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    There came a day on which he fairly outdid himself. Soon after inscribing their names in the visiting-book at Government House, they received invitations to a ball there, in honour of two men-of-war that were anchored in the Bay — a very select affair indeed: none of your promiscuous May Day crushes! As it would be their first appearance in style, Mahony — a trifle uncertain whether Mary would do the thing handsomely enough — insisted on fitting her out. The pale blue silk he chose for her gown was finest Lyons, the cost of which, without making, ran to thirty pounds: Mary had never seen a silk like it. It was got privatim through John, who had it direct from the French factory. John, too, was responsible for the crowning glory of Mary’s attire. For after Richard had added a high, pearl-studded Spanish comb for her hair, John one day showed him a wonderful shawl that had just come into the warehouse, suggesting it would look well on Mary. And for once Mahony found himself in agreement with his brother-in-law. Of softest cashmere, supple as silk — and even softer to the touch — the scarlet ground of the shawl was well-nigh hidden by a massive white Indian embroidery; so that the impression gained was one of sumptuous white silk, broken by flecks of red. It was peaked, burnous-like, to form a hood, and this and the corners were hung with heavy white silk tassels. So magnificent an affair was it that Mary had severe qualms about wearing it: in her heart she considered it far too showy and elaborate. But Richard had no doubt paid an enormous price for it, and would be hurt into the bargain if she said what she thought.


    2.In addition to this, the month was April; and the thousand and one beauties of an exceptionally fine spring unrolled before their eyes. Declared Mahony: to be present at this budding and bursting, this sprouting and flowering, more than made up for the disappointments he had suffered since landing in England. What a feast of tender green, of changing colours, was here spread for eyes sore with the harshness and aridity of the Australian landscape, the eternal grey-green of its skimpy foliage! When he first arrived, every sheltered slope and sunny bank was yellow with primroses; the lesser celandine bedecked the meadow-grass, violets were mauve and purple in the hedgerows; and no sooner did these show signs of fading than the ground became blue with myriads of bells, which, taken in the mass, looked like patches of sky dropped to earth. And the blue in its turn yielded to the ruby-pink of the red campion. Against a background of starry blackthorn blazed the golden gorse. The cliffs were covered with the comical little striped brown pokers of the horsetails, which soon branched out into bristly brooms; and piercing the rust-red carpet of last year’s growth, up sprang the straight nimble spears of the bracken. In the high hedges the ruddy cane of the willows was smothered by the succulent green tips of hawthorn and bramble; and on the rolling countryside that belle of trees, the larch, stood out among the copperish buds of the beeches and the first tightly folded leaves of the chestnuts, with a pale green feathery loveliness all its own.
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