Chapter 186369402

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Chapter NumberV
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article186369402
Full Date1882-12-23
Page Number4
Corrections0
Word Count1510
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleDevon Herald (Latrobe, Tas. : 1877 - 1889)
Trove TitleThe Maitlands
article text

CHAPTER V~

Henry Maitland's property adjoined Bargooma. The two homesteads were about five mileB apart. Maitland was not much of a sportsman himself— he was too keen and too eager in his pursuits of wealth to indulgo in such frivolities; but, with his usual cunning, he pretended an enthusiasm which he did not fool for sport, m order to keep up his assumed character of bluff carelessness and good nature. On his property, however, were many places famous as the favourite haunts of snipe. The first shooting of the season waB generally to be obtained along the duck-haunted creeks, and round the edges or the rich swamps of Yambaar, which was the name of his station. Since the death of Walter Maitland there were strange whispers as to the peculiar life led by the present proprietor, Henry Maitland. Although, when he mixed with the neighbours, or when his business took him into the nearest township, there was no apparent difference in the man, it was rumoured that he shut himself up periodically, and had prolonged boats of solitary dnnking. One day, about a fortnight after the arrival of Victor and Lucy at Bargooma, Henry Maitland rode over, to invite Mr. Campbell and bis friends to a days snipe-Bhooting. Lucy had no suspicion that he was her father's murderer; but she knew the part he had acted after her father's death, and she shuddered as lie insisted upon shaking bands with her, after the formal ceremony of introduction.

Victor Levison and Detective Smith had their own reasons for appearing on friendly terms with the man'whoBe crimes they were endeavouring to trace. They did not wish to arouse his suspicions, and therefore they accepted his invitation with ap- Tmrnnt. parent pleasure. nlnumn. " You Vnn will bring lirinn the 4TiII ladies 1 ndiiir • too, , Campbell," Baid Maitland, in parting, "we will make a regular pic-nio of it. It is not often that I have the pleasure of acting as host to fair ladies," Thus saying he doffed his hat with the grace of a cavalier, and cantered off, the bean ideal of a good-natured, jovial, country gentleman. " Wbat a consummate hypocrite the man must be," said Victor. " But he deceives nobody," quietly remarked the host, " he cannot constantly wear the mask, and overy now and then the veil is lifted, by some slight expression, a look, a word, the turn of a sentence, which reveals the hidden thought; he is most disliked by those who know him best." "Well, I suppose we will go over to Yambaar to-morrow?" I think so; we may poEsibly hear something, and, in any case, you can have some good sport, while the ladies will enjoy the drive." Next morning the four-in-hand drove up to the door, and soon the party were seated In the drag. t was a glorious October morning. A slight hower the previous night made the air appear

