Read CHAPTER XX of The Adventurous Seven Their Hazardous Undertaking , free online book, by Bessie Marchant, on

How It All Ended

In reality it was the prospector whose life Dr. Plumstead had saved at the risk of his own, who did most towards setting the father of the seven on his feet again and righting him in the eyes of the world, which is so quick to approve the successful man.

A word which the young doctor dropped in the ear of Mr. Reginald Baxter sent that gentleman and Mr. Wallis posthaste to Latimer, where they held private conferences with the now convalescent prospector, and the result of it all was that a company was promptly formed for the developing of a gold claim staked out round the grave which the prospector in mercy had begun to dig for the unknown dead. So rich did this prove to be that when the prospector kept his word, and paid over the proportion of his earnings which he had promised to the doctor, there was no more worry about ways and means for Nealie, who was now her father’s right hand, as she had been his devoted nurse when he was recovering from his burns.

For a little while they all went to live at Latimer, in a brand-new wooden house which was made of pine trees and was fragrant of the forest in every room. But the first break in the family came when Rupert and Rumple went to Sydney to be educated.

Thanks to the skill of his father and the other Dr. Plumstead, Rupert had quite recovered from his lameness, and although he might never be quite so nimble as his younger brothers, he was no longer lame, and that was such a comfort to him that he seemed to expand into quite a different creature.

But, as Sylvia remarked to Rupert on the day before he and Rumple were to start for Sydney, they were going to have trouble with that other Dr. Plumstead, who, not content with having the same name as the rest of them, had shown a great desire to be still closer linked to them by becoming a relation.

“It is so stupid of him to want to marry Nealie,” she said plaintively. “Because I know very well that if she says yes, then I shall have to keep house for Father, and mother the rest of you, which will certainly spell ruin to my chance of an artistic career, and I am beginning to paint in quite an intelligent fashion.”

“There is room for improvement,” scoffed Rumple, who chanced to overhear what she said. “Don’t you remember your picture of Kaffir kraals that Mr. Melrose took for mushrooms in a meadow? It will not do for you to indulge in swelled head as yet.”

“I think that on the whole the mistake was rather in the nature of a compliment,” said Sylvia, with a ripple of laughter. “For doubtless in the first place the Kaffirs took the patterns of their huts from some sort of fungi, and so there you are.”

“Well, anyhow, Dr. Plumstead is a rattling good sort ­for witness how cheerfully he put up with all of us that time we took possession of his house ­and if he wants to marry Nealie I don’t see what is to prevent it myself,” said Rumple; but Rupert only made a grimace, which was his way of saying that he would just as soon have the question of marriage put further off into the future.

“If the man wants a wife, why can’t he wait until Ducky is old enough?” went on Sylvia, in the tone of one who has a grievance.

“Why Ducky? You might aspire to the position yourself, for you are awfully nice looking!” cried Rumple, putting an affectionate arm round Sylvia and giving her a mighty hug.

“Oh, I am not going to waste my talents in such a fashion! I feel as if I had been born to greatness, and I shall achieve it some day I am sure; only it will put the clock back for a few years if I have to concentrate on breakfasts, dinners, and household things generally,” said Sylvia, with a sigh, and then the talk came to an abrupt end, for Don rushed in to say that Billykins was all smashed up from a fall down a ladder at the mines, and of course there was instant confusion.

But Billykins seemed to have a charmed life, for although he was brought home in the ambulance, and groaned as loudly as a whole hospital full of patients, when his father came to make an examination of his hurts they turned out to be only a few surface scratches and a bruise or two.

“Why, I made sure that I had got a broken leg!” exclaimed Billykins, standing straight up on both feet and looking the picture of disappointment. “Are you sure there are no bones broken, Father?”

“Quite sure, my son,” said Dr. Plumstead, with a laugh of relief, for he had supposed there must have been some more serious injury considering how far the boy had fallen. “But if you feel dissatisfied with my examination, here comes the other doctor, and you can ask him to overhaul you.”

“Oh, he does not care for anything but Nealie!” said Billykins in a tone of deep disgust. “I expect that you will have to let them get married, Father, if it is only to stop him coming over here so often; for his patients in Hammerville will be calling in another doctor very soon if he neglects them so shamefully. Why, this is the second time in a month that he has been here.”

“Yes, I expect that will be the best way,” said his father quietly, and then he went out to greet the other doctor; and that same evening, when the sun went down in splendour over beyond the sandy plain where the gold reef lay, Nealie’s father put her hand in that of the other Dr. Plumstead and gave them both his blessing.

Then the crimson faded through gold to grey in the sky above the sandy plain, and the shadows of night dropped down on the grave of the nameless stranger under the mulga scrub; but in Latimer the streets and shops were brightly lighted, and all the busy life of getting and having went on, as it had done in the haunts of men since the world began.