Chapter 8989329

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Chapter NumberXVIII
Chapter TitleXVIII. WONTUNGALEE. Things Improve at Boorooma, Ronald starts after Lost Cattle. XIX. Ambush. "Dis
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Full Date1880-10-23
Page Number1
Word Count2839
Last Corrected2018-07-16
Newspaper TitleThe Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954)
Trove TitleRonald Walton: A Tale of Early Squatting Life in Moreton Bay
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By the Author of "Adventures in Queensland."

[All Rights Reserved.] CHAPTER XVIII.

WONTUNGALEE.—Things Improve at Boorooma,

and Ronald starts after Lost Cattle.

Jupiter's gin, who always retained her native name-Wontungalee-was an intelligent crea- ture, nnd made herself very useful to Ada. She was a native of that part of tho country, but her husband's tribe belonged to the neighbourhood of Limestone. Since the murder of the two men at Molonga Creek, Ronald had not allowed the blacks up at tho station, nor on the run Indeed, they reemed to have no desiro to visit that locality, for thoy had received a severo dressing for their horrible raid Once or twice a year, Wontungalee visitod hor friends, and stayed away a month or six weeks each timo She was very kindly treated by Ada, who, during little Ron's earlier infancy, installed hor as nurse, in the room of her white nurso who

left her, and who could not be replaced b* j

another for somo considerable time. The child

took readily to his black nurse, and sho having no child of her own, became pissionately fond of him. She was never so happy as when occu- pied with him. She manufactured many little things for his amusement, such as dilly-hngi to put his toys in ; diminutive sets of native implements of war, of the chase, and snell like.

She would Bing, and dance nonobborces by the hour to piesse him, for in all such wild per- formances he delighted, and never tired of his kind nurse's efforts to satisfy her rather exacting charge.

It must not be supposed that Boorooma sheep alone Buffered from the drought, far otherwise, for it was ono of tho best dry-weather runs between it and Brisbane. Tho loss on many runs was immense. In the course of a week after Ronald's visit to the Hounted Hut, the grass had sprung so much, that the necessity for cutting down trees to feed the sheep no longer existed

Ronald's discovery and good management, combined with his indefatigable personal exer- tions, which set a good oxample to the mon, were the means of preventing any serious losses amongst the sheep, and they soon began to im provo in condition. Tho lambs of fully half the owes wore killed as they dropped, but the rest of the ewes had so improved that Ronald determined to allow the lambing to proceod in the usual way, and to save tho lambs The ex- periment was successful, and a crop of lambs was added to the flocks, that ultimately proved

to be no diBgraco to them. i

Nothing h?s been said about tho cattle during

the past trying times. The sheep, being of1' primary importance, absorbed all Ronald's at- I tention, and all the labour on the station ; and it j

was not till after shearing that he found time to ! hunt them up. Their boat was at the eastern i extremity of the run, outside tho sheep ; for cattle will not feed whore sheep are depastured. Cattle have a wonderful instinct for discovering grass and water during times of drought ; that ia, if they are allowed their own, uninterrupted freedom, as the Boorooma cattle had while the dry season lasted, and for some time after. Fully two-thirds of the herd had disappeared,

and Ronaid at first thought they might bo ' dead, but on searching their run thoroughly, he found that the surmise was not correct, very few carcasses being aeon. Ho thereforo took a wider circuit, and came on the tracks of a con- siderable mob of cattle proceeding towards tho west. He had never had time to exploro in that direction since his arrival on the station, and knew very little of tho country much beyond his own boundary. Tho blacks had said that lakes existed a long, long way from thora, and that the country was well grassed j but the statement wsb disregarded, being of such slight interest at the time, and blacks' statements aro csnerallv very unreliablo.

Ä party of ïour, including Smashor and Pinch- gut, with Jupiter for a tracker, and Ronald in command, started, well armed, and with a supply of rations for eight or ton days, in search of the lost cattle. The weather being hot, they did not push on vory_ rapidly. Tho country travelled over was richly-grassed, and woll watered by largo crooks, or heads of rivers. They camped nt a creek about thirty milei from Boorooma. What a ploasant timo it is, when the day's hot ride is over, the horses hobbled out, and the sun has gone down behind the high ranges. Tho night dow falls, cooling tho air and the hot ground alike, and the travellers aro lounging on their blankets, or on the grass, enjoying their pipeB, toa, or yarn, as the

humour takes them.

It was with difficulty they followed tho tracks of the cattle, for the mob had left their run in dry weather, and the rain had since descended with no gentle force. Good tracker as Jupiter undoubtedly was, his powers had boon fully taxed, and at last he was thoroughly beaton just before they camped

" Where do you think the cattle have gone to, Jupiter ?" said Ronald, as the boy, after many unsuccessful efforts to discover any further traces, came to a standstill, looking very nnamiable, as black-boys always do under such


" Don't know, sir. That might go 'long a big fellow lake. Black fellow call it ' Goong broggio' (big water)."

