A Bushman.

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He did not give himself time to breathe his misgivings; but flung the door
open, and sprang from his seat into the road. It was still three or four
doors from Mrs. Vernon's house, and he prayed to God that his fears might
be groundless.

As he approached nearer, it was evident that there was unusual bustle
about _that_ house. Delmé grasped the iron railing, and clung to it for
support; but with every sense keenly alive to aught that might dispel, or
confirm that horrible suspicion.

Two old women, dressed in the characteristic red cloak of the English
peasant, were earnestly conversing together - their baskets of eggs and
flowers being laid on a step of one of the adjacent houses.

"So you knowed her, Betsy Farmer?"

"Lord a mercy!" responded the other, "I ha' knowed Miss July since she
wa' the height of my basket. Ay! and many's the bunch of flowers she ha'
had from me. That was afore the family went to the sea side. Well! it's a
matter o' five year, sin' she comed up to me one morning - so grown as I'd
never ha' known her. But she knowed me, and asked all about me. And I just
told her all my troubles, and how I had lost my good man. And sure enough
sin' that day she ha' stood my friend, and gived me soup and flannels for
the little uns, and put my Bess to service, and took me through all the
bad Christmas'. Poor dear soul! she ha' gone now! and may the Lord bless
her and all as good as she!"

The poor woman, who felt the loss of her benefactress, put the corner of
her apron to her eyes.

Sir Henry strode forward.

Mutes were on each side of the front step. A servant threw open the door
of the breakfast room, and Delmé mechanically entered it. It was filled
with strangers; on some of these the spruce undertaker was fitting silk
scarfs; while others were busy at the breakfast table.

An ominous whisper ran through the apartment.

"Sir Henry Delmé?" said the rosy-cheeked clergyman, enquiringly, as he
laid down his egg spoon, and turned towards him.

"I trust you received my letter. Women are so utterly helpless in these
matters; and poor Mrs. Vernon was quite overpowered."

Delmé turned away to master his emotion.

At this moment, a friendly hand was laid on his shoulder, and Mrs.
Vernon's maid, with her eyes red from weeping, beckoned him up stairs.

He mechanically obeyed her - reeled into an inner drawing room - and stood
in the presence of the bereaved mother.

Mrs. Vernon was ordinarily the very picture of neatness. _Now_ she sat
with her feet on a footstool - her head almost touching her lap - her silver
hair all loose and dishevelled. It seemed to Delmé as if age had suddenly
come upon her.

She rose as he entered, and with wild hysterical sobs, threw herself
into his arms.

"My son I my son! that _should_ have been. Our angel is gone - gone!"

Delmé tried to speak, but his tongue clove to his mouth, and the hysteric
globe rose to his throat.

Suddenly he heard the sound of wheels, and of heavy footsteps on
the stairs.

He imprinted a kiss on the old woman's forehead - it was his farewell for
ever! - gave her to the care of the maid servant - and rushed from the room.

He was stopped on the landing of the staircase by the coffin of her he
loved so well. The bearers stopped for an instant; they felt that this was
no common greeting. Part of the pall was already turned back. Delmé
removed its head with trembling hand.

"Julia Vernon. ætate 22."

He dropped the velvet with a groan, and was only saved from falling by the
timely aid of the old butler, whose face was as sorrowful as his own.

But there was a duty yet to be performed, and Delmé followed the corpse.

The first mourning coach was just drawn up. An intended occupant had
already his foot on the step.

"This place is mine!" said Sir Henry in a hollow voice.

The cortege proceeded; and Delmé, giddy and confused, heard solemn words
spoken over his affianced one, and he waited, till even the coffin could
be discerned no more.

Thompson, who had followed his master, assisted him into his carriage,
placed himself beside him, and ordered the driver to proceed to the hotel.
But Delmé gave a quick impetuous motion of the hand, which the domestic
understood well; and the horses' heads were turned towards the metropolis.

The mourner tarried not, even to bid his sister farewell; but sought
once more his brother's grave. Some friendly hand had kept its turf
smooth; no footsteps, save the innocent ones of children, had pressed
its grassy mound. It was clothed with soft daisies and drooping
harebells. The sun seemed to shine on that spot, to bid the wanderer be
contented and at rest.

