Chapter 71489016

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Chapter NumberV
Chapter Title
Chapter Url
Full Date1903-12-09
Page Number19
Word Count1387
Last Corrected2014-11-04
Newspaper TitleAustralian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 - 1907)
Trove TitleThe Remnant of a Life
article text CHAPTER V. The senior-constable was cantering home to the police barracks of the township Stanhope had left the day before. He saw grazing along the bush track a horse with the remains of a pack on him. He caught the horse, marked the spot at which he had found him, then led him into the town- ship. Leaving the horse there, he took his black tracker out with him to see if there was an acci- dent or anything of that sort. Reaching the spot where tho constable had found the horse, the tracker took up the tracks,   followed them till they came to another horse, this one having a saddle on and a broken bridle. "Hullo!" said the constable. "Some drover fellow has ridden drunk out of the township, and come to grief, I expect. I'll lend the horse, Gumboo; you go on tracking. I think to find low white fellow directly." "Mine tink lt," laconically replied Gumboo, who wont on tracking, sometimes seemingly at fault, but soon getting right again. The track was leading them towards a clump of balah trees, whoso dark, steepling tops were silhouetted clearly against the blue grey sky.   In this timber the blackfellow said there was a gcod gilguy. Suddenly they heard the howling of a dog. "Dingo?" said the constable. "Dat poller not dingo. Sheep dog, dat pel- ler," said Gumboo. The tracks led them towards whence came the sound of howling. As they made' their way through the balah scrub, they saw by the gilguy In front of them, the body of a man lying on the ground, a black and tan collie sitting up beside him, howling long, anguished howls. "By Jove! . This is our mark," said the constable. He drew up his horse close along- side the body, and dismounted. "By Jove! Suicide! Here's a revolver! Tho poor beggar's blown his brains out. What's this in his hand? A letter! Sorry. Seems playing it low to read a dead man's secrets, but my duty compels me." He had difficulty in taking the letter from the roan's hand, lt was tightly hold in the grip of death. When he at length got it free, he saw that the handwriting was a woman's. "Cautious, too. Only signs her Initials. Who ls M. A., I wondeT? Whoever she was, he was a fool to give his life for her this way. What's that, Gumboo?" The tracker had been peering round, and found an envelope. Ah! Now we shall see who he is. How the ink has faded already! In this heat, no wonder. I cannot make out the initial, but the name is Stanhope. Well, I don't suppose Gumboo would stay here by himself, and yet he is such a warrigal, he won't make them un- derstand If I send him in for a dray to take the body in." "I suppose we must bury him in the bit of a cemetcry there is, though I'm hanged if I   think it was, ever consecrated ; no bishop is     likely to have been-out here, and I suppose it   takes a clerical lordship to make a holy a bit of ground."   "Such a ghastly cemetery, too-sort of last day business-great fissures in the graves. "I'd hotter be off. That dog will guard the body, even if Gumboo gets funky and bolts. If it hadn't boen for that dog of his, the crows would have been at the poor chap. They are squeaking a requiem now, noisy brutes. If ever the devil took a bird shape, I bet it was a crow's—Mephistopellan-looking brutes, Gum- boo says crows never attack the body of a dead man, but I don't believe that." Aftor speaking so to himself, and telling Gum- boo to remain, off rode tho constable. And as he heard the mournful walling made by the wind through the tops of the balahs, he thought it accentuated the melancholy end of the dead man, lying alone in that haunted spot, for, according to tho tracker, all balah scrubs were haunted by the spirits of dead lovers, and truly there lay one with a woman's letter of dismissal in his hand. He felt tho sadness of it all, and, spurring his horse, cantered away from the soughing wall. The sun was dipping into the Beyond like a blood-red ball, almost uncanny in its bril- liancy, when all else seemed so sombre. It was the sad hour of the Australian day when if a man has a past his thoughts fly to   it, and lt overwhelms even tho monotonous im- mensity of his surroundings, that is, if he be not Australian. The average Australian, in the bush at least, is not intense; he may have— indeed, often has a sad expression, but that expression ls distinctly a fraud-a veil merely to a pleasure-loving nature, which finds keen enjoyment in small things. With the spell of the hour on him as he rode through the shadows of the bush scrub the constable's thoughts carme and went without his volition. Back they carried him the the old days when his uniform was not what he now wore but that of an officer in a crack regiment. Back went his thoughts to the fatal year when he had plunged beyond recovery and had to join the army of failures who found refuge in Australia. There for a time he had gone under; then taking a strong pull at himself, he en- tered the police force, and was now the highly respected senior constable at on outslde bush township. Back, back, wont his thoughts to his Sandhurst days, A procession of his old chums passed be- lfre him, some of whom he had forgotten the very names of for years. "By Jove," he thought, "there was a fellow called Stanhope passed out before me a good bit—went into a Hussar regiment. He too, I heard, went a cropper and dropped out. Strange if this chap should be the same. Strange of that parted us ea Sandhurst to meet in the Never Never country. When we parted we felt sure of painting brilliant futures on life's panels. "When we met he had opened the door for his own exit--I an Australian bobby, linger- ing on, not caring when I join him, but not caring by own hand to hasten the time, hop- ing that yet before my end something may in-   tervene. Oh, for a rattling good war, when every man Jack of us would be wanted, and a chance given us to face the foe and retrieve the past. "But I'll play the cards out, though there is   nothing in the hand. Bettor men than I am have bluffed Fate before to-day." How the past comes back! We bury it and change tho scene, change our parts altogether, only to find the spirit of a man's past cannot be buried. "Ah, If we only knew. But we never do know. .Most fellows get bushod in this scrubby old world. That fellow got off the track after the old Sandhurst days, and so did I. By Jove! I hope he, poor beggar, has found himself now. If there is unything to know, he knows it, anyway." "By Jove! I hope the carpenter won't be too drunk to make tho coffin straight away." He started to hum the "Dead March," as the solmen scene of a military funeral rose up in his mind, his own father's, a famous old general. He felt a choking sensation. "Bah!" he said, "I've loe my feelings bolt with me; that poor chap has given me the blue devils badly. I gave Gumboo my last bit of 'bacca, or I'd smoke. It's beastly lonely through this bush. I'll sing—my voice will be sort of company." Back to the township he cantered, singing as he wont an Australian version of a favourite chorus in the old days: If I had the flight of a bronzewing Far o'er the plains I would fly, Straight home to the land of my childhood And there I would lie down and die. "Wrap me up with my whip and my blanket, And bury me deep down below, Where the dingoes and crows won't molest me, In the shade where the coolabahs grow.