|Chapter Number||IX. (CONTINUED.|
|Newspaper Title||Euroa Advertiser (Vic. : 1884 - 1920)|
|Trove Title||A Final Reckoning: A Tale of Bush Life in Australia|
A FINAL RECKONINGS, A TALE OF TUISH LIFE IN AUSTR1tLIA. By G. A. HENTY. UHAPTER IX. (Coz-r?-~s . "Dlnner ia ready," Frances Hudson raid, inning into the room. " Her you are, papa, talking away as usual whenever you get the chance. 'ow run upf?airs quickly both of you, for Rachel will Rct ba pleased if you let the first dinner get e`d,, after she has been doing her best to prepear something special in honour of the occasion ever since she heard the raramatta was in cart." " I won't be a minute, Frances. Ah, hero comes Wilson. T was wondering what had be come of him ; he promised to come on as soon as.ho had seen his chief." The dinner was an excellcrt one, and fully bore out Mr. Hudeson's assertion with respect to his cook. All were in high spirits with the exception of Mrs. Hudson, who was cool in her manners to the young officer, and was evidently desirous of schwing her disapproval of his engagement to her daughter, which had only taken place two days before. ' have news for you, Reuben," Captain Wilson alid in the first pwuse of conversation. I" saw thl chief and told him I wanted an ap. pointment for a young friend of mine who had come out in the P?ramatta. and who had shown great pluck and presence of mind mn an affair at the Cape, which I described to him. He said that he could aippoint you at once, as young Houghton, a district superintendent, was killed three weeks ago in an affair with the bush rangers up country. He said he was veryglad 'to hanr of someone likely to make a good officer to fill his place. So if you make up your mind to be a constable, the place is ready :foryou.u" " Thank you very much, sir," Reuben said. _I was thinking the matter over last night, quite made up my mind to accept theplace were kind enough to offer me, if you think fit to fill it." sIhave no fear on that score, Reuben; I am sure you will do credit to my recommen -.-:?aion. So then we may consider :.that as -settled." - - " There,' grumbled Mr. Hudson, " that's just likeyou, Wilson; you upset all my plans. It was arranged he was to come up to my -station, and there, before you are on shore two hours, you arrange the whole business, and I suppose you will be wanting him to get into his uniform and be off before a week's out." " I daresay we can manage a fortnight," Captain Wilson laughed, "and I have no doubt he will have plenty of opportunities for visiting you later on. Indeed, I don't know, why he should not be able to look up as soon a?s you get there. He will, of course, be plaee' under an old hand forsix months to learn hin duties and to get to speak a little of the native lingo. Hartwell, who has your district, is as good a man as he can be put with. He on a careful officer, though perhaps a little slow, but he willbe a good man for Reuben to serve under, and I know the chief willput him with him if I ask him, as it can't make any difference where be goes first." " Well, if you can arrange that, Wilson, I will forgive you. And now, where are you going to ?" "For the time lam not going anywhere in particular." Captain Wilson replied. e' The chief says he thinks that things have got rather slack since Ihave been away. There areseveral hands of busbrangers who have been doing -a deal of mischief up country ; so, to begin with, he wishesme to make a tour of inspection and to report generally. After that I think I shdll be settled here for a time, at anyrato it will be my headquarters. I think it probable the chief himself will be going home on leave before wary loug." "The sooner you are settled here the better,-' Mr. Hudson said, "for I know I shall get no peace now till Frances is settled too. Ever since she was a child when she once made up her mind that she wanted a new toy she worried me till I got it for her, and you are the lastnew tap." " Oh, papa, how can you say so " Franies said laughingand colouring ; nas far as Iam concerned it may be months and months." " Oh, that is all very well," Mr. Hudson broke in; " I know what you want Ton want Wilson hereto be always neglecting his duty and galloping over from the otherend of the colony to see you. ho, no, my dear, if Wilson is a wise fellow he will bring on to book as soon as I can either build or get bold of a place fit for you. We shall be having no peace now. Every timebhe is off on duty you will be picturing him as -en gaged in some dreadful struggle with bush. rangers and blacks, and if letters don't come as often as you expect them you will be fretting yourselfrsae afever.', . "What noesence, ppaa! I know of course, George will have to do his duty.' I don't suppose he's always going to be tied to 'my apron-string." "You takel my advice, Reuben," Mtr. Hudson said, "don't you go and lose eon? heart, for if you once do there's a policeenfice? spoiled. It don't so much matterwith Wilson because he has done his share of dangerone work and is pretty well up at the top of -th tree; but a man that has to tackle bush-rangeri and blacks ought not to have a woman at3ioms thinking of him." "There is no fear of that fora good man; years to come," Renben laughed. "Are thes blacks really formidable fellows, Captai Wilson?" "Formidable to the settlers," Captais Wilson said, "but not to us. They drive of cattle and sheep, and sometimes attack solitar stations and murder every soul there; but thei seldom stand up in fair fight when we come down upon them, but they fight hard some times when they are acting with bush rangers." '"Bsh-rangers are mostly escaped convict are they not?" "Almost always," Captain Wilson replied "' except that, of course, they bave among then a few men such as runaway sailors, and ne'er do-wells who get sick of shepherding and tak