Chapter 196752074

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Chapter NumberXXVII
Chapter TitleFAMILY JARS.
Chapter Url
Full Date1887-06-17
Page Number4
Word Count4278
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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— rr^—.—* — — Br BOBEOT .BRUCE.

[AU rights retsrvtd by the author.] . r CHAPTER XKVU (contittued). MLHOIT JAB8.

"Hallo! Have yon seen a ghost, Mary ?" The question was addressed to _ MisB Aehby, who, with white face and hair disarranged, suddenly made her appearance from the back part of the boose. "Good gracious, Mary 1 What is the matter ? M cried her father before she bad time to reply to Bowyer, who bad sprung hastily to his feet. " Mr Hawley, father; someonebas just kooeked bim down sear the wood-heap and the words bad warcely been spoken before Mrs Ashby's door flew open and she rushed in and wildly demanded to be informed what bad happened—a circumstance which seemed to atnase Bowyer vastly, notwithstanding the tragic garnishing pf the episode. " Mary says someone has just knocked yonr brother down at the wood heap I" said Mr Aehby, who harried from the room, followed by Bowyer, and proceeded to tbe scene of the assanlt, where they found Hawley staggering confusedly about like a half-drunken man. "8tephenj whatJfltbe matter?" wildly - exclaimed bis sister, clutching him by the arm as she spoke, " Are you much hurt ?" "Hart, no! Why should I be hurt?" asked that worthy, who bad apparently been half stupefied by the blow he had received. " Do you know who struck you ?" demanded Bowyer is a hard cold tone. " No, bat I should like to ! n answered Hawley savagely, evidently recovering rapidly. " But why should tbey strike yoo Stephen ?" demanded Mrs Ashby, as the Schlinkes, attracted by the voices, arrived oc the scene armed with a great flaring slush lamp 1 1 How should I know ?" sulkily answered bar brother, who seemed disinclined to . btvo soy light thrown on tbe subject, for be said Toughly to tbe new corners, "What are yon bringing that thing here for ? You're not wanted ; so clear out." Then, as the German seemed rather loath to depart, be repeated tbe latter part of hfB speech witb the addition of an oath, and began to move away, apparently with tbe intention of returning to the " Pirate's Den"; but Bowyer, placing himself in tbe way, insisted on knowing something more of the alleged assault ; for Ije felt instinctively that Hawley bad been molesting MIBS Asbby. 1 1 What is that to yon ? I should like to . know ; and I'd advise you to mind your own business," growled the overseer, as be tried to pass the big squatter, who put bim back, exclaiming, " No, you don't. Not till you tell us what you know of this matter." " What are you interfering with my brother for ?" exclaimed Mrs Asbby, try

ing to force herself between the two. " I only want to know the right version of this affair. And if your amiable relative has so far forgotten himself as to interfere with Miss Ashby, he Bhall answer to me for it," cried Bowyer fiercely. " Were you interfering with her ? v cried the step-mother, apparently almost aB excited ae the owner of Winnawarillia. " Interfering with Mary, you idiot. Why should I interfere with her?" replied Hawley sullenly to hiB sister, as he stood at bay. " Idiot indeed! If you were not interfering with Mary, what were you doing, an<J bow did you come to meet oat here in the dark ? Please to answer me that," eried Mrs Ashby, raising ber voice to a shrill key. " Are you all mad, I'd like to know ? Perhaps if you asked Mary about the matter, before you came snapping around me like a pair of cur dogs, you would have saved your breath to cool your own skilly," sneered Hawley—referring to an article of diet that ought to have been familiar to bim. "01 you were together then," screamed his enraged sister, and without waiting for an answer, she turned towards the place where she fancied Mary was stand - ing and began to pour out the vials of her wrath in that direction, only to find herself addressing vacancy, for Mary was then in her own room, moistening ber pillow with bitter tears. " I think we bad better go inside, Ieahflla," said Mr Asbby. " YeB, we had better," snapped his wife, nursing her wrath to keep it warm. " Stephen, you had better come with ue, that your head may be examined ; and you can tell us how all this came about. If we stay here, some of us will be getting a bang too," said Mr Ashby, peering uneasily into the darkness. " There'snot much the matter with my head. I'll just have a look round for the cowardly beast who struck me ; bnt before I go I want a word or two with you Isabella,"—moving a little apart as if to secure privacy for bis communication. " And you may want," cried the lady venomously ; " you can keep your communication for some one else—I don't want to hear it"—which said, she moved towards tbe houBe followed by her bus band. " Don't be a fool, Isabella," said Hawley meaningly; but woman-like she persisted in her course, though Mr Ashby suggested

