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Title: The Outlaw
Author: David Hennessey
* A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook *
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Language: English
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------------------------------------------------------------------------

Title: The Outlaw
Author: David Hennessey

*

AUTHOR OF "The DIS-HONOURABLE,"
"The bush track," "Wynnum," etc.

SECOND PRIZE IN
HODDER AND STOUGHTON'S
1,000 NOVEL COMPETITION
1912

HODDER AND STOUGHTON
LONDON NEW YORK TORONTO

Printed in 1913.

*

CONTENTS


PROLOGUE: The Snow-grass Country
CHAPTER I The Horns of a Dilemma
CHAPTER II A Trial by Jury
CHAPTER III Betsy Carey Rides into the Story
CHAPTER IV Salathiel Personates a School-teacher
CHAPTER V The Schoolmaster's Curriculum
CHAPTER VI Wheels within Wheels
CHAPTER VII A School Feast in the Forties
CHAPTER VIII A Curious Study for a Philosopher
CHAPTER IX Tot Gardiner Hits Back
CHAPTER X Mr. Flannigan, of the Wollombi
CHAPTER XI Silas Stump's Advice
CHAPTER XII How the Bushrangers Bluffed Maitland
CHAPTER XIII Retrospect and Failure
CHAPTER XIV Bob Carey Thinks Better of it
CHAPTER XV A Chapter of Accidents
CHAPTER XVI The Rescue of Salathiel
CHAPTER XVII Afterthoughts and Explanations
CHAPTER XVIII Back to Bushranging
CHAPTER XIX Tot Gardiner Disappears
CHAPTER XX The School Committee Meets
CHAPTER XXI The Way of Transgressors
CHAPTER XXII The Valley of Shadows
CHAPTER XXIII Betsy Becomes Schoolmistress
CHAPTER XXIV A Gilded Pill for Salathiel
CHAPTER XXV The Glen of Adullam
CHAPTER XXVI Foes in Council
CHAPTER XXVII The Liverpool Ranges
CHAPTER XXVIII A Letter for Betsy
CHAPTER XXIX Encompassed by Fire
CHAPTER XXX The Chamber of the Dead
CHAPTER XXXI The Military Called Out
CHAPTER XXXII Salathiel Run to Earth
CHAPTER XXXIII The Capture of Captain Moore
CHAPTER XXXIV Death in the Gully
CHAPTER XXXV A Colonial Currency Lass
CHAPTER XXXVI Major McFarlane
CHAPTER XXXVII The Banditti Party
CHAPTER XXXVIII Sydney Shows the Governor its Teeth
CHAPTER XXXIX His Excellency's Vote of Censure
CHAPTER XL An Appeal Unto Caesar
CHAPTER XLI A Break in the Clouds
CHAPTER XLII The Midnight Wedding
CHAPTER XLIII Sunlight on the Sea

*


PROLOGUE

THE SNOW-GRASS COUNTRY

Winter is quaintly beautiful upon the Southern Highlands of Australia.
At dawn, in the snow-grass country, a drear landscape presents itself,
white with heavy frost, yet, by noon, the whole scene is transformed
into a warm sunlit fairyland. Thus, for two or three hours, in the
middle of most winter days, you have, up there, summer warmth, verdure,
flowers and a crystal atmosphere. But all is transitory, for behind the
hills chilling winds lie ambushed, and once the sun touches the distant
skyline, they hustle winter in again to reoccupy its old territory. When
night comes, with myriad stars, the still landscape is again quickly
robed in pure white vesture.

It was during a winter's residence in tents in the snow-grass country
that I heard the gist of the following story from one of the 'old
hands,' a grizzled veteran whose hair was white with the frosts and
snows of many winters spent among those bleak and little known
highlands, which stretch for a hundred miles along the north-eastern
border of the State of Victoria.

Our tents were pitched on a grassy terrace in a forest clearing
overlooking a rushing ice-cold crystal stream. For many miles around was
bush and forest, where the foot of man, or hoof of rider's horse, rarely
trod. It was a land of many wonders, the haunt of old time bushrangers
and lone-hand miners, and of birds and animals becoming every year more
rare. The men made a sapling enclosure near the tents, in which we
cooked and ate our food. They called it 'the kitchen.' It was about
twelve feet square, thatched with bushes, and screened with them at the
end and sides. But the feature of the enclosure was the large
fire-place, built of green saplings, sunk erect side by side in a trench
to form a chimney, and flagged with stones. It was banked high up with
clay, which the fire baked hard. It was a wonderful inglenook. A rough
red-gum bench, with supports sunk in the ground, was placed so that a
sitter could face either the table or fire-place at pleasure. Here, in
front of huge log fires, at night in the winter months we sat and smoked
and yarned. There was a fascination for me about those fires. How they
glowed and crackled and blazed! The nipping winds from off the Snowy
Mountains placed cold hands upon our backs and shoulders; but we laughed
and smoked and yarned unchilled. And when Old Boreas blew most
boisterously, and we heard afar the roar of the storm-swept forest, we
only piled more wood upon the blazing hearth.

The Swede sat to my left, and old Crocker on my right, and it usually
fell to me to read the news aloud, or talk. But when the news was read,
and conversation flagged, what a place it was for reverie! Not another
human being within ten miles of us. But the fire was company. It lit up
the leafy kitchen walls, and shone warm and homelike in our faces, and
held and reassured us, as does the warm hand of a friend. Its genial
glow would, at times, set the Swede humming soft melodies of the far off
Fatherland, and restore to Joe Crocker the lost memories of early days.
For myself, I used to look into that fire and think and think, and talk,
and muse, and dream, until often I forgot Australia altogether. I was
back in London, or Paris, or old Madrid, or Italy, or Athens. Then maybe
the howl of a dingo, from somewhere down the creek, would startle us,
and Joe's eyes, still looking in the fire, would glisten as he heard it;
while the Swede and I, turning around, peered out into the frosty night,
where the purple sky, glorious with constellations, hung silently over
the dark forest.

Said Joe one night, looking with a far-away regard into the fire: "That
dingo reminds me of Jack Salathiel, the Jew bushranger. The howl of a
dingo was one of his night signals."

"Is that so?" I said, and I filled my pipe again, for Joe began to tell
us a strange tale of a Jew bushranger named Jack Salathiel.

Joe was usually a man of few words, as are many fine bushmen and
lone-hand miners; but his stirring descriptions of the old bushranging
days were fluent and connected, as though he saw in the fire what he
described to us, or, by its light, was reading from a book. He used to
say: "One's memory is refreshed by looking in the fire."

I have tried his remedy, not without some success, for far away from
those distant hills, when alone in the firelight, I often hear the
strange roaring sound of that storm-swept forest, or recall the
breathless hush of those frosty nights, when the sparkling heavens shone
with relucent glory, and in the old bush kitchen, Joe Crocker told us
strange tales of the bad old times.





CHAPTER I

THE HORNS OF A DILEMMA

One summer morning, late in the Australian Forties, an assigned servant
named John Salathiel had angered his master, one Major Hastings; and the
Major was in a towering rage, although it was not really Salathiel's
fault. It was hard luck, for in a few weeks the man would have been due
for a good conduct ticket.

Sitting upon his big grey mare, stockwhip in hand, the Major, with a
flushed face and ugly oath, ordered him to take a six-months-old
bull-calf to the butcher's at Maitland, and be back by sundown; or,
failing to do so, he would get fifty lashes at the triangles. There and
back, the distance was twenty-four miles, and he had to go on foot.

The man listened with his usual deference to the owner of Eurimbla
Station; he was taken by surprise; but he flushed crimson when he
realized the full meaning of the threat. He knew that the thing couldn't
be done. Major Hastings knew it too, even better than Salathiel, and the
convict's blood boiled with indignation and dismay. But he was not
easily cowed, and Salathiel touched his cap as he turned and walked over
to the store, where Bob Brady, the station bookkeeper, stood waiting for
him.

It was with some surprise that Brady heard Salathiel, as he drew nearer,
cursing the Major bitterly.

"What did the boss want you for, Jack?" he asked sharply

"I have to drive the bull-calf that's bellowing down in the yards to
Maitland, and be back by sundown," replied Jack sullenly.

The bookkeeper looked at Salathiel for a moment, with an amused twinkle
in his eye, and then burst into a laugh. The idea of the tall, handsome,
steady-going Government man (a convict) who helped him with the station
accounts, and for twelve months had scarcely soiled his hands, having a
bull-calf in tow on the Maitland road! He liked Salathiel well; but this
was too much for his gravity.

"I'll bet you half a crown, Jack," he exclaimed, laughing heartily, "you
won't get the brute outside the home-paddock slip-panels inside two
hours; those bull-calves, out of the run, are perfect devils to handle
alone."

"He says "--and the man's face flushed again with shame--"that if I am
not back with the butcher's receipt by sundown, he'll see that I get
fifty lashes. Curse him!" he ejaculated, "it's over twelve miles there,
isn't it?"

The bookkeeper stopped laughing, for he liked Salathiel. He knew him to
be an educated man, altogether different from the common run of
convicts; he knew how hardly he had struggled with his lot, and how
assiduously he had tried to please the Major; if possible, in some
measure to retrieve his lost position. And so this reserved, kindly,
self-contained young fellow was to be broken and degraded at the
triangles on the whim of a military despot! Brady was rough and hard
himself, but his whole soul was moved with indignation at the injustice
and brutality of the thing. "Jack," he suddenly exclaimed, "if I were a
Government man and had a job given me like that, with such an
alternative, I'm hanged if I wouldn't clear out and turn bushranger!"

* * * * * * * *

It was an unhandled, newly-branded calf, fresh from the run, that
Salathiel had to take to Maitland. A stout rope was knotted around its
thick neck, so that, whatever tricks it might play, it could not well
choke. Struggling and bellowing, it took two men to get it out of the
yard, and they grinned at each other as they passed the rope over to
Jack. It was breakfast time; the boss was not about, so they climbed to
the top rail of the stock-yard fence, and pulling out their pipes, sat
down to see the performance.

They had not long to wait. The sting of the hot branding iron was fresh
on the youngster's tender skin, and bellowing wildly, it leaped upon its
hind legs, and then started furiously down the hill.

Salathiel knew something about station life; but this was his first
experience with a bull-calf. He held on to the brute, however, pulling
hard back upon the rope, and ran as fast as possible. By good luck, the
animal headed for the Maitland road slip-panels; but Jack's satisfaction
was shortlived, for he tripped over a stump hidden in the long grass
and, amid roars of laughter from the stockmen, was thrown flat on his
back. Clutching savagely at the rope, he was towed over the grass behind
the frightened animal, which, with tail erect and foaming at the mouth,
made for a distant fence. It was a ludicrous sight, and the bookkeeper
and station hands roared with laughter.

"The fence'll stop 'm," said one of the laughing stockmen, "but he'll
never get the devil to Maitland unless he carries him."

"The Boss must have a down on Jack to set him such a job," said another.
"I wouldn't undertake it for a tenner."

Salathiel would have given it up then and there but for the threatened
flogging, for he was badly cut and bruised and hatless; but he held on,
hoping that the frightened animal would soon come to a standstill. When
at last it stopped, he got up half-dazed, to find the calf with its head
and leg thrust between the panels of the fence, so, hitching the rope
round a post, he secured his hat and ran to let down the slip-panels.
Fortunately, they were not far distant. Taking them down, he stood for a
moment to pull himself together. He had been dragged nearly half a mile
and was panting, with the sweat pouring off him. Returning, he found
that the calf had backed out of the fence, bellowing, if possible, more
loudly than before, and, with protruding tongue, was pulling back upon
the rope with the strength of a young horse.

It was a big-boned, vicious scrubber, and Jack knew that kindness would
only be thrown away. The brute must be mastered and cowed.

"I haven't been flogged for two years," said Jack aloud, "and I'll get
you to Maitland somehow, you devil, or choke you." He shuddered at the
recollection of the last flogging, of which he still carried the scars.
He, by birth and education a gentleman, who, in his youth, had been full
of youthful ambition!

"My God!" he exclaimed, "it were better to die!"

But the sun was fast rising in the heavens, so he set himself to undo
the strained rope. Then, by main force, he pulled the stubborn brute
upon the road, and tied him to the fence while he put up the
slip-panels. Salathiel stood six feet in his socks and was broad in the
shoulders; he was on his mettle; somehow he would do it in the time. He
might be able to get a lift in a cart or dray with the animal, so he
unfastened the rope from the fence, and cutting a stout stick, prepared
to make a fresh start.

The calf, however, had no intention of starting, and in answer to Jack's
"Get up," only bellowed and backed closer to the fence, but a smart blow
moved him, when he swerved round to horn Salathiel, and in doing so, got
the rope entangled in his legs and fell. On Jack approaching to get him
up, he suddenly sprang forward, and with a jerk wrenched the rope out of
the man's hands.

"You wretch!" ejaculated Jack, as he rushed after him; but the calf was
too quick, and raced off into the bush. It was another hour ere,
sweating at every pore, he caught the animal. Twice he had lost sight of
him completely. It was marvellous that he caught him at all, on foot;
but the rope had got fast in the crooked roots of a fallen tree.

They were both winded by this time, and after once more being started in
the right direction, the calf moved quietly along for a while. Suddenly,
however, it slewed sharply around, and describing a circle, got the rope
round Jack's legs and then made a desperate rush back for the station.
The man fell, and was dragged a short distance; but his grip of the rope
never relaxed.

Now, as every stockman knows, a six-months bull-calf is a terror to
drive alone, under any circumstances; but this one seemed possessed of
the strength and viciousness of a dozen of its kind, and at last, after
four hours had passed, without having covered as many miles, Salathiel,
hungry and wellnigh exhausted with the struggle, tied the animal to a
tree and sat down on a fallen log to rest himself and think.

He got his pipe out, for, although he had forgotten to bring food, he
had his pipe and tobacco with him. Smoking, he remembered the
bookkeeper's hasty words.

"Brady was right," he said to himself, "there's nothing else for it;
I'll not go back to be flogged. But it is a brutal shame; I was due for
a ticket in less than three months."

The man looked despairingly up at the sun; it was past noon--he could
never do it. Then followed further gloomy thoughts, and even tears and
broken prayers as he struggled hard with himself, until at last he
decided to leave the calf to choke to death, if need be, and make for an
outlaw's life in the Liverpool Ranges.

And yet he waited for another hour, hoping that a dray or cart might
come along and help him out of his desperate dilemma. He had three
long-hoarded one pound notes about him. How willingly would he have
given them all to see that calf safely at Maitland!

Presently a gig passed along the road. The driver was a neighbouring
squatter, but he only glanced at Jack and the calf suspiciously; he was
in a hurry, or he might have pulled up to ask whose calf it was.

Still Jack waited, looking anxiously now up the road, now down. Then he
would turn around and glare at the calf, which stood watching for the
man's next move, until the whole thing seemed to him like some hideous
dream--he could see himself tied again to the triangles, broken and
degraded under the brutal lash.

How quiet and inviting, and odorous with the warm smell of gum trees,
the great bush was--and yonder were the ranges!

Leaving the calf tied to the tree, Salathiel, sick at heart, went out
into the road, and looked carefully up and down for the last time. He
could not see or hear any one. Then, like a felon, he slunk off and
disappeared.

The inevitable followed, John Joseph Salathiel was gazetted an escaped
convict. A month or so afterwards, he, with some others, 'stuck up' the
Maitland coach; a constable, who had wounded several bushrangers, was
shot dead, and in due course Jack was proclaimed an outlaw.

The story of Jack Salathiel and the bull-calf became a by-word for men
to laugh at. It was the last straw, which made a bushranger of a
would-be honest man.




CHAPTER II--A TRIAL BY JURY.


One morning, some two months after the events already recorded,
McBurton's Hotel, on the Liverpool Plains Road, was uncommonly busy.

There was to be a dinner and a dance that night at a wealthy squatter's
about four miles off, and not a few of the guests had looked in on the
way to have a drink and lunch and hear the news, or to do some business
with acquaintances, before proceeding to the scene of the festivities.

Sam Grant, the overseer at Eurimbla, was among the early arrivals. He
had arranged to meet Ben Baxter, of Mount Hope, about some cattle.

"By-the-way, Sam," said the latter, after their business was transacted
and they sat in the commercial-room smoking, with glasses before them,
"that Jack Salathiel of yours has not let the grass grow under his feet
since he took to the Bush. I hear that he is leader now of one of the
gangs that has been playing old boots with them up Walcha and Armidale
way."

"Ah!" replied Grant, "it's an awful pity about him; he was a quiet
enough chap down at Eurimbla, and a gentlemanly fellow too; I hear that
old Walker is in a great fluster. Salathiel sent him a letter last week;
quite a formal document, by George!--you know he is a fine
scholar--threatening him with summary vengeance if he flogged any more
Government men on his place without full inquiry."

"Things are coming to a pretty pass," grumbled Baxter, "these dashed
mounted police are not a bit of protection. By-the-way, Sam," he
continued, laughing, "I hope you had nothing to do with sending the
fellow off with that bull-calf to Maitland. It's no wonder the wretch
took to the Bush."

Both men were laughing at this, when the overseer, turning round
suddenly, exclaimed: "What's up in the bar?"

Evidently something very unusual was happening. The two men rose to
their feet and started to the door.

"Bail up now!" cried a rough voice. They were covered by firearms, and
threw up their hands immediately.

Three armed men stood in the doorway, and it was evident that resistance
would be useless. Not a shot had been fired so far; but judging by the
general commotion, the bushrangers were there in force. Both Baxter and
Grant were unarmed, so they quietly went back and sat down again upon
their chairs, as directed.

"Whose gang is it?" asked Grant nervously.

"Salathiel's," was the answer, "and understand this, there's no one
going to be robbed or shot if you keep quiet. The Captain's here on a
bit of lynch law business--there's a dozen of us, and the pub
surrounded, so there's going to be no flutter, and it's no use making
any fuss."

In the meantime, the leader of the gang had walked coolly into the bar,
where quite a dozen men were standing, and putting down a one pound
note, called for drinks for himself and his men, and any of the company
who might care to join them.

The man serving at the bar hesitated for a moment. He had recognized
Salathiel, and hearing the clatter of horses outside and the general
commotion, completely lost his head.

"Now be quick, my friend, if you don't want a bullet through your
skull," said Salathiel, pointing a double-barrelled pistol at him,
"there's five of them to serve in front, and the others are somewhere at
the back."

In dress and general appearance, Salathiel was now a man very different
from the cowed and fearful convict with a bull-calf in tow upon the
Maitland Road. His bushy brown beard and moustache were carefully
trimmed in the fashion of the time. Gold chain and seals hung from the
fob of his well-cut riding breeches, and his jack-boots, bright spurs,
smart riding jacket and cabbage-tree wide-awake suggested a wealthy
sporting squatter or an officer of mounted troops in mufti.

No one in the bar dared lift a hand against the bushrangers, for they
knew that it was as much as their lives were worth to do so.

When the barman, white as a sheet from fright, came back from serving
the men outside, he and the others were ordered into the
commercial-room, where they found all on the premises gathered under
guard. There were several well-known men of the district present, as the
gang had expected; for the latter knew all about the dinner and the
dance.

Having seen that all was right outside, Salathiel walked in and ordered
one of his men to place refreshments on the long table. "It's paid for,
all on the square, gentlemen," he said. "If any of you wish to do so,
help yourselves."

With that he took a more careful look round the room, nodding to Sam
Grant and one or two others whom he recognized, including a Maitland
publican, and then called out: "Where's McBurton?"

"I don't think he's at home," replied the barman hastily.

"No lies," said Salathiel quietly. "Go and fetch him here, or we'll
serve you as we intend, later on, to serve him."

A few minutes afterwards McBurton was dragged in by one of the gang,
followed by the barman. They had found him, half-drunk, hiding in the
cellar.

"Stand him down at the other end of the table," commanded Salathiel.

Among the company, besides those already mentioned, there were three
commercial travellers and the manager of a big northern station--Jack
had hoped that his late master might be there too.

"We are going to give this man a fair trial," said the bushranger,
addressing the room, "and if we find him guilty, summary punishment. The
charges against him are, that twelve months ago he secured the hanging
of two of his assigned servants without just cause, and more recently,
the brutal flogging of others for trivial offences...What do you say,
McBurton: are you guilty or not guilty?"

"For God's sake spare me, Jack Salathiel," groaned the terrified man.

"Ah well, we'll let you plead not guilty, as a matter of form."

"Fitz," he said, addressing one of the gang, "go into the office and
bring out McBurton's old magistrate's Bible, that he used to swear oaths
on, before he resigned the Commission of the Peace to start this pub;
and you, George," nodding to one of the commercial travellers, "come
over here with that order book of yours and take down the depositions,
and act generally as clerk of the court. Do you hear?" he called out
roughly, picking up his pistol from the table when George hesitated.

"All right, Salathiel; put down your shooting iron," said the commercial
man, who was a representative of a big Sydney firm. "Notice, gentlemen,"
he continued, addressing the company somewhat nervously, "I am acting on
compulsion."

Six men, including Baxter, Grant, a commercial, and the Maitland
publican, were then gravely sworn on McBurton's Bible, to give a true
verdict according to the evidence; and Salathiel called one of his men
as first witness for the prosecution. He made him kiss the Book with due
formality.

The man was an escaped convict, who, until recently, had been in service
on a large selection which McBurton owned. He swore to having been an
eyewitness of the hanging of his fellow servants in a paddock, only a
few yards from the main road. After frightful ill-usage and provocation,
they had attempted McBurton's life.

"How many times were these men flogged by the prisoner's orders before
they were executed?" asked Salathiel.

"Mostly every month," replied the witness.

McBurton glared across the table at his old servant, and was heard to
mutter something.

"Silence in court!" thundered Salathiel, pointing his double-barrelled
pistol at the prisoner. "I won't have the witnesses intimidated. Another
word until you are called upon to speak, and I will deal with you
myself."

At this, the company behind and nearest to the prisoner hurriedly pushed
themselves farther out of the way.

Two other witnesses from the gang then gave evidence on oath, each one
corroborating the charges of cruelty, of which many instances were
cited.

"Now, what have you to say for yourself, prisoner, in reply to these
charges?" said Salathiel harshly. "If you have any witnesses, we'll have
them called."

The trembling, bloated wretch, overbearing and cruel as he was, proved a
cur at heart. He tottered half fainting with fright at the end of the
table, and held the edge of it with his hands; the sweat stood in beads
upon his face; but he made no reply. He had no witnesses to call. His
revolting cruelty to his assigned servants was the talk of the
countryside. He shook his head, but made no answer. His expectation, and
that of every man in the room, excepting the gang, was that he would be
shot in his tracks as he stood at the end of the table.

"Gentlemen of the Jury," said Salathiel, turning sternly around to the
men he had sworn to return a true verdict. "You have heard the evidence;
the prisoner at the bar was, like many others, transported here from the
old country. What his crimes may have been I don't know. Here he
successfully worked himself into the favour of the authorities, until,
ultimately, through his wealth, or his cunning, or his villainy, he was
made a magistrate--that in itself was illegal, as you all know--but,
being on the Commission, it only gave him opportunity for more
brutality. He has shown no pity for the men, whose hard lot he himself
well knows. To agonizing appeals for mercy from those who were equally
his fellows in the sight of God, he has shown no pity. You have heard
how he has flogged fainting women with his own hand, when the Government
flogger refused to proceed further. Several men have died as the result
of floggings by his instructions; two of his victims he has hanged; and
dozens have, in various ways, been brutally ill-treated by him. Bad as
some of them have been, they are largely what his devilish cruelty made
them. You are on your oaths, gentlemen, to do justice between man and
man; there is no need for you to retire from the court. I will give you
five minutes, by that clock, to consider your verdict. Is the prisoner
guilty or not guilty of the charges alleged against him?"

On this Salathiel sat down, somewhat flushed, while a silence as of
death fell on the company.

After they had listened to the ticking of the clock for a few minutes,
the bushranger looked sternly at the jury and lifted his weapon
significantly. It was quite enough; they at once put their heads
together and conferred in whispers. It was clear that the gang would
stand no trifling.

A moment afterwards the commercial traveller stood up. "Jack Salathiel,"
said he, "we recommend the prisoner to the mercy of the Court."

"Thank you, gentlemen," said the bushranger, dryly bowing his head to
them.

"Prisoner at the bar," he said sternly, looking over at McBurton, "you
are found guilty by the jury, although they have not exactly said so;
but they recommend you to mercy. Probably you do not know what that
means; but I will explain. Had you been found guilty only, you would
have been taken out of this court and hanged under your own signboard as
a warning to other brutes and murderers; but in view of the jury having
recommended you to mercy, the sentence of the Court is that you be
stripped and tied under your signboard in full view of the public and
receive fifty lashes, well laid on."

Every one passing along the Liverpool Plains Road that afternoon was
bailed up to see the flogging, and Salathiel and the gang took good care
that the lash (a cat-o'-nine-tails found in McBurton's own office) was
properly applied.

McBurton fainted after the thirtieth stroke, so Salathiel ordered him to
be cut down, and handed him over, stripped and bleeding as he was, to
his wife and daughter.

Although, when it heard of this outrage, the whole Colony laughed in its
sleeve and chuckled over McBurton's well-deserved punishment, Salathiel
and his gang knew that if anything were likely to stir up the police to
unwonted activity, it was the flogging of a one-time magistrate. It was
a reflection, also, upon the administration of Justice's justice in the
Colony.

The night closed in with a thunderstorm and heavy rain, and Salathiel
decided that, under cover of the storm, his gang should scatter for a
few weeks. Some of the men grumbled that they had not been allowed to
ease the publican and his guests of their loose cash and jewellery; but
Salathiel told them that he would not spoil a good thing and explained
to them that their moderation would stagger the authorities, and make
them not a few friends.

Then he informed them that, as their wants for the time being were well
supplied (they had just before 'stuck up' a couple of store-teams), he
intended to take himself off south for a month or so, where he had a
good thing on. He would meet them when matters had quietened down, at
their old rendezvous in the Liverpool Ranges.




CHAPTER III--BETSY CAREY RIDES INTO THE STORY


At the time of this narrative, Poddy Carey was a settler in one of the
fertile valleys of the south coast of New South Wales. The man had been
a soldier, and this was a Government grant of three hundred acres,
somewhat inconveniently situated near a rocky height, known as Bailey's
Bluff, which towered in solitary grandeur above the whole district.

The summit was bare, and also the eastern front, which overlooked the
distant Pacific Ocean. On the other three sides it was thickly timbered,
the trees, in places, seeming to spring out of the very rock. From the
valley they looked little more than bushes, but when near the summit
they were found to be good-sized trees. It was a spot to which, in those
days, few climbed for pleasure, although they might have done so, for
the view of the far off Pacific and long stretch of coast line was
unsurpassed even in that romantic district. Landward was a panorama of
rural scenery, with occasional glimpses of a broad river and wooded
hills, down the sides of which running waters flashed here and there, in
the sunlight, on their precipitous courses to broad valleys, where fat
cattle fed contentedly and the fruits of a primitive husbandry rewarded
the labourer's toil.

Things have altered since then, but at the time of this story a quieter
or more secluded place, within easy reach of Sydney, could scarcely have
been found. Mails were received only at rare intervals; while railway
travelling and telegraph messages were unknown.

The only road from the Sydney side to Poddy Carey's farm was by a steep
bridle track around the Bluff.

A little before noon one sweltering hot day, a horseman might have been
seen making his way up the track which led in the direction of this
farm. The trees were less dense upon the lower portion of the ascent,
which was thickly bestrewn with boulders.

"Steady, Fleetfoot, old man! I think I will walk a bit here!" exclaimed
the traveller, pulling up the thorough-bred and swinging himself off the
saddle.

He turned round and glanced down the steep hillside as he dropped the
reins upon the sweating neck of the horse. It would have been a serious
matter for either horse or rider to stumble and roll over just there.
They were about half-way up, and it was already a fearful descent to
look down upon. And yet, as the man trod carefully along, closely
followed by his horse, his experienced eye noted the recent tracks of
cattle and pigs, as well as of horses.

"I've not lost my way, that's certain," he said aloud; "but what a road
to lead to a farm! How on earth can they get butter and eggs and poultry
to market, and drive pigs over such a place as this? I suppose the
descent is easier on the other side; the track can't exactly cross the
summit, so there must be some way round higher up."

At this he cast his eyes through an opening in the trees toward the bald
summit which towered above him. Then for a full half-minute he stood
motionless.

"Hanged if there isn't a petticoat up there!" he said, "one of Poddy
Carey's daughters looking out for Mr. Bennett, I suppose. I remember
they told me there would be three girls and two boys to attend school
from this selection." Then he laughed, and laughed again, as he trudged
up the steep track, still closely followed by his well-trained steed.

Another quarter of a mile brought him to what at first sight seemed a
solid wall of rock, from the side of which a substantial fence stretched
out to form a wing for fully thirty yards. It had evidently been set up
to assist in driving cattle and other animals through some narrow
opening.

"Pig proof too!" he ejaculated, examining the fence more closely, with
evident approval. Here he re-mounted, and following the beaten track,
which was now smoother and broader, he soon came upon another wing of
fencing, which turned the traveller abruptly around a jagged corner,
when he found himself inside a large natural enclosure, walled in by
perpendicular rocks.

"Splendid!" he exclaimed, looking around: "room to muster a couple of
hundred head," and then an involuntary exclamation of surprise burst
from him, for riding towards him in this strange place, on a
wicked-looking piebald pony, came a fair young girl about seventeen
years of age, who seemed to have taken in at a glance both Fleetfoot and
his rider.

"I suppose you are Mr. Bennett, the new teacher?" she said, as their
eyes met. "I'm to be one of your scholars. I'm Betsy Carey," and with
that she moved her pony nearer and held out her hand.

"I'm sure I am very pleased to meet you, Miss Carey," he said, taking
the outstretched hand in a cordial grip, "and I shall be very glad to
have you for a pupil."

"I'm not so sure about that," answered the girl with a pleasant laugh,
"we have counted up that there will be fifteen grown-up girls among your
scholars in the new school; and some of them threaten to----" At this
she stopped suddenly, as though fearful of betraying a confidence.

"I may count, however, upon your assistance and good example. Miss
Carey," replied the new teacher, gravely.

"I don't know so much about that," said the maiden demurely; "you see,
mother has taught me all that I know, and I've never been to school
before; besides, they all say I'm a bit of a limb, and I shall have ten
cows to milk before coming to school, and Loiterer here plays up a bit
sometimes, and won't be caught, and that always puts me out; so you see,
I may not always be of much assistance to you, nor a good example
either."

All this was said with the utmost seriousness and frankness of manner,
so much so that the teacher could not repress a smile.

"We heard you were coming over, and mother's expecting you to dinner,"
the girl chattered away; "and there's dumplings, so we had better be
quick, or they may be spoiled. By the way, Mr. Bennett, as I'm to be
your scholar, you might as well start and call me Betsy; and mother told
me to caution you not to take particular notice of father when he
swears. It's his way; you may reform him afterwards, when you get to
know him better; but he means no harm, and we are all used to it; you
know the men do swear a good bit about here."

By this time they had emerged from the enclosure by a somewhat similar
opening in the rock on the other side, and the teacher seemed to find it
difficult to maintain any sustained conversation with his new
acquaintance. Loiterer altogether belied his name, and scrambled along
the steep pathway, which now dropped abruptly towards the bed of a
shallow stream, and stepped over stones and water-worn ruts and
projecting roots of trees, as nimbly as might a goat or cat.

After fording the river, on a pebbly bottom, they cantered across some
fertile flats, toward the rising ground upon which the house and rough
farm buildings were situated. Loiterer champed his bit and tossed his
head meanwhile, in sundry ways making it plain that he and his mistress
were used to a little faster travelling, but a slow canter was the
quickest pace at which the seemingly city-bred school-teacher cared to
travel.

"I'm afraid those dumplings will be heavy," grumbled Betsy, looking up
at the sun to note the time as they neared the house. "And, Mr.
Bennett," she continued, almost in the same breath, as she bent over her
pony and took down a top slip-rail, preparatory to jumping across the
two lower ones, "don't expect to see me at school when it rains heavily,
for the creek comes down a banker in no time, and there's a good bit to
do then about the place; besides, Loiterer isn't a very strong swimmer
in a flood."

"My word!" ejaculated the mischievous girl to herself. She had jumped
Loiterer over the slip-rails, and then had pulled round to see how the
school-teacher was coming along, laughing to herself, as she pictured
him fumbling to take down the two remaining slip-rails, to walk his
horse through; but instead, to her surprise, the city-bred man, as she
supposed him, cleared the lower rails with the ease of an accomplished
rough-rider, and then wheeled his horse round and bent over in the
saddle to re-place the rail which she had taken down, as though it were
the most ordinary thing to do.

At this, the teacher went up considerably in Betsy's estimation,
especially as she made some mental notes upon the way he sat in the
saddle and managed his horse, which stood side-on to the fence, as
steady as a house, while he re-adjusted the rail. It was not exactly a
showy animal he rode; but the girl knew the good points of a horse
almost as well as her father, and her curiosity was piqued as to how a
man who taught school should ride so well and possess so valuable a bit
of horse-flesh.

However, as her companion rode up and overtook her, he might have been
heard cursing his stupidity under his breath in unscholarly language for
not being more on his guard. He had no wish to handicap himself at the
start by arousing unnecessary curiosity as to his antecedents.

Whatever she may have thought, the girl made no remark; and they rode up
together to the verandah of the house, where Mrs. Carey--one of those
women 'whose price is above rubies'--stood waiting to welcome the
visitor.




CHAPTER IV--SALATHIEL PERSONATES A SCHOOL-TEACHER


The clanging of a bullock bell announced to the family that the teacher
had arrived and dinner was ready. As may be imagined, to have an
educated stranger from Sydney to dinner at the Careys' was not an
everyday occurrence, and the visit of the new teacher had been a matter
of no little concern to them all.

Poddy Carey was glad to have his boys and girls taught, but he hated
fuss. His wife, however, was a woman whose superior intelligence had
largely assisted in securing a teacher for the district, and she had
prepared for his visit with a foresight worthy of herself and the
occasion.

The long dinner table was loaded with savoury viands, a chair stood at
either end for the heads of the household, and one for the
school-master, with two long forms to accommodate the rest of the
family.

"That's Bob, mister," said Poddy Carey, as a tall young man came in and,
with some bashfulness, took his place at the table. Pat and Alice and
Madge and Judy, and others to the number of nine, were similarly
introduced to the teacher's notice, and the meal was begun without
further formality.

The visitor having made a few remarks about the heat of the day and want
of rain in the district, settled down to enjoy his dinner, and for a
time there was a somewhat awkward silence, broken only by the clash of
knives and forks and occasional clatter of tea-cups, as they were
copiously replenished by Betsy lower down the table.

Mrs. Carey was naturally quiet and talked but little, but she kept a
hospitable eye on the teacher's plate, to make good any remissness on
the part of her big husband; but at the same time, unobserved, she
watched his face and wondered, as a woman will, over a score of things
regarding his personality and propensities.

"I suppose he drinks a bit," she thought to herself, "or they would not
have let so good-looking a man come down to an out-of-the-way place like
this. I wonder how he got that scar on his forehead; you can see it now
he has removed his hat. He looks like a married man, or he would not be
so neat and tidy with his clothes; but then, he's too clever and
gentlemanly for any of our girls. What white teeth he has! He is a nice
man by the look and talk of him. I'll answer for it that brazen Kitty
Conroy will be making up to him. I wish he would talk a bit about Sydney
and himself. I'll ask him presently what schools he has taught and
whether he has been long in the Colony. I'm rather sorry he's not
boarding with us--he might have taught Jim and Pat a bit at night--but
we're too far away. He looks an obliging, pleasant-tempered man, and is
evidently well-bred." And then the good woman sighed, as she thought of
the rough work and hard and uncouth surroundings of her married life,
and for a moment compared them with earlier days when she was a girl, in
the pleasant home of her parents in Herefordshire.

Mrs. Jim Carey was well liked and respected by all the neighbours. She
had kept her husband straight, and her knowledge and sagacity and kindly
nature and persevering industry had largely aided his success in life.
The sobriquet, which first attached itself to him when he used to ride
through the district buying up poddy calves and weaklings and an
occasional cow or bullock without a brand, still stuck; but he was now a
comparatively well-to-do man. He might have been a magistrate, and had
Government men at his beck and call to work and flog; but Mrs. Carey had
influenced her husband and indeed almost all the neighbourhood, to keep
the district clear of convict labour. "Things are bad enough for a
mother with five girls to rear, without that," she would say. And rough
and hard as big Jim was, he agreed with her.

"How do you like the school-house we have put up?" asked Mrs. Carey,
presently.

"It's very comfortable and central," replied the teacher.

"A bit out of the way, though, isn't it, schoolmaster?" said big Jim,
passing his cup down for more tea.

"No, I don't think so," said the teacher.

"Been better more to this way," persisted Poddy. "I wanted it put nearer
the south side of the creek, so that you might have boarded with the
Mitchells. You may thank my Missis there for the shed for the horses and
the skillion to your shanty. I drew the slabs for the school with my
bullocks, and, as there were a few over, got the chaps to use 'em up in
the lean-to and sheds. I see you've got a dashed fine horse. Chaps like
you don't often get hold of thoroughbreds; if you'd been a stranger
like, and not a teacher, we should have reckoned that you might have
come by it on the cross."

The whole family laughed at this as a good joke, "Fancy," whispered
Alice to Madge, "a schoolmaster coming by anything on the cross!"

The teacher laughed with the rest; but Mrs. Carey was annoyed with her
husband, for she was watching her visitor closely when the question was
put to him and thought he gave a start, as though he resented it.
However, the laugh seemed to have broken through the teacher's reserve,
and put them all upon a more friendly footing, and by the time a big
pudding was brought in by Madge, with a dish of cream, Mr. Bennett was
chatting away pleasantly with his future pupils and their parents.

"I suppose you have taught school in several places before in the
Colony?" queried Mrs. Carey.

The teacher hesitated a moment, and then replied: "No, not in a district
or town school in New South Wales, Mrs. Carey."

"I thought I heard that you were a teacher at Patrick's Plains or
Maitland?" replied the good woman, somewhat discomposed.

"I know those towns," said Bennett quietly, "and have taught there; but
not in any of the town schools."

"Ah," interjected Big Jim, standing up, "you've been schoolmaster on
some of the stations! Come outside, mister, and smoke a pipe of 'bacca
on the veranda."

Mrs. Carey presently came out with a chair and sat on the veranda with
the men, knitting in hand; for she was never idle, and when the washing
up was done, the three elder girls joined them, Alice seating herself on
the steps with Madge, and Betsy on the verandah floor, on the other side
of her father, her feet touching the grass which grew around the house.

Her mother was giving some information to the teacher about a family
named O'Grady, whom she wished him to call upon, in the expectation of
securing the children as scholars.

Where Betsy sat, with her back against a veranda post, she could look
straight up into the teacher's face. He was smoking a silver-mounted
pipe, and seemed, to the girl, to be in a fit of abstraction.

"He's not a bit interested in the school or scholars," thought Betsy
with a feeling of disappointment. "I wonder what he's thinking about."

"Mr. Bennett," she said abruptly.

"Well, Miss Carey," he replied, smiling.

"I was wondering what you were thinking about, after mother told you
about the O'Gradies."

"To tell you the truth," he said, after a short pause, "the name
reminded me of a bushranger of that name, and that led me to think of
something I heard on the road; something which happened near Singleton,
only last week."

"Tell us about it, mister," said Poddy, taking his pipe out of his mouth
to refill, "there's no news down here; we only get a neighbour's paper
about once a fortnight, and that is often a month old."

He had been half-asleep while his wife was talking, but now evinced
considerable interest.

"You girls had better go in and get ready for the milking," said Mrs.
Carey, with motherly thoughtfulness.

"Cows won't be up for another hour, mother," expostulated Alice, who was
all eagerness to hear the news.

The teacher paused for a good half-minute, when, as nothing more was
said about the girls going away, he remarked: "There's nothing very bad
about it, Mrs. Carey, no one was robbed or murdered; but the chief
actors will have the mounted police after them, hot and strong, for all
that."

Poddy Carey gave a short, dissatisfied grunt, as though he thought that,
without robbery and murder, the story was not likely to be of much
account; but the teacher proceeded.

"You may have heard of Jim McBurton's hotel on the Liverpool Plains
Road, a few miles out of Singleton? Well, one day last week Jack
Salathiel's gang rode up early in the afternoon, and 'stuck it up,' and
made up a jury, and tried old McBurton in the commercial-room, and found
him guilty of brutal ill-treatment of his Government men. They flogged
him afterwards under his own sign-board."

"Tell us all about it, Mr. Bennett," said Betsy eagerly.

"Wasn't that the man who turned bushranger over a calf?" asked Alice.

The schoolmaster flushed a little and drew his silk handkerchief across
his face. It might have been the warm afternoon, thought Mrs. Carey, and
the fact of his not yet being seasoned to the humid coastal heat; but he
could not resist the sparkling eyes and eager questions of the girls,
and presently he found himself telling them far more than he had
intended of what he knew about Jack Salathiel and the astonishing
bushranging episode which had occurred only the previous week at the
Liverpool Plains Road Hotel. "I've heard about McBurton before," was
Poddy Carey's comment when the teacher had done, "and it served him
dashed well right...But you're a great hand at telling a yarn,
schoolmaster," he continued; "why, you might have been there yourself!"

"I've read it in the papers," said the teacher quietly; "the commercial
that acted as clerk of the court had once been a newspaper reporter, and
he sent a vivid description of it all to the newspapers."

As he rode back to the lonely school-house late in the afternoon, the
new teacher, devil-may-care as he was, felt a trifle uneasy in his mind.
Both Betsy and Alice were evidently greatly taken with him, and he was
afraid he might have trouble with them and some of the other girls he
had heard about. "It was a fool's trick to tell them so much about that
Singleton affair," he thought; and then he laughed and wondered what
Betsy would say when she found out that the narrator of the story was
none other than the notorious Jack Salathiel himself.

And yet, after all, he was somehow glad that he had told them; hardened
as he was, he had good in him, and neither he nor his men had taken
life, except in self-defence and in open combat. It was pleasant, also,
for once to have had the chance of defending his character before
respectable people, and he fell into a more thoughtful mood.

"Hang it all!" he suddenly ejaculated, "I wish I had some grog in the
shanty; if I go on like this I shall become as nervous as a cow."

Then, somehow, he thought of Betsy Carey again, and laughed. She had not
shown much nervousness, he thought, and he guessed that it was even
possible she might enjoy the joke of an outlaw, whose very name was a
terror to thousands, personating a country schoolmaster.

"She would never 'come it' on me," he said to himself, involuntarily
making use of an expression often on the lips of the convicts.




CHAPTER V--THE SCHOOLMASTER'S CURRICULUM


A MAN who undertakes to personate another must be prepared to confront
novel and unexpected difficulties, and when Salathiel undertook to play
the part of John Bennett in the Broadhaven Valley, he met with many more
surprises than he had bargained for.

It was necessary for his plans that he should remain for at least three
weeks or a month in the district, and that, he found, would necessitate
his carrying out the schoolmaster's role pretty well in its entirety.
Capable and audacious as he was, he found that he needed to have all his
wits about him to sustain the character he had assumed.

In a rough and homely way, the school committee had done its best to
make the new teacher comfortable. A tiny two-roomed slab shanty, with a
front veranda, had been run up for a residence by the side of the
school-house. This had been roughly furnished with tables and chairs and
a stretcher by the committee. He was to have his dinner at night at a
neighbouring settler's homestead, some half a mile distant; and the
considerate thoughtfulness of Mrs. Carey and others had seen to his
being provided with a start in the way of ordinary housekeeping.

One had sent over tea and sugar, another flour, another bacon, and
another corned beef; for, rough as they mostly were, they were
good-hearted folk, and the opening of a school was regarded as a very
important event by the community. But, somehow, things cropped up which
Jack had never dreamed of. It was suggested that a Sunday afternoon
service might be held once a month in the school-house; and one of the
first questions put to Jack by old Donald Macpherson was whether he
could sing the Psalms of David and preach a bit.

Jack gravely promised to think it over, and, to gain time, recommended
Macpherson to consult the school committee about it; he said he must get
his school curriculum going first. The Latin word staggered Donald, as
it was intended to, and he assured his wife and family that the new
schoolmaster was a "varre larn'd mon."

There was a three-quarter moon shining, so, after Jack had made a billy
of tea, he went out into the warm night air to have a smoke, and sat
down upon a log in the school-house paddock.

He turned over in his mind the events of the day, and laughed a good
deal to himself about Poddy Carey and Betsy. He was not apprehensive, at
present, of any unlooked-for consequences attending this last daring
move of his. There was no one but Bennett, the schoolmaster, to give him
away, and he had made it all right in that quarter. It was evident to
him that he was going to have some fun among the unsophisticated natives
of the district; but he must be careful.

His chief anxiety was how he should start the school and carry it on
with a decent measure of success. He thought of his big and probably
unruly scholars, not a few of whom would be young women of from
seventeen to one and twenty, and young cornstalks in their teens, some
as tall, or taller, than himself.

"I've got myself into a pretty mess this time, and no mistake," he said;
and then he laughed at the grotesqueness of the whole situation, laughed
until his pipe went out and an owl hooted at him, somewhere from the
surrounding bush.

This startled him for a moment, for it was a well-known signal among
outlaws; but having satisfied himself that this was only the ill-omened
hoot of a bird, he returned and sat down on the log again.

It was one of those still, soft, dreamy nights, which, in the moonlight
of a voluptuous Australian summer, inclines to thought, and awakens
memories which live below the surface thoughts of ordinary life.

Salathiel had no regret that he had wrested freedom from the hands of a
hard fate, even at the price of outlawry; it was something to breathe
that unfettered air and feel himself his own master. And, before we
condemn this man too severely, we should remember that the whole
atmosphere of his life, for many years, had been tainted by his
surroundings; for in those days the Bush morals of Australia were crude
and lax. Vast areas of country, called 'runs,' were unfenced; might was
mostly right; and the ownership of the great herds of cattle which
roamed the grassy wastes a matter of perpetual give-and-take among the
squatters. Acts which in these days would send men to prison were winked
at as smart and clever, if the perpetrators were only high enough up the
social ladder. With not a few, it was understood that beef killed for
station purposes should, as a rule, bear some other man's brand. A
squatter, dining with a neighbour, would be hospitably urged to take
another helping from a juicy sirloin which, he well knew, was cut from
one of his own prime beasts; and he retorted upon his neighbour by the
simple plan of doing as he was done by.

It is not to be wondered at that the rights of property were lightly
regarded by so many of the convict servants of the squatters; or that
bushranging was resorted to by desperate men, and bushrangers so
generally protected by those who indirectly or otherwise benefited by
their robberies. Salathiel, however, was much above the ordinary class
of outlaws, and sitting on that log, he struck a train of thought which
carried him far away from the valley farms and his present grotesque
surroundings. His father was of Jewish parentage, married to an educated
woman of Gentile blood. He was now a man of wealth and social position
in Sydney, although the bar sinister was on the family escutcheon, for,
through a trivial offence in boyhood, the elder Salathiel had been a
'convict once.' Sorrow had, however, sweetened and purified his father's
life, and sitting there, Salathiel recalled the early teachings of his
mother and the refined surroundings of his father's household. Like many
another convict, he had had a good education and pious training; but in
a weak hour of temptation he had brought himself within the clutches of
a pitiless law, too often, in those hard days, administered to first
offenders--especially if they were the children of one-time
convicts--without being tempered by mercy. He had worked for twelve
months with a road gang in irons; and truly Fate seemed doggedly against
him, for, after getting out of the chain gang, through an intrepid act
of bravery, by which, at great personal risk, he saved a soldier's life,
he fell into the hands of a hard, exacting master, who, on frivolous
pretences, so that he might retain his services the longer, prevented
him from getting his good conduct ticket. Soured and dispirited, he was
then assigned to the owner of Eurimbla station, where he had, several
times, contemplated suicide; but his early teaching saved him, and he
plodded along at his work, until he was ultimately promoted to assist
the bookkeeper. To escape a threatened flogging he had taken to the
Bush; and yet he would have given much that night, hardened as he was,
if he could have redeemed the past, even to settle down amid the
simple-minded people living around the Bluff.

It was arranged that on the following Saturday there should be a formal
opening of the school and welcome to the new teacher. A local magistrate
was to preside, and Jack had been asked by the committee to give a short
address upon 'Education,' and intimate the lines upon which he proposed
to conduct the school.

"Let me see," thought Jack, "I shall have to teach reading and spelling,
writing and arithmetic, history and geography, grammar and singing. I
might introduce drill, dancing, and deportment. By the way, some
instruction in shooting might not be out of place for the elder boys.
Oh," he exclaimed, "I am forgetting Scripture lessons, which that old
sinner, Donald Macpherson, lays so much stress upon. Yes, I could even
teach that, without being any more of a hypocrite and a humbug than are
scores of present day parsons. They won't want Euclid, algebra, or
drawing, while I am here, at any rate; and as for languages, they are
outside the curriculum of Elementary Schools, I must look over those
books Bennett gave me, and then, I think, I can start without fear of
local criticism or the chance of the beggars tripping me up."

His thoughts went back to Bennett again, "Oh, there's no fear! He'll
never 'come it' on me," he said, and laughed.

Salathiel had made the acquaintance of the schoolmaster at a Bush hotel,
where the outlaws of the district could always count on a welcome, and
friendly warning if necessary. Men of Bennett's profession were
frequently addicted to periodical bouts of drinking, nor is it much to
be wondered at, in the then state of things. The life of a Bush
school-teacher was lonely and monotonous, and the surroundings were
mostly uncongenial to an educated man. Many of them had taken to the
life under a cloud, and drink was their nepenthe.

Jack had taken to Bennett on their first meeting, for he soon found out
that there was a good deal in common between them; and as Bennett was
teaching on a neighbouring station, they not infrequently met, and with
pipe and glass and talk of other scenes and days, beguiled the hours of
night. On one of these occasions, Bennett told Salathiel of the offer he
had, to go to the south coast district to take charge of a new school,
and it was then it occurred to the bushranger to personate him and carry
out a certain matter which he had long planned to accomplish.

So, on the assurance of good behaviour, and also on the payment of a
substantial consideration, which was a windfall to the needy
schoolmaster, he had got Bennett to agree to the deception.
Schoolmasters were scarce, and it turned out that Bennett had the choice
of another situation on a Western run, so he took the money, and giving
out that he was going south, went west, under an assumed name. There was
very little risk in this for the schoolmaster, for in the Forties one
name was as good as another in the case of a large portion of the free
men of the Colony.




CHAPTER VI--WHEELS WITHIN WHEELS


Late on the following night, Salathiel was again sitting in the
school-house paddock, smoking in the bright moonlight, which seemed to
saturate every object of the now familiar landscape, when his quick ear
suddenly caught the sound of a horse's hoofs in the distance. Sound
travels strangely far on some of those valley roads, owing to a hollow,
or extended rock formation, below the subsoil.

Looking at his watch, Jack saw that it was near midnight. "Some belated
traveller on the Broadhaven main road," he thought. "A doctor, maybe?"
but he put up his pipe and pulled out a finely fashioned,
double-barrelled pistol from an inside pocket.

"How conscience makes cowards of us all!" he said, as he stepped out of
the school-house paddock upon the roadway, and put his ear to the
ground. He listened intently for several minutes, with surprise
amounting almost to consternation in his face. "A trooper's horse," he
whispered, "and he's turned off the main road, on to the track which
passes the school-house. Good thing I've got Fleetfoot handy and know
the lay of the back country; but it is impossible that I can have been
tracked down here. Absolutely impossible! I'm John Bennett, and the
whole Colony knows that Jack Salathiel is hiding somewhere in the
Northern Ranges. It's too soon to be the Lieutenant!"

He walked quickly over to the teacher's residence, and locking the door,
disappeared amid the deep Bush shadows which the slanting moonbeams made
darker by contrast.

For another ten minutes the sound of the tramping horse-hoofs drew
nearer, and then ceased. Several minutes of absolute silence followed.
Then, within a short distance of the school, the melancholy call of a
mopoke was heard, which was shortly answered by a similar cry from the
bush behind the schoolhouse.

The call was twice repeated, and almost directly afterwards a tall
stranger, leading a horse, took down the school paddock slip-rails, and
was met by Salathiel.

"You're earlier by a week than I expected!" was the bushranger's
greeting to a distinguished looking man in an undress military uniform.

"Yes, we must look sharp, for I must be off again within the hour. I
suppose I shall have to ride over again in about a fortnight...Well,"
said the new-comer, as he looked at the rough furniture of the room, and
laughed. "I got your letter. How are you getting on with your pupils?"

"Not started school yet," replied Jack, who seemed ill at ease as his
visitor seated himself. "Major Browne, of the Broadhaven estate,
presides at the school opening on Saturday. I suppose they have no
inkling in Sydney of my whereabouts?"

"You were a fool to flog McBurton," said the visitor, without replying
to Jack's question. "There was nothing in it. Could you not have come
down here quietly, without stirring up a hornets' nest like that?
Remember, if you're taken, I can't protect you. I run some risk of being
suspected as it is; but you were always a stiff-necked fellow over
matters of conscience, even when we were at school together. You're safe
enough here at present; but what you expected to gain by flogging
McBurton I can't think. You even paid for the drinks you had there, they
tell me."

"It served him right and it was a wholesome lesson to other brutes like
him," replied Jack.

"Oh, I don't dispute that; but there's nothing in it! If you had cleared
off with a couple of thousand, it might have been worth while. Mind,
however, that you don't make a mess of things down here. Captain Moore
was asking me something about you the other day, and made a suggestion,
which, I can tell you, I resented. I believe he knows that we have to
get your signature to the documents, for he offered me one of these
little toys, and asked me to fake up an appointment with you somewhere,
and blow your brains out!"

Jack picked up a small pocket revolver, which his visitor had placed on
the table, and examined it curiously; it had been newly invented, and
this was one of a small parcel which had recently reached Sydney.
"Pretty toy, isn't it?" said the visitor, "six chambers, and a death
warrant in each. The Captain carries one in his breeches pocket; I'll
see if I can't get you one later!"

"So Moore told you to blow my brains out while I was signing my name to
a document, did he?" said Jack.

"Yes, I ordered him out of the house, and told him to do his own
murders. Oh, he's a daisy! I was sorry afterwards that I crossed him,
for he sent around to your old father out of sheer spite, and made him
go up King Street and report himself at head-quarters as an ex-convict.
And, what do you think? your father had the carriage out, with coachman
and footman, and drove up in evening dress! Moore damned him to his
face, for what he called his impertinence. He'll be shot some day."

"He will so," said Salathiel bitterly, "unless I get hold of him first,
in which case he will be hanged."

