Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

An Outback Marriage by Andrew Barton Paterson

Part 1 out of 4

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.5 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

This ebook was prepared by Jeffrey Kraus-yao, krausyaoj@ameritech.net.

AN OUTBACK MARRIAGE

By Andrew Barton Paterson

Author Of "The Man From Snowy River," And "Rio Grande's Last Race"

CONTENTS

I. In The Club
II. A Dinner For Five
III. In Push Society
IV. The Old Station
V. The Coming Of The Heiress
VI. A Coach Accident
VII. Mr. Blake's Relations
VIII. At The Homestead
IX. Some Visitors
X. A Lawyer In The Bush
XI. A Walk In The Moonlight
XII. Mr. Blake Breaks His Engagement
XIII. The Rivals
XIV. Red Mack And His Sheep Dogs
XV. A Proposal And Its Results
XVI. The Road To No Man's Land
XVII. Considine
XVIII. The Wild Cattle
XIX. A Chance Encounter
XX. A Consultation At Kiley's
XXI. No Compromise
XXII. A Nurse And Her Assistant
XXIII. Hugh Goes In Search
XXIV. The Second Search For Considine
XXV. In The Buffalo Camp
XXVI. The Saving Of Considine
XXVII. The Real Certificate
XXVIII. A Legal Battle
XXIX. Races And A Win

CHAPTER I.

IN THE CLUB.

It was a summer's evening in Sydney, and the north-east wind that
comes down from New Guinea and the tropical islands over leagues
of warm sea, brought on its wings a heavy depressing moisture. In
the streets people walked listlessly, perspired, mopped themselves,
and abused their much-vaunted climate. Everyone who could manage
it was out of town, either on the heights of Moss Vale or the Blue
Mountains, escaping from the Inferno of Sydney.

In the Cassowary Club, weary, pallid waiters brought iced drinks
to such of the members as were condemned to spend the summer in
town. The gong had sounded, and in ones and twos members shuffled
out of the smoking-room, and went in to dinner. At last only three
were left talking at the far end of the big, empty smoking-room,
like three small stage conspirators at the end of a very large
robbers' cavern.

One was a short, fat, red-faced man, who looked like a combination
of sea-captain and merchant, and who was the local representative of
a big English steamship company. His connection with the mercantile
marine had earned him his nickname of "The Bo'sun." By his side
sat Pinnock, a lean and bilious-looking solicitor; the third man
was an English globe-trotter, a colourless sort of person, of whom
no one took any particular notice until they learnt that he was the
eldest son of a big Scotch whisky manufacturer, and had £10,000 a
year of his own. Then they suddenly discovered that he was a much
smarter fellow than he looked. The three were evidently waiting
for somebody. The "Bo'sun" had a grievance, and was relieving
his mind by speech. He walked up and down between the smoking-room
chairs, brandishing a telegram as he talked, while the attorney
and the globe-trotter lay back on the lounge and admired his energy.

"I call it a shame," he said, facing round on them suddenly; "I
could have got up to Moss Vale for a day or two, and now old Grant
of Kuryong wires me to meet and entertain a new chum. Just listen
to this: 'Young Carew, friend of mine, on Carthaginia. Will you
meet him and show him round; oblige me--W. G. Grant.' I met the old
fellow once or twice at dinner, when he was in town for the sheep
sales, and on the strength of that he foists an unknown callow new
chum on to me. People are always doing that kind of thing."

"Leave his friend alone, then," said Pinnock; "don't have anything
to do with him. I know his sort--Government House young man the
first week, Coffee Palace at two shillings a night the second week,
boiler on the wharf the third week, Central Police Court the fourth
week, and then exit so far as all decent people are concerned."

The Bo'sun stuffed the telegram into his pocket and sat down.

"Oh, I don't suppose he'll be so bad," he said. "I've asked him
here to-night to see what he's like, and if he's no good I'll drop
him. It's the principle I object to. Country people are always
at this sort of thing. They'd ask me to meet an Alderney bull
and entertain him till they send for him. What am I to do with an
unknown new chum? I'd sooner have an Alderney bull--he'd be easier
to arrange for. He'd stop where he was put, anyhow."

Here Gillespie, the globe-trotter, cut into the conversation. "I
knew a Jim Carew in England," he said, "and if this is the same
man you will have no trouble taking care of him. He was a great
man at his 'Varsity--triple blue, or something of the sort. He can
row and run and fight and play football, and all that kind of thing.
Very quiet-spoken sort of chap--rather pretends to be a simple sort
of Johnny, don't you know, but he's a regular demon, I believe. Got
into a row at a music-hall one night, and threw the chucker-out in
among a lot of valuable pot plants, and irretrievably ruined him."

"Nice sort of man," said the Bo'sun. "I've seen plenty of his sort,
worse luck; he'll be borrowing fivers after the first week. I'll
put him on to you fellows."

The globe-trotter smiled a sickly smile, and changed the subject.
"What's old Grant like--the man he's going to? Squatter man, I
suppose?"

"Oh, yes, and one of the real old sort, too," interposed Pinnock,
"perfect gentleman, you know, but apt to make himself deuced
unpleasant if everything doesn't go exactly to suit him; sort of
chap who thinks that everyone who doesn't agree with him ought to
be put to death at once. He had a row with his shearers one year,
and offered Jack Delaney a new Purdey gun if he'd fire the first
two charges into the shearers' camp at night."

"Ha!" said Gillespie. "That's his sort, eh? Well, if this Carew is
the Carew I mean, he and the old fellow will be well met. They'll
about do for each other in the first week or two."

"No great loss, either," said the Bo'sun. "Anyhow I've asked this
new chum to dinner to-night, and Charlie Gordon's coming too. He
was in my office to-day, but hadn't heard of the new chum. Gordon's
a member now."

"What's he like?" said Gillespie. "Anything like the gentleman that
wanted the shearers killed?"

"Oh, no; a good fellow," said the Bo'sun, taking a sip of sherry.
"He manages stations for Grant, and the old man has kept him out on
the back-stations nearly all his life. He was out in the Gulf-country
in the early days--got starved out in droughts, swept away in
floods, lost in the bush, speared by blacks, and all that sort of
thing, in the days when men camped under bushes and didn't wear
shirts. Gone a bit queer in the head, I think, but a good chap for
all that."

"How did this Grant make all his money" asked Gillespie. "He's
awfully well off, isn't he? Stations everywhere? Is he any relation
to Gordon?"

"No; old Gordon--Charlie's father--used to have the money. He had
a lot of stations in the old days, and employed Grant as a manager.
Grant was a new chum Scotchman with no money, but a demon for hard
work, and the most headstrong, bad-tempered man that ever lived--hard
to hold at any time. After he'd worked for Gordon for awhile he
went to the diggings and made a huge pile; and when old Gordon got
a bit short of cash he took Grant into partnership."

"It must have been funny for a man to have his old manager as a
partner!"

"It wasn't at all funny for Gordon," said the lawyer, grimly.
"Anything but funny. They each had stations of their own outside
the partnership, and all Gordon's stations went wrong, and Grant's
went right. It never seemed to rain on Gordon's stations, while
Grant's had floods. So Gordon got short of money again and borrowed
from Grant, and when he was really in a fix Grant closed on him
and sold him out for good and all."

"What an old screw! What did he do that for?"

"Just pure obstinacy--Gordon had contradicted him or something, so
he sold him up just to show which was right."

"And what did Gordon do after he was sold up?"

"Died, and didn't leave a penny. So then Bully Grant wheeled round
and gave Gordon's widow a station to live on, and fixed the two
sons up managing his stations. Goodness knows how much he's worth
now. Doesn't even know it himself."

"And has he no children? Was he ever married?"

The lawyer lit a cigarette and puffed at it.

"He went to England and got married; there's a daughter. The wife's
dead; the daughter is in England still--never been out here. There's
a story that before he made his money he married a bush girl up
on the station, but no one believes that. The daughter in England
will get everything when he dies. A chance for you, Gillespie. Go
home and marry her--she'll be worth nearly a million of money."

"I'll think about it," said the globe-trotter.

As he spoke a buttony boy came up to the Bo'sun.

"Gentleman to see you, sir," he said. "Mr. Carew, sir."

The Bo'sun hurried off to bring in his guest, while Pinnock called
after him--"Mind your eye, Bo'sun. Be civil to him. See that
he doesn't kill a waiter or two on the way up. Not but what he'd
be welcome to do it, for all the good they are here," he added,
gloomily, taking another sip of his sherry and bitters; and before
he had finished it the Bo'sun and his guest entered the room.

They had expected to see a Hercules, a fiery-faced, fierce-eyed
man. This was merely a broad-shouldered, well-built, well-groomed
youth, about twenty-three years of age; his face was square and
rather stolid, clean-shaven, brown-complexioned, with honest eyes
and a firm-set mouth. As he stood at the door he adopted the wooden
expression that a University man always wears in the presence
of strangers. He said nothing on being introduced to Pinnock; and
when the globe-trotter came up and claimed acquaintance, defining
himself as "Gillespie of Balliol," the stranger said he didn't
remember him, and regarded him with an aspect of armed neutrality.
After a sherry and bitters he thawed a little, and the Bo'sun
started to cross-examine him.

"Mr. Grant of Kuryong wired to me about you," he said. "I suppose
you came in the Carthaginia?"

"Yes," said the stranger, speaking in the regulation English University
voice, a little deeper than usual. "I left her at Adelaide. I'm out
for some bush experience, don't you know. I'll get you to tell me
some place to stop at till I leave, if you don't mind."

His manner was distinctly apologetic, and he seemed anxious to give
as little trouble as possible.

"Oh! you stop here," said the Bo'sun. "I'll have you made an honorary
member. They'll do you all right here."

"That's awfully good of you. Thanks very much indeed."

"Oh! not at all. You'll find the club not so bad, and a lot better
than where you're going with old Grant. He's a regular demon to
make fellows work. It's pretty rough on the stations sometimes."

"Ah! yes; awf'lly rough, I believe. Quite frightened me, what I
heard of it, don't you know. Still, I suppose one must expect to
rough it a bit. Eh, what!"

"Charlie Gordon will he here in a minute," said the Bo'sun. "He
can tell you all about it. Here he is now," he added, as the door
swung open and the long-waited-for guest entered the room.

