|Newspaper Title||Clarence and Richmond Examiner (Grafton, NSW : 1889 - 1915)|
|Trove Title||Who Was the Thief? A Story Founded on Fact|
CÆLIA HAWKINS had passed a very restless
night. The fever had affected her brain, and she was somewhat delirious. When the morning came, however, she slept soundly, and Lizzie, who was quite worn out, laid down on the sofa in the big room, which served as a kitchen and dining room, und sought to get a little sleep. Lizzie was wear- ing round her neck a little flimsy silk hand- kerchief, and when she threw her tired limbs on the sofa, this, unnoticed by her, fell to the ground. Lizzie was very tired, but she could not sleep ; her mind was full of thoughts of Peter, and the missing £5 note. While she was thinking and dozing, a little squeak suddenly attracted her attention. This was followed, by a slight rustling noise on the floor, which to the experienced ear of the Australian girl was highly suggestive of snakes, so she opened her eyes, and without moving her body, looked on to the floor. Squeak, squeak, again, and a bush rat dashed from under the sofa and across the floor to the fire place, dragging with him Lizzie's, liliputian silk neckerchief. Lizzie was for the moment lost in amazement, and made no attempt to rescue the property; but when the rat scrambled up on to the hob of the great fire place, and which was formed by a squared log, and dived down a crack between it and the slabs of the chimney, dragging the stolen property with him, she made a rush to save it, but too late. Down the hole the silken thing had gone, and no portion of it was visible. Lizzie could not help laughing at the sudden- ness of the rat's operations but nevertheless determined to recover the stolen neckerchief. She was a bush-bred girl, and by no means
one deficient in resource. So the first thing she did was to go outside and ascertain if the slabs of the chimney were nailed to the squared sleepers which formed the hobs of the big fire place, and finding that they were not, she looked round for a lever, and the first thing which met her gaze was the iron bar which Hawkins used as a fencing spud. " Just the very thing, by jingo," said Lizzie, with more force than elegance, "and now, Mr. Rat, I'll spoil your little game, and have my handker- chief."
A few minutes later, and Lizzie had prized the log from the wall, and recovered her handkerchief. But why is she on her knees, and weeping so hysterically ? What is this she holds in hand ? Under the log which she has moved is a rat's nest, constructed as the bush rat's nest always is, with every regard for the comfort of the occupant, daintily lined with pieces of thread, a few hairs,
pieces of tissue paper, and a nice soft, well- worn, pliable five pound note.
Here was the solution of the mystery. Here was the discovery which would exoner- ate Peter, and enable him to return to his selection without fear of the reproach of any man. No wonder Lizzie was weeping, for her little, pure, affectionate, heart was full to overflowing, and her tears were tears of joy.
When she had calmed down, and some- what recovered her composure, Lizzie quietly placed the note in her pocket, replaced the
hob in its former position, and resolved to at once write to Peter, keeping her discovery a secret until he should return.