On Board the Argus. 21
room. The dining-room door was open, and the old man was
nodding over his paper. He looked up as he heard my step in the
passage, and asked me where I was going. ' To have a smoke
m the street,' I answered; and as this was a common habit of
mine, he beHeved me. Three nights after this I was out at sea,
bound for Melbourne—a steerage passenger, with a digger's tools
♦or my baggage, and about seven sliillings in my pocket."
" And you succeeded ?" asked Miss Morley.
" Not till I had long despaired of success; not until poverty
and I had become such old companions and bedfellows, that,
looking back at my past Hfe, I wondered whether that dashing,
reckless, extravagant, luxurious, champagne-drinking dragoon
could have really been the same man who sat on the damp
found gnawing a mouldy crust in the wilds of the new world,
clung to the memory of my darling, and the trust that I had
in her love and truth, as the one keystone that kept the fabric
of my past Hfe together—the one star that Ht the thick 'j\ack
darkness of the future. I was hail fellow well met witli bad
men; I was in the centre of riot, drunkenness, and debauchery;
but the purifying influence of my love kept me safe from all.
Thin and gaunt, the half-starved shadow of what I once had
been, I saw myself one day in a broken bit of looking-glass, and
was frightened of my own face. But I toiled on through all;
through disappointment and despair, rheumatism, fever, starva¬
tion, at the very gates of death, I toiled on steadily to the end;
and m the end I conquered."
He was so brave in his energy and determination, in his proud
triumph of success, and in the knowledge of the difficulties he
had vanquished, that the pale governess could only look at him
in wondering admiration.
" How brave you were!" she said.
" Brave!" he cried, with a joyous peal of laughter; " wasn't I
working for my darHng—through all the dreary time of that
probation, her pretty white hand beckoning me onwards to a
happy future ? Why, I have seen her under my wretched canvas
tent, sitting by my side, with her boy in her arms, as plainly as
I had ever seen her in the one happy year of our wedded Hfe.
At last, one dreary, foggy morning, just three months ago;
with a drizzHng rain wetting me to the skin; up to my neck
in clay and mire; half-starved; enfeebled by fever; stiff with
rheumatism; a monster nugget turned up i nder my spade, and
I came upon a gold deposit of some magnitude. A fortnight
afterwards I was the richest man m all the little colony about
me. I travelled post-haste to Sydney, realized my gold find¬
ings, wliich were worth upwards of £20,000, and a fortnight
lifterwards took my passage for England in this vessel; and is
ten days—in ten days I shall see my darling."