Project Gutenberg Australia
a treasure-trove of literature
treasure found hidden with no evidence of ownership


Title: Moreton Bay
Author: F W Mole
* A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 1500881.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: August 2015
Date most recently updated: October 2015

Produced by: Maurie Mulcahy

Project Gutenberg Australia eBooks are created from printed editions
which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice
is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular
paper edition.

Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the
copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this
file.

This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions
whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms
of the Project Gutenberg Australia Licence which may be viewed online at
http://gutenberg.net.au/licence.html

To contact Project Gutenberg Australia go to http://gutenberg.net.au

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Title: Moreton Bay
Author: F W Mole

*

"MORETON BAY"

A THRILLING STORY OF THE BAD OLD CONVICT DAYS.


By F. W. MOLE.

Published in The Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld.) in serial form commencing
Wednesday 15 April, 1931 (this text), also in The Week (Brisbane, Qld.)
in serial format commencing 15 April, 1931.

* * *

NOTE:

F. W. (Frederick William) Mole (who also wrote under the name of 'Dunbar')
was born at Harlaxton, near Toowoomba, on 7 June 1865, and Died 2 October
1946 at Mole Street, Teneriffe, a suburb of Brisbane, aged 81 years.
Following his retirement as Public Curator, Mole set himself up in business
as a Registered Conveyancer.

None of Mole's works were published in book form, though there is a copy
of 'Moreton Bay' in The Oxley Library in Brisbane. Perhaps it is a scrap-book
made up of clippings of the story from the papers.

Another story, 'Lola-Sue,' which Mole wrote using the pen name 'Dunbar,'
was also serialised in a  Brisbane newspaper.

This story of 'Moreton Bay' is not historically accurate in a number of
respects, as Mole has two convict ships arriving from England direct to
Moreton Bay (which did not happen), but one surprise is that the character
of the Commandant in the story (one Captain Pearce Lannigan) is drawn directly
from an actual Commandant of Moreton Bay--Captain Patrick Logan. Logan (and
Lannigan) was noted for his cruelty and brutality to the convicts under his
control. Both came to a savage end at the hands of the local aborigines
(though, of course, the killing of Lannigan in the book is more dramatic).

A biographical article regarding F. W. Mole appeard in The Brisbane Courier
on Tuesday 13 December 1932(http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article21998886)

* * *


CHAPTER I.

Away back from the deep red sea walls of Devon, out beyond Countisbury
to the north, lay the trim farm of Pentecost, a copyhold of Grassmere
Manor, the seat of Earl Belriven. It had descended according to the
ordinary rules of succession, as a matter of course, but not of law, to
the Worthingtons, a succession dating back to the Conquest. The course
of descent was usually to the eldest son and his issue; or, if he had
no issue, then to the next son and his issue; falling these, to the
daughters and their issue. In the event of the tenant having no issue,
or of his issue falling, his estate escheated to his lord.

The present tenant of Pentecost was Stephen Worthington, who by his
wife Anne had issue one son and three daughters, all under the age
of 21 years. John the son, the eldest of the three, was a replica of
his father--strong, sturdy, and self-willed, typical of the yeomanry
of England. The daughters, Mary, Grace, and Ellen, in order of their
age, were fair daughters of Devon, a county noted for its fair women,
and Mary the eldest of the three, was the most beautiful. She was 18
years of age and the senior of her sisters by two years and three years
respectively.

Pentecost, haloed by tradition, was one of the happiest homes in Devon.
There peace and plenty, family love and inherent pride reigned supreme;
but recently a cloud, at first almost imperceptible, appeared low down
on the horizon of its happiness and contentment. There were no stabs
of angry lightning, no soughing of desolate winds to be seen or heard
as yet but in the faint dark arc of portentousness that crept slowly
upward over the heavens of Pentecost there were in it potential storms
of devastating terror.

Though Worthington's tenure of Pentecost depended upon custom it was
so recorded from time to time in the Manor roll; and though copyhold
tenure is fast dying out, there are still to be found scattered here
and there up and down the country of England tenant farmers, whose
name is that of the hamlet where they and their forefathers have
lived. These are the remnants of that yeomanry of England which lived
under the beneficent autocracy of an agricultural aristocracy bred and
trained in the act of promoting good relationship.

As, therefore, Stephen Worthington held his tenure of Pentecost
according to the custom of the Manor, Earl Belriven of Grassmere was
entitled on the death of a tenant to claim some personal chattel
belonging to the deceased. This custom dated back to Feudal ages, when
the accoutrements of war of a deceased villain were delivered over to
the lord. Latterly, however, the best horse or the best bull or some
other asset of value was claimed as a heriot by the lord out of the
estate of a deceased tenant.

Stephen Worthington, besides being a prosperous farmer, was a famous
horse breeder, and some of the colts bred at Pentecost had won classic
races on the English turf; consequently his yearlings were much sought
after. In this business of horse breeding he was ably assisted by his
daughter Mary. She knew the stud book better than he and there was no
keener judge of a colt or filly in England. Horses were part of her
life and though but 18 years of age, she was a fearless and daring
rider. It was said of her that she could ride the wind if she could
only saddle it.

When a blood mare had dropped a foal to a Derby winner and died shortly
after it was Mary Worthington, then but 14 years of age, who reared
the colt and trained him to her bidding. Though many splendid offers
were made for him Mary begged her father not to sell the colt, as he
was her pet. Moreover, it would break her heart to part with him.
Had she not reared him from a foal, and was he not now the finest
horse on Pentecost, if not in all England? This Stephen Worthington
acknowledged; and to settle the matter he gave his daughter the colt--a
coal-black beauty which she named Lucifer because of his winning ways
with her and of his intractableness with stranger's (to whom he was
the very devil), to do with as she pleased. Mary Worthington, mounted
on Lucifer, was a picture of grace and symmetrical perfection. Her
tight-fitting riding jacket of navy blue cloth, moulded to her superb
bust and small waist, a looped hat of black beaver pinned carelessly
on her red-gold hair, and her upright seat in the saddle as she swayed
gracefully with the cantering movements of the horse, made men turn to
look at her and vow her to be the most desirable girl in Devon.

It was meet that the colt should be named Lucifer. His love for his
mistress seemed as if he were enamoured of her beauty. He would obey
her call and appeared to divine her purpose. Even as a dog follows his
master, so Lucifer followed his mistress, and like a faithful hound he
would guard her against enemies if she had any. This was evidenced by
the vicious manner in which he regarded all strangers who approached
her. But her control over him was so great that he obeyed her slightest
command to behave when he showed signs of dangerous animosity.

Mary coveted the colt not only for the fashionable blood in his
pedigree, but for his handsome appearance and staying powers. Her title
to the colt as a gift from her father, consummated by delivery, might
have held good against the world had he lived, but in the event of his
death many strange and unlooked for events might happen.




CHAPTER II.

Anne Worthington, Mary's mother, was born and reared in an atmosphere
of romance and adventure. She was the daughter of Thomas Shepherd, a
coastguard, and was a native of Polperro, in Cornwall, a village that
was made rich on smuggled goods. Her father, after serving ten years in
the Navy, was appointed to the coastguard service and was sent on duty
to Youghal, in the County of Cork.

The coastguard service was then under the jurisdiction of the Customs,
and not, as now, under the control of the navy. It was the settled
policy of the service that English men were transferred for duty to
Ireland, and Irishmen to England; but disliking his banishment to
Ireland and yearning for his homeland of Cornwall, Thomas Shepherd
threw up the coastguard service and returned to England with his
wife, Harriet, and his only daughter, Anne, and opened a ship
chandlery business in Polperro. There, profiting by his experience as
a coastguard in Youghal, he discovered a smuggler's hoard beneath a
movable duck pond on a farm near by. Brought up among the preventive
men, Anne lived in a region of romance and story. Blood-curdling tales
of pirates who had their headquarters on Lundy, of cruel Coppinger and
Harry Page of Poole, daring Englishmen who had plundered the French and
Spanish, were told on the long winter evenings when terrific storms
ravaged the rock-bound coasts of Devon and Cornwall. And Anne was a
most interested listener to all these tales of murder and daring. It
was not surprising, therefore, that among such surroundings she grew up
to be a fearless and intrepid daughter of England, and as brave and as
beautiful as the fairest daughter of Lyonesse.

As the Worthington holding of Pentecost in Devon was not far from
Cornwall it seemed inevitable that young Stephen Worthington, the son
of Richard Worthington, the Squire of Pentecost, and Anne Shepherd,
should one day meet, as meet they did under a sudden and strange
circumstance. Anne was never happier than when traversing alone along
that most wonderful of all tracks--the coastguard's path, a trail
blazed round the shores of England, the path of white stones. It is
never out of sight of the sea, although on occasion it may thread the
jungle of an overgrown boulder-strewn under-cliff, where tall fir and
bramble almost blot out the light of day. Within such a shelter, a
natural hut beside a rock sometimes formed the meeting place of two
adjoining patrols, so that he who got there first could await the
coming of his comrade. It is open to all the changes of weather, the
fierce wind, the driving rain, and the dense sea-fog.

Stephen Worthington, when training for wrestling matches with the
sturdy miners of Cornwall, also made use of the coastguard's path on
his long walks and gentle runs. Returning home from one of these long
walks, he was overtaken by a sudden gale which forced him to pick his
way carefully over the crest of a bold headland. Suddenly he saw a
girl standing with difficulty on the storm-swept headland looking out
to sea. Apparently heedless of the driving rain she stood watching a
French lugger making with difficulty for a sheltered cove beneath the
headland wherein to land its contraband.

Stephen Worthington came upon her unawares. Taking him for an exciseman
and not an exerciseman, she pointed to the lugger and informed him of
what she suspected. He stated that he was not a preventive man, but a
farmer of Devon, training for a wrestling match with Cornish Jack, of
Truro.

"Oh, I know Cornish Jack," Anne Shepherd said, smiling, "but surely,
sir, you would not venture to try a wrestling bout with such a doughty
opponent?"

Stephen Worthington saw that the girl before him was beautiful, and he
replied, "If you would favour me with a gage of battle I would wrestle
with the devil himself."

"But, sir," Anne said, demurely, "you but flatter me. To wrestle with
the gale were better for the present. Help me along the edge of this
cliff to safety and I shall be much beholden to you indeed."

It was not that Anne needed any assistance, for she was young and lithe
and as surefooted as a chamois; but she in turn appraised the youth and
strength of her chance companion, and made him believe that she was in
need of his strong hand along the coastguard's path.

Then together they made all haste to the coastguard station, where
Anne, rain-soaked and throbbing with excitement, told the preventive
men of what she had seen from the cliffs over towards Countisbury. As a
result, before the lugger had reached the cove for which it was making,
the officers of the law were there awaiting it.

From this chance meeting a romance was born which was consummated in
the marriage of the young Squire Worthington with the beautiful Anne
Shepherd.

Inheriting by marriage a part of the demesne of Grassmere, Anne lived
up to the proud tradition of the Worthingtons, a tradition probably as
old and as conservative as that of the Belrivens of Grassmere which ran
back, some averred, even to the days of Hengist and Horsa.

As the years rolled by the Worthingtons under the aegis of Lord
Montague Belriven, the old Earl, became prosperous and independent.
They were of the race that, with the encircling seas, had made
England great. This sturdy independence and love of freedom nurtured
by tradition, was inherited by their children; but in Mary all the
pride and grace and beauty of the Worthingtons reached their greatest
perfection. The allurement of her presence was like some wonderful
flower, exquisite in its fragrance, stealing upon the senses and
enslaving them. It was unfortunate that she had arrested the attention
of Lord Richard Belriven, the young earl who succeeded to Grassmere
on the recent death of his noble father. He had met her one day when
riding along the Dartmoor road. She was riding Lucifer and the young
earl had not believed that a girl with such delightful harmony of curve
and poise existed in Devon. He reined in his horse as she approached.

"Madam," he said, smiling, doffing his hat and bowing low, "count me
your obedient humble servant."

Lucifer snorted and reared. Instinctively Mary Worthington knew that
she was face to face with an enemy. Lucifer's instinct was uncanny.

"Good afternoon, my lord," Mary made reply, raising her head, her agate
brown eyes sweeping him with well bred indifference.

"Then you know who I am? We have not met before."

His eyes, sinister and forbidding, never left Mary's face, and to
him it was a wondrously beautiful face. Something in its expression
thrilled him and impelled him to feast his cunning eyes upon it and to
take in all of its beauty.

"Yes," Mary replied, "you are, sir, the new Earl." Then she added
demurely, "Everyone loved and respected your late noble and illustrious
father. You were at the Plymouth Horse Fair. My father pointed you out
to me."

"And pray, fair maid, who may your father be? Surely I must know him if
he be the sire of such a graceful filly."

"Sir!" And Mary, her dignity ruffled, unconsciously straightened
herself.

