|Chapter Title||THE BUSH-RANGERS.|
|Newspaper Title||Euroa Advertiser (Vic. : 1884 - 1920)|
|Trove Title||A Final Reckoning: A Tale of Bush Life in Australia|
-A FINAL RIECKONING 4 TALE OF BUSH LIFE IN AUSTRALIA. Br G. A. IIENTY. " CHAPTER XII.--Tit BUSt-RtLGEua. Scarce a word was spoken as hhs little party marched along. It was impossible, although' very improbable, that the natives, on scatter ing before the charge of Mr. Blount and his companions, might have left some of their number behind to watch the movements of their pursuers. They would, however, cer tainly not anticipate the whites pushing for ward that night. The fire had been piled high the last thing before leaving, and the two men eft there were told to keen it burning brightly till morning, and to start lefore anyone watch ing in the distance wouldbe able to see whether thehorses were mounted or not. Should any nstives approach the fire after they had gone, they would take it for grantesd that the whole party had ridden back to the settlement. All night RIeuben and his companions marched steadily forward, and were glad to * throw themselves down on the ground at the firt appearance of daybreak. Four sentries were Splaced with strict ordersto keep abrightlook-out through the bushes, but on no account to raise their heads above their level, and arrangements having been made for their relief every two hours the rest of the party were soon sound asleep. Except to relieve the sentries there was no stir among them until late in the afternoon; then there was a general movement, and soon all were sitting up and appeasing their appetite upon the cold meat and dampers they had brought with them. '" There is no harm in a pipe, I suppose, cap tain F" Dick Caister said laughingly. "No, Ithink we can risk that," Reuben re plied. "The eyes of the savages may be won derfully keen, but they would be a great deal sharper than I can give them credit for, were ,they to notice the smoke ofea dozen pipes curl ing up among the bushes." "I suppose, Mr. Blount," Reuben said, as, -after the meal was finished, the party lighted their pipes and drew closely round the fire, Sou have heard of a good many bad businesses with the blacks and bush-rangers in your time ?" "I have, indeed," Mr. Blount replied. "In the early days the settlers had a hard time of it with the blacks, who were, of course, stronger ti an they are now, and, after they had got over their first fear of firearms, more fearless of the whites. The bush-rangers, too, were, when first they began to send eonvicts hon, more numerous than at present. I do not know that they were as desperate as they are now-not eo ready to take life without provocation. You ace there was a very much larger run of country oFen to them; and many convicts who escaped and took to the bush were content to have rained their freedom. Some of them took black gins and never troubled the colonists again, beyond, perhaps, coming down to a station and carrying off a sheep or two, or a bullock, when they got sick of kangaroo meat and wanted a change. " You see the first settlers were generally poor and hard-working men. Young men with a little capital had not as yet been attracted here, so there was but little inducement for the escaped convicts to meddle with them. There were, of course, some notorious scoundrels who saemed to murder for the pure love of the thing. The worst of them, I think, was a follow who went by the name of Cockeye; what his real name was I never heard. That man was a perfect devil, and was for a long time the terror of tie settlers. Hie never worked with other white men, but lived among the blacks. Of course in those days the police eystem was in its infancy, and we had to rely upon ourselves. I had u narrow escape once of losing my life from him and his blacks. "When I was about seventeen I lived with my father and motherin a station about fifty miles from Sydney, or as it waes called then Port Jackson. It was at that time quite an outlying station. We had two conviets alloted to us, both of them honest fellows enough, who had been transported for poaching or something of that kind-anyhow, they were "not old hands and gave no trouble. My ,father wasa kind master, and we always felt that in time of need we could rely upon them just as upon ourselves. In those days it reas nesttoimpossible to get hired hands, for as there was plenty of land for anyone to squat Sbasin comparatively close to the pert, the men S who came out generally set iupor themselves at once. " One dayI had been out .on horseback to look for a couple of bullocks which hsd strayed away, and was on my war back when-ahead of me heard the cooey of the -blacks. I didn't think much of it because thor were common enough at that time, and a party had made a sort of encampment at a stream about a mile from the house; but when, a minute later, I heard a gun fired I guessed that there was mischief. The sound seemed to come from away towards the right, where I knew that one of our men was out herding the bullocks, so I clapped spurs to my horse and rode in that direction. When I got near I saw the cattle running