" Whore is that ?"

"Oil, I 'spect that fellow hundred miles straight on end."

" How do you know of the big lako ? You

never saw it!"

" No, sir ; mo not seo 'im ; only my gin yabher all about 'im. That fellow go there «hen that go bush."

" Oh, that is tho direction she goes, is it ? I wonder if sho over Bees that black-skinnod

rascal, Molonga ?" j

Jupiter pretended not to hear the question,

and puffed away clouds of smoke from his pipo, j which he kept everlastingly between his teeth. lie was a faithful fellow to his master, but Molongawos his wife's uncle, and though he would nothavo felt the loast compunction in wiping out that individual if a fair chanco and excuso offered; yot ho would not do it for one reason alone-a reason that influonceg skins less tawny by many shades than Jupiter's under similar circumstances-ho knew he would have the

length of his wife's tongue pretty often, and he dreaded it; so ho thought, and truly, that his wisest course was to say as little as possiblo »bout that bloodthirsty wrotch, Molonga, for fear he might be enlisted as a tracker to run him to his death, and so bo implicated, in Wontungaleo's estimation. Ronald had always been kept in ignoranco of Molonga's whore shouts, and of his relationship to Wontungaloo, hut there was something in Jupiter's manner causing him to suspect that the boy wsh reserving the information ho sought, so ho put the question in a more definite form,

"Doos Bhe over soo Molonga, Jupiter? "

"Don't know, sir. That might sometimes when that walk about bush."

"Then you do not know for certaiu ?" "No, sir-ain't right cock-sure of it."

" I would like to come across him. I would let daylight into his knowledge-box, tho murder dering vagabond 1 He killed two good shepherds, and though I had a sort of revenge on some of his fellows, it will not be complete till I pot

"I'd give him a blue pill, sir, with the greatest ploasuro in the world," said Smasher.

" My oath I and so would I," said Pinchgut.

" Me think you got ketch 'im fust. Him big trong fellow- baal frightened," suggested Jupiter. ,

At this junoturo they dismounted and camped. When all had been satisfactorily arranged for

the night's bivouao, Smasher said, I

"Shall we watch to-night, sir ?" I "Did you seo any blaoks' tracks about to- ssy, Jupitor 1" said Ronald.

"Never a one, sir. Blaok-fellow not been walk about here long time." f

" Then we will not watch. "

The party snugly rolled themselves up in Jnoir blankets, and with their heads pillowed on their inverted saddles, soon slid into dream-


A saddlo is certainly not as comfortablo to lay one's heod on as a horsohair pillow, but when a {nan is tired, it posses muster very well. If one is luxuriously inclined, he may indulge in a pillow »ade of green grass, rolled up in his saddle- cloth, with a couple of saddle-straps round itf tut mob, would hay* been considered altogether

too effeniinato by any one of thatparty. Jupiter's pillow in his camp at Boorooma, was a large, round, flat stone, which, if a triflo bigger than his head, was certainly very little harder.

Molonga was a Bavage, considerably over six feet ; broad and muscular as a giant ; and as active as a wild beast. Ho had lived at the

lake mentioned by Jupiter, off and on, all his life-about forty years. He was a distinguished warrior, and chief of his tribe.


An Ambush.—"Dispersing" the Blacks.

Lake Coongbroggie. —A Hand-to Hand Fight.

In the morning, Ronald was the first to awake, and called the sleopers, who, with the exception of Jupiter, jumped up at once. The hoy, like oil his race, was a heavy sleepor in tho morning. It was scarcely light, but many of tlio birds were already on the wing, piping their clearest notes. The trees woro dripping with dew like rain, each blade of grass Biip portod its thousand fine drops from Nature's pure still ; and from out the blankets that

covered the Blcepera, a largo quantity of moisture wttB wrung, and they wore spread I out where tho first rays of tho rising sun

would fall on them. Tho fallon iron-baric trunk against which tho fn-o had been mado, was still smouldering, and a fresh supply of doad sticks being heaped on wore soon ablaze. There waa very little twilight ; the paling of the stars, ttiid tho rays of the rising sun occur so close together as to givo one tho impression at times that they are almost simultaneous, and these phnnomenaare not tho lenstamongsttho many tliat striko the strangor with wondor. The rising of the sun on a Uno spring morning is indeed a glorious eight. Tile rays glint over tho dewy vegetation, each tiny drop reflecting like a jewel, its own prismatic colours. Each minuto the goma become fewer and fewer, and in a short Bpace of timo the magic of the scene is goue ; tho gross and leaves become dull to the eye,

and harah to tho touch.

