Harry’s passion was now very high, and his resolution to be cool was almost thrown to the winds. Medlicot had said many things which were odious to him. In the first place, there had been a tone of insufferable superiority, so Harry thought, and that, too, when he himself had divested himself of all the superiority naturally attached to his position, and had frankly appealed to Medlicot as a neighbor. And then this new-fangled sugar grower had told him that he was not English, and had said grand words, and had altogether made himself objectionable. What did this man know of the Australian bush, that he should dare to talk of this or that as being wrong because it was unEnglish! In England there were police to guard men’s property. Here, out in the Australian forests, a man must guard his own, or lose it. But perhaps it was the indifference to the ruin of the women belonging to him that Harry Heathcote felt the strongest. The stranger cared nothing for the utter desolation which one unscrupulous ruffian might produce, felt no horror at the idea of a vast devastating fire, but could be indignant in his mock philanthropy because it was proposed to watch the doings of a scoundrel!
"To-morrow there shall come to you a beautiful book for the master's surprise and joyousness. I myself will settle account satisfactorily from emoluments accrued."
We did not, however. Not a word came to us either from Wiggins or from the other agencies. There were articles in most of the papers upon the Norwood tragedy. They all appeared to be rather hostile to the unfortunate Thaddeus Sholto. No fresh details were to be found, however, in any of them, save that an inquest was to be held upon the following day. I walked over to Camberwell in the evening to report our ill success to the ladies, and on my return I found Holmes dejected and somewhat morose. He would hardly reply to my questions, and busied himself all evening in an abstruse chemical analysis which involved much heating of retorts and distilling of vapors, ending at last in a smell which fairly drove me out of the apartment. Up to the small hours of the morning I could hear the clinking of his test-tubes which told me that he was still engaged in his malodorous experiment.
After walking on some distance we found a narrow path leading away southward from the ruined village, and, believing that it led direct to the Carmen, the old settlement on the Rio Negro, which is over twenty miles from the sea, we at once resolved to follow it. This path led us wide of the ocean. Before noon we lost sight of the low sand-hills on our right hand, and as we penetrated further into the interior the dark-leafed bushes I have mentioned were more abundant. The dense, stiff, dark-coloured foliage of these bushes give them a strange appearance on the pale sun-dried plains, as of black rocks of numberless fantastic forms scattered over the greyish-yellow ground. No large fowls were seen; small birds were, however, very abundant, gladdening the parched wilderness with their minstrelsy. Most noteworthy among the true songsters were the Patagonian mocking-bird and four or five finches, two of them new to me. Here I first made the acquaintance of a singular and very pretty bird — the red-breasted plant-cutter, a finch too, but only in appearance. It is a sedentary bird and sits conspicuously on the topmost twig, displaying its ruddy under plumage; occasionally emitting, by way of song, notes that resemble the faint bleatings of a kid, and, when disturbed, passing from bush to bush by a series of jerks, the wings producing a loud humming sound. Most numerous, and surpassing all others in interest, were the omnipresent dendrocolaptine birds, or wood-hewers, or tree-creepers as they are sometimes called — feeble flyers, in uniform sober brown plumage; restless in their habits and loquacious, with shrill and piercing, or clear resonant voices. One terrestrial species, with a sandy-brown plumage, ‘Upucerthia dumetoria’, raced along before us on the ground, in appearance a stout miniature ibis with very short legs and exaggerated beak. Every bush had its little colony of brown gleaners, small birds of the genus ‘Synallaxis’, moving restlessly about among the leaves, occasionally suspending themselves from the twigs head downwards, after the manner of tits. From the distance at intervals came the piercing cries of the cachalote (‘Homorus gutturalis’), a much larger bird, sounding like bursts of hysterical laughter. All these dendrocolaptine birds have an inordinate passion for building, and their nests are very much larger than small birds usually make. Where they are abundant the trees and bushes are sometimes laden with their enormous fabrics, so that the thought is forced on one that these busy little architects do assuredly occupy themselves with a vain unprofitable