|Chapter Title||AT DONALD'S.|
|Newspaper Title||Euroa Advertiser (Vic. : 1884 - 1920)|
|Trove Title||A Final Reckoning: A Tale of Bush Life in Australia|
A F1NAL .RECKONING. A TALE OF BUSH LIFE IN AUSTRALIA. BT G. A. HENTY. CHAPTER XV.-AvDoarDn's. It is difficult to say whether Kate Ellison or Reuben Whitney was the most surprised at this unexpected meeting. The former, indeed, was aware that Reuben had come out to Australia ; but that the boy, whose cause she had championed, should now stand before her as the officer to whose energy and activity she and her sister owed so much seemed almost in credible. But the surprise of Reuben was at least equal to that which she felt. He could scarcely credit the evidence of his senses at seeing before him the young lady whom he had believed to be thousands of miles away in England. As is usual in these cases the girl was the first to recover from her surprise. "And it is to you we owe much!" she said, holding out her hand. "Mr. Barker spoke of our preserver as Captain Whitney, but somehow it never for a moment occurred to mete connect the name with you. Is it not extraordinary, Alice ?" she said, turning to her sister. "The surprise to me is even greater than to you, Miss Ellison," Reuben said. " Mr. Barker always spoke of Mrs. Donald and her sister, and I had not the least idea thatyou were inthe colony. Mymotsoer wrote to me a year ago, telling me of the changes which have taken place; but although she said you had left Tipping, she said nothing about your coming out here." Reuben had in fact been much disturbed in his mind a year previously by hearing from his mother that Mr. Ellison had died sud denly. Hehad, it seemed, lost a large sum of money from the failure of a bank in which he was a shareholder, aid the blow tad killed him. The estate was, when Mrs. Whitney wrote, for sale. Reuben had written back, begging his mother to send him all particulars that she could gather, but communication between Australia and England was in those days very %-_.elow,- nd -mnn-newer~lad. yettbeen remeived. -Another letter had indeed tta'himf-that- the estate had been sold. Mrs. Ellison, he knew, hiad died a few weeks after he had left Eng land. " It is very simple," Kate Ellison said quietly, " although, of course. it seems so strange to you our being here. My sister was engaged to Mr. Donald before papa's death, and as you know almost everything went owing to that bank, and as I had no reason for staying in England I came out here with them. Reuben subsequently learned that Mr. Elli sonhad disapproved of the engagement of his daughter with Mr. Donald, who was the younger son of a neighbouring squire. When after his death Mr. Ellison's aff irs were wound up it was found that there remained only six thousand pounds which his wife had brought him to be divided betweenher daughters. MLr. Donaldpossessed nocapital, andhadnoprospects at home. He and Alice were quietly married three months after ler father's death, and had sailed a week later for New South Walis, where, as land could be taken up at i nominal price, it was thought that her little fortune would be ample to start them comfortably.. All this, however, Reuben did not learn until some time later. After chatting for a short time he returned to the camp fire. " This is very awkward, Mr. Barker," Mrs. Donald said; " no you know that Captain Whitney was at one time gardener's boy to our father ?" " Oh, Alice !" her sister exclaimed," what difference can that make ?" " Itseemstome," Mrs. Donald said, " that it makes a very great difference. You know mamma never thought well of him, audit is very awkward now finding him here in such a position, especially as he has laid us under an obligation to him. Do you not think so, Mr. Barker ?" " Ido not pretend to know anything about such matters," Mr. Barker said bluntly, " and I shouldn't have thought it could have made any difference to you what the man was who had saved you from such a fate as would have befallea you had it not been for his energy. I can only say that Captain Whitney is a gentleman with whom anyone here or in the old country would be glad to associate. I may say that when he came here three or four months ago, my friend Mr. Hudson, one of the leading men in the colony, wrote to me, saying that Captain Whitney was one of his most inti mate friends, and that he was in every respect a good fellow, and that he himself was under a lifelong obligation to him, for he had, at the risk of his life, when on the way out, saved that of his daughter when she wasattacked b a madnMalay at the Cape. More than that I aid not inquire. It was nothing to me whether lie was born a prince or a peasant." Mrs. Donald coloured hotly at the implied reproof of Mr. Barker's words. She had always shared her mother's prejudices agaunst Reuben Whitney, and she had not been long enough