Chapter 196751715

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Chapter NumberXII
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Full Date1887-05-06
Page Number4
Word Count4008
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Port Augusta Dispatch, Newcastle and Flinders Chronicle (SA : 1885 - 1916)
Trove TitleBenbonuna: A Tale of Thirty Years Ago
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Br ROBERT BBUCE. [All rights reserved by the author.]

Tbo firet person Frank eaw when, bathed in perspiration. be awoke, was Bowyer, who said with a slight laugh. " Do you want to depart from this too sunny world in the hey-day of your youth, that you court apoplexy in that reckless manner? I could hear you and Gulliver snoring, one against the other, half across the station fiat. Mrs Ashby expects you to dinner; so yon had better have a sluice and come nlong !" " Does she," said Frank,instinctively fingering bis shirt collar, which felt as if it had just been fished out of a Btarch basin. " I think she will have to excuse me to-day ; for I told Mick I would have dinner here, and besides am in no condition to appear before ladies. How is our patient ?" " Well 1 be has not had a fainting fit since, and I now hope to prevent his having one, for bis room is like an ice house. What I've come for is some lime to make lime water, to take away the nausea. If we can do that and get him to sleep a little, it will then be only a matter of a few days, so far as getting him out of danger is concerned." " That of course mcanB if he does not drink any more liquor!" " I'll eee that he doeB not while I stay here ; but there are traitors in tbo camp, Heslop, I am sorry to say. For Mary tells me that Mrs Ashby supplies Ashby with liquor when she is absent, and is encouraged to do so by Hawley." " I can quite believe that," SBid Frank eageTly, and thtn be told Bowyer bow Hawlty had brought the bottle of brandy into Mr Ashby's bed-room that morning,

and how it had been left with Mrs Ashby (Mary's reproachful glance at her stepmother in the verandah was now easily to be accounted for). " I tell 5 on what it is, Heelop, it looks uncommonly like encouraging our friend to kill himstlf. But while be believes in his wife and brother-in-law, as he does now, it would be a dangerous task to attempt to show them up in their true characters, unless the most convincing proofs were forthcoming. Ah, here you are Mick, the very man I wanted." ",Fhwat is id, Borr ?" " I want some lime ; is there any on the station, do you know ?' "I belave there is some in the kiln, Borr; will I go an' see ? How much div yn want ?" " A handful will do." "O, thin, if there's none in the kiln, I'll git a lump ov liuiesbtoue an burn it in the kitchen fir«j. It won't take long wid some dry black-ouk." " That's your Bort, Mick ; I'd like to get it as soon as possible, for I want to make Mr Ashby some lime water to drink." " Lime wather to dhrink, sorr ! Sure an' I tooght his coppers wus too hot already." Both Bowyer and Frank wore obliged to laugb, but the former soon explained that the lime water was to be used very weak, and after all heat had left it. " I'll git it, sorr, but it 6eems a quare thing to put in one's stomruick—so it doeB." " Very good for what it is intended, though it may not be pleasant to drink, Mick," said Mr Bowyer, and then continued to Frank, " I'll go across now, and you can follow when you have bad your dinner ; or you can take a rest in the afternoon and come over in the evening, which do you prefer? 7 ' " I will do whatever you think beet." " Then I should 6ay take your pipe and have a camp in the coolest place you enn h a r h

