Part 10 out of 12
away till the police cleared off, which they did last week. There will
be mischief soon. There; I have told you enough to cut my throat, and
I'll tell you more, and convince you that I am right. That shepherd at
whose hut we stayed last night was one of them; that fellow was the
celebrated Captain Mike. What do you think of that?"
I shuddered as I heard the name of that fell ruffian, and thought that
I had slept in the hut with him. But when I remembered how he was
whispering with the stranger in the middle of the night, I came to the
conclusion that serious mischief was brewing, and pushed on through the
fog, which still continued as dense as ever, and, guided by some
directions from the old hut-keeper, I got to Captain Brentwood's about
ten o'clock, and told him and the Major the night's adventures.
We three armed ourselves secretly and quietly, and went back to the hut
with the determination of getting possession of the person of the
shepherd Mike, who, were he the man Dick accused him of being, would
have been a prize indeed, being one of the leading Van Diemen's Land
rangers, and one of the men reported as missing by Captain Blockstrop.
"Suppose," said Captain Brentwood, "that we seize the fellow, and it
isn't him after all?"
"Then," said the Major, "an action for false imprisonment would lie
sir, decidedly. But we will chance it."
And when we got there, we saw the old hut-keeper, he of the colliery
explosion experiences, shepherding the sheep himself, and found that
the man we were in search of had left the hut that morning, apparently
to take the sheep out. But that going out about eleven the old man had
found them still in the yard, whereby he concluded that the shepherd
was gone, which proved to be the case. And making further inquiries we
found that the shepherd had only been hired a month previously, and
no man knew whence he came: all of which seemed to confirm Dick's story
wonderfully, and made us excessively uneasy. And in the end the Major
asked me to prolong my visit for a time and keep my servant with me, as
every hand was of use; and so it fell out that I happened to be present
at, and chronicle all which follows.
IN WHICH GEORGE HAWKER SETTLES AN OLD SCORE WITH WILLIAM LEE, MOST
HANDSOMELY, LEAVING, IN FACT, A LARGE BALANCE IN HIS OWN FAVOUR.
I pause here--I rather dread to go on. Although our course has been
erratic and irregular; although we have had one character disappearing
for a long time (like Tom Troubridge); and, although we have had
another entirely new coming bobbing up in the manner of Punch's
victims, unexpected, and apparently unwanted; although, I say, the
course of this story may have been ill-arranged in the highest degree,
and you may have been continually coming across some one in Vol. II.
who forced you to go back to Vol. I. (possibly sent back to the
library) to find out who he was; yet, on the whole, we have got on
pleasantly enough as things go. Now, I am sorry to say I have to record
two or three fearful catastrophes. The events of the next month are
seldom alluded to by any of those persons mentioned in the preceding
pages; they are too painful. I remark that the Lucknow and Cawnpore men
don't much like talking about the affairs of that terrible six weeks;
much for the same reason, I suspect, as we, going over our old
recollections, always omit the occurrences of this lamentable spring.
The facts contained in the latter end of this chapter I got from the
Gaol Chaplain at Sydney.
The Major, the Captain, and I, got home to dinner, confirmed in our
suspicions that mischief was abroad, and very vexed at having missed
the man we went in search of. Both Mrs. Buckley and Alice noticed that
something was wrong, but neither spoke a word on the subject. Mrs.
Buckley now and then looked anxiously at her husband, and Alice cast
furtive glances at her father. The rest took no notice of our silence
and uneasiness, little dreaming of the awful cloud that was hanging
above our heads, to burst, alas! so soon.
I was sitting next to Mary Hawker that evening, talking over old Devon
days and Devon people, when she said,--
"I think I am going to have some more quiet peaceful times. I am
happier than I have been for many years. Do you know why? Look there."
"I shuddered to hear her say so, knowing what I knew, but looked where
she pointed. Her son sat opposite to us, next to the pretty Ellen
Mayford. She had dropped the lids over her eyes and was smiling. He,
with his face turned toward her, was whispering in his eager impulsive
way, and tearing to pieces a slip of paper which he held in his hand.
As the firelight fell on his face, I felt a chill come over me. The
likeness was so fearful!--not to the father (that I had been long
accustomed to), but to the son, to the half-brother--to the poor lost
young soul I had seen last night, the companion of desperate men. As it
struck me I could not avoid a start, and a moment after I would have
given a hundred pounds not to have done so, for I felt Mary's hand on
my arm, and heard her say, in a low voice,--
"Cruel! cruel! Will you never forget?"
I felt guilty and confused. As usual, on such occasions, Satan was at
my elbow, ready with a lie, more or less clumsy, and I said, "You do me
injustice, Mrs. Hawker. I was not thinking of old times. I was
astonished at what I see there. Do you think there is anything in it?"
"I sincerely hope so," she said.
"Indeed, and so do I. It will be excellent on every account. Now," said
I, "Mrs. Hawker, will you tell me what has become of your old servant,
Lee? I have reasons for asking."
"He is in my service still," she said; "as useful and faithful as ever.
At present he is away at a little hut in the ranges, looking after our
"Who is with him?" I asked.
"Well, he has got a new hand with him, a man who came about a month or
so ago, and stayed about splitting wood. I fancy I heard Lee remark
that he had known him before. However, when Lee had to go to the
ranges, he wanted a hut-keeper; so this man went up with him."
"What sort of a looking man was he?"
"Oh, a rather large man, red-haired, much pitted with the small-pox."
All this made me uneasy. I had asked these questions, by the advice
of Dick, and, from Mrs. Hawker's description tallying so well with his,
I had little doubt that another of the escaped gang was living actually
in her service, alone too, in the hut with Lee.
The day that we went to Mirngish, the circumstances I am about to
relate took place in Lee's hut, a lonely spot, eight miles from the
home station, towards the mountain, and situated in a dense dark
stringy bark forest--a wild desolate spot, even as it was that afternoon,
with the parrots chattering and whistling around it, and the
bright winter's sun lighting up the green tree-tops.
Lee was away, and the hut-keeper was the only living soul about the
place. He had just made some bread, and, having carried out his camp-oven
to cool, was sitting on the bench in the sun, lazily, thinking
what he would do next.
He was a long, rather powerfully-built man, and seemed at first sight,
merely a sleepy half-witted fellow, but at a second glance you might
perceive that there was a good deal of cunning, and some ferocity in
his face. He sat for some time, and was beginning to think that he
would like a smoke, so he got out his knife preparatory to cutting
The hut stood at the top of a lone gully, stretching away in a vista,
nearly bare of trees for a width of about ten yards or so, all the way
down, which gave it the appearance of a grass-ride, walled on each side
by tall dark forest; looking down this, our hutkeeper saw, about a
quarter of a mile off, a horseman cross from one side to the other.
He only caught a momentary glimpse of him, but that was enough to show
him that it was a stranger. He neither knew horse nor man, at least
judging by his dress; and while he was still puzzling his brains as to
what stranger would be coming to such an out-of-the-way place, he
heard the "Chuck, kuk, kuk, kuk," of an opossum close behind the hut,
and started to his feet.
It would of course have startled any bushman to hear an opossum cry in
broad day, but he knew what this meant well. It was the arranged signal
of his gang, and he ran to the place from whence the sound came.
George Hawker was there--well dressed, sitting on a noble chestnut
horse. They greeted one another with a friendly curse.
As is my custom, when recording the conversation of this class of
worthies, I suppress the expletives, thereby shortening them by nearly
one half, and depriving the public of much valuable information.
"Well, old man," began Hawker, "is the coast clear?"
"No one here but myself," replied the other. "I'm hut-keeping here for
one Bill Lee, but he is away. He was one of the right sort once
himself, I have heard; but he's been on the square for twenty years, so
I don't like to trust him."
"You are about right there, Moody, my lad," said Hawker. "I've just
looked up to talk to you about him, and other matters,--I'll come in.
When will he be back?"
"Not before night, I expect," said the other.
"Well," said Hawker, "we shall have the more time to talk; I've got a
good deal to tell you. Our chaps are all safe and snug, and the traps
are off. Only two, that's you and Mike, stayed this side of the hill;
the rest crossed the ranges and stowed away in an old lair of mine on
one of the upper Murray gullies. They've had pretty hard times, and if
it hadn't been for the cash they brought away, they'd have had worse.
Now the coast is clear, they're coming back by ones and twos, and next
week we shall be ready for business. I'm going to be head man this
bout, because I know the country better than any; and the most noble
Michael has consented, for this time only, to act as lieutenant. We
haven't decided on any plans yet, but some think of beginning from the
coast, because that part will be clearest of traps, they having
satisfied themselves that we ain't there. In fact, the wiseacres have
fully determined that we are all drowned. There's one devil of a
foreign doctor knows I'm round though: he saw me the night before you
came ashore, and I am nigh sure he knew me. I have been watching him,
and I could have knocked him over last week as clean as a whistle,
only, thinks I, it'll make a stir before the time. Never mind, I'll
have him yet. This Lee is a black sheep, lad. I'm glad you are here;
you must watch him, and if you see him flinch, put a knife in him. He
raised the country on me once before. I tell you, Jerry, that I'd be
hung, and willing, to-morrow, to have that chap's life, and I'd have
had it before now, only I had to keep still for the sake of the others.
That man served me the meanest, dirtiest trick, twenty years ago, in
the old country, that ever you or any other man heard of, and if he
catches sight of me the game's up. Mind, if you see cause, you deal
with him, or else,----" (with an awful oath) "you answer to the
"If he's got to go, he'll go," replied the other, doggedly. "Don't you
fear me; Moody the cannibal ain't a man to flinch."
"What, is that tale true then?" asked Hawker, looking at his companion
with a new sort of interest.
"Why, in course it is," replied Moody; "I thought no one doubted that.
That Van Diemen's Land bush would starve a bandicoot, and Shiner and I
walked two days before we knocked the boy on the head; the lad was
getting beat, and couldn't a' gone much further. After three days more
we began to watch one another, and neither one durst walk first, or go
to sleep. Well, Shiner gave in first; he couldn't keep his eyes open
any longer. And then, you know, of course my own life was dearer than
"My God! That's worse than ever I did!" said Hawker.