to the bush; but the great proportion are con victs. It is not to be wondered at when yoe look at the life many of these men have led a home, and the monotony and hardship of thei lives in many of the up-country stations alloted to men as ignorant and sometimes al most as brutal as themselves. "Some of them, too, escape from the road gangs, and these are generally the worst, for as often as not, they may have killed a wards in making their escape, and know that it wil go hard with them if they are caught. It ma' be said that there are two sorts of bush-ranger. The one are men who have taken to the buf simply from a desire of regaining their liberty Sometimes they join parties of blacks and liv with them; sometimes two or three get to gether, and all the harm they do is to carry of an occasional sheep for food; and the othe kind are desperadoes-men who were a scourg in England and are a scourge here, who attaei lonely stations, and are not content wil robbing, but murder those who fall into thei hands. "They are, in fact, wild beasts, to whom n mercy is to be extended, and who, knowing it will flght to the last. They are not easy t hunt down, their instinct having made then wary; and being generally in league with thl blacks, who are as cunning as fo~res and c? run pretty nearly as foast as a horse can gallop they are kept very well informed as to on movements, and, the country beingso immense we should nsver run them dos-n were it no for ournative trackers. "These fellows are to the full as sharp as th Red Indians of North America. They seem in faet, to have the instinct of dogs, and ena. follow a track when the keenest white's ey cannot E feet the smallest trace of a footprint It is something marvellous what some of then will do." "- "H avo yea any of these trackers in yoo Theployment i' R .e i yas. -:" : ' :l'.?Thbere are one or two attas.hed tooeee-raj - o'ountry station.. Thce" are, infaet,-our blost? -'' +bounds, and although some of our men plick ut a little of their craft; we should do nothin1 without thiem." The neat morning Reuben met Captaic TWilson down in Sydsiey, and was taken by hbi to the chief of the constabulary, who at on? made out hi appointment. On hisreturn AMr Hudson again started with him for the towi and insisted upon ordering his equipment. As Reuben saw that he would be hurt by ano sbhadow of denial he accepted MIr. Hudson's .kind offer, although he had intended'to asn •Captain Wilson to make an advance of pay in order thathe might get whet woo necessary. He -oold not, however, have purchased such as ontfit as Mr. Hudson insisted on getting him the latter ordering not only uniforms but suits ofplainclothes,together withsaddlery, holsters, a word, and a brace of excellenit double. harreed pistols. He did not need to buy horse, having in his stables one in every way -- suitable, being at once quiet and fast--it seas, indeed, oneof the most valuable animals in the colony. " You will have to keep your eyes open, .*"euben," he said as he gave him the horse " or he will be stolen from you. These bush ranger fellows are always well-mounted, and anyone at an up-country station who has n animal at all Out of the ordinary way, has to keep his sotable door locked and sleep with one eye open; nod even then the chances are strongly infavour of his losing his horse before long. Thesefillows know that theirlives often depend upon the speed of their horse, and, naturally, spare as0 pains to get hold of a good one. Ah, ITh?a?o goodidea. Jim,"beshouted to one of the black boys, "come here." -' The lad, who was about eighteenyears of ago " m, this gentleman igoing to be a. polile officer, and he's goipg to take the hay with los; n aw h wants a good servant. Will youi go with him '" Theladlooked longnggly at the orse, which beh adg roomed -and was very fond of; but he Ihook hs head. "I no leave Mea? Hudson.' as Yes, bht I wishoyu to ino, fim, biosgentle'. mannisagreatfiriend of mine, and when bad black man attacked young MLissy he seved her life. Sol want himntob?taklea gedeareaf, and 'Pbainh ~~h specal srunematwl tlsa s
the horse trJo, and to co no cue steals it So ' someo'ae. can trust must go withhim. If yett don't t?ke him for a masttrafter you have tied t hie, Jim, you can comeback to me again, You 1 hvve been a good boy; and I have no wish to t get ridof you; but this gentleman don't know the ways of the country, and I want to be surec he has someone with him he can trust." The lad looked at Reuben gravely with his ( small eyes deeply sunken under the projecting s eyebrows. . " Jim will go," he said; " he look after white I man and Tartar to please Massa Hudson and young Missy."I " That's right, Jim," his employer said. "That's a good stroke of business," he went on as he turned away with Reuben; if you , treat these black fellows well and they get i attached to you they are faithful to death. You will see that fellow will never let your horse out of his sight. If you ride twenty miles across country there he will be by your side as you dismount, ready to take it and looking ?s fresh as paint. At night he will sleep in the stable, and will be ready at all times and places to make a fire aid cook a damper or a bit of meat, if you are lucky enough to have one by you. All 'the people about the place would do anything, I believe, for Frances, and the fact that you have saved her life will bind this boy to you at first, afterwards "he will get to care for you for yourself." A fortnight later Reuben, in Ihis uniform as an officer of the constabulary, rode out of Sydney. His baggage had been'sent on three days before by a waggon returning up country. Jim trotted with an easy stride behind him. Reuben at first was inclined to ride slowly;in order to give his attendant time to keep 'up with him; but he soon found that whatever pace he went the