The newcomer was unmistakably a man from Far Out; tall, wiry-framed,
and very dark, and so spare and lean of figure that he did not
seem to have an ounce of superfluous flesh anywhere. His face was
as hard and impassive as a Red Indian's, and looked almost black
by contrast with his white shirt-front. So did his hands. He had
thin straight hair, high cheek-bones, and a drooping black moustache.
But the eyes were the most remarkable feature. Very keen and piercing
they were, deep-set in the head; even when he was looking straight
at anyone he seemed to be peering into endless space through the
man in front of him. Such eyes men get from many years of staring
over great stretches of sunlit plain where no colour relieves the
blinding glare--nothing but dull grey clumps of saltbush and the
dull green Mitchell grass.

His whole bearing spoke of infinite determination and self-reliance--the
square chin, the steadfast eyes, telling their tale as plainly
as print. In India he might have passed for an officer of native
cavalry in mufti; but when he spoke he used the curious nasal drawl
of the far-out bushman, the slow deliberate speech that comes to
men who are used to passing months with the same companions in the
unhurried Australian bush. Occasionally he lapsed into reveries, out
of which he would come with a start and break in on other people's
conversation, talking them down with a serene indifference to their
feelings.

"Come out to old man Grant, have you?" he drawled to Carew, when
the ceremonies of introduction were over. "Well, I can do something
better for you than that. I want a mate for my next trip, and
a rough lonely hot trip it'll be. But don't you make any mistake.
The roughest and hottest I can show you will be child's play to
having anything to do with Grant. You come with me."

"Hadn't I better see Mr. Grant first?"

"No, he won't care. The old man doesn't take much notice of
new chums--he gets them out by the bushel. He might meet a man at
dinner in England and the man might say, "Grant, you've got some
stations. I've got a young fellow that's no use at home--or anywhere
else for that matter--can't you oblige me, and take him and keep him
out of mischief for a while?" And if the old man had had about a
bottle of champagne, he'd say, "Yes, I'll take him--for a premium,"
or if he'd had two bottles, he'd say, "Send along your new chum--I'll
make a man of him or break his neck." And perhaps in the next
steamer out the fellow comes, and Grant just passes him on to me.
Never looks at him, as likely as not. Don't you bother your head
about Grant--you come with me."

As he drawled out his last sentence, a move was made to dinner; so
the Englishman was spared the pain of making any comments on his
own unimportance in Mr. Grant's eyes, and they trooped into the
dining-room in silence.

CHAPTER II.

A DINNER FOR FIVE.

A club dining-room in Australia is much like one in any other
part of the world. Even at the Antipodes--though the seasons are
reversed, and the foxes have wings--we still shun the club bore,
and let him have a table to himself; the head waiter usually looks
a more important personage than any of the members or guests;
and men may be seen giving each other dinners from much the same
ignoble motives as those which actuate their fellows elsewhere. In
the Cassowary Club, on the night of which we tell, the Bo'sun was
giving his dinner of necessity to honour the draft of hospitality
drawn on him by Grant. At the next table a young solicitor was
entertaining his one wealthy client; near by a band of haggard
University professors were dining a wandering scientist, all hair
and spectacles--both guest and hosts drinking mineral waters and
such horrors; while beyond them a lot of racing men were swilling
champagne and eating and talking as heartily as so many navvies. A
few squatters, down from their stations, had fore-gathered at the
centre table, where each was trying to make out that he had had
less rain than the others. The Bo'sun and his guests were taken in
hand by the head waiter, who formerly had been at a London Club, and
was laying himself out to do his best; he had seen that Gillespie
had "Wanderers' Club" on his cards, and he knew, and thanked his
stars that he did know, what "Wanderers' Club" on a man's card
meant. His fellow-waiters, to whom he usually referred as "a lot of
savages," were unfortunately in ignorance of the social distinction
implied by membership of such a club.

For a time there was nothing but the usual commonplace talk, while
the soup and fish were disposed of; when they reached the champagne
and the entrées, things become more homelike and conversation flowed.
A bushman, especially when primed with champagne, is always ready
to give his tongue a run--and when he has two open-mouthed new
chums for audience, as Gordon had, the only difficulty is to stop
him before bed-time; for long silent rides on the plain, and lonely
camps at night, give him a lot of enforced silence that he has to
make up for later.

"Where are you from last, Gordon?" said the Bo'sun. "Haven't seen
you in town for a long time."

"I've been hunting wild geese," drawled the man from far back,
screwing up one eye and inspecting a glass of champagne, which he
drank off at a gulp. "That's what I do most of my time now. The
old man--Grant, you know--my boss--he's always hearing of mobs of
cattle for sale, and if I'm down in the south-west the mob is sure
to be up in the far north-east, but it's all one to him. He wires
to me to go and inspect them quick and lively before someone else
gets them, and I ride and drive and coach hundreds of miles to get
at some flat-sided pike-horned mob of brutes without enough fat on
them to oil a man's hair with. I've to go right away out back now
and take over a place that the old man advanced some money on. He
was fool enough, or someone was fool enough for him, to advance
five thousand pounds on a block of new country with five thousand
cattle on it--book-muster, you know, and half the cattle haven't
been seen for years, and the other half are dead, I expect. Anyhow,
the man that borrowed the money is ruined, and I have to go up and
take over the station."

"What do you call a book-muster?" said the globe-trotter, who was
spending a month in the country, and would naturally write a book
on it.

"Book-muster, book-muster? Why, a book-muster is something like
dead-reckoning on a ship. You know what dead-reckoning is, don't
you? If a captain can't see the sun he allows for how fast the ship
is going, and for the time run and the currents, and all that, and
then reckons up where he is. I travelled with a captain once, and
so long as he stuck to dead-reckoning he was all right. He made
out we were off Cairns, and that's just where we were; because we
struck the Great Barrier Reef, and became a total wreck ten minutes
after. With the cattle it's just the same. You'll reckon the cattle
that you started with, add on each year's calves, subtract all that
you sell,--that is, if you ever do sell any--and allow for deaths,
and what the blacks spear and the thieves steal. Then you work out
the total, and you say, 'There ought to be five thousand cattle
on the place,' but you never get 'em. I've got to go and find five
thousand cattle in the worst bit of brigalow scrub in the north."

"Where do you say this place is?" said Pinnock. "It's called No
Man's Land, and it's away out back near where the buffalo-shooters
are. It'll take about a month to get there. The old man's in a rare
state of mind at being let in. He's up at Kuryong now, driving my
brother Hugh out of his mind. Hugh would as soon have an attack
of faceache as see old Bully looming up the track. Every time he
goes up he shifts every blessed sheep out of every paddock, and
knocks seven years' growth out of them putting them through the
yards; then he overhauls the store, and if there's a box of matches
short he'll keep Hugh up half the night to account for it. He sacks
all the good men and raises the wages of the loafers, and then
comes back to Sydney quite pleased; it's a little holiday to him.
You come along with me, Carew, and let old Bully alone. What did
you come out for? Colonial experience?"

An Englishman hates talking about himself, and Carew rather hesitated.
Then he came out with it awkwardly, like a man repeating a lesson.

"Did you ever meet a man named Considine out here?" he said.

"Lots of them," said Gordon promptly--"lots of them. Why, I had a
man named Considine working for me, and he thought he got bitten
by a snake, so his mates ran him twenty miles into Bourke between
two horses to keep him from going to sleep, giving him a nip of
whisky every twenty minutes; and when he got to Bourke he wasn't
bitten at all, but he died of alcoholic poisoning. What about this
Considine, anyhow? What do you want him for?"

The Englishman felt like dropping the subject altogether, not
feeling quite sure that he was not being laughed at. However, he
decided to go through with it.

"It's rather a long story, but it boils down to this," he said.
"I'm looking for a Patrick Henry Considine, but I don't know what
he's like. I don't know whether there is such a chap, in fact, but
if there is, I've got to find him. A great-uncle of mine died out
here a long while ago, and we believe he left a son; and if there
is such a son, it turns out that he would be entitled to a heap of
money. It has been heaping up for years in Chancery, and all that
sort of thing, you know," he added, vaguely. "My people thought I
might meet him out here, don't you know--and he could go home and
get all the cash, you see. They've been advertising for him."

"And what good will it do you," drawled Gordon, "supposing you do
find him? Where do you come in?"

"Oh, it doesn't do me much good, except that if there is such
a Johnny, and he dies without making a will, then the money would
all come to my people. But if there isn't, it all goes to another
branch of the family."

Gordon thought the matter over for a while. "What you want," he
said, "is to find this man, and to find him dead. If we come across
him away in the back country, we'll soon arrange his death for you,
if you make it worth while. Nasty gun accident, or something like
that, you know."

"I wouldn't like anyone to shoot him," said the Englishman.

"Well, you come with me, and we'll find him," said Gordon.

By this time dinner was over. The waiters began to turn out the
lights on the vacant tables; and, as the party rose it was arranged
nem. con., and with much enthusiasm, that Carew should accompany
Gordon on his trip to No Man's Land, and that Gordon should, by all
means in his power, aid and abet Carew in his search for Considine.

Then, all talking together, and somewhat loudly, they strutted into
the smoking-room.

CHAPTER III.

IN PUSH SOCIETY.

The passing of the evening afterwards is the only true test of a
dinner's success. Many a good dinner, enlivened with wine and made
brilliant with repartee, has died out in gloom. The guests have
all said their best things during the meal, and nothing is left
but to smoke moodily and look at the clock. Our heroes were not of
that mettle. They meant to have some sort of fun, and the various
amusements of Sydney were canvassed. It was unanimously voted too
hot for the theatres, ditto for billiards. There were no supporters
for a proposal to stop in the smoking-room and drink, and gambling
in the card-rooms had no attractions on such a night. At last Gordon
hit off a scent. "What do you say," he drawled, "if we go and have
a look at a dancing saloon--one of these larrikin dancing saloons?"

"I'd like it awfully," said one Englishman.

"Most interesting" said the other. "I've heard such a lot about
the Australian larrikin. What they call a basher in England, isn't
it? eh, what? Sort of rough that lays for you with a pal and robs
you, eh?"

The Bo'sun rang for cigars and liqueurs, and then answered the
question. "Pretty much the same as a basher," he said, "but with a
lot more science and dog-cunning about him. They go in gangs, and
if you hit one of the gang, all the rest will 'deal with you,' as
they call it. If they have to wait a year to get you, they'll wait,
and get you alone some night or other and set on to you. They jump
on a man if they get him down, too. Oh, they're regular beauties."

"Rather roughish sort of Johnnies, eh?" said the Englishman. "But
we might go and see the dancing--no harm in that."

