|Newspaper Title||The Port Augusta Dispatch, Newcastle and Flinders Chronicle (SA : 1885 - 1916)|
|Trove Title||Barumba Station; Or, Amy Rivers Sacrifice. A True and Eventful Narrative of the Early Days in New South Wales|
feiRL & True and Eyentfal Hairative OF THE YDATS IN MEW SOOTHWALE
BY CAPTAIN LACIE.
! I. [COPTBIOUT RESERVED.] CHAPTER V.
After proceeding about a mile and a half Cosgrove walked the horse up the side of a sheep-range and then turned at a right angle towards a high peak in the range,which cut the sky-line westward. The country was undulating for over three miles and the pasture was splendid, but it did not attract any attention from the cook—or confidential servant as he might more properly be called. His mind was pre-occupied, and his mission apparently not a pleasant one. Soon he began to meet the spurs thrown eff the great range, and at times he had to dismount and lead his horse up rugged sleep paths which the animal had difficulty in negotiating. He could have avoided these pinches by short detours, but that was what he did net desire to do. He was making a straight line, or as nearly as possible, and in his efforts to avoid Gibson and Thomas it was necessary to take unfrequented paths—or rather places which were trackless. He was in the act of descending one of these abrupt hills when he saw in the gully below half-a-dozen bullocks running furiously through the scrub, and immediately after the sound of a galloping horse fell upon his ears. He had not long to wait for -an explanation as Thomas soon appeared in view and the practised station-hand on the hill, as he watched the rider's actions, knew he was engaged in a " cutting out" Keeping in the shelter of the scrub as much as possible Cosgrove watched .Gibson—who had now come into view —and Thomas selecting a number of »the cattle, and he stayed until the two men drove away in the direction of the coast "I thought so," muttered the old man, " They are in full swing already and are doing it 'pretty heavy,' too. Well, this day's work will be the last, I
think, and I'm sorry for Laurie, though he wouldn't take my advice," and as the drovtrs disappeared Cosgrove instead of following liiiiii resumed his course towards the peak. For fully two hours he kept on over the.rugged country, until at last he was compelled to finally dismount and go on foot as the steep side of the range was inaccessible to the horse. Securing the animal, the old man began climbing the peak, which rose in wild grandeur from the long range. Reaching a tremendous cliff which he was able to ascend by means of a winding path at the southern end, he gathered an armful of sticks and dried shrubs and set them on fire. The spot commanded a magnificent view of the surrounding country, and far away the still keen eyes of the solitary man could see the white-tipped •waters of Twofold Bay. It was loo -distant to discern the brig, but even had he been closer the craft would not have been visible as the cliffs ar.d forest -—it being near the shore—hid it. For nearly twenty minutes the smoke from •the fire rose, and, sitting near the edge •of the tremendous cliff, Cosgrove waited and watched. His vigil was rewarded, for at the expiring of time a figure appeared below jdwarfted into pigmy proportions [through the altitude of the spectator. Cosgrove must have been nearly four hundred feet above the new-comer, but ;as the former stood up and waved his .hat the latter made a sign to him to descend, and as quickly as possible the order was obeyed. After much clambering and sliding the old cook reached the bottom of the clif£ and standing near it was the tall form of James Moncton, manager of the Barumba Station. "What is it, Alf? Something gone
wrong by your manner, I should say. Have yo'J discovered their secret ?" he said. " I think so. There is a ship in the bay. I noticed it last night. After I .thought they had all gone to bed I .slipped away r.nd went near enough to the port to see a vessel at the jetty " " Well, what of that ?" interrupted the manager, ' "Let me finish. On returning I met Lynch walking towards the house as though he had just come the same way as myself. It was about twelve o'clock, and lie made a foolish cxcuse about not being able to sleep and the night being so fine. I pretended to believe it, though my real belief was he ,had been down to see the captain of the ship and try to make a bargain with him of some sort. Knowing it iwould be likely the men might attempt some cattle-stealing if the vessel, or its captain, would purchase, I came here .to let you know, and down in the Big Gully I saw Gibson and Thomas rounding up some of the best bullocks and afterwards driving them away in the direction of the coast," concluded Cosgrove. • Moncton's dark face grew more gloomy looking as he listened, and then he said : : " There may be nothing in what you say, Alf. If they were going to supply the vessel with beef or mutton there would be no need to come so far back as Big Gully. Down on the creek flats £i95e to the bay all the best stock are i '