wildly about and a mob of blackfeilows among them. I could seeno igssa of our man, and guessed that he must have gone down, and that had best ride and warn them at the house. "The blacks saw me and started at a run in my direction, but I soon left them behind. I was within a quarter of a mile of. the house when a native yell burst out imahe ofi upper windows, and I saw one of them roll over. This was a satisfaction, for I knew they hadn't caught my father asleep. I knew the drors ant shutters were strong, and that he could make a good fight of St. Stilt there was only him and my mother at home, for both the men had gone out before I left in the morning, and one man hasn't much chance of holdinp house attacked on allsides. So I madeii i-y mind to try to dash through them, when the shutter opened a little and my father shouted out:-' Ride for help, Bill ; I will kef apthem off till you get back.' So Iturned; ~ut en I had gone a few yards I looked- over - shoulder, and I sawna man dash out from behind the house on horseback and start sit agallop after me. " It was a bay with a white leg, apd I knew. that Cockeye used to ride such a horse, and that their wasn't a betterin the colony. Almost at the same moment I heard a shot again, but I didn't look round. I can tell you I felt pretty badlyfmightened, for there wasno mercy to be expected from that scoundrel, and I knew that he was a good deal better mounted than I was. "The next station was about four miles off, andI had about two hundred yards tart, but before I had gone half a mile he was within fifty yards of me. I could hear him cursing and swearing and shouting to me to stop, but I had made up my mind I would not do that. I had got abrace of pistols with me, but I wasn't much ofa shot. I had, soon after I started pulled them out of the holders and shoved them into my belt in front of ms, so that, as he mame up, he shouldn't see my handgo down for them. oyt hope was that he would ride straight up to lthe side of me uot hknowing that I was armed, and that would gire me a chance of asddenly letting fly at him. " You think ih chance was a poor one, and that he would to a certainty shoot me down before he got up. I did not much think he would do that, fobI guessed that the scoundrel would do with me as he had in some other mases, namely, take mo and carry me hack to the house, and there either threaten to shoot me, or hang me up over a fire, or some such deviiry, to make those isile gie oin. I was determined this shouldn't be, and that i Icould not shoot him I would be shot myself, for otherwise he would haoeot my father and mother, and it would have been threelies instead or of ne. "Presently--crack r--earns the sound of a pistol, and I heard the bullet whiz cnose by. I expect that it was only to frighten me into setpping; but in a seond or two he fired again, and the shojut grazed my shoulder, so he was in earnest that time. Iheot low on sy saddle, Rot a pistol out of my belt andprepared. There - was aIother shot, thehorse pave a spring and I kne-he was hit, but for a time he went faster than ever; still the last shot wasn't frof more than twenty yards behind, 'nd I expected every minnte to see ?his horse's head comimg uop beside ne. ThenIhesrda euree and a sudden fall, and looking round saw his horse was down. " Cockey?e was osi his feet in a moment and drewaeother pistol frem his hoh-fer.oI eon. - ?vaiting to make inquiries. Iguessed prettywell -whathad happened. The shot I had heard mv 'father fire as ho started after me had hit thie rome, and the poor brute had kept on until he dropped. I undorstood the fellow's firing maw; befot his horme was fulling under him, and his onlmychane weestostopme. I kept on till I gotsafeto the station. The three men there started in differest directios to fetch asistance, mnd by the e-eniag we had a score of men assembled there and started bhct to our station. WYeheard a cooey when we were within a mile ofthe p!aee, and guessed it was a fellow on the watch. By the time we got there they had all cleared off, but it was a dose thin-. Mymoth was a courageous woman and had-defended the back of the house and my father the front. The blacks ad made severaclattempts to burn the plaoe down; but the roof, like the wals, .was made of solid timber, which is the only safe way to build a house when you are exposed to attacks of the blacks. "As long as daylight lasted the old people l - iad done very well and had kept the blacks at a distance, and we saw by the marks of blood in the morning that they must have killed or wounded eight or ten of them; but if we hadn't tome up before the blacks had darkness to cover them it would have gone hurfiwith them. Of coarse we koewthat. and calculated so as to get there before nightfall." "What became of the bmhranger i' Reuben asked. -.- "Well, curionaly enough, that was the last ' time he. ever troubled the. settlements. We mever knew exactly what became of him, but it b Swansid that the blaeks iLaleadan'd eathim; I - know that wa-s very-often the end of those 'fuhbedhi btoeiasd? s agmo?.t .m ? tfh lnthg 11 . . .. . , . . .. : .. . . : .. . .
