|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|
A True and Ereatfal flaffattTO EARLY BATS !H HEW SOUTH VALES.
BY CAPTAIN LAG IE.
[CORAUGHT RESEEVED.] CHAPTER VIII.
• On examining the spot, Cosgrove saw visible proofs that if a-struggle had not taken place at least a body had fallen across one of the shrubs, and there was quite a number of footmarks around/ Kneeling down, he scrutinised the twigs and earth, and in more than one spot the ominous ensanguined stains met his eyes. Putting the cap in his coat-pocket and glancing nervously around as though he feared an attack, be began to trace the footmarks. They led towards the water, and the old bushman could tell by the deeper imprints that those making them must have had a burthen. What it was he . could but too well imagine With unerring instinct he trailed down to the water's edge at the spot where the boat had been beached, fie could discern the deep marks made . by the keel, but that, caused when the body of Moncton was laid down, had
been obliterated by the shifting sands. He looked round on every side in the vain hope of discovering some trace of his friend.. The water in the bay was more than usually rough, for the agitated sea outside caused by the windstorm was making itself felt in the harbor. North, south, east, and west he gazed, but there was nothing to be seen save' the ceaseless waves, the long stretch of sand-beach, and the rugged coast-line broken by the forest, which In places ran down almost to the water's edge. In silence he retraced his steps to the ill-omened spot where the cap had I^in, and on which the bloodmarks yet stood. " I was lucky to get here before rain fell, or I would not have seen that," he muttered, holding up a twig which was vividly marked. " Ah, well, it is worse than I expected; but who did it ? That is the point. I don't think Laurie and the other fellows would go so far; though Heaven only knows what men .will do to save themselves. It may have been some of those on the ship. If Moncton found stolen cattle on the vessel he would soon tell them about it, and if they were acting as ' receivers' of course they would take good care to, if possible, silence him. I must be careful. If Lynch is at the bottom of it and he thinks I have an inkling of the truth, my life wouldn't be worth a farthing. If my old friend has really been murdered his body must have been thrown into the sea, and it may be washed up again. I'll have to watch. Perhaps he only met with an accident -—thrown off the horse or such like— bat, no, that can't account for all this. Look at the footmarks! Three or four men must have been about Lynch and the others didn't come home till near ten last night, and something unusual had happened to them I could see. I wish Rivers and the men were here. I can't move without them, and perhaps I'll be murdered before they come. It won't do to stay here too long"—and the old man glanced fearfully around—" Best to be off." He went to the horse as he finished his soliloquy, and mounting went slowly along. Not fifty yards had been traversed when a horse neighed and Cos-
drove's animal answered it. " I was forgetting all about that," the cook said as he turned in the direction of the sound, which was shortly repeated. In a dense clump of scrub he found the horse lately ridden by the manager. The scanty feed around had been cropped almost to the roots, and the poor animal appeared to be suffering from both hunger and thirst. Cosgrove was about to untie the rope which tethered the horse to a tree, when he recollected it would not be wise to take it back. " They would at once suspect me, and that won't do. I mustn't leave the poor beast to perish with hunger and thirst though, and it will be easy enough to make it appear as if in its efforts the rope broke." Taking a knife from his pocket the man made a slight incision around the rope, and then lifting a broken bough he made a blow at the horse, which, starting back, broke the rope, and the beast made off with portion of the fastening attached to the bridle. This done, Cosgrove continued his journey and soon arrived back at the house whither the steed belonging to the luckless manager had preceded him and made its way into the stable through the opened door. The cook did not disturb it, but, placing the animal he rode in one of the stalls whence he had taken it, he began his duties in the house. It was two hours later when Lynch and his companions returned, and as they rode up to the house they gave Cosgrove, who was standing at the door with his hands smeared with flour and apparently very busy, a doleful ac count of the havoc wrought by the wind. " There must be fifty or a hundred head of cattle killed, Aif. We could not discover all the carcases in one day, but there are quite fifty between the Big Gully and the Grey Range The herds must have been fair in the track of the storm and had, of course, 410 lime to escape."