Pinnock said he had to go back to his office; the globe-trotter
didn't care about going out at night; and the Bo'sun tried to
laugh the thing off. "You don't catch me going," he said. "There's
nothing to be seen--just a lot of flash young rowdies dancing.
You'll gape at them, and they'll gape at you, and you'll feel
rather a pair of fools, and you'll come away. Better stop and have
a rubber."

"If you dance with any of their women, you get her particular
fancy-man on to you, don't you?" asked Gordon. "It's years since
I was at that sort of place myself."

The Bo'sun, who knew nothing about it, assumed the Sir Oracle at
once.

"I don't suppose their women would dance with you if you paid 'em
five shillings a step," he said. "There'd certainly be a fight if
they did. Are you fond of fighting, Carew?"

"Not a bit," replied that worthy. "Never fight if you can help it.
No chap with any sense ever does."

"That's like me," said Gordon. "I'd sooner run a mile than fight,
any time. I'm like a rat if I'm cornered, but it takes a man with
a stockwhip to corner me. I never start fighting till I'm done
running. But we needn't get into a row. I vote we go. Will you
come, Carew?"

"Oh, yes; I'd like to," said the Englishman. "I don't suppose we
need get into a fight."

So, after many jeers from the Bo'sun, and promises to come back
and tell him all about it, Carew and Gordon sallied forth, a pair
of men as capable of looking after themselves as one would meet in
a day's march. Stepping into the street they called a cab.

"Where to, sir?" asked the cabman.

"Nearest dancing saloon," said Gordon, briefly.

"Nearest darncin' saloon," said the cabman. "There ain't no parties
to-night, sir; it's too 'ot."

"We're not expecting to drop into a ballroom without being asked,
thank you," said Gordon. "We want to go to one of those saloons
where you pay a shilling to go in. Some place where the larrikins
go."

"Ho! is that it, sir?" said the cabman, with a grin. "Well, I'll
take you to a noo place, most selectest place I know. Git up,
'orse." And off they rattled through the quiet streets, turning
corners and crossing tramlines every fifty yards apparently, and
bumping against each other in the most fraternal manner.

Soon the cab pulled up in a narrow, ill-lit street, at the open
door of a dingy house. Instructing the cabman to wait, they hustled
upstairs, to be confronted at the top by a man who took a shilling
from each, and then was not sure whether he would admit them. He
didn't seem to like their form exactly, and muttered something to
a by-stander as they went in. They saw a long, low room, brilliantly
lighted by flaring gas jets. Down one side, on wooden forms, was
seated a row of flashily-dressed girls--larrikin-esses on their
native heath, barmaids from cheap, disreputable hotels, shop girls,
factory girls--all sharp-faced and pert, young in years, but old
in knowledge of evil. The demon of mischief peeped out of their
quick-moving, restless eyes. They had elaborate fringes, and their
short dresses exhibited well-turned ankles and legs.

A large notice on the wall stated that "Gentlemen must not dance
with nails in their boots. Gentlemen must not dance together."

"That blocks us," said Gordon, pointing to the notice. "Can't dance
together, no matter how much we want to. Look at these fellows
here."

Opposite the women sat or lounged a score or two of youths--wiry,
hard-faced little fellows, for the most part, with scarcely a
sizeable man amongst them. They were all clothed in "push" evening
dress--black bell-bottomed pants, no waistcoat, very short black
paget coat, white shirt with no collar, and a gaudy neckerchief
round the bare throat. Their boots were marvels, very high in the
heel and picked out with all sorts of colours down the sides. They
looked "varminty" enough for anything; but the shifty eyes, low
foreheads, and evil faces gave our two heroes a sense of disgust.
The Englishman thought that all the stories he had heard of the
Australian larrikin must be exaggerated, and that any man who was
at all athletic could easily hold his own among such a poor-looking
lot. The whole spectacle was disappointing. The most elaborately
decorous order prevailed; no excitement or rough play was noticeable,
and their expedition seemed likely to be a failure.

The bushman stared down the room with far-seeing eyes, apparently
looking at nothing, and contemplated the whole show with bored
indifference.

"Nothing very dazzling about this," he said. "I'm afraid we can't
show you anything very exciting here. Better go back to the club,
eh?"

Just then the band (piano and violin) struck up a slow, laboured
waltz, "Bid me Good-bye and go," and each black-coated male, with
languid self-possession, strolled across the room, seized a lady
by the arm, jerked her to her feet without saying a syllable, and
commenced to dance in slow, convulsive movements, making a great
many revolutions for very little progress. Two or three girls were
left sitting, as their partners were talking in a little knot at
the far end of the room; one among them was conspicuously pretty,
and she began to ogle Carew in a very pronounced way.

"There's one hasn't got a partner," said Gordon. "Good-looking
Tottie, too. Go and ask her to dance. See what she says."

The Englishman hesitated for a second. "I don't like asking a
perfect stranger to dance," he said.

"Go on," said Gordon, "it's all right. She'll like it."

Carew drew down his cuffs, squared his shoulders, assumed his most
absolutely stolid drawing-room manner, and walked across the room,
a gleaming vision of splendour in his immaculate evening dress.

"May I--er--have the pleasure of this dance?" he said, with elaborate
politeness.

The girl giggled a little, but said nothing, then rose and took
his arm.

As she did so, a youth among the talkers at the other end of the
room looked round, and stared for a second. Then he moistened his
fingers with his tongue, smoothed the hair on his temples, and with
elbows held out from his sides, shoulders hunched up, and under-jaw
stuck well out, bore down on Carew and the girl, who were getting
under way when he came up. Taking not the slightest notice of Carew,
he touched the girl on the shoulder with a sharp peremptory tap,
and brought their dance to a stop.

"'Ere," he said, in commanding tones. "'Oo are you darncin' with?"

"I'm darncin' with 'im," answered the girl, pertly, indicating the
Englishman with a jerk of her head.

"Ho, you're darncin' with 'im, are you? 'E brought you 'ere,
p'r'aps?"

"No, he didn't," she said.

"No," said he. "You know well enough 'e didn't."

While this conversation was going on, the English-man maintained
an attitude of dignified reserve, leaving it to the lady to decide
who was to be the favoured man. At last he felt it was hardly right
for an Oxford man, and a triple blue at that, to be discussed in
this contemptuous way by a larrikin and his "donah," so he broke
into the discussion, perhaps a little abruptly, but using his most
polished style.

"I--ah--asked this lady to dance, and if she--er--will do me the
honour," he said, "I--"

"Oh! you arst 'er to darnce? And what right 'ad you to arst 'er to
darnce, you lop-eared rabbit?" interrupted the larrikin, raising
his voice as he warmed to his subject. "I brought 'er 'ere. I paid
the shillin'. Now then, you take your 'ook," he went on, pointing
sternly to the door, and talking as he would to a disobedient dog.
"Go on, now. Take your 'ook."

The Englishman said nothing, but his jaw set ominously. The girl
giggled, delighted at being the centre of so much observation.
The band stopped playing, and the dancers crowded round. Word was
passed down that it was a "toff darncin' with Nugget's donah," and
from various parts of the room black-coated duplicates of Nugget
hurried swiftly to the scene.

The doorkeeper turned to Gordon. "You 'd best get your mate out o'
this," he said. "These are the Rocks Push, and they'll deal with
him all right."

"Deal with him, will they?" said Gordon, looking at the gesticulating
Nugget. "They'll bite off more than they can chew if they interfere
with him. This is just his form, a row like this. He's a bit of
a champion in a rough-and-tumble, I believe."

"Is he?" said the doorkeeper, sardonically. "Well, look 'ere,
now, you take it from me, if there's a row Nugget will spread him
out as flat as a newspaper. They've all been in the ring in their
time, these coves. There's Nugget, and Ginger, and Brummy--all red
'ot. You get him away!"

Meanwhile the Englishman's ire was gradually rising. He was past
the stage of considering whether it was worth while to have a fight
over a factory girl in a shilling dancing saloon, and the desire
for battle blazed up in his eyes. He turned and confronted Nugget.

"You go about your business," he said, dropping all the laboured
politeness out of his tones. "If she likes to dance--"

He got no further. A shrill whistle rang through the room; a voice
shouted, "Don't 'it 'im; 'ook 'im!" His arms were seized from behind
and pinioned to his sides. The lights were turned out. Somebody in
front hit him a terrific crack in the eye at the same moment that
someone else administered a violent kick from the rear. He was
propelled by an invisible force to the head of the stairs, and
then--whizz! down he went in one prodigious leap, clear from the
top to the first landing.

Here, in pitch-darkness, he grappled one of his assailants. For
a few seconds they swayed and struggled, and then rolled down the
rest of the stairs, over and over each other, grappling and clawing,
each trying to tear the other's shirt off. When they rolled into
the street, Carew discovered that he had hold of Charlie Gordon.

They sat up and looked at each other. Then they made a simultaneous
rush for the stairs, but the street door was slammed in their faces.
They kicked it violently, but without result, except that a mob of
faces looked out of the first-floor window and hooted, and a bucket
of water was emptied over them. A crowd collected as if by magic,
and the spectacle of two gentlemen in evening dress trying to kick
in the door of a shilling dancing saloon afforded it unmitigated
delight.

"'Ere's two toffs got done in all right," said one.

"What O! Won't she darnce with you?" said another; and somebody
from the back threw banana peel at them.

Charlie recovered his wits first. The Englishman was fairly berserk
with rage, and glared round on the bystanders as if he contemplated
a rush among them. The cabman put an end to the performance. He
was tranquil and unemotional, and he soothed them down and coaxed
them into the cab. The band in the room above resumed the dreamy
waltz music of "Bid me Good-bye and go!" and they went.

Carew subsided into the corner, breathing hard and feeling his eye.
Charlie leant forward and peered out into the darkness. They were
nearly at the club before they spoke. Then he said, "Well, I'm
blessed! We made a nice mess of that, didn't we?"

"I'd like to have got one fair crack at some of 'em," said the
Englishman, with heartfelt earnestness. "Couldn't we go back now?"

"No what's the good? We'd never get in. Let the thing alone. We
needn't say anything about it. If once it gets known that we were
chucked out, we'll never hear the last of it. Are you marked at
all?"

"Got an awful swipe in the eye," replied the other briefly.

"I've got a cut lip, and my head nearly screwed off. You did that.
I'll know the place again. Some day we'll get a few of the right
sort to come with us, and we'll just go there quietly, as if we
didn't mean anything, and then, all of a sudden, we'll turn in and
break the whole place up! Come and have a drink now."

