Chapter 8989574

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Chapter Title
Chapter Url
Full Date1880-10-30
Page Number1
Word Count3667
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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CHAPTER XVIII.—(Continued.)

They proceeded on the tracks, which led them to tho top of the ridges through some nasty broken country for several milos. Then they found themselves on the vergo of a largo plain terminating at the foot of a high range of mountains eight or -ten miles ahead. Tho party had reached about half-way across tho Íilain, when they discovered that a splendid ?ke lay ahead of them. The scenery about tho lake was grand. On one side the grassy plain stretched, and on the other a mass of rocky ranges towered, ridge above ridge, to a con- siderable height, at the foot of which was a denso belt of forest and scrub. The lake abounded with fish and fowl, and the shy platypus sported hi its wators. A doop margin of gigantic lotus, all in blossom, floated calmly on its bosom. Tho country around teemed with grime, such ns tho plain turkoy, emu, kangaroo, bronzewing and squatter pigeons, wallaby, 'possum, scrub turkoy, and bandicoot. Bnt what, in Jupitor's opinion, ex- ceeded overy olbor delicncy, wera the grand old carpet-snakes, for the blacks esteem them and their eggs very highly. Thero wore plenty I of porcupines too, more than Jupiter had ever

before seen-that is to say, more of their bur- I rows than ho had ever Boen within a Uko area of country, for they did not show out, but ho know

they were there, for all that j

The party struck the shoro of the lake at its

head, and found that a largo mob of cattle had j bees in the habit of drinking thero. Their tracks led away towards the forest Bide of the lako, nnd the party were soon in pursuit. Tho country on that sido was undulating, and from tho top of a low ridge thoy discovered a largo mob of cattle grazing peacefully, not fur from tho lake. As Boon ns they Baw Ronald and his men, Ihoy ran on to a camp and rounded up there. Cattle always prefer, and run moro readily to camps they mako thomselves, than to any they aro forced to adopt by tho stockmen. Tho latter campa are generally failures, for tho cattlo leavo thom as soon ns they aro left a bit to themselves. They may bo broken-in to camp on a particular spot, but so well docs their instinct prompt them ns to tho best site, that they not unfrcquontly form a camp only two or three hundred yards away from it.

The party camped on the shore of the lako that night, niul determined not to keep up a fire, but to watch. A few trees were scattered here and thero botweon the lako and the wood,

which was nbont a milo distant.

"Wo will start thoso cattlo on the tracks of the others towards home, as soon after daylight as possible. Jupiter and I will scour round by that bit of timber and scrub, and seo if thoio are any more in that direction, bofoio we tako them ; but I boliovo thoy aro all there. What do you think, Smashor ?"

" I don't think thero'» none away, sir, when we reckon them 03 run past us whoro we caught tho niggers. Pretty nigh all tho markod cattlo is among 'cm. 1 never seen tho roan bull, though."

"Mo seo 'im roan bull, 'long a first mob, where master boon bowl '¡ni over Molonga. Ha I ha 1 that good, my oath ! " and the boy chncklod at the recollection of tho slaughter.

" What a magnificent sheop and cattlo run this would mako, I believe I shall tondor for it. It is the finest bit of country I have ever seen. Tho worst of it is, it is so far away from a port," Baid Ronald.

"Mine think it too many black-follow sit down thiB follow country," remarked Jupiter.

"Well, if they never manago better than they did today," replied Ronald, "I should not fear them. Bosidcs, the greatest rascal among them is down, and I do not think there san be another to take his plnco anything noar his equal."

"Do you think, sir," said Pinchgut, "that the cattle will go quietly off tliiB pHco Î It's out and-out awful good country ! I novor soe nothing liko it nowhere."

" I was just thinking whethor it would not be bettor to take a day's spoil hore, for tho aako of our horses, for they must be a bit tired. We esme-let mo soo-thirty, and forty-that is soventy. And thirty-that is ono hundred. And wo could not havo como less than thirty to- day-that is one hundred and thirty milos iu four days. They would be nil tho better for a day's spell, but wo will seo to-morrow."