"But not worse than you may do, if you persevere. You promise well,"
said Moody, with a grin.
Hawker bent and whispered in his ear; the other listened for a time,
and then said,--
"Make it twenty."
Hawker after a little consideration nodded--then the other nodded--
then they whispered together again. Something out of the common this
must be, that they, not very particular in their confidences, should
whisper about it.
They looked up suddenly, and Lee was standing in the doorway.
Hawker and he started when they saw one another, but Lee recovered
himself first, and said,--
"George Hawker, it's many years since we met, and I'm not so young as I
was. I should like to make peace before I go, as I well know that I'm
the chief one to blame for you getting into trouble. I'm not humbugging
you, when I say that I have been often sorry for it of late years. But
sorrow won't do any good. If you'll forgive and forget, I'll do the
same. You tried my life once, and that's worse than ever I did for you.
And now I'll tell you, that if you want money to get out of the country
and set up anywhere else, and leave your poor wife in peace, I'll find
it for you out of my own pocket."
"I don't bear any malice," said Hawker; "but I don't want to leave the
country just yet. I suppose you won't peach about having seen me here?"
"I shan't say a word, George, if you keep clear of the home station;
but I won't have you come about there. So I warn you."
Lee held out his hand, and George took it. Then he asked him if he
would stay there that night, and George consented.
Day was fast sinking behind the trees, and making golden boughs
overhead. Lee stood at the hut door watching the sun set, and thinking,
perhaps, of old Devon. He seemed sad, and let us hope he was regretting
his old crimes while time was left him. Night was closing in
on him, and having looked once more on the darkening sky, and the fog
coldly creeping up the gully, he turned with a sigh and a shudder into
the hut, and shut the door.
Near midnight, and all was still. Then arose a cry upon the night so
hideous, so wild, and so terrible, that the roosting birds dashed off
affrighted, and the dense mist, as though in sympathising fear,
prolonged the echoes a hundred fold. One articulate cry, "Oh! you
treacherous dog!" given with the fierce energy of a dying man, and then
night returned to her stillness, and the listeners heard nothing but
the weeping of the moisture from the wintry trees.
* * * * *
The two perpetrators of the atrocity stood silent a minute or more,
recovering themselves. Then Hawker said in a fierce whisper,--
"You clumsy hound; why did you let him make that noise? I shall never
get it out of my head again, if I live till a hundred. Let's get out of
this place before I go mad; I could not stay in the house with it for
salvation. Get his horse, and come along."
They got the two horses, and rode away into the night; but Hawker, in
his nervous anxiety to get away, dropped a handsome cavalry pistol,--a
circumstance which nearly cost Doctor Mulhaus his life.
They rode till after daylight, taking a course toward the sea, and had
gone nearly twelve miles before George discovered his loss, and broke
out into petulant imprecations.
"I wouldn't have lost that pistol for five pounds," he said; "no, nor
more. I shall never have one like it again. I've put over a parrot at
twenty yards with it."
"Go back and get it, then," said Moody, "if it's so valuable. I'll camp
and wait for you. We want all the arms we can get."
"Not I," said George; "I would not go back into that cursed hut alone
for all the sheep in the country."
"You coward," replied the other; "afraid of a dead man. Well, if you
wont, I will: and, mind, I shall keep it for my own use."
"You're welcome to it, if you like to get it," said George. And so
Moody rode back.
HOW DR. MULHAUS GOT BUSHED IN THE RANGES, AND WHAT BEFEL HIM THERE.
I must recur to the same eventful night again, and relate another
circumstance that occurred on it. As events thicken, time gets more
precious; so that, whereas at first I thought nothing of giving you the
events of twenty years or so in a chapter, we are now compelled to
concentrate time so much that it takes three chapters to twenty-four
hours. I read a long novel once, the incidents of which did not
extend over thirty-six hours, and yet it was not so profoundly stupid
as you would suppose.
All the party got safe home from the picnic, and were glad enough to
get housed out of the frosty air. The Doctor, above all others, was
rampant at the thoughts of dinner, and a good chat over a warm fire,
and burst out, in a noble bass voice, with an old German student's song
about wine and Gretchen, and what not.
His music was soon turned into mourning; for, as they rode into the
courtyard, a man came up to Captain Brentwood, and began talking
eagerly to him.
It was one of his shepherds, who lived alone with his wife towards the
mountain. The poor woman, his wife, he said, was taken in labour that
morning, and was very bad. Hearing there was a doctor staying at the
home station, he had come down to see if he could come to their
"I'll go, of course," said the Doctor; "but let me get something to eat
first. Is anybody with her?"
"Yes, a woman was with her; had been staying with them some days."
"I hope you can find the way in the dark," said the Doctor, "for I can
tell you I can't."
"No fear, sir," said the man; "there's a track all the way, and the
moon's full. If it wasn't for the fog it would be as bright as day."
He took a hasty meal, and started. They went at a foot's pace, for the
shepherd was on foot. The track was easily seen, and although it was
exceedingly cold, the Doctor, being well wrapped up, contrived, with
incessant smoking, to be moderately comfortable. All external objects
being a blank, he soon turned to his companion to see what he could get
out of him.
"What part of the country are you from, my friend?"
"Fra' the Isle of Skye," the man answered. "I'm one of the Macdonalds
"That's a very ancient family, is it not?" said the Doctor at a
venture, knowing he could not go wrong with a Highlander.
"Very ancient, and weel respeckit," the man answered.
"And who is your sheik, rajah, chieftain, or what you call him?"
"My lord Macdonald. I am cousin to my lord."
"Indeed! He owns the whole island, I suppose?"
"There's Mackinnons live there. But they are interlopers; they are
worthless trash," and he spit in disgust.
"I suppose," said the Doctor, "a Mackinnon would return the compliment,
if speaking of a Macdonald."
The man laughed, and said, he supposed "Yes," then added, "See! what's
"A white stump burnt black at one side,--what did you think it was?"
"I jaloused it might be a ghaist. There's a many ghaists and bogles
"I should have thought the country was too young for those gentry,"
said the Doctor.
"It's a young country, but there's been muckle wickedness done in it.
And what are those blacks do you think?--next thing to devils--at all
events they're no' exactly human."
"Impish, decidedly," said the Doctor. "Have you ever seen any ghosts,
"Ay! many. A fortnight agone, come to-morrow, I saw the ghost of my
wife's brother in broad day. It was the time of the high wind ye mind
of; and the rain drove so thick I could no see all my sheep at once.
And a man on a white horse came fleeing before the wind close past me;
I knew him in a minute; it was my wife's brother, as I tell ye, that
was hung fifteen years agone for sheep-stealing, and he wasn't so much
altered as ye'd think."
"Some one else like him!" suggested the Doctor.
"Deil a fear," replied the man, "for when I cried out and said, 'What,
Col, lad! Gang hame, and lie in yer grave, and dinna trouble honest
folk,' he turned and rode away through the rain, straight from me."
"Well!" said the Doctor, "I partly agree with you that the land's
bewitched. I saw a man not two months ago who ought to have been dead
five or six years at least. But are you quite sure the man you saw was
"Well nigh about," he replied. "When we sailed from Skye he was under
sentence, and they weren't over much given to reprieve for sheep-stealing
in those days. It was in consequence o' that that I came here."
"That's a very tolerable ghost story," said the Doctor. "Have you got
another? If you have, I shouldn't mind hearing it, as it will beguile
"Did ye ever hear how Faithful's lot were murdered by the blacks up on
"No, but I should like to; is it a ghost story?"
"Deed ay, and is it. This is how it happened:--When Faithful came to
take up his country across the mountains yonder, they were a strong
party, enough to have been safe in any country, but whether it was food
was scarce, or whether it was on account of getting water, I don't
know, but they separated, and fifteen of them got into the Yackandandah
country before the others.
"Well, you see, they were pretty confident, being still a strong mob,
and didn't set any watch or take any care. There was one among them
(Cranky Jim they used to call him--he as told me this yarn--he used
to be about Reid's mill last year) who always was going on at them to
take more care, but they never heeded him at all.
"They found a fine creek, with plenty of feed and water, and camped at
it to wait till the others came up. They saw no blacks, nor heard of
any, and three days were past, and they began to wonder why the others
had not overtaken them.
"The third night they were all sitting round the fire, laughing and
smoking, when they heard a loud co'ee on the opposite side of the
scrub, and half-a-dozen of them started up, and sang out, "There they
"Well, they all began co'eeing again, and they heard the others in
reply, apparently all about in the scrub. So off they starts, one by
one, into the scrub, answering and hallooing, for it seemed to them
that their mates were scattered about, and didn't know where they were.
Well, as I said, fourteen of them started into the scrub to collect the
party and bring them up to the fire; only old Cranky Jim sat still in
the camp. He believed, with the others, that it was the rest of their
party coming up, but he soon began to wonder how it was that they were
so scattered. Then he heard one scream, and then it struck him all at
once that this was a dodge of the blacks to draw the men from the camp,
and, when they were abroad, cut them off one by one, plunder the drays,
and drive off the sheep.
"So he dropped, and crawled away in the dark. He heard the co'ees grow
fewer and fewer as the men were speared one by one, and at last
everything was quiet, and then he knew he was right, and he rose up and
"In two days he found the other party, and told them what had happened.
They came up, and there was some sharp fighting, but they got a good
many of their sheep back.
"They found the men lying about singly in the scrub, all speared. They
buried them just where they found each one, for it was hot weather.
They buried them four foot deep, but they wouldn't lie still.
"Every night, about nine o'clock, they get up again, and begin co'eeing
for an hour or more. At first there's a regular coronach of them, then
by degrees the shouts get fewer and fewer, and, just when you think
it's all over, one will break out loud and clear close to you, and
after that all's still again."
"You don't believe that story, I suppose?"
"If you press me very hard," said the Doctor, "I must confess, with all
humility, that I don't!"
"No more did I," said Macdonald, "till I heard 'em!"
"Heard them!" said the Doctor.
"Ay, AND SEEN THEM!" said the man, stopping and turning round.
