Chapter 197831197

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Chapter NumberI
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article197831197
Full Date1886-12-21
Page Number4
Corrections0
Word Count1412
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleEvening Journal (Adelaide, SA : 1869 - 1912)
Trove TitleDunmore. A Christmas Story
article text

DUNMORE.

A CHRISTMAS STORY. IN FOUB CHAPTERS.

. CHAPTER L—{Concluded.)

[BY ATHA]

A large old-fashioned eight-day clock •which Btood on the staircase of the Albion struck 8 o'clock as I passed out Into the open street. Making a sign for the half-caste to follow me, I walked at a brisk pace through the straggling township, my mind being busy with the enterprise before me. Since the breaking out of the native rebellion in New Zealand two years previously the Mounted Defence Force, being the only cavalry engaged on the field, had been divided and sub-divided all over the country. No. 3 Troop, attached to Colonel Wingrove's Flying Column, had been sent with that body to the Patea River on the breaking out of the Maoris at Taranaki, and after many tough encounters with the rebels, and " roughing it" in the bush until half the troops wereemaciatedby disease, we were ordered into town to recruit our exhausted strength. Ac the end of the main street I halted before a long wooden building, almost roofless. Upon a dilapidated skaboard over the doorway, in large black-andwhite letters nearly 3 feet long, one could read—" Punchem and Fistigan, general smith and wheelwrights." But the place, like Ban Bolt's mill, had cone to decay, and quiet now reigned around save for the clanking of arms; for it served the purpose of a barracks for our men. Ordering an undress parade, I selected the men who were to accompany me, and imparted to them the nature of the duty which called us hence. The news was received with a ringing cheer, and they set about preparing for .the march. The sun, which had risen with a brilliant glow above the snowclad ;eak of Mount Eginont, was over-shadowed iy a dark mass of heavy clouds slowly looming up westward across the horizon, a I sure sign of a wet day. A group of idlers had collected about the barracks to witness our departure, and salated us with a cheer as I gave the order —"Form threes! trot march!" Before we were clear of the township the run came down in a steady patter, and I noticed people huddled together beneath the friendly shelter of verandahs, who waved their hands to us as we passed. Tim the half-caste, who had declined my offer of a horse, ambled along at a sweeping pace beside my girth, and seemed in no manner disturbed by the rain, his only care being a short black pipe, which he had some difficulty in keeping alight. Leaving Tatanafci in the rear, we deployed to the left towards Bell's Mount, whose huge front towered before us like the great pyramid of Cheops. After crossing the range beyond Tapea all signs of civilization abruptly terminated at Elder's Gap. Not a single indication of road or path across the wild and broken country before us presented itself. We were compelled, therefore, to travel slowly and trust ourselyes entirely to the half-caste for our course. The nun how came down in a steady downpour, which saturated our clothing ana made us fed very uncomfortable. Fortunately the men were provided with waterproof "nipple covers," which kept their powder dry, and enabled them to use their carbines at any moment if necessary. As the day waned we began to descend the lofty range of Tapea towards the Te Topo River. This broad stream wound its zigzag course between high projecting cliffs, the ledges of which scarcely pressnted foothold for our horaep. The tiki and the water-hen rose screaming from their cover at our approach, and whirled away among the hills above. Wild pigs ran Bcampering away from their bnrrowing, and having gained the mountain aide stood grunting and watching as in wonder. Turning a bend in the river the guide pointed to a spot where we could cross in safety, and in a moment men and horses are struggling in the foaming torrent, now swollen and roaring with the contributions of many an|impetuous cascade leaping from the ravines in the vicinity. Beyond the river the country became more even and regular, which enabled us to push on more rapidly. As the evening began to close around us I deemed it advisable to, call a halt for dinner, and selecting a flat patch of green sward between two high jutting rocks, gave the order to dismount. Here the men tethered their horses securely together, atter which they made a roaring fire, in Bpite of falling rain, and soon erected a rough temporary shelter of boughs and branches near it; where they might enjoy their cold meal with some degree of comfort. Standing round the fire, their uniforms smoked with the heat In front, while "their backs were shivering with cold and wet. Their repast was cheerless and brief. Tobacco and pipes were produced, and under the influence of the "weed" the laugh and jeBt went merrily round, notwithstanding the unfavourable Btate of the weather. Poor

fellows -J Some of those whose laugh rang out the loudest , little dreamed that their voices would be hushed in death ere many hours had passed. Near as ,the high Christian festival was at hand, many who stood here in full vigour of lusty manhood would be lying stark and stiff, with cold dead faces turned upwards from the Bod at the dawn of the Christmas morning ; and others, who spoke Ughtly of country dances and flirtations with rustics at the forthcoming wedding, thought not that there would be gaping wounds and mutilated limbs, perchance, instead of fun. Yet here they were sans pear et sans reproche, their eyeB blinded to the hideonspicture behind the curtain of the future. " How far are we from Biverdale, Tim ?" The half-caste raised himself on his elbow, took the short cutty from between his lips, and answered briefly, " Ten miles."' " Indeed!" " Yes, sir, 10 miles from the crossing-place at the river belowperhaps a little more, perhaps not so far; don't think it has ever been measured, so can't say exactly," added Tim. " We shan't reach the station before midnight, if that is the case, boy ?" "About that, Captain, I expect; not very nice travelling through the bosh in the rain. Got any 'bacca ?" lie viewing my position with respect to the defence of Biveraale Station and its inmates from the attack of the Maories, my chances of success appeared to me very slender indeed; One hundred well armed and determined men against twenty-five were long odds. Huri's warriors were no common savages; I had met them before, and my Experience taught me that I should have to cope with well-trained and daring fellows, stimul\ted with the hope of rapine and plunder. . True, I might recruit my small force with 'the men at the farm 3. but possibly, nay, it was; probable, the rebel Chief would' march a much stronger force against the place than the number stated in Major Balls letter. Moreover, short time was left me for my preparations for- defence. The 23rd day of December had already faded into evening; It would be midnight ere we reached our destination, therefore there would only remain a few hours to mature some plan for the reception of our uninvited and unwelcome wedding guests on Christmas Eve. I gave the order to mount, and we continued our route through the wet and the darkness, the sharp click of our scabbards making lively music, relieved ever and anon by!sundiy exclamations more forcible than polite, and hurled at the drooping heads of our offending steeds, which often missed their footing amid th6 holes and stones in our path. It wanted an hour to midnight when we reached Riverdale. A great barking of dogs and cackling of geese announced our approach. Young ladies with hair in papers and muffled up in shawls came forth, candle in hand, accompanied by assiduous swains with umbrellas. Mark Mildred, a halelooking old John Bull, bade us welcome without' asking us any questions. He ushered us all into a large sitting-room, where roared a bright fire. While supper was being got ready his good dame provided us with a large dry bundle of miscellaneous clothing, and received our soaked uniforms to have dried for us on the morrow. "Supper?" Glorious sound. What a pleasant meal after the severe ride. And what odd, grotesque-looking figures seated round the table! No masquerade ever produced anything more quaint and etrangs in apparel.