lad kept the same distance behind without any apparent exertion, and he was, therefore, able to ihooso ahis own pace without reference to Jiu's comfort. Four years passed. Reuben Whitney gave every satisfaction to his superiors, and was con sidered a zealous and'?ffective young officer. So far he had not been placed in a position of great responsibility, for, although for the last two years he hadheen in luharge of a district, it was not far from Sydney, and' his duties' con sisated principally in huoting for convicts who had made their osrape,'in'looking after refrac tory ticket-of-leave 'men; ad in ordinary con itabuinry work. lIeohad learned in that time to become a first-rate rider and a good shot with a pistol, accomplishments which would be of vital service when'he was ordered to an up country station. For'his pistols he had as yet, however, had -no asituiluse, as neither bush rangers nor natives penetrated so far into the r settlement At the end'of tho'four years' service he re ceived a letter from Captain Wilson, who had just succeeded to the chief command of the constabulary; ordering him to hand over charge of the district to the young officer who was the e bearer of the letter, and to report himself at headquarters. Reuben was now nearly three-and-twenty, and had grown into a very powerful .young man. A life spent for the most part on horse d back had hardened his muscles and filled out his frame. He stood about five feet nine, but looked shorter, owing to his great width of 0 shoulder. He wasstill quiet in manner, but he had the- same bright and pleasant expression n which had characterised him as a boy, and his ° visits to Sydney, where he was introduced by ,r Captain Wilson and Mr. Hudson into the l best society, had given him ease and self a possession. ' Thenativo, Jim, was still with him. He bad Sbecome greatly attached to his master, and his 11 fidelity and devotion had been of the greatest f service-to him, and go where he would the blackwas always at his heels. On' his presenting himself at Sydney, Captain Wilson said, after the first greetings: "I- know you have been a little disappointed, Reuiban, because hitherto you have been at -stations where you have had but little oppor Stuifty of distinguishing yourself. How a ever, I thought better to keep you at quiet work until you were thoroughly master of your duties, and had, moreover, otyour fullstrength. .I don't know whether you have quite arrived at that yet, but I think you will do anyhow," and he smiled as he n looked at Reuben's shoulders. " I think I am as strong as most of them," Ssenben said, smiling too. "Four years' r millwright's work, and four years on horse back in this bracing air ought to make one r strong, if there's anything in one to begin :; with. I think I shall do in that respect." e "Ithink so, Reuben. I don't think there - are many men inuthe force who could hold 'their own with you in a grapple.. And now to a- business. You have heard of that affair of g'Inspector Thomas in the Goora district-it was a bad business. He and two of his men were - out after some natives who had driven off 't cattle, and he was set upon by a party of bush y rangers, and he and his men killed." " So I heard, sir," Reuben said quietly. 5." Well, I have decided in sending you up in.: ir; his place.- It is a bad distrlict-the worst we or;s at present--nand-it nee s man of great ,, resolution and intelligence. I am sure that en. you have plenty of beth, and that I cannot ie make abetter choice than in sending you there. rs Your age is the only thing against you-not eo with me, you know, but others may think that I have done wrong in selecting so young an y officer ; but, you see, I know my man. I se know, too, that several of the inspectors are in getting too old for this sort of work; I do not mean too old, perhaps, in point of years, but in they are marned men with families, and for if desperate work I prefer men without encum ry brances. The post should be held by an in sy spector, but I cannot promote you at present; ne it would be putting you over the heads of too me- many; but you will have.a good chance of h- earning early promotion, and know that is what you like." to, "Thank'you very much, Captain Wilson. I will do my best to show myself worthy of your da confidence." m "You will have all your work cut out for .- you, Reuben. The district has all along been ke a most troublesome one. The number of n- settlers at present is small. There is a good on deal of higher bush than usual about it, which at makes it very difficult to run .these fellows sir. 'down, and the natives are specially trouble is, some. Besides which, at present there -are al. two or three of the worst gangs of bush-rangers in-the colony somewhere inthat country. You d- will have to be cautious as well as bold, rReuben. It is a dangerous service I am e sending you on, still the more danger the more ill credit to you." " You could not have given me a station. I S-should have liked better, and I hope erelong I may be able to give you. a good account of the .bush-rangers." " And now, Reuben, if you will call again in -an hour, I shall be free, and then I will drive ff you home. You need not start for a day or • two, and you will, of course, stay with me till go you do." ek th CHAFPTEt X.