Ronald took tho first watch, and was soveral timos disturbed by a suspicious cracking of dry sticks, but not being able to discover anything in the gloom, he supposed the noises must havo beon caused by nativo dogs or othor night prowler», in which that part of the couutry waa BO prolific. Not feeling quito satisfied, how- ever, he thought it was his duty as watch- man to endeavour to find out. the canso, consequently ho procoeded on hands mid knees in tho direction of tho Bounds. Ile discovered nothing, and returned to his sleeping companions. All wai quiot for an hour, when the fatuo sounds again struck his esr, but from tho opposite direction, or lako side. Ronald ngain proceeded cautiously in a crouching attitudo, to try and find out tho caiiBo, and had got about sixty yards from tho camp, whon he was seized by tho log from bo hind, and pulled down on to his back. Instantly a great savage was astride bim, holding a shear blade high abovo his head for a doadly blow, and had not Ronald possessod great strongth, as well as prcBonce of mind, it is probable that in another second it would havo boen buried in his throat. Ho seized tho descending arm with his left hand, and ondoavourcd to cock his pistol with his right, but the wrist was held with a grip of iron. He could soo tho gleaming teeth and fierce eyeballs of hiß assailant, who sat on him with the horriblo calmness of ono who knew his advantage and great power, and who was waiting for a sign of woskne» or cowardice on the part of his intonded victim. For several minutes thoy.maintaincd their forced positions, for neither could motor ¡ally alter his without the concurrence of the othor. Each had tried little feints with his hands and arms, but oach in turn found that his adversary was worthy of respect, and that a wrong move would meet a reward. Ronald's fingors grasping the pistol wore beginning to foel numbed from tho grip tho savage maintained round his wrist, and ne determined to mako a last effort to got at tho hammer of his pistol with his fingers. His antagonist felt the action, and boro moro of his weight on tho wrist, effectually staying all further movement in that direction. The strain en the iron musolos of both was becoming pain- ful. Neither had said a word up to this time. Ronald might havo ehoutod to his companions at tho camp, but with thai repugnance a bravo man has to such a course, ho abstained from doing so, wishing to overcomo his enemy in

ungle combat. I

Tho savage was tho first to broak silence, with

»grunt. Ronald said :

" Name you ?"

"Molonga t" was the fierce reply.

This waa not altogether nows to Ronald, 'for he had suspected as much from tho great size and weight of the sarago, though he had sup < Weed, before tho encounter, that ho lay stark on

the ground, many milos from thero. It is pro 1 Yerbial, however, that a black has as many lives

M a cat, and Ronald beard tho confirmation of

his sugpioions without surprise. A nativo police officer, known to the author, carried s long knife for the purpose of cutting off the heads of blacks shot by himself or sis mon "in the execution of their duty," for, said he, "So many blacks riddlod with bullet», ond supposed to bo-and really ought to be-dead, turn up to do moro mischief, »hioh thoy would find a difficulty iu doing , Without their heads." A fact that few will

dumuto. Molonga said, for he could speak a little broken English, 1

( Yon whito-fellow devil devil 1 you tchoot ' m mo to-day-no fear, mine bong (dead). You

{¡w*ff d'rsokly, now. You piccaninny-me bvdgwy \ k°n8.old man."

v íJ*cca"l'í"''l/i" »nid Ronald, tauntingly.

Yoiet-that Uko it jiiccarotmy," ho said, bumping up and down on Ronald's stomach, slmost knooking his breath out. Ronald did 1 "í*¿"P?0* tho taunt for prudential reasons, and ( fj *"*' juncture a " coo-e-e". was hesrd from

.he camp. Not having a reply from Ronald, ¡Mpuaded again and again ; then the, sound pf . »Hji ws* batid, Mthoogh the men wore »oouritig

the bush. Molonga kept his keen eyes roving about, and at length, with a sudden movement, relaxing his grasp of Ronald's wrist, he clutched

hil knife with his left hand. Ronald was as quick as ho, and fired hurriedly. The knife fell out of the savago's hand and grazed Ronald's neck. Then with a yell, Molonga sprang up, like a tiger, nnd with a dexterous twist with- drew his wrist from Ronald's grasp, and made off at a rapid pace towards the lake, followed by a shot from Jupiter, and by that individual himself. The chase was a hot but short ono, tho distance to the lake being only a hundred yurdiî or so. ' Molonga, on reaching the bank, which just thero rose perpendicular, about 20ft. from the water, plunged ovor hold foremost. Jupiter not knowing tho ground, was nearly following involuntarily, and just pulled himself up at tho very brink. He pooped over, and saw tho circles widening from tho spot whero tho groat savage had dived, and waited with tho othor pistol roady for his ro-appearance. M o waited long and patiently, watching keenly, but no Molongo, nor sound, nor ripple on the water indicating his presence. At length, giving up all idot of seeing moro of him, and hearing R'iiiald's call, he returned to the camp. Ronald and the two whito men wore discussing the

t event.

I " Well, Jupitor, what becamo of your mon 1"

said Bonall.

