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forces were too much for the steer, and he was hauled in by main strength under a fusillade of bamboo on his stern. Once in the small yard, he abandoned the struggle, and charged wildly at his captors. The old man slipped nimbly to one side, Gordon darted up the nearest fence, while Carew and the black boy got tangled up with the rope.

In the sauve qui peut which ensued, Carew pushed the black down on the ground right in front of the steer, which immediately fell over him, and tangled him up more than ever. Then it turned on him with a roar of rage, butted him violently, rolled him over and over in the dirt, knelt on him, bellowed in his ear, and slobbered on him. It looked as if the boy must be killed. His mate dashed in with a bamboo, and welted and whacked away without making any impression, till the animal of its own accord withdrew gloomily to a corner of the yard, dragging the rope after it. Carew watched the prostrate boy in agonised suspense, hardly daring to hope that he was alive. With a gasp of satisfaction he saw him rise to his feet, rub some of the dirt off his face, and look round at the steer. Then he gave his shirt a shake and began to brush himself with his hands, saying in an indignant tone, “Flamin’ bullock! Spoil my new chirt!”

Now all hands seized the rope again; in a trice the bullock was hauled up against the fence, thrown to the ground, and held there while the old man sawed off the point of one horn, which was growing into the animal’s eye. When the job was done he straightened himself up, and through the covering grime and dust they had a good look at him.

He had a long, red nose, a pair of bright hazel eyes, and a bushy, grizzled beard and moustache hiding all the lower part of his face. On his head was a shapeless felt hat, from which a string passed under his nose. His arms were hairy and baboon-like; his long thin legs seemed intended by Nature to fit the sides of a horse. He wore tweed pants, green with age, and strapped on the inside with a lighter-coloured and newer material; also a very dirty coloured cotton shirt, open in front, and showing a large expanse of hairy chest. His voice was husky from much swearing at profligate cattle, and there was a curious nasal twang in his tone, a sort of affectation of Americanism that was a departure from the ordinary bush drawl.

Charlie introduced himself. “My name’s Gordon,” he said, “and this is a friend of mine. We’ve come to take this block over.”

“You’re welcome to it, Mister,” said the old man promptly. “It’s about broke me, and if you don’t look out it’ll break you. Any man that gits this place will hump his swag from it in five years, mark me! Come on down to the house,” he continued, picking up the rope and other gear lying about the fence. “Now, you boys, let that steer out, and then go and help the gins bring the cattle in. Look lively now, you tallow-faced crawlers. Come on, Mister. Did you bring any square-face with you?”

“We brought a drop o’ rum,” replied Charlie.

“Ha! That’ll do. That’s the real Mackay,” said the veteran, slouching along at a perceptibly quicker gait.

“But, look, see here now, Mister!” he continued, anxiously, “you didn’t let Ah Loy get hold of it, did you? He’s a real terror, that Chow of mine. Did you see him when you came in?”

“Yes, we saw him. He couldn’t speak any English, seemingly.”

“That’s him,” said the old man. “That’s him! He don’t savvy much English. He knows all he wants, though. He can lower the rum with any Christian ever I see. It don’t do to let him get his hands on a bottle of anythink in the spirit line. It’ll come back half-empty. Now then, cook,” he roared, seating himself at the rough slab table, and drumming on it with a knife, “let’s have some grub, quick, and you’ll get a nip of rum. This new boss b’long you, you savvy. All about station b’long him. I go buffalo-shooting. Me stony broke. Poor fellow me! Been fifteen years in this God-forgotten country, too,” he said reminiscently, placing his elbows on the table, and gazing at the wall in front of him. “Fifteen years livin’ mostly with the blacks and the Chineyman, and livin’ like a black or a Chineyman, too. And what have I got to show for it? I’ve got to hump my bluey out of this, and take to the road like any other broken-down old swagman.”

“It’s a bit rough,” said Charlie. “How did you come to grief?”

“Oh, I came out here with a big mob of cattle,” said the old man, filling his pipe, as Ah Loy placed some tin plates, a tin dish, and a bottle of Worcester sauce on the table, and withdrew to the kitchen for the provender. “I lived here, and I spent nothing, and I let ’em breed. I just looked on, and let ’em breed. Oh, there was no waste about my management. I hadn’t an overseer at two pounds ten a week, to boss a lot of flash stockmen at two pounds. I jest got my own two gins and three good black boys, and I watched them cattle like a blessed father. I never saw a stranger’s face from year’s end to year’s end. I rode all over the face of the earth, keepin’ track of ’em. I kep’ the wild blacks from scarin’ ’em to death, and spearin’ of ’em, as is their nature to, and I got speared myself in one or two little shootin’ excursions I had.”

“Shooting the blacks?” interpolated Gordon.

“Somethin’ like that, Mister. I did let off a rifle a few times, and I dessay one or two poor, ignorant black feller-countrymen that had been fun’ my cattle as full of spears as so many hedgehogs–I dessay they got in the road of a bullet or two. They’re always gettin’ in the road of things. But we don’t talk of shootin’ blacks nowadays These parts is too civilised–it’s risky. Anyhow, I made them blacks let my cattle alone. And I slaved like a driven nigger, day in and day out, brandin’ calves all day long in the dust, with the sun that hot, the brandin’ iron ‘ud mark without puttin’ it in the fire at all. And then down comes the tick, and kills my cattle by the hundred, dyin’ and perishin’ all over the place. And what lived through it I couldn’t sell anywhere, because they won’t let tick-infested cattle go south, and the Dutch won’t let us ship ’em north to Java, the wretches! And then Mr. Grant’s debt was over everything; and at last I had to chuck it up. That’s how I got broke, Mister. I hope you’ll have better luck.”

While he was delivering this harangue, Carew had been taking notes of the establishment. There was just a rough table, three boxes to sit on, a meat safe, a few buckets, and a rough set of shelves, supporting a dipper and a few tin plates, and tins of jam, while in the corner stood some rifles and a double-barrelled gun. Saddlery of all sorts was scattered about the floor promiscuously.

Certainly the owner of No Man’s Land had not lived luxuriously. A low galvanised-iron partition divided the house into two rooms, and through the doorway could be seen a rough bunk made of bags stretched on saplings.

As the old man finished speaking, Ah Loy brought in the evening meal–about a dozen beautifully tender roast ducks in a large tin dish, a tin plate full of light, delicately-browned cakes of the sort known as “puftalooners,” and a huge billy of tea. There were no vegetables; pepper and salt were in plenty, and Worcester sauce. They ate silently, as hungry men do, while the pigs and cattle-dogs marched in at the open-door, and hustled each other for the scraps that were thrown to them.

“How is it the pigs have no tails?” asked Carew.

“Bit off, Mister. The dogs bit them off. They’ve got the ears pretty well chawed off ’em too.”

Just then a pig and a dog made a simultaneous rush for a bone, and the pig secured it. The dog, by way of revenge, fastened on to the pig, and made him squeal like a locomotive engine whistling. The old man kicked at large under the table, and restored order.

“You ain’t eatin’, Mister,” he said, forking a duck on to Carew’s plate with his own fork. “These ducks is all right. They’re thick on the lagoon. The Chow only had two cartridges, but he got about a dozen. He lays down and fires along the water, and they’re floatin’ very near solid on it. But here’s the cattle comin’ up.”

Looking out of the door, they saw about two hundred cattle coming in a long, stringing mob up the plain, driven by four black figures on horse-back. As they drew near the yards, several cattle seemed inclined to bolt away; but the sharp fusillade of terrific whips kept them up to the mark, and, after a sudden halt for a few minutes, the mob streamed in through the gates. A number of rails were put in the posts, and made fast with pegs. The riders then remounted, and came cantering and laughing down to the homestead. All four were aboriginals, two were the boys that had been seen at the yard. The two new boys were dressed in moleskins, cotton shirts, and soft felt hats, and each had a gaudy handkerchief tied round his throat.

One was light, wiry, and graceful as a gazelle–a very handsome boy, the embodiment of lightness and activity. The other was short and squat, with a broad face. Both grinned light-heartedly as they rode up, let their horses go, and carried their saddles on to the verandah, without bothering about the strangers.

“Those are nice-looking boys,” said Carew. “I mean the two new boys just coming in.”

“New boys!” said the old man. “Them! They’re my two gins. And see here, Mister, you’ll have to keep off hangin’ round them while you’re camped here. I can’t stand anyone interferin’ with them. If you kick my dorg, or go after my gin, then you rouse all the monkey in me. Those two do all my cattle work. Come here, Maggie,” he called, and the slight “boy” walked over with a graceful, easy swing.

“This is new feller?” he said, introducing Carew, who bowed gracefully. “He b’long Sydney. You think him plenty nice feller, eh?”

“Yowi,” said the girl laughing. “He nice feller. You got ’em matches?” she said, beaming on Carew, and pulling a black pipe out of her trousers’ pocket. “Big fool that Lucy, drop ’em matches.”

Carew handed over his match-box in speechless amazement.

“They’ve been out all day with the cattle,” said the old man. “I’ve got a lot of wild cattle in that there mob. I go out with a few quiet ones in the moonlight, and when the wild cattle come out of the scrubs to look at ’em we rush the whole lot out into the plain. Great hands these gins are–just as good as the boys.”

“Good Lord!” said Carew, looking at the two little figures, who had now a couple of ducks each, a puftalooner or two, and a big pannikin of tea, and were sitting on the edge of the verandah eating away with great enjoyment; “what have they been doing with the cattle to-day?”

“Minding them lest the wild ones should clear out. They dropped their matches somehow; that’s what fetched ’em home early. They’ll have to sleep on the verandah to-night. We’ll make that their boodore, as they say in France.”

The dark was now falling; the sunlight had left long, faint, crimson streaks in the sky. The air was perceptibly cooler, and flights of waterfowl hurried overhead, making their way to the river. The Chinaman lighted a slush-lamp, by whose flickering light Charlie produced from his swag a small bundle of papers, and threw them on the table.