They had a silent drink in the deserted club. The mind of each was
filled with a sickening sense of defeat, and without much conversation
they retired to bed. They thanked heaven that the Bo'sun, Pinnock,
and Gillespie had disappeared.

Even then Fate hadn't quite finished with the bushman. A newly-joined
member of the club, he had lived a life in which he had to shift
for himself, and the ways of luxury were new to him. Consequently,
when he awoke next morning and saw a man moving with cat-like tread
about his room, absolutely taking the money out of his clothes before
his very eyes, he sprang out of bed with a bound and half-throttled
the robber. Then, of course, it turned out that it was only the
bedroom waiter, who was taking his clothes away to brush them. This
contretemps, on top of the overnight mishap, made him determined
to get away from town with all speed. When he looked in the glass,
he found his lip so much swelled that his moustache stuck out
in front like the bowsprit of a ship. At breakfast he joined the
Englishman, who had an eye with as many colours as an opal, not to
mention a tired look and dusty boots.

"Are you only just up?" asked Charlie, as they contemplated each
other.

Carew had resumed his mantle of stolidity, but he coloured a little
at the question. "I've been out for a bit of a walk round town,"
he said. "Fact is," he added in a sudden burst of confidence, "I've
been all over town lookin' for that place where we were last night.
Couldn't find anything like it at all."

Charlie laughed at his earnestness. "Oh, bother the place," he said.
"If you had found it, there wouldn't have been any of them there.
Now, about ourselves--we can't show out like this. We'd better
be off to-day, and no one need know anything about it. Besides,
I half-killed a waiter this morning. I thought he was some chap
stealing my money, when he only wanted to take my clothes away to
brush 'em. Sooner we're out of town the better. I'll wire to the
old man that I've taken you with me."

So saying, they settled down to breakfast, and by tacit agreement
avoided the club for the rest of the day.

Before leaving, Charlie had to call and interview Pinnock, and left
Carew waiting outside while he went in. He didn't want to parade
their injuries, and knew that Carew's eye would excite remark; but
by keeping his upper lip well drawn over his teeth, he hoped his
own trouble would escape notice.

"Seems a harmless sort of chap, that new chum," said Pinnock.

"He'll do all right," said Charlie casually. "I've met his sort
before. He's not such a fool as he lets on to be. Shouldn't wonder
if he killed somebody before he gets back here, anyhow."

"How did you get on at the dancing saloon?" asked Pinnock.

"Oh, slow enough. Nothing worth seeing. Good-bye."

They sneaked on board the steamer without meeting the Bo'sun
or anybody, and before evening were well on their way to No Man's
Land.

CHAPTER IV.

THE OLD STATION.

There are few countries in the world with such varieties of climate
as Australia, and though some stations are out in the great, red-hot,
frying wastes of the Never-Never, others are up in the hills where
a hot night is a thing unknown, where snow falls occasionally, and
where it is no uncommon thing to spend a summer's evening by the
side of a roaring fire. In the matter of improvements, too, stations
vary greatly. Some are in a wilderness, with fittings to match;
others have telephones between homestead and out-stations, the
jackeroos dress for dinner, and the station hands are cowed into
touching their hats and saying "Sir." Also stations are of all
sizes, and the man who is considered quite a big squatter in the
settled districts is thought small potatoes by the magnate "out
back," who shears a hundred and fifty thousand sheep, and has an
overdraft like the National Debt.

Kuryong was a hill-country station of about sixty thousand acres
all told; but they were good acres, as no one knew better than old
Bully Grant, the owner, of whose history and disposition we heard
something from Pinnock at the club. It was a highly improved place,
with a fine homestead--thanks to Bully Grant's money, for in the
old days it had been a very different sort of place--and its history
is typical of the history of hundreds of others.

When Andrew Gordon first bought it, it was held under lease from
the Crown, and there were no improvements to speak of. The station
homestead, so lovingly descanted upon in the advertisement,
consisted of a two-roomed slab hut; the woolshed, where the sheep
were shorn, was made of gumtree trunks roofed with bark. The wool
went down to Sydney, and station supplies came back, in huge waggons
drawn by eighteen or twenty bullocks, that travelled nine miles a
day on a journey of three hundred miles. There were no neighbours
except at the township of Kiley's Crossing, which consisted of
two public-houses and a store. It was a rough life for the young
squatter, and evidently he found it lonely; for on a visit to Sydney
he fell in love with and married a dainty girl of French descent.
Refined, well-educated, and fragile-looking, she seemed about the
last person in the world to take out to a slab-hut homestead as a
squatter's wife. But there is an old saying that blood will tell;
and with all the courage of her Huguenot ancestry she faced the
roughness and discomforts of bush life. On her arrival at the station
the old two-roomed hut was plastered and whitewashed, additional
rooms were built, and quite a neat little home was the result. Seasons
were good, and the young squatter might have gone on shearing sheep
and selling fat stock till the end of his life but for the advent
of free selection in 1861.

In that year the Legislature threw open all leasehold lands to the
public for purchase on easy terms and conditions. The idea was to
settle an industrious peasantry on lands hitherto leased in large
blocks to the squatters. This brought down a flood of settlement
on Kuryong. At the top end of the station there was a chain
of mountains, and the country was rugged and patchy--rich valleys
alternating with ragged hills. Here and there about the run were
little patches of specially good land, which were soon snapped up.
The pioneers of these small settlers were old Morgan Donohoe and
his wife, who had built the hotel at Kiley's Crossing; and, on their
reports, all their friends and relatives, as they came out of the
"ould country," worked their way to Kuryong, and built little bits
of slab and bark homesteads in among the mountains. The rougher
the country, the better they liked it. They were a horse-thieving,
sheep-stealing breed, and the talents which had made them poachers
in the old country soon made them champion bushmen in their new
surroundings. The leader of these mountain settlers was one Doyle,
a gigantic Irishman, who had got a grant of a few hundred acres in
the mountains, and had taken to himself a Scotch wife from among
the free immigrants. The story ran that he was too busy to go to
town, but asked a friend to go and pick a wife for him, "a fine
shtrappin' woman, wid a good brisket on her."

The Doyles were large, slow, heavy men, with an instinct for the
management of cattle; they were easily distinguished from the Donohoes,
who were little red-whiskered men, enterprising and quick-witted,
and ready to do anything in the world for a good horse. Other
strangers and outlanders came to settle in the district, but from
the original settlement up to the date of our story the two great
families of the Doyles and the Donohoes governed the neighbourhood,
and the headquarters of the clans was at Donohoe's "Shamrock Hotel,"
at Kiley's Crossing. Here they used to rendezvous when they went
away down to the plains country each year for the shearing; for they
added to their resources by travelling about the country shearing,
droving, fencing, tanksinking, or doing any other job that offered
itself, but always returned to their mountain fastnesses ready for
any bit of work "on the cross" (i.e., unlawful) that might turn up.
When times got hard they had a handy knack of finding horses that
nobody had lost, shearing sheep they did not own, and branding and
selling other people's calves.

When they stole stock, they moved them on through the mountains
as quickly as possible, always having a brother or uncle, or
a cousin--Terry or Timothy or Martin or Patsy--who had a holding
"beyant." By these means they could shift stolen stock across
the great range, and dispose of them among the peaceable folk who
dwelt in the good country on the other side, whose stock they stole
in return. Many a good horse and fat beast had made the stealthy
mountain journey, lying hidden in gaps and gullies when pursuit
grew hot, and being moved on as things quieted down.

Another striking feature was the way in which they got themselves
mixed up with each other. Their names were so tangled up that no
one could keep tally of them. There was a Red Mick Donohoe (son
of the old publican), and his cousin Black Mick Donohoe, and Red
Mick's son Mick, and Black Mick's son Mick, and Red Mick's son
Pat, and Black Mick's son Pat; and there was Gammy Doyle (meaning
Doyle with the lame leg), and Scrammy Doyle (meaning Doyle with
the injured arm), and Bosthoon Doyle and Omadhaun Doyle--a Bosthoon
being a man who never had any great amount of sense to speak of,
while an Omadhaun is a man who began life with some sense, but lost
most of it on his journey. It was a common saying in the country-side
that if you met a man on the mountains you should say, "Good-day,
Doyle," and if he replied, "That's not my name," you should at once
say, "Well, I meant no offence, Mr. Donohoe."

One could generally pick which was which of the original stock,
but when they came to intermarry there was no telling t'other from
which. Startling likenesses cropped up among the relatives, and
it was widely rumoured that one Doyle who was known to be in jail,
and who was vaguely spoken of by the clan as being "away," was in
fact serving an accumulation of sentences for himself and other
members of the family, whose sins he had for a consideration taken
on himself.

With such neighbours as these fighting him for every block of
land, Andrew Gordon soon came to the end of his resources, and it
was then that he had to take in his old manager as a partner. Before
Bully Grant had been in the firm long, he had secured nearly all
the good land, and the industrious yeomanry that the Land Act was
supposed to create were hiding away up the gullies on miserable
little patches of bad land, stealing sheep for a living. Bully
fought them stoutly, impounded their sheep and cattle, and prosecuted
trespassers and thieves; and, his luck being wonderful, he soon
added to the enormous fortune he had made in mining, while Andrew
Gordon died impoverished. When he died, old Bully gave the management
of the stations to his sons, and contented himself with finding
fault. But one dimly-remembered episode in his career was talked of
by the old hands around Kiley's Hotel, long after Grant had become
a wealthy man, and had gone for long trips to England.

Grant, in spite of the judgment and sagacity on which he prided
himself, had at various times in his career made mistakes--mistakes
in station management, mistakes about stock, mistakes about men,
and last, but not least, mistakes about women; and it was to one
of these mistakes that the gossips referred.

When he was a young man working as Mr. Gordon's manager, and living
with the horse-breaker and the ration-carrier on the out-station
at Kuryong (in those days a wild, half-civilised place), he had
for neighbours Red Mick's father and mother, the original Mr. and
Mrs. Donohoe, and their family. Their eldest daughter, Peggy--"Carrotty
Peg," her relations called her--was at that time a fine, strapping,
bush girl, and the only unmarried white woman anywhere near the
station. She was as fair-complexioned as Red Mick himself, with
a magnificent head of red hair, and the bust and limbs of a young
Amazon.

