Chapter 61921016

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Chapter NumberI
Chapter TitleTHE MURDER
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article61921016
Full Date1884-12-24
Page Number1
Corrections0
Word Count3553
IllustratedY
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleGippsland Times (Vic. : 1861 - 1954)
Trove TitleCurly Harry: A story about Old Times
article text

Curly Harry. A STORY ABOUT OLD TIMES. CHAPTER I.-THE MUBDEL ATTY," said my mate, Tom Connor, as he entered the , tent, just as I was boiling the tea billy, "I've just dropped , across a poor devil who wants I us to let him have a feed and a shakedown for a night or two, whilst he has a look round to see if he can drop on a bit of ground that he may knock tucker out of. What do you s say-shall we give him a lift 1" "I suppose so," I answered, as I took off i the billy and put on the frying-pan. "Where is hel Does he look a decent sort l There is a lot of queer chaps come up to the diggings lately, and he might be one of the same kind. Jim Maxey and his mate stuck to a fellow for about a week, and gave him a start; but he found out where they planted their gold, and bolted with it one day whilst they were at work." "Oh! this chap doesn't look like any of those sort. He says he came from Sydney, and stoppe in Melbourne till his money was gone, and then tramped it up here. I gave him five or six shillings to go and get a serge shirt. The one he had on was all the worse for wear, and I told him to come here after wards and I'd ask you about a shakedown." " Oh I we'll give him a week's tucker," said i I. And, having got through my culinary operations, we both of us sat down to our , evening meaL The incidents that occur in this story hap. pened in '53, and though my readers may fancy they detect a somewhat melodramatic character about some of them, yet old miners of that era-and there are plenty of them still living-will recognise the occurrences described as of a not at all out of the way character at that time. Before we were half way through our feed a shadow darkened the aperture that did duty for our door, and the individual we had been speaking about poked his head in, Snodded to Tom, and said " Well, mate, can I1 put my swag inside 1" "Yes; all right;" replied Tom. with his mouth half full; "chuck it down by the side of that bunk and sit down. Watty, shove on some more chops. I'm us hungry us a dingo on half rations ;" and the pan, having been put ou with another supply of chops. was soon hissing away, whilst I, having taken my seat again, took a good look at our guest. He wasn't a bad loohking fellow by any means. He had a magnificent crop of curly black hair; but lie had a dissipated, worn look that didn't impress one in his favor. It was very hard in those ilays to judge a man by his loks. I have seen college-bred gentle men of the most undoubted pedigree look the most sinister of ruffians when clothed in moleskin trousers, serge shirt, and a billy-cock hat; and when, in addition to this, which was the ordinary costume of a digger in those days. a man had a beard and moustache of the most ferocious and untrained description, I think even Lavater would have been puzzled to read the character of any of us. One peculiarity about this man was a very largo pair of earrings worn by him, which were of an eccentric pattern, and heavier than those generally worn by men. Our guest's story was very short and com monplace. He had left a pound a week and his board in Sydney, to try the gold fields here. IIe knew nothing about digging, but wanted to learn. He required the usmalout fit, viz.:-tub, cradle, pick, shovel and the necessary 30s. license, which every man had to hold in those days ; but he hadn't got a shilling, and wanted us or somebody else to give him a start. The advent of such men us our friend on the diggings was not at all an uncommon occurrence, and few refused to help anybody to a start at any time, for the man hard up to-day, without a shilling, might be the poe sessor of the richest claim on some new lead before the week was out. A custom prevailed at that time amongst the diggers that when a man appealed to them for assistane they mutually responded by giving him a shovelful of wash-dirt from each of their heaps, and would lend him the tools wherewith to wash it off, five or six ounces being not at all a rare result from their combined gifts. Nobody missed it, and the new comer got a start and was willing to contribute his shovelful at some future time to another dead broker. Tom and I had some conversation the next morning with reference to our new lodger, and instead of appealing to our follow laborers, who were working in the same gully, we decided to give him a start ourselves. Sowebought him the usual digging plant,gave him a couple of pounds for a start, and told him he could stay with us till he made a rise. We also laid him on to some old ground that we had left off working that would pay half an ounce a day, which at that time was not considered good enough for us, as we were then taking out about ninety ounces a week from our 24 by 12 ft. claim in Snob's Gully; the said gold being placed in pickle bottl every week and planted i ah underneath were we used to kindle a fire in our Very rude bat effective chimney. At the time Ory $ydney friend put in an ap pearnfour f -d, pie-he botties filled to the bung reposed in tisa-h¢fl ges.t

