|Newspaper Title||The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954)|
|Trove Title||Ronald Walton: A Tale of Early Squatting Life in Moreton Bay|
CHAPTER XXI. ?
GIOVANNI JOINS A DESPERATE GANO OF BUSH
RANGERS. - PEDRO, SNAKE, HOPPY, AND THBIB DOO. ( ,
The reader may wonder what became of young Qiorannij Ha obtained employment in varions
capacities on stations His first situation was as storekeeper on a sheep station ; then as stock- man, shepherd, shearer, and splitter by turns ; but the fact that a warrant was out for his appre- hension on a charge of attemptatmurderfollowed him from placo to place, and at last convinced him that he had but two courses open-either to give himself up or take to the bush. The first he determined he would never do ; and the evil fate that followed him proved to him that to livo honestly was an impossibility. He smarted under the cruel injustice that Blast had done him ; and all that he had suffered on account of the same wicked influence Bince he had left him. His impetuous blood rebelled more and more as each fresh obstacle reared itself in the path between him and an honest livelihood, and impelled him to the resolve to bo revenged on the society that had so unceremoniously cast
" If I had aotually committed a cold-blooded murder," he soliloquised, "I could not be more shunned or hunted. How many known criminals of the deepest dye are now free and being employed without scruple, while I who have done nothing amiss, am hunted like a blaok snake, or a native dog, and am obliged to go hungry, and sleep in the bush? This is the boasted British justice ! If I must, the ti, take to the bush, be it so-but I will not go hungry ; I have as much right to live as any othor man, and I will prey on the society that has si un- justly thrust me out. Oh ! my father 1 my father ! shall I ever behold you again ? Why
was I born to such a fate 1"
As ho talked, he was walking excitedly away from his last situation. When we do make false moves in life, either perforce or of froe will, we are seldom left without somo extrinsic, baneful influence to help us on the downward course. So it was with Giovanni. Within half an hour after he made his final resolve, three men rode across his path, accompanied by an enormous dog. They were about two hundred yards behind him, but galloped up as soon as they
" Hold up your arms, youngster ! " said tho leader, levelling a pistol at his head. " Bail up ! " cried the other two. The leader then threw a green-hide lasso over him, and, with a dexterous jerk, pulled his legs from under him, and he fell on his back. The big dog placed his two paws on his shoulders, and glared, alternately nt him and his master. HÍB blood- shot eyes, big yellow teeth, and hanging tongue, betokened his thirst for blood. He was a vicious cross between the bull and mastiff, but was generally called " the bushrangers' big bull- dog," and was a source of terror far and wide.
The leader was a Spanish Mulatto named Pedro. He was a grand horseman, and expert
with knife and lasso. HÍB swarthy features were i gond, but a fierce, cruel expression was stamped
upon them. His white teeth gleamed beneath ]
a black moustache, and between thin lips that
never closed. From his dark eyes Bhot a mur-1 derona light when excited, that was hard for an \ adversary to meet with unconcern. He was
tall, and lithe as an eel. Une cheek bore an . ugly sear that gave that side of his face a repul- ? aive appearance. The wound had been received in a desperate struggle for mastery over a wild cow in a stock-yard. She had him down and was kneoling on him, but Pedro won by plunging his knife into the cavity of the beast's neck just behind the poll, though not before he had been gored in the face by her sharp horn. It is more than probable that he would have como off on
that occasion without a scratch or hurt of any : kind, but for the well-meant offioioutness of a , mate, who, just at the wrong moment, pulled the lasso tight that Pedro had cast over her
horns, and tripped him up. !
" Now youngster what aro you doing on this track ? Where are you going 1 Wo don't like fellows knocking about on our beat, and when they can't give a good account of themselves, we just slit their wizzens. Give it tongue now, and let's hear all about you, " said Pedro.
" I do not know what I am doing on this track, and I do not know where I am going to, if you must have the truth," replied Giovanni, in a defiant way.
'* None of your sanco, or I'll pass the word to old Death-adder. Hell soon tame you."
Death-adder-the dog-apparently compre- hending the words of his master, and in pleasurable anticipation of tho word of com- mand, rose. His hot breath panted on Giovanni's neck, us he growled and erected his briBtlcs, and stump of a tail.
" Not yet, Death-adder," said Podro, and the brute crouched down again. "Now toll us, onco for all, what brought you here 1"
11 Let mo up, and shoot or knife me if you will, but call this brute off. Lot me die like a man-don't let me be torn to pieces like a dingo,
or a nativo cat."
"Very well, youugator-only if I shoot you, he'll have you all the same-he always docs-he fattens on our enemies. Slip off there, Snake. Tako that pistol and knife out of his belt, and let go tho lasso. Como behind, Death-adder I Now then, tell us all about you."
"I was n lawyer's dork in Brisbn.no. He treated mo, over six years, like a devil that ho was. I struck lum, and bolted. He got a warrant for mo, and I find that it is UBeless trying any moro to earn my living honestly, for I am hunted from placo to place. I determined to-day to tako to the bush, and it seems that I am not permitted to live even here, ao what can I do 1 The best thing you can do for me is to shoot me at once,'' said Giovanni dospond ingly
" You look os if you wore telling the truth, and I think you have got right stulf in you too.
