the day before we sailed. I had already been gazing for some seconds,
before my attention was arrested by a blur on the sea-line; and stooping
to look, I recognised the smoke of a steamer.
"Yes," said I, turning toward Stennis, "it has merit. What is it?"
"A fancy piece," he returned. "That's what pleased me. So few of the
fellows in our time had the imagination of a garden snail."
"Madden, you say his name is?" I pursued.
"Madden," he repeated.
"Has he travelled much?" I inquired.
"I haven't an idea. He is one of the least autobiographical of men. He
sits, and smokes, and giggles, and sometimes he makes small jests;
but his contributions to the art of pleasing are generally confined to
looking like a gentleman and being one. No," added Stennis, "he'll never
suit you, Dodd; you like more head on your liquor. You'll find him as
dull as ditch water."
"Has he big blonde side-whiskers like tusks?" I asked, mindful of the
photograph of Goddedaal.
"Certainly not: why should he?" was the reply.
"Does he write many letters?" I continued.
"God knows," said Stennis. "What is wrong with you? I never saw you
taken this way before."
"The fact is, I think I know the man," said I. "I think I'm looking for
him. I rather think he is my long-lost brother."
"Not twins, anyway," returned Stennis.
And about the same time, a carriage driving up to the inn, he took his
I walked till dinner-time in the plain, keeping to the fields; for I
instinctively shunned observation, and was racked by many incongruous
and impatient feelings. Here was a man whose voice I had once heard,
whose doings had filled so many days of my life with interest and
distress, whom I had lain awake to dream of like a lover; and now his
hand was on the door; now we were to meet; now I was to learn at last
the mystery of the substituted crew. The sun went down over the plain of
the Angelus, and as the hour approached, my courage lessened. I let the
laggard peasants pass me on the homeward way. The lamps were lit, the
soup was served, the company were all at table, and the room sounded
already with multitudinous talk before I entered. I took my place and
found I was opposite to Madden. Over six feet high and well set up, the
hair dark and streaked with silver, the eyes dark and kindly, the mouth
very good-natured, the teeth admirable; linen and hands exquisite;
English clothes, an English voice, an English bearing: the man stood
out conspicuous from the company. Yet he had made himself at home, and
seemed to enjoy a certain quiet popularity among the noisy boys of the
table d'hote. He had an odd, silver giggle of a laugh, that sounded
nervous even when he was really amused, and accorded ill with his big
stature and manly, melancholy face. This laugh fell in continually all
through dinner like the note of the triangle in a piece of modern French
music; and he had at times a kind of pleasantry, rather of manner than
of words, with which he started or maintained the merriment. He took his
share in these diversions, not so much like a man in high spirits,
but like one of an approved good nature, habitually self-forgetful,
accustomed to please and to follow others. I have remarked in old
soldiers much the same smiling sadness and sociable self-effacement.
I feared to look at him, lest my glances should betray my deep
excitement, and chance served me so well that the soup was scarce
removed before we were naturally introduced. My first sip of Chateau
Siron, a vintage from which I had been long estranged, startled me into
"O, this'll never do!" I cried, in English.
"Dreadful stuff, isn't it?" said Madden, in the same language. "Do let
me ask you to share my bottle. They call it Chambertin, which it isn't;
but it's fairly palatable, and there's nothing in this house that a man
can drink at all."
I accepted; anything would do that paved the way to better knowledge.
"Your name is Madden, I think," said I. "My old friend Stennis told me
about you when I came."
"Yes, I am sorry he went; I feel such a Grandfather William, alone among
all these lads," he replied.
"My name is Dodd," I resumed.
"Yes," said he, "so Madame Siron told me."
"Dodd, of San Francisco," I continued. "Late of Pinkerton and Dodd."
"Montana Block, I think?" said he.
"The same," said I.
Neither of us looked at each other; but I could see his hand
deliberately making bread pills.
"That's a nice thing of yours," I pursued, "that panel. The foreground
is a little clayey, perhaps, but the lagoon is excellent."
"You ought to know," said he.
"Yes," returned I, "I'm rather a good judge of - that panel."
There was a considerable pause.
"You know a man by the name of Bellairs, don't you?" he resumed.
"Ah!" cried I, "you have heard from Doctor Urquart?"
"This very morning," he replied.