of ten weeks' work; and we only waited for the next "escort" to forward them to Mel bourne by what was then considered the only safe way to get gold through without any risk. For a week our friend worked, or was sup posed to work, at the ground we had put him on to, the result being about half an ounce for a week's work. This struck me and Tom as strange, and on the Sunday which followed the production of the result of his labors, we two went for a quiet walk out to the gully, taking a pick, shovel and dish with us. We began to have a suspicion that our friend was loafing on us. One look at our old workings proved we were quite right. The work that had been done Tom and I could have got through in a couple of hours, so we came to the conclusion that our friend was a fraud, and decided to give him his "walking ticket." "Look here, old chap," said I, the same evening, to the man, who was sitting by the fire smoking his pipe, and gazing listlessly at the crackling branches that had just been thrown on, "Tom and I want you to clear out to-morrow. We have given you a fair show, and we find that you don't care about work ing. Give somebody else a look up, and if you want a pound or two we won't see you stumped when you go away; but we have made up our minds you will have to clear out to-morrow." The fellow (bye-the-bye, I forgot to men tion that his name was Harry Fcnlo) turned round, looked at us with a sulky expression, and simply said, "All right," and went on with his smoking. Shortly afterwards he went out for, as I supposed, a stroll. "I don't like that fellow, Tom," said I, when we were alone. "He is a sulky, lazy, ill-conditioned cur ; and I'm glad hlie's going. Bye-the-bye, how about last week's gold I We've got nearly enough to fil up the balance of our last pickle bottle. Hadn't we better plant it !" "No," said Tom, curtly; "and I'll tell you why; if we go opening up our plant that fel low might drop in whilst we were at it. I don't like him any more than you do, and I'm glad he's going. We got about sixty ounces last week's washing; it is hid in the bag of flour; and when we get rid of him it will be quite time enough to disturb the ashes of our domestic hearth. I'll put the sixty ounces in my trousers pocket to-night and shove them under my pillow. He'll be a clever fellow who will take it away from me, won't het" concluded Tom, with a laugh as he plunged his hand into our two-hundred weight bag of the best Adelaide flour and ex tracted the precious metal, which he was about putting into his pocket when our hand up friend walked in and sat down. Tom, still laughing, commenced blowing the gold bag, and the man's eyes appeared to glisten as he watched Tom place the gold in his pocket. He then turned to us and said "Look here, mates; I've made it right with a friend of mine to shake down with him for a week or two, and I may as well go now as to-morrow;" and, rolling up his blankets, he said. "Good night, chaps; I'm sorry I didn't work hard enough to please you. If I had had your luck, I might have worked harder; but a man don't care about killing himself working at tucker ground. Good night." And he was gone. That night Tom put the trousers under the head of his bunk when hlie turned in. About two in the morning (as we afterwards dis covered) I was woke up by Tom laying his hand gently on me and whispering "Hush !" in my ear. "What's up, Tom n" said I in the same whispering tones. "Somebody at the back of the tent," said Tom; "and they have jest ripped up the tent close to the head of my bed. He won't get much," said Tom. quietly chuckling. "for I've taken away the trousers and got them on; but I'll give him an ounce or two of shot," and, feeling under my bed, he pulled

