|Chapter Title||A PAIR OF " NUMBER NINES."|
|Newspaper Title||The Port Augusta Dispatch, Newcastle and Flinders Chronicle (SA : 1885 - 1916)|
|Trove Title||Benbonuna: A Tale of Thirty Years Ago|
A TALB OF THIRTY YBABS" AGO.
[AU right! reserved by the author.} CHAPTER XIX. A PAIS OF " NUMBER NINES."
BY ROBERT BBUCE.
Mr Bowyer loBt no time in returning to Benbonuna by way of the Wirracowie Creek and tbe liorae path through the mallee which Hawley and Frank had traversed the morning before, and though thebrief twilight had deepened into darkness when he reached the station, he cantered along over the hollow-sounding limestone without hesitation seemingly quite with every inequality and torn of the narrow path he waB following. On reaching the horse rail, he found the mailman with his riding and pack horseB all ready for a atart—waiting for him. « Good evening, Fred, hope I have not detained yon." " Oh, it don't matter, Mr Bowyer, shall only go on abont six miles on the plain where there's some good grass, and turn out, for there's not a scrap about Nooltana, and I should either have to put the horses in the yard, or walk Bis or seven miles after 'em in the morning, replied Fred Frost, a small and naturally fair complexioned man, whose hands, arms, and face, especially the latter, were burnt and blistered by the sun to such an extent that a stranger would probably have come to the conclusion that he was the victim of some virulent and incurable cutaneous disease. The stranger, however, would have made a mistake, for Fred's skin, where not exposed to the sun, was of the soundest and toughest description, for be dwelt in the saddle and often even slept in it. Mick and he had extracted the whole account of the Baggs tragedy from Falconer, and therefore were under no necessity of questioning Bowyer about it „ .. " All right, Fred, I'll not be long," said Bowyer, whose horse Mick was just about to take across the creek to hobble.
" Don't hurry, Mr Bowyer; the borseB '11 soon fill themselveB when I get there." " 'An maybe Ram Billy too 1 He's a cannibawl I belave," added Mick significantly. " Yon just dry up, Micfe. I m not afraid of Billy eatinjr me, even if he killed me ; and there's no fear of that, for lie's gone out west; and beBideB, he'd have a hard job to find me without a fire this dark night," said the mailman, who was too old a bird to be startled by Buch a bogie as a blackfellow. " Oh! ye say that wid me here to look afther ye; but stop till ye git out in the scrub, an' thin ye'll sing a different tune, so ye will," laughed Mick, mounting the boree barebacked and riding away into the darkness. "That will do for you Mick 1 But wait a minute! rejoined Frost urgently, as if be bad suddenly recollected some' thing of importance. " Well, fhwat is it, poBty ?" asked Mick, pulling np as desired. " I only want to know if you've left everything to me ? If not, before you go across the creek " But Mick waited to bear no more, and soon the clatter of the horse's lioofs'on the boulders announced that he was crossing the creek bed. While thiB banter was was passing outside, Bowyer was inditing a rather lengthy epistle to Corporal Ganders, detailing the circumstances of the murders and urging that police officer to lose no time in coming up with a couple of troopers, and the S.M. or a J.P. if either was to be had. The letter finished, and also a note to bis friend Probyn, bespeaking a change of horBes for the troopers at Udenyaca, Bowyer delivered the missives to the mailman, who rode off apparently as fresh as if only then commencing his day's journey, whereas he had covered seventy miles since BUD rise with two setB of horses. "Well," soliloquised Bowyer as the mailman departed, " if ever a scoundrel deserved hanging, he does, and I think he is uncommonly close to the attainment of his deserts. I wish old Ganders was here, though." It need not be supposed that Frost was the individual alluded to, for he was a particular favorite with Bowyer; and besides, if be continued much longer to ride the distance per week he was then
travelling, there would in a short time bo i nothing left of him to hang—he would a soon be all chafed off. a "Will ye be wantin' 'em early tomorrow ?" aski-d Mick after a short i absence, referring to the horses. " After breakfast will do; I suppose Mrs Blowhard will go after them." "'Deed an' she won't, sorr, for suren she thinks id's the divil himsilf as done it; fur id's the ould gintleman they mane whin they spake ov a ' salt water black.' Bud Leak'll be in wid Falconer, an' he'll run 'em in." " Yes, that will do. How have things gone over at the house ?" " The masther isgittin' on splindid, sorr, and av he dont touch agin, he's roight fur this time, so he is." Well Mick, in that case I'll have a shake-down in his room, which will obviate the necessity of any one else sitting up with him ; BO unless you have otl er business at the house, you need not go over to-night." " All roight, sorr, bud av I'm wanted, I'll be over in a jiffy BDy toime, so I will." " I'll send for you if I want you. Good night, Micfe." "Good-night, sorr. Bud d'ye think ye'll ketch him, Misther Bowyer ?" " Catch him ? Of course ! Did you ever know me to miss anyone after I was once on his tracks?" returned Bowyer with a slight laugh, starting to run down the steep bank of tbe blind creek in order to gain impetus for an expeditious