"I crave your pardon--a sporting expression merely; but I should
prodigiously like your better acquaintance. I'm vastly intrigued."

"You know my father, my lord. He is one of your tenant farmers--Squire
Worthington of Pentecost, and I am his eldest daughter, Mary."

"Gad, then that accounts for your riding such a fine horse. Your
father's stud is famous. But he looks a vicious brute."

"Who, my lord, my father or my horse?" questioned Mary mischievously.

"Damme, the colt you're riding. None else."

"He is very docile, my lord, but he does not take to strangers." Mary
felt inclined to say to persons of ill repute, but forbore.

"If I'm a judge of a good horse I should say he has some pace."

"There are few who can out-run him, my lord. His sire was a Derby
winner, and his dam was illustriously bred."

"Then he must be mine. He's just the colt I'm looking for. Ask your
father to name his price, fair maid."

"He does not belong to my father, my lord. He belongs to me, and
Lucifer is not for sale," and, as she spoke, Richard Belriven saw in
her eyes as she looked at him, a sudden glint of defiance. It seemed to
him almost a challenge.

"Lucifer you call him! Then if he's a bigger devil than I am we shall
be well matched. I believe I'd give my soul to own both you and your
horse."

"Sir, you're becoming offensive." The blood rushed unbidden to Mary
Worthington's face and she felt its sudden flame hot upon her cheeks.
Then as it ebbed to a deathly whiteness, she rode on without more ado,
saying: "I give you good-day, my lord."

The young earl Belriven had a suspicion that she had got the better of
the interview, but all the same his veins were running liquid fire.

"What a girl to hold and to tame!" he muttered to himself as he looked
after her.

With tingling blood, and his brain awhirl with the desire of her, he
too rode away, but in the opposite direction.

"Who knows!" he said to himself, and his thoughts as he said it, were
evil.




CHAPTER III.

The Manor of Grassmere in Devonshire, abutting on Dartmoor, was the
seat of the young Earl Belriven, and his demesne is recorded in the
Domesday Survey. Before the Norman Conquest of England, Earls of
Belriven held an estate in fee in the lands of Grassmere. After the
Battle of Hastings, the then Earl of Belriven swore fealty to King
William the Conqueror, to whom he surrendered his lands, both freehold
and copyhold, and received them back again from the Conqueror.

The copyhold lands of Grassmere belonged to and were parcel of the
Manor, but were not freehold. They were merely an estate at the will of
the lord of the Manor at whose will they were expressed to be holden.

The Manor was the unit, and the villagers were more or less dependent
on their lord. The Manor lands were divided into the lord's demesne or
private grounds, the common fields or arable lands, the common pasture,
and the waste or common.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century Stephen Worthington was a
copyhold tenant of the then Earl Belriven, and he held his copyhold
estate under certain customary restrictions. For instance, he could not
commit any waste, either voluntary such as the opening up of mines,
cutting down timber and pulling down buildings; or permissive, by
neglecting to repair; for the land, with all that is on it or under it,
belonged to the lord.

The genealogical tree of the present Lord Belriven was an ancient one,
its roots striking deep down into the centuries. On its branches had
rested and roosted many strange and remarkable human birds of good and
evil propensities. Some were lovable, peaceful, and law abiding as was
the late Earl, and some as cruel, vindictive, and merciless as the
present holder of the title, a sinister bird of prey ever ready to rend
with beak and claw.

Perched on the top of his genealogical tree the present earl was
known as "The Falcon," and in his veins ran the blood of the infamous
Elfrida. Descended of an ancient and noble family, he inherited all of
its worst traditions, and few of its best. Though his general conduct,
when sober, was not such as to be remarkable, yet his faculties were
so impaired by dissipation that when under the influence of drink, he
acted with all the wildness, brutality, and irresponsibleness of a
madman.

Early in life he married the beautiful, cultured and gentle daughter of
Sir Hugh Pendleton, but a more ill-matched pair was not to be found in
all England. For a short time after her marriage, his wife perceived
nothing which would induce her to repent the step she had taken.
Subsequently, however, he behaved towards her with such unwarrantable
cruelty that she was compelled to quit his protection and to go back
to her father. In those days the Ecclesiastical Courts granted divorce
from bed and board, or what is now known as judicial separation. A
divorce from the marriage bond was regarded as a blasphemy in the
temple of matrimonial purity. But not being without influence, her
father induced his saddened daughter to apply to Parliament for
redress. An Act was passed under which the gentle Countess was allowed
maintenance to be raised out of her husband's estate. Trustees were
appointed and one John Gatcombe, bred up in the late Earl's service and
distinguished for the regular manner in which he kept his accounts, and
his fidelity as a steward, was appointed receiver of the rents for the
use of the Countess.

The young earl, on the departure of his wife, took unto himself a
mistress, one Julia Darnley, of Spanish descent, a furiously jealous
and imperial beauty, with whom he lived openly at the Manor, and
by whom he had two natural daughters. The other occupants of the
Manor were five men servants and three maids. John Gatcombe lived
at Millbrook, a tenancy which he held under his lordship. It was
his custom, occasionally, to visit his master to settle the estate
accounts; but his lordship gradually conceived a dislike for him,
grounded upon the prejudice raised in his mind by the fact of his
being the receiver of the Countess's portion. The Earl also charged
him with having conspired with the trustees to prevent his receiving
a tin contract in Cornwall. Henceforth, he spoke of John Gatcombe in
opprobrious terms, and became obsessed with the notion that he was
conspiring with his enemies to injure him. In unprintable language
he called him a villain, and gave him notice to quit the farm which
he held. This he refused to do, as the trustees, under the Act of
Separation, had given him a lease of it.

Baffled, the dissolute and imaginative earl became ungovernable in
his fury and he meditated a cruel revenge; but whatever shape it had
assumed in his debased mind, it was side-tracked for the time being
by startling events which followed fast one upon the other. Then his
desire for vengeance, with the centrifugal force of his depravity, flew
off at a tangent, as a more diabolical scheme became hatched in his
malevolent brain or as the moving finger of fate directed.




CHAPTER IV.

The sun shone fair over England, and no cloud dulled its brilliancy as
Mary Worthington, mounted on Lucifer, rode along the high road into
Tavistock. Dressed in her high-necked bodice of navy blue with a smart
habit laced with gold, no other costume could have done more justice
to her graceful figure. She wore her looped hat of black beaver, from
which a golden feather trailed backwards to mingle with her red-gold
hair. There was in every line of her something cool, determined, and
self-reliant.

Peasants curtsied and yeomen touched their hats to her as she passed
them by on the broad highway, for she was known to them all--Mary
Worthington of Pentecost farm. Not as a princess or a peeress of the
realm was she known to them, but as a yeoman's daughter, with all the
ease and grace of perfect maidenhood. To all she had a kind word and a
pleasant smile as she rode on her well groomed colt, unaccompanied by
page or esquire, and her questing eyes reflected the flawless sky of a
perfect June day.

Then came riding towards her out of a cross road one Pearce Lannigan,
Commissioned Captain of the 57th regiment, who had served in the
Peninsular war under Napier, and who was hated by his soldiery for his
ungovernable temper and his wanton acts of unnecessary tyranny.

On this day of destiny he was in a particularly bad temper. He had
been detached with his company to take charge of the new settlement
at Moreton Bay in the remotest corner of his Majesty's dominions. He
was a man of somewhat more than middle height, slender as a rapier
is slender, of a steely, supple strength. Mounted on a hunter that
he had ridden far, for his jack-boots were splashed with mud and his
steel spurs blood-stained, he looked every inch a cavalry man rather
than a foot soldier. His keen black eyes were upon the figure of Mary
Worthington, as she rode ahead of him, and he hastened to overtake her.
But she, disliking the appearance of him from the quick short glance
she gave him, stopped at a wayside farriers with the pretence of having
her horse's shoes looked over, and the man rode on into Tavistock.

On this day of destiny John Pooler, a swarthy vagrant, was ordered
by Earl Belriven, on the unsupported evidence of the steward,
to be whipped at the whipping post and placed in the stocks for
purloining wood out of the Earl's deer park. The whipping had been
duly administered, and the unfortunate vagrant from his uncomfortable
position in the stocks, was beseeching passers by for a drink of water
to cool his flaming tongue, when Captain Lannigan rode by. He reined in
his horse and looked unpityingly at the unfortunate vagrant. At this
juncture, the sufferings of the prisoner were balm to his disgruntled
mood, and in him there was no pity.

"I'faith my fine fellow, you want water, eh? Now sink me, sirrah,
what's Englishmen coming to when they cannot bear a little salutary
punishment without whining."

A crowd began to collect.

"What's this rapscallion in the stocks for?" he asked, looking round at
the crowd.

"Please zur, 'is 'ides being tanned for pinchin' wood from my Lord
Belriven's park, an' the watch clapped 'im in the stocks."

"Oh, that's it, is it?" said the brave Captain looking round with
a grin. "Well the rogue should be taught to bear adversity with
fortitude. You'd whine, would you, my fine fellow? Well, take that--and
that--and that." Suiting his action to the words the gallant captain
who had taught his regiment discipline in the campaign under Sir Arthur
Wellesley, thrashed the powerless and defenceless prisoner in the
stocks with his heavy hunting crop.

Then something very sudden happened. A young girl with flashing eyes
and clenched teeth, mounted on a great black horse like polished ebony,
charged into the scene, scattering the crowd to right and left.

"You brute! You beast! You coward!" she gasped out. "You take that--and
that--and that--!" With each vehement exclamation she struck the brave
and gallant Captain Lannigan across the face and neck and shoulders
with her whalebone riding whip. The crowd cheered and shouted.

"That's the gime, Miss. Give it 'im 'ot for thrashin' poor Johnnie."

The gallant captain was too amazed at the sudden onslaught upon him to
realise precisely what had happened. The jeering of the crowd, however,
brought him suddenly to his senses. Turning his horse round, he faced
an infuriated Diana, who, with heightened colour and heaving bosom, was
now speechless with indignant fury.

"You hell-cat. I'll make you pay for your damned interference."
Instantly he spurred his horse at her and attempted to seize her
and pull her from her saddle. But she was more than his equal in
horsemanship. With a wrist like tempered steel, she wheeled Lucifer
round suddenly and the Captain missing her as he leant over to seize
her round the waist almost fell to the ground.

"You'd man-handle me, would you, you coward!" she hissed, striking his
horse with her whip, which made the hunter bound forward, getting her
clear. Turning her horse, she again faced her aggressor, and said with
infinite scorn, her eyes flashing defiance. "Did God give you your
manhood to thrash and ill-treat a helpless prisoner, and to crush with
your brute force a mere girl who has chastised you for your brutality?"

"S'death, you vixen, I'll humble you. No person, man or woman, ever
struck Pearce Lannigan but who lived to regret it."

In the madness of his rage and setting at nought all reason; he again
attempted to seize her, but she again eluded him by the dexterous
handling of her horse.

Then a young man, attracted by the crowd, appeared on the scene. He
arrived in time to hear Lannigan's threat, and looked at the girl
and the man. Dazed for a moment by the majestic anger and surpassing
beauty of the maid, he recovered his bewildered senses and sprang to
action. Seizing the rein of the Captain's restless horse at the bit, he
steadied him and reaching forward he grasped the Captain's left foot
and by a dexterous twist and heave, swung him from the saddle, and he
fell heavily in the mud near the town pump.

Such a humiliation was intolerable. Rising quickly, he faced his fresh
antagonist. With an oath he said, "God's curse on me if I don't kill
you, you meddlesome clod."

The crowd formed a ring. A man led the Captain's horse out of the
way. Mary Worthington, still in the saddle, was also in the ring. She
wondered who her champion was but when some one in the crowd said,
"Stand up to him Mr. Nigel," she knew that her protector was Nigel
Lording of whom she had heard, but had never met. He was a Cornishman,
and the most famous athlete and wrestler in the South of England.
Educated at Oxford and trained in the rough and tumble of Cawsand and
Saltash, and among the miners of Cornwall, he was an unknown quantity
to Captain Lannigan, who, as the champion boxer of Wellesley's army,
laid the flattering unction to his soul that he would soon teach this
hoodlum a terrible lesson for his damnable interference.

"Stand back, you fellows, while I thrash this pup," shouted the fuming
Captain, picking up his heavy hunting crop.

Nigel Lording grinned as he adroitly dodged a fierce cut made at him by
the irate Captain.

Seeing the savage cut made at her champion by the Captain, Mary
Worthington said, "I've named you coward and now I'll name you poltroon
unless you fight this man fair."

"God's blood, I'll fight him, and claim you as the stake, you jade."

"For that insult, I name you bully and cur," and she dashed one of her
riding gauntlets in the Captain's face.

Mary's champion stepped forward to pick up the glove, but Captain
Lannigan placed his right foot upon it, crushing it into the mud.

