Chapter 196751722

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Chapter NumberXIII
Chapter Url
Full Date1887-05-10
Page Number4
Word Count3054
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Port Augusta Dispatch, Newcastle and Flinders Chronicle (SA : 1885 - 1916)
Trove TitleBenbonuna: A Tale of Thirty Years Ago
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Br ROBERT BRUCE. [All right* reserved by the author.]

When Hawley left the station be •eem«d In a strangely perturbed state of mind. One moment be would appear in d»ep thought end oblivious to all liis •nrronndings; the next his brows would knit, his teetb clench, and his hand steal down towards the revolver, as if he were about to draw it against some enemy. Then, again, without any apparent reason, a corse would break from his lips, as he savagely dashed the spurs into his horse's ribs, only to jerk the animal back almost on its haunches by a merciless application of the severe Pelham bit be used, when the startled beast bounded forward. He was not a seraphic being at the best of times, but he now seemed to have double dash of the demon in him and though th9 spearing of a fine heifer was certainly a vexatious matter, it should not have aroused such a tornado of passion as apparently raged in his bosom. Whatever it was that had so upset him must for the present remain a mystery which the coarse of events will unravel. And now I will endeavor to give my readers some idea of the topography of that part of the Benbonuna run which lay westward of the station, and through which Hawley was riding. I have already said that the Benbonuna creek, on which the Btation stood, ran for about four mileB almost south of it, then took a sharp turn to the westward, and passing Baggs' hat, made itB exit to the plains bordering Lake TorrenB through a rocky gap in the great Western range, between which range and Benbonuna were a succession of low stony ridges covered with spinifex and running parallel to the high one (Woodnawoolpena or Black Jack). The drainage of these ridges was carried into the main creek by a series of creeklets, with a few scattered am trees growing in their rocky beds, fhe principal of these tributary creeks was the Illeuroo, which traversed the valley immediately nnder the main range ; and near a spring in this creek the man Faulconer and bis mate were erecting a rnde sheep hut, the distance from which to Benbonuna, by the direct bridle path across the porcupine ridges, was about four miles, but quite eleven by the circuitous dray track which, passing by Baggs' but, followed the course of the Benbonuna till it was joined by the Illeuroo, down the rough bed of which it ran to the spring,thus making the distance to be traversed by any one visiting the three places in succession (if he followed the track all the way) about fourteen miles, though it could be done by one who knew the country well in a mile or two leBB. As slated above, the road leading to the but visited by the overseer and Moses on the previous evening, lay along the next valley farther west, and into this the gap now being traversed by Hawley opened and, in fact the hut could be seen from the shoulder of the conical hill to the southward. If Hawley had intended to go to Ilka, he would have turned to the right on clearing the Gap, and taken a bridle track trending N W., but he turned to the left and chose the track leading to Baggs' hut What could have caused him to relinquish his journey to Ilka ? Was he going to hunt the nigger or niggers who had speared the heifer ? It certainly did not look like it, for after following the bridle path for about two miles he turned to the left and rode towards a chimp of mallee on the hill side, whence a good view oi the WbBtern sweep of the big creek, and of the hills beyond it, could be obtained Before he entered the mallee Hawley turned in his saddle and looked furtively in the direction from which be had come and over the jumble of porcupine ridges to the westward ; then seemingly satisfied with the survey, be rode into the centre of the thicket, dismounted, and leaning against one of the trees, gazed with a lowering brow in the direction of Baggs' but, which from his position was plainly discernible. But that bis thoughts were more busily employed than his eyes might easily be gathered from the uncon sciously muttered ejaculations which frequently escaped him, and from the working of his evil countenance, which some' times denoted rage, and at others appre hension. Was the overseer waiting for any one ? If be was, no one had appeared at the rendezvous; and that he himself was in a very uncertain frame of mind was evinced by his mechanically hitching and unhitch ing his bridle rein from the dry snag over which it was first cast, apparently uncon scioua of what he was doing. Perhaps be meant to catch Baggs in some fresh and flagrant breach of duty, and thereby to establish such a strong charge 8gainBt him as to justify the stoppage of his entire wages, and " sacking" at moment's warning. It might be so but in that case why such excitement Presently something unusual seemed to take Haw ley's attention, for after looking intently for awhile to where the northern road struck the angle of the creek, he took a small field glasB from his pocket, care fully adjusted its focus, and then intently examined a large white object that appeared to be slowly crawling towards the hut on the creek, and which he immediately recognised, for he muttered " Ab, there's old Considine with his sly grog again ; but I'll not disturb him he'll just play right into my hands. It's slice of my old luck!" The overseer returned the glaBB to his pocket, and then leaning bis head against biB right arm (which was stretched on a limb above) he gazed intently on the ground, as if he would there read the solution of some problem that was perplexing him. Pre sently he pulled himself together, and with a vindictive gleam in his eyes exclaimed, " Its juBt the thing; why didn't I think of it before ?" Whatever it was that Hawley had ju6t thought of, it at once removed all hesita tion from his mind ; he mounted his horse, and with Hps tightly set, rode off towards the great range, but not un observed, for from behind the hill, Brusher's unprepossessing countenance emerged, and its owner remarked to himself, " Been staggin' Baggs, dye see. Shall tell him, dye see, when I goes to-night for my share of the lusb, dye see I" which satisfactory agreement being made with himself, Brusher departed, taking his way to where his sheep were still camped in the creek below. Brusher's appearance on the hill very easily explained, for be had heard from a swagsman with whom he ba foregathered after leaving Heslop tbat morning, that Paddy Considine was on bis way from Nooltana, with his hawker's van ; and of course, he bad come up to hie late post of observation to see if the said Paddy would come round to Baggs' hut, and so determine whether it would be worth while to call there in the evening after his steep were yarded ; for Brnshei's hut was only five mileB from that of Baggs ; and what was that when there waB a " boose" at the end of it ? At any rate Brasher,, perfectly satisfied with his reconnaissance, departed to his sheep, while Hawley rode in the other direction, happily unconscious of having been observed. He seemed to be busily looking about tor Uwki which might lead to