"You most agreeable of men! pray, tell me how."
"Why, you see, last year I was coming down with some wool-drays from
Parson Dorken's, and this Cranky Jim was with us, and told us the same
yarn, and when he had finished, he said, 'You'll know whether I speak
truth or not to-night, for we're going to camp at the place where it
"Well, and so we did, and, as well as we could reckon, it was a little
past nine when a curlew got up and began crying. That was the signal
for the ghosts, and in a minute they were co'eeing like mad all round.
As Jim had told us, one by one ceased until all was quiet, and I
thought it was over, when I looked, and saw, about a hundred yards off,
a tall man in grey crossing a belt of open ground. He put his hand to
his mouth, gave a wild shout, and disappeared!"
"Thank you," said the Doctor. "I think you mentioned that your wife's
confinement was somewhat sudden?"
"Yes, rather," replied the man.
"Pray, had you been relating any of the charming little tales to her
lately--just, we will suppose, to while away the time of the evening?"
"Well, I may have done so," said Macdonald, "but I don't exactly mind."
"Ah, so I thought. The next time your good lady happens to be in a
similar situation, I think I would refrain from ghost stories. I should
not like to commit myself to a decided opinion, but I should be
inclined to say that the tales you have been telling me were rather
horrible. Is that the light of your hut?"
Two noble colley dogs bounded to welcome them, and a beautiful bare-legged
girl, about sixteen, ran forth to tell her father, in Gaelic, that the
trouble was over, and that a boy was born.
On going in, they found the mother asleep, while her gossip held the
baby on her knee; so the Doctor saw that he was not needed, and sat
down, to wait until the woman should wake, having first, however,
produced from his saddle two bottles of port wine, a present from
The woman soon woke, and the Doctor, having felt her pulse, and left
some medicine, started to ride home again, carrying with him an incense
of good wishes from the warm-hearted Highlanders.
Instead of looking carefully for the road, the good Doctor was soon
nine fathoms deep into the reasons why the mountaineers and coast folk
of all northern countries should be more blindly superstitious than the
dwellers in plains and in towns; and so it happened that, coming to a
fork in the track, he disregarded the advice of his horse, and, instead
of taking the right hand, as he should have done, he held straight on,
and, about two o'clock in the morning, found that not only had he lost
his road, but that the track had died out altogether, and that he was
completely abroad in the bush.
He was in a very disagreeable predicament. The fog was thicker than
ever, without a breath of air; and he knew that it was as likely as not
that it might last for a day or two. He was in a very wild part of the
mountain, quite on the borders of all the country used by white men.
After some reflection, he determined to follow the fall of the land,
thinking that he was still on the water-shed of the Snowy-river, and
hoping, by following down some creek, to find some place he knew.
Gradually day broke, cold and cheerless. He was wet and miserable, and
could merely give a guess at the east, for the sun was quite invisible;
but, about eight o'clock, he came on a track, running at right angles
to the way he had been going, and marked with the hoofs of two horses,
whose riders had apparently passed not many hours before.
Which way should he go? He could not determine. The horsemen, it seemed
to him, as far as he could guess, had been going west, while his route
lay east. And, after a time, having registered a vow never to stir out
of sight of the station again without a compass, he determined to take
a contrary direction from them, and to find out where they had come
The road crossed gully after gully, each one like the other. The timber
was heavy stringy bark, and, in the lower part of the shallow gullies,
the tall white stems of the blue gums stood up in the mist like ghosts.
All nature was dripping and dull, and he was chilled and wretched.
At length, at the bottom of a gully, rather more dreary looking, if
possible, than all the others, he came on a black reedy waterhole, the
first he had seen in his ride, and perceived that the track turned
short to the left. Casting his eye along it, he made out the dark
indistinct outline of a hut, standing about forty yards off.
He rode up to it. All was as still as death. No man came out to welcome
him, no dog jumped, barking forth, no smoke went up from the chimney;
and, looking round, he saw that the track ended here, and that he had
ridden all these miles only to find a deserted hut.
But was it deserted? Not very long so, for those two horsemen, whose
tracks he had been on so long, had started from here. Here, on this
bare spot in front of the door, they had mounted. One of their horses
had been capering; nay, here were their footsteps on the threshold.
And, while he looked, there was a light fall inside, and the chimney
began smoking. "At all events," said the Doctor, "the fire's in, and
here's the camp-oven, too. Somebody will be here soon. I shall go in
and light my pipe."
He lifted the latch, and went in. Nobody there. Stay--yes, there is a
man asleep in the bed-place. "The watchman, probably," thought the
Doctor; "he's been up all night with the sheep, and is taking his rest
by day. Well, I won't wake him; I'll hang up my horse a bit, and take a
pipe. Perhaps I may as well turn the horse out. Well, no. I shan't wait
long; he may stand a little without hurting himself."
So soliloquised the Doctor, and lit his pipe. A quarter of an hour
passed, and the man still lay there without moving. The Doctor rose and
went close to him. He could not even hear him breathe.
His flesh began to creep, but his brows contracted, and his face grew
firm. He went boldly up, and pulled down the blanket, and then, to his
horror and amazement, recognised the distorted countenance of the
unfortunate William Lee.
He covered the face over again, and stood thinking of his situation,
and how this had come to pass. How came Lee here, and how had he met
his death? At this moment something bright, half hidden by a blue shirt
lying on the floor, caught his eye, and, going to pick it up, he found
it was a beautiful pistol, mounted in silver, and richly chased.
He turned it over and over till in a lozenge behind the hammer he
found, apparently scratched with a knife, the name, "G. Hawker."
Here was light with a vengeance! But he had little time to think of his
discovery ere he was startled by the sound of horses' feet rapidly
approaching the hut.
Instinctively he thrust the pistol into his pocket, and stooped down,
pretending to light his pipe. He heard some one ride up to the door,
dismount, and enter the hut. He at once turned round, pipe in mouth,
and confronted him.
He was a tall, ill-looking, red-haired man, and to the Doctor's
pleasant good morning he replied by sulkily asking what he wanted.
"Only a light for my pipe, friend," said the Doctor; "having got one, I
will bid you good morning. Our friend here sleeps well."
The new comer was between him and the door, but the Doctor advanced
boldly. When the two men were opposite their eyes met, and they
understood one another.
Moody (for it was he) threw himself upon the Doctor with an oath,
trying to bear him down; but, although the tallest man, he had met his
match. He was held in a grasp of iron; the Doctor's hand was on his
collar, and his elbow against his face, and thus his head was pressed
slowly backwards till he fell to avoid a broken neck, and fell, too,
with such force that he lay for an instant stunned and motionless, and
before he came to himself the Doctor was on horseback, and some way
along the track, glad to have made so good an escape from such an
"If he had been armed," said the Doctor, as he rode along, "I should
have been killed: he evidently came back after that pistol. Now, I
wonder where I am? I shall know soon at this pace. The little horse
keeps up well, seeing he has been out all night."
In about two hours he heard a dog bark to the left of the track, and,
turning off in that direction, he soon found himself in a courtyard,
and before a door which he thought he recognised: the door opened at
the sound of his horse, and out walked Tom Troubridge.
"Good Lord!" said the Doctor, "a friend's face at last; tell me where I
am, for I can't see the end of the house."
"Why, at our place, Toonarbin, Doctor."
"Well, take me in and give me some food; I have terrible tidings for
you. When did you last see Lee?"
"The day before yesterday; he is up at an outlying hut of ours in the
"He is lying murdered in his bed there, for I saw him so not three
He then told Troubridge all that had happened.
"What sort of man was it that attacked you?" said Troubridge.
The Doctor described Moody.
"That's his hut-keeper that he took from here with him; a man he said
he knew, and you say he was on horseback. What sort of a horse had he?"
"A good-looking roan, with a new bridle on him."
"Lee's horse," said Troubridge; "he must have murdered him for it. Poor
But when Tom saw the pistol and read the name on it, he said,--
"Things are coming to a crisis, Doctor; the net seems closing round my
unfortunate partner. God grant the storm may come and clear the air!
Anything is better than these continual alarms."
"It will be very terrible when it does come, my dear friend," said the
"It cannot be much more terrible than this," said Tom, "when our
servants are assassinated in their beds, and travellers in lonely huts
have to wrestle for their lives. Doctor, did you ever nourish a passion
"Yes, once," said the Doctor, "and had it gratified in fair and open
duel; but when I saw him lying white on the grass before me, and
thought that he was dead, I was like one demented, and prayed that my
life might be taken instead of his. Be sure, Tom, that revenge is of
the devil, and, like everything else you get from him, is not worth
"I do not in the least doubt it, Doctor," said Tom; "but oh, if I could
only have five minutes with him on the turf yonder, with no one to
interfere between us! I want no weapons; let us meet in our shirts and
trowsers, like Devon lads."
"And what would you do to him?"
"If you weren't there to see, HE'D never tell you."
"Why nourish this feeling, Tom, my old friend; you do not know what
pain it gives me to see a noble open character like yours distorted
like this. Leave him to Desborough,--why should you feel so deadly
towards the man? He has injured others more than you."
"He stands between me and the hopes of a happy old age. He stands
between me and the light, and he must stand on one side."
That night they brought poor Lee's body down in a dray, and buried him
in the family burying-ground close beside old Miss Thornton. Then the
next morning he rode back home to the Buckleys', where he found that
family with myself, just arrived from the Brentwoods'. I of course was
brimful of intelligence, but when the Doctor arrived I was thrown into
the shade at once. However, no time was to be lost, and we despatched a
messenger, post haste, to fetch back Captain Desborough and his
troopers, who had now been moved off about a week, but had not been as
yet very far withdrawn, and were examining into some "black" outrages
to the northward.
Mary Hawker was warned, as delicately as possible, that her husband was
in the neighbourhood. She remained buried in thought for a time, and
then, rousing herself, said, suddenly,--
"There must be an end to all this. Get my horse, and let me go home."
In spite of all persuasions to the contrary, she still said the same.
"Mrs. Buckley, I will go home and see if I can meet him alone. All I
ask of you is to keep Charles with you. Don't let the father and son
meet, in God's name."