ascent of the opposite acclivity. In his wild career he encountered Frank, who was half way np on h» way to Bachelor's Hall. The pair instinctively clutched each other's outstretched hands, and then, Bowyer being unable to stop, or Frank to turn round, tbe latter would have been precipitated backwards into the bed of tbe creek to the great danger of bis neck, had not Bowyer clung to him, and half dragged, half carried him to tbe bottom, where Bowyer's foot catching in an old bullock hide, they came down with a clatter which brought Mick to the bank to ascertain what had happened. " This is a new experiencs," laughed f rank after be had found that be was not uroken anywhere. "I had no idea that there were such things as avalanches in Australia." " Especially is blue shirts and moleskin trousers, eh ? It is a good thing they're cheap, though, for both my knees are broken, and my elbows are out. Besides—6niff, sniff—I'll be hanged if the spigot is not out of the claret cask!" " Are ye on his thracks, Mr Bowyer ?" inquired Mick slyly from the bank above ; for though it was too dark to see what was going on he guessed it pretty shrewdly. ' " Yes, Mick, and I've caught him too,' promptly answered bowyer. " And if you haven't a decent pair of trousers that will fit me, it is a bad job that ever I had anything to do with him, for I'm a complete wreck." " Sure, sorr," said Mick as he groped his way carefully down the bank, " there's a air ov "number nines" in tbe ehtore. [ay be they'll fit ye till tbe fireht wash ; £
and there's bine shirts galore; BO there's no barrom done, at all, at all 1" " Only to my nose, Mick. Here's not a new cover for that in the store, is there ?" asked Bowyer, sardonica'ly. " Sure'n Paddy Considine hasn't gone yit, Misther Bowyer, an' he'll have it in bis «lisht," so he will." " Ah, I had forgotten him, Mick. But I think we'll try those Number nineB first, and have a rinse, too, for I don't wiBh to h
give the ladies a fresh fright," returned Bowyer, who started back for Bachelor s Hall, followed by the others. " I bad better have waited till yon came over, as it turns out, but was very anxious to hear how you had got on," observed Frank. " Oh, that's all right, so don't you bother. My nose isn't beyond repairing, and it is time I had a new suit, for it does not do to be old fashioned in these days. Mick, just go and trot out those slops." Bowyer soon staunched the bleeding of his nose, and indued himBelf in the " slops," which fitted him in a quite too remarkable a manner, though that did not give him the slightest concern, as he said, after giving them several approving slaps, " Yes, I think we are pretty presentable Let us make a fresh start. But look here, Heslop, no more reckless rushing into blind creeks in the dark. It may suit a harum scarum young fellow like you, but the results are disastrous to the aged and infirm." " I thought"— " Yes, that is just where you made the mistake. It is the privilege of mellow and sedate age to think, while youth, with its fires fresh lighted,its boilers witboutaflaw, and a careless hand on the brake, does the express business. But, hang it, that's just what I was telling you not to do, wasn't it! We're getting mixed, so come along." Whilst Heslop and Bowyer were crossing the flat, the former, in place of making exhaustive inquiries about the murders, narrated the episode of the morning, in which Mrs Ashby had advised her husband to try a stimulant, and had said that he (Frank) had given it ae his opinion that that was what the invalid needed, whereas he had been a passive and unwilling party to the transaction. How could ehe be BO
untruthful ? he ssked. "My exceedingly young friend, yon have not seen very much of the " ministering angels," or you would have very little wonder left for anything they may do or say ; but never mind, Mary will give you the benefit of tbe doubt; and the troth will out, as it is very likely to do in this instance, sooner than some people suspect." Heslop fancied there WBB more in this last Temark than appeared on the surface, but had no time to question him about it, even had he been so inclined for they had reached the front verandah, where Bowyer was greeted by Mra Ashby, with " ThiB is a nice time to come to dinner, Mr Bowyer. Why, what have you been doing to keep yon so late ?" " Just buying a new dress. Could one have a pleasanter occupation ?" " But I got one this morning! I hope you hare not been bujing another," exclaimed the lady. " Yes, I have ; but the article, or rather the articles, in which I have just invested are not usually alluded to in the presence of ladies, though some misguided people aver that ladies are fond of assuming them." " Mr Bowyer, you are a wretch !" cried the lady indignantly, her indignation, however, beiDg speedily relieved by a broad grin, as the unmistakeable " number nines" emerged into the full glare of the light which streamed through tbe French window. " Well, Mrs Ashby," said Bowyer serenely, " the word ' wretch,' when used by the fair sex, is open to a great variety of constructions, and so, knowing the extreme amiability of the lady who has just applied it to me, I shall consider it a most flattering epithet. But you have not waited tea for me, I hope." " No, I said there was no use in delaying the dinner, for you men are such uncertain creatures ; but Mrs Schlinke has kept some hot for you," answered Mrs Ashby, who loved not to be kept waiting for her meals. AsMr Bowyer had had nothing to eat since breakfast that morning, t!e provisions kept hot by Mrs Schlinke vanished with great celerity, though the hungry man found time to satisfy Mrs Ashby's curiosity as to his day's proceedings, taking care, however, to say notl.iDg that might lead her to suppose he bad the faintest
