|Chapter Title||DAMNING EVIDENCE.|
|Newspaper Title||The Port Augusta Dispatch, Newcastle and Flinders Chronicle (SA : 1885 - 1916)|
|Trove Title||Benbonuna: A Tale of Thirty Years Ago|
SBXTBOWHAJ A TALE OF THIRTY YEARS AGO. :
Br BOBBBT BBUCE. [All righta rttened by theauthor.']
CHAPTER XXIV. DAMNING EVIDENCE.
When Hawley had finished dinner he lost oo time ID starting on his proposed expedition to the Flag-staff hot, retnarking to Falconer as he left the horse-rail, "It is almost to* late now to do "anygood. It is a great pity I was not about' at the time," thereby implying that if be had been about, a good account would nave been given of the murderer. " He's a great man, I don't think ; and av Miether Bowyer couldn't do id, suren it isn't in his boots," remarked Mick contemptuously, in which opinion Falconer coincided, though he remained prudently silent. Hawley took the bridle path leading, through the back gap, and seemed strangely interested in the tracks in and around it and the horse gully ; but after looking-about very attentively for a while he muttered, " He's not come this way," and then rode away towards the Flug-Btaff hut. The overseer's muttered remark, " He's not come this way," ..referred to Moses, who, however, to avoid leaving any telltale footmarks near the Gap, had gone out to the northward near the Knob and made a wide half circle, in doing which he had crossed all the paths leading into Benbonuna from the westward, and had read their story, as related in. the foregoing chapter. Had Moses not taken this precaution, Hawley would have quickly picked up bis tracks and kept a sharp look-out for him ; as it was, he simply cuncloded that the native had gone to another station, and would not trouble himself further in the matter. The overseer followed the bridle track to Baggs' hut, and looked very attentively about the creel and its bank where the track of the No. 7 boot had led from the plain above ; but there was now a bewildering multiplicity of tracks, and not a sign of the original ones, which were all trodden out; in fact Bowyer bad made it his especial business to prance about there in soon a' manner as to divert attention from the bush he had depocited on the important foot-print. " Well they've marohed about here enough," sneered Hawley to himself. "A pack of sheep could not have wiped out tracks more effectually. Pshaw, I thought he was dangerouB." He went straight to where the bodies had lain, and stood regarding the spot as though the corpses were still there; then he entered the but, but as everything had been taken out of it, saw nothing but the bare walls, and a black snake which hurriedly insinuated itBelf into a mouse hole in the rough stone chimney, and which the overseer did not attempt to molest, but looked on dreamily
till the last section of the deadly reptile had disappeared, then he muttered to himself, " That fellow might have saved some trouble ; it's a pity he didn't," and then returned to where be had fastened up his horse, which he mounte 1 and rode to the yard, in the front of which the culleah tracks were still to be seen, though, of conrsc, dull and chequered thickly with the prints of crows' feet. He followed the tracks to the verge of the hard ground, where he muttered, " They were both on there, safe enough." With one strange glance at the new-made grave, he next rode into the creek and followed it slowly down in the direction of Mernindinie, as if searching for something he had lost. No sooner was Hawley fairly in the creek, than a naked Bavage glided out from the cover of the black oak scrub at the back of the sheep yard, and made his way swiftly to a scrubby blind creek that fell into the Benbonuna at some distance below the hut, evidently intent on observing all the overseer's movements. It was, in fact, Moses, in his full panoply of war, viz., a red cotton handkerchief and sundry streaks and patches of miltee (red ochre mixed with tbe white of birds' eggs and specular iron ore), which gave him a ferocious appearance that was greatly enhanced by his marally (great horny scars which traversed his breast from si<ie to side, and looked like strips of old lantern horn). Yes, MOBCS was on the war path, and his civilization was left hanging in a bundle on one of the black oaks. Swiftly he glided from bush to bush in the blind creek, till when near the large creek he paused to listen to tbe hoof strokes of Hawley's horse amongBt the boulders, and finding by the direction from which the sounds came that the object of bis espionage was some little distance to the westward, he, after taking a fox-like survey of the retreating horseman from the mouth of the little gully, quickly retraced his steps for a short distance up its bed. Then he left it for the plain above, and keeping so far back from tbe big creek that its high bank would have hidden him from Hawley's view, even had the latter looked that way, he ran like a hare to tbe head of the next blind creek, and worked down its course, as he had done in the last one, till near its debouchement. Then listening intently and hearing no