Can you rido ? ' i
" Then you walk off a bit till I talk to my mates, and we'll see what we'll do with you. Wait, though-have you got any money or jewellery, or tho like oftbat ?"
" Only a silver watch."
"iff you go then, and wait till I call you." I He obeyed, and tho threo men conferred. j "I think he's nota spy, mates ; and if what ho says is true, ho'a got pluck, and is hard up. If ho can ride, what do you say to taking him on with us ? I like the looks of him, and as the country's getting hot for us, wo'd bo the stronger
for another mate"
" Well, Pedro," said Snako, "I'm willin'if you think ho'a right. You always knows best. What says yon, Hoppy ?"
" Oh, I'm all here for another mate ; ef he's tho right sort," snuffled the man addressed, in very Yuukeo tonos. His name was EliaB Hopkins, to they Called him "Hoppy" tuv
" Wo will give him a t-hunoa then-eli,
mates ?" i
" Jest so. Them's plenty of us to cook him and eat him, too-ef ho outs up bad. I'll knife , him, slick, by Jehoshaphat !" ' j
We'll have to get a mount for him," said
Hedn't we better seo ef he ken ride ?" sug-
gested Hoppy. ' j
. ," If he carç't, he's told a lie, and I'll shoot
him," replied Pedro. I
? "If he can stick to Rocket, he'll do," said j
Rookot was a fine upstanding horse that had I bech stolen from Mr. McArthur's station, ' Curracurra, and was tho samo off which Mur- ! dering Skinuor had been thrown when he was , killed at the paddock Blip-rails. He was a very , spirited horse, but tolerably quiet oxoept when
touched with the spurs.
Giovanni returned at a coo-e-o from Pedro, who said, as he throw his spurs on the ground at his feet,
"Put on those spurs, and mount Snako's
Giovanni did so without hesitation. '
" Now, you hold him in all you can-jam the bleeders into his ribs-and stiok to the pigskin like grim death."
He did so, and the horso made several long bounds, and then started bucking in a oirolo. His rider sat him with caso, and when Rooket gavo in, the throe bushrangers shouted some rough words of applause.
"By Johoahaphat 1 you're tamal good at that, younker !" exolaimed the Yankee. ?
"You're the sorts 1" and "Welldone, lad !" j
carne from Pedro and Snako. . !
" Will you join us, lad 1" asked Pedro. " We won't kiok you out, so long as you're true ; and your work won't be hard. We make onougb, in a day to keep us six months, when we have a stroke of luck, and it's our own fault when we don't get that." '
" Yes, younker-we earn enough in a day to keep us for life, and a few years t'other side of that/'tólyríuiwked therYwk»fi., ,,,[ ¡< f
*« Well, the dog must be fed," said Pedro, with a diabolical grin. The others laughed
" I'll chance it, if you will take me in," said
" Well done, youaker ! You've go. the spunk of a true son of the United States, and by Jehoshaphat I the eternal stars and stripes '11 wag their taila at yer, of ever yer fight under 'em-see if they don t. Give us yer flipper."
They all shook hands with Giovanni, after whioh he was considered to bs formally recoivod into the brotherhood.
" We've been here long enough," said Pedro. " What's your name ?"
The three men exchanged astonished glaucos on hearing his name, but said nothing.
" All right, Giovanni. Take off my spurs, and jump up behiud Snake. Rockot's up to double-banking with a weight like you. What's your woight ?"
" About nine stone."
He vaulted up behind Snake, and the four rode off towards the Big Range, at the foot of which they o imped some distance off the main
Those three men and their dog had boen a terror to travellers, and also to pcoplo at stations, ever since they took to the bush in that part of the 'country. They had been bus'i ranging nearer to Sydney for some timo pre- viously, but the mounted police had traced them out, and after a desperate fight, in which three of their mates and a trooper wero shot, and another of their gang was taken, the three thought it best to try a new field of enterprise
After they had boiled their tea, and turned out the contents of their ration bigs, they set to with the appetites of men who had roamed the bush all day. When the meal was over they seemed more disposed to talk. Pedro said,
" I say, Giovanni-havo you got a fathor ?"
Snake and Hoppy lookod curiously at him, and evidelitly waited his reply with eagerness. Giovanni looked sad, and spoke not for some
"Why don't you spead, lad?" said Pedro, suspiciously.
" I was wondering whether I havo a father or not ; I havo not seen him for somo years."
" Lot's be frank, youngster. Don't you hide anvthing from us. What became of your
" He was sent from Brisbane to Norfolk Island. I havo never heard of him since-moro than eight years now."
The three men looked intently in his face. The Yankee said,
' ' Jehoshaphat 1 He only wants a little more whiskers an' beard, an' by the stars an' stripes he'd-"
" He's a chip of the old block. How queer !" interrupted Pedro.
Giovanni looked astonished at the glanceB nnd expressions of the three men.
" Your father was an Italian, and lagged for killing a man in hot blood ? "
" Yes ; how did you know about it? You told me you all came from the South, and had never
been in Brisbane."
" Right you are ; and so we did. But we knew your father very well, all the same," said
Giovanni's feelings and curiosity were aroused, and he bogged them to tell him anything they knew about his father,
(To be continued.)