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Chinkie's Flat and Other Stories (1904)
Louis Becke



TO MY DEAR OLD COMRADES
North Queensland.
December, 1908


CONTENTS:

CHAPTER I -- "CHINKIE'S FLAT"
CHAPTER II -- GRAINGER MAKES A "DEAL"
CHAPTER III -- JIMMY AH SAN
CHAPTER IV -- GRAINGER AND JIMMY AH SAN TALK TOGETHER
CHAPTER V -- THE RESURRECTION OF THE "EVER VICTORIOUS"
CHAPTER VI -- "MAGNETIC VILLA"
CHAPTER VII -- SHEILA CAROLAN
CHAPTER VIII -- MYRA AND SHEILA
CHAPTER IX -- DINNER WITH "THE REFINED FAMILY"
CHAPTER X -- THE "CHAMPION" ISSUES A "SPECIAL"
CHAPTER XI -- A CHANGE OF PLANS
CHAPTER XII -- SHEILA BECOMES ONE OF A VERY "UNREFINED" CIRCLE
CHAPTER XIII -- ON THE SCENT
CHAPTER XIV -- "MISS CAROLINE" IS "ALL RIGHT" (VIDE DICK SCOTT )




CHAPTER I -- "CHINKIE'S FLAT"

"Chinkie's Flat," In its decadence, was generally spoken of, by the
passing traveller, as a "God-forsaken hole," and it certainly did
present a repellent appearance when seen for the first time, gasping
under the torrid rays of a North Queensland sun, which had dried up
every green thing except the silver-leaved ironbarks, and the long,
sinuous line of she-oaks which denoted the course of Connolly's Creek on
which it stood.

"The township" was one of the usual Queensland mining type, a dozen
or so of bark-roofed humpies, a public-house with the title of "The
Digger's Best," a blacksmith's forge, and a quartz-crushing battery.

The battery at Chinkie's Flat stood apart from the "township" on a
little rise overlooking the yellow sands of Connolly's Creek, from
whence it derived its water supply--when there happened to be any water
in that part of the creek. The building which covered the antiquated
five-stamper battery, boiler, engine, and tanks, was merely a huge roof
of bark supported on untrimmed posts of brigalow and swamp gum, but rude
as was the structure, the miners at Chinkie's Flat, and other camps in
the vicinity, had once been distinctly proud of their battery, which
possessed the high-sounding title of "The Ever Victorious," and had
achieved fame by having in the "good times" of the Flat yielded a
certain Peter Finnerty two thousand ounces of gold from a hundred tons
of alluvial. The then owner of the battery was an intelligent, but
bibulous ex-marine engineer, who had served with Gordon in China,
and when he erected the structure he formally christened it "The Ever
Victorious," in memory of Gordon's army, which stamped out the Taeping
rebellion.

The first crushing put through was Finnerty's, and when the "clean-up"
was over, and the hundreds of silvery balls of amalgam placed in the
retorts turned out over one hundred and sixty-six pounds' weight
of bright yellow gold, Chinkie's Flat went wild with excitement and
spirituous refreshment.

In less than three months there were over five hundred diggers on the
field, and the "Ever Victorious" banged and pounded away night and day,
the rattle and clang of the stamps only ceasing at midnight on Saturday,
and remaining silent till midnight on Sunday, the Sabbath being devoted
"to cleaning-up," retorting the amalgam, and overhauling and repairing
the machinery, and for relaxation, organising riding parties of twenty
or thirty, and chasing Chinamen, of whom there were over three hundred
within a radius of twenty miles.

The rich alluvial of Chinkie's Flat had, as a matter of fact, been first
discovered by a number of Chinese diggers, who were each getting from
five to ten ounces of gold per day, when they were discovered by the
aforesaid Peter Finnerty, who was out prospecting with a couple of
mates. Their indignation that a lot of heathen "Chows" should be
scooping up gold so easily, while they, Christians and legitimate
miners, should be toiling over the barren ridges day after day without
striking anything, was so great that for the moment, as they sat on
their horses and viewed the swarming Chinese working their cradles
on the bank of the creek, the power of speech deserted them. Hastily
turning their tired horses' heads, they rode as hard as they could to
the nearest mining camp, and on the following day thirty hairy-faced
foreign-devils came charging into the Chinese camp, uttering fearful
threats, and shooting right and left (with blank cartridges). The
Chinese broke and fled, and in half an hour each of the thirty men
had pegged out a claim, and Chinkie's Flat became famous as one of the
richest, though smallest, alluvial diggings in the Far North.

Three months after the "discovery" of the field by Mr. Peter Finnerty,
old "Taeping," as Gordon's ex-marine engineer had been promptly
nicknamed, arrived with his crushing battery, and then indeed were
halcyon days for the Flat. From early morn till long past midnight, the
little bar of the "Digger's Best" was crowded with diggers, packhorsemen
and teamsters; a police trooper arrived and fixed his tent on the ridge
overlooking the creek, and then--the very zenith of prosperity--a bank
official followed, and a stately building, composed of a dozen sheets of
bark for a roof, and floor sacks for the sides, was erected and opened
for business on the same day, amid much rejoicing and a large amount
of liquid refreshment dispensed by the landlord of the "hotel" at a
shilling per nobbler.

For six months longer all went well: more alluvial patches were
discovered in the surrounding country, and then several rich reefs were
found a mile away from the Flat, and every day new men arrived from
Cooktown to the north, and Brisbane, Sydney, and far New Zealand to the
south. Three new "hotels" sprang up; the police force was increased by
another trooper and two black trackers, who rode superciliously around
the camp, carbines on thighs, in their dark blue uniforms with scarlet
facings, and condescended to drink with even the humblest white man; and
then came the added glory of the "Chinkie's Flat Gold Escort"--when a
police van with an Irish sergeant, two white troopers, and eight black
police rattled through the camp, and pulled up at the bank, which now
had a corrugated iron roof, a proper door, and two windows, and (the
manager's own private property) a tin shower bath suspended by a cord
under the verandah, a seltzogene, and a hen with seven chickens. The
manager himself was a young sporting gentleman of parts, and his efforts
to provide Sunday recreation for his clients were duly appreciated--he
was secretary of the Chinkie's Flat Racing Club (meeting every alternate
Sunday), and he and old "Taeping" between them owned a dozen of kangaroo
dogs, which lived on the community generally, and afforded much exciting
sport every Saturday, either in hunting kangaroos or Chinamen, both of
which were plentiful in the vicinity.

For although Peter Finnerty and his party had succeeded in driving away
the heathen from the Flat itself, the continued further discoveries of
rich alluvial had brought them swarming into the district from all the
other gold-fields in the colony in such numbers that it was impossible
to keep the almond-eyed mining locusts out, especially as the Government
was disposed to give them a measure of protection--not from any
unnatural sentiment, but purely because they were revenue producers, and
the Government badly wanted money. Then, too, their camps were so large,
and so many of them were armed, and disposed to fight when in a corner,
that the breaking up of a "Chows' Camp" became more and more difficult,
and in the end the white diggers had to be content with surprising
outlying prospecting parties, chasing them with kangaroo dogs back to
their main camp, and burning their huts and mining gear, after first
making a careful search for gold, concealed under the earthen floor, or
among their ill-smelling personal effects. Sometimes they were rewarded,
sometimes not, but in either case they were satisfied that they were
doing their duty to Queensland and themselves by harrying the heathen
who raged so furiously, and were robbing the country of its gold.

Then, after old "Taeping" had succumbed to too much "Digger's Rest," and
Finnerty--now Peter Grattan Finnerty, Esq., Member of the Legislative
Assembly of Queensland--had left the Flat and become the champion of the
"struggling white miner" in the House at a salary of £300 a year, came
bad times, for the alluvial became worked out; and in parties of twos
and threes the old hands began to leave, heading westward across the
arid desert towards the Gilbert and the Etheridge Rivers, dying of
thirst or under the spears of the blacks by the way, but ever heedless
of what was before when the allurements and potentialities of a new
field lay beyond the shimmering haze of the sandy horizon.

Then, as the miners left, the few "cockatoo" settlers followed them,
or shifted in nearer to the town on the sea-coast with their horse and
bullock teams, and an ominous silence began to fall upon the Flat when
the tinkle of the cattle bells no longer was heard among the dark fringe
of sighing she-oaks bordering the creek. As day by day the quietude
deepened, the parrots and pheasants and squatter pigeons flew in and
about the Leichhardt trees at the foot of the bluff, and wild duck at
dusk came splashing into the battery dam, for there was now no one who
cared to shoot them; the merry-faced, rollicking, horse-racing young
bank manager and his baying pack of gaunt kangaroo dogs had vanished
with the rest; and then came the day when but eight men remained--seven
being old hands, and the eighth a stranger, who, with a blackboy, had
arrived the previous evening.

And had it not been for the coming of the stranger, Chinkie's Flat
would, in a few weeks, have been left to solitude, and reported to the
Gold-fields Warden as "abandoned and duffered out."




CHAPTER II -- GRAINGER MAKES A "DEAL"

Three years before Edward Grainger had been the leader of a small
prospecting party which had done fairly well on the rivers debouching
into the Gulf of Carpentaria from the western side of Cape York
Peninsula. He was an Englishman, his mates were all Australian-born,
vigorous, sturdy bushmen, inured to privation and hardship, and
possessing unbounded confidence in their leader, though he was by no
means the oldest man of the party, and not a "native." But Grainger
had had great experience as an explorer and prospector, for he had been
compelled to begin the battle of life when but a lad of fifteen. His
father, once a fairly wealthy squatter in the colony of Victoria, was
ruined by successive droughts, and died leaving his station deeply
mortgaged to the bank, which promptly foreclosed, and Mrs. Grainger
found herself and two daughters dependent upon her only son, a boy of
fifteen, for a living. He, however, was equal to the occasion. Leaving
his mother and sisters in lodgings in Melbourne, he made his way to New
South Wales with a mob of travelling cattle, earning his pound a week
and rations. At Sydney he worked on the wharves as a lumper, and then
joined in the wild rush to the famous Tambaroora diggings, and was
fortunate enough to meet with remunerative employment, and from then
began his mining experiences, which in the course of the following ten
years took him nearly all over the Australian colonies, New Zealand,
and Tasmania. Never making much money, and never very "hard up," he had
always managed to provide for his mother and sisters; and when he formed
his prospecting party to Cape York and sailed from Brisbane, he knew
that they would not suffer from any financial straits for at least two
years.

For nearly three years he and his party wandered from one river to
another along the torrid shores of the great gulf, sometimes doing well,
sometimes not getting enough gold to pay for the food they ate, but
always, always hopeful of the day when they would "strike it rich." Then
came misfortune--sharp and sudden.

Camped on the Batavia River during the wet season, the whole party of
five sickened with malaria, and found themselves unable to move to the
high land at the head of the river owing to all their horses having died
from eating "poison plant." Too weak to travel by land, they determined
to build a raft and reach the mouth of the river, where there was a
small cattle station. Here they intended to remain till the end of the
rains, buy fresh horses and provisions, and return and prospect some of
the deep gullies and watercourses at the head of the Batavia River.

Scarcely had they completed the raft, and loaded it with their effects,
when they were rushed by a mob of blacks, and in a few seconds two of
the five were gasping out their lives from spear wounds, and all the
others were wounded. Fortunately for the survivors, Grainger had his
revolver in his belt, and this saved them, for he at once opened fire on
the savages, whilst the other men worked the raft out into the middle
of the stream, where they were out of danger from spears and able to use
their rifles.

After a terrible voyage of three days, and suffering both from their
wounds and the bone-racking agonies of fever, they at last reached the
cattle station, where they were kindly received in the rough, hospitable
fashion common to all pioneers in Australia. But, when at the end of a
month one of Grainger's mates died of his wounds, and the other bade him
goodbye and went off in a pearling lugger to Thursday Island, the leader
sickened of Cape York Peninsula, and turned his face southwards once
more, in the hope that fortune would be more kind to him on the new
rushes at the Cloncurry, seven hundred miles away. From the station
owner he bought six horses, and with but one black-boy for a companion,
started off on his long, long journey through country which for the most
part had not yet been traversed even by the explorer.

Travelling slowly, prospecting as he went, and adding a few ounces of
gold here and there to the little bag he carried in his saddle-pouch,
quite three months passed ere he and the black boy reached the
Cloncurry. Here, however, he found nothing to tempt him--the field
was overcrowded, and every day brought fresh arrivals, and so, after a
week's spell, he once more set out, this time to the eastward towards
the alluvial fields near the Burdekin River, of which he had heard.

It was at the close of a long day's ride over grassless, sun-smitten
country, that he came in sight of Chinkie's Flat, and the welcome green
of the she-oaks fringing Connolly's Creek and soughing to the wind. The
quietness and verdancy of the creek pleased him, and he resolved to have
a long, long spell, and try and get rid of the fever which had again
attacked him and made his life a misery.

Riding up to the hotel he found a party of some twenty or more diggers
who were having a last carouse--for the "benefit" of the landlord---ere
they bade goodbye to Chinkie's Flat on the following evening. Among them
were two men who had become possessed of the "Ever Victorious" battery,
left to them by the recently deceased "Taeping," who had succumbed to
alleged rum and bad whiskey. They jocularly offered Grainger the
entire plant for twenty-five pounds and his horses. He made a laughing
rejoinder and said he would take a look at the machine in the morning.
He meant to have a long spell, he said, and Chinkie's Flat would suit
him better than Townsville or Port Denison to pull up, as hotels there
were expensive and he had not much money. Then, as was customary, he
returned the drink he had accepted from them by shouting for all hands,
and was at once voted "a good sort."

In the morning he walked down to the deserted battery, examined it
carefully, and found that although it was in very bad order, and
deficient especially in screens--the one greatest essential--it was
still capable of a great deal of work. Then he washed off a dish or two
of tailings from one of the many heaps about, and although he had no
acid, nor any other means of making a proper test in such a short time,
his scientific knowledge acquired on the big gold-fields of the
southern colonies and New Zealand showed him that there was a very
heavy percentage of gold still to be won from the tailings by simple and
inexpensive treatment.

"I'll buy the thing," he said to himself; "I can't lose much by doing
so, and there's every chance of saving a good deal of gold, if I once
get some fine screens, and that will only take six weeks or so."

By noon the "deal" was completed, and in exchange fer twenty-five
pounds in cash, six horses and their saddlery, Grainger, amid much
good-humoured chaff from the vendors, took possession of the "Ever
Victorious" crushing mill, together with some thousands of tons of
tailings, but when he announced his intention of putting the plant in
order and crushing for the "public" generally, as well as for himself,
six men who yet had some faith in the field and believed that some
of the many reefs would pay to work, elected to stay, especially when
Grainger said that if their crushings turned out "duffers" he would
charge them nothing for using the battery.

At one o'clock that day there were but eight Europeans and one black
boy left on the once noisy Chinkie's Flat--the landlord of "The Digger's
Best," six miners, Grainger, and the black boy, "Jacky," who had
accompanied him on his arduous journey from the Batavia River. At
Grainger's request they all met at the public-house! and sat down to a
dinner of salt meat, damper, and tea, and after it was finished and each
man had lit his pipe, Grainger went into details.

"Now, boys, this is how the thing hangs. I've bought the old rattletrap
because I believe there's a lot of life in the old girl yet, and I'm
going to spend all the money I have in putting her in order and getting
some new gear up from Brisbane or Sydney. If I lose my money I won't
grumble, but I don't think I _shall_ lose it if you will agree to give
some of the reefs a thorough good trial. As I told you, I won't ask you
for a penny if the stone I crush for you turns out no good; but it is
my belief--and I know what I am talking about--that there are a thousand
tons of surface stuff lying around this field which will give half an
ounce to an ounce to the ton if it is put through a decent machine.
And I'm going to make the old 'Ever Victorious' a pretty decent battery
before long. But it's no good my spending my money--I possess only four
hundred pounds--if you don't back me up and lend a hand."

