Chapter 184997073

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Chapter NumberIV
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article184997073
Full Date1876-01-22
Page Number5
Corrections0
Word Count2389
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Week (Brisbane, Qld. : 1876 - 1934)
Trove TitleBill Hawkins and the Mystery of the Black Forest
article text

CHAPTER IV.

The bullock-driver with' the sergeant and his companions had got within a quarter-of-a-mile of the spot /where the former had seen the mail lying dead. >

The road the party were traversing was in a very had state with the heavy rain over night; and was bordered on cither side by a dense scrub of wliipsticks. Their progress was, therefo-e, very slow. The bullock-driver was some fifty yards beliiiid the waggou, when all

at once the stillness ofthe forest was broken

by a wild, hideous howl, tho author of which was ensconced in the scrub close to the road, and right alongside the horses in tho waggon. Before the occupants of the waggon could seo what the object was that had emitted tlie unearthly sound, tho horses plunged away into full gallop, giving the sergeant and those in the conveyance with him all their work to keep their seats and guide the frightened animals through the trees.

Although the road was- in a deplorable con- j dition. the horses dashed along at a frightful i mte; the conveyance never having all four wheels on the ground together, but first ouo

side anil tlien the other being- elevated to a ! height that threatened a capsize every moment.

"NVhi'e the waggon was being hustled aloug at this furious rate, the buUock-drivcr was endeavouring

to lu'gohisliorsepnsttliespot whence the howl had proceeded from, in onlcr to render assistance to tlie occupants of the conveyance, lie whipped, kicked, bounced, but all to no purpose, tho frightened brute would not stir a peg, but cocked his cars, snorted, backed, and did everything but go forward: After every means had been exhausted by Dick (tlio bidlockdriver's

name) to urgo his steed onward, ho jumped oft* liis back, and fairly drove him before him past the spot, and as ho mounted again ho heard tlie hideous noiso and the rattling of a chain receding down the slope through tho bushes.

, His horso could hardly bo held now, for tho poor brifto was so frightened that he seemed fairly tolly through tho air now that tho object

of his terror was behind him.

Dick could hear the rattling, crashing, tear away sound of the waggon and horses some distance ahead of him, but do what ho could lie was nnnblo to gain ground ; still lio followed on at a mail pnoo, hoping every moment to conic up with those in the waggon* .• >

J C.a" 'i0,lr Iiiil passed in flii.s wild race, i Dick distinctly .keeping the rattling of the waggon within his hearing, when lie heard n loud voice exclaim—

" Wo-o-o-o 1" 1

;Thea-«mo a terrific crash, and all was as still as the grave for some two minutes.

P1® crash took place Dick'sliorse again i l an(l again refused to go forward; and after exhausting every means to induce the stubborn animal to cany him on, he jumped oil, threw the reins over his neck, and left him m the road, white he hurried forward on foot tlirough the slush to see "what damage was

After running along for about a quarter of a mile, Dick, in turning n sharp angle of the road, came suddenly on the scene of the disaster.

It was a confused picture to look upon.. Drawn across the road was a loaded dray, the off-side wheel being buried, up to the axle in a large crab-hole, the horses, in tiying to extricate

it, having slewed round across the road, the shafts touching the trees on one side and the tail on the other, so that it was impossible to get by. The horses had been taken out, and were standing just abend of the shafts in the timbers, while part of the loading was scattered upon the grass at the edge of the road.

In front of this dray lay the remains of the waggon, but so mutilated and broken up that it would have puzzled anyone to say what sort of a conveyance these fragments had once represented." One of the horses was lying by the debris quite dead, and the other reclined upon the grass unable to get up.

A few yards from this lamentable scene were grouped six men round the prostrate form of Sergeant Down, who was groaning very pitcously,

while the others stood looking at him,' not knowing what to do. As Dick approached

the group, the sergeant exclaimed

" fcJome one go for a doctor, for I fear I am I badly injured.'1

"M go, old chap,'* said Dick, "I just left my horse behind a bit, for I couldn't get him on. You keep up and I won't be long."

Dick started off at the top of his speed to catch the horse, but to his dismay when he got to where he had left him, he was gone. He, however, followed his tracks as hard as he could go, iu hopes of coming up with him before long. We will leave him to follow the pursuit, and return to those round the injured

sergeant.

" It is a great mercy that we were not all killed," said the new comer, addressing one of the four men who belonged to the dray.

"There is no doubt of that," replied one of the party, who was standing next to the new comer, " are neither of you hurt at all F'

"I am not, except the skin off my kneebone,"

answered the new comer."

Nor I," said the stranger.

" "Well, I thought you were all dashed to pieces," exclaimed the biggest of the four men that belonged,, to the dray;{; and as you were all pitched out together in the smash, I cannot understand how any of you escaped. I know my old dray has got a rare shaking, and if it had not been stuck so fast you would have

turned it right over. As it is you have sent I one of the shafts of your waggon right through a bag of corn and bran, and broken the crosspiece."

i Just as the last speaker finished talking, the unfortunate sergeant attempted to turn over, and gasped—

" Give me water, water!"

One of the men ran to their biUy and poured some of the muddy liquid into a pannikin and held.it to the lip* of the sufferer; he took a small portion of the horrid stuff and then sank, back on the green sward exhausted.

" Ho has fainted."

"Yes," said one of the party, while ho stooped down and supported the sergeant's

head.

""What shall we do?" asked the new comer. "Get our. dray out of the bog as soon as possible, reload, put him as comfortable as we can'on the top of the loading, and start for Kyneton," replied the big man before referred

to.