quietly, " Had you not better bear what your brother has to say ?" " Very well," said Hawley meaningly, and then striding off across the flat, he muttered to himself, " Tbisplace is getting too hot to bold me; and that infernal Jezebel will about finish the business— bless ber." As for Bowyer, he began a search for Hawley's assailant, disappearing in the darkness down the bank of the creek. CHAPTER XXVIII. A VILLAINOUS ATTEMPT. When Bowyer started to search for tbe overseer's mysterioos assailant, it was with such a total lack of precaution against surprise, that it was evident be bad DO fear of any violence being offered to himself. The blow, in fact, came from none other than the |valiant Moses; and from the first Bowyer was perfectly convinced in MB own mind that such was the case, and consequently he did not hunt for the aggressor directly the alarm was given— aB he undoubtedly would have done had be believed that the assault had been committed by a stranger. In fact, Moses bad met Bowyer in tbe creek for instructions, and had there been told to come up to the wood heap to receive some tobacco which his patron was to furnish. Moses had not been at tbe rendezvous a minnte before Mary Ashby, in her anxiety about B estop, came quietly out from the back of the bouse to the vicinity of tbe wood heap, and gazed and listened so intently in the direction of the station, that Moses quickly persuaded bimBelf that she wes waiting for some one; and his bump of curiosity being preposterously large, lie at once laid himself ont to see BB much of the affair as possible. To do so the more effectually he threw himself flat on tbe ground and got the outline of Miss Ashby's figure thereby clearly defined against the sky; after watching her for Bome time felt Batisfied by her movements that abe was not waiting for any one, but was simply watching for some cign of Heslop's return. He felt rather diaappoiQted than otherwise at this, for

though Miss Ashbywas a prime favorite; of bis, tbe little excitement of observing a clandestine meeting would bave been a welcorue'enterlainment to hiin. But suddenly something took the black's attention from Miss Asbby and attracted it in another direction. This new object of interest evidently caused the young native no little uneasiness, for he wriggled about as if uncertain whether to beat a retreat or not, and took an extra tight grip of tbe stont mallee yam stick witb which he was armed. Apparently he came to the conclusion that iiis best policy "was to remain motionless, and he became as rigid BB a log of ebony, scarcely breathing, all his faculties being concentrated is sight and hearing. Mary did not observe the object that so engrossed the attention of Moses till she beard Hawley's Voice close to her ear, saying in a loud whisper— " Ah, Mary, is that you ?" She gave a violent start, but recovering herself, said distantly, " Good evening, Mr Hawley," and waB turning towards the house when tbe overseer caught her by the arm and said huskily, " Don't go, Mary, I want to speak to you." " If you have any thing to say to me, you can say it in the house," answered the girl, struggling ineffectually to free ber hand. " Why are you always like this to me ?" whispered Hawley in the same husky tone, still retaining her arm in hie stioig grasp. " Will you let me go," demanded Miss Ashby, in such a tone of mingled apprehension and annoyance that Moses was irresistibly impelled to wriggle closer and handle his yam stick as if about to use it. " Why are you always so cruel ? You know I love you, Mary." " It is you who are cruel. You know well that I do not love you, and never can. If you persist in annoying me in this manner I shall certainly tell my father," said Mary, slightly raising ber voice. " If you make any noise, I will say you met me here by appointment, and that you bave been more kind than discreet," bissed Hawley, with bis lips oloBe to ber ear She made another desperate attempt to get away, and actually struck him violently in tbe face in ao doing, bat made no further attempt to cry out. "Oh you may Btruggle, yon young cat, but do not think I will be bau ked, after following you for months, and for tbe sake of a new chum. You bad better be quiet, and then no one will be the wiser." " Let me go! Let me go!" panted the girl, redoubling ber struggles to escape, at which Hawley seemed suddenly to lose all command of himself, and throwing one arm round her, be gagged her with bis disengaged hand, and began to force ber away towards tbe creek. Moses, rising to bis feet, glided silently behind tbe villain and delivered such a blow witb tbe yam stick on Hawley's head, protected only by a thin smoking cap, that be went down like a pitted bullock, bringing Miss Ashby with bim. MisB Asbby quickly disengaging herself from Hawley's relaxed grasp, rose to ber feet and ran to the bouse, s a o

