Chapter 146668976

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Chapter NumberNone
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article146668976
Full Date1889-07-13
Page Number3
Corrections0
Word Count2810
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Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleMaryborough Chronicle, Wide Bay and Burnett Advertiser (Qld. : 1860 - 1947)
Trove TitleThe Musical Thief
article text

The Storyteller.

TlioMustcal Thief.

[By Enoch Lowe.]

{Australasian.)

The rond northward In tbe Wide Bay district breaks every here »»d there through the Great Dividing Range. At those spots tbe country arouad 'looks ss If It were thrown together anyhow. The watercourses are numeroofe and devious, pools of clear cool water being collected

in Borne parte, while above ana oeiow ine rocky bed gllBtene dryly Id tbe sun, Oc casionally tbemain watercourse isguarded by huge granite aide walls, rent and hal lowed by centuries of Internal and eztel' nal pressure. One morning in early summer I came upon a teamBler in a pleasant grassy pocket just outside tbe range. I was bound westward, but as I bad known tbe teamster years before and could take my time I willingly agreed to bis request to keep with him for a day or two. I ac cordingly turned my horses loose, and lent a hand to tbe wors of tbe camp. My friend's team was not a very harmo nious lot. Tbe best members of It were badly broken ia, and some appeared never to have felt tbe yoke before. Be tween rounding up and getting them in line tbe morning fled. Although progress, in the sense of mak ing way westward, was inappreciable, something was gained in tbe matter of discipline. If the same beasts were only available for tbe morrow they would know a considerable lot more about their duty than on the preseDt occasion. But would tbey be available ? Tbat de pended. Tbe night was a half-moon oDe, but tbere wns neither paddock nor yard to bound their movements. Tbe usnal expedients were easy to adopt, but, as three or four steers were particularly flighty, hobbling together bad to be per formed with prudence. After everything was done whiob rational bullock-drivers could do, my friend, wtoose first name was George, decided to rise at midnight and bave a look round. He slept under the dray. Tbe bells were ringing all around early in tbe night, but by the time we bad stopped talking they Bent the tinkles in, as It were, a line. Still there was notblDg to make us fear tbat tbey meant seriously to desert us. George's movements in getting from under tbe dray aroused me. He uaeftul to do tbe thing without creating distur bance, but failed. Anyway, ft made no matter, for I was not desperately in wabt of a night's Bleep. I told him to be back soon, and shut my eyes again. In a little after 1 beard a movement of things in ihe -liuy. I was sufficiently awake to know that it was aboutthe 'grub- box ' the movement was. It struck me, too, as peculiar that anyone should want anything there at such an hopr. Matehfes and tobacco Were in a diflerent place al together. Concurrent with these regul ations wsb the assumption tbat tbe noise was caused byOeorge. I recognised that I was but partly awake, and began to play with what I regarded as dreaui fanuies. I kuew George wasn't going to make breakfast, but I let myself think be was. And I was amused with myself for being so foolish. But the pereon at the 'grub-box ' sud denly turned about and walked away to tbe rear. Tbat was not were tbe remsids of the camp fire lay. I listened to hear if George would strike a matcb. I then became aware that tbe footfall was far too light for George. Suddenly I wis wholly awake ana couvinced that a robber bad been at tbe dray. I raised my head. From a distance of fully forty feet came a voice, half in song, and half in recitation, repealing some lines which bad a familiar sound, and wblch I was able to recall as follows when thoroughly awake Dear enemy, whom I ought to deteBt, To puol6h whom I ought to do my beet, X mast confess— nine© there's do use In felenldgi My yielding heart, lorgetting Its disdaining,' Now bumbty prays to Belleville you will go, Vt nine to-i)ignt, at tbe hall of Calypso. t *iere a lond aod faithful damsel you will meet, ' Wh«° treads all Xoimer quarrels 'neath her leet. j w*as'&8tontabed. I raised a corner of. the tar *-aulin, and looked out. The mood-' lleht 'fi11' on tbe gr°UI1d '? irregular natch ea Distant peaks intercepted in' nnn direct/on, and a clump of trees In another. Sti'. right away straight beforb me was ihe unmistakable figure of a mart. The figure mo\*ed from light to shadow. I was creeping out from under tbe tar paulin when the -'nice again arose, and I paused to catch the words : Boat last the bargain's ended, Wltb Clalrette I'll gaily spend It. For In Paris all's for sale If you can pay down on the nail; Easy way to end all bother, swap one surname tor another, And Just change In my little song Larivandtere to XjavaoJoQ. The authorship of the lines flashed upon me. They were Lyster's translal tion of Ijecocq's comic opera. But what could the man mean ? I holloed to bim. Like a shadow he melted from my sight. I came out into the open and holloed again. An answering shout came from George. I had been satisfied tbat neither voice nor figure was George's but if a lingering suspicion tbat he ' lobe remained hie voice now dispelled It. The mysterious visitor disappeared to* wards the towering cliffs, while George e voice came from the flat country lying id an opposite direction. After looking around, or rather trying to look around; for the darkness was suddenly setting down, I returned to bed. Tbe air became filled with tinkles of bells. I supposed ithatGeorge was beading the wandering beasts back to tbe camp. This turned out to be true. ' What were you calling about?' asked' George, when became alongside. ' A musical visitor — an operatic star — a, n \oonllgbt sonata in theflesb.' j Go to Bleep,' was the reply. ' I heard! mn grunting In dreams wbenlwent after the cT'ttle. liDotty I beaded them. Tbey' tfora h mnd for home, straight as a shot. They are' Dot likely to try. it on 'again be-; fore morn foe. po here's tor; a sound nap.' f°'Ct rubious There really was some strange-Mug 'houtthedray.'', ?? Take care it wasn't n black. I didn't Beft an v fires alyout, and I wouldn't like to1 meet them craw 'I' DK around iu ' But it was bo black. He sang three or four verses out of ' Madame Augot s DGwgersiAply snuffed contemptuously. ?? He was at tbe grub-box,' I instated.. ' Good-night,' said George, doggedly, aDd letting down tbe tarpaulin, be: stretched himself out on the soft fur rug. ? I did not go to sleep.. I jvas more amused than' alarmed. I1 waB ™ore puzzled than either. Soon something stirred at the end -it tbe dray. I was about to touch George, but tomyeurprise be too was awake. He pressed my arm and Indicated that I was to stay silent and leave the visitor to him. Tbe nowe was near tbe grub-t-ox. Now itwas at it. George raised tbe corner oftbe tarpaulin. Although it was dark, I could see he bad bold of bis driver's whip. He crept out, still motioning me to be silent. Tbe tar paulin bad fallen again. But altborfgb I was shut in I could feel him ralslug him self to bis feet. There was a second's sus pense, and then b ewlBb and a thud; I sprang to tbe open. George was standing laughing iu tbe dark. ' Killed bim 1' I eoboed. 'There he Is,' said George. 'He