sound, he crawled along like a snake till he could get a view of a large water hole in the Benbonuna, beside which the overseer had dismounted and was now intently scanning its weedcovered surface. What did Hawley meditate? Not a drink from tbe slightly brackish pool, for there was splendid water in the spring at tbe back of tbe hut, and he would have drank there had be been thirsty. Moses was on the tiptoe of expectation ; he watched the overseer from his hidingplace, as a boy would a sparrow perched on his brick-trap. He did not even wince when a merney did the fire-and-Iancet trick on his leg; he scarcely breathed, and could bear his heart banging away under his marally as he speculated BB to what was under those weed-covered waters, and what the overseer was going to do next. Presently Hawley picked up a large stone and pitched it into the pool,
after the manner of one who would sink some object floating on the surface. The first stone evidently failing in its mission, another and another were sent after it till the overseer's object seemed to be attained. Then taking & final survey of the surface of tbe pool, he mounted his horse and rode on desultory faBbion towards Mernindinie, as if undecided what course to pursue. MOBCS therefore, though dreadfully impatient to do tbe water rat, or otter business in that pool, prudently resolved to keep the cover of tbe blind creek till Hawley should pass back again, which he was almost certain to do—unleee he rode into the bills between the Illeuroo and the station—in which latter case MoBee would be sure to see him cross the intervening flat. Tbe black's conjecture proved correct, for ten minutes had not elapsed before tbe crunching of gravel in the bed of the creek warned him to be on the alert, and quickly retreating some little distance up the water-course, he lay like a black log under some low rough bushes, and waited till Hawley had passed. Then he returned and reconnoitred the overseer from the crest of the bank till he saw him ride out on to the road, and strike away in the direction of Brusher's hut. MOBCS was now at liberty without fear of detection to unveil the mystery of the pool—which, he proceeded at once to do. First and foremost he carefully "disrobed" himself, putting a big stone on the red handkerchief to keep it from being blown into the water—obviously
with the idea that B dry garment wai the; correct thing after a bath. Then he entered the water, which at its deepest took him up to his armpits, and proceeded to dredge with his toes for what might be Ridden below ; at the first caBt he brought ttpfine leech, which immediately thereafter ibuhd itBelf wriggling amongst the hot atones; the next haul produced something more to the point, in the shape of one of bis own spears, the sight of which drew from bim, in tbe choicest English, tbe ejaculation, " The bloody wretch 1"—not leaning the spear, though a horrible red stain on it clearly proved to what use it had been put—but Hawley, who Moses waB now certain had need the weapon in the execution of this crime which had been impnted to Bam Billy. Moses put tbe spe?r carefully out on the stones by the pool, so as not to disturb the ghastly evidence upon it, and then fished up successively the moopoo, also bearing terrible signs of its late employment, and two other spears. Further research, however, failed to . discover the missing woomera and the knohkerries; and their owner, concluding that they had been hidden elsewhere, gave up the search, removed a few dinging leeches from his cuticle, collected his recovered weapons, and then, not waiting to resume his " garment," called at tbe black oak ecrub for his wardrobe, and waB soon at the camp above Benbonuna. CHAPTER XXV. A DORBLB TBAITOB. " Good evening, Brusher," waB Hawley's cheerful salutation to the shepherd, whom he met about a mile from his hut, following the large flock and occasionally giving the wings a touching up with Bobby. " Well, d'ye see, I'm glad you've come, d'ye see ; fur it's time yer was home, d'ye see," said Brusher mysteriously. (Brusher was a prime favorite with Hawley). " Yes, I suspect it is. But this is a curious affair, this murder. Do you know anything about it ?" " Well, d'ye see, I ony knows what I told 'em at the station, d'ye Bee, and I suppose as how they've told you, d'ye see," answered the shepherd with an air of simple sincerity. " I can't make it out at all. But as yon saw the tracks and everything fiesh, you ought to have some idea as to who did it. What's your opinion ?" " Well, d'ye see, I shed say, as how it was a nigger, d 'ye see. An' a nigger off his chump at that, d'ye see, seein' as how he didn't collar the swag, d'ye see," •* I believe you're right, Brusher; and by a stroke of gocd luck I dropped across Bam Billy on the Pine Flat this morning; if I am not mistaken I've got bold of the right pig by the ear." " D'ye sec ! That's the 'dentical cove as done it, d'ye see," cried Brusher in a tone of positive conviction. " I think it was him, right enough. But wasn't there some grog at Baggs's? I think I heard so at the station."