dea the murders had been committed by ny but natives. He was equally reticent fterwards in Mr Ashby's room, and when nformed of the disappearance of Moses' armament, said he had no doubt that they were the weapons used by the assassin, and that if tbe latter had not gone right away across the lake, he was safe to be caught soon. CHAPTER XX. RAM BILLY. On the morning succeeding the discovery of the murders Hawley, after breakfasting at Umuarilpena, left that outstation, much to the relief of Mac and his spouse, for Benbonuna, taking MoBes with him. As he wished to visit a hut a little to the northward of the head station, he chose a track which led past what was then known as the " Pine Flat," though it was a space of ground thickly sprinkled with low* isolated slatestone bills, well shaded by sombre clumps of pine trees, beneath which a few years previously the station cattle (now superseded by sheep) bad loved to camp during the beat of the day, and amongst which slept a curious echo which could be awakened at any time by a sharp whip crack from the summit of any one of the hills. Round the edge of the Pine Fiat a small gum creek (a tributary of the Bentonuna) wound its way, and along the course of this creek Hawley and Moses were riding, when the former noticed a slight restlessness in his horse ; he looked about for the cause, but probably would never have discovered it had be not, a moment afterwards, turned suddenly to Moses—who had diopt slightly behind —to ask a question,and detected him looking back also. Moses gave a guilty Btart when the overseer aBked sharply what he had been looking at. "01 me bin look out along nothing," the black replied, with a smile too artless to be genuine, and which inBtantly aroused the suspicions of Hawley. " Nothing! well we'll go back and look for it," and suiting the action to the word, he wheeled his horse round, and AB he did so remarked that it looked up into a tall gum tree, in which at first sight he could Bee nothing particular. But being of a curious and suspicious nature, be rode round about the tree, and presently discovered a young blackfellow who WBB vainly trying to screen himself from view behind a great limb about forty feet from the ground. Ob, you bin look at nothing, you infernal black hound. What did you tell me that lie for?" And 60 saying, the overseer gave Moses, who was just within striking distance, a sharp flanker with his hunting thong, which caused that worthy to writhe and howl most piteously—not because be was much hurt, for bis coat flap had intervened as a slight protection, but because he wanted that whip cut to get full credit, so that no more might be inflicted on him. "What did you tell me that lie for?" repeated Hawley, handling his whip as if he was about to give Moses cut number two. " Me bin think it 'poBsum. Me no see 'em blackfellow," mendaciously returned MoBes. t i a a t b v a b w w l e f e k d
" 'Possum, eh ?"' replied the overseer, as e critically examined the native in the tree, whom be suddenly recognised. " Why, it's Ram Billy, by all that's holy !" then muttering to himself, " Well, thiB it lack. If the Devil himself was at my elbow it could not be better! Ab, you brnte," he continued aloud, address ing Billy, " I'll teach you to break into huts and spear heifers. I'll do your business for you, you black varmint. Come out of that, will you ?" To this gentle summons, Billy, who was coolly garbed in a classic coat of grease, and girdle of mungey (possum fur yam) from which on a rush ring depended a bunch of wickerty (the huge larva of the goat moth, which tunnels in the thick sappy bark of tbe eucalyptus), answered nothing. He was as nnwilling to descend from his elevated pprch as those luscious grubs had, just previously, been to leave their ligneous abodes, and so he clung to the great branch as rigid and silent as a statue. " O, that's it, is it ?" said Hawley, as he dismounted. " I'll see about that," and fastening Lightning to a bush, he dia engaged the revolver from the saddle and covered the unfortunate wicherty hunter, who vainly tried to screen himself by dodging round the great limb; but soon finding it impossible to evade the_ aim of his tormentor, he ceased his dodging and remained motionless, glaring down at Hawley in sullen fear and hatred. "Come down, will you?" shouted Hawley, taking deliberate aim, as if about to fire. At this Moses, who till then had seemed almost as frightened as Billy himself, spurred his horse forward, exclaiming as he did 80, " No you shoot 'em thate one blackfellow 1 Him no Ram Billy ! him Pooteperunta!" " If you don't get out of that, by tbe holy I'll shoot yon !" hissed Hawlej', turning suddenly on Moses, who waited not to tell any more piouR lies in the cause of kinship, but slipping from bis horse, disappeared with wonderful celerity, and made off, stopping not till he got to Benbonuna, where ho Bpeedily informed the people there, "Mistah Hawley plenty kill 'em Ram Billy, long a Howena Creek."