"Ah well, hang him and welcome, if you get the chance. Men such as he in
office only make criminals, but don't complicate things by any fool's
tricks down here. My advice to you is to keep quiet and, as soon as
possible, get out of the country. But come, the night's passing, and I
must get a good few miles away from this before the moon goes down;
let's get to business."

There followed in low tones an earnest conversation between the two men,
in which Salathiel's sister was several times mentioned, and such words
as bank, police, government, and documents, might have frequently been
heard. The stranger seemed to be urging Salathiel to some course of
which the bushranger disapproved. However, Jack signed his name to a
paper; but strong language was used, more than once, by both men, and
the mysterious visitor even used veiled threats, which the bushranger
evidently resented.

It was more than an hour before the Lieutenant mounted his horse and
rode away; but the two men shook hands as they parted.

When Salathiel at last threw himself upon his bed to snatch a few hours'
sleep, a strange thing happened to him. It seemed to his excited brain
more like a vision than a dream. He was a youth again, and from a plain
in front of him there arose three green hills. One of them was crowned
with a great palace, and in its sumptuous halls was a throne of gold,
and on the throne a king of evil visage.

"I am lord of this world," he heard him say; "bow down and worship me,
and riches, and power, and honour shall be thine." He saw the vast hall
thronged with willing worshippers, and by many paths multitudes hastened
upwards, to render the dark visaged world-king homage; but he himself
passed by, and he felt thankful.

Around the central hill darkness had gathered, and when it was illumined
for a moment by a flash of lightning he saw upon the summit a cross, and
upon it hung a Man of countenance marred, but of strange, ineffable love
and sweetness. And on the storm-wind was borne a voice, which called his
name. He saw himself pause at the foot of the hill, as though
hesitating. It was but for a moment, however, and then, alas! he passed
on toward the third hill, with hurried stride.

On the summit of this was spread a garden of wondrous beauty and
loveliness, bathed in soft sunlight; and in the midst of its verdant
foliage, and brilliant flowers, and luscious fruits, was a fragrant
bower, where, in silken robes, there reclined a fair woman. He started,
for the beautiful face and eyes and wavy hair were familiar to him. Then
he saw himself, in the pride of early manhood, pass in and kneel before
her, and lo! he was garbed in convict dress, and he thought that he
shaped his lips to curse her; but as he did so, the vision faded.

Evidently more was meant than appeared on the surface, when the
schoolmaster, speaking of Salathiel, told the girls at Poddy Carey's how
the Evil One first lures, then leads, and last of all, drives.




CHAPTER VII--A SCHOOL FEAST IN THE FORTIES


There was not a farm for ten miles around the Bluff that was not astir
earlier than usual, on the Saturday following the arrival of the new
schoolmaster.

The school opening was to be made a great affair. Major Browne, who
owned the big estate at Broadhaven, was to preside. Tot Gardiner was
going to sing. Amos Gordon, the local preacher, and Mr. Bennett were to
be among the speakers. There was to be a great luncheon before the
meeting, and an impromptu dance and concert in the evening; and already,
on every side, Mr. Bennett was a much talked of man.

It had all been arranged by the Committee a week before; Bothered Shawn,
the shepherd fiddler, and Jack Haynes, with his flute, and Craig Dixon's
omnipresent concertina, had all been bespoken. It had even been
informally agreed that the night milking should be omitted for once, so
that young and old alike might fittingly commemorate the introduction of
school-teaching into the Broadhaven Valley.

The supply of food was prodigious. Every settler had baked something for
the school feast. Major Browne had killed a prime bullock, from which to
cut huge rounds of spiced beef. The Lords, not to be outdone, were
sending some prime hams, of Mrs. Lord's famous curing. Mrs. Carey, in
addition to bread and cakes, had sent half a keg of butter, and a big
cheese, which was a great rarity. And other well-to-do settlers,
catching the prevailing infection, had arranged to contribute
substantially in kind. Bread and potatoes, scones and cakes,
cape-gooseberries and wild strawberry tarts and pies were coming in from
all quarters. Judy Gardiner said that the flowers and fruit would be
immense.

Never had the district cattle such a time as that morning. They were
hurried up to the yards by excited boys and girls, at earliest dawn, for
branding and drafting, while the milk foamed into the buckets, as the
girls hurried through their work, to be free to give a helping hand with
the general preparations. Great hardwood logs had been cut for the fires
behind the school-house, on which the huge iron boilers were to be
placed, to boil the big floury potatoes and heat the water for the tea;
and a heap of firewood had been gathered, which would last the
schoolmaster for a month. People would certainly be there from all
quarters and long distances, on horseback, and by bullock dray, and on
foot, so that the Committee decided that they would be all the better
for a meal before the ceremony; then a high tea was to follow, and what
was left would make up a scratch supper for the dancers.

Jack Salathiel, or rather Mr. John Bennett, was fairly astounded when he
heard of the magnitude of these preparations and the general enthusiasm.
Young men and girls had, on the previous afternoon, taken possession of
his school-house; green boughs were dragged up for decorative purposes,
and deft fingers had made rosettes and paper-flowers. A stuffed kangaroo
and emu had been placed over the doorway, draped with flags lent by the
Major, and an extemporized flagstaff was set up in front of the
school-house, on which the Royal Standard, also kindly lent by the
Major, was to be unfurled.

The long shed for the horses was extended with a frame of saplings and
roofed in with tarpaulins. This was also transformed by greenery into a
capacious bower, where the food was to be served from several tables.

By noon, the first arrivals, mostly from a long distance, were on the
ground, each one with some good thing to augment the general store; and
when grace was said by Amos Gordon, at one o'clock precisely, there were
fully two hundred people, old and young, present to partake of the good
things provided.

Bothered Shawn and his fellow-musicians had been regaled beforehand, so
that they could discourse music to the company while they ate. "Never
saw such a splendacious spread, even in the old country," said Bothered
Shawn to Craig Dixon; and the latter, with half a big ham sandwich in
his mouth, cordially agreed.

The size of the gathering took every one by surprise, especially the
schoolmaster. Jack had no idea how so many people could possibly have
been got together in such a place; but Major Browne attributed it to the
effect of the recent bounty system of immigration, by which some
thousands of new-comers were every year being brought into the Colony.

The men not employed with the preparations sat about on fallen logs and
on the lower rail of the fence, gazing a trifle dazedly upon the
unaccustomed scene. In one corner an impromptu wrestling match was going
on among the youngsters. A great cluster of gaily-dressed girls had
gathered near the booth; while the schoolmaster, sprucely attired, with
a high collar and black stock, flowered waistcoat and dark coat and
trousers, moved to and fro among the visitors.

Betsy Carey had told her sister Alice that morning while they were
milking, that Mr. Bennett would, without doubt, be the handsomest and
best dressed man of the whole crowd, and her anticipations had proved
correct. It was plain that he was winning favour with the people, the
young folk especially; he had the softness and deliberateness of speech
which usually accompanies education, and had told a committee-man that
his people were of good family--presumably, of course, in England.

When the big bullock bell rang for luncheon, Jack was talking with Major
Browne under the flag, which, from the summit of a tall sapling,
fluttered languidly above the animated scene.

"You'll find the district a bit rough, Mr. Bennett," the Major was
saying, "but, bless me"--looking around on the people--"it's evidently
growing. There's a fine agricultural country here, and although there is
not much money in circulation, the settlers do well with their crops and
cattle. You'll find it a bit lonesome, perhaps, after school hours, but
I'll be glad to see you at the station occasionally, and there are some
good men on the committee and in the neighbourhood, and they'll look
after you, no doubt. I suppose you have drawn up a bit of a programme
for the ceremony. I'm not much of a speaker myself."

The programme arranged by the Committee and copied out in Jack's neat
handwriting was shown to the Major, who signified his approval, and they
passed in together to where luncheon awaited them.

Jack had treated himself to a partial shave, and allowed his dark curly
hair to grow to a length which seemed to him becoming in a
school-teacher. It would have been difficult for any ordinary observer,
even if he had casually met him before, to identify the spruce
schoolmaster with John Joseph Salathiel 18--No. B. 473. He had looked
most carefully over the assemblage, and keenly watched for every new
arrival, going up and cordially shaking him by the hand, as he
introduced himself; but he could recognize no one, and with a growing
sense of security, he threw off his reserve and joked with the girls,
and talked cattle and crops and horse-flesh to the men, and primary
education to the elders of both sexes, to the open admiration of the
School Committee. His great anxiety had been Major Browne; but he found
to his intense satisfaction that this gentleman had only once been
through Maitland, and then some time before his assignment to Eurimbla.
He was a kind and intelligent man; and as one of the few employers of
convict servants in the district and the largest local landowner, was
looked up to and treated with great deference and respect. It was
regarded by the Committee as a triumph when he consented to preside over
the school opening, and they were delighted when they heard before the
meeting that, in conversation with Mr. Gordon, he had expressed a
dignified approval of their selection of Mr. John Bennett as
schoolmaster.

It was an hour and a half before the feasting was over and the people
had settled themselves in and around the school-house for the inaugural
ceremony. The building was lofty and fairly capacious, and had been
built of sawn slabs, on the model of one of the settlers' big barns. It
contained only one glass window (at the southern end), below which the
teacher's desk had been erected on a small platform. A corresponding
opening (but larger) with a shutter faced the north, with the doorway
and two openings on the west, while three similarly shuttered open
squares let in light from the east. The building was roofed with hard
wood shingles, and was surrounded on all four sides by a broad veranda,
roofed with the same material. On the beaten earth floor, strong forms
without backs were arranged on either side, leaving a broad aisle up the
centre.

A few wooden chairs, which were placed in front, had been borrowed to
accommodate the performers and singers and some of the better class
visitors. But, in the excitement of the hour, these, to the dismay of
the Committee, had been occupied by some way-back mothers and their
children, who had hastened over dinner in order to secure good seats. It
could not be helped, for the place was now full, and more room had to be
made on and around the platform. A crowd of men and boys stood at the
back, and clusters of others occupied the open window spaces.

Major Browne was evidently nervous as he gazed around through his gold
eye glasses upon the company; but good temper was written upon all
faces, and it was plain that the people intended to enjoy themselves,
without undue criticism of the performance.

The schoolmaster had been placed on the right hand of the chairman, and
the secretary of the School Committee, Mr. Silas Stump, on the left,
while around them were seated other members of the Committee with Amos
Gordon, the local preacher, whose fine, genial old countenance was known
and revered for many a mile around the coastal districts. He had been
cracking some joke with a committeeman; and it was pleasant to hear the
old man laugh and see him rub his hands together appreciatively.

"Old Preacher Gordon will make a funny speech," whispered Tot Gardiner
to Betsy Carey, "you see if he doesn't; he ate a great dinner and drank
half a bucket of tea; he's feeling in great form, you bet!"

Betsy nudged her to keep quiet, for an awkward silence had come over the
place; the chairman seemed to be waiting for something. Just then
Bothered Shawn put a finishing touch to the tuning of his fiddle, to the
frantic amusement of some cornstalks standing in the rear.

Silas Stump now whispered something to the chairman, and Major Browne
immediately rose. A few of the Committee clapped their hands; but the
audience generally were new to the business and waited for the speaker
to proceed.

"Neighbours and friends," the Major began, "I am pleased to meet you all
and to preside at the inauguration of the first school opened in the
district. This large gathering is one of the best proofs of the want of
a school such as is about to be established. I congratulate you on the
pleasant surroundings of this auspicious occasion. We have a fine day,
abundant provision made for the inner man, and good appetites to enjoy
it. The School Committee, by whose laudable exertions and your generous
cooperation this spacious school-house has been put up, are to be
congratulated." (At this there was a burst of cheering.) "They deserve
well of the Broadhaven district." (Renewed cheering.)

"I am glad also to meet with your new schoolmaster, Mr. John Bennett,
who is apparently well fitted to discharge the important duties which
will devolve upon him." (The cheering at this was louder than before.)
"I ask you to assist him in his work by sending your children punctually
and regularly to school, upholding his authority and discipline, and
showing yourselves interested in the children's studies."

"Hear, hear!" cried Bob Blake, who had better have kept quiet, for he
had a most unruly crowd of youngsters.

"Mr. Bennett will address you later on, upon the importance of
education, so I need not dwell upon that. We have had the addition of a
number of new settlers lately; we wish to see the children growing up
with an intelligent knowledge of reading, writing, and arithmetic, for
which they will be the better in every way. The sight of the large
number of young people and children here to-day is an astonishment to
me. There is evidently work here for the schoolmaster. I congratulate
you on your choice, and now formally declare this school-house open for
the purposes of instruction. I shall be pleased to give five guineas to
the school funds, for prizes and so forth each year."

The Major sat down, wiping his perspiring face with a large silk
handkerchief, and a committee-man, leading off the applause, audibly
declared that the chairman had done famously.

"Mr. Shawn will now favour us with a violin solo," said the chairman. At
this moment a clatter of horses' hoofs was heard outside, and some of
the veranda onlookers suddenly vacated the windows. Salathiel started
slightly and turned pale. "Supposing that he should be arrested by the
police in the midst of such a scene as this," he thought. But he would
sell his life dearly, and he felt for the small double-barrelled pistol
which he always carried loaded in a side-pocket.

There was no cause for apprehension, however, for the commotion was only
made by some late arrivals; and Bothered Shawn rendered a familiar air,
with variations, accompanied by a flute.

Mr. Silas Stump was now called upon to speak on behalf of the Committee.

"Major Browne, friends and narbours," he commenced.

"Cut it short, Stumpy," called out a red-headed youngster from the back
row.

Silas made a long pause, and glared threateningly at the youth, but
wisely refrained from further notice of the interruption. He knew that
for various reasons he was not popular with a section of the audience;
but he mentally resolved that the couple of long canes he had provided
for the use of the schoolmaster would, by some means or other, make the
acquaintance of Mick Cassidy's person at a very early date.

He commenced again, speaking less correctly in his perturbed condition.
"Mister Cheerman, friens and narbours, the Committee of this ere school
don me the honour of appointing me their secretary."

"'Ear, 'ear!" called out a committee-man as Silas paused, and looked
around upon the smiling audience with a bewildered stare.

"Hitch up yer team, mon, and make a start," called out a gruff, but
good-natured voice from one of the windows. There was general laughter
at this sally.

"Oh, dash it, these 'ere interruptions 'ev put out o' me 'ed what I had
to say!"

"Order please, order!" called out the Major looking sternly toward the
ceiling at the end of the building.

Silas Stump was a squat, fussy, boastful little man, who could talk
glibly enough about old times and of his powers of speech, and how he
had carried off the laurels at political meetings before coming to the
Colony. He had confidentially informed the Committee that he intended to
make a great oration at the school opening, and they had, one and all,
relied upon him; but at the critical moment his wits went woolgathering.
He was completely floored, for after twice repeating his former
observation about having been appointed secretary, he sat down in
confusion.

The Major rose with dignity, and made matters worse by apologizing for
the secretary's embarrassment, saying that Mr. Stump was, no doubt,
unused to public speaking.

Miss Tot Gardiner was now called upon for a song, which proved to be the
vocal success of the day and was enthusiastically encored. She gave a
Scotch melody for her first number, and 'Molly Darling' as an encore;
and complete harmony and good feeling were re-established when the
chairman called upon Mr. Amos Gordon to say a few words.

The sight of Gordon's tall, venerable form rearing itself upon the
platform was the signal for general and hearty applause. He had been
known for years in the Broadhaven district for his good deeds and kindly
disposition. He had nursed Tom Robertson through the crisis of an
infectious fever and saved Mrs. Daniell's baby boy when dying with
croup. He was about the only man on the country-side whom Tot Gardiner
had a good word for, although he had once given her the roughest quarter
of an hour's talking to she ever had in her life. When it was known that
the old man had met with an accident and was missing in the big scrub,
the whole male population had turned out in quest of him. They called
him 'Old Father Gordon'; but whether he was Episcopalian, or
Presbyterian, or Methodist, no one seemed to know or care. In the hearts
of hundreds, the old man had rescued the very name of religion from
reproach and contempt. He was the dispenser of charity in its broadest
sense, and usually set out upon his itinerant wanderings with a little
hoard of holey dollars and dumps* in his swag, to be given away
discreetly in his journey. There was nothing straitlaced about him; he
would drink a pannikin of tea with a stockman, while he read a verse
from his Bible--and ere he left him with a benediction, would, likely
enough, get him down upon his knees while he prayed.

(*Through scarcity of small change in the Colony, the silver dollar had
a round piece stamped out of it; it was then called a "holey dollar,"
and the piece taken out of it a "dump.")

He was a white man every inch of him, and as simple and kind-hearted as
a child. He stood for a full minute smiling around on his expectant
audience, most of whom he knew by their most familiar names.

"It's a great day for yer, my friends," he commenced, and there were
tears in the old man's eyes as he looked around with kindly sympathy.
"The rich and the poor have met together," and he looked first at the
Major, and then over at Widow McCarthy, whose little holding had been
ploughed and sown, with neighbourly assistance, when her drunken husband
died a year before, leaving her and the children nearly destitute. "And
ye've all come together good-heartedly to give the school for the
children a start. I've eaten some of the Major's beef and Andy
Flannigan's pertaters, and drunk of Mrs. Carey's brew of tea, and I'm
proud of ye, friends; for the young ones ought not to grow up in
ignorance, and ye've done well to build your school-house and get a
teacher. I hope ye'll find him a good sort of a man, a man of learning
and discretion, and a man after God's own heart, among you. Yer can't do
without salt with yer food, friends; and what you want in the Broadhaven
district is a bit of the salt of education, and the love and fear of the
good God. And good salt well rubbed in makes prime bacon. Yer jewels, me
friends, and so are the children; but least ye should think I'm for
flattering ye, let me tell ye, yer only jewels in the rough. Ye heard my
young friend, Tot Gardiner, sing just now----"

At this Tot's rosy cheeks blushed a deeper hue, as all eyes turned upon
her with smiling approval.

"She's a gran' singer is my young friend, but she's been taught a bit,
and if she were taught more, she'd have a voice a queen might envy. I
hear some of ye don't set much store by education; but it's a gran'
thing when you know about it. Them big floury pertaters we've been
eating were educated pertaters, and so was the beef, and the ham, and
the cakes and tarts. Now ye're laughing at an old man; but I'll make it
plain to ye.

"Take a bit of a bush flower which you call a weed. It's naturally
small, and pale, and insignificant, and hasn't much smell; but dig a
loamy bit of ground for it, transplant it, prune and train it, manure
and water it, and you develop it, so that you would not know it for the
same; it becomes larger in growth, richer in colour, more fragrant in
odour, and you have a beautiful garden flower.

"You kick a peeble on the road-side, and pick it up and look at it;
there's nothing about it that's fine or sparkling; but grind off the
dull outer crust, place it in the hands of a man who knows how to rid it
of its rough rind, and develop its God-given beauty, and you have a
flashing jewel, to sparkle in the diadem of a king.

"And listen to me, children, get all you can out of your school and your
schoolmaster. It won't always be easy perhaps, but a bit of learning
will make you better men and bonnier women. When you are married you
won't have to make a cross against your names, and you will be able to
read good books, and write letters to your friends, and make a proper
reckoning of what you earn on your farms. The man that knows is always
master of the man that doesn't; and you won't have to gad through the
world ashamed of your ignorance, but will be able to hold your heads
erect as the good Lord intended us to. God bless you all, my friends,
and your schoolmaster; and don't yer lift your heads too high when ye
come to know a bit of learning; and boys and girls, don't look down upon
your parents when you can read and write, because, maybe, they can't.
They have done a good and gracious thing for your welfare in
establishing this school. It's a good word in the Old Book which says:
'Honour thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long in the land
which the Lord thy God giveth thee.'"

More singing followed, and then the chairman said: "Mr. John Bennett,
the new schoolmaster, will now address you."

Jack had been sitting in a chair, behind the previous speaker, with his
face buried in his hands. Old Gordon's speech had simply broken him up,
and when at last he arose, after a prolonged burst of applause had
subsided, he was evidently ill at ease. His easy air of
self-satisfaction and confidence in his own powers had vanished; he
mumbled out a few words of thanks, promising to do his best while he
stayed with them, and then abruptly sat down, and again hid his face in
his hands.

It was a surprise to every one, and simply staggered the Committee.
There was much whispering among the people. A committee-man went over
and asked him if he was feeling well, and old Gordon put his hand kindly
upon his shoulder, and said: "Never mind, schoolmaster, a man may teach
school well without being a ready public speaker. You would have done
better to have written down and read what you had to say."

All pitied him, for he had lost a spendid chance of making a good
impression upon the community; but no one guessed that it was his heart
that had failed him, and not his head, nor his tongue.

Soon afterwards began the games and dancing on the grass in the
school-house paddock. Jack stifled his feelings and soon became himself
again. The women said if he could only speak as well as he could dance,
he would do well enough. But, after tea, he did much to restore himself
to general public favour, for in a witty little speech, he apologized
for having allowed his feelings to overcome him earlier in the day, and
borrowing the flute from Jack Haynes, he offered to give them a solo on
that instrument. He was a flautist of no common order, and as he played,
they all forgave him for what beforehand some of them had called his
spoiling of the opening of the school.

Said Mrs. Carey to her husband afterward: "Whatever could have upset him
so at the meeting?" Poddy did not answer her, except with a shrug of his
big shoulders; but he thought to himself: "He's got some bad thing
hidden away somewhere in his life. I wonder if he was once a convict!"




CHAPTER VIII--A CURIOUS STUDY FOR A PHILOSOPHER


The school had been opened a week, and Salathiel had so far succeeded,
in his role of school teacher, as to have won favourable opinions from
both parents and School Committee.

There had been difficulty, at first, in getting the younger children to
attend, for they were a shy hoddy-doddy crowd, and so unused to
strangers that, rough and boisterous as most of them were at home, they
were as wild and frightened as newly captured brumbies* in the presence
of a stranger.

(*The wild horse of Australia)

Jack, however, set himself to master the novel situation. There would be
no flogging in the school, he announced, except in cases of absolute
defiance, and then he would not be answerable for what he might do. He
made this statement with a smiling face and in a tone of masterful
self-confidence, which, in view of his height and strength of limb, was
listened to respectfully, even by Bob Carey and Mick Cassidy. Silas
Stump had seen to the furnishing of instruments of punishment for the
schoolmaster's use, but Jack tied them together with the lash of a
stockwhip, and hung them on a nail over his teacher's platform, out of
reach of any adventurous scholars.

They were there, however; but Jack determined, so far as he was
concerned, that there they should remain. For the time being, his whole
mind seemed bent only on winning the respect and affection of these
girls and boys, and he made his plans and marshalled his forces as
carefully as he would have done had he been preparing a raid upon a
wealthy station, or the robbery of a mail coach. The love of praise and
esteem of others was strong in him, and he craved for the kind regard of
the motley crowd which now confronted him every day.

He borrowed an old flute from a settler, and after putting it in repair,
taught the children to sing 'Home, Sweet Home' and other popular
melodies. Occasionally, when attention flagged, he would take his
scholars out into the school paddock and drill them, or charm them with
a solo on the flute, or a pleasant talk about the habits of the Bush
animals with which they were familiar.

He divided his scholars into four grades to start with: the boys under
fifteen and those above that age, and the girls under fourteen and those
older, and he found that the latter was the largest class in the school.
Betsy Carey, after some persuasion, was made school-monitor and put over
the younger class of boys, while Tot Gardiner was put in charge of the
younger girls. He examined them as to their proficiency in the three
R's, and set Kitty Conroy to teach the most backward pupils their ABC
under an outside veranda.

On the whole, things were going well, and Jack began to congratulate
himself upon having surmounted his first difficulties, when one day the
aspect of affairs was suddenly altered. There was an old feud between
the Lords and the Careys, arising in the first instance about some land.
The Lords had no dealings with the Careys. Mercy Lord, a delicate girl
of about fourteen, was found by Jack to be his best scholar; and it was
perhaps impossible for him not to show some preference. She had been
well trained and taught by her mother, and possessed intelligence above
the average, so he would occasionally call her to the front, for the
edification of the other scholars. The elder girls and boys, of course,
took sides for and against the Lords and Careys; and Betsy Carey and Tot
and Judy Gardiner were ringleaders in sundry acts of petty persecution
against the child. This went on at first without Jack's knowledge, but
one morning, when he found her crying over an ink-besmeared copy-book,
his eyes were opened; and after school he heard from Mercy's reluctant
lips a story of ill-treatment by some of the older girls, which
decidedly disturbed his mind. Mercy had to pass the Gardiners' stockyard
on her way home on her pony; and that afternoon she was pelted with mud
from the enclosure as she went by.

Salathiel rode to Silas Stump's that evening, and had a long talk with
him. Major Browne was having a cedar table made for the teacher, and
four desks for the more advanced scholars to write their copies upon. It
gave Jack the opportunity he wanted to find out something more about the
antecedents of the Lords and Careys, and the quarrel between the two
families.

"They hate each other like pisen, barring Mrs. Carey, an' I don't think
it's in her to hate any critter," said Silas. He then enlarged, from his
own standpoint, upon the old misunderstanding, which, originating over
land, had developed in connection with the branding of some calves, and
had rankled, with growing bitterness, up to the time of the building of
the school-house. Robert Lord had refused to act on the committee,
because Poddy Carey was nominated; and they could not do without the
latter, for several reasons, not the least of which was Mrs. Carey, who,
as the wife of a committee-man, was in herself a host.

Jack cautiously told Silas how the unpleasantness between the two
families was affecting his schoolwork; but soon found out that the
secretary was on the side of the Careys.

"You've been a-showing off that girl Mercy a bit too much,
schoolmaster," he said bluntly. "If I were you I'd 'come it' on the boys
with one of those canes to-morrow morning, and if Tot Gardiner smears
copy-books, and throws mud at girls younger than herself, I'd hang a
green hide calf-skin round her neck and make her stand out, and shame
her before all the school. I'll lend you one, mister, to take over with
you; it's a bit strong, but that'll make it all the better for
punishment."

Jack smoked away in silence; he did not like the advice at all, and yet
he knew well that, by some means, the discipline of the school would
have to be maintained. He had not heard before about the pelting of
Mercy. But he knew that both Tot and Judy Gardiner would be rough
material to handle, and he was concerned, too, as to how far Betsy might
be implicated. This thought involved him in deeper perplexity; he could
not help having a kindly feeling for Betsy; he had consulted her, as his
first acquaintance and most intelligent coworker, about the general
management of the school. He could not imagine her as an actual
conspirator against his peace of mind and success as a teacher. She
almost always brought a bunch of freshly gathered flowers for the school
table. So far, she had not once been absent, nor even late, and he
regarded her as his chief lieutenant in the school management. He could
not afford to lose her support and good will, and yet his whole nature
rebelled against the jealous spite of the big girls against Mercy.

He carried the green calf-skin back with him, however, and determined to
begin school on the following morning with a serious talk to the whole
of the scholars. He might even make use of the calf-skin to punish some
of the younger girls; but he would sooner go away and return at once to
his old wild, lawless life than lift his hand to flog the children.

"Curse it all!" he ejaculated bitterly. "And I was getting along so
well; but I can't flog them!"

Salathiel's mind as he rode homeward would have presented a curious
ethical study for a philosopher. Here was a man, who had done violence
to the law of the land, moralizing over school discipline, and
hesitating to enforce the law of his school, because he had beforetime
been flogged unjustly when a convict. He would have thought little of
felling one of his gang with a blow, or even shooting him for the safety
of the rest; but amid those girls and boys, who looked up to him as
something far better and worthier than he knew himself to be, he was a
coward at heart.

Nor was he sure yet of his feelings in regard to Betsy Carey. He had no
place in his heart now--at least, so he told himself--for any woman's
love; but----and that 'but' was a very awkward thing just then for Jack
to deal with. There were so many big 'buts' about his life and
surroundings. He would sometimes, it is true, almost forget the old dead
past amid his present more wholesome environment. If only he could drag
the hateful years up by the roots, and cast them out of his life for
ever, he would gladly have done so; but he could not. He started now at
unusual sounds in the Bush. In school, his heart would beat fast
sometimes, although there was not a trooper within miles of him, and
bushrangers in the Broadhaven district were only as legends of a far-off
land. He still took every precaution for his easy escape and personal
safety. Under his coat he always carried loaded fire-arms, and Fleetfoot
was never very far away.




CHAPTER IX--TOT GARDINER HITS BACK


When Jack called the roll on the following morning there was a large
muster of scholars. The attendance was undoubtedly improving, the only
notable and unexplained absence being that of Mercy Lord. The
schoolmaster, however, made no comment, but quietly read out, off the
black-board, the school-song, and took his flute to lead the singing.

Just then the school-house door was pushed open, and with a flushed face
and excited demeanour, Mercy Lord entered, accompanied by her mother.

Mrs. Robert Lord was a ladylike woman, of easy, independent carriage;
but when excited, she had a shrill, voluble tongue. It was plain that
she had come upon an unpleasant errand, and meant to have her say about
it to the schoolmaster, probably in the presence of the scholars.

"Betsy, hand Mrs. Lord a chair," said Jack, without giving the lady time
to speak.

Betsy frowned, and, with the greatest deliberation, did as she was told.

"Kindly take a seat, Mrs. Lord," said the teacher, "until we have sung
the school opening song."

Mrs. Lord hesitated; she had not come there for either entertainment or
instruction, she thought, but for the exaction of condign punishment
upon those who had disturbed the peace of her family. Jack, however,
softly ran over the air of the song on his flute; so she sat down, Mercy
standing by her side.

The song happened to be an old one, which the scholars had practised
frequently, and it was sung with melodious heartiness. It was as
follows:

     "What were life without some one to cheer us
     With a word or a smile on our way,
     A friend who is faithfully near us,
     And heeds not what others may say?
     The bravest of spirits have often
     Half failed in the race that they ran
     For a kind word life's hardships to soften.
     Then say a kind word when you can."

The chorus, which was rendered fortissimo, ran as follows:

     "Then say a kind word when you can,
     Oh! say a kind word when you can,
     For a kind word life's hardships may soften,
     Then say a kind word when you can, when you can."

Jack looked over his flute at Mrs. Lord and Mercy, wondering what would
be the next development and fervently hoping that she would have time to
cool down, and would not make a scene before the children, when a couple
of childish voices repeated:

     "When you can, when you can."

Some of the bigger girls laughed at this, and it seemed as though the
whole school intuitively knew that Mrs. Lord's presence boded no good to
some one.

The next verse followed more softly, but with deeper significance:

     "Each one of us owns to some failing,
     Though some may have more than the rest,
     But there's no good in needlessly railing
     'Gainst those who are striving their best!
     Remember a word spoke complaining
     May blight every effort and plan,
     Which a kind word would help in attaining,
     Then say a kind word when you can."

Again the chorus rolled out in shrill vehemence, and the childish voices
echoed a second time to the closing refrain:

     "When you can, when you can."

Jack still took observations over his flute, and thought he saw Mrs.
Lord brush something out of the corner of her eye with her handkerchief,
when she used that useful article avowedly for another purpose. The last
verse followed:

     "Oh, say a kind word then whenever
     'Twill make the heart cheerful and glad,
     But chiefly, forget it, oh never,
     To the one that is hopeless and sad;
     For there's no word so easy in saying,
     So begin, if you never began,
     And do not in life be delaying,
     To say a kind word when you can."

When the chorus had died away, Mrs. Lord sat quietly in her chair,
waiting for the schoolmaster to come and speak to her. The song had
evidently soothed the lady's feelings, if it had done nothing more.

"I intended to say a few words to the whole school," said Jack, struck
by a sudden inspiration as he laid aside his flute, "and although Mrs.
Lord is evidently here in reference to the matter, I think it will be
just as well for me to speak to you as I intended whether any personal
complaint was made to me or not. I have occasionally called my little
friend Mercy Lord up before the school, and commended her work, and
endeavoured to use her quickness of apprehension to help you to
understand better what I had to teach you. In doing this, I only
regarded the good of you all and did not think for a moment that it
would cause any ill will towards Mercy, or jealousy on the part of any
one. But, I regret to say, some of you have misunderstood me, and
thought that I was unduly favouring Mercy. Now I am here not to make
favourites of any of you, but to teach you your lessons and do my best
to make you learn them. I am deeply grieved to find, on account of this,
some of you have been jealous. Possibly you don't know, but jealousy is
a very poor and contemptible thing for one person to harbour against
another. But when it takes the form of petty, spiteful acts, such as the
smearing of a neat copy-book with ink and the tearing of leaves out of
lesson-books, it is still more contemptible and wicked, and for the sake
of the school discipline must be punished. I am not going to ask now who
did it----"

"Please, Mr. Bennett, it was Tot Gardiner," piped out a juvenile voice.

For a moment there was dead silence. An awful silence!

"Yes," called out Tot in a passion. "I smeared the copy-book, but I'll
punch Mick Bromley's head and give him a real lamming when school is
over, for all that."

"And throw mud at 'im, as yer did at Mercy as she went by yer stockyard
yesterday afternoon," yelled out a big cornstalk, who was an ardent
supporter of the Lords and an admirer of Mercy.

It was Mick Cassidy. Tot turned round upon him with flashing eyes, and
throwing a lesson-book she held in her hand, struck him smartly across
the face: "You----sneak, take that!"

In a moment the whole school was in an uproar, and half the children
rose to their feet.

"Sit down, all of you!" thundered Jack above the din.

"Tot Gardiner, go to the back form and sit down there at once."

"I shan't," cried out Tot, "and don't you try to make me, Mr. Bennett;
what does that old frump want, coming here upsetting the school?"

She pointed her finger at Mrs. Lord, who sat frowning and trembling with
excitement.

"Sit down, Tot," called out Jack, his face blazing with passion. "I'll
thrash the first who dares to say another word."

"Then you'll have to thrash me," yelled out Bob Carey, pulling off his
coat as he spoke, and doubling his fists in a fighting attitude, as he
ranged himself in front of Tot Gardiner.

"Yer big fool, you!" ejaculated Tot, hitting him no gentle cuff on the
side of his head.

Bob Carey was eighteen and, if anything, a trifle taller than the school
teacher; he was broadly built, and those who had fought with him said
that he was as hard as nails; but Jack's blood was up, and springing
from his platform, he caught Bob by the neck, and dragging him by main
force out upon the floor, stood him in front of his desk. Bob's
surprise, and the nearness of the schoolmaster's person, for the moment
prevented him from using his fists. But, with a great effort, he shook
the teacher off him, and lifted his closed fist to strike.

What might have happened it is hard to say; the girls screamed and the
younger boys bellowed out incoherently, when Betsy leaped over the desk
in front of her and threw herself between her infuriated brother and the
teacher.

"Go outside and cool yourself, you hot-headed booby," she ejaculated.
"Give the stupid boy his coat," she shouted to Tot Gardiner, who picked
it up and hurled it over the heads of the children at him.

"Get out of this, or I'll tell your father and he can thrash you, you
great fool. Do you think Mr. Bennett will teach you another thing after
this? And you can't spell calf, or write a thing, you big, blustering
ignoramus."

Bob cooled down in a moment, and looked sheepishly at his sister.

"Get out of the school, get out of the school," she cried, pointing to
the door. "Do you think I'm going to have a brother of mine insulting
and fighting with the schoolmaster? Go home and tell mother what a gawk
you've made of yourself."

"He's not going to thrash Tot," said Bob sullenly, shuffling off in the
direction of the door.

"You great booby," was all the reply the indignant girl vouchsafed him
as he slung himself out.

All this had occupied less time than it takes to relate, and the
scholars, big and little, cowed and frightened by such tremendous and
unlooked for developments, had betaken themselves again to their seats.

Jack stood opposite Betsy on the school-house floor, seemingly for the
moment as much bewildered as the rest at the unexpected turn of things.
He could not imagine what to say or do; but Betsy, with a woman's quick
intuition, rose to the occasion.

"May I speak a word to the school, Mr. Bennett?" she exclaimed.

Jack bowed his head, at a loss to know what to say, and Betsy Carey took
the bull by the horns.

"Girls and boys," she said, "Mr. Bennett has made me monitor, and I'll
own up to it it's a pretty bad monitor I've been. The scene in this
schoolhouse to-day is a disgrace to us, and to our fathers and mothers,
and the whole district. We couldn't have a better or kinder teacher than
Mr. Bennett, or one that would try to get us on more and teach us
something, and we owe him the biggest possible apology. I'm sure that
Tot Gardiner is just as sorry as I am, and so will my brother be as soon
as I get home and tell his father about his carryings on this morning. I
expect that he will be expelled from the school, for squaring up at the
master; and serve him right too, although he is my brother. If Mr.
Bennett had been like some schoolmasters I've heard about, he'd have
caned Mick Cassidy and a dozen more of you long before this, and put the
fear of death into you, and the School Committee would have backed him
up in it; make no mistake about that! I should apologize too to Mrs.
Lord for this morning's business, and I hope she will go away and think
no more about it, and we'll see that Mercy is not interfered with any
more. I can't think what devil of mischief has got into the school; I
feel that ashamed that I don't know what to say. We are such a lot of
ignorant, half-trained youngsters, that I hope Mr. Bennett will overlook
the matter and go on teaching us until we learn better how to behave
ourselves."

Betsy had been half crying the whole of the time, and at this she broke
down completely and went outside to hide her tears.

Never in his life had Salathiel passed through such an ordeal as this.
He stood up before the now awed and frightened children, and simply
said: "I am much obliged to Miss Carey. I can't teach school any more
to-day, I will speak about it to the School Committee this afternoon.
You can all go home."

Never did a school break up so quietly. One by one, big and little, the
boys and girls left for their homes, Mrs. Lord and Mercy with them. Jack
followed abstractedly to the school-house door as the last departed and
there found Betsy, with the bridle of her pony over her arm.

"Mr. Bennett," she said, "I am so awfully sorry. I hope you will forgive
us all--and we were getting to like you so much!"

Then, suddenly, the impetuous girl sprang upon Loiterer and cantered
off, and Jack found himself alone.

He pulled to the door of the now deserted school-house, and looked down
the hill after the last of his scholars and Betsy, and then went into
his shanty.

"That girl's a brick," he muttered to himself, "but it's plain that I
can't manage the school."

He felt terribly depressed and downhearted. "It's like my luck," he said
bitterly. "I suppose some other untoward thing will come out of this."

* * * * * * * *

As Betsy rode home she fell in with a strange man, seemingly a swagman,
sitting smoking on a wayside log; she did not quite like the look of
him, but he stood up to speak to her as she rode by.

"Can you please tell me which is the way to the school-house?" he asked.

Betsy started, and stared at him for a moment bewildered. She had not
quite recovered from her recent agitation.

"Is it Mr. Bennett, the school-teacher, you want?" she asked quickly.

"I believe that's the gentleman," said the man.

While Betsy gave the necessary directions she took careful note of a
number of things about the man, which had he known, might not have
pleased him.

"Short, fair man, queer grey eyes, wears little earrings, wrists
tattooed; may have been a sailor once. Carries pistols and rides a
horse. His saddle and bridle were behind the tree, horse at the back,
feeding no doubt near the blind creek. No relation of Mr. Bennett, I'm
sure, not at all alike; I wonder what he wants with him!"

Not long afterwards, as Jack sat drinking a cup of tea, he heard some
one coming across the school ground.

He rose up to see who the new-comer might be, and stood in the doorway.

"Good day, captain."

Jack was not at all surprised; it was just about what he had expected
would happen. 'It never rains, but it pours.'

"Good day, Dan; come in and have a drink of tea and something to eat;
the billy is just boiling."

He knew what Dan's errand was. He had been sent by the gang to bring him
back, and he could not have come at a better time for the success of his
mission.




CHAPTER X--MR. FLANNIGAN, OF THE WOLLOMBI


"Chaps all right, Dan?" asked Jack, as they entered the shanty.

"Right as rain, captain, only a bit rusty for want of work."

"Well, drink some tea and eat something, and then we'll have a glass of
grog and a smoke, and you can tell me the news. Riding Old Shiner, I
see; looks as fit as a fiddle too--take off your saddle and swag, and
I'll put him up in a handy paddock I have here, with Fleetfoot, while
you get your feed. If any one happens to call in, say Mr. Bennett will
be back in a few minutes. You know I am the schoolteacher here at
present. Don't forget the name--Bennett."

Jack lit his pipe and sauntered off, with Old Shiner's rein over his
arm; he wanted to think about this new turn of affairs before talking
matters over with Dan Morley. He had made up his mind to one thing,
whatever else might happen. He would meet the School Committee, put
things straight with the scholars, have some friendly understanding with
Betsy and the others, and then----

"Ah, and then," he said aloud, "and then probably the gallows! My God,
no! I'll put a bullet through my head first. I wonder whether Dan has
any news of the old man and my mother and Ruth. Good Lord, isn't life in
this accursed country, with its brutal officialism, a detestable thing.
Why could I not go on teaching school here, like an honest man?"

Jack had reached the paddock by this, and as he took down the slip-rails
Old Shiner recognized Fleetfoot as a mate, and whinnied to him. He
slipped off the bridle from the horse, which at once trotted over to
Fleetfoot, who whinnied a welcome, and the two began to crop the grass
together, side by side.

Jack put up the rails, and leaning on the top one, smoked his pipe out,
still looking at the two animals. Old Shiner was out of an important
sire on Major Glen's run. Dan Morley said he had bought him, fair and
square, from a dealer. "He might have done so," thought Jack, "for if he
is not very prepossessing in his looks, Dan is not a bad fellow at
heart. I wish they had sent one of the other chaps; Dan's a sticker, and
won't leave this settlement without me. He'll have to clear out for a
bit, however; I can't have him hanging about the school-house. It may
take me a week to get things straightened up."

Jack thought over a dozen things which he might do. He had managed to
cover his tracks very cleverly in coming down to the Broadhaven Valley;
why not send Dan back with a recommendation to the gang to make him
their captain, and stay on himself as school-teacher? He could take Dan
into his confidence, tell him that he was sick of an outlaw's life, and
get him to tell the chaps that Jack Salathiel was dead, and advise them
to disband. He would give up his share to them, and there would be a
very fair amount to divide.

He looked at his watch and then up at the sun; it was mid-day, and the
watch was old Squatter Downing's, of Musselbrook.

"Beggar the thing! what's the good of a curse like me trying to be an
honest man? Fancy Jack Salathiel, ex-convict and one time bushranger,
settling down to teach children sums, and writing, and reading,
and--morality. I don't suppose Dan or any of the chaps would 'come it on
me' down here; but there's the past to reckon with; it would be bound to
crop up some time. 'Whatsoever a man sows that shall he also reap,' eh,
Jack Salathiel?"

He turned at this and walked slowly back to the school-house. As he
neared the teacher's dwelling, however, he heard voices. Some one was
talking to Dan Morley. There was no mistaking the voice. It was Amos
Gordon.

Jack paused to collect himself. They were evidently standing in front of
the house under the veranda.

"You're a stranger in these parts, my son," he heard the old man say,
"and if you are a friend of John Bennett's, let me tell you he is very
much respected among the good people here."

Jack heard Dan reply that he was a bit of an acquaintance of the
schoolmaster's; dropped in, casually like, to see him. He was on the
look out for a bit of country to settle on. Dan's quick ear had heard
Jack approaching, and he said this to give him a cue.

"Good day, Mr. Gordon," said Jack cordially, "glad to see you; hang up
your horse and come in and have a drink of tea and a bite of something."

The schoolmaster and local preacher shook hands. "Your friend here,"
said old Amos, waiting for an introduction.

"Ah, just an acquaintance from Sydney side," stammered Jack.

"Mister--Flannigan, late of the Wollombi district," said Dan without a
moment's hesitation.

"Glad to meet you, Mr. Flannigan. I've heard of the Wollombi, but never
travelled as far; don't suppose I ever shall now. I'm getting to be an
old man and have quite enough to do to keep old friendships in good
repair."

Jack busied himself in straightening up the food on the rough table, and
brewing a fresh billy of tea, while the two men sat down together and
talked about the weather and the country. He earnestly hoped that Dan
would have the good sense to clear off for a bit.

"I heard down at Polly McCarthy's that there had been a bit of a rumpus
in the school this morning, so, as I was in the district, I thought I
would ride up and talk the matter over with you."

Jack hesitated to reply. The presence of Dan embarrassed him; but Dan
had just poured himself out another pannikin of tea and showed no sign
of moving. The fact was that he thought it a good opportunity to hear
something about the captain's career as a school-teacher, and he
chuckled to himself as he thought of the roars of laughter the captain's
clever impersonation would evoke among the fellows in the camp. It never
occurred to Dan that Salathiel had taken the matter so seriously to
heart, and he listened with the keenest interest to hear what had been
going on all these weeks at the school.

"I thought that girl had been crying a bit, or something; nice girl too,
and she was so interested in me when she knew who I wanted. I wonder now
what the captain's been up to here. Making love to some of the pretty
heifers of the district, perhaps. By gosh! the chaps used to say that he
never looked at a woman; but he's been up to a bit of a game with the
womenfolk down here, you bet."

Such was the trend of Dan's mental reflections; but when Jack gravely
told Amos Gordon all that had happened, Dan opened his eyes, and decided
in his mind that the captain had sustained his reputation for being the
queerest cuss that ever turned bushranger.

"Don't you be a bit discouraged, friend schoolmaster," said the old man,
when he had heard Jack's account of Mrs. Lord's visit and its
unfortunate consequences. "You've the sympathy and respect of the
people; the children are like a lot of unroped cattle, and you have got
along wonderfully with them. Tot Gardiner is the biggest limb in the
valley, but she's not bad at heart; and Bob Carey's like a young steer
as doesn't know himself; I'll answer for it that by this time his father
has given him the biggest hiding for offering to fight you before the
children he ever had in his life. There's been a bit of sweethearting, I
hear, between him and Tot Gardiner; but his mother doesn't approve of
it, and they are neither of them much more than rising eighteen, and Tot
says she wants a man to court her, and not a calf; so I think,
schoolmaster, things will soon right themselves without giving you much
trouble. You ride over and see Silas Stump, and get a School Committee
meeting to-night, and have it settled off-hand. You'll have to cane some
of them, my friend; I don't believe much in flogging, but you must
maintain discipline, and the good old Book says, 'He that spareth the
rod spoileth the child.' You'll have to take that rod down from the nail
where they say you've hung it and rule your scholars with firmness and
righteousness."

"The Committee will have to get another schoolmaster, old friend," said
Jack; "you mean well, and your advice is no doubt good, but I'll never
lift a hand to flog a fellow creature, in this flogging-cursed country,
unless it is to flog a flogger, or some brutal Government official!"

Old Amos looked at the schoolmaster for a full half minute in much
astonishment. The outburst had taken him completely by surprise.

"My good friend," said he, "you are wrong. 'Whom the Lord loveth He
chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth.' John Bennett, I
love you for your good and tender heart, but I don't agree with you." He
paused for a moment, and looked the schoolmaster full in the face.
Jack's eyes fell before that calm, deep gaze. Old Gordon knew then that
there was a sad past in this man's life; knew, in that moment, that he
was talking to a man who had been a convict once. A bitter undertone
gave the schoolmaster's words a deep significance.

"John Bennett," he repeated, and tears of memory glistened in his
expressive eyes. "John Bennett, I love you for your good and tender
heart." He drew himself up to his full height as he continued, "I too
have been chastened, by permission of the good Lord, and it was not
pleasant, but grievous. I've sinned, much like every other son of Adam;
but I have loved much, as becometh a son of God. I never knowingly broke
my country's laws; but these hands have been tied unjustly to the public
flogging post, and these shoulders and back have bled and blistered
beneath the brutal lash. I carry the scars of more than one such
flogging, but the good Lord suffered greater pain and sorrow for the
sake of you and me, and I bow my head submissively before Him. At one
time the inhuman cruelty of ungodly men embittered my life and warped my
judgment; but it don't now. Forgetting the things which are behind, I am
reaching forward, schoolmaster, to the things which are before, and I
press toward the mark for the prize. Let the dead past bury its dead,
schoolmaster. I have told you and this good man a part of Amos Gordon's
story. Let us say no more about it. Take up your life-work bravely, and
do it fearlessly and honestly; as schoolmaster you are put over these
youngsters in the place of their parents, as the representative of
authority and justice, and to some degree, in the place of God. Punish
wrongdoers in your school mercifully, and not in anger; make them
respect you and the law, and reverence right; and they will grow up to
thank and love you for it in the years to come...God bless you, my
friend. Go you down and talk it over with Silas Stump and the Committee,
schoolmaster, and keep your head and your heart up; you are doing a good
work here, and the people of this Broadhaven Valley know it too."

The old man shook hands with them both, mounted his grey cob, and went
off down the hill, leaving the two bushrangers puffing at their pipes in
silence.

"Dan," said Jack, at last, "the old man has spoken the truth; but we are
outlaws, and had better make a forget of it. If I could begin a new
life, I would, but I can't. You may choose for yourself; I have a
hundred pounds here in notes and gold; if you wish, I'll give it to you,
and a fair discharge from the gang, and you can get away somewhere out
of this and start afresh. I'll make it all right for you, fair and
square, on the Liverpool Ranges."

"No, captain," said Dan, "I've come down here to take you back with me
to the gang; they want you, and I won't go back on either you nor them,
hang me if I will! Give me a glass of that grog you mentioned, and if
you like to tell the chaps what old Gordon said, and they think well to
disband, that's another matter."




CHAPTER XI--SILAS STUMP'S ADVICE


Dan Morley thought that Salathiel must have quite forgotten about the
grog, for he seemed to have fallen into a brown study. The two men
smoked in silence for a while, both of them busy with their own
thoughts. Then Jack rose abruptly, knocked the ashes out of his pipe
into the fire-place, and put a bottle of whiskey upon the table, with a
billy of water and clean pannikins.

"Help yourself, Dan," he said, "I usually prefer water or tea; but I'll
have a drink with you to-day, for old acquaintance' sake and to steady
my nerves. Old Father Gordon is a hard hitter for a parson chap. We'll
have to put a bit of a stir on; I'll show you where you can camp until
the moon rises to-night. I can't have you about here, and I guess, after
your ride, you can do with a few hours' sleep. I will hang a calf's skin
on the bridle nail of the veranda post to-night, as a signal that the
coast is clear. Then we can have a good yarn, and you can sleep here
tonight. We'd better get the horses up at once, as I want to ride over
to see Silas Stump, the school secretary. Your camp is not far away;
I've fixed it up so that a man might lie low, with comfort, for a month
or more, so long as he had a friend outside, and no troopers on his
trail."

A quarter of an hour's ride through the Bush brought the men to a
razor-back, on the other side of which was a belt of shea oaks. Pushing
through, they came to a shallow gully, which opened out into a
well-grassed flat, where one of the many mountain springs of the
district fed a small stream, which presently leaped in foaming cataracts
down a great wild gorge, where it disappeared, Jack said, in a strange
opening, and ran for a short distance underground, finally making its
way into the Bailey River.

They pulled up here, and Dan noted the time, the direction of the sun,
and lie of the country; for he would have to return alone to the
school-house by moonlight.

It was truly a wonderful scene which spread itself around them and at
their feet. It was a garden of wild flowers, more English-like than
those of the low lands of the coast; bluebells of a larger growth, wild
geraniums, marigolds, asphodels, and white and red and mauve daisies.
Violets, large and varied in colour; orchids and other flowering bulbs
bowing their massive blooms before the summer breeze in beds of colour;
some of them a sheeny satin mauve, and many of them fragrant. There were
flowering heaths and wattle, jasmine, woodbine, wild musk and clematis,
and native lilac, which in their season made dewy morn and eve fragrant
with sweetness.

The sky had been clear all day, save for a few white clouds, which gave
depth and vividness to the overarching vault of blue; and, as it was
after a spell of wet weather, the rain-washed atmosphere was as clear as
crystal. Ten miles away, looking down the gorge, was the great Pacific
Ocean. Far overhead, in the enormous gum-trees, green and scarlet and
blue parrots chattered; and gill, and satin birds, and gan-gans, with
other smaller rainbow coloured denizens of the Australian forest, which
twittered in the lower branches. A wallaby skipped leisurely in front of
them.

They left their horses here and climbed higher up to some caves Jack had
discovered, the entrance to one of which was screened by an enormous
boulder; and as though still further to guard the entrance, there grew
in front of it a huge native figtree, whose lower branches almost swept
the ground. Jack showed Dan that by pushing through these branches,
access was obtained to a path around the boulder, where was a perfectly
dry cave, which Jack had already provisioned with food. In one corner
was a rough bed of ferns and branches.

"You see," said Jack, "there's water, food for a horse, three ways of
exit, and a splendid look-out over a good stretch of country from the
rocks above."

"It's a pretty place, captain, for the purpose," said Dan approvingly.
"I suppose Old Shiner will be safe for a bit on the flat; he won't stray
for want of water. I was in the saddle all last night, so I think I'll
lie down and have a sleep until a bit after sundown, and then I'll come
over to the schoolhouse. Don't forget to hang out that calf-skin!"

Jack now made his way to Silas Stump's, and asked him to ride across to
the school-house as soon as he could, as some of the Committee would be
sure to be there, to talk over matters. The trouble had arisen, he
explained, over the Carey and Lord contention, and the more quickly and
quietly it was settled the better.

"Yer made a mistake, schoolmaster, not to have flogged 'em," said Silas,
"that fancy notion of yours about ruling youngsters by kindness won't
work, I tell you. It'll be best for Poddy Carey to keep Bob away from
school until the thing's blown over. Anyhow, I'll come up, and we'll
talk about it; you can't carry on the school if boys like Bob Carey
square up and fight you before the scholars. Do you think you could have
licked the young cub, mister?"

"I don't think at all about it, Silas," said Jack quietly.

"Well then, yer ought to lick him the next chance you get," said Silas,
grimly; "it would be a warning to the whole school; but don't let Poddy
Carey know that I advised yer to."

Half a dozen horses might have been seen hitched up to the school fence
that afternoon. The Committee were holding a meeting, and while they
sympathized with the teacher, they told him very plainly that he could
not expect to keep his school in order by playing on a flute. Some one
would have to be made an example of, and Poddy Carey, who was loud in
his condemnation of Mrs. Lord's interference, expressed his
determination to give his son a thrashing he would remember as soon as
he laid hands on him. Bob, however, had not yet returned home.

"What would you advise me to do with Tot Gardiner?" asked Jack quietly.

No one replied to this at first. "She's rather too big to wop," said Ned
Driver, one of the quietest of the Committee.

"Stand her out for punishment, and hang the calf-skin round her neck,"
said Silas.

"I think you'd best leave her to me," said Jack, smiling, "she has no
father, and has had her own way for years; but unless she apologizes to
the school, which I don't think she will, I shall have to send her back
home if she comes to-morrow."