kept, so there could be no reason for Gibson and Thomas to act wrongly. Perhaps they were only driving the animals to the homestead for treatment At the same time it will be wise for me to watch that vessel, as if anything is crooked it will more likely show itself there than here. I have found out a queer cavern not far from here, and there is no doubt it has been used or entered by someone before I discovered it There is no time to show it to you now, as it will be late before we can get back and we must not lose lime You can slip out about ten o'clock with some food and another blanket and I'll meet you near the waterfall. A watch must be kept day and night S. until the ship clears out again. If those fellows are trying anything on like you say it will be bad for them. I believe I would shoot them." "When do you expect Mr. Rivers from Goulburn ? It is nearly time he was here if that half-caste, Ned, delivered the letter all right," remarked Cosgrove " Yes; he may come at any time, and the sooner the better. If we discover ihere is crime about we will have to send to Braidwood for assistance. This is a confounded place when anything like that happens. They don't know, I suppose, that a message has been sent to Goulburn for a responsible man and two or three assistants. There is no doubt our little group wants breaking up. I can see it plainly enough. Where is your horse ? Mine is near Grey Gorge," the manager returned. It was now almost sunset, and there was not a moment to be lost as time was precious. The spot where the cook had tethered the animal was soon attained, and then turning southward a curious place, known as Grey Gorge, was reached, where the manager's horse had been left. This gorge was simply a chasm in a great plateau of grey basalt down which a small stream rushed and foamed fully a hundred feet below. It was exceedingly dangerous, being about three teet across and nearly two hundred yards in length. Through the absence of banks or outcropping walls a person or animal might in the dark step right into the chasm, and, of course, death was inevitable in such a case, except a miracle interposed. In daylight there was little or no danger, except gross carelessness was shown. This gorge broke out of the great peak already mentioned, and there was no visible source for the stream which foamed below, save that it must be the outlet of a large spring which had its reservoir in the bosom of the mount. " I have been examining this place for about two miles back to see if any of the sheep or cattle could have been lost down it. If at the muster we find there is much of a shortage those fellows will tell all sorts of tales to account for the missing numbers, and I intend to be prepared for them. About a month ago Laurie told me four bul-
locks had fallen into the chasm, but though I have made a thorough search down the course of the stream not a bone or vestige of the missing animals can be noticed. The cave I speak of is close to this, and a most peculiar place it is. When I have more time you and I will explore it properly. Just at present we have more important business on hand." As Moncton spoke he led his horse down the narrow glen which the shades of evening were now enwrapping in twilight, and when the ground became more level both men mounted and fast as it was possible made in the direction of the homestead. The days were long, and as the moon was rising the cook rode into the clearing or. which the bouse stood, 1 >ut he was not followed by Moncton. With a parting " Meet me at the waterfall" the manager, keeping in the cover of the scrub, rode round and went in the direction of the bay. Cosgrove lost no time in unsaddling the horse and going about his work, which was much behind. The four men had left word they would not be back until late, and that was fortunate as the backwardness of the evening meal might arouse their suspicions if they returned at the usual time. In a very few minutes Cosgrove had the mammoth fire burning and the meat cooking. The huge kettle was soon hissing over the flames and the campoven at work, but an hour passed and the expected hungry men were still absent. " I didn't think they would be so late as this," the old man spoke to himself. " They must have got out of their latitude altogether, or their business is most pressing." It was after nine o'clock when the quartette ro^e up to the stables, and
the fact that they had all come together only served to strengthen the sinister suspicions Cosgrove had formed. Most frequently they returned to the homestead singly. Occasionally it might be a couple came back at the same time, but seldom did the whole four meet and ride home such as they did on that evening. Their paths lay in different directions, and it showed a pre-arrangement or appointment for them to meet away from the place. The manager having been warned and on the lookout, the matter was now out of the cook's—or rather acting-manager's— hands, and he resolved to keep liis own counsel and not betray by word or manner his surprise. In a few minutes the four came into the big room, and Cosgrove was not a little astonished when Lynch entered the kitchen and in rough, imperative tones ordered him to be quick in serving up the meal. "We have been waiting long enough," he said ; " and you ought to have had the food on the table an hour ago. There will have to be a change here." Cosgrove looked at the speaker, and there was a wild look in the restless eyes which caused a shiver to run through the old man. " Lynch has been drinking," he thought; and wisely he refrained from answering the insulting words. In a few minutes the meal was on the table, and ho left the four to their own meditations which, judging by their demeanour, were not of a pleasant nature.
