Chapter 196751947

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Chapter NumberXX
Chapter TitleRAM BILLY
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article196751947
Full Date1887-06-03
Page Number4
Corrections0
Word Count5218
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Port Augusta Dispatch, Newcastle and Flinders Chronicle (SA : 1885 - 1916)
Trove TitleBenbonuna: A Tale of Thirty Years Ago
article text

BSVfiOKVVAl B

A TALE OP-THIRTY Y^ARB AGO. d a

[All righto reserved by the author.'} CHAPTER XKicontinued). BAM BILLY. a a c b h r

BY ROBERT BBOCB. s a

Hawlfcy'e next move was to hoist Billy on the horse; bat with all bis savagery he was a man of rather particular notions as to cleknline8S,and so lie looked askance at the malodorous creature before bins, and hesitated somewhat before taking him in hiB arms. But, as before mentioned, Hawley was a man of expedients, and soon bethought himself of a plan by which the impleasantness of lifting the native wonld be reduced to a minimum. There was Mooes' blanket—the very thin*. Hawley, who was as prompt to carry out * plan as he was to devise it, quickly spread the blanket, or rather rug, beside the body of his captive, taking care that its edge shonld be parallel with Billy's major axis; next be rolled the greasy native on to the vecge of the rug, and then rolled him and the rug np together, the result being a black chrysalis in a woollen cocoon open at both ends. To prevent this bundle from becoming disarranged, he secured it in three places by buckling saddle-Btraps tightly around it. This being done the ingenious and humane inventor regarded the result of his labors with great complacency and pleasantly remarked to the object of his attentions, " My word, Billy, you plenty comfortable long a that one rug; you big one wprm I think." To this brutal pleasantry Billy answered not a word ; in fact for any sign of life be gave, he might have been taken for an Egyptian mummy of 3,000 years standing. He lay so deathly still that Hawley, when ready to put the bridle on the horse, pulled down the rug to look at bis captive's face. He saw in Billy's eyes a far-away, hopelesB stare of mortal fear, like that of a bound and helpless man with an assassin's knife at his throat. But this, in place of exciting Hawley's compassion, seemed only to irritate him, for throwing back the rug, he exclaimed, " Thu is what you want, you sulky brute," and bestowed another vicious kick upon the helpless native. He then up-ended his victim, as a woodman would a log, and applying his right shoulder to the lower part of the native's back, raised him off the ground, and advanced to throw him acrosB the horse ; but old Dick, quiet as he WBB, and well osed to oarry all sorts of swags, thought that there was something too uncanny about the proposed load, especially when it made a convulsive wriggle or two. With a startled snort he jumped away, upon which Hawley unceremoniously shot down his burden, seized hold of Dick's reins and gave that animal, ns it bounded round him, such o kicking as would have induced a fatt.l attack of inflammation in any but a bush horse. Hawley's rage seemed to increase with every kick until an ill directed one nearly dislocated his own toe, and then he varied the proceedings by cursing in a different key, and jerking the bit savagely on the horse'6 tongue, forcing it by that means to scramble backwards, as well as its fettered forelegs would permit, till it actually passed over the prostrate native. Then Hawley, tuking the horse's near ear in bis right hand, hooked the fingers of his left around the bridge of its nose, and shook its head savagely, as if fully determined to wring it off, and finished up the performance by hiBsing between his cltnched teeth, " Now, will yon stand, yon brute." Dick did stand, or rather cower, with his fore legs projected, his hind lege under him, and his flanks drawn in as if he fully expected another kicking, for he trembled all over. Hawley, to lengthen out the reins, knotted his whipthong to them, and keeping it in hand, again raised Billy on his shoulder, and this time, by approaching the horse cautiously, and judiciously curing him at intervals, he succeeded in casting the blackfellow face down across the saddle, to which after carefully ascertaining the balance, he buckled bim securely with the stirrup leathers, giving Dick another kick in the stomach as a finishing touch to the arrangement. That last kick seemed to relieve Hawley's irritation considerably, for he said pleasantly to the bundle. " 1 think that one all right, Billy, you think it so?" The bundle remaining mute, the amiable humourist took out his pipe, commenced to smoke, and went off to a small pool of soakage water at the foot of a gum tree, where ho took a drink and then proceeded to thoroughly wash bis hands, using some Band as a scouring agent, after which he dried them on bis pocket handkerchief, and slowly returned to where he had left the horses. At least he started slowly, but travelled best pace thereat of the distance to prevent the animals from leaving without him, arriving, however, just a little too late. Lightning was vanishing at a canter, and Dick was jumping after him in a series of rearing leaps, his hobbles rattling as he went. Longfellow says in Evangeline that the bells, on a certain occasion, " sprinkled the air with sweet sounds ;" but not even the great American poet could have disguided the burthen of sound which Hawley imposed upon the atmosphere that hot morning so as to make it presentable to ears polite. We will not attempt to reproduce the torrent of furious blasphemy to which the overseer gave vent, but will simply explain how the stampede of those usually self-poBseBBed bush horses came about. Whilst Hawley was absent at the water, Billy, who, till then, had remained as silent and motionless as a corpse, was suddenly seized with an unreasoning frenzy for escape, just as a newly caught wild bird might beat madly againBt the bars of its cage in itB longing for liberty ; and though the native was too firmly strapped down to wriggle from his bonds, be contrived to agitate his extremities with their blanket tassels so violently that Dick, who had seemingly forgotten his recent punishment and was in a half dose, woke up with the conviction that he ought to be uncommonly startled, and consequently made a desperate bound close to the head of Lightning, who, though he would only bave been too glad to have the flies whisked off by Dick's tail, did not care about having this done by the undulations of an aboriginally aromatic blanket. He dashed back at once, broke bis bridle, and after a brief pause began to make tracks for the station, followed by Dick with his native punkah in full blast. Hawley was a good runner, and might perhaps have succeeded in catching Dick by heading him, had not one of the hobble etraps (previously almost worn through) suddenly broken and allowed the horse the liberty of his fore legs, though Dick did not seem at first to realise this, for he continued for some time to make long awkward bounds with his fore legs straight and close together, as if still fettered ; then, becoming aware of the altered state of things, he broke into a long racking trot which muet have pretty well convinced Billy that he was on the high road to a release from all his troubles —but not in a way which he could contemplate with equanimity. Any one not so habitually cruel as the overseer would very likely have been able to catch the horses, by lingering behind quietly till tbev stopped to pick on the track, which they might have done had b w n I t o o w r r b d t n t a m t i d c

