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Chapter NumberV
Chapter Title
Chapter Url
Full Date1927-03-02
Page Number14
Word Count2973
Last Corrected2019-04-27
Newspaper TitleSydney Mail (NSW : 1912 - 1938)
Trove TitleSons of the Seven Mile
article text

Sons of the Seven Mile An Australian Novel of

Country & City Life

by Zora Cross



'Wrap me up with my stockwhip and blanket, And bury me deep down belov ;3 Where the dingoes- and crows can't molest me. In the shade where the coolibahs grow.' — Old Bush Song. IT was so simple Dave might have laughed at it. Morgan was giving the last instructions as Ruth finished her dance, and went off the stage to dress in white silk tights, with a silver tunic and a little

red soldier's hat, to return and sing a military song. 'Plash Iiarry,' dealing cards to his companions at the table, shifted his pipe from one side of his mouth to the other, and lifted his eyes to Morgan in indication that he understood. 'See,' Morgan said, 'I want to get even with her. Ruth's gone loo far this time. She can't treat me like mud.' ' I know exactly,' Flash Harry' replied. ' She leaves by the coach in the morning. I'm to pretend I'm Palmerly, stick up the coach, get her out, and ride back here with her.' 'Flash Harry' smiled to himself as Morgan replied: 'Yes, that's just it. She'll be glad to marry me when she comes back.' 'She will,' 'Flash Harry' returned, and in an underbrealh whispered, 'if she ever returns.' He was looking at his hand, and lifted his shoulder to signify to Morgan that he was playing and did not want any more instructions. He could have laughed aloud to think of the stupidity of Morgan. Had he not his own plans laid carefully for the robbing of the coach? He would carry off Ruth, all right, but for him self, and not for another man.

He drew a bundle of notes from his pocket. The players watched him in fascination. Selecting a five-pound note, he rolled it up and set a match to it. He lit his pipe with it, and carelessly watched it smoulder away. Then 'Flash Harry' played and cheated successfully, leaned back, and smiled and showed his fine white teeth. Miners were a simple lot. A gasp of delight from everyone made him turn his eyes in the direction of the stage, where Ruth in tights and glittering tunic, her gol den hair bobbing in curls about her now, the little red cap set jauntily on her head, was marching proudly about the stage singing 'The Boys of the Old Brigade,' a smart little cane under her arm, her graceful figure bright against the faded old back ground of Irees and shrubs. She was marvellous, he thought. Her smile was al ways bright. She looked as fresh now as she did when first she. began to sing. Surely she could not have much feel ing for the men she pro fessed . to like. He had a great deal of money now. They could go to America and live like millionaires. 'Flash Harry' had every be lief in himself. Ruth need never know that he and Pal merly were the same. % In the morning when he carried her off from the coach

he would abandon her in the bush, and come back and find her as himself. She would love him for rescuing her. She would never connect him with Palmerly. The disguise was too good. So 'Flash Harry' had his plans, too. He had seen Casey at the door, but he summed Casey up as a fat Irishman who never would catch anything. Dave Markham was the only one who might frustrate all his plans. 'Flash Harry' knew, that Dave was dangerous. He was winning handsomely now, and leaned back again laughing at the losers.. Ruth had finished her song, and, having won all from his companions, 'Flash Harry' moved away, and presently found Regan and McPhie, and began to shuffle the cards again. 'No, you don't' catch' me,' Sandy said. 'I've no money for cards.' 'Oh, cut them once,' 'Flash Harry' said. 'I'll have a game,' Andy Blake remarked. Sandy smoked, watching them half-lazily out of his clear blue eyes. 'Flash Harry' always seemed to win. 'Never . mind, Andy,' Sandy said ; 'lucky in love, unlucky in cards.' 'Ruth, Ruth, Ruth! 'Ben Bolt!' 'Ruth, Ruth, 'Annie Laurie.'' The miners were, clamouring for the old songs now, as if they- were determined never to give Ruth a chance to rest. I T was when the call for an old song was loudest that from the corner where 'Flash Harry' was playing . with some of the other diggers a sudden cry of 'Cheat!' rang out. 'What is it? What is it?' Carrie cried, running out from behind the bar. Tables were overturned. Men were on their feet. Ruth, who had gone on singing for a while, ceased, and

'Like a flash they were on their horses and riding away towards the Brisbane road. To Ruth it seemed a wholly mad venture, but to Dave there seemed nothing else to be done.'