-As Ur-coun TR-y Dsslnsr. ir frs., WVilson received Reuben as usual with the greatest cordiality, butshe exclaimedloudly o when she heard that he was going to the Goors district: to "You don't mean it, George. You can't um mean that you are going to send tesuben to he that dreadful place. WVhy, we are always hear an ing of murders and robberies there; hnd you p, know the last inspector was killed, and the one ur before recalled because you said he had lost his e, nerve, and now you are sending Reuben "But look upon it as tihe greatest honour, he Mrs. WVilson, being chosen for such a station; , and, you see, there will be capital chances of , dlstinguishing myself and getting promoted." " And capital chances of being killed," Mrs. SWilson saidin a vexedtone. "I do callit too n bad, George." , But, my:dear, weewant a man of pluck and ir energy. . Besides, you know, 'we havebeen getting into hot water over that district. The -press have Isen-saying vry.severe thiogab.out: ourineompeiteice to protect the outlying bettli. Ip ments anid Iwas obliged to choose a man who ug will gve satisfaction; nd you will agree with no theat Reuben will do that." - - in "Of course he itll," Mrs. WVilson agreed, "I m I shouldn't be alive-now if he hadn't had plenty ee I of pluck and energy; but for that very reason r. you ought not to send him to such a dangerous n post." - - - - - " "ut I wish to give him an oppdrtlunity for y dstinguoishing himself. He wants to get on, ' and I want to push him on; but,.you see, k can't promote him over the heads of some eight in or ten men senior to him, unless he does some- ie thing a little out of the way." -? - n "Well;, I don't like itGeorge; Iotell:you 2, frankly. I always thoonght ho was wrong to go ts into the constabularj at allinstead of accpting s, papa's offer. I can't think why yoi men are sno e- fond of fighting, when you could choosea quiet a and comfortable lfe.."-- - - - - S"But it is not alwayc so .quiet and-cam e, fortable, Frances, as a good :many have to found in the district-ho is going to, and, aftert all, it is less dangerous fighlting busoh-rangers a, nd n'tives when you aroprepared for it, than , to be woke up of a night with a band of them - thundering atyour door, and withnos?sistance d within twenty miles." " - " -" - - nAs Frances Wilson remembered'how, in her o childish days, her father's place had been fore e three days beset with blacks, she had no answer a ready for the argument. a " Well, I do hope, Reuben," shesaid, "if you a do go to this horrid place, you will take care of yourself and not be rash.". - "He'ais goingto take care of others, Frances. SYou know, ifhe had taken care of himself and hain't been rash, you would not have come so Swell out of that Malay business. I am sure he looks as if he could take careof himself, doesn't he '" "Yes, he is big enough and strong enough," 1 Mrs. Wilson agreed, "but that's no good against spears or bhoomerangs, to say nothing of rides and pistols." . Why, Frances, yeu are not generally a croaker," her husobnd said lightly, "but for once you seem to'be determined to do your best tofrihlten Reuben befdre he starts." I Mrs"ilson laughed. S" No, I don't want to frighten him, Gebrge, I I only want to maki him areful." " I will be as carelr as I Bn, Mrs. Wilson.
That boy Jim is a treasure. I will warrant if there are any blank fellows about he will sniff i them out som~ how. That fellow has a noses like a hound. He has always been most-ueeful i to me. but he willbe invaluable at'Goore.'- . Two days afterwards Reuben left for his-new command. It took him eight days t reanch it.' His headquarters were at Goora, a settlement of some twenty huses besides thel barracks in I which the constabulary force, consisting of a sergeant, eighteen constables, and two native trackers, were quirtered. - The sergeant, a north-country Irishman named O'Connor, was somewhatsurprised when Reuben rode unpto the station, for the oificers previously in command had been much older men." Reuben's own quarters were in a cottage close to the main building, and he asked the sergeant to come in the evening. " Now, sergeant," hesaid after a little pre liminary talk. "I have been sent up by Captain Wilson with instructions to root out these bands of boshrangers." . The sergeant smiled grimly. - " We have been doing our best for the last three years. sar, but we have not made much of a hmad at it." "1No," Reuben agreed, "and: I don't suppose, of course, that I am going to succeed all at once. -In the first place, tell me frankly what sort of men have we got f" "" The ?ren are good enough, sir, but they have certainly got disheartened lately. One -way and another we have lost something like tea men in the last two years; and, of course. that last affair with poor Mr. Thomas was a bad one." "I understand," Reuban said quietly, " some of them are not quite so eager to meet the bushrangers as they used to be." , " Well, that isperhaps about it, sir; but I must say the men have been tremendously hard worked-pretty nigh night and day in the saddle, often called out by false news to one end of the district, and then to find when they return that those. scoundrels have been down playing their games at some station at the other end. It's enough to dishearten a man." S" So it is, sergeant. I was speaking to t Captain Wilson about it, and saving, that if we are to succeed we ought: to hrive some fresh hands, who will take up the work with' new spirit. '.We are seven below our force at present, and he 'has promised to send me up fifteen new hands, so there will be eight -to be relieved. I will leave it to you to pick out the men to go. Mind, put it to-them that they are to be relieved simply because Captain Wilson thinks they have had their share of hard work, and should therefore be sent to a quiet station for a time. Just pick out the men whom you think would be most pleased to go." - '-Very well, sir. I am glad to hear the news, for to tell you the truth I do think we want a little fresh blood amongst us." o Three days later the new detachment arrived, and Reuben saw at once that Captain Wilson had chosen a picked set of young men. About half of them were freshly enlisted in the force, the others had all been employed at up-country stations, and were well acquainted with the nature of the work before them. The same t afternoon the