"But what can you do?" urged Mrs. Buckley.
"Something, at all events. Find out what he wants. Buy him off,
perhaps. Pray don't argue with me. I am quite determined."
Then it became necessary to tell her of Lee's death, though the fact of
his having been murdered was concealed; but it deeply affected her to
hear of the loss of her old faithful servant, faithful to her at all
events, whatever his faults may have been. Nevertheless, she went off
alone, and took up her abode with Troubridge, and there they two sat
watching in the lonely station, for him who was to come.
Though they watched together there was no sympathy or confidence
between them. She never guessed what purpose was in Tom's heart; she
never guessed what made him so pale and gloomy, or why he never stirred
from the house, but slept half the day on the sofa. But ere she had
been a week at home, she found out. Thus:--
They would sit, those two, silent and thoughtful, beside that unhappy
hearth, watching the fire, and brooding over the past. Each had that in
their hearts which made them silent to one another, and each felt the
horror of some great overshadowing formless calamity, which any instant
might take form, and overwhelm them. Mary would sit late, dreading the
weary night, when her overstrained senses caught every sound in the
distant forest; but, however late she sat, she always left Tom behind,
over the fire, not taking his comfortable glass, but gloomily musing--
as much changed from his old self as man could be.
She now lay always in her clothes, ready for any emergency; and one
night, about a week after Lee's murder, she dreamt that her husband was
in the hall, bidding her in a whisper which thrilled her heart, to come
forth. The fancy was so strong upon her, that saying aloud to herself,
"The end is come!" she arose in a state little short of delirium, and
went into the hall. There was no one there, but she went to the front
door, and, looking out into the profoundly black gloom of the night,
said in a low voice,--
"George, George, come to me! Let me speak to you, George. It will be
better for both of us to speak."
No answer: but she heard a slight noise in the sitting-room behind her,
and, opening the door gently, saw a light there, and Tom sitting with
parted lips watching the door, holding in his hand a cocked pistol.
She was not in the least astonished or alarmed. She was too much TETE
MONTEE to be surprised at anything. She said only, with a laugh,--
"What! are you watching, too, old mastiff?--Would you grip the wolf,
old dog, if he came?"
"Was he there, Mary? Did you speak to him?"
"No! no!" she said. "A dream, a wandering dream. What would you do if
he came,--eh, cousin?"
"Nothing! nothing!" said Tom. "Go to bed."
"Bed, eh?" she answered. "Cousin; shooting is an easier death than
Tom felt a creeping at the roots of his hair, as he answered,--"Yes, I
"Can you shoot straight, old man? Could you shoot straight and true if
he stood there before you? Ah, you think you could now, but your hand
would shake when you saw him."
"Go to bed, Mary," said Tom. "Don't talk like that. Let the future lie,
She turned and went to her room again.
All this was told me long after by Tom himself. Tom believed, or said
he believed, that she was only sounding him, to see what his intentions
were in case of a meeting with George Hawker. I would not for the world
have had him suppose I disagreed with him; but I myself take another
and darker interpretation of her strange words that night. I think,
that she, never a very strong-minded person, and now, grown quite
desperate from terror, actually contemplated her husband's death with
complacency, nay, hoped, in her secret heart, that one mad struggle
between him and Tom might end the matter for ever, and leave her a free
woman. I may do her injustice, but I think I do not. One never knows
what a woman of this kind, with strong passions and a not over-strong
intellect, may be driven to. I knew her for forty years, and loved her
for twenty. I knew in spite of all her selfishness and violence that
there were many good, nay, noble points in her character; but I cannot
disguise from myself that that night's conversation with Tom showed me
a darker point in her character than I knew of before. Let us forget
it. I would wish to have none but kindly recollections of the woman I
loved so truly and so long.
For the secret must be told sooner or later,--I loved her before any
of them. Before James Stockbridge, before George Hawker, before Thomas
Troubridge, and I loved her more deeply and more truly than any of
them. But the last remnant of that love departed from my heart twenty
years ago, and that is why I can write of her so calmly now, and that
is the reason, too, why I remain an old bachelor to this day.
THE LAST GLEAM BEFORE THE STORM.
But with us, who were staying down at Major Buckley's, a fortnight
passed on so pleasantly that the horror of poor Lee's murder had begun
to wear off, and we were getting once more as merry and careless as
though we were living in the old times of profound peace. Sometimes we
would think of poor Mary Hawker, at her lonely watch up at the forest
station; but that or any other unpleasant subject was soon driven out
of our heads by Captain Desborough, who had come back with six
troopers, declared the country in a state of siege, proclaimed martial
law, and kept us all laughing and amused from daylight to dark.
Captain Brentwood and his daughter Alice (the transcendently
beautiful!) had come up, and were staying there. Jim and his friend
Halbert were still away, but were daily expected. I never passed a
pleasanter time in my life than during that fortnight's lull between
"Begorra (that's a Scotch expression, Miss Brentwood, but very
forcible)," said Captain Desborough. "I owe you more than I can ever
repay for buying out the Donovans. That girl Lesbia Burke would have
forcibly abducted me, and married me against my will, if she hadn't had
to follow the rest of the family to Port Phillip."
"A fine woman, too," said Captain Brentwood.
"I'd have called her a little coarse, myself," said Desborough.
"One of the finest, strangest sights I ever saw in my life," resumed
Captain Brentwood, "was on the morning I came to take possession. None
of the family were left but Murtagh Donovan and Miss Burke. I rode over
from Buckley's, and when I came to the door Donovan took me by the arm,
and saying 'whist,' led me into the sitting-room. There, in front of
the empty fireplace, crouched down on the floor, bareheaded, with her
beautiful hair hanging about her shoulders, sat Miss Burke. Every now
and then she would utter the strangest low wailing cry you ever heard:
a cry, by Jove, sir, that went straight to your heart. I turned to
Donovan, and whispered, 'Is she ill?' and he whispered again, 'Her
heart's broke at leaving the old place where she's lived so long. She's
raising the keen over the cold hearthstone. It's the way of the
Burkes.' I don't know when I was so affected in my life. Somehow, that
exquisite line came to my remembrance,--
"'And the hare shall kindle on the cold hearth-stone,'
"and I went back quietly with Donovan; and, by Jove, sir, when we came
out the great ass had the tears running down his cheeks. I have always
felt kindly to that man since."
"Ah, Captain," said Desborough, "with all our vanity and absurdity, we
Irish have got good warm hearts under our waistcoats. We are the first
nation in the world, sir, saving the Jews."
This was late in the afternoon of a temperate spring day. We were
watching Desborough as he was giving the finishing touches to a
beautiful watercolour drawing.
"Doctor," he said, "come and pass your opinion."
"I think you have done admirably, Captain," said the Doctor; "you have
given one a splendid idea of distance in the way you have toned down
the plain, from the grey appearance it has ten miles off to the rich,
delicate green it shows close to us. And your mountain, too, is most
aerial. You would make an artist."
"I am not altogether displeased with my work, Doctor, if you, who never
flatter, can praise it with the original before you. How exceedingly
beautiful the evening tones are becoming!"
We looked across the plain; the stretch of grass I have described was
lying before one like a waveless sea, from the horizon of which rose
the square abruptsided mass of basalt which years ago we had named
the Organ-hill, from the regular fluted columns of which it was
composed. On most occasions, as seen from Major Buckley's, it appeared
a dim mass of pearly grey, but to-night, in the clear frosty air, it
was of a rich purple, shining on the most prominent angles with a dull
"The more I look at that noble fire-temple, the more I admire it," said
the Doctor. "It is one of the most majestic objects I ever beheld."
"It is not unlike Staffa," said Desborough. "There come two
Two dots appeared crawling over the plain, and making for the river.
For a few minutes Alice could not be brought to see them, but when she
did, she declared that it was Jim and Halbert.
"You have good eyes, my love," said her father, "to see what does not
exist. Jim's horse is black, and Halbert's roan, and those two men are
both on grey horses."
"The wish was parent to the thought, father," she replied, laughing. "I
wonder what is keeping him away from us so long? If he is to go to
India, I should like to see him as much as possible."
"My dear," said her father, "when he went off with Halbert to see the
Markhams, I told him that if he liked to go on to Sydney, he could go
if Halbert went with him, and draw on the agent for what money he
wanted. By his being so long away, I conclude he has done so, and that
he is probably at this moment getting a lesson at billiards from
Halbert before going to dinner. I shall have a nice little account from
the agent just now, of 'Cash advanced to J. Brentwood, Esq.'"
"I don't think Jim's extravagant, papa," said Alice.
"My dear," said Captain Brentwood, "you do him injustice. He hasn't had
the chance. I must say, considering his limited opportunities, he has
spent as much money on horses, saddlery, &c., as any young gentleman on
this country side. Eh, Sam?"
"Well sir," said Sam, "Jim spends his money, but he generally makes
pretty good investments in the horse line."
"Such as that sweet-tempered useful animal Stampedo," replied the
Captain, laughing, "who nearly killed a groom, and staked himself
trying to leap out of the stockyard the second day he had him. Well,
never mind; Jim's a good boy, and I am proud of him. I am in some hopes
that this Sydney journey will satisfy his wandering propensities for
the present, and that we may keep him at home. I wish he would fall in
love with somebody, providing she wasn't old enough to be his
grandmother.--Couldn't you send him a letter of introduction to some
of your old schoolfellows, Miss Puss? There was one of them, I
remember, I fell in love with myself one time when I came to see you;
Miss Green, I think it was. She was very nearly being your mamma-in-law,
"Why, she is a year younger than me," said Alice, "and, oh goodness,
such a temper! She threw the selections from Beethoven at Signor
Smitherini, and had bread and water-melon for two days for it. Serve
"I have had a narrow escape, then," replied the father. "But we shall
see who these two people are immediately, for they are crossing the
When the two travellers rose again into sight on the near bank of the
river, one of them was seen galloping forward, waving his hat.
"I KNEW it was Jim," said Alice, "and on a new grey horse. I thought he
would not go to Sydney." And in a minute more she had run to meet him,
and Jim was off his horse, kissing his sister, laughing, shouting, and
dancing around her.