"Supposing she won't go," said another member of the Committee, who had
had some experience of Tot's obstinacy.

"Then I'll tell her that I shall leave the school and district myself,"
said Jack quietly.

"No fear, schoolmaster!" ejaculated Silas. "Don't chuck up your job like
that."

"I mean it," said Jack.

"Then you'll be a bigger fool than I took you for," said Poddy Carey
roughly.

"Were you able to manage yer last school without waling 'em?" inquired
Ned Driver.

The Committee waited for an answer; but Jack seemed absorbed in thought,
and made no reply.

"By gum, schoolmaster!" exclaimed the secretary at last, "yer a good
enough scholar and teacher; but nature never cut you out for school
teaching in this 'ere district, I guess."

"I think you are right, Mr. Stump," was the schoolmaster's rejoinder.
"I'll give the school another trial, and if I can't succeed without
flogging the youngsters I'll resign."

It was finally arranged that Silas Stump and two other members of the
Committee should form a deputation to visit the school on the following
morning, and take such steps with the scholars as seemed most advisable.
They agreed that it would never do to let John Bennett leave them, and
Silas advised that they should take the law into their own hands, and
flog Mick Cassidy and one or two others of the delinquents themselves.

"He's too soft-hearted for a schoolmaster," said Silas, in a despondent
tone of voice to Ned Driver as they rode homeward. "Blest if he isn't a
regular quilter, big and strong enough to fight two medium sized chaps,
and yet he's as chicken-hearted over the youngsters as a heifer with her
first calf."

"Dang me if I can understand him," replied Ned; "that scar over his
forehead and the flash of his eye would suppose to you a different tale
altogether. Shows yer can't judge a man by appearances. He's got
strength enough to stun a bullock with his fist, and yet it seems to me
that he would be afraid to kill a fly. I suppose it's his eddication,
poor chap! I'd like to know how he came by that scar though, and where
he was brought up."

That evening the calf-skin was hung out as a signal, and Salathiel and
Dan sat and talked far into the night. Little was said about the school
or the meeting of the Committee; Dan had too much to tell about the gang
and matters relating to the outside world. He urged Salathiel to return
with him at once, and leave the school without further notice, but Jack
would not hear of it, and persisted that it might take a fortnight
before he could get things properly squared up.

"We'll have some more of the chaps down here, looking for us, before
then," said Dan glumly.

"Can't help it!" replied Salathiel. "But shut up about the school, and
tell me more of what's been going on these weeks in Sydney and up
Maitland way."




CHAPTER XII--HOW THE BUSHRANGERS BLUFFED MAITLAND


"Well," said Dan, refilling his pipe, "the troopers were all over the
country after we flogged McBurton, but the heavy rains covered up our
tracks, and we lay very quiet in camp for over a fortnight. There was a
'sticking up' at a station near Uralla, but none of our chaps were in
it, so that put them off our scent; but the chaps were presently that
sick of doing nothing, except occasional friendly visiting about the
district, that they were as restless as a lot of yarded brumbies, so
knowing that the police were away, we fixed it up for some of us to go
down and hear what news we could pick up in Maitland.

"Six of us rode down in the night, and planted our horses in the big
paddock, at the back of McGregor's pub, and waited about until dusk to
go into the town. We were all got up for the occasion, of course, as the
whole place was in a ferment over recent affairs! It would have taken a
smart 'un, however, to have guessed at a glance who we were.

"When we got down to the long bridge over the swamp, I thought it best
to lie low until it was a bit darker, and as we had plenty of grog and
tobacco, we made ourselves comfortable under the bridge, and fixed up
our plans, in case there might be a flutter and a run for it. Presently
who should we see coming along but four soldiers. They were for
strolling over the bridge, free and easy like, evidently on their way
for a drink at old McGregor's, on the top of Campbell's hill.

"'Chaps,' said Dandy Snow, 'what do you say to a couple of hours'
soldiering in town?'

"'Not good enough,' replied Jerry.

"'Yes, it is,' said Dandy; 'they're out on leave, and haven't even their
side-arms with them. Let's bail them up, and four of us go in dressed in
their uniforms!' It was a bit of a risk, but the fun was too good to
pass, so we agreed to stop them. They came swaggering carelessly along,
all in a row, and we could hear one of them yarning to the rest. We got
under cover of some bushes to wait for them, three on each side, at the
end of the bridge.

"It was like tempting the Devil, for the man that was telling the yarn
stopped at the end of the bridge to light his pipe, and the others stood
around and waited. We heard him say that Jack Salathiel's gang couldn't
keep quiet much longer, and we guessed that the other three were some of
the new squad which had just been sent up from Sydney.

"'Bail up!' said Jerry quietly, and when they turned around all six of
us had jumped out of the bush and covered them. We threatened them with
death if they let out a whimper, and just marched them down, without
another word, under the bridge.

"'You can take your grog down here, lads,' I said to them. 'We don't
mean to do you any harm if you keep quiet, but we'll get the loan of
your clothes for a couple of hours, while we take a stroll around town.'

"'Who are you?' said the man who had been yarning.

"'Just a few of Jack Salathiel's gang,' I replied, 'get off your togs,
and be spry about it, or you'll be in Hell in a jiffy.'

"They were big, stout fellows, but they stripped without another word;
they saw that there was no choice about it.

"We settled that the chaps whose clothes they would fit best should do
the razzle-dazzle, and the two others stop and keep an eye on the
prisoners.

"We lent them some of our clothes, and gave them a bottle of grog and
'bacca, and then asked them a few things about affairs in town. We told
them that all we were on for was a bit of a spree, and after a pannikin
of grog each, they grew quite obliging, and showed us how to salute an
officer, and told us a few trifles, so that we might get through without
detection. Dandy, Jerry, Ned Fenton and myself were the best fits for
the clothes, and seeing that we didn't intend to harm them, the soldiers
filled their pipes, and settled down to make the best of it.

"By gum, captain! you should have seen the four fine soldiers we made. I
was half-inclined to march straight up to the barracks and report
myself. Well, we strolled over the bridge into town, just in the style
we had seen them come across. It was a bit risky, and we felt a trifle
nervous as we passed a dray and some people; but we relished the fun and
walked right along to the Northumberland Hotel. Who should be standing
in the bar but Pat Maloney? I tell you he gave a jump when he recognized
me, but I tipped him a wink, and asked him to have a drink.

"'By gorra, and that I will,' said he.' I suppose you belong to the new
squad, boys?'

"We got into a corner by ourselves, and he told us all the news he could
think of.

"'Yer not up to any tricks, Dan, to-night?' he whispered, anxiously.

"'Never a bit!' said I, 'only taking a stroll round town to see the
sights and pick up a bit of news.'

"'Where did you get 'em?' he asked, pointing to the uniforms.

"' Just borrowed 'em for a couple of hours from four decent chaps who
are waiting outside the town, drinking grog and smoking good 'bacca till
we get back to them.'

"He gave a sigh of relief at this, and promised to keep dark until
morning. We invited him to call in at some of the other pubs with us,
but he was a bit shy of being seen too much in our company, and we
arranged to meet him at the Maitland Arms two hours later. I can't tell
you all the rum adventures and narrow escapes we had, and how we managed
to keep clear of any other soldiers. We knew we must keep sober; but it
was a daisy time; we spent all the soldiers' money and a good bit of our
own, and painted West Maitland red until midnight, under the very noses
of the authorities, winding up with a great supper at Pat Maloney's.

"The fun was that the townspeople thought we were some of the new
soldiers, and the police, thinking the same, didn't dare to interfere
with us. We heard from Pat afterward that there was a tremendous
commotion at the East Maitland Barracks when the soldiers went back in
the morning, half-drunk, and told their yarn about having been bailed up
by Salathiel's gang, close to the town, and stripped of their uniforms.
But we had got all the news we wanted, and bought a few things, and were
safe in camp, before the inspector got back again and raised no end of a
hubbub over the audacity of the gang and the laxity of his subordinates.

"People laughed themselves ill over it, but none more than we did when
one of the kids brought up some of the Maitland and Sydney papers, and
we read their descriptions of our doings and their denunciation of the
authorities."

Jack laughed heartily as Dan told him of this, especially as the papers
had stated that he was one of the daring adventurers. But he realized
that it was a good thing, for it would keep the authorities on the alert
for him around Maitland and would prevent any suspicion of his absence
from the gang.

"Did you call in at Sydney on your way down?" asked Jack.

"I did so, captain," said Dan, in a quieter tone. "I thought you would
like to hear about your people. They are all well, and hold up their
heads as though they had no connection with any one out in the Bush."




CHAPTER XIII--RETROSPECT AND FAILURE


Dan, rolled up in a blanket, slept sonorously that night in the
schoolmaster's shanty; but Jack for once found it hard to get to sleep.

Some big logs smouldered and flickered in the large open fire-place, and
phantoms of the past filed slowly out of the shadows into the firelight,
and then vanished again in the gloom.

It was then a stern, cruel, pitiless time for offenders against law, and
the severity of the convict system in Australia was only a reflex of the
inhumanity and brutality of common law in England and other countries.
The great historic mutinies of the British fleet at Spithead and the
Nore, which were the outcome of the persistent ill treatment of our
gallant sailors, still lay within living memory. Trivial offences, which
in these days would be passed over with a small fine or a magisterial
reprimand, then sent men and women, and even children of tender years,
into convict servitude. Flogging, the pillory (where, in not a few
instances, unpopular criminals were done to death with stones and
brickbats) and the gallows, were everyday punishments. Men, sentenced to
death at the court-house in Sydney, would be marched back to prison
through the public streets, heavily ironed; and such scenes were so
common that a passer-by would scarcely turn his head to notice them. The
worst features of criminal jurisprudence and punishments were reproduced
in all their hideousness in Australia, and one false step too often sent
unfortunate offenders irretrievably upon the road to perdition, for the
bestial horror of the road gangs cannot be described.

No Jew in Australia before Jack Salathiel's time, as his father sternly
wrote to him, had been outlawed. With only one sister, Ruth by name,
Jack had grown up in a home of more than ordinary comfort and
intelligence; religion was strictly observed, and all good principles
cultivated; but in a dark hour of temptation Jack had tripped and
fallen, and the rigorous law had condemned him to convict servitude. His
name was obliterated from the family records, he was lost to society,
and at last, by deeds of violence and robbery, he had been swept beyond
the reach of all, save, perhaps, his mother's and his sister's love.

He saw, in that still hour of restless wakefulness, scenes of his happy
childhood and early, hopeful manhood. Of the vices common to the times
he had none; he was naturally studious, and his close application to
learning shut out the thought of other things; but he had jealous rivals
in the pursuit of knowledge, and from one of these, in an ill-fated
hour, he had stolen a valuable book he had long coveted--books were
scarce in those days. His rival was the son of an official, and the
theft was brought home to him under harsh and ignominious circumstances.
Instead of quietly submitting to arrest, he fought with the officer of
the law, and injured him--being himself badly wounded, as the scar upon
his forehead testified--but his doom was sealed, and home, friends, and
society knew him no more. "God help him!" said those who heard the
sentence of seven years' servitude, with three of them in irons on the
road. "Jack Salathiel will never come back again!"

Lying there, viewing the past in the flickering firelight, he would have
given his right hand--the hand which stole the book, and in hot blood
smote the Government officer--to redeem the past; but alas! the years of
bitter servitude had darkened and hardened him, and he had found no
place for repentance.

"Get up, Dan," said Jack at earliest daylight. "Breakfast is ready, and
you will have to clear out, for I have a busy day before me."

"Well, captain, it will be a bit lonely for me up there; I hope you will
get through as quick as possible."

When the school opened that morning, Jack regarded everything with
different eyes; the old bad past had come back with overwhelming force.
The presence of Dan in the vicinity, and Jack's realization of the
hopelessness of his position, and the impossibility of escape from it,
made him another man.

The deputation from the Committee caned three of the boys, and Jack
stood by approvingly. Tot Gardiner was severely reprimanded before the
whole school. She listened calmly to their censure, and then picked up
her hood, and walked out of the school-house, remarking, as she went,
that she recognized no teacher there except Mr. Bennett, and was not
going to be talked to by ignorant men like Silas Stump. She put her two
hands on the top rail of the school fence, and swung herself over it,
for the edification of the deputation; and then sauntered homeward to
engage in farm and household duties, and rate her mother for having
dared to persuade her to attend "that confounded school."

After the deputation had departed, not altogether pleased with
themselves. Jack took up the reins of school government again, but the
school songs were less musical, nor was the old flute as sweet, nor the
lessons as interesting. The children could not help noticing the
master's evident indifference, and only by an effort did Betsy keep back
her tears.

For a few days the school was carried on in similar fashion. Bob Carey
had not returned home to receive his promised hiding from his father,
and to crown the untoward position of things, Jack announced on Thursday
afternoon that, with the consent of the School Committee, he was about
to visit Sydney for a short holiday, and the school would be closed for
a fortnight, or until such time as the scholars might be notified of its
re-opening. "Everything," said Betsy to her mother, "is at sixes and
sevens, and Mr. Bennett is not like the same man."

The fact was that another matter had occurred which greatly disturbed
Jack's equanimity. He found that Dan Morley had picked up with an
acquaintance, who was no other than Betsy's truant brother Bob; he
suspected, also, that Bob had introduced Dan to Tot Gardiner.

Jack knew Dan Morley pretty well, and was not much surprised when he
discovered that he had been feeling his way with the youngster, and
having heard his story, was trying to pave the way to get him out of the
Broadhaven district, with a view to his joining the gang.

"Far cows are fat," and there was a romance about bushranging to the
grown-up youngsters of the Broadhaven Valley unknown to those who saw it
close at hand. But Jack determined to nip it in the bud with Bob Carey.
He would thrash both Dan and Bob, rather than have the latter with them;
and he expostulated with Dan in no friendly fashion about it, and
insisted upon his advising Bob to go back home at once.

Bob was Betsy's brother, which, whether he knew it or not, meant a good
deal to Jack Salathiel.




CHAPTER XIV--BOB CAREY THINKS BETTER OF IT


There are times in the lives of all men when accidents rather than will
determine the future. Salathiel was now encompassed by circumstances,
not of his own making or seeking, yet the outcome of his own past.
Sometimes the right thing may be done in the wrong way, and yet result
satisfactorily; but not often. No matter what his original motive in
undertaking to impersonate the teacher, Jack had done his best for the
Broadhaven school; he had taught the children conscientiously, and had
honestly endeavoured to make the school successful. He had hoped to
leave behind him a good name and an honourable record; but Dan's
unwelcome visit following upon the trouble in the school, and Bob
Carey's foolishness in not returning home, had thwarted him, and he was
now haunted by dark forebodings that his visit to the south as a
schoolmaster would turn out very differently from his intentions.
However, he determined not to be disheartened by these things; he would
see the Careys at once, and somehow get Bob home again; so after school
that Thursday afternoon he saddled Fleetfoot and started for an
interview with Poddy and Mrs. Carey.

It was early autumn; the cool air was pleasant and bracing, and
Fleetfoot, with good feed and regular attention, was as fit as horse
could be. The road leading in the direction of Dan's hiding place, Jack
turned off, to see if he happened to be anywhere about. Riding quietly
through the Bush, he came to the camp, and to his surprise found Dan and
Bob together, looking at Old Shiner.

"Mr. Bennett," said Dan who seemed somewhat abashed as Jack stood before
them, "I have told Bob that he need not be afraid of you. He says he
wants to leave home and try his fortune in the world, and as I can't
find any suitable land in this locality I have told him that he can get
a horse, and come with me, and see what may be offering somewhere else."

"Bob will have to go back home," said Jack curtly.

Bob hung his head as he met the schoolmaster's eye, but said nothing.

"Look here, Bob," said Jack kindly; "you've done wrong by staying away
from your home like this, and no good will come of your running away
like a coward. You have done nothing seriously wrong, however, as yet;
and your mother and the rest of them are breaking their hearts about
you. If you want to quit your home, go back like a man, face it out, and
leave them all in a friendly way, with a proper good-bye. Be a man, and
play your part in a manly fashion, and not like a miserable sneak. I'm
riding over to the farm now, and I'll make it all right for you. I'll
get your father to promise that there will be nothing further said. He
can't very well refuse me. There now, give me your hand, boy, and let's
be friends again; you'll do far better for another year or two at home,
and then go out and try your luck, if you want to, like an honest man."

The boy was big and hardy, but his week of camping out had not been
without its privations. There were tears in his eyes as he silently took
Jack's proffered hand.

"Will you go back home to-night?" asked Jack.

Bob turned round and looked at Dan Morley.

"Never mind this man," said Jack sternly. "I'm afraid he is not advising
you for your good. Let me tell you, once for all, you can't go with him,
without my consent, and I'll never give it, and after to-night I won't
have you camping here with him. It's either to go back home, or into the
Bush alone. I give you the alternative; but you'll be a bigger fool than
I take you for if you reject my advice."

"I expect you'd best take the captain at his word," said Dan sullenly,
"you're only a kid yet, and if the captain don't want you, Dan Morley
don't either. But if you let out a word of what's passed between us to a
living soul, you'll like as not find yourself with a bullet through your
head some fine morning."

Bob Carey looked from one to the other, his eyes wide open with
astonishment.

"What d'ye mean?" he said to Dan, "I thought your name was Flannigan,
and why do you call Mr. Bennett 'captain'?"

"Ye'd best make a forget of that, Bob," said Dan dryly. "I've got
several names, and I've known Mr. Bennett before he took to
school-teaching."

"You've told him quite enough," interrupted Jack roughly; "keep him here
until I come back, and see that he is ready to go home again in the
morning."

Jack was sorely perplexed as he rode on toward the Bluff farm; but he
determined to face it out and somehow get Bob home on the morrow.

It should be explained that after the first couple of days Poddy Carey
had made no effort to discover the whereabouts of his truant offspring.
Food had been placed outside for him by his mother and Betsy, and on
several occasions they had found it gone, the tracks about the place
telling them that it was Bob who had taken it; but his father still
swore to wreak vengeance on the boy when he laid his hands on him. All
this was known to Jack, and as he dismounted at the house, he felt that
his mission was not a pleasant one. He had a long talk first with Mrs.
Carey and Betsy. They said the father was out in the big paddock, and
would likely enough be back before sundown. Jack told them of his
meeting with Bob and his determination to get him home again. Both women
cried, but they dried their eyes when Poddy Carey presently rode slowly
up, and hung his horse's bridle on a nail at the veranda.

"Well, schoolmaster," he said, "I hear that you are going for a trip
Sydney way."

"Yes," replied Jack, "and before I go I want to fix up matters between
you and Bob."

"Seen the young scamp?" asked Poddy.

"I have," replied Jack, "and what's more, I can bring him home if you
promise to let bygones be, and start him to his work again."

"I promised the School Committee to thrash him," said Poddy.

"The youngster is a man," said Jack quietly, "and while I own up that he
deserves a flogging, I think you had better not 'come it on' him this
time. Take him away from school altogether, he's too big; and when I
come back, I'll teach him a bit at night, with some of the other big
ones. Remember, I've let it all be bygones, and shook hands with Bob,
and it would be giving me away for you to thrash him now. He's had a
rough experience of it this past week in the Bush, and has many a time
gone with a hungry stomach; don't act unwisely by your eldest son, Mr.
Carey; he's a good lad at bottom, and harsh treatment has sent many a
decent fellow to the bad."

The men were now outside the house alone, walking up and down; but Poddy
Carey was still obdurate.

"He's disgraced me before the neighbours," he said.

"Not a bit of it," said Jack, "it only shows how much he fears and
respects you. He did wrong, in a moment of impulse and passion, for the
sake of a silly, undisciplined girl, and followed it up by running away,
as many another foolish youth has done before. It was me he quarrelled
with; but that is all over now, and before I leave for Sydney I want to
see Bob at home again, and everything all right. I intend to ride over
and call on Major Browne tomorrow, and I would like to be able to tell
him that the school affairs are straight once more."

They had walked over by this time to where Fleetfoot was standing by the
fence, and Poddy stood still to look at him.

It is a way with men when they are deeply agitated that thought will
suddenly fly off at a tangent and fix itself with interest upon any
noteworthy object which may cross the path.

Fleetfoot was in the pink of condition; careful grooming had removed all
roughness from his glossy coat and limbs. The high breeding of the
animal was evidenced in the strong arched neck, shapely barrel, and
sinewy, graceful limbs; his hindquarters were perfect, and the legs well
set underneath. He had been newly shod, and from hoof to silky ears and
delicate nostrils gave indications of the intelligence and generous
spirit which only high breeding and careful training give. He turned his
head and whinnied pleasantly as he heard his master's voice. Saddle and
bridle were of the best workmanship, and Poddy Carey mentally put the
whole turnout down as worth little short of a hundred pounds.

"Has Major Browne seen your horse?" was his abrupt question.

"I don't think so," replied Jack, startled for the moment. "Why?"

"Because he'd want to buy him from you," said Poddy. "You're a lucky man
to own such a nag, he's as good a horse as the Major's Pride o' Perth,
and maybe better...Yer know, schoolmaster," he said, turning round and
facing Jack, "yer a bit of a puzzle to some of us old hands. Yer won't
flog the kids on principle--see how you've been begging me not to thrash
Bob! Yer as soft spoken as a woman, and old preacher Gordon says ye're
as kindly hearted, and yet yer a strong-built man, and your eyes wild
and darin' enough for a bushranger's, and yer ride the best horse in the
district, and, from what I hear, can clear fences on his back, in a way
as takes all the conceit out of we country chaps...Tell Bob that, for
your sake, I'll take him back quiet like and say nothing more about it;
and when yer come back from Sydney we'll see about the extra teaching,
and yer might tell us a yarn then about that horse of yours, for I'll
bet my hat there's more you know about him than you have told the folks
of the Broadhaven Valley. I'll give yer fifty notes for him without the
saddle, if you should happen to be short, mister."

"Thank you, I have taken great pains to train him," said Jack, "and I
wouldn't part with him. I'll just go in and say good-bye to the girls
and Mrs. Carey, and tell them Bob will be home before noon to-morrow."

Betsy walked with Jack to the slip-rails, after he had seen her mother.
He shook hands with her.

"Mr. Bennett, are you sure that you are coming back again?" she asked
nervously, looking him full in the face.

Jack looked into her dark honest eyes, and a faint blush mantled her
cheeks and brow. He could not tell this girl a lie at parting.

"I cannot say for certain, Betsy; but I fear not," he said at last.
"Will you be sorry if I don't come back again?"

"Every one will," said Betsy evasively; but still the tell-tale blush
mantled her cheek.

"Then they will be no more sorry than I shall be," he answered. "The few
weeks I have spent here, have been mostly happy ones; but I have to go.
Perhaps you will know why some day, and not think unkindly of me if
others speak badly about your old schoolmaster."

"They can never do that," said Betsy. "And why should I ever think
unkindly of you, Mr. Bennett? I could not do so. You've been such a
friend to me."

"God bless you, dear," said Jack, and, leaping into the saddle, he
cantered off toward the crossing.

Betsy did not go straight back to the house; but having put up the
slip-rails, stood by them--and wept.

Bob returned home next morning, shame-faced and crestfallen, and went
quietly off to his work. It was as though ten years had been added to
his age. No one could get anything from him as to how he had spent his
time in the Bush; and he refused to say a word, even to Betsy, about his
interview with the schoolmaster.




CHAPTER XV--A CHAPTER OF ACCIDENTS


In the meantime, Jack had started to pay his projected visit to Major
Browne.

As he rode along he realized what a risky thing he was doing, for
Broadhaven Head Station employed a large number of 'Government men,' and
there was a good deal of coming and going, and fairly regular
communication overland, and also by small sailing craft, with Sydney.
Then too, Major Browne was a magistrate and could, on the least
suspicion, have him arrested. The horse he rode also presented a source
of possible danger; Fleetfoot was so fit and handsome, that it was
wellnigh impossible for him not to attract attention. Altogether, Jack's
mind was not a little perturbed, and he wished the visit well over. As
likely as not he would be invited to stay for lunch, and there was no
telling who might not be present at the Major's hospitable table.

While thus meditating on possible freaks of fortune. Jack had reached
the summit of a hill, and before him, in panoramic beauty, there spread
a winding river, and on its banks the buildings which comprised Major
Browne's well arranged homestead. It was his first view of a scene which
has arrested the attention of many beholders, and he reined in his horse
to survey the landscape more closely.

A mile or more of luxuriant pasture land spread below him, with the
Bailey River winding through it toward a commodious estuary through
which its waters debouch into the Pacific Ocean. There seemed to his
keen vision nothing wanting to make the picture suggestive of peaceful
prosperity. Herds of cattle and mobs of horses grazed there. Around the
homestead fine trees grew, and gardens and an extensive orchard flanked
the low-roofed residence on the north. Jack had heard that Major Browne
was a wealthy man, and owned a large house and an opulent estate; but he
was unprepared for such a scene as this. Presently he caught sight of a
vessel, schooner-rigged, cautiously making its way up the river. Its
movement gave animation to the picture, for, although over a couple of
miles distant, in the clear morning atmosphere every object was
singularly distinct.

Soon, however, his thoughts reverted to himself and the object of his
visit to the Major, and he muttered half-aloud: "What interest can the
proprietor of all this have in a country school and its teacher? I might
just as well have left without calling to give an explanation of my
conduct in regard to the Committee and the school. What can he really
care about such matters?"

He walked his horse quietly over the well-made road, leading for a
couple of miles down to the homestead. He was very much inclined to turn
round and go back again, when he heard the sound of cantering hoofs
behind him. As he listened, he heard them pull up, and come trotting
down the hill. At this he turned Fleetfoot off the middle of the road to
let them pass; but on reaching him the riders drew rein, and turning his
head, he found beside him a lady riding a handsome grey with a
gentlemanly man of military appearance as her escort.

"Good morning, sir," said the gentleman. "Major Browne will be busy
to-day; I see the schooner is coming up to the anchorage. It's an
uncommonly fine view from this hill. Can you tell me whether Sir James
Bennett is still staying with the Major?"

Jack lifted his hat to the lady, and replied that he was a stranger, and
had but a very slight acquaintance with Major Browne, upon whom he was
about to call on a matter of business only.

"Thank you," said the gentleman. "Pray excuse me, I thought probably
that you belonged to the place. Good day!" He and his companion trotted
on along the road, which here turned abruptly to the right, leaving Jack
in a state of unenviable mental confusion. He again drew rein, and after
a few minutes' hesitation was about to wheel his horse round and forgo
his proposed visit, when he heard a sudden scream, and a riderless horse
came galloping up the hill towards him. In a moment Jack had swung
Fleetfoot round, and was racing along by the side of the runaway, and a
minute afterwards he caught the reins and brought the frightened animal
to a standstill. Turning, he trotted smartly down the hill, to find the
lady lying by the roadside unconscious, and the gentleman bending over
her in evident distress as he chafed her hands.

"Fasten the horses to the fence, sir," he said, "and, for God's sake,
get me some water quickly. Stay, though--are you a doctor?"

"No," said Salathiel, "but I will get the water in a moment, and there
are spirits in my pocket-flask." He had noticed a clear stream in an
adjoining paddock, and returned with water in the crown of his soft felt
hat almost immediately.

With Jack's timely assistance the lady was presently restored to
consciousness. "It was very foolish of me to faint, father," she said,
"but I hurt my head when I fell from the saddle."

"I blame myself, Katie dear, for allowing you to ride that brute of a
mare; she must have shied badly at something; but thank God it is no
worse. Are you in pain anywhere?"

"Only my head," she replied, "but no bones are broken, and I shall soon
be better."

"Do you think I had better ride on to the station tor assistance?"
suggested Jack.

"Ah, perhaps that would be best, if we may so trouble you! Say that
Colonel Thompson's daughter Katie has met with a slight accident, and I
shall be much obliged if the Major will send a conveyance up the hill at
once, with a man to bring down the horses."

"Wait a few minutes, father dear," said the lady. "I shall soon be
better, and we can ride down quietly."

"But you can't ride that mare, Katie; and my horse would be just as bad,
or worse."

"If the lady is really well enough to ride, my horse would carry her
with perfect safety," said Jack hurriedly.

"Oh, thank you," said the girl faintly, "I shall really be better,
father, in a few minutes, and I would not like to have it said a
soldier's daughter was so wanting in courage and endurance, especially
if Sir James is there."

Colonel Thompson still demurred; but on further persuasion, and Jack's
assurance of the gentleness of Fleetfoot, he assented to the
arrangement; so, Jack having changed the saddles, the trio slowly walked
the horses to the homestead.

On their arrival, Major Browne and Sir James Bennett were talking
together on the broad carriage-drive fronting the entrance hall. "Why,
bless me! it's Colonel Thompson," exclaimed the Major, "and Miss
Thompson too, and Mr. Bennett with you; but "--noting the girl's white
face--"is anything the matter? No accident to your daughter, I hope
Colonel? Been thrown, eh? Here, William! Take these horses round to the
stables and look after them well. John, tell your mistress that Colonel
Thompson and Miss Thompson are here, and that the lady has met with a
slight accident, and bring wine and biscuits into the small drawing-room
immediately."


"Who is Mr. Bennett?" asked Katie of Mrs. Browne, as, almost well again,
she reclined upon a sofa in the latter's pleasant dressing-room. "Is he
related to Sir James?"

"Oh, no, dear! He's the new school-teacher at the Bluff; he looked in,
the Major tells me, upon some school business."

"It was fortunate we met with him, he behaved himself as a gentleman,
and talks like a well-educated man," said Katie. "And what a beautiful
horse he rides; he lent him to me after my fall, as father was afraid to
let me mount Diamond again. I really thought that he must be related to
Sir James, being of the same name; somehow his face seems familiar to
me; but, now I remember he said that he was a stranger and had only
recently come to the Bluff."

"He came here from Maitland a few weeks ago," replied Mrs. Browne.

A snack was served to the Colonel and Salathiel, preparatory to lunch.
Then the Major invited the teacher into a well-furnished library
detached from the dwelling-house to look over some new books; he would
have a chat with him after lunch about the school, he said.

A puzzled look was on Sir James Bennett's face as Major Browne explained
to his visitors who Jack was, and how he had recently come from
somewhere Maitland way, to take charge of the Bluff school.

"He rides a dashed fine horse for a school-teacher," said the blunt
Colonel, "and keeps him in the pink of condition. I would like to have a
look at Diamond again, and also your Pride o' Perth; let's walk round to
the stables, and we can then have another look at Mr. Bennett's horse. I
want a really well-bred hack for Katie, and if your schoolmaster's horse
is what he seems to be, I would not mind giving him Diamond and six
five-pound notes for him. But the animal must have some blemish;
school-teachers are not usually great judges of horse-flesh."

When the luncheon gong sounded, Colonel Thompson was in the library
talking to Jack about Fleetfoot. A close inspection of the horse seemed
to have more than satisfied him, for he had increased his offer, and was
urging Jack to take Diamond and a cheque for sixty pounds in exchange
for Fleetfoot.

"I could not part with the horse, Colonel, if you increased your offer
by another twenty pounds," Jack was saying resolutely. "You know, sir, a
man's horse is everything to him in the Bush. I'm not much of a horseman
perhaps, but I have trained Fleetfoot carefully, and know his ways, and
he knows me and all my little peculiarities; and although your generous
offer is a very tempting one, which I am greatly obliged to you for
making, I cannot accept it."

"Well, Mr. Bennett, if you should change your mind at any time, let me
know; you will find me at the Barracks, Lower George Street," said the
Colonel, evidently chagrined by Jack's determined refusal.

This offer for Fleetfoot caused Jack no little annoyance, and as he
entered the dining-room he looked anxiously around upon the company, and
glanced quickly at the number of seats provided for the visitors. There
were seven in all.

"Miss Thompson, Colonel Thompson," said the Major, drawing back the
chairs to his right and left. "Sir James, will you sit between the two
ladies? Captain Fraser will take the seat by Mrs. Browne. Mr. Bennett,"
he said, nodding to the seat between the Captain and Colonel. "I think
you all know my old friend Captain Fraser, of the good ship Nancy Lee,
unless it be Mr. Bennett. Captain Fraser, Mr. Bennett."

"There now "--with a smile to Mrs. Browne at the other end of the
table--"that is all settled; Captain, try a glass of our Colonial claret
with the soup. Broadhaven vintage 1833."

Captain Fraser was only a week out from Sydney Harbour, on one of his
periodical trips along the coast, and kept the table alive with the
latest news and most spicy gossip of the metropolis. Sir James Bennett
had been absent for a fortnight and Colonel Thompson for a week, so the
Captain, who was part owner of the Nancy Lee, had plenty to talk about.
Jack felt very uncomfortable, and said but little, for he thought that
Sir James Bennett, whom he remembered as a prominent Sydney Queen's
Counsel, was watching him with special attention.

Occasionally Sir James addressed his conversation directly to him, and
without asking personal questions, elicited facts about his school, his
views upon education, and other matters, which Jack found decidedly
embarrassing.

Colonel Thompson rallied him also upon his affection for a fine horse,
while his daughter praised the docile Fleetfoot, and commended the
school-teacher for not being tempted to part with an animal of which he
had apparently made a friend. "Love me, love my dog," she said smiling,
to the Major, "and why not my horse? I am sure that when they are highly
bred and well trained, they are just as sagacious and faithful as dogs."

When Jack sat down after the retirement of the ladies at the conclusion
of luncheon, he found that a servant had placed a folded slip of paper
upon his dessert plate. He opened it with assumed carelessness, knowing
that Sir James Bennett was closely watching him. It read as follows:

"You are Jack Salathiel, the notorious bushranger. I do not wish to make
a disturbance; but if after reading this, you rise from your seat, or
place your hands beneath the table, you will at once be shot."

Captain Fraser turned round on sitting down, to address his conversation
to Jack, as the latter quietly refolded the slip of paper and placed it
in his waistcoat pocket.

"Black coffee and brandy, please," said Jack to the servant behind him;
and then he replied with animation to Captain Fraser's remark about the
recent hanging of a convict in Sydney.

He kept both his hands above the table, reached over for a cigar, and
put three lumps of loaf sugar into his saucer, placed above the dainty
coffee cup, without exhibiting the least concern. Then, as the barrister
watched him, he poured brandy over the sugar, and set light to it and
lit his cigar with the same match. Gazing reflectively at the blue flame
of the spirit in the saucer, he held his cigar in one hand, and ladling
brandy upon the sugar in the saucer with a teaspoon, he talked to the
Captain, as he watched the burning spirit, without raising his head.

"Our convict system, to my mind," he said, "is a curse to the Colony.
There are of course upright men, like our host and other gentlemen, who
use the system and administer the law with justice, and oftentimes with
a good deal of patient consideration for the assigned servants, to whom,
however, they mainly owe their wealth and comfort; but take the case you
refer to, on your showing the unfortunate wretch was goaded by a vicious
and unprincipled master to do the deed he was hanged for. And the lives
of convicts are mostly in the hands and at the mercy of such men. Let a
poor and friendless wretch make but one mistake out here, and he is,
more often than not, lost to hope. If he is a clever workman, or good
accountant, or capable manager, his employer's greed will too often keep
him without his good conduct ticket for years; and if he is naturally
depraved, the system will make him ten times worse. It wants thorough
reform, sir, at the hands of some wise, humane, far-sighted man. Good
Heavens, Captain, you surely don't imagine that an affluent land like
this has no future before it! Why, the convicts of to-day will be the
progenitors of the patriots and legislators of to-morrow, if you will
only give them a chance."

Sir James Bennett watched Jack intently during this speech, which had
been listened to by the whole company, and he was about to say
something, when Major Browne interposed rather stiffly:

"You refer, of course, to the administration of the convict system in
the Maitland district where you have resided, Mr. Bennett. Now, we have
been talking this morning about the case of the bushranger Salathiel. I
hear that he had an honourable man for his master at Eurimbla, and yet,
see the trouble he has given the authorities since he became an outlaw!
What are you to do with such men but flog and hang them? Do you regard
his as an exceptional case?"

The barrister's keen grey eyes twinkled, and he smiled as the company
awaited the schoolmaster's reply.

"Did you ever come across Jack Salathiel?" asked the teacher abruptly,
lifting his coffee cup to his lips, and resting his other hand, holding
his cigar, upon the table, while he awaited the reply.

"No, thank God!" said the Major haughtily. "Bushranging is unknown upon
the south coast, and it is years since I was in Maitland."

"Well, gentlemen," said Jack slowly, as though he were weighing every
word, "I have both met this notorious bushranger and spoken with him;
and, would you believe it? he is so much like me in face and form, and
speech and gesture, that we might be taken for the same man. He could do
all that I can, even to teaching a school; you remember he was assistant
bookkeeper on Eurimbla station at the time he took to the Bush. It was
the threat of being flogged for an unintentional offence to his master
which drove him out, and, but for that threatened flogging, he might
to-day have been an honest and useful member of society."

Jack's voice trembled with suppressed emotion and excitement; he was
moved almost to tears, and the four men looked at him surprised.

Before another word could be spoken, however, the sharp report of a
pistol was heard outside, and Dan Morley's voice shouted: "Bail up! Bail
up!" amid a succession of female screams and general uproar.

The whole party instantly sprang to their feet; but Sir James Bennett's
double-barrelled pistol covered the school-teacher.

"Hands up, Jack Salathiel!" he cried, "or you are a dead man."




CHAPTER XVI--THE RESCUE OF SALATHIEL


A QUARTER of a minute is a long interval when it occurs in the midst of
a crisis such as that depicted in our previous chapter, but for fully
that period of time the five men stood without speaking. Sir James
Bennett's sudden threat and drawn pistol came upon all, except himself
and Salathiel, like a bolt from the blue.

The danger without, whatever it might be, was for the moment forgotten
in presence of the drama which was being enacted before their own eyes.
Could it be possible that Sir James Bennett would shoot the
school-teacher with whom he had just lunched? Shoot him in the presence
of their host, over the very table at which, with such good fellowship,
they had partaken of his hospitality! There must be some stupendous
mistake; the well-bred scholarly teacher was surely threatened by a
madman. Colonel Thompson, who was as chivalrous as he was brave, was
about to strike up the barrister's pistol, when Salathiel broke the
silence:

"Listen to me, gentlemen. I am Jack Salathiel the bushranger and
school-teacher; but I assure you I am perfectly innocent of any ill
intention towards Major Browne or this company; nor have I any knowledge
of the tumult and discharge of fire-arms outside. I came here to-day on
a peaceful errand, concerning the new school at the Bluff; if this
station is really 'stuck up' by bushrangers, I am no party to it. To the
best of my knowledge all my men, save one, who came over with a message
from the gang, praying me to return to them, are many miles away from
this district. Believe me, I would not, for the wealth of New South
Wales, violate your hospitality by permitting any disturbance or outrage
which my authority over lawless men could prevent. Let us be seated
again, and I pledge my honour as a man, outlaw though I be, that no harm
or loss shall come to any one here to-day. If I fail in this, let Sir
James shoot me for a liar and the deceiver of those with whom I have
to-day shared the Major's hospitality."

Jack, regardless of Sir James Bennett's threatening pistol, sat down,
and the whole party followed his example.

"Send out one of your servants," said the barrister sharply, "and ask
whoever heads the gang to step right in here."

A few moments passed and Dan Morley, armed to the teeth, with two others
of the gang close behind him, stood in the doorway. Instantly, on noting
the position of things, every man in the room was covered by the pistols
of the bushrangers.

"Put down your weapons. I don't thank you, Dan Morley, for this," said
Jack sternly.

"Captain," said Dan, without lowering his pistols, which were aimed, the
one at Sir James Bennett and the other at the Major, "we'll drop our
shooting-irons when you're uncovered, but by the Lord Harry, if you're
shot we'll put daylight through every man in the room, and burn down the
station into the bargain. The gang's outside, and it's not likely we are
going to see you shot or taken in a trap without a flutter."

"I think, Sir James," said Colonel Thompson quietly, "it will save a
good deal of unpleasantness if we take the schoolmaster at his word."

"Drop your pistols, men," said Jack again, "these gentlemen are my
friends."

"It doesn't look much like it, captain," said Dan grimly, but he lowered
his weapons, and the men behind him did the same.

Sir James Bennett instantly placed his pistol on the table in front of
him.

"Dan Morley," said Jack, "you say that the whole gang are around the
place; tell these gentlemen truly how they are here and how it came
about."

"Well, gentlemen, as you are friends of the captain, it is all off I
suppose; but we heard of this as a likely place to make a start with in
a new district, so we came over to know if the captain didn't want us.
The gang heard on the road that he was down here teaching school, so we
followed on his tracks, thinking to kill two birds, as the saying is,
with one stone."

"Had I any knowledge of your intentions?" asked Jack. "Tell the whole
truth now."

"Devil a bit, captain!"

"That's enough, lads," said Salathiel. "Get outside and wait until I
come to you, and, unless you hear a shot fired, let no one enter this
house again without my orders."

In a moment the barrels of two shining pistols lay in front of Jack, on
the table. They had been thrown across by Dan, and deftly caught, and
were placed together by Jack, confronting the pistol of Sir James.

Jack smiled as the men were heard leaving the house, and stood up.
"Major Browne," he said, addressing that gentleman, "I think the best
service I can render you and these gentlemen, is to get my men quietly
away from the station and the neighbourhood. I need trouble you no
further about the school; I have learnt some wholesome lessons over at
the Bluff, and wish yourself and the people of this district well. I
swear to God, bad as you may think me, that, but for this accursed
convict system, I had rather lead an honest life as a poor
school-teacher, and be respected and beloved by the children of a
country school than be the owner of ill-gotten wealth and the captain of
a gang of outlaws. I will leave your kind memorandum, Sir James, upon my
plate, where the servant placed it, and if you are on the northern
circuit at any time, we may meet again. While I play bushranger luck is
usually with me; we may play another game yet, and I may win the rubber.
When I try to act the honest man luck seems to go the other way, as it
has done here. However, I will leave this district with a clean sheet,
and if any of my men have sullied the name of John Bennett,
schoolmaster, by robbery under arms, or otherwise, it shall be made
good, with ample interest...Butler!" he called out to that worthy, who
stood trembling in the doorway, "tell one of my men to bring round my
horse; the one the lady rode upon into the station this morning...Your
health, gentlemen!" said Jack, pouring out a glass of wine. "I apologize
sincerely to the Major and to you all for this day's happenings; but my
only intention was to come and go as John Bennett, the school-teacher,
for whom the children and parents of the Broadhaven district will, I
think, have some good words. I will now only ask you to remain in this
room for one half-hour by that clock, while my men get fairly started
upon the road; that I leave to your honour as gentlemen! Should we be
followed, however, remember that we are a dozen or so desperate men, and
I will not be answerable for the consequences."

Suddenly, to the surprise of all, Sir James Bennett rose from his chair
and filled a glass of wine. "Here's to our next meeting, Jack
Salathiel!" he said. "Whatever else you may be, you are a brave man."

Captain Fraser whispered something to Jack as, pistols in hand, he was
about to leave the room.

"No! no!" said the bushranger. "Don't you see the luck is against me
when I try to be honest? But I am deeply grateful to you."

A quarter of an hour afterward, the last of the bushrangers might have
been seen disappearing leisurely over the hill. The men were making in
the direction of their old haunts, and Salathiel had promised to meet
them at Musselbrook, where he thought a good haul might be made to
compensate them for their present disappointment.




CHAPTER XVII--AFTERTHOUGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS


"Pour me a glass of that port, Thompson," said Major Browne huskily,
when they had listened to the last departing horse-hoof. The Major was
evidently nervous and agitated. "It's one of the most remarkable
episodes I can recall," he continued. "The butler here says that they
have not stolen a thing, or hurt a single person on the station; the
fire-arms were let off to frighten the men. That Salathiel is a most
remarkable and dangerous character. He has played the schoolmaster down
here to perfection; he has a good knowledge of the classics, plays the
flute remarkably well, and behaves himself like a gentleman. Why, I took
the chair at the opening of his school!--and yet he is a common highway
robber. It's most astonishing!"

The Major stood up in his excitement; but the barrister lifted his hand
and motioned him to his seat again. "Pardon me. Major," he said, "but we
are under promise to remain here for half an hour; and they might
return."

"Just so! just so!" ejaculated the Major, somewhat hurriedly resuming
his seat. "Certainly," he continued, "we had him on his best behaviour,
and we saw his best parts; but he is evidently a most dangerous
man--never once flinched--and bore himself with wonderful address and
courage, even with that pistol of yours, Bennett, clapped close to his
eyes!"

"Where did he come from, Major?" asked Colonel Thompson, abruptly.

"I know nothing about him," replied the Major, "except that he came to
the Bluff from Maitland way, and sent some satisfactory testimonials to
the School Committee. Of course, he has been personating some one of the
name of Bennett; but ask Sir James, he seems to know more about him than
any one else. By the way, what was that memorandum he referred to? There
is the paper on his plate."

"I wrote that before lunch," said the barrister, laughing; "you know, I
thought I recognized him some time before; but I was not certain then;
but I made my plans, and put a pistol in my pocket, in case of any
unexpected emergency. Read the paper out to us, Captain Fraser."

The Master of the Nancy Lee read the threatening lines with evident
astonishment.

"Good!" exclaimed the Major, pouring himself out another glass of wine.
"Read it again, Captain."

"You are Jack Salathiel, the notorious bushranger," read the Captain. "I
do not wish to make a disturbance; but if, after reading this, you rise
from your seat, or place your hands beneath the table, you will at once
be shot."

"And yet," exclaimed the Captain, "he drank his coffee, and talked
quietly to me afterwards and he did not know but that he might be shot
dead at any moment! I remember how he kept his hands upon the table, and
held a teaspoon in one, and his cigar in the other, while he made that
speech about the convict system; but, Sir James, who is he, and how did
you come to recognize him?"

Any one watching Colonel Thompson's face might have noticed its pallor
and the anxious expression with which he looked across at Sir James
Bennett. He leaned forward in his anxiety to hear what the barrister had
to say. From the moment Salathiel's name had been first mentioned at the
luncheon, he had been strangely quiet, and he was wondering now how much
Sir James Bennett really knew about the man. It has already been hinted
that Salathiel was very well connected on his mother's side; but it was
not generally known that the Thompsons were connected with Mrs.
Salathiel's people by marriage, and that Colonel Thompson's eldest son
had been a personal friend and companion of Jack Salathiel in their
college days. It is no wonder that the Colonel listened to what the
barrister had to say with strained attention. He was a proud man, and to
have his family in any way connected with this notorious outlaw galled
him to the quick.

"I never forget a face," said the Sydney barrister with great
deliberation. "It has been part of my training to remember; it helps me
in my profession. When I was a junior, several years ago, I was at this
man's trial at Quarter Sessions. He has altered a good deal, but the
scar upon his forehead helped me to identify him. What first aroused my
suspicion was that I knew that he was not John Bennett, a
school-teacher, late of Maitland, because I happen to have met that
individual before; in fact, he is a distant relative of mine, although I
know very little about him. It was knowing that he was not the John
Bennett, of Maitland, that aroused my suspicions, and set my mind
working to discover his identity.

"You see, gentlemen, I looked at it in this way; here was an educated,
gentlemanly man, of about thirty years of age, impersonating another,
and, as a lawyer, every professional instinct was naturally aroused. You
know, to be any good in law, a man must have the gift of observation
strongly developed, he must see more than does the average observer, and
hear more than does the average listener. I believe that something in my
manner--quite unintentional, I assure you--warned him that I was on his
track; but he was a splendid quarry, and it was really great sport to
hunt such a criminal into a corner. The first time I caught his eye, I
knew that I carried my life in my hand while doing so.

"But let me explain; first, I marshalled all the known facts I could get
hold of about him. You remember that he was exceptionally
well-dressed--dressed above his station in life? He wore an expensive
gold watch and trinkets. He rode a fine thorough-bred horse, a perfect
match with one I had seen on old Downing's run, up at Musselbrook; he
had a scar on his forehead, and a Jewish intonation in his pronunciation
of certain words, which suggested to me that he read Hebrew. I saw the
shape of what I thought was a pistol in his breast pocket; then he had
come from Maitland, and the thought came to me, as if by an intuition:
'It's Salathiel the bushranger.' But I was not sure; however, on the
suspicion that I might be right, I at once formed a plan of action, and
wrote the memorandum, believing that during the luncheon I would have an
opportunity to confirm or disprove my suspicions.

"Now, the lawyer who defended him at the trial--it was old Jones, Q.C.;
he is dead since--made a lot of his youthful talents, and it came out at
the trial that he played the flute. You remember my asking him if he did
not often lead the school singing with a flute, and I trapped him into
an acknowledgment that he could read Hebrew; you see, on his father's
side, Salathiel's people are Jews. But once we got talking about his
school, and chaffing him about his horse, and heard his opinions about
the convict system, the evidence as to his identity was overwhelming, so
that there was nothing very clever about my identification of him."

"I think it was amazingly clever," said the Major; "such a thing never
occurred to me; but you say his people are well-to-do folk in Sydney?"

"Yes, that is so; his father is head partner in the big firm of Drosena
& Co., Ltd.; but the name Salathiel does not appear in the business. The
old man owns a lot of property in Darlinghurst, and they keep a carriage
and servants. Of course, they don't own him now; but he is the only
son."

"What was he convicted for?" asked Captain Fraser.

"He stole a rare copy of a classic from a fellow student when he was
reading for the law at the university. He said he only meant to borrow
it; but it was that which got him first into trouble. It was a son of
old Bramley's of the Treasury he stole it from, and there had for long
been a feud between the two families. But the young fool made it worse
by assaulting an official in uniform, who accompanied the officer that
arrested him; that's when he got that scar. He might have got off for
the theft, for the general opinion was that he never meant to steal the
book; but to strike a uniformed official, when on duty, is an
unpardonable crime in New South Wales. I thought, in view of his age,
the sentence was a very severe one; but old 'Blood and Thunder' was on
the Bench (a friend of the Bramleys'), and he made an example of him. I
saw him afterward, in a chain-gang on the roads. What he said is
perfectly true, this convict system of ours is damnable, and needs
reform. But for his one tremendous misadventure, he might now have been
a barrister, wearing silk--he's clever too--might perhaps have put my
nose out of joint at the Bar!"

"But you didn't really intend to shoot him," said the master of the
Nancy Lee, who evidently had a kindly feeling for the outlaw.

"Yes, I did," replied the barrister. "I would not have killed him,
unless I was obliged; but remember, it was my life against his, if he
could once have got his hand upon his pistol. You know, he was
absolutely in a corner, or he would have denied the truth of my
memorandum at once, and have sworn that it was a case of mistaken
identity; but he knew that in such a case we should have detained him.
His rescue by his men was no doubt a stroke of marvellous luck for him.
And for that matter, why shouldn't I have shot him? Whatever he was
once, he is now a thief and an outlaw, preying upon society and
terrorizing hundreds of good folk in the district. Besides, this
bushranging by escaped convicts needs to be put down with a strong hand;
then too, it might have helped me with the jury in the big case I have
coming on at Sydney; and, I was forgetting, there's a Government reward
for him--five hundred pounds, dead or alive. My friend, the Major here,
is a magistrate, so he could not have objected, and I knew that you
people would not be frightened; but I am glad now that I did not shoot
him, for, as I told him before we parted, whatever else he may be, Jack
Salathiel is a brave man. I wish, with all my heart, that all our
outlaws were like him. I'd feel inclined to offer them free pardons, and
ship them out of the Colony to some place where they might have a chance
of making a fresh start, and getting an honest living as free men."

"I hope those confounded newspaper people won't get hold of the details
of this affair," said Colonel Thompson. "They'll say it was not very
creditable to us to let him escape. I think that you may take the
bushranger's word for it, Major, that this district won't be troubled
with his gang again."

"Well, after all," said Captain Fraser, "I really believe that the
fellow is not bad at heart, and that he has been made what he is almost
wholly by circumstances."

"Whatever our opinion of him may be," said Major Browne sententiously,
"he is a bushranger, and the sooner he is inside the walls of one of Her
Majesty's jails, the better for the Colony."

"My word, though!" exclaimed the Colonel, "I'd like to lead a regiment,
old as I am, composed of men of the strength and pluck of this
Salathiel."

"The half-hour is up," said Sir James, rising from his chair, "and as we
have fulfilled our part of his confounded contract, we'd better have a
look round, and see how the ladies are; and the sooner we set the
troopers on Salathiel's track the better. We shall be laughed at, no
doubt; but he is a cool, plucky cuss. No wonder he wouldn't sell you his
horse, Colonel."




CHAPTER XVIII--BACK TO BUSHRANGING


The gang rode leisurely up the long hill without any attempt to get
under cover, Dan Morley and Salathiel bringing up the rear. They were
too formidable a party to fear any present pursuit. They were heading
for the wild country beyond the Bluff, which would take them well to the
west of Sydney, through a very partially settled country, which skirted
the Blue Mountain Ranges.

O'Brien's public-house was on the other side of the big hill, to the
north of the Bluff settlement, and here Salathiel paid for everything
wanted in the shape of meat and drink and all they cared to carry in
their swags. It so happened that the publican had never met Salathiel,
so they were able to pass themselves off as a squad of bounty emigrants
on the look out for land. There was some discontent on the part of a few
of the men, at what they called the captain's childish tomfoolery in
letting Broadhaven Station off so cheaply; but they one and all feared
his strong arm and masterful personality, and supposed he had some card
up his sleeve they did not know of. At any rate, he had promised to meet
them in four days' time at Doughboy Hollow, near Musselbrook, and they
were going to rob the Bank and, as Dandy Snow put it, "play Old Humphrey
with the town."

When Salathiel had seen the last of them disappear in the Bush, he
turned Fleetfoot south once more in the direction of the school-house
road. There were no fences here, and the horse at once quickened his
pace, and pulled at the reins to be off, eager to reach the feed of
maize and sweet lucerne hay which he knew awaited him. But Jack had no
intention of riding direct to the school-house; it was much too risky,
so he kept well off the road, and made for the Boulder Cave, where he
had secreted Dan.

Here everything seemed quiet and undisturbed, so, dismounting, he led
Fleetfoot a short distance up the spur, to a cave which had been opened
up and made to serve for a stable. Here horse-feed and other necessaries
were ready to hand, for Salathiel was a master of detail. Tied up and
groomed, with his nose deep in the rough manger, Jack left the horse to
have a look around, and to reconnoitre the vicinity of the school-house.
He felt certain that he would run no danger in visiting his old shanty
that night; there was not a policeman within fifty miles of him, and
none of the local residents--even those at the station--would be likely
to hazard an encounter with so formidable a band of outlaws; but he
would be careful and not take unnecessary risks.