fellows. As long as all went on well the blacks were friendly enough with them and were glad to follow their lead, but after a repulse like that they got at our station, or perhaps as a result of some quarrelabout the division of the plunder, or their gins, or something of that sort, they would fall suddenly on their white friends and make cooked meat of them." "I suppose the blacks seldom spare any whites who fall into their hands?" Rouben asked. " Scarcely ever," Mr. Blount replied. " That was why they were more dreaded than the bushrangers. The latter would kill if they were in the humour for it; but if there was no serious resistance, and none of their number got hurt, more often than not they contented themselves by leaving everyone tied hand and foot till somebody came to unloose them. I remember one horrible case in which they so tied up three white men at a lonely station, and nobody happened to go near it for three weeks afterwards. It struck someone that none of them had been seen for some time, and a couple of men rode over, and to their horror found the three men dead of hunger and thirst. Now the black fellows don't do that sort of thing. When they do attack a station and take it they kill every soul, man, woman, and child." " I suppose in thataffair you were telling us of," teuben asked, "both of your ticket-of leave men werekilled 1" "Yes; one seemed to have been surprised and speared at once, the other had made a stout fight of it, for the bodies of three natives were found near him." "I remember one ease," one of the others said, "in which the blacks did spare one of the party'in a station which they attacked. Itwas a little girl of about three years old. Why they did so I don't know; perhps tho chief took a fancy to her. Maybeohe had lostachild of the same ago and thought his gin would take to the little one. Anyhow he carried her off. The father happened to be away at the time. e had gone down to Sydney with a waggon for stores, and whene gt he bck he found the house burned, and the bodies of his wife, two boys, and two men, but there was no trace of that of the child. ," He was nearlyout of his mind, poor fellow. The neighbours all thought that the body must have been burned with the house; but he would have it that there would have been some signofher. No one else thought so; and,be sides, it wasn't the customs of the blacks to carry off anyone. The father got a prty to try and follow the blacks, but of courso it was no use; they had prettyneartwo days' start. The father never took to his farm again, but hung about thb out-sfations doing a job here and therefor his grub. Sometimes he would be away for a bit, and when he came back, though he never talked about it, everyone know he had been out hunting the blacks. " I do not know how many of them he killed, but I know- ho never spared one when' he got himoutside the settlement. After a time the blacks never troubled that part. So many of them had been killed that they got a supersti tious fear of 'the man, and believed he was possessed of an evil spirit, and I don't believe twenty of them together would have dared to ettack him. "At last, from som cof the half-tamed blacks in the settlement, he got to hear some sort of rumour that there was a white girl living with one of the tribes far out in their country, and he set out. He was away four months, and he never said what he had been doing all the time -in fact he started almost directly for the port, and went home by the next ship. However, he brought his child back with him. It -was four years since she had been carried off, and she was a regular little savage when she arrived in the settlement with him. Of course she could not sneak a word of English, and was as fierce as a little wild-cat. I expect she got all right after a bit. I didn't see tile man, but I hear he was worn to a shadow when he got back. He must have had an awful tieo of it in the bush. What with hunger and thirst, and dodging the blacks, I don't know how he lived through it; but he looked contented and happy in spite of his starvation, and they say it was wonderful to see how patient he was with the child. They got up a subscription at Sydney to send them both home. I leardthe thhe cap tain of the ship he went in said, when he cnme back the next voyage, that the child had taken to him and got civilised and like other children Sbefore they got to England." "Of course such fellow- s Cockeye and Fothhergill re the exceptions and not the rule," Mr.lount seaid. " Wretere ee many of such scoundrels about we would have to abandon our settlements and make war upon them, for there woe would no living in the colony till they Sere exterminated. Most of these fellowB are Sthe colonial version of the highwaymen at home. It is just ' Stand and deliver.' They content themselves with taking what they can Sfind i a traveller's pockets, or can obtain by a flying visit to his station." "Yes, I had several of those in my last dis 3 trict," Reuben said. " They were just mounted Srobbers, and ave us a good deal of trouble in hunting them down. But none of them had shed blood during their career, and they did not-even draw a pistol when we captured them. That style of bushranger is a nuisacrs, but no more. Men seldom carry much money about with them here, and no great harm was done." " You see," Dick Caister said, "these fellows have a remarkable objection to putting their necks in the way of a noose, so that although they may lug out a pistol and shout' Bail up!' they will very seldom draw a trigger if you show fight. So long as they do not take life Songer. -They don't mind the risk of that. They have had their outing, sometimes a lng oneg one; but f they once tae life they know its hanging when they are caught, and' are therefore careful not to press too hard upon their triggers. But once they have killed a man, they don't generally care how many more lives they take. They are desperate then, and seem to exult in devilry of all kinds. As to being stuck up by an ordinary bushranger, one would think no more of it than of having one's pocket picked in England. It's lucky for aon the-fwhole t Iat the black fellows have ' ihih.