Chapter 8987250

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Chapter NumberIV
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article8987250
Full Date1880-08-28
Page Number1
Corrections0
Word Count2199
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954)
Trove TitleRonald Walton: A Tale of Early Squatting Life in Moreton Bay
article text

CHAPTER IV.

YoKiNa-ur Maopib.-Murderino Skinner.

"I'll fix his flint for him, nover fear," said Smasher, half to himself, as ho proceedod to yoko up his bullocks. Whon it came to Magpie's turn thoro was a good bit of dodging required to get him into his place by tho Bide of tho strange mate that Smasher designed for him. The old rogue tried all his arts to escape, running through the mob with hoad down in all directions ; but at last, by dint of perseverance without a great admixturo of patience-not a few cuts of the whip, and much shouting, ho was forced to comply,' which ho did with a vory bad grace, looking oxtremoly savage. Smashor tried to pat hint ovor tho near-sido bullock's neck, but ho only snuffed savagely, shook his hoad, and licked out his long tonguo sharply at intervals, rojecting all friendly ad- vances, no doubt knowing the valuo of them. Tho old bullock over whose neck the little attentions wero being lavished by tho wily Smashor, stood perfectly rigid, roady for any omcrgency, or tho co.nmands of his master, for ho had b"jon much used for yoking young bullocks to, as well as old rogues, and under- stood tho business thoroughly.

" Stand over, Nugget," said Smasher, as ho poked tho old boast iu the ribs with tho butt of his whip-stick. Nugget oboyed, leaning against Magpio witli all his might, pressing him against tho wheel. Magpio tried to draw back, but was tappod, not to say affectionately, on tho bono abovo tho tail, by a hoavy stick in the hands of Jupiter. Ho then tried to boro ahead, but was mut by a poko on tho uoso from a long stick urgod under the bolly of the near side bullock iii front, for ho kept his hoad down. Pinohgut had to continuo tho irritation with the long stick for some timo boforo tho boast could bo mado to hold his hoad high enough for Smashor to yoko him. At last, when every one's pationco was thoroughly exhausted, as woll as tho for bcaratico of the bullocks in front-amongst whoso logs Pinchgut's stick and Magpie's hoad lind boon dodging so long - ono of thurn kicked tho old rogue on the small bonos of the nose, which had tim offeot of making him throw his .hoad up with a bellow. Instantly Smasher pushed Nugget's hoad over, so that his long, horn provonted the rogue's hoad from again descending ; in another momont the greon-hido coupling-rope was round his neck, and tbo chain botwoeu tho two bul- locks in front was hooked to it, after which thoro was no moro trouble. As soon as the

yoking was completed, Smasher knotted tho coupling-rope pretty tightly round Magpie's neck, and tied the end of it to the centre of the yoko ; so that, in the event of him drawing his head out of the bow-a feat thus rendered all but impossible-ho wouldn't bo able to get away.

The oporation of yoking Magpio had delayed the stm t over an hour, and though a cold morn- ing, Smashor, by reason of his exertions and oxcitemont, was constrainod to wipe his faco on tho sloovo of his black-and-white striped guernsey, as ho oxclaimod,

" My oath I Ho's a 'nation dodger ! but old Nuggot's a reg'lar brick ! Ho's a fort'n to any man as lins much to do with opstrop'lous bullocks, if its only to yoko ovor. He stands uko n gamo covey a takin' of his fifty with

the * cat '-nover a move out of him. Ho

knowd all about it-so did old Mag, when ho got that horn shoved undor his nock tho gallows old roguo ! Tho cove at Curra curru had oughtor stand us a gallon of ram for this-but I'm gallied ho won't, tho old

skinflint."

"Oh, ho ain't Buch a bad sort-least-ways whon ho's sobor," chimod in Pinchgut. "But I soo Kim in town, atid if he ain't homo whon wo gots there, wo may as woll whistle jigs to a milestone as expect to got anything-excopt a flogging-from Murderin' Skinner, his super. Why, he had Jim tho Sloggor nearly flogged to death for losing that Biuno bulloak, now I como

to think of it."

" Ho did 1 " exclaimed Smasher. " Thoa hore goes to loso my bottle to you, mate," and ho walked up to his team with tile intention of setting Magpio freo, and putting another in his placo ¡ but Ronald, who was drawing a panikin of rum from a keg, to sorvo out to the mon boforo starting, said, '

" You shall do no Buch thing, Smashor."

" Why, sir?" expostulated Smasher. " Who'd, do a good turn for a blasted murdoriu' skunk liku him Í How could a mau holp losing a knowing old dodgot' uko that, when no odo could ride over tho boggy ooiintry after him ? "

"If a man served nie suoh a trick sb you contemplate, I beliovo I'd turn him in for a flogging. I may loso a bullook some time, and how do you think I should Uko tho finder tu lciivo him ou the road when hu was able to deliver him to me ? "

" There ain't much fear of any man serving you a trick, sir, as knows you-you ain't one of tho flogging sort, and can ti oat a man like a human ; but that murderin' Skinner 1 To think

of him a noggin' a man half to death for losing of a nobby bullock ! He'd novor oughter boon broke-in-nobby cattle's always playin' hide

and-seek."

"Very like he had him broke-in a purpOso to trip the Slogger up. He's always a laying of traps to get his men flogged. I wonder he don't get chopped down by some of 'em I" said Pinch- gut, with much warmth.

" Well, lot us got on," said Ronald. " I will not allow tho boast to bo turned out. If you do not seo Mr. McArthur, and tho supor. does not think proper to roward you, you shall not lose by it, and you will havo the satisfaction of having done your duty."