eight men picked out by Sergeant. O'Connor as being the leastusefulonthestation e started for Sydney, most of them well pleased a at being relieved from their arduous duties. Reuben found that there were in the office a; great many letters from settlers asking for pro tection. It was impossible to comply with all these, but after consultation with O'Connor he sent five parties of three men each to as many d -exposed stations, keeping. ten in hand to move s as required. Taking Jim and two of the It constables who had been longest on the station, e he spent two months in traversing his district from end to end, and making himself thoroughly n acquainted with its geographical features, for he felt that until he had mastered these 'he should only be working in the dark. For a time the outrages had ceased, the Sbush-rangers having shifted their cuarters and the natives withdrawn after the m?rder of the it late inspector. This was a great relief to y Reuben, as it permitted him to gain an insight into the country before setting to work 'in earnest. Upon his tour he and his followers k were everywhere most hospitably received 'at the stations at which they halted. Everywhere he heard the same tale of sheep killed, -cattle and homses driven off, and the insolent de meanour of the natives. S'"I was thinking of giving it up and moving s back into the more-populated districts," one of e the settlers said tolleuben; "butnowyou'have n come I will hold on for a bit longer and see how it turns out. You look to me the rightsort of follow for the post, but the difficulty is with d such a large scattered district as yours to be o everywhere at once. What I haveeftenthought if of is, that it would be a good thing if the is whole district were to turn out and go right . into the heart of the black country and give f them a lesson." r- "From what I bear," Reuben said, "it will be next to impossible for us to find them. The country is so vast and covered with bush that n there would be no searching it. They have -no re fixed villages, and the want of water would at reader-it impossible ores to go veryefar. :5ut at the worsat point would be that they all seem .to at b well informed as to what is going-on. I e, suppose they get warnings from the native at herdsmen and servants, and if we were all at together to enter their country we must leave m the stations unprotected, and we should find I them in ashes on our return." re "Yes, that is true," the settler said. "I t suppose it couldn't be done. But it's anxious at work sleeping here night after night with one's or rifle by one's bedside, never certain at what n- hour one may be woke by the yelling of the n. blacks. But they are not as bad as the bush rangers. If the blacks can but drive off year o cattle they ae contented;, you have got a nothing else that is much use to them. The is bush-rangers don't want your cattle beyond a head or two for present use; but they wan't I everything else you've got, and whether you ur like it or not- is quite immaterial to them. Thank God I have' got no money in the place. or and I and my three men can make a prettygood en fight of it. But I pity the men with wives and of daughters." .- • d " Well, I hope we shall soon put a top to oh it," Reuben said cheerfully. "We will give ae them a lesson if we catch them, you nay be e- quite sure." . re "I hope so," 'the settler raid.. "But you era folks have been mighty unlucky lately. Never nu seem to have been at the right place at thbe I, right time. Not that I am surprised at that is such a ditrict, but they never seem to come up 're with the fellows afterwards." .' No, they seem to have had bad luck," Reuben agreed. "Ihopeweshalldobetternew.ý Three days after his return from his last visit he of inspection of his. district, a settler rode at full speed up to the station. in "Captain," he said-for although Reuben ye had no right to that title, he" was always so or called by the settlers-" the blacks have been i down at my pace. They have killed my two shopherds and driven off the sheep." - "Sergeant O'Connor, turn out the men ai once,'! Reuben shouted. "See that their am munition is all right, and let each man take h water-bag and four days' provisions in his Il haversack. When was it?" he asked, turnin a to the settler again. . - "Some time yesterday afternodn-at least i i't judge so . One of the men wasto have come in o for supplies, and when night carieand he hadn'l i- comen I began to be afraid something wa? 0 wrong, for I kniewthat they were gettingshort, ! so this morning at daybreak Irode out with ths e hands Ihave about the house. We could see n nothing of the sheep, so-we rode straight to the men'shut. There,lyingsomotwentyvardsaway, I, was tlhebody of one of the men riddled with a spear holes." le had evidently beencunning to of tlehutfor shelter when he was overtaken. I did not stop to look for the other, for no doubt . he had been killed too." 0o "Well, we will do what we can for you," R-euben said. " I will beready in fire minutes " id He ran into the house, buckled on his sword, pn ut some cold meat and a small hg of floulr into his haversack, together with some dampers a' 'fftrt had.u"?enasoked; 'ad then went eut" againc n. Jim had alrcidy brought-his horse round tothe o door. Before mounting-ho toothe pistols out h- of the holsters and examined them carefully. : ]By this time the sergeanst and ten men were I in the saddle, and placmig himself at their head, y with the aettler, whose came was Blount, he in rode off at fulll speed, followed by his men, the a two native trackers, and Jim. Reuben soon reined his horse in. r "Itwillnot do to push them too hard at first, there is no saying how iar we shall j havotogo." .. at ' Dio you mean to follow theni into theirown coentry?" Mr. Blountasked.; - -. -. : ' I do," Reuben said,'tI':-ill