in the colony to become accustomed to the changes .of position which are there so frequent. "You do not understand, Mr. Barker," she said pettishly; " it was not only that he was aboy employedin the family; there were other circumstances-" "Oh, Alice!" Kate broke out, "how can you speak of such things? Here are we at present owing morethan our lives to this man, and you are going now to damage him by raking up that miserable old story. Mr. Barker," she said impulsively, " my father, one of the most just as well as one of the most kind of men, had the highest opinion of Reuben Whitney; believe me there was nothing in the circumstances to which Alice alludes which could cast the slightest slur upon his character." " I feelcertain of that, my deor young lady," Mfr. Darkersaid, "even without yourassurauce. Your sister is shaken by the events of the day, and no wonder, and I amu quite sure that when she thinks this matter over she will see that, whatever her preconceived ideas may be, it would be most ungrateful and ungenerous to breathe a single word in dispoaagementof Captain Whltney." So saying he turned on his heel and left the room, and Kate, wishing to avoid further words on the matter with her sister, followed his example. Mr. Donald's reflcc:ions were not pleasant. She felt that MIr. Barker's reproof was well deserved, and that she hatl acted ungratefully and ungenerously. As a rule Mr. Ellison's eldest daughter washy no means of an unkind - disposition, but she wasessentiallyhlermother's child. The question of Reuben Whitney had been one wlehl d caused more serious dissension between her father and mother thau any she everremembered. She had taken her mother's views of the czse, wh.ile Kate had agreed with her father; and though the subject had been dropped by mutual consent, it had been a very sore one, and at the sight of Reuben the re membrnce of the old unpleasantness had caused her to play part which she could not but feel was mean and unworthy. She felt angry at herself-angry with MIr. Barker, with he?ester, and with Reuben. She was standing there with her lips pressed together as she thought over the matter when 1rs. Barker came into the room. "Heisawace now, my dear; perhaps you had better go in to him." Then she dismissed from her mind the events of the last few- minutes, and went in to take her place by the side of her husband. But as during the long hours of the night she sat there and thought over what had pasesed since the preceding evening, the thoughtof how muchshe owed to lReuben Vhitney was upper most in her mind, and when in the morning Mrs. Barker relieved her, ele went into the otherroom, where Mr. Barkecrand Kate were about to sit dows to breakfast, and said : "Mr. araker, I thankyou for what you said tome last night. Tou were right and I was wrong. I was ungrateful and ungenerous. I can only say that It was a verysore subject,aoid that in my surprise I thought of the past and Sna e p ?rent. Believe me I am very srorry for S"That is quite enough, MIrs. Donald," Mr. narker said heartily. "I am very glad you havre said what you have. Ir was sure hat yous would, upon reflection, feel that, whatever the old grievance might have hbeen, it could not * sveigh an instant against what you owe to that young fellowr now. Let us say no more on the eabject. You were shaken and not yourself, andIaas roeng in taking you up en sha rply uder the circnmstances.", Kate said nothing; hut her face showed that she was greatly pleased at her sister's change of "What is goiing to be done, Mr. Barker?" Mrs. Donald aske-d. "Of course the friends who came to our rescue cannot stay here, and iere ls no ctnuce of my husband beink moved "I am afraid not, indeed,", Mr. Baker said; "most of them will leave this afternoon intime to get back to thei stcaons to-night. I have been speaking with Captain Whitney, and he - says that he with his men will certainly stay here for the present, H? sent off a messenger here or hoe still hopes to get news from his native boy, which may set hnm on the tracks of the bashrangers. You need, however, beunder no alarm,.for I think there is no chance what ever of thebushbruersgreturning. Bytheway, Whitmey would hue to speak to you after breakfast. He wants you to give him as minute a diedsiplon as you can of the fellows you saw. "We have already descriptions of four or five of them given by men whom they have etuckup; butthe band must have incresoed a~-, a d any particulars might be useful." aeuben came round in a quarter of an hour later. Mr. Barkerfetched him into the room where Thu. Barker and Kate were sitting. " Mr. Donald inno worse, I am glad to hear," he said as he shook- hands with the two ladies. ."I se noochange whatever," Mr. Barlrer much. He askedme this morning to tell you and allyourfriends hnow deeply he feesi indebted to you." * ub eea withoe ruther.