Hawley reflected for a moment or two after tbe flight of hiB sable retainer, and then took the etrapB which served to secure Moses' rug to his saddle, which he fastened iooBely round bis waist, BO as to be ready for use. Moses' rug he threw on one Bide, to be brought to the station or not, aB the caBe might be, and then gave all hie attention to the native in the tree. " Now, Master Billy, if you don't come down I'll shoot you like a crow." The black remained silent, though evidently in an agony of fear. Hawley once more repeated his summons ; and then taking deliberate aim, he fired, the bullet just grazing the fleshy part of Billy's thigh and eliciting from him a terrific yell of pain and fright. " Now will you come down, you - shouted Hawley, again taking aim. " By , me plenty kill 'em you this time." " Me come down ! me come down !" cried Billy, who was now convinced that whatever might be in Btore for him at the foot of the tree, only sudden death would result from remaining aloft. He began to descend at a snail's pace, inserting his great toes into the notches cut in tbe smooth bark of the tree for that purpose. " Now then, move yourself," roared Hawley, so suddenly that he almost startled Billy from his perilous footing. " If you're not down in two twos I'll give you another shot." "Me come down,Mistah Hawley; noj'ou shoot em me," whined the black, but without accelerating his movements appreciably. He was now within twenty feet of the ground ; and as Hawley was really afraid to kill him, there being Moses as a probable witaess against him in such a case, he made ready to Becure the blackfellow, who was active as a cat, besides being as slippery as an eel from the grease plenteously rubbed into his skin. So whilst Hawloy kept the revolver in one hand, he collected some sand with the other, and put it in his coat pocket. Down crept Billy, but not with the intention of quietly waiting to be tied up. Oh no, he meant to run lor it; but Hawley understood this thoroughly and watched every movement of the black as a cat would a mouse. When the native had reached a sort of woody wen on tbe tree trunk, whence he could gain a fair footing foT a spring to earth, Hawloy laid down his pistol, picked up a large stone, and
hrew it at Billy with eucli good aim that t struck him as he was leaving the tree, nd brought him down on bis knees mong the boulders. Before he had time o rise or defend himself, he was pinned Hiwley, who with his knees on his back, dusted him well with sand, then dragging his wrists together his back, securely fastened them one of the saddle straps. Billy all the roared and foamed at the mouth a frantic wild beast—for which his rewar led him by throwing a handful or two of sand into his mouth and and by giving him several savage in tbe stomach, which made him sick and changed bis general complexion from a dingy copper color to an ashen grey. It takes a good deal to kill a blackfellow, and Billy soon recovered from the effects of the brutal kicks, to find his ancles firmly strapped together, after accomplishing which Hawley seated himself in a shady spot to recover his wind and to consider the beBt mode of convey ing his captive to Benbonuna. Being a man of resources, he did not waste much time over bis deliberations, and after bestowing another kick or two on the native—to make him understand his situation—he brought the horse MoseB had been riding (a very quiet animal) up to the prostrate Billy, where he short hobbled it ; then detaching the stirrup leathers from the spring bars of the saddle, he unbuckled nnd passed them under the pannels in such a manner that the buckles showed just in front of the knee pads, whilst the tongue ends came out at the side straps below the seat, Then he tightened tbe girths and surcingle to their utmost, and the saddle was ready for its occupant. (To be continued.) The Very Rev. John Gallagher (President of St. Patrick's College of Goulbarn N.S.W.) is spoken of as likely to be one of the new Roman Catholic bishops of Australasia. Not of Port Angnsta, surely Berner, a New South Wales railway embezzler, was sent op for 10 years, and now seven years of the sentence are remitted 1 The public schools of New South Wales have contributed £1,651 to the Bulli Relief FuDd—a first instalment. Wild dogs becoming a fearful nuisance on the country bordering the ranges. Stock owners are giving £2 a scalp, and can't even extract from the Government the miserable 5s. bounty provided by law. In the Shore forgery case reported last issue, the counsel for the defence was cited as for the prosecution. Reduction of telegraphic rateB to Silverton and the Territory requested by Mr Moule. Dr Cockburn says the revenue can't afford the loss that would result. The Chancellor of the English Exchequer says that if he reduces the rates of colonial postage from England, he will not be able to make the promised reduction in the Income Tax.