"Well, father," he said, "here I am back again. Went to Sydney and
stayed a week, when we met the two Marstons, and went right up to the
Clarence with them. That was a pretty journey, eh? Sold the old horse,
and bought this one. I've got heaps to tell you, sister, about what
I've seen. I went home, and only stayed ten minutes; when I heard you
were here, I came right on."
"I am glad to see you back, Mr. Halbert," said Major Buckley; "I hope
you have had a pleasant journey. You have met Captain Desborough?"
"Captain Desborough, how are you?" says Jim. "I am very glad to see
you. But, between you and I, you're always a bird of ill omen. Whose
pig's dead now? What brings YOU back? I thought we should be rid of you
by this time."
"But you are not rid of me, Jackanapes," said Desborough, laughing.
"But I'll tell you what, Jim; there is really something wrong, my boy,
and I'm glad to see you back." And he told him all the news.
Jim grew very serious. "Well," said he, "I'm glad to be home again; and
I'm glad, too, to see you here. One feels safer when you're in the way.
We must put a cheerful face on the matter, and not frighten the women.
I have bought such a beautiful brace of pistols in Sydney. I hope I may
never have the chance to use them in this country. Why, there's Cecil
Mayford and Mrs. Buckley coming down the garden, and Charley Hawker,
too. Why, Major, you've got all the world here to welcome us."
The young men were soon busy discussing the merits of Jim's new horse,
and examining with great admiration his splendid new pistols. Charley
Hawker, poor boy! made a mental resolution to go to Sydney, and also
come back with a new grey horse, and a pair of pistols more resplendent
than Jim's. And then they went in to get ready for dinner.
When Jim unpacked his valise, he produced a pretty bracelet for his
sister, and a stockwhip for Sam. On the latter article he was very
"Sam, my boy," said he, "there is not such another in the country. It
was made by the celebrated Bill Mossman of the Upper Hunter, the
greatest swearer at bullocks, and the most accomplished whipmaker on
the Sydney side. He makes only one in six months, and he makes it a
favour to let you have it for five pounds. You can take a piece of bark
off a blue gum, big enough for a canoe, with one cut of it. There's a
fine of two pounds for cracking one within a mile of Government House,
they make such a row. A man the other day cracked one of them on the
South Head, and broke the windows in Pitt Street."
"You're improving, master Jim," said Charles Hawker. "You'll soon be as
good a hand at a yarn as Hamlyn's Dick." At the same time he wrote down
a stockwhip, similar to this one, on the tablets of his memory, to be
procured on his projected visit to Sydney.
That evening we all sat listening to Jim's adventures; and pleasantly
enough he told them, with not a little humorous exaggeration. It is
always pleasant to hear a young fellow telling his first impressions of
new things and scenes, which have been so long familiar to ourselves;
but Jim had really a very good power of narration, and he kept us
laughing and amused till long after the usual hour for going to bed.
Next day we had a pleasant ride, all of us, down the banks of the
river. The weather was slightly frosty, and the air clear and elastic.
As we followed the windings of the noble rushing stream, at a height of
seldom less than three hundred feet above his bed, the Doctor was busy
pointing out the alternations of primitive sandstone and slate, and
the great streams of volcanic bluestone which had poured from various
points towards the deep glen in which the river flowed. Here, he would
tell us, was formerly a lofty cascade, and a lake above it, but the
river had worn through the sandstone bar, drained the lake, leaving
nothing of the waterfall but two lofty cliffs, and a rapid. There again
had come down a lava-stream from Mirngish, which, cooled by the waters
of the river, had stopped, and, accumulating, formed the lofty
overhanging cliff on which we stood. He showed us how the fern-trees
grew only in the still sheltered elbows facing northward, where the
sun raised a warm steam from the river, and the cold south wind could
not penetrate. He gathered for Mrs. Buckley a bouquet of the tender
sweetscented yellow oxalis, the winter flower of Australia, and showed
us the copper-lizard basking on the red rocks, so like the stone on
which he lay, that one could scarce see him till a metallic gleam
betrayed him, as he slipped to his lair. And we, the elder of the
party, who followed the Doctor's handsome little brown mare, kept our
ears open, and spoke little,--but gave ourselves fully up to the
enjoyment of his learning and eloquence.
But the Doctor did not absorb the whole party; far from it. He had a
rival. All the young men, and Miss Alice besides, were grouped round
Captain Desborough. Frequently we elders, deep in some Old World
history of the Doctor's, would be disturbed by a ringing peal of
laughter from the other party, and then the Doctor would laugh, and we
would all join; not that we had heard the joke, but from sheer sympathy
with the hilarity of the young folks. Desborough was making himself
agreeable, and who could do it better? He was telling the most
outrageous of Irish stories, and making, on purpose, the most
outrageous of Irish bulls. After a shout of laughter louder than the
rest, the Doctor remarked,--
"That's better for them than geology,--eh, Mrs. Buckley?"
"And so my grandmother," we heard Desborough say, "waxed mighty wrath,
and she up with her goldheaded walking stick in the middle of
Sackville Street, and says she, 'Ye villain, do ye think I don't know
my own Blenheim spannel when I see him?' 'Indeed, my lady,' says Mike,
''twas himself tould me he belanged to Barney.' 'Who tould you?' says
she. 'The dog himself tould me, my lady.' 'Ye thief of the world,' says
my aunt, 'and ye'd believe a dog before a dowager countess? Give him
up, ye villain, this minute, or I'll hit ye!'"
These were the sort of stories Desborough delighted in, making them up,
he often confessed, as he went on. On this occasion, when he had done
his story, they all rode up and joined us, and we stood admiring the
river, stretching westward in pools of gold between black cliffs,
toward the setting sun; then we turned homeward.
That evening Alice said, "Now do tell me, Captain Desborough, was that
a true story about Lady Covetown's dog?"
"True!" said he. "What story worth hearing ever was true? The old lady
lost her dog certainly, and claimed him of a dogstealer in Sackville
Street; but all the rest, my dear young lady, is historic romance."
"Mr. Hamlyn knows a good story," said Charley Hawker, "about Bougong
Jack. Do tell it to us, Uncle Jeff."
"I don't think," I said, "that it has so much foundation in fact as
Captain Desborough's. But there must be some sort of truth in it, for
it comes from the old hands, and shows a little more signs of
imagination than you would expect from them. It is a very stupid story
"Do tell it," they all said. So I complied, much in the same language
as I tell it now:--
You know that these great snow-ranges which tower up to the west of us
are, farther south, of great breadth, and that none have yet forced
their way from the country of the Ovens and the Mitta Mitta through
here to Gipp's-land.
The settlers who have just taken up that country, trying to penetrate
to the eastward here towards us, find themselves stopped by a mighty
granite wall. Any adventurous men, who may top that barrier, see
nothing before them but range beyond range of snow Alps, intersected by
precipitous cliffs, and frightful chasms.
This westward range is called the Bougongs. The blacks during summer
are in the habit of coming thus far to collect and feed on the great
grey moths (Bougongs) which are found on the rocks. They used to
report that a fine available country lies to the east embosomed in
mountains, rendered fertile by perpetual snow-fed streams. This is the
more credible, as it is evident that between the Bougong range on the
west and the Warragong range on the extreme east, towards us, there is
a breadth of at least eighty miles.
There lived a few years ago, not very far from the Ovens-river, a
curious character, by name John Sampson. He had been educated at one
of the great English universities, and was a good scholar, though he
had been forced to leave the university, and, as report went, England
too, for some great irregularity.
He had money, and a share in his brother-in-law's station, although he
never stayed there many months in the year. He was always away at some
mischief or another. No horse-race or prize-fight could go on without
him, and he himself never left one of these last-mentioned gatherings
without finding some one to try conclusions with him. Beside this, he
was a great writer and singer of comic songs, and a consummate
One fine day he came back to his brother's station in serious trouble.
Whether he had mistaken another man's horse for his own or not, I
cannot say; but, at all events, he announced that a warrant was out
against him for horse-stealing, and that he must go into hiding. So he
took up his quarters at a little hut of his brother-in-law's, on the
ranges, inhabited only by a stockkeeper and a black boy, and kept a
young lubra in pay to watch down the glen for the police.
One morning she came running into the hut, breathless, to say that a
lieutenant and three troopers were riding towards the hut. Jack had
just time to saddle and mount his horse before the police caught sight
of him, and started after him at full speed.
They hunted him into a narrow glen; a single cattletrack, not a foot
broad, led on between a swollen rocky creek, utterly impassable by
horse or man, and a lofty precipice of loose broken slate, on which one
would have thought a goat could not have found a footing. The young
police lieutenant had done his work well, and sent a trooper round to
head him, so that Jack found himself between the devil and the deep
sea. A tall armed trooper stood in front of him, behind was the
lieutenant, on the right of the creek, and on the left the precipice.
They called out to him to surrender; but, giving one look before and
behind, and seeing escape was hopeless, he hesitated not a moment, but
put his horse at the cliff, and clambered up, rolling down tons of
loose slate in his course. The lieutenant shut his eyes, expecting to
see horse and man roll down into the creek, and only opened them in
time to see Jack stand for a moment on the summit against the sky, and
He disappeared over the top of the cliff, and so he was lost to the ken
of white men for the space of four years. His sister and brother-in-law
mourned for him as dead, and mourned sincerely, for they and all who
knew him liked him well. But at the end of that time, on a wild
winter's night, he came back to them, dressed in opossum skins, with
scarce a vestige of European clothing about him. His beard had grown
down over his chest, and he had nearly forgotten his mother tongue,
but, when speech came to him again, he told them a strange story.
It was winter time when he rode away. All the table lands were deep
with snow; and, when he had escaped the policemen, he had crossed the
first of the great ridges on the same night. He camped in the valley he
found on the other side; and, having his gun and some ammunition with
him, he fared well.
He was beyond the country which had ever been trodden by white men, and
now, for the mere sake of adventure, he determined to go further still,
and see if he could cross the great White Mountains, which had hitherto
been considered an insurmountable barrier.