the discovery of the native who had speared the heifer—that is, BO long as he was in the comparatively open valley ; but when, aft«r awhile, he found himself in one of the secluded gullies further to the westward, he let his horse take its own pace, and on coming to a grassy patch amongst the porcupine, he dismounted and let the animal grace, while he seated himself on an outrop of rock under a gum-tree, and resumed his meditations. At length, happening to put his hand in his pocket for bis handkerchief, he brought out his pipe with it; when, with look that seemed to imply he had forgotten it till then, he cut up some tobacco, charged the pipe, and commenced smoking. " There is no rest for the wicked"—which is only another way of saying that the wicked cannot rest; and certainly if inability to remain quietly in one position, or place, for any length of time, is any criterion of wickedness, then Hawley must bave been a sinner of the deepest dye. After he had inhaled a few whiffs, he got up and paced about in a restless manner for a time, only to sit down again —and in a too unguarded a mannor, for be did not notice a sturdy plant of porcupine growing in close proximity to his intended seat, till be announced its discovery with a curse, and rose like a jack-in-the-box, to make a further inspection of bis vegetable assailant. Most men in the overseer's position would have applied the soothing panacea of gentle friction to the afflicted part, and then taken a humorous view of the incident; but Hawley savagely kicked the botanical phlebotomist, and then