This suggestion seemed the only sensible coturso open to them, moro especially as all were perfectly unable to give medical aid, or the most remote idea how to go about ascertaining what injuries the sergeant had received.

They all—except one—went to work heartily to unload the dray for the purpose of getting it out of the bog.

While the new-comer and the four men belonging to the dray began to employ themselves

in unloading the dray of the remaining part of the loading, the mysterious stranger quietly struck into the scrub. No notice was taken of his movements in the excitement of the moment, but he bad hardly disappeared a minute before a pistol-shot was heard, and a voice rang in the forest—

" Stop, or I'll shoot you!"

Then succeeded another, and another shot; j then nil was still again. !

" What does that meanasked one of the

party. |

But no answer came. They all discontinued i their work, looking at each other and listening attentively to every sound. They could hear every now and again the tramping of a horse, and the cracking of small sticks Aid small saplings at no great distance, but beyond this they could not account for what was going on.

It was impossible for them to resume their work wliilo in this state of uncertainty, imd thev made a simultaneous r\ish iu the direction

of tho sounds. As the foremost was. running aloug tho .road he was, nearly upset by a mounted trooper, who came blundering out of tho bush spurring his horse in a very savage manner, and swearing in amostungentlemniuy style.

*«D— the scoundrel, ho has escaped me

ngain."

"Well, yon needn't run over a fellow, whatever

your name is," said tho big drayman. "Who are you?"

" That's my business." ? " Perhaps it may be mine to know."

"Perhaps it won't." ? ? z-i

Wb see," replied the trooper taking out of lus saddlc-bag a cord -with the evident ina

ibinding hig supposed antagonist, but at this moment the rest ox the party came up, and the trooper looked somewhat confounded.

What 8 the matter, Handy ?" asked one of the mates of the man who had had the altercation

with the trooper.

" I don't know," replied his friend in a surly tone, "you'd better ask this chap, who's mighty uncivil."

" are you all, and what are you doing here ?" asked the trooper, not noticing the last remark of his antagonist.

. Here an explanation took place on hoth sides which proved to be satisfactory.

When the trooper reached the bogged dray, he saw the still insensible form of the sergeant, and heard the account of the runaway horses; he seemed convinced that what he heard was true, and lie therefore had no compunction or hesitation in telling those assembled round him what his part in the drama had been.

He stated that a man named "Wicks had been swindled by two men who had been apprehended and imprisoned, but who had effected their escape from the watchouse; that telegrams had been sent in all directions to the different stations

where the telegraph line reached, and he had been despatched in pursuit along the main road as far as Kyneton, where he heard of the two strangers arriving, their breakfasting at the " Old Glasgow," the arrival of the bullock driver announcing the fact of his having discovered

a dead man in the hush; the hiring of the waggon by the sergeant, and his starting with his two companions, one of whom accorded so thoroughly with one of the two prisoners

he was in search of, that after giving his horse a feed, and taxing some refreshment himself, he had set out at the earliest possible moment on the tracks of the party, not doubting

that the sergeant's two companions— although one did not answer the description —were the two men he was in search of; his meeting with the one he could swear to, close to the camp of the party; his challenging him to stand, instead of which the culprit plunged into the scrub, and he dashed after him, firing two shots as he went along in pursuit, but the scrub was so thick that he had to fire at random, and could not pursue his on horseback beyond a few yards; his plunging back into the road, where he nearly overturned the drayman

of their party, and at once concluded that he was a confederate of the escaped prisoner, not expecting to find a party, or any respectable man, in such a place by himself.

All this the trooper recounted in unvarnished language, and with an evident approach to bitter disappointment that he had failed to secure his prisoner.

When the trooper had finished hia recital, the men began to look at each other in an enquiring way, when one exclaimed—

^ Why, sure enough, now I come to think of it, that was one of the chaps."

" One of what chaps r" asked one of his

mates."

"Why the chap that handled the cards, and did me out of my money."

" Are you Wicks then ?" asked the trooper. " That's my name," replied that worthy. *

" How funny that I should have taken one of your mates for a confederate of the man who robbed you!"

"Well, it is queer how things .come about: but it seems to me that is dangerous to trust yotir own brother in these times."

"Did you not recognise the man?" asked the trooper. ..

"No, for we were so anxious. about the policeman here, that to tell the truth: I hardly had time, one way and the other, to look at

him."

" Which of you was it that accompanied h"u with the sergeant from the township?" asked the trooper. ;

" I'm the one," said the new comer.

".What's your name?", interrogated the trooper.

" Wellington."

"When and where did you pick up with your companion ?" continued tho .trooper.

The new comer now informed the officer of the law how he had become acquainted with BUI Hawkins; for it was none, other than that worthy who had been bis companion of the night and morning's adventure.

" Til swear," said Wicks, "that this man's not either of the two that robbed me."

" Are you sure ? " " Quite."

: " I am glad of it," replied the trooper; " for he looks like a decent fellow, and I shouldn't like to have to apprehend him."

" Ton're very kind," replied the new comer, "but, asT never did anything in my life that would have.the most remote tendency to inculcate a disposition to an affectionate intimacy with your governmental calling, I fancy we can part company without quarrelling,

can't we?"

This touch of humorous eloquence created a laugh among the whole party, the trooper appearing to enjoy it as much as the others.

Alter having a bite of damper and a drink of tea, the trooper set off in the direction of the township, promising to go there as fast as his horse would carry him; for he saw that unless aid were soon procured for his fellow officer, serious consequences might ensue; and the bullock. driver's horse might not be up to the mark, for.none of the meu were aware of the fact that he had not found his horse when he

left them.