|Chapter Title||THE BLACKFELLOWS.|
|Newspaper Title||Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953)|
|Trove Title||A Final Reckoning: A Tale of Bush Life in Australia|
A FINAL RECKONING.* A TALE OF BUSH LIFE IN AUSTRALIA. BY GA. HENS T. CHAPTER XL-Tn? BIlcurrnws. A few miuntea after his conrerution with Jim the party sarted, following the broad track throuh the grass along the foot of the hill. Reuben informed Mr. Blount of what uim had told him. "By Jor, I think he is right," the settler cod. "Thetrack hiss broad as it was, but it is nothing lke to much trampled down; but if your fellow says the main body have gone over the hill, why are you following this trackl' Reuben gare his reasons, and msaid that his man halbefore had suspicions that the tracker were in communication with the wild blacks. ,iHe thinks that's why it is that they hare so lquently failed here to catch any of these "I shouldn't bh at all surprised," Mr. Blount saidsarately. "The best thigwouldbeto put a bullet into each of the rus' heads." I think Jim's idea is teat," Reuben said. "Now that we have once got our eyes open they wron't he able to do us any more harm, and my blackfelow wilt see we follow the trail right. I don't want them to see we hare any suspions of them, as that would put them on ther guard; andby keeping our eyeupon them we may be able to turn the tables." "That is so," Mr. Blount agreed. " What are you goin to do, then ? - " I will call to them in a minute or two and tell them that it is your opinion that only a small portion of the flock have come this way. Then we will hare a ronsultation, and no doubt some of your friends will notice that theground is not much trampled. Then we will decide to ride back to the point from which we started, Lnd will follow the other trail." . "Yes, that will do very well," the settler ebe at onae called to the trackers, who weretrotting on ahead, and then.ordered a halt The two Uscks came back. "Joe," Reaben said, "Mr. Blount thinks that the main body of the flock hare not coe this way. Hie says he thinks only a hundred or two have come. The ground does not look to me anything like so much trampled as it was before we halted." " I tink most of dem hob corn along here," the tracker said sullenly. " What do you think I" Reuben asked the other settlers who had gathered round. " I did not notice it before," Dick Cusster said; " but now Blount has pointed it out, I agree with him entirely. Therearenothinglikethe full number of sheep hare passd along here. I hola say that they hare not cone along morethan two or three deep." There was a general chorus of assent. "You can't harve lbn keeping your eyes open, "Reuobn said toths trackers sharply. SIf you don't look sharp in future we chill quarrel. Come, gentlemen, let us ride back to the halting phac and aeo if we cannot LEd out which war the main body Lave gone." . Ten minutes' rid ng toot them back to their starting"place. "They must have gone over the hill," Reuben sard. " They certainly have not kept along at the foc , or we should see their tracks in this long g"a's." The trackers had exchan:;ed a fen words in a low tone, and they now moved up the hill and began to examine the ground carefully. " Some of dem have gone this way, eaptain." " Of course they hire," Mr. Blount s?d : " a blind man might see that." The marksof the sheep were indeed plain enough to all whentheir attention had once been drawn to the subject. On getting beyondthe cret.thetroknerstrnel to the left, and Reuben oaw that they felt it would be hopeles to att:empt further to mis!ead a party containing several settlers who were ctly capable of followine the trail. Jim dsince speaking to his m.oter, remained in the rear of the tro p. After three miles' riding across the downs they again: came down upon a flat country thickly covered with brush. 10ere and there pieces of wool etickieg to thornswere vinible, andthe trackers went steadily on for come little tine. Then their pe to-come slower and finally theystopped. " Trail ended. captain." " What do you mean by the trail ended ?' Reuben ucked angrily. " Why, I can see a piece of wool ,,a there ahead." " Dat so, captain ; but only a few sheep hab passed here." Some of the settlers dismounted, and having examined the ground carefully, de claredthatthey wereof the saee opinion as the tracken. "Verywell," Reuben sail; "thten in that case we must go back again to the f ot of the hill. They were all together there, an.l we must take up the trail afreshb." On reaching the foot of the hil Jim and someof the settlers joined the trackers and penetrated the bush in all directions. Each re turned bringing in pieces of wool "Its plain enouch," Reuben said, "what they hare done. IThey haboe roken up into small parties and have scattered. The question is, what are we to do now? What doyou think, Mr. Blount? You harve had more er. perienneathan anyone hre, and you are the most interested in our oerntaking these rascals. What do you recommend ." "I don't know what to recommend," the settler said. "They have no doubt done it to confuse nr in case we should follow so far, and aoid beingthrown ofi theseent the other side of the hill. The Land may really harve