered Mrs. Jem Hallett's 
views in regard to this alliance. She was 
very gracious to Elsie. Of course she, Elsie, 
would come and stay at Tunimbah. Mrs. 
Yalliant was included in the invitation. And 
how amusing it would be to have the wedding 


on the Luya — from the Dell, a real bush 
wedding — Lord Horace would manage it so 
beautifully. Lord Horace was always talking 
about local colour, and they might have a 
procession of blacks, and King Tommy, of 
Yoolaman, at its head. What did Lady 
Waveryng think of that? And perhaps it 
might be worth Lord Waveryng's while to put 
off the New Zealand trip. 

Everybody had gone when Frank came. 
Elsie was grateful to him for the tact which 
had kept him away. She was grateful, too, 
for his calm, matter-of-fact way of taking the 
situation. There were no lover's raptures. He 
made no claims. It was with bashful humihty 
that he asked to be allowed to put a ring on 
her finger. 

' Every one will wonder why you haven't 
an engagement ring,' he said, and took it from 
its case. ' I thought you'd like diamonds best, 


he added awkwardly. The ring was magnifi- 
cent. Elsie could hardly have believed that 
Leichardt's Town could furnish forth anything 
so perfect. She told him so, and again she 
held up her face baby fashion for a kiss. 

He kissed her with more lingering tender- 
ness than he had done the night before. 'Elsie,' 
he said, 'there's one thing I want j^ou to under- 
stand. Your happiness is first of all things to 
me ; far, far beyond my own. You have 
given yourself generously, my darling, and 
you say you won't make any reservations. 
Well, this is what I want you really to take in 
and think over. If ever you have any doubts 
or regrets ; if ever you get to feel that you'd 
be happier with another man, you are as free 
as though this had never been put on your 
finger. You've only got to tell me. I'll never 
reproach you, or make it hard for you. Ill 
help you all I can and in whatever way I can 


— if not as your lover and husband, then as 
your brother.' 

The tears were in Elsie's eyes. ' Frank,' 
slie said, 'we will never speak again of what I 
told you the other night. We turn over the 
leaf, and begin a new page from to-day.' Then 
as if determined that there should not be 
any more sentiment, she rattled on about 
her afternoon's visitors, and Mrs. Jem's cor- 
diality, and the coming visit to the Luya, 
and the picnic which Frank had promised 

There was one ordeal which Elsie had to 
face, and which she dreaded more than any- 
thing connected with her engagement. This 
was the meeting with Blake. The Prince 
went away the next day, and Blake, in his 
capacity of minister, went with tlie Govern- 
ment House party and the officials, and tlie 
great people of Leichardt's Town, to see him 


oa board the man-of-war in the bay. Elsie 
did not go, though upon this occasion she had 
been invited, and the Prince expressed deep 
regret at her absence. Ina went with the 
Waveryngs, as in duty bound, and had the 
pleasure of discussing her sister's engagement 
with Lord Astar and receiving his congratula- 
tions. She would gladly have avoided him, but 
it was hardly possible, and Ina did not know 
what had taken place at the Government 
House ball. She had only a vague feeling, 
founded upon something which Lord Horace 
had indignantly reported of tlie club gossip, 
that Elsie had placed herself in a false position 
by her too open flirtation. 

Frank Hallett did not go down to the bay 
with the other great people of Leichardt's 
Town. He stayed and spent part of the day 
with his fiancee. Lia was a good deal left to 
herself that day, fur Lord Horace, to Lady 


Waveryng's annoyance, was making himself 
rather unpleasantly conspicuous with Mrs. 
Allanby. Lord Horace had, as Lord Waver- 
yng put it, a little too much champagne on 
board. Lady Waveryng had come to the 
conclusion that the sooner her brother went 
to the Dell the better. Everybody was a little 
glad that the royal festivities had come to an 
end. It was Blake who paid attention to Ina, 
and saw that she had everything she wanted, 
and was taken care of. Lia had always dis- 
liked Blake. To-day she felt almost tenderly 
to him. She was certain from the way in 
which he had alluded to Elsie's coming 
marriage that he had a tenderness for her, and 
would, if he could, have married her himself. 
Ina never stopped to inquire why he could 
not marry Elsie. It seemed a received fact 
that Blake was not a marrying man. 

It is rather the fashion in Leichardt's Town 


during tlie Session for members to pay calls in 
the morning. Blake walked across the 
paddock from Fermoy's the next day, and 
found Elsie alone and in the verandah 

He came so softly that she did not even 
hear tlie gate click. When she saw that it 
was Blake she got up in some confusion, and 
then sat down again very pale. 

' I beg your pardon for coming so early,' 
he said. ' I have got to be at the House — that 
is one of the penalties of being a minister 

' Yes,' she said faintly. 

' I want to ask you,' he went on, ' to forget 
an episode which I bitterly regret, and to let 
me be your friend. 1 asked you the other 
night not to think too hardly of me. I ask it 
again now.' 

' I don't think hardly of you,' Elsie 


answered, in a low voice, not lifting her eyes. 
' I think hardly of myself. I have had a 
bitter lesson.' 

' Poor child ! ' he exclaimed, in a moved 
voice ; and he turned his face away as if to 
hide the pain he felt. ' You humiliate me,' he 
cried ; ' you are a noble woman and a true 
woman. And I — but if you knew everytliing 
you would not blame me so much.' 

' I don't blame you,' Elsie said, her voice, 
too, quavering. ' I have told you so. I — I 
ought to thank you, Mr. Blake,' she cried im- 
pulsively. ' I feel somehow that you didn't 
want to hurt me, and that you don't quite 
despise me.' 

' God knows that is true enough,' he 

' Then,' she went on, still with impulsive 
eagerness, ' let us agree to forget all this 


winter in Leichardt's Town. Let us begin 
afresh from to-day and be friends — good 
friends.' She held out her hand. He took it 
in his, and looked at her wistfully. 

' You see,' she said, embarrassed by his 
gaze, and trying hard to be calm, ' I have 
made a new beginning for myself. I want to 
be different and to be more worthy — of — ' 
she hesitated — ' of the man I am goincr to 

' Elsie,' he cried, ' tell me, are you 
happy ? ' 

' Yes, I am happy,' she answered, after a 
moment's pause and struggling with all in her 
that was rebelhous. ' I am happy. Frank 
Hallett's future wife ouglit to be happy.' 

' You are right,' he answered. ' To me hence- 
forth you will be Frank Hallett's wife ; the wife 
of one of the best fellows that ever lived. You 


will be no longer Elsie Yalliant after to-day. 
Good-bye, Elsie Yalliant.' 

He raised her hand to his lips, kissed it 
passionately, and left her without another