ý hatred of the white men. Were it u nt for that a good many of these fellows w6ould go all lengths, relying on taking to the bush when they had made the colony too hot to hold them. But thee are reonly a few of them that have ever got on well with the blacks, and many a man who has gone out into the bush has fou hiend his there. You see there's no explaining to a dozen natives who jump up and begin to tlhrow speas and boomerangs at you that you are a bad white fellow and not a colonist on the search for fresh runs. No, the bushrangers on the whole are not sch a bad lot of fellows. -I supposethere is not one of us here who hasn't had men ride up and ask for food who were, he knew pretty well, bush rangers. Of course they got their food, as any one else would who rode upto a station and asked for it. Only once I was told to hand over any money I had in the house. As fortunately' had only a few pounds I gave it up without making a fight for it. It'ns u risking on's life unless for something worth fighting for. I suppose most of us here have had similar experiences.'" There was a general chorus of assent among the settlers. "Many of them are poor-spirited wretches. Two of them bailed up a waggoner of mine coming out with a load from the port. He pretended to give in, and as they were opening somee of the boxes he knocked one over with the butt-end of his whip. The other fired a hasty shot and then jumped on to his horse and galloped off again, and my man brought in the foellow he had stunned." "Did you hand him over to the police?" Reuben asked. "' ot I," the settler laughed. "I thought he had got what he deserved, so I bandaged up his head and lethim go. Those poor beggars of convicts have a dreadful hard time of it, and Sdon' think therare are many settlers whowould hand over any man who had escaped and taken tothe bush even if h had occasionally bailed up a waggoner or so. We know what a floging the poor wretch would get, and as long as it's only an occasional robbery to keen themselves from starving we don't feel iani great animosity against, them. It's different altogetherwheu they take to murder. Then, of course, they must be hunted down like wild beasts. And now I vote that we have a'nap My pipe's out, and I suppose wo.-hall be on tramp again as soon as it is dark." - CHAPTEBR' XLII.-Bfli-sn a oos. renewed;-' - '.. .":*; " Now, Jim, you must keep your eyes well open," Reuben said. " There is no saying when we may come upon them now." ° - "Itink dey.not veryfar off, sah. Doessheep too tired to go far. Black fellow glad to stop and rest when he see noone coming after him. De ground more up and down here. Must no make noise, maycome upon dem ssdden." It was nearly midnight when Jim suddenly W" What is it, Jhn ?" Reuben asked in a low Jim stood miffing the air. "Me smell fire, captain." Reuben sniffed the air but shook his head. " Idon'tsmell anything,'Jim." *I smell him, sah, sure enough; not very close, perhaps, but in de air." . " Whatisit, Captain Vhitney?" ~~J . Blount d aled, as he came forward and joined them. "Jimsaysheemells fire, but I can't smell it.' 9 . " Oh, you can trust Jim's nose," the settler said. "It is wonderful how keen is the scent of these natives. They are like dogs in that . respect, and can perceive the smell of a fire s-hen the wind brings it down to the miles away. a "Dis way now, sah," Jim said. turning off to he left st right angles to the course which thley a had been pursuing. "Smell come down the f rind, dat's artin. We follow him far enough we sure to catch dem." . For fully two miles Reuben followed the .m black without speaking, then he said: ., " I don't smel any smoke, Jim. Are you tt uite sure you are right about it " is Quite sure, sah. be smoke much stronger. he tan he wars. Some of dese bushe make very
sharp smell ; can smll him very far away." f "That's all rignt, Jim, on we go nen. I t must take your word for it." Another half.an-hour's walking IReuben thought that ho too could smell an odour of s buru wood, and soon afterwards he became I convinced that it was so. The ground on I which they were crossing was slightly 1 undulated, and on nearingthe crest of one of 1 the alight rises Jim said: " " eo smoie am getting rolng now, san, and Jim can hear do bleating of do sheep. If de captain will wait hear, Jim will go on ahead and find out where dey lie." "?Butperhaps you won't be able to find us again." " Der no fear of dat, sah. But if I not come straight back I give a little whistle-like this when I get on to a rise, and if the captain answer in just the .'same way, then I come etraight bace to him." So saying Jim glided away n the darkness, while Reuben gave the word for the men to halt, and lie dew till his return. There was, however, no occasion for a signal, for in little over half an hour from the time of Jim's leaving he