getting on Lis horse resumed hie peregrinations among the hills till the giant shadow of Woodnawoolpena had crept far over the plain, leaving only the summits of the eastern mountains still bathed in the light of the evening sun. Then be rode down to the hut builders' camp, to find Falconer unyoking his bullocks, having just arrived with a load of rushes for thatching, his mate being busily employed slinging the kettle and getting the supper ready. " Good evening, Falconer ; good evening, Jack," said Hawley, in quite a friendly tone of voice. "Good evening, sir," responded both the men, Falconer adding, " Hasn't to-day been a caulker ?" " Well, it has been rather warm ; but I've seen it a good deal hotter. You have not noticed any blacks lately, I suppose ?" " Only Moses, Mr Hawley," replied Falconer. " Is there anything up ?" " Yes; I came across a heifer with a spear in her, at the back of the horse track, when on my way to Ilka this morning, and have been hunting around for tracks ever Bince, but I cannot come acrosB any," said Hawley, who had dismounted and now etood with his bridle over biB arm, as if his Btay would be brief. " There's been no blacks to speak of about the run since you've been away. But Master Bam Bil.y is prowling about, hear ; and he's fit for anything. I believe he is off his chump ; don't you, Jack ?" Jack replied in the affirmative, and added, " It would save a heap of trouble if some cove met him in a quiet place and dropped hiin. He's a regular brute." "1 didn't think of Billy," replied Hawley, as if a light had suddenly broken in upon him. " But I should not wonder if it was him. In fact now I come to think of it, that's just who it was; and I'd like to drop across bim ; for besides spearing the heifer he has made me lose day, and there is no knowing where thoBt- Ilka sheep may be by this time." " Well, Mr Hawley, if they've been gone any time this weather, they'll either he dead or down on the Barilpa," observed Falconer ; " but what are you going to do, sir." " Go on to Ummarilpena, I think." " Well, eir, you know best, but if were you I should camp here, for there's grand grass just over the rise, and the track to Ummarilpena is dreadful rough, even by daylight. Besides there's not blade of feed when you get there, is there, Jack?" " Not a toothful. So you'd better stop here, Mr Hawley, and I'll get your horse for you first thing." Well, I don'f know," said Hawley, appearing to hesitate. " Lightning would be across to the station to morrow morn • _ 11 ing. " Not he, eir. He stops here fine, doesn't he, Jack ?" asserted Falconer, appealing as usual to hiB mate for confirmation " Besides, the damper's just aB you like it, and so's the salt mutton." " Well, I'm half inclined to 6top ; but I've got no bobbles. Moses has mine with him," said Hawley, as if still undecided as to his further movements. " If that's all, we can easily accommo date you, can't we, Jack ?" Jack replied in the affirmative, adding, " You'd bettor get yours, Tom, for mine aro as hard as the devil's grindstone, and would cut Lightning's legs all to pieccs." " Right you are," answered Falconer, as he let fall the bow from the nock of the near side leader, and held up the end of the yoke to allow Nimble to back his head, with its great pair of curved horns, under it, " I'll get 'em in a minute." Then he released Ranger, the off side bullock, put the bows back in their proper places in the yoke, inserted the keys, an l left all ready for yoking up next time. " Your bullocks are in grand trim, Tom," observed the overseer, aB Falconer headed them down towards the spring, at which some great troughs, hewn out of straight gum trunks had already been laid in such a manner that they would receive the water as it issued from amongst the rocks, the overflow being carried off by a shallow gutter cut in the end of the last trough. " Yes, they're pretty fair," answered their owner complacently, "but they won't be so long if they're not'cued,'for this is a terrible rough shop, and cuts their feet horrid. Doesn't it, Jack ?" " My word it does," corroborated Jack- " I wonder you worked them to-day ; it was a great deal too hot for bullocks," said Hawley. " Well, you see it's no distance down to the creek, and we turned 'em in amongst the rushes all the heat of the day, so they did rather better than otherwise. But talking won't get the hobbles, will it ?" said Falconer, who went to a rough bush gunyah, used as a receptacle for the meat, the salting bag, the saddles, and various odds and ends, and quickly returned with a pair of well-greased hobbles ; then taking the boree, from which Hawley had just removed the Baddle, he first led it to the troughs to drink, and thence to an adjacent gully, where having hobbled it, he left it to gather its own provender for the night. The camp of Falconer and his mate, nestling in a thick clump of gnoorie bushes (silver wattle) well accorded with its wild surroundings. Over a ridge pole d and wall plates of pine, a large tarpaulin was thrown, both ends being left open, and in this rude tent the me bad constructed a couple of primitive stretchers, each constructed of four forked sticks let into the ground, supporting two light pine saplings on which were etretched a couple of flour bags sewn together at the mouths BO as to give sufficient length for a couch. The manner of attaching the conjoined bags to the aforesaid saplings was simplicity itself—a hole having been cut in the bottom corners of the end bags, the saplings were passed through them longitudinally and let into the forked sticks standing up from the ground, and then the four-poBter was complete, needing only the owner's stock of spare clothes for bolster and pillow,

and a dusty old blue or red blanket for quilt, counterpane, and sheets. The culinary arrangements consisted of two forked poles planted about 6ix fuet apart supporting a rail, froui which depended a couple of old " trace" chaios, and under these the fire was kindled in a shallow excavation, the soil taken from which was heaped up at the back in a semi-circle, so as to form a slight breakwind. A large iron camp-oven and a three legged pot stood adjacent ; the kettle (" billies" had not then come over from the other side—i.e. Victoria), hung from one of the chain hooks and was emitting a fine jet of steam from its nozzle, whilst a galvanised iron bucket close at hand completed the visible list of utensils— save and except one large tin disli used for mixing dampers, and a smaller one that Jack was jvist taking from a bag safe, slung to a projecting end of the tent ridgepole, and which contained the beforementioned boiled salt mutton. The table-cloth, an empty flour bag, was soon laid on the ground, near enough to the fire to be illuminated by the blazing pine ends ; and the eatables, a well-baked damper, a bottle of pickles, and a tin of colonial jam, were arranged on it, to gether with a couple of dingy and berusted tin plates, one or two old knives and forks, which bad never seen knife board or polish since they were first UBed, and several dingy pannicans ; and th kettle, having duly received a sufficient quantity of tea to properly blacken and sugar to sweeten the boiling water within it, was placed close by. (To be continued.)

Bowling Club to be formed in Adelaide ; 64 members promised. The Adelaide branch of the Irish National League has forwarded a draft for £230 to the Treasurer of the Central League at Dublin. David Symes, of the Melbourne Age, rakes tho Colonial Office over the coals in the London Morning Chronicle, re the New Hebrides. Sir F. D. Bell, New Zealand's Agent-Genera), says France may take the islands and welcomo, if she will Btop the deportation of convicts to the South Pacific. A French Company offers to provide a police force for the New Hebrides for £1,200 a year.