1 Tlio llóreos wero driven up to the camp by

Jupiter before breakfast, and stood about in the Binoke of tho fire to koep the mosquitoes and flioî off. In places where those tormenting ! insecto abound, horses will gallop miles to ' obtain the luxury of a smoky fire ; and will

stand by it sido by side in such positions as to . utiliso the switching of oach other's tails about

their heads, for the bloodthirsty plagiu» will dart in when the smoke blows aside, and settle j on their ears, eyes, and noses-then the tails

aro useful.

Breakfast is over ; bridles and saddles aro on, I and tho hobbles aro taken off the horses'pasterns;

and buckled on to tho girth-straps, or round the horsos' necks, or oü to the atrapa that fasten tho swag in front ; for there is nothing in a buali | man's equipment for travelling moro important

than tho hobbles ; at tho same timo, thero is nothing thatfindssuoh various resting-places-ex cop o, perhaps, the tinpannikin for drinking out of. AU mounted, and Jnpitor again took the load, fol- lowing the indistinct traces that ho occasionally found, but which always soon died out That

day was a counterpart of the first, and they | covered about forty milos, The sun again set

liko a great ball of firo, in a oloiidloss Bky, be- ' tokening auotlier dewy night, and warm day i

on the morrow.

Tho third day the same routine was gone through, and nothing disturbed the monotony of the journey, but tho occasional sight of large mobs of kangaroos of a largor bízo than usual ;

and also of emus formed on the same great ¡ scale. Guanos, carpet-snakes, nnd other reptiles j were also much larger than the travellers had j hithorto seen ; and thero wero birds of different kinds from those commonly seen nearer the coast. The country was rising, and the timber and grass wero decidodly nltering as they proceeded. Thus tho third day closed, and as Jupiter had noticed indications of blacks during the latter part of tho aftornoon, it was decided to keep watch that night. Tlioy had travelled about thirty milos that day.

Tho dingoes kept up an incessant howling all through the night, and it was clear that the country wns infested with them. No doubt they lived well on kangaroos and other native game ; and thero was another thing that favoured their increase, they had no knowledge of traps or poisoned baits.

Tho night passed without adventure, and tho fourth day dawned. Tho party travelled about twenty miles beforo stopping for dinner. They stayed at a chain of small lagoons, at the foot of a nest of low scrubby ridgos. There wero moro recent traceB of cattle thero than they had hithorto soen, and Jupiter was hopeful of finding some of tho lost mob within a day or two. When they wero about to mount, after dinner, Jupiter said he heard black-follows shouting in the distance. Ronald commandod thom to put the tiro quito out, and to stay whero thoy wore for a while and liston. They wero in a little grassy bay, as it wero, between a lagoon and a steep bank washed out at the foot of a ridge, and wero quito out of sight of any one approaching from the ridges above. The sounds wero soon hoard distinctly, mingled with tho occasional bellowing of cattle.

" Black-follow 1 I believe hunt 'im cattle," whispered Jupiter.

"Keep closo into tho bank," Ronald said. " And we may bo able to surprisothem."

As ho spoko a etampiugandrushing through tho bushes above wai heard, and in less than two minutes n mob of about three hundred cattle tore down tho ridgo not twenty paces from the placo of concealment. Several of tho boasts had heavy cattlo-spears sticking in thoir sides. The mob filed off in tho direction whence our party had como. Tho old stock-horses pricked thoir ears with oxcitoment, and showed nnpatienco to givo chase. Soon soino blacks ran down the ridgo on tho tracks of tho cattle, looking in the direction tho mob had taken. Ronald pooped cautiously up tho ridgo, and saw eight blacks, the leader of whom ho at once recognised as Molonga. His blood ran hot as ho thought of his two murdered shepherds, and ho scarcely had patience to allow lum to get on to tho flat beforo attacking him. Ho whispered to his


" As soon as thoy get well on to the flat, wo will gallop in, and pay those niggers for tho work tiley bavo boon at amongst tho cattle. I am going to settle old scoros with Molonga, for

ho íb tho leader."

Tho blaoks soon gained the flat ; and thou a signal from their chief brought thom to a stand. Tho cattlo had gone on a long way ahead, and nono had dropped, which was probably tho reason why tho savages thus gave np pursuit. Molonga utterod a few syllables, pointing to tho ridgo thoy had just come down.

" Now is our time!" said Ronald, "Thoy aro going to turn back."

In a moment thoy were all mounted, and at a signal from their leader darted out of their nook nt full gallop, and wero on the blacks beforo thoy dreamt of tho proximity of the whites. Ronald singled out tho loader, and fired ; he fell. All the othors fired ; more fell, nnd tho remaining four blacks ran towards the ridges. Another volley, and one of the four foil, but the other throe fled up n broken gully.

" We will follow tho tracks of those cattlo to where they wore started by the niggers. The probability is, we shall find the rest of tho mob thero," Baid Ronald. "I would havo ridden ten times the distance wo have come, to have secured that big vagabond. Ho will give us no more trouble, I fancy. By running tho back tracks of tho cattle, we may drop on some more niggers, too."

(To he continued. J