" We've done it now, boys, and there can be no backing out. We need not be the least afraid, as no discovery can take place for a long time, perhaps not at all. If the sharks eat the body I don't see how the affair can be put on to us at all. Moncton was always a peculiar old fellow and eccentric. Just the man to disappear, in fact He must have been watching about here, for the last fortnight or so, and, of course, he has got his reward," and Lynch laughed in a mirthless way. " Here," he added, pulling a large flask from an inside pocket, " have a pull at this, lads." As the flask was going its rounds, Gibson said :—" I don't think he has been here more than a day or two. Perhaps he only returned to-night; and if he knew there was a ship in the bay lie would likely go down to see the skipper. Cosgrove should know when he came back; for if he did not go to Goulburn, what has bccome of Ned, the half-caste, who left here with him ? Let us call the cook—and I was almost forgetting the 'acting-manager'—and ask him when Moncton returned," he said. All the men appeared to be slighily under the influence of liquor, and h was evident the hospitality of Captain Phillip Benson, skipper of the " Penelope," had not been of a niggardly character. The proposition commended itself to all save Laurie, and he speedily stopped the threatened questioning by saying : "If you do what Gibson says you will all be sorry. We are not supposed to know anything about Moncton, save that he is on a visit to the head-station. If we ask Cosgrove when the manager returned it will be admitting we have seen him to-day, and you all know what that would mean," he went on, lowering his voice. " It doesn't matter to us a snap of the finger whether he went to Goulburn or not. He 7cas back, and that is all we have to consider. Our plan is not to know anything about him since he left here to go to Booth's. If we go and admit we saw him to-day and he disappears from this date it will be only putting the rope round our necks. Say nothing. Be silent and all will yet be well. Many a score of people have disappeared for ever and no one has been punished for them. I think we did the business very cleverly, but if we start babbling it will soon be undone." The pale face of the speaker belied the jocular manner in which he spoke, but the wisdom of his words was apparent to all his listeners, and the proposal to interview the cook was at once dropped. Leaving the four men in the room for a time, it will be as well to fully enlighten the reader 011 the events which had taken place during the afternoon and evening. When the mob of cattle had been driven to the jetty Captain Benson had everything ready for the loading. The jetty had been barricaded at the point
opposite the brig where the animals must go on board, and the deck was all ready for the living freight Hay was temptingly placed to induce the cattle on, and with the four expert horsemen and the help of the sailors the work was soon in fjll progress. It was nearly sunset when it was accomplished, and under the circumstances remarkably good progress was made. When the last animal had been shipped Captain Benson invited the four men on board to have dinner with him—a quite sumptuous repast having been prepared. This time, owing to the magnitude of the shipment and the fact that a further deal was to be made in the cargo, Benson and the four men : iad come to a different arrangement regarding payment. The quartette were to receive half the gross profits of the sale, and on the return of the brig the money would be handed to them to divide. They had sufficient faith in the skipper to trust him in this way, and by it they fully expected to realise much more than would otheiwise be the case. When pre-payment was given the shippers usually came to grief they knew, and they were quite pleased with the new agreement. The resources of the ship's larder were greater and more varied than that of Barumba homestead, and Captain Benson ordered the best which was on board to be prepared for the informal banquet at which, in addition to the four men, his chief and only officer, a person named Giles, was present. This person was no mere timeserving creature, body and soul being devoted to his captain and real owner of the brig. Drink was plentiful, and Benson dealt it out with a liberal hand. None of the men were much accustomed to the subtle influence with spirits,
ar.d the jovial surroundings soon caused them to enter into the dissipation deeper than they might under other circumstances have done. Songs were indulged in, and it was while Lynch was trolling forth an old ballad a seaman put his head into the room and said a stranger on board wanted to see the captain. This was not a pleasant announcement to the guilty men, but, inspired with the false, reckless courage which follows in the train of dram-drinking, they did not attach so much importance to it as they might otherwise have done. " I'll be there in half a minute tell him. Did you get his name ?" the captain said to the messenger, and the latter part of the query being answered in the negative, he turned to his guests and said in a low tone : " Who can it be ? Do you suspect anyone might watch you ?" "The only person who would be likely to do so is old Cosgrove, the cook, and I don't think he would come on board like this, though he is acting as manager just at present. If he tries that game on he will fare badly," replied Lynch. " Stay here until I return, and enjoy yourselves as if I were with you. I'm sorry for the interruption, but I'll be back in a few minutes when I get rid of this fellow. Someone who wants a passage to Sydr.ey, I daresay," and the skipper left the cabin. B 5 (TO BE CONTINUED.)