" Well, d'ye see, there was, d'ye see, seein' as how I picked up two bottles ov tanglefoot there next morning, d'ye see, and brought 'em home, d'ye see, tbinkin' as how, d'ye see, I might as well hev' 'em as any other cove, d'ye see," candidly admitted the old convict. " Quite right too, Brusher. But don't go and make a beast of yourself and lose the sheep." " Make a beast ov myself, d'ye see ? I ain't likely ter do thet, d'ye see, seein' aB how thet there long slab ov a Bowyer, d'ye see, emptied it all out, d'ye see, as were like his blarsted himpidence, d'ye see," returned Brusher in bis most aggrieved tone. " Well, it was like his infernal cheek, I must say ; hut never you mind, Brusher, directly the sheep are drafted I'll see that you get some in place of it. And now, waB there anything fresh whilst I was down country ?" " Well, d'ye see, there's that there Mick, d'ye see, as ort ter hev' the bag, d'ye see, for 'lowin' Bundowner cove6, as purtends to be Borefooted, ter loaf about, d'ye see, agivin' 'em tucker as isn't hisen, dye see." " Oh, he does, does he? 'But all in good time, Brusher. He's not quite the fixture he fancies himself." " An' then, d'ye see, there's that there old Mac as puts on no end of side, d'ye see, dreckly yer back's turned, d'ye see, an' if he don't sell sheep ter the teamsters, d'ye see, I'm dam well mistook, d'ye see." " I'd like to catch him. I'd make it a warning to him, the infernal old thisf. I'd give anything to bowl him out. Do you know anyone he has Bold sheep to ?" " Well d'ye see, yer uiusn't let on, d'ye see, but I b'lieve as how, d'ye see, as he sold one ter Jack Spriggs, d'ye see, as is as bad as hieseif ; but I can't be sure, d'ye see !" concluded Brusher with the most prudent reservation. " Hang it all, I thought you had something definite against him this time. What's the use of information that cannot be proved ?" exclaimed Hawley petulantly. " Well, d'ye see, I don't know what yer mean by defernile, but Callerfornian Jack d'ye see, told me as how he see a fresh ekin, d'ye see, with the • wine glass' on it, a shoved inter a gum tree, clues ter Spriggs' camp, d'ye see. An old Mac were at the camp just before, d'ye see. But ye musent let on as I told yer, d'ye see ; or the place '11 soon bo too hot fer me' d'yo eee." " Did I ever " let on" as to anything you have told me?" asked the overseer with a 6Comfully indignant air. " Well, d'ye see, I never lieerod yer did, d'ye see, but I were only sayin, d'ye see." returned this noble specimen of humanity, who then went on to vilify (or " jacket' as it was called) nearly all the other employes on the run, accusing them of all the crimes in the pastoral calendar—from keeping their sheep in too long in the morning, to killing too many of them for rations—and winding up by affirming that they were a " crawliu' lot ov wretches, ae would creep anywheres," whilst the overseer waB about, only to set him at defiance directly his back was tnrned. "A lot of them will find themselves
' on the wallaby' before Jong, with their 1 drums' on their backs. But now that I am here, I think I'll run the sheep in. It is just as well to know at once if anv are away." Hawley counted the sheep, and found that about 300 were missing, but merely remarked, "A little mob cut off in the night whilst they were coming over. It's a wonder no more are away." " Well, d'ye see, they're too many fer one cove ter mind, d'ye see, an' so be as bow, d'ye see, I've lost any, d'ye see, I couldn't help it, d'ye see." " I don't blame you at all ; but I think you had better bring them to the yards to -morrow, for there is bound to be someone to take Baggs's sheep. In fact, I saw the tracks of a swagman going in as I crossed the road." " All right, d'ye see. But won't yer hev a drink ov tea, d'ye see. Twon't take long a bilin', d'ye eee," urged Brusher, hospitably. " Well, I think I will, just to wash the dust out of my throat," said Hawley, who then took off his coat and gave it a good shaking ; for sheep counting that evening bad proved a dusty job, what little wind there was being dead into the yard. Then entering tbe hut be sat down on the lid of a camp oven, while Brusher busied himself in kindling a fire and putting on the kettle " That's a reglar soft horns, as you've got on the station, d'ye see," he remarked in a pause in his employment, referring to Heslop. " Yes, hang him. I don't know why