"Well, there is no hurry about Bellairs," said I. "It's rather a long
story and rather a silly one. But I think we have a good deal to tell
each other, and perhaps we had better wait till we are more alone."
"I think so," said he. "Not that any of these fellows know English, but
we'll be more comfortable over at my place. Your health, Dodd."
And we took wine together across the table.
Thus had this singular introduction passed unperceived in the midst of
more than thirty persons, art students, ladies in dressing-gowns and
covered with rice powder, six foot of Siron whisking dishes over our
head, and his noisy sons clattering in and out with fresh relays.
"One question more," said I: "Did you recognise my voice?"
"Your voice?" he repeated. "How should I? I had never heard it - we have
"And yet, we have been in conversation before now," said I, "and I asked
you a question which you never answered, and which I have since had many
thousand better reasons for putting to myself."
He turned suddenly white. "Good God!" he cried, "are you the man in the
"Well, well!" said he. "It would take a good deal of magnanimity to
forgive you that. What nights I have passed! That little whisper has
whistled in my ear ever since, like the wind in a keyhole. Who could it
be? What could it mean? I suppose I have had more real, solid misery
out of that ..." He paused, and looked troubled. "Though I had more to
bother me, or ought to have," he added, and slowly emptied his glass.
"It seems we were born to drive each other crazy with conundrums," said
I. "I have often thought my head would split."
Carthew burst into his foolish laugh. "And yet neither you nor I had the
worst of the puzzle," he cried. "There were others deeper in."
"And who were they?" I asked.
"The underwriters," said he.
"Why, to be sure!" cried I, "I never thought of that. What could they
make of it?"
"Nothing," replied Carthew. "It couldn't be explained. They were a crowd
of small dealers at Lloyd's who took it up in syndicate; one of them has
a carriage now; and people say he is a deuce of a deep fellow, and has
the makings of a great financier. Another furnished a small villa on
the profits. But they're all hopelessly muddled; and when they meet each
other, they don't know where to look, like the Augurs."
Dinner was no sooner at an end than he carried me across the road
to Masson's old studio. It was strangely changed. On the walls were
tapestry, a few good etchings, and some amazing pictures - a Rousseau, a
Corot, a really superb old Crome, a Whistler, and a piece which my host
claimed (and I believe) to be a Titian. The room was furnished with
comfortable English smoking-room chairs, some American rockers, and
an elaborate business table; spirits and soda-water (with the mark of
Schweppe, no less) stood ready on a butler's tray, and in one corner,
behind a half-drawn curtain, I spied a camp-bed and a capacious tub.
Such a room in Barbizon astonished the beholder, like the glories of the
cave of Monte Cristo.
"Now," said he, "we are quiet. Sit down, if you don't mind, and tell me
your story all through."
I did as he asked, beginning with the day when Jim showed me the passage
in the _Daily Occidental_, and winding up with the stamp album and the
Chailly postmark. It was a long business; and Carthew made it longer,
for he was insatiable of details; and it had struck midnight on the old
eight-day clock in the corner, before I had made an end.
"And now," said he, "turn about: I must tell you my side, much as I hate
it. Mine is a beastly story. You'll wonder how I can sleep. I've told it
once before, Mr. Dodd."
"To Lady Ann?" I asked.
"As you suppose," he answered; "and to say the truth, I had sworn never
to tell it again. Only, you seem somehow entitled to the thing; you have
paid dear enough, God knows; and God knows I hope you may like it, now
you've got it!"
With that he began his yarn. A new day had dawned, the cocks crew in the
village and the early woodmen were afoot, when he concluded.
CHAPTER XXII. THE REMITTANCE MAN.
Singleton Carthew, the father of Norris, was heavily built and feebly
vitalised, sensitive as a musician, dull as a sheep, and conscientious
as a dog. He took his position with seriousness, even with pomp; the
long rooms, the silent servants, seemed in his eyes like the observances
of some religion of which he was the mortal god. He had the stupid man's
intolerance of stupidity in others; the vain man's exquisite alarm lest
it should be detected in himself. And on both sides Norris irritated and
offended him. He thought his son a fool, and he suspected that his son
returned the compliment with interest. The history of their relation was
simple; they met seldom, they quarrelled often. To his mother, a fiery,
pungent, practical woman, already disappointed in her husband and her
elder son, Norris was only a fresh disappointment.
