Chapter 160786558

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Chapter NumberIII
Chapter TitleAURI SACRA FAMES.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article160786558
Full Date1888-12-22
Page Number17
Corrections0
Word Count1894
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleAdelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904)
Trove TitleThe Falling Cross - Two Christmas Days
article text

CHAPTER III.

AURI SACRA FAMES,

A few weeks later two men might have been Been, if there had been any one to look at them, digging away sb if their life had depended upon it. The spot where they

were working wae considerably beyond the moBt outlying station in that direotion, in a small and 8eoiuded gully, with high preoipi touB sides. People might have passed very oloee to the place without noticing It, as it was situated some dtatanoe np the aide of a hill, and the entrance was narrow, the gully afterwards widening into a small amphi theatre quite shut in. S toper had entered it accidentally once when he was out proa pool ing, and, having found two or three nnggets be said nothing abont it, bnt obliterated the traces of his work and took a mental note of

the position. As soon as he was able to do. so he returned with two friends, and they obtained a good harvest, the gold being In abnndance a little way below the surface and the nuggets large,

The nearest water was 2 miles distant, and here, where there was also feed, the horses were left with one man in charge of them and of the camp, the other two working in the golly. They divided the work by eaoh man taking his turn at the camp, and he prepared the food for the party.

Treffle was not favourably impressed by the appearance oi his seoond partner when he made bis acquaintance. He was a beetled browed, heavy-faced fellow, but he gave Treffle a bright and searching glanoe on meeting him, which, although he immediately relapsed into his drill expression, showed the former that he was far from wanting in intel ligence. When the two had approached the station where Stoper was hanging on in some oapaoity. Jenkins had gone alone to look him np, and had explained to him. who their new ohutn was. Treffle had no reason to oomplain of his reception, as Stoper was quite cordial with him, bnt be could not divest himself of the feeling that there was something sinister about the men, and he disliked him from the first

On their first talking the matter over together Stoper had said. " Of coarse, It is live whacks die oracks, which was unin telligible to Treffle, and he asked what it meant. He learned that the Import of it was that in the event of any of the party dying before the final division of the spoil his or their interest in this would be »nnnit««i[ the object of the arrangement being to prevent any persona setting np claims as heirs. Treffle did not like the arrangement, but he was in the minority, and had to acquiesce, and it set him thinking how much he was at the mercy of the other two in ease that they meditated treaohery. He was in for the business, however, and all he could do was to be on his guard as much as possible, bnt he was now particularly glad that be had brought his revolver. After a little while an

idea struck him, and he wrote down with pencil a memorandum of the agreement oa a blank half of a letter he had with him, the others watching him ouriouely. When he told them that he wished this to be signed by all Jenkins was indignant, and asked him furiously if he doubted them, Stoper, however, interposed, and, with a wink at Jenkins, said—"Ifa all right; if he wants it let's sign the thing," and this was accordingly done, though all the signature that Stoper could put was his mark.

After three weeks' hard work the party had collected olose upon 200 lb. weight of gold, all in nnggets and coarse grains, as they had no facilities for washing out the dust. They were pretty well satisfied, and, as their provisions were tanning low, they began to think of . leaving. They were now getting well into summer, and Treffle, un accustomed to the heat, felt it severely. If it bad not been for his days off in the oamp, be did not think that he oould have gone on working without knooking under, and, as it was, he felt languid and weak. Bis physique had been splendid, hut he found that digging under a, blazing sun was very different from what he used to consider a hard day's work among the offices in London. He was not sorry then when his senior partners—for they made no pretence of consulting him— decided that they had enongh for this trip, and prepared to leave. The gold waa paoked into parcels of convenient size, and the horses were brought to the gully, the one that had been lea and had. carried the pro visions being now utilized for the greater part of the preciona metal. Then a con siderable time was spent in levelling the boles, and otnerwise making the place look as natnral as possible, and, after the picks and shovels had been hidden for a future

oooa8ion under a heap of stones, a move waa made to the oamp, where they had a day's spell. On the following morning the return journey was begun in earnest.

For personal reasons IS toper did not wish to visit either Sydney or Melbourne, in both of which plaoes he had on one or two oooa sions had eome little differences with the authorities. The aaene of the diggers' opera tions waa so far np the oountry that it was not muoh longer to push through and make Adelaide the goal, and this was the route that was selected. Treffle, however, was not aware of this until he noticed that they were journeying south-west, and he was rather pleased than otherwise at learning whioh way they were going.

