Chapter 196752139

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Chapter NumberXXXI
Chapter TitleA STERN CHASE.
Chapter Url
Full Date1887-06-28
Page Number3
Word Count1661
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 rights reserved by the author.]

Bowyer, though greatly interested in the recapture of Bam Billy, aB indeed any Bqu&tter in the diBtriet would have been, made no effort to assist in searching for him, but stayed with Mr Ashby, with whom he had a long confidential talk. He also carefully cleaned the Adams revolver and reloaded all its chambers, as if anticipating that its sorvicea might be called into action. In fact, though the Emu stood ready to be saddled at the horse rail, its owner had seemingly determined to garrison the citadel, whilst the others skirmished about the outworks. Bowyer's apparent supinencBB in the cause of justice was, however, more than atoned for by the activity of Hawley, who, with Leak and Falconer, scoured the country in pursuit of the fugitive. But at mid day they had not discovered the slightest trace of him, and returned crestfallen to the station with the pleasing conviction that they would be the laughing Btock of the North for allowing the notorious Billy to slip through their fingers so easily. Whilst Hawley and the liutbuilders were absent on their fruitless expedition, Frank and Brusher had managed to get the sheep to the draughting yards, and thitber, directly after taking a hasty dinner, all the station hands, including Frank and two newly atrived swagmen, repaired to run the sheep through the race. This operation was tben an innovation in that part of the country, it having been the practice previously to separate the sheep by hand — a very laborious business, in which not only were the human operators often greatly exhausted when the draughting had to be performed in the blazing summer sun, but the sheep were not unfrequently permanently injured through being dragged along by their hind legs, carelessly thrown over a fence, or by savage treatment, when tbey in selfdefence kicked tbe skin from the hands of, or otherwise offended, the men wbo were catching them. What a stifling cloud of dust on that bright day of rest did those flenbonuna fellows raise—or rather the twelve thousand sharp-pointed feet of tbe sheep, aB tbe owners thereof continued to " ring" in the large receiving yard in the most determined manner { The centre of the flock remained almost motionless, while the outer portion revolved round it at facing pace, much in tho same manner as the Outlying waters of a whirlpool round its Vortex. Hawley's favorite horse, Cricket, still bearing the scars made by the teeth of " Farmer," stood hitched up under tbe shade of a mallee on the side of the yards furthest from the station, whilst his master, who was stationed near the swinggate, " nagged 1 ' in a loud unpleasant voice at tbe men. The figures of tbe latter sometimes darkened almost into sharp outlines, only to fade into blurred shadows, as they approached or receded from the edge of tbe eddying dust cloud, which allowed only the outside sheep and the noisy black colley rushing tt top speed round then:, to be seen. " Are you going to be all day messing about? Why don't you keep 'em up? Why the devil don't you look after that dog ?" were the overseer's remarks to the station hands, who were industriously kneading dirt pies on their dust-begrimed and perspiring faces, by an application of their equally dust-begrimed and perspiring knuckles in futile endeavors to clear their smarting eyes, though by the added irritation they only tbe more Burely induced inflammation; snd under such circumstances if their remarks did smack slightly of profanity, there was nothing to excite wonder thereat. After a good many attempts the men succeeded at last in directing the course of the bead sheep into the serieB of narrow yards leading to the mouth of the race, and tben by means of another storm of shouting, banging tbe animals with empty bags and sheep skins, and poking them with mallee sticke, tbe leaders were induced to stiing through the race in Indian file, and pass the narrow opening in which the swing gate worked. In this way the sheep belonging of one flock were diverted into a yard on one side, and the others into the opposite yard. Hawley was naturally smart in anything he took in hand, but made a good many mistakes that afternoon, by allowing sheep to pass into one yard when they should have gone into the other ; and of course be relieved bis mind by abusing the men, on whom he laid the blame of his own awkwardness, declaring that they either drove the sheep too fast or too