VI'm'sorry to hear that, but it can't be helped. We couldn't foresee such a wind-storm as that, and, of course, couldn't avoid it The loss will be heavy, then, you think ?" returned Cosgrove: " Very. A lot of the bodies have been washed away in the creeks out to sea through the Eden River. In fact, quite half.of the carcases must have gone in that fashion, but we may be able to trace most of them. I wish the old man was back again. He will blame us for this, though, as you say, it is not our fault I suppose you will tell him so when he returns in fairness to us. The wind came upon us like lightning, as you know,'' replied Lynch. "I wish Moncton was back—and, of course, I'll tell him there is no blame for the loss on your shoulders. I can : t imagine what is keeping him so long. He should have been here a week ago. When will you be ready for tea ?" he concluded, changing the conversation ; and, receiving the answer that he would be back in half-an-hour, the cook retreated to the kitchen. He well knew the young man was telling him a parcel of lies,* but he had to dissemble and appear to believe him. The story only the more firmly convinced him a number of the bullocks had been shipped on the strange vessel and the men were trying to account for them. In fact, he doubted if a single head had been killed by the storm; and though he could easily have found out, under the circumstances he did not consider it wise to be too curious. If the four employees had imbrued their hands in the blood, of Moncton, they would not scruple to send him to his long home if they thought he could expose them. He was fixing up the table, when Laurie came into the room, with an anxious face, and said: " I'm afraid an accident has occurred to the manager, Alf. His horse is in the stable saddled and bridled, with a broken rope attached to its neck. The
animal looks as if it had gone through a bad time, and no doubt it and the rider must have been caught in the storm. Come over and have a look at the animal. But perhaps Moncton has returned ?" he added, with a sudden inspiration. "I haven't seen him. Wait a moment until I go to his room. Just a momentand, apparently much excited at the news, Cosgrove hurried away and soon returned with the news that the apartment was tenantless. It was a double game of dissimulation, for both men were well aware the steed's late rider had not come back. One was certain he would never again set his foot inside the homestead, while the other suspected such would be the case. Going to the stable, Cosgrove narrowly examined the horse—all the time watched by Lynch—but his manner was so sincere apparently that the men were beginning to feel they were blaming the cook wrongly in thinking he had been in secret communication with the manager. " What is to be done ? Poor Moncton may be lying under a bough and not killed but unable to extricate himself. I'll make one to go in search of him. What do you say ?" asked Cosgrove. There was a chorus of assent to the proposal, and, after hastily swallowing the food prepared, the mockery of the search was gone through. Even Cosgrove himself felt it was a useless quest —though, of course, he was not so certain on the point as his companions. In two hours darkness came on, and the quest was abandoned for the night only to be renewed next morning with similar luck—or want of luck. The four men on the second day took the track leading towards the coast from which-direction the tornado had swept across the district, and they were destined to meet with an unpleasant surprise. They had not proceeded more than six miles from the homestead—and it is almost needless to say they were taking little pains to find Moncton but only set out for the sake of appearances—when Thomas and Laurie, who were on the southern stretch of the devastated strip, signalled
for Lynch and Gibson to come across to them. Slightly wondering what could be the object of the call, the two men made their way along over the fallen boughs and uprooted trees to where their two companions stood. About "twenty yards from them in a small clearing stood half-a-dozen bullocks, and they looked the most forlorn, battered group of cattle the men had ever seen. Most of the animals were minus at least one horn, and some were cut and mutilated in a horrible fashion. " They must have been in the track of the storm. We had better shoot that roan yonder and put it out of its misery!" exclaimed Lynch, as he turned to his comrades and almost burst out laughing at the sad, hapless look on their faces. " Have you never seen a few bullocks cut about, lads? Better they should die like that than perish slowly from hunger and thirst, as I have noticed them. Lend me your pistol, Bill, and I'll polish off that poor brute," added Lynch, with a laugh. " Don't you know these beasts, Jack ? Look again. They are so knocked about I didn't make them out myself at first; but go nearer and you'll see they are six we put on board the brig. Those we got out of the waterfall herd," said Laurie, in a low voice. Lynch blanched, for now the cue was given he saw clearly enough his friend spoke the truth, and for a full minute he stood like one transfixed looking at the animals. " It may not be so bad as we think," he at length said, in a husky voice " These bullocks have, no doubt, been washed overboard, probably with others, and after a big struggle they reached the shore. It doesn't prove the ship has gone down, you know—in fact,"there can be very little fear of that. Benson knows this coast too well to be caught napping and is well on his way to Syd I ney by this time. The only thing is