illy kept quiet; and then by making a etour so as to get between the runaways nd the station, they might have been ecured by a quiet but authoritative pproach, But both these horses had got way from Hawley on previous occasions, nd had been brutally thrashed when he aught them. This is not only a cruel, ut a very stupid proceeding, for horses ave excellent memories, and naturally eason in this way : " I was thrashed efore when I allowed bim to catch me ; hat a fool I should be to let him get ear me again."—and they generally don't. ndeed, I have seen soveral horses, and hat on Benbouuna, which would not hly not allow themselves to be caught utside, but which would not enter a yard here they had been once beaten for unning away, unless they were regularly un down and forced into the enclosure y several men on good horseB. But to resume. Lightning soon eaBed own from a band gallop to a comfortable rot, imitated by Dick, who, directly the ovelty of the flapping business wore off ook no further notice of his strange load. But neither of the horseB gave the irate Hawley an opportunity of catching them nd though on several occasions h< anaged to slip past them by cutting off bends in the track, they raced past him at urn when he attempted to stop them ; and n about a hour and a quarter after its eparture from the creek the Btrange pro ession traversed the seven miles o undulating country that intervened between the Pine Flat and Benbonuna and arrived at the station in the same order as at starting, the only difference the arrangement being that Billy and the saddle were now inverted—a state of things brought about by the struggles of the native, which had disturbed bis balance and gradually forced the saddle to one side, and after pissing a certain point it bad slipped under Dick's belly, where it remained suspended by the girths and surcingle, Billy, of course, hanging it by the stirrup leathers. This was more comfortable arrangement for him than the vital-rasping position he had previously occupied, as Dick, after a side jump or two and a few "cow kicks," had quietly accepted the situation. As for Hawley, he had no need to nurse his wrath to keep it warm, lor it was boiling over, and he had nearly ground the enamel off his molars whilst mentally flaying those equine culprits alive, and picturing to himself the vengeance he would wreak on them when he got them at his mercy in the station Btockyard. CHAPTER XXI. " BUSH GAS." Leake had got the station horses in good time, and Mr Asliby being much better, Bowyer and Frank had started from Benbonuna about the same time as Hawley bad left Dmmarilpena—Bowyer to make further researches with regard to the murders, and Frank to endeavor to recover his lost saddle. As Bowyer desired to see Brusher, the pair rode down the creek, Frank mounted on an active but quiet stock horse, and his friend on a tall, roach-backed, ragged-hipped black, as stout in the bone ns a cart horse, and with extremely crooked hind legs, known far and near as "The Emu." The horsy in addition to the advantage that it could amble close on seven miles an hour, had the reputation of being the best " Btayer" in the Far North, in consideration of which quality it was the horse mainly relied on when the wild three year-old fillies were to be got out of "the Pound." (the grand natural mountain enclosure mentioned in the first chapter). " Well, Heslop, do you think you will know the place where Peter turned off the road, when we come to it?" asked Bowyer, when they had fairly entered the creek. " 1 slall know your horse again ; and if you don't travel at a more comfortable pace, I must reluctantly bid you good morning. This is a second edition of my coming-up experience!" laughed Frank, whose horse, though a fair walker, was obliged to travel at a fast jog to keep up with ifc its iinryfllfiltT ungaiuly companion's PftmnATIinn A amble RTTI nlo " Ab, I was forgetting. But, never mind, a certain amount of tanning is required by all new comers to prevent subsequent perpetual denudatien ; and so a benevolent Providence—you know." " I'd prefer that a benevolent Providence should do its work gradually ; this sort of thing would soon leave nothing to dennde." " Well, I suppose it is a tender subject Bnd so we'll approach it gently," replied Bowyer, reining back hie horse. "This reminds you forcibly of your horsemanship at Bchool, dosn't it ? ' " No, we were never ' horsed' at my school." "Then your education was sadly neglected, for to the frequent contact