"You're the man for us," said one of the men; "we'll stick to you and
do all the bullocking. But the battery is very old, and we have the idea
that old Taeping wasn't much of a boss of a crushing mill, and didn't
know much about amalgamation."

Grainger nodded: "I am sure of it. I don't believe that he saved more
than 50 per cent, of the gold from the surface stuff he put through, and
not more than a third from the stone.... Well, boys, what is it to be?"

The men looked at each other for a moment or two, and then they one and
all emphatically asserted their intention of remaining on the field,
assisting Grainger in repairing the plant and raising trial crushings of
stone from every reef on the field.

"That's all right, then, boys," said Grainger. "Now you go ahead and
raise the stone, and as soon as I am a bit stronger I'll start off
for the Bay and buy what I want in the way of screens, grinding pans,
quicksilver, and other gear. I'm almost convinced that with new, fine
screens we shall get good results out of the stone, and if we are
disappointed, then well tackle that heap of tailings. I've seen a lot of
tailings treated without being roasted in Victoria, and understand the
process right enough."

"Well, we'll do our share of yacker, mister," said a man named Dick
Scott.

"And I'll do mine. As soon as I am fit some of you must lend me a couple
of horses, and I'll ride down to the Bay.{*} I daresay I can get all
that we want there in the way of machinery without my going or sending
to Brisbane for it."

     * The present city of Townsville, then always called "The
     Bay," it being situated on the shores of Cleveland Bay.

On the following morning work was started by the six men, the landlord
of the public-house agreeing to cook for all hands for the first week,
while Grainger and the black boy (though the former was still very weak
from recurrent attacks of ague) tried numberless prospects from all
parts of the heaps of tailings. At the end of a week the miners began to
raise some very likely-looking stone! and Grainger, finding some jars
of muriatic acid among the stores belonging to the battery, made some
further tests of the tailings with results which gave him the greatest
satisfaction. He, however, said nothing about this to his new mates,
intending to give them a pleasant surprise later on in the week before
he left on his journey to the coast.

At six o'clock one evening, just as the men were returning from the
claim for supper, Jacky, the black boy, was seen coming along the track
at a fast canter. He had been out looking for some cattle belonging to
Jansen the landlord, which had strayed away among the ranges.

"What's the matter, Jacky?" asked the men, as the boy jumped off his
horse.

"I bin see him plenty feller Chinaman come along road. Altogether
thirty-one. Close to now--'bout one feller mile away, I think it."




CHAPTER III -- JIMMY AH SAN

Consternation was depicted on the faces of the men. And they all began
to question Jacky at once, until Grainger appeared, and then the black
boy gave them farther particulars--the Chinamen, he said, were all on
foot, each man carrying two baskets on a stick, but there were also five
or six pack-horses loaded with picks, shovels, dishes, and other mining
gear.

"Curse the dirty, yaller-hided swine!" cried Dick Scott, turning
excitedly to Grainger. "What's to be done? They've come to rush the Flat
again; but, by thunder! I'll be a stiff 'un afore a Chow fills another
dish with wash-dirt on Connolly's Creek."

"And me, too!" "And me, too!" growled the others angrily, and Grainger,
as he looked at their set, determined faces, knew they would soon be
beyond control, and bloodshed would follow if the advancing Chinamen
tried to come on to the field. But, nevertheless, he was thoroughly in
sympathy with them. The advent of these Chinese--probably but an advance
guard of many hundreds--would simply mean ruination to himself and his
mates, just as their prospects were so bright. The men looked upon him
as their leader, and he must act--and act quickly.

"Let them come along, boys. Then we'll bail them up as soon as they come
abreast of us, and have a little 'talkee, talkee' with them. But for
heaven's sake try and keep cool, and I daresay when they see we look
ugly at them, they'll trot on. How many of you have guns of any kind?"

Four rifles and two shot guns were quickly produced, and then every one
waited till the first of the Chinese appeared, marching one behind the
other. The foremost man was dressed in European clothes, and the moment
Scott saw him, he exclaimed--

"Why, it's Jimmy Ah San! I used to know him at Gympie in the old times.
He's not a bad sort of a Chow. Come on, boys!"

Grainger, who was not just then well enough to go with them, but
remained in his seat with his revolver on his knee, could not help
smiling at the sudden halt and terrified looks of the Chinese, when
Scott and the others drew up in front of them with their weapons at the
present. Half of them at once dropped their baskets and darted off into
the bush, the rest crowding together like a flock of terrified sheep.
The leader, however, came steadily on. Scott stepped out and met him.

"Good-morning. What do you and all your crowd want here?"

"Nothing," replied the Chinaman quietly, in excellent English, "nothing
but to get down to the creek and camp for a few days. But why do you all
come out with guns? We cannot do you any harm."

"Just so. But we can do _you_ a lot if you try on any games, Mr. Jimmy
Ah San."

"Ah, you know me then," said the man, looking keenly at Scott.

"Yes, I do, an' you're all right enough. But me an' my mates is going
to keep this field for white men--it ain't goin' to be no Chinaman's
digging'. So what's yer move?"

"Only what I said. Look at my men! We do not want to stop here; we wish
to push along to the coast. Some of them are dying from exhaustion, and
my pack-horses can hardly go another quarter of a mile."

Soott scratched his chin meditatively, and then consulted with his
mates. He, although so rough in his speech, was not a bad-natured man,
and he could see that the Chinese were thoroughly done up, and worn down
to skin and bone. Then presently Grainger walked over and joined them,
and heard what Ah San had to say.

"I'm sorry that you are in such a bad fix," he said, "but you know as
well as I do that if any of your men put a pick into ground here,
there will be serious trouble, and if they lose their lives you will be
responsible--and may perhaps lose your own."

"I promise you that nothing like that will happen," replied the
Chinaman. "My men are all diggers, it is true, but we will not attempt
to stay on any field where we are not wanted. My name is James Ah San. I
am a British subject, and have lived in Australia for twenty-five years.
That man" (pointing to Scott) "knows me, and can tell you that 'Jimmy Ah
San' never broke a promise to any man."

"That is right enough," said Scott promptly; "every one in Gympie knew
you when you was storekeepin' there, and said you was a good sort."

"We have come over three hundred miles from the Cloncurry," went on the
Chinese leader, quickly seeing that Scott's remark had much impressed
the other miners; "the diggers there gave us forty-eight hours to clear
out. The blacks killed fifteen of us and speared ten of my horses, and
six more men died on the way. We can do no harm here. We only want to
spell a week, or two weeks."

"Poor devils!" muttered Grainger; then he said to Ah San: "Very well.
Now, you see the track going through that clump of sandalwood? Well,
follow it and you'll come to a little ironstone ridge, where you'll find
a good camping-ground just over a big pool in the creek. There's a
bit of sweet grass, too, for your horses, so they can get a good feed
to-night. In the morning this black boy will, if you like, show you a
place in the ranges, about four miles from here, where you can let them
run for a week. There's some fine grass and plenty of water, and they
ought to pick up very quickly. But you will have to keep some one to see
that they don't get round the other side of the range--through one of
the gaps; if they do, you'll lose them to a dead certainty, for there
are two or three mobs of brumbies{*} running there. Do you want any
tucker?"{**}

     * Wild horses.

     ** Provisions.

"No, thank you," replied Ah San, with an unmistakable inflexion of
gratitude in his voice; "we have plenty of rice and tea, but I should
like to buy a bullock to-morrow, if I can--I saw some cattle about two
miles from here. Is there a cattle station near here?"

"No. The cattle you saw belong to one of us--this man here," pointing to
Jansen, "will sell you a beast to-morrow, I daresay."

Then the armed protectors of the integrity from foreign invasion of the
rights of Chinkie's Flat nodded "Good evening" to Ah San, and walked
back across the road to the "Digger's Best," and the Chinamen, with
silent, childlike patience, resumed their loads and trotted along after
their leader. They disappeared over the hill, and ere darkness descended
the glare of their camp fires was casting steady gleams of light upon
the dark waters of the still pool beneath the ridge.




CHAPTER IV -- GRAINGER AND JIMMY AH SAN TALK TOGETHER

It was eight o'clock in the morning, and Jimmy Ah San, a fat,
pleasant-faced Chinaman, dressed in European costume, came outside his
tent, and filling his pipe, sat down on the ground, and with his hands
clasped on his knees, saw six of the white men emerge from two or three
humpies, and walk down to the new shaft to begin work.

He was well acquainted with the previous history of the spot upon which
he was now gazing, and something like a scowl darkened his good-humoured
face as he looked upon the ragged, half-famished surrivors of his
company, and thought of the past horrors and hardships of the fearful
journey from the Cloncurty. Fifteen of their number had been murdered by
blacks in less than a fortnight, and the bones of half a dozen more, who
had succumbed to exhaustion or thirst lay bleaching on a strip of desert
country between the Cloncurry and the Burdekin River.

But Ah San was a man of courage--and resource as well--and his
five-and-twenty years' experience of bush and mining life in the Far
North of Australia enabled him to pilot the remainder of his men by
forced marches to the Cape River, where they had spelled for a month so
as to gain strength for the long stage between that river and Conolly's
Creek, on one of the deserted fields of which he hoped to settle and
retrieve his broken fortunes.

As he sat and watched and thought, eight or ten members of his company
came and crouched near him, gazing with hungry eyes at the heaps of
mullock and the mounds of tailings surrounding the "Ever Victorious"
battery, watching the Europeans at work, and wondering when they, too,
would give it up and follow their departed comrades. For the Chinamen
knew that those dry and dusty heaps of mullock and grey and yellow sand,
on which the death adder and the black-necked tiger snake now coiled
themselves to sleep in the noon-day sun, still contained gold enough to
reward patient industry--industry of which the foreign-devils were not
capable when the result would be but five pennyweights a day, washed
out in the hot waters of the creek under a sky of brass, "with flour at
two-pounds-ten per 50 lb. bag," as Dick Scott said.

Presently, turning to a sun-baked, lanky Chinaman near him--his
lieutenant--he bade him tell the men to prepare to go down to the Creek,
and drag some of the pools with a small seine.

"There are many fish in all these creeks which run into the great river"
(the Burdekin), "but I will first go to the foreigners and ask their
permission. The tall, sick man is well disposed towards us, and we must
be patient and submit to the tyranny of the others for a little while.
But all may yet be well with us if I can but get speech of him alone.
Meanwhile, keep the company under close watch; let no man wander from
the camp till I return."

Then entering his tent, he took from a canvas pack-bag a small bottle,
put it in his coat pocket, and, descending the ridge, walked towards the
"Digger's Best."

As he drew near, Grainger, followed by the landlord, came out of the
house and sat down on rudely made reclining chairs, composed of two
pieces of sapling, with cross-pieces, from which was slung a flour sack.

"Good morning, gentlemen," said the Chinaman politely.

"Good morning," they replied civilly, and then Grainger, who was wearing
a heavy overcoat, for the chill of an attack of ague was near, asked him
to sit down and inquired how his men were.

"They are getting on very well, thank you, sir," replied Ah San, "but
several of them are very weak, and will not be fit to travel for a
fortnight unless we carry them. But the rest will do them much good,
especially if they get a change of food. I have come now to ask you if
you and your mates will let us drag some of the pools in the creek for
fish. We have a small net."

"Certainly," replied Jansen; "some fish will do them good, and the pools
are alive with them now that the creek is so low. And anyway, we don't
want to stop you from getting food--do we, Mr. Grainger?"

"Certainly not; we have no earthly right to prevent you from taking
fish in the creek, and even if we had we should not use it. We are not
brutes."

"Thank you very much," said Ah San--and then, addressing himself to the
landlord, he asked him if he had a bullock to sell.

Jansen was an alert business man at once. He had a small herd of cattle
running wild about the creek! and was only too glad to sell a beast.

"You can have any bullock you like--the biggest in the lot--for a
fiver--but, cash down."

The Chinaman pulled out his purse, handed him a five-pound note, and
asked when he could have the beast.

"In about an hour, if you want to kill right off; but you ought not to
kill till sundown in such weather as this. But, anyway, I'll saddle up
and get a man to help me run the mob into the stockyard. Then you can
pick one out for yourself---there's half a dozen bullocks, and some fine
young fat cows, so you can have your choice."

In a few minutes the landlord had caught and saddled two horses, and
riding one, and leading the other, he went off to the new shaft, where
the spare horse was mounted by one of the men working there.

Then Ah San turned to the sick man, and said interrogatively--

"You have fever?"

"Yes, I caught it up Normanton way in the Gulf Country six months ago,
and thought I was getting clear of it, but a month back it came on
again, and I have been pretty bad ever since."

"I can see that, and the Gulf kind of fever is bad--very bad. I know all
about it, for I lived in the Gulf Country for ten years, and have had it
myself. Now, here is some medicine which will do you good--it will cure
you in ten days if you take a dose every time you feel the 'shakes'
coming on. But you must not eat more than you can help."

"Thank you," said Grainger eagerly, as he took the bottle; "it is very
kind of you. But you may want it yourself?"

"I have three or four more bottles left. I had a dozen from the doctor
at Georgetown on the Etheridge River. He is a man who knows all about
fever, and I can assure you that you will be a well man in ten days.
Show me your hand, please."

The European extended his hand languidly to the Chinaman, who looked at
the finger-nails for a moment or two: "You will have the 'shakes' in a
few hours."

"Yes. They generally come on as soon as the sun gets pretty high--about
nine or ten o'clock."

"Then you must take a dose now. Can I go inside and get a glass and some
water?"

"Yes, certainly. It is very good of you to take so much trouble."

Returning with a glass and some water, the Chinaman poured out a dose of
the mixture, and with a smile of satisfaction watched the sick man drink
it.

Then Grainger and his visitor began to talk, at first on general matters
such as the condition of the country between the Cloncurry and the
Burdekin, and then about Chinkie's Flat, its past glories and its
present condition. The frank, candid manner of Ah San evoked a similar
freedom of speech from the Englishman, who recognised that he was
talking to an intelligent and astute man who knew more about the Far
North of Queensland and its gold-fields than he did himself.

Then Ah San saw the opportunity for which he had been waiting, and
drawing his seat nearer to Grainger's he spoke earnestly to him, told
him exactly of the situation of himself and his company, and ended up by
making him a certain proposition regarding the working of the abandoned
claims, and the restarting of the rusting and weather-worn "Ever
Victorious" battery.

Grainger listened intently, nodding his head now and then as Ah San
emphasised some particular point. At the end of an hour's conversation
they heard the cracking of the landlord's stock whip and the bellowing
of cattle as they crossed the creek, and the Chinaman rose and held out
his hand.

"Then good morning, Mr. Grainger. I hope you will be able to convince
your mates that we can all pull together."

"I am sure of it. We are all pretty hard up. And you and your men can
help us, and we can help you. Come down again to-night, and I'll tell
you the result of my talk with them."




CHAPTER V -- THE RESURRECTION OF THE "EVER VICTORIOUS"

At six o'clock in the evening, Grainger was seated at one end of the
rough dining-table in the "Digger's Best" with some papers laid before
him, At the other end was Dick Scott, and the rest of the men sat on
either side, smoking their pipes, and wondering what was in the wind.

Grainger did not keep them waiting long. Taking his pipe ont of his
month, and laying it on the table, he went into business at once, He
spoke to them as if he were one of themselves, adopting a simplicity of
language and manner that he knew would appeal to their common sense and
judgment far more than an elaborately prepared speech.

"Now, boys, I've got something to say, and I'll say it as quick as I
can. None of you know anything of me beyond what I have told you myself;
but I don't think any one of you will imagine I'm a man who would try to
ring in a swindle on you when I bought the old rattletrap down there?"

"Go ahead, mister," said Dick Scott, "we didn't think no such thing. We
on'y thought you was chuckin' away your money pernicious."