follow them till I catch them, if I have to go across Aistra - "That'sthe sort," Mr. Blountsaid.." Iexpect youn will find half-adozen- other -fellows at my at station by tie time you get there. ?I sent my hand off on horseeback to :th\e stations.near. tb tell them what had taken place, and thatI had ", ridden off to you, and asking them: to:come S"?H'ow ir if s it.'llP!eubhn asked.',-?', " 'About forty mile.".: -- - - - ; . ' u -"Butyourshord will nver be ahletodo it," Reubenmsaid. - -- , 'I got a fresh horse at afriend's four miles from your station, so I am all right." - ." They will have more than a day's start of us-," Reuben remarked presently. . " Yes; thirty-six hours, for you will have to stop at my place to night. But they can't travel very fast with sheep, you know."' "No," Reuben agreed. "If they bad had cattle it would have been useless following Sthem, but with sheep we may come up to them, especially if they don't think they will be "No; thatam y hope. They will know I - had forty miles to ride to yourstation. Beside, had it niot been that I was expecting the Sshepherd -in for supplies I might not have found it out for two or three days. So Iexnpect they will think that theyare pretty safe from pursuit. They have never been followed far mito the bush. It's nasty work, you see." "It's got to be dono," Reuben said. "It is impossible- to keep guard everywhere, and the only way to put a stop to these outrages is to teach Mte blacs that punishment will follow wherever they go." - I?aw ]r t in( the afternou, before they
arrived at Mr. Blount's station. They found fourteen or fifteen of the neighouring settlers r gathered there. They came out as the sound of t the trampling of-the horses was heard. Several E of them were known to Reuben from his having i stopped at their stations. - ::" Gladto see you, captain; aut .1 am afraid i you are too late," eaid Dick Caister, a young I settler whose station lay about twelve miles 1 away. 1 "That remains to be proved," Reuben re plied as he dissounted. "Oh; they-have got twenty-for hours' start, and it's too late to do anything toenight.' They must be thirty miles away in the bush already." " If they were a huudred:.I would,-followl them,'.lReubeni said:. ? There was an -exclamation of surprise and something like a cheer on the part of sonie of the younger men. ""Trhe dificutlties arevery great," one of the elder settlers said. '"There is neither food nor water to be found inthe bush.'' '" I knowr it's not an easy business," Reuben said quietly. "But as to food;.we can- carry it with us ; as to water, there mnust be water in places, for the natives can no more go without drinking than we can. There-must be streams and water-holes here and there. r But, however difficult it is, I mean to attempt it. It is the only.: way of bringing the. blacks to book ; there can never be safety amsong the out-lying settlements unless the fellows are taught a lesson.. And now, gentlemen, before we go further I ant to'say this : I know that you are all ready to help, that you are all thirsting to wipe out old scores with the blacks, but atthe same time I would point out to you that it is likely enough that the bush-rangers, who certainly work with the blacks, will follow up this stroke, therefore it will not do to leave the stations defenceless. I do not want a large force with me. If we once overtake the blacks I havenofear whatever of being able to give a goodaccountof them. Therefore I would urge upon allof you who are married men that it is of the first importance that you should stay at home, in case the bush-rangers take the oppor tunity of our being away 'to pay you a visit. Thatisthe irst thngtoab e thought of. If any of the others like to go with us I shall be very glad of their assistance. We may be away for a week or more for ought I know." "That is certainly the best plan, Captain," Dick Caister said. As you say let the married men stop at home and-guard their stations. I thinkt lerest-ofnsawihalgowith you." There was a chorus of approval. Eight of those present were married men, and, though reluctant to give up the thought of punishing the blacks,fhey were yet glad that they were not calleduponto leave their wives and families. With many good wishes for the success 'of the expedition, they at-once mounted and'rode off to theirrespective stations, some of which were more than twenty miles away. " Now for ways and means;" Reubsn "said. " What spare`orsesehave you, Mr. Blount ?" " I hive only two besides the one I am riding." " "Ishouldlike to take at least six. We must carry a good store'cf ,rovisions."' " I don't think you need trubleabout that,". Mr. Blount said." "We must take a supply of flourwithus, anlof course tea and sugar, and a few bottles of rum will not be amiss. All these I can furnish. But as to meat I do not thinltwe need trouble. 'Going as fast as the blacks will travelthere are sure to be lots of -sheep'fallbytheway. The blacks will eat as manyas they-can, but even a black cannot stuff himself beyond a certain extent, and there will 'beplentyfor-us." "Yes, I did not think of that," Reuben replied ; "fin that-case two spare horses will be enough." "1t would be a good thing to have a few with-us though,"-one'of the young men said. "M ly pace is only six miles off, I will ride over and'bring back three with me ; they are all good ones, andl should be sorry to find they were - one when I get .back. I cen lead onse, my 'alack'by can-ride another and lead the third. It is likely enough some of the horses may give out or get speared if the blacks make a fight of it, and half a dozen spare horses would comein very-handy." Reuben thought the plan was a good one. a:-whereupon two of the others also volunteered to -ride over andftetch the one three -and the other two-horses. "That will make ten altogether with Blount's two; we shall travelall the faster, because we -pan-ride the spare horses by turns." The three settlers rode off at once andreturned late at night with the spare horses. They haf not been idle at Mr. Blount's. A bullock had been-killed and cut up andaconsiderableportion cooked, so that each of the twenty mengoing on t the expedition would start with ten pounds of cooked meat in order to save the time that Would be spent in halting to cook the carcass of a any sheep they might come upon. The ques. -tion of weight was immaterial, as the meat 1 could'be packed on the sparehorses. As soon as day broke the party were in their t saddles. Mr.