whilst MoseB, scarcely waiting to see what became of her, fled like a wallaby to the creek, stopping not till be reached an immense old gum-tree, which be ascended with the agility of a monkey, and an acute perception of its notches and projections which showed that be bad often used them before. Moses bad been carried away by impulse to do a rash act, tbe consequences of which he already began to dread ; for, though he bad the most perfect reliance in the protecting powers of Mr Bowyer (when that gentleman was on hand), how would it be if the overseer, finding out who had knocked him down, should, at some future time catch him unawares ? Moses felt his flesh creep at the thought, and almoBt hoped that Hawley bad received his quietus; but, judging the density of that villain's skull by tbe thickness of his own, the black felt obliged to abandon this hope, and crouched silently in a great fork of tbe gum-tree, a prey to fears for his own safety, mingled with eager curiosity as to what would happen next. He heard all fiat ensued, as related in the last chapter—for the voiceB, owing to the stillness of the night and the rarity of the atmosphere, came up to him on hiB lofty perch aB clearly as they could nowadays be transmitted by the most perfect of telephones. The voices ceased, and soon afterwards footetepa, which he knew to be Bowyer's, approached his hiding place. A low " ahem" came from the foot of the tree, on hearing which Moses quickly descended, and said under hiB breath, " Me thit down." " All right, Moses. You bin kill 'em Hawley ?" " Him bin ketch 'em Mary, you see," whispered the native by way of justification. "What him do?" demanded Bowyer. who seemed to be afflicted with sudden hoarseness. " 0, bim only ketch 'em that one louga arm, longa waiste. Then me bin knock 'em down, you eee," answered Moses witb the air of a hero of a hundred fights. " Well done, Moses 1" ejeculated Bowyer in a tone of such hearty commendation that tbe black began to think tbe best thing he could do was to go and finish Hawley right off, and to almost fancy himself equal to the task, while, to lend emphasis to his patron's praise, he remarked—

"My word, me plenty kill 'em that fellow," mimicking his own action in delivering tbe blow. After a moment's reflection Bowyer said, M Moses, you'll have to clear, for if the Pirate should collar you when I'm not about, he'd kill you, don't yon eee." Moses'valor, like that of Bob Acres, of dramatic renown, oozed out of MB finger ends, and he hurriedly inquired— " Where me walk ?" " You walk longe way. You first time catch 'em fire stick long a camp, and you yabba your mother, 'Come up long a kitchen'; and then you walk long a creek long a Illpeedla to-night. To-morrow you walk long a Winnawarillia, and sit down till I come up. You see, you walk long a creeke, no make 'em track." "All righte, all righte. You got it bacca?" said Moses, whose apprehension was not sufficiently strong to render him forgetful of the fragrant weed, or to induce him to neglect an opportunity for begging. " Here pickaninny bit," said Bowyer, tendering bis Bable ally half a plug of negrohead. " DouglaB give it you plenty to-morrow. And now yon walk. Off you go. Gnookaba t gnookaka! (quick ! quick I) or you'll have Qoilp eating you." Moses vanished like an owl on tbe wing ; and Bowyer, on returning to the vicinity of tbe house, had the satisfaction of seeing Mrs Biowhard enter the kitchen ; for there was no knowing what Quilp might do if he came upon the old woman at any distance from Hawley, who, in his present frame of mind, would not be particular as to tbe supervision of tbe brute. In fact, Bowyer himself, directly he was assured of the safety of tbe old gin, lost no time in entering the house, being unprovided with a weapon to defend bim- Belf. " Well, Bowyer, have yon found out who it was that struck Hawley," asked Mr Ashby, as he paced tbe room in an excited manner, whilst bis wife, amply filling out an easy chair, glared at Mary, who, after being viciously tongue-scourged by her step mother, had told what really had passed betwixt herself and Hawley.

