Chapter 196752104

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Chapter NumberXXIV
Chapter TitleA SCENE.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article196752104
Full Date1887-06-24
Page Number3
Corrections0
Word Count4292
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

BEMBONTOF&i

A TALK OF THIRTY TEARS AGO.

[Ml right* reserved by the author."] CHAPTER XXIV (continued). A fiCEK®.

Br ROBERT BBCCK.

Mary having arrived with a rag and; counterpane, they wrappedMra Ashby In the latter, and as she was too heavy to carry, laid her on the rag and «edoloosly applied what restoratives were at hand. She was Boon able to return to the boose, when, after ungraciously thanking Bowyer for bis assistance, ehe retired to bed in, for her,a very qniet and crestfallen state. Mary, worn out and distressed by the events of tbe evening, quickly followed her stepmother's example, leaving ber father and hia friend to talk over what bad occurred. When tbe door closed on bis daughter, Mr Ashby remarked in an undertone, " Tbe place seems bewitched." "There are some evil spirits about it, certainlyanswered Bowyer in tbe same guarded tone as hie friend. " Look here, Bowyer, you know a lot more about what is going on than you own to; and I think yon might let me behind the scenes. You can trust me, for I've drunk my last nobbier." " By Jove, I hope you have," cried Bowyer joyfully, seizing Ashby's hand and gripping it warmly.* " Yes, the events of the past day or two have opened my eyes to my own folly, and tbe injustice I have been doing Mary. You will see that I shall keep my word, please God." " Bat yoa have promised so often before —I am not doubting you—but this seems too good to be true." " I never felt before SB I do now, or saw my conduct in its trne light; you may depend on me." Bowyer again squeezed his host's hand in silent congratulation and encouragement, but said, " I think you had better let me keep my secret for a day or two longer, and then you shall know everything. But to remove any uneasiness you may feel, I will tell you that it was Moses who knocked Hawfey down, and that there is no fear of the man who committed the murders at tbe Flagstaff doing any other mischief. As for flawley, leave me to deal with him ; and try to let it appear that the disgraceful affair of this evening has been passed over, if yoa should be brought in contaot with bim. It will not be for long." "I'hate hypocrisy." "£o do I; but in the battle of life one has often to fight a knave with biB own weapons or be worsted in tbe contest." "I suppose you are right; and I'll be as

hypocritical as I can. But what do you think of Batq Billy getting away as he seems to Lave done ? I thought he was i fastened too securely to allow a chance of escape this time." " I don't knew how to account for it, and shan't bother my brains to-night Let those who let him escape catch him again, if they can." " I am alraid they will have a tough job to do that." " Yes, tbey might as well bunt for the proverbial needle in a haystack. It is a good job for Billy that I shot Qnilp. By tho bye, I'll look at the place where he bit me." " Bit you I I bad no idea you had been bitten." "Oh, by jingo, he did ; and the place is beginning to smart a bit—that is what made me remember it," said Bowyer, exhibiting as he spoke the traces of blood which had trickled down his sleeve and discolored his band. " Come into my room, and let us see to it at once. I wonder Mary did not notice it," said Mr Ashby, greatly concerned. " Oh it's not much, but still it is jnst as well to look to it," answered Bowyer, following Mr Ashby to his room, where a small medicine chest was kept; then Vmvintr having removed his thick blue dim, shirt and ana I rolled up the sleeve of hiB under —,' — .I laid bare a rather nasty bite, or rather two rowB of punctures on the thick part of his arm, over which he poured some Friar's | Balsam, and having saturated some lint with the eame medicament, he laid it on the fang marks, Becured tbe whole with bandage torn from one of Mr Ashby's shirts, and declared that there was no harm done. " I am heartily glad that brnte of a dog is dead ; be was as bad as a wolf," said Mr Ashby. " He waB; but if be had only started to Bup off Hawley, in place of myself, I should have been delighted ; but there, if he bad, I should not have shot him, so I suppose it is just as well as it is," returned n Bowyer in biB i • moBt i matter u of _r £ fact i I manner " I can't think what took Mrs Ashby out on the fiat just now,'' remarked Mr Aebby after a meditative pause. " I can. It was to " row" that amiable brother of hers, unleBB I'm greatly mistaken. But there is one thing I cannot make out at all, and that is why she Bhonld always have objected to Hawley paying any attention to Mary. Anyone would naturally imagine that quite tbe