"His thanks are due to the settlers rather than tome, Mrs. Barker. They werevolunteers, you know, while I was simply on duty..We had, however, one common interest, to get here in time to save the station, and above all to catch and break up this gang of scoundrels; and now, Miss Ellison, if you feel equalto it, would voukindly give us an account of what happened! Mr. Barker said that he would not ask you yesterday; but something, perhaps, let drop by chance might serve as an indication to us as to the direction in which these fellows have gone." "I will tell you certainly," the girl said, her face paling a little, "although it is dreadful even now to think of. We, of course, had no idea of attack, and had gone to bed as usual. One of the men was always on guard on the outside of the house, for these attacks made Mr. Donald nervous for the safety of my sister and myself. Simpson was on guard that night. Whether he went to sleep or not I cannot say." " He did, Miss Ellison," Reuben interrupted. ".We fouid his body found by the end of the house. He had evidently been sitting down on a log against the house, and had been killed by a crashing blow with some heavy instrument, irobably one of the tools they used for breaking in." "ihe first we knew about it," Kate went on, " was a tremendous crash downstairs, which was followed by a continuous thundering noise. I think they must have burst the door in with crowbars or something: that was the first noise we heard; but a strong wooden bar in side kept the door in its place till they battered it down with a log. I hurried on some things. Just as I had done-it was not a minute, I think. from the time I woke-Alice ran in partly dressed too. I had heard Mr. Donald shout to the men, then there was another great crash as the bar gave way, and then some shots were fired. "Mr.-Donald had been standing just behind the door, and had fired through it the moment before it gave way. He had not time to step back, and was knocked down by the door. It was fortunate for him. for the bushrangers rushed in and shot down the two men instantly. Alice would have run down to see what had happened to her husband, but I would not let herou ofmyroom; she could have done .no good ad'nighthave'been shot. Thenweherdl them moving about the house, swearing and usin all sor's of horrible language; then they shouted up to us to come down or else they would come and fetch us, so we opened the door and came down at once. Alice gave a little cry of joy as she entered the room and saw her husband standing unhurt, though still looking dazed and confused from his blow. The leader of the band-I suppose you have not seen him, Captain Whitney ?" " N o, indeed," Reuben said. "I would give a good deal to catch sight of him." " What do you know about him ?" "I only know that he is a young fellow not much older than l am myself. His was a life sentence: he was concerned in a burglary in the country in which two old ladies were killed. Two of his accomplices were hung for it, but in consideration of his youth, and as it was not proved that he took an absolute part in the murder, he got off with a life sentence. I heard about the case from Captain Wilson. He came out here about a year after I did. He had'not been here a month when he ]illed one of the guard and made his escape. Since that time he has been a scourge to the colony. Not a week has passed without complaints of his bailing un and robbing teamsters on thei. way down to vydney. He soon gathered two or three others about him, and his daring and impudence soon made him a noted character. Several times he, with two other men, rodeinto good-sized villages, and, pistol in hand, went from house to house and carried off every shil ling in the place. He has ridden into large stores single-handed and compelled the store keepers to hand over the contents of their tills Sometimes they bring spare horses with them, and ride off laden with groceries and stores. He has committed at least a score of murders, always using his pistol at the slightest show of opposition, and sometimes murdering appa rently for pure love of the thing." "Do you know his name ?" Kate asked. "His real name? No, I don't know that I ever heard it. He is always spoken of as Fothergill." "I will tell you his real name presently," Kate said. "As my sister and I came into the kitchen he took off his hat and made a 'deep bow and said. ' Ladies, me and my mates are sorry to put you to any inconvemence, but as we happen to be hungry we must trouble you to get us some supper. You need not bother to make tea; wine is good enough for us.' Of course, as we were in their hands there was nothing to do but obey his orders; so we spread the cloth and brought out what there was in the larder. Then we fetched in the wine, and I brought several bottles of