|Chapter Title||FROM DROUGHT TO FLOOD. -RONALD'S LAST RESOURCE.-MOLONGA CREEK STATION-THE PARRAMATTA PET, BILLY CAN|
|Newspaper Title||Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1878 - 1954)|
|Trove Title||Ronald Walton: A Tale of Early Squatting Life in Moreton Bay|
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CHAPTER XVI. FROM DROUGHT TO FLOOD.
-RONALD'S LAST RESOURCE.- MOLONGA CREEK STATION.-THE PARRAMATTA PET, BILLY CANTWELL, AND GHOSTLY CONVERSA- TION. - AN AWFUL OCCURRENCE.
" llave you seen any tracks of blacks about tilla end of the rmi, lately, Pet."
" No, sir. Nevera one since Poor Joe and Sam was killed four year agonc by that black wretch, Molonga, as this creek is called
. ".Have you heard the rattling of the chains, and the screeches, and stamping round the hut in the middle of the night, since you told me of it about a year ago V asked Ronald jestingly.
" No, sir. It did not come this year, and we was'nt sorry for it, for it is the awfullest thing a man ever hear. Maybe it won't come no more-hope it won't."
" I Btill think it is a superstitious faucy of yours-or at all events, that if thc thing does occur, the cause may be discovered."
" It ain't no fancy, sir. Wo was all asleep last time-wasn't we, Hal Î We never thought about it that night, but was all woke
goes three to the big and all is
bing super e occurred, ¡Hy agency, ninds being
u ever have
.wuioj» OUUUJJU m iuu* um, wileri you heard
the Bounds ?"
" Yes, sir. Last time we did ; but couldn't see nothing, though it was bright moon-
" No-nor ever will. Why do you not dig
at the foot of the tree ?"
" Never thought of that, sir !" exclaimed
several of the men at once.
" Well, now, after we have cut down a good lot of .apple trees for the sheep to-morrow, we will dig there, and if we find anything suspicions, we will re-consider the matter."
" That's fan" and square, sir. But suppos- ing we don't find anything, you'll say, os you always do, ' It's au a simm.' And if we tío find anything, will you say, says you, ' It'a a ghost Î said thc Pet.
' " I shall reserve my verdict till I see what comes of our search," said Ronald, laughing at the earnestness of the Pet's proposition, and hisevident belief in the sounds proceeding from
"l|B^BBk|, sir," said the Pct, "as it w^p^P^P^P^BLPope, that first owned B^B^orjBJPJBJBJBJB^B^e4-6f murdering a man
out at this here station ? \ He used to put chains on thc men, I knoW> Billy Cantwell will tell you the same."
"I know very well that s"«ich a thing was «aid of the old doctor, but I db not believe a word of it. He was a good old fellow, and a great friend of my father's," replied
Billy Cantwell, an old shepherd, who had not hitherto taken any part m the conversa- tion, turned round nervously, and jerked out.
" It's true, sir. Upon my soul !" and then resumed his moody attitude. He was a mau that none of his mates liked, for he sometimes sat for hours of au evening with his head in his hands, and his elbows on. his knees, staring vacantly into the fire, and was never sociable. Ronald was the only person he used to un- bend to, ap~* usually uiinost chatty with him when ted thc Haunted Hut ; but
j this night, ti ly wordB ho uttered, were
those just recoil. J.
I "Billy's a sight worse to-night ^BMPbver [ I seep him, sir,' whispered the Pct ^Qtonald,
who had himself noticed the circumstance, and thought the man might be ill. " He's
j always abit bad now at full of the moon."
"I think we luid better turn in, lads. Wc shall bc all thc fresher for our work in the morning, after a good sleep. Besides, you 1 know we have to dig for that ghost, and may have to go very deep," Ronald said, with a sceptical laugh.
Billy Cantwell turned his eyes full on his master's face, and said, with a look of terror,
"Don't yon, sir; don't you do it. No good'll come Of it. I've Been things of that sort tried before, and they always ended bad
for them that did'm."
" You look nervous to-night, Billy," Ronald said, hvnghing.
One of tho men lent Ronald a blanket, and he rolled up in it before the fire, and soon dropped off to sleep. Billy Cantwell remained in the position above described, staring into the fire, when Ronald closed hie eyes. When the latter woke some time in the night, Billy was still there, and in thc same position.