labour. It is not only the case that many a small bird builds a nest as big as a buzzard’s, only to contain half a dozen eggs the size of peas, which might very comfortably be hatched in a pill-box; but frequently, when the nest has been finished, the builder sets about demolishing it to get the materials for constructing a second nest. One very common species, ‘Anumbius acuticaudatus’, variously called in the vernacular the thorn-bird, the woodman, and the firewood-gatherer, sometimes makes three nests in the course of a year, each composed of a good armful of sticks. The woodman’s nest is, however, an insignificant structure compared with that of the obstreperous cachalote mentioned a moment ago. This bird, which is about as large as a missel thrush, selects a low thorny bush with stout wide-spreading branches, and in the centre of it builds a domed nest of sticks, perfectly spherical and four or five feet deep. The opening is at the side near the top, and leading to it there is a narrow arched gallery resting on a horizontal branch, and about fourteen inches long. So compactly made is this enormous nest that I have found it hard to break one up. I have also stood upright on the dome and stamped on it with my boots without injuring it at all. During my stay in Patagonia I found about a dozen of these palatial nests; and my opinion is that like our own houses, or, rather, our public buildings, and some ant-hills, and the vizcacha’s village burrows, and the beaver’s dam, it is made to last for ever.
The three persons in the window nodded to one another significantly, and began smiling in a constrained manner, as if there were something quite preposterous in the inquiry. The man, a corpulent, red-faced person, seemed on the point of suffocating with merriment.
“Well, I call it a chouse,” I said. “She might as well have asked you to fight Blanchard or Sims. Look at your arms, not to mention anything else; they’re like cabbage-stalks.”
Willard Bent felt as if he were a very tall building, and his heart a lift suddenly dropping down from the roof to the cellar. He stirred nervously, releasing his arm, and cleared his throat; but he made no answer. Mr. Blandhorn went on.
Well-beloved novel-readers and gentle patronesses of romance, assuredly it has often occurred to every one of you, that the books we delight in have very unsatisfactory conclusions, and end quite prematurely with page 320 of the third volume. At that epoch of the history it is well known that the hero is seldom more than thirty years old, and the heroine by consequence some seven or eight years younger; and I would ask any of you whether it is fair to suppose that people after the above age have nothing worthy of note in their lives, and cease to exist as they drive away from Saint George’s, Hanover Square? You, dear young ladies, who get your knowledge of life from the circulating library, may be led to imagine that when the marriage business is done, and Emilia is whisked off in the new travelling-carriage, by the side of the enraptured Earl; or Belinda, breaking away from the tearful embraces of her excellent mother, dries her own lovely eyes upon the throbbing waistcoat of her bridegroom — you may be apt, I say, to suppose that all is over then; that Emilia and the Earl are going to be happy for the rest of their lives in his lordship’s romantic castle in the North, and Belinda and her young clergyman to enjoy uninterrupted bliss in their rose-trellised parsonage in the West of England: but some there be among the novel-reading classes — old experienced folks — who know better than this. Some there be who have been married, and found that they have still something to see and to do, and to suffer mayhap; and that adventures, and pains, and pleasures, and taxes, and sunrises and settings, and the business and joys and griefs of life go on after, as before the nuptial ceremony.
The first part of his anticipation came true. For very soon after the birth of a son, whom she called Bhavani, Abhaya Charan died. It gave the father-in-law great peace and consolation, as he looked forward to his own death, to know that his daughter was properly looked after.
And then the voice spoke.
“I have never looked at it quite in this light before,” said I. “But surely we can build a house whenever we wish!”
He listened patiently, nodding his head at each name. And then—
'How sick?' asked the voice.
“May the curse of God light on you and your cheese-knife, you brass-bound murderers.”
But all is harmony and love. Disease
Then he rose to his feet, but was almost immediately on his knees again for a last look. At length he tore himself away, slipped a crown-piece into the moorman’s hand, remounted, bade the man good-night, and galloped off.
The only wanton he that fouleth his own nest,详情 ➢
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