our profits will be smaller than we expect." " If the brig was caught in that windrush no power on earth would save it In an ordinary storm the captain might be able to puil the vessel through, but that was no common affair. As sure as my name is Ted Thomas the Penelope has gone to the bottom, and, after all our work and risk, we will not get a penny. It's hard look, boys!" spoke Thomas. " It looks blue, but there may be nothing in the case. Couldn't we try and find out beyond doubt ? If Captain Benson and his ship have gone it will alter our plans a good deal, and in some way we must find out for certain. How far is the coast from here ?" queried Gibson. " Not more than ten miles, and the best thing we can do is make straight ahead to it. If the craft has been wrecked there may be signs on the beach which will prove it I suppose if the hurricane caught the vessel it would be driven ashore right in its tracks, so that we will not have far to search. These bullocks were an the brig sure enough, for I recognise them now. I'll go and shoot that poor animal," concluded Lynch, as he moved towards it There was something grotesque in the sympathy displayed by the assassin for the bullock. A man who did not scruple to slay a fellow-being in cold blood, as he had killed Moncton, must surely be branded a hypocrite when he displayed feeling for a beast of the field. Yet Lynch was apparently sincere in his profession, and he took unusuae trouble to put the suffering bullock out of its misery. When he had done so he returned and led the way through the forest beside the track which marked the path of the wind. There was not the least fear of going astray so long as they had that guide, and as the scrub was not very dense the party made fair headway. They had sufficient food to last them
for the day; but though they could not possibly get back before noon on the following, they were agreeable to endure a few hardships in their desire to know if evil had befallen the " Penelope." It was well on in the afternoon when they came in sight of the Pacific Ocean from a small eminence which rose about two miles from the coast, and when they reached the end of their destination the sun was dipping below the horizon and the great cliffs threw igantic shadows far out on to the waters, which heaved and surged below. As they reached the brink of the rocks in mute expectancy, one glance was sufficient to show them a catastrophe had happened. Far to the north and south the sands at the foot of the cliff were strewn with wreckage, and they, needed no second sight to decide what vessel had come to grief. Carcases of bullocks were observable in all directions. Some were stranded high and dry, whilst others washed backwards and forwards with the tide. Here and there a human corpse was interspersed with the dead bullocks, and the night was one not likely to be forgotten. That an absolute wreck had taken place was beyond all doubt, for, to make the fact patent, the hull of the illfated vessel was washed up on a great sand-ridge, almost intact. For several minutes the men looked on the scene of ruin below, and the gathering gloom of night did not fall so quickly as the shadows which rested on the faces of the party. They had plotted, schemed, robbed and murdered, and all for nothing. "We may as well camp here until morning, lads, and then we'll go below and see if we can recognise any of the bodies. Some of the crew may have escaped; and, if so, they will want help," spoke Lynch in as cheerful a voice as he could assume. " We would have met them if any had escaped, I think. There isn't much hope in that direction in the face of what we see," answered Laurie. For my part I trust none of them have survived," interjected Gibson, brutally. " It will be better for us if
they have all gone to their doom, or they may be making awkward statements about the cargo on board. Dead men tell no tales, and on that principle it is to be hoped there are none alive who can speak about us." This outburst was not answered, and the men at once began to make a rude camp for the night A fire was lighted and the little food brought along with them divided. A small portion was kept for the morning, and as night gathered they stretched their weary limbs in front of the fire and abandoned themselves to their thoughts. No one seemed anxious to talk, and all waited for the morning. The night was fine and the warm fire invited sleep; but they did not give themselves to slumber. They felt an adverse fate was upon them, and the fact that the dead bodies of their late convivial friends lay on the beach below them was not at all comforting. The hoarse boom of the great Pacific as it rolled in on the rocks sounded like a funeral knell to the men, and it was a relief to all when the light clouds on the eastern horizon became fringed with gold, which heralded the coming day. As soon as it was bright enough start was made for the beach, and the sand was reached with litlle difficulty. The wreckage and bodies had scarcely been disturbed during the night, and the men found there was a considerable quantity of salvage to be obtained if there was any means of carrying it off, It was not long before they found the corpse of the mate, Giles, and his face still wore the fawning, hypocritical expression it had in life. The body was scarcely knocked about, the clothing being intact On searching it a belt full of sovereigns was found, and this was quickly appropriated. "We'll make enought yet," spoke Lynch, " to pay for the cattle, and I don't see why we shouldn't take it,"— a sentiment which was supported by his companions. B 8 (TO BE CONTINUED.)