“We might as well get our business over, Keogh,” he said. “I’ve got the paper here for you to sign, making over your interest in the block and the cattle, and all that.”

He pored over the document, muttering as he read it. “Your name’ll have to be filled in, and there’s a blank for the name of the person it’s transferred to.”

“That’ll be Mr. Grant’s name,” suggested Carew.

“I don’t know so much about that,” said Charlie. “I don’t think, if a man has a mortgage over a place, that he can take it in his own name. That fool Pinnock didn’t tell me. He was too anxious to know how we got on with the larrikins to give me any useful information. Anyhow, I’ll fill in my own name–for all the block is worth I ain’t likely to steal it. I can transfer it to Mr. Grant afterwards.”

“I don’t care,” said the old man indifferently, “I’ll transfer my interest to anyone you like. I’m done with it. I’m signing away fifteen of the best years of my life. But my name ain’t Keogh, you know, though I always went by that. My father died when I was a kiddy, and my mother married again, so I got called by my stepfather’s name all my life. This is my right name, and it’s a poor man’s name to-day.” And as the two men bent over him in the light of the flickering slush-lamp, he wrote, with stiff, uncertain fingers, “Patrick Henry Considine.”



For a few seconds no one spoke. Carew and Gordon stared at the signature, and then looked at each other. The newly-found Considine looked at his autograph in a critical way, as if not quite sure he had spelled it right, and then stood up, handing the deed to Gordon.

“There y’are,” he said. “There’s my right, title and intrust in all this here block of land, and all the stock what’s on it; and if you’re ever short of a man to look after the place in the wet season I’ll take the job. I might be glad of it.”

“I think it’s quite likely you won’t want any job from me,” said Charlie. “I’ll be asking you for a job yet. Are you sure that’s your right name? What was your father?”

“My name? O’ course it’s my name. My father was billiard-marker at Casey’s Hotel, Dandaloo,” said the old man with conscious pride. “A swell he had been, but the boose done him up, like many a better man. He used to write to people over in England for money, but they never giv him any.”

“Where did he write to?” asked Carew, looking at the uncouth figure with intense interest. “Do you know what people he wrote to?”

“Yairs. He wrote to William Considine. That was his father’s name. His father never sent any money, though. Told him to go to hell, I reckon.”

“What was your father’s name?”

“William Patrick Considine.”

Carew dashed out to his saddle, hurriedly unstrapped a valise, and brought in a small packet of papers.

“Here you are,” he said, opening one, and showing it to Gordon. “Those are the names, Patrick Henry Considine, son of William Patrick Considine. Entitled under his grandfather’s will–by Jove, do you know there’s a lot of money waiting for you in England?”

“There’s what?”

“A lot of money left you. In England. Any amount of it. If you are the right man, you’re rich, don’t you know. Quite a wealthy man.”

“How much money d’you say, Mister?”

“Oh, a great deal. Thousands and thousands. Your grandfather left it. No one knew for certain where you were, or if you were alive.”

“I’m alive all right, I believe,” said Considine, staring hard at them. “But look, Mister–you aren’t trying to take the loan of me? Is this straight?”

“Yes, it’s straight,” said Charlie. “You’ll have to go to England to make your claim good, I expect. It’s straight enough. That’s what brought Mr. Carew out here, to try and find you.”

For some time the bushman smoked in silence, looking at each man in turn, perhaps expecting them to laugh. He muttered once or twice to himself under his breath. Then he turned on Gordon again.

“Now, look here, Mr. Gordon, is this square? Because, if it ain’t, it’ll be a poor joke for some of you!”

“Man alive, why should we want to fool you? What good could it do us? It’s all right.”

“Well, if it’s all right, we’ll all have a drink on it. Here, Maggie, Lucy, Billy, come here. Get it pannikin. You won’t mind me treatin’ ’em with your rum, I suppose, Mister?” he said, turning to Gordon. “I don’t come in for a fortune every day, you know, and there ain’t a drop of lush in the place, only yours.”

“Fire away,” said Charlie.

“Come on, Lucy. Come on, Maggie. Where’s Ah Loy? Watch their faces, Mister, it’s as good as a play. Now then, ladies, I bin poor fella longa teatime, now rich feller longa bedtime. You savvy?”

The gins grinned uncomprehendingly, but held out their pannikins, and into each he poured a three-finger nip of raw overproof rum that would have burnt the palate of Satan himself. They swallowed it neat, in two or three quick gulps. The tears sprang to their eyes, and they contorted their faces into all sorts of shapes; but they disdained to take water after it.

“My word, that strong feller, eh?” said Considine. “Burn your mouth, I think it. Now then, Ah Loy, how much you wantee? That plenty, eh?”

Ah Loy peered into the tin pannikin with a dejected air, and turned it on one side to show that there wasn’t much in it.

“Here y’are, then,” said his boss. “Have a bit more. We don’t come in for a fortune every day. Watch him take it, Mister.”

Ah Loy put the fiery spirit to his lips, and began to drink in slow sips, as a connoisseur sips port wine.

“Good heavens,” said Carew, “it’ll burn the teeth out of his head.”

The Chinee sipped away, pausing to let the delicate fluid roll well into the tender part of his mouth and throat.

“Welly stlong!” he said at last; but he finished the lot. The two black boys had their share, and retired again to their camp. Then the three white men sat out in front of the house on some logs, smoking, and looking at the blazing stars.

Considine had fifty questions to ask, and the more Carew tried, the more helpless it was to explain things to him.

“D’you say there’s a house left me with this here money?”

“Yes,” replied Carew. “Beautiful old place. Old oaks, and all that sort of thing. You’ll like it, I’m sure. Used to be a pack of hounds there.”

“Ha!” said Considine with contempt. “I don’t think much of this huntin’ they have in England. Why, I knew a chap that couldn’t ride in timber a little, and he went to England and hunted, and d’you know what he said? He said he could have rode in front of the dogs all the way, if he’d have liked. But the owner of the dogs asked him not to, so he didn’t.”

“I suppose I could take Maggie and Lucy there,” he went on, looking doubtfully at his hearers. “They wouldn’t mind a chap havin’ a couple of black lady friends, would they? Yer see, they’ve stuck with me well, those two gins, and I wouldn’t like to leave ’em behind. They’d get into bad hands. They’re two as good handy gins as there is in the world. That little fat one–you start her out with a bridle and enough tobacker after lost horses, and she’ll foller ’em till she gets ’em, if it takes a week. Camps out at night anywhere she can get water, and gets her own grub–lizards and young birds, and things like that. There ain’t her equal as a horse-hunter in Australia. Maggie ain’t a bad gin after horses, but if she don’t find ’em first day, she won’t camp out–she gets frightened. I’d like to take ’em with me, yer know.”

As he spoke the two moleskin-trousered, cotton-shirted little figures passed in front of the hut. “There they go,” he said. “Two real good gins. Now, as man to man, you wouldn’t arst me to turn them loose, would you?”

Carew looked rather embarrassed, and smoked some time before answering.

“Well, of course,” he said at last, “they’d put up with a good deal from you, bein’ an Australian, don’t you know. Fashion just now to make a lot of fuss over Australian chappies, whatever they do. But two black women–rather a large order. You might get married over there, and then these two black ladies–“

He was interrupted by a startled exclamation from Considine. “Married!” he said. “Married! I forgot all about my wife. I am married!”

“What!” said Charlie. “Are you married?”

“Yairs. Married. Yairs! Should just think I was.”

“Not to a lubra, I suppose?”

“Lubra, no! A hot-tempered faggot of a woman I met at Pike’s pub. I lived with her three weeks and left her there. I haven’t seen her this six years.”

“Did you and she have some er–differences, then?” said Carew.

“Differences? No I We had fights–plenty fights. You see, it was this way. I hadn’t long got these two gins; and just before the rains the wild geese come down in thousands to breed, and the blacks all clear out and camp by the lagoons, and kill geese and eat eggs and young ones all day long, till they near bust. It’s the same every year–when the wild geese come the blacks have got to go, and it’s no use talkin’. So I was slavin’ away here–out all day on the run with the cattle–and one night I comes home after being out three days, and there at the foot of the bunk was the two gins’ trousers and shirts, folded up; they’d run away with the others.

“So I goes after ’em down the river to the lagoons, and there was hundreds of blacks; but these two beauties had heard me coming, and was planted in the reeds, and the other blacks, of course, they says, “No more” when I arst them. So there I was, lonely. Only me and the Chinaman here for two months, ’cause his gin had gone too. So one day I ketches the horses, and off I goes, and travels for days, till I makes Pike’s pub, and there was this woman.

“It seems from what I heard afterwards that she’d just cleared out from some fellow she’d been livin’ with for years–had a quarrel with him. Anyhow, I hadn’t seen a white woman for years, and she was a fine lump of a woman, and I got on a bit of a spree for a week or so, you know–half-tight all the time; and it seems some sort of a parson–a mish’nary to the blacks–chanced along and married us. She had her lines and everything all right, but I don’t remember much about it. So then I’m living with her for a bit; but I don’t like her goin’s on, and I takes the whip to her once, and she gets snake-headed to me, and takes up an axe; and then one day comes a black from this place and he says to me, he says, “Old man,” he says, “Maggie and Lucy come back.” So then I says to my wife, “I’m off back to the run,” I says, “and it’s sorry I am that ever I married you.” And she says, “Well, I’m not goin’ out to yer old run, to get eat up with musketeers.” So says I, “Please yourself about that, you faggot,” I says, “but I’m off.” So off I cleared, and I never seen her from that day till this. I married her under the name of Keogh, though. Will that make any difference?”

This legal problem kept them occupied for some time; and, after much discussion, it was decided that a marriage under a false name could hardly be valid.