-Blount led them first to the hut 'near which he had found his shepherd killed. ' The native trackers now took up the search; t the bedy of theothr shepherd was :iound hbls a mile away. Itwas m aa sitting positiony a : tree; the skull was completely smashed in bya Sbloweof a waddy, and it was evident'that a l native had crept up behind him and killed him beforehe was conscious that any danger was at -hand. The trackers were not long m finding the place where the sheep had been collected together and driven off, and a broad track of a trampled grass slpwedclearly enoughthe direc tion which had been taken. "How many of the black fellows do you think there wereP" Renben asked one of the trackers. "Great many black fellow, captain," he t replied. - '" What do you call a great many ?" Reuben a asked.- - t " Twenty,. thirty, captain; can't say how many. Nouse, -captain, look for dem, gons right away into de bush, never find them." "I am goingto:try, anyhow," Renben said. " 't?ow, do you-lead the way." - "-I tink dere :are more dan thirty black fellow," Jim said to Reuben as they started; o "quite a crowd -of ,dem. Me no much like e those two black fellow," and he nodded towards the trackers who were running or ahead, "no goodthose fellows." a "What makes you think that, Jim?" " Two days ago .Jim saw dem talking wid Sblack fellowhalfa mile from the station, not know Jim saw dem; secret sort of talk Why dey never find de tracks beforeblackfellows and bushrangers always get away ? Jim tink those ~fellows no good. Reuben himself had often thought it singulat it that such continued -bad luck should have attended the efforts of his predecessor to hunt down the bushrangers, but the thought that n they had been put off their scent by thatrackers o had not occurred to him. He had the greatest faith in Jim's sagacity, andnow that the idea was, presented to him it seemed plausible enough... .- "Very good, Jim, you keep your eye or those fellows, I will do the same; we shall a soon find out if they are up to any tricks." is Jim had been runniug by his master's stirru while this conversation had been going on, and 8 he now dropped into his usual place at the rea: of the party. For some miles the trail was followed at a hand-gallop, for the grass was severalinches in height, and the trailould be followed as easily as a road. The country ? the beganto change, the ground was poores and more arid, and clumps of low brush grew here and there. Still there was no checkinthe e speed. The marks made by the frightened flock were plain enough even to the hosemen, eand bits of wool left behind on the bushes afforded an unmistakable testimony to their Spassage. t "Theywere not going so fast here," MIr. Blountuaid after dismounting and examining? "the footprints do not go in palrs as they did at first, the flock has broken into a trot. Ah ! there is the first ahead." In a hundred yards they came upon the skin and head of a sheep, nothing else remained. - IUnable to kOepup wth the fleek it had-been speared,ecut sp, and eaten raw by the blacks. I t non the net mne theycame upon the remausof two more, then the track widened out and the a footprints were scattered and confused. The hosses were reined up and Jim and the trackers examinedtheground. Jimreturnedinaminute or two. ."Black fellows give 'em a resthere; could no go any furder; lie down and pant." t One of the trackers then came up. "They stop here, captain, five six hours till moon rise; make fire, killed sheep; and have feast." Reuben and some of the settlers rode over to I the spot to which the tracker pointed. - "Confound them !" Blonntexclaimed, "look there ! there are at least twenty heads." " So there are," Reuben said; "there must have been a lot of natives." S"Yres, there must have been a good mesy," the settler agreed, "bat not so many, perhaps, as you would think. Nobody has ever found out yet how much these blacks can eat when Sthey makeup their mind to it, but two could cer tasily devour a sheep. They will eat till they can't sit upright." "They wousl hardly eat asmuchas that with along journey before them," Reuben said; "but allow only three to a sheep, there must bhe sixty of them. My man said there were a good many more than the trackers put it down at." "So much the better; I only hope they will show fight." After five minutes'halt theride wascontinued for the next three hours, then three dead sheep were passed. This time the flesh had not been devoured, but the poor beasts had in every case been speared. "Savage brutes!" Reuben exclaimed; "they might at least have given the sheep a chance of life when they could go no further, instead of wantonly slaughtering them." - "That's their way always," Mr. Blount said; "'they kill from pure mischief and love of slaughter, even when they don't want themeat. But I don't suppose it makes much difference I expect the sheep have dropped as much from thirst as from fatigne, and they would probably have never been got up again after they once fell. I fancy we shall come upon a stream be fore long. I have never been out as far as this before, but I know that there is a branchof the Nammo creases the bush here somewhere."