scattered and gone off in small patties to diferent parts of the bush, or again they may have scattered with the understanding that they will meet again at some given spot which may be ten and may be fifty miles ahead." "The wont of it is," Reuben said, "I fear now that there is an end of all chance of coming up with them today; and now the question of 'water come In. IIf we could have caught them before nightfall, the hores. having had a good drink at sat streeam, could hare done very well till we'd gone another thirty miles; but as that see.ms hopsles nowr we must consider aeriously .weat we'd s.t do before we go any further. D:es anrene here kno anything of the country aho 1l!" There was a geseral silence, "TLe horses can do very well to-morrow wthout water," Mr. Blount said; "they will 'lx (tse leaves of this scrub, and can if I:,5?0"d hold on for even two or three days n'au iL" "In that cooS," Reuben said, "let es go on. We waill tireak up into three partio. One shall Sstraight forward, the other two morin, to the right ann left, each following thetracks as well us they can. We will not go much "yn-l a walk. We have fire more hoLurs of doylizht yet, an:l the horses can manage cr:ther fifteen mles. I will hilt an hour t!b re it gets dark and light a fire. The smoke * will - a gai!se to the other two purties, who ash o not be more than a couple of miles to the Sright and left, and they will then close in. If oa m an suggeot any better plan than that, Mr. hltunt, plere do so. Of course I see the ob jietion that the blscks may' ?aks out, the *iubbhaed by speoialarsangeeen with the author
o will know tt they are being "YT? , that is an objection," Mr. Blount -d; "bt thtchanc s ar tthathey will knew itwithout your tellin them. It is more than pEb:.ila that som of the have remand be. . on the watch, and that they will have gnalled our coming long ago." . "Dey hare done that, ear," Jim, who was standing closa to Reuben's elbow, put in. Jim aew smoke crl up from the top o dehill just when we turned when we lost the trail." ' Why dida t you tell me before, Jime" Reuben laked. "De captin didn't ask Jim any qustion. Jim thought de captain saw it for sure. "I didn't ee it, Jim. I don't think any of us saw i. e were all too much o dup loking or tetral. Anothr timeyou tel'm what you sewithoutm uakin " ell, a that Mse, r. BAnt, thre can e no barmn in my maing arnok, u they ta alrsdy tth pT t? pm " Willyoa tae charg f the right hand parte? Sergeant O'Conner will take command of the lft. Do you each take a tracker with you. I will take my boy. Three constables will go with each of your parties and four with me. Will you gentlemen plese to diride up so as to make seven altogether in each party without the Oaolreso" pt "I need not tell yon to keep a harpl ook. oat, Captain \,hitney. We know the black re very strong party, and now they know that they amre p ed they may as likely at not make a stand'. "Yea, that is quite possable," Reben agreed. "Will you please be careful that neither of yourpartie get more than two mles at the outlids away from mine? We can hear the sound of riles at that distance. h either party ftrei the othen will of course hurry to theiasItu?rc Now let us ma e forward." With Jim In adeance, lenben's party moted on, the black careully examining the ground and bashe u he went, and occiionally, som. what to Renbeas turprise, riaing rdem the stoopng position in which he wa walking and looking back over hil shoulder. The motive w?T explained wenaim exclaimed: "''Dere, captain, dre are the signals again." Reuben turned in the adde. On the crest of the hill behind him were three columns of smoke. Scalrcy had he looked at them when the smoke ceaed to ascend, a if the fires had been suddenlyr put out. " That' to tell them that we hare diided in three parties '" Reben asked the black. Jim nodded and proceeded on his way again "That's awkward," lRuben said; "I mast warn the other two parties." So aying, be at once ordered two of the constable to ride right and left and wani the other, who were not asyet more than a quarter of a mileon either hand, tlht the native were aware that they had broken up, and that the greatest caution must, therefore, be obsered. In ten minutes the two con. stables retnroed, having performed their mis. eion. Although he had no reason to believe that the blacks wre within ten miles of him Reuben now took the precautinn of sending one constable out on each flank to a distance of fifty yards; a third wau directed to keep with Jim fifty yards ahead of the main body, con. siltinF of Reuben himself. a contable, end two colonit. Occasionally Reuben rods forward to question JiOm. " How man c theep do yon think have gone alona the trac you are following F" "About thirty sheep and three black fellow." "How dayou knowthere are three black fellowi, Jimn I can see marks sometimes of the hep's feet but I have not een a man's foot. print at alL" "Jim see'cm, capt , plain enough. When dey all follow sheep not very plain to se,, but sometime, when de sheep want to scatter Jim see one footmark on one hand and one on he other, and sure to be one manbehind. " How far ae the sheep ahead, Jim; have you any idea!" " ix, eight