Yet the lad's faults were no great matter; he was diffident, placable,
passive, unambitious, unenterprising; life did not much attract him; he
watched it like a curious and dull exhibition, not much amused, and not
tempted in the least to take a part. He beheld his father ponderously
grinding sand, his mother fierily breaking butterflies, his brother
labouring at the pleasures of the Hawbuck with the ardour of a soldier
in a doubtful battle; and the vital sceptic looked on wondering. They
were careful and troubled about many things; for him there seemed not
even one thing needful. He was born disenchanted, the world's promises
awoke no echo in his bosom, the world's activities and the world's
distinctions seemed to him equally without a base in fact. He liked the
open air; he liked comradeship, it mattered not with whom, his comrades
were only a remedy for solitude. And he had a taste for painted art. An
array of fine pictures looked upon his childhood, and from these roods
of jewelled canvas he received an indelible impression. The gallery at
Stallbridge betokened generations of picture lovers; Norris was perhaps
the first of his race to hold the pencil. The taste was genuine, it
grew and strengthened with his growth; and yet he suffered it to be
suppressed with scarce a struggle. Time came for him to go to Oxford,
and he resisted faintly. He was stupid, he said; it was no good to put
him through the mill; he wished to be a painter. The words fell on his
father like a thunderbolt, and Norris made haste to give way. "It didn't
really matter, don't you know?" said he. "And it seemed an awful shame
to vex the old boy."
To Oxford he went obediently, hopelessly; and at Oxford became the
hero of a certain circle. He was active and adroit; when he was in
the humour, he excelled in many sports; and his singular melancholy
detachment gave him a place apart. He set a fashion in his clique.
Envious undergraduates sought to parody his unaffected lack of zeal
and fear; it was a kind of new Byronism more composed and dignified.
"Nothing really mattered"; among other things, this formula embraced the
dons; and though he always meant to be civil, the effect on the college
authorities was one of startling rudeness. His indifference cut like
insolence; and in some outbreak of his constitutional levity (the
complement of his melancholy) he was "sent down" in the middle of the
The event was new in the annals of the Carthews, and Singleton was
prepared to make the most of it. It had been long his practice to
prophesy for his second son a career of ruin and disgrace. There is
an advantage in this artless parental habit. Doubtless the father
is interested in his son; but doubtless also the prophet grows to be
interested in his prophecies. If the one goes wrong, the others come
true. Old Carthew drew from this source esoteric consolations; he dwelt
at length on his own foresight; he produced variations hitherto unheard
from the old theme "I told you so," coupled his son's name with the
gallows and the hulks, and spoke of his small handful of college debts
as though he must raise money on a mortgage to discharge them.
"I don't think that is fair, sir," said Norris. "I lived at college
exactly as you told me. I am sorry I was sent down, and you have a
perfect right to blame me for that; but you have no right to pitch into
me about these debts."
The effect upon a stupid man not unjustly incensed need scarcely be
described. For a while Singleton raved.
"I'll tell you what, father," said Norris at last, "I don't think this
is going to do. I think you had better let me take to painting. It's
the only thing I take a spark of interest in. I shall never be steady as
long as I'm at anything else."
"When you stand here, sir, to the neck in disgrace," said the father, "I
should have hoped you would have had more good taste than to repeat this
The hint was taken; the levity was never more obtruded on the father's
notice, and Norris was inexorably launched upon a backward voyage. He
went abroad to study foreign languages, which he learned, at a very
expensive rate; and a fresh crop of debts fell soon to be paid, with
similar lamentations, which were in this case perfectly justified, and
to which Norris paid no regard. He had been unfairly treated over the
Oxford affair; and with a spice of malice very surprising in one so
placable, and an obstinacy remarkable in one so weak, refused from that
day forward to exercise the least captaincy on his expenses. He wasted
what he would; he allowed his servants to despoil him at their pleasure;
he sowed insolvency; and when the crop was ripe, notified his father
with exasperating calm. His own capital was put in his hands, he was
planted in the diplomatic service and told he must depend upon himself.