spirits: for, as I whispered to Alice, 'If they get drunk we may be able to get away from them.' Before they sat down the captain told two of his men to go upstairs with us and fetch down our watches and jewellery and the money there was in the house. Mr. Donald hadalreadytold them where they would find that. We lit four candles and put them on the table. "The captain ordered Mr. Donald to sit down facing him, saying with a sort of mock politeness;that they should not really enjoy their food unless their host took the head of the table. Several times while they were eating I saw the captain looking hard at Alice and me. Presently he said, ' I have it now. Why, you are the Ellison girls, aint you ' "I was nstonished, as you may suppose; hut I said: 'I am Miss Ellison, and Iers. Donald is my sister.' "'By Jove, who would have thought it!' he said. 'Do you know who I am?' " I said I didn't, although really I seemed to have some sort of recollection of his face. " ' Why.,' he said, ' don't you remember Tom Thorne, whose father the squire turned out of the public-house? And to think now that the squire's daughters are waiting on me. This is a piece of luck. Well, my dears,' he went on, with a horrible grin, 'you need not tell me how you came here now: you will have plenty of time for that. We have made upour minds to take you both with us, for it's ahorrible lonely life in the bush without the pleasure of ladies' society. But I never dreamt that I was in for such a slice of luck as this.' "' r. Donald jumped from his seat as the fellow spoke, but in a moment he levelled a pistol at him and shouted, ' Sit down, or I fire.' Alice rushed to her husband and pushed him down into his seat. "'I had rather die than go with you,' I said to him quietly. "' Perhaps so, my dear,' he replied, 'but you see you haven't got the choice.' "Then he went on taunting us about old t times, and especially reminding me that I had got him a thrashing over breaking the school house window. When I went out to get them some more wine, for they wouldn't touch spirits, I got a knife and hid it in my dress, for I made up my mind to kill myself rather than that "A little later I suole upstairs and brought down a brace of pistols, which Mr. Donald kept under his pillow, and shpped one into Alice'o hand. Preoenctly they began to get noisy, aid thecaptain ordered me to come and sit on his knee. Then Alice and I showed the pistols, ad said we would shoot ourselves if one of theu laid a finger on us. The captain muttered some order to his men which I didn't hear, but I guessed it was to leave us alone for the present. I had no doubt what they intended to do was to catch us off our guard and wrench the pistols from us, and I was glad I had the knife hidden away, for if they did carry us off I was sure to be able to find some opportunit' for using that. '"It was awful!' the girl saus, putting her hanid to her face-" awful to be standing there and hearins them laughing and shouting and cursing. I was tempted to go behind himand shoot him suddenly, but the others would have beenjustas bad, and we should have gained nothing by it. I would not go through that half-hour again for all the money in tihe world. The men had just finished and were getting up from the table, and I knew the moment was coming fast, when ,we :hleard.a sudden shout outside. My heart gave a bound as they rushed to thie door. . The captain fired a shot at Mr. Donald just=,- as he' was getting up, and as he ran out shouted to me, 'I will come back for' you, missy.' If it hadl not been for Mr. Donald falling to the ground I should have fainted; but Alice called me as she ran to him, and I think I was trying to lift him up when the constable ran in, and I knew we were saved." Reuben had given a sudden start when Kate Ellison mentioned the name of Tom Thorne, but he had iot interrupted her. "I had a score against that scoundrel before," he said as she finished, "and by heavens I will settle accounts with him when I meet himn. I could have forgiven him for the wrongs he did me; but now-" and sis fingers closed on the hilt of the pistol in his belt. Kate, whohad been looking down as she told her story, raised her eyes at the tone of intense passion in the young officer's words, and a sudden flush of colour mounted into her cheeha, which were pals from the terror and excitement through which she had gone. "I say ditto to Captain Whitney," Mr. Barker said. "I don't know anything about his previous doings against him, but I know that if ever I come across the scoundrel I will shoot him as a dog. Even you can't say any thing against that, wife, though you are always on the side of mercy." "N'o," Mrs. Barker agreed. "I would say nothing to stay your hand there, John. Even puttingthis aside he has committed a score of murders, and there will be no more wrong in shooting?himnthan there would be in killing a wild beast. " That is the sound of a horse coming at a gallop, perhaps it is the doctor." i Hurrying to the door they found to their great satisfaction that Mrs. Barker's guess was verified. The surgeon had been at home when the messenger arrived, and had started five minutes later, arriving three or four hours earlier then they had even ventured to hope. Mrs. Barker at once led the way into the next room, and a few minutes nlater came out again for hot water and sponges. Kate had stolen away upstairs when the surgeon had entered