rejoined them again, his coming being un noticed until ihestood among them, so noiseless were his footsteps. " stehabdem' dis time, sure enough cap tain." " Why, is that vou, Jim ? You quite startled me. Well, whatis your news " " De black fellows and de sheep are little over a mile away, sah. Doy got a big fire down in a bottom. Some of demn eating still, but most of dem fast asleep round do fire." "Iow many are there of them ?" "About fifty, nah-at least dat about the number Jim eaw. I expect I was right when I tell you dat there was well nigh a hundred at fust, some ob them go off wid de sheep de odder way, and we kill over twenty in dat "lDoyou think we killed so many. as that, Jim ?" "I went round, sah, and counted sixteen of dom, and some sure to have crawl away and die in de bush. Dere were over twenty killed altogether for sure, and I specks dat some more hab left de party to-day and gone off widdere share of the sheep to derpeople." " Well, what do you think, Mr. Blount shall we attack them to-night or wait till morn ing?" "I should saw wait till morning, certainly," the settler said. "We might shoot a few if we attack them now, but the rest wrould-bo all. off at the first flash of our gunand we should never get another shot. I think our best plan would be to remain where we are for another couple of hours-it is two o'clock now-then Jimn will guide us to the place, and we can take up our position as close as we can get and 'wait for daylight." " Thereis no fear- of their -making a move before it is light, Jim?" "No, sah. Dey tink day am safe now and etat'ono big feast; dey not move till light, sar tain." "Very well, Mr. Blount, then we will do as you say. When we get near them we will divide into four parties. You with four men shall move up close to the sheep, Sergeant O'Connor with four others shall work up from the other end of the bottom, five others shall make a detour and get right on the other side of their fire, and I with the other three and Jim, who you see has got one of the constables' rifles and ammunition, will come down on them from this side. Jim will place all the parties, taking them by turns, as near the fire as he thinks safe, and will then return to me. Only, as we shall attack them from four sides, let everyoneobs carefulabouthis shooting, other wise we shall have casualties from our own shots. All will remain quiet until I fire; then a general volley must be poured in bullet and buckshot, and when the rifles and guns are empty go right at them with pistol and The plan was carried out as arranged, and before daybreak the four parties were lying in the positions allotted to them, within forty yards of the blacks. A few of these were seen fitting by the fire, the rest were all asleep. Gradually the light began to creep over the sky, and as it became lighter there was a move ment among the blacks. As soun as he could see perfectly Reuben was about to fire in the air, for he did not like to fire at unsuspecting men, in spite of the deeds of blood and rapine they had performed in the settlement. Presently, however, his eye fell upon one of the treacherous trackers who had so nearly brought destruction upon them; he levelled his rifle and fired, and the man fell dead in his tracks. As the rest of the blacks leapt to their feet a volley from nineteen guns was poured into them, followed by seven or eight more, as most of the settlers were armed with double barrelled guns, a few buckshot being dropped into each barrel over the bullets. Then came the sharp cracks of the. pistols as the whites rushed down-to the assault. The natives attempted no resistance. Panic. stricken at the sudden appearance of the foe, whom they imagined by this time far back on their way to the settlements, and paralysed by the slaughter made by the first volley, they thoughtonlyof flight. A few caught up their spears and waddles as they madea dash for the bushes, and strove to effecttheirescape between the parties advancing on each side of them; but the latter were now close athand, and for a minute or two a fight took place between the whites with their clubbed muskets and the natives with their spears and waddies; but it was soon over, for the natives only fought to - . "ii- , ,,-ssneo-,,ds- f s e verat.r w r-e' or less severely wounded by the spears, while no less than thirty-four of the blacks were killed. The victors made no attempt at pursuit but as soon as the last cf the natives had escapea they gathered to ascertain what loss had taken place on their side. "Poor Phillips is killed," Mr. Blount said as he examined the body; "the snear has gone right through his throat. Fortunately he was a single man; he has only been out here a few months, and was staying down at Dick Caister's." "Poor Tom," Dick said in feeling tones; "lie was a capital young fellow, snd I am deeply sorry. Fortuiately he has left no one hbehind to grieve more than I do for him, for he lost his father and mother shortly before he came out, and was alone in the world." "I am thankful it's no worse," Mr. Blonut said. " We have given the blacks a terrible lesson. I think as faras they aroconcerned we can sleep in peace for a long time. Of course we have not done with them, for they are very revengeful; but a blow like this will render them careful for a long time how they attack us. SHow manyof them have fallen?" '.'Thirty-four," Reuben said; "Jim has just been counting them up. Now, Mr. Blount, we will have another of your sheep for breakfast, and then we'll be off."