I " That boen go 'long n water, an' mino no miro seo 'im. P'raps that Zion;/. Where you been hit 'in, sir ? '

'. I um nut euro, but think it was in the arm, for ho dropped tho knife wlion I fired, snd thor» is blood on my c'othes, I seo."

"Mine think it that bonq. That "ma* como

up again longa top of wafer.'' j

' ' So much tho better if ho did not ; but I ox- |

peet we shall seo moro of him some day. Faith, I i thought I was strong in tho arms, but ho was my

match. I nevor felt BUCII a grip in my life !" | said Bun-il.l, showing the marks of tho savage's

fingers on his wrist. " I do not think it is any ! uso sitting up any longer. I soo my watch is up nn hour ago, so I will turn in, for I am tired."

Jupitor followed his master's example, but . Smasher and Pinchgut preferred to watch to- , gcthcr, as neither felt inclined to sleep »gain. ¡ The morning broke without further causo for < alarm, and tho camp was onco more astir. Ono of tho men wont with Jupiter to catch tho

horses, as Ronald thought it would bo impru- ? dent for one to go alone. Whon thoy mounted, Bonald directed the two whito men lo put all tho cattle thoy could find on to the camp, while ho and Jupiter had a search in the forest to see if thoy could find any more in that direction. They rodo backward and forward through tho bush for an hour, and then'took a turn to- wards tho foot of tho range. CJoso to tho out sido of tho belt of timber, they carno upon a

black's camp. Tho supports of tho bark gunyahs I had been withdrawn, and tho sheets of bark lay flat on tho ground. This ia a plan often adopted by blacks, and when thoy do so, it is with ono of two objects. One Í3, if they aro going nway from that part of tho country for a time, they lay the bark lint, and put sticks and stones on ittokeepit from being blown about by tho wind, and rent by the sun, and it will bo fit for use again on

their return. Tho other object in laying it flat, ' is to avoid tho observation of onomieB should , they be in tho neighbourhood. Tho latter wns the moBt probablo reason for razing tho camp, in the prcsont coso, for, ns Jupiter remarked, the occupants had left in haste, as could be Been by their tracks, and had not been gono moro than a few hours. Thoy liad gone with- out putting stones or wood on the bark to keep

it flat.

Tho rangos woro bara of trees and grass, and were composed of broken rocks that would havo proved inaccossiblo to ridden horses. Thore was no time to loso, so ns thero wero no cattlo tracks visible in that direction, they turned their horses' heads for the cattle camp Smasher and Pinchgut wero thore with all the cattlo thoy bad Keen tho cvoning before Thero being a num t or of Bmall CIIVCB among the cattlo, thoy had to bo taken gently, and fortunately gave no trouble to their drivers. When noar tho place whero Ronald left his great enomy doad, as he thought, tho cattlo scented tho carcasses of tho other

blacks, took fright, and ran down tho 'flat. Thero wero only throo bodies loft, true enough tho largest had disappeared, as Ronald expooted to find ; tho cunning chief having no doubt only foignod doath. He would rather the other throo had escaped than tho one who did. The cattle that had boon run by tho blacks that lay thore, had not roturnod that way, but had kept on their courso towards Boorooma. Tho party did

not got much furthor that afternoon, and I camped tho cattle in tho olbow of a crook with

deep water, which noeossitatcd only ono man to I watch at a timo, and without a horso, too, I which was a consideration. Next day about j dinner timo, as tho cattlo woro slowly drawing | down tho bank of a large creek, thoy set up a < tremendous bellowing, then bogan to ring round , and round. The causo of all' this commotion ' wns found to bo that tho threo huudrod that had

gono on licforo wero feeding in the crcok, and i being delighted to find thoir old companions BO J near, had run up and joined (hem. At the ond I of tho Bcvonth day from thoir start from tho , lako, they turned the cattlo out on thoir own i run, where they would roquire to bo looked > after sharply for BOHÍO time, to prevent them i from going back again. It was late at night

when the party ro idled tho head-station. I

Ada and littlo Ron had almost given Ronald I up for lost, and thiro was great rejoicing when ' he roturncd. Tho child again acted as bullock* drivor to his father's garments as they were cast

off. and prattled away merrily. j

" Did oo find my 'lttlo carpy, pappy ?" ! " Yes, that I did, my son ; and ho is a great

big fellow-bigger than my Ronny." j

Tho child opened his great dark oyes very wida, and exclaimed,

" Biggor as me ! Ronny big man, now," and , he strutted about with an air of consequoncs I

truly absurd. ]

" Did oo sea Lily, too ?"

