|Chapter Title||A STERN CHASE.|
|Newspaper Title||The Port Augusta Dispatch, Newcastle and Flinders Chronicle (SA : 1885 - 1916)|
|Trove Title||Benbonuna: A Tale of Thirty Years Ago|
A TALE OF THIRTY TEARS AG 0. •n g
[AJl righte reserved by the author.] ! CHAPTER XXXI (continued). i i ' • CHASE. "
Y . : BFROBERT BBPCE.
-"Bjr jingo,, Wfl off," shouted Bowyer excitedly ; and, springing to the back of the Ema, he dashed his spars into the ribs v ,of. • thitf rather crotchetty steed, which operation, instead of ; causing it-to-start off like a lightning express, incited it io, a little;" pigging". exercise. Bowyefi' hVweveri retnVded to the charge with such deterniinstion and vigor that the old^horse, fipd»ng that , he: was decidedly in the jninority, shook the stiffening out of himself, and after a short bound or two stretched out into a long powerful gallop.. Bowyer yelled back, directly he found, himself fairly under weigh— " To youri lioreeB 1 I'll feeephimin sight. The men will look after Brueher!" Hawley was a splendid horseman, and, though he. now jode -for bi6 life, took care directly the first fierce excitement of the start was over, to keep his horse well in hand, for he knew that Cricket had the heels of the Emn, besides being the fresher oTthe'twb; and though he did not know what Mr Probyn's or the troopers' horses could dp, he judged, and correctly, that they had cotae from tJdenyaka that day, also, that' their riderfe, not anticipating haying to use them after reaching Benbonnna, had allowed them to drink their fill at the first water they had come to'on entering the creek, and consequently that they were about as fit to Tun for a msfiVlife 88 thrfee well loaded watercarte. "Mr Pirobyn and the station hands rnshed to the fallen informer, whilst the troopers made a bee-line for their horses acrosB the yards ; bnt before they could reach them the ardour of the chase had seized upon Frank, who, without waiting to consider that the Corporal would immediately require hie horse, jumped on that animal quite regardless of an angry shout from its owner, and was Boon in full cry after Bowyer, now fifty yards to the good, while Hawley, standing lightly in bis stirrups, was a full two hundred yards in advance' of the Ema, Cricket going at a beautifully even gallop, increasing bis lead slightly at every stride. i..\ UK*. , Corporal* and I'll see wlial I can do here," shouted Mr Probyn ; and Ganders (without suspending the unparliamentary remarks he was making, in his irritation at the escape of the noted bushranger he had been so eager to capture, and at the cool audacity of Frank) accepted the offer without acknowledgement, and without waiting to lengthen the stirrups vaulted on the back of the stock horse, and with bis comrade joined eagerly in the bnnt, though very much out of it. A stern chase is proverbially a long one ; and in the present instance it certainly appeared as it the adage would be fully borne out, for though the Emu was inconteetably the best " stayer" in all the Far North, he was not fast, and had fully three stone more to carry than Cricket—a beautiful grey with a strong dash of Arab blood—who, beiDg himself rather a glutton at distance, would with the long start he held soon give Hawley such a commanding lead that, in the broken country they were hehding for (the Pine Flat) he would very likely, by following the stony bed of a creek for some distance and then suddenly branching off into an equally stony feeder be able to baffle his pursuers for the time; for of course he could keep up his pace if out of sight, whilst they would have to slacken theirs unless they ran the risk of overrunning his tracks, and consequently of losing much valnable time in having to return to pick them up. All the above contingencies were rapidly reviewed in the brain of the overseer as he fled from the avenging clutch of the law. He turned occasionally to glance over his shoulder at his pursuers, a gleam of relieved anxiety broadening into a look of contemptuous triumph, as if he alieady considered himself beyond the risk of capture, and presently he found tiim to examine his revolver, and eveu to re load the discharged chamber, an operation he performed with an ease which showed great familiarity with the situation Whilst he was thus employed his pursuers toiled on in the rear, Bowyer and Heslop riding in silence, whilst Ganders relieved his feelings by a string of " blessings'' on all creation, varied by an occasional shout of " Go it,. Mr Bowyer ! Stick to him, air!" As for the other trooper, ho thought " Long Dick" was making enough noise for the whole party, and so devoted his energy to excavating the interior of his