slow, or that tbey got in tbe way when m the animals wanted to enter the race. He p was particularly bard upon Frank, wbo b had been working like a tiger, the counterirritant of Mary's inexplicable distance of a manner rendering him almost unconscious e of the discomforts of the situation, till L hearing himself addressed in more than i ordinarily inEulting style by Hawley, he p quietly suspended his exertiona,and without a word, walked out of the dust and seated himself on the woven fence of the yard There, after wiping as much dust and perspiration from his face, arms, and neck as possible, he fanned himself with his handkerchief, and whilst moodily watching the drafting oper&tionB chewed the cud of bitter fancies till startled by hearing the tramp of horses close behind him. " Hulloo, Heslop 1 Had about enough of it?" inquired Bowyer, who was one of the four horsemen who had just ridden up to the yard, which was about threequarters of a mile from the huts. " Yes, I have," replied Frank significantly ; and then he noticed that two of the newcomers, who were mounted on big, active looking, half-bred horses, were habited in tbe becoming uniform of the South Australian Mounted Police— viz., peaked cap, tunic, and brreches of blue cloth, tbe latter adorned by silver stripes, and top-boots, into the heels of which straight, dagger like spurs were inserted, tb'-ir arms consisting of long cavalry sabres, supported by well pipe-clayed belts, and heavy Colt's revolvers in their saddle holsters. The elder of the two troopers, who wore the stripes of & corporal, was a man of about two and thirty, stood over six feet in height, was built in proportion, had a splendid set of white, massive teeth, and and a pair of resoluto grey eyes, oversi adowed by dark, shaggy, straightdrawn eyebrows. He looked, aod indeed was, a most efficient officer, and his comrade, though much younger, appeared to be a man who might be relied on in an emergency. Tbe third stranger, dressed in a riding suit, was what be looked to be —a station owner. Bowyer briefly introduced him to HcBlop as Mr Probyn, while the senior trooper figured in an equally brief ceremonial as Lance-Corporal Ganders. Mr Probyn greeted Frank cordially, whilst the Corporal, whose salutation was of the briefest, said in an undertone to Bowyer, " That's our man at the gate ?" On receiving an affirmative nod, he leisurely dismounted, as if he had no particular bufcincKs at the yard, but had toine Dp merely out of curioaity to see Low the drafting progressed, *a example

followed by the other throe. The two troopers an1 Mr Probyn sauntered over to where Hawley was working the swine gate, whilst Bowyer, who retained the Emu's rein in bis hand, remained with Frank talking of casual matters—all the time, however, k tping an observant eye on (he party in the yard. " Good day," growled the overseer, enrtly and collectively, to the visitors as tbey slowly approached him. " Got a dusty job to-day, Mr Hawley," remarked the Corporal. " A pub. would do a roaring trade here just now ?" " Yes, rather, i suppose you have come up about thoBe murders ?" asked Hawley, as he cast a keen glance on the newcomers, but without discontinuing his employment, while Brusher, whose duty it was to urge the sheep to pasB through the race by prodding them up with 4 long stick, poked away vxcitedly with more zeal than discretion. " Yaas," drawled the corporal in answer to the overseer's observation, he and his comrade sidling into closer proximity to their quarry. " Well, as usual, you are a little too late. That infernal nigger has got away again ; but wou'll catch him, I dare say l" sneered Hawley. " I think we shall catch the right man— I arrest you in the Queen's nauic !'' paid Ganders, with an abrupt change of tone, extending his hand and clutching at Hawley'e shoulder, whilst the other trooper sprang forward to assist in the arrest. But Hawley's suspicions had been aroused by a furtive glance he bad caught Brusher casting to the corporal; and so, being thoroughly on the alert, he ducked with the lightning-like cnlerity of the little white grebe, and eluding tbe grasp of bis would-be captors, daehed for the place where Cricket was standing, only to be intercepted by Brusher, who, as the Corporal attempted the arrest, had officiously cried out, " That's him, dy'e see." " Take that, you damned skunk," yelled Hawley, shooting the double traitor through the body with a pistol he had drawn from under hisco it. Then, before the ex-poacher had fallen to the ground, he darted past, vaulted over the first fence of the bottle-shaped yard which fed the race, took the other in his stride, and without a second's delay was on the back of Cricket, galloping away to the exceeding wrath and mortification of the troopers, wbo followed him as faet aB their swords would permit, after the first shock of Brueber's fall was over, cursing their folly in having left their " Colts" in the holBtere. (To be continued.)