The teams then {.moved on, tho four spare bullocks being driven behind by Jupiter's gin, Wontungaloe, a prepossessing young lady, who dressed and rode Uko a boy. She woro a bluo sorge shirt, a pair of old trousers, a cabbage- tree hat, and smoked vigorously.

Smasher of course dared not reply to his mastor's speech, but grumbled to himself,

?' Blow the ' satisfaction,' I'd rather have the rum-but he'll pull us through it, I know. Don't think I'd tako the bullock on for any other man living, oven if he did have mo floggod for not doing it."

Theodore Georgo, alias " Murdering " Skin- ner, was about thirty-five, tall, activo, and handsome, but his foaturcs wore strongly marked by unbridled passion. His innate cruelty of disposition was proverbial, but, except when ho had noithcr tho power nor authority to back him up, ho was, as so many of his kind are, a coward. Tho iron hand with which ho ruled tho unfortunate wretches under him caused him to be as much hated as feared. Ho had soyeral of his men flogged so cruelly for comparatively light offences, and increased their work so much after, that they died of sheer exhaustion. This earned for him the very unenviablo but appropriate sobriquet by

which lie was known far and wide. Ho had been transported when a lad of eighteen, for forgery, and from that time was lost sight of by Iiis brokoii-hoarred parents, Being a young man of energy and ability, he was soon oraployed ¡is a clerk in a Government situation, and fulfilled his duties satisfactorily. Mr. McArthur noticed and took a fancy to him, and persuaded tito Commissary-General, in whose department ho was, to let him havo him. For

some timo ho was storekeeper at Curracurra, I but was subsequently promoted to tho super-

intendence of the station.

When they reached the camping-place that afternoon, before unyoking his team, Smasher coupled Magpie and Nuggot together by moans of a piece of green-hide rope round tho neck of caoh, connected by a hobblo-chain ; then he tied their tails together with somo wax-end, to prevent them from turning face to face and fighting, or putting their legs over the couplings.

It must not bo supposed that the road was in any sonso mado. It was simply a dray-track, winding along on tho virgin soil amongst tho trcos ; ovor flats, ridges, gullies, and through swamps. lu many places, especially on tho slopes of ridges and on flats, where the ground was liablo to bo muoh out up in wet weather, thore were many tracks branching off, but always joining tho main ono again as soon as practicable ; thus showing how much easier it was to avoid bad piscos than to repair them.

A fow moro days' travelling brought them to the foot of tho Big Range, whore they camped just outside tho Curracurra paddock. Ronald did not camp with tlio drays that night, but went on to a neighbouring station, about six miles off, to seo an old friend named Throsby. As it was lato when the drays drow up, ho told Smasher not to take Magpie to Curracurra till the morning. A littlo after daylight, when tho mon woro at breakfast, Murdering Skinner rode up to tho drays in a towering passion, saying

" Who do you scoundrels bolong to 1" "' j No ono replied, but all went on with their breakfast without noticing him or hu remarks, which made him furious.

," Who do you thricc-couvioted ruffians bolong to?" '

No reply.

" By the Lord Harry 1 I'll opon some of your jaws with my whip-handle, and your backs with tho lash !" he continued, raising the stock-whip with tho intontion of carrying out his threat.

"Wo ain't your slaves, thank goodness," said Smasher; "and if you touch mo with that whip, I'll brain you with this here pole-pin."

" Would you daro to threaten a gontlemanon, his own run, you thrico-convicted son of' a

thiof?"

" You try mo, that's all," ropliod Smasher, who was an ugly-looking customer when his tompor was up, which it now was thoroughly. " You speak hko a gentleman, if you aro one, and I'll anBwor fair and squaro. Civility breaks

no bonos."

Skinnor saw that tho man was in earnest, and moreover that the odds wero too much against him if ho attempted tho chastisemont ho su dearly loved to mete out to thoso who would stand it, or wero in his powor, so he wisely abandonod that lino of argument and tried

another.

" What aro you doing with that magpie bullock that is coupled to tho other 1 "

" I ain't doing anything with him. I found

him on tho road."

"At your old tricks. Don't you know I can hang you for cattle stealing 1 And as suro as my namo is what it is, you shall swing for this business, and for threatening to murdor me witli that polo-pin. I havo seen botter mon than you dancing on nothing for half what you have done," and said

" Do you think I'd bo such a fool as to steal1 your bullock, and then drive him past your placo? No thank you, Smasher ain't so groen'

as that !"

*' Oh, you'ro Smasher ; then you belong to

Mr. Walton."

" I don't belong to no ono. I'm as free as you was once, with all your high hand-"

" You're a sight too freo to my way of think- ing," interrupted Skinnor.

" And," continued Smasher, "Isorve aman you ain't good enough to black tho boots of, you murdering skunk."

"I would have you careful what you say. It will all toll against you at your trial. Your master shall pay for his shoro in the transac- tion, too. I suppose ho has soaked off some

where V

Smasher laughed, and replied,

" Him sneak off 1 You try his grit, that's all, and ho'll not loave you two ivorios to stick a pipe atween, I swoar. Sneak off. Ha ! ha !"

Just then Jupiter, who was enjoying the fun, called out that Mr. Walton was coming. That individual rodo into camp, and seeing that something unpleasant had occured, lookod first at Skinner and thon at his mon for an explana-

tion.

"Your man has grossly insulted mo, and threatened my life, Mr. Walton, bocauso I have claimed my employer's proporty. There is n bullock of Mr. McArthur's coupled to ono of yours, which I fortunately saw over tho paddock fonce this morning, as I was riding round to look up some colts."

"What do you moan by ' fortunately Baw,' Mr. Skinnor V said Ronald, his hot blood I mantling in his swarthy cheeks, and his ' dark

|eyo kindling at tho insinuation. "Will you; i bo kind enough to oxplain ?" j

[To be continued.] '