" Whoever did it was. uncommonly mart, and .has .got off clear, I fancy,*" nswered Bowyer, who for reaRonfi of bis wn affected ignorance of the nssnilnnt. " Well, whoever he waB, he deserves to be rewarded; for Hawley richly merited all bo got, and more — the cowardly villein !" cried Mr Ashby in tones of deep indignation. Mrs Ashby said nothing, bnt looked BB though tbe embers of a recent conflagration were still smouldering in her soul, and senda sullen glare through its windows. Mary who, to avoid the fury of her stepmother's vituperation, had left her beilroom when that sanctunry had been ruthlessly invaded, rose silently and again sought its privacy, any reference to the late outrage being too painful to endure. Bowyer wee silent, but after tbe departure of Mary, contriving to catch his friend's eye when Mrs Ashby's atten tion was diverted elsewhere, by a quick movement of bis head indicated his wish for a private interview, and stept out into the verandah, whither he was shortly followed by MB host The two friendB repaired to a small room at the north west corner of the honse, which waB dignified by tbe name of "tbe office," though business, other than a private indulgence in whisky and tobacco, had never been transacted there—the station ledger never having been removed from Bachelor's Hall. Bowyer,after carefully closing the door, struck a match, and having assured liim self by its transient light that there were no interlopers, said in a low tone. " I know all about this matter, bat for very particular reaBonB I must ask you to take no notice of Hawley's conduct, at least not for a day or too." " Not take notice of his conduct! what do you mean ?" " I mean what I say, my friend, and yet I cannot explain matters to you now. But believe me I am as anxious ss yon can be that Hawley should be punished ; and it is to insure his receiving his deserts that I make this request. I should like to go and settle with him now; but that would only defeat the ends of justice." " Well, if yon wish it, I will not say anything. But it is very hard." " I know it is bard ; but if yon will be guided by me yoo shall have ample satisfaction. And now, to avoid ol serration, let us so bsck to the Bitting room—but remember, not a word to anyone." "I'll be entirely gaided by you," answered Mr Aehby, who then accompanied his friend to the front of the boose, and was about to enter it when Bowyer asked, "Have you eucb a thing as a revolver?" " Yes, I have a nice little 4 Adams'." "Any ammunition ?" "Yes, everything complete." " Where ?" " In a drawer in my bedroom." "Gome along, then, I want the pistol and the wherewithal to load it." "You are not going to do anything rash, I hope," whispered Mr Ashby, aux iously. " Not I. I'm not one of the rash sort, but it's just as well to have a weapon one can rely npon handy. So let me have the l w p e s C c t

pistol." " Oorae along then; you shall have it at once," said Mr Asbby, and the pair parsed through the sitting-room, from which Mrs Asliby had retired to the one she generally occupied, and were soon busied in overhauling the " Adams" and its appurtenances, of which Bowyer expressed strong approval. He was just saying, after he had charged all the chambers with powder and ball, and duly added the cape, " With such a tool as this, the number of a mob of niggers would be no object, if one could only keep them at a fair distance. One could ' pick off' " when the stillness of the night was broken by a succession of piercing screams from tbe flat. " Mj God, what is that ? It sounds like Mrs Ashby's voice," exclaimed Mr Asbby " We'll soon see," cried Bowyer, and not waiting to hear the concluding part of his friend's speech, or even to open the door, he sprang through the window, which had been screened only by the blind, and ran at full epeed to the spot from which the crite proceeded. There he found Mrs Ashby, with Hawley's savage bound, Quilp, bounding around her and tearing ber garments to ribbons. "Off, you brute," shouted the tall squatter, delivering a sounding kick on Quilp's ribs, which salutation had the immediate effect of turning its attention to himself; and relinquishing its first quarry, the dog sprang at Bowyer's throat and fastened its fangs in the arm which he threw up to protect his face. Instantly he opened fire with bis pistol, point blank into the brute's body, and at the thiid Bhot inflicted a fatal wound, causing tbe dog to let go ite hold and roll on the ground in the death agony. By this time Mrs Ashby bad so far recovertd from her fright as to be able to attend to the demands of conventionality, and therefore precipitated herself into her rescuer's long arms and fainted there. CHAPTER XXIX. A SCENE. Before Quilp had given his final convulsive kick, Bowyer and his interesting burthen were surrounded by all tbe people on the station, peering about in tbe darkness and asking the wildest of questions. Hawley, to whoBe negligence in not keeping Quilp at foot, after liberating him from a ekillion to tbe emithey, the wliol contretemps was due, was the first to arrive, being closely followed by