with the tree of knowledge, or rather the branches thereof, to which my epidermis in its kid tenderness was subjected, I attribute its extraordinary toughness. And now, in fact, I believe that is how the rhinoceros was worked up to pachydermatous perfection." " What, through successive generations of the rhinoceros being horsed at school ?" " Not exactly ; I believe it was done in the Ark, by the united efforts of old Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japl.et. You may depend upon it they took a faggot or two of handy bamboos aboard with them, and when the pair of young rhinoceroses turned rusty, the antediluvian fath*rB naturaily worked off extra steam on them, especially after being uagged beyond endurance by their wiveB—which of course would occur in such a shop. Then the toughening of those juvenile horny snouts and cuticles soon becoming chronic ; the peculiarity was of course transmitted to their interesting progeny in an exaggerated degree, and hence the present bullet proof condition of their outside premises." " But how about the other pachyderms?" " O, the hippo, tapir, and elephant. Well, I suspect they eoon found the mature bamboo too tough for their taste, and so learned to behave themselves in such a manner that only when the ladies of the Patriarchs became quite too exasperating, did they receive a tanning, and consequently their cuticular ramparts were not BO materially strengthened as those of the rhinoceros. This, I may inform you, was, or is, the opinion of Ouvier, Buffon and Co., who somehow or other forgot to • make a note of it.'" " What relation did you Bay you were to Mr Gulliver ?" inquired Frank. " Well, to tell the truth, I'm afraid bur affinity is becoming closer every minute, and so for your own sake, Heslop, take that precept to heart which at school you used so heedlessly to transcribe from the copy head." " Evil communications corrupt, &c. ?" "Of course"—and here Bowyer lapsed into the ranting etyle—" and BO, my dear, young friend, I solemnly warn you not to foregather with any great Northern, Nor'- western, or any other truth-perverting Pitchcr, or you will lose that native modesty and ingenuousness which crown you so becomingly. Beware of the whole race, from the pitcher that went once too often to the " pub., to the pitcher of lies that is cast away in the wilderness of Yeltacudenya and cannot be matched for mendacity. O-ob, my dear young friend, take heed to thyself; take heed while there ie yet time ; for the ozone thou inhalest in thiB remarkable region is impregnated with exaggeration that castetb into the shade the veracious chronicle of Lemuel Gulliver, andcauseth the Baronial Munchausen to bide his diminished head. But look here" (descending from hiB stilts) " if you

