Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

off by the smith, Arkwright piloted his friend to the house, a small but comfortable wooden mansion, where his younger brother was engaged in some interesting culinary operations which formed a striking contrast to Charles's last remembrance of Fred Arkwright's polo performances at Oxford. After a hearty banquet on mutton at nothing a pound, Charles fully propounded all his plans to the Arkwrights. The preliminaries of their partnership were speedily arranged. Charles was to put 10,000l. into the business, and it so happened that a favourable opportunity for extending it was just now presented by the low price of sheep, and the offer of a neighbouring squatter to part with a portion of his run. In order to complete the necessary formalities, and to make arrangements with the bank, Fred Arkwright and Greville went into Christchurch as soon as possible to settle everything. And though the lawyer who was to draw up the deed of partnership was a candidate for a seat in the Assembly, electioneering in New Zealand was such a deadly-lively affair as not to interfere with ordinary professional business. The firm, therefore, of Arkwright and Greville was, in a few hours and by a few strokes of the pen, duly consolidated.

[ocr errors]

CHAPTER XXXI.

6

CHARLES was soon initiated into the mysteries of a settler's life. In a few short months he could shear a sheep, shoe a horse, not only cook but eat a damper,' and as he had never been a wine bibber or an epicure, he fell in naturally to a tea and mutton diet. Before the year had ended there were few more accomplished squatters in Canterbury than Charles Greville. By a vigorous effort he had, as he thought, choked off all sentiment, though, when on solitary duty at some distant hut on the confines of the station, he could not help reverting sometimes to the Grange and its inmates, as people of a past dreamland. But his talk was, for the most part, of bullocks, wire fences, and the mysteries of wool cleaning. He had, as may be remembered, written to Lady Anne from Valparaiso, and had given her for the first time an address which might enable her to write in return and, as he then feared, to wind up for ever their correspondence. Lyttelton was the only address he could then give, and the good lady must have speedily availed herself of the information, for on September 1, not devoted in New Zealand, as in England, to St. Partridge, Greville, as he came back from a hard day's work to the station, found a letter bearing the Shamboro' post-mark, which had been forwarded by the Arkwrights' agent from Lyttelton. With a tremulous hand he seized the letter. The absence of all associations likely to awaken recollections of the past had deluded Charles into the supposition that he had succeeded in subduing all tokens of tenderness, and that the bitterness of romance was past. But when, on opening Lady Anne's envelope, he found that besides her own letter it contained a little pencil note, written and directed by Gertrude

6

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

herself, his weakness was soon revealed to him. And it was well for him that the sudden appearance of Fred Arkwright compelled him to nerve himself to composure.

Any news about the price of wool on the other side ? I see you've got a letter by the Suez mail,' sharply asked Fred.

No, it's only from my people, nothing about business,' quietly replied Charles, thrusting the despatches into his pocket till a more convenient season for perusing them should arrive.

He then learnt from Lady Anne's report that the rumours which had reached him about Gertrude's intended marriage were not only wholly false, but that her illness was causing them all grave anxiety, and that under Sir Todd Parker's advice the experiment of a winter in Madeira had been resolved on. There was little detail as to the actual state of the patient, and of local or parochial news; the only item, of any consequence, was that of Mr. Richardson's apoplectic seizure, which, though it had not terminated fatally, was causing much anxiety among his creditors. In a postscript Lady Anne added, “You will find in my envelope a little pencil note from a friend.'

a What may have been the contents of that note it would be profane to inquire. For many months to come it travelled about in the breast pocket of Greville's waistcoat which was nearest to his heart, and not being marked private and confidential,' it was tolerably safe from the perusal of the Dovedale world, even if it should have gone astray. It is hardly necessary to say that it was answered at considerable length.

But the Suez mail and its contents made not the slightest change in the outward life and demeanour of Charles. As before, so he continued steadily at his work-in the wool shed and at the out stations, in business enterprise to Christchurch or Timaru. Whatever his hand found to do, he did it with his might. And thus two years passed away, during which the Suez mail supplied him with constant but varying tidings from the Grange.