Then weariness, the weariness of open-air, travelling, and hard work, settled down on them, and they made for the house. On the verandah the two gins lay sleeping, their figures dimly outlined under mosquito nets; the dogs crouched about in all sorts of attitudes. Considine turned in all standing in the big rough bunk, while Carew and Gordon stretched their blankets on the hard earth floor, made a pillow of their clothes, and lay down to sleep, after fixing mosquito nets. Gordon slept as soon as he touched the blankets, but Carew tumbled and tossed. The ground was deadly hard. During the journey Frying Pan had got grass for their beds; here he had not been told to get it, and it would have looked effeminate to ask for grass when no one else seemed to want it. The old man heard him stirring and rolling, and sat up in his bunk. “What’s up, Mister?” he said kindly. “D’you find it a hard camp?”

“Not too easy,” said the Englishman. “Always seems to be a deuced hard place just under your hip, don’t you know?”

“I’ll put you right in a brace of shakes,” said Considine. “I’ve got the very thing to make a soft bed. Half a minute now, and I’ll get it for you.”

He went out to the back of the house, and returned with a dry white bullock-hide, as rigid as a sheet of iron. This he threw down at Carew’s feet.

“Here y’are, Mister; put that under you for a hipper, and you’ll be all right.”

Carew found the hide nearly as hard as the bare floor, but he uttered profuse thanks, and said it was quite comfortable; to which the old man replied that he was sure it must be, and then threw himself back on his bunk and began snoring at once. But Carew lay long awake.



Carew awoke next morning to find that it was broad daylight, and the horses had been run in, caught, and saddled, all ready for a start to the run. Breakfast was soon disposed of, and the cavalcade set out. Naturally, the old man had heaps of questions to ask about his inheritance, and made the Englishman ride alongside while he questioned him.

“If I go to England after this money, Mister, I suppose they won’t be handin’ me out ten years for perjury, same as they done for Roger Tichborne, eh? I won’t have no law case, will I?”

“Shouldn’t think so. You’ve been advertised for all over the place, I believe.”

“Ha! Well, now they’ve got me they mightn’t like me, don’t you see? I never took no stock in them unclaimed-money fakes. I never see any money goin’ beggin’ yet, long as I’ve lived, but what some chap had his hands on it quick enough. But I s’pose it’s all right.”

“It’s me wife I’m troublin’ about. I’m no dandy, Goodness knows, but if people’ll let me alone I’ll let them alone, and I don’t interfere with anyone. But if old Peg turns up she’ll want to be right in front of the percession. If she follows me, I’ll realise everything by public auction, unreserved sale, for spot cash, and I’ll sneak back here to a place I knows of, where there’s no trooper can find me. I ain’t goin’ halves with that woman, I tell you. She wouldn’t stick to me if I was poor, and I ain’t goin’ to take her up again now. You’d better come back with me, Mister, and show me the way round a bit.”

“There’s a mob of cattle, Gordon.” he went on, changing the subject quickly; “let’s ride up here, while the boys bring ’em into camp.” And off they went at a carter, leaving the question of his social prospects in abeyance for the time being.

The ceremony of taking delivery lasted some days, Considine’s signature to the deed of transfer being only the first step. This long document, prepared in Sydney, kept them going in literature for about a week; and they were delighted to find that, through the carelessness of a clerk, in one part of the deed there figured “one bull of mixed sexes and various ages.”

They rode out, day after day, through interminable stretches of dull timbered country, or over blazing plains waving with long grass. Here they came on mobs of half-wild cattle, all bearing the same brand, a huge RL5. These were not mustered into a yard or counted, except roughly. Gordon was not completing a purchase, but simply taking over what were there–many or few; good or bad, he could only take what he found.

Miles and miles they rode, always in the blazing heat, camping for a couple of hours in the middle of the day. To the Englishman it seemed always the merest chance that they found the cattle, and accident that they got home again. At rare intervals they came upon substantial mustering-yards, where the calves were brought for branding; near these a rough hut had been constructed, so that they could camp there at night, instead of returning to the head station.

They always slept out of doors. In the intense heat it was no hardship, and the huts, as a rule, fairly jumped with fleas. Once they camped alongside a big lagoon, on whose surface were huge pink and blue water-lilies and rushes, and vast flocks of wild fowl. After the stretches of blazing plain and dull timber this glimpse of water was inexpressibly refreshing.

On their way back they struck new country, great stretches of almost impenetrable scrub, tropical jungle, and belts of bamboo. In this cover wild cattle evidently abounded, for they frequently heard the bellow of the bulls.

“There should be a terrible lot of wild cattle here,” said Charlie. “Don’t you ever get any out of the scrubs?”

“Oh, yes, we moonlight for ’em.” said Considine. “We take coachers out. We have a very fair coaching mob. Some of our coachers are as quick as racehorses, and they’ll hustle wild cattle away from the scrub just as if they understood.”

“What do you mean by coachers?” asked Carew. “Not cattle that go in carts, eh?”

“Carts, no. The way we get wild cattle here-abouts is to take out a mob of quiet cattle, what we call coachers, and let ’em feed in the moonlight alongside the scrub, while we wait back out o’ the road and watch ’em. When the wild cattle come out, they run over to see the coachers, and we dash up and cut ’em off from the scrub, and hustle ’em together into the open. It’s good sport, Mister. We might try a dash at it, if you like, before we go back; it’s moonlight now.”

“Let’s have a try to-night” said Gordon. “Are your coachers handy?”

“Yairs. They feed near the house. I’ll send ’em on with the gins to-night.”

When they got back that evening, Carew was so dead-tired that he wished the wild cattle expedition at Jericho. But Considine and Charlie were in great form, directing, arguing, and planning the expedition. One of the black boys rode out, and returned driving a big mob of horses that dashed into the yard at full gallop. The gins and the black boys caught fresh mounts out of these and started away, driving some fifty head of cattle selected from a mob that made their headquarters within a few miles of the house. Most of them were old stagers, and strung away in the evening quite tranquilly, while the blacks, always smoking, rode listlessly after. Considine produced two stockwhips, and gave one to Charlie.

“No good givin’ you one. Mister,” he said to Carew. “You’d hang yourself with it most likely. I’ve got a rare good horse for you–old Smoked Beef. He’d moonlight cattle by himself, I believe. You’d better have a pistol, though.”

“What for?” asked Carew, as Considine produced three very heavy navy revolvers and a bag of cartridges.

“To shoot any beast that won’t stay with the mob. Some of ’em won’t be stopped. They have to go. Well, if one goes, the rest keep trying to follow, and no forty men will hold ’em. You just keep your eyes open, and if a beast breaks out in spite of the whips, you shoot him if the blacks tell you. See?”

“Where am I to shoot him?”

“Shoot him any place. In the earhole, or the shoulder, or the ribs, or the flank. Any place at all. Shoot him all over if you like. One or two bullets don’t hurt a beast. It takes a lead-mine to kill some of ’em.”

“Do the blacks shoot?” asked Charlie.

“No, I don’t never trust no blacks with firearms. One boy knifes well, though. Races alongside and knifes ’em.”

This seemed a fairly difficult performance; while the Englishman was wondering how it would be carried out, they made a start. They rode mile after mile in the yellow moonlight, until they discerned a mob of cattle feeding placidly near some big scrub. They whistled to the blacks, and all rode away down wind to a spot on the edge of the plain, a considerable distance from the cattle.

Here they dismounted and waited, Considine and Charlie talking occasionally in low tones, while the blacks sat silent, holding their horses. Carew lay down on the long dry grass and gazed away over the plain. His horse stood over him with head down, apparently sleeping. Far away under the moon, in vague patches of light and shade, the cattle were feeding. Hours seemed to pass, and Carew almost fell asleep.

Suddenly a long-drawn bellow, the angry challenge of a bull, broke the silence. A mob of wild cattle were evidently coming along the edge of the scrub, and had caught scent of the strangers. Again the bull roared; there is no animal on earth with so emphatically warlike a note as the wild bull when advancing to meet a strange mob. The quiet cattle answered with plaintive, long-drawn lowings, and the din became general as the two lots met.

“Let ’em get well mixed up,” said Considine quietly, tightening his girths, and swinging into the saddle. Everyone followed his example. Carew was shaking with excitement. Angry bellowing now arose from the cattle, which were apparently horning one another–such being their manner of greeting.

Considine said, “There’s a big lot there. Hope to blazes we can hold ’em. Are you ready, Mister?”

“Yes, I’m ready,” replied Carew.

“Come on, then. We’ll sneak up slowly at first, but once I start galloping let your horse go as fast as he likes, and trust him altogether. Don’t pull him at all, or he’ll break your neck.”

They started slowly in Indian file, keeping well in the shadow of the scrub. The horses picked their way through the outlying saplings and bushes, until suddenly Considine bent forward on his horse’s neck, and said, “Come on!”

What a ride that was! The inexperienced reader is apt to imagine that because a plain is level, it is smooth, but no greater fallacy exists. The surface of a plain is always bad galloping. The rain washes away the soil from between the tussocks, which stand up like miniature mountains; the heat cracks the ground till it opens in crevices, sometimes a foot wide and a yard or two deep; fallen saplings lie hidden in the shadows to trip the horse, while the stumps stand up to cripple him, and over all is the long grass hiding all perils, and making the horse risk his own neck and his master’s at every stride.

They flew along in the moonlight, Considine leading, Charlie next, then the two black boys, and then Carew, with a black gin on each side of him, racing in grim silence. The horses blundered and “peeked,” stumbled, picked themselves up again, always seeming to have a leg to spare. Now and again a stump or a gaping crack in the ground would flash into view under their very nose, but they cleared everything–stumps, tussocks, gaps, and saplings.

In less time than it takes to write, they were between the mob and the scrub; at once a fusillade of whips rang out, and the men started to ride round the cattle in Indian file. The wild ones were well mixed up with the tame, and hardly knew which way to turn. Carew, cantering round, caught glimpses of them rushing hither and thither–small, wiry cattle for the most part, with big ears and sharp, spear-pointed horns. Of these there were fifty or sixty, as near as Considine could judge–three or four bulls, a crowd of cows and calves and half-grown animals, and a few old bullocks that had left the station mobs and thrown in their lot with the wild ones.

