(Masterpieces of British Fiction)

Richard Mahony was ill-suited to life in the Australian gold mines. A moderately successful doctor, he had left his practice in England and had gone to the colonies in hopes of a quick fortune. Having found the life of a digger unsuitable for him, he had taken what little money and goods he had left and set up a store; but he hated the raw country with bitter passion and longed for England and his native Ireland.

To that life, he brought his bride, Mary Turnham, whom he had met through an old schoolfriend, Purdy Smith. Purdy was as crude as Richard was fastidious. Mary wept at her new home, but she loved her husband, and she set about making the best of matters. The death of her baby matured and quieted her, but it did not kill her spirit.

When her sister-in-law died, Mary gladly cared for her children. Her other brothers and sisters, separated from their home in England, turned to her as they might a mother, and she comforted and encouraged them as she did her husband.

When Richard found his business declining, he decided to sell out and take Mary back to England. Mary, however, persuaded him instead to stay in Australia and set up a medical practice. With the help of Mary’s brother, John Turnham, Richard borrowed enough money to buy a decent house and the necessary medical supplies. Henry Ocock, the son of a neighbor and a successful solicitor, arranged a loan and in other ways advised Richard.

Richard had a sudden stroke of luck. On Henry Ocock’s advice, he had invested a small sum in some mining stock, Australia Felixes. The stock suddenly boomed, and Richard found himself a wealthy man overnight. As he prospered, so did his practice, until he had more than he could handle; but Richard began to assume an air that worried Mary. Thinking his old friends uncouth and crude, he wanted Mary to join more fashionable circles. She did so, but she quietly retained the old friendships as well.

After an exhausting illness brought on by overwork, Richard finally sold out his practice and prepared to return to England. He could return as he had always dreamed he would, rich and honored. They set sail—Richard with pride and Mary with sorrow.

In England and during their short visit in Ireland, Mary and Richard Mahony were welcomed and entertained. When Richard settled down to practice medicine again, however, he was twice scorned as a bushman from Australia, unfit to treat or to meet socially English snobs of the middle class. The snubs to Mary were the worst of all. Richard could not tolerate these, and so they returned to Australia. There Richard learned that his Australia Felix stocks had taken a new turn upward; he was wealthy beyond his wildest dreams. He bought a splendid house and called it Ultima Thule. To Mary’s sorrow, he did not return to his practice. Feeling that he could retire and enjoy the quiet he had always desired, Richard turned to spiritualism and spent long hours in seances with...

(The entire section is 1211 words.)