This young woman, as she grew up, attracted the attention of Billy
the Bully, and they used to meet a good deal out in the bush. On
such occasions, he would possibly be occupied in the inspiriting
task of dragging a dead sheep after his horse, to make a trail to
lead the wild dogs up to some poisoned meat; while the lady, clad in
light and airy garments, with a huge white sunbonnet for head-gear,
would be riding straddle-legged in search of strayed cows. When Grant
left the station, and went away to make his fortune in mining, it
was, perhaps, just a coincidence that this magnificent young creature
grew tired of the old place and "cleared out," too. She certainly
went away and disappeared so utterly that even her own people did
not know what had become of her; to the younger generation her very
existence was only a vague tradition. But it was whispered here and
muttered there among the Doyles and the Donohoes and their friends
and relations, that old Billy the Bully, on one of his visits to
the interior, had been married to this undesirable lady by a duly
accredited parson, in the presence of responsible witnesses; and
that, when everyone had their own, Carrotty Peg, if alive, would
be the lady of Kuryong. However, she had never come back to prove
it, and no one cared about asking her alleged husband any unpleasant
questions.

So much for the history of its owners; now to describe the homestead
itself. It had originally consisted of the two-roomed slab hut,
which had been added to from time to time. Kitchen, outhouses,
bachelors' quarters, saddle-rooms, and store-rooms had been built
on in a kind of straggling quadrangle, with many corners and unexpected
doorways and passages; and it is reported that a swagman once got
his dole of rations at the kitchen, went away, and after turning
two or three corners, got so tangled up that when Fate led him back
to the kitchen he didn't recognise it, and asked for rations over
again, in the firm belief that he was at a different part of the
house.

The original building was still the principal living-room, but
the house had grown till it contained about twenty rooms. The slab
walls had been plastered and whitewashed, and a wide verandah ran
all along the front. Round the house were acres of garden, with
great clumps of willows and acacias, where the magpies sat in the
heat of the day and sang to one another in their sweet, low warble.

The house stood on a spur running from the hills. Looking down
the river from it, one saw level flats waving with long grasses,
in which the solemn cattle waded knee-deep. Here and there clumps
of willows and stately poplars waved in the breeze. In the clear,
dry air all colours were startlingly vivid, and round the nearer
foothills wonderful lights and shadows played and shifted, while
sometimes a white fleece of mist would drift slowly across a distant
hill, like a film of snowy lace on the face of a beautiful woman.
Away behind the foothills were the grand old mountains, with their
snow-clad tops gleaming in the sun.

The garden was almost as lacking in design as the house. There were
acres of fruit trees, with prairie grass growing at their roots,
trees whereon grew luscious peaches and juicy egg-plums; long vistas
of grapevines, with little turnings and alleys, regular lovers'
walks, where the scent of honeysuckle intoxicated the senses. At
the foot of the garden was the river, a beautiful stream, fed by
the mountain-snow, and rushing joyously over clear gravel beds,
whose million-tinted pebbles dashed in the sunlight like so many
opals.

In some parts of Australia it is difficult to tell summer from
winter; but up in this mountain-country each season had its own
attractions. In the spring the flats were green with lush grass,
speckled with buttercups and bachelors' buttons, and the willows
put out their new leaves, and all manner of shy dry-scented bush
flowers bloomed on the ranges; and the air was full of the song
of birds and the calling of animals. Then came summer, when never
a cloud decked the arch of blue sky, and all animated nature
drew into the shade of big trees until the evening breeze sprang
up, bringing sweet scents of the dry grass and ripening grain. In
autumn, the leaves of the English trees turned all tints of yellow
and crimson, and the grass in the paddocks went brown; and the big
bullock teams worked from dawn till dark, hauling in their loads
of hay from the cultivation paddocks.

But most beautiful of all was winter, when logs blazed in the
huge fireplaces, and frosts made the ground crisp, and the stock,
long-haired and shaggy, came snuffling round the stables, picking
up odds and ends of straw; when the grey, snow-clad mountains looked
but a stone's throw away in the intensely clear air, and the wind
brought a colour to the cheeks and a tingling to the blood that
made life worth living.

Such was Kuryong homestead, where lived Charlie Gordon's mother and
his brother Hugh, with a lot of children left by another brother who,
like many others, had gone up to Queensland to make his fortune,
and had left his bones there instead; and to look after these young
folk there was a governess, Miss Harriott.

CHAPTER V.

THE COMING OF THE HEIRESS.

The spring--the glorious hill-country spring--was down on Kuryong.
All the flats along Kiley's River were knee-deep in green grass.
The wattle-trees were out in golden bloom, and the snow-water from
the mountains set the river running white with foam, fighting its
way over bars of granite into big pools where the platypus dived,
and the wild ducks--busy with the cares of nesting--just settled
occasionally to snatch a hasty meal and then hurried off, with
a whistle of strong wings, back to their little ones. The breeze
brought down from the hills a scent of grass and bush flowers. There
was life and movement everywhere. The little foals raced and played
all day in the sunshine round their big sleepy mothers; the cattle
bellowed to each other from hill to hill; even those miserable
brutes, the sheep, frisked in an ungainly way when anything startled
them. At all the little mountain-farms and holdings young Doyles
and Donohoes were catching their horses, lean after the winter's
starvation, and loading the pack-saddles for their five-months' trip
out to the borders of Queensland, from shearing-shed to shearing-shed,
A couple of months before they started, they would write to the
squatters for whom they had worked on previous shearings--such
quaint, ill-spelled letters--asking that a pen might be kept for
them. Great shearers they were, too, for the mountain air bred
hardy men, and while they were at it they worked feverishly, bending
themselves nearly double over the sheep, and making the shears fly
till the sweat ran down their foreheads and dripped on the ground;
and they peeled the yellow wool off sheep after sheep as an expert
cook peels an apple. In the settled districts such as Kuryong,
where the flocks were small, they were made to shear carefully;
but away out on the Queensland side, on a station with two hundred
thousand sheep to get through, they rushed the wool off savagely.
He was a poor specimen of the clan who couldn't shear his hundred
and twenty sheep between bell and bell; and the price was a pound
a hundred, with plenty of stations wanting shearers, so they made
good cheques in those days.

One glorious spring morning, Hugh Gordon was sitting in his
office--every squatter and station-manager has an office--waiting
with considerable impatience the coming of the weekly mail. The
office looked like a blend of stationer's shop, tobacconist's store,
and saddlery warehouse. A row of pigeon-holes along the walls was
filled with letters and papers; the rafters were hung with saddles
and harness; a tobacco-cutter and a jar of tobacco stood on the
table, side by side with some formidable-looking knives, used for
cutting the sheep's feet when they became diseased; whips and guns
stood in every corner; nails and saws filled up a lot of boxes
on the table, and a few samples of wool hung from a rope that was
stretched across the room. The mantelpiece was occupied by bottles of
horse-medicine and boxes of cartridges; an elderly white cockatoo,
chained by the leg to a galvanised iron perch, sunned himself
by the door, and at intervals gave an exhibition of his latest
accomplishment, in which he imitated the yowl of a trodden-on cat
much better than the cat could have done it himself.

The air was heavy with scent. All round the great quadrangle of the
house acacia trees were in bloom, and the bees were working busily
among the mignonette and roses in front of the office door.

Hugh Gordon was a lithe, wiry young Australian with intensely
sunburnt face and hands, and a drooping black moustache; a man with
a healthy, breezy outdoor appearance, but the face of an artist,
a dreamer, and a thinker, rather than that of a practical man. His
brother Charlie and he, though very much alike in face, were quite
different types of manhood. Charlie, from his earliest school-days,
had never read a book except under compulsion, had never stayed
indoors when he could possibly get out, had never obeyed an unwelcome
order when by force or fraud he could avoid doing so, and had never
written a letter in his life when a telegram would do. He took the
world as it came, having no particular amount of imagination, and
never worried himself. Hugh, on the other hand, was inclined to
meet trouble half-way, and to make troubles where none existed,
which is the worst misfortune that a man can be afflicted with.

Hugh walked to the door and gazed out over the garden and homestead,
down the long stretch of green paddocks where fat cattle were
standing under the trees, too well fed to bother themselves with
looking for grass. He looked beyond all this to the long drab-coloured
stretch of road that led to Kiley's, watching for the mailboy's
arrival. The mail was late, for the melting snow had flooded the
mountain creeks, and Hugh knew it was quite likely that little Patsy
Donohoe, the mail-boy, had been blocked at Donohoe's Hotel for two
days, unable to cross Kiley's River. This had happened often, and
on various occasions when Patsy had crossed, he, pony and all, had
been swept down quite a quarter of a mile in the ice-cold water
before they could reach land. But that was an ordinary matter in
the spring, and it was a point of honour with Patsy and all his
breed not to let the elements beat them in carrying out the mail
contract, which they tendered for every year, and in which no
outsider would have dared to compete.

At last Hugh's vigil was rewarded by the appearance of a small and
wild-looking boy, mounted on a large and wild-looking horse. The
boy was about twelve years of age, and had just ridden a half-broken
horse a forty-mile journey--for of such is the youth of Australia.
Patsy was wet and dirty, and the big leather mail-bag that he handed
over had evidently been under water.

"We had to swim, Mr. Hugh," the boy said triumphantly, "and this
great, clumsy cow" (the child referred to his horse), "he reared
over on me in the water, twyst, but I stuck to him. My oath!"

Hugh laughed. "I expect Kiley's River will get you yet, Patsy," he
said. "Go in now to the kitchen and get dry by the fire. I'll lend
you a horse to get back on to-morrow. You can camp here till then,
there's no hurry back."

The boy let his horse go loose, dismissing it with a parting whack
on the rump with the bridle, and swaggered inside, carrying his
saddle, to show his wet clothes and recount his deeds to the admiring
cook. Patsy was not one to hide his light under a bushel.

Hugh carried the bag into the office, and shook out the letters
and papers on the table. Everything was permeated with a smell of
wet leather, and some of the newspapers were rather pulpy. After
sending out everybody else's mail he turned to examine his own.
Out of the mass of letters, agents' circulars, notices of sheep
for sale, catalogues of city firms, and circulars from pastoral
societies, he picked a letter addressed to himself in the scrawling
fist of William Grant. He opened it, expecting to find in it the
usual Commination Service on things in general, but as he read on,
a vivid surprise spread over his face. Leaving the other letters
and papers unopened, he walked to the door and looked out into
the courtyard, where Stuffer, the youngest of his nephews, who was
too small to be allowed to join in the field sports of the others,
was playing at being a railway train. He had travelled in a train
once, and now passed Hugh's door under easy steam, working his
arms and legs like piston-rods, and giving piercing imitations of
a steam-whistle at intervals.