contrary would be the case—you will excuse my alluding to this matter at euch a time, Ashby, but it is a problem I should like to solve. r " I have several times thought about the eame thing, but I did not like to ques tion my wife about it," answered Mr Ashby, who bad evidently noticed more . i i • ? j_ ) 1_i! I than his friends and relatives gave bim credit for seeing. " As you have not mentioned tbe matter to her, I sbonld not do so now, at least till things are running smoothly again; then you can determine whether it will be worth while raking it up or not " I am determined Hawley shall not remain on tbe station." " I do not ask you to keep him. What I X want w»ui is IB that iu« you should leave .v... bim alone . for tbe next day or two, and thtn leave me to deal with him." 1 "I'll Ashby, "and feel .„ .. hope Heslop will tarn up all right in the I morning." " Make your mind easy about bim He'll turn up all right; and now the I 6ooner you go to bed the better, for you've a s s

had a deal too much excitement this evening. I'll stretch out on the floor; but I first I'll bave a look round to see what those fellows are doing," saying which Bowyer bade good-night to his friend, j and went out on the flat, from which, after listening intently for a short time, he returned to Mr Aehby'e room, removed his bootB, pillow, and stretched putting himself the pietd on a under couple his of I busb iues, doubled, and was soon fa B t 8B| eep> j CHAPTER XXX. HOW BILLT ESCAPED. Hawley was stirring at early dawn on tb® bright Sunday morning succeeding .JO eventful evening on which Ram Billy bad made hie escape. He and his crew might as well have pursued a dingo on foot without dogs and in tbe darkness of the night, as the active and wily black, But now the overseer, making a great oarade of anxiety to recapture the reputed murderer of Baggs, roused the station bands from their sheepskin pallets ; and after dispatching Ltak and falconer to

run |n the horse*, he started at once himself! to make a close inspection of tho country in the immediate virinity^ of BeDjbonnna, with the view of determining, if possible, tbe direction taken by the fugitive, while Mick prepared an early iireakfBst, so that no delay should occur on the arrival of the horses. " Well, Mirk, who let Billy go this time asked Bowyer, who bad come over from Government HOUBB at sunrise to make inquiries, Mick bring busily engaged in 'turning a panful of chops, which hissed and splattered in their boiling bath of dripping. VSur-en id's puzzled I am entirely, Mr Bowyer. An' ay the divil himself didn't do id, sorra one ov me knows who did." Well, if I'm not greatly mistaken, tbe main who closed the split link that fratened tbe chain round Billy's waist was the person who let him go." f How's that, Sorr ? Sure'n *twaB himself as done id." (" Himself" standing for Hawley.) " Only that there was aflaw in the bend of the link, that anyone with half an eye would have noticed. Of course Billy saw, and only waited for a clear field for a start to take advantage of it," replied Bowyer, producing as be spoke tbe halvesof a split link, the broken ends of which showed only a minute bright speck where the metal had recently parted, the previously fractured portions being tinged with a slight rusty discoloration. " Begorra you're right, Sorr," exclaimed Mick, when be had examined the fragments, " an' id's a good job himself did it. Id's the divil's own hurry he's in this mornin', not to sphake ov the tamper ov him." " Yes ?" " An' he's been on tbe prowl all the blisBed night, as if the ould gintleman was ladin' him around. Id's not meself 'ad be tbe praste to confess him, av be wasn't the black heretic he is—savin' yer presence, Misther Bowyer." "How's that Mick?" " Sure'n id 'ad be the death of a dozen Fathers to hear half the sins ov him." " You're about right there, Mick," returned Bowyer, in such a tone of conviction that Mick turned from bis chop frying and regarded the tall squatter with a look that plainly asked " What hat he been up to now ?" Bowyer understood tbe look perfectly and replied— " Never mind "Hawley just now. Has Leak gone for the horses "Him an' Falconer thtarted before id wus light enough to see a thrack. Bud div ye know who give the gaffer that I whack on tbe nob lasht night, Misther ] Bowyer ? Me an' the other ooves can't make id out at all, at all." " Well," said Bowyer confidentially, it was Moses who did it; but mind, Mick, not a word to anyone. You understand ?"