such fellows are ever nntied from theii mother's apron strings. I shall send bim tip to Ummarilpena; I can't be bothered with him here]" " He arat me to find his saddle fur him, d'ye see, ae he loBt, d'ye see ; but I 'av'nt *ad no time, d'ye see, not yet, d'ye see." "Let him find his own saddle, —— him. Hullo! how did you come by that?' suddenly cried Hawley, starting to his feet'and glaring suspiciously at hiB companion. " What ? Zfat thing, d'ye see ?" asked Brusher coolly, picking up the missiug culleah, which had just fallen out of hiB Bwag as he turned it over in search of of some tobacco. " Didn't I tell yer about it, d'ye Bee ? I thort I did, d'yo see." " Tell me ? no I" replied the overseer, pulling himself together by a great effort, " Why, that is the same sort of thing Bam Billy had on when he murdered Baggs." " Yer right, d'ye see, an' I picked it up in the crick, where, d'ye see, tbe crows was a pickin' on it ter pieces, d'ye see," returned Brusher, with a candour which had apparently nothing behind it. " Well, that it a piece of evidence, anyhow, especially if you could make out the track after that pad came off. You ought to have tried to make that out." " Tried to hev made it out, d'ye see ? How cud a cove make it out, d'ye see, on them boulders, d'ye see ? 'Ceptin' he was a nigger, d'ye see, an' then he cudn't, d'ye see," cried tbe shepherd, with an air of contempt at the folly of his employer, in supposing that anyone could read a track in the bed of the Benbonuna, and of course thereby inferring that the culleah had come off amongBt the stones. " Perhaps the pad came off on good tracking ground, and the crowe carried it to where you say you picked it up," hazarded Hawley, looking searchingly at his companion as he spoke. " I don't think it did, d'ye see, or Bowyer would have seen it, d'ye see, an' ho didn't, d'ye eee, fur he's reglar flummoxed, d'y see, though he fancies hisBelf at trackin' some punkins, d'ye see." " Then you think he has no idea as to who did the business ?" " Well, d'ye Bee, I shed think from what be let out that be thinkB it's Bam Billy, d'ye see, as done it." " And he's about right, for once io a way. But what are yoa going to do with the pad ?" aBked the overseer with assumed indifference. " Well, d'ye see, I don't know what made me pick it up, seein' it's no good, d'ye Bee, but (proffering it to Hawley) yer kin hev it, d'ye see, ef yer likes, d ye see." The overseer made a half movement as if to accept tbe proffered culleah, but then seemed suddenly to change bis mind, for he said, "You might as well keep it yourself, Brusher. You found it and the police will expect you to produce it at the inquest. I wish we could find out where Billy has put the other." " Yer cuddent half hang him, d'ye see or shove one ov hiB hoofs into the fire
d'ye see, ter make him let it out ?" artlessly suggested Brusher, as he threw a handful of tea into the kettle, and lifted that utensil off the fire. " No! tbe Government would more than half hang me if I did. They make a lot more fuss in psalm-grinding Adelaide, over a cursed blackfellow than they do over a respectable white man." " Yes 1 give him a tommyaxe an' a blankit, when he's wiped out some poor cove, d'ye see, and hang a white man if he only looks at a black un, d'ye see." " That's about it; but I think it will go pretty hard with Billy this lime ; and so don't lose that pad," returnedJHawley, as he poured some boiling tea from one pannican to another, after the manner of a mint julep maker, in order to reduce it to a drinkable temperature. " There's not another blackfellow this Bide of Nanta wiera, so you need not be afraid of any one disturding you." " Disturbin' mej! d'ye Bee, I aint affeared ov no one disturbin' ov me, d'ye see," observed Brusher significantly, exhibiting his pepperbox, as he spoke. " 0 you've got that thing, have you ? Well, if I were in your place I'd be careful what I did with it, without you want to blow your own head off," advised Hawley, who regarded the weapon with the greatest contempt. " Well, d'ye see, it would be a blue look out fur the other cove, d'ye see, fur I've tried it, d'ye see," replied the shepherd. "Oh' if thatsthe case,you're all right;" returned Hawley indifferently ; and, after drinking part of tbe black treacley fluid he he had been cooling, and giving a few parting direction to his satellite, he mounted his horse and departed, satisfied with the interview, while Brusher, looking after the retreating figure, remarked with a grin, " Trapped like a poBsum, d'ye see." CHAPTER XXVI. UNPLEASANT PLEASANTRY. As the shades of night fell on Ben bonuna, several of its people began to be alarmed at the prolonged absence of Heslop, who bad not been Been since his parting from Bowyer in the crrek that morning ; and amongst the anxious ones Mary Ashby particularly distinguished r herself by a restlessness which was all the more noticeable from its contrast to her usually placid demeanor. " Here we are again," exclaimed Bowyer with assumed jocularity, as he and Mary mot for about the twentieth time in the verandah, both having gone thither with with the same object, viz. to listen for any sounds which might indicate Frank s return. " Are you following me about, Mies Ashby, because it is Leap Year, or what ?" " I am very anxious about Mr Heslop, and can't settle quietly inside. What can have kept him, do you think ?" asked Mary with her usual straightforwardness. " Oh ! you're worrying about him, are you ? You need not disturb yourself, fellows of his age are like india rubber balls—not to be damaged. He's all right you may depend." " He was not riding the Odd Trick, was