out our old fowling.piece loaded with shot, and blazed away right at the place where he imagined the midnight pilferers to be. A yell told us that Tom had struck a bull's. eye, and Tom, who was as brave as a lion, rushed out in the darkness, and I could hear a struggle taking place outside, and a voice shoutingout oaths that I seemed to recognise as being uttered by our late boarder. Without waiting to slip on my boots or anything else, and with only my shirt on, I rushed outside and stumbled over somebody lying on the ground. The struggle had ceased when I got outside and I shouted--" Tom, where are you l" I recei-ed no reply, but I could see the lights showing through the neighboring tents, the inmates being apparently disturbed by the noise. I gave a loud coo-ce andt shouted out "Roll up, here! BuIshrangers!" I then rushed into the tent. struck a light. put on my trousers. and went outside. Four or five neighbors had by this time put in an appear. ance, all well armed, and others were coming in from all directions, and we went round the tent only to find that my dear old mate had been stabbed right through a vital part, and would never speak again. Poor fellow. Space prevents me from fully expressing my feelings on that sorrowful occasion when I found my old and well-loved partner dead. We hunted the murderer for many miles the next day. liHe had been wounded, and

his blood-stained track enabled us to follow him for about a mile and a half, when we lost them entirely. After burying my unfortunate mate, with but little enquiry from the police camp offi cial, I sold the claim and started for Mel bourne, and I have never beeoon on a gold field as a miner since. I forwarded Tom's share of the gold to his sister in England. and went into business as a storekeeper in Melbourne, where I speedily made a lot of money. CHAPTER II.-AVENGED. Four years afterwards I went up to look at a station property with a view to purchase it, and as there was some very andsome parrots and paroqueots in the neighborhood, I borrowed a gun and went out shooting. A Scotch collie dog, which belonged to one of the shepherds, followed me. "Going out shooting, sir 1" enquired the shepherd who owned the dog. I told him that was my intention. "Better not go too far away from the out. station," said the man. "Curly Harry has been seen within a few miles of here." "And who is Curly Harry ?" I asked, laughingly "Who is he, sir?-well, you are green him as stuck up Bealiba station, and no end of other places. He's a terror I he is," said the old man; "but I don't think he'd come round about here. Good morning, sir; you'll get plenty of parrots on the top of that range (pointing to a very lofty one about four miles off). If you lose yourself, follow the gullies till they take you to the creek. Come up it, and it will bring you close home." Half an hour afterward I had clean for gotten that such a person as Curly Harry ever existed, and the parrots being numerous, I potted a lot of beauties. I was taking aim at a magnificent rosella, when a growl from my dog made me look round. Seated on a log about thirty yards off, I saw a big rough fellow, with a gun leaning on his shoulder from beneath his knees, carving away at a huge lump of damper and a piece of meat. iec had a heavy, coarse beard, and bad the appearance of some digger on the tramp. I had clean forgotten about the shepherd's warning, and, after a casual glance in the fellow's direction, I took aim at my rose fronted quarry, and brought him down. I had just seized him, when a rough, coarse voice said " Hold un your arms and

drop that gm, or I'll blow the roof of your skull in." Looking round, I saw that the fellow who had been so quietly having his feed had covered me with a formidable looking rifle, and was within ten feet of me. I am not easily frightened, and give me an even chance I would tackle anything or any body; but I did what most sensible men would have done -I dropped my gun and held my arms up above my head. "Call that dog to you," said the man. I did so. "Now drop one hand into your pockets on that side, and empty them on the ground." I did so without hesitation, for I knews I had no other alternative than to obey. "Now put that hand up, and put the other bunch of fives into your other pocket," said the ruffian. I complied with the same alacrity. S"You're pretty smart, you are," said the fellow, grinning admiringly. " Seems as if you had been through the-mill be