Grainger laughed so heartily that his hearers followed suit Then he went
on--

"No. I'm not throwing my money away, boys. I am going to _make_ money on
this field, and so are you. But there are not enough of us. We want more
men--wages' men; and presently I'll explain _why_ we shall want them.
But first of all, let me show you what I obtained the other day out of
between 200 and 250 lbs. weight of those tailings."

He rose, went into the second room, and returned with a small enamelled
dish, and placed it upon the table. The miners rose and gathered round,
and saw lying on the bottom about an ounce and a quarter of fine powdery
gold.

"Holy Moses!" cried one of them, as he drew his forefinger through the
bright, yellow dust, "there's more than an ounce there."

"There is," affirmed Grainger: "there are twenty-five pennyweights, and
all that came out of not more than 250 lbs. of tailings!"

The men looked at each other with eyes sparkling with excitement,
and then Grainger poured the gold out upon a clean plate for closer
examination.

"Why," exclaimed Scott, "that means those tailings would go ten ounces
to the ton!"

"Just so," said Grainger, "but we can't get those ten ounces out of them
by ordinary means, though with new screens, new tables and blankets I
am pretty sure we can get four ounces to the ton. But we want the ten,
don't we?"

"You bet," was the unanimous response.

"Well, I'll guarantee that we shall get eight ounces at least. But first
of all I'll tell you how I got the result. You can try some of the stuff
in the morning, and you will find that those tailings will pan out about
eight or ten ounces to the ton."

"But acid is mighty dear stuff," said Scott.

"Just so, but it is very good as a test, and of course we are not
such duffers as to try to treat more than a couple of thousand tons of
tailings with acid. We'd die of old age before we finished. Now, I'll
get on and tell you what I do propose. You remember that I said I had
seen tailings treated in Victoria without roasting. Well, we could do
that now, though we should only get half the gold and lose the other
half in the sludge pits. Now, as I told you, I have about four hundred
pounds' worth of alluvial gold, which I brought with me from the north,
and which I can sell to any bank in the Bay. I intended when I bought
the 'Ever Victorious' to spend this £400 in buying some fine screens, a
couple of grinding pans, and some other gold-saving machinery, so that
when I was not crushing stone for you men I could be running those
tailings through. But we can do better--now that the Chinamen are here."

Something like dismay was depicted on the men's faces when they heard
this, but no one interrupted as he went on--

"We can do much better. Instead of treating those tailings by simply
running them through the screens again and losing half the gold, we can
build a proper roasting farnaoe, and _then_ we can grind them, keeping
the stampers for crushing alone. This morning I had a long yarn with Ah
San, the boss Chinaman, and he is willing to let us have as many of his
men as we want for twenty-five shillings a week each, and indenture them
to me for six months--there's the labour we want, right to our hand.
It's cheap labour, I admit, but that is no concern of ours. The Chows,
so Ah San tells me, will be only too glad to get a six months' job at
twenty-five bob a week--of which he takes half."

"Aye," said Scott contemptuously, "they're only bloomin' slaves."

"To their boss, no doubt; but not to us. They will be well pleased to
work for us and earn what they consider good wages. I propose that we
get at least twenty of them and set them to work right away. There is
any amount of good clay here, I know, and we'll start them digging. I
know how to build a brick-kiln, and we'll get a proper bricklayer up
from the Bay, and I guarantee that by the time the new machinery is up
that the roasting furnace will be built."

"No need to get a bricklayer from the Bay and pay him about eight pound
a week," said a man named Arthur O'Hare; "I'm a bricklayer by trade."

"Bully for you," said Grainger; "will you take four pounds a week to put
up the furnace and chimney?"

"I'm willing, if my mates are."

"Well, boys, that's pretty well all I have to say. We'll build the
roasting furnace; the Chinamen will do all the bullocking{*} both at
that and the battery, and we'll put on half-a-dozen to help at the new
shaft. I'll boss the battery, drive the engine, and do the amalgamating,
and you men can go on roasting stone. Every Saturday we'll stop the
battery and clean her up, and at the end of every four weeks we'll send
the gold to the bank and go shares in the plunder. Now, tell me, what do
you think? Do you think it's a fair proposition?"

     * "Bullocking"--hard work--i.e., to work like bullook. In a
     team.

After a very brief consultation together, Scott, speaking on behalf of
his mates, said they were all willing, and not only willing, but pleased
to "come in" with him, but they thought that he would only be acting
fairly to himself if he, as manager of the battery, amalgamator, and
general supervisor of the whole concern, took a salary of ten pounds a
week.

"No, boys. I'll take six pounds if you like. Of course, however, you
will not object to refunding me the money I am expending on the new
machinery. As for the profits, we shall divide equally.

"Well then," said Scott, banging his brawny fist on the table and
turning to his mates, "if you treats us in that generous way, we must do
the same with you as regards the stone we raise. Boys, I proposes that
as our new mate is finding the money to start the old battery again, and
going even shares with us in the gold from the tailings, that we go even
shares with him in whatever gold we get from the claims."

"Right," was the unanimous response. And then they all came up one by
one and shook hands with Grainger, whose face flushed with pleasure.
Then Jansan produced a bottle of rum and Grainger gave them a toast--

"Boys, here's good luck to us all, and here's to the day when we shall
hear the stampers banging away in the boxes and the 'Ever Victorious' be
as victorious as she was in the good old days of the field."




CHAPTER VI -- "MAGNETIC VILLA"

"Magnetic Villa" was one of the "best" houses in the rising city of
Townsville. It stood on the red, rocky, and treeless side of Melton
Hill, overlooked the waters of Cleveland Bay, and faced the rather
picturesque-looking island from whence it derived its name.

About ten months after the resurrection of the "Ever Victorious" and the
concomitant reawakening to life of Chinkie's Flat, three ladies arrived
by steamer from Sydney to take possession of the villa--then untenanted.
In a few hours it was generally known that the newcomers were Mrs.
Trappème, Miss Trappème, and Miss Lilla Trappème. There was also a
Master Trappème, a lanky, ill-looking, spotted-faced youth of fourteen,
in exceedingly new and badly-fitting clothes much too large for him. By
his mother and sisters he was addressed as "Mordaunt," though until a
year or so previously his name had been Jimmy.

A few weeks after the ladies had installed themselves in the villa there
appeared a special advertisement in the Townsville _Champion_ (over
the leader) informing the public that "Mrs. Lee-Trappème is prepared to
receive a limited number of paying guests at 'Magnetic Villa.' Elegant
appointments, superior _cuisine_, and that comfort and hospitality which
can Only be obtained in a Highly-refined Family Circle."

"Hallo!" said Mallard, the editor of the _Champion_, to Flynn, his sub,
who called his attention to the advertisement, "so 'Magnetic Villa'
is turned into a hash house, eh? Wonder who they are? 'Highly refined
family circle'--sounds fishy, doesn't it? Do you know anything about
them?"

"No, but old Maclean, the Melbourne drummer who came up in the _Barcoo_
from Sydney with them, does--at least he knew the old man, who died
about a year and a half ago."

"What was he?"

"Bank messenger in Sydney at thirty bob a week; used to lend money to
the clerks at high interest, and did very well; for when he pegged out
he left the old woman a couple of thousand. His name was Trappem--John
Trappem, but he was better known as 'Old Jack Trap.' When they came on
board the _Barcoo_ they put on no end of side, and they were 'Mrs., the
Misses, and Master Lee-Trappème.'"

"Lord! what a joke! Did the drummer give the show away on board?"

"No, for a wonder. But he told me of it."

"Daughters good looking?"

"Younger one is not too bad; elder's a terror--thin, bony, long face,
long nose, long feet, long conceit of herself, and pretty long age,
walks mincingly, like a hen on a hot griddle, and------"

"Oh, stop it! The old woman?"

"Fat, ruddy-faced, pleasant-looking, white hair, talks of her 'poor
_papaless_ girls,' &c. She's a pushing old geyser, however, and has
already got the parsons and some of the other local nobility to call on
her."

"Wonder what sort of tucker they'd give one, Flynn? I'm tired of paying
£6 a week at the beastly overcrowded dog-kennel, entitled the 'Royal'
Hotel--save the mark!--and I'm game even to try a boarding-house, but,"
and here he rubbed his chin, "this 'refined family circle' business, you
know?"

"They all say that," remarked the sub. "You couldn't expect 'em to
tell the truth and say, 'In Paradise Mansions Mrs. de Jones feeds her
boarders on anything cheap and nasty; the toilet jugs have no handles,
and the floors are as dirty as the kitchen slave, who does the cooking
and waits at table, and the family generally are objectionable in their
manners and appearance.'"

"Are you game to come with me this afternoon and inspect 'Magnetic
Villa' and the 'refined family circle'?"

"Yes. And, by Jove! if you take up your quarters there, I will do so
as well. We could try it, anyway. I'm batching with Battray, the police
inspector, and three other fellows. It was only going to cost us £3 a
week each; it costs us more like £6."

"Of course, too much liquor, and all that," said the editor of the
_Champion_, with a merry twinkle in his eye.

Scarcely had the sub-editor left when a knock announced another visitor,
and Grainger, booted and spurred, entered the room.

Mallard jumped from his chair and shook hands warmly with him. "This is
a surprise, Grainger. When did you get to town?"

"About an hour ago. Myra is with me; her six months' visit has come to
an end, and my mother and my elder sister want her back again; so she is
leaving in the next steamer. But all the hotels are packed full, and
as the steamer does not leave for a week, I don't know how to manage.
That's why I came to see you, thinking you might know of some place
where we could put up for a week."

"I shall be only too delighted to do all I can. The town is very full
of people just now, and the hotels are perfect pandemoniums, what with
Chinkie's Flat, the rush to the Haughton, Black Gully, and other places
Townsville is off its head with bibulous prosperity, and lodgings of
any kind fit for a lady are unobtainable. Ah, stop! I've forgotten
something. I do know of a place which might suit Miss Grainger very
well. Where is she now?"

"In the alleged sitting-room at the 'Queen's.' I gave the head waiter a
sovereign to let her have it to herself for a couple of hours whilst I
went out and saw what I could do."

Then Mallard told Grainger of "Magnetic Villa."

"Let us go and see this refined family," he said with a laugh. "I don't
know them, but from what my sub tells me, I daresay Miss Grainger could
manage with them for a week. I know the house, which has two advantages:
it is large, and is away from this noisy, dirty, dusty, and sinful
town."

"Very well," said Grainger» as he took out his pipe, "will three o'clock
suit? My sister might come."

"Of course. Now tell me about Chinkie's Flat. Any fresh news?"

"Nothing fresh; same old thing."

"'Same old thing!'" and Mallard spread out his arms yearningly and
rolled his eyes towards the ceiling. "Just listen to the man, O ye gods!
'The same old thing!' That means you are making a fortune hand over
fist, you and Jimmy Ah San."

"We are certainly making a lot of money, Mallard," replied Grainger
quietly, as he lit his pipe and crossed his strong, sun-tanned hands
over his knee. "My own whack, so far, out of Chinkie's Flat, has come to
more than £16,000."

"Don't say 'whack,' Grainger; it's vulgar. Say 'My own emolument,
derived in less than one year from the auriferous wealth of Chinkie's
Flat, amounts to £16,000.' You'll be going to London soon, and floating
the property for a million, and--"

Grainger, who knew the man well, and had a sincere liking and respect
for him, laughed again, though his face flushed. "You know me better
than that, Mallard; I'm not the man to do that sort of thing. I could
float the concern and make perhaps a hundred thousand or so out of it
if I was blackguard enough to do it. But, thank God, I've never done
anything dirty in my life, and never will."

"Don't mind my idiotic attempt at a joke, Grainger," and Mallard pat ont
his hand. "I know you are the straightest man that ever lived. But I did
really think that you would be going off to England soon, and that
we--I mean the other real friends beside myself you have made in this
God-forsaken colony--would know you no more except by reading of your
'movements' in London."

"No, Mallard, Australia is my home. I know nothing of England, for I
left there when I was a child. As I told you, my poor father was one
of the biggest sheep men in Victoria, and died soon after the bank
foreclosed on him. The old station, which he named 'Melinda Downs,'
after my mother, who has the good old-fashioned name of Melinda, has
gone through a lot of vicissitudes since then; but a few weeks ago my
agent in Sydney bought it for £10,000, and now my mother and sisters are
going back there."

"And yourself?"

"Oh, a year or two more--perhaps three or four; and then, when Chinkie's
Flat is worked out, I too, will go south to the old home."

Mallard sighed, and then, taking a cigar, lit it, and the two men smoked
together in silence for a few minutes.

"Mallard!"

"Yes, old man."

"This continual newspaper grind is pretty tough, isn't it?"

"Yes, it is. But thanks to you--by putting me on to the 'Day Dawn' Reef
at Chinkie's Flat--I've made a thousand or two and can chuck it at any
time."

"Don't say 'chuck.' It's vulgar; and the editor of the 'leading journal
in North Queensland' must not be vulgar," and he smiled.

"Ah, Grainger my boy, you have been a good friend to me!"

"It's the other way about, Mallard. You were the only man in the whole
colony of Queensland who stood to me when I began to employ Chinese
labour. That ruffian, Peter Finnerty, said in the House, only two months
ago, that I deserved to be shot."

"Well, you stuck to your guns, and I to mine. Fortunately the _Champion_
is my own 'rag,' and not owned by a company. I stuck to you as a matter
of principle."

"And lost heavily by it."

"For six months or so. A lot of people withdrew their advertisements;
but they were a bit surprised when at the end of that time they came
back to me, and I refused to insert their ads. at any price. I consider
that you not only did wisely, but right, in employing the Chinamen. Are
they going on satisfactorily?"

"Very; they do work for me at twenty-five shillings a week that white
men would not do at all--no matter what you offered them: emptying
sludge-pits, building dams, etc."

"Exactly! And now all the people who rose up and howled at you for
employing Chinamen, and the _Champion_ for backing you up, are shouting
themselves hoarse in your praise. And the revival of Chinkie's Flat,
and the new rushes all round about it, have added very materially to the
wealth of this town." After a little further conversation, Grainger went
back to the Queen's Hotel, where Mallard was to call at three o'clock.

Myra Grainger, a small, slenderly-built girl of nineteen, looked up as
he entered the sitting-room.

"Any success, Ted?"

"Here, look at this advertisement. Mallard knows the place, but not the
people. He's coming here at three, and we'll all go and interview Mrs.
Trappème--'which her real name is Trappem,' I believe."

"I shall be glad to see Mr. Mallard again. I like him--in fact, I liked
him before I ever saw him for the way in which he fought for you."

"And I'm strongly of the opinion that Mr. Thomas Mallard has a very
strong liking for Miss Myra Grainger."

"Then I like him still more for that."

Grainger patted his sister's cheek. "He is a good fellow, Myra. I think
he will ask you to marry him."

"I certainly expect it, Ted."




CHAPTER VII -- SHEILA CAROLAN

Although Mrs. Trappème had been so short a time in Townsville, she had
contrived to learn a very good deal, not only about people in the town
itself, but in the surrounding districts, and knew that Grainger was a
wealthy mine-owner, had a sister staying with him on a visit--and was a
bachelor. She also knew that Mallard was the editor of the _Champion_,
and was likewise a bachelor--in fact, she had acquired pretty well
all the information that could be acquired; her informant being the
talkative, scandal-mongering wife of the Episcopalian curate.

She was therefore highly elated when at four o'clock in the afternoon
Miss Grainger and her brother, and Mallard, after a brief inspection
of the rooms--which were really handsomely furnished--took three of the
largest and a private sitting-room, at an exorbitant figure, for a week,
and promised to be at the Villa that evening for dinner.

"He's immensely rich, Juliette," she said to her daughter (she was
speaking of Grainger after he had gone), "and you must do your best,
your very best. Wear something very simple, as it is the first evening;
and be particularly nice to his sister--I'm sure he's very fond of her.
She'll only be here a week, but he and Mr. Mallard will probably be here
a month. So now you have an excellent chance. Don't throw it away by
making a fool of yourself."