find—under a gum tree down in the creek. There is plenty of help in the day time, it's at night that the trouble of looking after an invalid comes in." " But how about our friend here ?" "0, the evil spirit will have departed from liim by the time he awakes ; and he has still sufficient grace remaining to be ashamed of the exhibition he h»D made of himself. He'll bo aB meek as Moses." "'Deed an'he will, eorr, an' as thirsty as Lot's wife when her troat turned to salt; an' id's a nobbier he'll want bad, so he will," put in Mick, to round off the comparison. " If his tongue is hanging out of his mouth for the want of one he won't get it, if I have a say in the matter," said Bowyer relentlessly, as he departed. " Ah, thin, Mr Bowyer's bark is worse nor his bite; an' 'tis himRilf would be the firsht to give the poor crature adhrop, av he tought he needed it; for it's the hind man he iB entoirely," said Mick, as ho laid the table with the same equipage and description of viands that had graced it in the morning, the exception being that a leg of mutton took the placo of the vanished chops. " Yes, he seems a kind-hearted man, acquiesced Frank. " Kind hearted, is it ? He's the rale gin'leman. An' av ye have him for friend, eorra anoder ye'll need, Misther Heslop. An' faith 'tis himself is fond of Miss Mary, so he is," said Mick with enthusiasm The last part of thelrisbman's encomium on Mr Bowyer. rather grated on Frank's feelings—for he was beginning to take a sort of proprietory interest in the young lady, and said, ratber blankly, " Oh, iB he ?"' Mick's bright blue eye shot a quick questioning glance at Frank, as he replied, " Av coorse he is, an' 'tis himsilf should be ; for didn't be dandle her on his knee when she was a baby ? An' didn't he help nuss her poor mother in her lasht illness, rist herBOW I ?" Frank's jealous qualm subsided at once, and as be prepared to attack the leg of mutton, be replied Yes I hope to have him for my friend ; but not my only one. I am sure i shall always regard you in that light, Mick." " Tie koind ov ye to say, Misther Heslop, and if ever Mick Cronin can be of sarvice to ye, sure'n he'll be there," returned Mick, evidently highly flattered ly the compliment BO frankly paid him. In fact had Frank made him the moBt costly present, it would not have had half the effect upon the sensitive Irishman that those few kindly words bad produced ; and if Mick liked Heslop before, he would have risked bis life for him now. Perhaps mention of friends made Frank think of bis enemies; for he asked abruptly, " When do you expect Mr Hawley home, Mick ?" " Deed an' there's no knowin' when he'll be here, for he's liko a nagure on the mooch, always turning up when he's least expected." " I have already discovered that little peculiarity," laughed Frank, as he thought of the overseer's sudden appearance at the spring that morning. " Sure'n he's loike the ould gintletnan, bo mosbtly appears whin ye mintion him. And, be the powers, there he is !" cried Mick, adding in an undertone, " Sure an' he's the divil himsilf !" Frank was inclined to think Mick was right, as Hawley rode up to the horse-rail, and drove the spurB savagely into his horse's flanks when it shied slightly at the gear lying about. " Whose are ail these traps?" demanded the overseer of Mick in a highly irritable tone, as the Irishman issued, tin dish in band, from the but door.

" Sure 'an id's Misther Bowyer. Id's a good job ho come." " Good job be came! And who's the other man ?" " Misther Gulliver, sorr." "Gulliver, the infernal aes! And where are they both?" inquired Hawley in his most irritable voice, which, how ever, seemed not to disturb the Irishman in the least, for he answered quietly, Sure an' Misther Bowyer is wid the masther; an' Misther Gulliver is in there, sorr," pointing to the bedroom. Hawley growled something like a curse, and then said angrily, "I don't know

what they wanted to stop here for, at this time of the day, when they could easily have gone on to Woopowie. They seem to think Benbonuna is a public-house, and may find out their mistake one of theso fine Ah !" as he caught sight of Frank, "You hero? I thought T told you to go after that horse 1" "Yes, I got him," answered Irank, desperately bent on keeping the peace. " He raust have found you, then ; for vou'd never have found him," sneered Hawley, who 6eemed bent on quarrelling with somobody. " Tt is a wonder you sent me for him, in that case," answered Frank feeling his gorge rising in spite of himself. " You might as well do that a8 loaf about the station setting a bad example." 4 When I loaf about the stntion and set a bad example, you can tell me about it, Mr Hawley ; but I'll thank you to keep your gratuitous insults to yourself," said Frank, with a great effort restraining his indignation, and then trying ineffectually to go on with his meal. 4 Insults! pshaw ! why didn't you import a glass case to keep yourself in?' sneered Hawley, and then entered his bed-room, the door of which he slammed behind him. «' What a wretch the fellow ie, and what a pleasant pmspect I have before me," thought Frank; and then wondered to

imself what had so irritated the overseer to make him show himself in such guiso; and then he could not reflecting with satisfaction that, after Bowyer wa6 gone, he would etill have the hone6t Irishman as an ally. Here Mick returned with another plate, knife, and fork, which he placed on the table without a word, though he gave Frank an eloquent glance as he went out again- , . , Frank tried manfully to make a hearty meal, but it would not do. He could drink the tea, but every particle of food he tried to swallow seemed to stick in his throat. So giving the dinner " best" (in colonial parlance) and taking down a tattered hook from the shelves, he seated himself in one of the unwieldy arm chairs and tried to interest himself in the wild and wierd stories of Edgar Allan Poe, which the volume contained ; but Hawley was moving restlessly about in the next room, and Heslop could not help listening to the sounds which cam«? thence. It seemed to him that the pistols hung on the walls were being taken down and examined ; and under such circumstances who can wonder that Frank should feel slightly uncomfortable. In a little time Hawley came out again, and after taking a sluice at the wash block, seated himself at the table, but evidently with as little appetite as Heslop, for be threw the slices of mutton he had carved for himself to the kangaroo dogs, which had entered the but; then he got up, looked in at the snoring Gulliver, and went into the kitchen, all his actions betraying a restlessness which Frank had never before observed in him. What did Hawley intend ? There was his horse, still tied to the rail with its saddle unremoved. Was he going to rido it away again, and where had he left Mcses ? The whole affair was a puzzle to Heslop, who had not, however, bothered his brains long before Hawley returned, accompanied by Mick, to whom it appeared he was relating eome incident of the morn-