For two days he rode over a high table-land, deep in snow. Here and
there, in a shallow sheltered valley, he would find just grass enough
to keep his horse alive, but nothing for himself. On the third night he
saw before him another snow-ridge, too far off to reach without rest,
and, tethering his horse in a little crevice between the rocks, he
prepared to walk to and fro all night, to keep off the deadly snow
sleepiness that he felt coming over him. "Let me but see what is beyond
that next ridge," he said, "and I will lie down and die."
And now, as the stillness of the night came on, and the Southern Cross
began to twinkle brilliantly above the blinding snow, he was startled
once more by a sound which had fallen on his ear several times during
his toilsome afternoon journey: a sound as of a sudden explosion,
mingled, strangely too, with the splintering of broken glass. At first
he thought it was merely the booming in his ears, or the rupture of
some vessel in his bursting head. Or was it fancy? No; there it was
again, clearer than before. That was no noise in his head, for the
patient horse turned and looked toward the place where the sound came
from. Thunder? The air was clear and frosty, and not a cloud stained
the sky. There was some mystery beyond that snow-ridge worth living to
He lived to see it. For an hour after daybreak next morning, he,
leading his horse, stumbled over the snowcovered rocks that bounded
his view, and, when he reached the top, there burst on his sight a
scene that made him throw up his arms and shout aloud.
Before him, pinnacle after pinnacle towered up a mighty Alp, blazing in
the morning sun. Down through a black rift on its side wound a gleaming
glacier, which hurled its shattered ice crystals over a dark cliff,
into the deep profound blue of a lake, which stretched north and south,
studded with green woody islets, almost as far as the eye could see.
Toward the mountain the lake looked deep and gloomy, but, on the hither
side, showed many a pleasant yellow shallow, and sandy bay, while
between him and the lake lay a mile or so of park-like meadow land, in
the full verdure of winter. As he looked, a vast dislocated mass of ice
fell crashing from the glacier into the lake, and solved at once the
mystery of the noises he had heard the night before.
He descended into the happy valley, and found a small tribe of friendly
blacks, who had never before seen the face of white man, and who
supposed him to be one of their own tribe, dead long ago, who had come
back to them, renovated and beautified, from the other world. With
these he lived a pleasant slothful life, while four years went on,
forgetting all the outside world, till his horse was dead, his gun
rusted and thrown aside, and his European clothes long since replaced
by the skin of the opossum and the koala. He had forgotten his own
tongue, and had given up all thoughts of crossing again the desolate
barriers of snow which divided him from civilization, when a slight
incident brought back old associations to his mind, and roused him from
In some hunting excursion he got a slight scratch, and, searching for
some linen to tie it up, found in his mi-mi an old waistcoat, which he
had worn when he came into the valley. In the lining, while tearing it
up, he found a crumpled paper, a note from his sister, written years
before, full of sisterly kindness and tenderness. He read it again and
again before he lay down, and the next morning, collecting such small
stock of provisions as he could, he started on the homeward track, and
after incredible hardships reached his station.
His brother-in-law tried in vain with a strong party to reach the lake,
but never succeeded. What mountain it was he discovered, or what
river is fed by the lake he lived on, no man knows to this day. Some
say he went mad, and lived in the ranges all the time, and that this
was all a mere madman's fancy. But, whether he was mad or not then, he
is sane enough now, and has married a wife, and settled down to be one
of the most thriving men in that part of the country.
"Well," said the Doctor, thrusting his fists deep into his breeches
pockets, "I don't believe that story."
"Nor I either, Doctor," I replied. "But it has amused you all for half
an hour; so let it pass."
"Oh!" said the Doctor, rather peevishly, "if you put it on those
grounds, I am bound, of course, to withhold a few little criticisms I
was inclined to make on its probability. I hope you won't go and pass
it off as authentic, you know, because if we once begin to entertain
these sort of legends as meaning anything, the whole history of the
country becomes one great fogbank, through which the devil himself
could not find his way."
"Now, for my part," said mischievous Alice, "I think it a very pretty
story. And I have no doubt that it is every word of it true."
"Oh, dear me, then," said the Doctor, "let us vote it true. And, while
we are about it, let us believe that the Sydney ghost actually did sit
on a three-rail fence, smoking its pipe, and directing an anxious crowd
of relatives where to find its body. By all means let us believe
everything we hear."
The next morning our pleasant party suffered a loss. Captain Brentwood
and Alice went off home. He was wanted there, and all things seemed so
tranquil that he thought it was foolish to stay away any longer. Cecil
Mayford, too, departed, carrying with him the affectionate farewells
of the whole party. His pleasant even temper, and his handsome face,
had won every one who knew him, and, though he never talked much, yet,
when he was gone, we all missed his merry laugh, after one of
Desborough's good stories. Charley Hawker went off with him too, and
spent a few hours with Ellen Mayford, much to his satisfaction, but
came in again at night, as his mother had prayed of him not to leave
the Major's till he had seen her again.
That night the Major proposed punch, and, after Mrs. Buckley had gone
to bed, Sam sang a song, and Desborough told a story, about a
gamekeeper of his uncle's, whom the old gentleman desired to start in
an independent way of business. So he built him a new house, and gave
him a keg of whisky, to start in the spirit-selling line. "But the
first night," said Desborough, "the villain finished the whisky
himself, broke the keg, and burnt the house down; so my uncle had to
take him back into service again, after all." And after this came other
stories equally preposterous, and we went rather late to bed.
And the next morning, too, I am afraid, we were rather late for
breakfast. Just as we were sitting down, in came Captain Brentwood.
"Hallo," said the Major; "what brings you back so soon, old friend.
Nothing the matter I hope?"
"Nothing but business," he replied. "I am going on to Dickson's, and I
shall be back home to-night, I hope. I am glad to find you so late, as
I have had no breakfast, and have ridden ten miles."
He took breakfast with us and went on. The morning passed somewhat
heavily, as a morning is apt to do, after sitting up late and drinking
punch. Towards noon Desborough said,--
"Now, if anybody will confess that he drank just three drops too much
punch last night, I will do the same. Mrs. Buckley, my dear lady, I
hope you will order plenty of pale ale for lunch."
Lunch passed pleasantly enough, and afterwards the Major, telling Sam
to move a table outside into the verandah, disappeared, and soon came
back with a very "curious" bottle of Madeira. We sat then in the
verandah smoking for about a quarter of an hour.
I remember every word that was spoken, and every trivial circumstance
that happened during that quarter of an hour; they are burnt into my
memory as if by fire. The Doctor was raving about English poetry, as
usual, saying, however, that the modern English poets, good as they
were, had lost the power of melody a good deal. This the Major denied,
"By torch and trumpet fast array'd."
"Fifty such lines, sir, are not worth one of Milton's," said the
"'The trumpet spake not to the armed throng.'
"There's melody for you; there's a blare and a clang; there's a----"
I heard no more. Mrs. Buckley's French clock, in the house behind,
chimed three quarters past one, and I heard a sound of two persons
coming quickly through the house.
Can you tell the step of him who brings evil tidings? I think I can. At
all events, I felt my heart grow cold when I heard those footsteps. I
heard them coming through the house, across the boarded floor. The one
was a rapid, firm, military footstep, accompanied with the clicking
of a spur, and the other was unmistakably the "pad, pad" of a blackfellow.
We all turned round and looked at the door. There stood the sergeant of
Desborough's troopers, pale and silent, and close behind him, clinging
to him as if for protection, was the lithe naked figure of a black lad,
looking from behind the sergeant, with terrified visage, first at one
and then at another of us.
I saw disaster in their faces, and would have held up my hand to warn
him not to speak before Mrs. Buckley. But I was too late, for he had
spoken. And then we sat for a minute, looking at one another, each man
seeing the reflection of his own horror in his neighbour's eyes.
THE STORM BURSTS.
Poor little Cecil Mayford had left us about nine o'clock in the morning
of the day before this, and, accompanied by Charles Hawker, reached his
mother's station about eleven o'clock in the day.
All the way Charles had talked incessantly of Ellen, and Cecil joined
in Charles's praises of his sister, and joked with him for being
"awfully spooney" about her.
"You're worse about my sister, Charley," said he, "than old Sam is
about Miss Brentwood. He takes things quiet enough, but if you go on in
this style till you are old enough to marry, by Jove, there'll be
nothing of you left!"
"I wonder if she would have me?" said Charles, not heeding him.
"The best thing you can do is to ask her," said Cecil. "I think I know
what she would say though."
They reached Mrs. Mayford's, and spent a few pleasant hours together.
Charles started home again about three o'clock, and having gone a
little way, turned to look back. The brother and sister stood at the
house-door still. He waved his hand in farewell to them, and they
replied. Then he rode on and saw them no more.
Cecil and Ellen went into the house to their mother. The women worked,
and Cecil read aloud to them. The book was "Waverley;" I saw it
afterwards, and when supper was over he took it up to begin reading
"Not that book to-night, my boy," said his mother. "Read us a chapter
out of the Bible. I am very low in my mind, and at such times I like to
hear the Word."
He read the good book to them till quite late. Both he and Ellen
thought it strange that their mother should insist on that book on a
week-night; they never usually read it, save on Sunday evenings.
The morning broke bright and frosty. Cecil was abroad betimes, and went
down the paddock to fetch the horses. He put them in the stock-yard,
and stood for a time close to the stable, talking to a tame black lad,
that they employed about the place.
His attention was attracted by a noise of horses' feet. He looked up
and saw about a dozen men riding swiftly and silently across the
paddock towards the house.
For an instant he seems to have idly wondered who they were, and have
had time to notice a thickset gaudily dressed man, who rode in front of
the others, when the kitchen-door was thrown suddenly open, and the old
hut-keeper, with his grey hair waving in the wind, run out, crying,--
"Save yourself, in God's name, Master Cecil. The Bushrangers!"
Cecil raised his clenched hands in wild despair. They were caught like
birds in a trap. No hope!--no escape! Nothing left for it now, but to
die red-handed. He dashed into the house with the old hut-keeper and
shut the door.