By degrees, as the horses went round them, the cattle began to “ring,” forming themselves into a compact mass, those on the outside running round and round. All the time the whips were going, and the shrill cries of the blacks rang out, “Whoa back! Whoa back, there! Whoa!” as an animal attempted to break from the mob. They were gradually forcing the beasts away from the scrub, when suddenly, in spite of the gins’ shrill cries, some of the leaders broke out and set off up the plain; with the rush of a cavalry charge the rest were after them, racing at full speed parallel with the edge of the scrub, and always trying to make over towards it.

Old Considine met this new development with Napoleonic quickness. He and the others formed a line parallel with the course of the cattle, and raced along between them and the timber, keeping up an incessant fusillade with their whips, while the old man’s voice rang out loudly in directions to the blacks behind.

“Keep the coachers with ’em! Flog ’em along! Cut the hides off ’em!”

In the first rush the quiet cattle had dropped to the rear, but the blacks set about them with their whips; and, as they were experienced coachers, and had been flogged and hustled along in similar rushes so often that they knew at once what was wanted, they settled down to race just as fast as the wild ones. As the swaying, bellowing mass swept along in the moonlight, crashing and trampling through the light outlying timber, some of the coachers were seen working their way to the lead, and the wild cattle having no settled plan, followed them blindly. Considine, on his black horse, was close up by the wing of the mob, and the others rode in line behind him, always keeping between the cattle and the scrub.

“Crack your whips!” he yelled. “Crack your whips! Keep ’em off the scrub! Go on, Billy, drive that horse along and get to the lead!”

Like a flash one of the black boys darted out of the line, galloped to the head of the cattle, and rode there, pursued by the flying mob, the cracks of his heavy stockwhip sounding above the roar of hoofs and the bellowing of the cattle. Soon they steadied a little, and gradually sobered down till they stopped and began to “ring” again.

“That was pretty pure, eh, Mister?” roared Considine to Carew. “Ain’t it a caution the way the coachers race with ’em? That old bald-face coacher is worth two men and a boy in a dash like this.”

Suddenly an old bull, the patriarch of the wild herd, made towards one of the gins, whose shrill yells and whip-cracking failed to turn him. Considine dashed to her assistance, swinging his whip round his head.

“Whoa back, there! Whoa back, will you!” he shouted. The bull paused irresolute for a second, and half-turned back to the mob, but the sight or scent of his native scrub decided him. Dropping his head, he charged straight at Considine. So sudden was the attack that the stock-horse had barely time to spring aside; but, quick as it was, Considine’s revolver was quicker. The bull passed–bang! went the revolver, and bang! bang! bang! again, as the horse raced alongside, Considine leaning over and firing into the bull’s ribs at very short range.

The other cattle, dazed by the firing, did not attempt to follow, and at the fourth shot the bull wheeled to charge. He stood a moment in the moonlight, bold and defiant, then staggered a little and looked round as though to say, “What have you done to me?” Bang went the revolver again; the animal lurched, plunged forward, sank on his knees, and fell over on his side, dead.

“There, you swab,” said the old man, “that’ll larn you to break another time.” Then he took once more his place in the patrol round the mob. They circled and eddied and pushed, always staring angrily at the riders. Suddenly a big, red bullock gave a snort of defiance, and came out straight towards Carew. He stopped once, shook his head ominously, and came on again. One of the gins dashed up with the whip; but the bullock had evidently decided to take all chances, and advanced on his foes at a trot.

“Choot him, that feller!” screamed the gin to Carew. “You choot him! He bin yan away! No more stop! Choot him!”

Carew lugged out his revolver, and tried to pull his horse to a standstill, but the wary old veteran knew better than to be caught standing by a charging bullock; just as Carew fired, he plunged forward, with the result that the bullet went over the mob altogether, and very nearly winged Charlie, who was riding on the far side. Then the bullock charged in earnest; and Carew’s horse, seeing that if he wished to save human life he must take matters into his own hands, made a bolt for it. Carew half-turned in the saddle, and fired twice, only making the black boys on the far side cower down on their horses’ necks. Then the horse took complete charge, and made off for the scrub with the bullock after him, and every animal in the mob after the bullock.

Nothing in the world could have stopped them. Considine and Charlie raced in front, alongside Carew, cracking their whips and shouting; the blacks flogged the coachers up with the wild cattle; but they held on their way, plunged with a mighty crash into the thick timber, and were lost. No horseman could ride a hundred yards in that timber at night. Coachers and all were gone together, and the dispirited hunters gathered at the edge of the scrub and looked at each other.

“Well, Mister, you couldn’t stop him,” said the old man.

“I’m afraid I made–rather a mess of things, don’t you know,” said the Englishman. “I thought I hit him the second time, too. Seemed to be straight at him.”

“I think you done very well to miss us! I heard one bullet whiz past me like a scorpyun. Well, it can’t be helped. Those old coachers will all battle their way home again before long. Gordon, I vote we go home. They’re your cattle now, and you’ll have to come out again after ’em some day, and do a little more shootin’. Get a suit of armour on you first, though.”

As they jogged home through the bright moonlight, they heard loud laughter from the blacks, and Carew, looking back, found the fat gin giving a dramatic rehearsal of his exploits. She dashed her horse along at a great pace, fell on his neck, clutched wildly at the reins, then suddenly turned in her saddle, and pretended to fire point-blank at the other blacks, who all dodged the bullet. Then she fell on the horse’s neck again, and so on ad lib.

This made the Englishman very morose. He was quite glad when Charlie said he had seen enough of the cattle, and they would all start next day for civilisation–Charlie to resume the management of Mr. Grant’s stations, Carew to go with him as “colonial experiencer,” and Considine to start for England to look after his inheritance.



The black boys went in with them to Pike’s store to take back supplies on the pack-horse. They travelled over the same country that they had seen coming up; the men at the stations greeted them with the same hospitality. Nothing was said about Considine’s good fortune. It was thought wise to be silent, as he didn’t know how soon his wife might hear of it.

They left the gins at the blacks’ camp, which they chanced on by a riverside. The camp was a primitive affair, a few rude shelters made by bending bamboo sticks together and covering them with strips of paper bark. Here the sable wariors sat and smoked all day long, tobacco being their only civilised possession. Carew was very anxious to look at them, a development of curiosity that Considine could not understand.

“Most uninteresting devils, I call ’em,” he said. “They’re stark naked, and they have nothing. What is there to look at?”

Having parted with Maggie and Lucy, they pushed onwards, the old man beguiling the time with disquisitions on the horse-hunting capabilities of his gins, whom he seemed really sorry to leave. As they got near Pike’s, he became more restless than ever.

“See here, Mister,” he said at last, “my wife’s here, I expect, and if she gets wind of this, I’ll never get rid of her. The only thing to do is to slip away without her knowing, and she might never hear of it. I won’t go into the place at all. I’ll go on and camp down the creek, and get the coach there after it leaves the town, and she’ll never know.”

The town of “Pike’s” consisted of a hotel, a store, a post-office, a private residence, and coach-stables; these were all combined in one establishment, so the town couldn’t be said to be scattered. Pike himself was landlord of the “pub,” keeper of the store, officer in charge of the post-office, owner of the private residence, holder of the mail contract, and proprietor of the coach-stables. Behind him was only wilderness and “new” country.

Nobody ever saw him at home. Either he was on the road with a bullock-team, bringing up supplies for the hotel and store, or he was droving cattle down on a six months’ journey to market; or he was away looking at new country, or taking supplies out to men on the half-provisioned stations of the “outer-back;” or else he was off to some new mining camp or opal-field, to sell a dray-load of goods at famine prices.

When Charlie and Carew rode up to the store they did not see Pike, nor did they expect to see him. By some mysterious Providence they had arrived the very day the coach started on its monthly trip down to Barcoo; and in front of the hotel were congregated quite a number of people–Pike’s wife and his half-wild children, a handful of bushmen, station hands, opal miners, and what-not, and last, but not least, a fat lady of about forty summers, with flaring red hair.

She was a fine “lump” of a woman, with broad shoulders, and nearly the same breadth all the way down to her feet. She wore a rusty black dress, which fitted perilously tight to her arms and bust; on her head was a lopsided, dismantled black bonnet with a feather–a bonnet that had evidently been put away in a drawer and forgotten for years. Any want of colour or style in her dress was amply made up for by the fact that she positively glowed with opals. Her huge, thick fingers twinkled with opal rings; from each of her ears there dangled an opal earring the size of a form; her old dress was secured round her thick, muscular neck by a brooch that looked like an opal quarry, and whenever she turned to the sun she flashed out rays like a lighthouse.

Her face was fat and red, full of a sort of good-humoured ferocity; she moved like a queen among the bystanders, and shook hands gravely with each and all of them. She was hot, but very dignified. Evidently she was preparing to start in the coach, for she packed into the vehicle with jealous care a large carpet-bag of garish colouring that seemed to harmonise well with the opals. While she was packing this away, Charlie and Carew went into the store, and bought such supplies as were needed for the establishment at No Man’s Land. Gordon took the opportunity to ask the shock-headed old storekeeper, Pike’s deputy, some questions about the lady, who was still scintillating between the coach and the house, carrying various small articles each trip.

“Don’t yer know ‘er?” said the man, in much the same tone that Bret Harte’s hero must have used when he was so taken aback to find that a stranger–

“Didn’t know Flynn,–
Flynn of Virginia.”

“Don’t yer know ‘er?” he repeated, pausing in his task of scooping some black cockroachy sugar from the bottom of a bin. “That’s the Hopal Queen! She’s hoff South, she is. Yer’ll be going in the coach, will yer?”

“Yes,” said Charlie. “We’re going in the coach. There’s no extra fare for travelling with such a swell, is there? Where on earth did she get all those opals?”

“Ho, blokes gives ’em to ‘er, passin’ back from the hopal fields. In the rough, yer know! Hopal in the rough, well, it’s ‘ard to tell what it’ll turn out, and they’ll give ‘er a ‘unk as sometimes turns out a fair dazzler. She’s a hay-one judge of it in the rough, too. If she buys a bit of hopal, yer bet yer life it ain’t a bad bit when it’s cut. What about these ‘ere stores? Goin’ to take ’em with yer?”