"Stuffer," said Hugh, "do you know where your grandmother is?"

"No" said the Stuffer laconically. "I don't Choo, choo, choo,
Whee-aw!"

"Well, look here," said Hugh, "you just railway-train yourself round
the house till you find her, and let me know where she is. I want
to see her. Off you go now."

The Stuffer steamed himself out with the action of an engine drawing
a long train of cars, and disappeared round the corner of the house.

Before long he was back, drew himself up alongside an imaginary
platform, intimated that his grandmother was in the verandah, and
then proceeded to let the steam hiss out of his safety-valve.

Hugh walked across the quadrangle, under the acacia tree, heavy with
blossoms, in which a myriad bees were droning at their work, and
through the house on to the front verandah, which looked over the
wide sweep of river-flat. Here he found his mother and Miss Harriott,
the governess, peeling apples for dumplings--great rosy-checked,
solid-fleshed apples, that the hill-country turns out in perfection.
The old lady was slight in figure, with a refined face, and a
carriage erect in spite of her years. Miss Harriott was of a languid
Spanish type, with black eyes and strongly-marked eyebrows. She
had a petite, but well-rounded figure, with curiously small hands
and feet. Though only about twenty-four years of age she had the sedate
and unemotional look that one sees in doctors and nurses---people
who have looked on death and birth, and sorrow and affliction. For
Ellen Harriott had done her three years' course as a nurse; she had
a natural faculty for the business, and was in great request among
the wild folk of the mountains, who looked upon her (and perhaps
rightly) as quite equal to the Tarrong doctor in any emergency. She
knew them all, for she had lived nearly all her life at Kuryong.
When the family moved there from the back country a tutor was needed
for the boys, and an old broken-down gentleman accepted the billet
at low pay, on condition that he was allowed to bring his little
daughter with him. When he died, the daughter still stayed on, and
was made governess to the new generation of young folk. She was a
queer, self-contained girl, saying little; and as Hugh walked in,
she looked up at him, and wondered what new trouble was bringing
him to his mother with the open letter in his hand.

"Mother," said Hugh, "I have had a most extraordinary letter."

"From Mr. Grant?" said the old lady, "What does he say?"

She saw by her son's face that there was something more than usual
in the wind, but one who had lived her life, from fortune to poverty,
through strife and trial, was prepared to take things much more
easily than Hugh.

"Is it anything very serious?"

"His daughter's coming out to live here."

"What?"

"Yes, here's the letter. It only came this morning. Patsy was late,
the river is up. I'll read it to you."

Seating himself at the table, Hugh spread out the letter, and read
it:--

Dear Gordon,

The last lot of wethers, though they topped the market, only
realised 10/-. I think you would show better judgment in keeping
these sheep back a little. Don't rely upon Satton's advice. He is
generally wrong, and is always most wrong when he is most sure he
is right.

My daughter has arrived from England, and will at once go up to the
station. I have written to your mother on the subject. My daughter
will represent me in everything, so I wish her to learn a little
about stations. Send to meet her at the train on Wednesday next.

Yours truly,
W. G. GRANT.

"Wednesday next!" said Hugh, "that letter is three days delayed.
Patsy couldn't cross the river. She'll be there before we can possibly
get down. If no one meets her I wonder if she'll have pluck enough
to get into the coach and come on to Donohoe's."

"I don't envy her the trip, if she does," said Miss Harriott. "The
coach-drive over those roads will seem awful to an English girl."

"I'll have to go down at once, anyhow," said Hugh, "and meet her
on the road somewhere. If she is at the railway, I can get there
in two days. Have you a letter, Mother?"

"Yes," said the old lady, "but I won't show it to you now. You
shall see it some other time."

"Well, I'll set about making a start," said Hugh. "What trap had
I better take?"

"You'd better take the big waggonette," said the old lady, in her
soft voice. "A young girl just out from England is sure to have a
great deal of luggage, you know. I wonder if she is anything like
Mr. Grant. I hope her temper is a little bit better."

"You'd better come down with me, Miss Harriott, to meet her," said
Hugh. "I don't suppose your luggage would be a load there and back,
anyhow."

"What about crossing the river?" said the old lady.

"Oh, we'll get across somehow," said Hugh, "will you come?"

"I think I'll wait," said the young lady meditatively, "She'll be
tired from travelling and looking after her luggage, and she had
better meet the family one at a time. You go and meet her, and your
mother and I will get her room ready. Does the letter say any more
about her?"

"No, that's all," said Hugh. "Well, I'll send the boy to run in
the horses. I'll take four horses in the big waggonette; I expect
she'll be waiting at Donohoe's--that is, if she left the railway-station
in the coach--if she is at Donohoe's I'll be back before dark."

With this he went back to the office, and his mother and Miss
Harriott went their separate ways to prepare for the comfort of
the heiress. To Ellen Harriott the arrival was a new excitement, a
change in the monotony of bush life; but to the old lady and Hugh
it meant a great deal more. It meant that they would be no longer
master and mistress of the big station on which they had lived so
long, and which was now so much under their control that it seemed
almost like their own.

Everything depended on what the girl was like. They had never
even seen a photograph of her, and awaited her coming in a state of
nervous expectancy. All over the district they had been practically
considered owners of the big station; Hugh had taken on and dismissed
employees at his will, had controlled the buying and selling of
thousands of sheep and cattle, and now this strange girl was to
come in with absolute power over them. They would be servants and
dependants on the station, which had once belonged to them.

After Hugh had gone, the old lady sat back in her armchair and
read over again her letter from Mr. Grant; and, lest it should be
thought that that gentleman had only one side to his character, it
is as well for the reader to know what was in the letter. It ran
as follows:--

Dear Mrs. Gordon,

I am writing to you about a most important matter. Colonel Selwyn
is dead, and my daughter has come out from England. I don't know
anyone to take charge of her except yourself. I am an old man now,
and set in my ways, and this girl is really all I have to live
for. Looking back on my life, I see where I have been a fool; and
perhaps the good fortune that has followed me has been more luck
than anything else. Your husband was a smarter man than I am, and
he came to grief, though I will say that I always warned him against
that Western place.

Do you remember the old days when we had the two little homesteads,
and I used to ride down from the out-station of a Saturday and
spend Sunday with you and Andrew, and talk over the fortunes we
were going to make? If I had met a woman like you in those days I
might have been a better man. As it was, I made a fool of myself.
But that's all past praying for.

Now about my girl. If you will take her, and make her as good
a woman as yourself, or as near it as you can, you will earn my
undying thanks. As to money matters, when I die she will of course
have a great deal of money, so that it is well she should begin now
to learn how to use it; I have, therefore, given her full power to
draw all money that may be required. I may tell you that I intend
to leave your boys enough to start them in life, and they will
have a first-class chance to get on. I am sending Charlie out to
the West, to take over a block which those fools, Sutton and Co.,
got me to advance money on, and on which the man cannot pay his
interest. He will be away for some time.

Meanwhile, dear Mrs. Gordon, for the sake of old times, do what
you can for the girl. I expect she has been brought up with English
ideas. I can't get her to say much to me, which I daresay is my
own fault. After she has been with you for a bit, I will come up
and stay for a time at the station.

Yours very truly,
W. G. GRANT.

Reading this letter called back the whole panorama of the past--the
old days when she and her husband were struggling in the rough,
hard, pioneering life, and the blacks were thick round the station;
the birth of her children, and the ups and downs of her husband's
fortunes; then the burial of her husband out on the sandhills, and
her flight to this haven of rest at Kuryong. Though she had lost
interest in things for herself, she felt keenly for her children,
and was sick at heart when she thought what this girl, who was to
wield such power over them, might turn out to be. But she hoped
that Grant's daughter, whatever else she might be, would at any
rate be a genuine, straight-forward girl; and filled with this
hope, she sat down to answer him:

"Dear Mr. Grant," she wrote, "I have received your letter. Hugh has
gone down to meet your daughter, but the mails were delayed owing
to the river being up, and he may not get to the railway station
as soon as she arrives. I will do what I can for her, and I thank
you for what you say you will do for my boys. I will let you know
the moment she arrives. I wish you would come up and live on the
station for a time. It would be better for you than life in the
club, without a friend to care for you. If ever you feel inclined
to stay here for a time, I hope you will at once let me know. With
thanks and best wishes,

Yours truly,
ANNETTE GORDON."

CHAPTER VI.

A COACH ACCIDENT.

The coach from Tarrong railway station to Emu Flat, and then
on to Donohoe's Hotel, ran twice a week. Pat Donohoe was mailman,
contractor and driver, and his admirers said that Pat could hit his
five horses in more places at once than any other man on the face
of the earth. His coach was horsed by the neighbouring squatters,
through whose stations the road ran; and any horse that developed
homicidal tendencies, or exhibited a disinclination to work, was
at once handed over to the mailman to be licked into shape. The
result was that, as a rule, Pat was driving teams composed of animals
that would do anything but go straight, but under his handling
they were generally persuaded, after a day or two, to settle down
to their work.

On the day when Hugh and Mrs. Gordon read Mr. Grant's letter at
Kuryong, the train deposited at Tarrong a self-reliant young lady
of about twenty, accompanied by nearly a truck-full of luggage--solid
leather portmanteaux, canvas-covered bags, iron boxes, and so
on--which produced a great sensation among the rustics. She was
handsome enough to be called a beauty, and everything about her
spoke of exuberant health and vitality. Her figure was supple, and
she had the clear pink and white complexion which belongs to cold
climates.

She seemed accustomed to being waited on, and watched without emotion
the guard and the solitary railway official--porter, station-master,
telegraph-operator and lantern-man, all rolled into one--haul her
hundredweights of luggage out of the train. Then she told the
perspiring station-master, etc., to please have the luggage sent
to the hotel, and marched over to that building in quite an assured
way, carrying a small handbag. Three commercial travellers, who had
come up by the same train, followed her off the platform, and the
most gallant of the three winked at his friends, and then stepped
up and offered to carry her bag. The young lady gave him a pleasant
smile, and handed him the bag; together they crossed the street,
while the other commercials marched disconsolately behind. At the
door of the hotel she took the bag from her cavalier, and there and
then, in broad Australian daylight, rewarded him with twopence--a
disaster which caused him to apply to his firm for transfer to some
foreign country at once. She marched into the bar, where Dan, the
landlord's son, was sweeping, while Mrs. Connellan, the landlady,
was wiping glasses in the midst of a stale fragrance of overnight
beer and tobacco-smoke.