ing, as Frank gathered from the few words he cf ught. Mick then entered the room in which Mr Gulliver was sleeping, and presently returned with a square black box, which he placed on the floor, and on openingit displayed aheterog* neous assortment of horse medicines, Epsom salts, bottles of strychnine, small gutta percha tubes, rags for rifle patches, bits of strap, bags of shot, wad punches, &c.; and from this chaos he finally fished out a email powder flask, a box of caps, and some conical pistol bullets, passing them as they came to hand to Hawley, who said, " The bullets will fit tbo pistol, will they ?" 4 Deed an' they will ; but ye kin tbry 'cm." " It will be just as well," replied Hawley ; and fetching a Colt's revolver from bis room he tried several of the bullets in its chambers, and finding that they fitted, be put them, together with the caps and powder flask, into a small leather pouch, which he hung to the straps of his saddle on one side, hanging the pistol in its leathern case on the other, Then, telling Mick to inform Mrs Ashby that ho might be back at any time, he monnted his horse and without another word rode away in the same direction ho had token in the morning ; Mick calling back the kangaroo dogs, which had started to follow him. "What is the matter now ?" asked Frank, when the Irishman returned to the hut after watching the overseer depart. 4 1 Shurc, it seems a cock and bull story to me ; bud the gaffer tould me he had seen a heifer wid a slipear shtuck in id in one ov the back gullies ; bud he couldn't get the thrack ov the Nagures as done it, an' eo he kem back for the revolver, in case he moight dhrop across 'em." 4 1 Wb6 Moses with him?" " No, he tould me he'd sint Moses along the nearest thrack to Ilka, whilst he started to go over to the gully undher B'ack Jack, where Tom Falconer is put ting up a hut; an' that's how he come to see the heifer." 4 That's seems a likely 6tory to me Mick, and perhaps it was vexation about the heifer being 6peared that put him in 6uch a temper. Is be often like that ? 4 He'B a baste, an' twould be a good riddance av the nagures did put a sphear through him ; bud there's no such luck I don't belave there's a blessed black (a wild one I mane) widin a hundred miles ov this." 4 But why should he have invented such a story ? What motive could be have had for lying ?" 4 1 Sorra a one ov me knows, Misther Heslop, hud phwat I does know is he'll shtick at nothin' when he's any divilmint in hand, an' that's abont always, so it is ! bud 6ure an' yo ate no dinner at all, at all." 4 Hawley spoiled my appetite com pletely." 4 1 Av ye lits him see he kin put ye out like that, he'il soon parsecute ye off the place. You take no notice ov him ; but av he conies id too shtrong, ju6t rayson wid him quietly, and be sure ye land fair on his nose wid yer right whin ye begin to thpake to him; id'll sit him studyin" asthronomy while ye're colourin' his eyes for the next eclipse," advised Mick, his grey eyes twinkling in the moBt comical manner." 4 Really, Mick, I believe that is about the best thing I could do.' " Thin Pve ounly one more piece of advice, Misther Heslop, an' that is, do id whin there's some one about to eee fair play An' now Sorr, have anoder tbry at the mutton an' damper; ye can fancy id's the second course ye're after bavin." Frank, Bensibly, followed the last portion of the Irishman's advice; and then, after lighting bis pipe be strolled

own to the creek, and selecting a fine hady gum-tree in close proximity to the spring from which t|ie water for Government House waB obtained, seated himself on a spot where the bouldere appeared to be least obtrusive, and, leaning back on an elbow, whiffed away at his pipe, while he tried to analyse his position and lay plane for the future. He had got so far as to commence the foundations of an airy-castle of which ho and Mary Ashby were to he co-proprietors, when his thoughts were rudely recplled to present events, by what seemed a spark of liquid fire descending at short intervals on various parts of his leg. Frank was

young and active, but it is to be greatly doubted if he ever before substituted the perpendicular for the horizontal, or rolled up a trouser leg, with greater celerity than he did on tl is occasion. He did not even tarry to see what damage his pipe, which had fallen amongst the stones, had sustained'; for it must have been a tarantula, a centipede, or a Bcorpion, at least, that had bitten or Btung him, he thought, and was not their poison most dangerous ? However, the aggressor proved to bo only a thickset black ant, with a shell as a hard a6 a flint, though that armor did not save it from endden death from the re morseless fingers of Frank, whose blood seemed to tingle in all his veins from the infusion of the virulent formic poison. 4 Merney! no goode merney," cried Mrs Blowhard, who had just arrived unheard with her buckets en route for the spring, and was now trying to do the sympathetic, but with an evident inclination to grin. 0, a merney, is it ?" said Frank, as he deposited the mangled remains of the the insect on a smooth boulder and completed its annihilation with the sole of his boot, and then eyed the ruins of biB pipe disconsolately. 4 Yesse, merney (drawing out the word to its utmost extension) ; 'lackfellow no like it thate one, all about growl!" 4 Well, if you mean by growling, biting