she stared down on the confusion before her. A white faced miner, whom she did not know, was accusing 'Flash Harry' of cheating. 'You liar!' he cried. 'I've caught you! You cheat!' Ruth saw the sudden drawing of pistols. 'Here, here, stop the row!' Morgan strode into the midst of the confusion. 'I'll make' it up to you, Peters. I don't want any rows about here. Go on, Ruth.' Ruth began to sing again, and the confusion sub sided. But in it Johnny Crow had got his message through to Dave that Morgan and 'Flash Harry' were planning to stop the coach, and .Ruth was to be taken out of it. No sooner did he know this than Dave knew how to act, and act quickly. His father had always said 'Flash Harry' worked with Palmerly, if he were not Palmerly himself. Dave considered that it was his duty to take Ruth, whether she protested or not. That being decided, he lost no time in giving the black-boy definite instructions, and, knowing that he had plenty of ammunition if Campbellwell did attack them, he went round to the back steps again to await his opportunity to get Ruth. To his surprise, when he again mounted the steps he heard feminine voices in angry dispute. One was Ruth's, and the other Jeanie's. While he waited the door opened, and Carrie Larsen came out. 'Oh, Dave,' she said, 'what a truly awful sister that is of yours! I never thought one girl could be so cruel to another.' 'Why, what has Jeanie done?' he asked. 'Poor Ruth! She burst

into her room and accused her of trying to steal you.' ''Trying to steal me?' Dave cried. 'But it's ab surd.' 'I was sitting talking to Ruth when she came in just now. I came round after the row. I'm going home, Dave. J think there'll be murder done here to-night before they're finished. I wish Agnes were not on her way up. The Hill isn't what it was. There's too much fight ing and killing now; not like the good old times at all.' 'Carrie!' Dave caught her arm, longing to unburden his heart t-? someone. 'What- is it?' 'I'm, going to take Ruth hack to her parents to-night. I want you to head them on the Parbury road if they come after us.' 'Good heavens, but you're not going by the Brisbane road!' Carrie cried. 'Camp- bellwell's there.' 'Yes, I am going that way. They'll never think that's the way I've gone. Head them for Parbury till we can get away.' 'But why should they want to follow you ?' He told her what the black boy had overheard. 'I'll do all I can for you, Dave,' she said. 'But I think you're very silly.' 'I may be,' he replied- ; 'but this is no place for a girl like Ftuth. You're her friend, Car rie. You know her.' 'Yes.'

'Then help us to get away. Jeanie is trying her best to part us. She cannot.' Jeanie s too' interfering,' Carrie said, 1 consenting to do all she could for Dave'! while she urged him to go to Parbury and not rrun into tile jaws of the most devilish of all bushrangers Australia had ever known Campbellwell, black as his own people, with no mercy, no regard for white or black, sheer brute through and through, who attacked lonely settlers and full coaches alike, and mocked all those who sought, him. Campbellwell's black,' Dave said. 'I've neveryetniet a black I could not beat.' Oh, but Campbellwell's different,' Car rie urged him. 'He's been brought up by white people, and is a devil incarnate. He ? hates the whites, and the blacks think he is a spirit.' Dave ^vas not afraid. 'Casey is looking for Jeanie,' he said. 'I'll go up and get her, and, Carrie, I can trust, you.' 'Absolutely, Dave,' Carrie replied. Men gave Carrie their confidences will ingly. She kept them, and believed in all men because of the confidences they gave her. She knew them in their worst moods, and she saw them when they ceased to he men and became beasts; but she was sorry for them all, and, though she did not think shi would ever find a man she could love well enough to marry, she had a broad sympathy which embraced them all. Her hair pulled back smoothly from her brow,, her neat, trim figure in its tightfit ting frock stamped her as a girl old for her seventeen years: but she had been help ing to keep a big family of little brothers and sisters in Brisbane for some years now, and she had scarcely known childhood, it had been so hard. She thought Dave Markham was the best of all the young men she had met at the Hill, but he had a domineering manner that her own nature resented. Neverthe less she intended to help him win Ruth if she could. CHAPTER VI. 'She loves me. From her own blissbreath ing lips The live confession came, like rich perfume From crimson petals bursting into bloom!' CHARLES HARPUR. HIS sister's and Ruth's voices were still raised in anger when Dave rapped on the door. They paid no attention. They did not even hear. Jeanie's face was aflame with anger. It had taken her some time to make up her mind to come and accuse this actress of luring her simple brother away. She did not mean to leave without thrashing the jade soundly with her sharp tongue. But Ruth had been bickering back, and standing her own ground quite well. She never had liked Jeanie Markham. When the girl had served her with ribbons she had done it as if she resented doing it. Jeanie had tilted up her head when they passed in the street. They were facing each other, and Ruth was looking amused, while the other was so angry. 'You cannot prove to me that you have not been trying to lure my brother away,' Jeanie said, coming nearer Ruth. 'No, I cannot prove it,' Ruth replied per tinently. 'You huzzy!' 'I've had quite enough,' Ruth said. Dave rapped again, but still they did not open the door, and he could hear Jeanie's voice raised higher. 'Why do you want to come here making my brother unhappy?' Jeanie said. 'Why do you want to interfere? What if I happen to love your brother.' 'You can't love all the men.' 'I might love them all. And it's no busi ness of yours. You have an impertinence forcing your way in here.' 'I came in and asked you to let my bro ther go. You laughed at me. I'll — I'll— I'll lose my patience soon.'

