One such scene Carthew will remember till he dies. It blew great guns
from the seaward; a huge surf bombarded, five hundred feet below him,
the steep mountain's foot; close in was a vessel in distress, firing
shots from a fowling-piece, if any help might come. So he saw and heard
her the moment before the train appeared and paused, throwing up a
Babylonian tower of smoke into the rain, and oppressing men's hearts
with the scream of her whistle. The engineer was there himself; he paled
as he made the signal: the engine came at a foot's pace; but the whole
bulk of mountain shook and seemed to nod seaward, and the watching
navvies instinctively clutched at shrubs and trees: vain precautions,
vain as the shots from the poor sailors. Once again fear was
disappointed; the train passed unscathed; and Norris, drawing a long
breath, remembered the labouring ship and glanced below. She was gone.
So the days and the nights passed: Homeric labour in Homeric
circumstance. Carthew was sick with sleeplessness and coffee; his hands,
softened by the wet, were cut to ribbons; yet he enjoyed a peace of
mind and health of body hitherto unknown. Plenty of open air, plenty of
physical exertion, a continual instancy of toil; here was what had been
hitherto lacking in that misdirected life, and the true cure of vital
scepticism. To get the train through: there was the recurrent problem;
no time remained to ask if it were necessary. Carthew, the idler, the
spendthrift, the drifting dilettant, was soon remarked, praised, and
advanced. The engineer swore by him and pointed him out for an example.
"I've a new chum, up here," Norris overheard him saying, "a young swell.
He's worth any two in the squad." The words fell on the ears of the
discarded son like music; and from that moment, he not only found an
interest, he took a pride, in his plebeian tasks.
The press of work was still at its highest when quarter-day approached.
Norris was now raised to a position of some trust; at his discretion,
trains were stopped or forwarded at the dangerous cornice near North
Clifton; and he found in this responsibility both terror and delight.
The thought of the seventy-five pounds that would soon await him at the
lawyer's, and of his own obligation to be present every quarter-day in
Sydney, filled him for a little with divided councils. Then he made
up his mind, walked in a slack moment to the inn at Clifton, ordered a
sheet of paper and a bottle of beer, and wrote, explaining that he held
a good appointment which he would lose if he came to Sydney, and asking
the lawyer to accept this letter as an evidence of his presence in the
colony, and retain the money till next quarter-day. The answer came in
course of post, and was not merely favourable but cordial. "Although
what you propose is contrary to the terms of my instructions," it ran,
"I willingly accept the responsibility of granting your request. I
should say I am agreeably disappointed in your behaviour. My experience
has not led me to found much expectations on gentlemen in your
The rains abated, and the temporary labour was discharged; not Norris,
to whom the engineer clung as to found money; not Norris, who found
himself a ganger on the line in the regular staff of navvies. His camp
was pitched in a grey wilderness of rock and forest, far from any house;
as he sat with his mates about the evening fire, the trains passing on
the track were their next and indeed their only neighbours, except
the wild things of the wood. Lovely weather, light and monotonous
employment, long hours of somnolent camp-fire talk, long sleepless
nights, when he reviewed his foolish and fruitless career as he rose and
walked in the moonlit forest, an occasional paper of which he would read
all, the advertisements with as much relish as the text: such was the
tenor of an existence which soon began to weary and harass him. He
lacked and regretted the fatigue, the furious hurry, the suspense, the
fires, the midnight coffee, the rude and mud-bespattered poetry of the
first toilful weeks. In the quietness of his new surroundings, a voice
summoned him from this exorbital part of life, and about the middle of
October he threw up his situation and bade farewell to the camp of tents
and the shoulder of Bald Mountain.
Clad in his rough clothes, with a bundle on his shoulder and his
accumulated wages in his pocket, he entered Sydney for the second time,
and walked with pleasure and some bewilderment in the cheerful streets,
like a man landed from a voyage. The sight of the people led him on. He
forgot his necessary errands, he forgot to eat. He wandered in moving
multitudes like a stick upon a river. Last he came to the Domain and
strolled there, and remembered his shame and sufferings, and looked with
poignant curiosity at his successors. Hemstead, not much shabbier and
no less cheerful than before, he recognised and addressed like an old
"That was a good turn you did me," said he. "That railway was the making
of me. I hope you've had luck yourself."
"My word, no!" replied the little man. "I just sit here and read the
_Dead Bird_. It's the depression in tryde, you see. There's no positions
goin' that a man like me would care to look at." And he showed
Norris his certificates and written characters, one from a grocer
in Wooloomooloo, one from an ironmonger, and a third from a billiard
saloon. "Yes," he said, "I tried bein' a billiard marker. It's no
account; these lyte hours are no use for a man's health. I won't be no
man's slyve," he added firmly.
On the principle that he who is too proud to be a slave is usually not
too modest to become a pensioner, Carthew gave him half a sovereign,
and departed, being suddenly struck with hunger, in the direction of the
Paris House. When he came to that quarter of the city, the barristers
were trotting in the streets in wig and gown, and he stood to observe
them with his bundle on his shoulder, and his mind full of curious
recollections of the past.
"By George!" cried a voice, "it's Mr. Carthew!"
And turning about he found himself face to face with a handsome sunburnt
youth, somewhat fatted, arrayed in the finest of fine raiment, and
sporting about a sovereign's worth of flowers in his buttonhole. Norris
had met him during his first days in Sydney at a farewell supper; had
even escorted him on board a schooner full of cockroaches and black-boy
sailors, in which he was bound for six months among the islands; and had
kept him ever since in entertained remembrance. Tom Hadden (known to the
bulk of Sydney folk as Tommy) was heir to a considerable property, which
a prophetic father had placed in the hands of rigorous trustees. The
income supported Mr. Hadden in splendour for about three months out of
twelve; the rest of the year he passed in retreat among the islands.
He was now about a week returned from his eclipse, pervading Sydney in
hansom cabs and airing the first bloom of six new suits of clothes; and
yet the unaffected creature hailed Carthew in his working jeans and
with the damning bundle on his shoulder, as he might have claimed
acquaintance with a duke.
"Come and have a drink!" was his cheerful cry.
"I'm just going to have lunch at the Paris House," returned Carthew.
"It's a long time since I have had a decent meal."
"Splendid scheme!" said Hadden. "I've only had breakfast half an hour
ago; but we'll have a private room, and I'll manage to pick something.
It'll brace me up. I was on an awful tear last night, and I've met no
end of fellows this morning." To meet a fellow, and to stand and share a
drink, were with Tom synonymous terms.
They were soon at table in the corner room up-stairs, and paying due
attention to the best fare in Sydney. The odd similarity of their
positions drew them together, and they began soon to exchange
confidences. Carthew related his privations in the Domain and his toils
as a navvy; Hadden gave his experience as an amateur copra merchant in
the South Seas, and drew a humorous picture of life in a coral island.
Of the two plans of retirement, Carthew gathered that his own had been
vastly the more lucrative; but Hadden's trading outfit had consisted
largely of bottled stout and brown sherry for his own consumption.
"I had champagne too," said Hadden, "but I kept that in case of
sickness, until I didn't seem to be going to be sick, and then I opened
a pint every Sunday. Used to sleep all morning, then breakfast with my
pint of fizz, and lie in a hammock and read Hallam's _Middle Ages_. Have
you read that? I always take something solid to the islands. There's no
doubt I did the thing in rather a fine style; but if it was gone about a
little cheaper, or there were two of us to bear the expense, it ought
to pay hand over fist. I've got the influence, you see. I'm a chief now,
and sit in the speak-house under my own strip of roof. I'd like to see
them taboo ME! They daren't try it; I've a strong party, I can tell you.
Why, I've had upwards of thirty cowtops sitting in my front verandah
eating tins of salmon."
"Cowtops?" asked Carthew, "what are they?"
"That's what Hallam would call feudal retainers," explained Hadden, not
without vainglory. "They're My Followers. They belong to My Family.
I tell you, they come expensive, though; you can't fill up all these
retainers on tinned salmon for nothing; but whenever I could get it, I
would give 'em squid. Squid's good for natives, but I don't care for it,
do you? - or shark either. It's like the working classes at home. With
copra at the price it is, they ought to be willing to bear their share
of the loss; and so I've told them again and again. I think it's a man's
duty to open their minds, and I try to, but you can't get political
economy into them; it doesn't seem to reach their intelligence."
There was an expression still sticking in Carthew's memory, and he
returned upon it with a smile. "Talking of political economy," said he,
"you said if there were two of us to bear the expense, the profits would
increase. How do you make out that?"
"I'll show you! I'll figure it out for you!" cried Hadden, and with a
pencil on the back of the bill of fare proceeded to perform miracles. He
was a man, or let us rather say a lad, of unusual projective power. Give
him the faintest hint of any speculation, and the figures flowed from
him by the page. A lively imagination and a ready though inaccurate
memory supplied his data; he delivered himself with an inimitable heat
that made him seem the picture of pugnacity; lavished contradiction;
had a form of words, with or without significance, for every form of
criticism; and the looker-on alternately smiled at his simplicity and
fervour, or was amazed by his unexpected shrewdness. He was a kind of
Pinkerton in play. I have called Jim's the romance of business; this was
its Arabian tale.
"Have you any idea what this would cost?" he asked, pausing at an item.
"Not I," said Carthew.
"Ten pounds ought to be ample," concluded the projector.
"O, nonsense!" cried Carthew. "Fifty at the very least."
"You told me yourself this moment you knew nothing about it!" cried
Tommy. "How can I make a calculation, if you blow hot and cold? You
don't seem able to be serious!"
But he consented to raise his estimate to twenty; and a little after,
the calculation coming out with a deficit, cut it down again to five
pounds ten, with the remark, "I told you it was nonsense. This sort of
thing has to be done strictly, or where's the use?"
Some of these processes struck Carthew as unsound; and he was at times
altogether thrown out by the capricious startings of the prophet's mind.
These plunges seemed to be gone into for exercise and by the way, like
the curvets of a willing horse. Gradually the thing took shape; the
glittering if baseless edifice arose; and the hare still ran on the
mountains, but the soup was already served in silver plate. Carthew in a
few days could command a hundred and fifty pounds; Hadden was ready with
five hundred; why should they not recruit a fellow or two more, charter
an old ship, and go cruising on their own account? Carthew was an
experienced yachtsman; Hadden professed himself able to "work an
approximate sight." Money was undoubtedly to be made, or why should so
many vessels cruise about the islands? they, who worked their own ship,
were sure of a still higher profit.
"And whatever else comes of it, you see," cried Hadden, "we get our keep
for nothing. Come, buy some togs, that's the first thing you have to do
of course; and then we'll take a hansom and go to the Currency Lass."
"I'm going to stick to the togs I have," said Norris.
"Are you?" cried Hadden. "Well, I must say I admire you. You're a
regular sage. It's what you call Pythagoreanism, isn't it? if I haven't
forgotten my philosophy."
"Well, I call it economy," returned Carthew. "If we are going to try
this thing on, I shall want every sixpence."
"You'll see if we're going to try it!" cried Tommy, rising radiant from
table. "Only, mark you, Carthew, it must be all in your name. I have
capital, you see; but you're all right. You can play vacuus viator, if
the thing goes wrong."
"I thought we had just proved it was quite safe," said Carthew.
"There's nothing safe in business, my boy," replied the sage; "not even
The public house and tea garden called the Currency Lass represented
a moderate fortune gained by its proprietor, Captain Bostock, during
a long, active, and occasionally historic career among the islands.
Anywhere from Tonga to the Admiralty Isles, he knew the ropes and could
lie in the native dialect. He had seen the end of sandal wood, the end
of oil, and the beginning of copra; and he was himself a commercial
pioneer, the first that ever carried human teeth into the Gilberts. He
was tried for his life in Fiji in Sir Arthur Gordon's time; and if ever
he prayed at all, the name of Sir Arthur was certainly not forgotten. He
was speared in seven places in New Ireland - the same time his mate
was killed - the famous "outrage on the brig Jolly Roger"; but the
treacherous savages made little by their wickedness, and Bostock, in
spite of their teeth, got seventy-five head of volunteer labour on
board, of whom not more than a dozen died of injuries. He had a hand,
besides, in the amiable pleasantry which cost the life of Patteson; and
when the sham bishop landed, prayed, and gave his benediction to the
natives, Bostock, arrayed in a female chemise out of the traderoom, had
stood at his right hand and boomed amens. This, when he was sure he was
among good fellows, was his favourite yarn. "Two hundred head of labour
for a hatful of amens," he used to name the tale; and its sequel, the
death of the real bishop, struck him as a circumstance of extraordinary
Many of these details were communicated in the hansom, to the surprise
"Why do we want to visit this old ruffian?" he asked.
"You wait till you hear him," replied Tommy. "That man knows
On descending from the hansom at the Currency Lass, Hadden was struck
with the appearance of the cabman, a gross, salt-looking man, red-faced,
blue-eyed, short-handed and short-winded, perhaps nearing forty.
"Surely I know you?" said he. "Have you driven me before?"
"Many's the time, Mr. Hadden," returned the driver. "The last time you
was back from the islands, it was me that drove you to the races, sir."
"All right: jump down and have a drink then," said Tom, and he turned
and led the way into the garden.
Captain Bostock met the party: he was a slow, sour old man, with
fishy eyes; greeted Tommy offhand, and (as was afterwards remembered)
exchanged winks with the driver.
"A bottle of beer for the cabman there at that table," said Tom.
"Whatever you please from shandygaff to champagne at this one here; and
you sit down with us. Let me make you acquainted with my friend, Mr.
Carthew. I've come on business, Billy; I want to consult you as a
friend; I'm going into the island trade upon my own account."
Doubtless the captain was a mine of counsel, but opportunity was denied
him. He could not venture on a statement, he was scarce allowed to
finish a phrase, before Hadden swept him from the field with a volley
of protest and correction. That projector, his face blazing with
inspiration, first laid before him at inordinate length a question, and
as soon as he attempted to reply, leaped at his throat, called his facts
in question, derided his policy, and at times thundered on him from the
heights of moral indignation.
"I beg your pardon," he said once. "I am a gentleman, Mr. Carthew here
is a gentleman, and we don't mean to do that class of business. Can't
you see who you are talking to? Can't you talk sense? Can't you give us
'a dead bird' for a good traderoom?"
"No, I don't suppose I can," returned old Bostock; "not when I can't
hear my own voice for two seconds together. It was gin and guns I did it
"Take your gin and guns to Putney!" cried Hadden. "It was the thing in
your times, that's right enough; but you're old now, and the game's up.
I'll tell you what's wanted now-a-days, Bill Bostock," said he; and did,
and took ten minutes to it.
Carthew could not refrain from smiling. He began to think less seriously
of the scheme, Hadden appearing too irresponsible a guide; but on the
other hand, he enjoyed himself amazingly. It was far from being the same
with Captain Bostock.
"You know a sight, don't you?" remarked that gentleman, bitterly, when
"I know a sight more than you, if that's what you mean," retorted Tom.
"It stands to reason I do. You're not a man of any education; you've
been all your life at sea or in the islands; you don't suppose you can
give points to a man like me?"
"Here's your health, Tommy," returned Bostock. "You'll make an A-one
bake in the New Hebrides."
"That's what I call talking," cried Tom, not perhaps grasping the spirit
of this doubtful compliment. "Now you give me your attention. We have
the money and the enterprise, and I have the experience: what we want is
a cheap, smart boat, a good captain, and an introduction to some house
that will give us credit for the trade."
"Well, I'll tell you," said Captain Bostock. "I have seen men like you
baked and eaten, and complained of afterwards. Some was tough, and some
hadn't no flaviour," he added grimly.
"What do you mean by that?" cried Tom.
"I mean I don't care," cried Bostock. "It ain't any of my interests. I
haven't underwrote your life. Only I'm blest if I'm not sorry for the
cannibal as tries to eat your head. And what I recommend is a cheap,
smart coffin and a good undertaker. See if you can find a house to give
you credit for a coffin! Look at your friend there; HE'S got some sense;
he's laughing at you so as he can't stand."
The exact degree of ill-feeling in Mr. Bostock's mind was difficult to
gauge; perhaps there was not much, perhaps he regarded his remarks as a
form of courtly badinage. But there is little doubt that Hadden resented
them. He had even risen from his place, and the conference was on
the point of breaking up, when a new voice joined suddenly in the
The cabman sat with his back turned upon the party, smoking a meerschaum
pipe. Not a word of Tommy's eloquence had missed him, and he now faced
suddenly about with these amazing words: -
"Excuse me, gentlemen; if you'll buy me the ship I want, I'll get you
the trade on credit."
There was a pause.
"Well, what do YOU, mean?" gasped Tommy.
"Better tell 'em who I am, Billy," said the cabman.
"Think it safe, Joe?" inquired Mr. Bostock.
"I'll take my risk of it," returned the cabman.
"Gentlemen," said Bostock, rising solemnly, "let me make you acquainted
with Captain Wicks of the Grace Darling."
"Yes, gentlemen, that is what I am," said the cabman. "You know I've
been in trouble; and I don't deny but what I struck the blow, and where
was I to get evidence of my provocation? So I turned to and took a cab,
and I've driven one for three year now and nobody the wiser."
"I beg your pardon," said Carthew, joining almost for the first time;
"I'm a new chum. What was the charge?"
"Murder," said Captain Wicks, "and I don't deny but what I struck the
blow. And there's no sense in my trying to deny I was afraid to go to
trial, or why would I be here? But it's a fact it was flat mutiny. Ask
Billy here. He knows how it was."
Carthew breathed long; he had a strange, half-pleasurable sense of
wading deeper in the tide of life. "Well," said he, "you were going on
"I was going on to say this," said the captain sturdily. "I've overheard
what Mr. Hadden has been saying, and I think he talks good sense. I like
some of his ideas first chop. He's sound on traderooms; he's all there
on the traderoom, and I see that he and I would pull together. Then
you're both gentlemen, and I like that," observed Captain Wicks. "And
then I'll tell you I'm tired of this cabbing cruise, and I want to get
to work again. Now, here's my offer. I've a little money I can stake
up, - all of a hundred anyway. Then my old firm will give me trade, and
jump at the chance; they never lost by me; they know what I'm worth as
supercargo. And, last of all, you want a good captain to sail your ship
for you. Well, here I am. I've sailed schooners for ten years. Ask Billy
if I can handle a schooner."
"No man better," said Billy.
"And as for my character as a shipmate," concluded Wicks, "go and ask my
"But look here!" cried Hadden, "how do you mean to manage? You can whisk
round in a hansom, and no questions asked. But if you try to come on a
quarter-deck, my boy, you'll get nabbed."
"I'll have to keep back till the last," replied Wicks, "and take another
"But how about clearing? what other name?" asked Tommy, a little
"I don't know yet," returned the captain, with a grin. "I'll see what
the name is on my new certificate, and that'll be good enough for me.
If I can't get one to buy, though I never heard of such a thing, there's
old Kirkup, he's turned some sort of farmer down Bondi way; he'll hire
"You seemed to speak as if you had a ship in view," said Carthew.
"So I have, too," said Captain Wicks, "and a beauty. Schooner yacht
Dream; got lines you never saw the beat of; and a witch to go. She
passed me once off Thursday Island, doing two knots to my one and laying
a point and a half better; and the Grace Darling was a ship that I was
proud of. I took and tore my hair. The Dream's been MY dream ever since.
That was in her old days, when she carried a blue ens'n. Grant Sanderson
was the party as owned her; he was rich and mad, and got a fever at last
somewhere about the Fly River, and took and died. The captain brought
the body back to Sydney, and paid off. Well, it turned out Grant
Sanderson had left any quantity of wills and any quantity of widows, and
no fellow could make out which was the genuine article. All the widows
brought lawsuits against all the rest, and every will had a firm of
lawyers on the quarterdeck as long as your arm. They tell me it was
one of the biggest turns-to that ever was seen, bar Tichborne; the Lord
Chamberlain himself was floored, and so was the Lord Chancellor; and all
that time the Dream lay rotting up by Glebe Point. Well, it's done now;
they've picked out a widow and a will; tossed up for it, as like as not;
and the Dream's for sale. She'll go cheap; she's had a long turn-to at
"What size is she?"
"Well, big enough. We don't want her bigger. A hundred and ninety, going
two hundred," replied the captain. "She's fully big for us three; it
would be all the better if we had another hand, though it's a pity too,
when you can pick up natives for half nothing. Then we must have a cook.
I can fix raw sailor-men, but there's no going to sea with a new-chum
cook. I can lay hands on the man we want for that: a Highway boy, an
old shipmate of mine, of the name of Amalu. Cooks first rate, and it's
always better to have a native; he aint fly, you can turn him to as you
please, and he don't know enough to stand out for his rights."
From the moment that Captain Wicks joined in the conversation, Carthew
recovered interest and confidence; the man (whatever he might have done)
was plainly good-natured, and plainly capable; if he thought well of the
enterprise, offered to contribute money, brought experience, and could
thus solve at a word the problem of the trade, Carthew was content to
go ahead. As for Hadden, his cup was full; he and Bostock forgave each