are going to treat my moral councils with Bitch unbecoming levity I must reserve them for some other young friend with a larger bump of veneration. But when was disinterested advice received in a proper spirit? Alas, it was different when I was young," concluded Bowyer, breaking down and joining in Frank's laughter. _ " But joking aside, there is something in this sultry region miraculously conducive to—ahem !—exuberance of fancy," resumed Bowyer. " I don't know what it is ; whether it is the extreme boyancy of the atmosphere which raises one's spirits— when the sheep arc not dying too fast—till they must find vent or wreck the mental constitution, and in their hurried exit get mixed up somehow in those mysterious passages between the soul and its vocal organ ; or whether lying is a sort of zymotic disease, the germs of which are distributed by the flies: or whether we must lay the blame on the everlasting damper, the gases engendered by which may possibly exercise an undue pressure on those portions of tho brain whence truth should spring like muehroomB from the mould. I don't know whether that simile is a quotation or not; but as I have never beard of an eminent poet being hung, I am inclined to think it original. But where was I ? 0 ! undue pressure on the brain! Well, however, it may be, certain it is that— " Those mortals who come here to dwell No more the modest truth may tell." "That's neat, anyhow. Is that also by the Great Unhung ?" inquired Frank. " Yes, the same poet that wrote of himself thusly— A second Barns am I, with poetry in my pate, But not a mossel to eat, and nary a coal in my grate." " There are other lines still more affecting, but they are alas ! lost to posterity. By the by, what a pity some of those needy poetasters don't emigrate out here. They could ascend the gum trees for grub (or grubs), and do without grates and coa^ entirely. But after all, perhaps it's a good job they don't come out among us bushmen, for if we got some of their divine afflatus boxed up with our mendacity, even the least affected amongst UB would eoon exclaim "Chaos, is oome again." Its a melancholy fact that exaggera~ tion rages amongst us now, without any poetical licence allowed, even as the pestilence that walketh by noonday, and howleth at night like a dingo. But there, if you haven't noticed this little peculiarity already, you must be duller than I take you to be." " Well, I bave certainly been struck by the exuberant imaginations of some of my new friends; but the failing ie cot quite BO bad as you would make out." " PerhapB not, but I have known lots of young fellows wbo, when they first came up, were really truthful and respectable like yourself, but became in a few years regular Gullivers and Bowyers. Could I quote more lamentable examples ?" Frank laughed by way of an answer, but thought that if a few years would convert him into a Bowyer, the time would not be wasted. " We are sensible and reasonable enough in our usual state of exile ; but when we foregather with our neighbors and friends, and when the pannican forgetteth the liqnor to which it hath been accustomed, tten we 1 go off our onion,' as the vulgar have it, and become irresponsible manufacturers of facts. But you had better be on the look-out, for we must be near about the place where Peter left the track," said Bowyer, who, whatever rein he might give to his fancy, never Beemed to forget business. " It's lucky you spoke ; I believe that is the place we scrambled up," rejoined Frank, pointing to some tussocks of coarse grass on the opposite bank of the creek. " Well, we'll soon see, for no sheep come here, and tracks will lie for a long time in a place like this, that is, unless rain falls in sufficient quantities to obliterate them," answered Bowyer, who then accompanied Heslop across the creek to the spot indicated. Dismounting he led his horse up the steep bank, where, sure enough, the tracks of the two horses, though dull, were still 60 plainly visible that Frank could identify them at once. " ThiB will givo you a fair Btart, at any rate; but there is a lot of bad tracking ground amongst those hills, and I don't think you will find it all plain sailing, especially if any of the station horses have been running about there lately said Bowyer, who then from a little hill near the bank called Heslop's attention to the various land marks in sig t, by means of which he would be enabled to steer for Benbonuna. " Of course, if you should come across the fresh tracks of a small mob of t a q