"When I've thrashed this meddlesome bumpkin, my beauty, I'll treat you
as I've treated your glove," shouted the infuriated Captain, glaring.
"Stand clear!"

"You're speaking in a monstrous big voice my fine bully. I'm staying to
see fair play," was the reply that he got from the beautiful Mary.

At the Captain's command to stand clear, the gathering crowd gave way.
Instinctively a human ring was formed inside of which were Captain
Lannigan, Nigel Lording, and Mary Worthington, who was still seated
on Lucifer. Riding round and round, she kept the crowd back with her
horse, like a well mounted policeman. So intent were the spectators in
anticipation of the coming fight, that their attention was startlingly
arrested when a horseman rode among them and shouted.

"Way there! What's to do on the King's Highway! Blister me, but if it's
not my fire-eating Lannigan brawling in the street of Tavistock! Why,
demme, and there's Lady Godiva herself in the centre of it all. And
what have we here? S'death if it isn't the Cornish wrestler himself."

The crowd instantly made way as Lord Belriven rode into the ring.

"A fight, eh? S'blood, I'll be the referee. It's over the lady, I'll
wager."

When the position was explained to his lordship, he said; "Blaze in
and win my Captain. The prize is worth fighting for. Why, demme, but
she's the primest bit of maidenhood in all Devon. Odds fish, but I'd
fight the Cornishman myself for such a prize. If ye don't win, my brave
Captain, ye'll deserve to be cashiered. Ye'll not fight in the street,
though, but over there on the green at the crossroads."

The green was the common recreation ground for the villagers. Here the
fair was held and the bonfire lit on Guy Fawkes' night. Here, too, was
the quintain erected and merry were the shouts when the tilter failed
to hit the board in the middle and was hurled from his saddle by the
swinging arm, or enveloped in a shower of soot or flour.

It was on this green that Captain Lannigan and Nigel Lording, stripped
to the waist, faced each other. Both were splendidly handsome men. If
Nigel Lording excelled in wrestling, Captain Lannigan had learnt boxing
in the school of John Gully. In the army, he was regarded as a worthy
successor of Jack Shaw, the lifeguard-man, killed at Waterloo.

"Now then, stand clear you gaping loafers," commanded Earl Belriven.
"This is a fight to a finish. Gentleman of England in the person of
Captain Lannigan, versus Yeoman of England in the person of young
Squire Lording of Lannercost farm. Pugilist versus wrestler. Rough and
tumble. Go to it."

The Captain took up his stand with his left foot well in advance of
his right. With a movement quick as thought, Nigel Lording executed
a flying slide and attacked with his legs the advanced leg of the
Captain. This attack was so sudden and so unexpected that the Captain
was thrown off his balance. If he had guessed his opponent's intention,
he would have removed his left leg out of harm's way; but as he didn't,
there was nothing that he could do to land an effective blow, as he
was out of reach. Then Nigel Lording gave a marvellous exhibition of
the leg twist and knee throw. He turned sharply to the left with his
muscular body and struck a powerful blow with his right thigh against
the back of the Captain's left knee joint. This manoeuvre threw the
Captain forcibly on his hands and knees, from which point Nigel Lording
followed up his advantage with the toe hold, and waist lock. The
Captain cursed, but immediately he was seized by the waist with the
right arm of his adversary, who at the same time placed his right hand
on the inside of the Captain's right thigh. Simultaneously he took a
firm grip of the Captain's left foot pulling hard and outward on it,
at the same time bearing down with his entire weight upon his left
ankle, which he retained securely locked between his calf and thigh.
This deadly hold caused the captain the most excruciating pain, almost
breaking his ankle, but the Captain managed to sit on the right thigh
of Nigel Lording's, and with a herculean effort regained his feet.
Quick as he was, Nigel Lording dived for his left leg using only his
left arm to gain the leg grip and his right to cover his face against
attack. This, however, left him open to the Captain's rabbit punch
with his right, and he was hit a terrific blow on the neck by his
opponent, who expected to gain a knock-out, but the blow, however, was
nullified by Nigel Lording's hunching his shoulders which shortened
his neck, leaving it almost invulnerable, but the blow tore the skin
and left a bloody mark. This made Nigel Lording more cautious. He
seized the Captain's left leg again but this time with his right arm
instead of his left, thus covering his face from a possible attack.
Before the Captain could recover, his left leg was lifted from the
ground, consequently he had no equilibrium to deliver his rabbit
punch, instead, he was thrown violently by a sudden heave and a twist,
combined with a deadly heave by Nigel Lording with his left shoulder.
Before the Captain could recover Nigel Lording pounced upon him and
threw him heavily to the ground, his head striking the turf violently.
Though knocked senseless, he escaped a fractured skull by the merest
good luck and the softness of the ground. Had this throw been made
on the cobblestone road where the disturbance started, he would
undoubtedly have been killed, and that, as events turned out, was to be
deplored.

The knock-out was complete, and the crowd cheered. Their favourite
had won. Bloody and bruised, Nigel Lording, followed by the cheering
crowd, walked over to the village pump and washed himself clean. Then
he suddenly thought of the glove, the gage of battle. Looking round,
he asked if any one had picked it up. It was handed to him soiled and
dirty, by a little girl with a smiling face, but soiled as it was, he
pressed it to his lips.

Mary Worthington noticed this unrehearsed act of gallantry and felt
uplifted by it. Dismounting from her horse and looping the reins over
her left arm, she walked over to where her champion stood, and held out
her hand. "How can I thank you!" she said, with tears in her eyes, and
a suppressed throb in her throat.

"Madame," he replied, "I am honoured to have been of service to you.
The only reward I claim is the privilege of keeping your glove," and he
pressed it once more to his lips.

"For this great service you have rendered me, I shall ever be beholden
to you, sir," she said, as the warm blood suffused the fairness of her
face with its sensitive blush. Then she added, as the significance of
her defender's act in kissing her glove became manifest to her, "In
permitting you, sir, to retain my glove, I name you my true knight in
the hope that I shall always find such a doughty champion if I am ever
again beset."

"Madame, I accept the honour of your knighthood as from a most gracious
queen, and believe me to be your most humble, obedient servant."

And so they parted.

Meanwhile, Captain Lannigan, sullen, battered, and humiliated,
painfully mounted his horse which he received from the hands of a
labourer who was holding him, and rode away with Earl Belriven to the
Manor of Grassmere.

"S'death, Lannigan, but the yeoman was too good for the gentleman after
all, eh? You put up a great fight, but your age and condition were
against you, forsooth!"

"I'd give years of my life to have both him and the girl in my power to
deal with in my own way. Who is she?"

"The daughter of one of my tenants and as proud and high-mettled as the
horse she rides. I'll warrant she'll take some taming, Lannigan, and
it's my purpose to see more of her."

"Then God help her if she gets into the crutches of 'The Falcon.'
Ye'd be no kinder to her than I would be if I had her where I've been
ordered to go."

"And where may that be, my Captain?"

"To take over control of the penal settlement at Moreton Bay."




CHAPTER V.

It was but rarely that Earl Belriven visited his tenant farmers. He
knew that they existed and contributed to his income, but that was
about all. His business with them was transacted by his steward.
But having seen Mary Worthington, he desired to see more of her. He
could not get the girl out of his mind. Her fresh young beauty, her
incomparable grace, and her proud spirit, were to him irresistible.
From his exalted position as Earl Belriven, to desire was to command,
and he desired Mary Worthington more than he had ever desired
anything on earth. He also longed to possess, in a lesser degree, her
magnificent horse.

Under cover of his covetousness for her horse, he set out to interview
personally his tenant farmer, Stephen Worthington, and to make him an
offer for the animal. In reality he wanted to see Mary Worthington in
the setting of her home at Pentecost farm.

So he fared forth gaily caparisoned, and as he rode he mused, and
musing, schemed. His way to Pentecost led him by the flowing Dart,
a river endowed by the ancients with a sentient personality. Even
now some regarded it with superstitious awe, and talked of it as a
living being. To "hear the Broadstones crying," is said to be a sign
of rain. These stories of folklore were part of the early education
of the lord of Grassmere, who, as with most men of evil propensities,
was eminently superstitious. As he heard the peculiar wailing sound
caused by the wind blowing down the valley he was filled with awe. The
river was swollen by the rains of winter and the cry that its waters
made was interpreted by him as a demand for sacrifice. What sacrifice
could he make to ensure him Mary Worthington? She was the burden of
his thoughts, and with the vision of her intoxicating his brain as he
last saw her on Tavistock green, in all the sublimity of her outraged
maidenhood, he arrived at his destination.

Pentecost farm lay in a sheltered spot high up the combe side. Behind
was a rise of fields, and beyond, a sweep of down. It was situated in
true Devon country, hills, hollows, lanes dipping down into the earth,
and little streams gurgling and meandering wherever there was a hollow
between the hills. It was harvest time, and the crops in the fields
looked their richest. The apples were ripening, and the country seemed
to sleep in the sun. The farmhouse was a long white building of brick
and timber with three levels of tiled roof shading from red to green,
with little outhouses of colour washed plaster crowned with thatch.
Being the country home of an old and famous family, it preserved the
arrangement of an old manor house.

When Earl Belriven dismounted and hitched his horse to a gate post,
Mary Worthington was sitting on a rustic loggia that opened into the
orchard. Her sleeves were rolled up showing the round fairness of her
plump arms. She was sorting apples for cider.

The barking of dogs announced a visitor, and Mary Worthington looked
up and saw the Earl walking towards her. Rising and rolling down her
sleeves, she looked perplexed and troubled. She had never known the
Earl to visit Pentecost farm before.

"Madame, my visit seems to surprise you."

"I am surprised at the honour, my lord," replied Mary with elegant
courtesy. "What does your visit portend?"

"I am come to bargain with your father and--to see you."

"You do me great honour my lord, an honour of which I am most unworthy."

"Nay, as to that, I am the better judge, Madame. The vision of you on
Tavistock Green has never left me."

"You came to see my father, my lord. He is over at the stables looking
over the horses. I will lead the way."

"My God, madame, don't you understand? I came to see you." He caught
hold of her arm as if to detain her. There was passion in his gaze as
he took in the glorious curves of her, but she said:

"Father, Earl Belriven is desirous of converse with you."

Then she turned and walked back to the house, perturbed, but paying no
further heed to his lordship.

"I've a fancy to look over your stud, Worthington," said the Earl.
"There may be a prospective Derby winner among your yearlings!"

Squire Worthington, who was busy with his grooms, tipped his forehead
to his Lordship and replied:

"I'm at your service, my lord," and ordered the grooms to lead the
young thoroughbreds from their stalls into the exercise yard. They
constituted a fine string, but none suited his lordship. The horse he
had seen Mary Worthington riding was not among them.

"No, Worthington. I don't fancy any of that string. Where's the colt
that your daughter rides?"

"He's out in the clover paddock, my lord. But if you're thinking of
buying him, I must refer you to my daughter, Mary. Lucifer and she are
inseparable."

"Bring him in and let me have a look at him, then."

The Earl's persistency nettled Stephen Worthington. His gray eyes
narrowed in thought as he hesitated to carry out his lordship's
request. But there was nothing mean or small about Squire Worthington,
and he ordered one of the grooms to bring the colt into the exercise
yard.

When Lucifer was brought in, the Earl was loud in his praises. "God,
Worthington, that's something like a horse. Put your price on him."

"He's not for sale, my lord. I've already told you that he belongs to
my daughter. Money won't buy him."

The Earl went over to the colt to stroke him.

"Take care, my lord. He does not take kindly to strangers. He's a bad
tempered brute."

As the earl approached, Lucifer snorted and showed the whites of his
eyes in a most unfriendly fashion.

There was stubbornness and grim determination in the constitution
of Earl Belriven. The motto of his house, "What I take I hold" was
exemplified in him to a superlative degree. Here at once were two
forces that were opposed to him--the colt and the girl. He desired
both, notwithstanding their undisguised enmity. Both, moreover, were
beautiful, and the beautiful appealed to his aesthetic nature in a
remarkable degree. Aestheticism and unbridled passion and cruelty
in the nature of an individual were a contradiction. One attribute
might be regarded as the negative of the other, but in the millions
of antecedents who had contributed their quota in the moulding of the
character of the present earl, there were many good and bad among them,
and though at times he had visions of beauty and appreciated that
which appealed to his finer instincts, the attribute of brutality far
outweighed any finer feelings that he possessed. This brutality in him
urged him to possess and to tame both the colt and the maid.

"Have the brute saddled, Worthington, I have a fancy to see him gallop.
I'll warrant he possesses a fine turn of speed."

It was unction to the soul of Stephen Worthington to have any one of
his colts admired, and he ordered one of his grooms to saddle Lucifer
and to gallop him over the pasture at the back of the orchard.