The black lad ran up to a little rocky knoll within two hundred yards
of the house, and, hiding himself, watched what went on. He saw the
bushrangers ride up to the door and dismount. Then they began to beat
the door and demand admittance. Then the door was burst down, and one
of them fell dead by a pistolshot. Then they rushed in tumultuously,
leaving one outside to mind the horses. Then the terrified boy heard
the dull sound of shots fired rapidly inside the building (pray that
you may never hear that noise, reader: it always means mischief), and
then all was comparatively still for a time.
Then there began to arise a wild sound of brutal riot within, and after
a time they poured out again, and mounting, rode away.
Then the black boy slipt down from his lair like a snake, and stole
towards the house. All was still as death. The door was open, but, poor
little savage as he was, he dared not enter. Once he thought he heard a
movement within, and listened intently with all his faculties, as only
a savage can listen, but all was still again. And then gathering
courage, he went in.
In the entrance, stepping over the body of the dead bushranger, he
found the poor old white-headed hutkeeper knocked down and killed in
the first rush. He went on into the parlour; and there,--oh,
lamentable sight!--was Cecil; clever, handsome little Cecil, our old
favourite, lying half fallen from the sofa, shot through the heart,
But not alone. No; prone along the floor, covering six feet or more of
ground, lay the hideous corpse of Moody, the cannibal. The red-headed
miscreant, who had murdered poor Lee, under George Hawker's directions.
I think the poor black boy would have felt in his dumb darkened heart
some sorrow at seeing his kind old master so cruelly murdered. Perhaps
he would have raised the death-cry of his tribe over him, and burnt
himself with fire, as their custom is; but he was too terrified at
seeing so many of the lordly white race prostrated by one another's
hands. He stood and trembled, and then, almost in a whisper, began to
call for Mrs. Mayford.
"Missis!" he said, "Miss Ellen! All pull away, bushranger chaps. Make a
light, good Missis. Plenty frightened this fellow."
No answer. No sign of Mrs. Mayford or Ellen. They must have escaped
then. We will try to hope so. The black boy peered into one chamber
after another, but saw no signs of them, only the stillness of death
Let us leave this accursed house, lest, prying too closely, we may find
crouching in some dark corner a Gorgon, who will freeze us into stone.
* * * * *
The black lad stripped himself naked as he was born, and running like a
deer, sped to Major Buckley's before the south wind, across the plain.
There he found the Sergeant, and told him his tale, and the Sergeant
and he broke in on us with the terrible news as we were sitting merrily
over our wine.
WIDDERIN SHOWS CLEARLY THAT HE IS WORTH ALL THE MONEY SAM GAVE FOR HIM.
The Sergeant, as I said, broke in upon us with the fearful news as we
sat at wine. For a minute no man spoke, but all sat silent and horror
struck. Only the Doctor rose quietly, and slipped out of the room
Desborough spoke first. He rose up with deadly wrath in his face, and
swore a fearful oath, an oath so fearful, that he who endorsed every
word of it then, will not write it down now. To the effect, "That, he
would take neither meat, nor drink, nor pleasure, nor rest, beyond what
was necessary to keep body and soul together, before he had purged the
land of these treacherous villains!"
Charles Hawker went up to the Sergeant, with a livid face and shaking
hands; "Will you tell me again, Robinson, ARE THEY ALL DEAD?"
The Sergeant looked at him compassionately. "Well, sir!" he said; "the
boy seemed to think Mrs. and Miss Mayford had escaped. But you mustn't
trust what he says, sir."
"You are deceiving me," said Charles. "There is something you are
hiding from me, I shall go down there this minute, and see."
"You will do nothing of the kind, sir," said Mrs. Buckley, coming into
the doorway and confronting him; "your place is with Captain
Desborough. I am going down to look after Ellen."
During these few moments, Sam had stood stupified. He stepped up to the
Sergeant, and said,--
"Would you tell me which way they went from the Mayfords'?"
"Down the river, sir."
"Ah!" said Sam; "towards Captain Brentwood's, and Alice at home, and
alone!--There may be time yet."
He ran out of the room and I after him. "His first trouble," I
thought,--"his first trial. How will our boy behave now?"
Let me mention again, that the distance from the Mayfords' to Captain
Brentwood's, following the windings of the river on its right bank,
was nearly twenty miles. From Major Buckley's to the same point, across
the plains, was barely ten; so that there was still a chance that a
brave man on a good horse, might reach Captain Brentwood's before the
bushrangers, in spite of the start they had got.
Sam's noble horse, Widderin, a horse with a pedigree a hundred years
old, stood in the stable. The buying of that horse had been Sam's only
extravagance, for which he had often reproached himself, and now this
day, he would see whether he would get his money's worth out of that
horse, or no.
I followed him up to the stable, and found him putting the bridle on
Widderin's beautiful little head. Neither of us spoke, only when I
handed him the saddle, and helped him with the girths, he said, "God
I ran out and got down the slip-rails for him. As he rode by he said,
"Good-bye, uncle Jeff, perhaps you won't see me again;" and I cried
out, "Remember your God and your mother, Sam, and don't do anything
Then he was gone; and looking across the plains the way he should go, I
saw another horseman toiling far away, and recognised Doctor Mulhaus.
Good Doctor! he had seen the danger in a moment, and by his ready wit
had got a start of every one else by ten minutes.
The Doctor, on his handsome long-bodied Arabian mare, was making good
work of it across the plains, when he heard the rush of horses' feet
behind him, and turning, he saw tall Widderin bestridden by Sam,
springing over the turf, gaining on him stride after stride. In a few
minutes they were alongside of one another.
"Good lad!" cried the Doctor; "On, forwards; catch her, and away to the
woods with her. Bloodhound Desborough will be on their trail in
half-an-hour. Save her, and we will have noble vengeance."
Sam only waved his hand in good-bye, and sped on across the plain like
a solitary ship at sea. He steered for a single tree, now becoming
dimly visible, at the foot of the Organ hill.
The good horse, with elastic and easy motion, fled on his course like a
bird; lifting his feet clearly and rapidly through the grass. The brisk
south wind filled his wide nostrils as he turned his graceful neck from
side to side, till, finding that work was meant, and not play, he began
to hold his head straight before him, and rush steadily forward.
And Sam, poor Sam! all his hopes for life now brought down to this: to
depend on the wind and pluck of an unconscious horse. One stumble now,
and it were better to lie down on the plain and die. He was in the
hands of God, and he felt it. He said one short prayer, but that
towards the end was interrupted by the wild current of his thoughts.
Was there any hope? They, the devils, would have been drinking at the
Mayfords', and perhaps would go slow; or would they ride fast and wild?
After thinking a short time, he feared the latter. They had tasted
blood, and knew that the country would be roused on them shortly. On,
on, good horse!
The lonely shepherd on the plains, sleepily watching his feeding sheep,
looked up as Sam went speeding by, and thought how fine a thing it
would be to be dressed like that, and have nothing to do but to ride
bloodhorses to death. Mind your sheep, good shepherd; perhaps it were
better for you to do that and nothing more all your life, than to carry
in your breast for one short hour such a volcano of rage, indignation,
and terror, as he does who hurries unheeding through your scattered
Here are a brace of good pistols, and they, with care, shall give
account, if need be, of two men. After that, nothing. It were better,
so much better, not to live if one were only ten minutes too late. The
Doctor would be up soon; not much matter if he were, though, only
another life gone.
The Organ hill, a cloud of misty blue when he started, now hung in
aerial fluted cliffs above his head. As he raced across the long glacis
which lay below the hill, he could see a solitary eagle wheeling round
the topmost pinnacles, against the clear blue sky; then the hill was
behind him, and before him another stretch of plain, bounded by timber,
which marked the course of the river.
Brave Widderin had his ears back now, and was throwing his breath
regularly through his nostrils in deep sighs. Good horse, only a little
longer; bear thyself bravely this day, and then pleasant pastures for
thee till thou shalt go the way of all horses. Many a time has she
patted, with kind words, thy rainbow neck, my horse; help us to save
Alas! good willing brute, he cannot understand; only he knows that his
kind master is on his back, and so he will run till he drop. Good
Widderin! think of the time when thy sire rushed triumphant through the
shouting thousands at Epsom, and all England heard that Arcturus had
won the Derby. Think of the time when thy grandam, carrying Sheik
Abdullah, bore down in a whirlwind of sand on the toiling affrighted
caravan. Ah! thou knowest not of these things, but yet thy speed flags
not. We are not far off now, good horse, we shall know all soon.
Now he was in the forest again, and now, as he rode quickly down the
steep sandy road among the braken, he heard the hoarse rush of the
river in his ears, and knew the end was well-nigh come.
No drink now, good Widderin! a bucket of Champagne in an hour's time,
if thou wilt only stay not now to bend thy neck down to the clear
gleaming water; flounder through the ford, and just twenty yards up the
bank by the cherry-tree, we shall catch sight of the house, and know
Now the house was in sight, and now he cried aloud some wild
inarticulate sound of thankfulness and joy. All was as peaceful as
ever, and Alice, unconscious, stood white-robed in the verandah,
feeding her birds.
As he rode up he shouted out to her and beckoned. She came running
through the house, and met him breathless at the doorway.
"The bushrangers! Alice, my love," he said. "We must fly this instant,
they are close to us now."
She had been prepared for this. She knew her duty well, for her father
had often told her what to do. No tears! no hysterics! She took Sam's
hand without a word, and placing her fairy foot upon his boot, vaulted
up into the saddle before him, crying,--"Eleanor, Eleanor!"
Eleanor, the cook, came running out. "Fly!" said Alice. "Get away into
the bush. The gang are coming; close by." She, an old Vandemonian,
needed no second warning, and as the two young people rode away, they
saw her clearing the paddock rapidly, and making for a dense clump of
wattles, which grew just beyond the fence.
"Whither now, Sam?" said Alice, the moment they were started.
"I should feel safer across the river," he replied; "that little wooded
knoll would be a fine hiding-place, and they will come down this side
of the river from Mayford's."
"From Mayford's! why, have they been there?"
"They have, indeed. Alas! poor Cecil."
"What has happened to him? nothing serious."
"Dead! my love, dead."