hours, ear, when dey pi here, but dere's no saying how far dey are now; any be long way on, may be only little way. Me tink that they ab not gone so berry far; dat smoks berry thin, not see him more than ten miles." "I wihh you had said that before, Jim," Reuben said; "we would have kept together and hare galloped on, and taken our chance of fnoindg them." "Might hae found found r or fire of dec" Jim replied," but de others all scattered. No good to find de till dey come tygetheragail." " No, you rae right there, Jim; we must catch them all toether if we can. There are s:me twele t e hundred sheep sonmewhere ahead. Mr. Blount aid there were about fifteen hundred driven off. We have come upon a hundred dead unes, and two cr three hundred may have taken th ttturn to the ight. As you say, it would be no ool coming upon thirty." For four hours the rarty continued their journey. "It' six o'clock," Reuben said, looking at his watch; "we will halt now and light the fre." Twoof the constables were told off to keep watch some fifty yards in frunt, and the others dismounted and gathered together matrial for a fire. This was soon loe, and the smoke mounted straight and clear, a sicnal to the other two partics to dcoe in. Sddelnly a cry war heard from one uf the sentries. The men tooping roundl the fire leoi.! to thir feet just in time to e one cf the contbles struck from his horse by a Ljomcrung, while a dozen p as whirzed thrlough the air at the other. lre fGl forward on ts h onre, whch crried him up to the fire; as e fell from the saddle as it itoppel, he was caught by two of the others. Three sers had pierced him. "Stand to your arms; s'teady, for yoar lies," Reuiben houted. "Jim, thr ther hormes at once and fiute their lgs. We must defend ounelves here," he continued, turning to the other, " until help comes." Not a moment was loe. The little party threw themselis down in a circle, (ach tahing sh, Iter beliinl a ush, and Jim speeddly got the eight hrses down in the centre, for each party had with it t h e ~ pare animals. The whole time from the frst aurm until all was ready to receive the natives did not ccrupy two minutes. The horses of the sentries hao. gilloped wihldly on. bot hiavin been struck by peans, and Jim had no dificulty with the re lainduer, which were all st.nding in a group wfhen the alarkm nsa given, the oinera not yet hevinr ram.iied their sadl!ies,. All wa done withrut flurry or encotement, !lthourh the yells of the natives rcoe from the bsh all round them. The tluoh .s fortu natelr not very thick at the point wh're they Thd lalted, ILteubn ha~rvi telected it for that very reaion, buet the bashes were souicicntly near to each other to enable an enemy to creep up withln thirty yards or so without being -in. "Don't throw away a shot," Reuben called out,' hbt pick off the blckes as they tanid up to thnr;r their s earn. Ah 'h" ThS euclamationa was acucpaniel by a shot from hi rie as a native raose suddeuly from the bush and hurled his pear. It mizsed Iden>n Lynn inch or two culy, but ls his ri.e fahed out, the black threw up his hands and f'll tckian thale .lh. "Hetr, tleh dis itme good shelter," and Jim proi'ppd up his sadle almnost in freont of him. ' That's a good idea, Jim; help the others in thls name way," The fire men wee all engaged now; the spears whized fast over and among them, hut most of them were thrown almost at random, for the blacks eoon learned that to nraise them. sclsrt a nve the bashes to take almwas to court sudden death. Jim, after distributlrg the soddles to their ownern , had lain down by th' side of his mauter and loaded his rifle as fast as he dihasrgedt it, IReuben using his pistol as effectually as the rifle in tes interral. Fortunately all t the larty were iproided with theea wcal on. Had it not been so each main ould hae been liahe to be rushed by the blacks every time he dscharged his rife. As far as possible they fired by turns, so that each man whielo ading was covered by o hefire of thoe en his right aod left. For half an hour the fight eontinued. Many of the blacks had fallen, but they continued the tcault as vigorously a before, and all the defenden bad recci'tl m~re or Ices tcrion wounds from the epcJar. "The others ought to hire been here long before thir," RotUI. Ilid, 'if they had fol loued myintructicns. I onlybcipe they have not been atitaced tco: hut as we don't hear any firing that can hardly b- so." " I hopr they will be up before duhk," Iick Caihter e?ld: "it will be dark in u:other half an ha~r. These fellows are only waitim for that to smake a rush. If theydoit is all up with us." "They wil findl it a tourh job even then," tuiteu said; "but the othien must beh bhs l.o" before that. Itcid them to keep within two mires of uis; they hare had time to rida double that distince ince we madO the smoke for them em." Another ten minute c?s.ed. " Iuoamh:" Ileutun exclaimed, "I can hear, the trancrling cf hcres' hoofs. Te mometnt they arrie make a rush for your hcrs' and chrge." . "I am Idrtd the horses are kille," l)ick aid ruefully. "In that rcace," leuben nid,"we must gt to cur feet and pick ofl the blacks o they run. They will get up like a corey of partridge aa the hornemen come among them."