Juliette (who had been christened Julia, and called "Judy" for
thirty-two years of her life) set her thin lips and then replied
acidly--

"It's all very well for you to talk, but whenever I did have a
chance--which was not often--you spoilt it by your interference. And if
you allow Jimmy to sit at the same table with us to-night he'll simply
disgust these new people. When you call him 'Mordaunt' the hideous
little wretch grins; and he grins too when you call me 'Juliette' and
Lizzie 'Lilla.'"

Mrs. Trappème's fat face scowled at her daughter, and she was about to
make an angry retort when the frontdoor bell rang.

"A lady wants to see yez, ma'am," said the "new chum" Irish housemaid,
who had answered the door.

"Did you show her into the reception room, Mary?"

"Sure, an' is it the wee room wid the sthuffed burd in the fireplace, or
is it the wan beyant wid the grane carpet on de flore; becos' I'm after
puttin' her in the wan wid the sthuffed burd? Anny way it's a lady she
is, sure enough; an' it's little she'll moind where she do be waitin' on
yez."

"Did she send in her card, Mary?"

"Did she sind in her _what_?"

"Her card, you stupid girl."

"Don't you be after miscallin' me, ma'am. Sure I can get forty shillings
a wake annywhere an' not be insulted by anny wan, instead av thirty
here, which I do be thinkin' is not the place to shuit me"--and the
indignant daughter of the Emerald Isle, a fresh-complexioned, handsome
young woman, tossed her pretty head and marched out.

So Mrs. Trappème went into the room "wid the sthuffed burd in it,"
and there rose to meet her a fair-haired girl of about eighteen, with
long-lashed, dark-grey eyes, and a somewhat worn and drawn expression
about her small mouth, as if she were both mentally and physically
tired. Her dress was of the simplest--a neatly fitting, dark-blue,
tailor-made gown.

"I saw your advertisement in the _Champion_ this morning," she said,
"and called to ascertain your terms." Mrs. Trappème's big, protruding,
and offensive pale-blue eyes stared at and took in the girl's modest
attire and her quiet demeanour as a shark looks at an unsuspecting or
disabled fish which cannot escape its maws.

"Please sit down," she said with a mingled ponderous condescension
and affability. "I did not _advertise_. I merely _notified_ in the
_Champion_ that I would receive paying guests. But my terms are very
exclusive." "What are they?"

"Five guineas a week exclusive of extras, which, in this place, amount
to quite a guinea more. You could not afford that, I suppose?"

The dark-grey eyes flashed, and then looked steadily at those of the
fishy blue.

"Your terms are certainly very high, but I have no option. I find it
impossible to get accommodation in Townsville. I only arrived from
Sydney this morning in the _Corea_, and as I am very tired, I should
like to rest in an hour or so--as soon as you can conveniently let
me have my room," and taking out her purse she placed a £5 note, a
sovereign, and six shillings on the table.

"Will you allow me to pay you in advance?" she said, with a tinge of
sarcasm in her clear voice. "I will send my luggage up presently."

Mrs. Trappème at once became most affable. She had noticed that the
purse the girl had produced was literally stuffed with new £5 notes.

"May I send for it?" she said beamingly, "and will you not stay and go
to your room now?"

"No, thank you," was the cold reply, "I have some business to attend to
first. Can you tell me where Mr. Mallard, the editor of the _Champion_,
lives? I know where the office is, but as it is a morning paper, I
should not be likely to find him there at this early hour."

Mrs. Trappème was at once devoured with curiosity. "How very
extraordinary! Mr. Mallard was here only half an hour ago with a Mr.
Grainger and Miss Grainger. They are coming here to stay for a few
weeks."

The girl's fair face lit up. "Oh, indeed! I am sorry I was not here, as
I particularly wish to see Mr. Grainger also. I had no idea that he was
in Townsville, and was calling on Mr. Mallard--who, I know, is a friend
of his--to ascertain when he was likely to be in town."

"They will all be here for dinner, Miss----"

"My name is Carolan," and taking out her cardcase she handed Mrs.
Trappème a card on which was inscribed, "Miss Sheila Carolan."

"Then Mr. Grainger is a friend of yours?" said Mrs. Trappème
inquisitively, thinking of the poor chance Juliette would have with such
a Richmond in the field as Miss Sheila Carolan.

"No, I have never even seen him," said the girl stiffly, and then she
rose.

"Then you will send for my luggage, Mrs. Trappème?"

"With pleasure, Miss Carolan. But will you not look at your room, and
join my daughter and myself in our afternoon tea?"

"No, thank you, I think I shall first try and see either Mr. Mallard or
Mr. Grainger. Do you know where Mr. Mallard lives?"

"At the Royal Hotel in Flinders Street. My daughter Lilla will be
delighted to show you the way."

But Miss Sheila Carolan was stubborn, and declined the kind offer, and
Mrs. Trappème, whose curiosity was now at such a pitch that she was
beginning to perspire, saw her visitor depart, and then called for
Juliette.

"I wonder who she is and what she wants to see Mr. Grainger for?" she
said excitedly, as she mopped her florid face: "doesn't know him, and
yet wants to see him particularly. There is something mysterious about
her."

"What is she like?" asked Miss Trappème eagerly. "I didn't see her
face, but her clothes are all right, I can tell you." (She knew all
about clothes, having been a forewoman in a Sydney drapery establishment
for many years.)

"Oh, a little, common-looking thing, but uppish. I wonder what on earth
she _does_ want to see Mr. Grainger for?"

Half an hour later, when Miss Carolan's luggage arrived, it was duly
inspected and criticised by the whole Trappème family. Each trunk bore
a painted address: "Miss Carolan, Minerva Downs, Dalrymple, North
Queensland."

"Now where in the world is Minerva Downs?" said Mrs. Trappème, "and why
on earth is she going there? And her name too--Carolan--Sheila Carolan!
I suppose she's a Jewess."

"Indade, an' it's not that she is, ma'am, whatever it manes,"
indignantly broke in Mary, who had helped to carry in the luggage, and
now stood erect with flaming face and angry eyes. "Sure an' I tould yez
she was a lady, an' anny wan cud see she was a lady, an' Carolan is wan
av the best names in Ireland--indade it is."

"You may leave the room, Mary," said Miss Trappème loftily.

"Lave the room, is it, miss? Widout maning anny disrespect to yez, I
might as well be telling yez that I'm ready to lave the place intirely,
an' so is the cook an' stableman, an' the gardener. Sure none av
us--having been used to the gintry--want to sthay in a place where we do
be getting talked at all day."

The prospect of all her servants leaving simultaneously was too awful
for Mrs. Trappème to contemplate. So she capitulated.

"Don't be so hasty, Mary. I suppose, then, that Miss Carolan is an
Irishwoman?"

"She is that, indade. Sore an' her swate face toold me so before she
spoke to me at all, at all."

"Then you must look after her wants yery carefully, Mary. She will only
be here for a few weeks."

Mary's angry eyes softened. "I will that ma'am. Sure she's a sweet young
lady wid the best blood in her, I'm thinkin'."

Miss Trappème sniffed.




CHAPTER VIII -- MYRA AND SHEILA

There was nothing mysterious about Sheila Carolan; her story was a very
simple one. Her parents were both dead, and she had no relatives, with
the exception of an aunt, and with her she had lived for the last five
years. The two, however, did not agree very well, and Sheila being of a
very independent spirit, and possessing a few hundred pounds of her own,
frankly told her relative that she intended to make her own way in the
world. There was living in North Queensland a former great friend of her
mother's--a Mrs. Farrow, whose husband was the owner of a large cattle
station near Dalrymple--and to her she wrote asking her if she could
help her to obtain a situation as a governess. Six weeks later she
received a warmly worded and almost affectionate letter.

     "My dear Sheila,--Why did you not write to me long, long
     ago, and tell me that you and your Aunt Margaret did not get
     on well together! I remember as a girl that she was somewhat
     'crotchetty.' I am not going to write you a long letter. _I
     want you to come to us_. Be my children's governess--and I
     really do want a governess for them--but remember that you
     are coming to your mother's friend and schoolmate, and that
     although you will receive £100 a year--if that is too little
     let us agree for £160--it does not mean that you will be
     anything else to me but the daughter of your dear mother.
     Now I must tell you that Minerva Downs is a difficult place
     to reach, and that you will have to ride all the way from
     Townsville--250 miles--but that will be nothing to an
     Australian-born girl 'wid Oirish blood in her.' When you get
     to Townsville call on Mr. Mallard, the editor of the
     _Champion_, who is a friend of ours (I've written him), and
     he will 'pass' you on to another friend of ours, a Mr.
     Grainger, who lives at a mining town called Chinkie's Flat,
     ninety miles from here, and Mr. Grainger (don't lose your
     heart to him, and defraud my children of their governess)
     will 'pass' you on with the mailman for Minerva Downs. The
     enclosed will perhaps be useful (it is half a year's salary
     you advance), and my husband and _all_ my large and furious
     family of rough boys and rougher girls will be delighted to
     see you.

     "Very sincerely yours, my dear Sheila,

     "Noba Fabbow."

With the letter was enclosed a cheque for £50 on a Sydney bank.

As the girl descended Melton Hill into hot, dusty, and noisy Flinders
Street, she smiled to herself as she thought how very much she had
stimulated the curiosity of Mrs. Trappème--to whom she had, almost
unconsciously, taken an instinctive dislike.

As she entered the crowded vestibule of the Royal Hotel, a group of
men--diggers, sugar planters, storekeepers, bankers, ship captains, and
policemen, who were all laughing hilariously at some story which was
being told by one of their number--at once made a lane for her
to approach the office, for ladies--especially young and pretty
ladies--were few in comparison to the men in North Queensland in those
days, and a murmured whisper of admiration was quite audible to her as
she made her inquiry of the clerk.

"No; Mr. Mallard is with Mr. and, Miss Grainger at the 'Queen's.' He
left here a few minutes ago."

"May I show you the way, miss?" said a huge bearded man, who, booted and
spurred, took off his hat to her in an awkward manner. "I'm Dick Scott,
one of Mr. Grainger's men."

"Thank you," replied Sheila, "it is very kind of you," and, escorted by
the burly digger, she went out into the street again.

"Are you Miss Caroline, ma'am?" said her guide to her respectfully, as
he tried to shorten his lengthy strides.

"Yes, my name is Carolan," she replied, trying to hide a smile.

"Thought so, ma'am. I heerd the boss a-tellin' Miss Grainger as you
would be a-comin' to Chinkie's on yer way up ter Minervy Downs. Here's
the 'Queen's,' miss, an' there's the boss and his sister and Mr.
Mallard on the verandah there havin' a cooler," and then, to her
amusement and Grainger's astonishment, Mr. Dick Scott introduced her.

"This is Miss Caroline, boss. I picked her up at the 'Royal,'" and then,
without another word, he marched off again with a proud consciousness of
having "done the perlite thing."

"I am Sheila Carolan, Mr. Grainger. I was at the 'Royal 'asking for Mr.
Mallard when Mr. Scott kindly brought me here."

"I am delighted to meet you, Miss Carolan," said Grainger, who had risen
and extended his hand. "I had not the slightest idea you had arrived."
And then he introduced her to his sister and Mallard.

"Now, Miss Carolan, please let me give you a glass of this--it is simply
lovely and cold," said Myra, pouring some champagne into a glass with
some crashed ice in it. "My brother is the proad possessor of a big but
rapidly diminishing lump of ice, which was sent to him by the captain of
the _Corea_ just now."

"Thank you, Miss Grainger. I really am very thirsty. I have had quite a
lot of walking about to-day. I have a letter to you, Mr. Mallard, from
Mrs. Farrow," and she handed the missive to him.

"I am so very sorry I did not know of your arrival, Miss Carolan," said
Mallard. "I would have met you on board, but, as a matter of fact, I did
not expect you in the _Corea_, as she is a very slow boat."

"I was anxious to get to Mrs. Farrow," Sheila explained, "and so took
the first steamer."

"Where are you staying, Miss Carolan?" asked Myra.

"Oh, I've been very fortunate. I have actually secured a room at
'Magnetic Villa,' on Melton Hill; in fact I went there just after you
had left."

Myra clapped her hands with delight. "Oh, how lovely! I shall be there
for a week, and my brother and Mr. Mallard are staying there as well."

"So Mrs. Lee Trappème informed me," said Sheila with a bright smile.

Mallard--an irrepressible joker and mimic--at once threw back his head,
crossed his hands over his chest, and bowed in such an exact imitation
of Mrs. Trappème that a burst of laughter followed.

"Now you two boys can run away and play marbles for a while, as Miss
Carolan and I want to have a little talk before we go to the 'refined
family circle' for dinner," said Myra to her brother. "It is now six
o'clock; our luggage has gone up, and so, if you will come back for us
in half an hour, we will let you escort us there--to the envy of all the
male population of this horrid, dusty, noisy town."

"Very well," said Grainger with a laugh, "Mallard and I will contrive to
exist until then," and the two men went off into the billiard-room.

"Now, Miss Carolan," said the lively Myra, as she opened the door of
the sitting-room and carried in the table on which were the glasses,
champagne bottle, and ice, "we'll put these inside first. The sight of
that ice will make every man who may happen to see it and who knows Ted
come and introduce himself to me. Oh, this is a very funny country! I'm
afraid it rather shocked you to see me drinking champagne on an hotel
verandah in full view of passers-by. But, really, the whole town is
excited--it has gold-fever on the brain--and then all the men are so
nice, although their free and easy ways used to astonish me considerably
at first. But diggers especially are such manly men---you know what I
mean."

"Oh, quite. I know I shall like North Queensland. There were quite a
number of diggers on board the _Carea_, and one night we held a concert
in the saloon and I sang 'The Kerry Dance'--I'm an Irishwoman--and next
morning a big man named O'Hagan, one of the steerage passengers, came up
and asked me if I would 'moind acceptin' a wee bit av a stone,' and he
handed me a lovely specimen of quartz with quite two ounces of gold in
it. He told me he had found it on the Shotover River, in New Zealand.
I didn't know what to say or do at first, and then he paid me such a
compliment that I fairly tingled all over with vanity. 'Sure an' ye'll
take the wee bit av a stone from me, miss,' he said. 'I'm a Kerry man
meself, an' when I heard yez singin' "The Kerry Dance," meself and half
a dozen more men from the oold sod felt that if ye were a man we'd have
carried yez around the deck in a chair."

"How nice of him!" said Myra; "but they are all like that. Nearly every
one of my brother's men at Chinkie's Flat gave me something in the way
of gold specimens when I left there."

"Then," resumed Sheila, "in the afternoon _all_ the steerage passengers
sent me and the captain what they call a 'round robin,' and asked if he
would let them have a concert in the steerage, and if I would sing.
And we did have it--on the deck--and I had to sing that particular song
_three_ times."

"I wish I had been there! Do you know, Miss Carolan, that that big man
who brought you here--Dick Scott--rough and uneducated as he is, is a
gentleman. On our way down from Chinkie's Flat we had to swim our horses
across the Ross River, which was in flood. When we reached the other
side I was, of course, wet through, and my hair had come down, and I
looked like a half-drowned cat, I suppose. There is a public-house on
this side of the Ross, and we went there at once to change our clothes,
which were in canvas saddle bags on a pack-horse, and came over dry.
The public-house was full of people, among whom were three commercial
travellers, who were doing what is called 'painting the place red'--they
were all half-intoxicated. As I came in wet and dripping they leered at
me, and one of them said, 'Look at the sweet little ducky--poor little
darling--with her pitty ickle facey-wacey all wet and coldy-woldy.' Ted
was not near me at the time, but Scott heard, and ten minutes later,
as I was changing my clothes, I heard a dreadful noise, and the most
_awful_ language, and then a lot of cheering. I dressed as quickly as
possible and went out into the dining-room, and there on the floor were
the three commercial travellers. Their faces looked simply dreadful,
smothered in blood, and I felt quite sick. At the other end of the room
were a lot of men, miners and stockmen, who were surrounding Dick Scott,
slapping him on the back, and imploring him to drink with them. It seems
that as soon as I had gone to my room to change, the valiant Dick had
told them that the 'drummers' had insulted Mr. Grainger's sister, and in
a few minutes the room was cleared and a ring formed, and Dick actually
did what the landlord termed 'smashed up the whole three in five
minutes.'"