" Hooroo for MoseB, sure he's tbe broth ov a b'y 1" shouted the delighted Irishman, n bis enthusiasm snatching the fryingpan from the fire, swinging it round his head, and executing a war dance on the flags. " You might as well keep thoBe chops for Hawley — and the other fellows. - I'm going to breakfast over at the house," remarked Bowyer, as he skilfully dodged a chop which, slipping over the edge of the pan, took its flight in the direction of his legs. " 0 bedad 1 I didn't mane to do that, sorr I" apologised Mick, adding with renewed excitement as be hastened to the door—"Hooroo, there's Misther Heslop comin' in from the bind of tbe creek." " That's a good job ! But there, I was certain he'd turn up all right 1" observed Bowyer, walking towards the horserail to greet Frank, who cantered up briskly, as if quite satisfied with himself, exclaiming as he dismounted, Did you think I had lost myself again ?" " Some people did, but I didn't. Came across somo sheep did you ?" " Yes; but I hope Mary—I mean the people over at the house — were not alarmed. I did not know what to do for the best." ^ " Well, ^ ^ if you j ^ ntuck ^ to the ^ sheep ^ you ^ n 1 _ _ A. _ .- _ 1 1 A People soon get over a slight alarm ; but one don't catch up with a mob of sheep BO easily after they have got a long start. Where are they ?" " About six miles from this, I should think, at a hut under those hille," said Frank, pointing as be Bpoke to tbe eastern range. " I would have come in to report myself last night, but a brute of a wild dog followed me for a long time, and I was afraid he'd kill a lot of tbe Bheep in the yard if I left them." " You have done splendidly. And now, as you can t bave bad anything to eat since yesterday morning, just hitch up your horse, have a bit of a eluice, and then Burround a lot of those chops which | Mick Mintr waB h?iq trying trvinff to tn pelt »M»lt me mn with just iunt now, n(lw You can tell as all about your adventures when the first rage of hanger is appeaBed ; and by that time Hawley will no doubt be back, and give you his directions.*" " IB be out looking for me ?" Bowyer laughed sardonically, and Mick, who bad left biB culinary operations to greet Heslop, said, " Sure'n he's lookin* for Ram Billy; an' id's a long toime be will look before he sees him agin, I'm tbinkin'."

" Who's Ram Billy? Who haB got way?" asked Frank, looking round in urprise " 0, we've bad incidents enough for a econd Odyssey since you left yeBterday morning. But you can hear all about them another time. You bad better have a wash now. We can talk matters over 1 after," aft«r n anaaj answered Bowyer, and turning to the cook continued, " Just put a plate on the table, Mr HeBlop will not object to a snack in the kitchen for once in a way." I ThiB proposition was evidently to Mick's taste, for he proceeded to array part of his delf and tin breakfast waro with great celerity, whilst Frank betook himself to the wash block under tbe verandah of Bachelor's Hall, and Bowyer sat down on a form by the table. ThiB seemed to be a j well understood signal to Mick, , who immediately placed a pannican of scalding to a before bis guest, also another contain- j staff in it. Hawley buys the rations now, I should say," remarked Bowyer, looking aBkance at the sandy, particolored abomin- j ation in the pannican.

" You're roight, Misther Bowyer; an' it I coshts more to kape the station in rations now than it did whin the masther bought i 'em, seein' as how the coves waste's 'em, so they do." " I ehonld imagine tbey would ; and with cartage o- at its present . rate it would i be far cheaper to get decent staff," respoonful marked Bowyer, of the mysterious who however compound added to a | his tea and began stirring it energetically, with the double object of distributing the | i sweetening agent and cooling the bever a„ e " Will ye bave a bit to ate wid Misther Hislop, eorr ? Tbe chops is about done now, an' it's a long toime till noine o'clock, t*o id is," eaid Mick, aB he transferred the cooked meat, . by . a series of stabs and jerks, from the fryingpan «nto a tin dish which was heating upon the hearth. " No thanks, Mick, I'm not hungry, replied Bowyer, adding to HeBlop, who then appeared at the door, looking a good deal fresher for his wash- | " Feel better now, don't you ?"