nhe sheep had scattered somewhat at the alarm of the fire, but were soon driven together again. One was caught and killed, and slices of the meat were stuck up on ramrods and were soon frizling before the fire. ' Well, Mr. Blount, how many sheep do youi thinkthere are here?" ' S" I have just been looking them over," the setler replied, "and I should say theremust be nearly twelve hundred, so that, allowing for two hundred driven off in the other direction, and ahundred droppedby the way, the whole flock are accounted for. I am indeed obligedtoi you and to my friends here. I never expected to see a tail of them again when I found they were off." 'I am very glad you have recovered so mlny of them," Reuben said, "and still more thati we have given the blacks such a lesson. - We will, as soon as we have finished, be on the march. Jim will go on ahead at once as we agreed, and he tells me will get to the stream where the horses are before night, and will start out with them at once so that we may be able to meet them to-morrow early. 1 fancy our waterbottles are getting very low, but we can hold on for to day." As soon as he had finished eating Jim started off at a run, which Reuben knew he would keep up for hours. The body of young Phillips was buried, and then, collecting the flock and driving'it. before them, the rest started upon their return. The sheep could not trael fast, for many of them were footsore with their hurried journey, but they had found plenty of nourishment in the grass at the bottoms and in the foliage of the bashes, and being so supplied had suffered little from thirst. Jim before starting had pointed out the exact line they were to follow, aed this they cept by oepar . Wth With only?"ono-ort ob'shoz t-W1 they kept on until nightfall. and, leaving the sheep in a grassy bottom, lit their fire on the crest above it in order that its flame mightserve as a guide to Jim should he get back with the horses before daylight. There was hut little talking before each stretched himself atl ength before the fire. They had been twenty-four hours without sleep, and all were now suffer ing severely from thirst; the last drops in the water-bottles had been emptied early in the day, and they were parched not only by the heat of the sun butby the stifling dust raised by the flock as they travelled. There had been but little supper eaten; in deed, most of them contented themselves with eating pieces of raw meat to satisfy their thirst rather than theirhunger. Although they had no fear of the return of the natives Reuben thought it only prudent to keep watch, and each of the party had half an hour on sentry duty. The day was just beginning to breat hen the man on guard exclaimed: ' I can hear the tramuline of horses!" The news brought everyone to their ,eet, and ina few minutes the two constables and Jim rode up, driving before the them horses of the rest of the party. "Well done, Jim!" Reuben exclaimed. "Now, the first thing get one. of the water skins off." . One of the skins was unfastened in a minute, and after copious draughts everyone felt ce- I freshed aund ready for work again. " We cannot start for a few hours," Reuben maid. " The horses must have come over forty miles and won't be fit to travel till the after-. noon ; fortunately there is -plenty of grass for hem in the bottom. And now that my thirst s allayed I begin to discover that I-am hmunwary." a . o., , t , 'h'ee we a greneral deeorms of asent, ite
firewas made up again, the men wontdown to the bottom and killed and brought up a sheep, and all were soon engaged in making up for their twenty-four hours' fast. In the afternoon a start was made; but although they travelled all night they did not reach the stream until the following afternoon, as they were obliged to accommodate their pace to that of the sheep, The following morning Reuben rode forward to' the settlements, leav ing SMr. Blount with two of .his friends to come onwith the flock at his leisure. At the first farm he reached Reuben heard that, as.he feared, the bush-iangers had taken advantage of so many of the settlers being away to recommence their attacks. At the first two houses they visited they had found the in mates on the watch, and had moved off without making any attack. At the third they had surprised and killed a settler, his wife; and two hired men, and had sacked and burned the hIouse, Reuben learned that some of the police had gone off in pursuit. Leaving his horse to the care of the settler Reuben borrowed a fresh animal and rode off to the scene of the outrage, which was some thirty miles distant. Just as he arrived there he rr ct he party of eight police who had been in pursuit of the bush-rangers, and they reported that they had lost all trace of them. For the next two, or three weeks Reuben did not return to his head quarters, spending the time in riding from station to station with a small party of police and urging upon the settlers the necessity not only of strongly barricading their houses, but of keeping a watch by turns, as the bush rangers seldom attack a place unless they can rain the advantage of a surnriso As nothlng hald been heard of the bush rangers, Reuben determined to return to his barrack. He was spending the last night at Dick Caister's, wien, just as thley were about to turn in, the sound of a horse's hofs at full gallop was heard. "Something is the matter." Dick said; "men don't ride like that at night for noth in went to the door and opened it just as the horseman atopped in front. " Quick, Caster!" the man said as he leaped down, " the bush-rangers are not fifty yards behind." And indeed the sound of the tramp: ling of other horses sounded close behind.. " Come in, come in!"Dick cried. - 'Aht is it you, Shillito? Never mind the hors? he must look afterhimself. Luckily the captaa'nk here,snd we will give it them.hot. Just run round and see that all the shutters are fastened." . . ... SAs Dick spoke he was barring the door, he now shouted at the top of his voice to the two hired men who were in bed' upstairs; but before any answer could be returned there was a thundenng knocking at the door. " Whatis it ?" Dick shouted. ".Open the door, and be quick about it, or