"I'm sure I shall like Mr. Dick Scott," said Sheila. "I had to try hard
and not laugh when he pointed to you, and said in his big, deep voice,
'There they are, having a "cooler"'--I thought at first he meant you
were cooling yourselves."

"Any drink is called a 'cooler,' "explained Myra; "but, oh dear, how I
do chatter! The fact is, I'm so wildly excited, and want to talk so
much that I can't talk fast enough. But I _must_ first of all tell you
this--I'm really most sincerely glad to meet you, for I feel as if I
knew you well. Mrs. Farrow--I spent a week at Minerva Downs--told me you
were coming, and that she was longing to see you. I am sure you will be
very, very happy with her. She is the most lovable, sweet woman in the
world, and when she spoke of your mother her eyes filled with tears. And
the children are simply _splendid_. I suppose I am unduly fond of them
because they made so much of me, and think that my brother is the finest
rider in the world--'and he is that, indade'--isn't that Irish?"

"Yes," said Sheila smilingly, "that is Irish; and I am sure I shall be
very happy there."

Myra Grainger, who was certainly, as she had said, wildly excited,
suddenly moved her chair close to that on which Sheila sat.

"Miss Carolan, I'm sure that you and I will always be great 'chums'--as
they say here in North Queensland--and I'm just dying to tell you of
something. Within this last hour I have become engaged to Mr. Mallard!
Even Ted doesn't know it yet. Oh, I have heaps and heaps of things to
tell you. Can't we have a real, nice long talk to-night?"

"Indeed we can," said Sheila, looking into the girl's bright, happy
face.




CHAPTER IX -- DINNER WITH "THE REFINED FAMILY"

Somewhat to the annoyance of Grainger and his friends, they found on
their arrival at "Magnetic Villa" that there were several other visitors
there who had apparently come to dine. Whether they were personal
friends of Mrs. Trappème or not, or were "paying guests" like
themselves, they could not at first discover.

"Dinner will be ready at eight o'clock, Miss Grainger," said Mrs.
Trappème sweetly to Myra, who with Sheila had been shown into their
private sitting-room; and then she added quickly, as she heard a
footstep in the passage, "You have not met my daughter. Come, Juliette,
dear--Miss Grainger, my eldest daughter; Miss Carolan, Miss Trappème."

The two girls bowed rather coldly to Miss Trappème, who, after the usual
commonplaces, asked Miss Grainger if she were not tired.

"Very--and so is Miss Carolan. We shall be glad of an hour's rest before
dinner."

The hint was unmistakable, and Miss Trappème smiled herself out,
inwardly raging at what she told her mother was Sheila's forwardness in
so soon thrusting herself upon Miss Grainger.

As she went out, Sheila looked at Myra and laughed. "We are certainly
meant to be treated as members of the family, whether we like it or
not. I wonder if the other people we saw are as pushful as 'Mamma' and
'Juliette.'"

"I trust not; that would be awful--even for a week."

Mallard was in Grainger's room, sprawled out on the bed, talking to
him and smoking, whilst the latter was opening a leather trunk which
contained some bottles of whisky and soda water, and a small box which
held the remains of the ice.

"We can't let this 'melt on as,' as the Irish would say, Mallard," and
he placed it in the toilet basin in its covering of blanket. "Now move
your lazy self and break a piece off with your knife, whilst I open this
bottle of Kinahan's and some soda. I trust the cultured family will not
object to the sound of a cork popping at seven o'clock."

"Not they," said Mallard, as he rose; "they would not mind if you took
the whisky to the table and drank it out of the bottle. Oh, I can gauge
the old dame pretty well, I think; avarice is writ large in her face,
and she'll squeeze us all she can. She told me in a mysterious aside
that the butler kept all the very best wines and liquor obtainable. I
thanked her, and said I usually provided my own. She didn't like it a
bit; but I'm not going to pay her a sovereign for a bottle of whisky or
Hennessey when I can get a case of either for a five-pound note. Oh!"
he added disgustedly, "they're all alike."

"Well, don't worry, old man," said his friend philosophically, as he
handed him a glass; "there, take this. I wonder if Mrs. Trap--Trapper,
or whatever her name is, thinks we are going to dress for dinner.
Neither my sister nor Miss Carolan will, and I'm sure I'm not going to
establish a bad precedent."

"Same here. If other people like to waste time dressing for dinner, let
them; this town is altogether too new and thriving a place for busy men
like ourselves to worry about evening dress. By the way, Grainger, I've
some news for you that I trust will give you pleasure: your sister has
promised to marry me next year."

Grainger grasped his friend's hand. "I'm glad, very glad, old man. I was
wondering what made her so unusually bright this afternoon; but she has
kept it dark."

"Hasn't had a chance to tell you yet. I only asked her a couple of hours
ago."

"Well, let us go and see her and Miss Carolan before dinner. I can hear
them talking in the sitting-room. Hallo! who is that little fellow out
there crossing the lawn with the younger Miss Trappème. He's in full
fig.."

Mallard looked out of the window and saw a very diminutive man in
evening dress.

"Oh, that's little Assheton, the new manager for the Australian
Insurance Company. He's just out from England. He's a fearfully
conceited ape, but a smart fellow at the insurance business. Great fun
at the 'Queen's' the other day with him. He came in, dressed in frock
coat, tall hat, and carrying a thick, curly stick as big as himself. Of
course every one smiled, and he took it badly--couldn't see what there
was to laugh at; and when old Charteris, the Commissioner, asked him
how much he would 'take for the hat,' he put his monocle up and said
freezingly, 'Sir, I do not know you.' That made us simply howl, and
then, when we had subsided a bit, Morgan the barrister, who is here on
circuit with Judge Cooper, said in that fanny, deep, rumbling voice of
his--

"'Are you, sir, one of the--ah--ah--circus company which--ah--arrived
to-day?'

"The poor little beggar was furious, lost his temper, and called us a
lot of ill-mannered, vulgar fellows, and then some one or other whipped
off the offending hat, threw it into the street, and made a cockshy of
it.

"'I'll have satisfaction for this outrage!' he piped. 'Landlord, send
for a policeman. I'll give all these men in charge. Your house is very
disorderly. Do you know _who_ I am?'

"'No, nor do I care,' said old Cramp, down whose cheeks the tears were
running; 'but if you'll come here like that every day, I'll give you a
sovereign, and we'll have the hat. Oh, you're better than any circus I
ever saw. Oh, oh, oh!' and he went off into another fit.

"The poor little man looked at us in a dazed sort of a way--thought us
lunatics, and then when old Char-tens asked him not to mind a bit of
miners' horseplay, but to sit down and have some fizz, he called him 'an
audacious ruffian,' and shrieked out--

"'I am Mr. B. D. Assheton--the manager of the Australian Insurance
Company. Do you possibly imagine I would drink with a person _like
you_?'"

Grainger laughed: "It must have been great fun."

"Rather--but the cream of it is to come yet. He rushed oat into Flinders
Street, found Sergeant Doyle and a policeman, and came back panting and
furious, and pointing, to Charteris, told them to take him in charge.
Doyle looked at us blankly, saw we were nearly dead with laughing, and
then took Assheton aside, and said in his beautiful brogue--

"'Me little mahn, it's drinkin' ye've been. Do yez want me to arrest the
Po-liss Magisthrate himsilf? Who are ye at all, at all? Ye'd betther
be after goin' home and lyin' down, or I'll lock ye up for making a
dishturbance. Do ye moind me now?'"

Grainger could no longer control his laughter, and in the midst of it,
Myra tapped vigorously at the door, He rose and opened it.

"Whatever is all this noise about, Ted? You two great boys!"

"Oh, take Mallard away, Myra, for heaven's sake!"

A little before eight o'clock the deafening clamour of a gong announced
dinner, and the company filed in. Mrs. Trappème and the Misses Trappème
were in "very much evening dress" as Sheila murmured to Myra, and they
seemed somewhat surprised that neither Miss Grainger nor Miss Carolan
had donned anything more unusual than perfectly-made dainty gowns of
cool white Indian muslin. Grainger and Mallard wore the usual white duck
suits (the most suitable and favoured dress for a climate like that
of torrid North Queensland), and Sheila could not but admire their
big well-set-up figures--both were "six feet men"--and contrast their
handsome, bronzed and bearded faces with the insignificant appearance
of Assheton and another gentleman in evening dress--a delicate but
exceedingly gentlemanly young Scotsman. Of course there were more
introductions--all of which were duly and unnecessarily carried out by
Mrs. Trappème. Others of that lady's guests were the local Episcopalian
clergyman and his wife--the former was a placid, dreamy-looking, mild
creature, with soft, kindly eyes. He smiled at everybody, was evidently
in abject terror of his wife--a hard-featured lady about ten years his
senior, with high cheek-bones and an exceedingly corrugated neck and
shoulders. She eyed Myra and Sheila with cold dissatisfaction, and
after dinner had once begun, devoted herself to the task of extracting
information from the latter regarding her future movements. She had
already discussed her with Mrs. Trappème, and had informed her hostess
that she had "suspicions" about a girl who affected mystery in the
slightest degree, and who could afford to pay six guineas a week for
simple board and lodging.

"Quite so, Mrs. Wooler," Mrs. Trappème had assented; "I must confess it
doesn't look quite right. Even Juliette thinks it very strange for her
to be so reticent as to who she is and where she is going. Of course I
could have refused to receive her, and am now rather sorry I did not. I
understood from her that Mr. Grainger was an utter stranger to her--and
I was quite surprised to see them all come in together as if they had
known each other for years. Not quite correct, I think."

"Mr. Grainger is very rich," said the clergyman's wife meditatively.

"Very," said her friend, who knew that Mrs. Wooler meant to do a little
begging (for church purposes) as soon as opportunity offered.

"It would be a pity for him to be involved with such a--a
forward-looking young person," she said charitably.

But for the first quarter of an hour she had no opportunity of
satisfying her curiosity, for Sheila was quite hungry enough not to
waste too much time in conversation. At last, however, a chance came,
when Mr. Assheton said in his mincing voice--

"I believe, Miss Carolan, that like me, you are quite a new arrival in
this country."

"Oh, dear no! I have lived here ever since I was two years old."

"Heah! in Townsville?"

"I meant Australia," Sheila observed placidly.

"Then you are not an Australian born, Miss Carolan?" put in Mrs. Wooler
with a peculiarly irritating condescension of manner and surprised
tone, as if she meant to say, "I am sure you are--you certainly are not
lady-like enough to be an English girl."

"No, I am not," was the reply. "Do you think you will like Queensland,
Mr. Assheton?"

"I really have as yet formed no definite impression. Possibly I may in
the end contrive to like it."

"Do. It would be a great pity for the country if you did not," said
Sheila gravely, without moving an eyelid.

"Do you purpose making a long stay in Queensland, Miss Carolan?" pursued
Mrs. Wooler.

"A very long one, perhaps--perhaps on the other hand a very short one.
Or it may be that I may adopt a middle course, and do neither."

Grainger, who was opposite, heard her, and as she looked across at him,
he saw that she was "playing" her questioner and quite enjoying it.

Never for one moment did the clergyman's wife dream that Sheila meant
to be anything else but evasive, so she followed up. To her mind it
was absolutely incredible that any woman would dare to snub her--Mrs.
Wooler--daughter of a dean, and possessing an uncle who had on several
occasions been spoken of by the Bishop of Dullington as his probable
successor; such a thing was impossible!

"I presume, however, that your stay in Townsville itself will be short,
Miss Carolan? You will find it a very expensive place--especially if you
have no friends to whom you can go."

Sheila's face flushed. Her blood was getting up, and Myra looked at her
nervously.

"Is there no 'Girls' Friendly Society,' 'Young Women's Christian
Association,' or other kindred institution, where I could 'be taken in
and done for'?" she asked sweetly.

"Not as yet; but I am thinking of taking steps to found a Girls'
Friendly Society. Such an institution will soon be a necessity in a
growing place like this."

"How nice it would be for me to go there instead of staying at--at a
boarding house!"

Juliette Trappème's sallow face flushed with rage, and Mrs. Trappème,
who saw that something was occurring, spoke loudly to Mr. Wooler, who
answered in his usual soft voice. But Mallard, who was seated next to
Miss Lilla Trappème, shot Sheila an encouraging glance.

"Quite so," went on Mrs. Wooler. "I disapprove most strongly of any
young woman incurring risks that can be avoided."

"What risks?" and Sheila turned and looked steadily at Mrs. Wooler.

The sharp query somewhat upset the inquisitive lady, who hardly knew
what she meant herself.

"Oh, the risks of getting into debt--living beyond one's means--and
things like that."

"Oh, I see, madam," and Sheila bowed gravely, although the danger
signals were showing now on her cheeks. Then she added very clearly and
distinctly, "That would be most dreadful to happen to any one, would it
not, Mr. Assheton?"

"Oh, howwible--for a lady."

"But," she went on--and as she spoke she gazed so intently into Mrs.
Wooler's face that every one at the table saw her change colour--"but
I am sure, Mrs. Wooler, that no girl could possibly come to such a sad
condition while _you_ are in Townsville, to give her the benefit of
_your_ years, _your_ advice, and _your_ experience--even though that
advice was thrust upon her in a manner that I believe might possibly
cause well-deserved resentment," and then, with a scornful smile still
on her lips, she turned to Mr. Assheton and asked him sweetly if he did
not "think it was beginning to be very warm so early in the year?"

"By heavens!" mattered Mallard to Myra, "she has done the parson woman
good. Look at her face. It's unpleasant to look at."

Mrs. Wooler's features were a study. Unable to speak, and her hands
trembling with rage, she gave the girl one glance of hatred, and then
tried to eat; and Viveash, who had the sense to do so, at once began
telling her some idiotic and pointless story about himself when he sang
in a cathedral choir until his voice "failed him."

Just then a long ring was heard at the front door, and the butler
presently came to Mallard, and said--

"One of the reporters, sir, from the _Champion_ wishes to see you. Most
important, sir, he says. Will you please see him at once?"

Making his excuses, Mallard left the dining-room and went into one of
the sitting-rooms, where the reporter was awaiting him.




CHAPTER X -- THE "CHAMPION" ISSUES A "SPECIAL"

Ten minutes later Mallard was at the hall door giving instructions to
the reporter.

"Hurry back as fast as you can, Winthrop, and tell Mr. Flynn to rash
the special through. And as fast as any farther news come in rap
out another. Get all the boys you can, and distribute the specials
everywhere--anywhere. Chuck some over into the cemetery--they'll make
the dead 'get up and holler.' Tell the boys that they are not to make
any charge--get the foreman to head it 'Special! Gratis! (Any one
newsboy who makes a charge for this special will be immediately
dismissed.)' See? And tell the boys they will get five shillings each
extra in the morning. I'll be down in another twenty minâtes or so. Go
on, Winthrop, loop!"

Mr. Winthrop, who was as excited as Mallard himself, "looped," and the
editor returned to the dining-room with a galley-proof slip in his hand.
Every one, of coarse, saw by his face that something had occurred.

"I won't sit down again, Mrs. Trappème, if you and the other ladies
will excuse me, for I have to hurry back to the office to attend to some
important business. There is great news." Then, bending down, he placed
his hand on Grainger's shoulder, and whispered, "You must come with me,
old man. There is glorious news from Chinkie's. I'll tell you all about
it in a minute, as soon as we are outside. Make your apologies and let
us go," and then going over to Mrs. Trappème, he handed her the proof to
read to her guests and hurried out with Grainger, leaving every one in
the room eager to learn what had occurred.