" Yen, and I hope Mick has got a sheep cook««l, for I feel like a starved wolf, thodi;!] I have already drank about a bucketful of water." "lilt-re's about two pounds to start wid, an' I'll soon cook yo half a doafu panfuls rnoie," said Mick, heaping up a tin plate with chops, having previously poured out twq pannicans of tea to cool. " About another panful ought nearly to do,? observed Bowyer,' as he watched Frank's onslaught on the provender, but added significantly immediately afterwards, " I think the safest coarso willi>e* to cut up the rest of the sheep. I'll go on with the frying while you ere abou t it Mi*k." " All roight, sorr, av ye'll take tbe pan, I'll finish cuttin* up the old ewe," answered Mick with a sly grin, and as if abdut to start on his proposed errand. " 0, let me finish this panful first, and then I won't be in snch a violent hurry if I want more," interposed Frank, resuming his; masticatory efforts with renewed vigor. " Missing a few meals does not mean a saving of provender so far as you are concerned, that's certain. Well, where do you think you have been ?" " Whilst looking for that saddle yesterday morning 1 Btruck the tracks of some Bbeep amongst those low hills, and followed, expecting every minute to see them, till I found myself, about 3 in the afternoon, at the northern end of the range, some fifteen or sixteen miles away, I should think, with the sheep stuck up under some black oak trees." " Why you were close to Parrawallana. It is just round the end of the range, and, if you had gone there, old Charley Porter would have given you no end of a feed. What a pity you did not go on ?" " I wish I had, for I was aa thirsty as the Sahara. However, I'll know better another time, and with Mick'a tea kettle and the creek, I'll get over this seemingly unquenchable drouth by and by 1" Baid Frank as he finished bis third pint of tea." " Didn't you have anything to drink all the time?" "Not till I went into the creek just now. If I had not been so horribly thirsty I should have brought on the sheep with me ; but upon my word I could not wait any longer, I was regularly choking, " By jingo, you've done well; and if any fellow, after this, calls you a " new chum" just hit him in the eye, and say I told you to 1" cried Bowyer approvingly. " Did you have much trouble in getting the sheep back to Yallthathinga—which is tbe name of the hut you stopped at last night." " I could not get them to travel at all till it began to grow cool, and then I had as much as I could do to get them along as far as I did by dark. And wasn't I glad to find a yard to put them in, especially with that brute of a wild dog hanging about 1"

" Well, you would have a job, and poor old Rocket must have had pretty nearly enough of it too. What did you do with him last night ?" " There waBn't a bite of feed near the hut, and so, as I was afraid I should not get him in the morning if I hobbled him, I just put him in the hut and shut tho door whilst I watched the sheep." Bowyer laughed at the idna of putting the horse into the hut, which was, bowever, a very natural thing for a young Englishman, fresh from home, to do, and was about to make a bantering remark when the door was darkened by the figure of Hawley, who, ignoring the presence of tbe squatter, insolently asked Heslop— " What have yon got that borne tied up for? I should think you ought to be satisfied after riding him about all night. But horse killing is all such fellows as you are fit for." "I'm much obliged to you for your unqualified approbation ; but perhaps if you had taken the trout le to inquire into the cause of my staying out all night, you might not have been quite BO lavish of it," answered Frank, wilh a coo'nese which delighted hie two friends as much as it enraged the overseer, who fiercely rejoined— "If. Ifyou yoa don't don t go, go, to stay away altogethei. ril know the reB8on why, you infernal . I i n unlicked o I iinlinirA/) cub, />finTTi" you 1 Frank's only reply was a look of the most unmitigated contempt; Bowyer quietly sipped his tea ; but Mick, though he would greatly have preferred to throw Hawley out of the kitchen, deemed it incumbent on him to say— " Sure'n Misther Heslop picked up a mob ov Brusher's sheep and camped out wid 'em all night." Hawley bestowed a dark scowl on Mick for bis interference, and then beat an undignified retreat to his own quarters. " This is a fair sample of virtue being itB own reward," remarked Frank with a laugh, as Hawley departed, " He's a perfe. t beast: and if I were you, Heslop, I'd just obey orderp, and let him send for the sheep, or go for them himself," Baid the disgusted Bowyer. " 0 ! now that I have done as much as I have, I might as well finish tbe job. It is not for Hawley's benefit, that's one comfort, and BO I'd better fill my water bagand and make a start before it get'B too hot; hut I'll finish my breakfast first," said Frank, resuming his meal as composedly as if nothing bad happened to disturb bim. (He was rapidly becoming colo-