like a pair of red hot pincers, I quite agree with you," said Heslop as he rubbed the places where the insect had bitten him, and which already displayed hard round lumps surrounded by flashes of angry red, with one hand, whilst the other recovered the Btemless bowl of his pipe. " Why a bite from Hawley himself would not be half EO venomous, much less that of B mad dog." 4 Yessee, yesse," simpered tbo ancient dame as she put down her buckets, and 4 held out her hand. You got it bacca ?" Frank extracted the half consumed fragments of the weed from hie pipe bowl and handed them to Mrs Blowhard, who Bnatched at the gift as a monkey would at a nut, and then followed with the usual 4 You got it pi pa ?" Frank having collected the remaining fragments of the shattered meerschaum proffered them to the lady, who declined them with a disdainful 44 mucca," which being freely interpreted means 41 no," " no good," 44 1 won't," &c.—a very coinpre hensive word in fact. 4 Well, I haven't got any other, my fair friend, and 60 you had better go on with your water-carting!" said Frank, and then, as he looked round, ho noticed small footpath that led from the spring up the steep and scrubby northern bank of the creek towards Ashby's Knob, and he asked the old lubra where it led. That one wirtiegalla walk a long a camp ; me tl it down there." 4 Where you sleep, I suppose ?" 4 Yesse, yesse, whero me tleepe." 4 Well! I think I'll go and see what sort of quarters you have. For 4 lying down with the dogs and getting up with the fleas' is not to be mentioned in the same day with a lounge under a gumtree with a merney for a companion. What do you think eh ?" ' 4 Yesse, yesse, very good liko a that,' assented Mrs Blowhard, looking superlatively intelligent, and then graciously inquiring,

4 Me walk long a you ?" 4 No thanks, old lady, I'll find mVwaj r well enough, I've no doubt/' sa 1 Frank, and then alter taking a drink at the spring, he started on his exploratio 11 up the bank. The path, which wound throngh "whipstick" inallee scrub, was very steep ; and Heslop perspired freely as be toiled along it till be came to a spot where the soil was soft, consisting of loaf mould and rotten limestone, and here were scattered about the wurlies of the blacks, mostly a few boughs laid in a semicircle, to be shifted with any change of wind. With the exception of two, none showed any signs of present occupation, and all looked more liko the rooting resorts of wild pigs then the abiding places of human beinge, save that everywhere, in the midst of holes worn in the soft 6oiI were 4 the ashes of camp fires. Look's as if it was generally pretty 6ultry about here," thought Frank as ho curiously examined the camping ground, and noticed the entire absence of anything like permanent shelter, " and this is MoseB* camp, no doubt." He had come to one of the wurlies which had ssemingly been recently occupied, and in the bushes of which were stuck three long mallee spears, the flat corrugated woomera for throwing them, a moopoo (heavy two banded club) a boomerang, and some email missile waddies or knobkerries. Frank handled the weapons, and tried to throw the spears—which were simply slender, sharp pointed rods of about 8 feet in length—by holding them above his head, and darting them in Achiles-like fashion ; but, from the results of bis efforts he formed a very poor opinion ot their efficiency ae weapons of offence, as lie had then no idea that the woomera was the propelling agent, though be examined the tootb, 6xed longitudinally in the broad end of that implement, and wondered what it was for, and also the sharp flint gummed to the end of the handle. Tho moopoo seemed a more dangerous implement, and he concluded that one blow from it must prove fatal if effectively delivered on the skull of even an African nigger. Being a conscientious young man, he replaced the weapons where he had found them, little dreaming what murderouB work they would soon be employed upon, and turned to inspect Mrs Blowhard's tenement; there was nothing to be seen in it save some old rags in a net bag, a battered old quart pot, and a yam stick, whilst over the bushes at the back were spread a pair of old blankets which bad once been red, and ware still so in spots, free ventilation being secured by numerous holes of various dimensions, which had been burned in the blankets when their owner in her sleep bad rolled too near the fire, or when sparks had been blown on them by a sudden shift of wind. Frank having satisfied his curiosity and finding the heat most oppressive in the scrub on that hill side, descended again to the creek to drink copiously at the spring, and then to make his way leisurely to the but—to see if he had another clean shirt, or at least a collar left, to render him presentable in the evening at Government House. (To be continued.) Yass, N S.W., was formerly celebrated for its bushrangers and stickings up. An attempt was made lately to revive the fading reputation of the place, and a man was robbed and tied to a tree. Quite iike old timeB, when Ben Hall, Gilbert, and O'Malley made the Yass and Gundagai road a terror to mail drivers and travellers with well-lined pockets,