fore. I shant hurt you. Now just walk up to that tree where you knocked that bird off his perch, and put your face agin it, and if you move for half-an.hour, all you'll want is a sheet of bark to carry home what's left of you." There was something so familiar in the sound of the man's voice that I could not restrain myself from having a good look at him before obeying his commands, and sud denly it flashed across me that the villain in front of me was Harry Fenlo, the murderer of my poor mate. Regardless of conse quences, I felt inclined to rush at him. but I remembered, before I made what would have been a fatal step, that I could not possibly have a chance with him, so I controlled the intense desire I felt to avenge poor Tom, and said "I know you, Harry Fenlo, murderer and robber that you are, and if I could meet you on equal terms, 1 would soon make you suffer for your treacherous and cowardly return for our kindness." For one minute the fellow looked as if he scareely understood me; then. bringing his gun on dead line for my chest, he said "So, you're one of those coves that, 'cos they gave a man a feed and a shake-down, fancied he ought to work his eyeballs out for a note or two, and, because he wouldn't you turned him out, and when he called up to try and make a rise out of you imported new chums, one of you salted me with a charge

of shot, eh ? I know you I I ain't likely to forget you I Look here I"-and he pointed to one of his eyes, which was apparently sightless-" this was some of your work, although that big chump paid dear enough for it. And now I'm going to square up a balance that's been standing a long time ;" as he finished he pulled the trigger with a smile of malice, but the gun snapped. The next moment I had seized my gun and went for the scoundrel; but he was too quick for me, and had darted for the gully, gaining about thirty yards by the time I seized my gun. The sheep dog, however, kept at his heels for some time, until suddenly stooping as the dog ran alongside of him, he seized her in his arms and threw the poor slut far away from him, amongst some rough basaltic boulders, which injured the poor animal so much that we soon left her far behind. On we wont at a break-neck pase that I knew couldn't last long, until sud denly rising a very steep range that on one side had a most precipitous face, ending in a deep dry watercourse, I lost sight of him. Honestly, I was quite tired of the chase, and when I retraced my steps I lost myself for many hours, but was found by a search party that had been sent out for me; and arrived at the station about six in the morn. ing, thoroughly exhausted. I told my host about my adventures, and, as nearly as I could, where I had lost the ruffian ; but, although we searched for three or four days afterwards, I could never point out the exact spot where he had disappeared; and the generally-expressed opinion was that he would not at any rate hang about the station after what had occurred, and the search was not persevered in. Before I left the station I had made up my mind to purchase it, and on my return to Melbourne concluded arrangements with the agents. After getting married to an old sweetheart who came over to the colonies to share my loneliness, I removed to my new purchase, and, writing as I now am after twenty-five years' experience of station business? I can safely say that I never regretted having in vested my capital in so profitable and pleasant a speculation. My children, five in number, are likely to do credit to their native land; and my dear old wife and I consider ourselves among the happiest of mortals.

Last Christmas twelvemonths, as three of my station hands were returning from a ride to the neighboring township, they struck through a piece of country that had rarely been visited by anybody on the station, and never by myself. It was a rocky, barren gully, with no feed for anything near it; but one of my riders fancied he recognised the hoof-marks of a favorite horse of mine that had been lost some time previously, trending in this direction. Crossing over some boul ders in a narrow gorge. after dismounting, one of them saw something white, and close investigation showed it to be a skeleton, whitened by age. The only thing about it likely to lead to its identification was an earring that lay on the solid lflat rock along side the remains. When it was shown to me I at once recognised it as one of those worn by Curly Harry, and a visit to the slot at once confirmted me in my belief, for on tracing the position of the skeleton fromt the top of the precipitous ronge I could identify the spot as being the last place where I had seen the murderer. He must have fallen on the hard rock below and never moved after. wards, as the bones were fractured in many places; but being in such an unfrequented nook-a place that nobody had any neceesity to visit-his remains had not been discovered until found, after so many years, by my men. So my poor murdlered mate was, after all, avenged, and his assassin received his due punishment. . 1'. W4IAtýa.