didn't try any of bis operatic touches on me. He knew I was not musical, I sup pose, While he was trying to raise tbe lid of the took [ oatigbt him under tbe ear.'' An dpilortotft lay ft the tftoeel of tbe dray, and It wm to this George's words relehWl. ' ThM'tf hbt W said I. ' Well, you'll probably adoilit be is a mfember of tbe same filthily ; not tbe ?ribsltsal ttbiifcal, perhftpfe, btita brother.' ' I tell you I saw a man.' ,f I till you I see a fool.' ' But tbe words he 'sang are familiar to mS.' ' Ofcouree. They were In your dreams. You awoke, or partly awoke, and heard tbat'anlmnl or ' tils brother at the grub, and with the beautiful contempt for /acts so characteristic of dreamers you put tbe two things together.' ' But I saw the man.' ' Now, can you swear that you opened your eyes at all 7' 'Swear — ? 'Ob, bosh 1 This, I know, will be tel ling on ue to-morrow. Let us drop (t off. There will be nothing more to-night.' Fully an hour passed. I had crertalnly slept this .time, and wbeu I awoke my faculties were quite clear. There wbb something at the grub- box. I would bave a routed George, but I feared it might be another opossum, and my position would be made still more ludicrous. Yet the movement covered too large a space to be tbe work of so small an animal. I determined to creep silently out and satisfy myself. While I was doing so the rustling noise ceased, and footfalls, similar to those I beard before, wfere audible going away from tbe dray. I looked out. There could be no doubt about it : tbe shadowy form of a man moved between me and the ridge. Presently the voice declaimed. ? 'The past appears tb me but a dream, from wblch I have at length awaken ; yet my heart recalls ebough to convince me that It wns all a reality. When I think of the wandering life I led* my memory will reverf to bim who in every trial pre served its honour, wbo twice restored me to a father's arms, and at length to a father's home.' . , Before the voice had got ..half-fcay' throughtbe above statement Ibad George . awake. His language was not compli mentary at the'start, but tbe tones of the strange voice soon penetrated to his in tellect. ? When I added, ' He wfis at the grub-box again,' George bounded frotti under tbe dray without ceremony. - , No one was now viBible in tbe direction whense the voice bad come. We webt to the box to examine what that part ot the mystery might reveal Half a haih, two tine of salmon, and three or four pounds of cheese were , at once missed. Further I n vestlgation showed that a bottle of^plckles, a canister of tea, and a small bBg of sugar had disappeared ' Pretty stiff for an opossum'' said I. 'A thieving black fellow !' exclaimed George. ' Out again,' I paid. 'I don't know who It is or what it is, but it has the shape of a man, and knows something about operatic mUBlc. Ilia also hungry, and appreciates the delicacies of a grub box.' The voice prevented reply. From away up near tbe top or the ridge it sang — My own, my iong*lost child. Oh, seek not to control This frantic joy, this wild Delirium ol my soul— ' Over my cheese and bam,' interpb lated George, ruefully. The singer prb ceedeti— Bound In a father's arms. And pillowed upon bis breast, Bid all tbe rude alarms That assailed thy feelings rest 1 ' It is the pickles and tinned salmon be is addressing,' I observed. ' ' Go for bim,' cried George, catching-, up his whip end bounding into tbs dark ness. j I followed, but I knew it was no usfe. Tbe man was not likely to wait for us. and even it be did we would not be act-' ing wisely in attrackinghim in the dark. His ideaB about how to get on in ttte world were evidently not tbe sameas; ours, and he might have a weapon oruse bis teeth. George was so impetuous that my monosyllable did not atlect bim. ttfe kept straight on. In five minutes tbe chase was over and George returned. He.had seen the visitbr, but only dimly and at a distance. Tbp figure came into view