sheep in your travels, it would be a good thing to follow tbetn up, for a day gained is often a long journey saved, when sheep are adrift, and Brusher may very likely drop a few, now that be 1 at 60 many to mind. But wherever you find yourself, remember that by striking in for the main track, which as you see, follows the creek on the south side of Benbonuna, but rune a little eastward of it on the northern side of the station, you will only have to keep the creek on your right hand to get home safely. You can't make any mistake, I should imagine, anywhere about here ; there is no other large creek on thiB side of the range, except the Wirracowie, which (if you should mistake it for the other) will lead you down to the spring, where you will be quite at home. One thing you should always endeavor to do, and that is, fix every remarkable object you see in your memory, and also its position relatively to other prominent land marks. If you do this you will find it impossible to get lost, unless you lose confidence in yourself. Now, don't go galloping after every kangaroo you may see, for if the condition is knocked off the horses at this Beason of the year it is not to be got on again till after the next big rain—which is a dreadful uncertainty up here. By the by, should you pick up any sheep, take 'em to the station, as you might have a difficulty in finding Brusher's place. Now good by, and take care of yourself." And with these parting injunctions Bowyer rode off to the south-east, whilst Frank, resolving to recover the lost saddle, not to speak of sundry mobs of stray eheep, betook himself to a patient study of thoBe three days old tracks. CHAPTER XXII. A FIGHT HALF FODGHT. When Hawley and the horses issued from tbe fringe of mallee scrub which bordered tbe northern edge of the station flat, they were at once seen by the hutbuilders and Mick, who, having been put on tbe qui tive by MoseB, were watching for their arrival, and who, perceiving how matters stood, hastened to assist the " gaffer" in yarding the horses, which on the present occasion gave no trouble, but simply yarded themselves, running straight in. Of course the men were on tenterhooks of anxiety to learn particulars relative to the capture of Billy, the escape of the horses, et cetera, but the malignant expression of Hawley's countenance, as he hurried to the yard, deterred them from asking questions, and eo, after shutting the horses in, they looked on in silent expectation of what would follow. No sooner was tbe overseer in the yard than, instead of catching Dick ae quietly aB be could and at once relieving Billy from hiB perilous position, he seized the roping stick, and, not seeming to care in the least what might happen to the native, began to flog the horses furiously, causing

hem to ruBh madly round the stockyard nd putting Billy's life in great danger. This was too much for Mick, who N uickly made his way into the enclosure, where quietly but firmly interposing himelf between the beater and the beaten, he f ets said, " Sure'n, Mr Hawley, ye mustn't do id, sorr." " Get out of my way, Cronin, or I'll bit b you," snarled the overseer, beside himself gr with rage, as he threatened the Irishman with the roping Btick. " You won't do that, Sorr," replied Mick m quietly, but with a quick gleam of fire in oi his eye. " Won't I?" yelled Hawley. "Take that," and suiting the action to the word, n he struck at Mick with the pole, jumping back at the same time to give range to the stroke. With a nimble bound to one side Mick avoided the blow, and rushing in on his assiilant, showered on him a succession of lightning-like blows which gave Hawley no time to gather himself together, and resulted in depositing him on his back with several severe bruises on his face, and an ensanguined fountain playing at his nose. Leake and Falconer looked on with the gravest of faces in judicious silence, for thongh their sympathies were with Mick, their profits came through the overseer ; and as they dared not encourage the Irishman they held their tongues. But their reticence was quite atoned for by the volubility of the cockatoo, which, scenting the rumpus from afar, hastened to the railed-in arena, screaming with laughter. Apparently be felt rather uncertain as to what phrases were most appropriate to the occasion, for he ran through bis limited vocabulary, interlard ing it with shrieks of laughter, as if the whole affair had been got up for his especial amusement. He bad far better, however, have stayed away, as that entertainment was fated to be the last at which he would assist. The firet thing Hawley did when he scrambled to his feet, preparatory to renewing the combat with Mick, was to snatch up large stone, which he threw at the bird with such force and fatal aim that it fell fluttering from its perch to the ground, and crying feebly, " Poor cockey, poor cockey," turned several convulsive summer saults, and expired. The death of the station favorite evoked from Leake and Falconer an onmistakeable groan of abhorrence ; and Mick, thoroughly enraged at the affront to Miss Ashby by the slaughter of her pet bird, fought Hawley down in the ensuing round with a vindictive fury almost equal to that displayed by his opponent j but having in consequence of his over-eagerness laid himself open to a facer from the overseer, who was really good pugilist, Mick quickly re covered his coolness, and in the succeed encounters so severely punished Hawley that the latter was only too glad to discon tinue the contest when Mick, judging that he had gone far enough, coolly remarked " I think that will do, Miether Hawley," as if he himself had got the worst of the fight, and had not, as Falconer graphically expressed it, " knocked saucepans out of the Gaffer." Whether Hawley so far allowed vanity to get the better of common senBe as to roally suppose that he had come out with distinguished credit from his encounter with the redoubtable Mick, I cannot say, but certainly tbe politic conduct of the latter at the conclusion of the fight went a long way towards turning matters into a less embarrassing groove than they would have followed bad the ex-pugilist fully asserted his supremacy. Had Mick pushed his advantage to the uttermost, the story would at once, with almost tele graphic swiftness, have been spread over tbe length and breadth of the Far North, " That Mick Cronin had given the 'Pirate' the two ends of a lambing down whereas now there would be flattering doubt about the matter, and the overseer would even gain credit for having stood up to the best man in the North. That Hawley had received punishment enough to have half killed an ordinary man was sufficiently evident; but seemed to have done him good, for refrain ing from any threats of future vengcance or violence to the horses, he gave orders (in a constrained and surly tone certainly) for the release of Billy from his depen dent position, which must have been most unpleasant, for when Billy and the saddle were hauled into a more examinable position, he certainly looked far more like a subject for an inquest than for a trial In addition to the brutal usage he had received, he was on the point of suffoca tion, and it was not till he had lain for some time in the shade and had several buckets of water poured over bim, that he awoke to the certainty that the world