He did so till he was twenty-five; by which time he had spent his money,
laid in a handsome choice of debts, and acquired (like so many other
melancholic and uninterested persons) a habit of gambling. An Austrian
colonel - the same who afterwards hanged himself at Monte Carlo - gave
him a lesson which lasted two-and-twenty hours, and left him wrecked and
helpless. Old Singleton once more repurchased the honour of his name,
this time at a fancy figure; and Norris was set afloat again on stern
conditions. An allowance of three hundred pounds in the year was to be
paid to him quarterly by a lawyer in Sydney, New South Wales. He was not
to write. Should he fail on any quarter-day to be in Sydney, he was to
be held for dead, and the allowance tacitly withdrawn. Should he return
to Europe, an advertisement publicly disowning him was to appear in
every paper of repute.
It was one of his most annoying features as a son, that he was always
polite, always just, and in whatever whirlwind of domestic anger, always
calm. He expected trouble; when trouble came, he was unmoved: he might
have said with Singleton, "I told you so"; he was content with thinking,
"just as I expected." On the fall of these last thunderbolts, he bore
himself like a person only distantly interested in the event; pocketed
the money and the reproaches, obeyed orders punctually; took ship and
came to Sydney. Some men are still lads at twenty-five; and so it was
with Norris. Eighteen days after he landed, his quarter's allowance was
all gone, and with the light-hearted hopefulness of strangers in what
is called a new country, he began to besiege offices and apply for all
manner of incongruous situations. Everywhere, and last of all from his
lodgings, he was bowed out; and found himself reduced, in a very elegant
suit of summer tweeds, to herd and camp with the degraded outcasts of
In this strait, he had recourse to the lawyer who paid him his
"Try to remember that my time is valuable, Mr. Carthew," said the
lawyer. "It is quite unnecessary you should enlarge on the peculiar
position in which you stand. Remittance men, as we call them here, are
not so rare in my experience; and in such cases I act upon a system. I
make you a present of a sovereign; here it is. Every day you choose to
call, my clerk will advance you a shilling; on Saturday, since my office
is closed on Sunday, he will advance you half a crown. My conditions are
these: that you do not come to me, but to my clerk; that you do not come
here the worse of liquor; and you go away the moment you are paid and
have signed a receipt. I wish you a good-morning."
"I have to thank you, I suppose," said Carthew. "My position is so
wretched that I cannot even refuse this starvation allowance."
"Starvation!" said the lawyer, smiling. "No man will starve here on a
shilling a day. I had on my hands another young gentleman, who remained
continuously intoxicated for six years on the same allowance." And he
once more busied himself with his papers.
In the time that followed, the image of the smiling lawyer haunted
Carthew's memory. "That three minutes' talk was all the education I
ever had worth talking of," says he. "It was all life in a nut-shell.
Confound it! I thought, have I got to the point of envying that ancient
Every morning for the next two or three weeks, the stroke of ten found
Norris, unkempt and haggard, at the lawyer's door. The long day and
longer night he spent in the Domain, now on a bench, now on the grass
under a Norfolk Island pine, the companion of perhaps the lowest class
on earth, the Larrikins of Sydney. Morning after morning, the dawn
behind the lighthouse recalled him from slumber; and he would stand and
gaze upon the changing east, the fading lenses, the smokeless city, and
the many-armed and many-masted harbour growing slowly clear under his
eyes. His bed-fellows (so to call them) were less active; they lay
sprawled upon the grass and benches, the dingy men, the frowsy women,
prolonging their late repose; and Carthew wandered among the sleeping
bodies alone, and cursed the incurable stupidity of his behaviour. Day
brought a new society of nursery-maids and children, and fresh-dressed
and (I am sorry to say) tight-laced maidens, and gay people in rich
traps; upon the skirts of which Carthew and "the other blackguards" - his
own bitter phrase - skulked, and chewed grass, and looked on. Day passed,
the light died, the green and leafy precinct sparkled with lamps or lay
in shadow, and the round of the night began again, the loitering women,
the lurking men, the sudden outburst of screams, the sound of flying
feet. "You mayn't believe it," says Carthew, "but I got to that pitch
that I didn't care a hang. I have been wakened out of my sleep to hear a
woman screaming, and I have only turned upon my other side. Yes, it's a
queer place, where the dowagers and the kids walk all day, and at night
you can hear people bawling for help as if it was the Forest of Bondy,
with the lights of a great town all round, and parties spinning through
in cabs from Government House and dinner with my lord!"