it will be worse for you. We want• that chap that's just ridden up,- and we mean:to have him, so he had best come out at once. -If. you don't open the door at once we will cut the throats of every soul in the house." "You have got to get at our throats first, my fine fellow," Dick said jeeringly. The knocking was at once renewed, but with greater violence. S"The door's a strong one," Dick said to Reuben, " and it will stand a good deal of that sort of thing, but we may as well move the table and benches up against it, then we can see how things stand." Reuben had been busy taking down the guns which hungover the fireplace, droppinga ram rod into them to see that they were charged, and putting fresh cans on to the nipples. Iia own rifle stood in the corner, and washe knew ready for service. " What arms have you altogether, Caister ?'' "I have that rifle and double-barrel gun. Both my hands have got muskets; I got them up from Sydney a few months back."' The two men now came running down .from above, each with his musket. " Where is Jim ?" Reuben said, looking round. " He went out about ten minutes ago," Dick said. "I fancy he went to look after your 0 horse; lie takes as much care of that animal as if it were a child." " I hope they won't find him in the stable and cut his throat," Reuben said; " he is owonderfully faithful and attached to me. I would not have harm come to him for any f thing. ow, I will go up stairs and recon noitre. Now those fellows have left off knock ing at the door they are a good deal more dangerous than when they were kicking up all the row." S" Mind how you show yourself, captain, as likelyenough one of them is on the watch ex pecting that we should be sure sooner or later to takeoa look out of that window; so keep well back. The night is pretty light, so I expet you will bhe able to make them out." " Cean we get a view of the stable from that window?" " Yes," Dick replied, I rather had that in my mind's eye when I put the stable up; it's always a good thing men knowing that their masters can have an eye upon them - when tthey least expect it. Why do youansk ?i :: r " Because if the window commands the stable. door we can prevent them rettin' the horses out." " Yes," Dick said, "after losing two n'that last affair it would be a serious matter to have e the rest of them carried off." t Reuben went up the stairs and made his way towards the window, standing a short distance e.li--kriur fi8Sbaefa7 t°°fOhY place below, followed by loud shouts. He ran down stairs ogaein. - The bushrangers had moved round to the back-of the house, and there picking up a young tree which had been brought in. to saw up into billets for firewood, they used it as a battering-ram against one of the shutters, and atthe very first blow broke it offits hinges and then made a rush at the window. ' Two shots rang out almost together,- and then firing d hastyvolleyinto the window the bushrangers began to climb in ; but by this time Reuben had arrived, and thesharp cracks of hispistols rang out. "'They have got the police here l" one of the men exclaimed, as he caught sight of Reuben's uniform. " Draw off, lads, I expect it's that accursed captain," another voice exclaimed ; he's always riding about with nobody but that blaclkfellow wit him. He has got to go down, that fellow has, or he will give ussuo end of trouble; but draw off from that .window for a moment." " What will they do next, I wonder ?" Dick Caister sid, as, leaving the two hands to guard the window, he returned into the outer room with Reuben. "I rather expect they are going to try to burn us out; we musut keep them from that.if we can. Mr. Shillito, will you go up to the upper room and keep an eye on the stables ? Shoot down any one who may pass our line of sight. Haven't you got any loopholes, Caister?" - "Yes, of course I have,"- Dick replied; "I had forgotten all about them. Yes, there are two loopholes in the logs in each side of the house upstairs. They have been shut .uip by wisps of straw ever since the housewas built." Giving strict orders to the two men to shout instantly if anyone moved near the winlow, the two young men went upstairs. "Have you seen anything, Shillito F" "Not a thin: one would almost think that they have bolted." 'They will hardly do that, I fancy," Reuben said: "there are ten or twelve of them, hut I think one or two must have ot a bullet in them.'5 h , . ' "I wish they would come on," Dick said, as he pulled out the straw from the loopholes. teuben went to them all in -succession and looked out, but nothing could b seen of their assailants.- Presently, however, a nomber of dark figures appeared, each bearing a burden. "They have been cutting brushwrood ," Neubei? exclaimed. "I was right, you sees they are going to try to smoke or burn us out. Now I think it's time to give them a lesson." ."Look, loos?'" " - The exclamation was :excited by. a sddde glare of liglt on the other side of the stables. : ' The scoundrels have set fire to the stables " Shillito said. - - x. e "Wh at shall we do-make a sally? ' Caister asked. "I am ready for it if you think right." - -. "No," Reuben sail;' "they will -snhoot: us would try to carry the horses off instead of destroying them. I only wish we wero on the poosr best' baerks, weno wsould go for them though they were twice as many. I don't e the others now ; they must have gone round to the other side of the house." Scarcely had Reuben taken up his station at one of the loopholes than he again saw the dark figures. He took steady aim-and fired. There was a sharp cry, and one of the fellows fell to the ground. The others at once threw down their burdens and fled. Three minutes later there wus a shout. 'Loeak hare, you pdoliedman, and you, Canter, you shall pay dearly for this night's forgets his word in that way. It's your turn this time, it will be mine next, and when it is, take care." " The only reply was a shot from Reuben, i aimed in the direction from which the voice came.. A minullater there was a trampling of I "They are gonel" Shillito exclaimed. "Perhaps it is only a trick to draw us out," Dick suggested. "'o, idcn't think it's that," Reubn samid ; " they are not strong enough to send a party off snd to attack us with the rest. No, I think c they have gone; they know that we can't foiloe them, they have taken good care of e that," he added bstterly as he glanced at the 2 stables, which were now a sheet of flame; " "'however, we will look round and see.' The three men descended to the room below , andbeingjoined by the two handsP removeds the furniture piled against the door and threw h itopen. - "Wemutst't goround to -that-side of the I house eeasto get into the glare of the lire till w -e have rooked rounod,Reubeh ci?. ,";be- n