horse with his spnrs. The first mile of the chase led over a level fiat extending northwards and parallel to the Benbonnna ; then the track—which Hawley was pursuing with intent to avoid as much as possible meeting with travel lers—crossed the creek almost at right angles, and through its bed Cricket raced, •ending up a shower of pebbles from hie hoofs, and surmounting the easy incline of the far bank with little or no apparent increase of exertion. Then he sped along a narrow winding valley between low spinifex-covered hills, and round the shoulder of one of these he was juBt disappearing when Bowyer descended into the creek, vigorously working his passage on the Emu, who, though he had got a good twenty mile gallop in of him still, required the lubricating oil of persuasion from the, start, to get the requisite number of revolutions per minute out of his machinery. By this time the other three horses were as washy aB wet rags, and as thoroughly blown as soap bubbles. Frank and the two troopers might just as well have pulled up then and there, so far as they had any chance of being in at the death ; but it was their duty to keep on, and Micawber-like fully expecting something to. turn up, followed with a perseverance -which would justly have entitled them to fine and imprisonment bad a prosecution for " cruelty to animals" being practicable. Hawley had summed up the case of his following to a nicety; and when only Bowyer and the Ema were in sight, an,Lies suddenly struck him. He glanced meditatively at the pistol which be still carried in his right hand, and then back on bis pursuer, muttering, " If i only bad that horse ! And by God I will have him, too." He forthwith took an easy pull at Cricket, so as gradually to reduce speed to such an extent that Bowyer fonnd himself closing np far more quickly than, considering the relative merits of the horses, should have been the case, and suspecting some foxing on the part of Hawley, he slightly reduced his expenditure of steel on the Emu, so as to preserve their relative distances. It was not that Bowyer found bis courage oosing out of his finger ends, but simply because he wanted to know what Hawley was " up to" before closing with him ; besides, Hawley's shutting off steam was bringing •him back to the ruck ; and it would be a good thing to have the supporters well up, BO that if a skirmish took place, in which w Bowyer might be disabled, some one else u would be able to take up the running on the Emu if necessary. Hawley's idea wa6 to give Bowyer his quietus, and then make off with his horse; and it was, from his standpoint, a very happy one, as he trusted to biB powerful Colt's revolver to wipe his enemy out without coming within range of any weapon the Bquatter wag likely to t t i f s k t o p s i ' T t p
arry—just 86 a light privateer with a long has often peppered a sluggish antagonist, of far superior force but shorter range of metal. The plan, however, in tLo present instance did not work, and finding that the badger was not to be drawn in that manner, and tliBt he was lessening his chance of escape by delay, Hawley jelled back, "Good by, you white-livered cur," and again put Cricket on his travelling stride. Bowyer took not the slightest notice of the taunt,, but returning to his persuasive on the Emu, increased the pace aB as possible. Ae for the rear division, wae;in racing parlance, nowhere. On went the procession, without encountering stranger who might have acted as econd to Bowyer. Cricket, who had put another two hundred yards to the good in he last two utiles, barely held his own in third, and Hawley had had no chance doubling on his pertinacious pursuer, vho had scarctly been unsighted for a But now, as the overseer approa a sharp bend of the creek in which he had captured Billy, and round which the road ran, the expression of his face again showed that he meant mischief. to work on Cricket, he galloped into the creek round the steep rocky «lbow, as if to gain time for a double, and disappeared from the eight of Bowyer, now sitting down on the Emu and riding him to win. The fact of Hawley's galloping round a corner indicated that "the hypotenuse of the triangle would save distance ; but aB the hypotenuse in queBtion crossed some impassable porcupine hills, it could not be taken, even as a job lot; and Bowyer, losing some of his customary caution in his eagerness to keep Hawley in sight, became an animated windmill at the Emu's expense, bnt only to come to grief with that long suffering steed just before reaching the rocks, for down came the pair with a terrible crash among the stones, like the aforementioned windmill before a tornado. (To be continued.)