Lily was his calf's mothor-an old, quiok cow, that he claimed for his own, bocause ho had of ton beon put on her back.

"Yes, and Lily, too-and what do you think? Sho has got anor.hor littlo baby calf."

"Oh ! budgeree! budgeree!" tho littlo fellow oxolaimed, clapping his hands with delight. Ho always used words from the black's language when oxcited. ''Bring 'cm iu to-morrow, pappy?"

"YOB. Sinashor, Pinchgut, nud Jupiter aro going to bring in threo or four milkers to- morrow, sonnio."

" And'ittle carpies too ?'' "Yos, evorso many."

"Oh 1 gindec-boran ! Budgeree 'ittle carpies !" ho again oxclaimod, capering with joy. " Mo cock a ride horso on old Lily." He often trans- posed sentences thus.

It must not bo supposed that master Ron was always amusing, or a model of rectitude iu his conduct. No, he did not bolong to that theoretical class of super-excellent, but utterly impracticable human beings known as "old maids'children." He had his wioked fits the same as othor children. His mother had always on hand a Bupply of simple medioines and Balves. Amongst the lattor wero pots of spermsosti, basilicon, and othor ointments which she kept on a shelf. The little imp would climb up on a chair, take them down and dispense or apply thuin as tho spirit of mischief prompted lum, experimentally. His father laughed, and said ho would ceitainly become a great chomist. Aftor trying the flavour of one or the other, and not liking it, he would plaster his hair thick with it, and when ho had admired the effect before the glass, ho would run to his mother in great glee, expecting that the performance would call forth st ron» oppressions of approval. When askod what ho had beon putting on his hair, ho would ssy, "Only pematum, mamma." One day he tried to saw a log of wood in halves wjth his mamma's best comb, the result being, e» may be supposed, that all the teeth were broken out, without any impression being made on the log. Thon he tried to burst the log, os ho had »eon the splitters doing with maul and wedges, only his tools wore the teeth of the comb for wedges, and the hairbrush for a maul. The comb teeth disappeared one after another in the cracks in the log, but the only result was the separation of tho bruah from its back. Ho looked wistfully at the catastrophe, and instinctively felt that he had committed an indictable offence, Ho did not lose his self-possession, and his ingenuity esme to his aid. Be got a pot of ointment, .preed it neatly, like butter, on the beck of the brat» wita the stump of the comb J thep,

pressing the back on to it, replaced the mended article in its aooustomed place.

The reader will no doubt wonder why this vary ordinary child's commonplace sayings and doings aro recorded. The reason is simply that, as he plays an important part in the events yet to be pourtrayed, it is only right that ho should be accorded passing notice now and then-for his own sake, because he is really not a bad sort, even for a boy ; and for the reader's sake, because, think how startling it might prove to suddenly introduce, without previous notice, Ronald Brandon Walton as a full-blown Proctor, Ketten, Dr. Tanner, or any other living wonder. Consider what excitement the announcement that an infinitely richer tin mino than Mount Bischoff had been discovered in the heart- of Hobart city, by a party ot men digging asewor, would cause. No, in a simple tale Uko this, it is best to prevent any sudden, and perhaps dangerous affections in the minds of readers, to lead up to the tableau naturally. Besides all this, when we have done with Littlo Ron for the purposes of this history, it will be acknow- ledged that ho is not tho stamp of man that is likely to glide quietly through the world without being moro heard of. Then, if he is to become ereat in his native country, future historians will bo casting about for some of the little sayings and doings of his childhood, and will be grateful when they find them here.

Ronald was busy for a few days, mustering the cattle nnd branding the calves. The sheep had engrossed all the care and attention that could possibly bo bestowed on them by all hands ; consequently the cattlo had been long neglected, and there were a good many largo calves among them. ' It is ever so, where sheep and cattle on a station have to be worked by the samo hands. The sheep being of first im- portance, monopolise all the attention to the

detriment of the cattle.

Ronald's losses, though really not hoavy in themselves, wero likely to prove disastrous. j The loss of half tho estimatod increase of

lambs, and the lightness of the clip, would of course tell against him both in the pre- sent and futuro, and he had already been to ask Silas Blast for a further loan, which was granted-gleefully granted, for he looked upon it as another mesh in the net ho had spread. He had at first looked upon Ronald's success with fear, lest he should be able to escape his toils after all, but now a feeling of satisfaction pervaded his righteous soul, and he lent him the money, as he truly said, "withpleasure."

| (To be continued.)