"I am going to Kuryong," said the young lady, "and I expected to
meet Mr. Gordon here. Is he here?"

Mrs. Connellan looked at her open-eyed. Such an apparition was not
often seen in Tarrong. Mr. and Mrs. Connellan had only just "taken
the pub.", and what with trying to keep Connellan sober and refusing
drinks to tramps, loafers, and black-fellows, Mrs. Connellan was
pretty well worn out. As for making the hotel pay, that idea had
been given up long ago. It was against Mrs. Connellan's instincts
of hospitality to charge anyone for a meal or a bed, and when any
great rush of bar trade took place it generally turned out to be
"Connellan's shout," so the hotel was not exactly a goldmine. In
fact, Mrs. Connellan had decided that the less business she did,
the more money she would make; and she rather preferred that people
should not stop at her hotel. This girl looked as if she would give
trouble; might even expect clean beds and clean sheets when there
were none within the hotel, and might object to fleas, of which
there were plenty. So the landlady pulled herself together, and
decided to speed the parting guest as speedily as possible.

"Mr. Gordon couldn't git in," she said. The cricks (creeks) is all
up. The coach is going down to Kiley's Crossing to-day. You had
better go with that."

"How soon does the coach start?"

"In an hour or two. As soon as Pat Donohoe, the mailman, has got
a horse shod. Come in and have a wash, and fix yourself up till
breakfast is ready Where's your bag?"

"My luggage is at the railway-station."

"I'll send Dan over for it. Dan, Dan, Dan!"

"'Ello," said Dan's voice, from the passage, where, with the
wild-eyed servant-girl, he had been taking stock of the new arrival.

"Go over to the station and git this lady's bag. Is there much to
carry?"

"There are only four portmanteaux and three bags, and two boxes and
a hat-box, and a roll of rugs; and please be careful of the hat-box."

"You'd better git the barrer, Dan."

"Better git the bloomin' bullock-dray," growled Dan, quite keen to
see this aggregation of luggage; and foreseeing something to talk
about for the next three months. "She must ha' come up to start a
store, I reckon," said Dan; and off he went to struggle with boxes
for the next half-hour or so.

Over Mary Grant's experiences at the Tarrong Hotel we will not
linger. The dirty water, peopled by wriggling animalculae, that she
poured out of the bedroom jug; the damp, cloudy, unhealthy-smelling
towel on which she dried her face; the broken window through which
she could hear herself being discussed by loafers in the yard; all
these things are matters of course in bush townships, for the Australian,
having a soul above details, does not shine at hotel-keeping.
The breakfast was enlivened by snatches of song from the big,
good-natured bush-girl who waited at table, and who "fancied" her
voice somewhat, and marched into the breakfast-room singing in an
ear-splitting Soprano:

"It's a vilet from me"--

(spoken.) "What you'll have, there's chops, steaks, and bacon and
eggs"--"Chops, please."

(singer continues.) "Sainted mother's"--

(spoken.) "Tea or coffee"--"Tea, please."

(singer finishes.) --"grave."

While she ate, Miss Grant had an uneasy feeling that she was being
stared at; all the female staff and hangers-on of the place having
gathered round the door to peer in at her and to appraise to the
last farthing her hat, her tailor-made gown, and her solid English
walking-shoes, and to indulge in wild speculation as to who or
what she could be. A Kickapoo Indian in full war-paint, arriving
suddenly in a little English village, could not have created more
excitement than she did at Tarrong. After breakfast she walked out
on the verandah that ran round the little one-story weatherboard
hotel, and looked down the mile and a-half of road, with little
galvanised-iron-roofed cottages at intervals of a quarter of a
mile or so, that constituted the township. She watched Conroy, the
policeman, resplendent in breeches and polished boots, swagger out
from the court-house yard, leading his horse to water. The town
was waking to its daily routine; Garry, the butcher, took down the
clumsy board that passed for a window-shutter, and McDermott, the
carter, passed the hotel, riding a huge rough-coated draught-horse,
bare-backed. Everyone gave him a "Mornin', Billy!" as he passed,
and he returned the greeting as he did every morning of his life.
A few children loitered past to the little school-house, staring
at her as though she were some animal.

She was in a hurry to get away--English people always are--but
in the bright lexicon of the bush there is no such word as hurry.
Tracey, the blacksmith, had not by any means finished shoeing the
coach-horse yet. So Mrs. Connellan made an attempt to find out who
she was, and why she was going to Kuryong.

"You'll have a nice trip in the coach," she said. "Lier (lawyer)
Blake's going down. He's a nice feller."

"Yes?"

"Father Kelly, too. He's good company."

"Yes?"

"Are you staying long at Kuryong?"

"Some time, I expect."

"Are you going to teach the children?"

"No, I'm going to live there. My father owns Kuryong. My father is
Mr. Grant."

Mrs. Connellan was simply staggered at this colossal treasure-trove,
this majestic piece of gossip that had fallen on her like rain from
Heaven. Mr. Grant's daughter! Going out to Kuryong! What a piece
of news! Hardly knowing what she did, she shuffled out of the
room, and interrupted the singing waitress who was wiping plates,
and had just got back to "It's a vilet" when Mrs. Connellan burst
in on her.

"Maggie! Maggie! Do you know who that is? Grant's daughter! The one
that used to be in England. She must be going to Kuryong to live,
with all that luggage. What'll the Gordons say? The old lady won't
like it, will she? This'll be a bit of news, won't it?" And she
went off to tell the cook, while Maggie darted to the door to meet
Dan, and tell him.

Dan told the station-master when he went back for the next load,
and when he had finished carting the luggage he got on a horse and
went round telling everybody in the little town. The station-master
told the ganger of the four navvies who went by on their trolly
down the line to work. At the end of their four-mile length they
told the ration-carrier of Eubindal station, who happened to call
in at their camp for a drink of tea. He hurried off to the head-station
with the news, and on his way told three teamsters, an inspector
of selections, and a black boy belonging to Mylong station, whom
he happened to meet on the road. Each of them told everybody that
they met, pulling up and standing in their stirrups to discuss the
matter in all its bearings, in the leisurely style of the bush;
and wondering what she had come out for, whether the Gordons would
get the sack from Kuryong, whether she would marry Hugh Gordon,
whether she was engaged already, whether she was good-looking, how
much money she had, and how much old Grant would leave her. In fact,
before twenty-four hours were over, all the district knew of her
arrival; which possibly explains how news travels in Africa among
the Kaffirs, who are supposed to have a signalling system that
no one has yet fathomed; but the way it gets round in Australia
is just as wonderful as among the Kaffirs, in fact, for speed and
thoroughness of information we should be inclined to think that
our coloured brethren run a bad second.

At last, however, Tracey had finished shoeing the coach-horse,
and Miss Grant, with part of her luggage, took a seat on the coach
behind five of Donohoe's worst horses, next to a well-dressed,
powerfully-built man of about five-and-twenty. He looked and talked
like a gentleman, and she heard the coachman address him as "Mr.
Blake." She and he shared the box-seat with the driver, and just
at the last moment the local priest hurried up and climbed on the
coach. In some unaccountable way he had missed hearing who the
young lady was, and for a time he could only look at her back-hair
and wonder.

It was not long before, in the free and easy Australian style, the
passengers began to talk to each other as the coach bumped along
its monotonous road--up one hill, through an avenue of dusty,
tired-looking gum-trees, down the other side through a similar
avenue, up another hill precisely the same as the last, and so on.

Blake was the first to make advances. "Not much to be seen on this
sort of journey, Miss Grant," he said.

The young lady looked at him with serious eyes. "No," she said,
"we've only seen two houses since we left the town. All the rest
of the country seems to be a wilderness."

Here the priest broke in. He was a broth of a boy from Maynooth,
just the man to handle the Doyle and Donohoe congregation.

"It's the big stations is the roon of the country," he said. "How
is the country to go ahead at all wid all the good land locked up?
There's Kuryong on ahead here would support two hundthred fam'lies,
and what does it employ now? Half a dozen shepherds, widout a rag
to their back."

"I am going to Kuryong," said the girl; and the priest was silent.

By four in the afternoon they reached Kiley's River, running yellow
and froth-covered with melting snow. The coachman pulled his horses
up on the bank, and took a good, long look at the bearings. As
they waited, the Kuryong vehicle came down on the other side of
the river.

"There's Mr. Gordon," said the coachman. "I don't think he'll try
it. I reckon it's a trifle deep for me. Do you want to get across
particular, Mr. Blake?"

"Yes, very particularly, Pat. I've told Martin Donohoe to meet me
down here with some witnesses in a cattle-stealing case."

"What about you, Father Kelly?"

"I'm go'n on to Tim Murphy's dyin' bed. Put 'em into the wather,
they'll take it aisy."

The driver turned to the third passenger. "It's a bit dangerous-like,
Miss. If you like to get out, it's up to you to say so. The coach
might wash over. There's a settler's place up the river a mile.
You can go and stay there till the river goes down, and Mr. Gordon
'll come and meet you."

"Thanks, I'll go on," said the lady.

Preparations for crossing the river were soon made. Anything that
would spoil by getting wet, or that would float out of the coach,
was lifted up and packed on the roof. The passengers stood up on
the seats. Then Pat Donohoe put the whip on his leaders, and calling
to his two wheelers, old-seasoned veterans, he put them at it.

Snorting and trembling, the leaders picked their way into the yellow
water, the coach bumping over the rubble of the crossing-place. Hugh
Gordon, watching from the far-side of the river, saw the coach dip
and rock and plunge over the boulders. On it came till the water
was actually lapping into the body of the coach, roaring and swirling
round the horses' legs, up to their flanks and bellies, while the
driver called out to them and kept them straight with voice and
reins. Every spring he had a similar crossing, and he knew almost
to an inch at what height it was safe to go into the river. But this
time, as ill-luck would have it, the off-side leader was a young,
vicious, thorough-bred colt, who had been handed over to him to be
cured of a propensity for striking people with his fore-feet. As
the horses worked their way into the river, the colt, with the
courage of his breeding, pulled manfully, and breasted the current
fearlessly. But suddenly a floating log drifted down, and struck
him on the front legs. In an instant he reared up, and threw himself
heavily sideways against his mate, bringing him to his knees; then
the two of them, floundering and scrambling, were borne away with
the current, dragging the coach after them. In a few yards they
were off the causeway; the coach, striking deep water, settled like
a boat, and turned over on its side, with the leaders swimming for
their lives. As for the wheelers, they were pulled down with the
vehicle, and were almost drowning in their harness.