the house; the two men remained to hear the verdict. "He is going to probe the wound; he can give no opinion yet till he diseoverswhatcourse it has taken; but he says that it is a favourable symptom that the pulse is so strong and re gular. He wishes you both to come in, as it will be necessary to hold his patient's hands while he is making the examination. . "I cannotgive you any positive opinion," the surgeon said when heo had finished the ex amination. "I can't find the ball, and I cannot tell for certain what course it took after entering; but Ithink. judging from the pulse, and I may say from the expression of his face, that no vital aunrt is injured." An exclamation of thankfulness broke from Mrs. Donald. " We must not be too sanguine," Mr. Ruskin went on; "but there iscertainly.strong ground for hope. I shall be able to give a more definite opinion in the course of a few hours. He must, ot course, be kept perfectly quiet, with no more nourishment than is. absolutely necessary, and that in the shape of beef-tea. I should make him a bed here; we will manage to slide a door under him and lifthim on to it with as little movement as possible. Atanyrate, madam," he said turning to Mrs. Donald, "I can congratulate you upon the fact that the bullet did not strike a couple of inches higher ; had it done so my ride would have been a use less one." A bed was at once brought from aroomabove ,and made up, and Mr. Donald was placed upon it in the manner which Mr. buskin' had suggested. Then with'liehtened hearts the party, with tthe exception ofhis wife, left 'the room. Ms Kate and Mrs. Barker at once set to prepare a meral for the surgeon, while Reuben went over to give his companions the good news that the surgeon had strong hopes that Mr. Donald would recover. In the afternoon all the party, with the exception of Mr. and Mrs. Barker and the constables, rode off to their respective stations, assuring Reuben of their readiness to assemble again at once should he obtain news which would afford a hope that the gang could be traced. 'A few hours later the other four constables for whom Reuben had sent rode up.. An out house was now prepared for the reception, of the police, Reuben himself ca'sing up his abode there; although: 'Mr. Donald s'rongle urged him to come into the house ; but with Mr. and Mrs. Barker and the surgeon there, and the time of one of the ladies taken up with the wounded man, Reuben thought that their hands were perfectly full, and said that he should prefer to mess and sleep with his men. " You see, Mrs. Donald," he said, as she tried to induce him to alter his determinationi, "I shall have to be sending out men and receiving reports, and may be obliged to ride out In the middle of the night; therefore, you see as absolute quiet.is ordered for your hue; band, it will be far better for me to be outside the house, as the coming and going would be sure to disturb him, and he would naturally want to know what is going on." " You will not, I hope, take all your party away in pursuit of these men, Captain Whitney," she said anxiously. " They might get up some false alarm to take you away and then come down upon the house again. I have been too much taken up with my husband to think much about it, but although Kate keeps up bravely I know that she is greatly shaker' and terribly-anxious I' don't know whether she told you, but it was to her chiefly that hor rible man spoke, and it was she he told as he rushed out that he would come back to fetch her. She will never have a moment'speace or tranquility till we hear that he is either killed or taken." " Nor shall I," Reuben said. ' "I do not think that the scoundrel will dare to attempt to carry out his threat to come back again ; but with so daring a villain it would be rash toomit the smallest precaution. You may be quite sure, Mrs. Donald, that in no case will I leave the house unprotected, and that if I should be called away I will leave two men here, who, during my absence, will remain in the house, and with them, Mr. Barker, and the doctor, you may feel perfectly assured that no open attack will be made. But I cannot impress too strongly upon you that, seeing the man with whom we have to deal, your sister should