with all its delights, was still before him As for Mick, on the termination of the fray the light of battle faded from his eye, and he resumed his former self as com pletely as if nothing had occurre ! to dis turb bis relations with the overseer, whom he addressed without tbe faintest shadow of constraint or self-consoiousness, as he busied himself with the resuscitation of Billy. It was not till that event had been brought about that Falconer ventured to say, " It teas him as done it then, Mr Hawley ?" " What ? Speared the heifer, do you mean ?" asked the overseer, adding, " It must have been ; besides, he's wanted for the assault on Mrs Jones, and a lot of other things." " I wasn't thinking of that, Mr Hawley I was thinking about the murders. But there, you don't know about them, do you ?" " Murders! What murders ? Who's murdered ?" cried the overeeer with an air of the wildest astonishment. (To be continued.) ANOTHEB MONSTER KRUPP GUN.—Herr Krupp, of Essen, is at present manufactur ing a gun weighing close upon 139 tons. Its length is to be 5'2£ft. and its calibre 15 Tin. The projectiles to be used with this arm are of two kinds, one a eteel shell 3ft. 9in. long and weighing 1,6301b., the other 5ft. 2in. long and weighing 2,3141b The service charge consists of 1,0691b. of brown prismatic powder. With this charge the lighter shell will have an initial velocity of 2,41ift., tbe heavier shell one of 2,099ft. per second. The lighter Bhell will penetrate a wrought iron plate 45in thick, or two plates of the respective thicknesses of 22in. and 33in. placed at short distance from the muzzle of the gun In the case of the heavier projectile the figureB are 47£in., 23^., and 34Jin respectively. A BIG RAILWAY SCHEME.—An English contemporary is authority for the state ment that the Russian Government pro poses to construct a railway to connect Russia with China, penetrating even to the capital of the Celestial Empire. Connt Ignatieff, Governor-General of Eastern Siberia, and Baron Korf, Governor-General of the Amour region, have been sum moned to St. Petersburg in order to assist the Russian Government in selecting the best route. Russian engineers have projected three lines, tbe firet running from Ekaterinburg via Omsk, SemipolotinBk, Hami, Si-on-fou, Hankow, and ending at Shanghai; the Becond line by way of Ekaterinburg, Omsk, Irkutsk, Tchita, Hylor, Dolon Nor and Pekin ; the third line via Ekaterinburg, Omsk, Irkutsk, Kiachta, Urgo and Pekin. It iB stated that the Chinese Government will not oppose the construction of the contemplated line.