Another five miles and they came upon the river. The wet season was only just over, and the river was full from bank to bank. It was some thirty yards wide, and frome two to three feet deep. A score of sheep lay dead in the water. The had aparen rushed headlong in to quench their thirst, and had either drun till they fell, or had been trampled under water by their companions pressing upon them from behind. For the next ten miles the track was plain enough, then they came to a series of downs covered with a short grass. Atthefoot of these another halt had been made by the blacks. " We must hare come twenty-five miles," Reuben said. - " Quitethat, captain ; the flock must have been dead beat by the time they got here. I should think they must have stopped here last night ; ; will soon see-there is one of their fire-places." . - The settler dismounted and put his hand into the ashes. " Yes,"he said, " they are warm still; they must have camped here last might, they started when the moon rose, no doubt.- Thus they have eight ornine hours start of us only, and as they can't travel fast after such a journey as theyhad yesterday, we ought to be able to catch them long before night." " They will go better to-day than they did yesterday," Mr. Blount said: " they were over-driven to start with,; and that was what knocked them up ; but the blacks will begin to feel themselves safe to-day; and will let them go their own ease. Sheep can do twenty miles in a day if not hurried." S"Well, at anyrate," Reuben said, " we will give our horses a couple of hours' rest.. It is just eleven' o'clock now, and I should think every one is ready for a meal." : There was a chorus of assent. The troop dismounted at once. The girths were loosened, the bits taken from the horses' mouths, and they were turned loose to graze in the long erassat the foot of the hilL There was no fear -of their attempting to stray after their journey of the moramg. Some of the men set o cut brush, and in a few minutes a fire was lighted. Oneof the sheep, of which there were several lying about, was skinned and cut up, and slices on skewers of green wood were soon frizzling over the fire. Twenty minutes later the water in a large pot hanging over the fire was boiling. Three ,,r four handfuls of tea were thrown in; and with the fried mutton, cold damper, and tea, a hearty meal was made. Then pipes were produced and lighted, while several of the men, lying down and shading their faces with- their broad hats, indulged in a doze. " One o'clock," Reuben said at last, looking at his watch. "It is time to be moving again." " The horses were fetched in, the bridles re placed, and the girths tightened. - - LNow, which way?" Reuben asked the trackers. . " Along here, captain, by de foot of de hill de trail is plain enough." Itwas so.- A track of some width was trampledinthegrass. - SReuben was. about to give the. order to proceed when he caught Jim's eye, and san that the" black wished to speak tohim pri vatelv. " - "VWhat is it Jim ?" he asked, going apart from the rest. .. "That notdeway, captain. Ahundred, two hundred sheep gone that way wid foureor five black fellow; .de rest have all gone over de hilL" : . " " Are you sure, Jim "' Me quite sure, ear ; do grond very hard; but while de captain smoke him pipe Jim went over de hill, saw plenty sign of sheep. Went straight uphill and then turned away to do left. Die little party here hab only gone to frow white man off detrail." 5 mThe trackers ought to have seen that as well as you, Jim," Reuben said angrily. "Dey see, ear, sure enough." Could no help seeing wid half an eye. You see, ear, dose fellows up to no good; lead party wrong if deo can. Don't say, sir, Jim told you. If yn a dat, put 'em on their guard. assa ride alone the trail for a bit just as if talk wid Jim aboul odder affair, den after little way begin to tall about trail being too small, den turn and comu back here and go overde hill." "iAvery good idea, Jim. . Iwill do as you T say." TO DE O5TINUED.