Two winters in Madeira had in some degree restored Gertrude, but Mr. Richardson had also partially recovered from his seizure; and as long as he lived, Greville felt that whatever success he might achieve at Dovedale, he might as well woo some 'bright particular star' in the Southern Cross as Gertrude, and he resigned himself to his lot. Gertrude, on her part, did not urge his return to England, for she knew the misery it would occasion both her and him.

In the third autumn of Greville's life at Dovedale it became necessary that one of the partners should go to England on business, and it was decided that Greville could best be spared. The period of his absence would be from October to May. It so happened that the months prescribed by the doctors for what they hoped would be Gertrude's last sojourn in Madeira, fell within this period. St. John had offered to take the Berkeleys out in his yacht. Finding that the extra time occupied by the journey to England via Panama, the West Indies, and Madeira would not exceed the ordinary direct route by

more than a fortnight, Charles resolved to take that line homeward; and though there was no time to write to communicate this arrangement, Charles felt sure, from the tone of Lady Anne's recent letters, that a meeting in Madeira would not, in her judgment, be open to any objection.

It was on the morning of All Saints' Day that Greville found himself in the roadstead at Funchal, and he was not slow to discover lying off the Loo Fort the familiar figure-head of his old friend the 'Moonbeam. From a Portuguese huckster of fruit and flowers, who had boarded the steamer, he learned that the English Milord' and family, who had arrived in the 'Moonbeam,' were living at the Quinta da Fonte, about half a mile out of the town of Funchal. To land and stow his baggage at the hotel was not a long business; what should be his next move required more deliberation. To march straight to the Quinta da Fonte was his first impulse, but on reflection a sudden appearance there seemed rather undesirable, especially as no one there, except Lady Anne, knew his secret. A preliminary note to that wise lady seemed the most prudent course. In this note, which he despatched at once by the Portuguese porter who had brought his baggage from the vessel, Charles simply announced his arrival, and requested some detailed information on the present health of Gertrude, and advice as to his own further movements. Having sent off this note, and feeling too restless to settle down to the business letters he had to write both to New Zealand and to England, Charles strolled out to beguile the time till some answer should arrive from Lady Anne.

As he was passing by the marine villa which was some years ago occupied by the Empress of Austria, and was gazing alternately on the blue sea and the green sugar-canes which clothed, instead of vines, the slopes of the hills, he stumbled suddenly on St. John and Augustus.

Charles had grown an enormous beard in New Zealand, and that small portion of his face which was still visible was so bronzed with sun and sea-breezes, that his two friends, who supposed him to be wool-gathering at the Antipodes, actually passed him without recognition.

'Halt!' shouted Charles; is that the way you treat your old friend?'

6

It may well be imagined that for the next quarter of an hour Charles had no chance of putting in another word. What with St. John's vocal mitrailleuse and the simultaneous volleys from Augustus, and the interjectional fire of fresh queries before answer knew what question would,' Charles had not even a chance of beginning his history since he drove from the Grange in Augustus's dog-cart, nearly three years ago.

'But of course you're coming to our quarters? Where are your traps? Let's go for them at once,' suddenly cried Augustus.

Charles, to whom this proposal afforded the first opportunity for a

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

single word which might draw forth any information about Gertrude, deprecated the hospitable offer, on the ground that “any noise might be bad for their invalid.'

Noise! Invalid! I should like to know who can make half the noise that I and St. John do every day of our lives; and as for our invalid, I suppose you mean Gatty. Why, she's no more an invalid than you are. That double-tongued, double-named old muff of a doctor in England frightened us all out of our wits about her two years ago, and bowled us off to this miserable island just as the hunting season was beginning; and my father, who hates doctors, you know, vowed that after going to what they called the “first opinion of the day,” he wouldn't send for any more of them, and ever since has done just what this old humbug advised. But the doctor here, who's got more sense in his little toe than all the Todds and Parkers together in their brains, says it's all my eye, and that Gatty's all right if they'll only let her alone, and let what he calls “ Nature take its course ;” though I don't know what the dickens he means by such a nonsensical expression.'