A loud cheer was heard, and the little puarty, with an answering shout, sprang to their feet, and, rifle to shoulder, stood expecting the black to rise; but the anr of the natives were aharper than those of the whites, and they had begun to crawl away before the latter heard the approaching horsemen. Finding this to be the case the party ran to their honrses Four exclamations of wrath and grid were heardfor sevren of the horses were completely riddled with spears. Tartart however, at hi master's voice, strug. gled to rise to his feet. Reuben, aided by Jim, quickldy threw off the hobbles and leaed on to its back as it rose to its feet, just asuMr, Blount with his party rode up. "Keep dose toether," Reuben exclaimed uas be dashed forward, we may find some of the scoundrePls" But the chase was in vain. It as alreadv grwangdao,and theu s was no saying in which direction the natives had crawled away in the bubh. After r.ding for a mile Reuben reined in his horse. "Itisno use," he said; "we may as wll get haek to the fire. What made you so late, Mr. Blount? We were fighting for three-quarters of an hour before you came up." "I am very sorry," Mr. Blount replied; " somehow or other we went wrong altogether, There is nothing toguide onein this flat hs, and the tricker who was leading the way sai e was certain he was gom " s youorderedhc " Just before ir o'clock we ated nd looked in the direction in which we expected to see your smoke, but there were no signsof it. Presently one of the constables exclaimed, 'Thera's the smoke, air, right behind us.' I looked around, and, sure enough, there was a column of smoke, and a long way off it was. ' What have you been domng, you rascall' I said to the black. 'There's tie smoke right behind us; you have been leading us wrong altogether.' The black insisted that hewas right, andthatthe iremust have been made by the black felow. I didn't know what to make of it. It wea two or three minutes pasu sio, ud I notied when we halted before that your watch was exactly with mine, so I msaid to the men, ' We will wait five minutes longer, and, if we see no other smoke, you may be sure that that is made by Captain Whitney.' "We waited the fire minutes and then I gave the word to start, when one of the men ex. claimed, 'The black fellow's ;one.' Sure enough, he had slipped away without being noticed while we were looking for the smoke. I felt sure now that something must be wrong, and we galloped towards your smoke as fast as the hones could lay their feet to the ground. When we were about half way we heard the sound of firing, and I can tell you we didn't lose a moment on the way after that. Haveyou had any loses t" "Two of the constables are killed," Reuben mid, " and we have all got some more or less ugly scratches. My left arm is uselessfora time I sm afraid. A spear went right through it. fear some of the others have worse hurts." "What can have become of the sergeant's party ' Mr. Blount said. "They m eut ohave ne the wrong way too," Reuben replied. "I told you I luspected those trackers of being in league with the blacks, and I have no doubt your fellow led you purposely artray in order to give them an opportunity of cutting us off before you could arrive to our assistance. Isuppose the other party has been misled in the same way. It is fortunate indeed that you made up your mind to ride for our smoke when you did. A quarter of an hour later and you would have found only our bodies, and would probably hare been ambushed in taurn." "Yes, it has been a close thing indeed," Mr. Blount said. "I was wrong, after what you told me, to trust that black scoundrel so entirely, but I own it never entered my mind that he was leading us astray." ly thib time they had reached the fire, which "How are you alli" Rcubee asked; "no body badly hurt, I hope i:" "Nothingvery bad, captain," Dick Caister replied cheerfully. "We have all had our akin .ipped up a bit, but nothing very deep. That dodge of the saddle of your blackfellow eased us. Mine was knocked over half a dozen times by spears, each of which would have done its business if it hadn't been forit lowe him my life so completely that I forgive him for making our horses a barricade to save yours." Reuben laughed. He bad noticed when be ran for his horse that Jim had thrown him in the centre of the others, and their bodies completely sheltered him from the spears of the natives. "It was not fair, perhaps," he said; "but my horse world have been killed as well as yours had he not done so, and Jim loves him almost as well as be does me. He has watched over and guarded him for the last three years." "I am not angry with him," IDick said; "nothing could have saved our horses from being killed, and if one was to be saved, it is as well it should be Tartar, and not one of the others, as yours was far the most valuable of the five." "Pile on the bushes," Reuben said to one of the constables; "make as big a blaze as you can; it will act as a beacon to the sergeant and his party." Hslf an hour later the tramping of horses' hoofs was