Before leaving, he went over to see how Dan had left the dwelling cave,
for it occurred to him that he would probably come back after his visit
to the school-house and have a couple of hours' sleep there. It was
still quite light as he pulled aside the branches of the fig-tree to
enter, then he made his way round the boulder and stood in the cave. Dan
had been a sailor once, and was neat and orderly in his habits, so
everything was straight and tidy, as might have been expected; but,
stooping, Jack picked up a small parcel fastened with a hair-pin; it
contained a girl's handkerchief, quite new, and embroidered in red silk
were the letters 'T. G.'

Jack's astonishment and consternation were little less than Robinson
Crusoe's when he found the famous footprint on the sand.

"Great Scott!" he exclaimed, overwhelmed with astonishment. "Tot
Gardiner must have been up here with Dan Morley, and has dropped this
out of her pocket. Goodness knows, she may come back this very evening
looking for it!"

He went off presently, greatly disturbed in mind, to reconnoitre
further. Had he stayed another hour, he would have seen Tot herself ride
up to the cave, looking for her lost property. She was evidently
familiar with the place, for, not finding it, she went straight up to
the cave where Fleetfoot was feeding, and patting his glossy neck, said:
"I suppose your master picked it up; take care of him, old man, it won't
be long before we shall meet again. I'm sick of this old one-horse show
in the Broadhaven Valley, and I'm going to see a bit of life, like other
people. They can't take me up, for I'm only a girl, but I'm as strong as
most of them, and the gang will soon know that a Broadhaven girl knows
how to take care of herself. And to think that chump of a Bob Carey
thought I'd take up with the likes of him!"

Alas, wild and daring as she was, Tot Gardiner little knew the roughness
of the life which those same outlaws lived amid the wild fastnesses of
the Liverpool Ranges!

When Jack reached the school-house it was after sun-down. He felt that
it might be dangerous to stay over long, for there was no knowing what
the Major, and Colonel, and Sir James might be up to. It was possible
that the school-house might be surrounded before morning; but he did not
hurry. He wrote a short letter to Mrs. Carey, thanking her for all her
kindness, and enclosed one to Betsy. Then he shaved and cut some of his
hair off; he put some things he wanted into a large leather valise, to
be strapped in front of his saddle. He also carefully destroyed, in the
fire, all traces of John Bennett, schoolmaster, except the school books
and the flute, which, in his letter, he had left to the keeping of
Betsy. He tied up the two canes in the green hide calf-skin, and
addressed them to Mr. Silas Stump, with Jack Salathiel's compliments;
then he tidied up the place, leaving the key outside.

He was clean shaved now, with hair cut short; and any one meeting him
might have taken him for a well-to-do squatter. Certainly he had no
longer the school-teacher look about him. He had some supper and a glass
of brandy, and went up and slept for two hours in the cave, until the
moon was fairly up. Then he took a last look around the flat and down
the gorge; it was a very still night, and he could faintly hear the
distant roar of the breakers on the Broadhaven beach. He gave a last
look in the direction of Betsy Carey's--he guessed she might be the
first one at the school-house on the morrow--then with the whispered
words: "Exit John Bennett, schoolmaster!" he lifted himself into the
saddle and passed through the trees, over the saddle-back to the
north-west, into the Bush.

It was a lonesome, moonlit ride across country, before he struck the
Sydney road; but next morning, soon after eight o'clock, he was
breakfasting like a lord at the best hostelry in Camden.

He might well stroke Fleetfoot's glossy mane, and pat his neck, and call
him pet names the horse seemed to know the meaning of.

"I would not have sold you to the Colonel for five hundred pounds, old
man," he whispered; "we'll beat them yet before they get to Musselbrook,
and spend a day, maybe, under the very nose of Major Moore, in Sydney."

Ah! he was young, and the future was hidden from him, and hot blood
flowed in his veins; he was free again; yes, free, although an outlaw.
Yet those six weeks teaching school at the Bluff had wonderfully changed
the man. A sense of honour still urged him to be true to the gang which
had, with one voice, made him their captain; but Amos Gordon's words
often came back to him, and Mrs. Carey and Betsy were not forgotten. He
laughed as he pictured to himself the bewilderment of Major Browne and
the Committee. What a song they would make about it! It would be in the
Sydney and Maitland papers: how they would rub it into the authorities!
They might do even as did Governor Macquarie in 1814, when, bewildered
and almost in despair at the growth of bushranging, he offered a free
pardon to all bushrangers who, not having been guilty of murder, would,
within six months of the date of his proclamation, return to their duty,
and undertake to lead honest lives. He chuckled over the knowledge that
not one thing had been stolen, nor an individual hurt, at Broadhaven
Station; and he had slipped right out of their hands, even when covered
by Sir James Bennett's pistol. It was a great joke; it would be the talk
of the whole Colony. And yet, for all this exultation, there was still a
bad taste in Salathiel's mouth; he felt keenly the loss of the good
opinion, well-earned, of his fellow-men. Good clothes and plenty of
money at command, notwithstanding, he was again a homeless outlaw,
living a bushranger's reckless life, with a rope around his neck, which
any day might be fastened to a gallows.




CHAPTER XIX--TOT GARDINER DISAPPEARS


Tot Gardiner's sister Judy, nicknamed by the juveniles "Miss Smicker,"
and by others "the girl with the smile," was a rough, but good-tempered
and kind-hearted damsel of seventeen. She was broad, tall, and finely
proportioned, like her sister; but, unlike that of her sister, her
handsome, freckled face carried a continual smile.

She smiled in fair weather and in foul, whether she was right or wrong,
pleased or displeased. Her smile aggravated her mother and sister, and a
few others: but it won her multitudes of friends, for Judy's smile, to
quote again, "didn't wear out, nor wash out, nor rub off, and 'twas
always natural."

Early on the morning following Jack's departure, Judy rode up to the
Careys on a big roan mare in hot haste; she had a bag strapped on for a
saddle, and jumped off right in front of Mrs. Carey's dairy. That lady
was busy butter-making. It was a quarter past seven, the milking was
done and breakfast over, and the younger Carey boys were feeding the
calves with sour milk and hay tea, while the girls were busy scalding
the big tin milk dishes.

"Whatever brings you over so early, Judy?" asked Mrs. Carey. "Nothing
wrong, I hope, at home?"

"No-o," said Judy, hesitating a little.

"Then wait a minute." Mrs. Carey's quick ear had noted a change in the
sound of the splash of the big barrel churn.

"The butter's come," said Mrs. Carey. "Stop churning, Alice. Don't you
know that when the butter's come, all the churning in the world won't
make another ounce? Some folks churn and churn until all the grains are
gathered into big lumps, and then you have to work it no end, to get the
buttermilk out. Run the buttermilk off, child, and wash it down, and
I'll come and give you a turn of the handles for the second washing."

"Has Tot been over here this morning?" asked Judy, and although she had
an anxious look on her face, the wonted smile stole round her red, fresh
lips, and dimpled her cheeks, and sparkled in her eyes, "'Cos mother
sent me over."

This Australian country girl was a pleasant picture, as she stood there
with rosy cheeks, in the fresh morning; brown curly hair filled up the
space between her smooth forehead and the starched open frills of her
big hood; she wore a tightly fitting bodice of a large flower-coloured,
chintz pattern print, her arms were bare, and a white kerchief was
knotted, sailor fashion, around her shapely neck. She wore a short
skirt, dark, thick stockings, and Blucher boots. "She'll be just like
Tot in a year or two," thought Mrs. Carey, "but a bit more wholesome and
refined."

"Have any of you children seen Tot Gardiner this morning?" called out
Mrs. Carey loudly, so that all could hear.

"No, mother," was the general response.

"Do you think Mr. Carey or Bob might have seen her?" asked Judy, smiling
again, as she cleverly linked the father with the son, for she knew that
Mrs. Carey did not approve of Tot's friendliness with her first-born.

"I don't think so; my good man is out in the run, and Bob's ploughing in
the far paddock. You can go over and ask him if you like; but come in
when you return and drink a cup of warm milk and have something to eat.
I'll be bound you rode over without any breakfast."

Judy returned unsuccessful, and Mrs. Carey took her into the house,
where Betsy was busy, with two big camp ovens, baking the family bread.

"Halloo, Judy girl! what's the matter?" was Betsy's cordial greeting.

"Can't find Tot anywhere," said Judy.

"Perhaps she's gone after that missing steer," said Betsy, who knew a
good deal about the Gardiners' affairs.

"No," said Judy, "she's not gone anywhere, she's disappeared."

"What rubbish!" said Mrs. Carey. "If the girl has disappeared, she must
have gone somewhere."

"But," replied Judy, "she can't have gone anywhere, she hasn't taken her
clothes."

"Whatever do you mean, child?"

"Just what I say, Mrs. Carey, and that's what's troubling mother and me;
her clothes are all laid on the stool, just as she went to bed last
night, and everything is there, except her stockings and boots."

"My goodness!" exclaimed Betsy, laughing, for she knew something of
Tot's erratic ways. "Whatever can have happened to her?"

For a while they looked at each other; then Mrs. Carey said: "I daresay,
Judy, she's back by this; anyhow I'll look after the bread, and Betsy
shall ride over with you, and see what she can do to help. And, Betsy,
you come back for more assistance to search for her if necessary. Come
back by dinner time, at latest, and let us know."

Betsy and Judy went off together to saddle Loiterer, and Mrs. Carey,
with a thoughtful face, gave a look to the bread, and then returned to
the dairy. "Very strange indeed, that the girl should be missing, and
have left her clothes behind," she thought.

But still more astonishing news was at hand, for, just as the girls were
mounting, a galloping horse was heard approaching. It was Ned Driver, in
his shirt sleeves, on a sweating steed.

"Where's the boss, Mrs. Carey?" he called out as he pulled up. "Heard
the news?" he continued without waiting for an answer.

"What news?" was the general cry.

"Why, the schoolmaster's gone, and he's Jack Salathiel, the bushranger,
and he's had his gang over and they 'stuck up' Major Browne's station,
and have taken no end of money and cattle. The Major's sent to Sydney
for the police, and there's the mischief to pay all round."

"Ned, you've gone daft," said Betsy, as no one else spoke; but a cold
chill came over her.

"It's gospel truth though," said Ned. "I allus thought there was
something queer about the chap, 'cos he wouldn't flog the kids; but I
wish him luck, for he's done us no harm. You should see Silas Stump, and
hear him orating, he's found his tongue properly! Tell the boss there's
to be a committee meeting at school, at 2.30; I'm riding round to let
them know."

"Have you seen our Tot anywhere?" asked Judy.

"No," said Ned; "what's she been up to?"

"We can't find her anywhere, and she hasn't taken her clothes."

"That's a rum go; but do you think----?" He stopped, for he hardly knew
how to put it.

"I don't think! I don't know what to think!" said Judy, with tears in
her eyes.

"Well, I'm off," said Ned, who was bursting to tell his news to the next
neighbour. "I'll keep a look out for Tot. So long!"

The children had been listening, and the whole place was, by this time,
in a fever of excitement. Betsy and Judy were hurrying off, when Mrs.
Carey stopped them. "Ride across to the school-house as you pass. I
don't believe it. You'll very likely find Mr. Bennett there, or he will
have left a letter, or you may learn something about Tot. That Ned
Driver is a fool. Mr. Bennett a bushranger indeed! Why, he's as kind as
a kitten, and wouldn't hurt a child!"

Betsy gave her mother a grateful look; but the cold chill was still at
her heart as she rode with Judy across the ford of the Bailey River. She
remembered his words, "I have to go, perhaps you'll know why some day,
and not think unkindly of me when others speak badly about your old
schoolmaster." Was this what he meant? And then, strange as it may seem,
the girl's heart went out to him, because he might be blameworthy and in
trouble. It was as though this stupendous fall from the serene height of
his previous character brought him within her reach. Losing the respect
and admiration of others, he would want some one to love him and comfort
him. Bushranger or not, she never doubted him; he was her ideal of manly
goodness and faithful tenderness. Had she not read his character those
six weeks in the school? He would never do wrong wilfully. How different
he was, she thought, to all those louts around him on the country-side!
Her idol might have tumbled from his pedestal, but if so, he had fallen
into her arms, to be loved, and served, and prayed for.

But, even as these strangely mixed thoughts were passing through Betsy's
mind, the two girls rode on with feverish haste. So far, it should be
observed, Betsy never gave a thought to Tot Gardiner, who had
disappeared on the very night of John Bennett's departure, and had gone
away without her clothes. For the first time, as it were, she felt
Salathiel to be within reach. She would sooner have him a bushranger, if
it made him hers. If only, by being brought low, she could throw around
him the encircling love of her passionate, trustful nature! She never
thought of him as a criminal; he was to her the good bushranger, who
would always show an unselfish spirit; who might take money from the
rich, but would give it to the poor. He would be her Jack, and she would
help him, defend him, fight for him, and, like a guardian angel,
encompass him with her love.

It was all very foolish perhaps, very romantic, and very outrageous, for
a girl to love a man all the more because he was a ruined outcast, but
there was a proud light in Betsy's eye, and her heart seemed to beat and
throb with the force of new power and feeling. "I love him! I love him!"
was the refrain, which came and went in her excited mind, like the
burden of an old song. Soon they were riding at a wild canter, down a
steepish range; but what cared Betsy? Fear she had none. Loiterer's
rattling hoofs, on rolling stones and rough rocks, were talking to her.
It was now an old childish rhyme the girls had trolled and laughed over
scores of times: "Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor, apothecary,
ploughboy, thief!" and Loiterer stopped dead, exactly when she came to
the word "thief." It was unfortunate; but Tot's mother just then stepped
out of the Bush, in front of them.

"I've no news of Tot," exclaimed Mrs. Gardiner, with an anxious face;
"and I hear Mr. Bennett is gone; and they say he is a bushranger and has
taken Tot with him; she's left all her old clothes behind, so she must
have got new clothes from somewhere. Betsy, I'm a poor broken-hearted
creature to-day. To think that one of my girls should have done such a
thing, and me a poor widow woman! And to have gone off with a common
thief!"

"Don't you believe it, Mrs. Gardiner," burst out Betsy, flushing red
from cheek to brow, "I'm sure he hasn't taken Tot. He would never do
such a thing, even if he is a bushranger. She'll come back, never fear!
We'll all turn out and find her. I'll ride over to the school, and see
if Mr. Bennett has really gone. Judy, you come with me. If we don't find
out anything, I'll ride straight back and tell mother; and dad, and Bob,
and maybe myself 'll ride over again and see what can be done. Keep up
your heart, Mrs. Gardiner; Judy will be back directly. There's no fear;
we all know that Mr. Bennett is a good man."

There was no smoke from the chimney and no sign of life when the girls
reached the school-house. After knocking and calling, Betsy turned the
key which Jack had left in the door, and they entered the shanty. The
sealed letter addressed to Mrs. Carey lay on the table, with the flute
and canes and calf-skin and a few books. There was no sign of hasty
departure, in either the tidy kitchen or sleeping apartment, for Jack
had cleaned everything up before he went to the station, and the heap of
ashes in the fire-place told no tales.

"Tot!" called out Judy, obeying the first impulse of her mind.

"Don't be a silly," said Betsy with some indignation. "Tot hasn't been
here. I'll take this letter for mother to her at once. Let's go and look
inside the school!"

Judy had read the inscription on the canes and green hide calf-skin,
smiling through her tears. Betsy laughed outright, and said: "They'll
have some nuts to crack this afternoon. Good gracious, Judy girl, don't
cry. Tot's all right, even if she is with Mr. Bennett; you know very
well that he would never do a girl a bit of harm; but she is not with
him, I'm certain he wouldn't let her."

The school-house was just as it had been left on the Thursday, so, as
there was nothing more to be discovered, Judy went home, and Betsy
hastened back to her mother with the bushranger's letter.

"Get up, Loiterer, you lazy thing!" Betsy's heel carried no spur, but
the vicious dig she gave the pony was so unusual that Loiterer made off
at a breakneck pace for home. The letter to Mrs. Carey, which Betsy had
put carefully into the bosom of her dress, read as follows:

"My dear Mrs. Carey,

"I cannot do other than write to you before I leave this district, for
your kindness and Betsy's, and indeed that of your whole family, will be
a pleasant memory to me as long as I live, I deeply regret that the
manner of my departure may cause pain; but what has happened to-day down
at Broadhaven Station was wholly unexpected. Nor had I any knowledge of
the gang coming over to this district. Had I been aware of their
intentions I would have prevented it, even at the risk of my life.
However, I have seen to it that there has been neither robbery nor
violence, and as I write this in my old quarters at the school-house,
the gang is miles off, on their way north, and with my permission they
will never return to alarm or injure the people who have treated a
stranger with such kind hospitality and consideration. Of course, I
deceived you all from the very first; but I came down here for private
reasons only, and with no ill intention to the Broadhaven Valley people.
My desire and purpose was to leave as I came, plain John Bennett,
school-teacher, thinking (fool as I was) that it would be possible to
come and go, without my true name being discovered. But luck was against
me.

"However, try and think of me as kindly as you can. For six weeks you
have seen Jack Salathiel, the bushranger, as he would like to be, if
law, and police, and the Colony's accursed convict system would only let
him.

"Next time Amos Gordon visits you, show him this letter, and tell him
that I have not forgotten his talk with us in the school-shanty. If he
knows of any way by which I might escape from my surroundings, without
being hanged, he might drop a line to J. J. Powell, care of G. P. O.,
Sydney. That will always find me while I am alive and free. I am
enclosing a few lines to Betsy; I can't leave without doing so; she is a
girl in a thousand, and has always been good and helpful to me in the
school. What a farce it seems now, to write about, the school!

"Say good-bye for me to Bob and all the family; and if by any chance, at
any time, any of you should fall into the hands of outlaws, say to them:
'I am a Carey,' and, if I can do it, that word shall ensure you
protection and respect.

                                   "J. J. Salathiel."

The letter to Betsy was short, and less apologetic:

"My dear Betsy,

"What I feared has unexpectedly happened, I have been found out and,
after writing this to you, I must ride for my life. I need not tell you
that I meant no harm to any one down here. Had it been possible, I think
I would have stayed on as schoolteacher for the rest of my life. You
will believe me, I know, when I say that I am what I am more by
misfortune than by choice; but I must not go back on my men while they
remain true and want me. But I'm a miserable man at heart, Betsy; 'the
good that I would, I do not; and the evil that I would not, that I do;'
and there is no door of hope open for me, and no strong hand of love to
help me to go free. I am driven, driven of my own past folly; and, I
cannot help but think, driven by the Devil's power. I deserve of course
to be punished; but you know, Betsy, if I gave myself up, it would only
be going back to a life worse than death, for there is no mercy from men
for such as me. And yet I too am a man, and strong and proud and
fearless, and some of the gang would die for me.

"Take care of the flute, and John Bennett's school books; he was
honestly paid for them, and has come to no harm. Don't believe all the
bad things you will hear or read about me, and give a kindly thought
sometimes to your old friend and schoolmaster.

                                   "J. J. Salathiel.

"P.S. You know, Betsy, I warned you that this might come when I said
good-bye to you at the slip-rails. You might write to me sometimes."

When Betsy read that letter, she made a rash vow--that she would either
die or save him.

Mrs. Carey said never a word, but she showed her letter to her husband,
and told him that he was to keep it secret, and that, whatever happened,
he was not to take any action that would be against the schoolmaster.

So Jack's masquerade in the Broadhaven district at any rate made him two
friends.




CHAPTER XX--THE SCHOOL COMMITTEE MEETS


By midday the whole valley was stirred by Ned Driver's sensational
story. The news seemed incredible; but it spread like wild-fire,
gathering additions as it went, until the one topic of conversation was
the astounding news that a notorious bushranger had been teaching their
school, and that, with his gang, he had 'stuck up' Major Browne's
station and carried off Tot Gardiner. Many of those, however, who had
best known the schoolmaster doubted.

"Mr. Bennett that notorious outlaw, Jack Salathiel!" said Mrs. Lord.
"Really, Ned Driver, it's too ridiculous. The schoolmaster will sue you
for defamation of character; see if he doesn't!" Nor was Mrs. Lord
singular in her unbelief.

There was a full attendance of the Committee; Silas had sent word to the
Major, who had promptly replied by letter, at considerable length. He
would certainly ride over, he said, as it would be well to have a
magistrate present at their deliberations. He thought it extremely
unfortunate that the School Committee should have been the means of
introducing such a dangerous criminal into the district; he hoped that
none of the valley people were in league with Salathiel; certainly,
sufficient precautions had not been taken in regard to the man's
identity. He was thankful that, so far as he knew, no lives had been
lost, but he warned them against possible further trouble; they should
certainly arm themselves and see that they had ammunition available. If
they were short of the latter, they could get it at the station, as a
consignment had just come to hand by the Nancy Lee.

The Major rode up to the school-house a quarter of an hour late, as red
as a turkey cock. He was accompanied by one of his overseers and Sir
James Bennett, and it was noticed that he wore an undress uniform, and
that all three carried pistols in their holsters.

Major Browne was voted to the chair; stools were found for the Queen's
Counsel and overseer, and the Committee sat on desks, or forms, as best
suited their length of limb or personal ambition. They were somewhat
awed by the Major's presence and his covert rebuke, which Silas had read
to them, and were not in the best of humour either with themselves, the
Major, or the business that had brought them together. The only thing
they were agreed upon was that it was a good thing the schoolmaster had
got safely away. They bore him no ill will, and had no wish to meet, as
a bushranger, the man they had taken to their hearts as a friend. Silas
Stump, no doubt, felt more aggrieved than any one else, as he had
conducted the correspondence; but altogether, the Committee felt its
position keenly. The climax had come when it was whispered around that
Salathiel had not only robbed Broadhaven Station, but had cleared out
with Tot Gardiner. News of other outrages, they thought, would be sure
to follow, all of which would naturally be laid at the door of the
bushranger.

The Major, on taking the chair, began business without any preface, by
saying to the secretary: "Kindly read the minutes of your last meeting,
Mr. Stump." He said this in his most magisterial tone of voice.

Silas at once stepped forward and attempted to whisper something to him;
but the Major, with a gesture, signified his dissent, and told him to
address the chair, in a tone of voice which could be heard by the whole
Committee.

It was evident that the secretary felt inclined to rebel, for, as he
remarked afterwards, the Major wasn't in court, and they were none of
them on their trial; indeed they had only invited him to be present out
of courtesy.

"It was an irregular meeting," said the secretary nervously, "and we
didn't take no minutes."

"Very unbusinesslike," said the Major, "to grant your school-teacher
leave of absence without entering a record upon the minute-book. Kindly
read the minutes of your last regular meeting."

With a downcast look, the secretary had to confess that he had not
brought the minute-book. At this the whole Committee stared in reproof
at the unfortunate Silas, and the Major grunted out: "Most
unbusinesslike; if you carry on your school in this way it is no wonder
you are taken in by reckless and unprincipled men."

"Let us adjourn outside and have a smoke," suggested Poddy Carey, "while
Silas rides home and gets it."

"It's impossible for me to wait," said the Major loftily. There was a
long, awkward silence after this, when, plucking up courage, Silas broke
out in the following unconventional fashion:

"Hang it all, Mr. Chairman, we come here to talk over this remarkable
'transmigration' of the schoolmaster into a bushranger, and what we'd
best do. I don't see that we want minutes. Let's hear what we can about
him, and then decide what record we'll make in the minutes. I'll take
rough notes, and we can have another meeting about getting a new
schoolmaster; we can't do that to-day."

This sounded sensible, and there was a general chorus of "Hear, hear!"
So the Major stood up, and after clearing his throat, told what he knew
about the schoolmaster's visit and the attack upon the station.

This was the first time that the Committee had had any full account of
the matter, which, on the whole, was very fairly stated by the Major,
who gave Salathiel considerable praise for his forbearance and
gentlemanly manner. He also stated that nothing was stolen from the
station, and no violence done to anybody.

The latter was a new aspect of the affair to most of them. "Didn't they
steal some horses?" asked Sandy McPherson.

"They stole nothing," said the Major decidedly. "Salathiel kept his gang
within bounds, out of respect for me and my friends."

"Blest if he isn't a blooming enigma!" ejaculated Ned Driver, who could
restrain himself no longer. "He's no bushranger, if he let you off like
that."

"Didn't his chaps have a shot at some of yer men, Mr. Chairman?" asked
Poddy Carey.

"No, certainly not," said the Major huffily. "Did I not tell you that he
withdrew his men out of respect for myself and my friends?"

"It seems to me, then," said Poddy, "as no one's hurt, and nothing
stole, we've nought to say agen him, unless some of the Committee wish
to move a vote of thanks to him, for clearing out good-naturedly from
the district."

The barrister smiled at this; but the chairman fidgeted in his seat, as
though repressing his wrath.

"But he's cleared out with Tot Gardiner," said Ned Driver.

"Is that so?" said the Major, "then that's a matter to be inquired into
by the police. Does any other member of the committee know of any other
atrocity?"

"I hear that they lifted O'Brien's blood-mare," said Timothy Fagan,
whose selection on the other side of the Bluff was not far from the
public-house.

"Ah!" ejaculated the chairman, "then there has been robbery, after all."

"They had refreshments there," added Timothy, "but the schoolmaster paid
for them with a sovereign, and the mare was not missed for several hours
afterward. Tot used to ride her for him sometimes, as the mare was badly
broken in; she went down last night, I hear, to borrow her, but O'Brien
said that he wanted the mare himself this morning. It was only when he
went to get her out of the stable that he found that she was gone."

"Some one soldiering* her a bit, perhaps," said Poddy.

(*When a horse is borrowed without asking, and ridden a distance and
left, it is called 'soldiering' the animal.)

"How long was it after the bushrangers had gone that Miss Gardiner
called to borrow the mare?" asked Sir James Bennett.

"About a couple of hours," said Timothy Fagan.

"Is Miss Gardiner a good rider?" asked the barrister.

The whole Committee smiled at this. They knew Tot, "You bet, sir!" said
Timothy, smiling with the rest. "She breaks 'em in, and rides straddle
legs when they are ugly, and flogs 'em like a man. She's a fine, big
girl, sir, is Tot. Rides as well as any man in the valley."

"And this is the girl that is supposed to have gone off with Salathiel?"
said the barrister. "Don't you think it is likely that she stole the
mare?"

No one replied to this, and Silas, who felt hostile to the Major and his
friends, thinking he saw an opportunity, said: "The Committee evidently
does not care to charge Tot Gardiner with larceny on such insufficient
evidence."

"Quite right!" said the barrister hurriedly.

The meeting broke up shortly afterward, no business having been done. No
reference was made by Poddy to Salathiel's letter to his wife, and no
arrangements were made to institute a search for Tot. All believed that
she had gone off, as Ned Driver said, somewhere on her own, and they
further agreed that she was quite able to take care of herself.

After the Major and his friends had gone, the Committee adjourned to
O'Brien's public-house, to hear his story first-hand and sample his
whisky. At the same time they relieved their feelings by abusing the
Major and Sir James Bennett, and expressing surprise that Salathiel had
let them off so cheaply.

"That pore chap is too well eddicated," said Ned Driver, "to be a
bushranger. He ought to have stuck to school-teaching; but dear me! he's
no good at that, when he's too tender-hearted to wale the kids."

"He should marry Tot," said Poddy Carey, "she'd wale 'em for him."

"That School Committee of yours," said Sir James to the Major, as they
rode home, "is a hang-dog looking crowd."

"Oh, they're not a bad lot, but unbusinesslike!" replied the Major. "You
saw them in their working clothes; some of them are fairly
well-to-do-men."

"I would not care to have them for a jury, if I were prosecuting Jack
Salathiel," said the barrister. "I should never get a conviction, I'm
sure."

"Perhaps not," said the Major, "but you see, they have only seen
Salathiel on his good behaviour; he and his gang will have a break-out
soon after this, and then they may think differently. They're a very
law-abiding people about the Bluff. My own opinion is that just now the
Committee and every one else are quite knocked over by this astounding
imposition. He might have stayed down here as schoolmaster for ever, if
you hadn't come along."

In the meantime Jack had ridden on another five and twenty miles, to the
old town of Parramatta. After a glance at the newspapers, to see that
there was no 'hue and cry' out about him, he put up at the Woolpack Inn.
He could find no reference whatever to the Broadhaven matter in the
day's journals, so, feeling more secure, he went into the large room,
where dinner was being served, and took a vacant seat at a side table. A
clergyman was his vis-a-vis, and a young lady and her father and brother
occupied the other seats; Jack cast his eyes anxiously around, but
others had entered with him, and every one seemed busy with the evening
meal.

The clergyman was telling his friends, who were a squatting family from
the north-east coast, how a Sydney newspaper had just been fined 100
for an alleged libellous attack upon the Chief Justice, and how, in
another matter, the editor had been flogged with a horse-whip in
Pitt-street by a wealthy emancipated convict, who, professedly
religious, had been proved a thorough-paced hypocrite. There was
evidently a good bit stirring, and Jack gathered from the conversation
that the police had their hands full with several gangs of convict
bushrangers, who were making the northern roads unsafe for travellers.

"I thought of driving into town myself," said the squatter, "after the
moon gets up, but I think I'll give it best until to-morrow. I see there
is an official notice in the papers, warning travellers to shun the
Parramatta-road after nightfall, as it is frequented by foot-pads. It's
a rotten state of affairs that a main public road so close to the
metropolis should be infested by thieves and cut-throats. It's about
time that we had representative government, instead of this useless
council."

"I saw the notice," said the clergyman, "but I must ride on to Sydney
for all that, for I have an appointment there to-night and three
services tomorrow. I suppose, if I should be waylaid, the scoundrels
will have some respect for the cloth, but I must risk it. I may,
however, find one or two others in this large company who are riding in
after dinner. I will inquire of our host."

Jack noted that the speaker was a fine specimen of muscular
Christianity, and as the clergyman looked at him with a smile, he
responded: "I also have to ride to Sydney to-night, sir, and would be
glad of the pleasure of your company. We might probably find another
gentleman going, and then I don't think we should be troubled by
foot-pads."

The clergyman looked Jack full in the face for a moment, and then, as
though satisfied with his scrutiny, replied: "I shall be very pleased.
Are you a resident of Sydney?"

"Powell is my name," replied Jack. "I belong to the south-western
district, but business brought me to Camden, and I am riding through to
Sydney and Newcastle. May I ask where you officiate to-morrow?"

"At the new Scotch kirk in Philip-street," replied the minister
genially. "It will please me well to have your company to-night upon the
road and to-morrow at the service. Let me introduce you to my friends,
Mr. Robertson, of Mundarra, and his eldest son, and Miss Robertson."

Nothing could have suited Jack better, for he had been thinking how he
might obtain a companion to ride with to Sydney; not that he troubled
about the foot-pads, for his pistols and the terror of his name would
have been ample protection; but just then he wanted peace and quietness,
and any encounter with highwaymen was to be avoided. More than this, he
knew that so near Sydney mounted police would be likely to be met with,
patrolling the road, who had authority to stop and question travellers.
He had found out, incidentally, that the Rev. William McEwan was not
only a prominent Presbyterian clergyman, but a magistrate of the
territory, who would be well known to the police. A friend riding with a
clergyman would pass unquestioned, and foot-pads would be less likely to
attack two horsemen than one.

The moon was about to rise as Jack and the clergyman turned their horses
into the Eastern-road, past Harris Park and Homebush. Both were
well-armed and mounted, for in those days of military chaplains and
emancipated convicts, clergymen were frequently of heroic stuff, and it
was well known that some of them could, on occasion, both shoot and
flog. Jack had often heard of Mr. McEwan as a man of scholarly
attainments, kindly heart, and fearless courage. It was in the
Philip-street church that his mother and sister worshipped, and he
congratulated himself on his good fortune, for the minister had
evidently taken to him, as one well suited to his mind. He might,
without discovering himself, be able to hear something of his people,
and, for the matter of that, there was no reason why he should not
attend service in the morning, and see his mother and sister for
himself.




CHAPTER XXI--THE WAY OF TRANSGRESSORS


Dan Morley had many a time been told by his mother, poor woman, that he
was the Devil's own son of mischief. It was this evil propensity,
coupled with a quick sense of humour, which, even as a man, had brought
him into no end of trouble.

When Tot Gardiner, who had got to know the bushranger through Bob Carey,
suggested that she would like a trip to Sydney to see some life, Dan
trod upon enchanted ground; but when she further proposed to borrow a
neighbour's blood-mare, and dress up as a man in her dead father's
clothes, the fun of the thing was irresistible.

He told her it would be great; that he was sure the captain would be
delighted at her pluck, even if she came and had a look at them in the
Liverpool Ranges. Of course, he knew very well that Salathiel would
storm at him, and send the girl home double quick; but he determined
that he would have his fun out of her, for all that, so he arranged to
slip away from the gang, and meet Tot on the Liverpool-road and ride
with her to Sydney.

It was pitiable that she should have been lured by an unprincipled
outlaw into such a course; but her moral sense was deficient, and it was
her wild ways and a romantic attachment for Salathiel, rather than any
regard for Dan Morley, which led her to it. So, while she accepted Dan
as an escort, it was only to serve her own ends, and she resolutely kept
him in his place. It suited the latter to make the foolish girl think of
Salathiel only as an unprincipled bushranger, whose school teaching had
been insincere and merely served as a blind for his own purposes, and
that her mad prank would please and flatter him.

Dan had proposed that they should spend Sunday in Sydney at a quiet
public-house where he felt sure of a welcome, and he would show Tot, who
had never been there, the sights of the city. It would give the horses a
rest, he said, and they could buy anything they wanted.

It so happened, moreover, that Dan was short of ready money for a good
big spree such as he wanted, so he further proposed that on the Saturday
night they should rob a citizen or two upon the Parramatta-road. Dan
said it would be great fun to ease a few Sydney people of their purses;
he knew a place called Homebush, some eight or ten miles from town,
where the road was cut through a thickish bit of scrub; which would suit
their purpose finely; he would 'stick them up,' and she could gather in
the money. Tot, nothing loath, agreed. She suggested, however, that she
ought to have a pistol; but Dan explained that this was wholly
unnecessary. There would be no need to shoot, he said, it would be dark
except for a bit of moonlight; he would cut a stick for her in the shape
of a pistol, which would be quite sufficient for her to point at them.
Hadn't he robbed a coach one night single-handed, with nothing but a
cabbage stalk!

This arrangement was not considered satisfactory by Tot, but Dan would
not give way; he did not care to trust women with fire-arms and he
preferred to keep his in his own possession. It had been settled that
the girl was to be known as Ted Carey, and the two having ridden from
the south into the Parramatta-road, pulled up at Homebush, where they
proposed to waylay and despoil their victims.

Now it happened that two other south coast people were riding through
Homebush Hollow to Sydney upon this very Saturday night; they were none
other than the preacher Amos Gordon and the shepherd fiddler Bothered
Shawn, neither of whom, it should be explained, had as yet heard aught
of the tremendous happenings in the valley or at Broadhaven Station. It
was the annual visit of Amos to the capital, and, as Bothered Shawn
wished to see an old relative there, Amos had brought him along for
company. They had travelled by easy stages, the preacher riding his old
grey cob, and Shawn a mulish-looking, ambling pony. Both had big swags
strapped in front of them on the saddle. They stayed one night with an
acquaintance of Gordon's at Liverpool, and, having made another call at
Cabramatta, were a bit late in getting into town. Needless to say,
neither was armed.

Dan and his companion, after fastening their horses some little distance
in the Bush, had waited for fully an hour, before the sound of shod
hoofs was heard in the distance.

"Hist, Tot!" said Dan. "Do you hear! there's a couple of money-bags
coming along. They're sure to have the dollars, as they haven't skinned
them yet in town. You stay here in the bushes, and I'll get across the
road; when you hear me call, 'Bail up!' just jump out and point your
stick at 'em, and they will ante up in a jiffy."

"But suppose they don't?" whispered Tot.

"Oh, but they will! Now keep quiet and handy, until I call out."

The horses of the new-comers were evidently tired, for they shuffled
along downhill into the hollow at little more than a walk. Then a man's
voice was heard: "Come along, brother Shawn, it's a bit dark, but we'll
canter after this, and we'll soon see the lights of Sydney."

It was a smooth, round, sonorous voice, and Tot stood in the bushes
transfixed, her heart beating like a trip hammer. "Whose voice is that?"
she asked herself. "Not Amos Gordon's; he is miles away." There was no
time for thinking, however, for she heard Dan shouting: "Bail up there!"

Tot hesitated, but only for a moment. Leaping out on the near side, she
caught hold of the pony's rein, and pointing her stick at Bothered
Shawn's astonished person, called in as masculine a voice as she could
command: "Bail up!"

There was a pause, as all four of them drew a deep breath. Dan was about
to speak again, when Amos Gordon recovered himself; he was tremendously
astonished at being 'stuck up' in this fashion, for he had not heard of
foot-pads on the Parramatta-road. He was just about to hand over his
purse, when an illuminating thought occurred to him, and he paused. He
had a great memory for voices, and somehow there was a familiar ring
about the stern summons of these two men. Where had he heard them? A
second's hesitation, and suddenly he remembered.

"Tot Gardiner!" he exclaimed. "Are you playing a trick on an old man?
Bless my heart, girl! what are you doing dressed up like that, and in
company of Mr. Flannigan, of the Wollambi, bailing up your old friends?"

A further pause followed, and then Tot said, solemnly: "Dan, we're
regular busted, it's old Amos Gordon and Bothered Shawn!"

"You dashed idiot," whispered Dan savagely, "keep quiet, you're giving
us away properly. I have a good mind to put a bullet through their
heads."

This was too much for Tot; she burst out: "You shoot either of them, Dan
Morley, and I'll have your life and see you hanged. Do you think I rode
from Broadhaven Valley to rob Bothered Shawn and Amos Gordon. Let them
go!"

"Good Heavens, girl! Will you shut up? You'll have the police here in a
minute."

For the life of them, neither Amos Gordon nor Bothered Shawn could make
head nor tail of the situation; that they were waylaid and threatened
with fire-arms was evident. Shawn was in a cold sweat of fear at the
threat of being shot. Amos Gordon had now no such anxiety, but he was
puzzling how Tot Gardiner, dressed in man's clothes, and in company with
a friend of the schoolmaster's, came to be playing at highway robbery.

"I think, Mr. Flannigan," said the old man, "I'll dismount and talk this
thing over with you; maybe you took myself and my friend here for
bushrangers. If that's so, I assure you we are honest people, and
friends too of one who, I believe, is your friend also--Mr. Bennett, the
schoolmaster."

At this Amos slowly dismounted; but as he did so, to his further
amazement, his two assailants made off into the Bush. He listened a
moment to the retreating footsteps, and then cried out at the top of his
voice: "Tot Gardiner, come back, child, and let an old man advise you
for your good."

"My goodness!" said Tot as they hurried in the direction of their
horses. "We've fallen in properly this time. He's a regular old stick,
and hasn't he a tongue! Give him half a chance and he'll force me back
home again if it costs him his life. And to think that he should bring
Bothered Shawn with him too!" The girl laughed hysterically.

They had just reached the horses, when they heard the old man shouting:
"Dan Flannigan, you villain, let the girl go, or I'll set the police on
your track. What do you think John Bennett would say about you?"

"Curse him, the old fool," muttered Dan, "I'll put daylight through him
yet;" and mounting his horse in a rage, he rode back toward the old
preacher. "Hear him," he said to Tot; "he'll rouse the whole
country-side."

"Don't lose your head, Dan," said Tot, greatly agitated; "let me go and
send them off," but while she was speaking Dan fired in the direction of
the voice, and following the shot Amos and Shawn were heard cantering in
the direction of Sydney.

Dan and Tot waited under cover for a time, for the rising moon was now
sending shafts of light through the lower branches of the trees, and Dan
re-loaded his weapon.

"You were a gawk to shoot," said Tot. "You don't know who's about; but
it was hard luck to have ta 'stick up' two of one's old friends in that
fashion. Whatever will the valley people say when they hear about it? I
shall tell them that I knew who it was, and did it for a joke."

"Do you think you'll ever get back again?" said Dan.

"Certainly, Mr. Flannigan, if I want to," retorted Tot; "who's to stop
me? But, tell me, do you think it will be safe now for us to ride into
Sydney; or had we better make for your estate on the Wollambi?"

"Oh, stow it!" said the bushranger angrily, "we've got to get some money
to-night to have a spree with in Sydney, and remember that you're in it
as much as I am; you needn't tell me, but you shook* that mare yer
riding."

(*Stole)

"All right!" said the girl contemptuously. "But think of something else
quick, please, or I shall do a bit on my own. We might have another
flutter and take a purse, and get into Sydney by some other road. There
can't be any more people from the Broadhaven Valley about--unless it is
the schoolmaster."

"I'd as soon meet old Nick to-night," said Dan. "Like as not he would
put a bullet into me."

"What for?" asked Tot, in astonishment.

"Ah, my girl! if you think you know him you're much mistaken. He can be
as soft as velvet among girls and kids; but once he's put out he's a
terror. Hello! there's some one else coming along; hang up your horse,
and let's try the trick again, and then I'll show you another road into
Sydney." He listened for a moment and then said: "Two country cornstalks
this time, or I'm much mistaken; hear 'em laugh?"

Two horsemen came trotting down into the hollow, talking and laughing as
they rode along. Tot braced herself up and held her stick ready to
present as a pistol. She was a strong, fearless girl, brought up to do a
man's rough work among horses and cattle; but she held her breath as the
two drew near, and she waited for Dan's rough challenge to spring out
upon them. "They might fire back at us this time," she thought.

She saw in the moonlight that they were two big men, riding good horses,
and then her heart stood still. It was a voice she recognized--the
schoolmaster himself--surely everything was going wrong!

The two horsemen, still laughing and talking, and unconscious of danger,
rode past unchallenged.

It was fully five minutes before Dan Morley came slowly across the
moonlit road and again joined her. He looked completely bewildered.
"Another fluke!" he whispered hoarsely. "Did you twig who it was? Curse
it! we've no luck to-night."

"I knew his voice," replied Tot, who was shaking all over, and beginning
to think that bushranging was not, after all, a very rosy occupation. In
fact, she already regretted having left her home. But it couldn't be
helped, she thought. Now she was in for it, she would see it through.

"So the captain is riding into Sydney on Fleetfoot, with a clergyman,"
said Dan, as though thinking aloud; "it's dashed dangerous! We all
thought that he was going to the Ranges by the Western-road. That
settles it for me. Tot; I daren't show my nose in Sydney, with him
there. We'll have to ride back, and get across the river at Parramatta.
Best stop there to-night. If we manage properly, no one will suspect
us."

"I have some money," said Tot. "Let's get back quickly, I'm hungry;
we'll see better what to do to-morrow."

It was a clear moonlight night, pleasantly cool without being cold, and
the horses stepped out briskly as their heads were turned toward
Parramatta; it was as though they knew that the journey was drawing to a
close.

For half an hour they walked the horses, for Dan refused to trot or
canter, keenly on the alert, and ready to turn into the Bush at any
moment, if suspicious circumstances made such a course seem advisable.
They had a plausible story ready to account for their presence on the
road; but Dan was specially anxious not to come into contact with the
police. Tot might be able to satisfy them, but he was not so sure about
himself.

Presently, through the still night, there came a distant sound behind
them, which made Dan pull up his horse and listen, for his well-trained
ear recognized the peculiar tread of several shod horses being ridden
upon the road behind them. They were coming along with clanking sabres
and equipment, at a hard, steady trot.

Tot heard the sinister sound also. "Do you think old Gordon has put the
police on us, Dan?" she said.

"They're not police, they're soldiers, and the sooner we get out of
their way, the better. That old fool of a preacher, no doubt, has given
'em the office; and even if, by good luck, we slip them, they're bound
to rouse the police in Parramatta. You bet! the police and soldiers know
more about our doings on the south coast than old Gordon did. We'll take
the left-hand bush, so as to keep clear of the river; the banks are high
about here; keep close up to me."

Turning into the thick undergrowth, he was followed by Tot, until they
reached a clump of tea-trees, where Dan dismounted. "Get off," he said,
"and keep quite still. Put your hand on the mare's nose. They'll soon be
passing."

They were six of the new mounted infantry, with an officer in charge.
They rode up at a swinging trot with a great noise of jingling spurs and
accoutrements. When abreast of Dan's hiding-place the officer cried,
"Halt!" They immediately stopped, and, judging by the long silence, they
were listening.

"Strange!" said the officer in a low tone. "Corporal, you said you could
hear them a few minutes ago?"

"Certainly I did, sir, they must have turned into the Bush somewhere,
and be hiding, no doubt, not far from us."

"Might have us covered with their pistols, eh!" said the officer,
shrugging his shoulders. "By the way, didn't Major Browne send word that
the girl was riding a blood-mare she had stolen?"

"Yes, sir."

"Keep perfectly still, men," was the next whispered command.

Five minutes passed. They seemed like an hour; the officer was evidently
waiting to hear something.

Suddenly, within what seemed only a couple of hundred feet from the
waiting horsemen, the silence was abruptly broken by the loud whinny of
Tot Gardiner's mare. It was what the officer had been waiting for.

"We have them, men," said the officer; "they're in a trap! Corporal,
take two men," he continued, "ride back a hundred yards, strike into the
Bush, and keep your eyes and ears open. Mind the creek, it has steep
banks here, and runs at about three hundred yards parallel with the
road."

"Come along, men," he said to the other two; "we'll head them off this
side."

"Corporal!" he shouted, as he put spurs to his horse, "take them dead or
alive. The man's one of Salathiel's gang. There's a hundred pounds
reward on his head."

Dan either had not known, or had forgotten, that just ahead of them, a
branch of the Parramatta River crossed the road, and swept around to the
northeast, between precipitous banks; nor had he heard the officer's
directions to his men.

Followed by Tot, he dug in his spurs and rode straight in the direction
of the creek. Coming into the full moonlight, he managed to pull up only
just in time. It was thirty perpendicular feet to the rocky bottom, and
to go over that would be certain death. He saw, at once, that they were
trapped; the soldiers had them on both sides, and in front was the
chasm.

"Surrender, or we fire!" called out the officer.

The bushranger gave the situation a moment's thought; there was only a
bare chance of escape for himself; he must ride past the corporal and
his men. Alas! Dan Morley had nothing chivalrous about him; he gave no
thought for Tot Gardiner! Firing off both pistols at the corporal and
his men, he spurred his horse, and rode straight for them.

A volley was the answer; but it was unsteady, for the men were afraid of
shooting each other; and, amid the smoke and confusion, Dan was heard
breaking through them at a gallop. A cry of pain and terror came from
Tot, whom, in the bright moonlight, the soldiers saw reeling unsteadily
in the saddle, for the mare, also shot, was struggling to stand upon the
very verge of the cliff; then, with a scream of fear from the mare, they
disappeared together into the darkness.

Alas! it was a sad tale that Amos Gordon would hear upon the morrow; for
it was he who had met and warned the soldiers. Dan, badly wounded, had
escaped, but was being tracked by troopers; and Tot Gardiner was dead.
Two bullets had struck her, and another bullet the mare, which had
fallen upon her in the bed of the creek, crushing her upon the hard
rock.



Things had been bad enough for Salathiel before, but they were ten times
worse now that Tot Gardiner was dead: and such a death! When Monday
morning's newspapers came out, the whole Colony would shudder at the
tragedy, and denounce Salathiel and his gang as the cause of it. And
Betsy Carey would read a passage in his letter to her--read it again
with scalding tears: "I am a miserable man at heart, Betsy; the good
that I would, I do not, and the evil I would not, that I do."




CHAPTER XXII--THE VALLEY OF SHADOWS


Nature recks naught of human guilt or suffering, and on Sunday morning
the sun shone as brightly as ever upon the flashing waters of Sydney's
magnificent harbour, and upon the trees and flowers and sward of the
public gardens which had recently been established between
Macquarie-street and Lady Macquarie's Chair.

Sydney was conservative in the matter of Sunday observance, more so than
now; and Salathiel was struck by the quietness of the city streets,
which, on the previous night, he had seen in a turmoil of business and
pleasure, under the glare of the gaslights.

He had promised the Rev. Mr. McEwan, who had impressed him very
favourably, to attend his church for morning service, and having put up
at an hotel, he dressed himself with unusual care, in a new suit of
clothes. He hoped to see the faces of his mother and sister; he might
not be able to speak to them, but it would be something to know for
himself that they were well.

It was a daring thing to do, for the church was in Philip-street, and
the police head-quarters and courthouse were close by, at the top of
King-street; but dressed in broadcloth, with top hat and gloves, Jack
passed two inspectors of police and several constables, one of whom, an
emancipated convict, saluted, under the impression that it was some city
magnate, who might resent any want of respect.

Jack was purposely late, hoping to get in unobserved and take a seat in
some sheltered corner of the building; but, as he mounted the steps,
whom should he see passing through the large vestibule but Amos Gordon!
At the sight Jack's evil genius warned him to draw back; but there was
little thought of either good angels or bad, God or Devil, in
Salathiel's mind that Sunday morning, although he was attending church,
and the only precaution he took was to enter by another door.

He found the better dressed portion of the large congregation occupying
the middle seats; they were standing to sing the first psalm as he
entered, and a fussy verger led the gentlemanly, well-dressed man,
notwithstanding his dissent, toward the front, and showed him into a
carpeted, cushioned pew with short blue curtains. There were other
well-dressed occupants of the pew, which was far too conspicuous for
Salathiel's liking. He was the more annoyed and perturbed when Amos
Gordon's beaming face confronted him. He felt sure that the old man had
seen and recognized him. However, he looked carefully around, over his
hymn-book, for it was a very long psalm; but he could see nothing of his
mother and sister.

Settling himself down in the corner of the pew, he presently began to
take more interest in the service. He was more accustomed to the Jewish
form of worship; but he had been in that church before, with his mother,
as a boy. It was a novel and not unpleasant sensation, after his rough
life as convict and bushranger, to sit there, a well-dressed man, among
well-dressed people. The choir was led by a precentor without any
musical accompaniment, but it was well trained, and the singing of the
congregation was hearty and impressive. Especially was Salathiel struck
by the words and music of "Nearer My God to Thee!"

His attention was presently arrested by the Old Testament reading, which
was about David when an outcast, being hunted by King Saul in the
wilderness of Zith; how David abode in strongholds and remained in a
mountain, and how Saul "sought him daily, but God delivered him not into
his hands." It was easy for Jack to imagine his case similar to that of
the warrior King of Israel. "He was driven out like myself, by injustice
and violence," he thought, "and he robbed the rich for the sustenance of
his men, who were poor. He was a fighter and an outlaw, and yet,
afterward, came to a kingdom and a throne!"

Of course there were many points of difference between the two; but, at
the time, Jack failed to see them.

When the text was announced, Jack became still more deeply interested.
It was taken from the Psalms of David and referred to his perilous
experiences before he became king. The words were: "Hide me under the
shadow of Thy wings, from the wicked that oppress me, from my deadly
enemies, who compass me about."

It was a singular coincidence, that such a text should have been chosen
as the subject of discourse, on an occasion when a notorious outlaw, for
the first and only time, sat in the congregation.

The sermon was a striking one, even to the casual hearer, and deeply
pathetic; but to Salathiel it came like a message from another world.
The preacher spoke of God as the hiding-place of His people. He pictured
a young man, with mother and sisters dependent upon him, beset by
creditors and tempted to steal. "How crisp the bank notes are!"
exclaimed the preacher. "How the gold glitters! See! he reaches out his
hand to take it; a moment, and he will be a dishonoured man, with a
seared conscience, and blasted life; that God pities him, and flashes
through his mind thoughts of his white-haired mother and his childhood's
home, and the young man bows his head in agony of soul, and cries to God
to pity him, to help him; and the Almighty stretches the wings of His
compassion over him, and hides him, until the temptation is past!"

It was a singularly vivid picture, and the whole congregation was
evidently moved, but Jack controlled himself, for the earnest face of
the preacher seemed to be turned frequently in his direction.

The preacher brought his sermon to a close: "In all times of sorrow," he
said, "we need a hiding-place, but especially in sorrow which is silent
and secret. Brethren, one-half the world's sorrow is hidden, and it is
the worst half; it's that which has most sin connected with it! We daily
meet with people whom we think we know all about; but we don't. We read
faces, but God reads hearts, and He only knows the extent of the sorrow
caused by sin; sorrow which is sometimes even unto death when there is
no Father God, and no hiding-place to flee to. David speaks of passing
through the Valley of Death, and he is generally supposed to refer to
dying; but he doesn't mean that at all. Death is not so bad! But there's
a hopeless sorrow which it would be easier far to die than bear! That's
the Valley of Shadows! When the grey-haired old King bowed his head over
the corpse of his rebellious son, and sobbed out: 'O Absalom! would to
God that I had died for thee! O Absalom, my son, my son!' that was the
Valley of the Shadow of Death. God save us from it!

"Brethren, there are times in life, for all of us, when we want a Divine
Father; times when, sweet as earthly sympathy is, it won't satisfy; when
to speak of philosophy, or anything but religion, would only add insult
to our woes; when a man involuntarily prays: 'God, help me! God, pity
me!' and there, bowed at the feet of the Divine Father, the troubled
spirit finds a hiding-place and peace."

A pause followed, and the preacher was about to close his discourse,
when a cry of agony rang through the building. The preacher's eloquence
had aroused feelings which were evidently more than some poor soul could
bear.

"It's Mrs. Salathiel," whispered an elder of the church to his wife;
"her daughter Ruth is with her. Poor woman! she's thinking of Jack."

Salathiel dared not rise and look around; but it was only by a great
effort that he restrained himself from doing so. He was in a corner of
the pew, and bowing his face in his hands, his whole sad life seemed to
pass before his inner consciousness in a moment of time, and only by a
supreme effort did he keep himself from groaning aloud. In that strange
vision he saw himself a hunted man, without home, refuge, hiding-place,
or God.

The service was quickly closed, and as, hat in hand, he looked fearfully
round, hoping to catch a glimpse of Ruth and his mother, a hand was
placed, from behind, upon his shoulder. He started, for it might have
been a policeman, but turning sharply round, he saw it was the hand of
Amos Gordon.

The old man seemed a little confused. "I'm glad to see you, Mr.
Bennett," he said. "It has been a wonderful service; very fine
discourse. Can I have a word with you outside?"

"Certainly," said Jack, but he said it with a heavy heart.

They went together down the crowded aisle, and turned up Philip-street
towards the Gardens. Salathiel looked eagerly out for his mother's
carriage, for several were still at the church door; but it was not
there. Now, for the first time, a fearful sense of impending disaster
took hold of him. Amos Gordon seemed to have something on his mind, and
was walking very quietly by his side. They turned together, without a
word, up to the Macquarie-street entrance of the Gardens.

"We will find a quiet seat, where we can sit and talk," said Salathiel.

They went on until they reached a vacant seat, where at their feet lay
the glorious harbour view.

"Now, old friend," said Salathiel, "you have something to tell me?"