"Oh! poor little Cecil," she cried, "that we were all so fond of. And
Mrs. Mayford and Ellen?"
"They have escaped!--they are not to be found.--They have hidden away
They crossed the river, and dismounting, they led the tired horse up
the steep slope of turf that surrounded a little castellated tor of
bluestone. Here they would hide till the storm was gone by, for from
here they could see the windings of the river, and all the broad plain
stretched out beneath their feet.
"I do not see them anywhere, Alice," said Sam presently. "I see no one
coming across the plains. They must be either very near us in the
hollow of the river-valley, or else a long way off. I have very little
doubt they will come here though, sooner or later."
"There they are!" said Alice. "Surely there are a large party of
horsemen on the plain, but they are seven or eight miles off."
"Ay, ten," said Sam. "I am not sure they are horsemen." Then he said
suddenly in a whisper, "Lie down, my love, in God's name! Here they
are, close to us!"
There burst on his ear a confused sound of talking and laughing, and
out of one of the rocky gullies leading towards the river, came the men
they had been flying from, in number about fourteen. They had crossed
the river, for some unknown reason, and to the fear-struck riders it
seemed as though they were making straight towards their lair.
He had got Widderin's head in his breast, blindfolding him with his
coat, for should he neigh now, they were undone, indeed! As the
bushrangers approached, the horse began to get uneasy, and paw the
ground, putting Sam in such an agony of terror that the sweat rolled
down his face. In the midst of this he felt a hand on his arm, and
Alice's voice, which he scarcely recognised, said, in a fierce whisper,--
"Give me one of your pistols, sir!"
"Leave that to me!" he replied in the same tone.
"As you please," she said; "but I must not fall alive into their hands.
Never look your mother in the face again if I do."
He gave one more glance round, and saw that the enemy would come within
a hundred yards of their hiding-place. Then he held the horse faster
than ever, and shut his eyes.
* * * * *
Was it a minute only, or an hour, till they heard the sound of the
voices dying away in the roar of the river? and, opening their eyes
once more, looked into one another's faces.
Faces, they thought, that they had never seen before,--so each told
the other afterwards,--so wild, so haggard, and so strange! And now
that they were safe and free again--free to arise and leave their
dreadful rock prison, and wander away where they would, they could
scarcely believe that the danger was past.
They came out silently from among the crags, and took up another
station, where they could see all that went on. They saw the miscreants
swarming about the house, and heard a pistol-shot--only one.
"Who can they be firing at?" said Alice, in a subdued tone. They were
both so utterly appalled by their late danger, that they spoke in
whispers, though the enemy were a quarter of a mile off.
"Mere mischief, I should fancy," said Sam; "there is no one there. Oh!
Alice, my love, can you realize that we are safe?"
"Hardly yet, Sam! But who could those men be we saw at such a distance
on the plain? Could they have been cattle? I am seldom deceived, you
know; I can see an immense distance."
"Why," said Sam, "I had forgotten them! They must be our friends, on
these fellows' tracks. Desborough would not be long starting, I
"I hope my father," said Alice, "will hear nothing till he sees me.
Poor father! what a state he will be in. See, there is a horseman close
to us. It is the Doctor!"
They saw Dr. Mulhaus ride up to one of the heights overlooking the
river, and reconnoitre. Seeing the men in the house, he began riding
down towards them.
"He will be lost!" said Alice. "He thinks we are there. Call, Sam, at
Sam did so, and they saw the Doctor turn. Alice showed herself for a
moment, and then he turned back, and rode the way he had come. In a few
minutes he joined them from the rear, and, taking Alice in his arms,
kissed her heartily.
"So, our jewel is safe, then--praise be to God! Thanks due also to a
brave man and a good horse. This is the last station those devils will
ruin, for our friends are barely four miles off. I saw them just now."
"I wish, I only wish," said Sam, "that they may delay long enough to be
caught. I would give a good deal for that."
There was but little chance of that, though; their measures were too
well taken. Almost as Sam spoke, the three listeners heard a shrill
whistle, and immediately the enemy began mounting. Some of them were
evidently drunk, and could hardly get on their horses, but were
assisted by the others. But very shortly they were all clear off,
heading to the northwest.
"Now we may go down, and see what destruction has been done," said
Alice. "Who would have thought to see such times as these!"
"Stay a little," said the Doctor, "and let us watch these gentlemen's
motions. Where can they be going nor'-west--straight on to the
"I am of opinion," said Sam, "that they are going to lie up in one of
the gullies this evening. They are full of drink and madness, and they
don't know what they are about. If they get into the main system of
gullies, we shall have them like rats in a trap, for they can never get
out by the lower end. Do you see, Doctor, a little patch of white road
among the trees over there? That leads to the Limestone Gates, as we
call it. If they pass those walls upwards, they are confined as in a
pound. Watch the white road, and we shall see."
The piece of road alluded to was about two miles off, and winding round
a steep hill among trees. Only one turn in it was visible, and over
this, as they watched, they saw a dark spot pass, followed by a crowd
"There they go," said Sam. "The madmen are safe now. See, there comes
Desborough, and all of them; let us go down."
They turned to go, and saw Jim coming towards them, by the route that
Sam had come, all bespattered with clay, limping and leading his new
grey horse, dead lame.
He threw up his hat when he saw them, and gave a feeble hurrah! but
even then a twinge of pain shot across his face, and, when he was
close, they saw he was badly hurt.
"God save you, my dear sister," he said; "I have been in such a state
of mind; God forgive me, I have been cursing the day I was born. Sam, I
started about three minutes after you, and had very nearly succeeded in
overhauling the Doctor, about two miles from here, when this brute put
his foot in a crab hole, and came down, rolling on my leg. I was so
bruised I couldn't mount again, and so I have walked. I see you are all
right though, and that is enough for me. Oh my sister--my darling
Alice! Think what we have escaped!"
So they went towards the house. And when Major Buckley caught sight of
Alice, riding between Doctor Mulhaus and Sam, he gave such a stentorian
cheer that the retreating bushrangers must have heard it.
"Well ridden, gentlemen," he said. "And who won the race? Was it
Widderin, or the Arabian, or the nondescript Sydney importation?"
"The Sydney importation, sir, would have beaten the Arabian, barring
accident," said Jim. "But, seriously speaking, I should have been far
too late to be of any service."
"And I," said the Doctor, "also. Sam won the race, and has got the
prize. Now, let us look forward, and not backward."
They communicated to Desborough all particulars, and told him of the
way they had seen the bushrangers go. Every one was struck with the
change in him. No merry stories now. The laughing Irishman was gone,
and a stern gloomy man, more like an Englishman, stood in his place. I
heard after, that he deeply blamed himself for what had occurred
(though no one else thought of doing so), and thought he had not taken
full precautions. On the present occasion, he said,--
"Well, gentlemen, night is closing in. Major Buckley, I think you will
agree with me that we should act more effectually if we waited till
daylight, and refresh both horses and men. More particularly as the
enemy in their drunken madness have hampered themselves in the
mountains. Major, Doctor Mulhaus, and Mr. Halbert, you are military
men--what do you say?"
They agreed that there was no doubt. It would be much the best plan.
"I would sooner he'd have gone to-night and got it over," said Charles
Hawker, taking Sam's arm. "Oh! Sam, Sam! Think of poor Cecil! Think of
poor Ellen, when she hears what has happened. She must know by now!"
"Poor Charley," said Sam, "I am so sorry for you. Lie down, and get to
sleep; the sun is going down."
He lay down as he was bid, somewhere out of the way. He was crushed and
stunned. He hardly seemed to know at present what he was doing. After a
time, Sam went in and found him sleeping uneasily.
But Alice was in sad tribulation at the mischief done. All her pretty
little womanly ornaments overturned and broken, her piano battered to
pieces, and, worst of all, her poor kangaroo shot dead, lying in the
verandah. "Oh!" said she to Major Buckley, "you must think me very
wicked to think of such things at a time like this, but I cannot help
it. There is something so shocking to me in such a sudden
BOULEVERSEMENT of old order. Yet, if it shocks me to see my piano
broken, how terrible must a visitation like the Mayfords' be. These are
not the times for moralizing, however. I must see about entertaining
Eleanor, the cook, had come back from her lair, quite unconcerned. She
informed the company, in a nonchalant sort of way, that this was the
third adventure of the kind she had been engaged in, and, although they
seemed to make a great fuss about it; on the other side (Van Diemen's
Land), it was considered a mere necessary nuisance; and so proceeded to
prepare such supper as she could. In the same off-hand way she remarked
to Sam, when he went into the kitchen to get a light for his pipe,
that, if it was true that Mike Howe had crossed and was among them,
they had better look out for squalls; for that he was a devil, and no
Desborough determined to set a watch out on the road towards the mouth
of the gully, where they were supposed to be. "We shall have them in
the morning," said he. "Let every one get to sleep who can sleep, for I
expect every one to follow me to morrow."
Charles Hawker had laid down in an inner room, and was sleeping
uneasily, when he was awakened by some one, and, looking up, saw Major
Buckley, with a light in his hand, bending over him. He started up.
"What is the matter, sir?" he asked. "Why do you look at me so
strangely? Is there any new misfortune?"
"Charles," said the Major, "you have no older friend than me."
"I know it, sir. What do you want me to do?"
"I want you to stay at home to-morrow."
"Anything but that, sir. They will call me a coward."
"No one shall do so. I swear that he who calls you a coward shall feel
the weight of my arm."
"Why am I not to go with them? Why am I to be separated from the
"You must not ask," said the Major; "perhaps you will know some day,
but not yet. All I say to you is, go home to your mother to-morrow, and
stay there. Should you fire a shot, or strike a blow against those men
we are going to hunt down, you may do a deed which would separate you
from the rest of mankind, and leave you to drag on a miserable guilty
life. Do you promise?"
"I will promise," said Charles; "but I wonder----"
"Never mind wondering. Good night."
The troopers lay in the hall, and in the middle of the night there was
a sound of a horse outside, and he who was nearest the door got up and
"Who is there?" said the voice of Captain Brentwood.
"My house has been stuck up, has it not?"