But as yet there was no rest for Delmé. And he stood beside the marble
slab, beneath which lay Acmé Frascati. The downy moss - soft as
herself - was luxuriating there; and the cry of the cicalas was pleasant
to the ear; and the image of the young Greek girl, as in a vivid
picture, rose to his mind's eye. She was not attired in her white cymar;
nor was her head wreathed with monumental amaranths; - health was on her
cheek, fond smiles on her pouting lip, and tender love swimming in her
melting glance.

His own griefs came back on Delmé; he groaned aloud. He traversed the
deserts, he crossed lofty mountains, he knew thirst and privations. He was
scoffed at and spat upon in an infidel country - he was tossed on the
ocean - he shook hands with danger.

He visited our wide Oriental possessions; and sojourned amid the spicy
islands of the Indian Archipelago, where vegetation attains a magnificence
unknown elsewhere, and animal life partakes of this unexampled
exuberance, - where flowers of the most exquisite colours and fragrance
charm the senses by day, and delicious plants saturate the air with their
odours by night.

Delmé extended his wanderings to the rarely visited "many isles," which
stud the vast Pacific, and found that there too were fruitful and
smiling regions.

But not on the desert - nor on the mountains - nor in the land of the
Moslem - -nor on tempestuous seas - nor in those verdant islets, which seem
to breathe of Paradise, to greet the wearied traveller; could Delmé's
restless spirit find an abiding place, his thirst for foreign travel be
slaked, or his heart know peace.

He madly sought oblivion, which could not be accorded him.

Chapter XVI.

The Wanderer.

"Then I consider'd life in all its forms,
Of vegetables first, next zoophytes,
The tribe that dwells upon the confine strange
'Twixt plants and fish; some are there from their mouth
Spit out their progeny, and some that breed,
By suckers from their base or tubercles,
Sea-hedgehog, madrepore, sea-ruff, or pad,
Fungus, or sponge, or that gelatinous fish,
That taken from its element at once
Stinks, melts, and dies a fluid; so from these,
Through many a tribe of less equivocal life,
Dividual or insect, up I ranged,
From sentient to percipient, small advance,
Next to intelligent, to rational next,
So to half spiritual human kind,
And what is more, is more than man may know.
Last came the troublesome question - What am I?"

* * * * *

"And vain were the hat, the staff, and stole,
And all outward signs were a snare,
Unless the pilgrim's endanger'd soul
Were inwardly clothed with prayer.

"But the pilgrim prays - and then trials are light -
For prayer to him on his way,
Resembles the pillar of fire by night,
And the guiding cloud by day.

"And salvation's helm the pilgrim wears,
Or vain were all other dress;
And the shield of faith the pilgrim bears,
With the breastplate of righteousness.

"At length his tears all wiped away;
He enters the City of Light;
And how gladly he changes his gown of grey,
For Zion's robe of white."

It was on the 22nd of October, 1836, that an emissary from his sister,
sought Sir Henry Delmé. It was at the antipodes to his ancestral home; in
Australia, that wonderful country, which - belied and calumniated, as she
has hitherto been - presents some anomalous and creditable features.

For her population, she is the wealthiest, the most enterprising, the most
orderly and loyal, of our British possessions. There, is the aristocracy
of wealth, to an unprecedented degree, subservient to the aristocracy of
virtue. While she is stigmatised as the cloacæ of Britain, the philosopher
looks into the future, and already beholds a nation, perpetuating the
language of the brave and free; when the parent stock has perhaps ceased
to be an empire; or is lingering on, like modern Greece, in the hopeless
languor of decay and decrepitude.

This agent had arrived from England, a very short period before; and,
accredited with a packet, containing various communications from Emily and
Clarendon, accompanied by the miniatures of their children, with little
silky curls attached to each, proceeded an expectant guest, to Sir Henry
Delmé's temporary residence. Early dawn saw him pacing the deck of a steam
vessel; and regarding with great surprise, the opposite banks of Hunter's
River, up which the vessel was gliding.

A rich dark soil, of great depth, bespoke uncommon fertility; while the
varieties of the gum tree - then quite new to him - with their bark of every
diversity of colour, gave a primeval grandeur to the scene.

Each moment brought in sight the location of some enterprising settler,
which, ever varying in appearance, in importance, and in extent yet told
the same tale of difficulties overcome, and success ensuing.

On his reaching the township, near the head of the navigation, this agent
found horses waiting for him: - he was addressed by a well-appointed
groom - our old friend Thompson - who touched his hat respectfully, and
mentioned the name, he was already prepared for by his Sydney advices.

Suffice it, that Sir Henry was no longer the Baronet, and that the name of
Delmé was a strange one in his household.

Their route skirted the banks of one of those rivers, which, diverging
from that mine of wealth, the Hunter, wind into the bowels of the land,
like a vein of gold.

That emissary will not soon forget his lovely ride. His eye, wearied with
gazing on the wide expanse of ocean, feasted on the rich and novel
landscape. They rode alternately, through cleared lands, studded with rich
farms, waving with luxuriant crops of wheat and rye; and again, through
regions, where the axe had never resounded, but where eucalypti, and
bastard box, and forest oak with its rough acorn, towered above beauteous
wild flowers, whose forms and varieties were associated in the mind of
the stranger, with some of the most precious and valued flowers which
adorn British conservatories.

The russet Certhia, with outspread fluttering wing, pecked at the smooth
bark, and preying on some destructive insect, really preserved what it
seemed to injure. The larger parrots, travelling in pairs, screamed their
passing salutation, as they displayed their bright plumage to the sun;
while hundreds, of a smaller kind, with crimson shoulder, were concealed
amid the green leaves; and, as they rode beneath them, babbled - like
frolicsome children of the forest - a rude, but to themselves a not
unmeaning dialogue.

The superb warblers, ornaments alike to the bush or the garden, flitted
cheerily from bough to bough. Strangely mated are they! The male, in suit
of black velvet, trimmed with sky blue, looks like a knight, attired for a
palace festival: - while his lady-love - she resembles some peasant girl,
silent and grateful, clothed in modest kirtle of sober brown.

As he reined in his horse, to examine these at leisure, how melodiously
came on his ear, the clear, ceaseless, silver tinkle of the bell-bird;
this sound ever and anon chequered by the bold chock-ee-chock! of the
bald-headed friar. They had proceeded very leisurely, and the sun was
already declining, when Thompson, pointing to an abrupt path, motioned
him to descend, and at the same time, gave the peculiar cry, known in the
colony as the cooï; a cry which was as promptly answered. It was not
until he was close to the edge of the river, that the stranger understood
its purport.

A punt was rapidly approaching from the opposite bank. An athletic
aboriginal native, in an attitude that seemed studiedly graceful, was
bending to the stout rope, which, attached to either side of the river,
served to propel the punt. He had been spearing fish; for his wife, or
gin, or queen - for she was born such, and contradicted in her person the
old adage,

"There's a difference between
A beggar and a queen" -

was drawing the barb of a spear from the bleeding side of a struggling
mullet. She sat at the bottom of the boat, with a blanket closely wound
round her. She was young, and her looks were not unpleasing. Her
thickly-matted hair was ornamented with kangaroo teeth; and to her
shoulder, closely clung a native tailless bear, whose appearance could not
do otherwise than excite a smile. With convex staring eyes - hairless
nose - and white ruff of fur round his face - he very closely resembled in
physiognomy, some grey-whiskered guzzling citizen. The well-trained horses
gave no trouble, as they entered the punt; and the smiling boatman,
displaying his teeth to Thompson, but without speaking, commenced warping
the punt to the opposite side of the river. They were half way across, ere
the guest observed the mansion of the friend he sought. It stood on the
summit of the hill, on the left; beneath which the river made a very
abrupt bend. The house itself resembled the common weather-boarded cottage
of the early settler, - wide verandah was over the front entrance, - and two
small rooms, the exact width of this, jutted out on either side of it.

Its site however was commanding. The house stood on an eminence, and from
the windows, a long reach of the river was visible. At the top of the brow
of the hill, extended a range of English rose trees, in full flower. The
bank, which might be about thirty yards in front of these, was clothed
with foliage to the water's edge.

There might be seen the fragrant mimosa - the abundant acacia - the swamp
oak, which would have been styled a fir, had not the first exiles to
Australia found twined round its boughs, the misletoe, with its many home
associations - the elegant cedar - the close-growing mangrove - and strange
parasitical plants, pushing through huge fungi, and clasping with the
remorseless strength of the wrestler, and with the round crunching folds
of the boa, the trees they were gradually to supplant and destroy.