not stir outside the house until we have caugthlim, or until Mr. Donald is so far recovered as to be able to be removed. I will not tell her so myself, because I see that now the strain is over, she is greatly shaken, and I would not add to her anxiety; but if you could break it to her as if it were your own idea, that she had better keep within doors until this fellow's caught, I am sure that it will be well." " You will come in this evening I hope, and always of an evening, Captain Whitney. It will make a change and cheer us up; besides we want to hear all about your adventures since we saw you last." This Reuben gladly promised, and after it was dark, and he had placed a sentry, he came into the house. Mrs. Barker was on duty in the sick-room, and Reuben, at Mrs. Donald's request, gave them an account of the voyage out, and of the circumstances which had led to his entering the police. He would have passed very briefly over the affair at the Cape, but by many questions Mrs. Donald succeeded in eliciting from him all the details of the story. " It was a gal.ant action indeed," she said warmly. "You certainly saved the lives of those two girls at a terrible risk of your own." "To make the romance complete,Whitney." Mr. Barker remarked, "you ought to have married Miss Hudson." "Unfortunately, you see," Reuben said with a smile, " in the first place I was only a boy, and she was two years my senior in the next, and much moreimportantplace, Ihappened not to be in love with someone else, and I did not happen to be in love with her, thou"h she was, I admit, a very charmingyoung lady, and had been extremely kind tome." "How was that, Whitney ?" Mr. Barker asked. " Eighteen is a susceptible age. I can only account for your coldness on the supposi tion that you had left your heart in England." " I fancy my heart was then where it is now," Reuben rejoined with a slight smile. " In the right place, eh, Whitney ?" " In the right place," Reuben repeated quietly At this moment Mrs. Barker entered and said that Mr. Donald would be glad if Reuben would come and sit with him for a little time. "Don't let him talk much,'! Mr. Ruskin s said, "the less he talks the better; but your e talking to him for a time will cheer him up and do him good." S"I am glad to see you going on so well, MIr. Donald," Reubenu said heartily as he entered. I " The doctor says you ere not to talk much; but you are to play the part of a listener." " Do you think you will catch these fellows P" was Mr. Donald's first question. 1"I will catch thecm sooner or later," Reuben i said. "1 willrun them down if they are above ground; but I can take no steps in the matter until I hear from my black boy. I have been expecting him to turn up ever since I got here, and shall begn to be afraid that those scoun drels haveill-treated him if he does not turn up before lung." " My wife has been tellin" me that they t knew you at home, Whitney, and that she and Sher people did you some terrible injustice Ssomehow; but she wouldn't gointo thematter. Curious, isn't it, your meeting at this end of the I world, and that, too, at such a moment?" "It is curious." Reuben said; "what people call a coincidence; but Mrs. Donald is mistaken in telling you that her people did me an injustice. Her father was one of the kindest friends I ever had, and althouglh Mrs. Ellison Eomewhat misjudged me, and her daughter naturally shared her feeling, they were not in anyway to be blamed for that, for they oly tiought as ninety.nine people out of a hundred did." "Whitney, WVhitney." Mr. Donald muttered to himself. "1 seemed to know the name, though I cannotrecall where. Ah!" he said suddenly, "of cours I remember now, for I was in the court when-" and he stopped. "When I was tried," Reuben put in quietly. "Yes, that waa me; I was acquitted, as valc kno, ?prindpally'ferom theway in which-Mr. Ellison stood up forme.' Thank God that he never for an instant believed that I was "And to think it should be you!" Mr. Donald said; "how strange things turn out! I remember I could not make up my mind about it, it seemed so strange either way." "We had better not talk about it now," Reuben said quietly. "I said then, and I say now, that I know the people wrho did it; and, strange as the circumstances have already been. you may think them stranger still some day if I bring one of them before you alive or dead." At this moment there was a knock at the' door, and Mrs. Donald came in and said that one of the constabulary wished to speak to Reuben. ' "Then I will say good-night,. I hope I shall find you getting on nicely in the morning, Mr. Donald. Will you say good-night to MIiss Ellison and Mrs. Barker for me, irs. Donald? and tell MIr. Barker that I shallbe ready in five minutesto smoke that pipe wo talked about with him outside." ('rO E COesNNTU.ED.) -