There was no finer judge of a horse in England than Earl Belriven,
unless it was Mary Worthington, and he watched with the enthusiasm of
a trainer the movements of the colt as he seemed to spurn the ground
beneath his magnificent strides. When the horse was ridden back to the
exercise yard, sweating, with heaving flanks and distended nostrils,
his lordship remarked that he would like to ride him himself, just to
make friends with the brute.

He was no mean horseman, and he looked trim and smart in his riding
coat, buckskin breeches, top boots, and silver spurs.

"If you've a mind to try his power yourself, my lord, why, do so by all
means," said Stephen Worthington, "but I beg of you don't use crop or
spur on him. He's not used to rough handling. A girl with gentle hands
and voice has trained him." As the Earl attempted to mount, the colt
lashed out with his hoofs as if resenting further handling.

"Have a care, my lord. There's no affinity between you and the colt."

The horse's evident repugnance incensed his lordship, who was now the
more determined to ride him. Holding the reins tightly with his left
hand and with his right hand placed lightly on the saddle to balance
him, his lordship, with an easy spring, placed himself neatly in the
saddle. The colt snorted and made a sudden bound forward. The Earl,
almost unseated, lost his temper. He lashed the horse savagely across
the flank with his hunting crop. Then as he drove his spurs home
with vicious jabs of his heels, the maddened animal plunged, turned
suddenly, reared and struck out with its front legs at the angry and
startled grooms, who instantly jumped aside out of harm's way. But
Stephen Worthington, who was not so nimble, was struck on the head by
the colt's fore hoof and the iron shoe fractured his skull.




CHAPTER VI.

The death of Stephen Worthington, happening with such dramatic
suddenness, gave point to the great question: Is everything in life
foreordained, and for what inscrutable purpose? Can any caprice of
human action or of human nature alter one iota, the eternal plan?
It has been written: "God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to
perform." To the Worthingtons His way in the ordering of their lives,
appeared to them, now and for ever, unfathomable. They became the
sports of destiny, but the why and the wherefore of it all was to
remain with them an insoluble problem, an inscrutable mystery.

The tragedy at Pentecost Farm was a much talked of event, and among
those who called to offer his sympathy was Nigel Lording. He had met
Mary Worthington several times since the fight on Tavistock green, and
a bond greater than friendship had now linked them together. To Mary
Worthington, he was her one great solace. Now that her father was dead,
she was prepared to forsake all and to follow him.

Though her brother John, under his mother's guidance and direction,
assumed, as the eldest and only son, control of Pentecost, everything
connected with the place seemed unreal and unsettled. Mrs. Worthington
and her children acted as if waiting expectantly for something else
to happen. They felt that the death of husband and father was but the
beginning of events which would alter the even tenor of their lives.

Mary Worthington had come to regard Earl Belriven as her evil genius.
Sinister and foreboding, his baleful personality hung over her like
some black cloud surcharged with terror. When she called to mind the
armorial bearings of his house--a gerfalcon, she shuddered at his
nick-name: "The Falcon" was well bestowed. She began to believe, not
without good reason, that she was the heron of his chase, that in his
own appointed time, he would seek her out and rend her with beak and
claw unless she submitted to his taming. But then she had her champion.
To him her mental vision turned with infinite relief. With him beside
her she feared no evil.

Thinking of him this spring day, she walked up the combe and sat on a
stile made of a slab of slate, whence she contemplated the steep path
up which she had come. Ahead, the path continued beneath the branches
that overhung the headlands of a field. The sunlight made a tracery of
gold on the close cropped grass beneath the trees where the sheep had
grazed. On her right was an orchard where the apple trees in full bloom
decorated the landscape with a glory unsurpassable. Overhead were pink
and white clouds drifting lazily across the face of the sky.

Expectant, she sat, and then to her came Nigel Lording. She saw his
coming and her heart leapt. She had seen him before he had reached the
stile, but when a turn in the pathway brought the stile into full view,
he looked up and saw her. "Mary--you!" he exclaimed delightedly. "I was
on my way to Pentecost to see you."

"And I was waiting here, expectant for my champion. I had an intuition
that you would come down the Combe this afternoon, and out of my dreams
of you, you have come, and I'm glad."

Nigel Lording stepped on to the stile and sat beside her on the smooth
slate slab. Holding her hand and looking into her eyes with all the
adoration of his soul, he said: "And why are you glad, my Mary?"

"Because I've been haunted by thoughts of 'The Falcon,' and I'm afraid.
Then I thought of you, my champion, and my fears disappeared."

The overhanging branches of the trees formed a canopy above them, and
they were there alone in the verduous solitude of the countryside.

"Then you are afraid no longer, my Mary?" he questioned, as he drew her
into his arms and held her, his face pressed against the glory of her
hair, which she wore loose about her graceful head and neck. There was
only Mary in all the world for him.

"No, my Nigel," Mary replied, snuggling against him. "I look upon you
as my Rock of Ages."

"Mary!"

In a feeling of ecstacy he whispered her name, rather than spoke it,
and the soft breath of spring merging into summer caught the whispered
adoration and carried it away among the apple blossoms in the near-by
orchard, where the soft white petals were falling like silent snow.
Raising her head from under his arm and looking at him with her soft
brown eyes, with her arm about his neck, she said enquiringly:

"You are soon back from Plymouth?"

"Yes, my Mary, since the death of your father, I have a feeling that I
must always be near you."

"I, too, dear, am beset with apprehensions when you are away for any
length of time. The shadow of the falcon's wings hover over me like a
bird of ill-omen. This morning when exercising Lucifer on the moor, I
had speech with Mr. John Gatcombe, who remarked that it was very unwise
of me to be riding on the moor alone. When I pressed him for the reason
of his remark he merely replied, 'His lordship, the Earl, is in a nasty
mood--and dangerous.' Now, what did he mean by that, Nigel?"

"It means, Mary, that his lordship desires not only Lucifer but you as
well. He is obsessed with the beauty and winsomeness of you. Before
long, he will seek you out. John Gatcombe is your friend, and his
advice must be followed. Never ride alone across Dartmoor, and never
go unarmed. Take this Spanish stiletto and carry it with you always. I
brought it with me from Plymouth. It is a dainty little weapon and I
had my name engraved on the handle. Let it be your defender when I'm
not with you."

Taking the dainty but deadly little weapon in its embossed leather
sheath, Mary Worthington was very serious when she hid it in her bodice
and replied:

"I'm afraid, Nigel, I do not think I could ever use it on an enemy. It
looks a cruel little toy. But la! if I'm ever molested, I shall cry
out 'Nigel! Nigel! To the rescue!' But as it is a bad omen to accept a
gift of this nature without giving something in return, take this kiss,
my champion," and impulsively she put both arms around her lover's
neck and kissed him ardently on the mouth. As they walked arm and arm
towards Pentecost, Nigel Lording said:

"Beloved, I had almost forgotten in the joy of seeing you, to tell you
some good news. When at Plymouth, I saw the gallant Captain Lannigan
embark with a detachment of his regiment, on board a vessel bound for
foreign parts. On making inquiry, I was informed that he was going to
Australia to take over the commandant-ship of a new penal settlement at
Moreton Bay, wherever that place may be."

"Then I thank God with all my heart, Nigel, that England is well rid of
a detestable bully."

"And I say Amen! to that, my Mary, with all my heart."




CHAPTER VII.

Earl Belriven was more than fortunate in that he had in John Gatcombe,
trustee and steward combined, a man of unyielding integrity and
unbending honesty. But to say that his lordship appreciated the
sterling worth of his steward would be to admit something that was
quite foreign to the nature of the noble earl. He never recognised (or
if he did he never appreciated it) worth in any one save in his own
noble self. The rugged honesty and downright directness of his steward
was anathema to the earl inasmuch as he was a legal check to his
ambitious villainies. That John Gatcombe was responsible, in spite of
the extravagances of his noble master, for the splendid upkeep of the
Manor of Grassmere and its magnificent estate, was quite overlooked by
the impossible earl, who knew neither justice nor mercy in his hatred
of his steward.

It was, therefore, with a certain amount of devilish satisfaction that
Earl Belriven, who had a genius for wickedness and was rotten to the
core, commanded his steward to ride over to Pentecost farm and claim
for heriot, the magnificent hunter of Mary Worthington.

"I would remind your lordship that the horse belongs to the maid of
Pentecost and forms no part of her late father's personal estate."

The Earl looked at his steward with the steady eyes of a snake ready to
strike; but John Gatcombe, who loathed his master and measured him at
his true worth, gave him look for look, for he was unafraid.

"You villain, I'll have either the horse or the maid, or both, for my
pleasure. I've ordered you what to do. See that you do it."

"It would be more fitting if your lordship chose some other messenger
more akin to your desires. I warn you, no good will come to you of this
mad obstinacy."

"No good will come to the maid or to Mistress Worthington if my request
be not granted, you fool. It is because you are friendly disposed
towards them that I order you to put the matter clearly before them and
to point out what will happen if I am denied."

"And what will happen, your lordship?"

"To tell you would expose my hand."

John Gatcombe divined what would happen. He knew the ruthlessness of
"The Falcon," and he considered it prudent that it were best for him,
in his consideration for the Worthingtons, to make his lordship's
wishes known to them. It was, therefore, with a heart full of
foreboding that he rode over to Pentecost to make known his master's
demands. As spring approaches summer with timid steps, so John Gatcombe
approached the farm-house of Pentecost to ask for something that he
knew would not be granted. Pentecost had its traditions as well as
Grassmere, and among those traditions were the sanctity of the home and
the inviolableness of its womenhood.

A heriot had not been claimed from Pentecost since the days of Queen
Elizabeth. In the reign of John Plantagenet, according to tradition, an
Earl Belriven had claimed for heriot, Eleanor, the beautiful and only
daughter of Geoffrey Worthington, ranking her in the same category as a
beast of the field, a chattel to be used according to his desires. But
the high spirited maiden took her life rather than submit to the lust
of her suzerain. The present Earl Belriven had, therefore, a terrible
precedent to back him up should he carry out his threat to claim Mary
Worthington for heriot and no one knew better than John Gatcombe what
daring his lordship was capable of when thwarted.

When John Gatcombe rode up to the homestead of Pentecost, the place
still seemed to be mourning for its dead master. The rich red earth
of the clustered fields told of the slow taming and bringing into
subjection of the virgin soil, of generation after generation living
and toiling on the land they had now, loving it with a love born of
life-long endeavour. Human life succeeds human life, yet the fields
which are the background of a country's stability, remain untouched
save by the passing of seasons, and by those little changes which serve
as landmarks in their history. There is no wonder that the Worthingtons
loved Pentecost with a love nurtured by tradition. To be removed from
their holding, or to be forced by oppression to leave a tenancy that
had been theirs and their forefathers from time immemorial, would be a
tragedy as bad almost as leaving life itself.

Hitching his horse to a gate post, John Gatcombe walked up the flagged
pathway that led to the farm-house entrance. As he stood expectant
under a pergola entwined with a wealth of crimson roses, he heard the
neighing of horses and the distant ring of scythe on whetstone, but no
sound of human voice. Stepping inside the porch, he knocked and there
came to him Anne Worthington, dressed in mourning for her dead husband.
John Gatcombe was impressed by her quiet, simple dignity. She was still
in the prime of life and her serene sad face, still beautiful and
expressive, was unmarked by the cobwebs of time. Her soft brown hair,
parted austerely in the centre of her head, waved in ripples below
the ears and was gathered in a knot low down on her firm white neck.
Looking at John Gatcombe with her sad brown eyes, she bade him welcome
and bade him be seated in the large living room with its red tiled
floor. In John Gatcombe's face she read an expression of concern. There
was no light cordiality in his greeting of her and a vague fear stole
over her. He was not the genial John Gatcombe of her previous meetings
with him.

"You--you have something unpleasant to impart to me, Mr. John
Gatcombe," she said haltingly, with grave but dignified apprehension.

"I have, Mistress Worthington. My lord of Grassmere is in a bad mood.
He claims your daughter Mary's horse--Lucifer--for heriot and will not
be denied."

"And you--you have come to tell me this, John Gatcombe?" replied
Mrs. Worthington, placing her hand heavily on the table and almost
collapsing into a chair.

"I was loth to do so, Mistress Worthington. It were better that I
should bear his lordship's demand than some one less friendly disposed
towards you."

"I--I'm sorry, John. But you know what it means. Mary will never
part with Lucifer. Though the horse killed her father it was not the
animal's fault. He was given to her by her dear father, and though he
killed Stephen, Mary does not blame Lucifer for that, but his lordship."

"Yes, I know, Mistress Worthington. But as I have said, his lordship is
in an ugly mood and you know his vileness--the worst peer in England."

"Know his vileness--yes! No decent, attractive girl in Devon or
elsewhere is safe from the talons of 'The Falcon.' Oh, I fear for Mary,
John Gatcombe."

"Be assured, Mistress Worthington, if any harm happen to Mary at the
hands of his lordship, she'll be the last girl he'll live to interfere
with," replied John Gatcombe prophetically.

At this juncture, Mary Worthington, hearing a strange horse whinnying,
came up to the house from the stables and entered. Seeing the look of
concern on the face of her mother, she, bowing courteously to John
Gatcombe, went and stood by her, placing her arm around her shoulders.

"Mary, Gatcombe has come from his lordship to demand Lucifer as a
heriot," said Mrs. Worthington to her daughter without preamble.

"But mother, he would not dare. Lucifer belongs to me and has nothing
to do with dear father's estate!"

"His lordship would dare anything, Mary. He is prodigiously self
willed."

"But if I were to explain the matter to him, surely----"

"It has been explained to his lordship by me, madame," interrupted John
Gatcombe, "but opposition makes him all the more determined. With him
might is right."

"It would be better to let him have the horse, Mary, to avoid trouble,"
pleaded her mother.

"Never!" exclaimed Mary vehemently, the light of battle flashing from,
her eyes. "Why I'll appeal to my Lord Tenterden. You can tell his
'baseness' that from me, Mr. Gatcombe."

"It is very painful for me to be the bearer of his lordship's message,
Mary, but knowing what is in his mind, I agree with your mother. Let
him have the horse, lest he demand more."

"What more could he demand?" asked Mary.

"Yes, what more?" echoed her mother.

"It is incumbent upon me to put you on your guard, Mistress
Worthington," replied John Gatcombe seriously. "You ask what more does
he want? Well to be forewarned is to be forearmed. He wants Miss Mary
here. I have been told that at the farrier's his lordship was heard to
remark with an oath that he would sell his soul to the devil for all
eternity, to have Miss Mary in his keeping. He will claim her for a
heriot and forgo the horse."

"Then we have fallen on evil times indeed, John Gatcombe. But the
England of to-day is not the England of John Plantagenet," said Mrs.
Worthington with quivering lips and trembling hands. "Still, I have a
presentiment of evil, a consciousness that our tenure of Pentecost is
drawing to its close. But, oh! John Gatcombe, by the friendship that
you had for my dead husband, by your friendship for Mary and me, I
would entreat you that whatever happens you will stand by us as you
love your God. Good-bye."

"There are others beside myself who would defend Miss Mary with their
lives," replied John Gatcombe. "Therefore, be of good cheer."

Mary Worthington knew to whom John Gatcombe alluded in particular, and
she flushed crimson. When John Gatcombe had ridden away, she knelt down
at her mother's knees, buried her face in her lap, and told her the
story of Nigel Lording and of her love for him.




CHAPTER VIII.

When John Gatcombe apprized his noble master of the result of his
mission to Pentecost, he was furious. In flaming anger he shouted: "The
minx defies me, does she? This defiance is to my liking. She thrashed
Lannigan and it served him well right. Now I'll give her a chance to
thrash me. Get out of this, Gatcombe, and if you cross me with the
vixen, I'll shoot you for the dog that you are."

"I would warn you again, your lordship, to have a care. Your threat
of violence to myself passes unheeded. Your obsession to lay claim
to your dead tenant's daughter is madness. The Worthingtons have
powerful friends. They will appeal to Lord Tenterden, who is the maid's
godfather."

"I said, 'Get out of this,' and on your way tell the pert little jade
that even if the King of England were her godfather, I'll have my way
with her."

A few days later another messenger from Earl Belriven rode up to
Pentecost farm with a message to Mary Worthington to call upon him
at the Manor of Grassmere on the Sunday afternoon following. The
message was couched in such friendly and apparently reasonable terms
concerning Lucifer that she thought it might be advisable after all
to see his lordship and reason with him. The matter of the heriot had
to be settled sooner or later, and she had faith in her winsomeness.
Moreover, she argued with herself, if she showed his lordship that she
was unafraid and met him boldly, but in a reasonable spirit, he might
look at the matter from another viewpoint. She was aware that he was
not insensible to her beauty, and by acting diplomatically she might
gain time. Therefore, she decided to call upon the noble earl at the
time appointed. She was not afraid.

Lest she upset her mother, she did not mention the matter to her, but
she sent one of the stable boys with a note to Nigel Lording informing
him of his lordship's request and asking him to meet her at the lodge
gate of the Manor at 4 o'clock on the Sunday appointed, what time she
anticipated her interview with his lordship would have ended.

The earl's dinner hour was over by 2 o'clock, and Mistress Julia
Darnley had gone to the still-house. To pave the way for his meeting
with Mary Worthington, he went to the still-house and suggested to
his mistress that she take the children for a walk as he desired to
be alone during the afternoon and did not want to be disturbed. As
this was a most unusual request on the part of his lordship, she, with
a jealous woman's curiosity, asked the reason for such an unusual
procedure.

"Madam," replied his lordship, with an angry flash from his bloodshot
eyes, "though you have the privilege of living with me, I do not
vouchsafe to you the right to question my orders."

Accepting the rebuke with haughty disdain, Mistress Julia Darnley,
beautiful in features and figure, very dark and imperious, prepared
herself and her two young daughters for absenting themselves. With a
supercilious sneer, she desired to know whether his lordship would
vouchsafe to permit her to visit her father, who lived but a short
distance from the Manor.

"You may please yourself where you go," replied his lordship, adding,
"so that you do go and take your brats with you."

The men servants were next dispatched on different errands, and the
maids were permitted to have the afternoon to themselves.

The clock at the lodge struck three as Mary Worthington, with her
groom, rode up in a dogcart. She was admitted to the Manor grounds by
the lodge-keeper, and walked up the long gravelled drive to the main
entrance. As she approached the stately mansion with its architecture
of different periods from the Saxon to the Elizabethan, she was
somewhat perturbed by the ominous stillness of the place. She saw no
one about, and his lordship who was expecting her and was keenly on the
look out for her approach, admitted her to the hall and led her to his
library.

Mary Worthington, dressed simply, never looked more seductively
beautiful. Her easy grace, and shapely figure, the proud uplift of her
little head crowned by its glorious mass of red-gold curling hair, made
a startling impression on the amorous sensibilities of his lordship.
In the heated state of his blood from his after dinner imbibings and
the vision of so much loveliness coming to him in his loneliness, made
his brain reel and his blood to flow like liquid fire in his veins.
His desire for her was unmistakable. She had dressed to attract,
not to repel in the hope that the beauty of her, of which she was
not unconscious, might be regarded by this libertine as a thing too
dainty, too delicate to smirch. Her tight-fitting bodice, accentuating
the roundness of her firm round figure, was cut low at the throat,
revealing the strong white column of her neck and the incipient swell
of her bosom.

"Madame," the young earl spoke, addressing her with courtly grace, for
he wished to create an excellent impression with her. "I am honoured
that you have come. Pray be seated. You are the fairest maid on God's
earth. That I swear."

"It is prodigiously amiable of your lordship to say so," replied Mary,
smiling as she seated herself on a richly upholstered couch, "I am but
one of your lordship's vassals," she continued demurely, "but I venture
you did not invite me here this afternoon to discuss myself."

"I assure you, madame, there is nothing at present more interesting to
discuss. You intrigue me immensely," remarked his lordship ardently
as he seated himself beside her on the couch and, as Mary thought,
uncomfortably near her.

"But, your lordship, I opined that you were more interested in my horse
than in me," answered Mary, edging discreetly away from a presence she
loathed. "I understand from Mr. John Gatcombe that you wanted my colt
Lucifer for your heriot, and it was on that account you were desirous
of seeing me to obtain my consent to handing him over."

"You understood correctly, madame, but Gatcombe informed me that you
were so attached to your horse that I conceived the idea that it would
be most cruel to separate you."

"Oh, it would, your lordship, I assure you most humbly," said Mary
beseechingly.

"Then, fairest maid of Devon, I want both you and your horse to grace
the Manor of Grassmere."

"Your lordship, I do not understand!" exclaimed Mary most seriously.

"Madame, even as Faust, I would sell my soul to the devil to possess
you. It was to tell you this that I desired to see you."

"Surely your lordship is jesting," replied Mary indignantly.

"'Pon honour, never more serious in my life, m'dear," answered his
lordship, moving his right arm around her.

"Then you are infamous," exclaimed Mary, jumping up suddenly from the
couch and facing the earl with flashing eyes and heaving bosom.

"Neither jesting nor infamous, m'dear, I assure you. I desire to
enthrone you here as Mistress of Grassmere, and to crown you with all
the wealth and luxury at my command."

"My lord, what you are suggesting is insulting to me and dishonourable.
You would not have dared if my father were alive."

"Pooh! I would dare anything to call you mine."

"That can never be, your lordship. You have no claim to me or to my
horse, and that you know. I came here at your request, hoping that
when you saw me and had the opportunity of hearing me personally to
intercede for my horse--a gift from my father--you would be noble and
generous enough not to persist in this foolishness."

"Foolishness, forsooth! With you on the scales of my desire, you
outweigh both nobility and generosity. I cannot give you up. My desire
for you is not a passion of to-day but of many days. When you, in the
ravishing beauty of your anger, thrashed Captain Lannigan with your
hunting crop, I resolved then that you should be mine. Had your father
not been killed, I admit there would have been some difficulty in
claiming you. But now that he is dead, the way is made clear. I claim
you as a heriot. It has been done before, and I am thankful for the
splendid precedent. Law, custom and precedent give you to me. I claim
you as a chattel of Pentecost."

The noble lord, dressed in the height of fashion of his day to woo
and to captivate, stood up as he gave expression to this specious
reasoning. He spoke calmly and deliberately, and in the knowledge that
his victim was in his power. There was no one within call. The walls
of the library, deeply lined with books, were thick and its doors
massive. Notwithstanding his dissipation--he was a noted duellist and
gambler--he was lithe, strong and alert, and paced the heavily carpeted
floor like a watchful tiger ready to spring as he spoke.

"No m'dear, I cannot give you up. You are too wondrously young and
beautiful. I claim you. Won't you come to me?"

As he asked this, he stood facing his visitor, calmly, expectantly.
He could not imagine a refusal. He was too used to gaining his ends
to be denied. That this girl, a mere nobody, should refuse him, was
beyond his belief. It was past his understanding. He took it for
granted that she would be pleased to be singled out as worthy of his
love, of the adornment of his manor. Was ever magnanimity greater than
his? Assuredly the position he took up was unassailable, his reasoning
sound. But he received a terrible shock when this frail girl, whom he
imagined, in the sublimity of his egotism, that he could so easily bend
to his will, answered him in exact converse of his mental reasoning.

"You coward! you poltroon! Me you may claim but never hold. Let me go."

Spurned and tainted with cowardice and brought suddenly to earth in
such an unexpected fashion, the noble lord lost his temper and with it
his reasoning.

"No, I will not let you go," he shouted. "You are mine, mine, do you
understand?" He attempted to take her in his arms, but quick as a fawn
she jumped aside and made for the door leading to the hall outside. But
his lordship with the spring of an athlete barred her way. Doubling
back she took refuge behind a massive oak table laden with books in
bronze stands. Then she was really afraid. She felt that she was alone
with a sexual maniac. The man was mad in his lust for her.

With his back to the door, the young earl took stock of the situation
for a moment, then bent low like a sprinter toeing the mark, waiting
for the crack of the pistol. Mary Worthington watched every movement
with the tenseness of despair. She felt that shouting would be useless
and that she must fight and resist with every ounce of her strength.
When the earl sprang on to the table to reach her, she took refuge
behind a heavy chair. From the table her assailant jumped on to the
chair with the sure-footedness of a chamois. Before she could again
elude him he caught her by the neck of her bodice and ripped it to her
waist exposing her bosom in all its naked loveliness.

Unconsciously she called out "Nigel! Nigel!" and drew the stiletto
which Nigel Lording had given her. The earl caught sight of the deadly
blade and became more wary. Pausing for a minute, thinking desperately,
he made another attempt to seize her but she again eluded him and took
refuge behind the couch where she had first sat down. She was now
between the couch and the door but had not time to turn to the door
before the earl gave the couch a vicious kick which sent it forward
hitting her above the knees and knocking her backward.

In attempting to save herself from being hurled against the marble
mantel, she tripped and fell, the stiletto falling from her grasp and
dropping near the door. Instantly the Earl was on his knees beside her
and held her in his arms, kissing her passionately on the lips and
bosom, with kisses that seared like a leaping flame.

Then she fainted.

When she recovered her senses, she found the earl lying across her,
dead, his blood streaming over her. Freeing herself of his heavy body
she got up and looked with dazed horror at the lifeless body which had
rolled face downwards on the blood-drenched carpet. It was then she saw
her stiletto buried to the hilt below the left shoulder blade. Ignorant
as to how the tragedy had happened, she ran from the room and out of
the manor like a despairing soul fleeing from unmentionable demons.
Terror-stricken, she ran down the carriage drive towards the Lodge when
she met Nigel Lording waiting for her.

"O God, I don't know what I've done! I don't know what I've done!" she
moaned, falling helplessly into the arms of her lover.

"Mary, beloved, for Christ's sake, tell me what has happened. You are
covered with blood."

"His lordship--dead--stabbed with your stiletto. But I never stabbed
him. I couldn't have done it!"

The lodge-keeper, hearing her moaning and crying, ran up to see what
was the matter and heard what Mary Worthington had said.

"Then who killed him?" he asked.

"I don't know. Oh, believe me, but I don't know," she wailed.

"I believe you, my darling, you could not do such a thing," interjected
Nigel Lording consolingly, supporting his beloved with his arms.

Turning to the lodge-keeper, he said: "You had better see to it, Mason.
Proceed at once to Tavistock, obtain a surgeon, and acquaint the watch."

"Come, my beloved, I'll take you home."

It had been a glorious June day, and as the sun slowly dropped behind
the western hills, empurpling their crest with its golden splendour,
two loving souls weighed down with a terrible fear of what might be the
ultimate outcome of this ghastly tragedy, stepped across the threshold
of Pentecost, hoping there to find sanctuary.

Shaken by the tempest of her grief, Mary Worthington clung to the only
refuge that seemed meet--her mother. Throwing herself into her mother's
loving arms, she sobbed convulsively.

"Oh, mother, mother, no matter how tongues may babble, I didn't kill
his lordship. As God is my judge, I am innocent of such a crime. I had
reason enough to kill him to protect my honour, but I never, never
stabbed him. Though he got what he deserved, it was not my hand that
struck him down. When I recovered from my swoon he was dead, but who
killed him, I don't know. Oh, believe me, mother, I do not know how it
happened."

"My precious lamb," sobbed her mother, encompassing her daughter with
her arms, "I believe you. But, oh, God, in your great mercy, stand by
us in this fearful hour of our tribulation."

Even as she threw out this sudden invocation, she sensed in her wisdom
that the matter looked black for her first born and equally black
for her lover; and in after years she often wondered why God, in His
sovereign and awful prerogative, should, for some inscrutable reason,
leave them to work out their destiny in the groove of His immutable
rule.




CHAPTER IX.

The murder of Earl Belriven excited considerable interest as well on
account of his lordship's ancient lineage as of the high respect in
which the accused persons, Nigel Lording and Mary Worthington, were
held by the people of Devon.

It was not denied that Mary Worthington paid a visit to the Manor on
the fatal afternoon of the Earl's murder, nor was it denied that he had
been done to death by means of a stiletto which had been the property
of Nigel Lording and on which was engraved his name. On these facts
alone, the police deemed it prudent to take Nigel Lording and Mary
Worthington into custody. Certain other facts were adduced in evidence
against them upon their various examinations before the magistrates;
but strong as were the suspicions excited against the accused, it was
felt that there was still good reason to believe that they would escape
conviction, notwithstanding that the Coroner's jury had returned a
verdict of wilful murder, and when it was taken into consideration that
experienced counsel in the person of Mr. Flower, a well known criminal
advocate, was engaged to conduct their defence. On the other hand, a
Mr. Hart, one of the ablest criminal barristers in England, was briefed
on behalf of the prosecution.

Owing to the vast amount of local feeling, the two prisoners were
removed from Plymouth under the Habeas Corpus Act, and placed at the
bar of the Central Criminal Court, and arraigned upon the indictment
found against them--Nigel Lording for the wilful murder of the
deceased, and Mary Worthington for being an accessory in that she
consorted, aided, and abetted her fellow prisoner.

Lord Chief Justice Denman, Mr. Justice Coleridge, and Mr. Justice
Coltham were the judges. The court was crowded in every corner.

To the indictment, the prisoners pleaded not guilty.

Mr. Hart opened the case to the jury and in the course of his address
said:


"The prisoners at the bar are a young man and a young woman--aged
respectively 25 and 18 years, both natives of Devon. Hitherto, it may
be said in their favour, they have enjoyed unblemished records; but
it will be proved by the evidence that they were lovers. The male
prisoner was particularly obnoxious to the deceased, and a feeling of
enmity existed between them. This enmity had its origin in the fact
that he had openly thrashed a great personal friend of the deceased,
one Captain Lannigan, on Tavistock green, because the said Captain has
chastised a vagrant for stealing wood from the demesne of Grassmere,
and because he conspired with the female prisoner to resist the
deceased's legal and customary right on the death of the father, the
late tenant of Pentecost, to claim for heriot a particular horse. You
are probably aware, gentlemen of the jury, that hate engenders hate,
and it would, moreover, appear that the male prisoner was insanely
jealous of the deceased nobleman because he had expressed openly his
admiration for the female prisoner, an admiration which the male
prisoner deeply resented.

"It will also appear by the evidence that the male prisoner instilled
sentiments of loathing in the mind of the female prisoner against the
deceased and warned her against him. In fact, he went so far as to give
her a Spanish stiletto with his name engraved on the handle (handed in
as an exhibit in the case) to use against the person of the deceased
if he attempted to molest her in any way. But, gentlemen of the jury,
no evidence whatever has been adduced to prove that the sentiments of
the deceased towards the female prisoner were anything but honourable.
It is admitted that the deceased claimed for heriot, according to the
ancient custom of copyhold tenure, a certain horse on the death of the
late tenant, Stephen Worthington, and it is in evidence that the female
prisoner bitterly resented such claim on the grounds that the said
horse was her personal property, and not the property of the estate
of her late father; but, gentlemen, no documentary evidence has been
submitted to prove that the said horse was the property of the female
prisoner and not the property of her late father.

"I desire to impress upon you, gentlemen, that, notwithstanding the
attempts of the male prisoner to insidiously poison the mind of the
female prisoner against the deceased, she, without any escort and
apparently without any fear, went of her own accord to interview the
deceased on the fatal day of his death in order to influence him by
a personal appeal to the noble nature of the deceased to forgo his
customary claim to heriot. And I desire further to impress this upon
you: Had she feared the deceased, if she had been at all apprehensive
of his conduct towards her, she would have undoubtedly requested the
male prisoner to accompany her for her better protection. But no, she
did not do this. Instead, she asked him to meet her at a certain time,
calculated on the length of the proposed interview, in order to be with
him when the interview had ended. What transpired at that interview we
do not know from independent evidence. We have only the uncorroborated
statement of the female prisoner herself. But that statement you must
disregard. It is too preposterous to entertain for a single moment. If
you do give credence to it, you are invited to believe the impossible.
You are asked to believe that the deceased attempted to criminally
assault her, and in the struggle that ensued, she drew a stiletto from
her person, but accidentally dropped it near the door of the library
when she fainted, but when she regained her senses, she found the
deceased lying upon her, dead, with the stiletto buried to the hilt
below his left shoulder blade. An impossible story, truly!

"Gentlemen of the jury, it is in evidence that there was none of the
deceased's family or household present at the manor on that fatal
afternoon, yet, you will be asked to believe that the prisoners at the
bar are guiltless of the crime for which they have been indicted. But,
gentlemen (and learned counsel became vehement) the male prisoner was
at the manor on that fatal afternoon, and both prisoners were seen by
the lodge-keeper to leave the premises in a state of terror and extreme
agitation with evidence of the crime--the blood of the murdered noble
lord--upon them. Is it not, therefore, reasonable to assume that the
male prisoner, with his intimate knowledge of the circumstances, went
into the hall, and hearing voices in the library, opened the door,
which was not locked, became possessed of the stiletto, and stabbed the
deceased in an ungovernable fit of jealous rage?

"Gentlemen, what would a guilty man do in such a situation? With no
one as a witness to prove otherwise, would he not act in such a way as
to avert suspicion? It would be a very simple matter to endeavour to
hoodwink the stern majesty of justice, by tearing the female prisoner's
clothing to give semblance of an attempted outrage, and to smear her
with the blood of the deceased. With this strong presumption before
you, gentlemen, will you say whether there is any reasonable doubt of
their guilt? It appears to me, having regard to all of the facts, that
there can be no reasonable doubt whatever. I have a duty to discharge
to the Crown, to the country, and to the public; and I must say that,
so far as I have yet learned, there is no reason whatever to believe
that the prisoners are innocent."


With a look of pleased satisfaction on his face, counsel resumed his
seat at the bar table.

The evidence for the prosecution was then gone through in corroboration
of the statements of the learned counsel for the prosecution, but none
of it tended materially to incriminate the prisoners.

Mr. Flower then addressed the Jury for the defence:


"Gentlemen of the jury," he commenced, "you have heard my learned
friend, counsel for the prosecution, admit that the prisoners have had
hitherto an unblemished record, but he has adduced no direct evidence
to shatter that admitted unblemished record, or to prove in any way
that the prisoners are guilty of the shocking crime of which they
have been accused and for which they now stand at the bar. On the
contrary, he supports the case upon the most specious arguments and
buttresses his indictment entirely upon circumstantial evidence. In
certain cases that might be the best evidence as it was certainly the
most difficult to fabricate; but in the case before you, gentlemen,
you must disregard all evidence that is not supported by actual facts.
Has any witness been called to prove that the deceased was struck the
fatal blow by either of the prisoners? No. Did any one, I ask you, see
that blow struck? Again I say No! You have been told the reason that
induced the female prisoner to visit the Manor of Grassmere on that
fatal Sunday afternoon; but you have not been told that the deceased
was a libertine, a sexual pervert, a man of violent and ungovernable
temper. It is well known that he did not hold sacred the person of any
young and beautiful maiden. Unlike his noble father, the former Earl
Belriven, who was esteemed everywhere for his kindly benevolence, his
son, the deceased, for some unaccountable reason, was a degenerate in
whose veins ran the blood of the infamous Elfrida, a ninth century
ancestress; but centuries of time have not apparently eradicated the
strain, though its recrudescence has been, happily, rare. Indeed, I
merely mention this, gentlemen, to prove to you what manner of man
the deceased commonly known as 'The Falcon' was, and I now say that
a suppositious case only has been made out and placed before you by
my learned friend. But I ask you, is it not reasonable to assume that
the deceased (when we learn what his infamous character was) had an
ulterior motive in luring the female prisoner to the manor in order,
not to obtain possession of her horse as a heriot, but to violate
her? Is it not just as reasonable, nay, more reasonable to assume--if
the weight of the argument of my learned friend is to rest upon
assumption--that the female prisoner, whose character he admits has
hitherto been unimpeachable, fought desperately to guard her person,
and to keep her honour inviolate from the lecherous fury of a sexual
maniac? It is admitted that she was possessed of a stiletto which
she carried on her person as an instrument of defence, and that the
name of the male prisoner was engraved upon its handle. But what does
that suggest, if not prove? Would it not suggest that in the dreadful
situation in which she found herself placed, she would use the stiletto
as her only means of defence of the weak against the strong? If the
story of the female prisoner is to be believed, she attempted to do
precisely that which I have suggested; but, unfortunately (and I say
unfortunately advisedly, because if the deceased had attempted to
violate her, she would have been justified in killing him in defence
of her honour) the stiletto dropped out of her hand in her endeavour
to save herself from falling, and fell near the door of the library
leading to the hall. At this point, my learned friend has built up a
case against the male prisoner and asks you to believe that he appeared
on the scene at the identical moment that the stiletto dropped from the
female prisoner's hand, entered the library, picked up the weapon, and
stabbed the deceased to his death. Such an assumption is preposterous.

"I know what is in your minds, gentlemen. Someone must have entered the
library at that particular juncture and stabbed the deceased! But who?
Gentlemen of the jury, that is for the officers of the law to find out.
It is very easy for the Crown to indict the prisoners on any assumption
raised by its officers, as an easy way to punish a crime. But it is
not assumption that we want. It is facts. You are trying an honourable
young man and a brave and virtuous maiden for their lives, and what
evidence, I repeat, has been submitted to you to satisfy you of their
guilt, especially of the guilt of the male prisoner? None whatever.
The ends of justice cannot be satisfied by circumstantial evidence,
therefore, I submit, gentlemen of the jury, that your verdict must
be--not guilty."


The Lord Chief Justice summed up on the evidence at the end of the
second day's trial, and in doing so, stressed the circumstantial nature
of it. There is no doubt whatever, that from the tenor of the summing
up, had the fate of the prisoners been left to the Bench and not to the
jury, the verdict would have been different. After consulting together
for some time, the jury returned a verdict of guilty against both
prisoners.

Nigel Lording was sentenced to death and Mary Worthington to be
transported for the rest of her natural life.

Not only the county of Devon, but all England was deeply shocked at
the verdict, and the savage nature of the sentences which were in
keeping with the Draconian nature of the laws of that period. The life
of a nobleman was regarded as sacrosanct, no matter how rotten and
forbidden such a life might be; but someone must be made to suffer,
some scapegoat must be sacrificed to atone for the taking of it in such
a violent and summary manner. So Nigel Lording, young, brave, handsome,
was condemned to die, and Mary Worthington, one of the fairest flowers
of England's maidenhood, branded for ever as a felon. Henceforth, she
must bear to the full all the pangs of her terrible sentence.




CHAPTER X.

Nigel Lording was stunned by the verdict. He could not believe that
such a travesty of justice was possible in a land where jurisprudence
was regarded as the copestone of its constitution.

Staring at the naked fact of his sentence, he groaned. He could not
strip the terror from it by the convulsive movements of his arms or
meet it calmly by looking it full in the face. In his despair the words
of the Psalmist came to him, "With righteousness shall He judge the
world and the people with equity." But here was neither righteousness
nor equity. Stretching heavenward his importunate hands he cried in the
bitter anguish of his riven soul. "Christ Jesus, teach me what Day is
ere yet I go down into Night."

Staggering, as if dazed by a fearful blow, he was led away to his cell
whose doors were swung ajar for him.

But friends were not wanting to petition the Crown for mitigation
of his sentence, and when he heard this he did not give up hope. It
was the practice of the Recorder of London to report to His Majesty
in Council, the cases of the various prisoners in custody, upon whom
sentence of death had been passed. The case of Nigel Lording, with
others, was reported according to custom, and, in due time, the
sentence of death was confirmed. This confirmation was made known to
the prisoner by the Recorder who intimated that his execution was
directed to take place. Then the condemned man gave up all hope. The
petition had failed, and his soul dropped to the nadir of despair. He
had looked forward with confidence to the result of the exertions of
his friends in his favour, but now, all was over, and his mind once
more seethed in the cauldron of his agony. He was told to prepare for
death, and the reverend ordinary of the gaol proceeded to pay to him
those attentions usually expected at his hands.

A blunder of a most extraordinary nature, however, was soon discovered
to have been made. This discovery was described in a newspaper
published at the time.

On Thursday morning, Sir Thomas Denman, Lord Chief Justice of the
King's Bench, in casting his eyes on a newspaper saw the paragraph
representing the fact that Nigel Lording was ordered for execution.
His Lordship thought that the statement had been published from false
information, and he adverted to the circumstance in the presence
of one of the under-sheriffs as of a very mischievous nature. The
under-sheriff, in some surprise, observed to his lordship that the
paragraph was correct--that the recorder's warrant had been received on
Wednesday evening at half past six at Newgate--that the intelligence
had been communicated to the unfortunate culprit and that notices had
been sent to the Sheriffs and other officials.

"What!" said Sir Thomas Denman, "Lording ordered for execution!
Impossible! I was myself one of the Privy Council present when the
report was made and I know that no warrant for the execution of
Lording was ordered. I had intimated to the Privy Council that I was
not altogether satisfied with the evidence at the trial--that such
evidence was purely circumstantial--and that though in the minds of
the jury there was more than a presumption of guilt, nevertheless no
actual proof was submitted that the blow that killed Earl Belriven was
delivered by Lording, and that consequently, he should be given the
benefit of the doubt. The Privy Council then ordered Lording to be
placed in solitary confinement and to be kept to hard labour previous
to his being transported for life, to which penalty the judgment to die
was commuted."

The under-sheriff reported the extraordinary information to his
lordship, who instantly requested that he would forthwith apply at
the Secretary of State's Office, when he would be reassured of the
fact and receive an order in contradiction of the learned recorder's
warrant. It is almost needless to say that the under-sheriff, who was
very glad to be the bearer of such good tidings to a poor unhappy
fellow creature, very speedily executed his mission. He found that the
correction of Sir Thomas Denman was accurate according to the records
in which the allotted punishment was regularly entered; and Lord
Melbourne, immediately upon being informed of the mistake under which
they laboured at Newgate, sent thither an authority to countermand the
warrant with the Black Seal signed "Newman Nosworthy."

Lording had just twenty-two hours previously been told in the usual
solemn way, to prepare for death; and as he had calculated largely
and correctly upon the merciful character of the administration, he
received the awful news of the confirmation of his sentence to death as
if he had been struck to the earth by lightning. The mistake upon being
mentioned to him, it is almost unnecessary to state, gave full relief
to his heart.

Mr. Nosworthy, who at the time filled the office of Recorder, was
immediately called upon to explain to the Common Hall of the City of
London, the circumstances which attended the very remarkable error into
which he had fallen. When they had heard from him whatever excuse he
had to urge, they came to the following conclusion:--


"Resolved unanimously, that the Common Hall has learned, with feelings
of the deepest horror and regret, that the life of Nigel Lording,
a convict under sentence of death at Newgate, had well nigh been
sacrificed by the act of the Recorder of London in sending down a
warrant for his execution, notwithstanding his Majesty in Privy
Council, had, in the gracious exercise of his royal prerogative of
mercy, been pleased to commute his sentence for an inferior punishment.

"Resolved unanimously, that the mildest and most charitable
construction which this Common Hall can put upon this conduct of the
Recorder is that it was the result of some mental infirmity incident
to his advanced age; but contemplating with alarm the dreadful
consequences which, though happily averted in the present instance,
may possible ensue from such an infirmity in that important public
functionary, this Common Hall feels it an imperative duty to record the
solemn expression of its opinion that the Recorder ought forthwith to
retire from an office, the virtually important duties of which he is,
from whatever cause, incompetent to discharge."


The Recorder, who was present, was received with deep groans, and with
every manifestation of hostility. The resolutions of the Common Hall
were followed by a resolution of the Court of Aldermen announcing the
receipt of a communication from the Recorder that owing to his advanced
age, ill-health and debility, consequent upon a late very severe fit of
illness, he had felt himself bound, after serving this city for more
than 47 years, upwards of 30 as common sergeant and recorder--to resign
the office of Recorder.

When the "inferior punishment" was made known to Nigel Lording, he once
more looked heavenward with an unspoken prayer of thankfulness. His
life was saved and life was dear to him so long as Mary Worthington
remained alive. Transportation had then no terrors for him; but had
he known what was before him, he might not have regarded it as the
"inferior punishment." Almost immediately he was removed in chains to
a convict hulk at Portsmouth to await his transportation to New South
Wales.

When Mary Worthington, in her cell at Newgate, was apprised of the
fact that her lover's death sentence had been commuted, a ray of glory
pierced the travail of her darkness and she sighed:

"Thank God! We may meet again in that far off land of living death."
But though she instinctively thanked God, still, her dazed brain could
not, in the dreadful circumstance in which she was placed, comprehend a
God of infinite mercy and justice.

"If there be such a God, what have I to thank Him for?"

And she answered her own doubt. "No, there is neither God, nor mercy,
nor justice. Neither is there a heaven, only a deep unfathomable hell
into which we, my Nigel and I, have been cast. God of Evangel! Surely,
He laughs in His high heaven, and mocks at our impotent prayers."




CHAPTER XI.

As the victim of a sentence for life, Mary Worthington was confined
to solitary, or as it was termed in the vernacular, put in solitary.
This was the lot meted out to the hardest cases. The nature of her
sentence earned for her that distinction and when the cell door clanged
behind her, her stout heart contracted painfully. There was a terrible
finality in the sound. Alone within those narrow stone walls, she
discovered primitive feelings in herself, whose existence she had never
believed she possessed. She was filled with a sense of outrage. "Put
me in a cell, solitary and alone! How dare they!" She was overcome by
primitive rage and primitive fear.

"Nigel is blameless! I am blameless!" she cried out in her mental
torture and suffering. But what was the use of railing at the pitiless
Triads that ruled and mocked and cursed? Of what avail was tearful
striving against the hard facts of stone and steel; against solitude,
silence and presently dark? There was nothing for her to do but to
submit, though she wondered what the end would be. There lacked only
madness to fill up her cup of bitterness to the brim.

In a few days, when she was disciplined by solitary confinement and had
recovered from her mad but importunate ravings, she would be removed
to a hulk in the Thames, there to await transportation. Thereafter, it
would be an endless facing of tomorrows, each with a cry of awakening,
each with the stretching of impotent hands, following nights in which
the soft garment of sleep was rent by horrible dreams.

Meanwhile the case of Mary Worthington occupied much attention. She
was generally considered the victim of cruel circumstance. Beautiful,
accomplished, of excellent character, her case excited a very strong
interest. A petition was immediately signed most respectively and
numerously for her respite and pardon; but the Secretary of State
deemed the application to arise from ill-judged humanity and refused
the petition.

Among the persons who interested themselves in her behalf, was John
Gatcombe, who addressed a letter to the Editor of "The Monthly
Magazine" setting forth her case and proving her an object of mercy.


"Give me leave to caution you against an implicit credit in the
accounts published in most of the public papers respecting the case of
the unhappy Mary Worthington. This much only will I say at present--a
most extraordinary and affecting case it is. I have never heard of one
more so; I have never known one in any degree so much so. I have, as a
life-long friend of the Worthingtons, visited her several times with
her mother since she has been in prison. I have also visited her with
several respectable persons, who were all struck with her sweet and
beautiful countenance, the modesty, unhesitating clearness, simplicity
and ingenuous character of all she says, and her modest resignation. I
am so firmly convinced in my mind that she is innocent of the crime of
which she has been found guilty, and a life sentence pronounced upon
her, that I will use all the means and intelligence that I possess to
prove her innocence."


But all the efforts to have her sentence mitigated were of no avail.
After being confined in solitary for ten days, Mary Worthington
was removed, with other female prisoners, handcuffed in pairs, to
the prison hulk in the Thames below Gravesend. There were a score
of women walking two and two with two guards going ahead to force
a way through the morbid crowd; and other guards on either side of
the dismal procession. To men prisoners the crowd would have been
indifferent; but at the women they cruelly grinned. Some of the more
modest of the prisoners hung their heads down to hide their shame--Mary
Worthington was one of these--but others grinned back mockingly at the
crowd. Nearly all the prisoners were pathetically young. By a strange
coincidence, the hulk to which Mary Worthington was consigned, was
all that remained of H.M.S. Endeavour, or the "Endeavour Bark"
as she was officially named by the Admiralty, the vessel in which
that illustrious navigator, Captain James Cook, in 1770, discovered
Moreton Bay, which he named after the Scottish Earl of Moreton, who was
president of the Royal Society in 1764.

When the great navigator sailed northward past Moreton Bay without
exploring it, and without knowledge of the magnificent river which
emptied into it, he little knew that, fifty-four years later on
the shores of that immense bay and on the banks of that noble
river--afterwards named the Brisbane--discovered by Lieutenant John
Oxley, Surveyor General of New South Wales, a penal settlement of
unenviable reputation, would be established. Yet so it turned out. The
authorities of the Sydney penal colony wished to found somewhere in
the distance, a new settlement in order to receive the "double-dyed
felons" who formed a real menace to the welfare of the other members
of the prison community. It had become plain to everyone that it was
both unwise and unjust that the better class of convicts should be
contaminated by compulsory association with abandoned and incorrigible
criminals. Consequently, those in authority began to look round for
some spot, sufficiently remote, to which the worst class of offenders
could be safely consigned. So Moreton Bay was chosen as sufficiently
remote. Mary Worthington now trod the decks of that historic vessel as
a convict and her bourne was that expansive bay of wooded shores and
studded islands which the vessel's navigator had discovered, and that
noble river which discharged into it. She was, moreover, destined to
go out from the land of her birth--that England which reared her--from
that mother who loved her as her first born, in all her innocence and
purity, to herd with double-dyed felons and to live in abasement amid a
saturnalia of debauchery and crime.

When Mary Worthington was consigned to the Endeavour hulk, it was not
known immediately when she, with all its other female prisoners, would
be removed to a transport and sail for Moreton Bay. The Secretary of
State for the Colonies was awaiting despatches from Sir Ralph Darling
who had been recently appointed to take over from Sir Thomas Brisbane,
the administration of New South Wales, before sending out a further
contingent of female prisoners.

Meanwhile the Ringarooma with its human freightage of incorrigibles,
of whom her lover and hero, Nigel Lording, formed a unit, had set
sail and was now well on her way across the world. This immense
separation numbed her soul. There was no assurance that she would ever
see him again and her dejection covered her like a pall, holding her
motionless--listless. If the seas that rolled between were to separate
them for ever, then there was nothing to live for. But if she had only
some tangible straw of hope that in the land of their enforced exile
she would look upon him again, even if martyred beyond all the dear
semblance of himself, that would be some guerdon to strive for, some
hope to cling to. Then she would bear the burden of her misery and
shame uncomplainingly.