“No,” said Charlie. “The black boy is here for them. He’s going to take them back with him.”

“What, Keogh’s black boy! Well, I don’t know as Pike’ll stand old Paddy Keogh any longer. Paddy’s ‘ad a dorg tied hup ‘ere” (i.e., an account outstanding) “this two years, and last time Pike was ‘ome ‘e was reck’nin’ it was about hup to Keogh to pay something.”

“They’re not for Keogh,” said Charlie. “They’re for me. I’ve taken Keogh’s block over.”

The old man looked at him dubiously.

“Well, but y’aint goin’ to tie hup no dorg on us for ’em, are yer? I s’pose it’s all right, though?”

“Right, yes,” said Gordon. “It’s for Mr. Grant, Old Man Grant,–you’ve heard of Grant of Kuryong?”

“Never ‘eard of him,” said the aged man, “but it makes no hodds. Pay when yer like. Yer’d better git on the coach, for I see the Hopal Queen’s ready for a start. Yer’ll know her all right before long, I bet. Some of the fellers from round about ‘as come in to give her a send-off like. There’s the coach ready; yer’d better git aboard, and yer’ll hear the-the send-off like. Young Stacy out there reckons ‘e’s going to make a speech.”

Charlie and Carew climbed upon the coach. The fat lady kissed Pike’s wife and children with great solemnity. “Good-bye, Alice! Good-bye, Nora darlin’,” she said. Then she marched in a stately way towards the vehicle, with the children forming a bodyguard round her. A group of men hung about uneasily, looked sheepish, and waved large, helpless red hands, till a young fellow about seven feet high–who looked more uneasy and had even larger hands than the rest–was hustled forward, and began to mutter something that nobody could hear.

“Speak up, George,” said a friend. The young man raised his voice to a shout, and said–

“And so I propose three cheers and long life to the Hopal Queen!”

As he spoke he ran two or three paces forward towards a stump, meaning, no doubt, to get on it and lead the cheering; but, just as he was going to jump, a wretched little mongrel that had been in and out among the people’s feet made a dash at him, fixed its teeth in the calf of his leg, and ran away howling at its own temerity. The young giant rushed after it, but the Opal Queen interposed.

“George,” she said, “don’t ye dare go for to kick my dog!”

“Well, what did he bite me for, then?” said the giant, speaking out now in a voice that could be heard half a mile off. “What did he bite me for?”

“Never mind, George! Don’t ye go for to kick him, that’s all.”

The Opal Queen, snorting like a grampus, climbed into the coach; the driver cracked his whip, and off they went, leaving the audience spellbound, and the gigantic young man rubbing his leg. Soon Pike’s faded away in the distance. As the coach jolted along, Carew and Charlie on the box seat occasionally peered in at the large swaying figure, half-hidden in the dust.

About two miles out of town Considine, with all his earthly belongings in a small valise, stopped the coach and got on board, sitting in front with them.

“Have a look inside,” said Charlie. “There’s a woman in there looks rather like–the lady you were talking about.”

Considine looked in. Then he sank back in his seat, with a white face. “By Heavens!” he said, “it’s my wife.”

“This is funny,” said Charlie. “Wonder what she’s after. She must have heard, somehow. She’ll never lose sight of you, now, Considine.”

Here the driver struck into the conversation. “See her inside?” he said, indicating the inside passenger with a nod of his head. “She’s off to Sydney, full rip. She reckons her husband’s dead, and she’s came in for a fortune.”

“Oh, she reckons he’s dead, does she?” said Charlie carelessly. “Didn’t know she had a husband.”

“Ho yes,” said the driver. “She came up here passin’ by the name of Keogh, but it seems that ain’t her husband’s name at all.”

“Oh, indeed! Do you happen to have heard what her husband’s name is? And when did he die?”

“I never heard the noo husband’s name,” replied the driver. “Keogh was her name. I dessay if I arst her she’d tell me. Shall I arst her?” “No,” said Considine firmly. “Don’t annoy her at all. Leave well alone, young feller. What odds is it to you how many husbands the poor woman has had?”

“No,” said the driver dispassionately. “It’s no odds to me, nor yet to you, I don’t suppose. She’s in for a real big thing, I believe. A telegram came to the telegraph station after I left last trip, and young Jack Sheehan, he brought it on after me–rode a hundred miles pretty well, to ketch me up. He reckoned she was coming in for a hundred thousand pounds. I wouldn’t mind marryin’ her meself, if it’s true; plenty worse-looking sorts than her about. What do you think, eh, Mister?” addressing Considine.

“Marry her, and be blowed,” said that worthy, sociably; and the driver stiffened and refused to talk further on the subject.

Meanwhile the three discussed the matter in low tones. It was practically impossible that anyone could have heard of the identity of Keogh with the missing Considine. How then had the story got about that her husband was dead, and that she had come into money? She must have seen Considine get on the coach, but she had made no sign. Their astonishment was deeper than ever when the coach stopped for a midday halt. It was quite impossible for Considine to conceal himself. The house, where the coach changed horses, was a galvanised-iron, one-roomed edifice in the middle of a glaring expanse of treeless plain, in which a quail could scarcely have hidden successfully. It was clear that Considine and his wife would have to come face to face.

Carew and Charlie looked expectantly at each other, and clambered down quickly when the coach stopped. Considine descended more slowly; straightening his figure and looking fixedly before him, he marched up to the door of the change-house.

His wife got leisurely out of the coach, put on her bonnet, and walked straight over to him; then she looked him full in the face for at least three seconds, and passed by without a sign of recognition.

The three men looked at each other.

“Well, this bangs all,” said Considine. “She knew me all right. Why didn’t she speak? She’s afraid I’ll clear out, and she’s shammin’ not to know me, so’s she’ll have me arrested as soon as she sights a bobby. I know her. Perhaps I’d better offer her something to go back and leave me alone, hey?”

This was vetoed by a majority of two to one, and once more the coach started. They plodded away on the weary, dusty journey, until the iron roofs and walls of Barcoo gleamed like a mirage in the distance, and the coach rolled up to the hotel. A telegraph official came lounging forward.

“Anyone here the name of Charles Gordon?” he said.

“That’s me,” said Charlie.

“Telegram for you,” he said. “It’s been all over the country after you.”

Gordon tore it open, read it, and stood spellbound. Then he silently handed it to Carew. It was several weeks old, and was from Pinnock, the solicitor. It read as follows–“William Grant died suddenly yesterday. Will made years ago leaves everything to his wife. Reported that he married Margaret Donohoe, and that she is still alive. Am making all inquiries. Wire me anything you know.”

Charlie’s face never changed a muscle.

“That’s lively!” he said. “He never married that woman; and, if he did, she died long ago.”

As he spoke, the lady passenger, having had some talk with the hotel people, came over to him with a beaming smile. “And ye’re Charlie Gordon,” she said with a mellifluous mixture of brogue and bush-drawl. “An’ ye don’t know me now, a little bit? Ye were a little felly when we last met. I’m Peggy Donohoe that was–Peggy Grant now, since I married poor dear Grant that’s dead. And, sure, rest his sowl!”–here she sniffed a little–“though he treated me cruel bad, so he did! Ye’ll remember me brother Mick–Mick with the red hair?”

“Yes,” said Charlie, slowly and deliberately, “I remember him well; and you too. And look here, Peggy Donohoe–or Peggy Keogh, whichever you call yourself–you and Red Mick will have the most uphill fight you ever fought before you get one sixpence of William Grant’s money. Why, your real husband is here on the coach with us!”

He turned and pulled Considine forward, and once more husband and wife stood face to face. Considine, alias Keogh, smiled in a sickly way, tried to meet his wife’s eyes, and failed altogether. She regarded him with a bold, unwinking stare.

“Him!” she said. “Him me husban’! This old crockerdile? I never seen him before in me life.”

A look of hopeless perplexity settled on Considine’s features for a moment, and then a ray of intelligence seemed to break in on him. She repeated her statement.

“I never seen this man before in me life. Did I? Speak up, now, and say, did I?”

Considine hesitated for a moment in visible distress. Then, pulling himself together, and looking boldly from one to the other, he replied–

“Now that you mention it, ma’am, I don’t think as ever you did. I must ha’ made some mistake.”

He walked rapidly away, leaving Gordon and Peggy face to face.

“There y’are,” she said, “what did I tell ye? Husban’? He’s no husban’ o’ mine. Ye’re makin’ a mistake, Charlie.”

Charlie looked after the retreating bushman, and back at the good lady who was beaming at him.

“Don’t call me Charlie,” he said. “That old man has come in for a whole lot of money in England. His name is Considine, and he pretends he isn’t your husband so that he can get the money and leave you out of it. Don’t you be a fool. It’s a lot better for you to stick to him than to try for William Grant’s money. Mr. Carew and I can prove he said you were his wife.”

“Och, look at that now! Said I was his wife! And his name was Considine, the lyin’ old vaggybond. His name’s not Considine, and I’m not his wife, nor never was. Grant was my husban’, and I’ll prove it in a coort of law, so I will!” Her voice began to rise like a south-easterly gale, and Charlie beat a retreat. He went to look for the old man, but could not find him anywhere.

Talking the matter over with Carew he got no satisfaction from the wisdom of that Solon. “Deuced awkward thing, don’t you know,” was his only comment.

Things were even more awkward when the coach drew up to start, and no sign of the old man could be found. He had strolled off to the back of the hotel, and vanished as absolutely as if the earth had swallowed him.

The Chinese cook was severely cross-questioned, but relapsed into idiotic smiles and plentiful “No savee”s. A blackfellow, loafing about the back of the hotel, was asked if he had seen a tall, thin old man with a beard going down the street. He said, “Yowi, he bin go longa other pub;” but as, on further questioning, he modified his statement by asserting that the man he saw was young, short and very fat, no heed was paid to his evidence–it being the habit of blacks to give any answer that they think will please the questioner.

“He’ll play us some dog’s trick, that old fellow,” said Charlie. “I can’t wait here looking for him, though. I’ll find him when I want him if he’s above ground. Now let’s go on. Can’t keep the coach waiting for ever while we unearth him. Let’s get aboard.”

Just as the coach was about to start a drover came out of the bar of the hotel, wiping his lips with the back of his hand. He stared vacantly about him, first up the street and then down, looked hard at a post in front of the hotel, then stared up and down the street again. At last he walked over, and, addressing the passengers in a body, said, “Did any of you’s see e’er a horse anywheres? I left my prad here, and he’s gorn.”

A bystander, languidly cutting up a pipeful of tobacco, jerked his elbow down the road.

“That old bloke took ‘im,” he said. “Old bloke that come in the coach. While yous was all talking in the pub, he sneaks out here and nabs that ‘orse, and away like a rabbit. See that dust on the plain? That’s ‘im.”

The drover looked helplessly out over the stretch of plain. He seemed quite incapable of grappling with the problem.

“Took my horse, did he? Well, I’m blowed! By Cripes!”

He had another good stare over the plain, and back at the party.

“My oath!” he added.

Then the natural stoicism of the bushman came to his aid, and he said, in a resigned tone,

“Oh, well, anyways, I s’pose–s’pose he must have been in a hurry to go somewheres. I s’pose he’ll fetch him back some time or other.”

Gordon leant down from the box of the coach.

“You tell him,” he said, “when he does fetch him back, that if I’d had a rifle, and had seen him sneaking off like that he’d have wanted an ambulance before he got much farther. Tell him I’ll find him if I have to hunt him to death. Tell him that, will you?”

“All right, Mister!” said the drover, obligingly, “I’ll tell him!”

The horses plunged into their collars; off went the coach into long stretches of dusty road, with the fat red lady inside, and our two friends outside. And in course of time they found themselves once more in Sydney, where they took the earliest opportunity to call on Pinnock, and hold a council of war against Peggy.



Within twenty-four hours after Peggy got back to her old home, it was known all over the mountains that she meant business, and would make a claim on William Grant’s estate. Rumour, of course, supplied all the needful details. It was said, and even sworn to, that Peggy had her marriage lines put by in a big iron box, ready to be produced at the proper time. Other authorities knew for a fact that she had no proofs, but that the family at Kuryong were going to give her any sum from a thousand pounds to a million, to cancel her claim and save exposure.

As a matter of fact, none of those who talked knew anything whatever. Peggy confided in no one but Red Mick, and that worthy had had enough legal experience of a rough and ready sort to know that things must be kept quiet till the proper time. But by way of getting ready for action Red Mick and his sister one fine morning rode up to Gavan Blake’s office to consult him as to what they should do.

Blake was not at all surprised to see them. He, of course, had heard all the rumours that were afloat, and knew that if Peggy brought forward any claim he would be asked to act for her professionally. He had not quite decided whether he would act or not. In his hard commonsense mind he saw next to no possibility of Peggy having a bonâ fide case. He did not suppose for a moment that William Grant would have run his neck into a bigamy noose; and it would put the young lawyer in a very awkward position with Mary Grant if, after saving her life and posing as her friend, he carried on a blackmailing suit against her. At the same time, he felt that it could do no harm to either side to investigate Peggy’s case; there might be awkward things that he could help to suppress. So with expectancy and not a little amusement he saw his clients ride up and tie their horses to the fence outside his office, and watched Peggy straighten her ruffled plumage before entering.

They came in at the door with a seriousness worthy of the occasion. Peggy heaved a subdued sigh and settled in a chair. Red Mick opened the conversation.

“Mornin’ to you, Gavan,” he said.

By virtue of his relationship Mick was privileged to call his brilliant nephew by his Christian name. To the rest of the clans Gavan was Mr. Blake.

“Good-morning, Mick. Good-morning, Peggy. Have you had any rain?”

In the bush no one would think of introducing discussion without a remark about the weather.

“Jist a few drops,” said Red Mick gloomily. “Do us no good at all. Things is looking terrible bad, so they are. But we want to see ye–” and here he dropped his voice, rose, and cautiously closed the door–“Peggy here, Mrs. Grant, d’ye see,”–Mick got the name out without an effort–“she wants to see ye about making a claim on the estate. ‘Tis time she done somethin’. All these years left to shift for herself–“

Here Blake broke in on him. He meant to probe Peggy’s case thoroughly, and knew that it would be no easy matter to get at the truth while she had Red Mick alongside to prompt her. He had not dealt with the mountain folk for nothing, and handled his clients in a way that would astonish a more conservative practitioner.

“Mick,” he said, “You go over to Isaacstein’s store and wait till I send for you.”

“I want Mick to be wid me,” began Peggy.

Blake blazed up. He knew that he must keep his ascendancy over these wild people by force of determination.

“You heard what I said,” he thundered, turning fiercely on Peggy. “You want this and you want that! It’s not what you want, it’s what I want! You do what you’re told. If you don’t–I won’t help you. Mick, you go over to the store, and wait till I send for you.” And Mick shambled off.

Peggy, still inclined to be defiant, settled herself in her chair. She had battled in North Queensland so long that she neither feared nor respected anybody; but her native shrewdness told her she had all to gain and nothing to lose by doing what her lawyer advised.

“Now, Peggy,” he said, “do you want to make a claim against William Grant’s estate?”


“On the ground that you’re his widow?”

“Yis. I’ll tell yer–“

“No, you won’t tell me anything. I’ll tell you. If you are to have any hope of succeeding in this case, you must furnish me with the name of the priest or parson who married you, the place where you were married, and the date. It must be a real priest or parson, a real place, and a real date. It’s no use coming along with a story of a marriage by a parson and you’ve forgotten his name, at a place you can’t remember where it was, and a date that’s slipped your memory. You must have a story to tell, and it must hold water. Now, can you tell such a story? Have you got any proofs at all?”

Peggy shifted about uneasily.

“Can I see Mick?” she said.

“No, you can not. You must out with it here and now. Listen to me, Peggy,” he went on, sinking his voice suddenly and looking hard at her. “I’ve got to know all about this. It’s no use keeping anything back. Were you ever married to William Grant?”

Peggy dropped her voice too.

“Yis. I was married twenty-five years ago at a place called Pike’s pub, out in the Never-never country.”

“Who read the service, parson or priest?”

“Neither. A mish’nary. Mish’nary to the blacks.”

“Is he alive?”

“No, he died out there. He was sick then, wid the Queensland fever.”

“What was his name?”

“Mr. Nettleship.”

“Was the marriage ever registered?”

“Sorra one of me knows. He giv us each a bit of paper–our marriage lines. ‘Twas written in pencil. He had no ink in the place, and he had no books wid him. He tore the sheet of paper and give us each half, wid the writing on it; his horses got stole and he had to camp there. He stayed round wid Pike and the blacks till he died.”

“And where is the certificate? Have you lost it?”

“I sint mine down to Mick to keep for me–jist a bit of paper written in pencil it was–and it got lost some ways; but I have a copy of it I med at the time.”

“Where is the copy now?”

“At Mick’s place.”

“You must tell Mick to bring it in. Now where is this place, Pike’s?”

“Out this side of the opal-fields. It’s wild and rough now, but what it was then–well ’twas more like a black’s camp nor a white man’s place at all.”

Blake thought the story had gone far enough. He did not believe a word of it. “Look here, Peggy,” he said, “You have given the place, the date, the name of the parson, and everything. Now you know that if you are telling a lie it will be easily found out. They will soon find out if there was such a missionary, and if he was up there at the time, and if Mr. Grant was up there; and if you are caught out in a lie it may go hard with you. Have you any witnesses?”

“Martin Doyle was there, Black Martin’s son.”

“What! Martin Doyle that’s out at the nine-mile?”

“Yis. He was up driving the buggy and horses for Grant. He can swear to the wedding.

“He can.”


Blake sat back in his chair and looked at her. “Do you mean to tell me,” he said, “that you can show me a certificate and a witness to your marriage with William Grant?”

Peggy looked doggedly down at the floor and said, in the tones of one who is repeating the burial service or some other solemn function, “I can prove the marriage.”

Blake was puzzled. He had known the mountain folk all his life, and knew that for uneducated people–or perhaps because they were uneducated people–they were surprisingly clever liars. But he never dreamt that any of them could hoodwink him; so he put Peggy once more through the whole story,–made her describe all her actions on the day of the wedding, where she stood, where the witness stood, what the parson said, what her husband said. He went through the whole thing, and could see no flaw in it. He knew that Peggy would not scruple to lie to him; but, with the contempt of a clever man, he felt satisfied that he could soon upset any concocted story. This story seemed to hold water, and the more he cross-examined her the more sure he was that there was something genuine about it; at the same time, he was sure that it was not all genuine. Then a thought occurred to him.

“Would you settle this case if they offered you something?” he said.

“I’ll do whatever you say,” said Peggy, rising. “‘Tis for you to say what I ought to do. ‘Tis not for the like of me, that is no scholar.”

“Leave it to me,” said Blake. “I’ll do what is best for you. Send Martin Doyle in to see me, Martin that was the witness. And about this copy of the certificate, tell Mick to bring it in here. Now you go home, and don’t you say to one living soul one word of what has passed in here. Tell them you are going on with the case, but don’t say any more, or you may land yourself in gaol. Do you hear me?”

And the cowed and flustered Peggy hurried away to join her brother, who was far too wise to ask questions.

“Least said soonest mended,” he said, when told that Blake required silence.

After his clients had gone, Gavan Blake sat for half an hour almost dazed. If Peggy’s story was true, then Mary Grant was an outcast instead of a great heiress. And while he had become genuinely fond of her (which he never was of Ellen Harriott), he had no idea of asking her to share his debts with him. He puzzled over the affair for a long time, and at last his clear brain saw a way out of all difficulties. He would go over to the old station, put the whole case before Mary Grant, and induce her for peace’ sake to give Peggy money to withdraw her claim. Out of this money he himself would keep enough to pay all his pressing debts. He would be that much to the good whatever happened, and afterwards would have an added claim on Mary Grant’s sympathies for having relieved her of a vast lawsuit in which her fortune, and even her very name, were involved.

This plan seemed to him the best for all parties–for himself especially, which was the most important thing. If he could get a large sum to settle the case, he could make Peggy give him a big share for his trouble, and then at last be free from the haunting fear of exposure and ruin. He felt sure that he was doing quite right in advising Mary Grant to pay.

Again and again he ran over Peggy’s case in his mind, and could see no flaw in it. In the old days haphazard marriages were rather the rule than the exception, and such things as registers were never heard of in far-out parts. His trained mind, going through the various questions that a cross-examiner would ask, and supplying the requisite answers, decided that, though it might seem a trifle improbable, there was nothing contradictory about Peggy’s story. A jury would sympathise with her, and the decisions of the Courts all leaned towards presuming marriage where certain circumstances existed. By settling the case he would do Mary Grant a real kindness. And afterwards–well, she would probably be as grateful as when he had saved her life. He saw himself the hero of the hour: ever prompt to decide, he saddled a horse, and at once rode off to Kuryong to put the matter before her.



While Gavan Blake was conferring with his clients, a very different sort of conference was being held at Kuryong. The return of Charlie Gordon, accompanied by Carew, had been voted by common consent an occasion for holiday; and although, according to theory, a bush holiday is invariably spent in kangaroo-hunting, yet the fact is that men who are in the saddle from daylight to dark, from week-end to week-end, generally spend a holiday resting legs that are cramped from the saddle, and arms that ache from lifting sheep over hurdles or swinging the gates of drafting-yards.

Thus it was that, on the holiday at Kuryong, the Bachelors’ Quarters–two large dormitory-like rooms that opened into one another–were full of athletic male figures sprawling on the beds, smoking black pipes all day, and yarning interminably. The main topic of conversation was Peggy’s claim against the estate. They had all heard the rumours that were going round; each had quietly been trying to find out what Peggy had to go on, and this pow-wow was utilised for the purpose of comparing notes. They had one advantage over Gavan Blake–they knew all about Considine, which Blake did not.

On one bed lay Pinnock, who had come up to make arrangements for carrying on the station till the will was proved. On another bed sprawled Carew, who, by virtue of his trip out back, was looked upon as a bit of an oracle by Poss and Binjie, who had never been further than the mountains. Poss and Binjie had dragged an old couch out of the next room and were stretched on that, listening to the talk, and occasionally throwing in a word of such wisdom as they had. Hugh sat in an armchair by the window, smoking and dreaming.

Poss’s voice cut knife-like through a cloud of tobacco smoke. He spoke as one on the defensive.

“Well, I believe there’s something in it, anyhow. Briney Donohoe told me–“

Charlie Cordon’s cold drawl interrupted the youth. “It’s all rot,” he said. “Briney Donohoe told you–what does he know about it? You two boys and Hugh have been stuck at home here so long, you believe anything. I tell you, they’ll do nothing. It’s all talk, just to make themselves big people. They have nothing to do just now, so it comes in handy as an excuse to ride from one selection to another all day long and leave our gates open. We have Peggy’s measure, haven’t we, Carew? That long-lost relation of yours, old Considine!”

“I wish you did have him,” said the lawyer. “He might come in very handy. With a big property like this to go for, they are nearly sure to have a try at it.”

Poss took heart at finding himself supported by this new champion. “Yes,” he said. “Red Mick and Peggy are down at Gavan Blake’s to-day. I saw their horses hanging up outside as I came through. And Briney Donohoe told me–“

“What do you think, Carew?” said Charlie, cutting Briney Donohoe off again. “Don’t you think that old fellow was telling the truth when he said he married Peggy?”

“Sure he was,” said the Englishman. “Never saw a fellow in such a funk in my life.”

“What about Peggy?” said Pinnock. “How did she take it?”

“Bold as brass! I thought she was going to kiss Charlie there, when she found out who he was.”

Pinnock laughed. “Funny thing,” he said, “a woman like Peggy having the chance to choose between two fortunes. Pity we couldn’t induce her to take the old bushman and be done with it. How much money has he come into, Carew?”

“Oh, plenty of money. But of course there’s an old place to keep up, and the death duties are very heavy. Very expensive thing having money left you in England, you know.”

Charlie Gordon turned to Pinnock. “What you ought to do,” he said (the far-out man who has to shift for himself is always quite sure he can settle all difficulties better than those whose profession it is), “what you ought to do,” he repeated, “is to send someone to Peggy and tell her not to be such a fool. Tell her to stick to old Considine. That’s what you ought to do.”

“Well, suppose you go and do it. You know the lady better than anyone here, seemingly. But if she has been to see Blake, I expect the fat’s in the fire by this time.”

“I don’t think much of Blake takin’ up the case,” said Binjie, “after the old lady asked him here. It’s doing the black-snake act, I call it. I don’t suppose he’ll come here any more after this.”

Hugh still sat looking out of the window, smoking silently. “Here comes Blake now, anyhow,” he said. “He’s just coming up the flat.”

“Wants to see me, I expect,” said Pinnock. “We’ll know all about it now. Must have heard I was here, and is come to declare war or sue for peace. Someone had better go and meet him, I suppose.”

“Dashed if I’ll go,” said Poss. “I don’t care about a chap that doesn’t act white. I saw Red Mick’s and Peggy’s horses at his office to-day, and now he comes up here as bold as brass.”

“Let him go round to the front,” said Hugh, “and then he can ask the servants for whoever he wants. If we go out and meet him, we’ll have to ask him to stay.”

The approach to houses in the bush is generally by way of the yard where the horses arrive, and it is very unusual for anyone, except a stranger making a formal visit, to be allowed to find their way round to the front.

Blake rode up and gave his horse to the horse-boy. “Put him in the stable for a while,” he said. “I may want him again.” Then he went round to the front door and asked for Mrs. Gordon.

“I have come to see Miss Grant on very important business,” he said when the old lady came in. “Would you ask her if she would see me?”

The old lady was in a quandary. She had heard all the rumours that were going about, but she knew that they had been kept from Mary Grant, and she thought that if Blake meant to talk business he might shock or startle the girl terribly.

“Mr. Pinnock the lawyer is here,” she said. “Perhaps you had better see him. Miss Grant does not know–“

“I am come as a friend of Miss Grant’s, Mrs. Gordon,” he said. “But, if Mr. Pinnock is here, perhaps it would be better for me to see him first. Shall I wait for him here?”

“If you will go into the office I will send him in there,” and the old lady withdrew to talk of commonplace matters with Mary, all the time feeling that a great crisis was at hand.

Soon the two lawyers faced one another over the office table, and Blake got to business at once.

“Mr. Pinnock,” he said, “I am asked to act for Margaret Donohoe, or Margaret Grant as she claims to be; and I want you to believe that I am seriously telling you what I believe to be the truth, when I say that Miss Grant had better settle this case.”

“Why should she pay one penny? What proofs have you? It looks to me, with all respect to you, Mr. Blake, like an ordinary case of blackmail.”

“If it were blackmail,” said Blake quietly, “do you think that I would be here, giving you particulars of the case? I tell you, man, I am ready now to give you all particulars, and you can soon see whether to advise a settlement or not.”

“Fire away, then,” said Pinnock. “It will take a lot to convince me, though, and so I tell you.”

Blake gave him the particulars gleaned from Peggy. “I have examined and cross-examined and re-cross-examined her, and I can’t shake her story.”

Pinnock listened with an immovable face, but his mind was working like lightning. As the name of the missionary and Pike’s Hotel were mentioned, he remembered that he had seen these very names on the butts of Grant’s cheque-books. Getting Blake to excuse him for a moment, he hurried to his room and pulled out a bundle of cheque-butts. The best diary of many a man is found in his cheque-butts. There he saw on the very date mentioned by Blake, cheques drawn to “Self and P.”, also one drawn to “Pike accommodation,” and one simply to the name of Nettleship for five pounds. Of course it was quite possible that the latter was only a donation to charity, such as old Bully was occasionally very free with; but, taken together, the whole lot made Blake’s story look unpleasantly probable. Pinnock whistled to himself as he tied the bundle up again. “Case of settle or be sorry,” he said to himself. “I wonder how much will settle it?”

When he faced Blake again, he had pulled the mask of professional stolidity over his features; also he lied boldly.

“I can see nothing to corroborate this story,” he said; “but it may be that Miss Grant would rather pay a few pounds than have the unpleasantness of a trial. I will get her in and ask her if you like, but I don’t think it will lead to anything.”

They were holding their conference in the office. Outside, the station was dozing in the sun. The house dog slept in the yard, and a stray wild pigeon had come down into the quadrangle, and was picking at some grain that was spilt there. From the garden came the shouts of the children and the happy laughter of Mary Grant.

“There she is now,” said Pinnock. “Hadn’t I better get her to come in and get the thing over?”

He went out, and came back very soon. “Mrs. Gordon and Miss Grant are coming,” he said. “She said she would like Mrs. Gordon to be with her.”

Before long they came in and sat down. Mary Grant had no idea what she was wanted for. She greeted Blake with a glad smile, and waited to hear what Pinnock had to say. It did not take the lawyer long to put the story before her: but it was some time before she could understand it. Nothing so tragic had ever entered her life before, and she seemed almost stunned.

Mrs. Gordon moved to her side and took her hand.

“It is very terrible for you–for us all, dear,” she said. “You must listen to what Mr. Pinnock says, and make up your mind. He can advise you best what to do.”

Again Pinnock went through the case. As a full understanding broke in on her, she drew herself up; the look of distress and perplexity left her face, and her eyes were full of scorn and anger.

“Hello, what’s coming now?” thought Pinnock. “I hope she says nothing rash.”

She tried to speak once or twice, but the words seemed to choke her.

“What do you advise me to do, Mr. Pinnock?” she said, turning to him suddenly.

“I advise you to give me power to act for you in the matter as I think best,” said Pinnock, who saw that matters were likely to slip beyond his control. “From what Mr. Blake tells me, I daresay this woman can give you a lot of trouble and annoyance. Whatever you pay her, you won’t miss the money. You will save the family here from being turned out; you will avoid scandal; and if there should be any foundation for Mr. Blake’s story, it may mean that if you don’t settle you lose everything.”

From him Mary Grant turned to the old lady.

“Mrs. Gordon,” she said, “do you advise me to pay this money?”

“My dear, I don’t advise at all. Don’t consider us in the matter at all. It is for you to say.”

“Then I will pay nothing. It is a cruel, infamous, wicked slander. These poor, ignorant people don’t know what they are doing. Sooner than pay one penny in compromise, I will walk off this station a pauper. God will not let such villainy win. Mrs. Gordon, surely you don’t think that I ought to blacken my father’s and mother’s name by paying money to keep this claim quiet?”

Here Pinnock broke in on her speech. “But if they should manage to produce evidence–“

“Let them produce it, and let the judge believe it if he likes. You and I and everybody know that it is a lie; even if they win the case, it is still a lie. I will pay nothing–not one halfpenny. My mother’s name is more than all the money in the world, and I will not blacken it by compromises. Mr. Pinnock, the case is to be fought out, and if we lose we shall still know that justice is on our side; but if we pay money–“

Mrs. Gordon took her hand, and lifted it to her lips.

“I think you are quite right, my dear. You put us all to shame for even thinking of it.”

“I am very sorry, Mr. Blake,” the girl went on, “very sorry indeed that you should have come here on such an errand. You saved my life, and if I could pay you for that I would; but this offer is an insult, and I hope that you will never come here again. Whether I am turned out of the old station or not, I hope that you will never come here again.” And with that the two ladies walked out, leaving the lawyers looking at each other.

“I am afraid, Mr. Blake” said Pinnock at last, “that we have lost any hope we might ever have had of settling this case.”

But Blake, as he rode homewards, felt that he had lost for ever a much higher hope. He had played for a high stake on two chances. One of them had failed him. There remained only the chance of pulling Peggy’s case through; and he swore that if hard work, skill, and utter unscrupulousness could win that case, it should be won.



While they were waiting for the great case to come on a sort of depression seemed to spread itself over the station. The owner was mostly shut up in her room with her thoughts; the old lady was trying to comfort her, and Ellen Harriott, with sorrow always at her heart, went about the household work like an automaton. No wonder that as soon as breakfast was over all the men cleared out to work on the run. But one day it so happened that Carew did not go out with the others. The young Englishman was a poor correspondent, and had promised himself a whole quiet day to be spent in explaining by letter to his people at home the mysterious circumstances under which he had found and lost Patrick Henry Considine. Ellen Harriott found him in the office manfully wrestling with some extra long words, and stopped for a few minutes’ talk. She had a liking for the young Englishman, and any talk was better than to be left alone with her thoughts.

“These are bad times for the old station, Mr. Carew,” she said. “We don’t know what is going to happen next.”

Carew was not going to haul down the flag just yet. “I believe everything ‘ll come all right in the long run, don’t you know,” he said. “Never give up first hit, you know; see it out–eh, what?”

“I want to get away out of this for a while,” she said. “I am run down. I think the bush monotony tells on women. I don’t want anyone to fall sick, but I do wish I could get a little nursing to do again–just for a change. I would nurse Red Mick himself.”

Is there anything in telepathy? Do coming events sometimes send warnings on ahead? Certain it is that, even as she spoke, a rider on a sweating horse was seen coming at full speed up the flat; he put his horse over the sliprails that led into the house paddock without any hesitation, and came on at a swinging gallop.

“What is this?” said Ellen Harriott, “more trouble? It is only trouble that comes so fast. Why, it is one of Red Mick’s nephews!” By this time the rider was up to them; without dismounting he called out Miss! Please, Miss! There’s been an accident. My uncle got run agin a tree and he’s all smashed in the head. I’m off to the Doctor now; I’ll get the Doctor here by to-morrow night, and would you go out and do aught you can for Mick? There’s no one out there but old Granny, and she’s helpless like. Will you go?”

“Is he much hurt?”

“I’m afraid he’s killed, Miss. I found him, He’d been out all night and the side of his head all busted. After a dingo he was–I seen the tracks. Coming back from Gavan Blake’s he must ‘a’ seen the dorg off the track, and the colt he was on was orkard like and must have hit him agen a tree. The colt kem home with the saddle under his belly, and I run the tracks back till I found him. Will you go out, Miss?”

“Yes,” said Ellen, “I will go. And you hurry on now, and get the Doctor. Tell the Doctor I’ve gone out there.” Like an arrow from the bow the young fellow sent his big thoroughbred horse across the paddocks, making a bee line over fences and everything for Tarrong, while Ellen Harriott hurried in to pack up a few things.

“Can I help you at all?” said Carew, following her into the house. I’d like to be some use, don’t you know; but in this country I seem to be so dashed useless.

“You will be a lot of use if you will come out with me. I shall want someone to drive the trap out, and I may want help with the patient. You are big and strong.

“Yes, and it’s about the first time my strength has even been of any use to anybody. I will go and get the trap ready while you dress.”

Hurriedly they packed food and blankets into the light buggy, and set off. Miss Harriott knew the tracks well, and the buggy fairly flew along till they came up the flat to Red Mick’s. As they drew near the hut a noise of talking and crying came through the open door.

“What’s up now?” said Carew. “Crowd of people there.”

“No”–Ellen Harriott listened for a second. “No,” she said, “he is delirious. That is the old woman crying. Hurry up, Mr. Carew–take the horse out of the buggy and put him in the stable, and then come in as quickly as you can. I may want help.”

Leaving Carew to unharness the horse, she went inside. In the inner roomy on a bunk, lay Red Mick. Eye, nose, forehead, and mouth were all one unrecognisable lump, while fragments of bark and splinters still stuck to the skin. In the corner sat the old mother, crying feebly. Disregarding the old woman, Ellen made a swift examination of Mick’s injuries, but as soon as he felt her touch on his face he sprang to his feet and struck at her.

Just as he did so, Carew rushed in and threw his arms round the madman. In that grip even Red Mick had no power to move.

“Just hold him quiet,” said Ellen, “till I have a look”–and she rapidly ran her fingers over the wound. “Very bad. I think there must be a bit of the skull pressing on the brain. We can’t do much till the Doctor comes. I think he will be quiet now. Will you make a fire and boil some water, so that I can clean and dress the wound That will ease him a little. And get the blankets in; we can make up some sort of place on the floor to sleep. One of us will have to watch all night. Cranny, you must go to bed, do you hear? Come and sit by Mick till I put Granny to bed.”

By degrees they got things shipshape–put the old woman to bed, and cleaned and dressed Mick’s wounds. Then they settled down for the long night in the sick-room. A strange sick-room it was; but many a hospital is less healthy. Through wide cracks between the slabs there came in the cool, fresh air that in itself is worth more than all the medicines in the pharmacopoeia. The patient had sunk into an uneasy slumber when Ellen made her dispositions for the night.

“You go and lie down now,” she said, “in the other room, on the sofa. I will call you if I want you. Get all the sleep you can, and in a couple of hours you can take my place. He may talk, but don’t let that disturb you. I will call out loud enough if I want you.”

“Mind you do,” said the Englishman. “I sleep like a blessed top, you know. Sleep anywhere. Well, good-night for the present. He looks a little better since you washed him, doesn’t he?”

He threw himself on the couch in the inner room, and before long a titanic snore showed that he had not over-rated his sleeping powers.

Ellen Harriott sat by Red Mick’s bedside and thought over the events of the last few weeks. As she thought she half-dozed, but woke with a start to find her patient broad awake again and trying to get at something that was under his bunk. Quietly she drew him back, for his struggles with Carew had left him weak as a child.

He looked at her with crazed eyes.

“The paper,” he said, “for the love of God, the paper. I have to take it to Gavan. ‘Twill win the case. The paper.”

She tried to pacify him, but nothing would do but that she should get the mysterious paper. At last, to humour him, she dived under the bunk and found an iron camp-oven, and in it a single envelope. Just to see what was exciting him she opened the envelope, and found a crumpled piece of paper which she read over to herself. It was the original certificate of the marriage between Patrick Henry Keogh and Margaret Donohoe; if Ellen had only known it, she held in her hand the evidence to sweep away all her friend’s troubles. It so happened, however, that it conveyed nothing to her mind. She had heard much about Considine, but not a word about Keogh, and the name “Margaret Donohoe” did not strike her half-asleep mind as referring to Peggy. She put the paper away again in the camp-oven; then, feeling weary, she awoke Carew and lay down on the couch while he watched the patient.

Next morning the Doctor arrived with a trail of Red Mick’s relations after him; among them they arranged to take him into Tarrong to be operated on, and Ellen Harriott and Carew drove back to Kuryong feeling as if they had known each other all their lives.

As they drove along she wondered idly which of Red Mick’s innumerable relatives the paper referred to, and why Mick was so anxious about it; but by the time they arrived at home the matter passed from her mind, except that she remembered well enough what was written on the odd-looking little scrap.

“I will give you a certificate as a competent wardsman if ever you want one,” she said to Carew as he helped her out of the buggy. “I don’t know what I’d have done without you.”

“You’d have managed somehow, I’ll bet,” he said, looking at the confident face before him. “Quite a bit of fun, wasn’t it? I hope we have a few more excursions together.”

And she felt that she rather hoped so, too.



Who does not remember the first exciting news of the great Grant v. Grant will case? The leading Q.C.’s. watched eagerly for briefs; juniors who held even the smallest briefs in connection with it patronised their fellows, and explained to them intricate legal dodges which they themselves had thought out and “pumped into” their learned leaders. “Took me a doose of a time to get him to see it, but I think he has got it at last,” they used to say. The case looked like lasting for years, for there would be appeals and counter-appeals, references, inquiries and what not; and in getting ready for the first fight the lawyers on each side worked like beavers.