"Mr. Bennett," said the old man in a broken voice, "is it really true
that you are Jack Salathiel, the bushranger?"

"Unfortunately, it is true," replied Jack.

"Poor fellow!" said Amos, looking at him with tears in his eyes. "Do you
know," he continued, with a break in his voice, "that Dan Morley brought
Tot Gardiner away with him from the Valley to Sydney, and that he is
badly wounded, and the police are after him, and that poor Tot Gardiner
is dead--shot through the brain?"

It was a full half-minute before Jack found his voice; it was as though
a great black blotch had suddenly fallen from the avenging Heavens upon
his pleasant memory of the school, and Betsy, and the Broadhaven Valley.
It blotted out all the sunshine; the very landscape around him was
suddenly changed--and he had been so careful that his life should be
kept white and clean down there!

"Dan Morley with Tot Gardiner in Sydney!" he stammered out. "And Tot
dead!" He spoke like a man absolutely dazed. "I know nothing whatever
about it; tell me all you know."

Amos Gordon told him the whole sad, mad, disgraceful story, and, as Jack
listened, he recalled the preacher's pathetic sermon, and there came
down upon his heart a weight like lead.

"If the police don't take him, Dan Morley shall answer to me for this,"
was all he said.

There was a long pause. Jack was looking down on the path, poking at the
gravel with his walking stick.

"Do the police or soldiers know that I am in Sydney?" he asked at last.

"I think not," said Amos.

"Amos Gordon," said Jack, turning round and looking him full in the
face, "you know how I have tried to do right down in the Broadhaven
Valley. I allowed nothing to be stolen and no one to be hurt. You know
that I intended to go away as I came, John Bennett the school-teacher;
tell me honestly, old man, do you believe that all the preacher said
about God this morning is true?"

"I do," said Gordon.

"Then tell me," said Salathiel, "where does a bushranger and an outlaw,
such as I am, come in?"

"Where the thief upon the cross did," replied Amos.

There was another pause.

"Good-bye, old man," said Jack. "You won't 'come it on' me, I know, and
I'm not going to give myself up to these devils yet, to be tried, and
tortured, and hanged. Both God and man seem to be against me. I must
thank that preacher some time for his Scripture reading and sermon; it
will surprise him to get a letter from a bushranger; but now I must get
out of Sydney quickly. Depend upon it, old friend, the Colony will hear
more yet of Jack Salathiel the bushranger."

Jack reached out his hand, and Amos Gordon clasped it in both of his and
commenced to plead with him; but Jack drew away, and leaping suddenly
over the low grassy bank in front of them disappeared.




CHAPTER XXIII--BETSY BECOMES SCHOOLMISTRESS


All through the sad days which followed the death of Tot Gardiner, Betsy
remained staunchly true to her old school-teacher. She began to know
Salathiel better, for she had not failed to write to him as he wished,
and in two letters in reply, he had told her something about himself and
his affairs. But there was no word of love in his letters, although
Betsy believed that she could trace more than a brotherly affection for
her; he had given her his confidence, and entrusted to her some secret
commissions, which was proof enough for her, at present, of his love. He
had even told her that there had been another woman in his life, a woman
of beauty and education, but as false as she was fair. Evidently he had
come to regard Betsy as one of his few sympathetic and knowledgeable
friends. How sacredly she kept her trust may be surmised; for even to
her mother the contents of Salathiel's letters were never disclosed.

To the people of the valley she presented an inflexible front on behalf
of Salathiel. She ignored everything that had to do with bushranging or
outlawry. She spoke of Mr. Bennett to the people with the utmost respect
and kindness, and let it be known that he had recently inherited
property in his own right. She said that he had been basely wronged and
ill-treated by bad men; and she so cleverly defended his reputation,
that there was quite a reversal of opinion on the part of many in his
favour. What proof was there, she asked, of his having done wrong to any
one in the valley? All they knew of his character was in his favour. To
the children especially she spoke of him in grateful and kindly terms.
"Think of all he taught us, and how kind and considerate he was!" she
would say; and she would even hint to them, that it was not impossible
but that he might return.

Ned Driver and others found her quite a match for them. "You're blaming
Mr. Bennett for what Dan Morley and other bad men did," she exclaimed
hotly; "you know that he knew nothing about Tot Gardiner leaving home,
and was not responsible, in any way, for her death. Tot came to her end
through her own folly, in stealing O'Brien's mare, and running away from
home, dressed in her dead father's clothes." If Dan had escaped the
police they might be sure that he had not escaped the anger of Mr.
Bennett.

"Hang Mr. Bennett!" exclaimed Ned Driver, "why don't you call him by his
right name?"

"It's the name I always knew him by," retorted Betsy; "it was the name
he had down here. By the way, Ned, honest now, were you always known as
the virtuous Edward Driver?"

Ned Driver jumped on his horse at this and rode off without another
word. He had run up against a snag, as the people said down in the
valley, for there was an unpleasant episode in his life, when he had
been known by another name. "The cat!" he muttered, "to taunt me about
that old thing, and call me the 'virtuous Edward Driver.' I wonder how
much she really knows about it!"

The weeks passed by, and Salathiel's gang, who were believed to be
hidden in their old haunts in the Liverpool Ranges, had been strangely
quiet. Robberies were of frequent occurrence, for there were many
ex-convicts out in the Bush; but there was nothing which could be
directly traced to Salathiel or his gang. Betsy was, of course, jubilant
at this, for every one had been predicting some early act of violence;
but, unfortunately, Betsy's satisfaction was not to last very long.

The thing which most impressed the people of the valley at this time was
the noticeable change in Betsy. She was fast growing into a gracious and
beautiful woman, and seemed to have suddenly developed a seriousness of
character and grace of deportment more fitted to one of riper years and
higher station in life. Being school-monitor, she met the Committee at
her own suggestion, and as there seemed but little likelihood that they
would be able to get another teacher, she offered, through her father,
that, if they would re-open the school, she would take temporary charge
of it. Mr. Bennett, she said, had left her all the school books, and it
was a pity, after the excellent start the children had made, that they
should go back again during the teacher's absence. To the astonishment
of the Committee, she declared that she had reason to believe that Mr.
Bennett might come back later on, and their surprise at the attitude she
assumed in regard to the late schoolmaster was so great that they did
not contradict her. Few of them indeed, were a match for Betsy's wits
and tongue; for she fought Salathiel's battles as does a lioness who
defends her young. Poddy Carey, however, predicted that a chap like
Salathiel was certain to be hanged.

But it was Betsy's management of the school which astonished both the
children and their parents, for before this, none of them had taken
Betsy seriously. It was as though the spirit of their old teacher had
taken possession of the new schoolmistress, only in a more energetic and
pugnacious form. The school had not been re-opened a fortnight under
Betsy's management ere some of the elder scholars gave indications of
insubordination and an intended general revolt. But Betsy took matters
in hand after a fashion which absolutely appalled them. She was going to
stand no nonsense! The very next morning the secretary and two stalwart
committee-men unexpectedly attended school. The two ringleaders were
expelled, another was severely thrashed, and two others left of their
own accord out of sheer fright; the outcome of it was, that the whole
school meekly accepted the new despotic reign of law and order. It was
at this time that Betsy's well-known fearlessness with horses and cattle
stood her in good stead with the motley crowd of youngsters she had
undertaken to teach. They feared and respected her for her very daring.
On some mornings, especially if late, she would come riding down at full
gallop on Loiterer, stock-whip in hand, and would jump the top rail of
the schoolhouse fence as though it were the most ordinary way of
entrance. There was special quietness and attention in the classes then.
The big boys would say: "Look out! Betsy has got her bristles up; she
came in over the top rail of the fence."

She worked assiduously at her books, moreover, so as to be able to
teach, made friends with Mercy Lord and appointed her monitor, and had
the success of the school so evidently at heart, that Mrs. Carey, proud
of her success, declared that there were plenty to do the work of the
house without her. But Betsy had become grave and thoughtful, and she
shirked no helpful duty in the household. It was now that her mother
began to fear that she loved Salathiel not wisely but too well.

Of course Jack had his enemies in the district--what strong man is there
who has not?--and as a bushranger he had laid himself, justly, open to
enmity; but the surprising thing was that some of those who had received
only kindness and assistance at his hands hated him the most. Major
Browne had nothing good to say about him, and Silas Stump was his sworn
and bitter foe. The latter, however, knew better than to display his
enmity before Betsy. He had nothing to complain of about her, either as
to her teaching or her use of the canes and green hide calfskin. "I
wouldn't have thought it was in her," he said one day; "the children
mostly like her, and are learning well, but if any of them play tricks,
she is down on them surprisingly; oh, there is no nonsense about the way
she teaches school."

What a wonderful, subtle and creative thing is love! How it subjugates,
inspires, and controls! What wondrous changes have been wrought, and
what deeds achieved under its inspiration, even when it has been almost
wholly a hopeless passion, as was Dante's love for Beatrice! It would
not be quite correct so to describe Betsy's for Salathiel; but, as
events were moving, it seemed very unlikely that her love for the
bushranger would ever be more to her than an inspiring and beautiful
ideal. Salathiel's life seemed to be on the down-grade since his visit
to Sydney, and might at any moment be brought to a sudden end; or it
might become so stained with crime and violence as to mar or destroy its
fair image in Betsy's mind. It was John Bennett the school-teacher whom
Betsy had learned to love--not Jack Salathiel the bushranger.

"There's a fine story in the newspapers about your old schoolmaster,
Betsy," said Silas to her one day.

"More fairy tales, I suppose!" replied Betsy.

Her heart beat fast, however, for she knew more about Salathiel than
most, and the more she knew the greater were her fears. She would
concede nothing, however, to Silas Stump, whom she had come to regard as
a natural enemy.

"Here, read it for yourself," said Silas, handing her a Sydney paper.
The article was headed:

               ROBBERY UNDER ARMS

          Salathiel and his Gang at Baker's Creek

There was, however, 'a fly in Salathiel's pot of golden ointment' which
the journals, at the time, knew nothing about.




CHAPTER XXIV--A GILDED PILL FOR SALATHIEL


Instead of printing what Betsy read in the Sydney newspapers, which was
only partially correct, it is proposed to transcribe Joe Crocker's
account of this adventure, mostly in his own words, for it was he who
saw the whole affair, and gave the story to the press.

It should be explained that, although the discovery of gold was not made
public by Hargreaves until February 1851, there had been quite a number
of previous finds of the precious metal in 1849 and '50, which, through
fear of the Government, which had prohibited digging for gold, had been
worked secretly. Such a discovery had been made at a place called
Baker's Creek, some eighty miles north-west of Maitland.

Joe Crocker, who was at this time a young fellow of two and twenty,
worked on a copper-mine* much farther north, and with a bulk sample of
copper ore on a pack-horse for assay, was on his way to Maitland. He had
ridden forty miles that day, which left him another couple of miles to
ride, before reaching Baker's Creek, so, meeting with a party camped on
the roadside, he thought that he might as well stay there for the night,
as there was plenty of grass and water handy for his horses. He proposed
to ride into Baker's Creek next morning, in time for breakfast.

(*Copper was discovered in New South Wales in 1829.)

Joe pulled up his horses close to a fire, where a man was cooking
damper, and said: "Good evening, mate."

"Good evening," replied the man, looking hard at him; "are you going on
to the creek?"

As Joe answered in the affirmative, three more men came out of a tent,
which was pitched close by, in the shelter of some bushes. "You'll have
to push on to get there before dark," said the man who had first spoken.

"Are you a miner?" asked another, who had been speaking to the first man
in an undertone.

"I guess so," replied Joe, as he dismounted with youthful assurance.
"I'm taking a bulk sample of lode stuff down to Maitland," he continued.

"Gold?" queried one of them.

"No, I wish it was. The boss wouldn't have trusted me with gold; it's
copper-ore of some kind, but we're going to see."

There was some more whispering, when one of the men said to Joe: "We're
a party of prospectors. You can camp with us to-night if you like, mate;
it's a rough bit of road between here and the creek."

Joe thanked them, and at once agreed to do so. He put them down as a
party of new chums who, so far as mining went, probably wouldn't know
the difference between a miner's cradle and a dolly-pot. He thought them
a good-hearted, harmless crowd, and told them that his name was Joe.

Two of them said they were only just out from Cornwall, and one asserted
that he had already made a bit of a pile on the quiet. They had plenty
of tucker, and would not let Joe unpack his. After tea they brought out
a bottle of grog, and settled down to have a game of euchre, in which
Joe joined them. "Pity," said one they called Dandy Snow, "there wasn't
another to make it six!"

Just then a coo-ee was heard in the bush. One of them answered, and
directly afterwards who should come riding along, on a fine upstanding
horse, but a parson?

"Thank goodness, my men," said he, riding cautiously into the camp; "I
was afraid I was bushed. I'm dead tired and hungry. I have some
blankets. I suppose you are miners; you won't mind my camping here
to-night?"

"Of course not, your reverence," said a man they called Ned Fenton, "Put
the billy on, Dandy, while I help the minister to unsaddle his horse and
make up a shake down for him in the tent."

"Hang it all!" said Dandy to Joe, as he put the cards out of sight and
hung on the billy. "I'd sooner it had been Old Nick than a parson; he'll
want to have prayers to-night, you bet! and we might have had a
six-handed game of euchre. But Fenton is a real religious sort of card,
and he's boss just now."

Joe was astonished at the attention they paid the clergyman. He was
fatigued, he said, with his ride, so Fenton made him a stiff nobbler of
hot whisky and water before he had his supper, and the men sat around,
as the clergyman afterward remarked, as good as boys at Sunday school,
except that they smoked their pipes and drank grog.

The clergyman had a good tuck-in, and told them he had been away from
his parsonage for nearly a month, and had held twenty services and
married five couples, baptized fourteen children, and given the
temperance pledge to several hard drinkers. He told them he was very
much afraid of bushrangers, and hinted that the presents and collections
he had received were very liberal. "It's my annual tour," he remarked,
"of which I make a special feature at shearing time."

The men laughed, and told him that he would be all right, as Australian
bushrangers had a great respect for the clergy.

Later on, Joe got a bit of a staggerer, for, taking out a gold watch,
the clergyman said: "Now, brethren, it's an hour yet to bedtime, and I
think you were playing euchre. I'm not a bit strait-laced, and you all
look temperate men. So suppose we have a six-handed game, and then a
glass of whisky from my travelling flask before we turn into bed?"

"By all means, your reverence," said Fenton. "I see you're one of the
right sort; I wish there were more clergymen like you."

The parson had the men's tent to himself that night, at least Dandy told
Joe he had, and Joe slept under a white gum sapling, with his blanket
around him and his head in his saddle.

Next morning Joe rode into Baker's Creek, in company with the Rev.
Ignatius Small, M.A., of All Saints', Maitland, who had left his thanks
and blessing with the hospitable miners. "They're good fellows," he
said, as he rode along, "and that man Fenton has evidently been brought
up with proper respect for the cloth. I hope they will have real good
luck."

The find at Baker's Creek was being kept as quiet as possible; but
several parties were sluicing and panning out a considerable amount of
coarse alluvial gold.

There was a store, mostly built of packing cases, at Baker's Creek, with
a canvas sign in front, on which was painted 'Brown and Co.' It was a
branch of an important Maitland firm, which sold everything that miners
or travellers could hope to buy in such a place. Here the precious metal
was bought for hard cash or exchanged for soft and hard goods, tobacco,
and a trifle of grog, on occasion.

The clergyman put up at the hotel, such as it was, while Joe sought
accommodation at a boarding-house with calico walls and iron roof on a
framework of green saplings. He had a letter of introduction to Brown
and Co., of Maitland, and had been told to show it on his way to the
manager at Baker's Creek. The proprietors of the copper-mine had been
good customers, and Joe guessed that he was sure to have a cordial
reception; but, to his delight, he found that Ned Chipman, a nephew of a
member of the firm and an old school-mate, was in charge during the
absence of the manager. He was older than Joe, and had grown into a
clever, capable man with strong character and a thorough aptitude for
business.

He would not hear of Joe going on that afternoon, "Besides, old man,"
said he, "it is a stroke of luck for me your turning up just now. You
don't know who to trust here. I've to start for Maitland myself
to-morrow, and for several reasons I would like to have you with me. We
can both sleep on the counter to-night; bring your swag across from the
boardinghouse and have your meals here until we start."

"Why do you sleep on the counter?" asked Joe; but just then several
customers came in, and Ned, saying, "I'll tell you all about it at
lunch-time," left him to go and get his swag.

As he was walking along the one street of the township, a short, stout
man came up to him and said: "Stranger, there's going to be a service at
the Rollup-tree to-night; there'll be flutes and fiddles, and a real
live parson to conduct it. You'll attend, of course?"

"Certainly, if business does not prevent me," said Joe.

The man was a Cornish Methodist, and he hurried along saying: "Tell all
you meet to come, brother; it's an opportunity for good in a lost place
like this." Joe guessed that the clergyman referred to must be his
friend, the Rev. Ignatius Small.

They locked the store up during the dinner-hour, and as they ate Joe
thought that Ned seemed unusually nervous and thoughtful.

"What's the matter with you?" said Joe. "You look as solemn as a
grave-digger." Ned looked cautiously around the little room, which had
an iron safe in one corner, with a double-barrelled pistol lying on the
top of it, and said in a whisper: "I'll tell you after dinner, Joe."
Then he spoke in a louder tone: "You didn't know I was going to be
married next week?"

"No," exclaimed Joe; "who's the lady?"

"She'll be here presently with her aunt. They're riding in from Dunbar
Station. That's why we're going to sleep on the counter," he added.

"Why! that's where Mr. Small was the night before last," said Joe; and
then he told Ned of his meeting with the clergyman at the diggers' camp.

Ned grew thoughtful, and asked Joe a good many questions about things at
the camp. "There are no miners out that way," he said, "that I know of,
and I never heard of the Rev. Ignatius Small at Maitland; he may be a
new curate or something; but we must keep our eyes open, for there's no
knowing what these bushrangers may be up to. Did you see any fire-arms
about the camp?"

"Yes," said Joe, "they had a regular stack of guns; but, if they were
bushrangers, the parson could not have been one of them."

"Don't be too sure about that, old man," was Ned's reply. "I shouldn't
be a bit surprised if the parson isn't Jack Salathiel in disguise. I've
never seen him yet; but they say he's the cleverest actor off the stage.
He's been personating a schoolmaster down south, and they say that when
he makes up his own mother wouldn't know him."

After the table was cleared Ned offered Joe a cigar, an uncommon luxury
in those days, and said as he lit one for himself: "We've twenty minutes
before I need unlock the store again. Now I'll tell you why I'm
suspicious of every stranger. This time yesterday there was over five
thousand pounds in gold and cash, in that safe; but it's on its way to
Maitland now.

"Of course it's well known here that I have a good bit of gold and money
to go down. You cannot keep things of that sort secret, because it's
over a month since we sent down the last, and we are buying gold and
taking cash over the counter every day.

"My people are sending up an escort of four mounted troopers and a
sergeant this afternoon, but the road between here and Maitland is
infested with bushrangers. We did them last time; but it's common talk
that Salathiel's gang have made up their minds to have this lot,
troopers or no troopers, and I hear that Salathiel has said that he'll
do it without bloodshed. I believe there are some heavy bets laid as to
whether we'll get the stuff through. Two coaches with strong escorts
have been 'stuck up' during the past six weeks. So far we have escaped,
for Salathiel has had a kind of regard for a member of our firm; but
there's something gone wrong between him and our people, and he means to
best us this time. He shan't, however, if I can help it...

"Joe!" he exclaimed, under his breath, "my people would stop my
marriage, if I lost this gold, and I believe it would be the death of
me."

"Where is it now?" asked Joe in a whisper.

Ned looked around, nervously, and lowered his voice, until only just
audible, and said: "Tom Nugent, our bullocky, has it on his wool-team.
The gold and cash are in the middle of a big bale of wool, from Glenelg
Station."

"Didn't you tell me that the wool left this morning for Maitland?" said
Joe.

"Yes, it should be at least ten miles on the road," replied Ned.

"Jerusalem! and doesn't your man know he's got it?" exclaimed Joe
excitedly.

"Hush!" said Ned. "Walls have ears in this place. The old chap is as
honest as the day; but he knows nothing at all about it."

"Well, what's the trouble?" said Joe.

"Why, just this. I'm going down with Lucy in the gig. We shall have the
troopers with us, and the supposition is that we shall have the gold in
the gig. My people place more reliance on the police than I do. We're
sure to be bailed up, and, you'll see, the troopers will throw up their
hands, or clear out as soon as the first shot's fired. They've done it
before. And then, when the bushrangers find out that we haven't the gold
in the gig, they'll suspect the wool-team. They'll know that the gold is
somewhere near at hand, and Salathiel is the smartest rogue unhanged. I
ought to have sent the bullock team on earlier; but we must trust to
luck. If I had only something to put into the gold-boxes that would
deceive them for a few hours, we might get through."

"By gum, Ned! I have it," exclaimed Joe excitedly, "I've nearly a
hundredweight of stuff with me, that they will never know to be anything
else but gold."

"What?" queried Ned.

Joe put his hand into his pocket, and brought out a little parcel
wrapped in paper, and showed it to his friend.

The golden yellow metallic appearance of the copper pyrites, shone, in a
ray of sunlight, just like gold.

"What is it?" exclaimed Ned excitedly. "Gold?"

"No," said Joe; "it's copper; but there are not many about here would
know the difference; it's the new ore, called copper pyrites, which we
have discovered up north."

That afternoon Miss Lewis and Mrs. Connell, her aunt, who did not look
much older, rode in from the station. Ned was himself again, and as busy
as he could be with matters pertaining to the store and his arrangements
for departure.

Later on the troopers arrived, with a great clatter of accoutrements.
They were a fine, well-set-up lot of men, well mounted and armed, and
the sergeant rode them around the place to show off and properly to
impress the inhabitants. They met the clergyman on his rounds, and
saluted with great respect.

Twice during the afternoon Joe ran up against the Rev. Ignatius Small,
and at his request, accompanied him to the store, and introduced him to
Ned Chipman.

"That's a fine body of troopers you have up for escort," said the
clergyman. "I hear that you are taking down quite a large consignment of
gold. I have never seen any considerable quantity of the root of all
evil; would it be untimely if I asked to be allowed a glimpse of the
precious metal which these gallant fellows have to safeguard to
Maitland?"

Ned apologized, and said the boxes were screwed down and sealed.

"Ah, that's a pity. Well, I shall hope to see it some other time--down
at Maitland, perhaps--where I have no doubt the heads of your firm will
be pleased to show it to me. You're coming to the service, I hope. It
will be quite like apostolic times, to hold it in the open air under the
spreading branches of your assembly tree. I hope by the time of my next
visit, a hall or church may have been erected. Your firm would no doubt
give a liberal donation to such an object."

All this time his eyes were wandering around the store, and then he
said: "I hear that this good gentleman is a friend of yours, Mr.
Chipman. I am hoping to have the pleasure of his company to-morrow, when
riding through on my way to Maitland. I am most fortunate in having
arrived just now. You know, I have a great dread of these bushrangers;
but then, I believe they always show some deference to the cloth."

Joe noticed that Ned Chipman eyed him with special interest. He was a
fine looking, youngish man, a little shabby, but his dress was of
strictly clerical cut, with a large brimmed, black, soft felt hat. There
were a number of customers and others in the store and he chatted and
shook hands with them all.

"My word!" said a miner, as he went out, "that chap's got a hard hand
and a strong grip for a parson."

Ned had a great deal to attend to, so he asked Joe to escort the ladies
to the service. A big crowd gathered, but no clergyman arrived. The
extemporized platform, which did duty as a pulpit, was occupied by the
little Cornish Methodist, who explained, with many apologies, that he
had to act as a substitute, as the clergyman had been suddenly taken
ill.

The ladies occupied the manager's bedroom that night, and Ned and Joe
made up beds with a pile of bags and blankets on the counter; but they
did not undress, nor sleep much; Ned was too excited and had too much to
talk about.

"Did you see a bit of a bark shanty a short distance from where you
camped last night?" he asked.

"No," said Joe.

"Well, it's there," said Ned. "It's a sly grogshop, owned by Pat Hogan,
who's friendly with all the bushrangers in the district. That was Pat
Hogan's tent you saw; it's a short distance from the shanty. Salathiel's
gang are up here after our gold, and that clergyman is none other than
Salathiel himself. Imagine the cheek of the thing! It's adding insult to
injury, to come swaggering around here as a clergyman, but he does it to
rights; he's an educated man, you know; he was a convict once, and
assistant bookkeeper at Eurimbla Station, down Maitland way."

Joe was completely staggered at this information. He gasped out,
however, "You've got the troopers in town; why don't you have Salathiel
and his gang up at the camp arrested?"

"No use, my boy," said Ned, putting his hand on Joe's arm, and speaking
very quietly, "you don't know what dare-devils these fellows are; they
have made a regular sweep of things this time, and I hope it will stir
up the authorities to do something to clear the country of the wretches.
The troopers who have been parading around are all bushrangers; they
must have entrapped the escort and have them in safe keeping somewhere.
Goodness knows, they may have shot some of them; they are wearing the
troopers' uniforms. We're in a pretty pickle, old man. I only hope that
Tom Nugent has pushed along with the wool. I told him to get through as
quickly as possible, as we wanted to make a shipment, and said that he
would have a few days off, at the other end, if he did so."

"Whatever is to be done?" Joe asked, in amazement.

"Nothing," said Ned, "just nothing. It's no use telling the women-folk;
we should only frighten them, and we can't trust any of the people here.
The only two constables we have are away at Cassilis, on what is, no
doubt, a fool's errand. The bushrangers got everything in their hands
this time, and that's why Salathiel is so cock-sure about it; our only
chance is to outwit them."

Ned got out the gold boxes, and they filled them up with the copper
pyrites, and then sprinkled a little coarse gold on the top of each of
them. The gold was paler than usual, as it had a little silver with it.
They had picked out the smallest of the pyrites to put on top, and it
would have taken a gold expert to know, at sight, the difference.

Ned covered it up well with paper, screwed down the lids, and sealed
them up with red sealing-wax. The boxes were not quite so heavy as they
would have been if filled with gold, but as Ned said, "it was a good
enough haul for a lot of beggarly bushrangers."

"Now," said Ned, "we must fix up something for you to carry on your
pack-horse as a bulk sample. Fortunately, I have some lode-stuff that
was brought in by some miners a few months ago."

It was early morning before they pulled the blankets over them, and
tried to get to sleep. It was a long time, however, before they closed
their eyes in slumber, for the thought of what might happen on the
morrow.

Joe heard Ned at last breathing heavily in his sleep, but he lay awake
for some time after, listening to the mice running about the store and
imagining all kinds of evil. He slept at last, dreamt that a stalwart
bushranger was standing over him with a pistol pointed at his head, and
sprang up to grapple with him; but it was only Ned, candle in hand,
shaking him to get up.

"My word, young man, you squared up like a boxer at me!" said Ned; and
then they laughed as Joe told him his dream.

They had arranged to make an early start, and at six o'clock the
supposed troopers and clergyman were waiting outside the store. Ned was
a 'close' man, and hadn't told the chief storeman of his intention. When
the big bay mare was put into the gig and everything, including the
gold-boxes, loaded up, he took the troopers out a stiff glass of whisky
each, and asked the clergyman if he would have one, or a glass of wine.

"No, thank you," said Mr. Small. "I'll just go round to the yard, and
see if our friends are all ready...You've got the gold safe?"

Ned nodded, and lifting up a rug, showed him the boxes at the back of
the gig.

The clergyman looked at them, nodded confidentially, and then rode up to
where Mrs. Connell was waiting on her horse, and began to expatiate upon
the pleasure of an early morning ride through the Bush.

Joe jumped into the saddle, and unhitched the pack-horse from the fence.

"All aboard?" queried Ned.

"Yes, go ahead," was the reply, and off they started.

The sergeant and a trooper rode first; then came Ned with the gig and
Miss Lewis. The Rev. Ignatius Small had attached himself to Mrs.
Connell. Joe followed close behind; and at a short distance in the rear
rode the three other troopers. They looked a formidable party, for they
were all armed; but as Joe trotted along, to keep up with them, he felt
terribly down-hearted. A sensation came in his throat as though he were
half choked. He knew that Ned Chipman was a determined fellow, and he
was afraid of bloodshed; but what could two men, with a couple of women,
do against five well-armed bushrangers? Their only chance, as Ned said,
was to outwit them.

The main north-western road passes close to Baker's Creek, so, on
striking that, Joe shook up his horses, and got on the other side of
Mrs. Connell. The clergyman was making himself uncommonly agreeable to
her; and unconscious of what was before them, she laughed and joked
back, in evident enjoyment of the ride, possibly flattered by her
companion's compliments and attentions. They were talking of the
forthcoming marriage, and of the intended bride and bridegroom in the
gig.

"You're married, of course, sir?" said Mrs. Connell to the clergyman.

"That happiness has not yet fallen to my lot," he answered.

"Ah, then, you ought to be," she replied. "Clergymen should be an
example to the flock, you know."

"Ah, it's not every day, madam, that a man falls in with a lady like
yourself, or there would be fewer bachelors in the world!" he answered
gallantly.

"But you must have plenty of opportunities of meeting with nice women,"
replied the lady.

"Fewer opportunities than you have any idea of," he said; and then after
a short pause, he added, laughing, "Some day, perhaps, I shall run away
with a lady like yourself."

"Run away with her!" ejaculated Mrs. Connell in surprise.

They had been walking the horses up a steep hill, and the road now being
level, Ned started the mare off at a swinging trot. It was a fine
animal, and during the next two hours they covered a good sixteen miles.
The troopers in front wished to travel more slowly; but Ned kept the
mare close at their heels and pushed them along.

It was a glorious autumn morning, and although Joe was much disturbed
over the situation and keenly alert, he could not help remarking the
fragrance of the Bush and the rich odour of the gum-trees. They were
nearing Downfall Creek, which ran through a hollow, with the Hunter
Ranges to the right--as wild and lonesome a country as any in that part
of New South Wales.

The clergyman seemed to be occupied with his thoughts, and had said but
little for half an hour, when all at once he remarked to Mrs. Connell,
"I suppose you've never yet had an encounter with bushrangers, madam?"

"Dear me, no! the dreadful creatures!" she replied. "But we are safe
enough with the troopers and so many other gentlemen to protect us. They
surely would not dare to stop such a formidable company as ours?"

"We must not be too sure, madam," said the clergyman. "Daring men will
risk a good deal for such a prize as Mr. Chipman has in the gig yonder;
but you need be under no apprehension. I've had several encounters with
them; all that you have to do is to keep quiet, and you will come to no
harm."

"And let them steal the gold!" exclaimed Mrs. Connell.

"Oh, that's the men's business," he said. "Ladies and clergymen, you
know, never fight."

"I don't know so much about that," said Mrs. Connell.

They had turned a corner of the road and, at the bottom of a short hill,
saw Downfall Creek in front of them; a shallow sparkling stream, running
over a pebbly bottom, and on the other side, drawn across, so as to
completely block the road, was Tom Nugent's bullock team.

"Hallo! he must have lost his bullocks or met with an accident," said
the clergyman, as he quickened his pace and rode up to the gig.

Ned and Joe knew very well that there had been no accident, for Tom must
have travelled a good ten miles that morning, so he could not have lost
his bullocks. Joe rode closer up to Mrs. Connell, and said in a somewhat
shaky voice, "Whatever happens, Mrs. Connell, don't be alarmed; they
won't hurt you."

Joe's words were braver than his heart, however, for after the
clergyman's attentions to Mrs. Connell, he thought, there was no knowing
what might be the sequel; but he didn't know Salathiel!

As they reached the creek, Joe saw the clergyman point a pistol at Ned
Chipman, and immediately there was a cry of "Bail up!" from one of the
supposed troopers who had approached them from behind.

Resistance, of course, would have been worse than useless, for, from
behind the wool team, there suddenly appeared Ned Fenton and Dandy Snow,
Joe's hospitable entertainers at the miners' camp.

Ned Chipman made a small show of resistance, but it was only a feint,
and they were soon standing disarmed in the road, with their hands up,
in company with Tom Nugent.

The wool team evidently hadn't been interfered with, and Ned looked
significantly at Joe, who read, in his eyes, the hope that he might yet
outwit the bushrangers.

"I regret," said the pseudo-clergyman, who may as well be called
Salathiel, "that we shall have to detain you for an hour or so; but as
soon as the men have taken charge of Mr. Chipman's gold you can get your
lunch out, and have it down by the creek, where there is excellent
water, if you wish to boil a billy and make some tea. Our men will
arrange that no one comes along to disturb you."

"Good-bye, Mrs. Connell," he said, taking off his hat politely; "I have
deceived you, but you remember the old saying 'all is fair in love and
war.'"

Ned and Joe trembled as the bushrangers forced open one of the boxes,
but they seemed satisfied, and the disguised troopers, with Salathiel,
went off into the Bush.

Ned Fenton and Dandy Snow, who were armed to the teeth, guarded the
captives, and intimated that others of the gang were handy in the Bush.
An hour dragged wearily by, and then they saw several men approaching on
foot. They were the escort proper, dressed in rough civilian clothes,
and looking terribly crestfallen. They had been surprised while camping
on the road, and tied up in the Bush, under guard, while the bushrangers
donned their uniforms and came on to Baker's Creek.

Ned Chipman's party got safely through to Branton that night, and the
next day arrived at Maitland. It was moonlight, and Tom Nugent pushed
through with his bullocks, breaking all previous records.

There was great rejoicing when from the midst of the wool-bale they
disinterred the Baker's Creek gold.

It should be said that the bulk sample of copper pyrites proved to be a
gilded pill for Salathiel, for the gang soon found out how completely
they had been taken in; but not until they had passed on to many of
their Bush friends copper pyrites, in exchange for goods and services
rendered. For a long time the stuff caused no end of trouble, for it was
offered as gold in exchange for notes to various stores all over the
district.

For a long time afterward, the whole country-side laughed at the story
of how Salathiel and his gang had been taken in by Joe Crocker's
pyrites.




CHAPTER XXV--THE GLEN OF ADULLAM


If there was one thing which galled Salathiel more than another it was
to be held up to ridicule, and the affair at Baker's Creek made him the
laughing stock of the Colony. It was the first really serious reverse he
had experienced since taking to the Bush. Notwithstanding his elaborate
get-up as a clergyman and the capture of the troopers by his men, he had
been thoroughly outwitted by superior stratagem.

He had reason to believe also that he was losing his influence over some
of the gang, for he knew they were laughing at him with the rest. He had
overheard Dandy Snow say to Ned Fenton: "Imagine thousands of pounds in
gold and cash being carted away in a bale of wool, under one's very
nose, and the captain being tricked by the yellow glitter of a lot of
copper ore. It's too ridiculous, lads! We ought to make that Ned Chipman
and his firm sit up for it; some of them would laugh another way then."

But Salathiel would not hear of any paltry show of spite of this sort.
"They have beaten us this time," he said; "let's take our gruel kindly;
our turn will come later on if we have patience."

But there was another matter which annoyed Jack and further humiliated
him. He had broken faith with his sister Ruth and gained nothing by it;
and he had destroyed all the high hopes of Betsy, that he would have
nothing more to do with common highway robbery.

It should be explained that the visit of Lieutenant Thompson to
Salathiel while at the Valley had partly to do with a considerable
fortune which had come to Salathiel through the sudden death of a
relative. As an outlaw, any property he possessed was forfeited to the
Crown; but he had signed transfers to his sister, and her lawyer had
managed to get the matter through. Ruth had agreed to hold Jack's
interest in her own name, and send him the income and proceeds, on
condition that he acted only on the defensive and refrained from any
robberies on the road.

He had allowed himself, however, to be drawn into the 'sticking up' of
Browne and Co.'s gold to gratify the gang, and having committed himself
to the affair, had carried it through with very unnecessary ostentation
and bravado. He had now a secret income which supplied him with ample
means to keep himself and his gang in comfort, until such time as they
could make good their escape from Australia. But the Baker's Creek
affair had been an utter and public failure, and Salathiel began to ask
himself whether a supernatural power might not have prevented his
actually stealing the gold, not for his own sake, but for the sake of
Ruth and Betsy.

It will be hard to explain to the reader how lonely and isolated
Salathiel's life at this time really was. The gang shared his money, but
they had very few thoughts in common with him; they could not understand
him, and were fast losing confidence in him as a leader. The newspapers
of the Colony were ridiculing him as a fustigated highway-robber, and
the gang grew daily more restless and dissatisfied with his leadership.
He was too bad for some people, and too good for others; and it put him
in that perilous position which is popularly described as being between
the devil and the deep sea. In fact, he was just now in danger of
becoming a worse criminal, and a much more dangerous man than he had
been before. If, on account of this last escapade, his sister, or Betsy,
had thrown him over as a reprehensible renegade, he would probably, in
despair, have had recourse to deeper crime and violence. But, as soon as
the failure to steal Browne and Co.'s gold became known, Ruth managed to
send him a considerable sum of money, and Betsy wrote, boldly
congratulating him upon the failure of his attempt to rob the Maitland
firm. He took Ruth's money and burnt Betsy's letter, and, engrossed in
his own thoughts, held himself still more aloof from the gang.

The men's disappointment was keen. They had planned this as their big
coup-de-grace, and had hoped to divide the gold and disperse with the
spoil, for under the influence of Salathiel, most of them had become
convinced that the game of bushranging was not worth the candle, and
would only lead to the gallows.

But a new danger threatened; Salathiel's rocky fastness in the Liverpool
Ranges was becoming a sort of cave of Adullam, to which desperate
criminals, as well as those who were driven into bushranging by
misfortune and ill-treatment, resorted. Coarse, brutal thieves and
murderers were in hiding there, who thought they had a right to be
hail-fellow-well-met with Salathiel and his gang; and for his own safety
and that of his men, he dared not openly quarrel with them.

It will be seen that things were fast approaching a crisis; robberies
and crimes with which Salathiel and his gang had nothing to do, but for
which they were invariably blamed, were of frequent occurrence. The
police were increasingly active, large rewards were offered for the
capture of bushrangers dead or alive; and in the case of convicts who
gave information, or assisted in the apprehension of bushrangers, a free
pardon was promised, and a free passage home. There was even talk of an
organized effort, on the part of the Government, to storm the almost
impregnable fastnesses which were the haunts of these desperadoes.

On coming into his new wealth, Salathiel had decided at the first
favourable opportunity to leave Australia; but he would not run away and
desert the men who had made him their chief, so he determined to take
the bull by the horns, and by careful organization and force of arms,
secure absolute command over the outlaws of the district. He decided
upon this after a long conference with his men; and, with their
approval, admitted a few of the more reliable ex-convicts into the gang,
and then let it be known through the district that only such road and
other robberies as were arranged by him would be permitted. Salathiel
intended that there should be no more such crimes of violence; but it
would not do for him to make this known at present. He still intended to
make the Colony pay tribute to himself and his gang, but he would do it
in a more civilized way.

The effect of this was a notable decrease of ordinary crimes of violence
all over the district, and people began to breathe more freely, while
the authorities, without relaxing their vigilance, carefully watched to
see how Salathiel's new regime would eventuate. It was believed that
some of the worst criminals had banded themselves together to destroy
Salathiel, and that fighting was going on in the ranges between
Salathiel's gang and other less civilized outlaws. It was at this time
that Eurimbla Station was 'stuck up' by the Gilbert gang; and Joe Brady,
the station bookkeeper and Jack's old friend, was brutally murdered in
cold blood.

Within three days afterward, two notorious outlaws and murderers, George
Gilbert and Pat Morgan, who had led the attack upon the station, and
been seen in the act of murdering Brady, were found dead, hanging by the
neck from trees upon the Maitland road. A notice was attached to the
bodies which ran as follows:

"Executed after full inquiry and proof of guilt, for the brutal murder
of Joe Brady, a white man and deserving citizen.

                                   "By order, J. J. Salathiel."

The effect of this exhibition of lynch law was many-sided. It made
Salathiel not a few enemies among the criminals who were, like himself,
outlaws in the Bush; and the authorities, newspapers, and general public
did not know how to take it. They rejoiced at the death of two
bloodthirsty scoundrels; but they rejoiced with trembling, for this was
a subversion of authority which might result in unexpected deeds of
violence. The man who was capable of taking the law into his own hands
in this fashion was equal to anything.

But it was force of circumstances rather than choice which was driving
Salathiel into desperate courses. Living much alone in a cave which
overlooked the remarkable glen he and his gang occupied, he was fast
becoming a fanatical misanthrope. Sentinels were posted at every point
of access, and he enforced his will upon the members of the gang, whom
he had now sworn to render him implicit and unquestioning obedience. He
brooded over his wrongs and the hopelessness of his environment, and
imagined himself a modern David, in a cave of Adullam, under divine
protection. His hallucination made him absolutely fearless of others and
reckless of his own life. He believed himself supernaturally guided by
voices, visions, and dreams, immune from ordinary mortal ills, a man
whom no weapon could wound. "His enemies sought him, but found him not,
because God delivered him not into their hands." He spent whole days and
nights reading the old Jewish Scriptures, and attained an ascendancy
over the gang such as is usually associated only with religious and
superstitious fanaticism; he had become as hard and inflexible as the
lone, rugged mountain stronghold in which he had been forced to make his
home.

For the time he became the dictator and terror, for good or evil, of the
whole district; and the only people who benefited much by his remarkable
regime were the convicts, who were protected against ill-treatment by
the fear of a visit from the gang. In such cases, Salathiel would flog
the offenders, and levy heavy fines upon them, which were collected in a
summary fashion. Salathiel called these visitations, 'Acts of justice ';
but the authorities called them, 'Robbery under arms.' On occasion, a
whole township would be held up by Salathiel, while he inquired into
charges laid against individuals or institutions, and if he could get a
good case against a bank it was invariably mulcted in heavy penalties.
All this was in absolute defiance of law and order, but it went on
throughout the winter and spring without any specially organized effort
on the part of the Government to put it down. Ordinary highway robbery
had practically ceased; but a new terror had arisen which, although, to
some extent, it made for law and order, was, as a whole, intolerable.

By evil-doers of all classes, and they formed a good proportion of the
community, Salathiel's rough and ready remedies were regarded as worse
than the disease.




CHAPTER XXVI--FOES IN COUNCIL


The following summer was the hottest and most trying of any recorded for
many years. A drought had set in at the end of September, and January
came without any sign of general rain. People were depressed and
irritable, money was scarce, and Salathiel had recently imposed a fine
of one thousand pounds upon a leading bank, and collected it in his
usual summary fashion in fifty pound notes.

The bank had foreclosed in a harsh and arbitrary manner upon a station
property belonging to the widow of a highly esteemed squatter recently
deceased. The station manager had done his best, fighting the drought
and other evils, day and night, on behalf of the widow and her children,
and paying nine per cent. interest; but one trouble had succeeded
another, and the interest payments had fallen considerably in arrears.
The local bank manager had been called to task for allowing the account
to run up, and was instructed by his head office to file a bill for
foreclosure, compelling the widow at once to redeem the property, or
forfeit her rights.

"You know, my dear madam," said the bank manager to the weeping widow,
"it is very hard for me to do this; but business is business, and I have
my instructions from Sydney."

It was well known, however, that the property was of exceptional value,
and that a couple of good seasons would, probably, not only pay off the
whole mortgage, but add a thousand or two to the station account. The
bank, however, had a buyer in view; the widow was in debt, and her
account unprofitable, so she had to go.

One morning, in her shabby lodgings in Sydney, however, she received an
anonymous gift of a thousand pounds in bank notes. It made the widow's
heart leap for joy, but, as requested by the anonymous donor, she said
nothing to any one about it. It was a trifle less than the amount of
profit the bank had made by the sale of the station.

Salathiel had told the manager that he was acting on behalf of the widow
and orphans, but without their knowledge, so Mr. Screwall, of the bank,
was sent to her Sydney address with a plausible excuse to try to
discover whether she had received this money or not. Being a wise woman,
however, she saw through the dodge and held her peace.

* * * * * * * * * *

"It will never do, Captain Moore, to have this state of things
continuing," said the Commissioner of Police one morning to his
colleague. "Salathiel will have to be taken, dead or alive, and you will
have to do it quickly. His audacity passes all bounds. We shall have him
coming down to Sydney with his pistol, demanding a departmental inquiry
into the working of the office. But, joking aside, the Chief Justice is
terribly put out about this bank business; he says it is casting
ridicule upon our high courts of justice, and that for Salathiel to be
at large is a disgrace to the administration of the Colony."

"That is all very well," replied Captain Moore, "but will you tell me
how the thing is to be done? To send any large body of men up into the
Liverpool Ranges at present would only be to send them to their death.
You have no idea of the wild and inaccessible nature of the country, and
the multitude of 'Bush telegraphs' and other people Salathiel has in his
pay. We have sent some of our best men up there in squads and alone, in
all sorts of disguises;--some of the best Bushmen we had in the force.
The last one--who would go alone--was absolutely lost in the Bush there.
He travelled around in circles for some days, then went off his head a
bit, and let his horse go. Losing all hope of rescue, he made his will,
and wrote to head-quarters on the leather flap of his saddle, and,
exhausted and delirious, lay down to die; some of Salathiel's men found
him at the last gasp, and nursed him back to life in the hollow trunk of
a great gum-tree, where he says he saw bunks fixed up for six men. His
horse was found for him, and they led him miles through the Bush
blindfolded, and putting him on the main track, warned him not to show
himself in those parts again, or he would be shot on sight.

"It is useless," he continued, "to attempt to take these outlaws in
their Bush resorts. Our prominent citizens and politicians, who rail at
the police for not capturing them, have no conception whatever of the
wild fastness in which these men live; and as for Bush-craft, there are
very few men in the force who know anything about it. Our only chance is
to get one of their own men to betray them, or catch them in the open
country."

"Could not you trap Salathiel in some way?" said the Commissioner. "Are
there no relatives or friends with whom he corresponds, or keeps in
touch?"

"I have tried that in half a dozen ways," replied the Captain. "I am
informed by a man called Silas Stump that there is a settler's daughter
in the Bluff Valley, down on the south coast, who occasionally receives
letters from him (you remember he personated a school-teacher there
named Bennett); then, the daughter of old Salathiel, of Drosena and Co.,
is supposed to be in touch with him, and Lieutenant Thompson of the
mounted infantry is a sort of connection; but you can't prove anything,
or do anything, with these people. I suggested to the Lieutenant that he
should make an appointment with Salathiel, and blow his brains out while
he signed his name to a document. But he ordered me out of his house."

"I'm not surprised at that; it would be next door to murder, to shoot a
man in that cowardly fashion," said the Commissioner.

"But he's an outlaw," replied the Captain, "and we want to get rid of
him."

"That is so; but he is a clever and brave man, outlaw and fanatic as he
is! He's not a man one would care to kill like a rat in a hole. Can't
you suggest some plan, by which he might be captured in a decent and
honourable way? I believe the Governor would double the reward, and it
would be a great thing for your reputation if you were successful.
You're a good Bushman, they say; why don't you go up yourself, and take
half a dozen men with you, in disguise?...Phew! How hot it is! They
say miles of Bush are burning, and that crops and settlers' homes are
suffering terribly."

"I have an idea," said Captain Moore after a long pause, during which a
good deal of tobacco was burnt, for both gentlemen were smoking; "if
these hot winds continue for another week, I think it might be worth
while to try and smoke Salathiel out. We're almost certain to suffocate
some of them."

"But it's a serious criminal offence to fire the Bush, especially in
such terrible weather as this. Did you see the 'Gazette' this morning?
The thermometer yesterday afternoon was one hundred and seven in the
shade, and the heat at Parramatta, made worse by the Bush fires, was so
excessive that immense numbers of large fox-bats were seen to drop dead
from the trees, and in other places the ground was covered with small
birds, some dead, others gasping for water. The wind was north-west and
burnt up everything before it; Bush fires have broken out in all
directions. Surely, it would be an awful thing to add to the general
calamity by firing the Bush, even to destroy a gang of bushrangers!"

"Necessity knows no law," replied the Captain ostentatiously; "this man
has to be killed or captured, and the present is a chance in a thousand.
Look at this rough sketch of Salathiel's lair in the ranges. It has come
to me from a trustworthy source; see, there are only three tracks which
give access to the glen, and they wind for miles through most rugged and
inaccessible country, all thickly timbered. The glen--they call it
Adullam, I believe--is surrounded on all sides by heavy timber, and
there are plenty of trees growing down in it. If we could once get the
forest fairly alight with a strong, hot wind blowing from the
north-west, I am inclined to think that we might, by good luck,
suffocate the whole box and dice of them; the glen would become a
perfect oven."

"It is an awful proposition," said the Commissioner, in a non-committal
voice; "but if you go up, you might fall in with him elsewhere, and
capture or shoot him, without resorting to such a desperate course as
you suggest."

The matter was left there, as questionable matters often are by people
in power, without anything definite being decided; but it was understood
that Captain Moore was to go north, and take as many picked men with him
as he thought advisable. Dead or alive, by hook or by crook, Salathiel
was to be taken.

Captain Moore's secret was well kept; but several weeks passed before he
left Sydney for Maitland, for a southerly gale, with thunder and
lightning and rain and hail, put out the Bush fires, and brought
temporary relief to the gasping citizens.

The Captain, however, had only told the Commissioner a portion of his
story, for already he had elaborate plans made for what he called,
"Smoking Salathiel out."




CHAPTER XXVII--THE LIVERPOOL RANGES


Part of Jack's letter from the school-house to Betsy's mother was: "If
by chance any of you should fall into the hands of outlaws, say 'I'm a
Carey.'" Probably, when written, Salathiel attached but slight
importance to the phrase; but it was one of the flashes from brain to
pen which make pivots on which history turns. Bob was a Carey, and
accordingly he was chosen to be the travelling companion of Amos Gordon
to Salathiel's stronghold in the Northern Ranges.

It came about in this way. For several anxious months no letter from
Salathiel had reached the Valley farm, when one morning Captain Fraser,
of the Nancy Lee, unexpectedly appeared in company with Amos Gordon.
They were the bearers of letters from Salathiel, for he had found that
Silas Stump, postmaster for the district, was not to be trusted. There
was one for Mrs. Carey, and one for Betsy, which, judging by the
brightness of her eyes and somewhat excited demeanour, contained good
news.

It would appear that during the months of silence Ruth Salathiel, with
Lieutenant Thompson and Captain Fraser, had arranged a plan for Jack's
escape from Australia to America, with certain of his men; but it was
necessary that the details of the matter and other business should be
more fully set forth by a responsible and trustworthy representative; so
Amos Gordon had been chosen for the difficult and dangerous task, as one
to whom no suspicion could well attach, and Bob, being young and strong,
was to go with him. The Nancy Lee was lying at the Bailey River
anchorage, and what was now needed was that Mr. and Mrs. Carey should
agree to certain proposals regarding Bob and Betsy.

The result of a lengthy conference was that Amos Gordon, with Betsy and
her brother Bob, became passengers by the schooner to Newcastle, via
Sydney, and if the state of the Hunter River permitted, by steamer up to
Morpeth, where Mrs. Carey had a married sister living who would be
pleased to have Betsy as a visitor, while her brother and Amos Gordon
visited the stronghold in the Ranges. Salathiel had begged them to let
Betsy go, that he might see her once more before leaving Australia.
Fortunately, it was the long summer school vacation, so no explanation
need be given to anybody about Betsy's trip.

Thus it came about that a week later the Nancy Lee, with Amos Gordon,
Bob, Betsy, and other passengers, was passed by the Sophia Jane, the
regular Newcastle steam packet, with Captain Moore and six constables on
board, all carefully disguised as men of various callings, and
apparently strangers to each other. So, although for different reasons,
all these people were travelling Maitland way, each deeply interested in
the lonely bushranger, who from his stronghold in the Liverpool Ranges
was now the outlaw autocrat of the northern district.

On their arrival at Morpeth, Amos was not a little surprised to find how
generally well-affected the people of the north were towards Salathiel.

"He has done what the Government and police couldn't," said a burly
drover, who made no secret of the fact that he carried money with him to
buy cattle. "The northern roads," said he, "are now as safe for
travellers as George-street in Sydney. Whatever mistakes he and his men
may make in regard to squatters and business people, there's a
rough-and-ready fairness about his methods and summary administration of
Bush law which has put a wholesome fear into the minds of a good many
folk who had previously robbed the widow and the fatherless, and trodden
down the poor and needy when they thought they could do it with a whole
skin."

After they had left Betsy in safe custody with an aunt, who gave her a
cordial welcome, Amos and Bob betook them to the Royal Mail Hotel, where
the attentive host showed them great deference. Two useful horses, with
all that was necessary for their equipment, were in readiness. Their
meals were served in a private room, and their sleeping-apartment was
the best in the hotel.

"Everything has been paid for, sir," said the landlord respectfully when
Amos asked him for the bill. "You will find beds bespoke for you at the
Queen's Hotel, Patrick's Plains, which is probably as far as you will
care to ride the first day."

"Do you know where I am going to?" asked Amos abruptly, who was not best
pleased with the arrangement, and would have preferred to pay his own
way.

"No, sir, I do not, but I am ordered to hold myself at your service."

Amos could get nothing more from the man, but it suggested to him the
respect, or fear, with which Salathiel had come to be regarded. Bob was
elated at the attention shown to them, and although he said nothing,
attributed it to the fact that he was a Carey.

The morning of the third day found them travelling through an Australian
eucalyptus forest due north of Jerry's Plains. They had been overtaken
in the early morning by a young fellow riding a well-bred horse, who
said that he was looking for stray cattle. He had the appearance of a
stockman, except that in addition to the stock-whip slung on his saddle,
he carried a short rifle and pistols in his saddle holsters; although
that was common enough in those days with travelling Bushmen. Amos and
Bob had been cautioned not to mention the bushranger's name, for fear of
meeting with disguised police officers, so they travelled on for an
hour, making almost due north, as they had been directed. Their
companion told them that his name was George Lennox, of Cassilis
Station, but whether he was one of Salathiel's gang or a disguised
trooper was an open question with both Amos and Bob.

At the end of an hour Amos and Bob began to feel uncomfortable about
this man; he was very friendly and inclined to be talkative, but Amos
thought he knew too much about Sydney and too little about the Bush to
be a station hand from Cassilis, so, in order to draw him out, he began
to talk about a doctor who had recently been bushed, and was nearly
perishing within coo-ee of a station.

They had crossed a dry watercourse, and Amos, who was a good Bushman,
and had no intention of trusting himself to the guidance of a stranger,
pulled up a moment to make sure as to which way the water ran when
flowing there, for he knew that all the creeks on that side of the range
must run south. Having satisfied himself, he cantered after his
companions.