Suddenly, the quick finger of the black pointed to an object close beside
the punt. A bill, as of a bird, and apparently of the duck tribe,
protruded above the surface of the water. For an instant, small, black,
piercing eyes peered towards them: but as the quadruped, for such it was,
prepared to dive in affright, the unerring shot of a rifle splashed the
water on the cheek of the stranger - the body rolled slowly over - the legs
stiffened - a sluggish stream of dark blood tainted the surrounding
wave - and the ferryman, extending his careless hand, threw the victim to
his companion, at the same time addressing a few words to her in their
native language.

The guest had little difficulty, in recognising the uncouth form of the
ornithorhynchus, or water-mole; but he turned with yet more eagerness,
towards the spot, whence that shot had proceeded. On the summit of the
steep bank, leaning on his rifle, stood Sir Henry Delmé.

His form was still commanding - there was something in the air with which
the cap was worn - and in the strap round his Swiss blouse - that bespoke
the soldier and the gentleman: but his face was sadly attenuated - the
lower jaw appeared to have fallen in - and his hair was very grey.

He received his guest with a cordial and sincere welcome. While the latter
delivered his packet the native who had warped the punt over, came up
with the dead platypus,

"Well, Boomeroo! is it a female?"

"No, massa! full grown - with large spur!"

Sir Henry saw that his guest was puzzled by this dialogue, and
good-naturedly showed him the distinguishing characteristic of the male
ornithorhynchus - the spur on the hinder foot, which is hollow, and
transmits an envenomed liquid, secreted by a gland on the inner surface of
the thigh.

In November, of the year preceding, a burrow of the animal had been
opened on the bank of the river, which contained the dam, and three
live young ones; - there were many points, yet to be determined relative
to its interior organization; and it was on this account, that Sir
Henry was anxious to obtain a female specimen at this particular
period. As he spoke, Delmé introduced the stranger to his study, which
might more aptly be styled a museum; - applied some spirits of wine to
the platypus, and placing it under a bell-glass for the morrow's
examination, left him turning over his collection of birds, while he
perused his valued home letters.

It was with unmixed pleasure, knowing as he did his melancholy history,
that the stranger found Sir Henry Delmé engaged in pursuits, which it was
evident he was following up with no common enthusiasm. In truth, a mere
accidental circumstance, - the difficulty of obtaining a vessel at one of
the Indian Islands for any port, - had at first brought him to Australia, a
country regarding which he had felt little curiosity. The strange
varieties, however, of its animal kingdom, had interested him; - he was
struck with the rapid strides that that country has made in half a
century - and he continued from month to month to occupy the house where
his friend had now found him.

To the stranger's eye, the eye of a novice, the well arranged specimens of
birds of the most beautiful plumage - of animals, chiefly marsupial, of the
most singular developement - of glittering insects - and of deep coloured
shells; were attractive wonders enough; but from the skeletons beside
these, it was quite clear, that Delmé had acquired considerable knowledge
as to the internal construction of the animals themselves - that he had
studied the subsisting relations, between the mechanism and the
movements - the structure, and its varied functions.

After dinner, Sir Henry Delmé, who appeared to think that the bearer of
his despatches had conferred on him a lasting favour, threw off his
habitual reserve, and delighted and interested him with his tales of
foreign travel.

As the night wore on, the conversation reverted to his sister and his
home. It was evident, that what remained for the living of that crushed
heart, was with Emily and Clarendon, and their children; perhaps more than
all, with his young heir and god-son, Henry Delmé Gage. The very colour of
that sunny lock of hair, gave rise to much speculation: and it seemed as
if he would never be wearied, of listening to the minutest description of
the dawning of intellect, in a precocious little fellow of barely five
years of age.

Encouraged by his evident feeling, and observing many more comforts
about him, than he had been led to expect from his previous errant
habits; his guest ventured to express his hope, that Sir Henry might yet
return to England.