Cool as a cucumber, Blake had turned to the girl. "Can you swim?"
he said. And she answered him as cooly, "Yes, a little."

"Well, put your hands on my shoulders, and leave everything to me."
Just then the coach settled over with one final surge, and they
were in the water.

Away they went with the roaring current, the girl clinging fast
to his shoulders, while he gave his whole attention to dodging the
stumps and snags that were showing their formidable teeth above
water. For a while she was able to hold on. Then, with a sickening
sense of helplessness, she felt herself torn from him, and whirled
away like a leaf. The rank smell of the muddy water was in her
nostrils, the fear of death in her heart. She struggled to keep
afloat. Suddenly a blood-streaked face appeared, and Blake, bleeding
from a cut on the forehead, caught her with a strong grip and drew
her to him. A few more seconds of whirling chaos, and she felt land
under her feet, and Blake half-carrying her to the bank. They had
been swept on to one of the many sand-banks which ran out into the
stream, and were safe.

Half-hysterical, she sat down on a huge log, and waited while Blake
ran up-stream to give help to the coachman. While the two had been
battling in the water, the priest had stayed with the coachman to
cut the horses free, till at last all four got clear of the wreck,
and swam ashore. Then the men followed them, drifting down the
current and fighting their way to shore at about the same place.

Hugh Gordon drove the waggonette down to pick up the party when
they landed. The scene on the bank would have made a good picture.
The horses, dripping with water and shaking with cold, were snorting
and staring, while the coachman was trying to fix up some gear out
of the wreck, so that he could ride one of them. The priest, his
broad Irish face ornamented by a black clay pipe, was tramping up
and down in his wet clothes. Blake was helping Miss Grant to wring
the water out of her clothes, and she was somewhat incoherently
trying to thank him. As Hugh drove up, Blake looked up and caught
his eye, and there flashed between the two men an unmistakable look
of hostility. Then Hugh jumped from the waggonette, and walked up
to Miss Grant, holding out his hand.

"I'm Hugh Gordon," he said. "We only got your father's letter
to-day, or I would have been down to meet you. I hope you are not
hurt. Jump into the trap, and I'll run down to the Donohoes', and
get you some dry things." Then, turning to Blake, he said somewhat
stiffly, "Will you get in, Mr. Blake?"

"Thanks," said Blake, equally stiffly, "I can ride one of the mail
horses. It's no distance. I wont trouble you."

But the girl turned and put her hand into Blake's, and spoke with
the air of a queen.

"I am very much obliged to you--more than I can tell you. You have
saved my life. If ever I can do anything to repay you I will."

"Oh, nonsense," said Blake, "that's nothing. It was only a matter
of dodging the stumps. You'd better get on now to Donohoe's Hotel,
and get Mrs. Donohoe to find some dry things for you."

The mere fact of his refusing a lift showed that there was some
hostility between himself and Hugh Gordon; but the priest, who had
climbed into the Kuryong vehicle as a matter of course, settled
the matter off-hand.

"Get in the trap," he said. "Get in the trap, man. What's the use
for two of ye to ride the mail horses, and get your death o' cold?
Get in the trap!"

"Of course I'll give you a lift," said Hugh. "Jump in, and let
us get away before you all get colds. What will you do about the
coach and the luggage, Pat?"

"I'll borry them two old draught horses from Martin Donohoe, and
they'll haul it out. Bedad, some o' that luggage 'll be washed down
to the Murrumbidgee before night; but the most of it is strapped
on. Push along, Mr. Gordon, and tell Martin I'm coming."

With some reluctance Blake got into the waggonette; before long
they were at Donohoe's Hotel, and Mary Grant was soon rigged out
in an outfit from Mrs. Donohoe's best clothes--a pale-green linsey
bodice and purple skirt--everything, including Mrs. Donohoe's
boots, being about four sizes too big. But she looked by no means
an unattractive little figure, with her brown eyes and healthy
colour showing above the shapeless garments.

She came into the little sitting-room laughing at the figure she
cut, sat down, and drank scalding tea, and ate Mrs. Donohoe's cakes,
while talking with Father Kelly and Blake over the great adventure.

When she was ready to start she got into the waggonette alongside
Hugh, and waved good-bye to the priest and Blake and Mrs. Donohoe,
as though they were old friends. She had had her first touch of
colonial experience.

CHAPTER VII.

MR. BLAKE'S RELATIONS.

As soon as Hugh got his team swinging along at a steady ten miles
an hour on the mountain road, Mary Grant opened the conversation.

"Mr. Gordon," she said, "who is Mr. Blake?"

"He's the lawyer from Tarrong."

"Yes, I know. Mrs. Connellan called him the 'lier.' But I thought
you didn't seem to like him. Isn't he nice?"

"I suppose so. His father was a gentleman--the police magistrate
up here."

"Then, why don't you like him? Is there anything wrong about him?"

Hugh straightened his leaders and steadied the vehicle over a little
gully.

"There's nothing wrong about him," he said, "only--his mother was
one of the Donohoes--not a lady, you know--and he always goes with
those people; and, of course, that means he doesn't go much with
us."

"Why not?"

"Well, you see, they're selectors, and they look on the station
people as--well, rather against them, you know--sort of enemies--and
he has never come to the station. But there is no reason why he
shouldn't."

"He saved my life," said Mary Grant.

"Certainly he did," said Hugh. "I'll say that for Blake, he fears
nothing. One of the pluckiest men alive. And how did you feel? Were
you much frightened?"

"Yes, horribly. I have often wondered whether I should be brave,
you know, and now I don't think I am. Not the least bit. But Mr.
Blake seemed so strong--directly he caught hold of me I felt quite
safe, somehow. If you don't mind, I would like to ask him out to
the station."

"Certainly, Miss Grant. My mother will only be too glad. She was
sorry that we did not get down to meet you. The letter was delayed."

Mary Grant laughed as she looked down at Mrs. Donohoe's clothes.
"What a sight I am!" she said.

"But, after all, it's Australia, isn't it? And I have had such
adventures already! You know you will have to show me all about
the station and the sheep and cattle. Will you do that?"

Hugh thought there was nothing in the world he would like better,
but contented himself with a formal offer to teach her the noble
art of squatting.

"You must begin at once and tell me things. What estate are we on
now?" she asked.

"This is your father's station. All you can see around belongs to
him; but after the next gate we come on some land held by selectors."

"Who are they?"

"Well," said Hugh, a little awkwardly, "they are relations of Mr.
Blake's. You'll see what an Australian farmer's homestead is like."

They drove through a rickety wire-and-sapling gate and across about
a mile of bush, and suddenly came on a little slab house nestling
under the side of a hill. At the back were the stockyards and the
killing-pen, where a contrivance for raising dead cattle--called a
gallows--waved its arms to the sky. In front of the house there was
rather a nice little garden. At the back were a lot of dilapidated
sheds, leaning in all directions. A mob of sheep was penned in
a yard outside one of the sheds; and in the garden an old woman,
white-haired and wrinkled, with a very short dress showing a lot
of dirty stocking and slipshod elastic-sided boot, was bending over
a spade, digging potatoes.

The old woman straightened herself as they drove up.

"Good daah to you, Misther Gordon," she said. "Good daah to you,
Miss."

"Good day, Mrs. Doyle," said Hugh. "Hard work that, this weather.
How's all the family?"

"Mag--Marg'rut, I mane--she's inside. That's her playin' the pianny.
She just got it up from Sydney."

"And where's Peter?"

"Peter's shearin' the sheep. He's in that shed there beyant. He's
the only shearer we have, so we tell him he's the ringer of the
shed. He works terr'ble hard, does Peter. He's not--" and the old
woman dropped her voice--"he's not all there in the head, is Peter,
you know."

"And where's Mick?"

"Mick, bad scran to him! He's bought a jumpin' haarse (horse),
and he's gone to hell leppin! Down at one of the shows he is, some
place. He has too much sense to work, has Mick. Won't you come in
and have a cup of tay?"

"No, we must get on, thank you," and Hugh and Mary drove off, watched
by the old lady and the lanky-legged, shock-headed youth--Peter
himself--who came to the door of the big shed to stare at them.

As they drove off Hugh was silent, wondering what effect the sight
of the selectors might have had on Miss Grant.

She seemed to read his thoughts, and after a little while she spoke.

"So those are Mr. Blake's poor relations, are they? Well, that
is not his fault. My father was poor once, just as poor as those
people are. And Mr. Blake saved my life."

Hugh felt that she was half-consciously putting him in the wrong
for having more or less disapproved of Mr. Blake; so he kept silence.

As the team bore them along at a flying trot, they climbed higher
and higher up the range; at last, as they rounded a shoulder of
the hillside, the whole valley of Kiley's River lay beneath them,
stretching away to the far blue foothills. Beyond again was a great
mountain, its top streaked with snow. At their feet was a gorgeous
scheme of colour, greens and greys of the grass, bright tints of
willow and poplar, and the speckled forms of the cattle, so far
down that they looked like pigmy stock feeding in fairy paddocks.
Across the valley there came now and again, softened by distance,
the song of the river; and up in the river-bend, on a spur of the
hills, were white walls rising from clustered greenery.

"How beautiful!" said the girl, half standing up in the waggonette,
"and is that--"

"That's Kuryong, Miss Grant. Your home station."

CHAPTER VIII.

AT THE HOMESTEAD.

Miss Grant's arrival at Kuryong homestead caused great excitement
among the inhabitants. Mrs. Gordon received her in a motherly way,
trying hard not to feel that a new mistress had come into the house;
she was anxious to see whether the girl exhibited any signs of her
father's fiery temper and imperious disposition. The two servant-girls
at the homestead--great herculean, good-natured bush-girls, daughters
of a boundary-rider, whose highest ideal of style and refinement
was Kuryong drawing-room--breathed hard and stared round-eyed, like
wild fillies, at the unconscious intruder. The station-hands--Joe,
the wood-and-water boy, old Alfred the groom, Bill the horse-team
driver, and Harry Warden the married man, who helped with sheep,
mended fences, and did station-work in general--all watched for a
sight of her. They exchanged opinions about her over their smoke
at night by the huge open fireplace in the men's hut, where they
sat in a semicircle, toasting their shins at the blaze till their
trousers smoked again, each man with a pipe of black tobacco going
full swing from tea till bedtime. But the person who felt the most
intense excitement over the arrival of the heiress was Miss Harriott.

Book of the day: