|Chapter Title||SHADOW AND SUBSTANCE.|
|Newspaper Title||The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 - 1933)|
|Trove Title||The Hermit Convict|
THE HERMIT CONVICT.
By the Rev. William Draper.
SHADOW AND SUBSTANCE.
Newlands is not a very extensive place, it was, until lately, a retired country village, with a weekly cornmarket and some houses of busi- ness, of a far more extensive character than are generally found in such a small community. It consisted principally of one street with a few bye-lanes. On a slight eminence on the right hand of the main street is the church, a very ancient and monkish looking building, with an interior as damp and cold as the heart of the would-be genius, who is the self constituted lord over God's heritage. The Lord of the Manor, as he calls himself, owns the church, the souls of the people, and the safety of the universe—so his actions seems to imply—for no one is at liberty to do anything for the welfare of his fellows, until he has the permission of the great man. The race is dying out now, and it is well, for no- thing is so productive of the worst evil as the presence of such a rank, empty-headed, conceited bigot in the shape of a patron to a village, as this man. Everything good, except it was in perfect agreement with his antiquated notions was forbidden, under pains and penalties, which meant persecution and ruin. But this is enough about him. One of the great blessings of Aus- tralian life, is the liberty by which we are free from such tyranny. The railway has now found an entrance to this village, and the creation of a lecture hall and some places of worship, must produce a corresponding improvement upon the restricted liberties of the people.
Upon a hill at the back of the village, there stands a windmill, and near to this there is a row of four brick cottages, small, but comfortable, in one of which Mrs. Welland lived. Colo- nel Tomlinson was fully acquainted with her history, by a communication which his relative, the clergyman of the parish, had sent him. In circumstances of great distress of mind, this history had been told, with the understanding that it was to be kept a profound secret as long as she lived at least. Neither Julia Tomlinson nor Alice Welland had the slightest knowledge of the widow's previous life.
One very bright but windy March day she was much surprised, but greatly gratified, by the reception of a letter from Julia, to announce the intention of the colonel to visit Newlands, and she might expect them—"for I am coming also," she wrote—to call on her very soon after she received this note. Accordingly, on the afternoon of the same day, Alice, who had been on the lookout, shouted out the welcome news, "I see them, mother, they are coming up the hill." Of course the fetters of restriction and etiquette were immediately slipped off and on the wings of very faithful affection, down the hill to meet her friend, there glided, not an angel without a fault or a sin, but a true coun- try lass. Can you blame her that she could not restrain her ardent affection for a few minutes longer, until the colonel and Miss Julia were duly installed in the small parlor at the homely cottage? I cannot. Good old David, throwing off all restraint, would have rushed across the Plain of Mahanaim, if be could have seen his cruel son Absolom coming to meet him, and would have thrown himself on the young man's neck in an ecstacy of joy. Let us have etiquette by all means, but let us be natural in giving it its only proper utterance. Joseph in Egypt could not eat with his brethren, etiquette for- bade it; but methinks he had a hard struggle to restrain himself from rushing from his ex- alted throne, to throw himself, in tho purest love and affection, upon the neck of his brother Benjamin. Etiquette means pride when life is stripped of its freedom of action. Educate to as high a standard as you will, but then let the action be natural, and there will not be much that is wrong.
It was with no expression of surprise that Mrs. Welland listened to the proposal which Colonel Tomlinson made to her, that ske should accompany them to the far off land. At first
"What is there so very precious which can present any inducement to keep you in this country?" said Colonel Tomlinson.
"Nothing my good, kind friend," replied the widow, "but still I hesitate to decide at once upon so weighty a matter."
"Pardon me, my good Kate, for I must still call you so," said the colonel, "pardon me in saying that you will be always near us, and in- deed we can never forgot you. We shall try to make you far happier than you have been."
"You said, sir," replied the widow, apparently without noticing the words of the colonel, "that I had nothing to keep me in this country. This is quite true, but you know that Alice is entirely dependant on me."
"Of course I do," quickly answered Colonel Tomlinson, "but I never supposed you would leave her behind. You will be our housekeeper again, as you were during my illness, and Alice, until she is married, as she will be, no doubt——"
"Ah! there it is, colonel," said Mrs Welland, interrupting him, "I see in this the greatest difficulty. If she was to marry like some, and have a life of sorrow as the result, it would add
much to mine."
"Nonsense, nonsense, Kate, she will not marry like—, never fear," resumed the colonel, hold- ing up his hand as if to prevent the widow from speaking; "never fear that I shall allude to the subject, but let me say that your sorrows are of a mature age now. You should try to live them down. Your troubles, Kate, are not younger
"Colonel Tomlinson," said the widow, "I can confide in you, I am sure of that, but Alice knows nothing of the past. Now if by some mischance she should stumble upon an ugly fact or two, would not she feel that the innocence of her life was departed?"
"I can understand you," replied the colonel, "but were we all to shut ourselves up lest some supposed secret should suddenly start up before us in the shape of an expounded riddle, convents and nunneries would have to be provided for the greater mass of the people. There are dark spots in many lives, yes, perhaps in all. There is truly a skeleton m every house."
"You are right, colonel; yes, I see it is so. Pardon me if I felt timid, and perhaps unbe- lieving. I have found it to be very hard to be-
"Very likely, very likely, indeed" said the colonel. "I can understand it, but there is one additional reason yet why I would urge this proposal. Your present mode of living is a paradox, which does you more harm than the open truth, even if the whole of the past was blazed forth to every idle inquisitor."
It was at this juncture that Miss Julia and
Alice re-entered the room. The word "inquisi- tor," the quick ear of the colonel's daughter caught in an instant, and without giving Mrs. Welland an opportunity to reply she took it up. "Inquisitor, dear papa, who is inquisitor here but me? Just the very word, dear Alice, to ex- press my most unwarrantable impudence," bow- ing as she spoke. "Do you know, my dear old darling of a nurse," she continued, addressing Mrs. Welland, "that I have drawn out all the secrets of this girl without so much as unfolding one of mine, and I call that an immensely clever thing for a woman to do. What say you,
"Really, not knowing, I cannot say, Julia."
"Which is as much as a confession that you could not excel your silly goose of a girl. Now, when you call us chatterboxes again, sir, pleaso to remember this instance of exceeding wisdom."
"Self-praise, Jule, self-praise, my girl," re- plied the colonel, yet heartily laughing at his daughter's merry countenance. "Now, if you want the truth, I do not think you have done exact justice to Miss Alice."
"Ah! but, papa," replied Julia, "I have not told you all yet. I mean—now listen, sir,—to keep them. I do, yes indeed, I moan to keep
"Till you reveal them," said Colonel Tomlin- son. "I do not doubt your word. But come, now, let me give you a lecture about shadows."
"Shadows, papa, I do not think I like the title at all. That about soberness in young girls now, was really good. Oh! how many tears I did
shed over that lecture."
"I dare say you did, you saucy puss," replied her father, "I saw you shaking all the time I was speaking."
"With soberness, of course, you dear old goosey; now tell me, colonel, what soberness— not sobriety yon know—but what soberness in a young girl is. Come, Alice, papa will repeat his extraordinary telling lecturo which has been delivered to most attentive audiences, and is pronounced to be, without exception, the
"Extraordinary creature that ever lived," said her father. "Now, miss, pray sit down and hear what I have to say."
"About soberness, papa?" inquired Julia, with a merry twinkle in her eye.
"Yes, my dear, a very sober subject indeed. I have been asking Mrs. Welland to go to Aus-
tralia with us."
"And she has consented, dear papa. I see, that is the substance to your shadow. I do de- clare, old nursey, he has kept this a profound
secret from me."
It is extremely probable that the high-spirited girl would have found queries enough to have prolonged this conversation for some hours. It is possible that she would have settled some of the most important of matters, with the smallest discussion; but the clergyman came in, and in his presence, Miss Julia became a listener in- stead of a talker. The conversation which en-
sued was purely of a business character, and the issue of it was an arrangement of a very sub- stantial nature, even more favorable to all the parties concerned than the proposition which the colonel intended to make. It was the sha- dow of coming events to the widow's mind. The substance was as yet hovering above her,
invisible to all but Omniscience.
Newlands was startled—at least a consider- able number of its twelve hundred inhabitants were—by the appearance of a handbill a week after the visit of Colonel Tomlinson to the widow, announcing that all tho household furni- ture and effects of Mrs. Welland would be sold by auction, on the next market day, without any reserve, which means, except that which may
be in the auctioneer's note-book.
Moreton Bay, as it was then, the colony of Queensland now, is the scene of our tale. It is not necessary to describe the country geogra- phically. Such facts aro well known to the most superficial scholar. That Brisbane is the metropolis, distant from the town of Too- woomba about 98 miles, the greater part of which is over an undulating country, terminat- ing in a range of mountainous hills, which load to a vast extent of table-land, stretching away to a great distance, and that the ascent up these mountains is called, in technical language, "going up the range," is all that need be said
This ascent may be accomplished by the rail- way, or by the rougher and slower process of climbing up an extremely steep, and uncomfor- table sort of road, called the mail coach route, but more properly entitled to be dubbed, the break-neck route. The scenery is superb; some say it is the finest in Queensland. Perhaps it is of the kind, but all the coast of the northern portion of the colony is very fine also, and can lay a strong claim to be regarded as exquisite, romantic, and grand. The railway, which has been constructed along numerous steop spurs of this wild range, is a wonderful piece of engineer- ing skill, though it has been much condemned by some. The ascent to the summit is by a series of the most extraordinary curves, but when the top is reached the view is grand.
There was no railway in 1849. Perhaps the idea was not yet born that there ever would be a route by which travellers might with ease, comfort, and safety, ascend the range in a few hours. The ascent at this period was toilsome, dangerous, and at times, actually impossible. It was no uncommon occurrence for drays to be three months on the road between Ipswich and what is now Toowoomba, and under the best circumstances the journey occupied several days. To traverse this country as the traveller can now, leaving Brisbane at six in the morning, and, after a coach ride of four hours, to reach tho Downs in about five hours afterwards, is a marvel of modern times which demands a record here.
About half-way up the range there is a most romantic gully or gorge, which forms the bed of an immense mass of water during storms, but at other times is comparatively dry. Boulders of every possible shape and size have been hurled from the heights, and rolling into the valley have lodged in the most curious places, whilst others have in turn been precipitated down the same course, lodging upon those which preceded them, and the earth gradually accumu- lating between the interstices, trees have sprung up; these have seeded and others have risen from these seeds, until dense scrubs have been formed, which, in some places, are almost im- penetrable. Upon the banks of this watercourse there was a rude dwelling, constructed with considerable labor. An immense boulder, per- haps it might have rolled from the higher rocks which rise at least 500 feet above the water- course, lay upon the solid rocky sides of the glen. This stone was made to form the roof of the hut; the sandstone underneath having been
cleared away until a complete stone house was formed with three rocky walls, the fourth side being open towards the glen or gully. This side as well as the whole dwelling, was effectually screened from observation. No one could have imagined that there could be a residence in such a place even if there had been any explorers in the neighborhood. But it was far away from the usual haunts of settlers, or the track of bushman or travellers. No human foot had ap- proached it—none, but those of the hermit who had chosen this wild desolate region for a home. The occupant was an original—about fifty years of age, but in appearance so venerable as to foster the impression that he had passed through four-score winters at least. He was about the average height, broad shouldered, with stooping gait, a round face, some marks of piercing, thoughtful intelligence, a long grey beard, and snow white hair which hung over his shoulders. His dress was of the roughest, a mere sack made of animal skins, with the fur outside and he wore at times a cap of the same material. In his hand he carried a slender pole about ten feet in length pointed at one end, and thickly studded with odd pieces of iron, with this he climbed the fastnesses of the mountain side as easily as an ordinary man would walk on level ground. In fact it was astonishing how he could leap over crevices in the rocks many feet in width. His general manner was extremely rest- less, he constantly looked around him as if sus- picious of being seen; very frequently he shaded his eyes with his hand to scan the path before him. There was, at such moments, a singular expression upon his face, some would have called it a vacant stare, and the whole character of the man may be summed up with this addilion to what has been already stated; he was human, with a certain degree of intelligence, but with marks of a savage ferocity, which was the in- evitable result of long severance from civilised
How he lived must ever remain a mystery, for he never revealed it. At one period of his resi-
dence here, a man who had lost some bullocks and was looking for them, discovered a little plot of garden ground in a very retired spot, where maize, wheat, and some vegetables were growing. No dwelling of any kind was near it. But it was very probable that this man's visit was known, for a few months after, on again going to the place—out of curiosity then—he found that it was abandoned, and, as far as possible, every mark of cultivation and fencing
had been obliterated.
It was shortly after this period that Old Her- mit—as he called himself in his many soliloquies —probably at a loss to obtain necessary food, began to enlarge the borders of his wanderings. Labor was scarce, although settlers were few and far between and he had not much difficulty in hiring himself as a shepherd on a small run in the neighborhood of what is now known as Helidon. For more than six months he con-
tinued with the most patient endurance to occupy the same position. One day, however, in the month of November, 1851, early in the
morning, his employer rode over to his hut. Hermit was getting his breakfast, and a visitor at so early an hour was rarely to be expected.
"Shepherd," said his employer, Mr Baines, "2000 sheep are going up the Range to morrow. You had better draft off all the N sheep, and put them in the small paddock to-night. Tommy and Dick will come over to help you. You will have to drive them up, they are going to Mr.
"Don't know, master," replied Hermit.
"What don't you know," said Mr Baines, "the place you are going to? Oh! I'll make that very plain to you. I am going into Drayton the first thing, and will meet you at tho top of the Range. Then it is very likely that I shall go
on with you."
"Don't know, master," the Hermit reiterated. "Hang the fellow! What do you mean?" angrily rejoined his employer, "can't you say anything but that confoundedly 'don't know?'" The last words were uttered in a derisive, jeer- ing tone of voice.
"Don't know, master, that I go," replied Hermit. "I don't like. I hired as shepherd, and—" Here he burst out into an energetic pleading sort of entreaty, and, going straight up to his employer, said, "Master, master, I'll serve ye well; but don't send me away; I beg of ye, don't send me with sheep."
"But why not, Hermit," said Mr. Baines, somewhat softened by the earnest manner of the man,"you can come back again——"
"Never, master, never," hastily replied Her- mit. "If I leave here, something tells me I never come back. If sheep must go, let Tommy and Dick go, and I drive rest to head station, and stay till they come back. Now, master, listen to me this time. Something says to me, 'Don't go,' and I can't master, no, I can't!"
"Oh, go to Jericho with your foolish vagaries," said Mr. Baines, "but I suppose you must have your own way. Here comes Tommy and Dick. I'll speak to them, but I don't like this, shep-
herd; no, I don't indeed."
Perhaps there was something in the old shep- herd's earnest gaze, as he turned round to meet the two stockmen who were now in sight, which made Mr. Baines stop as if he would have spoken again; but after a moment, saying to himself, "It is very curious," he rode off from the hut. The interview which followed between the two stockmen and himself was very ani- mated, and frequently glances were directed to- wards the hut where Old Hermit was now seated, discussing his breakfast. It ended, however, in an arrangement by which the shepherd's plan was carried out, and, without returning to the hut, Mr. Baines rode away towards home, the two stockmen proceeding to tho yards to com- mence drafting the sheep.
The sheep were drafted and Tommy remained in charge of the 2000 to be driven away on the morrow, Dick, and Hermit having gone to the head station, the former engaging to return to the hut before sundown. Mr. Baines' house and station were about six miles distant. It was evening before Hermit arrived with the few sheep which remained after the N brand were separa- ted from the flock, and having received his orders, he put the sheep into a paddock near the huts, and proceeded to the house to get his sup- per. This was soon dispatched, but amidst some bustle and confusion, a party of visitors arrived unexpectedly, and somewhat inconve- niently, for the very limited accommodation which Mr. Baines could place at their disposal. Hermit was called by his master to attend to the horses, and while he is engaged in this most im- portant of travellers duties, the welfare of the useful creatures which so patiently serve the human race all the world over, the introduction of the new arrivals may as well take place. They
fo he eh he roi It
are seven in number, three ladies and three gen- tlemen with a servant; four of the number being Colonel Tomlinson and his daughter, and Mrs. Welland and Alice, who had landed at Brisbane a few days previously. Of the gentle- men, one was an old friend of the colonel's, and the other a son of a New South Wales merchant. The first of the two was an officer in the British army, who had been for a long period in India, but had recently retired on half-pay.
On the fourth night this party found themselves at the foot of the Range. Here they had intended to stop for the night, but on reaching the small inn which offered the only accommodation for miles, they were told that the blacks were out in the neighborhood; that they had attacked a whole caravan of drays; had succeeded in car- rying off some cases containing liquor, and other stores, and that many of them were in a frightful state of intoxication. There was no room in the wretched inn for ladies, in fact there was no de- cent accommodation for any one, and Colonel Tomlinson resolved to push on to Mr. Baines' station, which he heard was only four miles fur- ther on. This was reached happily without any adventure, although they passed within sight of a camp of blacks in a state of horrible riot. It was just dark us they rode up to the house of
Of course the hospitality of the bush was rendered in a moment, when Colonel Tomlinson stated the circumstances of the case.
"Of any thing my poor abode can boast of, sir, you are heartily welcome, although you must excuse the homeliness of a very rough interior, and little besides the usual beef and damper, with a dish of tea and so on. We are out of the sort of home comforts ladies look for.
This welcome was given in an honest, free- hearted manner, which disarmed every thought that the visitors were intruders. Colonel Tom- linson replied: "Many thanks, my dear sir, many thanks. Old soldiers are not hard to pleuse, and if they were, the fact that we are driven up into a corner is quite sufficient to make us value any kind of shelter for the night."
"Well, we have got that, I hope," replied Mr. Baines; "and now, ladies, stop in and make yourselves quite at home. Unfortunately, ladies, I am only a forlorn bachelor, but my house- keeper will try and attend to your comforts."
"We shall manage very nicely, sir," said Julia, "at least I can answer for myself, and as for my two companions, they are not strangers to a little roughing, so please not to trouble in
the least about us."
"You may be sure we shall not trouble, my good lady, that is a scarce article with us up here," replied Mr. Baines.
The board was soon spread; it was nearly 9 o'clock before the good substantial meal was ended, and the ladies soon after retired. They were very tired, and Mrs. Welland was not quite well. We will leave them and hope that they may be all the better for a night's rest. Happily you, Miss Julia, will be delivered from the dis- tressing anxiety which most of the inmates of Wellesley Station will experience before the
night is over.
To return to the gentlemen. After supper the pipe the glass and the yarn proved the galvanic circle which kept their tongues in action, and their interest up to the register of bush talk. This was very animated. The destination of the travellers; purchase of stock; squatting pur- suits and prospects; and the probability of se- paration were subjects which formed the pro- logue to the narration of several exciting ad- ventures, in which the host and his guests seve- rally took a part.
"We have left our two stockmen at the inn, Mr. Baines," said Colonel Tomlinson, "they will come on in the morning."
"Better have brought them all on, colonel," replied Mr. Baines; "I don't like separation between travellers. You never know where you may meet again, or how soon you may need assistance. The blacks, you must know, have always been very troublesome in this neighborhood. When I first settled here in 1843, we were obliged to keep up a patrol every night as regular as the old watch at home. All sorts of contrivances were arranged to give an alarm in case of danger, for the rascals were so bold that they were upon us before you could say Jack Robinson. Excuse the slang, gentle- men; I habited myself to use this term many years ago, and it is firmly lodged in my dic-
"Do not mention it, Mr. Baines," said Cap- tain Oliver. "Certainly soldiers are the last people to cry non peccavi in this matter."
"But none the less are they blameworthy, my good friend," said Colonel Tomlinson. "I do not refer to such simple expressions as our friend has unnecessarily drawn our attention to, but oaths—wicked oaths and horrible filthiness are frequently as common in the army, and more common even, than the words which so- ciety recognises as polite and necessary. I never could see anything but degradation in them. No gentleman ought to use an oath, nor will he if he knows his position."
"I perfectly agree with you, colonel, per- fectly; but somehow they become a habit," said
"Like my Jack Robinson," said Mr. Baines, "but none the less reprehensible. But I was telling you how we were obliged to look out sharp for the blacks, for some of them had ceased to be afraid to move about at night. For a whole year we got off pretty well, we had a good deal of 'jabbering' as I call it, and two of my shep- herds were speared, but I never lost a single sheep nor could I account for it why the shep- herds were slaughtered—mangled would be a better word. But, by George; they caught us napping at last. One night we lost our pat- rol. He was gone, how, or where, I never knew. It was about midnight; I had been asleep in- doors on the sofa, and had gone far into Dream- land. There was a solitary lamp on the table, and the windows were open a little way to admit some of the breeze which was blowing then from the west. Well, gentlemen, I was dreaming, and in my sleep I know I was yarning—I do talk sometimes in my sleep—but I couldn't tell you what it was about, but in the midst of a most earnest argument about this something, whatever it was, a gunshot report reached my ear. It was a port of my dream, for I remem- ber that I saw myself starting as if in terror, and this terror awoke me, and I opened mt eyes. I was broad awake instantly, and I well might be. Standing by my side there was my sister in her night dress—she was keeping my house at that time, and terribly afraid of the blacks. On this account she was going to Sydney very soon. Well, there she stood, fast asleep, but with one arm stretched out pointing down the glen yon- der, the same that you came up this evening."
"Here was a pretty fix. What could it mean? This was my first thought; but while I was settling this, my sister turned deliberately
round and walked quietly back to her own room. You may suppose I was a little scared like. I took a little brandy, and, says I, 'There's no more sleep for me for awhile. I'll go out and have a smoke.' So I got my pipe, and then I found I had no tobacco. I did not like to go up the passage for the key of the store; for I feared to wake my sister. So I thought I would go down and get a bit from Jack—I never knew his other name. Don't spare the bottle, gentlemen, there's a drop or two more in the
house, I think."
"Let us hear the tale first, Mr Baines," said
"Well, I had scarcely left the door when I found that the signal by which we had arranged to communicate with our patrol from the house had not been laid down. We had a wire which was attached to a piece of deal about four feet in length. This was laid across a box. If we wanted to communicate with the guard, this piece of wood was pulled off the box. Of course it fell with a crash, and on the patrol discovering the signal, he was instructed to pull the wire in turn, which operated in a similar way upon a similar piece of wood placed on the verandah. Well, neither the wire nor the wood was to be seen. I never knew the men to fail in setting the signal, for our lives depended on it. You will see in the morning, gentlemen, that the station buildings stand in a ring fence, and we are well fenced behind the house by the precipitous rocks, but still we carried the fence right round the place. The only real point of danger, as we felt it, was through the glen, of which I have already spoken. Black- fellows are daring sometimes and at that time they were terribly bloodthirsty; but they never seem to think that there can be a weak place which is more open to assault than another. At all events, if they do, we never had any trouble from them which did not come from one quarter. I often wonder that they did not hurl stones down upon us from tho heights above, and while we were considering the danger from that source, rush upon us from another quarter. Not that they could do us any harm with these stones, if they thought about such a thing. None could ever reach us; but the theory I have about them is this:
Trust to a black to take the easiest course which presents itself. This, with us, was the road up the glen, and up this road they always came. Well, gentlemen (I always begin a new spell with this common word) we had another rule, that without the signal being made to the watch no one was to venture to approach him. The signal, I have told you, was either gone or it had not been laid down. What was I to do? The tobacco was a minor affair; I ceased to think about this now. I peered into the darkness, and
felt all round tho verandah, but no, tho signal
board was not there. A few moments considera-
tion and I resolved upon a new signal; I put a candle into a lantern, and hoisting the lantern on a long stick, I waved it to and fro in the air. 'Surely,' I thought, 'Jack will see this.' When I had waved the signal for about a minute I took it down, and just at that moment my lar- gest dog, A fine noble beast, came bounding to- wards me, and with a savage growl, crouched down at my feet. I now knew that something was the matter. This dog had broken the cord by which he was tied up near the slip-panel, but why he had not barked I did not know. All of a sudden it flashed into my mind, that probably the gun shot I heard in my dream was the report from our patrol's revolver, and the dog's repeated growls now thoroughly convinced me that we were in for a skirmish. Quickly I ran over to the men's huts, they are behind the house, the men were up at once, but not a bit too soon, for the dogs now gave such signs of danger approaching, that we were sure it was near at hand. To make a long story short, we had twenty of the most vile-looking rascals you can conceive of, right upon us in less than a minute afterwards, four to each of us, and for- tunately we gained the victory. Eight of the villains were laid low, but I lost my noble dog, he had been foully used; the devils—I really, gentlemen, cannot call them by a better work— had cut out part of his tongue. He died before morning, and we buried him against the slip-
panel where he had kept ward and watch for
so long a period."
"Very interesting indeed," said Colonel Tom- linson, "but did you never hear anything of
your man, or trace him at all?"
"Never, not a trace could we find. But this I say, I believe my sister's night walking had something more than human in it."
"Divine Providence has many ways of helping us, Mr. Baines. I have proved this many times," and Colonel Tomlinson briefly recounted the particulars of the three trials with which the tale
commences, as an illustration.
When the colonel had ended, Captain Oliver
"I scarcely understood, Mr Baines, that sig- nal of yours. I should have thought it would have been better to have attached a wire to the
trigger of a gun, so that in case of alarm it might
be more certain."
"Oh, my dear sir, we did not lose sight of this, but I did not explain it fully. If we knew that any number of blacks were in the neighbor- hood, there was another wire which was attached to a large bell, and the mere tug of this wire by our patrol released this alarm, and it made a tolerable row, I assure you. Then in case of sudden surprise the revolver was fired, but we
trusted more to our wire alarms than anything else, and I never knew them to fail."
"How long did you keep up this move," in- quired the young man, who may as well be in- troduced more fully here as Mr. Wright.
"About two years," replied Mr. Baines; "we were new chums then, and there was not a neighbor nearer to us than eight miles. But gradually others came and settled along the road and we grew more indifferent about danger, and so the watch was relaxed, first a little, then an other hour was taken off, and at last we ceased to set a watch at all. How now, Hermit?"
The man referred to had been beckoning to his master; he stood at the window which was the only lookout from this room, and holding in his hand a small parcel tied up with rushes, said: "Master, this thrown over fence pan- nel. I went down to lock rails in, and there it hung, tied on by these things. I thought I'd
bring it on."
"By George," said Captain Oliver, "here's an adventure, Baines. Perhaps a love token,
"Far more likely a little bit of black busi- ness," said Colonel Tomlinson, "I knew them to do such things when I was commandant of the troops at Brisbane. I will give you an incident of this kind presently; but let us see, Mr. Baines, the contents of this singular mail bag."
Mr. Baines held it still in his hand looking at the parcel, and turning it over and over. It
witl to b
was about four inches long and three inches in breadth, a piece of old plaid being the wrapper, which was tied with a green rush twisted. But for the latter anyone might have passed such a package without much notice, but being tied up and also tied to the slip rail, it evidently was meant for some one, yet there was no kind of
direction upon it.
"I suppose," said Mr. Baines, "I suppose I had better open it. Certainly I never saw this scheme before. Hermit, did you see any sign of
"None at all, not a sound did I hear, and I am pretty sharp in that way, master."
"I know you are," replied Mr. Baines. "Well here it is, up and at them us the Duke is reported to have said." He drew out his knife and cut the rushes as he spoke, and slowly unfolded the plaid envelope. This was found to contain a second wrapper of red serge, on opening which there was a white handkerchief carefully folded up, which being spread out a name was seen in one corner—"Oliver, 90th Regiment."
"In for it again, Captain," said Colonel Tom-
linson, in a laughing jocular tone, "I never did see your equal for the mysterious. But what lady you can be acquainted with up here is be-
yond all knowledge. One of the old speculations,
I suppose, turned up in a wonderfully unexpected
The captain was holding the handkerchief in his hand as Colonel Tomlinson spoke, and there was a merry twinkle in his eyes as if he under- stood the allusion, but before he could reply a bullet struck him down. He fell into the arms of his friend, while Mr. Baines and Mr. Wright rushed out to the door, where, from the smoke, it was evident the shot was fired. Here they found Hermit struggling with the assassin, but ere they could help him the shepherd was level-
led to the ground by a heavy blow, and the stranger, nimbly bounding off the verandah, dis- appeared. Mr. Baines returned to the room to get his gun which was always kept loaded. He fired in the direction which the intruder had taken, but without effect. Captain Oliver was laid upon a sofa. Colonel Tomlinson examined the wound, a pistol shot, entering the shoulder close to the blade bone, a portion of which was splintered causing exquisite pain, but the colonel, who had had some experience in gunshot wounds, pronounced it to be comparatively trifling. There was no chance of procuring medical aid nearer than Drayton, and this was somewhat uncertain. But who was to go? Mr. Baines was loath to leave his wounded guest, ti de- spatch Hermit to the inn for the stockmen was impossible, for he would have to run the gaunt-
let of a host of enemies. This was evident by a tremendous yell which made the darkness of the night still more of a calamity to them. It was plain that the blacks were the assailants, and even now they might be on their way in a mass to follow up the successful blow which one of them had struck. The housekeeper who was
standing by the wounded man holding the dish of water with which Colonel Tomlinson was bathing the wound, dropped the basin imme- diately. She had heard the same horrible shout once before. The ladies who had re- tired to rest were also aroused by it, but Julia,
who was very tired, was easily quieted by the as- surance that there was no real cause for alarm.
"Well this is far from pleasant, I must say,"
said Mr. Baines. "Never mind, they shall learn the way to spell pepper before they go away.
Load away, Hermit, we may need it before morn- ing. Como on, Mr. Wright, every one must be enlisted in this warfare. Mrs. Johnson, is your
old courage gone? Yon handled Brown Bess once us well as I can. We may want you again. Courage, courage, there, gently now."
Whether the good squatter was speaking to himself in some of this random talk, no one seemed to notice. But Mrs. Johnson replied, "I am ready now Mr. Baines. Bless my heart, I was very foolish to feel so; it startled me for
a moment, for though we had just the same alarm once before, I never wanted to be present
at another fight, but every bush woman must be
a soldier in the hour of need."
"Well said, Mrs. Johnson," said Colonel Tom-
linson. "I think our friend will do now till we can get a doctor. With such as you, madam,
we will give them a hard time of it, ere we say
"I believe ye, colonel," replied Mr. Baines, who, with Mr. Wright and Hermit, had been
loading all the firearms. They were rather a formidable lot. Six double-barrel fowling pieces, three of Colt's revolvers, two single barrel guns, and three large horse pistols.
"And now for the Beauty, Hermit, and while
I load her you go and reconnoitre," said Mr.
But he was not to load the Beauty, which was a small brass cannon, nor was the house to be attacked, for Hermit returned after a lapso of about five minutes, and reported the retreat of the blacks, at least twenty torches wore gone over the hill he said, and he could see many others with those who bore these lights.
"Now, master, if you please," continued Hermit, "give me note to Tommy, I ride over with it now, and he go for doctor, while I and Dick take on sheep in morning."
"Right you are," replied Mr. Baines, "go, saddle your horse, and the note shall be ready. In the meantime, gentlemen, it will be necessary for us all to be on the alert. Your daughter, colonel, is a sound sleeper. She does not appear to have been alarmed much."
"I am thankful she has not," replied Colonel
Tomlinson, "these are not scenes for women
"Yet they have plenty of it in the bush,colo- nel. It is well for them to be inured to it. Ah, Hermit! ready, my man? Here's the note. Now ride like Johnny Gilpin, but don't lose your head."
"Or my wig either, master, though these blackfellows not like those devils I have read of
"Bad enough, bad enough, Hermit, if you give them a chance, and are fat enough."
"Ah! then, master, I only lean 'un," and with this unusual amount of merriment, off he
CHAPTER XIII. LEYTON STATION.
Upon an undulating tract of country near Toowoomba, there is a station, which has been the means of adding many thousands of pounds to the coffers of two squatters, who have been in turn the proprietors. It is a pretty place and though there is much that is very beautiful, yet the scenery on three sides of it is quiet rather than romantic or grand. From the back of the house there is a most magnificent prospect, the view being from the range to the seaboard. The house is substantial, with offices en suite, good stables and stores, with roomy wool sheds, stock keepers' huts, a large and well stocked garden,
and several paddocks, all well fenced, and plenty
It is morning when we drive up to the house by a well-gravelled, road, which has been laid out with considerable taste amongst some fanci-
ful flower beds cut out of the well-kept grass lawn. Of course we alight. Who that goes to Leyton Station would be allowed to depart without having a substantial proof of the hos- pitality of its owners, and the best of it is, that breakfast is just on the "tapis," and we happen to be just in time. The "we" in this case, how- ever, included the owners, who had been upon a visit on the past evening to a station about four miles away. Not to an evening's select party, although they spent a very pleasant time there,
but the secret of tho matter is this, the station
belonged to a certain Colonel Tomlinson; they had received a letter from him to say he was about to start from Sydney, and there was a certain inkling of curiosity, and perhaps some- thing else, which led Messrs Stewart and Argylo to wish to know some further particulars. Ac- cordingly on the past evening, they had gone
over to Burnham Beeches.
It would be very easy to understand what they heard there, even if we were not in the secret. Half an hour after they returned, six horses were saddled and equipped for a journey,
and six riders, booted and spurred, were discus- sing the route they should take.
"They cannot be at Grey's before to-morrow night, James, even if they were all good riders."
"Agreed David," replied his partner, "but what should hinder us from going on? They are all strangers, and I should like to know that they are safe at home."
"Safe, sir," said one of the four stockmen, "there is a report that the old rascal Eagle Hawk is prowling about just below the range. If he is there, that devil of a woman is not very far off, I warrant, and wherever she is there are
a hundred black-skins at least."
"Don't call her devil," replied Stewart. "She may be wicked, selfish, cruel, even devilish, but she is yet, like ourselves, human. Who knows? something might be done with her."
"Beg your pardon, sir," replied the man, "but that creature, sir, she is a regular stunner. Once see her fight, 'tis a caution. By the powers, master, if that is not Brown from Burn- ham, coming in at the gate."
Both Stewart and Argyle arose, and went out to the verandah, and in less than a minute a rider galloped up; it was Brown tho overseer. He threw himself off his horse—this is the regu- lar phrase, although to perform this feat would be hazardous enough to risk the breaking of some bones: rather more tame perhaps, is the description, but it is quite correct to say he alighted from his horse, which is in strict agree- ment with the supposition that he did not fall therefrom, but stepped down upon his feet. What a lot of words about a most common- place action, and all the while Mr. Brown has been kept waiting. Quite right too, for he has need of a little breathing time; he and his favourite black mare have had a rapid run over that four miles between Leyton and Burnham.
"How now, Brown," said Stewart, as he grasped the man by the hand, "we were over at Burnham last night, and expected to see your, but Mr. Sinclair told us you were away for two
or three days."
"So I was, Mr. Stewart, but I came home very early this morning to hear bad news."
"Bad News!" All of the four stockmen had now come out of the breakfast room, and they spoke all at once, "Bad news! What is it?"
"Why, the colonel and his party were on their journey—you knew they were coming, Mr. Ste-
wart. One of them is shot."
"Shot!" exclaimed Stewart and Argyle, both
in the same breath. "Who is it?"
"I don't know," replied Brown: "I did not see him, but a man was sent from Helidon to get some medical advice. You know, per- haps, that Jack Reeve, as he is called, is rather clever in bone setting and that sort of thing. Well he lives somewhere over by the swamp near the red soul yonder. However, to make a long story short, two men came for Jack Reeve; one is gone back with him, and the other came on with a note for Mr. Sinclair. This states that a gentleman, one of their party, has been shot, and, that in consequence, they may not arrive for some days. Mr. Sinclair said you were
going down to meet them, and I said I would ride over with the news. There, now you have it. I was afeared I should not have caught you."
"Ah, neighbor Brown, why was you afraid?"
"Oh! man alive," replied Brown, "I was an unmarried man once. I know all about it, Master Stewart. Excuse me, I don't mean to be personal you know, but I wish you much happi- ness, sir, when it do come. My old woman and I ——"
"Nonsense, Brown," said Stewart, interrupt- ing him, "why I don't know the lady in the lease."
"But I do, sir, and Master Sinclair and me have been putting our figures together, and have
arrived at the sum total."
"And what is that, Brown?"
"Why, Miss Tomlinson, sir, is a very nice
young lady, that is the state of the weather,
"Ah, ah!" said Argyle, "I did not know that you were a matrimonial agent, Mr. Brown, but 'tis too bad to leave me out in the cold."
"No fear, no fear, Master David," said Brown, "no fear of that long either. The Downs will be alive with the female sex afore long. But, bless me, I had forgot what I come about."
"Come in to breakfast, Brown," said Stewart, "that is the best thing you can do. In half an
hour we should have been off."
Brown was soon doing his share at the break- fast-table, where jokes ran along at the same time. In this amusement they were abundantly aided by the arrival of two black boys who brought up some pack horses, one of which was to accom- pany the projected expedition.
Black Bill was the elder of the two, he was an African, woolly-headed of course, but very far from being woolly-brained; of this there is no sort of mistake. "He was a first rate fellow, this Black Bill was," so Mr. Brown greeted him,
and Black Bill replied, in his grinning way, "Sich a faithful dog, maessa." His master, James Stewart, had called him so once, when he saved the young squatter's life, his horse having bolted and Black Bill having caught him by the bridle just as the horse was rushing towards a thick brush of young underwood and small trees, against which, had he been dashed, Stewart must have been killed. Never was such an action more cleverly done, the black boy, at the immi- nent danger of his own life, actually faced the horse, dashed at the bridle, caught it, turned the horse's head completely round, and then in an instant noosed him with a piece of rope he had in his hand, and, skipping round a tree, bailed the horse up as completely as if he had been stalled with a halter in the stable.
The "faithful dog" was also a thorough station hand, a fearless rider, apt at mustering, clever in tracking, and exceedingly shrewd in suggest- ing in cases of difficulty. The way in which he mustered his horses this morning would have called forth the admiration of any who witnessed the performance. "Hi," said Bill, with a stock- whip explosion on the right hand, and to the
left they swerved round in a gentle curve "Ho," again went the command, and straight ahead was the order of their march. "Whe-e-e Jih, and a hi," and round they turned to face their general, just as soldiers clap their hands at a certain signal when on parade. Black Bill prided himself about these horses, and they seemed equally as fond of him. He had a pecu- liar call or whistle for each, and they always came at the given signal. He had a most unac- countable sort of creed about this species of animal, but let him speak for himself, his own words will best describe it. Most opportunely also, the very question was put to him as he bustled upon the verandah and stood at the
keeping room door.
"Sich a faithful dog, massa," said blackee.
"How about the horses, Bill," said his mas- ter, "are they all right?"
"Yes, massa, tey be all right, good temper, go well, carry you away and home again."
"Ah! how can you be sure of that, Bill?
Never be sure about anything in this life," said
"Sure about tat, massa," was the reply, "him Bobby tell me so. Jeroosalem, 'tis fact!"
"Tell you so; he does not speak, how do
"Look you here, master; long time ago, I take tese hosses; I look after tem; I give tem food; I take tem to water; I rub tem down; I put on saddle; I ride tem. Waal I tink I know tese hosses pretty well; agam tey know me. So I begin to teach tem, and tey teach me, and so we both learn together. Jeroosalem!
tey be good hosses."
This has been a digression, but it has served to introduce the darkies. I did not take them long to pack sundry swags upon the horse they had brought up, nor was the starting delayed. In about an hour the whole party, armed to the teeth, were fairly started accompanied by Brown,
whose way home for three miles was along the
[To be Continued.]