more balmy than uauol, : ^ ^ ^ceiit of lUht- Wood and wattle blosBomB/Astht^dixjve'dbwrt the longavenuc, thehoavy hdour.waftedftxSin (he well-kept garden, proclaimed thopresenoo of the sweet-scented boronia, overpowering its in<n« delicate neighbour, the Daphne. ' '-••.; As far as the eye could roacb, 8 rich manile of emerald green spread out in gentle -undulations, while grouped about in pleaBuig irregularity, the graceful fightwood added'«' charm, of its own to the landscape. At varying distances, and'In every direction, the gleam of water caught the eye, as little lakes of fantastio shapes, jrome of which were of great depth, and othai merely shallow depression^ received the rays of the ruing i and reflected them to the eye of the observer. The leaves of the till white gums, sparkled like diamond-studded trees of fairyland, as the slight breese made the leaves quiver, and the adherent rain-drops also caught the white sun-rays, and reflected them back in the many-coloured hues of the rainbow. The air was vibrating with the various sounds, and heavy with the exquisite odours of a Spring morning in the Australian bush. The musioal note of the magpie reverberated from every tree, and the daring songster only stopped bis sweet note occasionally, while he made a savage dart at anyone who dared to come near the neat where his mate was attending to her young brood. At a safe distance, groupB of solemn-looking native companions could be seen, engaged in pinking up the early worm, while every now and again they would sound a note of alarm, and then set to partners and ohass6, to teaoh each other, like amiable lunatics, dancing, on attenuated stilts. In the meantime the bays were going along in fine style, and their regular patter patter on the turf made a joyous music, which chimed in with all the surroundings of a-glorious morning, and sent the life-bloed of old and young bounding through tile veins like quicksilver. Henry Maitland met them at the door of his house, but the party did not enter. The happy hunting grounds were further on, so they immediately made a start for the Warrarflkk swamp. There was a tent already pitched, and the ladies were left to sketch and amuse themselves, while the sportsmen proceeded to the spot where the snipe were seen. It looked a very likely spot indeed. A rich, black swamp with plenty of cover. Here and there ware clui slumps c , while round the edge of the swamp, giant red-gumB spoke of continuous moisture. Presently, Maitland's dog—a goodenough-looking pointer, but badly brokenblundered ahead, and startled a couple of brace of snipe, which rose with a whirr out of range, and made straight for the other end of the swamp. Maitland called in his dog with a curse; and he put his gun suddenly to bis shoulder, as if to shoot the animal, but thought better of it, and contented himself with throning a stone at him. Presently, the snipe began to rise in ones and twos, and the (runs were banging away merrily. Victor was a good shot, and made some brilliant execution with his right and left barrel; but, for steady and nnerring precision, he had to yield to Campbell, who never missed with his right, and rarely with his left. Maitland shot fairly, in his turn beating Detective Bmith, whose Bhooting evidently indicated want of practice. The snipe were now rising thick and fast, and there was an almost continuous fusillade, which at length ceased, as the birds that remained took flight for another swamp about two miles distant. Before returning to the ladies, the sportsmen sat down to indulge in a smoke and to count tho game in their bags. There was the usual sporting talk, largely egotistical, and wonderfully imaginative as to remarkable shots, which appears to be a necessity on these occasions; but with this we will not trouble the reader. Henry Maitland seemed in no very amiable mood. The conversation had turned into a channel which did not please him. It hinged upon the wonderful way in which murder is brought to light. Detective Smith was (full of pleasing anecdotes as to the fortuitous way in which evidence is sometimes forthcoming. He instanced a ca6e where a nephew had murdered bis uncle becauBO the old man was too long in dying. The uncle had apparently been killed by tailing down a well. The nephew was his heir, and assumed such a natural appearance of chastened grief, that no suspicion of foul play arose, and the old man was buried. But the nephew seemed haunted with some kind of horrid fascination in talking about the death of his uncle—and in combatting an idea which nobody but himself had entertained, that his death was other than accidental. Then tho nephew began to drink, and strange cinressions fell from his lips while half maudlin. Public suspicion was aroused, the whole of the surroundings of the affair were minutely ox&mined. Faint links of evidence wera accumulated, all pointing in the one direction; at length the body was disinterred. Clutchod in the hands of the dead man were discovered a few hairs, which a microscopic examination proved to belong to tho nephew. This was the last link in the chain. " Bah!" broke in Maitland with a curse; " this is the old goody-goody story of tho nursery, under a new fqrm. Of course the nephew committed suicide, and then lived long enough to confess. I know aU about it." "No, my dear sir," contined Smith, quietly, " he did not cernmit suicide and confess. Ho was found guilty and hanged." Mailtand rose with a muttered imprecation, and strode towards his gun, which had left leaning against a tree. In his way he came within reach of his unfortunate dog, and he vented his wrath upon the animal by giving it a vicious kick. The poor brute, with a yelp of agony, rushed away; and, in his Sight, knocked over liis master's gun, which, exploding as it fell, the charge struck Maitland in the head, and ho fell to the ground apparently a lifoless corpse.