Mick; the butbuilders and three sundowners, with a strange assortment of weapons in their hands, came next at racing pace from the kitchen ; Mr Aehby and his daughter came in third, but those who threw moBt light on the subject were the Schlinkes, escorted by Mrs Biowhard, and armed with tbe slush lamp, whose flaring, smoky flame illuminated a very wild end grotesque tableaux the central figures of which were by far the most interesting. With bis left arm bleeding, and the revolver clutohed in his right band, stood the tall squatter, with Mrs Aehby in a genuine faint—and very little else—drooping on his shoulder, while Quilp with glazing eyes and stiffening limbs lay at their feet, like Llewellyn's wolf, " tremendouB still in death." Tragedy and broad comedy were strangely comingled in that scene; the appearance presented by Mrs Ashby wonld have evoked a grin from the fleshless jaws of a skeleton ; and if a suppressed titter did succeed, witb moBt of tbe spectators, to their first feelinge of alarm, the titter was most excusable. Mrs Ashby, whose chief lower garments bad been a wide skirt and a huge wire crinoline, had lost in tbe ferocious attack of the now defunct Quilp nearly the whole of the former covering, and consequently appeared in a well-v<>ntilated bellshaped cage, which, though it might protect, did not conceal her substantial understandings, while over it ineffectively fluttered some ragged pendents, like the storm-riven shreds of a sail still clinging to the bolt ropeB and jackstays. Her airy babiliments seemed to excite tbe liveliest curiosity in the breast of Mrs Schlinke, who turned the blaze of her bush illuminator full on the crinoline, wbich Mary, in the leaBt self-conscious manner she conld assume, hastened to partially eclipse by interposing herself between the lamp and the wreck of her step-mother. Mr Ashby frantically tore off his coat witb tbe intention of lending its friendly concealment to bis wife's stockings ; but tbe ever-ready Mick rendered the eclipse total before the connubial sagis could be brought into action, by dashing the slash

amp out of tbe hand of the old German ! oman with the remark— "Jistbe afther tafein' yer light away. Id's not wanted here"—a rather Irish iece of advice, eince the fall had xtinguished the flaring abomination, and s ho spoke the scene was wrapped in immerian darkness, so' intense was-the ontrast for the first instant or two after he extinction of the light. " Tbe women can look after Mrs Ashby ; and so lads, as you can't do any goo'l, you had better clear,'* said Mr Bowyer authoritatively to the men, a command they rather unwillingly obeyed, though it was backed up by Mick, who exclaimed as he set the example by starting for the kitchen, " Come on .b'ys. We're in the road here." " Mary," whispered Bowyer. - . "Yes." " Get a cloak, or something, quick. Mrs Schlinke, we will want some water." Without waiting to answer Mary sped towards the bouse ; the cook departed on her errand ; and then. Hawley, who had stood in sullen silence said, " This is unfortunate. But how came Isabella out here ?" " You had better ask her at a fitting time," answered Mr Ashby shortly and in a most constrained tone. " Yon need not be eo nasty about it." " O, go away, please." " I don't eee why I should ; it is my place to see after my BiBter." " If you have any decency or sense of shame left in you, you will take yourself f c

off," interrupted Bowyer sternly. " I have had to request you to mind your own business before to-night; and I tell you so again," snarled Hawley savagely; and a very pretty fracas seemed on the point of breaking out when a sudden uproar at the horse rail caused a timely diversion. Urgent calls for the overseer came from the direction of Bachelors' Hall, in reply to which be roared out— " What's the matter ?" " Bam Billy haB skedaddled {"shouted a number of voices in various keys of f-xcitement, whilst the pattering of rapid footBteps in different directions told that a hasty preliminary search for the fugitive had been commenced. " Hold hard till I come," shouted Hawley end dashed off across tbe flat to join tbe hunt, after significantly observing to Bowyer, " We can settle our affair another time"—a communication the tall squatter received with contemptuous silence, merely remarking to Mr ABhby, " I am very sorry Billy has got away again." (To be continued.)