he ?" " No, Rocket." " In that case no accident could very well have happened to him, unless be has gone kangarooing, and come down in a crab hole, or in one of those nasty sharpedged gutters," said Mary, who knew the horses and country around about the station as well as any of the station hands. " I don't think he would go kangarooing, but if he did and got a spill it would only be a case of walking home ; for, as I said before, fellows like him don't get broken up by a bit of a spill, as an old crock like myself would." " I don't know about that. There was poor young McKinnon, whose neck was broken at the Black Gap last winter—and off a quiet horse too." " I say, Mary, I shall begin to think you are a bit " gone" on this young fellow, if you go moping about in this way." " Well, I do like him ; and though you pretend that nothing could have happened, just to keep me from being frightened, I know you are as anxious about him as I am," answered Mary quietly. " It is a good job I've got the better of my spoony fit, or I should be gloating over the prolonged absence of our young friend ; but I don't mind admitting to you that I am a trifle anxious about him, for he is one of the right Bort, and they are not too plentiful in these degenerate days." Mary, actuated by a sudden impulse, held out her hand to tbe big, generoushearted man beside her, whom she had a few months before rejected as a lover,
though she had a genuine sisterly affection for him; and he, having the sense to see that their relations could not be altered, had quietly accepted the situation, and they had resumed that perfect ireidom of communion which had subsisted betwixt them before what he was pleased to call " hiB spoony fit" seized him. " Had'nt I better go in again ?" asked Mrs Ashby, so close beside them that both Mary and Bowyer, who had not heard her cat-like approach, started violently, BS if disturbed in some clandestine proceeding. " Just as you please, my dear inadam. Mary and I were looking for signs of Mr Heslop's return, and aB you I presume, are as anxionB as ourselves, perhaps you will condescend to keep us company," said Bowyer with acute politene&B. " Ha 1" laughed Mrs Ashby, " Is that the way you look out for missing friends in these degenerate days? To my eyes it looked uncommonly like spooning, which is a disease not so easy to cure as some people imagine." " That depends entirely on the virulenoe of the attack, Mrs Ashby. The disease is like cholera, and either means death, which we'll say is equivalent to matrimony, or— " You are a wretch, Mr Bowyer." Please remember 1 am still a wretched bachelor. But to resume the parallel— a sudden death, or a complete recovery, which latter some people may consider worse than tbe disease. As for the distorted presentation to your vision of a certain harmless incident, that must be attributed to the fact that those lovely orbs of yours, unlike those o£ the feline tribe generally, are no suited to any light other than that of their great, and only, rival, the resplendent luminary which irradiates thesolar system; for, of course, tbe ' modest and retiring' stars are not worthy of the comparison," retorted Bowyer, with a shade too much acrimony in his ironical compliments, for e he was was nettled to an extent that carried him beyond the bounds of good breeding. " Feline tribe generally ; modest and retiring stars, indeed ; It is very evident that I am not the person you are spooney on, although you did beguile me into thinking so with that silk dreBS, you deceitful creature," replied Mrs Ashby, tapping Bowyer admoniebingly on tbe cheek with her fan—a proceeding Mary evidently did not approve of, for she walked off to tbe farther corner of tbe verandah and gazed with redoubled earnestness into tbe darknesB. Bowyer, for his part, not at all disposed for a tets a-tete with Mrs Ashby or for further dis cussion of his alleged " spoonineBB," said politbly, " Mrs Ashby, with that happy privilege conceded to ladies, you may allow your imagination to range as it pleaBes, and your lingual member to indicate the direction of its wanderings. But I fancy Master Heslop has managed to lose him self again ; and so with your kind permis Bion I will go over to the station and make
inquiries. But before I go, however, should like to give you a little wholesome advice." " And that is—?" " Be careful how you come suddenly from that hot room into this draughty verandah. It might be followed by the most disagreeable consequences." (To be continued.) The town of Clifton, New South Wales, is falling to pieceB. Its main road has subsided 20 feet, buildings are being pulled down, and there is a regular Quintus Curtius gulf in the centre of the township. The people dare not go to sleep for fear they should be buried alive Preposed to turn tbe Timbarra River, New South Wales, by a canal 2,000 feet long, 75 feet deep, and 100 feet wide, in order that the auriferous treasures of its bed may be laid bare.