heard, and a few minutes later the sergeant and his party rode up. " I am sorry I am so late, sir," the sergeant said. "Somehow or other we went wren,, altogether, and saw nothing of your smoke. I was afraid something was wrong, bet did not know what to do. so we halted till it came on dark, and presently made out a fire, hut it was railes away, and right in the direction from which we had come. I did not think it could be you, but whether it was you or the hlacks, that was the place to ride to." "Have you got the tracker with you, ser geanti" "Yes, sir; at least I saw him trotting ahead ten minutes ago. Why, where ha he cot toe" The tracker was not to be seen. "Hoe has made eff to join the blacks. I cxpect," Reuben said. "You have been led astray purposely. We have beon attacked, and Brown and Simp~son are killed." An exclamaticn of rage broke from the men who were in the act of dismounting. "I expect," Reuben said, timrning to Mr. Illount, "that the fellows noticed the talk I had with Jim before we turned ba?ck from the f?ke trail, and concluded that we had some suspicion that they were in lea ue with the blacks, and so, when the party separated, ther determined to lea thEa two launking colums atray, so as to give their friends a chance of attekcirg us, and then to bolt." "I ex?pect that is it," MIr. Illount agreed. "And naw the first thing is to 0et sohmeln to eat. When that is done we will have a ctonul. tation." While the meat was cooking over the fire, Rleubnen told off a party of right men to bury the bodies of the two coustables who had fallen. The task was spe?,iiy completed, two holes beineg easily scralo in the light sandy soil. Atter supper was over the settlersn gathered round cubean. "Now, calltin, what do you mean to do:'" Mr. Blcunt aske.d. "I have givei up all hope of eeing miy heep ugain, so don't let them influence you, hobut jist do as y?ou think best The blacks are in strong force, that is erident, and it will be a serious business Punrsuing them any furtherin their own country.", "I am going to pursue them till I catch them," Reuben said, " that is to say as long as there is ashep, track to serve as a guide. I don't ars you, gentlemen, to eo further, for I know it is a seriocs risk; but it is my duty to hunt those fellocs dowi and give them a leson. and I mea to do it. 'We shall never hare safetv in the settlrenents until those fellows eo:me to undenrstand that whenever they attack uhs they will be hunted doivn." "I think you are right." Dick Caister said, " and as long as you go I go with you for one, whatevercomes of it. But how am I to go without my horse, I don't know." "There are the spare horses," Reuben said; " fortunatey!v we hare still got six of them." "$o we hare," Dick exclaimed joyfully., " TI had forgotten all abouat them. What luck our bringing them with us!" The other settler all announces their in. tention of continuing the chase as long as RIleuen was willing to pcuh on. "I will tell you what ny ildea is," Beaben said. "The h3rses are already wora out, and by the end of anotherday they will be half mad with thint. I plropose that we take two days' supply for ourselves in our water.·bttles, and that we puah forward on foot, sending two of the constables backt to he stream with our honres. I propose that we should puh forward to-nightl. I expect the track we are following is the true one, nend the stars do as a guide. .Lt daybieak we will lie down in thobuhes. The blacks will probahly leave some fellows behind as scouts ; they, seoingnothing of us, wl'seup. pose we have given it up and gone homs, and they will mnake but a short journey. At night we will go oa agoin, and the chateos are that before morning we shall catch sight of their fires, and will fall noon them at daylight. What do you think of the'plan i' "I think it is a good one," Mr. Blount said warmly-" a capital plan. Of course we don't muchlihke leaving our hores, for in this country one almost lives on horsehack; still, it will be the best plan certainly, for, uas you say. the poor brutes will be half mad by to~morrow night with thilst." . IUt will be a long tramp back again," a settler said dismally.
"We won't tramp all the way," Reuben tid with a smile "Drectly wehbave over taken the blacs and rven them a leson, I will send Jim back agan for the horses. He can nor the groundat a wonderful pace. and coming wc he aill ride one of them, and help the two constables to keep them together. They will have had two days' mt and plenty of food and water, and will meet nus before we get half way inck. There will be no fear of the blacks attackin? them." All agreed that the plan wea excellent, and half an hour later the whole party, with the ex ception of the two constables who were to start at daybreak with the borses for the river, set out on their march. The sky was cloud. less, and the stars would have been a sufficient guide even if they had not had Jim with them. The black, howeer,took his place at the head of the party, and strode lo as unhestating as if it ad been broad daylight. (to ,? ooQrman.)