It was Norris's diversion, having none other, to scrape acquaintance,
where, how, and with whom he could. Many a long dull talk he held upon
the benches or the grass; many a strange waif he came to know; many
strange things he heard, and saw some that were abominable. It was to
one of these last that he owed his deliverance from the Domain. For some
time the rain had been merciless; one night after another he had been
obliged to squander fourpence on a bed and reduce his board to the
remaining eightpence: and he sat one morning near the Macquarrie Street
entrance, hungry, for he had gone without breakfast, and wet, as he had
already been for several days, when the cries of an animal in distress
attracted his attention. Some fifty yards away, in the extreme angle of
the grass, a party of the chronically unemployed had got hold of a dog,
whom they were torturing in a manner not to be described. The heart
of Norris, which had grown indifferent to the cries of human anger or
distress, woke at the appeal of the dumb creature. He ran amongst the
Larrikins, scattered them, rescued the dog, and stood at bay. They were
six in number, shambling gallowsbirds; but for once the proverb was
right, cruelty was coupled with cowardice, and the wretches cursed
him and made off. It chanced that this act of prowess had not passed
unwitnessed. On a bench near by there was seated a shopkeeper's
assistant out of employ, a diminutive, cheerful, red-headed creature by
the name of Hemstead. He was the last man to have interfered himself,
for his discretion more than equalled his valour; but he made haste
to congratulate Carthew, and to warn him he might not always be so
"They're a dyngerous lot of people about this park. My word! it doesn't
do to ply with them!" he observed, in that RYCY AUSTRYLIAN English,
which (as it has received the imprimatur of Mr. Froude) we should all
make haste to imitate.
"Why, I'm one of that lot myself," returned Carthew.
Hemstead laughed and remarked that he knew a gentleman when he saw one.
"For all that, I am simply one of the unemployed," said Carthew,
seating himself beside his new acquaintance, as he had sat (since this
experience began) beside so many dozen others.
"I'm out of a plyce myself," said Hemstead.
"You beat me all the way and back," says Carthew. "My trouble is that I
have never been in one."
"I suppose you've no tryde?" asked Hemstead.
"I know how to spend money," replied Carthew, "and I really do know
something of horses and something of the sea. But the unions head me
off; if it weren't for them, I might have had a dozen berths."
"My word!" cried the sympathetic listener. "Ever try the mounted
police?" he inquired.
"I did, and was bowled out," was the reply; "couldn't pass the doctors."
"Well, what do you think of the ryleways, then?" asked Hemstead.
"What do YOU think of them, if you come to that?" asked Carthew.
"O, _I_ don't think of them; I don't go in for manual labour," said the
little man proudly. "But if a man don't mind that, he's pretty sure of a
"By George, you tell me where to go!" cried Carthew, rising.
The heavy rains continued, the country was already overrun with floods;
the railway system daily required more hands, daily the superintendent
advertised; but "the unemployed" preferred the resources of charity
and rapine, and a navvy, even an amateur navvy, commanded money in the
market. The same night, after a tedious journey, and a change of trains
to pass a landslip, Norris found himself in a muddy cutting behind South
Clifton, attacking his first shift of manual labour.
For weeks the rain scarce relented. The whole front of the mountain
slipped seaward from above, avalanches of clay, rock, and uprooted
forest spewed over the cliffs and fell upon the beach or in the
breakers. Houses were carried bodily away and smashed like nuts; others
were menaced and deserted, the door locked, the chimney cold, the
dwellers fled elsewhere for safety. Night and day the fire blazed in
the encampment; night and day hot coffee was served to the overdriven
toilers in the shift; night and day the engineer of the section made his
rounds with words of encouragement, hearty and rough and well suited to
his men. Night and day, too, the telegraph clicked with disastrous news
and anxious inquiry. Along the terraced line of rail, rare trains came
creeping and signalling; and paused at the threatened corner, like
living things conscious of peril. The commandant of the post would
hastily review his labours, make (with a dry throat) the signal to
advance; and the whole squad line the way and look on in a choking
silence, or burst into a brief cheer as the train cleared the point of
danger and shot on, perhaps through the thin sunshine between squalls,
perhaps with blinking lamps into the gathering, rainy twilight.