"It's singular," he said to Lennox, "that so many otherwise capable men
should lack the ordinary habits of observation necessary for safety in
the Bush. I believe one reason why the Australian Bush has been decried
as monotonous and uninteresting, is that so few people in Australia know
much about it."

"You're right there," said Lennox. "I don't profess to be an expert
bushman myself. I can find my way over the foot-hills here to Cassilis
Station; yet a few miles farther north, in the broken country, which is
even more heavily timbered than this, one gully is so like another that
to travel for days in a circle is far easier than inexperienced people
think."

"By the way," said Amos, determined to end the suspense and to find out
who the man was, "I don't think I introduced my young friend Mr. Carey
to you. He's from the south coast. Like enough, you never heard the name
before."

The stockman smiled, and said, "You might have introduced your friend
before, Mr. Gordon "; then leaning over he held out his hand to Bob, and
as they shook said, "The Careys are friends of Mr. Bennett, I believe:
that's quite enough for me. We'll canter a bit if you don't mind; the
country is fairly level for the next few miles; after that we shall have
a bit of climbing to do."

It was a relief to both Amos and Bob to know that they had fallen into
friendly hands, and they followed Lennox with alacrity, until he
presently pulled up again and settled down into the Bushman's steady
jog, which in this case meant something over four miles an hour.

They soon remarked the growing wildness of the Bush scenery. There was
no track, but their guide lit his pipe and jogged along with the
confidence of one who is perfectly familiar with his surroundings.

George Lennox, notwithstanding his previous disclaimer, was an expert
Bushman, and your expert Australian Bushman is one of the most
self-possessed of individuals. He seldom hurries himself, yet is always
on the move, and never gets put out whatever happens. If he has lost his
bearings and there is no sun, he sits calmly down and smokes a pipe
while his horse feeds. He knows the lie of the country and fall of its
waters, and that certain roads and townships are north or south, or east
or west, as the case may be. The growth of the lower branches of the big
trees, or the moss on their round butts, or the hang of the shredded
bark of the gums, tell him the points of the compass. He is a man of
infinite resource so far as the Bush is concerned, and if you can get
him to talk about it, will interest and surprise you as he interprets
the many natural signs and voices which guide the experienced horseman
through the great wild tranquil spaces of the primeval forests and
bushlands of Australia.

"We'll keep a bit more to the right," said Lennox; "it'll save a few
miles to go up this gorge. There are some strangers about to the
south-east, but by this time our look-outs should know all about them."

Amos and Bob turned their horses past some wild cherry trees to follow
their guide up a stony pinch, in the direction of a gloomy-looking
gorge. They were wondering how the man obtained his information, but it
took them all their time, on such a path, to look after their horses. It
was about the last place that an ordinary traveller would have chosen to
climb the gorge on horseback, and yet it was the only possible entrance
for miles. The local preacher and Bob Carey had no idea now of locality
or direction; but they were making for Oxley's Peak, the highest point
of the Liverpool Ranges, some four thousand feet above sea-level.

The bushranger presently pulled up under some trees upon a tiny plateau,
to let the sweating horses blow a bit, for the heat was great. The view
to the south extended for many miles, but nothing was to be seen save
the tops of gum-trees, which spread at their feet in a great sea of dark
sombre foliage.

"How do you know that there are strangers about?" asked Amos.

"By the cries and movements of the birds," replied their guide. "The
crows and magpies are the best 'Bush telegraphs' we have. They scent a
new chum for miles, and hang about his track, and pass the word along to
others, until the whole forest is on the alert; they are cunning rascals
though; we only just saved one of Moore's men a few weeks ago: he had
been bushed for several days in the north-west gullies and was lying
insensible with his face exposed. If he had been a Bushman he would have
pulled his hat right over his eyes for protection from crows and
magpies; but these chaps they send up from Sydney are poor Bushmen. We
mostly keep out of their way, just leave them alone--the ranges do the
rest."

Lennox was right about the birds: crows and even magpies will pick out
the eyes of unconscious men as well as weak or wounded sheep and cattle.
Of all enemies the carrion crow is most to be feared by a sick or
wounded man lying in the Australian Bush. He scents misfortune from
afar, he gathers in scores from unknown regions, and woe betide the
helpless man who lies with his face unguarded from his fierce attacks!
With his last consciousness the wounded Bushman instinctively pulls his
soft felt hat over his eyes and face, as a protection against these
black marauders.

Bob Carey had been used to rough country, but after thirteen hours in
the saddle he told Amos that he gave this trip best. For half an hour of
the time they had been blindfolded and led by members of the gang, who
had come mysteriously upon them. Hoary heights of basalt rock towered
above, and occasionally deep dark chasms skirted the track. It was as
though Nature, convulsed with internal torture, had at some time broken
loose and shattered the mountains, hurling huge rocks about at random;
but ashamed of its own violence, had draped the vast wreckage with soft
green herbage and flowering shrubs and forest trees. But just then the
mountain heights, as well as the valleys, lay scorched and shrivelled
beneath hot winds and unwonted heat, even for an Australian midsummer.

"We had to blindfold you," said Lennox in a tone of apology, "for none
who have not taken Salathiel's oath are allowed, under any
circumstances, to approach the Glen of Adullam; however, it saved you
from seeing the most perilous portion of the track--the horses know it
all right."

They were now climbing in single file by a path, flanked by a curious
rock formation, which rose sheer above them for quite a hundred feet,
while occasionally they skirted precipices whose profound depth made the
brain dizzy to think about, let alone look down upon.

"Give the horses their heads," called out Lennox, who was riding in
front, "and keep your eyes toward the wall."

It was evident to Amos Gordon that no ordinary attack could reach those
who had found refuge in the Glen of Adullam, "the glen of justice for
the people "; but the entrance was not the only notable thing about
Salathiel's stronghold in the ranges.




CHAPTER XXVIII--A LETTER FOR BETSY


Amos and Bob slept that night in tents in far more comfortable
surroundings than they had anticipated; but they saw nothing of
Salathiel.

The heat was intense, and next day the sun upon the tents proved
unbearable, although they were protected with large heavy flies, so
Lennox, who evidently had charge of them, put them in possession of a
cave apartment which had been quarried out of the rock.

It was furnished with Bush-made tables and seats and abundance of soft
skins and rugs; they found books and writing materials, and to men
wearied with a long journey on horseback it was a perfect haven of rest.

The following letter was written on the second day of their visit. It
was the joint production of Amos and Bob, the former acting as penman,
for, as may be surmised from the narrative, Bob's education had been
very much neglected.

"My dear Betsy,

"Bob and I are writing this letter to you, for you are sure to be
anxious about us. So far, all has gone well, but our host is absent,
probably not having expected us so early. We were met as promised, and
taken good care of by a guide whom we will call George. He advises us
not to say too much about the trip on horseback, lest our letter should
fall into hostile hands; but we may say that the roads about the bluff
are level, compared with the dizzy heights and span-wide tracks to be
passed over to get to where this is being written 4,000 feet above the
sea.

"We landed in the glen at dusk two days ago, after being thirteen solid
hours in the saddle. It had been very hot, so you may guess we were
ready for a wash, supper, and bed. We had all three to perfection. The
supper was prime roast mutton, vegetables, bread, milk-pudding, and
fruit, and we ate it in a house built entirely of saplings and covered
with stringy bark. We only saw one person that night in addition to
George, who supped with us; he was a little man who waited at table.
After a smoke we went to bed in a large tent, with two bunks made with
corn sacks stretched on saplings and nice clean white sheets and
bed-clothes. George said, 'We didn't live in this luxurious fashion at
one time, but there have been great doings here during the past eight
months. You'll be surprised when you see the place in the morning.'

"Well, we were surprised next day, for all our ideas of bushrangers and
their haunts were completely upset. We had porridge with milk and sugar,
and eggs and bacon, and beautiful bread and butter for breakfast, and
George asked afterward if we would like to have a canter over level
ground on fresh horses, to take the stiffness out of our bones. Of
course, we said yes, and in half an hour he brought three fresh nags,
and we did a six-mile ride round the glen. Would you believe it? they
have quite large paddocks under cultivation; the soil is volcanic, brown
and black, and wonderfully fertile. Wheat and maize and potatoes grow as
well here as down in the valley. There are cattle, sheep, and horses,
and a regular settlement with houses for the men--some of whom have
their wives with them--and several big barns and stock-yards and
milking-yards, which have been put up since the schoolmaster left the
valley. And, by the way, it is a wonderful place for natural caves.

"You see, the people are all outlaws or escaped convicts, and Captain
Jack--that's what they call him--has guaranteed their safety while they
stay and work quietly under his orders in the Glen of Adullam. That's
what they call the place. He will have no laziness, however, and he has
a lock-up, and other methods of bringing refractory individuals to
order. He will allow no rum or whisky in the glen, except under his
control, and has a wonderful knack of managing people. George says the
whole of the men are under strict military discipline. Guard is kept
night and day, and every one is sworn to obedience. We have wondered
that they submit so readily; but the fact that outside the glen only
prison, flogging, or the gallows awaits them, must be a very great
restraint when they occasionally feel inclined to kick over the traces.
You see, they have abundance of good food and decent clothes without
broad-arrow marks on them, and reasonable work and recreation with
assured protection, and George says that many of the worst criminals
amongst them have become, under Captain Jack's government, thoroughly
reformed men. Their great fear is that anything should happen to the
captain, or that he should leave them; for in the eye of the law every
one of them would have to go back to punishment or death; and yet George
says that many of them are not criminally inclined at all.

"The natural formation of the place is very wonderful. Oxley's Peak
towers 700 feet above us on the south-west, and in winter is often
covered with snow. The glen seems to be surrounded with natural walls of
rock, in most places several hundred feet of almost perpendicular
height. Cattle and horses brought in cannot get out again unless driven,
as the only approaches are guarded night and day, and even if they were
not so guarded it is a question whether strangers would be able to find
or travel them safely. George says there are other similar freaks of
nature in this great mountain range, but this is the best protected
against outsiders.

"But the feature of this end of the glen is a fairsized water hole or
lake, surrounded by wattle and other trees, which simply swarms with
fish. It has been made larger by an artificial bank, and empties itself
in a boisterous cataract through a narrow precipitous ravine, which they
call 'Hell's Mouth.'

"We must leave off here, however, for word has just come that Captain
Jack has returned, and has brought a Sydney gentleman with him named
Bennett; George says that we need not be put out, as there is
accommodation in the glen for several visitors.

"By the way--this is Bob's remark--all the cattle we have seen in the
glen are clean skins, Durhams and Shorthorns. We saw many recent tracks
outside in the ranges, so there must be lots of strayed and unbranded
cattle there. It is all unoccupied country. All are well. Look out for
another letter soon.

"P.S.--Ben Morley is here, stone blind. That is all we know about it
yet.

"PP.S.--George has just been in again; he has heard that the captain
yesterday saved Sir James Bennett's life and that the latter is a Q.C.
Captain Jack has brought him in on a solemn promise of secrecy, in order
that he may explain more fully to him his recent actions and the
reformation of escaped convicts living here. They are all hoping,
through him, to get pardons. God grant that they may not be
disappointed!"

It was a singular coincidence that Salathiel should have met and rescued
Sir James Bennett at this particular time, within less than a day's ride
of his stronghold. With three of his men he was out after a notorious
outlaw, who had committed many crimes of violence, and recently shot at
some of his gang. Salathiel had warned this man some time before, that
if he offended again he would be shot at sight, and he had defied him.
They caught him in a half-drunken sleep in one of his hiding-places,
with the spoils of a fresh robbery upon him. Among these he had a big
flask of whisky, a purse, and two watches, one a gold presentation watch
inscribed with Sir James Bennett's name. Salathiel insisted on knowing
where Sir James was; but the man was sullen and would give no
information, so they tracked back for some hours, until they found the
barrister tied to a tree, unconscious. He had been there all night, and
in a short time he must have died. The convict Stokes had a grudge
against him.

The outcome of it was that Sir James Bennett regained his life, purse,
and property; and his assailant was shot offhand, and buried under the
tree where he had left his victim to die a lingering death. Bush fires
had broken out to the east, so Salathiel brought the barrister to the
glen for a few days to rest, and, mayhap, to form a better opinion of
the outlaw to whom he owed his life.

Possibly Jack had a further reason, for he had learned from Sir James of
the presence of Captain Moore and his disguised troopers in the
district, and one of his men had found out that a constable had warned a
settler to clear out, as there was likely to be a big forest fire in a
few days in the ranges.

It was not difficult for Salathiel to surmise that the constable's
foreknowledge of the fire came to him semi-officially, and that it was
intended by these means to drive him and his men out of their mountain
stronghold. He resolved that, by hook or by crook, Sir James should
accompany him to the glen, until the attempt to burn him out had proved
unsuccessful. For even Salathiel, up to this, had no previous knowledge
of the appalling fury of a great eucalyptus forest fire, lashed by
hot-wind blasts from the burning sand-wastes of the west. To start such
a fire from six different centres was the colossal crime which had been
planned, and was to be put in execution when Salathiel carried Sir James
Bennett to his hiding-place in the mountains.

The barrister was the more willing to go with Salathiel when he knew
that he was already cut off from access to the great northern road by a
Bush fire.




CHAPTER XXIX--ENCOMPASSED BY FIRE


Salathiel saw Amos and Bob for a little while that night, and warmly
welcomed them; but they thought him greatly changed, both in personal
appearance and in speech. He talked as one who realized grave
responsibilities and was used to command and be obeyed. He did not wish
to enter into any business, and the old smile and softness of speech
came back only for a few minutes as he inquired about Betsy, and
listened to a brief account of their journey.

"I expect you will be here for at least a week longer," he said, "for
this fire in the forest is going to make trouble, so we will have plenty
of time to talk over business. Lennox will look after you, and if you
want me particularly, you will find me at head-quarters, where the Union
Jack flies."

He spent the next morning with Sir James, disclosing much to him of his
past life, and explaining his methods of managing the motley company he
had with him in the glen, and the changes which had been wrought in the
characters and conduct of some of the worst criminals after they had
sworn allegiance to the Adullam brotherhood, and placed themselves under
its protection.

The barrister was evidently interested, and listened attentively to all
that Salathiel had to say; he took careful note of what had been shown
him, but with professional caution made no comment, although he could
not help confessing to himself that he had happened on a very remarkable
condition of things, largely brought about through the misfortunes of a
very remarkable man.

They were standing together on a crag platform hard by Salathiel's cave
apartment. Below them was the glen, and to the south and east great
fires were visible, creeping slowly up the ranges against the wind.

"Sir James," said Jack, "you have now heard from my standpoint the story
of how a too rigorous and insatiable law may over-reach itself, and
drive men into crime and outlawry. I want now to ask you two things:
will you respect my confidence? and, should I be taken, will you engage
to defend me in your courts of law?"

"Jack," said the barrister, turning round and reaching out his hand,
"there's my hand on it. Yesterday you saved my life, and if the need
should arise, you may count upon James Bennett moving Heaven and earth,
if need be, to save yours."

"But look," he continued after a pause, "that fire is spreading farther
north, and seems to be an unbroken chain on the south and east. It's
singular, is it not, to spread like that?"

"It is extremely singular," replied Salathiel dryly. "There is, to my
mind, a good bit of Satanic singularity about the orderly march of that
fire in this direction. It looks as though it had some one behind it."

It may be explained that the forest and its life was a new experience to
Sir James Bennett, but Salathiel and others had noted how the cool,
fresh, exhilarating odours of the early morning had been wholly absent;
how the hot winds smote like a blast from a furnace, and with the heat
of the fires and sun withered leaves were falling from the great
gumtrees in showers, and how the heat had been greatly increased by the
approaching nearness of the fires.

A north-westerly wind was blowing, which by noon increased to a gale. A
fire had clearly started at some distance to the north, although it was
not yet visible, for smoke crept slowly through the glen and surrounding
country during the afternoon, blotting out Oxley's lofty peak and other
heights. One portion of the forest only seemed quite free from fire, and
that was to the west. As night drew on Salathiel watched this quarter of
the heavens anxiously, for the forest there was thick with great trees,
which in the heat of many succeeding days had become as dry as tinder.

That night the sky all round, except westward, was brightly illuminated.
It was hot, terribly hot; but it had not occurred to the dwellers in the
glen that they were in actual danger; and when at seven o'clock on
Thursday morning there was no wind and the smoke seemed less dense, Ned
Fenton and Dandy Snow, at the suggestion of the former, were sent by
Salathiel to ascertain the extent of the fire to the north, and to
learn, if possible, what damage had been done to the Liverpool settlers.

Amos and Bob ate their breakfasts leisurely, and smoked their pipes; but
by ten o'clock they were astir, for the north-westerly started to blow
again, with increased force, and by noon the whole surrounding forest
was surrounded by smoke, through which the sun shone hotly as red as
blood.

Lennox came in then, with the news that a new fire had started to the
north-west.

"People talk about Bush fires," he exclaimed, "but the term doesn't
describe the sort of thing we shall see to-night. Undergrowth and grass
and crops will blaze hotly enough; but for a sight calculated to strike
terror into a man's heart, a eucalyptus forest ablaze in a hot gale such
as this beats everything. Why, the thermometer is 112 outside in the
shade!"

During that afternoon everything human foresight could accomplish was
done to save the houses and barns: blankets were soaked in water, and
roofs and walls saturated; but if, said Salathiel to the barrister, the
fire gets over the black gully it will come sweeping down through the
big trees in a torrent of flame. It must take everything before it. He
would see clouds of lighted gas carried for hundreds of yards before
this gale, as was the case in 1826, when Sydney itself, owing to the
surrounding Bush fires, is said to have been more like the mouth of
Vesuvius than anything else.

Salathiel had hitherto kept Amos and Bob away from Sir James Bennett, as
he thought it unnecessary to inform the barrister of their presence in
the glen. "They would all be safe enough," he thought, and he had seen
to the sentinels who could shelter in caves, of which there were a
number on the western heights. He had no present anxiety about their
lives, although he knew that if the glen caught fire, the tall timber in
it would soon make short work of their possessions. Besides, men had
been moving horse and cattle feed into the caves all day, and nothing
short of an earthquake could interfere with their water supply.

Just below the rock platform already mentioned, from which Salathiel and
Sir James watched the progress of the fires, was a vegetable garden
surrounded by a cockatoo and brushwood fence. There was a swampy bit of
gully and a spring of water in the garden, and some milking-cows came
poking around, trying to break in, bellowing as though alarmed and
fearful. Jack called the dogs to hunt them out, but they hung fearfully
around, so he sent a man to drive them into one of the open
cattle-caves. The Bush birds flew low, to escape the smoke, and made
unusual cries, as though in distress, and many fell fluttering to the
ground, dying; flocks of white cockatoos, high in the air, flew
southward, screeching loudly. It was as if all Nature were terrified.
The very dogs followed apprehensively close to their masters' heels.

Later in the afternoon the roar of the fires became more audible,
emitting a crackling sound like musketry firing, with an occasional dull
boom or crash, like the explosion of a cannon, throwing up dense clouds
of thick white smoke, as some old forest giant fell into the
conflagration.

"I fancy," said Salathiel, "that soon after dark you'll see a rocket go
up as a signal somewhere in the north-east."

"Some of your men?" queried Sir James.

"Not exactly," replied Salathiel, with a smile; "we don't burn down our
own houses. Don't you see that this fire is a planned thing? They expect
to turn the glen into an oven, and roast us all alive!"

"Never!" exclaimed Sir James. "Who would do such a thing?"

"Your acquaintance, Captain Moore. Look now to the west, there's the
heaviest timber; it's heated through and through and, once fired, will
burn like matchwood. It will travel with this gale behind it at fully
fifteen miles an hour; but to be most effectual, the fires on the
windward side should be close upon us when it comes. In another two
hours, if what I surmise is correct, you will see something in the way
of a signal, and then the forest will be fired about a dozen miles to
the west, and it will be down on the glen in a sheet of flame within an
hour."

"It is incredible!" ejaculated Sir James.

* * * * * * * *

Said old Amos to Bob, as they watched the amazing conflagration from
another position: "You'll see a sight to remember, my son, when it grows
dark." But it never grew dark! As night enveloped them, the whole arch
of the heavens, save to the far west, grew luminous and lurid, as though
the very elements were about to melt with fervent heat.

It should be explained that thus far the glen had been free from one
source of danger. The quarter from which the gale was blowing was not
yet on fire, so no burning embers, sparks, or lighted leaves or bark
were carried over them to drop on and fire the heated bush. They could
see these messengers of destruction, which would travel, on occasion,
many miles, flung up in thousands; but the hot gale carried them away
from the glen.

So long as the western portion of the forest remained unignited, as
Salathiel explained to Sir James, the glen was comparatively safe. He
would go so far as to give Captain Moore the benefit of the doubt, and
acquit him of all connection with the fire, if there were no outbreak to
the west, and no signal.

The two men sat and smoked for a long time in silence. It was a moonless
night, but the burning heavens which overarched the doomed forest, even
before the flames were visible, had turned it into a very day of
judgment. Sir James remarked that he could read the time by his
watch--even the seconds' hand was perfectly distinct.

Every minute brought the roar of the fires nearer.

There were many spell-bound watchers that night besides Jack and Sir
James, waiting for the flames to overleap the intervening space and
sweep down upon the glen in billows of destruction.

"I'll take a glass of whisky-and-water, Salathiel," said the barrister
huskily. "I'll own up to it, this thing has got upon my nerves; it's
magnificent, it's unparalleled--but it's Hell!"

Salathiel brought the whisky, and Sir James rose from his seat and
gulped it down. Just then, to the north-east, a rocket rose in the sky,
high above the conflagration.

"Did you see that?" ejaculated Salathiel, his face hot with passion.

"Wait," said the cautious lawyer, "it may not have been a signal at
all;" but he shuddered even as he spoke.

"It's that or nothing," replied Salathiel. "In an hour the fires, to
south and east, will reach the glen. Now is the exact time to fire the
western forest, if they wish to destroy every living creature here."

For ten more minutes they waited, breathless with excitement and
suspense, and then a strange thing happened. It was as though a great
sword of flame had been unsheathed from the side of Oxley's Peak, and
pointed heavenward in the midst of the western woods.

"It'll be here in an hour if this gale continues," said Salathiel. "Oh,
you fiend!" he exclaimed suddenly, shaking his fist with passion at the
west. "You fiend of Hell! you murderer! And to think that you have the
destinies of human beings in your hands. And that the Almighty permits
it! And we have women and children in the glen, whom this pattern police
inspector has deliberately planned to roast alive!"

"Good Heaven, man! he can't know that there are women and children
here," said Sir James with a shudder.

"He knows more than you imagine," replied Salathiel; "but he will hear
more to-night than he bargains for."

He blew a silver whistle, and immediately two men appeared, and saluted
respectfully.

"Ride up the glen," he said, "and hurry all the people to the southern
caves. Tell the men to get plenty of water, and hang wet blankets at
each entrance. That new fire in the west will be here in an hour. Have
you got all the horses and cattle under cover, and the sheep?

"That's right! The buildings and crops can't be saved; it's a question
of life now, and with all this dry timber in the glen, even the caves
may not save us."

Salathiel turned again to Sir James, who was scanning the west through a
pair of field-glasses. "I would not have believed it," he exclaimed;
"it's already a sea of fire. Why, the trees are burning to their topmost
branches."

"Yes," said Salathiel calmly, "Moore will have light enough to-night to
see by--those trees are many of them 250 feet high. They'll have burning
brands dropping everywhere in thousands between here and Patrick's
Plains. The fool, he'll fire half the northern district before he has
done! But excuse me for a few minutes, I have some matters to attend
to."

He hurried round among the men, calm and dignified, giving orders and
wise counsels. He saw that the sentinels had been called into
shelter--the fires were sufficient guard now. He spoke kindly and
cheerfully to women and children, and made sure that Fleetfoot was safe
in the far recesses of a cave. Ned Fenton and Dandy Snow had not
returned, but they were experienced Bushmen, and Salathiel expressed his
belief that they would be safe. Then he called up at the cave occupied
by Amos and Bob, and helped them to put everything in a far corner,
covering the furniture with rugs. "They may escape," he said; "but if
they are burnt we shall not want them, for we shall not be alive. Now,"
he said, "all of you come up with me; you too, Lennox, and I'll
introduce you to Sir James Bennett. If it is to be the last night of our
lives, we may as well spend it, like good fellows, together."

As they climbed the ridge Jack noted the time. "It's half an hour," he
said, "since the outbreak to the west. It cannot be more than six miles
away now. Listen to the roar of it! Hell-fire, that's what it is! A
devil lit it, and another devil fans it! The gale must be blowing forty
miles an hour."

Sir James evinced no surprise when he learned the names of the
new-comers, but grasped them cordially by the hand. There was a sense of
greater safety in numbers. No candles or lamps were lit in Salathiel's
apartment, for with the doorway open, it was light enough to see
everything, and outside the lurid heavens ablaze above them seemed to
make it brighter than day; but it was an unnatural, almost an infernal,
brightness.

"The main body of fire should be here at a quarter past nine," remarked
Salathiel, as though he were speaking of something which scarcely
concerned them. "Everything that can be done to mitigate or avert
disaster has been done. We have nothing now to do but wait."

"That's the hardest part of the business," ejaculated Lennox, puffing at
his pipe.

They were all seated outside on some fragments of rock, which had been
arranged by some one as rough seats, but not a man of them spoke
further.

"Look here, my friends," said Salathiel suddenly, "we had better talk,
or the awful magnificence of this thing will unnerve us altogether, and
perhaps incapacitate us for action when the crisis comes. Just look
yonder at the lake, it's crimson with the reflection of the sky; and
see, here comes the advance guard of the battalions of fire."

Lighted brands and sparks carried by the gale were now dropping thickly
in the glen, like rockets from the sky. "It's useless to waste our
strength trying to put anything out," said Jack; "we shall want it
presently to save ourselves. We can't save the glen, that's doomed. See,
there goes Dan Morley's shanty!"

"What do you think of it?" said Sir James, turning around to Amos. "I
stood once," he continued, "on the deck of a burning vessel in
mid-ocean; but for appalling splendour this surpasses everything!"

"It is like what the prophet saw at Dotham," said Amos, in an awed,
scarcely audible voice. "The mountains around the city were full of
chariots and horses of fire."

"Ah," said Salathiel eagerly, as though a familiar chord had been
struck, "that's it! 'He will deliver us from the devices of them that
hate us.'"

It was no use, however, the scene was too grand and awful, and the
tension too extreme, for speech.

Yet, there was one, a woman, who in that dread hour not only spoke but
sang. A voice came from one of the caves:

     "Hide me, oh my Saviour hide!
     Till the storm of life be past."

The men listened to the weird, sweet melody; but no one spoke. It was
strange in this supreme moment, when the whole sky-line seemed filled
with death-faces, how these men, who calmly waited there for death by
fire, should have been interested mentally in trivial things.

They followed with their eyes the gradual descent of sparks and burning
brands, wondering mechanically which would fire a house, or tree, or
paddock first. They were interested in the wombats and other strange
animals hopping and running about, with strange, terrified cries, near
the lake. A couple of horses came galloping and snorting down the glen,
with flowing tails and manes; but no one spoke. Presently came a dull
roar, and then a terrific explosion, which shook the glen and brought
tons of rock down on all sides. It broke the spell!

"Come inside," cried Salathiel, "and I'll close the door: that was the
magazine exploded. Moore ought to hear it if he is anywhere between this
and Kingdon Ponds."

What followed was beyond description. Sir James looked for a moment into
what seemed, in a lightning glance, to be a furnace of blinding white
flame. He drew back dazzled and suffocated, and banged the door. The
glen was filled with igneous, stifling gases, which exploded with
thunderous and stupefying reports, and burned with blue and white
flames. The door, sheathed with iron, was bolted and barred, and the men
sat near the wall, breathing heavily in the hot, noxious, suffocating
air. Amos suddenly fell forward, fortunately upon some skins; he had
fainted; all ran to his assistance. Salathiel loosed his collar and
cravat, and Lennox sprinkled water upon his face.

Half an hour of semi-suffocation followed. They gasped and panted; it
was too hot to sweat; the fire seemed to have scorched and dried them to
the bone.

Presently Salathiel went to the door and listened for some time, and
then flung it open. The glen was still burning like a furnace, but
somehow they breathed more freely. He explained it in a few words.
"Thank God! the worst is over. The wind has changed, and it has begun to
sprinkle with rain."

Alas! there were those, in other hiding-places, for whom the change had
come too late.




CHAPTER XXX--THE CHAMBER OF THE DEAD


Blessed is the rain which falls through a fire-scorched atmosphere upon
a fire-burnt land. There is life and healing in every crystal drop, and
the blackened earth opens its myriad mouths to drink it in.

There was no heavy rain, either that night or the following day, and the
forest fires still burnt fiercely; but the wind had changed to south,
and the rain which fell upon the country saved the lives of those who
had survived the horrors of the previous night. It had left marks upon
most of them, however, which time would never wholly heal. Sir James
that morning found his brown hair streaked with grey. Amos had received
a shock from which he would never quite recover. Bob and Lennox had
escaped; but Salathiel carried an ugly burn on his left hand and arm,
which he had received in one of his attempts to help others during the
early morning.

But it was the people in the lower caves who had suffered most, and
among the dead were seven children, three women, and Dan Morley, all
asphyxiated by poisonous fumes. Dan's blindness had evidently brought
about his death, for he was badly scorched, and had seemingly been
suffocated outside the cave. It was known that sulphur was found in
parts of the glen, and probably sulphurous fumes arising through the
great heat had lengthened the terrible death-roll. The desolated glen
was still burning, and it is little wonder that on that sad morning
Salathiel's face was stern and gloomy, or that he should have been heard
repeating from the Hebrew Scriptures: "Of Thy mercy cut off mine
enemies, and destroy all them that afflict my soul."

"How soon can you get me out of this?" said Sir James, later in the day.
"I mean to go straight back and interview the Governor and Chief
Justice, and lay the whole facts of this affair before them. Here are
eleven persons practically murdered, and those who were principals or
accessaries to the crime ought to be immediately arrested, and
eventually hanged."

"There will be no one hanged by this administration for the death of
poor vagrants such as these," said Salathiel bitterly; "and I fear your
mission will prove unsuccessful. But apart from that, it may be several
days before we can see you safely on to the Maitland-road again. It will
not be possible to travel through the ranges until the fires have either
burnt out or been smothered by heavy rains. You see, the forest is still
well alight, and it will continue so for several days: it is only the
change of wind to the south that has cooled the atmosphere."

"Have you food for all these people?" asked Sir James abruptly.

"Plenty for a month or more," replied Salathiel. "We have stores of all
kinds in the caves, and fodder for the animals; but I am thinking now of
the dead more than the living; we have to entomb them at once, owing to
the heat and because the cave in which they lie is needed for the
living. Will you come and view them, so that you could identify them if
need be? It may interest you also to witness the funeral ceremony. We
don't bury our dead in graves, you know. I might be tried some day for
some one's murder, unless I could produce the body on demand and prove
the cause of decease."

"Surely you are not able to preserve the bodies?" said Sir James.

"That's just what we are able to do," replied Salathiel; "but come and
see."

They walked for a quarter of a mile along the natural terrace which
flanked the western rock-wall of the glen. Heavy timber was still
burning on the flats, but the whole of the undergrowth and grass had
already been destroyed. What on the previous day had been so fair and
green, was now a bed of hot black ashes, dotted over with fallen trees,
still smouldering red, or blazing with yellow flames.

They found only Lennox in the cave; he was completing some of the last
offices of respect and mercy to the dead. The bodies lay side by side on
a raised platform, the eyes of each closed down and covered with a
silver coin. The faces seemed strangely dark--the result of death by
suffocation; but the features were placid, and two of the younger
children, girls of seven and ten, with well-proportioned, rounded limbs
and cheeks, and sunny curls, might, but for the colour of their flesh,
have been smiling in their sleep. Their names and ages, carefully
inscribed on cards, were fastened to the breast of each. They lay
attired in the simple garments in which, on that night of terror and
amazement, they had died, but covered with white vestments, in
preparation for their simple burial.

As Sir James carefully scrutinized their features, he made a note of
names and ages in his pocket-book, and occasionally added a few words as
to height, or other matters which occurred to him.

"I see there is a Mrs. Mary Conway, and Flora and Alice Conway, seven
years and ten," he said. "Are they mother and daughters?"

"Yes, poor souls! I found them in the Moonbi Hills in a shanty one day.
The police were after the man for alleged cattle stealing, and the woman
and the children were starving. I had them brought into the glen, and
carried little Flora there, for miles, in front of me on the saddle. The
husband is with us now, a decent chap enough, but fond of drink when he
can get it; he's heart-broken over this affair; perhaps it's best for
them, however," continued Salathiel with faltering voice. "I used to
call little Flora there my kiddie, for her mother would have it that I
saved her life. But listen! There's the death-drum calling the people
together for the funeral. The bearers will be here directly with the
stretchers."

The funeral gave the barrister opportunity to see almost all the
inhabitants of this strange place, and he stood aside as two men headed
the procession with the body of Dan Morley; then came the corpses of the
three women, and after them the seven children. Ned Fenton, Dandy Snow,
and three sentinels were absent; but there were others, who followed as
mourners, chief among whom walked Salathiel and Sir James. There was no
crape, nor flowers, nor pomp of grief, but the sorrow was none the less
sincere as they followed silently up the glen, over the still warm ashes
of the fire, to the chamber of the dead.

Sir James asked no question; but he pondered long as to how they were
going to dispose of all these bodies, and keep them so as to be
produced, as Salathiel put it, on demand.

They came at last to a turn in the glen where was a short flight of
steps cut in the rock, which sloped at an angle to the north-west. The
bearers wended their way upward, without any pause, and entered the
large cave, to which access had thus been obtained. The air of the cave
was hot, like all else about the glen, but it had a strange, sulphurous
smell, and on a sloping ledge, laid side by side, were five bodies, each
perfectly preserved, saving that the flesh appeared almost snow-white,
as though bleached by some chemical. When all had entered, the bearers
laid their burdens side by side upon the floor, and stood with bowed
heads while Salathiel read a prayer and the ninetieth Psalm; each was
then sprinkled with a little water, after the fashion of the Jews, and
reverently placed upon the sloping ledge, the last one filling up the
available space. Another psalm was read, the Hebrew benediction
pronounced, and the sad-browed mourners returned in silence to the
southern caves. Salathiel was the last to leave; he closed the heavy
door and fastened it. Never perhaps was a sadder or more silent funeral.
It was as though the fire had bereaved them, not only of those dead
ones, but of hope.

That night there was a thunderstorm, and the rain poured down in
torrents, and next day Salathiel made arrangements for his visitors to
leave the glen. He took six of the gang with him, for care had to be
taken of their guests, whose horses might accidentally tread upon
burning embers and become restive; besides, Salathiel thought it not
unlikely that they would find police about, on the look out for any
destitute wanderers who might have escaped the fires. He said to Lennox
as they rode along, "Captain Moore may get a bit of a shock if he falls
in with us to-day. We are seven men, notwithstanding his fire, well
clothed, well horsed, and well armed; and, if he compels me to do it,
I'll make the glen as secure and comfortable and well provisioned as it
was before the fire."

Said Sir James, as they rode abreast again in more open country, "What
is the secret of that cave of yours where you bury your dead? What is it
that preserves the bodies and bleaches them?"

"Sulphur," replied Jack: "when closed up, the caves become quite filled
up with its fumes. You know one of the few burning mountains of
Australia is not far away from us, and we think that it is somehow
connected with the cave; but don't ask me to explain the matter to you,
for I can't. We found out its preservative properties by accident, and
after putting the door to it, they seemed to have been vastly increased.
For myself, I would far sooner bury our dead out of sight; but under
present circumstances it may be best to be able to show the bodies to
the authorities if any questions should be raised as to the manner of
their decease. However you can answer, I think, for seven of them."

They were by this time clear of the fire zone, and dismounted by a creek
to partake of lunch and let the horses crop the grass and herbage.

"I hope to be in Sydney in three or four days," said the barrister. "I
shall never forget what I have seen up here, and I will strain every
legal and social influence I possess to secure for you liberty to leave
Australia; but you must not tie my hands by doing anything to prejudice
my case. There must be no fighting with Captain Moore. No retaliation!
Keep out of his way, and let me try other means for his punishment. Get
whatever supplies you want, and pay for them; keep a firm hand on your
men, and see that they don't embroil themselves with any police who may
be about. Act on the defensive by all means; but keep quiet for a
fortnight, and about then you shall hear from me for certain."

"You are asking a hard thing, my friend," said Jack; "but so far as lies
in my power I will do it. I think the very most they will offer will be
to connive secretly at my escape from Australia; but I am far from
feeling sure even of that. Let me say, however, I will die fighting in
these ranges rather than desert the men who have stood by me, and risked
their lives many a time for my safety."

They were now only a couple of miles from the Maitland-road, so at the
lawyer's request, Salathiel and his men went no farther, and Sir James,
with Amos and Bob, rode on alone.

The letter Amos had written to Betsy was one of several which had been
entrusted to Sir James Bennett for delivery. Salathiel thought him the
safest custodian in the event of the party being met and questioned, or
possibly searched, by Captain Moore's police.




CHAPTER XXXI--THE MILITARY CALLED OUT


They proposed to go only as far as Kingdon Ponds that day, a hamlet on
the Northern-road, at the foot of the Ranges. Amos was evidently
suffering from great weakness and fatigue, although the brave heart of
the old man would not allow him to say so. They travelled slowly until
their destination was reached, and stopping at the inn, handed their
tired horses over to a convict man-servant. Here everything was done to
make Sir James and his companions comfortable. It surprised the lawyer,
however, that no questions were asked by their host; the man seemed to
have no curiosity as to whence they came or whither they were bound.
Amos guessed at once that the reticence arose from Salathiel's
proximity. "These people," he thought, "living in peace and quietness
close to his stronghold, are not likely to say much;" but, shrewd lawyer
as he was, Sir James, steeped in the prejudice of class, which blinds
the eyes to the condition and thoughts of lowlier brethren, ascribed it
to boorish indifference.

Nevertheless, what he had witnessed in the Glen of Adullam had caused a
mental upheaval in the lawyer's mind. He began to see things
differently, and asked himself whether these sinners against society had
not, after all, some moral rights; and whether chains, handcuffs,
cat-o'-nine-tails, and gallows were the best unguents for the sores of
the body politic.

What had perhaps astonished him most was that these disreputable people,
left absolutely to themselves, should fly their country's flag over that
lonely mountain stronghold, even when hunted by the police like beasts
of prey. It was a new idea that an outlaw might be a patriot. How
otherwise was he to explain the Union Jack fluttering above this
desperate Adullam brotherhood? "Wentworth was right," he said to
himself. "We want more humanity and justice; men like Salathiel are
practically at the irresponsible disposal of the civil and military
authorities. And the civil and military authorities here are machines
without conscience or heart." With such thoughts in his mind, he sat
surveying the unfamiliar landscape as he smoked a cigar on the veranda
of the inn. It was getting late in the afternoon. Amos was resting, and
Bob waiting upon him with the affection of a son or younger brother.

Kingdon Ponds seemed just then the quietest hamlet in New South Wales.
It was pretty enough, on the slope of a small hill, with a
willow-fringed creek, and almost surrounded by mountains. It lay to the
south-east of the fire-blackened ranges, and the lawyer was wondering
how it came about that the place had escaped. Suddenly he heard the
sound of a number of approaching horsemen. As they drew nearer he saw
that they were soldiers, and that there were about twenty of them. The
lawyer drew back into the shade of some creepers and watched them ride
through the hamlet without stopping, as though in haste.

"What does this mean?" he thought. "Seemingly they are riding to
Murrurundi from Maitland? What can they be after in such a hurry?" Then
his mind naturally turned to Salathiel and the recent attempt of Captain
Moore to burn him out.

The landlord came forward just then to watch the troops as they
disappeared up the road.

"What's brought them here?" said the lawyer.

"You haven't heard, sir?" answered the man. "I'll bring you the
newspapers. They are after Captain Jack."

If, a quarter of an hour afterward, Sir James had gone up the hill a
short distance, and turned into the Bush on the left, he might have seen
the convict who had taken their horses climb to the topmost limb of a
giant gum-tree. The man carried a small looking-glass, with which he was
signalling by a system of code flashes, invented by Salathiel, to the
bushranger's look-out above the glen. He had flashed danger, and had
been answered, and was then giving particulars of the number of troopers
and other information gleaned from the newspapers. It was a rude
adaptation of the principle of the heliostat, and by this means Adullam,
although eighteen miles, as the crow flies, from Kingdon Ponds, was kept
in touch with much that was happening in the outside world. In fact, the
inn, which to outsiders appeared like dozens of others on the road--a
public-house with a fairly prosperous selection attached to it--was
really a receiving store for Salathiel. For a week, however, the fires
had prevented any communication by signal until the occasion now
described.

"Salathiel should be back in the glen by this time," thought the lawyer,
"and a hundred soldiers could not do much against him there." But he
felt uneasy, and was soon to be made much more so, for just then the
innkeeper brought him several newspapers. He had not seen one for a
week, and was glad to find among them both Maitland and Sydney Journals.
Two of the latter were dailies, so he had plenty to occupy his
attention. He sorted them out, arranged them as to dates, and then
looked through the oldest. Finding nothing of much interest, he took the
next. There was a paragraph in this, evidently inspired, which referred
to an attempt about to be made by the police authorities to capture
Salathiel and his gang. A later paper reported Sir James Bennett missing
from his party. The following day it was announced that information had
been received of the lawyer's capture by Salathiel's gang. "There was
grave apprehension," the report went on to say, "that owing to Sir
James's attitude towards the bushranger at the 'sticking up' of
Broadhaven Station, he might receive rough treatment, and even forfeit
his life." The same paper stated that fierce forest fires were burning
in the northern ranges.

"Getting a bit more interesting," said our friend, as he took up a paper
of the next date. This was a late copy of the Maitland Mercury,
published tri-weekly. It contained an article headed "Salathiel sets the
forest on fire."

"That's Moore all over," thought Sir James, "to carry the war into the
enemies' camp in that fashion. I suppose the fire proved a bigger and
more destructive thing than he had anticipated; so he has put the
starting of it upon Salathiel's shoulders; but let's see what they say?"
The article, slightly abbreviated, read as follows:

"The authorities have again been frustrated by the desperate strategy of
the outlaw of the Liverpool ranges who, when the police had him and his
gang practically in their hands, rather than be taken, fired the forest
and drove back the cordon of police by a seething wall of fire. Miles of
forest are now burning fiercely, and if the present hot gales continue,
enormous damage to the surrounding country may be done. Great volumes of
black smoke have in places darkened the sky, blotting out the sun for
hours at a time. Grass fires have been lit in many parts by the dropping
of burning brands, which the gale in some places has carried alight for
a distance of fifteen and twenty miles. The sight of the burning forest
from adjacent townships is described as magnificent, but the author of
this disastrous conflagration which, it will be seen by reference to
another column, has already caused the destruction of several station
homesteads and hundreds of acres of grass and crops should be at once
brought to justice. That any one man should be able to hold the
authorities at defiance and menace the security of the country residents
in this fashion is a reflection upon the Government. Captain Moore and
his men are to be complimented upon their courage in following the
outlaw to his lair, and every right-minded citizen will be thankful if
he has the good luck to capture the gang. This fire should prove to
Salathiel's sympathizers--of whom, we are sorry to say, there are a good
many in the northern district--how utterly reckless and callous he is
for the losses and sufferings of the community at large. A man who could
deliberately fire the forest during a continuation of hot gales such as
the Colony has experienced this week, is a monster in human form,
deserving the execration of every humane and law abiding citizen. A
determined effort should now be made to take these miscreants and
discover the fate of Sir James Bennett. If Captain Moore wants
assistance to do this a strong detachment of soldiers should be sent up
from Maitland to assist him."

"Good Heavens!" ejaculated Sir James, "give a dog a bad name and you may
hang him. I suppose the fact is Moore finds that his fire has attained
such colossal dimensions that he hastens to get the blame of it on some
one else's shoulders. Ah, I thought so!"

He had taken up a later journal.

"Great fires at Musselbrook and Jerry's Plains," he read, glancing at
the prominent particulars; "fifteen houses burnt; five lives lost. The
military called out to support Captain Moore. Further contingent of
police sent up to assist in apprehending Salathiel's gang; reward
increased to a thousand pounds. Any convict furnishing information which
will lead to Salathiel's apprehension will receive, in addition to one
thousand pounds' reward, a free pardon, and free passage home."

"What an unlucky beggar he is!" said Sir James himself; "misfortune
seems to dog his steps. His prospects seemed most hopeful, and the very
door of opportunity stood ajar for his escape. And all this happens.
These fires and Moore's cursed duplicity will enormously increase my
difficulty in approaching the authorities. Then there is the chance that
some convict may sell him to the police. It's a big bait. One thousand
pounds, free pardon, and home! He ought, somehow, to be warned at once."

There was a sitting-room behind this end of the veranda, and Sir James
went in and rang the bell, which stood by the side of an ash-tray and
water-bottle, upon a round cedar table.

It was a singular situation--one of the leading barristers of the
Colony, who often acted as Crown prosecutor, and had not the slightest
sympathy with crime or criminals, was planning how to keep the most
notorious outlaw in Australia out of the hands of the police.

"Sit down," said the lawyer to the innkeeper; "I wish to speak to you
privately for a moment," and Sir James looked round the little room, and
at a door which led into the bedroom he was to occupy.

"There's no one about, Sir James."

"Ah! that's right; what I'm about to say to you is quite confidential."

The innkeeper, who was a fairly stout and middle-aged but athletic man,
nodded respectfully. He was evidently not a man of many words.

"Have you read these papers?" asked Sir James.

"Yes, sir."

"Could manage to send them up to him?"

"I beg your pardon, Sir James; whom do you refer to?"

"My good man, you know whom I mean. To Salathiel."

"No, sir, I could not. I'm a law-abiding man, and not in league with
bushrangers."

Sir James looked at him long and curiously, and then said, "You
evidently know your lesson; but you cannot deceive me. Living so close
as this too! Aren't you ever visited by some of them?"

"Often, sir, and I always give them a drink when they want it. They have
never injured me, nor any of my customers; but I can't promise to
communicate with them. If it is your wish, Sir James, and one of them
happens to call I'll give them the papers."

Sir James looked at the man; he was annoyed and baffled; but it was the
attitude of more than half the surrounding population in regard to
Salathiel.

Now, the barrister did not wish to commit himself to this man, and yet
he was determined, if possible, that Salathiel should be warned that
night. He pointed with his finger to the pile of papers and took a
five-pound note from his pocket book. "Listen!" he said sternly, "Last
week Salathiel saved my life; I want him to be warned immediately."

The man looked at the note, folded it up and--returned it. "I beg your
pardon, Sir James," he said, "but that is not necessary. If, as you say,
he saved your life, I don't think you would betray him. He's a white
man," he whispered, "whatever may be said about him, and although at the
risk of a man's life, those papers shall be in Adullam by to-morrow
morning; but pardon me, Sir James, they already know that the military
are up. And, between ourselves, those newspaper reports are mostly lies.
It was the police that fired the forest! Why, they made no secret of it!
Came in here afterwards and told us, and had a drink."

By daylight the following morning the travellers had started for
Patrick's Plains, but the cautious barrister said nothing to his
companions of what he had read in the newspapers.




CHAPTER XXXII--SALATHIEL RUN TO EARTH


To preserve the continuity of this story we must put back the clock of
time for a few days. It will be remembered that Ned Fenton and Dandy
Snow left the glen by the north entrance on the morning of the day of
the fire. The avowed purpose of their journey should have led them north
of the range, but after they had descended to the foot-hills, clear of
the belt of fire, they rode eastwards and lit their pipes for a smoke.
It was evident that each had something on his mind that hot morning, but
neither seemed to know exactly how to broach it.

"Are we expected back to-night?" asked Dandy, after a long silence.

"We can please ourselves," replied Ned evasively.

"Let's toss for it, whether we go back or not," said Dandy.

"All right," replied Ned.

The two men looked at each other: it was a look that said more than
either of them would have cared just then to put into words, and they
rode on for a long time in silence. Presently they stopped their horses
in the midst of a dense jungle of forest, where tree-ferns and great
creepers filled up the spaces between the boles of giant gum-trees.
Before them was a tree, perfectly hollow and fully three hundred feet
high, although some thirty feet of the top had been blown off. It was so
large that eight of Salathiel's men, on horseback, had once hidden in
it. Bunks were fixed on one side, and opposite was a rough table and
seats. It was a forest hiding-place of the bushrangers. The two men hung
their horses up just inside the entrance.

"Now for it," said Snow, "heads the Queen, tails Salathiel."

"Agreed," replied Fenton.

A shilling spun in the air and fell upon the table.

"Don't touch it," called out Dandy Snow, as it seemed likely to roll off
the table. It fell close to the edge with the Queen's head uppermost.

Both men drew a long breath, and then heaved a sigh.

"It's just as well," said Fenton; "we shall save our necks and get our
freedom at any rate. Whether we show him or not, Moore will fire the
western forest to-night, and in my opinion that will be Captain Jack's
last kick. There's been nothing in it lately," he continued; "we must
not do this, nor that, and we are getting as moral as churchwardens.
There's food and clothes and money, I'll allow; but it isn't
bushranging."

Ever since a disciple betrayed the Saviour, a man's foes have been those
of his own household. If Salathiel had been asked to name those whom he
trusted most fully, he would assuredly have included Ned Fenton and
Dandy Snow; and yet, regardless of oaths, and gratitude, and friendship,
they had sold Salathiel a week before to the police. Sold him for money
and their own beggarly lives, and were now, on the toss of a coin, going
to show Captain Moore, when the signal was given, the best place to fire
the western forest, and send floods of flame down on their old haunts
and companions.

But we pass over this miserable story of treachery, and push on the
clock again to the day following the departure of Sir James and his
companions. Fenton and Snow, learning of the escape of the gang, had
again joined Salathiel, and Lennox had returned to take charge of
affairs in the glen again.

Jack, wholly ignorant of treachery and danger, determined, before
returning to the glen, to visit Kingdon Ponds for news and stores. He
knew nothing of the warnings which had been signalled to the stronghold,
for the look-out had entrusted the message of danger to the traitors, to
commmunicate to Salathiel. Fenton and Snow, professing to know the
movements of the police, suggested that the old track to Kingdon Ponds
was perfectly safe, although they knew that a large force of police and
soldiers were waiting there in ambush. The whole party rode on,
Salathiel in advance, absorbed in thought and meditation. He was
following a faint track, which might have been made by wild cattle,
leading into a rough, narrow gully, where Nature seemed to have run wild
for centuries. Fleetfoot suddenly started, lifted his head, and half
stopped. "What's the matter, old man?" said Salathiel, and drawing rein,
he stood and listened.

He could hear nothing unusual; in a tree in front of him were a couple
of giant kingfishers, a bird commonly known in Australia as the laughing
jackass, and beyond, under some tree-ferns, on a few yards of glassy
flat several kangaroos were quietly feeding.

Salathiel rode on without hesitation, for he concluded, as would any
good Bushman, that no strangers could be near, or the birds and animals
would have been invisible. He did not know that that very gully had been
surrounded by silent watchers for two days. But the most careful make
mistakes sometimes.

A close observer might have seen Fenton and Snow turn pale as Captain
Jack drew rein before entering the gully. They were riding a little
distance behind, and a significant glance passed between them as, half a
minute later, Salathiel rode on and passed leisurely down a steep pinch
into the gully. The whole of the gang followed, and the gully closed
around them.

It was a wild, moist depression, about five hundred yards in length,
with a creek skirting precipitous rocks on the one hand, and a steep
ridge on the other. The vegetation was dense with bushes; tree-ferns and
a tangled mass of vines hanging between big gum-trees had to be avoided,
as they wended their way, single file, between projecting rocks and
great floating boulders, occasionally stepping their horses over
half-decayed trunks of trees. Except for the babbling of the running
creek and the sough of the south wind in the tops of the tall gum-trees,
the place was as still as death. And yet, at every few yards, on all
sides of them, were the loaded muskets and rifles of over forty soldiers
and police.

They were trapped as completely as if they had ridden into an iron cage.

Half-way through the gully Salathiel stopped again and listened, for
Fleetfoot was strangely restless. It was not at the gully, for he had
been through it before scores of times. They all pulled up, and there
was quietness, until the sudden shrill of a whistle was heard, followed
immediately by the discharge of twenty rifles all around them. Every
second man had fired, as previously arranged, in order that the
bushrangers might know themselves surrounded by an overwhelming force.

Salathiel wheeled his horse round, confronting Fenton and Snow; one
glance at them was enough. He had a revolver in his hand. "Put your
hands up," he whispered sternly. "One word above your breath and you are
dead men! Take their weapons," he said to two men who had ridden up.
"Now tie them to those trees facing the ridge. They're traitors! Bullets
will be flying around shortly; we'll leave them to be shot by their
friends."

"Now, men," he said calmly, "tether the horses under those rocks. It's
our own gully, and we could not have struck it at a better point for
defence. Keep under cover right and left of the traitors, and, unless in
defence, let no one shoot until I give the word."

For half an hour no sounds, save those of Nature, disturbed the silence
of the Bush.

Captain Moore had the gully completely surrounded; but the police and
soldiers knew that they had to deal with six desperate men who were
expert shots, and they were in no hurry to begin hostilities.
Arrangements had been made, if necessary, to hold the gully for a week
and starve them out; but there was no telling just then exactly what
might happen. Having caught them, the leaders of the police were holding
a council of war, and in the meantime the bushrangers kept silent guard
and waited for Salathiel, who was pacing up and down, under cover of a
big rock, seeking to evolve some plan for their escape. Fenton and Snow
had been gagged, and warned that if they made the slightest noise to
attract the attention of the enemy they would be shot at once. And so
the evening settled down upon them all--soldiers, police, and
bushrangers. The gang was run to earth, but the question was how to get
them out and handcuff them, without too much loss of life. A fox may be
hunted, or decoyed into his lair; but it is another matter to put your
hand in and bring him out.

The council of war must have proved somewhat barren of results, for the
soldiers and police decided to continue to watch the gully only, and
wait for the morning. It was a risk; but, said Captain Moore, "We have
them surrounded; they can't possibly escape, and I have sent for more
help with which to rush the gully to-morrow morning."

