Chapter 196752259

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Chapter NumberXXXV
Chapter TitleFINAL.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article196752259
Full Date1887-07-12
Page Number3
Corrections0
Word Count1391
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

BENBONUNA. t A TALE OF THIRTY YEARS AG •>

BY ROBERT BRUCE.

{All rights reserved by the author.] CHAPTER XXXV. FINAL.

Had a bombshell suddenly burst on Benbonuna it could Hot have caused more surprise and consternation than did the news of the shooting of Brusher by the overseer; and when it became apparent that the real object of the troopers' visit was to arrest the latter, Mrs Ashby, or rather Mrs Hall, fell into hysterics so violent that the assistance of Mr Probyn and Mick had to be requisitioned to keep h?r in her bed. In fact, had no other evidence been forthcoming, she BO criminated herself tbat there could not be the slightest doubt as to the relation in which she stood to the wretched man who that afternoon had been sent red-handed to his final account. On her recovery Bhe waB advised by Mr Probyn to confess everything to Mr Ashby, who would, he felt assured, make such provision as would secure her from actual disttees, giving her at the same time to understand that the evidence against her was too strong to be controverted ; and she, seeing tbat the game was up, finally agreed to the proposition, on condition that her legal advisershould be the medium through whom the disclosures should be made. It was a Bad blow to Mr Ashby when he learned how he had been duped by the woman " whom he had regarded as his wife ; but he showed the generosity of his nature by making her a liberal allowance, on condition that Bhe left South Australia for some place whereshe was unknown and therelived respectably. This generosity was carried out, notwithstanding tbat an examination of Hall's private papers showed that he was in possession of a will,signed on the morning of Heslop'e arrival at Benbonuna, by

which all Mr Ashby's property was bequeathed to his" dearlj' beloved wife Isabella"—a document which had been substituted for one of quite a different tenor, read to the testator by Hall, and which Mr ABhby had imagined he had signed and returned to Hall for transmission to bis lawyers in Adelaide, though as we have seen, he was in no condition for transacting business. Hall and his wife had from the first calculated on the early decease of Mr Ashby, and it is very probable tbat they would have enoouraged him to drink himself to death months before, but that he bad very peculiar notions on the subject of will-making, and it was only lately tbat he had consented lo make one, the draft having been brought from Adelaide by the overseer, who had procured it from those shady lawyers, Sharper and Gagem, whilst the document he had read, though represented by him to be from Mr Ash by's solicitors, Musty and Tiewell, had been written bj himself. Mr Ashby, who now knew why his supposed wife had been BO jealous of his daughter Mary, had the senso to profit by his bitter experience. " Ah," he said afterwards to Bowyer, " I was a madman, and but for your timely arrival that day I should never have lived to discover my folly. However, I have learned a lesson that, with God's blessing, I shall never forget." And now but little remains to be told, except that, on the next day Mr Probyn presided over the inquests on the bodies of the four convict6, which, after verdicts had been given in each case in accordance with the evidence foreshadowed in the story, were buried in two graves near the Flagstaff hut, where a couple of rudely shaped and unlettered flags stones still indicate the spot to farmers' children, who now play on the banks of the creek. Of course the police officers could not return home before they had made a thorough search for Ram Billy ; and as he would now become as great a terror to the neighborhood as a man-eating tiger in India, or a mad dog in England,allthe station people around joined forces with the troopers, and after nearly a week's hunt caught the wretched native, lurking in an empty hut and nearly starved to death. He was taken to Adelaide, but died in prison, before an philanthropic judge, backed up bj' a charitable, police-protected jury, could Bend him back, well armed and encouraged, to^make things lively again in his old haunts. Frank soon found that Mary's mind had not been poisoned against hitn ; and about a couple of months after the quasi MrsAshby had been sent to Port Augusta en route for Hobort Town, in charge of the discreet and trusty Mick, Air Ashby, coming suddenly out into the verandah one balmy April evening, found Frank's arm round Mary's waist, as the pair sat very closely together on the garden seat. He did not seem in the least surprised, but coolly asked with a pleasant laugh, "Well, have you decided on the day?" To which Frank with equal coolness answered, , " My dear sir, we will leave that to you." " Then all I can say is, the sooner the better. Mary, come and give your old father a kiss, and take a cheque for your trousseau." The wedding was a very quiet affair,

though solemnized by no less a personage than the genial and universally beloved Bishop, who chanced to be making a pastoral visit to the Far North. After the ceremony had been performed, his lordship, noticing a set of boxing gloves lying in the verandah, put them on with Bowyer (who had officiated as "best man"), and indulged in a little muscular Christianity, proving almost a match for the big squatter. Ae he took off the gloves with a half-winded sigh of regret, the reverend prelate remarked, " Ah, when I was a young fellow, like our happy young friend there, I should have beaten you, Mr Bowyer." "And I am only too happy to admit that you can still, sir," was Bowyer's courteous reply. Thirty years have passed since that auspicious wedding day, and Mr Ashby sleeps with his wife in the quiet cemetery of the pretty village of Mitcham nestling under the Mount Lofty range, in the neighborhood of which he bad lived the last few year« of his life with his daughter and her husband. He had seen a sturdy group of grand-children spring up into stalwart youths and graceful maidens, whom Moecs, during bis frequent visits to Adelaide with stock, had done his best to turn into mighty 'poBsum hunters and huntresses, and whom their grandfather and old Mick had equally attempted to spoil, but in whom the inherited straightforward manliness of their father, and the innate good sense and amiability of their mother frustrated ail such attempts. Toby Gulliver still lives and still relates the most wonderful yarns ; the one he most delights in is a description of a terrific single combat he had with the bushranger Hall, whom he bad determined on capturing alive, but whom he was forced to shoot, after hiB own horse had been killed under him and both his own legs broken. As to Bowyer he afterwards found a handsome and amiable lady who could thoroughly appreciate his many sterling qualities, and with whom he has long dwelt in a pleasant bouse, overlookitg the Avon near Bath, in England, on a little estato which in memory of hiB old run he has named Winnawarrillia, and on the tennis lawn of which quite an army of young Bowyers asemble when vacation time comes round, though the eldest Bon, a strapping young fellow, has come

out to make bis way in that country in which his father prospered. He is there still, for that matter, is often a guest of the Heslops, and is very sweet on Mary the younger (the very counterpart of what we remember her mother), who evidently reciprocates his affection with the decided approval of her parents. Frank Heslop and his wife are Btill a handsome couple, who, entertaining a thorough respect as well ae an ever ripening affoction for each other, have never been known to quarrel; and even now, though the old station has been abandoned to rabbits and cockatoo selectors, they ever exchange a loving smile when the topic of conversation chances to be " BENBONUNA." THE END.