lieve they are all gone, but they may have left a couple or them lurking somewhere about to pick us off when we show in the light. I will take one of your hands, Caister, and scout round on one side, do you three go the other side." . A quarter of an hour later the two parties met near the stables, where the fire was now burning low. The roof had fallen in, and only some of the uprights were drcCt with flicking flames licking thems as they stood' glowing above the mass of still blazing dcbri.i. "I wonder whether that poor fellow is under that?" Reuben said. " ' I hope not, indeed. I fancy he must have got away; he might have slipped off whenthey first rode up; he may be hiding somewhere round, afraid to come near till he knows how matters have turned out." So saying, he gave a loud'cooey. They stood silent for a minute, but no answer came back. "There is nothing to he done till morning," Dick said, " and it's no usehangingabout here. Before it gets light I will start for Watsosc's; there are two of your men there, and they with the two Watsons and ourselves can set out after these fellows, if you are agreeable, that is, as soon as we get hold of some horses." " I hardly think I shall be justified in taking you," Reuben said as he walked back towards the house; " these scoundrels are all armed to th'o teeth, and they are. first-rate shots, they know every foot of the country, and aganist anything like equal numbers theyLwould make a desperate fight of it, even if they did not thrash us. Of course in anything like an equal number of my own men I should not hesitate, but I don't think it will be fair for you settlers to undertake such a service as that." "Listen!" Shillito exclaimed, " they are coming back again." Surely endugh on the night air the sound of horses galloping at full speed could be heard. ."I don't think it can be them," Reuben said; " they would have no motive in coming back after they once rode off-they would now ..we s- hould be ready- for them." "I don't see who else it can be. At anyrate all our guns are loaded, and if it is them, all the better." Suddenly a loud cooey was heard. "That's Jim!" Reuben exclaimed; "I should know his call among a thousand. He must have made off to get help at once, but I don't know how he can have done it in time." " "VhyWlyit's the Watsons and my men!" he sesoefimdnsa sthe porty rode up into the light. "All safo e" one of the settlers eriedd as he. -jumpedfromt his 'hore. ; S"All safe, thank God," Reuben replied. "Did Jim bring you news that we were at tacked ?" "Yes; fortunately we were sitting up and talking when he rode up, so there was not a minute lost." "Rodeup l" Reuben repeated in srprise; " why, wheredid you get a horse, Jim ?" - "Rod master's horse," Jim said. " What !" Reuben exclaimed in delight; " what, is Tartar safe ? I was afraid his body was under those ruins. Why, how did you get him out ?" " Jim was in do stable, nash, when bush ran"er ride ip ; dohorses was stamping. and I nothear dem till dey come quite close, den it was too late to run out. Do moment dot dey began to maeu bobbery at door I opened stable door and bricsc out do three horses." ".VWhat ! did you get mine out too ?" Dick bhouted. " Jim, you are a trump and no mistake." " Den," Jim went on, paying no attention to the interruption, " me led do other two horses little way and let them go loose, sure not go far from home, and I jump on Tartar and ride like the debel to Watson's for do police." "!WeTll done,Jim ; you have done capitally. No a let us talk over what we had better do." The partyro-entered the house. Fresh wepd was thrown on to the fire, and one of Diik's hands proceeded to put food en the table and prepare tea, while the others consulted what course should be pursued. It was agreed at once that more aid would be necessary before they could think of attacking I the bushrangers, but all were ready to join in I the hunt for them; therefore it was decided that Dick Shillito and the two WVatsons should I each ride at once to neighbouring stations to - bring aid. At one of the stations two more ! policemen would be found, and as in the pur suit they should probably pass near other stations, their numbers- would swell as they went. When this was settled the party sat down to the meal. - " How did you come upon them; Shillito ?" Caister asked, -" I had been spending ths day with the Wil klnsons. I did not start to rid home till it wasrather late, and I was riding fast, when about a quarter of a mile before I got to my place I rode right into the middle of a lot of men- n horseback. They evidently hadn't heard me coming, and were as much surprised as I was. Therewos a generalshout of "Bail up ' and I saw at once what sortof gentry they were. However, I didn't stop,but n the confusion dashed through. A few shots were fired atlme. I suppose they were too sur prisedto aim straight. Then they started off after me. I knew it was no use making for home,for there was only one man there, so I swept retind ann made for your place. My t horse is a good one, you know, andl gained on Sthem al except one man, who must have been capitally mounted, for he gradually crept up to rme;. He wasn't twenty ards behnd me when he shout ed, Stop oarYio mlt as me w` gothere." - "What has become of your horse, I wonder P" - " Igavo him a cut with mywhip as I jumped off. He cantered away. Of course theymay have caught him; but I don't think it's likely." "Yon will find him somewhere about at day light; I expect. I willrid Caister'sspare horse now." For Jim with one of the handshad gone out to fetch in the two- horses from the spot where they had been turnea toe.r (TOa ' COS-T\SIU.) •