on the top ledge'of tbe rock, and paused tbere for an instant. There it glided down on tbe side to tbfe creek or river. George was quite satisfied that tbe mah ' was insane, and we both determined thalt we wonla do our beet to capture him abd bring bim on tbe next township. Next morning we breakfasted early and shifted for. the ridge. We inferred he bad a biding-place about there. We were right. Tbe river formed a pool jfist ' under a huge heap of rock. The rock was gapped and broken on tbe side faoipgtbe water. We slid down. A hole, wbi6p might be called a cave, was found on out right band. By signs wti made each othef know tbat we considered this his abode! We advanced noiselessly. We were re warded. , . A little in from the mouth of the cave sat our visitor. He was a tallisb manj with a spent body and cadaverous face! His clotbs hung in veriest rags from bis gaunt form, and bis beard was long and matted. He sat on a large stone, and was so intent on bis work that be did nut observe our presence. His work consisted in driving with a stone a nail into tbe lid of our salmon tin. . Tbe picture suggested to me tbe materials for a joke, pnd the incubation of tbe joke so taxed my faculties that forgot what wasof morelmportance. As tbe joke took shape I laughed. . The man Jumped and disappeared back wards. It was then we saw tbat tbe cavity ran ia good way under tbe ridge, and, aB it1 was completely dark after tbe first few feet, I apprehended much the samei danger In cloBe quarters which counselled^ distance tbe nlgbt before. George fully agreed with me. j We called on tbe man to adVitnce. ' We held up the tin wbiclt be had':nt-'£lft!ted to carry with him, and intimttte&fcs'Bestj we could tbat be migbt have it;1: 'O'fir1 efforts were of no avail I say,' whispered George. ' You tbldj me you know some of the things be sings. - I bave an idea. Htarta bar.' I could not for tbe life of me reoall tbe wards I bad heard the' night before, ^hey bad lost tbeir identity lb tbe general' excitement. I bunted tbem about, but' finally gave tbem best. ' Give something like them,' whls- : pered George, 'anything.' I accordingly bawled out— - Huge and anger choke me quite ; Faithless woman, I know all; But be sure this very night, Vengeance on your head shan (all. Instantly from the rear of tbs cave the man advanced. With emphatic gestures and much correctness of tone he answered — * You kee.i quiet: All this riot Will not mend aQalrs one bit. Dry up talulng, OB he walking Or your head I'll surely split. George drew back. But tbe maniac fled oDce more. ' My Idea again,' said George. Get you In beblnd him when he next comes I to tbe front. At a signal from me pounce I qp him from behind.'

George thereupon began clapping hlB hands with vigour, and shouting 'fin- core, enoore.' George Btamped his feet to help tbe noise. The plan succeeded. Tbe manlao re-appeared. He bowed pro foundly to bis excited audience, and, lifting up his voice, warbled — . Ilbafi not ended ^ As I intended, ? * Bui perhaps 'lis better so ; Time will show. I bad orept in sideways unobserved. At this stage I got- my cue, uud sprang at the man from the rear. The poor fellow was easily controlled. J His name wbb Setb Peters, and bis avo cation for close ou a quarter of a cent ury j bad beeu tbat of atage carpenter In vari- 1 ous of tbe metropolitan theatres. Opera I bou&e was to biiu (be perfection nf his trionic art, aud such hold had this craze taken of bim tbat be had filled several reams of paper with libretti and music of : his own composition. „ ThlB increase of responsibilities caused me to stay with George until we reached tye next towusbip. There we gave our ] artist up to the police, aud handed a writ ten statement of tne whole proceeding. I bad the satinfactlon, a short time] ago, to bear that Beth bad Improved rapidly find managed on his recovery to get home tb England, where hehassince been singing tn musical comedies. I