At this point of the conversation they happened to have nearly reached Charles's quarters, and finding it quite impossible to persuade him to come to the Quinta, Augustus declared that he should go at once with St. John to Sir Henry, and see if his father could not overcome Charles's stupid obstinacy,' and order him up bag and baggage to the Quinta da Fonte.

Charles was not sorry for the moment to have got rid of his friends, for he had no wish to have Lady Anne's letter delivered to him at the hotel in their presence. On entering the hotel, he found the anxiously desired despatch waiting for him. Though it did not quite coincide with the rose-tinted report of Augustus, Lady Anne's bulletin was certainly encouraging. After a very hearty expression of pleasure at hearing of Charles's arrival, which fact she had already communicated to the individual chiefly interested, she gave him the substance of the opinion of the Madeira physician who had attended her, and under whose treatment the soft air of the island had contributed so much to Gertrude's restoration. Without venturing to impugn the accuracy of Sir Todd Parker's diagnosis, Dr. Lund had hinted that the very brief visit of ten minutes to the Grange, when Sir Todd had first visited his patient, could scarcely have enabled him to examine the condition of the lungs sufficiently; that he (Dr. Lund) could detect no cavity, but was inclined to ascribe the symptoms of physical weakness rather to depression of spirits than to organic disease. Dr. Lund did not think another visit to Madeira would be necessary, but that no doubt a warm and dry climate, such as that of Australia or New Zealand, would be more calculated than that of England to ensure complete restoration.

Lady Anne's letter concluded with an assurance that as soon as the Berkeleys knew of Greville's arrival in Madeira they were sure to press his immediate adjournment to the Quinta da Fonte. It contained a postscript (in which it has been observed that ladies generally put the most important items of their letters), with the information that tidings had reached them by yesterday's mail of the death of Mr. Richardson, and that Sir Henry had undertaken in consequence to act as her guardian during the brief remaining period of her minority. Charles had scarcely finished the perusal of this interesting document when Sir Henry, accompanied by Augustus, was announced. The unceremonious alacrity with which Augustus bundled off Charles's baggage to the Quinta da Fonte; the wellaffected reluctance with which Charles himself deprecated an intrusion on his part into a house in which every additional guest might 'increase trouble and disturb the quiet which probably might be still thought necessary for Miss Berkeley;' the courteous but curt condemnation by Sir Henry of Charles's scruples as humbug,' will scarcely require describing or even telling to those who are acquainted with the manners or customs of the Grange. Suffice it to say

that in less than half an hour the whole party were (Charles included) gazing on a glorious sunset from the verandah of the Quinta da Fonte. And as their sayings and doings there form no part of the annals of Blues and Buffs, we must leave them unrecorded, and our readers must draw on their imagination for the events of the next

ten years.

CHAPTER XXXII.

а

In the valley of the Rangitata, about fifty miles from the Arkwrights? run at Dovedale, stands among evergreens, gum-trees and totaras and at no great distance from the clear waters of the river, a gabled house, which, though smaller in its dimensions, &c., is not unlike, in its architectural features, to one of the familiar homes of England. It is called “' "The Grange. There is a little church hard by built by the owner of the mansion. In the church are several tablets to the memory of departed friends in England. A small brass cross is let into the chancel wall, sacred to the memory of Sir Henry Berkeley. In a forest half a mile off, in the centre of a cluster of log huts calling itself a village, there is a small school built of wooden slabs, and roofed with shingles. In the school there is an harmonium. Little Gertie is beginning to help her mother in carrying hymn-books to the school, and little Charlie, who is two years younger, is beginning to tease his sister for her goodness and obedience. In all these little childish struggles Gertie is supported against her little tyrant of a brother by their father, who has now become the Hon. Charles Greville, having been appointed by the Governor a Member of the Legislative Council

. Though neither a Blue nor a Buff, he is still the same Charles Greville as of old. Surrounded by the unpoetical influences of a material prosperity which sometimes is unchastened and uncorrected in a new country by the checks and trials which are almost ever present in old England, all Charles Greville's influence is devoted to elevate the land of his adoption.

« AnteriorContinuar »