" Why, Billy," said Ronald, " you ncvet
turned in. You mußt bo ill."
*' Don't do it, sir. It'll do no good," he , said, with a strange look.
I Ronald thought the look was more one ol
internal agony that of insanity. Thc man's countenance bad much changed during hie I long vigil.lt was drawn, and wore an anxious,
The ram had continued to pour heavily, .and-the .thunder rolled and lightning flashed. I " What's the time, Bir?"said Billy.
I > Ronald looked at his Watch, and told him il
was twenty minutes to 12.
" Sat uprwith me, sir. Will you be so kind, [.Birt" BüTy whispered. "I ain't to say well
and alltheee fellows sleeps BO, and I can't."
'.Yee, Billy, of course I will. Can I dc anything for you ? Are you in pain, or whai
is it t"
"No, sir, I ain't in pain. It's herc," ht said, pointing to his forehead, "I've doue t heap of sin, and had a lot of trouble for it. I I'd pray sometimes but I daren't. Do yov
think, sir, a man's ever forgiven for very bit ' sins?-For robbery, and and-^-for mur
murder-and the likes ?"
" Of course I do, Billy. The Almighty hat said that if a man repents mid leads a nev I life, he shall have forgiveness forthe paBt."
"I've been very bail, sir, but I've been-verj sorry. Oh 1 what I've Buffered !"
I He covered his face with his banda, ant
tears trickled through his fingers. Ronalt looked with pity on thc man, for ho had beet a good shepherd, and never gave any trouble and his distress was evidently deep seated. Hi had been at Boorooma some time befori Ronald became its superintendent, but not m thc Haunted Hut till about six montlu previous to the events just related. Ronalt attributed thc man's eccentric ways in a grca measure to his long service as a shepherd, foi it is a well-known fact in the Austmliai I colonies, that men who have followed til
occupation of shepherds for many years in tin lonely Australian bush, frequently beconi eccentric or " cranky. "
The Btorm became moro furious. The light ning flashed bi long blue zigzag lines toward the e'ai^" The thunder crashed like volley from ' . thousand rifles, and thc rain de cendev. in sheets ; then there was a lull Suddenly a gust of wind forced the back doo open- Ronald and Billy Cantwell lookei round. Billy'B face became blanched witl terror ; MB jaw fell, and he walked toward the door, as though drawn against his will Ronald thought he was going to close it When close to it, bc turned his face toward Ronald, and said,
." Its Joe Stockwell beckoning to me mmt go !" j^á
He ran out of the door. AU ÜjÉftS jumped up horrified. Ronald JSB^^^^I door ; the night was pitchy^fl^^^^H times the . man ran rou^pflflflflflflflfl horribly. Ronald caught^^^^^^^^H fae« once for a second or J^^^^^^^^H I flash of electric fluid iBum^P^P^P^P^P^PJ
it bore a look that he^B^P^P^P^P^Bfl then darted off to the^^^^^^^^H
fifty yards from tho hat. Another streak of
blue fluid hissed through the darkness,' enter- ing the great gum tree at it topmost tranches, and decendlng hy the trunk rent it to atoms and; spent itself in the earth at the roots. The simultaneous thunderclap was terrific. For a few seconds the wreck ot the giant was illuminated by the fluid so vividly as to allow of a brief view of the surroundings, in which the prostrate form of the wretched Billy Cant- well was plainly visible by the blasted trunk. Ronald, notwithstanding his alarm, went towards the fatal spot, calling to the men to follow. Only one did srj-the Pet, who shouted, " Bring your lantern, Hal !" Hal Î,lucked np courage enough to do so, and ollowed quickly. When they reached the spot, they found Billy Cantwell lying on a mound of earth that had been upheaved by ' the bursting of a great root down which thc
lightning hod disappeared into the ground. Billy's boots and close had been completely stripped off him, and the body presented a blackened and horrible appearance.
" What ie this ?" said Ronald, as he turned the body over.
Hal brought the light to bear on the object., It was a human skeleton, at the feet of wnjgs lay a rust-eaten chain, its long lhiks^jcveal ing to those present the relation ifc^îbre to the skeleton. There was aiiothoMfuJcct-the cor-
roded remains of a brims-mounted horse pistol.
BUJy CseSiwcll's body was carried into the ,hut, and laid upon his bunk. Sleep was nat again thought of tliat night, and all sat by
. (To be continued.)