"Oh, dear me!" began Mrs. Lee-Trappème, adjusting her pince-nez, which
always interfered with her sight.


               "SPECIAL.   'TOWNSVILLE CHAMPION.'

                           "WRECK.

     "9 P.M., May 2nd. "Authentic news has just reached the
     _Champion_ office that the mail steamer _Flintshire_ was
     wrecked on the Great Barrier Beef three days ago (the 5th).
     All the crew and passengers--200 in number-were saved, and
     are now on their way to Townsville. [Further particulars
     later.]"


         "DREADFUL MASSACRE BY THE NOTORIOUS BLACK OUTLAWS.

     "The Clonourry mail, which has been delayed by floods,
     brings news of a terrible massacre perpetrated by the ootlaw
     black ex-troopers Sandy and Daylight. A party of five miners
     who were camped at a lagoon near Dry Creek were surprised
     and murdered in their sleep by the two outlaws and a number
     of myall blacks. The bodies were found by the mail man.
     Inspector Lamington and a patrol of Native Polioe leave to-
     morrow to punish the murderers. Detailed particulars of the
     affair will be given in to-morrow's issue--Mudoch, the mail
     man, being too exhausted to stand the test of a long
     interview to-night."


         "WONDERFUL GOLD DISCOVERY NEAR CHINKIN'S FLAT.

                "A NEW EL DORADO. "MR. GRAINGER
                 AND HIS PARTNERS THE LUCKY MEN.

     "By the Clonourry mail, which brought intelligence of the
     tragedy at Dry Creek, also comes most pleasurably exciting
     news. The 'Ever Victorious Grainger,' as his many friends
     often designate him, some months ago sent out a prospecting
     party to try the country near the headwaters of Banshee
     Greek, with the result that probably the richest alluvial
     field in Australia has been discovered. Over 2,000 os. of
     gold--principally in nuggets ranging from 100 oz. to 2 oz.--
     have already been taken by Mr. Grainger's party. Warden
     Charteris, accompanied by an escort of white and black
     polioe, leaves for the place to-morrow night. The news of
     this wonderfully rich field has been two weeks reaching
     Townsville owing to the flooded condition of the country
     between Banshee Creek and Chinkie's Flat.

     "Mr. Grainger is at present in this city on a short visit.
     His good fortune will benefit the country at large as well
     as himself and his energetic partners."

"Dear me, how very exciting to be getting gold so easily!" said Mrs.
Trappème, as she laid the proof on the table; "your brother will be
delighted, Miss Grainger."

"He will be pleased, of course," absented Myra. "He always had a belief
that a rich alluvial gold-field would be discovered in the Banshee
Creek country. He sent this particular prospecting party away nearly two
months ago."

"What a hawwid story about the murdered diggahs!" said Mr. Assheton to
Myra. "Did it occur neah where you were living, Miss Graingah?"

"About a hundred miles further westward, towards the Minerva Downs
district. These two men, Sandy and Daylight, have committed quite a
number of murders during the past two years. They killed five or six
poor Chinese diggers on the Cloncurry Road last year. They are both well
armed, and it is almost impossible to capture them, as they retreat to
the ranges whenever pursued."

"They are a most ferocious and desperate pair," said Mr. Wooler, who
then told their story, which was this:--

Some two or three years previously Sandy and Daylight, who belonged to
one of the Native Police camps in the Gulf district,{*} had, while out
on patrol, urged one of their comrades to join with them in murdering
their white officer and then absconding. The other man refused, and,
later on in the day, secretly told the officer that he was in great
danger of being shot if he rode on ahead of the patrol as usual. As soon
as the party returned to camp the two traitors were quietly disarmed,
handcuffed, and then chained to a log till the morning. During the night
they managed to free themselves (aided, no doubt, by the trooper who was
detailed to guard them), killed the man who had refused to join them by
cleaving his skull open with a blow from a tomahawk, and then decamped
to the ranges with their rifles and ammunition. They found a refuge and
safe retreat with the savage myalls (wild blacks) inhabiting the granite
ranges, and then began a career of robbery and murder. Small parties of
prospectors found it almost impossible to pursue their vocation in the
"myall country," for the dreaded ex-troopers and their treacherous and
cannibal allies were ever, on the watch to cut them off. In the course
of a few months, by surprising and killing two unfortunate Chinese
packers, the desperadoes became possessed of their repeating rifles
and a lot of ammunition, and the old single-shot police carbines were
discarded for the more effective weapons. Sandy, who was the leader, was
a noted shot, and he and his companion now began to haunt the
vicinity of isolated mining camps situated in country of the roughest
description. Parties of two or three men who had perhaps located
themselves in some almost inaccessible spot would go on working for a
few weeks in apparent security, leaving one of their number to guard
the camp and horses, and on returning from their toil would find their
comrade dead or severely wounded, the camp rifled of everything it
contained, and the horses speared; and the hardy and adventurous
pioneers would have to retreat to one of the main mining camps, situated
perhaps fifty miles away, with nothing left to them but the hard-won
gold they had saved and their mining tools, but ready and eager to
venture forth again.

     * Gulf of Carpentaria.

One day, so the clergyman related, a man named Potter was travelling
from Burketown to Port Denison, and camped beside a small water-hole to
rest until the morning. After unsaddling and hobbling out the horse he
had been riding, and unloading the pack-horse, he threw his packbags at
the foot of a Leichhardt tree, lit a fire, and began to boil a billy of
tea. He knew that he was in dangerous country, and that it was unwise of
him to light a fire, but being of a reckless disposition, and having a
firm belief in his luck, he took no further precaution beyond opening
the flap of his revolver pouch.

He had just taken out a piece of damper and some salt meat, which, with
the hot tea, were to be his supper, when he was startled to hear some
one address him by name, and looking up, he saw a powerfully-built black
fellow with a long black beard and smiling face standing a dozen yards
or so away. He was all but nude, but round his waist was buokled a broad
leather police belt with two ammunition pouches; in his right hand he
carried a repeating rifle.

"Don't you know me, Mr. Potter?" he said in excellent English.

Potter recognised him at once, and the two shook hands.

"Why, you're Sandy! Have you left the police?" (He knew nothing of what
had occurred.)

"Yes," was the reply, "I skipped," and carelessly putting his rifle
down, he asked Potter if he had any tobacco to spare.

"Yes, I can give you a few plugs," and going to his saddle bags he
produced four square plugs of tobacco, which he handed to his visitor,
who took them eagerly, at once produced a silver-mounted pipe (probably
taken from some murdered digger) filled it, and began to smoke and talk.

"My word, Mr. Potter," he said with easy familiarity, "it is a good
thing for you that I knew you," and he showed his white, even teeth in a
smile. "But I haven't forgot that when I got speared on the Albert River
five years ago you drove me into Burketown in your buggy to get a doctor
for me." (He had formerly been one of Potter's stockmen, and had been
badly wounded in an encounter with wild blacks.)

Potter made some apparently careless reply. He knew that Sandy, though
an excellent stockman, had always had a bad record, and indeed he had
been compelled to dismiss him on account of his dangerous temper. He
heard later on that the man had joined the Black Police, and a deserter
from the Black Police is in nine cases out of ten an unmitigated
villain.

Then Sandy became communicative, and frankly told his involuntary host
part--but part only--of his story, and wound up by saying--

"You must not sleep here to-night. There is a big mob of myalls camped
in the river-bed three miles away from here. If they see you, they'll
kill you for certain between now and to-morrow night, when you are going
through some of the gorges. You must saddle up again, and I'll take you
along another track and leave you safe."

Tired as the horses were, Potter took Sandy's advice, and the two
started at sunset, the blackfellow leading. They travelled for some
hours, and then again camped--this time without a fire. Sandy remained
till daylight, and during a further conversation boasted that he had
enough gold in nuggets to allow him to have "a fine time in Sydney or
Melbourne," where he meant to make his way some day "when things got
a bit quiet and people thought he was dead." In proof of his assertion
about the gold he gave Potter a two ounce nugget he picked out from
several others which were carried in one of his ammunition pouches.
Before they parted Potter gave him--at his particular request--one of
the two blankets he carried, and then Sandy and he shook hands, and the
blackfellow, rifle in hand, disappeared, and left his former master to
continue his journey.

"What a hawwid chawacter!" said Mr. Assheton, when the clergyman had
concluded his story. "Why don't the police exert themselves and catch or
shoot the fellow?"

"It is such very difficult country," explained Myra, "and, in fact, has
not yet all been explored."

The ladies rose, and Myra and Sheila, pleading fatigue, went to their
rooms--or rather to Myra's--leaving Mrs. and Miss Trappème and Mrs.
Wooler to, as Sheila said, "Tear me to pieces. But I could not let that
woman insult me without retaliating."

"Of course you did right. She's an odious creature."

Grainger returned alone about eleven o'clock. He tapped at Myra's door,
and asked her if she was asleep.

"No. Miss Carolan is here; we've been having a lovely talk."

"Well, go to bed, and have a lovely sleep. I want to see you both,
especially Miss Carolan, very early in the morning. We can all go out on
the beach before breakfast."

"Very well, Ted. Has Mr. Mallard come in?"

"No. He will not be here for another half-hour or more. Good-night."

Mrs. Trappème had heard his voice, and quietly opened the door of her
own sitting-room, where she and Juliette (Mrs. Wooler had gone) had been
discussing Sheila's delinquencies.

"Well!" gasped the mother to her daughter, as she softly closed the door
again. "What on earth _is_ going on, I should like to know! Did you hear
that--'I want to see you both very early, especially Miss Garolan'? What
_is_ there going on? I must go and see Mrs. Wooler in the morning and
tell her. And on the beach too! Why can't they be more open?"

Master Mordaunt, who was in the corner devouring some jelly and pastry
given to him by his fond mother, looked up and said, with distended
cheeks--

"Ain't the beach open enough?"

"Hold your tongue, you horrid little animal," said the irate Juliette.




CHAPTER XI -- A CHANGE OF PLANS

Myra and Sheila, both early risers, were dressed and awaiting Grainger
on the verandah when he came out of his room at seven o'clock, and they
at once descended the steep Melton Hill to the beach. The morning was
delightfully fresh and cool, and the smooth waters of Cleveland Bay were
rippling gently to a fresh southerly breeze. Eastward, and seven miles
away, the lofty green hills and darker-hued valleys of Magnetic Island
stood clearly out in the bright sunlight, and further to the north Great
Palm Island loomed purple-grey against the horizon. Overhead was a sky
of clear blue, flecked here and there by a few fleecy clouds, and below,
on the landward side, a long, long curve of yellow beach trending from
a small rocky and tree-clad point on the south to the full-bosomed and
majestic sweep of Cape Halifax to the north.

"What a lovely day!" exclaimed Sheila as Grainger, as soon as they had
descended the hill and stepped on the firm yellow sand, led them to a
clump of black, shining rocks. "I wish I were a girl of twelve, so that
I could paddle about in the water."

"There is nothing to stop you doing that at Minerva Downs, Miss Cardan,"
said Grainger with a smile. "There is a lovely fresh-water lagoon there,
with a dear sandy bottom, and the Farrow children--big and little--spend
a good deal of their time there bathing and fishing." Then, as the girls
seated themselves, he at once plunged into the subject uppermost in his
mind.

"Myra, the news that came through last night has put me in a bit of a
quandary, both as regards you and Miss Carolan. Now tell me, would you
mind very much if I left you to-day and returned to Chinkie's Flat?"

"No, indeed, Ted. Surely I would not be so selfish as to interfere with
your business arrangements!"

"That's a good little girl. I did want to stay in Townsville for a week
or two after you had left, then I could have taken Miss Carolan as far
as Chinkie's Flat on her way to Minerva Downs. But I can do something
better, as far as she is concerned. You will only be here for a week,
and you can suffer the Trappème people for that time. Mallard"--and he
smiled--"will no doubt try to make the time pass pleasantly for you."

"Don't be so silly, Ted. Get to the point about Miss Carolan. When is
she leaving?"

"To-day--if you will, Miss Carolan--with me. The Warden and his troopers
are leaving at noon for the new rush; and Charteris, when I explained
things to him (I saw him last night at Mallard's office) said he will be
very pleased if we will come with him. Will it be too much of a rush for
you?"

"Oh no, Mr. Grainger! But I have no horse," and then, as she thought
of leaving her newly-found girl friend so soon, she looked a little
miserable, and her hand stole into Myra's.

"Oh, that's all right," said Grainger cheerfully. "I've two for
you--Myra's, and one Charteris is lending me for you. Can you ride hard
and fast? Charteris is a terror of a man for pushing along to a new
rush."

"I won't make him feel cross, I assure you, Mr. Grainger."

"Then it's decided." (Sheila well knew that whether | she had or had not
decided, he had; yet though dimly resentful, she was quite content when
she looked into his quiet grey eyes.) "You see, Miss Carolan, it's quite
likely I may be able to go all the way with you to Minerva Downs, and
therefore we ought not to miss travelling with the Commissioner as
far as he goes. Sub-Inspector Lamington, of the Native Police, is
also coming with us. He's off on a wild goose--or rather, a wild
nigger--chase after Sandy and Daylight and their myall friends. If,
when we get to Chinkie's Flat, I find that I _must_ go with Charteris to
the new rush, your friend Dick Scott and my own trusty black boy Jacky
will take you on to Minerva Downs. You can travel with Lamington and
his troopers part of the way after you leave Chinkie's. Take some light
luggage on a pack-horse--the rest, I am sorry to say, will have to come
on from here by bullock team. But it is not unlikely that I may be able
to take you all the way."

"I am very, very grateful to you, Mr. Grainger," said Sheila. "I fear I
am going to prove a great encumbrance to you."

"Oh, Ted is a dear old brother!" said Myra, patting his brown,
sun-tanned hand affectionately.

After a walk along the beach as far as the small, rocky point, they
returned to breakfast, and great was Mrs. Trappème's astonishment when
Grainger informed her that he was leaving in a few hours.

"Not for long, I trust?" she said graciously, bearing in mind that he
had told her he might remain for a week or two after Myra had left.

"I do not think I shall be in Townsville again for some months," he
replied, as he handed her fourteen guineas. "This is for the week for my
sister and for me."

"Thank you," said the lady, with a dignified bow--for she felt a little
resentful at his not telling her more. Then she said with a sweet smile,
"We will take good care of Miss Grainger. Either my daughters or I will
be delighted to see her safely on board the steamer."

"Thank you; but Mr. Mallard will do that."

"Oh, indeed!" said the lady, with unmistakable disappointment in her
voice, and then Grainger, without saying a word about Sheila, went to
his room to pack, and talk to Mallard, who had not yet risen.

"I wonder if Mr. Mallard is leaving too now that his friend is going,"
anxiously said Juliette a few minutes later.

"If he does I shall insist upon having the ful six guineas," remarked
her mother angrily. "No, on second thoughts I won't _ask_ for it.
Whether he leaves or not, I may find him very useful. I quite mean to
ask him to every day publish a 'list of guests at "Magnetic Villa."'"

"Miss Carolan wud like to see yez, mum, if ye are dishengaged," said
Mary, entering the room.

Sheila was in the drawing-room, and thither Mrs. Trappème sailed.

"I shall be leaving Townsville to-day, I find," she said politely.
"Would it be inconvenient for you to have my luggage sent to Hanran &
Co., who will store it for me until I need it?"

Mrs. Trappème's curiosity was intense, but she remembered Mrs. Wooler's
experience of the previous evening--and feared. And then she had had the
girl's money in advance.

"Oh, I am so sorry you are going," she said, with a would-be motherly
smile. "Of course I will send it anywhere you wish--but why not leave
it here in my care?" And then she could not resist asking one question:
"Are you going to Minerva Downs, Miss Carolan, may I ask?"

"Yes; I am going there."

"What a dreadfully long journey for you! Does it not alarm you? And you
are surely not travelling alone?"