nialieed). " I dare say you are right, and that it is the most sensible course to pursue," assented Bowyer, and Mick, leaving the frying pan to take care of itself, went out to get IleBlop'fl water bag from his saddle to reflill it, but was called back by Hawley, who ordered bim to tell Frank to wait till the horses came in and then get a fresh one. " In that case," Baid Bowyer, when Mick had delivered his message, " you might as well take the Baddle off Rocket; and then we will go over to tbe house, for Mary was up before sunrise I know, and ber father will be out before this. They were very much concerned about you last night, and so you'd better give an account of yourself. Frank readily _ accededto . the _ proposition and the pair took their way across the flat, passing the spot where the body of position, but bad no idea that he had been killed. How did it happen ?" " Well, he worried Mrs Ashby and bit me—BO he died I"

"So it appears; but was Mrs Ashby | badly bitten ?" " She WBB more frightened than hurt," replied Bowyer, who then proceeded to tecount the events of the previous twenty four hours—with tbe exception of the BBBQUH upon Miss Ashby. He made up , - . . , - , . . -,r for the omission, however, by giving with great between gusto Mick an and account Hawley, of the which combat Falconer had seized the hret opportunity of communicating to him. Frank waB naturally very wroth at the i killing of the cockatoo, and had he then 1 learned of the insult offered to ita mietreea, be would very probably bave gone back then and there to endeavor to chastise Hawley, and it was to prevent anything | of the sort occurring that Bowyer bad been ao reticent. "I can't think how Mr Ashby could ever have endured euch a fellow ahout the place," Frank was observing, when the owner of Benbonuna came into the verandah snd warmly greeted him ; then leading tbe way to the long garden Beat in fron{ of tbe Bitting room,

he proposed that they should eit there in preference to entering the house, it being ea much fresher outside, and called ont to bis daughter that lleslop hud arrived. Mary came ont, in response to her father's Kuimnonso whilst Frank was recounting hia advcnturcB, and greeted bim with a strange coldncss, for which Bowyer could easily account, but which was a damper to Frank", who had fondly anticipated a Tory different rcci-ption from tho young lady; and when, on the p!«a 4f household duties, aabe almost immediately afterwards re-entered tho house, far from attributing ber reserve to ita true cause, Frank jumped to the conclusion that someone had been slandering him to her. He felt BO angry and constrained in consequence, that he made 6ome every absent-minded and mal-apropos answers to questions put to bim, which, however, his friends were good enough not to notice. He waB not sorry when the arrival of tbe horses gave bim the opportunity of action, instead of brooling over tbe fancied injustice done him by Miss Ashby, in whose estimation he was becoming more and more anxious to eland well. And if, when fairly Btarted on his journey, he did relieve his feelings by persecuting the long-suffering, Badger (who had been selected by Hawley to persecute him) shall any one wonder at it ? Now had Frank known what a state of anxiety Mary had been in on bis account, and how the enrliest dawn had found her on the watch for hie arrival, how different would have been bis feelings, especially bad he, in addition, heard the remark made by Mr Ashby to Bowyer, after his departure. " He is tbe makings of a real good bushman, and with a little advice will soon be able to look after the run excellently, after we have got rid of that scoundrel, Hawley." (To be continued.)