Salathiel in the meantime had come back from his council of one, with a
dark glance for the traitors, but a cheery word for his men. "We have
been trapped by treachery," he said, "but we are not yet caught. They
evidently won't risk attacking us to-night, and they cannot shoot except
at haphazard from the ridges, for we are splendidly covered. I have a
plan, which I'll tell you of later, but in the meantime we must guard
each end of the gully carefully. Unless I am much mistaken, we shall
have help from Adullam before the night is over. Kingdon Ponds knows
about this, and will have signalled to the glen before sunset, and
Lennox and others will be hanging around in the morning, or perhaps
before. The mopoke-cry will be our best signal. There are sure to be
birds about in a place like this; you will know the difference. I find
that our transport store in the gully has just been replenished from
Kingdon Ponds, so, as soon as it is dark enough to get water from the
creek with safety, we'll boil a billy of tea and have supper."

There was one thing, however, which Salathiel did not tell his men until
later in the night. All along the bottom of the gully blue gums were
growing, some of them fully 180 feet high. These towered, at least fifty
feet above the ridges occupied by the police and troopers. It would of
course have been impossible to climb them, unobserved, in the daytime,
but on a dark night such as that which was now fast closing in upon them
half a dozen good shots stationed in these trees could pick off their
opponents with ease.

Salathiel had determined to climb one of these after dark, to see for
himself what advantages they offered, and whether he could see anything
up there to help him in his plan of escape.

Night had no sooner set in than the melancholy call of a mopoke sounded
in the gully, and was answered again and again from the Bush, showing
that a number of these night-birds were located around. There was no
sound nor light which could be heard or seen from the gully, so water
was got up for the tea, and a fire lit in an underground trench, where
the smoke could be smothered; thus by detachments the men were able to
partake of a substantial meal.

It was about nine o'clock when Salathiel, with a short rifle slung on
his back, and tomahawk and revolver in belt, commenced to climb one of
the great gum-trees.




CHAPTER XXXIII--THE CAPTURE OF CAPTAIN MOORE


Although the gang was trapped and surrounded, Salathiel still believed
that there was a way of escape, if only he could hit upon it. "There is
a way out of most difficulties," said the voice which spoke to him from
within, "and the failure to see it is the cause of most disasters. The
way to cheat Moore is as plain as the nose on your face; you see it
already with your inner consciousness, but you don't yet perceive it.
Wake up, Jack! wake up!"

Now it was not very strange that this particular gully should have been
chosen by Inspector Moore for the ambush, for it was the only one
thereabouts, handy to Kingdon Ponds; nor was it strange that a clever
man like Salathiel should some time before have chosen it as a
hiding-place for stores in transit to his stronghold, for to keep
Adullam supplied with necessities, to say nothing of luxuries, without
outsiders tracing the paths by which they were brought, required
considerable strategy. A dray road or horse track from the inn to the
ranges would have been evidence enough to put the innkeeper into prison,
and, for the matter of that, hang him.

So it may be well to explain here that the secret value of this gully to
Salathiel lay in the rushing creek which tumbled its foaming waters into
the gully on the north-west, and ran noisily along its northern boundary
by the side of precipitous rocks, grumbling and tumbling over a stony
bed eastward, until it was lost in a dense growth of bushes at its exit.
It was this stream which, spreading itself out and flowing so peacefully
through the adjoining hamlet, Sir James had looked upon, as he smoked
one of Salathiel's cigars on a certain afternoon.

Now, as is commonly the case in Australia, the creek was thickly edged
with bushes on both banks. Salathiel had taken advantage of this to
blind the track of his pack horses from the inn, for the pebbly bottom
of the watercourse had for some time been used as a roadway, along which
the bushrangers travelled from an ordinary and unsuspicious
wateringplace for cattle. It was natural enough that there should be a
beaten track from this watering-place to the inn, for a string of horses
were led down there every day to drink; but few would have dreamt that,
for nearly two miles, the high-road for goods to Salathiel's stronghold
was by the waterway of the creek. Salathiel hoped that the secret of
this waterway had not been revealed to the police by the informers. It
was indeed quite possible that Fenton and Snow had no knowledge of it,
for Salathiel's policy with the gang had been to subdivide, as much as
possible, work, knowledge, and responsibility, and the two informers had
not at any time been engaged in transit of stores in bulk from Kingdon
Ponds to the gully.

Salathiel, of course, thought of this waterway as a possible means of
escape; but it was sure to be well guarded, and unless a diversion could
be made at the northern end of the gully he feared that there would be
no escape without considerable loss of life. Not that the police or
soldiers were likely to discover the secret of the creek themselves, for
at the time of this story neither soldiers nor police were remarkable
for enterprise or sagacity.

Such were some of the thoughts in Jack's mind as he started to climb a
gum-tree which overtopped the gully. He did so without shoes, with
knotted lengths of green hide around the butt, after the fashion of the
aboriginals. He climbed thus to the first branch, where he rested and
listened.

Hearing nothing, he climbed upward by the branches with less exertion,
until he was clear of the lower trees, and the whole gully, with its
surrounding ridges, lay below him. Vision is clearer at night from
above, and he was soon able to make out the forms of his enemies. They
were evidently on the alert, for it was no joke to come to close
quarters with Salathiel.

Lying at full length upon a big branch, he noted that the two entrances
to the gully were very closely guarded, and that a couple of men were
stationed on each side of the cataract down which the creek waters
entered. A tent had been pitched on the south--two men were still at
work on it. He guessed that the officers intended to sleep, eat, and
confer there. It seemed that they expected the capture to occupy them
several days.

Many of the men were smoking, but guards with shouldered arms marched to
and fro at regular intervals. Others lay on the ground, probably asleep.

There was no fly over the tent, which contained a light, and
occasionally the movements of two shadows were visible on the wall and
roof.

Listening intently, Salathiel was presently able to catch fragments of
conversation. He heard one soldier ask another:

"What was that?" The two men listened for half a minute, and then his
fellow replied, "It's an owl, bedad! The gully's just alive with
benighted animals, and birds, and bushrangers. When I was doing
sentry-go last night on the other side of the creek, after the major had
the bushes cut down for the horses to get to water, I saw a big cat with
a young kitten sitting on its back."

"That was a native bear, Michael, my boy," replied the other.

"'Deed, then, it might have been a small bear. I've heard from my cousin
in 'Meriky that they climb trees there, and eat honey, but I never heard
that they carried their cubs on their backs, as they do in this
upside-down country."

The man had been lighting his pipe as he talked, and the two then moved
away.

"So they've cut down the bushes on the creek bank below the gully,"
thought Salathiel. "Got a special guard, no doubt, watching the exit."

He proceeded to give his attention to the ridges, for there seemed a
good deal of movement there. "Ten o'clock," he whispered to himself;
"they're changing guard. McFarlane and Moore will walk around now and
inspect them."

It was as Jack surmised, and he lay there for half an hour, while the
two officers made their tour of inspection. Neither they nor their men
seemed over-anxious to approach the gully; they little thought, however,
whose rifle was within easy range of them.

"Heavens!" muttered Salathiel. "What a relief it would be to the whole
Colony to put a bullet through him!"

Presently, however, they drew nearer, talking earnestly, and stood
together on the bank opposite Salathiel's look-out. He would have given
much to catch what they were saying; but it was a close, warm night, and
locusts were chirping in some trees close by, which, with the noise of
the creek, at first prevented him from hearing anything. He felt
aggravated enough to do something desperate, so he crept out farther on
the branch and listened intently. Just then the locusts stopped. Captain
Moore was speaking.

"It's just after ten, major," he said. "They ought to report themselves
soon."

"Report themselves indeed," thought Salathiel "He little guesses that
the scoundrels are gagged and tied to gum-trees."

"Quite sure that you can depend upon them?" said a gruff voice.

"Oh, yes, they've gone too far to draw back," said the inspector. "If
Salathiel finds them out, he'll no doubt hang the pair of them. I wish
he would; it would stop their talk, and save the reward for better
people."

"Have they to-night's password?"

"Yes," said Moore; "I gave it to them yesterday, 'Maitland West'; but
I'll have to turn in for a couple of hours. I didn't sleep a wink last
night. You'll have me called if anything happens?"

At this the two moved on, and separated, and with as little delay as
possible Salathiel came down the tree. "He had heard enough," he
thought, "to justify going out of the gully to learn more." The password
would help him, and he might, if necessary, personate Fenton, for they
were about the same size.

He had no sooner touched the ground, however, where two of his men
awaited him, than a hand was reached out, and a familiar voice
whispered: "Good evening, captain."

It was George Lennox.

"I thought you would come," said Salathiel, gripping his hand; "we're in
a tight fix. But how did you get in?"

"By way of 'Maitland West,'" said George, laughing quietly.

"So you know that too!" ejaculated Jack, as he drew him away for a
private conference. "Why, I have only just discovered the password
myself."

"Oh, they're a lot of blundering new-chums," replied Lennox; "mostly raw
Irishmen just out from Erin. I heard it, accidentally, an hour ago."

The night was dark and the bush thick, and Lennox had been able to creep
past the sentries at the cataract end of the gully, and had actually
come down through the plunging waters unseen. After a brief interchange
of news, he informed Salathiel of the steps he had taken with a view to
his release. A warning about the ambush and the treachery of Fenton and
Snow had been flashed from Kingdon Ponds the previous afternoon, but too
late to be of any use. So Lennox had brought all hands down from
Adullam, to take part in any movement Salathiel might propose. They were
mounted, and lying in wait a mile away to the north-west.

"We must have no bloodshed," said Salathiel, "unless we are absolutely
driven to it. I promised that to Sir James. I think, however, that
having the password, we may risk a walk outside, and see if we can learn
a bit more of their strength and plans. If we could only get quietly
out, and leave them here, watching an empty gully for a few days, it
wouldn't be a bad move."

"Those two traitors must be punished first," said Lennox, with a
passionate oath. "I just overheard one of the police say, that but for
them, Moore never would have fired the western forest when he did. It is
their treachery that has lost us so many lives."

"How have you arranged with the chaps outside?" asked Salathiel.

"If they hear shots fired in the gully, they are to advance at once and
begin firing overhead, to make a counter-demonstration. If your whistle
is blown once, they are to retire if attacked; if twice or more, they
are to close in to our assistance. There are just ten of them."

"Why," exclaimed Salathiel, "we could defeat them easily, but for that
promise to Sir James. There are only forty soldiers and police."

After a whispered communication to one of the men, the two passed down
the gully, and stepped quietly down into the creek; it was no deeper
than their knees, and as they moved slowly along through the water, they
added very little noise to the rippling wash of the stream.

Keeping close to the northern bank, they groped their way carefully
along, for the overshadowing bushes made the darkness intense. But on
reaching the clearing, to their surprise they found themselves near the
rough fence of an extemporized stock-yard, where they estimated that
some forty horses were feeding. A sentry, who had no doubt been on guard
at the creek, was apparently in conversation with another on the far
side of the yard; but the night was so dark, and the trees so dense,
that the two, with no great difficulty, crept on all fours through the
undergrowth, until at a safe distance.

"Listen!" whispered Salathiel. "With such a large number of police and
soldiers, and the gang bottled up in the glen, Moore will not be
apprehensive of danger over in the tent. Let us go and see if any one is
with him, and what they are doing."

They crept stealthily through the undergrowth to where the light was
still burning in the tent; the flap was down, and pausing at the
entrance, they heard one person only, breathing heavily as in sleep. It
was the Major's watch at the gully, and Moore had evidently turned in
for a few hours, as he said he would. There was a tear in the canvas at
the back of the tent, which Salathiel noiselessly enlarged with his
knife, and looking through, saw within a few feet of him the face of the
man who had proved his most bitter and unscrupulous enemy.

Great beads of sweat stood on Salathiel's face, and twice he put his
hand to his revolver; he thought of the hell of fire in the glen, which
this murderer had let loose on innocent women and children; he thought
of the insults to himself, when for some hours he had been chained one
day with other unfortunate wretches to the iron ring in the centre of
the stone floor of the Maitland lock-up; he thought of one this man had
outraged, and afterwards flogged to death; he thought of the insults to
his aged father, and He whispered fiercely to Lennox, "George, I'm going
in to bind and gag the devil, and carry him into the gully."

"Good!" said Lennox, "I'll help you. One moment," he whispered as
Salathiel turned to go, "this'll make a good gag." He knotted his
handkerchief around a piece of wood he had picked up, and the two passed
stealthily into the tent. Moore awoke as they entered, and recognizing
Salathiel, his eyes almost started from his head. He reached for his
revolver; but the outlaw was too quick for him, and springing forward he
struck him with his fist between the eyes. The inspector fell back
dazed, and before he had recovered, was gagged and bound hand and foot.

He had been sleeping on a Bush stretcher, made with a couple of sacks
run upon saplings, and supported by forked sticks driven into the
ground. They tied him up in the stretcher, wrapped a large rug around
him, and, extinguishing the light, were about to carry him out bodily,
when they heard footsteps approaching.

It was one of the police, who came quietly up and stood outside. They
heard him say: "I would have sworn that there was a light a few minutes
ago," Lifting the flap of the tent, little dreaming that a pistol was
within a few feet of his eyes, he whispered audibly, "Captain! Captain!"

There was of course no answer, but Lennox drew a couple of long breaths,
as a sound sleeper, partly awakened, might have done, and then started
to snore gently.

"He's asleep," said the man; "it's a pity! I must come round again in
half an hour; it's a chance, with the wind in the west, and not a
particle of dew." He dropped the tent flap and went off again, Salathiel
and Lennox standing perfectly still as they listened to his departing
footsteps.

They had had a narrow escape from a tragedy; but what sort of a
purgatory Moore must have been in, it would be hard to describe; he lay
perfectly still, however, without the slightest sound or attempt to
struggle, for during the whole of the time the cold barrel of
Salathiel's revolver was pressed close to his head.

"Did you hear that, Moore?" said Salathiel, "'the wind is in the west
and there is not a particle of dew.' I fancy it would be a kindness to
shoot you where you are; but there are some people down in the gully
who'll be glad to make your acquaintance, so we're going to carry you
there; you'll wish yourself dead before you come out again."

He was an ordinary sized man, but the two stalwart outlaws lifted the
stretcher with ease, keeping under the trees, where it was pitch dark.
In five minutes they were close to the creek, and could hear the noise
of the horses stamping as they fed.

"Put him down," said Salathiel, dropping his end under a tree, "and I'll
go and see how the land lies, and where those new-chum guards have got
to. Our signal to-night is the mopoke's cry, so, if you hear it, answer
me. It's as dark as Hades, and I might miss you, and that would be a
pity for Moore's sake; but if anything happens, and I don't come back,
shoot him, unless you can carry him in."

He was gone before Lennox could reply, and dropping on the grass the
latter put his hands over the bonds of his captive, to feel that they
were right, and then pressed his pistol against the inspector's forehead
to remind him that it was there.

A long silence followed.

The sky was clouded, and as there was neither moon nor stars, the
darkness was complete. The hand held a foot from the face would have
been invisible; but there were a number of audible sounds.

It is in full daylight only that the silence of the Australian Bush is
so noticeable. That awful, deathlike hush passes away with the setting
sun, and the vast solitudes become peopled with multitudinous sounds.
The listener hears the movements of things that creep and crawl; of
animals that hop; and heavy wing-birds that fly. The night winds sway
the grass and reeds until they whisper; the shredded bark hanging on the
trunks of the great gum-trees, flaps weirdly in the wind against their
butts.

Branches pressing upon each other will make the strangest sounds; as the
wind sways them to and fro, they moan and cry, and sometimes even shriek
in heavy gales. The fox, when hunting, barks as he follows his prey, and
the dingo howls, night-birds hoot and shriek, and bull-frogs croak; and
such noises are most frequently heard near creeks or waterholes.

Similar, and other, sounds were borne out of the night to Lennox, as he
awaited Salathiel's return. Listening, he presently heard a wombat's
grunt among the horses at the far end of the extemporized stock-yard.
The animals pawed the ground restlessly, and the wombat grunted again.
This was followed by the sound of hurried feet and men's voices, and
directly afterward Salathiel appeared, and picking up the stretcher
whispered, "It's all right; I've given them some trouble with their
horses. Come quickly." A few minutes afterwards, they stepped with their
burden into the creek, and turning up stream, were lost in the darkness.
They moved along very slowly in the intense gloom; but, as it became
lighter, they stepped from the creek to dry ground in the gully, and
carried their burden to a spot where men with rifles stood by the trees
on guard.

"Anything to report?" whispered Salathiel.

"Nothing, captain."

"That's good," said Salathiel. "Now let me introduce you to one you may
have met with before; if not, you will certainly know him by name:
Captain Moore, Inspector of Police for the Colony of New South Wales.
Tie him to a tree, he'll be safer that way than lying on the ground;
there's one between Fenton and Snow. They know each other quite well."




CHAPTER XXXIV--DEATH IN THE GULLY


Captain Moore was what the convict system had made him, a bully and a
brute; but he was no coward. One of the last representatives of a
revengeful administration of criminal law, he was not by any means
popular with the community; but it would be difficult to describe the
detestation in which he was held by the convict class. Many of these, it
should be remembered, were worthy men, who had been transported for
political or trivial offences; but Moore's dealings with them showed no
discrimination or humanity. To him they were all jail-birds, to be put
down, and kept down, and humiliated, and flogged, and reminded of their
lost condition at every opportunity.

He would walk or ride through the principal streets of Sydney, at all
hours of the day, and woe betide the convict or emancipist, no matter
how respected or wealthy, who failed to bare his head as he passed by.
These people had no civil rights (until their names had been inserted in
some general pardon under the Great Seal of England*). Whether
emancipated, assigned, or in prison, they belonged to the convict class,
which was under the brutal authority of the chief inspector. They, in
return, cordially hated him, and it is not to be wondered at that again
and again attempts were made upon his life.

(*Lists of hundreds of such names may be read in the newspapers of
those days.)

There were, of course, many men in official positions of a totally
different character and disposition; but unfortunately, a laisser faire
policy obtained at this period, from the Governor downward, and it gave
men like Moore their opportunity to do incalculable harm to the body
politic. However, Nemesis had overtaken Moore at last. At the very time
he planned to destroy Salathiel he found himself a prisoner, gagged and
bound, at Salathiel's mercy; and he knew the outlaw too well to dare to
hope.

While the bushrangers completed their preparations for escape, Moore was
carefully guarded by two of the men. In bygone days he had sentenced one
of them to five hundred lashes, and they feared and hated him. It is
little wonder that, in their leader's absence, they seized the
opportunity to pour contumely on the head of their ancient oppressor.
They had none of Salathiel's chivalry for a beaten foe. They tweaked his
nose and pinched his flesh, spat into his face and cursed, reviled and
threatened him in lurid whispers.

It was two in the morning when the preparations were complete. No shot
had been fired, nor sign made from the ridges; but not for an instant
had the vigilance of the outlaws been relaxed. They knew that dozens of
eyes all around the ridges peered through the darkness into the gully,
and that many ears listened to catch the faintest sound; at any moment
fire might be opened upon them, or a firestick put to the dry grass and
undergrowth which filled the gully.

About half-past two the prisoners had reason to be apprehensive that
their end was near, for one by one they were cast loose from the trees
and removed higher up the gully. There, three stout gums grew close
together. Moore was bound to the middle one, so that he faced the
north-west; Fenton and Snow were made fast to right and left; then some
oil lamps, used for traversing the creek at night, were brought and,
ready for lighting, were firmly fixed over the head of each man, loose
branches were gathered and heaped around them.

"Listen!" said Salathiel in a loud whisper. "You are all murderers and
have forfeited your lives, and two of you are traitors. I might justly
have hanged you; but I prefer to leave you to the upbraiding of
conscience and the vengeance of God. You fired the forest last week to
burn me out, but you failed; and instead have murdered eleven persons,
three of whom were women, and seven innocent young children; they died
of suffocation in a sea of fire; and now, you two traitors! hear from me
what the police inspector already knows. Unless you should be first
shot, the three of you are to be burnt alive; burnt alive by Captain
Moore's police, at his own orders. It is quite possible, of course, that
when we light the lamps and begin firing from behind, you may be shot by
the soldiers, which will be the least painful death; but we shall only
shoot you ourselves if there seems to be a chance of your escape. You
may relinquish all hope of life, however, and if you know of a God you
dare pray to, you had better pray to Him with all your hearts. And know
this, Moore, before you pay the penalty of your crimes. The whole of us
will escape, and but for a promise made Sir James Bennett, few of your
men would return to Sydney alive. Your murderous plan to destroy us with
fire up at the glen completely failed. Had you come up to fight me like
a man, I would have met you in the same way; but your whole career has
been one of cruelty, deception and blood, and now you will die by the
hands of your own troopers, caught in your own trap."

"Light the lamps!" he said, turning round to the men, "and let us see
the end of it!"

It was a strange and startling sight to the watchers on the ridges when
those three lights suddenly shone out of the darkness of the gully. The
soldiers and police could not discern the faces of those who were lashed
beneath the dazzling gleam, and the bushrangers were all under cover.
Probably for three minutes there was silence, and then the order was
given from above, to fire.

A volley of bullets came whistling down into the gully, and was
immediately replied to by a volley from the bushrangers, while almost
simultaneously a volley was fired from the Adullam contingent on the
north-west. The latter took the police and soldiers completely by
surprise, and immediately two policemen were to be seen dragging blazing
boughs behind them across the top of the gully.

They were firing it from the west!

"Shoot the devils, if you can!" cried Salathiel.

As the bullets hissed around them, both policemen ran for their lives
and seemed to have escaped uninjured. The grass and dense bushes of the
gully leaped into flame, and with the westerly behind, in a few minutes
it came sweeping down before the wind in a broad, fantastic sheet of
fire.

"Give them another volley," said Salathiel.

They fired, sheltered by the trees, directly behind their prisoners. A
hail of bullets was the reply of the ridges, and Moore was shot in the
shoulder, while Fenton and Snow, who were completely exposed, received
their death warrants.

Another storm of bullets swept the gully, and Salathiel saw Moore's head
fall forward.

"The fire will do the rest," he said, as word was given to the gang to
make for the creek.

Just then a sharp rattle of rifles was heard from the outlaws in the
west, but much nearer.

* * * * * * * * * *

"Now's your time!" cried Salathiel, and at the word, rifle in hand,
Lennox stepped into the creek leading his horse; the others followed,
and Salathiel, turning his head to give a last look at the blazing
gully, brought up the rear. "They are all three done for," he thought.

Lennox had expected to find the outlet of the creek closely guarded; but
the sudden attack by the unknown force on the north-west and the
disappearance of Captain Moore had evidently disorganized both police
and soldiers.

The bushrangers, on stepping out of the creek, really met with no
resistance. The men guarding the horses, after firing their guns, ran
off to join their comrades.

Sharp knives made short work of halters, and with rails thrown down,
guns firing, and the Bush blazing, the terrified horses stampeded
westward--the mounted outlaws behind them--at a pace that would carry
them miles into the unoccupied country.

"Well done!" cried Salathiel. "Keep well to the right, and join the
others." This was soon accomplished, for sweeping around in a
half-circle, they quickly reached their fellows, and together opened
fire upon police and soldiers. "Fire high!" shouted Salathiel. "Don't
kill any of them unless in self-defence."

But some were already wounded--among them the major--and without leaders
the wavering soldiers had little relish for the fight. They had no
knowledge of the strength of the unknown force which was firing upon
them from broken country to the west, and as the word went around that
Salathiel and his gang had escaped from the gully, and was being
strongly reinforced, a panic-stricken rush was made for the horses. On
finding them gone, the excitement and alarm were intensified, and
panic-stricken, they forsook their wounded, including the major, and
fled madly through the Bush in the direction of Kingdon Ponds.

But it did not suit Salathiel to let them rendezvous there, so some of
the bushrangers hung loosely upon their rear, firing occasionally until
they were some miles south.

In the meantime, the Bush fire, started by the police, was reddening the
sky and assuming wide dimensions. It had swept the gully, and the
charred remains of three blackened corpses was all that was left of the
two informers and Captain Moore.

Morning found the outlaws searching the western Bush for any who might
be dead or injured. They found the major and a couple of wounded
soldiers, who were carried on litters to the inn at Kingdon Ponds.
Lennox, who had considerable surgical skill, attended as well as he
could to their injuries. He thought there was no immediate danger, but
arranged for a doctor to be summoned from Patrick's Plains. The gang
then returned to the glen, assured that there was little present
likelihood of any further attack being made upon them.

Salathiel regretted the whole episode, for he feared that it would
nullify the efforts of Sir James Bennett on his behalf, and cause a
louder outcry to be raised against him. He might plead that he had shown
the greatest forbearance during the whole of this tragic occurrence, and
had not been the aggressor; but who would believe the word of an outlaw
against that of the police? The deaths of Fenton, Snow, and Captain
Moore would in themselves be sufficient to bring the whole gang to the
gallows.

But the morning of a new day was dawning for Australia, and for
Salathiel too, although, as one of the chief actors in the play, it was
not so easy for him to see it as for those farther away from the
footlights.




CHAPTER XXXV--A COLONIAL CURRENCY LASS


The forget-me-not type of girl, whose idea of love and a lover is
centred in herself, is common enough in these days, and was not unknown
at the time of our story. How such an one would have fretted during
those weeks of waiting at Morpeth! But Betsy was of another type
altogether. Her love for Salathiel partook of that sweet, womanly
affection which is self-forgetful, and seeks its supreme happiness in
another's good; whose unselfishness has, again and again, made men of
common clay heroes, and transformed heroes into gods.

It was no petulant, impatient, up-to-date girl that awaited Jack at
Morpeth; but a native-born currency lass, who would be found ready to do
and dare when the time came for action, but would also wait patiently
until the door of opportunity swung ajar. Betsy's aunt, like her mother,
was married to a farmer, and no sooner had Amos and her brother started
north than Betsy offered to help with the work.

"But you're a visitor, Betsy," expostulated Mrs. Dawson, who had just
come in from the dairy.

"I shall be better in health and happier, aunt," replied Betsy, "if I
know that I am of some use to you. I shall still have time to read and
keep up my school-work, and ride half a dozen miles to keep myself fit;
but you must let me help you in the dairy, for I can do everything
there, and make beautiful butter."

So Betsy had her way, and won the respect and love of her uncle, and the
three boy and two girl cousins she found at Morpeth. These days of
waiting were filled with healthy occupation and cheered with kindly
thought for others, and Betsy, instead of fretting herself thin and
making her aunt's household miserable, grew in favour with her friends,
and in self-control and sweetness of disposition. At the same time she
kept herself in rosy health and fit for any exertion or sudden call that
might be made upon her.

Betsy's uncle, who was well known as Sam Dawson throughout the district,
bred some good horses, and soon discovered that Betsy was a fearless
horsewoman, so, almost daily, she would ride upon some errand into
Maitland, sometimes with one of her cousins, but more often alone. One
day she took a newly broken colt along the Patterson-road, and another
day she visited Anvil Creek. What rides they were! Bunyip, the mastiff,
who had surrendered at discretion to Betsy's charms, mostly went with
her, and many a head was turned to look after the handsome south-coast
girl with the big dog, who rode so well, and smiled so pleasantly to all
who passed her on the road. A queen could not have been treated more
graciously. It must have been that Betsy had the makings of a queen in
her, for some rare women are endowed at birth with queenly graces, and
neither print frocks, nor rough surroundings, nor hard work, can wholly
rob them of their priceless heritage.

When word came of Sir James's disappearance, and of the destructive
fires blamed on Salathiel, and the attempt of the police to capture him,
Betsy felt that sickening sense of apprehension most of us are familiar
with, but her confidence in Salathiel remained unshaken.

"You will find," she said, "that if Sir James falls into Salathiel's
hands he will be kind to him, and if Captain Moore attempts to fight him
in the ranges, he will be beaten; I feel confident that my old
schoolmaster never fired the forest."

When she read later, in the paper, that the military were being sent up
to assist in her lover's capture, although she said little, the shadow
of a great fear overpressed her; but her uncle, who guessed her
thoughts, and by the way admired her greatly, offered to take her with
him to Singleton, where he had business.

"We may hear some news of your brother and Mr. Gordon," he said.

So, next day, Betsy rode with Sam Dawson to Patrick's Plains, as
Singleton was then called. It was nearly thirty miles, but they rode
good horses, and expected to be back before dark. Those who know what a
sixty-mile ride on an Australian country road is will guess that it was
not for naught that Betsy had brought her own side-saddle and kept
herself fit.

There are some people to whom it is second nature to forecast
contingencies. Probably the reader knows already that Betsy could do
more than most girls, because her thoughts were always a little in
advance of hands and feet. She took after her mother, who always knew
where the matches were, and never had to hunt about for needle and
thread, which may explain some unexpected occurrences in the present
chapter, for Betsy little thought, as she rode in the early morning out
of pleasant Morpeth, that she would never see the place again.

"Isn't this glorious!" she exclaimed, pulling her horse into a walk as
they mounted the hill. The road had wound around, bringing the valley
and town into view again. The river flashed in the morning sun; great
herds of lazy bullocks fed in the fat pastures; birds chirped and
jackasses laughed in trees and bushes, and timorous animals, at their
approach, raced off into the undergrowth. The morning air was sweet and
balmy with the breath of gum-trees, their leaves and branches still
sparkling with dew. Every one they met smiled at Betsy, and said "Good
morning," and Betsy and her uncle, who was not a little proud of his
niece, smiled, and said "Good morning," too.

Oh, for the days of youth, in sunny New South Wales, when the blood
flows through the pulsing veins like wine, and a girl is young, and has
health and beauty and a heart disciplined by trouble, but not bowed
down! Oh, for the days of youth, in a great, free, pleasant land, with
an open mind and a new world to explore and revel in and enjoy! Oh, for
the days of youth and love, when the whole world smiles on a beautiful
face, and says "Good morning!"

Betsy was radiant, for she refused to meet trouble half way, and rode
along laughing and talking to her uncle. They passed an old farmer, near
Anvil Creek, driving a dray. Betsy had smiled at him as he accosted her
uncle, and when they had passed he stopped his cart to look after her.

"God bless the girl!" he said. "What eyes, and what a voice, and what a
seat in the saddle, and what a laugh; she'll make a gran' wife for
somebody! Get up, Blossom." And the kind old man drove on. Betsy's fair
young face had cheered his old heart, and he began to whistle a
half-forgotten love song that he used to sing when he was young.

But the horses had got their first wind by this time, and after
breakfasting at Anvil Creek, they pushed along, and Betsy and her uncle
were riding into Patrick's Plains township some time before noon. One of
the first persons they met in the main street was Bob Carey.

"Why, Bob!" exclaimed Betsy in genuine surprise. "I am glad to see you;
where have you come from? My word, how thin you are!"

"My goodness, Betsy! I can't tell you how pleased I am to see you, and
you too, uncle," replied Bob, overcome with pleasure and astonishment.
"We are stopping at the hotel; been here three days," he continued, "had
a terrible time in the fires, and Father Gordon has been ill with
anxiety, and knocked up with the rough travelling; it's a wonder we are
alive!"

It transpired that Sir James Bennett had that day gone on to Sydney via
Maitland. He had called in the local doctor to see Amos. The old man's
heart, he said, was affected; he must be very careful, and take a few
days' rest; he imagined that his patient had suffered a severe shock
quite recently.

Betsy was indeed shocked when she saw her old friend; he looked aged by
ten years or more.

"You want good nursing, Father Gordon," she said, smiling, "and I expect
I'll have to stop here and look after you; whatever would mother say to
see you so!"

It did Amos more good than all the doctor's advice and medicine to have
Betsy's pleasant face around; but there was a weight on all their
hearts, for Dame Rumour had it that Salathiel and the whole of his
Adullam brotherhood were prisoners in the hands of the police and
soldiers; and that they would be brought down on the morrow in chains.
Bob had heard that they would stay the night at Patrick's Plains, and
every hotel in the township expected to be full. Needless to say, the
place was simpering with excitement; yet not a few refused to believe
these rumours about Captain Jack, who, if the truth was told, was more
popular with the townspeople than either the military or the police.

Betsy, as usual, refused to credit ill-tidings of her hero, and so the
afternoon passed, and Sam Dawson, having completed his business, came
back for tea.

They were sitting talking, later in the evening, when an unusual clatter
of horses was heard. "What's that?" exclaimed Sam Dawson, hurrying out
on to the veranda, closely followed by Bob and Betsy, whose heart beat
violently.

It was a small body of mounted infantry, and although they trotted
bravely into the town, they looked decidedly crestfallen; but the news
they brought stirred the whole place with excitement.

Salathiel had escaped from the ambush; Major McFarlane was wounded, and
Captain Moore was dead, while both military and police were totally
routed out of the ranges; they had lost their horses; there was no end
to the story of their sufferings and loss; the audacious outlaw of the
hills had completely out-generalled them. There was much running about
after this; for spare horses had to be sent up to meet the remaining
police and soldiers, who were coming down on foot, and lights flashed in
the excited township until midnight, as the story of Salathiel's victory
was told, and retold again. Betsy found it hard that night to get to
sleep, but the surprising thing, said Sam Dawson, was that no one seemed
to fear that Salathiel would retaliate upon either soldiers, police, or
townspeople.

After midnight, a mounted messenger came in for the doctor. He said that
Major McFarlane was worse, and one of the soldiers very bad. Dr.
Thompson had only come in after a thirty miles' ride, but with a fresh
horse he was on his way, two hours afterwards, to Kingdon Ponds--a ride
of about forty miles. His wife was to try by some means, in the morning,
to find a suitable nurse to follow him. But alas, when the morning came
it seemed as though no capable nurse could be obtained! It was the talk
of the little township--the need of a nurse to attend those wounded
soldiers at Kingdon Ponds. Father Gordon looked hard at Betsy; he was
feeling much better, and thought that if they rode quietly he might
return with Sam Dawson the following morning, to Morpeth.

"Uncle!" said Betsy suddenly; "don't you think I might go to Kingdon
Ponds and nurse those wounded soldiers? Bob could come with me. You know
I am a good nurse, mother taught me, and the messenger says that Major
McFarlane may die if he is not well looked after at once. It would make
things worse for Captain Jack--would it not, uncle, if he died?"

There was a tremor in her voice; and Sam Dawson looked long and
anxiously at his niece before he answered. It was a chance, perhaps, of
serving Salathiel; and if Betsy nursed the major back to life and
health, she might make him her friend, and he was a man of influence in
the Colony.

All this, and more, had been passing through Betsy's mind, and by some
thought transference, her conception of it as a fortunate opportunity
presented itself in a hazy way to her uncle; and he, like the good
fellow he was, determined to help her to its accomplishment.

Bob was quite willing, both for his sister and Salathiel's sake, to
co-operate, and so it came about that by noon that day the whole matter
had been arranged with Mrs. Thompson to their mutual satisfaction. Betsy
was engaged to go to Kingdon Ponds as nurse to the wounded soldiers, and
without further delay, she and her brother started on their journey. It
was a good road, and Kingdon Ponds was reached the same evening, without
either mishap or adventure.




CHAPTER XXXVI--MAJOR MCFARLANE


Thus it came about that Betsy entered upon the new and untried avocation
of nursing, just as she had taken up the role of school-mistress, for
the sake of the man she had vowed to help and defend and fight for and
encompass with her love. But to nurse a number of rough soldiers at a
wayside inn was very different from the nursing she had done
occasionally at home. And, brave girl as she was, it was with difficulty
many a time at the start that she kept back her tears.

The doctor read his wife's note, looked the girl up and down, and
bluntly told her that he had expected an older woman; it was not fit
work, he said, for a young girl to nurse a lot of swearing soldiers. The
innkeeper's wife would be more suitable, and no doubt more reliable; she
was of no use to him, and the best thing she could do would be to have a
night's rest, and then ride back with her brother to Patrick's Plains.

He was a good doctor, but of the rough old army school, and just then he
was worried. His idea of a nurse was an elderly woman slightly addicted
to gin. He was turning to leave the sitting-room, as though the matter
was ended, when Betsy drew herself up and somewhat indignantly replied:
"Dr. Thompson, your wife has engaged me as nurse, and I have ridden
forty miles to come here. I'm not going to be sent off in that fashion.
You think, because I look young, that I am inexperienced and
thoughtless; and you have not even given me a trial. My age is nothing.
What do you know of my ability as a nurse, or of my experience? Mrs.
Morrison tells me that she is worn out with the work and the nursing,
and I'm going to help her, and to sit up with Major McFarlane to-night,
after I have changed my riding-habit, and had some tea and a couple of
hours' sleep."

As red as a rose, and with the air of a tragedy queen, Betsy confronted
the amazed doctor. Muttering something about the wilfulness of
Australian currency lasses, he left her to attend to Major McFarlane,
who was swearing at Mrs. Morrison in an adjoining room.

Before morning, however, Dr. Thompson had capitulated, and acknowledged
to the innkeeper, Pat Morrison, that, wherever she had picked it up,
Betsy knew how to handle a bandage, and was not without some homely
skill and aptitude. In a clean print dress, with white collar, cuffs,
and apron, she was a pleasant contrast to Mrs. Morrison and the average
elderly nurse. Betsy had a pleasant but imperious way of managing
people; by ten o'clock she had told Bob that it was all right, and that
he might go to bed; and by midnight Mrs. Morrison had dropped into the
background, and the doctor found himself giving directions to Betsy as
to medicines and treatment, before he snatched a few hours' sleep
himself.

"Do you know how to take a temperature?" he asked.

"I think so," said Betsy, who had been watching the doctor closely; "you
put the glass bulb of the thermometer under the armpit for five minutes;
the major is too restless to have it under his tongue."

"Yes, that's right," said the doctor, somewhat surprised, though
friendly. "Take the major's temperature carefully at about two o'clock,
and if it is over 102 call me at once."

"I'll be very careful, doctor; but will you not lie down at once? You
must be quite knocked up. I've had two hours' sleep, and feel as fresh
as a daisy."

There was a small clock ticking loudly on the mantelpiece. Betsy thought
it might irritate her patient, so she carried it into the sitting-room.
After arranging medicines, and tidying things up generally, she sat down
and watched the officer, who tossed restlessly in his sleep. It was
after midnight, and save for the heavy breathing of a sleeper in the
next room, all was still, and Betsy was nurse-in-charge of three
patients, two of whom were dangerously ill.

Major McFarlane was a Scotchman, hailing from Glasgow. It was
touch-and-go with him, as the doctor had said, for one bullet had grazed
the left lung and another had smashed his shoulder blade. At two o'clock
the doctor had to be called, for acute inflammation had set in, and the
temperature was dangerously high. He was delirious, and in his ravings
frequently mentioned Salathiel and Captain Moore.

The doctor looked at Betsy once or twice, to note the effect of the
major's words upon her; but, although her heart beat fast, she made no
sign. Salathiel might have been an utter stranger to her.

"We'll take them alive, Moore," called out the major sternly, "and
understand that I won't have any firing of the Bush. It's white men we
are fighting, not blacks, or savages, or even common bushrangers.
Captain Jack is a gentleman, and I would wish for nothing better than to
meet him myself, with swords or pistols. I'm sorry we can't help him to
clear out of this hateful country; he's a man, and worthy of a better
fate than hanging. If he had only worn a Government uniform, almost
every blessed thing he has done would have been right.

"What's that you say? He fired the forest in the ranges? I don't believe
it; that was some of your devilish work. Oh, I know you, Moore! He's
proved more than a match for you, and you would resort to any villainous
trick to take him, dead or alive. Play the game, sir! We are Englishmen,
don't you know; and he is more English-like in his actions than most of
your banditti crowd--if he is a Jew."

The doctor was puzzled to note Betsy's proud look as she listened to the
ravings of the soldier. Her heart went out to this man. It was worth
while saving him! If not a friend, he was no embittered foe, as Captain
Moore had been. So she nursed him with untiring devotion, for the sake
of Jack, little dreaming of the effect her presence and skill would have
upon her patient's mind and heart.

Patrick's Plains was a one-doctor township; and there were other urgent
cases which called the doctor away, so Betsy had an opportunity to show
her skill and resource, and make for herself new friends, and gain new
experience. No ice was available, few medicines, and not much suitable
food; so Bob rode back with the doctor to Patrick's Plains for a number
of necessaries. He came back promptly, knowing what an anxious time it
was for Betsy; for during those days, while her other patients were
slowly recovering, Major McFarlane lay between life and death.

Betsy was now not more than twenty miles from Salathiel's stronghold,
and her thoughts were often there; but she had not as yet heard any
mention of him by the innkeeper or by his wife, and she feared to ask
questions. How well Salathiel's interests were safe-guarded by his
friends is shown by the fact that Betsy was nursing for a week, without
any idea of the business connection of the inn with Salathiel and his
stronghold. The innkeeper, Patrick Morrison, was an exemplary host, and
in a rough, homely way, he and his wife did all that they could for both
Betsy and her patients; but no word of the adjacent stronghold, or of
him whose word was law in that region, passed his lips.

One day, however, when Major McFarlane had suffered a relapse, and Betsy
was beside herself with anxiety and apprehension, for the very symptoms
which the doctor had warned her against were prominent, Morrison
whispered to her that there was a doctor up at Adullam, and he had sent
for him to come down at once.

"I am so glad, Mr. Morrison," said Betsy; "it would never do for the
major to die now. He was getting on so well, and I should think it was
through some neglect on my part."

"I have a message," replied the innkeeper, "that the doctor will be here
to-night by nine o'clock."

The weary hours passed slowly; and with many a prayer for help, Betsy,
assisted by Mrs. Morrison, waited upon her patient, although more than
once they had to call in her brother and the innkeeper to hold him down
upon the bed. It was during one of those painful paroxysms that the door
gently opened, and Salathiel appeared.

One squeeze of Betsy's hand, one look into her eyes, brimming with tears
yet luminous with joy, and he stepped beside the bed. Nothing was said,
for Morrison and his wife knew very well who the Adullam doctor was, and
Bob was too overawed by the situation to be surprised at anything.

"Bring another pillow and put it under his head," said Salathiel to
Betsy, and taking a small leather case from his pocket, he extracted
from it a phial, and poured a few drops of a bluish liquid into a
wineglass full of water. With difficulty the soldier was made to swallow
it; but its effect was very soon apparent. The tense muscles slowly
relaxed, and the patient's head sank back upon the pillow. Watch in
hand, Salathiel felt his pulse and then counted the respirations, and in
another half-hour beads of perspiration stood upon the man's face. The
crisis was passed.

"I was only just in time," said Salathiel. "He'll not die; but it will
be some days before he recovers. That is a wonderful medicine. He'll
sleep now for some hours. He's had a bad relapse; the poor fellow's
strength is quite exhausted. Bob, you go and get another sleep; and,
Miss Carey, come on the veranda a moment, please, and have a look at
Fleetfoot."

The dawn was just flooding the eastern sky with golden light, when Jack
led Betsy on to the veranda. There was no one near, save Fleetfoot, who
whinnied a pleasant greeting to his master.

"Betsy," said Jack--and he looked long and lovingly into her face--"you
are a wonderful woman. To think of all that you have done and suffered
for my sake; and you are more beautiful than ever; and to think that you
have done it all for a bushranger and an outlaw----!" And with that, he
pressed her to his heart, and kissed her.

Betsy had intended to call him Mr. Bennett, but all that she could say
was: "Oh, Jack! How I wish that you were out of Australia, away from all
this--and free!"

"It's coming, Betsy," said Jack. "I have a letter in my pocket, which I
want to read to you. It's from Captain Fraser, of the Nancy Lee.
Listen--

"'Dear Sir,

"'I have arranged everything with friends in Sydney. Next month is
thought to be an appropriate time for a voyage eastward. The Nancy Lee,
with a full cargo, will be lying in Newcastle harbour at the full of the
moon. Kindly keep this secret, and make your arrangements as early as
possible, and oblige,

                         "'Your obedient servant,

                              "'Donald Fraser.'

"Betsy," he continued, "I too have arranged everything. Your people
consent, and Parson McEwan will marry us at midnight, before we sail.
Will you come?"

Betsy did what many a woman had done before, and will do again, took the
man she loved on trust, and promised, "for better or worse."

For several hours they watched together by the bedside of the major,
Jack describing to Betsy the probable after-symptoms, and what to do.
They had breakfast together with Bob. Fleetfoot was brought round, and
riding south this time, Jack was gone.

"Is he not afraid?" said Bob to Betsy and Morrison, as they stood
together watching him as he rode across the creek and disappeared.

"No," said the innkeeper, "he knows how to take care of himself; but
just now he has no cause to be afraid."

A week later the major was out of all danger, and one morning Betsy's
cool hand was laid upon her patient's forehead. "I'm going to give you a
grilled chop for lunch to-day," she said; "it's wonderful how quickly
you Scotchmen recover once you get the turn; you will soon be able to do
without a nurse."

"I wish I could always have you near me," said the major wearily; "but
for you I should have been under ground by this. You have made me your
debtor, nurse, beyond all my power to repay."

"Would you do something to help me, if I wanted your assistance very
badly, major?" Betsy was looking into his face as though she would read
his very soul.

"Betsy," said the major bluntly, for the first time calling her by her
Christian name, "I would serve you with my life!"

"Ah! you are not strong yet, major; people sometimes say rash things
when they are recovering from a bad turn. You will forget me after a
bit."

"It's the word of a soldier," replied McFarlane. "I can't say more now;
but wait until I am well. You have made me your friend for life."

"Major, I'll believe you," said Betsy, surprised at his earnestness. "My
father was once a soldier, and I have heard him say that a good soldier
is always as good as his word."

Their eyes met, and there was that in the major's honest face which
satisfied Betsy that he would not break his word with her, even though
her request entailed unlooked-for difficulty.

In the meantime, stirring events were taking place in Sydney, whither
Sir James Bennett had now arrived: events which singularly favoured
Salathiel's escape, if they could only be made known to him in time to
be taken advantage of.

Captain Fraser's letter had stirred him to strenuous action, for much
had to be done for the people in the glen before he could think of
himself and his own safety and happiness.




CHAPTER XXXVII--THE BANDITTI PARTY


Sir James Bennett, with the bluff skipper of the Newcastle steam packet,
stood upon the incoming steamer's bridge. The vessel was sweeping
through a calm sea around North Point and the quarantine ground.

"Hast ever made Sydney Harbour before, with the sun setting, Sir James?"

"I can't say that I have," replied the lawyer.

"Then you'll see as pretty a sight in a few minutes as any on earth,"
said the captain, and the old seaman marched to the other end of the
bridge, humming to himself:

     "Oh Bay of Dublin, me thoughts you're troubling,
     Your beauty haunts me like a fevered dream."

Coming back again, as the steamer rounded North Head, he exclaimed:
"I've been in and out of Port Jackson hundreds of times; but on an
evening like this I always feel a kind of mental intoxication as the
harbour opens up. Look at it! Isn't it a picture? It's the one blessed
harbour for me in the whole world, and I've seen 'Frisco, Naples, and
Dublin. But it beats 'em all."

It was a perfect evening in late summer, after a day of heavy rain, and
Nature, like some blushing rustic beauty conscious of her loveliness,
stood breathless, as it were, to be admired. The steamer had slowed
down, and was passing smoothly through the softly lapping shimmering
waters of Sydney Harbour, which, with the lustrous foliage of its
picturesque environment, was ruddy with the sunset-glow.

"What a land it is," said the lawyer, speaking as much to himself as to
the captain; "but alas! that all this beauty and repose should have so
little influence upon the character and disposition of the people and
their rulers; but it will come--it must come."

The captain overheard this and smiled, but he was occupied just then
with his navigation, or he would probably have had something further to
say.

They passed Middle Harbour and Bradley's Head all too quickly for the
barrister, who revelled in the beautiful scene. Then came Rose and
Double Bays and Garden Island. Quite a fleet of vessels lay peacefully
at anchor, among them no less than five immigrant ships, and one
full-rigged ship of a thousand tons, carrying convicts. "Hello!" cried
the captain as they neared Farm Cove. "They've moved the warship
opposite the quay; what's that for, I wonder?" As they slowly rounded
Man-o'-War steps and the quay opened out, Circular Wharf, at the foot of
George-street, was seen to be crowded with people.

"I'm blest if they haven't got the guns trained on to the crowd!"
ejaculated the astonished captain, as he gave orders to stop the
engines.

"Whatever can have happened?" exclaimed the barrister.

"I heard in Newcastle," said the captain grimly, "that there was going
to be another meeting of the Anti-transportation League to-day, and it
looks as though the Governor and the Banditti Party were going to give
'em fits."

Sir James felt anxious and uncomfortable, for the Banditti Party, so
called, included the Governor, Council, Military, and Police, and also
some of the squatters, and it was the political party of Sir James; but
the film of class prejudice was fast falling from the latter's eyes.
Recent experiences had wonderfully changed his vision of Australian
life, for until his meeting with Salathiel the barrister had lived in a
wholly conservative and official atmosphere, hand-in-glove with those
who were in power. But although scarcely aware of it as yet, he was fast
becoming a convert to the new order of things, and his vision of
Australia and its future was broadening and deepening. Even in 1850 the
old order saw nothing more than a penal settlement in Australia, to be
ruled by soldiers and policemen, and a Parliament on the other side of
the globe; but the new order beheld a very different picture, both of
the present and future, and chafed under the arbitrary rule of pedantic
officials, who would on occasion insult, and even flog, free citizens,
as well as convicts, without the form of a trial, and who, when the
people dared to hold a public meeting to protest against official
brutality, would often ride into the crowd and disperse them with blows;
or, as in the present instance, train the guns of a warship upon them.

Nor had there been much opportunity of appeal of late years, for the
Governor lived in luxury and ease, and, like Gallio, cared for none of
these things. He set at naught complaints, and in his dispatches
misrepresented the people's party to the Home Government, as "a few idle
grumblers who have no stake or interest in the community." It was
seemingly not a very opportune time for the barrister to approach the
authorities with a proposal in favour of Salathiel's being allowed to
quit the country; but, "on the other hand," he thought, "if Salathiel
would only continue to act on the defensive, and use his men and
influence for the maintenance of law and order in the northern district,
there would be a chance that his prowess and defiance of the authorities
might make him a popular idol with the multitude (as Robin Hood was at
one time in England), illustrating to the minds of thousands of free
men, not only an outlaw's war against injustice and tyranny; but the war
of the people themselves against the cast-iron rule of a brutal and
blundering officialism."

When Sir James got on shore he found the city greatly excited, and
seemingly on the verge of a popular revolutionary demonstration against
the Government. Captain Moore's expedition to capture Salathiel, the
forest fires, and all else outside of Sydney, was lost sight of in the
commotion of the hour. Double guards of soldiers were on duty at
Government House, and, as has already been seen, the guns of a British
warship were trained upon the old barrack square, where crowds were
passing indignant resolutions against the revival of convict
transportation and the continuance of the convict system of assignment.
All of which was embittered and aggravated by the fact that Government
military and police were openly in favour of continuing the existing
system, and had even petitioned the Home Government in favour of convict
transportation.

It was, in colonial phraseology, the 'Currency' against the 'Sterling,'
and it seemed as though the matter might develop into civil war.
Transportation was supposed to have ceased in 1840, in response to
urgent memorials to the Home Government; but in defiance of the
impassioned protest of the people, convicts were still being sent to
Sydney, Melbourne, Moreton Bay, and Western Australia.

As Sir James stepped down the gangway, he caught sight of Lieutenant
Thompson watching the crowd, and with him was Captain Fraser, of the
Nancy Lee. Handing some luggage to his man servant, who had met the
steamer, the barrister walked over and accosted them.

"Sir James Bennett!" exclaimed the lieutenant in surprise, as he stepped
back and looked hard at the lawyer, before taking his outstretched hand.
"What!--I really beg your pardon, but I thought it was your ghost! I'm
very pleased to see you. We read that you had been captured by
Salathiel's gang; you must have been ill, or very badly treated. I
should scarcely have known you!"

"I've been through some strange and sad experiences since I last saw
you," replied the lawyer, as he turned round to grasp the hand of
Captain Fraser--"although," he continued, "not of the kind you evidently
imagine. I may as well tell you at once that I have to thank Salathiel
the outlaw for my life, and I have hurried down to Sydney to try to do
him a service. But what's the matter here?"

"A touch of all-round popular insanity, from the Governor downward,"
replied Lieutenant Thompson with a careless laugh. "But take my arm, for
you look completely knocked out; and come with us up to the club and
have some dinner, and tell us all about it. Why, man!" he exclaimed,
"whatever will Kitty say! Do you know that you have turned almost grey?"

"I have been through that which might turn any man grey," said the
barrister. "But come along, I shall have to run out to Longreach after I
have done with you, and I want to interview the Governor to-morrow."

By this time Sir James Bennett was engaged to be married to the
lieutenant's charming sister Kitty, whose slight accident at Broadhaven
Valley Station was the means of first introducing the lawyer to the
bushranger.

During dinner the three men chatted over the affairs engrossing public
attention in Sydney; but afterward, as they sat smoking, Sir James told
them of his meeting with Salathiel, how his life had been saved by the
bushranger, and why his brown hair had come to be sprinkled thick with
grey. The two men listened with absorbed interest.

Before Sir James went out to Longreach that evening, the three gentlemen
arrived at a mutual understanding as to what they would do to assist
Salathiel's escape from Australia. Captain Fraser told of the chartering
of his schooner for the voyage to America, and gave them the date when
it was proposed that Salathiel and Betsy should be married in Newcastle,
on the night before the vessel sailed.

"I cannot help thinking," said Sir James Bennett, smiling, "of that
afternoon at Major Browne's, when Salathiel said we might meet again in
the north, and possibly he would win the rubber. If he gets away safely
there is no doubt about it: he will have won the rubber. But look,
Thompson, here comes your father; I suppose it's the trouble in the city
which makes him look so grave."

They shook hands with Colonel Thompson, who stared at the lawyer in
surprise, much as his son had done. "I see you've had a rough time of
it," he said, as he grasped his hand; "but have you people heard the
latest news?"

"What is that?" asked the lieutenant.

"Why, Captain Moore is dead; Major McFarlane lies at death's door at
Kingdon Ponds; and a detachment of forty soldiers and police have been
badly defeated by Salathiel in the ranges. It's bad news, just now, for
the Government."

"Is that really true?" exclaimed the barrister with a pale face. "Why, I
seem only just to have left them."

"There can be no doubt about its truth," replied the colonel. "I had it
from the Governor's private secretary."

"Then," said Sir James, "I am afraid we can do little, if anything, in
Sydney for Salathiel. He's won the rubber with a vengeance!"




CHAPTER XXXVIII--SYDNEY SHOWS THE GOVERNOR ITS TEETH


When the newspapers came out the following morning, they were full of
reports of the disturbances in Sydney; but contained only a brief
paragraph about the important news told overnight by Colonel Thompson,
There was no telegraph service in Australia until 1851, so the editors
could not wire for information, but they spoke of certain rumours which
had filtered through to them from official sources. Captain Moore's
expedition to capture the outlaw Salathiel was believed to have
altogether failed. The inspector was reported killed, and Major
McFarlane badly wounded; but they awaited fuller information from their
correspondents in the north. One journal remarked, that "it was in
keeping with the fatuous policy of the Government to hold back important
information to suit their own ends. They would not be a bit surprised if
news came to hand that the outlaw autocrat of the northern district had
again defeated both military and police."