"Oh, no; I am fortunate in having quite a large escort. Will you send
the luggage down as soon as possible, Mrs. Trappème?"

"Certainly," replied the lady--this time with a stiff bow; for she was
now inwardly raging at not having learnt more. Then she went off to tell
Juliette this new development.

At ten o'clock, after Mallard had breakfasted, he and Grainger (the
latter bidding Mrs. and the Misses Trappème a polite goodbye) went
away, and shortly after Dick Scott appeared, leading a pack-horse. He
took off the empty bags, and marched up to the front door.

"Mr. Grainger has sent these to Miss Caroline, miss," he said to Lilla
Trappème, "and will you please ask her to put her things into 'em and
I'll wait?"

Myra helped Sheila pack some clothing, rugs, &c, into the bags, and Mary
took them out to the burly Dick.

"By jingo! you're the finest woman I've seen here yet," said he affably
to the blushing Mary. "Now, will you tell Miss Caroline and Miss
Grainger that I'll be up with the horses in half an hour? Goodbye,
bright eyes."

He returned within the time, riding his own horse and leading two
others.

"Sidesaddles," said Juliette to her mother as they watched through the
dining-room windows the big digger dismount and hang the horses' reins
over the front gate.

As he strode across the lawn, they heard Mary's voice in the hall. It
sounded as if she were half crying.

"Goodbye, miss, and Hivin's blessin' on ye; and may God sind ye a good
husband."

A moment or two later she entered, wiping her eyes. "The ladies are
goin', and wish to spake to yez," she said.

Mrs. Trappème and her daughters rose, as Myra and Sheila, clad in their
neatly-fitting habits, came into the room.

"I am going to accompany Miss Carolan and my brother for a few miles,
Mrs. Trappème, so I shall not be here for lunch," said Myra.

"Oh, indeed," said Mrs. Trappème faintly; and then, with a pleasant
smile from Myra, and a coldly polite bow from Sheila, they were gone.

Scott swung them up into their saddles, and in another minute they were
descending the hill.

Mother and daughter looked at each other.

"So she's going with Mr. Grainger," said Juliette, with an unpleasant
twitch of her thin lips; "the--the little _cat!_ I'd like to see her
fall off!"

"Never mind her--she's gone now--and I have had six guineas from her,"
remarked her amiable mamma. "Now, if you are coming into Flinders Street
with me, make haste, and don't sit grizzling."

Poor Juliette! Poor Mrs. Lee-Trappème! When they descended the hill and
emerged out into Flinders Street, they found the side-path crowded with
people, who were all gazing into the great yard of the Queen's Hotel,
from which was emerging a cavalcade. First came four people--the
white-bearded Charteris with Myra, and Grainger with Sheila; after them
a sergeant and six white police, and ten Native Police with carbines on
thighs, and then Dick Scott and dark-faced Inspector Lamington; behind
followed a troop of spare horses.

As they swung through the gates, the crowd cheered as Charteris gave
the word, and the whole party went off at a sharp canter down the long,
winding street.




CHAPTER XII -- SHEILA BECOMES ONE OF A VERY "UNREFINED" CIRCLE

The night wind was soughing mournfully through the dark line of she-oaks
fringing the banks of a small, swiftly-running creek, when Sheila was
awakened by some one calling to her from outside the little tent in
which she was sleeping. She sat up and looked out.

"Did you call me, Mr. Grainger?"

"Yes. There is a storm coming down from the ranges. Sorry to awaken you,
but we want to make your tent more secure."

Aided by Scott, whose giant figure Sheila could scarcely discern--so
dark was the night--Grainger soon had the tent prepared to resist the
storm. As they worked, there came such an appalling thunderclap that
it shook the ground beneath her, and for some minutes she was unable to
hear even the droning roar of the rain-laden tornado that came tearing
down from the mountains, snapping off the branches of the gum-trees,
bending low the pliant boles of the moaning she-oaks, and lifting the
waters of the creek up in sheets.

A hand touched her face in the Cimmerian darkness, and Dick Scott's
voice (he was shouting with all the strength of his mighty lungs) seemed
to whisper--

"Lie down, miss; lie down, and don't be afeerd. The tent will stand, as
we are pretty well sheltered here, and------"

Another fearful thunderclap cut short his words, and she instinctively
clutched his hand. She was used to terrific thunderstorms in New South
Wales, but she had neyer heard anything so awful as this--it seemed as
if the heavens had burst.

"Where is Mr. Grainger?" she asked, putting her lips to Dick's ear and
speaking loudly.

"Here, beside me, miss."

"And poor Jacky! Where is he?"

"We'll find out presently, miss. Most likely the horses have cleared
out, and he's gone after 'em," shouted Scott.

For another five minutes the howling fury of the wind and the hissing
of the rain rendered any further conversation impossible. Then came a
sudden lull of both. Grainger struck a match and lit a small lantern he
was holding, and Sheila felt a great satisfaction as the light showed
upon his face---calm and quiet as ever--as he looked at her and smiled.

"You must pardon us coming into the tent, Miss Carolan, but we wanted to
light and leave the lantern with you. I'm afraid the horses have bolted
for shelter into the sandalwood scrub lower down the creek, or into the
gullies, and Jacky has gone after them. Will you mind staying here alone
for an hour or two whilst Scott and I help him to find them?"

"Not at all," she replied bravely, "and I really do not need the light.
I am not at all afraid."

"I know that, Miss Garolan. But it will serve to show us the way back."
(This was merely a kindly fiction.) "And if, during a lull in the rain,
you should hear any of the horses' bells, will you fire two shots from
that Winchester rifle there beside you? It is possible that they may
be quite near to us. Old Euchre" (one of the pack-horses) "has as much
sense as a Christian, and it is quite likely that whilst Scott, Jacky,
and I are looking for them in the scrub, he will lead them back here."

Then placing the lantern beside her, and partly shielding it with a
saddle cloth to protect it more folly from the gusts of wind, he and
Scott went out into the blackness.

She heard Scott a minute or two later give a loud _Coo-ee!_ for Jacky,
and fancied she heard an answering cry from the blackboy, a long
distance away. Then the rain again descended in a torrential downpour,
and drowned out all other sounds.

*****

Two weeks had passed since Sheila had left Townsville with Grainger
and the hard-riding old Warden and the swarthy-faced Lamington and his
savage-eyed, half-civilised troopers. At Chinkie's Flat they had learnt
that there were now three hundred white miners at the new rush on
Banshee Creek, but that everything was quiet, and that no disputes of
any kind had occurred, and all that Charteris would have to do would be
to visit the place, and, according to the "Gold-fields Act," proclaim
Banshee Creek to be a new gold-field. So, after spending a night
at Grainger's new house, built on the ridge overlooking the "Ever
Victorious" battery, with its clamorous stampers pounding away night and
day, the Warden bid Sheila and Grainger goodbye, and rode off with his
hardy white police, leaving Lamington and his black, legalised murderers
to go their own way in pursuit of Sandy and Daylight, and "disperse" the
myalls--if they could find them--such dispersion meaning the shooting of
women and children as well as men.

Now, the truth is, that Grainger should have gone on with the Warden
to the new rush, where his prospecting party was anxiously awaiting his
arrival; but he was deeply in love with Sheila Carolan, and she with
him, although she did not know it. But she was mightily pleased when the
"Ever Victorious" Grainger told her that he was going to take her all
the way to Minerva Downs, as he "wanted to see Farrow about buying a
hundred bullocks to send to the new rush at Banshee Creek." (This was
perfectly true, but he could very easily have dispatched a letter to
Farrow, who would have sent the bullocks to the meat-hungry diggers as a
matter of business.)

As she had stood on the verandah of Grainger's house in the early
morning, watching Charteris and his troopers depart, and listening to
the clang and thud of the five-and-twenty stampers of the new battery
of the "Ever Victorious" pounding out the rich golden quartz, handsome,
swarthy-faced Sub-Inspector Lamington ascended the steps and bade her
good morning.

"So you and Grainger travel with me for another ninety miles or so, Miss
Carolan," he said with undisguised pleasure. "Will you be ready soon?"

"In half an hour."

"Ah, that's right. My boys and I are anxious to get to work," and he
went on to the horse yard.

Sheila could not help a slight shudder as she heard the soft-voiced,
_debonnair_ Lamington speak of his "work." She knew what it meant--a
score or two of stilled, bullet-riddled figures of men, women, and
children lying about in the hot desert sand, or in the dark shades of
some mountain scrub.

Charteris had told her Lamington's story. He was the only survivor of an
entire family who had been massacred by the blacks of Fraser's Island,
and had grown up with but one object in life--to kill every wild black
he came across. For this purpose alone he had joined the Native Police,
and there were dark tales whispered of what he had done. But the
authorities considered him "a good man," and when he and his fierce
troopers rode into town and reported that a mob of wild blacks had been
"dispersed," no one ventured to ask him any questions, but every one
knew what had occurred.

So with Lamington and his silent, grim Danites, Sheila, Grainger, Scott,
and Jacky travelled together for nearly a hundred miles, and then the
two companies separated--Lamington heading towards that part of the
forbidding-looking mountain range where he hoped to find his prey, and
Grainger and his party keeping on to the west.

"It's dangerous country, Grainger," the police officer said as he bade
them goodbye. "There are any amount of niggers all around, so you will
need to be careful about your fire at night. Shift your camp a good half
mile after you have lit your fire and had supper."

Grainger smiled. "I've been through the mill, Lamington. But I don't
think we shall have any trouble unless you head them off and send Sandy
and his friends down on to us."

"I do mean to head them off, and drive them down from the range into
the spinifex country about thirty miles from here, when I can round
them up," said Lamington softly, as if he were speaking of driving game.
"Sorry you won't be with me to see the fun. The £500 reward for the
production of Messieurs Sandy and Daylight--alive or dead--I already
consider as mine. It will give up a trip to Melbourne to see the Cup
next year."

"But you can't claim the money--you're an official."

"This is an exceptional case, and no distinction is to be made
between civilians and policemen--the Government does sensible things
_sometimes_."

      *            *            *            *            *

Two hours passed, and Sheila, anxiously awaiting the sound of the
horses' bells, or the reappearance of Grainger and Scott, began to feel
that something had gone amiss. The storm had ceased, and when she rose
and stepped outside she saw that a few stars were shining. Seating
herself upon a granite boulder, she listened intently, but the only
sound that broke the black silence of the night was the rushing of the
waters of the creek.

She placed her hands to her mouth, and was about to give a loud
_Coo-ee!_ when her pride stopped her.

"If they hear me," she thought, "they will think I am frightened."

She went back into the tent and again lay down, and tried by the light
of the lantern to read a book which Myra Grainger had given her. Her
watch had stopped, and when she put the book aride she knew that the
dawn was near for the harsh cackle of a wild pheasant sounded from the
branches of a Leichhardt tree near by, and was answered by the shrill,
screaming notes of a flock of king-parrots which the storm had driven to
settle amidst the thick, dense scrub on the bank of the creek.

Quite suddenly she became aware that something was moving about in the
grass outside the tent, and a thrill of alarm made her instinctively
clutch the Winchester rifle beside her. Surely there was some one there,
whispering! Very quietly she sat up and waited. Yes, there certainly
were people outside, and a cold chill of terror possessed her when
the whisperings changed to a rapid and louder muttering in an unknown
tongue, and she knew that her visitors were blacks!

Unable to even speak, she heard the soft rustle of footsteps drawing
nearer and nearer, and then the closed flap of the tent was pulled
slowly aside by a long black hand, and the wicked eyes of the bearded
face of a huge aboriginal, naked to the waist, gazed into hers. For a
second or two he looked at her, watching her terrified expression as a
snake watches the fascinated bird; then he drew back his lips and showed
two rows of gleaming teeth in a fierce smile of exultation. By a mighty
effort she tried to raise the Winchester, and in another moment the
blackfellow sprang at her, covered her head with a filthy kangaroo skin
and silently bore her outside.

For quite ten minâtes she felt herself being carried swiftly along, till
her captor came to the creek, which he crossed. Then he uncovered her
face and spoke to her in English.

"If you make a noise I will kill you, and throw your body in the creek.
I am Sandy the Trooper."

She gazed at him mechanically, too horrified at her surroundings
to utter a sound. For dawn had just broken and she saw that she was
standing in a small open space in the midst of a sandalwood scrub, and
encircled by twenty or thirty ferocious-looking myall blacks all armed
with spears and waddies. The strong ant-like odour which emanated from
their jet-black skins filled her nostrils and, putting her hands to her
eyes, she shuddered and fell upon her knees with a choking sob.

"Come, none of that, missie," said another voice in English, and her
hands were rudely pulled aside; "you must get up and walk. Perhaps we
won't hurt you. But if you make a noise I'll give you a tap on the head
with this waddy," and the speaker flourished a short club over her head.
"Come! get up!"

She obeyed him, rose slowly to her feet, and in another instant darted
aside, and, breaking through the circle of myalls, plunged into the
scrub towards the creek. But before she had gone twenty yards one of
them had seized her by her loosened hair, and a long pent-up scream
burst from her lips.

Again the filthy skin was thrown over her head, then her hands were
quickly tied behind her with a strip of bark.

Sandy lifted her up in his arms, and he, Daylight, and their followers
plunged into the forest and set off towards the mountains.




CHAPTER XIII -- ON THE SCENT

Through the blackness of the night and the pouring rain Grainger and
Scott made their way down the right bank of the creek to where, a mile
or a mile and a half away, was a thick scrub of sandalwood trees, in
which they imagined the terrified horses had taken refuge. The rushing,
foaming waters guided them on their way, though every now and then they
had to make a detour round the heads of some gullies, which were bank
high with backwater from the swollen creek. As soon as there was a lull
in the storm they again _Coo-eed_, but received no answer from Jacky.
Grainger, who had the most implicit faith in the judgment of his
blackboy, now began to fear that the horses, instead of making for the
scrub, had gone towards the mountains, where it would perhaps be most
difficult to get them. However, there was nothing to be done but to
first examine the scrub, and then to see what had become of Jacky. Both
he and Scott had brought their bridles with them, and the blackboy,
they knew, had his as well, and they were hoping that at any moment they
might meet him driving the horses back to the camp.

By the time the scrub was reached the storm had begun to break somewhat,
for although rain still fell heavily, the wind was losing its violence;
and presently, to their satisfaction, they heard Jacky's voice shouting
somewhere near them.

"Where are you?" called out Scott.

"Here, on cattle camp, in middle of scrub. I been catch old Euchre and
two more horse, but can't find other pack-horse and bay filly and roan
colt. I 'fraid they been go 'way back up mountain."

They found him engaged in tying up the foreleg of Scott's horse with
strips of his shirt. The animal, when racing along in the dark, had
fallen and out itself badly from knee to hoof. Grainger examined the
injury, and saw that, although the poor creature was very lame, it could
easily be led to the camp. But the loss of the remaining horses was a
serious matter, and after a brief discussion it was resolved to first
make a thorough search along the creek for another mile before giving
up any hopes of finding them in the vicinity of the scrub. Then, if
no traces could be found, they were to return to the camp for their
saddles, and Jacky and Grainger would endeavour to pick up their tracks
as soon as daylight broke.

An hour was spent fruitlessly, and they turned back and made for the
camp, Scott and Grainger riding barebacked, and Jacky going ahead on
foot, leading the lame horse. Presently they came to a deep, rocky
gully, which they crossed, and were carefully ascending the steep bank
when Scott's horse tripped over a loose stone and fell heavily, with his
rider underneath.

Jacky and Grainger at once went to his assistance and got the horse
away, but Scott lay perfectly motionless, and when spoken to did not
answer. Grainger, like all good bushmen, had kept his matches dry, and,
striking a light, he saw that the big digger had not only received some
injury to his head, but, worse still had broken his leg; the bone had
snapped completely across half-way down from the knee.