You never had any.' Jeanie was a powerfully-built girl. Not as tall as Dave, she might easily have passed for a woman of twenty-seven rather than a girl of nineteen. 'I've only got one brother, and , he's, not, going, to make himself a fool over you, let, me. tell you.'. She pressed yet nearer, and, exasperated by Ruth, caught her arm and twisted her round. 'How dare you touch me?' Ruth's eyes flashed. She could see herself tearing out Jeanie's hair if she went too far. But Jeanie had lost her temper, which was never very good. 'I'll dare more than that,' she said, picking up a brush and beating Ruth on the shoulder with it. Ruth pushed her off. 'Go away,' she said. 'I'll marry your brother to spite you.' She snatched the brush from Jeanie and flung, it down. 'Leave my room at once!' Jeanie was cGwered by something imperious in Ruth's command. She shifted and hesitated. 'It's just preposterous!' Ruth bit her lips to keep back her tears. 'I am tormented on all sides, first by one and then another of you. I'll be glad when I get away from this place.' So saying, she took Jeanie by the shoulders and pushed her towards the door, opened it, and thrust her out to make what explanation she liked herself to Dave.

. H$ caught her when shcr would have stumbled. She was ready to cry herself. 1 'Casey is looking for you,' Dave said. 'I just came to tell you. Why did you come and annoy Ruth, Jeanie?' 'Ifs for/you5 1 did it,' she said; -'but she says she'll marry you to spite me; andi slie's just the sort -who would. I don't want to Worry about you any more, Dave; Go your own way. You'll break mother's and father's hearts marrying a common little actress like this. You don't know who slie isY' ''I do.- I know all about her.' 'A!! actresses are common,' Jeanie said. 'Go on, Dave; let me go.- It serves 'me 'right coming to a place like this,- but T did it for you.'- '» Dave caught her hand as she hastened to leave him; but iie could not stay to make his peace with her. HIS Venture' seemed to him -to be . a desperate one. The black-boy had brought two horses and tethered them to the tree at the '.back. He would have to arrange with Carrie to take, possession of Ruth's belongings,- as he did not mean to wait until, she packed them up now. Something fold him he must act imme diately to win. Ruth was changeable, and once she left the Hill might snap her fingers at him. All was fair in love. She was worth his risking his life for her.

Bathed in floods of tears, and feeling heart and soul sick of all things about her, Ruth was beginning to feel that she did not care which man she married, nor what happened to her. She was not going to sing any more. Her indignation at Jeanie's sudden bursting In on her seemed to have broken the last threads of her endurance. She had never found it easy singing for Morgan. She in tended to ask Dave Markham to take her away from it all just as soon as she saw him again. She was sobbing her heart out over the whole business. She did not know that he was at the door until she heard him call, 'Ruth!' 'Ah!' she cried, springing up to open it and to open her heart to him. 'Dave!' He drew in his breath in choked surprise. 'Take me away, Dave,' she said. 'Take me away from it all. You are the best 'of them all. Take me away from the Hill— I hate it. I hate Morgan. I thought I'd make a lot of money here and go away. Oil. I don't want it! Only take me away at once.' 'Ruth,' he said, putting an arm about her, 'Ruth, are you sure you mean it?' 'Yes, oh, yes. Take me somewhere where there are no men, no women, no people, nothing at all.' ? 'Ruth,', he said, 'finish your singing, and I'll be waiting here with horses.' Now she 'was alarmed. 'Horses? Why?' He told her that there was to be an at tempt to kidnap her from the coach in the morning. 'But I can tell the police and ask for protection. I will. Oh, this abominable country! How I hate it! Blacks, blacks on one side, and white men on the other who annoy you.' 'Ruth, you are upset. Now, listen.' Always excitable, she refused to do this. 'You asked me to take you away, Ruth.' 'Yes; but I don't want to rush into the jaws of a cannibal bushranger. Oh, well, 1 don't care. Yes, let us go. I feel as if it doesn't matter what happens. Ask Car rie to come round. Oh, Dave, it seems awful to ride off into the wilderness like this with you. I don't think we're sane.' 'Love never is. Ruth, you love me?' She would not reply. 'Ruth, you do, you do, you do!' he urged 'Yes, I love you,' she cried suddenly, clinging to him with tear-filled eyes. 'Oh, Dave, I've been afraid of Morgan here, afraid of all of them — most afraid of 'Flash Harry.' Let us go now, at once, before I change my mind. Listen!' Looking about for a cloak to fling over her, Dave heard a noise ol scuffling and fighting in the hall. 'Now is our chance,' he said, picking up a cloak and throwing it over her. 'Quick!' Like a flash, they were on their horses and riding away towards the Brisbane road. To Ruth it seemed a wholly mad ven ture; but to Dave, used to the bush and afraid of nothing, there was nothing else to be done. If they met Campbellwell he could fight for Ruth. Who knew but that he might account for the brutal bushranger, and win the thousand pounds reward as well? {To be Continued.)