It may be explained that the Government had actually received detailed
news of the disaster at Kingdon Ponds; but with the city seething with
excitement over the convict ship anchored in the harbour, with her
prisoners unlanded, for the leaders of the people's party had defied the
Government to bring them on shore, it was thought advisable to keep back
the news of the reverse as long as possible.

"The Banditti Government," as it was opprobriously named by the
Reformers, was beginning to realize at last that it had to face a rising
tide of popular sentiment which might overwhelm the old officialism
which for half a century had held the public life of the Australian
people in bondage. It was well known that the Government feared
Salathiel, who had latterly become a prominent figure in the public
mind. He was quoted to the authorities by radical journals as an example
of the evils of the existing convict system and autocratic government.
The people were exasperated with both the Government, military, and
police, and it was quite possible that their defeat at Kingdon Ponds
might make Salathiel the hero of the multitude.

When the outlaw's three friends met in Sir James Bennett's chambers that
morning, the general position of things was anxiously discussed. Sir
James was far more hopeful, however, than he had been on the previous
evening, for by the morning's overland mail he had received a lengthy
letter from Salathiel, detailing in full the treachery of Fenton and
Snow, the ambush, and the encounter with the military and police. A
postscript had been added, that Major McFarlane was reported out of
danger. His hopefulness had been further increased by a newspaper
account of a public meeting recently held in the city. It was certainly
an astonishing recital!

It had been a wet day, but so great was the public interest that at
eleven o'clock in the morning the shops and warehouses of Sydney had
been closed, in order that the business people might attend an open-air
meeting at Circular Wharf, to protest against the deportation of the
convicts on board a ship then in harbour. The top of an omnibus had been
used by the speakers--prominent city men--to address a crowd of some
5,000 citizens, who stood for hours in the rain listening to them, and
enthusiastically passing strongly worded resolutions. Seldom had a
Governor and Government been referred to in more scathing terms; the
wonder of many was that some were not arrested for seditious language,
and put into jail.

"Australia," said the chairman, "does not want convicts. They have been
the source of wealth to many, and no doubt others now hope to amass
riches from their services. But we, free citizens of Australia, will
have none of them! The Government has threatened us in regard to our
meeting, and has trained the guns of a warship upon us, but we have met
peaceably--we have met in all loyalty, in all deference to the
constituted authorities, in the highest and holiest patriotism that can
animate us as citizens, for the love we bear their families, in loyalty
to Great Britain, and in the depth of our reverence for Almighty God--to
protest against the landing again of British criminals on these shores."

The next speaker was a prominent city merchant. "It is to assist the
material interests of a clique," he said, "that convicts are wanted; but
the colonists of Australia, as a body of free men, have refused the
gilded iniquity with disdain."

The eyes of Sir James glistened as he presently read the name of a
speaker who was a famous Q.C. and a brother barrister, destined
afterward to obtain high rank in the British Cabinet. He was reported by
the newspaper at length, and his fervid language was not calculated to
reassure the Governor of New South Wales. He was enthusiastically
cheered as he declared that "the resumption of transportation by the
Government is an outrage, which has been officiously and insultingly
perpetrated upon us by his Excellency the Governor. That gentleman's
threat of degradation has been fulfilled. The stately presence of our
city, the beautiful waters of our harbour, are to-day again polluted
with the presence of that floating hell--a convict ship. We are told
that this shipment is of the picked and selected criminals of Great
Britain; but, as a previous speaker remarked, we will have none of them!
I view this attempt to inflict the worst and most degrading slavery upon
the Colony, only as a sequence of that oppressive tyranny which has
confiscated the lands of the Colony for the benefit of a class. That
class knows its power; and it is not content to get the lands alone;
without labour they are worthless, and therefore it must enrich them
with the labour of slaves. But it is not the mere fear of competition
among workmen that brings us here to-day; it is not a breeches-pocket
question of the labouring class. It is a struggle for liberty--a
struggle against a system which has, in every country where it has
prevailed, been destructive of freedom. Let it go home, that the people
of New South Wales reject--indignantly reject--the inheritance of
wealthy shame which Great Britain holds out to her. That she spurns the
gift, deceitfully gilded though it be. That she spurns the degradation,
however eloquently it may be glossed over. Let us send across the
Pacific our emphatic declaration, that we will not be slaves--that we
will be free."

At a later period of his address the orator paused, and looked around
upon the mass of upturned faces which, forgetful of the rain, hung upon
his words with open mouths and flashing eyes, and muttered threats
against the Government.

"I can see," he continued, "see from this very meeting, that the time is
not far distant when we shall assert our freedom not by words alone. In
America oppression was the parent of independence, so will it be in this
Colony. The seed will grow into a plant, and the plant into a tree. As
in all times and in all nations, so will injustice and tyranny ripen
into rebellion, and rebellion into independence." (Tumultuous cheering.)

"There will be bloodshed if they don't mind," commented the barrister to
himself. "Government House may well be guarded by soldiers with fixed
bayonets. But let us see what more was said."

The next speaker he knew as a brilliant journalist, who, years
afterward, was for long Premier of New South Wales.

He said: "I can only express my deep feeling of indignation at the
insult that has been offered the community at large, and the only remedy
I can see--the only course consistent with justice to the colonists at
large, is that the convict ship and cargo be sent back to England. The
injustice we have now met to protest against is far more flagrant, far
more oppressive, than that which gave birth to the American rebellion."

More speeches followed in the same strain, and then horses were put into
the omnibus and a deputation of twenty-four gentlemen, elected by the
meeting, went to Government House, to interview His Excellency, and lay
certain resolutions, unanimously carried by the meeting, before him; but
to their astonishment they were met by a guard of soldiers with fixed
bayonets, and six only were admitted, who were coldly received by the
Governor's private secretary, and without any hearing, discourteously
rebuffed. The leading journal, aghast at their reception, appealed to
His Excellency to meet the people in a better spirit, and warned him and
the Council of the possible consequences of their high-handed procedure.
"Rightly or wrongly," said the article, "the public mind is in a state
of high exasperation, and ought to be appeased."

"Ah!" said the lieutenant, to Sir James, "they are holding meetings
almost daily, and the colonel says the Governor is beside himself with
apprehension, and has the kitchen and outhouses packed with soldiers. If
the story of Salathiel and Moore and the forest fires, with the
particulars you could furnish, appeared in the newspapers at the present
time, it would pretty well knock the Government into a cocked hat. It is
my opinion that rather than have it published, the Governor would be
willing even to wink at Salathiel's escape. They have got their hands
full just now, and it would be better for the Government if Salathiel
quietly left Australia than for him to be captured. But you'll have to
get something in writing; unfortunately, in a case of this sort you
can't trust the Governor's word. No doubt they are in a tight corner
about this transportation business, and if we can work things right, I
believe the Governor will give in, rather than have your story made
public."

"Yes, I think we have a case against them," said the barrister slowly;
"I find there have been something like thirty deaths through the fire
which the police started, and some of the journals are hot enough just
now to call those deaths murders. And there's no doubt that's what they
were. It would give the speakers at Circular Wharf something more to
talk about."

"By the way," interposed Captain Fraser, "there's to be another meeting
at the wharf at one o'clock to-day. The doctor is to be one of the
speakers, and the Q.C. and several others; they are going to move a vote
of censure on His Excellency the Governor, and ask the Home Authorities
to recall him--unless the guns of the warship should first blow them
into smithereens."

"I don't think it's any use your trying to get an audience to-day," said
the lieutenant. "I hear the Governor is frightened to see any one, lest
he should be assassinated. And if they make it as hot for him at this
afternoon's meeting as they say they will, he will be the less likely to
want to have your story in the newspapers...Let's have some lunch
first, and go to the meeting together. I feel rather sorry for the poor
old Governor; he's an old Waterloo hero, you know; but we are on for the
rescue of Salathiel; and all is fair, they say, in love and war."

So it was agreed that they should lunch at the Australian Club and
attend the meeting together, and see how what was said might further
affect the Government and possibly help their plans for Salathiel's
escape.

"I think it's just as well to put you on your guard," said Captain
Fraser after lunch; "it's generally believed down on the quay that
there'll be bloodshed over this meeting to-day."




CHAPTER XXXIX--HIS EXCELLENCY'S VOTE OF CENSURE


The Nancy Lee was berthed at Circular Quay, loading cargo, and as it was
still early for the meeting. Captain Fraser had invited Sir James and
the lieutenant to walk down and look over her; but when they got into
the street they found streams of people hurrying down to the large
vacant space above Circular Wharf, which overlooked Circular Quay and
that portion of Sydney Harbour. The excitement of the hour caught hold
of them, and they at once followed with the crowd to the place of
meeting.

It was a notable occasion, and many of the 6,000 men which composed the
great gathering were secretly armed. There were 1,200 newly arrived
immigrants still on board the ships in harbour, and over 200 transported
criminals in the convict-ship. The loaded guns of the warship were still
trained upon the crowd.

When the chairman, who was a Liberal member of the Legislative Council,
opened the proceedings, it was evident he realized the gravity of the
occasion. "The enemies of the people," he said, in a voice which was
husky with emotion, "have industriously circulated reports that this day
will be one of violence. The Government will be only too happy to see
those reports verified, that the military may be brought to trample us
under foot; but I exhort you to have patience, and exercise the utmost
forbearance and self-control. We have come here to-day to ask the
motherland to grant us responsible Government; to petition Her Majesty
the Queen to remove the Secretary for the Colonies from her councils,
and to pass a vote of censure upon His Excellency the Governor, and to
ask for his recall. We shall be addressed by responsible citizens,
gentlemen of position and influence and high esteem among us, and there
is no need for me to ask, on their behalf, a patient and attentive
hearing."

The first speaker, a popular medical man, moved a resolution which at
once revealed the temper of the gathering. It was, "That the time has
now arrived for appealing to the Queen by petition, praying Her Majesty
to dismiss the Secretary for the Colonies from her councils." Before
speaking to the resolution, the doctor referred to the Governor's
studied discourtesy to the deputation already sent to him by the
citizens. "He has deliberately insulted the people by refusing to
receive the whole of the deputation, and those he did receive he would
not allow to speak, and further insulted by the repulsive chill he threw
over his words and actions. There is a Persian saying that it is the
last feather's weight that breaks the camel's back, and the Governor's
discourtesy is the feather-weight on this occasion. It is the last drop
in our cup of wrath, which is now filled to overflowing."

"What do you think of that for straight talk?" whispered the lieutenant
to Sir James, "but that's nothing to what you'll hear before the meeting
is over."

The administration of the Colonial Office was severely criticized by the
next speaker, who also roughly attacked certain members of the
Legislative Council, especially Wentworth, who had latterly more closely
identified himself with the Governor's party. "There is some talk," he
said, "of adding another link to the chain which binds us to the British
Throne by creating Colonial titles. If I have any voice in a measure of
this kind, my first step would be to create William Charles Wentworth
Duke of the Lash and Triangle." This sally was greeted with loud
laughter and cheers.

Speaker after speaker followed, unanimously condemning the Governor and
his Government. Said one: "It is reported that the Governor is
frightened; but why does he not yield to pubic opinion and the
courteously expressed petitions of free citizens? Nothing is more
monstrous and absurd than the assertion that a reign of terror is to be
apprehended in the Colony. Most of the advisers of the Crown are
disloyal to the land of their birth; and their so-called representative
council is a monstrous farce. Why, two counties near Sydney have only
sixty electors, and men like the hon. member for C----could return any
one they pleased, even their own footman."

The excitement of the meeting, however, reached its height when the
Queen's Counsel rose to move the vote of censure upon His Excellency the
Governor. He said he scarcely knew why he had been called to move this
resolution. "I seem to have been selected to bell the cat; if such is
the case, bell the cat I will!" The learned gentleman waited until the
cheering which greeted this had subsided. "I believe," he said, "the
Governor entertains a kind of languid and sickly sympathy with the
colonists, for which we, the people, are charged one hundred pounds
sterling per week, with seven or eight hundred pounds added money. It is
not pleasant for me to fall foul of this very respectable gentleman and
to censure him for his misbehaviour. I will refer first to the matter of
the deputation to His Excellency. There were twenty-three, or four,
gentlemen in that deputation; but only six were admitted. They found the
gates of His Excellency's palace closed against them; inside there was a
double military guard, with bayonets fixed; the mounted police were
quartered in the stables, and the kitchen was garrisoned with soldiers."
(Great sensation.)

"The friends of the Governor excuse him because they said he was afraid.
He was afraid! He, a soldier, and afraid! He, an old Waterloo hero, and
afraid of a few unhappy colonists! They were there to discuss this
convict question with him, and not to attack his palace. Was the
Governor afraid of his silver spoons, or did he think the deputation
would proceed to a general sack of the house, and drink all the claret
in his cellars? Or was it that six pairs of dirty shoes should be
allowed to intrude upon the vice-regal carpet? The people's deputation
has met with great insult. They desired to have a little conversation
with the Governor; but they did not succeed. I can say for myself, at
least, that I behaved much more civilly than usual; but His Excellency
quietly and coolly bowed us out of the room.

"The fact is the Governor is surrounded by parasites and sycophants, who
are always anxious to keep him from any presence save their own. Talk of
government in the Colonies; why, there is no government. The machine
that is called government consists of a body of over-paid superior and
subordinate clerks, and brutalized prison and police officials. We are
mocked with a wretched mongrel imitation of a representative legislature
which is called a Government. Government indeed! why, the outrageous
reign of the outlaw Salathiel in the northern districts has been
productive of more safety to the travelling public than all the police
prosecutions and floggings and executions in Sydney! It is safer, so far
as foot-pads and bushrangers go, to travel on the northern road between
Maitland and Murrurundi than between Sydney and Parramatta, and this
very Salathiel, whom the Government will not, or cannot, capture, is a
standing illustration of how the convict system can force men into
crime, and how absolutely the Government has failed to protect the
property and persons of the colonists. But to refer to another matter:
His Excellency seems to have lost sight of the fact that it is the
bounden duty of the Government, in the present state of public affairs,
to make no exhibition whatever of military force. Unless the Government
wished to invite open acts of hostility, it would never have taken the
steps it did last week. Does the Government want to incite in this
Colony a scene like the bloody field of Peterloo or the Manchester
Massacre? Had the meeting last week been provoked to violence, as it
well might have been, the military would have issued from the Governor's
gates, and carnage and slaughter would have resulted."

It was difficult for many in the crowd to restrain their excited
feelings; but the orator changed his theme, and in scathing terms
denounced the indolence and extravagance of the Governor and his court.
"In all other countries," he said, "under all other Governments, the
destruction of dynasties has been caused by the profligacy and
extravagance of the Government. The sturdy people of England met and
resolved to compel the Government into economy, and therefore, while
other nations fell a prey to anarchy, confusion, and bloodshed, she held
on her way--she maintained her station, because her people have been
taught to know their rights and maintain them."

Much more was said; but in closing the speaker reminded them that this
was only the beginning of the people's struggle for Australian
nationhood and freedom. "We must be prepared to meet any emergency, any
difficulty, if we wish to free our necks from the yoke of the odious
domination of brutal officialism to which we have been subjected, and
put ourselves in the position of Englishmen possessed of freedom."

"Come away," said the barrister to his friends, as this speaker sat
down, amid tremendous cheering. "When the report of this meeting appears
in the newspaper to-morrow morning, and His Excellency has had time to
read and digest it, it will, I think, be an opportune occasion to make
an appeal unto Caesar. Surely he will never allow what I can tell the
papers to appear in print, in the face of what is practically the fringe
of a revolution!"




CHAPTER XL--AN APPEAL UNTO CAESAR


The report of the meeting of the Anti-transportation League which
appeared next morning in the leading journal occupied over six columns
of close print. The editor described it as a highly influential and
well-conducted meeting. The speakers, he said, were legislators,
clergymen, professional men, and citizens of known integrity and
standing.

Sir James read the full report of the meeting with some astonishment;
the audacity and outspokenness of the speeches, the fearless
denunciation of the Colonial Secretary, and the wrathful censure of the
Governor, suggested to him a state of public feeling and resentment
against the authorities which, he thought, no sane man would dare to
trifle with. But the lawyer, shrewd as he was, failed to realize fully
the Governor's position; he looked at it from the Australian viewpoint,
but there was another side.

His Excellency was an aristocrat, closely connected by birth and
marriage with some of the highest families of England. He had been a
military commander-in-chief and was accustomed to military absolutism.
He knew nothing about popular government, or any rights possessed by the
working classes. He was naturally skilled in diplomacy and the writing
of dispatches, but too indolent to concern himself with colonial
affairs. A few favoured members of the Council were allowed to manage
public matters, both military and police, much as they pleased; for he
felt himself to be rather above the business of governing colonists and
convicts, who, to his mind, were much alike. The post carried a good
income, and was a comfortable mode of living, and he made it as much a
sinecure as possible. The result was that he occasionally blundered in
matters of business connected with the Home Office, and made serious
mistakes in his dispatches; and at the time referred to had fallen into
disfavour with both the Colonial Secretary and the British Cabinet, who
thought that he should have asserted his authority more effectively over
the colonists, and kept them quieter and more orderly.

The remarkable social upheaval over the convict ship had astonished him,
and put him on the horns of a dilemma; but by hook or by crook, whatever
might be the consequences for the Colony, he was determined to land the
convicts sent out by the Colonial Secretary, and thus keep himself right
with the British Colonial Office and those he regarded as his friends in
Australia. Now, a Governor of those days was supposed to be a sort of
father to his people, and was invested with practically absolute power,
if he chose to exercise it; and the then Governor, once aroused, was
both obstinate and implacable, for he came of a family of autocrats, not
used to being thwarted, especially by inferiors. So, although Sir James
spent hours preparing a brief, as it were, for the interview, he
overlooked several important facts, and started for Government House
after lunch with his confreres in great hope of success. He handed his
card to the Governor's private secretary to present to His Excellency
with sanguine expectations that the interview would be brief and
satisfactory.

He was, of course, well known at Government House, but to his surprise
and annoyance he was kept waiting in the great man's ante-chamber for
over two hours; the Governor's private secretary coldly explained to him
that His Excellency was engaged with members of the Council. He was
really engaged with a game of cards, for he wished to forget the report
of the meeting, which, however, had not troubled him very much, for the
one exclamation of the lighthearted Governor when he read it was: "Let
them all go hang!" His principal reason for leaving the lawyer to cool
his heels so long in the antechamber was his presence at the previous
day's meeting, which had been duly reported to the Governor by his
spies. At last, when his patience was well-nigh exhausted, the lawyer
was surprised to see Colonel Thompson enter the waiting-room.

"I heard you were here," he said, greeting him cordially, "and although
I am not in your confidence over certain matters, as my son, the
lieutenant, is, I can partly guess what your business with His
Excellency may be. Now, my dear fellow, if you will be advised by me,
you will defer this interview until to-morrow. I am afraid that you
would not get a very sympathetic hearing from the Governor to-day."

"But my business won't wait; it is of first importance to His
Excellency, and concerns public affairs. Both for the sake of the
Government and Colony I must see him at once."

"You belong to our party, Sir James," said Colonel Thompson earnestly,
"and are soon to be allied to my family. I hear that Salathiel the
outlaw saved your life; but don't you think that you are pushing things
somewhat too far?"

"Do you know my business, Colonel?"

"No, I can honestly say, I do not; but I have reason to imagine that it
is something which would favour Salathiel to the disadvantage of the
Government. You know, Bennett," he continued with strong feeling, "this
outlaw is a connection of my family by marriage; he is a thorn in the
side of a good many of us, and from His Excellency down we should all be
glad to know that he was dead; it would be a relief to the Colony; but
to grant him a pardon or anything of that sort is out of all question.
The Governor won't entertain it for a moment. So far as I am concerned,
for the sake of the public good, and to teach men to respect the law,
even if he were my own son, I would have him shot or hanged."

"You judge the man without having heard the evidence," replied Sir James
calmly. "I have nothing to propose which will be inimical either to His
Excellency or the colonists, but rather to the contrary. He can settle
the matter privately with a word; but I wish to see him alone."

The colonel looked at him earnestly for a moment. "You shall see him,"
he said at last, "and alone; but don't be disappointed. He is in no
humour to yield an inch to the mob. The insolence of yesterday's meeting
has thoroughly aroused him, and he has been told that, to some extent,
you are in sympathy with the people's party."

"What nonsense!" said Sir James. "Has the Governor forgotten that I'm a
lawyer?"

Shortly afterward a servant in livery ushered Sir James into a large
apartment, where His Excellency sat writing at a table. Soldiers with
fixed bayonets kept guard at the door.

"You can leave, Morris," said the Governor.

"Take a chair, Sir James," he said, but without offering the lawyer his
hand. "I have agreed to see you without my secretary being present; but,
as I am very busy, kindly make the interview as brief as possible. We
have had bad news from the north; I am informed that you have just
returned from Kingdon Ponds and can supply us with further information
as to recent events. Excuse my smoking while you talk; I can give you
ten minutes." He leaned back in his chair, and having lit a cigar, toyed
with the ears of a pet dog as he scrutinized Sir James curiously. It was
a mistake, however, to flout in this fashion one who was thoroughly
friendly, and who, by birth, education, and instinct, belonged to his
own class; but the Governor, unfortunately, was given to making mistakes
of this sort.

"I expect that your Excellency will have noticed my changed appearance,"
began the lawyer. "I was brown-haired a month ago, to-day you will see
that I am almost grey. I fell into the hands of a bushranger north of
Kingdon Ponds, and, unconscious, was left tied to a tree to die, when
the outlaw Salathiel found and rescued me, and like a good Samaritan,
not only saved my life, but returned to me my watch and other property."

"I suppose it was one of his own gang that robbed you!" said the
Governor.

"No; it was a notorious highway robber and assassin, Hogan by name;
Salathiel allows no robbery or violence to be committed by any of his
men."

"Well, you got your watch and money back," said the Governor
impatiently; "and what then?"

"We were unable to reach the Northern-road, as the bush and forest had
been fired by the police, on the order of Captain Moore. So I went with
Salathiel to Adullam to rest and recuperate."

"Captain Moore is, unfortunately, dead," said the Governor, "and dead
men tell no tales. Nor can dead men defend themselves, so it is usual
only to speak good of them."

"But the police who fired the forest are not dead, your Excellency, and
a number of others can witness to the truth of what I am about to say."

"Well, go on, but be as brief as possible."

There was probably at that time no man in Australia who could present
evidence in a more graphic and convincing manner than Sir James Bennett,
and he rapidly sketched the unfortunate career of the notorious outlaw.
With skilfully chosen words and masterly effect he secured the
Governor's attention, and half an hour passed by with His Excellency
still listening, as scene after scene in the outlaw's strange, sad life
was made to live before him. The description of Adullam Glen, with its
brotherhood of outlaws, the Union Jack flying over their heads, was
vividly portrayed; then the fire, the funeral, the women and little
children, and the havoc wrought by other fires which followed, were
referred to, and also the long death-roll of official murders. The
treachery of Fenton and Snow, the ambush, the deaths in the gully, the
utter rout of the large body of soldiers and policemen, were each
mentioned. Salathiel was still at large, and, if an account of these
things appeared in the newspapers, he would likely enough become the
popular idol of the disaffected multitude. "But," said the lawyer,
pausing significantly, "he is willing and anxious to come to terms with
the Government, and leave Australia for good."

"I suppose you want me to grant this outlaw a free pardon?" said the
Governor.

"Not exactly that, your Excellency; but----"

"No buts, Sir James, and no free pardons! The man's a criminal, and
sooner or later must fall into our hands, when his end will be the
gallows. It's of no use pleading for him to me. He saved your life, you
say, and you feel bound to do what you can to save his, I suppose. I
dare say that if I allowed him to escape the country it would please a
certain section of the convict class; but I shall do nothing to gratify
or in any way appease that crowd. This is a penal settlement, and I
shall treat it as such, and in future rule it more strictly upon police
and military lines. Every effort shall be made to take this man and have
him shot or hanged. You're an eminent advocate, and I suppose you will
defend him, but he will be convicted, nevertheless, and sentenced and
hanged, unless he should be shot beforehand or commit suicide. That's my
answer, Sir James Bennett. Good afternoon."

"Pardon me one moment, your Excellency. I have always been a friend and
supporter of your Government; there is great public tension at the
present, and unless the facts I have told you are suppressed they must
get into the newspapers. We now have trial by jury, and there is a very
strong criminal case against the police."

"Who do you think will dare to proceed against the police?"

"I, for one, your Excellency, unless reasonable justice is done to those
who have suffered by those official crimes."

"That is strong language, Sir James: it sounds very much like a threat."

"I don't wish it to be a threat, your Excellency; but Salathiel's secret
departure from Australia just now would certainly remove possible
dangers from the pathway of the Government."

"Would you go bond for his good behaviour, and that his departure should
be effected promptly and secretly?"

"Yes; if you included certain of his men."

"The Colony, no doubt, would be well rid of the whole of them," said the
Governor; "but let me tell you, Sir James, that you have come to the
wrong man. I'll be no party to compounding a felony, or winking at the
escape of a criminal from justice; these men have broken the law and
defied my Government, and would now like to take advantage of this
popular disturbance and escape scot-free. But let Salathiel look to
himself. I'll have every ship that leaves Australian waters watched, and
increase the reward offered for his capture by another thousand pounds.
He'll fall into my hands yet, and then I'll give the Colony an
object-lesson it will remember."

"Does your Excellency know that Salathiel is connected by marriage with
Colonel Thompson, and that the Salathiels of Sydney are among the
wealthiest and best respected of our citizens; that the man himself has
recently come into an income, through the death of a relative, of over
two thousand pounds per annum; that he has made full restitution for all
his former robberies; that he is a man of strong religious principles,
and that he was driven by our brutal convict system into crime; but
during the past eighteen months he has done the Colony immense service
by putting down bushranging in the north and capturing and punishing
some of the most dangerous and bloodthirsty bushrangers, whom our
mounted police tried to capture in vain; and saved several prominent
citizens' lives? Surely, your Excellency, this is a case for mercy!"

The Governor and barrister were now upon their feet, facing each other;
but the former regarded the latter only with disdainful silence.

"Your Excellency will not wish the whole of this story of the late
Captain Moore's criminal firing of the northern forest to appear in the
public press just now?"

"I have given you my answer," replied the Governor coolly. He rang the
bell for a footman, and told him to show Sir James Bennett to the door.
Behind a screen, unknown to the lawyer, a Government shorthand writer
had taken a full report of the interview, to be shown to the Council.

The appeal unto Caesar had been made in vain!




CHAPTER XLI--A BREAK IN THE CLOUDS


Sir James Bennett occupied a fine suite of chambers in Temple Court,
Castlereagh Street, but they were a despondent trio who met there that
night, as the lawyer told of the result of his mission to Government
House.

By this time the affairs of Salathiel and Betsy had reached a critical
stage. In another week it would be full moon, and the schooner would be
awaiting her passengers in Newcastle Harbour. Costly preparations had
already been made by Salathiel and his sister Ruth and other friends, in
view of the prospective wedding and departure of the vessel; but with
police and military on the alert, specially instructed to watch the
movements of shipping, in view of the outlaw attempting to leave the
country, it seemed impossible that their plans for a safe send-off for
Salathiel and Betsy could be carried out. Sir James said their departure
would have to be deferred. He thought Betsy had better remain for a
while at Kingdon Ponds, or Morpeth; and Salathiel would have, once more,
to intrench himself in the ranges. The Governor's resolute attitude had
been to the lawyer what fighting-men would call a knock-out blow; but
Sir James hesitated to play his trump card, for he knew it to be a trump
card only so long as it remained in his possession.

After his return to Government House, reporters from the newspapers had
called upon Sir James, hungry for copy. Rumours had gone abroad that he
could tell a strange story about Salathiel and the death of Captain
Moore, if he would. It would be a great scoop for the paper that got it;
but the lawyer refused all information; they might call again on the
morrow, if they liked; he was too tired then. Even a sub-editor came up
to urge him to make an appointment at the office, to see his chief; but
he was obdurate; he would say nothing. "You want me to drag my story up
by the roots," he said, "and give it to the public half-ripe; but I
won't do it." His natural caution told him that for Salathiel's sake the
interview with the Governor should be kept a secret, or he might have
said that he was too much knocked over by the Governor's treatment of
him to do or say any more that day.

Accordingly Salathiel's three friends sat together that night, trying to
think out some new scheme to evade the police and secure an opportunity
for the outlaw's departure; but no one seemed able to suggest any
improvement upon the Newcastle proposition which was at all feasible.

"With the Government warned and on the alert, I'm afraid the risk is too
great at present," said Captain Fraser. "They'll have to wait until this
affair blows over."

"Do you think it would be of any use to see the Chief Justice?" said the
lieutenant; "he's a far-sighted man, and knows the temper of the
people's party better than the Governor."

"No use," said the barrister, "absolutely of no use. He's more
prejudiced against Salathiel than the Governor."

"What about your father, lieutenant?" said the Master of the Nancy Lee;
"he's commander-in-chief of the military, and has a lot of power."

"I've never sounded the pater," said Lieutenant Thompson; "he's a hard
nail, you know, in regard to public affairs. Perhaps he might be induced
to do something if Salathiel could be persuaded to sell him Fleetfoot;
but I understand that he has arranged to take the horse with him on the
Nancy Lee."

They had a good laugh over this, for the colonel's admiration of the
outlaw's favourite steed was a subject of frequent pleasantry; and the
laugh did them all good, for by this time they were getting morbid.

"I wish Salathiel were here himself," said the barrister; "he might
suggest something that would give us a little more light."

At that moment Sir James Bennett's man knocked at the door to say that
supper was served, and also to inform his master that there was a
gentleman waiting to see him downstairs.

"Another of those confounded reporters," ejaculated the lawyer.
"Gentlemen, will you kindly begin supper, and I'll go downstairs and
send him off, and be with you in a moment."

He was gone, however, several minutes, and eventually he entered the
supper-room in company with a distinguished-looking naval officer of
middle age. "Gentlemen," said he, "let me introduce to you my friend,
who has consented to take supper with us--Captain Jack Salathiel."

"It's an illustration of an old proverb, Jack," said the lieutenant,
shaking him cordially by the hand. "We were just talking about you, and
you've appeared, but I never should have known you, especially in that
uniform."

"By what Sir James tells me," answered Salathiel with a smile, "I think
my coming more fitly illustrates another proverb."

"What is that?" asked Captain Fraser, as he shook hands with the outlaw.

"A spoonful of honey attracts more flies than a hundred barrels of
vinegar," replied Salathiel. "I have called at an opportune time, I
understand; not only because supper is ready, but because you have
something to tell me that may necessitate a change of our plans. I hear
that the appeal unto Caesar has failed, as I told Sir James I feared it
would."

"Is it not a great risk for you to be in Sydney?" queried Captain Fraser
nervously.

"Not a bit," replied Salathiel, "that is, while I keep sober and retain
my disguise and common sense. Would any of you have known me either by
my appearance or speech?"

"Certainly not!" they all exclaimed, laughing heartily, for he had
addressed them in the guttural English of a native of Berlin.

During supper they discussed the barrister's interview with the
Governor, but Salathiel protested that neither Governor nor Government
should induce him to change his plans. He would go through with it now
and marry Betsy and leave Australia by the schooner by the full of the
moon.

"But suppose you are arrested, Jack?" said Lieutenant Thompson. "You
see, the police will be doubly on the alert; and if they add another
thousand pounds to the reward, it will be a great temptation to any who
may think they recognize you."

"Have I done right in coming here to-night?" asked Salathiel, looking at
the lawyer.

"I think so," said Sir James; "it is very opportune for our plans, and
we are all glad to see you."

"Well, I have ridden here to-day from Newcastle on Fleetfoot, and I came
in obedience to a sub-conscious monitor which warned me to come and see
Sir James at once; the voice which speaks frequently to me from within
told me that I might come with safety, and should return again in
safety; and, gentlemen, I believe that voice, as I believe in God. For
eighteen months it has never once misled or deceived me."

After Salathiel's arrival, Sir James had told his man not to come in
without knocking, and he was then heard knocking at the door. A city
clock had just chimed the half-hour after ten. The barrister, who had
cautiously locked the door, now arose to open it; and master and man
stood for a full minute talking at the door.

"You say it's a tall gentleman wearing spurs, who looks like a military
officer, and he refuses to give his name or state his business. You told
him that I was engaged?"

"I did, Sir James, but he pushed his way in, and ordered me to go and
tell you at once that a gentleman wished to see you on urgent business
immediately."

The lawyer turned to his friends, and said: "Will you excuse my leaving
you for a few minutes, gentlemen? Some one wants to see me on a matter
of urgency. Lieutenant, will you kindly lock the door after me; it's
best to be on the safe side. I will give three distinct raps when I
return."

Five minutes passed, and ten, and a quarter of an hour; and then the
men, who had finished supper and were smoking some of the lawyer's
cigars, heard the hall-door bang.

A minute afterward, three distinct raps were heard at the door, and the
lieutenant hurried forward to open it.

It was Sir James Bennett; but as white as a ghost. He sat down at the
table without speaking, poured himself a glass of port and drank it.

"Gentlemen," he said, in a strangely subdued voice, "one of the most
remarkable things in the whole of my experience has happened. After our
friend Salathiel's last remark before I left you, I can only associate
it with some occult force or power. Indeed, gentlemen, I say it with the
utmost reverence, it seems to me like the interposition of a Divine
power." He held up before them an official envelope bearing the
Government seal. "This," he said, "has just been handed to me, and you
will pardon me if I pause for a few minutes' thought before I disclose
the name of the person who gave it to me and what he said regarding it.
Read it out to us, Thompson; I feel as though my very eyes might mislead
me." He handed over to the lieutenant a square of parchment which he had
taken from the envelope; it was also stamped with the Government seal.
It was evidently not a lengthy document, for Lieutenant Thompson held it
at arm's-length, under the lights, regarding it with the greatest
astonishment; he gave an exclamation of pleased surprise, before he read
it aloud, as follows:

"Know, all officers and men of the New South Wales military forces, and
all officers and constables of the New South Wales police, that you are
hereby instructed to pass the bearer and his friends, without inquiry or
hindrance, for a term of one month from the fifteenth of February 1851.

                         "By order
                         (Signed) James H. Thompson,
                         Commander-in-chief N.S.W. Forces.
                         (Signed) William De Courtney,
                         Inspector of Police."

A strange sigh escaped the lips of Salathiel after the document had been
read, and the four men looked at each other as though they had been
struck speechless. It was the lawyer who first found his voice.

"That 'safe-conduct' is for you, Salathiel," he said, "to use as
discreetly as possible, and only in case of emergency, for your own
protection and any of your men who are to be fellow-passengers with you
on the Nancy Lee. I have pledged my word that you will hold it as an
absolute secret, and use it only for the purpose of leaving this
country, in case your personal safety and liberty require that it should
be produced, and that in no sense whatever will its possession by you be
abused. The inward monitor which sent you to-day to Sydney, and guided
you here to-night, and promised that you should return in safety, is to
me an inexplicable mystery. But the evidence is incontestable, for you
are here in Sydney, and this 'safe-conduct,' under the seal of the
Colony and signed by the heads of the military and police, has dropped
into your hand from the clouds, as it were, as a gift from Heaven. Take
it, my friend, but be very backward in using it, for my opinion is that
only two persons in New South Wales know of the purpose for which it has
been issued; and the Inspector of Police is not one of them. It's a gift
from the gods, as the old heathen would say; or, as we would say, a gift
from Heaven. Gentlemen, fill your glasses, and I will give you a toast,
and I propose it with feelings of the deepest thankfulness and gratitude
to the Supreme Being. Here is to the happiness and future prosperity of
Mr. and Mrs. Salathiel, and a safe voyage to them across the sea."

Captain Fraser and the lieutenant sprang to their feet and drained their
glasses, still half dazed by the extraordinary stroke of good fortune
that had befallen.

Salathiel rose to his feet as they sat down. "My friends," he said, "I
have no words to express the deep feeling of gratitude and reverence I
have to-night towards God, and for you, through whom this miracle of
deliverance has been wrought. Your love and goodness for a friendless
outlaw is wonderful. I cannot find words to express my feelings; 'my cup
runneth over.' I will say this, however. I shall hold this
'safe-conduct' of the authorities as a very sacred thing, not to be
flaunted about, but to be used only when absolutely needed, to preserve
for me and mine our liberty. Sir James, I owe to you and to the
Government an apology. I would not have believed it possible that such a
thing as this could be. You have more than redeemed your promise, made
to me in the midst of fire, in the Adullam Glen."

He read the safe-conduct again, still standing, and placed it carefully
in its official envelope, stamped with the Royal Arms, and put it into
an inside pocket.

"We may unlock the door now," said Sir James, smiling; "come into the
other room and I will tell you more about the document which has so
completely altered the outlook for our friend, and indeed for us all...It
was Colonel Thompson himself who brought it."

"Good old dad!" ejaculated the lieutenant. "I guessed as much; but go
on, Sir James."

"He told me he had read the shorthand notes of my interview with the
Governor, and asked me if I had given any information whatever to the
press. Of course I replied I had not done so.

"'Under certain conditions,' he said,' will you promise me not to do so,
in any shape or form, no matter what may appear about the affair in
print?'" I replied that if the conditions proved satisfactory to myself
and my friends, I would promise.

"'Will you pledge me your word of honour that Salathiel and his men
shall leave Australia quietly within a month, without their personality
being known to the public, and that anything in the shape of a
safe-conduct will only be used with the greatest caution and
discretion?'

"I pledged him my word.

"On handing me the document which our friend Salathiel has now in his
possession, he said: 'Kindly explain this to your friends. Only two
people in Australia know of this safe-conduct, I and another. The
inspector who signed it has no knowledge for whom it was made out. I am
the only person responsible for it, and I confidently expect that all
those to whom you are obliged to disclose its existence will be careful
to guard the secret with the utmost vigilance. I am giving Major
McFarlane, who I understand has a friendly feeling toward Salathiel's
intended wife, temporary charge of Maitland and the northern district,
and for the next month my son will relieve the officer in charge of the
fortifications at Newcastle. Impress upon Salathiel to exercise as much
caution and secrecy as possible; don't allow anything to be done to
arouse unnecessarily the suspicion of the local police. Get them all
clear of Australia, if possible within a fortnight. And be thankful that
you had a friend at court who is not only versed in diplomacy, but
possesses some common sense.'"

It was with light hearts that for another hour the friends, for we may
now so speak of them, completed their business arrangements for a
midnight wedding and the prompt dispatch of the Nancy Lee.




CHAPTER XLII--THE MIDNIGHT WEDDING


The arrangements made by Salathiel for his departure were singularly
complete. If the success of a general depends upon his ability not only
to conduct widespread movements of men, but also to enter minutely into
details, this outlaw should have made a successful military commander.

At this juncture nothing seemed to escape his eye, and in all directions
friends and willing workers offered him assistance. Not one who had
sworn allegiance to the Adullam brotherhood was overlooked; the future
welfare of each was provided for, either by billets among the settlers
on the Liverpool Plains, or in a new career beyond the sea. The schooner
was not likely to sail shorthanded, as was so often the case with
ocean-going vessels at this time, for in addition to berths having been
booked for several third-class male passengers to 'Frisco, she carried a
full complement of seamen, several of whom were to join at Newcastle.
They were Salathiel's men, who were coming down from the north,
disguised.

The marriage was to be solemnized by the Scotch minister of the Sydney
church, who would be in Newcastle for the ceremony, which was to begin
five minutes after midnight on the morning of Betsy's twentieth
birthday, and the wedding breakfast was to be taken on board the Nancy
Lee, which would be lying out at the anchorage, cleared from the Custom
House, and ready for sea.

The schooner would have a full passenger list from Sydney to Newcastle,
for Poddy Carey was to give Betsy away, and Mrs. Carey, Ruth Salathiel,
and Amos Gordon were also to be present, with Alice Carey and Judy
Gardiner as bridesmaids. Frocks for the wedding and the bride's
trousseau had already been ordered by Ruth Salathiel, and souvenirs of
jewellery for bridesmaids and relations, presents for the bride, and
even gifts for Amos Gordon and Bob, and Betsy's aunt and uncle at
Morpeth, were all to hand in readiness.

Kingdon Ponds was nearly a hundred miles from Newcastle, but Salathiel
reckoned that Betsy and Bob could easily ride down in a couple of days;
but to make sure, they were to leave Kingdon Ponds the evening before,
and ride to Patrick's Plains by moonlight. The horses had been
stable-fed, and carefully groomed for a fortnight, and were fit for
anything. Bob thought that Betsy's mare was a bit too flash; "she's
ready," said he, "to jump out of her skin." Fleetfoot had been sent on,
so disguised that few people would recognize him, in charge of one of
the men, who was travelling slowly, in company with a Newcastle
teamster, who carried loading for the Nancy Lee.

Salathiel had gone down in advance to see to a number of things, but
Betsy, although she had read the Government's safe-conduct with
astonished eves, waited for the evening of departure with nervous
apprehension.

"Surely," she whispered to Bob, "everything will go right at last. How I
wish it were all over, and we were a hundred miles out at sea!"

Major McFarlane was now convalescent, and pleased with his new
appointment, but altogether dissatisfied with the prospect of being
finally separated from Betsy, with whom, as every one about the place
knew, except Betsy, he had fallen over head and ears in love.

The Major wanted to know all sorts of things about Betsy. She told him
she was going home, so he wanted to know where her home was, and how she
was going to travel to Sydney; whether by steamer from Newcastle or
overland. She guessed at last what was the matter with him, and gave him
most seductive opportunities to speak; but the loving Scotchman
hesitated, and proposed to travel southward with them himself.

Betsy would have flirted with Bob, only he was her brother, so as to
make the cautious officer speak his mind; but however reckless he might
have been in war, he was too canny to be over-precipitate in love, and
Betsy began to regard him as an insufferable nuisance. She could not
tell him she was about to be married, for he would have asked her a
hundred curious questions, and that, she thought, would be jumping out
of the frying-pan into the fire.

"Good gracious, Bob!" she said, "whatever shall we do with him?"

Bob thought he had hit upon a luminous suggestion, and said, "Ask him to
lend you twenty pounds."

"You booby!" she replied, laughing, "he'd lend it to me at once, and
make matters twenty times worse. No, I'll have to tell him that I'm
engaged, and then he'll want to know who to, and ask me more questions.
Why don't you suggest something sensible, Bob? You're not a bit of
good."

Bob had got quite friendly with the major, and found out that he was
trying to discover as much as possible about Salathiel, whom he imagined
to be in hiding in the ranges. But, of course, not a soul at Kingdon
Ponds knew anything about him!

"Isn't he a bother?" said Betsy. "And we have to start in a couple of
days. I wish to goodness that something might happen that would call him
away."

But Bob had a plan of his own, which he was afraid to tell Betsy about.

However, Betsy was getting desperate, and that evening she determined to
take the bull by the horns and speak to the major herself. It was a
beautifully calm moonlight night, and they were all three sitting out on
the veranda, when at a whispered suggestion from his sister, Bob made an
excuse to go away.

The moon was glinting over the distant Liverpool Ranges, bathing the
gum-trees and willows by the creek in soft liquid lustre. Betsy was
thinking of the now deserted stronghold under Oxley's Peak, and
recalling many things about it of which Jack and Bob had told her.
Thinking, she passed into reverie, and as the soldier smoked his pipe
and watched her, he thought her wondrous beautiful, and a line of an old
song came to him, very appropriate to his present doubts and fears. He
tried to banish it and forget it, but like a mocking, haunting melody,
it again and again repeated itself: "Thou art so near and yet so far."

He, too, was feeling desperate, and he knocked the ashes out of his
pipe, almost resolved to ask Betsy at once.

"What a beautiful night it is, Miss Carey," he said; "you have been in a
brown study. May I ask what you were thinking about?"

"Would you really like to know?" said Betsy, "or do you ask for the sake
of saying something nice?"

"I would really like to know," he said. It was a fashion of his, like
other Scotchmen, to answer people's questions economically; that is, as
nearly as possible in their own words.

"Then," replied Betsy, "I will tell you, but you know it's in
confidence, and I want you to keep it a secret. You know you have
promised to be good to me, if I needed your assistance."

"Betsy," said the major, moved by the witchery of the hour to use her
Christian name, "I promised to serve you with my life."

"Well, one night," said Betsy, "when you were very ill and raving, you
talked a great deal about Salathiel, and spoke of him as one generous
enemy might speak of another. I was pleased with what you said about the
outlaw, and I determined then that you were worth while saving, and
resolved to make a fight for your life. But later on you had a terrible
relapse; you were in awful paroxysms of pain, and it gave Bob and
Morrison hard work to hold you down upon the bed. Dr. Thompson was miles
away, and I saw no hope of your lasting out the night; when I was
absolutely despairing of your life, one who represented himself as a
doctor came in from the Glen of Adullam. He had some wonderful medicine
with him, which, with some difficulty, he forced you to take. Your rigid
muscles relaxed, and half an hour afterward you broke out into a
perspiration, and presently fell asleep. It was Jack Salathiel that was
the doctor, and he saved your life."

Betsy's voice had fallen almost to a whisper, and there followed a long
pause.

At last, the major asked, in a hard, strange voice, "Why did you not
tell me this before?"

"Because I love him," replied Betsy in little more than a whisper, "and
I'm engaged to be married to him."

There was another long pause, during which the major struggled hard with
his feelings. He had evidently no chance, he thought, but, oh, the
perversity of woman! To think of a beautiful girl like Betsy being
engaged to be married to an outlaw!

"Where did you meet him?" he presently asked.

"Down at my home on the south coast, where he was our school-teacher."

"I heard about that, and how he deceived the people there completely."

"No," said Betsy, "he deceived no one there; we just saw him as he
really was, and is; an educated gentleman, with no vices at all such as
you would expect to find in an outlaw; kind-hearted, and as true as
steel."

"You speak warmly in his favour, Miss Carey; did you know him long?"

"Only for a few weeks then; but I saw him every day in school. He never
made a sign that he cared for me, or spoke one word about love while he
was my school-teacher; but I have corresponded with him since for over
twelve months."

"But he's a bushranger and outlaw!"

"You may call him what you like, Major McFarlane," said Betsy, with a
little break in her voice; "he has been strangely unfortunate; he made
one mistake when he was a student, and little more than a boy; and he
has since become what your cruel laws and convict system have made him;
but people may say what they will of him, I know him to be a good man,
and if all the world were against him I'd love him still, and marry him
if he had a chance of getting away from this land of convict servitude
and official despotism."

The major looked at Betsy in surprise. "I expect that you hate men like
myself and Captain Moore, who have been trying to capture Salathiel," he
said.

"I certainly don't love you," replied Betsy with a smile; "but you're
not like some of them. What you have done has been only your duty. And
then I happen to know that you think more kindly and fairly of my friend
than do officials like Captain Moore."

"Upon my soul, I do!" replied the soldier impetuously, "and I fear from
what you say, and from what I have heard before, that Salathiel has not
had a fair chance.

"And so he saved my life, Miss Carey," he said reflectively, "and you
intend some day to marry him. Why does he not leave Australia now? He'll
never have a better opportunity."

"What would you do, major, if you saw me with him, and knew that he was
trying to escape from this country?"

"That's a hard question. Miss Carey; but I think that I should close my
eyes, and wish myself the outlaw who is going to marry you."

"Will you promise me something, major? You know you are not overstrong
yet, and I'm still your nurse. I'd like you to shut your eyes for a
week."

Betsy looked at him; it was clear moonlight, and their eyes met. He
seemed to understand her.

"Yes," he said slowly. "I think I owe it to you...you and he saved my
life. I'll write to headquarters that I'm hardly strong enough yet to
travel. I'll stay at Kingdon Ponds, Betsy, for another week, and keep my
eyes shut. But don't whisper it to a soul," he said, as he stood up and
took her hand. "May you be happy, Betsy, and get away in peace."

When Bob and Betsy rode to Newcastle there was a letter in Betsy's
pocket from Major McFarlane, which, had she shown to any officious
soldier or policeman, would have been quite sufficient to remove from
their minds any suspicion as to their identity and right to travel upon
the Queen's highways, and furthermore, would have ensured for them
official recognition and respect.

The major's love for Betsy had induced him, unsolicited, to do a good
deal more for her than keep his eyes shut.

* * * * * * * *

Near midnight, on the eve of Betsy's birthday, she and Bob rode quietly
into Newcastle. The schooner lay at the anchorage ready for sea, the
guests, in a state of almost breathless suspense and expectation, were
gathered in the parlour of the manse. The church, which adjoined, was
lit up; and every policeman in Newcastle, save one or two in charge of
the station-house and wharves, had, late at night, been called away to
Wallsend, ten miles distant.

The clocks of the city had struck twelve, when the party walked through
the moonlit shrubberies from the manse to the church. There was no
haste, for the schooner would not sail until daylight.

Lieutenant Thompson, Captain Fraser, and George Lennox were waiting in
the church with Salathiel and the minister, when Poddy Carey led Betsy
across, in veil and orange blossoms and silk attire. The bridesmaids
followed, and then came Sir James Bennett with Mrs. Carey's hand upon
his arm. Bob and Ruth Salathiel and Amos Gordon and Mr. and Mrs. Dawson
brought up the rear. With prayer and exhortation, with blessing and
benediction, the twain were made one "until death do us part." The bride
was kissed and the bridegroom congratulated, and finally the whole party
walked to the wharf, where two rowing-boats were waiting at the steps.

One of the few policemen left in the city watched the laughing party as
they approached the wharf. He saluted respectfully as he recognized
Lieutenant Thompson with them, and resumed his beat along the quay.

The round moon, full and clear, looked like a silver goblet, pouring a
flood of light on land and sea, "turning to spiritual the solid world."
Strong rowers urged the boats swiftly over the bay, in the direction of
the schooner; but Jack's heart beat fast, and tears stood in Betsy's
eyes; happy tears mayhap! but still tears; for all danger was not yet
passed for her beloved.

The Nancy Lee was a square rigged schooner, of over three hundred tons,
built like a yacht, with raking masts, and lines suggesting speed. She
looked a beautiful figure upon the water, with light spars and net-work
of rigging, which stood out in the moonlight, yards ready to be squared,
and white sails hanging loose in the gaskets, to be shaken out and
dropped and hauled taut to the land breeze, which hummed in the rigging
as though urging her to lift anchor, and away. A flag was flying at the
peak, and an air of readiness pervaded the whole vessel. Every one
seemed on the alert. It was the first mate's watch; but all hands had
mustered to salute the wedding party as they stepped off the gangway,
upon the clean white deck, and passed into the saloon. There was a piano
on board, and as arranged by the captain, the second mate began to play
Mendelssohn's "Wedding March." Bob could have shouted at the success and
completeness of the whole affair.

It was an early breakfast, said Captain Fraser, as he took the skipper's
place at the head of the table, but before they sat down, he would like
to remind them that it was the bride's birthday, and he would propose
the old time toast and wish her many happy returns of the day. It was a
pleasant thought, for as they drank to the bride's birthday, passing
regrets seemed to be forgotten, and they sat down a bright merry
company, who laughed and chatted over an Australian outlaw's wedding
feast.

How fast the hours passed by with congratulatory speeches! "The Bride
and Bridegroom's health," and halting replies, when hearts were too full
for many words. But there was no watching for the morning; it seemed to
come all too quickly for them.

Scarcely had all the speeches been made, when Sir James called the
company's attention to the dawn-light, stealing through the port-holes,
and announced that the row-boats were waiting to take the guests on
shore.




CHAPTER XLIII--SUNLIGHT ON THE SEA


The cheery clank of the windlass warned the guests to hasten their
good-byes. They were hauling the slack of the anchor chain through the
hawse-holes, and the Nancy Lee lay with her prow seaward--facing the
dawn. The moon hung low behind them in the west; fitting parable of the
hopeful future of Salathiel and his bride. The dawn of a new day was
breaking, night shadows were behind them, and there was sunlight for
them on the sea. They stood at the gangway to shake hands or kiss for
the last time, and seldom was there such a leavetaking. Mrs. Carey was
crying, although for Jack and Betsy's sake, she tried hard to clear her
face and smile, and wipe away her tears. Amos Gordon was most thankful
that Salathiel had escaped: he knew nothing about the 'safe-conduct,'
which, by the way, had never once been exhibited to military or police.
The old man had known and loved Betsy from a child, and as he looked at
the happy pair, and thought of all the sad, rugged past, he might have
been heard repeating the old Church hymn, for he was as godly as ever,
and his Bible and hymn book were mostly in his mind:

     "What troubles have we seen!
     What conflicts have we passed!
     Fighting without and fears within,
     Since we assembled last;
     But out of all the Lord,
     Has brought us by His love,
     And still He doth His help afford,
     And hides our lives above."

But the boats were full, and cheers given, and handkerchiefs waved. The
skipper of the Nancy Lee was shaking hands, for the third time, with
Lieutenant Thompson; they were rather confused by the excitement of the
leave-taking.

"Good-bye, lieutenant," said the captain, "we've got through far better
than we expected."

"Get your anchor up," whispered Lieutenant Thompson, "as soon as ever we
push off. There must be no misadventure now; it would kill us all."

"Aye! aye! I'll see to that," replied the captain.

The sun was just rising out of the sea, as the order was given to weigh
anchor and haul away at jibs and fore-sail. It was a fair wind to carry
them straight out of the bay, and the ocean was burnished before them
with the sunrise, which dazzled the eye, as it flung a golden pathway
across the tossing waters.

The row-boats grew smaller and smaller as the schooner drew out, with a
fair wind bellying her sails, and Salathiel drew long breaths of the
salt sea air--breaths, as it were, of relief and satisfaction. In
another half-hour they would be out on the deep, free, rolling sea.

Silent and absorbed, Salathiel stood by Betsy's side, as the schooner,
catching the full force of the ocean breeze, bowed to it like a
sea-bird, and shook the white foam from her shapely bows.

They were passing Nobby's Head!

Suddenly a sound of music reached them from the shore. Lieutenant
Thompson must have turned out some of the bandsmen. They were playing
the haunting Scotch melody:

     "Will ye noo come back again?"

Unaccustomed tears filled Jack's eyes, but he smiled through them, as he
pressed his young wife's hand, for he was his own man now, and free.

"Betsy," he said, "perhaps we will some day come back again; but it will
be when the good times have come for Australia, and the dear old flag
floats over a regenerated land."

"Yes," said Betsy, looking up into his face with eyes full of love; "we
will come back again, Jack, 'when the day dawns, and the shadows flee
away.'"



THE END


Printed by Hazell, Watson & Viney, Ltd., London and Aylesbury.



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