While they had been at the gully nothing whatever had been said or done that was calculated to excite in Treffie'e mind sus picions of treachery on the part of his com panions, and he began to feel ashamed of having entertained them. Jenkins and Stoper, however, had plenty of time there for private conversation, if they desired it, on the dayB when Treffle remained in oamp. After they bad started to return Treffle noticed that the other two had communings in which he did not partioipate; and, further, that these were not always quite amicable, there being evidently points of dispute between them, thongh the anbjeot, whatever it might be, was always dropped when he approached. They had been out a week, and, their provisions being nearly exhausted and feed for the horses scarce, they were pushing forward to reach a station whioh Stoper, who had some idea of the country, thought must be within 30 or 40 miles. The morning, as usual, waa cloudless, and fiercely hot, Treffle, who had been feeling worse almost every day, and whom riding in the sun dis tressed exceedingly, complained of a splitting headaohe, and though he told his oompanions how ill he felt he did his best to pull himself together and keep np, Kangaroos had been seen several times in the distance, but this morning they came upon a group quite near to them, and the opportunity of getting some fresh meat was too tempting to be passed by. The party divided, two of them making cironita to head the animals off on either side, and drive them baok towards Jenkins, who carried the gun. As the result of their tactics two kangaroos were seonred.

In the exoitement of the chase Treffle forgot his head for the moment, bat after the run was over the revnlsion oame. He reeled in his saddle, and, falling to the ground, became unconscious,

" Sunstroke 1" said Stoper, as he calmly looked at the prostrate form, " I suppose, now, yon'd like to oarry him after your in terference with what I wanted to do long ago. A nice fellow yon are for a pal, ain't yon now ? But you see it's eome to the same thing in the end, only we'll have to leave him for the crows to hide instead of burying him ont of sight, as we could have done at the gully before we left our tools."

" Poor chap 1 said Jenkins. " It's a shame to treat him like that. And such a nice wife and children as he has, too."

" What the are yon prating abont! It was you bronght him from Sydney, and you

knew that I wouldn't be suon a cursed fool as to let him go baok again, with all that stuff, too. Why, it makes thousands of pounds difference to yon. Think of that,

man."

Jenkins did think of it, and the thought

went far towards brii^ing him baok to the

frame of mind in which Stoper preferred to see him. His was one of those natures, pro bably not very uncommon, whioh even when fairly committed to a coarse of wrongdoing, and following it as a matter of choice ana liking, can never quite get rid of a secret vein of better feeling nnderlying their existence, and making itself occasionally felt, quite Independently of the person's will. It is generally the ratio of some early training, otherwise forgotten, whioh thus asserts its presence, and in weak, Irresolute minds the impulse is often strong for a time and then sinks qoiokly down, overborne by the returning wave of later habit. Jenkinee nature was weak, and though he had im pulsively and successfully resisted Stoper'a prmeot of knocking Traffic on the head at the sally his opposition wonld have given way in time for tne deed to be accomplished If the latter had not been anticipated by Tnffle's sinking irom natnral causes. The impulse was gone, and he was now ready to leave his comrade to die without remorse, as the two prepared at once to do. A last remaining spark of humanity actuated him to drag Treffle to the shade of a bush olose by, under whioh he laid him, still unconscious.

Thongh they were the possessors of so mnoh wealth, Stoper and Jenkins wonld not leave Trefiles horse, bnt paoked their own loads upon it. Stoper took possession of the revolver which had been at Tnffle's saddle bow, and ont of sheer devilry, as they ware abont to ride off, he fired a shot at the recum bent form, "Stop that, yon fool," Jenkins shouted. "If the body u found with any bullets in It there will be a row." They did not know whether the shot took effect or not, but if Treffle was hit he made not the least sign, and soon the worthy pair were far

away.

Poetio justice required that Stoper and Jenkins ahonld forthwith oome to dire grief, bnt as a matter of faot poetio jostioe often fails in her duty, and such was the ease iu

this instance. They did not feel muoh in clined to oonrt the companionship of human beluga on their way, and when passing stations, instead of seeking hospitality they preferred to continue their bashranguig life more than one lamb mysteriously disappear ing to supply their needs before they reached the more settled country. In coarse of time they arrived safely at Adelaide with their

booty.