"My good friend!" replied he, "for I must call you such now, for I know
not when I have experienced such unalloyed satisfaction, as you have
conferred on me this night, by conversing so freely of those I love; I
certainly never can forget that I am the last male of an ancient race, and
that those who are nearest and dearest to me, are divided from me by a
wide waste of waters. I have learnt to suffer with more patience than I
had ever hoped for; and, it may be, - although I have hardly breathed the
thought to myself - it may yet be accorded me to revisit that ancient
chapel, and to dwell once more in that familiar mansion."

His guest was overcome by his emotion, and pressed his hand with warmth,
as he made his day's journey the excuse for an early retirement.

Sleep soon visited his eyelids, for the ride, to one fresh from a sea
voyage, had brought with it a wholesome weariness. He was aroused from
his slumbers, by the deep sonorous accents as of a man reading Spanish.

The light streamed from an adjacent room, through the chinks of a
partition. He started up alike forgetful of Delmé, his ride, and his
arrival in Australia; conceiving that he was again at the mercy of the
waves, in his narrow comfortless cabin.

That light, however, brought the stranger back to the wanderer, and
his griefs.

Beside a small table, strewn with his lately received English letters,
knelt Sir Henry Delmé. The stranger had seen condemned criminals pray with
becoming fervour; and devotees of many a creed lift up their hearts to
heaven; but never had he witnessed a more contrite or a humbler spirit
imprinted on the features of mortal man, than then shed its radiance on
that sorrowful, but noble face.

Strange as it may appear, he knew not whether the words themselves really
caught his ear, or whether the motion of the lips expressed them - but
this he _did_ know, that every syllable seemed to reach his heart, and
impress him with a mystic thrill,


Chapter XVII

The Wanderer's Return.

"And he had learn'd to love - I know not why,
For this in such as him seems strange of mood, -
The helpless looks of blooming infancy,
Even in its earliest nurture; what subdued,
To change like this, a mind so far imbued
With scorn of man, it little boots to know;
But thus it was; and though in solitude
Small power the nipp'd affections have to grow,
In him this glow'd when all beside had ceased to glow."

Within a period of two months, from the interview we have described, the
stranger found that his arguments had not been thrown away; as he shook
Sir Henry's hand on the deck of a vessel bound for Valparaiso. His love of
travel and of excitement, had induced such an habitual restlessness, that
Delmé was not prepared at once to embark for England. He crossed the
Cordillera de los Andes - traversed the Pampas of Buenos Ayres - and
finally embarked for his native land.

It was the height of summer, when the carriage which bore the long absent
owner to his ancestral home, neared the ancient moss-grown lodge.

Fanny Porter, who was now married, and had a thriving babe at her breast,
started with surprise; as, throwing open the gate, she recognised in the
care-worn man with bronzed face and silver hair, her well known and
beloved master. As the carriage neared the chapel, it struck Sir Henry,
that it would be but prudent, to inform Clarendon of his near approach; in
order that he might prepare Emily for the meeting. He ordered the
postilion to pull up - tore a leaf from his memorandum book - and wrote a
few lines to Clarendon, despatching Thompson in advance. He turned into
the chapel, and as he approached its altar, the bridal scene, enacted
there nearly seven years back, seemed to rise palpably before him.

But the tomb of Sir Reginald Delmé, with its velvet dusty banner - the
marble monument of his mother, with the bust above it, whose naked eye
seemed turned towards him - his withered heart and hopes soon darkened his
recollections of that bright hour. With agitated emotions, Sir Henry left
the chapel; and in a spirit of impatience, strode towards the mansion,
intending to meet the returning domestic. His feelings were strange,
various, and not easily defined.

He was awakened from his day-dream by the sound of children's voices,
which sound he instinctively followed, until he reached the old orchard.
It was such an orchard, as might be planted by an old Delmé, ere any
Linnean or Loudonean horticulturist had decided that slopes are best for
the sun, that terraces are an economical saving of ground, that valleys
must be swamps, and that blights are vulgar errors. The orchard at Delmé
was strikingly unscientific; but the old stock contrived to bear good
fruit. The pippins, golden and russet - the pears, jargonelle and
good-christian - the cherries, both black and white heart - still thrived;
while under their shade, grew hips, haws, crabs, sloes, and blackberries,
happy to be shaded from rain, dews, and fierce sun-shine, and unenvious
of roses, cherries, apples, damsons, and mulberries; their self-defended,
and more aristocratic cousins.

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