For quite ten minutes the poor fellow remained unconscious, then, when
he came to his senses, his first question was about the horse. Was he
hurt?

"No, Dick; but your leg is broken."

The language that flowed from Mr. Scott's bearded lips cannot possibly
be set down, but he resigned himself cheerfully to Grainger and Jacky
when they put the broken limb into rough splints made of bark and twigs
to keep it in position until they could do something better on their
arrival at the camp.

Refusing to be carried, Scott dragged himself up the bank, and then
allowed them to lift him on Euchre's back, Grainger riding and Jacky
walking beside him.

By the time they reached the camp it was broad daylight, and an alarmed
look came into Grainger's eyes when there was no response to his loud
_Coo-ee!_ thrice repeated.

Suddenly Jacky, whose dark eyes were rolling unnaturally as he glanced
all around him, let go the horse he was leading, sprang forward, and
entered the tent. He reappeared in a moment.

"What is wrong, Jacky? Where is she?"

"Gone," was the quick reply. "Myall blackfellow been here and take her
away!"

"Good God!" said Grainger hoarsely, feeling for the moment utterly
unnerved as he watched the black-boy walk quickly round and round the
tent, examining the grass.

"Plenty blackfellow been here," he said, "but only one fellow been go
inside tent. I think it, he catch him up missie when she sleep------"

An oath broke from Scott's lips. "Let me down, boss, let me down! It's
all my fault. Quick! put me inside the tent and let me be. You and Jacky
has two good horses, and Jacky is the best tracker this side o' the
country."

"I'll see to your leg first, Dick," cried Grainger, as he and Jacky
lifted him off Euchre and helped him into the tent.

"By jingo, you won't, boss!" was the energetic reply. "What does it
matter about my leg? Let me be. I'll pull along all right, even if you
are away for a day, or two days, or a week. For God's sake, boss, don't
fool about me! Think of _her_. Saddle up, saddle up, and bring her back!
They can't be far away. Jacky, I'll give you fifty pounds if you get
her. Boss, take plenty o' cartridges an' some tucker. I'll be as right
as rain here. But hurry, hurry, boss! If they get her into the mountains
we'll never see any more of her but her gnawed bones," and the big man
struck his clenched fist passionately upon the ground.

But Grainger, although almost maddened with fear as to Sheila's fate,
would not leave the man helpless, and whilst Jacky was saddling the
horses, he put provisions and water, and matches and tobacco, near the
poor, excited digger. Then, with the blackboy's aid, he quickly and
effectively set the broken leg with proper splints, seized round with
broad strips of ti-tree bark. "There, Dick, that's all I can do for you
now." "You're losing time over me, boss. Hurry, hurry! and get the young
lady back for God's sake."

Five minutes later Jacky had picked up the tracks of Sandy and Daylight
and their allies, and he and Grainger, with hearts beating high with
hope, were following them up swiftly and surely.




CHAPTER XIV -- "MISS CAROLINE" IS "ALL RIGHT" (VIDE DICK SCOTT )

The tracks of the abductors of Sheila were easily discernible to the
practised eyes of Jacky--than whom a better tracker was not to be found
in North Queensland. They led in an almost direct line towards the
grim mountain range for about seventeen miles, and then were lost at
a rapidly-flowing, rocky-bottomed stream--a tributary of that on which
Grainger's camp had been made.

Never for one instant did Grainger think of questioning the judgment
of his tried and trusted blackboy, when, as they came to the stream, he
jumped off his horse and motioned to his master to do the same.

"Them fellow myall have gone into water, boss, and walk along up," he
said placidly, as he took out his pipe, filled and lit it. Then he added
that they had better take the saddles off the horses, short-hobble them,
and let them feed.

"You don't think, Jacky, that they" (he meant the blacks) "might get on
too far ahead of us?" he asked, as he dismounted.

"No, boss, they are camped now, 'bout a mile or two mile farther
up creek. We can't take horses there--country too rough, and myall
blackfellow can smell horse long way off--all same horse or bullock can
smell myall blackfellow long way off."

Grainger knew that this was perfectly true--cattle and horses can always
scent wild blacks at a great distance, and at once show their alarm. And
that the country was too rough for Jacky and him to go any further
with the horses was quite evident. However, he knew that as soon as his
companion had taken a few pulls at his pipe he would learn from him what
his plans were.

The weapon that the black boy usually carried was a Snider carbine, but
he had left that at the camp, and taken the spare Winchester--the one
Sheila had dropped in the tent: and he was now carefully throwing back
the lever, and ejecting the cartridges, and seeing that it was in good
order ere he re-loaded it.

"Your rifle all right, boss?" he asked.

"All right, Jacky; and my revolver too."

Jacky grunted--somewhat contemptuously--at the mention of the revolver.
"You won't get chance with rewolber, boss. Rifle best for you an' me
this time, I think it. Rewolber right enough when you ride after myall
in flat country."

"Very well, Jacky," said Grainger, "I'll leave the revolver behind. What
are we going to do?"

"First, short-hobble horses, and let 'em feed--plenty grass 'bout here.
Then you follow me. I think it that them fellow myall camp" (rest)
"'bout two mile up creek."

"How many are there, Jacky?"

"'Bout twenty, boss--perhaps thirty. And I think it that some feller
runaway policeman with them--Sandy or Daylight, I beleeb."

"What makes you think that?" said Grainger, instantly remembering that
Lamington had said that he meant to try and head off Sandy and his
myalls down into the spinifex country.

"Come here, boss."

Grainger followed him to the margin of the creek, which although at dawn
had been running half bank high, owing to the tremendous downpour of
rain, was now at its normal level.

"Look at that, boss."

He pointed to a triangular indentation, which, with footmarks, was
imprinted in the soft yellow sand at the foot of a small boulder; and
taking the butt of his Winchester rifle, fitted it into the impression.

"Some feller with Winchester rifle been sit down here, boss, and light
his pipe. See, he been scrape out pipe," and he indicated some partially
consumed shreds of tobacco and some ashes which were lying on the sand.

"Ah, I see, Jacky," and a cold chill of horror went through him as
he thought of Sheila being in the power of such a fiend as Sandy. The
myalls would in all likelihood want to kill and eat her, but Sandy or
Daylight would probably wish to keep her a captive. And that Jacky
was correct in his surmise there could be but little doubt--both the
outlawed ex-policemen had Winchesters, taken from the Chinese packers
whom they had murdered.

"Go on, Jacky, my boy, for God's sake!" he said hoarsely, placing his
hand on the blackboy's shoulder. "Missie may be killed if we do not
hurry."

"No fear, boss!" replied Jacky with cheerful confidence, as he proceeded
to strip. "You 'member what I told you 'bout that white woman myall
blacks take away with them long time ago when ship was break up near
Cape Melville, and they find her lying on beach? They didn't kill
her--these myall nigger like White Mary {*} too much. I don't think
these fellow will kill Missie. I think it Daylight or Sandy will want
her for _lubra_. {**} Take off boots, boss."

Grainger pulled off his knee boots, and threw them up on the bank,
and then he and Jacky short-hobbled the horses, and let them feed. The
blackboy had stripped himself of every article of clothing, except the
remnants of his shirt, which he had tied round his loins; over it was
strapped his leather belt with its cartridge pouch.

"Come on, boss," and then instead of crossing the creek as Grainger had
imagined he would, he led the way along the same side, explaining that
the myalls, expecting--but not fearing--pursuit, would do all that they
could to make the pursuers believe that they had walked up through the
creek for a certain distance, and then crossed over to the opposite
side. The gins{***} and picaninnies, he said, were not with the party
that had seized Sheila, neither were there any dogs with them.

     * "White Mary"--A white woman.

     ** Wife.

     *** Gins.   Synonymous with _lubra_--i.e.,  a wife.

"And you will see, boss," he said, as, after they had come a mile and
a half, he pointed to a sandbank on the side of the creek, deeply
imprinted with footmarks, "we will find them eating fish in their camp.
Look there."

Grainger saw that on the sandbank were a number of dead fish which had
been swept down the creek from pools higher up. That many more had been
left stranded, and then taken away, was very evident by the disturbed
state of the sand and the numerous footmarks.

Suddenly a harsh sound of many voices fell upon their ears, and Jacky
came to a dead stop.

Motioning to Grainger to lie down and await his return, he slipped
quietly away, his lithe, black body gliding like a snake through the
dense jungle which clothed the banks of the creek.

A quarter of an hour later he came back, his black eyes rolling with
subdued excitement.

"Come on, boss; it is all right. They are camped in an old _boora_ {*}
ground, and Sandy and Daylight are going to fight for Missie. I saw
Missie."

     * A place which the Australian aborigines use for their
     corroborées and certein religious rites.

"Where was she?" said Grainger, whose heart was thumping fiercely as,
rifle in hand, he sprang to his feet.

"In the middle of the _boora_ ground. She sit up, but all the same as if
she sleep---eyes shut."

"Oh, God, to think that I left her!--to look after horses," Grainger
said bitterly to himself as he followed Jacky, who little knew how dear
Sheila was to the heart of his "boss."

Swiftly but cautiously Jacky led the way through the scrub until they
came to the margin of the _boora_ ground, and then Grainger saw twenty
or thirty blacks seated on the ground in a circle, spears and waddies
in hand. In the centre was Sheila, crouched on her knees, with her hands
covering her eyes. On each side of her was a Winchester rifle, and a
belt with an ammunition pouch--her dowry. And standing near by her,
attended by their nude seconds, were Daylight and Sandy, who were also
armed with spears and waddies. They were both stripped and painted, and
ready to slaughter each other.

"Boss," whispered Jacky, "which feller you want to take?"

"I'll take the big man with the beard," said Grainger, as he drew up his
Winchester.

"All right, boss! I take the other man--that's Daylight. But don't shoot
until they walk across _boora_ ground, and turn and face each other.
Shoot him through _bingie_,{*} boss--don't try for head, you might miss
him."

     * Stomach.

"All right, Jacky," and Grainger lay flat on the ground and brought his
rifle to his shoulder, "but don't miss your man."

"No fear of that, boss. I'm going to give it to Daylight between the
eyes. But let me drop him first."

"Right."

Daylight and Sandy were taken by their seconds to opposite sides of the
ring, and then, drawing their heads back and poising their spears, they
awaited each other's attack.

Then Jacky's Winchester cracked, and Daylight span round and fell dead,
and Sandy's spear flew high in air as a bullet took him fair in the
chest. And then the savage instinct to slay came upon and overwhelmed
Grainger, as well as his black boy, and shot after shot rang out and
laid low half a dozen of the sitting and expectant savages ere they
could recover from their surprise and flee.

Grainger rushed forward to Sheila and lifted her up.

A hysterical sob burst from her as she put her trembling hands out
towards him.

"Oh, I knew you would come! I knew you would come!" and then her eyes
closed, and she lay quiet in his arms.

    *               *               *               *               *

That night, as Sheila, with tear-swollen eyes of gratitude to God for
her preservation, lay sleeping in the little tent, Grainger and the
ever-faithful Jacky sat smoking their pipes beside the recumbent figure
of burly Dick Scott, who, broken-legged as he was, had insisted upon
being taken outside and camping with them.

"Boss," he said, as he handed his pipe to Jacky to be filled, "this will
be suthin' for Mr. Mallard to put in the _Champion_, eh?"

"Yes, Dick, old son," and Grainger put his hand on the big man's
shoulder, with a kindly light shining in his quiet, grey eyes.
"I'll write and tell him all about it. And I'll tell him what a real,
downright, out-and-out 'white man' you are."

"Git out, boss," and the rough, bearded digger laughed childishly with
pleasure; "if I sees anythin' in the Champion about me, blow me but
I'm goin' back to Townsville, and I mean to spark that gal at 'Magnet
Villa'--she that was a-cryin' when Miss Caroline came away."

"Right you are, Dick. You have promised Jacky fifty pounds if he brought
Miss Carolan back--and you will give it to him. But you are one of the
'Ever Victorious' crowd, and don't want money, so I won't say any more
except that I'll give Mrs. Dick Scott five hundred sovereigns for a
wedding present. What is her present surname, Dick?"

"Don't know, boss. Didn't ask her. But if she isn't snapped up by one of
them flash banker fellows, or some other paper-collared swell, I think
I'll get her. Mr. Mallard and Miss Myra said they would put in a good
word for me, seein' as I hadn't no time to do any courtin' myself."

"Dick, old son, she's yours! If you have got my sister and Mr. Mallard
to speak for you, it's all right--that's a dead certainty. How is your
leg?"

"Bully, boss--just bully. Say, boss!"

"Yes, Dick."

"D'ye think we'll get them missin' horses?"

"Horses be hanged! Do you think I'm troubling about them just now?"

"Why, certingly you ought to be troublin' about 'em. Isn't the roan colt
and the bay filly worth troublin' about? The best blood in the whole
bloomin' country is in that bay filly o' Miss Caroline's. And Jimmy Ah
San offered you ninety pound for the roan, didn't he?"

Grainger put out his hand, and grasping Scott's long beard, pretended to
shake it.

"Just you go to sleep, Dick Scott, and don't waggle your chin and talk
about horses or anything else. You are a blessed nuisance, and if you
wake Miss Carolan up I'll pound you when you get better!"

Scott grinned, and then he put out his hand.

"Boss, have you fixed it up with her? I thought as how that there was
nothin' in the world so sweet in the way of wimmen as Miss Myra; but
Miss Caroline runs her a close second."

"I have not asked her yet, Dick."

"You ask her to-morrow, boss. You take my tip, or before you knows where
you are some other fellow will be jumpin' your claim and gettin' her."

"I'll think of it, Dick."

"Don't think too long over it, boss. If it wos me, I'd see it through
the first thing to-morrow momin'."

"You mind your own business, Mister Richard Scott," said Grainger, with
a laugh.

"All right, boss; but what about them horses? That bay filly------"

"Go to sleep, you silly old ass."

* * * * *

At dawn Lamington and his Danites came splashing through the creek, and
Grainger was aroused by a loud "Hallo!" as the swarthy-faced Inspector
cantered up to the tent and dismounted.

"Well, here you are, Grainger. I know all that has happened. I rounded
up the myalls outside the _boora_ ground, only half an hour after you
had left, and one of the bucks--whom I dropped with a bullet through
his thigh--told me what had occurred, when Sandy and Daylight were just
about to fight. How is Miss Carolan?"

"Well. She is sleeping. Take a peg," and he handed Lamington his brandy
flask.

The officer poured out a stiff nip, drank it off, and then pointed to
one of his troopers, who had just dismounted, and was holding in his
hand a heavy bundle, wrapped up in an ensanguined saddle-cloth.

"That's my £500, Grainger. I'll have to send those heads to Townsville
for identification before I can claim the reward. Awfully smart of you
to pot both of them."

"Lamington, you're a _beast_. Tell that nigger of yours to take that
infernal bundle away and keep it out of sight, or, by heavens, you and I
will quarrel."

Lamington, gentleman at heart, apologised: "I _am_ a beast, Grainger. I
didn't think of Miss Carolan."

  *                 *                 *                 *                 *

When Sheila awakened she had to bid Dick Scott goodbye, for Lamington
was taking him back to Chinkie's Flat.

"Goodbye, Miss Caroline. You an' the boss will pull along all right to
Minerva Downs. And when I sees you again, I hope that------"

"Dry up, Dick," said Grainger, with assumed severity.

"Oh, I know it's all right, boss; isn't it, Miss Caroline?"

"Yes, Mr. Scott," said Sheila with a smile, as she put her little hand
into his. "I don't think I shall stay very long at Minerva Downs, and I
do think you will soon see me again."

"At Chinkie's Flat?"

"Yes, at Chinkie's Flat," said Grainger, as he put his arm round Sheila,
and drew her to him. "Mr. Lamington is sending up a parson from the Bay
to Minerva Downs."

"Boss," cried Scott, exultantly, "there's goin' to be a red, rosy, high
old time by and by at Chinkie's Flat."



THE END





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