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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 83

Favourite of Fortune

Favourite of Fortune.

John M'Manus was squeezed out of Ireland because he did not care to be merely a six-foot machine for turning potatoes into human nature. He came to Melbourne in the emigrant ship Palm Tree, but resisted the fascinations of all the Biddies. In Melbourne he lodged with Schanck, a little tailor, and ran away to Sebastopol and Napoleons with Schanck's wife. They had a large family, and rolled up a large amount of money in the butchering, from which M'Manus advanced to the squatting. He became wealthy. Mrs. S. was always called Mrs. M'Manus.

John was in the land racket under Duffy's Act, in 1862, and dummied a magnificent estate in the Western district, which he obtained in fee simple.

He took saloon passages for self and family by the R.M.S. Czar to Galle, Bombay and Venice. The whole party had actually got on board when whispers were circulated about Mrs. M'Manus' husband being still living in Queen-street. There was a flutter among the ladies. It resulted in Mrs. M'Manus going ashore in a huff, and M'Manus made an arrangement with the superintendent to return her passage money and that of the family, who elected to remain with their mother. M'Manus went on with the steamer, in his reckless style, caring nought for public opinion. His favourite saying was, "1 look upon men and women that don't belong to me as so many cabbage stalks." He considered that his good lady belonged to him.

Yet another relative belonged to him—his brother Barnaby, who had stopped in the old country, and languished digging and hedging at their birthplace of Thurlow. His nickname was "Barney the Bull," a poor fellow. John visited him, of course, and gave him a trifle of a £5 note.

Barney continued at his humble pursuits. "I'm Fortune's Fool," he exclaimed, as he thought over John's boundless wealth, his landau, pair of horses, sheep, cattle, pigs, and his thoroughbreds, Skyscraper and Moonraker, both entered for the Melbourne Cup.

"Ohoa!" sighed Barney, "Fortune's Fool!"

One day he got a telegram from Mr. Preston, the big solicitor, in Dublin, "av ye plaze." Barney's scanty, grizzled locks almost stood up. A post office order was sent for him to come to page 8 the city of Dublin immediately, and see Preston. Billy O'Brien advised him to go at once. He didn't return to Thurlow for five years.

In the meantime he visited Mr. Preston's office, where he was received with as much consideration as Tittlebat Titmouse was by Quirk, Gammon, and Snap. Something of the same sort coming, you be bound.

"Listen," said Preston. "Your brother is drowned. He took passage in the steamer Spartiate, which has been wrecked on the Welsh coast, and all hands were lost. His body has been washed ashore, and, although much mutilated, it has been recognised by his acquaintance, Sir Thomas Merino, whose estate is near the shipwreck. You are heir to all he possesses, I believe, for I did his legal business here, and he told me he was not married, and had left no will. The strangest thing about it is that he shipped in the Spartiate under a feigned name, and we did not know it was him until, concurrent with the news of the shipwreck, came the news that Sir Thomas had identified him. It seems he was a good deal annoyed about a paragraph having got into the papers over the Czar business, and he did not like to be recognised any more than he could help.

"Very quare," was all that Barney could ejaculate.

He and Preston went off straight to Melbourne. A brief litigation, before Mr. Justice Moleskin, in Equity, placed Barney in full possession of John's estates. Poor Mrs. M'Manus, otherwise Schanck, was cast into terrible distress. Barney generously allowed her £1 10s. a week. All the prospects of the sons and daughters were blasted. They had to go to work.

Schanck died. Barney began to make ducks and drakes of John's property. He disfigured John's park, near Melbourne, by sticking statues on all the stumps, an odd development of æstheticism. He gave Slingsby, the eminent artist, a commission to paint "me house and me sitting in front." The price was £250. Barney was about to cash up, when he exclaimed, "Holloa, Mister! What have you painted me wid one oye for?" "It is in profile," respectfully replied the artist. "Oh, profile be!" cried Barney, "Stick in the other oye, or I won't pay ye." The artist refused such a violation of principle, and had to sue for his money in the County Court.

Sweet are the uses of adversity. Mrs. M'Manus and her family recognised that they were closer drawn together by their misfortunes. The poor woman became religious, and found her offspring most dutiful and uncomplaining.

Barney had the cruelty to say, "You may as well marry me, and I'll make ye an honest woman." She replied to him with scorn, and the consequence was, he cut off her allowance, telling her to "go to the divvle."

page 9

One afternoon Barney was sitting in his office, Flinders-lane west, when his brother John M'Manus walked in.

Barney dropped down in a heap, with a shout of, "Holy Father!"

When he came round, with an excited crowd in the office, John explained:

"I did not go in the Spartiate. Merino was mistaken. I shipped in the Generaal Debbilty, a Dutch ship, for New Zealand. She was wrecked by entering a cave. A few of us escaped in the boats to the Auckland Islands, where we lived two years, like Robinson Crusoes. I have brought the dress of skins I wore when ray clothes were done."

John was furious on hearing how his wife had been treated. All he would do for Barney was to give him a passage back to Ireland, where he took to driving a post-office cart. John married the mother of his family, and became as happy and prosperous as Job, or any other squatter.

Says Barney to Billy O'Brine, "Agorra, I thought I was Fortune's Favourite, but I find I'm Fortune's Fool."