On board the hulk she was subjected to all sorts of indignities by her
fellow prisoners. She was probably the youngest felon among them and
her youth and beauty attracted the male members of the hulk's staff.
But in the chief female warder she found a warm and considerate friend.
At first this friendliness was incomprehensible to her because she
treated the other female prisoners with unquestionable severity. She
soon learnt, however, that influential efforts had been at work with
the most persevering anxiety to obtain a mitigation of her lot so far
as it affected her life on the hulk and afterwards, on the transport.
Her godfather, Lord Tenterden, than whom no kinder jurist ever lived,
without making himself known, was the chief influence working in her
favour, whilst her mother spared neither money nor entreaties in
bribing her jailers to temper the rigours of prison discipline.

The chief female warder, one Penelope Bailey, came under these powerful
influences--influences which she could not resist because they made
it worth her while. She was a reprieved convict, having murdered the
man who jilted her under exceptionally provocative circumstances. She
was possessed of considerable accomplishments, of a fine figure and
personal charms.

Another who had been commissioned to take up the case of Mary
Worthington, with the purpose of ultimately proving her innocence, was
Inspector Joseph Barnes of Bow Street. He was on friendly terms with
Penelope Bailey, who kept up a secret correspondence with him in regard
to the prisoner. To him she wrote:--


"Respecting the case of Mary Worthington, I wish that I felt myself
capable of writing about her as she deserves. She gives no trouble, but
is subject to long spells of melancholia. She feels her position most
keenly. That she is not guilty of being accessory to the murder of Lord
Belriven, I, with my woman's intuition, feel positive. She possesses
a meek and modest disposition, perfectly characteristic of a mild and
affectionate temper. But I feel sure that if that temper were aroused
by some great act of injustice and oppression, there is no knowing to
what limits it would rage.

"She has large brown eyes set far apart in a spacious forehead. When
she looks through the valance of her long lashes, there is something
wonderfully stirring in her gaze. It seems as if below the fathomless
depths of her eyes, there lurks a soul that would leap to the tumult
of battle, notwithstanding that she has an uncommon and unaffected
sweetness in her voice and manner. Without fear or ostentation she is
attentive with pure sympathy to those who have interested themselves in
her behalf. Therefore to you, Inspector, I say, use all the keenness
that you possess, all the sleuth-like genius that you can command, to
find out who was the actual slayer of Earl Belriven."


There were not more than 40 female prisoners on the hulk with Mary
Worthington, not enough to warrant sending overseas on a single
transport; but among those were some demireps, strumpets, and
other dames of light habits, who probably more than deserved being
transported. To such as these a girl of Mary Worthington's undoubted
refinement, elegance, and beauty, irrespective of her prison garb, was
a source of vilification and vituperation.

When occasion permitted, the prisoners were exercised on the adjacent
docks and it was on these occasions that Mary Worthington was subjected
to their spite. One woman in particular, a short, squat, ungainly
creature, made a dead set at her. She went by the name of Mulatto Jane,
but her proper name was Jane de Therry. She was born in Jamaica, had
negro blood in her, and was of that numerous class of women who ply at
Covent Garden market as a basket woman. Though not more than 25 years
of age, she had a brutal and debauched expression. Her mouth had an
ugly twist akin to that caused by a hare lip, but the disfiguration was
probably caused by a heavy blow which had cut deeply into her upper
lip, knocking out her front teeth and causing her to speak with a lisp.
She could not pronounce correctly any word containing the letter "s."
In the pursuit of her vocation she became acquainted with a poor but
industrious woman who lived by herself in a small apartment. Seizing an
opportunity when the owner was from home, Mulatto Jane broke into this
woman's room and robbed her of all she possessed. For this burglary and
robbery she was brought to trial at the Old Bailey, found guilty and
sentenced to seven years' transportation.

One day while exercising on the dock, she spat in Mary Worthington's
face. This roused the ire of Martin Kenefake, the Chief Warder, who had
witnessed the filthy incident.

"Bad cess to ye, ye filthy blackamoor," he said, cursing. "'Tis the
taast of t'lash ye're afther coortin' and be jabers 'tis Martin
Kenefake will give it ye. Move on there now an' doant be cultivatin' me
anger by interferin' wid that rayspictible gurrl."

"Garn, yer lump o' Irith bog," retorted Mulatto Jane. "It mak'th me
thick to thee yer all fall for thith gawd-forthaken fallen angel. Link
her ter me for five minuteth while I thpoil the thenery of her face
like a thojer in Jamaky thpoilt mine."

This sally was witnessed and overheard by other viragos in the gang
who roared with laughter and who also regarded Mary Worthington with
envious malice. They also bore Martin Kenefake many a grudge for his
disciplining of them. Two of them in particular, Sarah Marsh and Beccy
Lloyd, the former transported for shop-lifting, and the other for
uttering a "Bank of Fleet" note, the circulation of which was generally
entrusted to profligate women who consorted with the men who made them,
were as hostile to Mary Worthington as was Jane de Therry.

"'Tis manifest to me, ye harridans, that yer spilin' for throuble. I'll
lick yer inther shape afore ye reach Morreton Bahy, th' divile take me
if I doant. Move on, there!" Which command Martin Kenefake emphasised
by a cut with a heavy plaited leather whip.

Now Martin Kenefake, Chief Warder on the hulk Endeavour, had
received special instructions from influential quarters to keep a
benevolent eye on Mary Worthington to see that her lot was made as
comfortable as was possible under the tragic circumstances in which she
was placed. He had sailed with Lieutenant Oxley in the brig Amity
and was one of the thirty volunteers from the prisoners' barracks
at Sydney who with a party of rank and file had been selected to
form a penal settlement at Moreton Bay. He had been transported for
smuggling, and was an expert seaman. Owing to the great service he had
rendered Lieutenant Oxley in helping to navigate the Amity through
rough weather along the unknown coast of New South Wales north of
Port Jackson, he was given a ticket of leave and later granted a free
pardon. Returning to England, his knowledge of the penal system in
vogue at the time gained for him an appointment as warder on the hulk
Endeavour with a promise of the position of Chief Warder on one of
the next transports to sail for Australia.

As it would have been imprudent to permit Mary Worthington to herd with
the prisoners on the hulk who were hostile to her, she was placed in a
separate cell 'tween decks with certain other better behaved convicts,
to whom Martin Kenefake boasted of his knowledge of Moreton Bay.

"'Tis a grraund counthry yez 'ill be bound for, where ther warrum sun
shines in a cloudless sky, an' ther threes, wid lil possums an' lil
squrls at play in them, are allus green an' kangaroos an' paddy melons
hop about like childer at play; but I'm thinkin' it'll be turribul
lonely ther' for yez. But mebbe ye'll take up with some sojjer or some
emancerpist and settle down an' be the mothers of piyoneers an' ther
builders up of a gr-reat nashun. Howsomever, I'll keep me eyes on yez
till yez get there. But what will happen to yez afther yez get there,
Gawd only knows."




CHAPTER XII.

The fate of spending weary months on a prison hulk was not accorded
to Nigel Lording. From Newgate, clothed in convict garb and heavily
ironed as befitted a "lifer," he was conveyed, with a number of other
felons, to a transport riding at anchor off Spithead awaiting orders
to set sail. The transport was the Ringarooma. She was chartered to
carry a consignment of incorrigible rogues such as prison breakers and
"lifers," or those not amenable to discipline, to Moreton Bay. It was,
therefore, to this vessel of 452 tons that Nigel Lording was consigned.
She had on board a strong guard of soldiers, consisting of one officer
and 30 men, to keep the convicts in order.

As the accredited murderer of Earl Belriven, Nigel Lording was looked
upon by the warders and by his fellow transportees as a dangerous
and turbulent criminal. The injustice of the sentence, the terrible
miscarriage of justice which had forced him to herd with felons and
to march in irons, had completely changed his nature. From a laughter
loving, easy going, noble hearted athletic Englishman, he was turned
into a morose, stubborn, discipline defying brute. Enforced servitude
was galling to him, but most of all he resented the autocratic power
placed in the hands of brutal and conspicuously unfit officials. When
he thought of what might be the fate of Mary Worthington in their
hands, the desire to kill every soldier and every official responsible
for the preservation of order and discipline in the transport, rose
strong within him. He clenched his fists and shut his jaws like a
steel trap when he was ordered about by men whom he regarded as more
worthy of being in irons than he. The looks of intense hatred and
lothing that he gave his captors made them cautious of him and he was
carefully guarded. They sensed his youth and strength; for had they not
heard that he was England's foremost wrestler? As a measure of safety
he was kept in irons. This further injustice made him all the more
incorrigible, and he was looked upon more so than the other transported
felons as a turbulent, desperate and dangerous criminal. Whilst only
12 prisoners were allowed on deck at a time, he was exercised alone
with a soldier on either side, armed with fixed bayonets to guard
him. The rigour of his confinement made him wish that his sentence
had not been commuted. The gallows would have been preferable. But
when he thought that Mary Worthington was bound for the same goal
as himself, he became, for her sake, more reconciled to his harsh
treatment. Even as a sinner hopes for some gleam of heaven, so did he
hope that, some day, in that far off land of exile, he would, by some
fortuitous circumstance, again vision his heaven in the partner of his
tribulation. It was the glory of his love of her that helped him to
keep his sanity and to bear the tortures of his imprisonment.

Years of experience in transporting felons to the West Indies and
the American Colonies had made the officers of the prison system of
England expert in fitting out transports. Two rows of sleeping berths,
one above the other, extended on each side of the 'tween decks of the
convict ship, each berth being six feet square, and arranged to hold
four convicts, every one of them possessing eighteen inches space to
sleep in. The hospital was in the forepart of the ship with a bulkhead
across separating it from the prison, having two doors with locks to
keep out intruders. Strong wooden stanchions, thickly studded with
nails, were fixed round the fore and main hatchways between decks, in
each of which was a door with three padlocks to let the convicts out
and in, and to secure them at night. The convicts by these means had
no access to the hold through the prison, a ladder being placed in
each hatchway for them to go up and down by; this ladder was pulled
up at night. Scuttle-holes made to open and shut for the admission of
air were cut out along the ship's sides. A large stove and funnel were
placed between decks for warmth and ventilation, and in fact, according
to the regulations, everything that could be thought of was provided
to secure the health and proper comfort of the convicts during their
enforced voyage. It was ordered that each convict was to be allowed
a pair of shoes, three shirts, two pairs of trousers, and other warm
clothing on his embarkation, besides a bed, pillow and blankets, while
it was also ordered by the regulations that Bibles, testaments, and
prayer books were to be distributed among the messes.

The regulations also provided for good and abundant rations consisting
of three quarters of a pound of biscuit for each man per day, in
addition to a dinner of beef or pork and plum pudding with pea soup
four times a week, and a pot of gruel every morning with sugar or
butter in it. Vinegar was to be issued to the messes weekly, and as
soon as the ship had been three weeks at sea, each man was to be served
with one ounce of lime juice and the same of sugar daily to guard
against scurvy; while two gallons of good Spanish red wine, and one
hundred and fifty gallons of water were to be put on board for issuing
to each likewise, in apportionments of three to four gills of wine
weekly and three quarts of water daily.

So much for the regulations of the Transport Board, and for the
Charter Party which so amply provided for the health and comfort of
the unfortunate creatures on their way to exile in a far distant land.
But the captains of transports were merely the agents of unscrupulous
merchants who contracted to fit out and provision vessels. The master
of the Ringarooma shipped on board a far greater quantity of goods
and merchandise for his own private trade than could be possibly
warranted by the usage of the service he was engaged in. By so doing,
the ship was so deeply laden that it became necessary to keep the air
scuttles closed. Owing to the humidity thus created by the confined
state of the convicts, the air became noxious to such a degree as to
extinguish the candles burning in the cabin. That foul air and filth
generate disease was justly verified in the Ringarooma. A dangerous
dysentry and fever appeared to which numbers fell victims; nor were
the necessary means adopted to check the progress of this destroying
malady. On the contrary, one half of the sick were obliged to sleep in
the prison with other prisoners, who were in health. As the prevailing
sickness was contagious to a degree, the infection extended until the
malady became almost general. On the upper deck the spars were raised
three or four feet high on each side in the waist, and the long boat
placed in the centre. The main hatchway was stowed so full of casks
that not a breath of air could pass down into the prisoners, and the
stanchions of the after hatch way were boarded up so close that it was
impossible that a breath of fresh air could pass that way.

The affliction of the convicts did not cease here. The water daily
issued and called three quarts did not exceed a quart--infinitely too
little for men on a constantly salt regimen. Of the four gills of wine
provided by the Charter Party, they received not an ounce. That the
thirst and hunger the prisoners endured might bear some proportion to
each other, they were defrauded of a great part of their ration of
provisions, though, the full measure was charged to the Government.

As the convicts on board the Ringarooma were classed as desperate
felons, they were encumbered by two pairs of heavy irons on their
legs and one round the neck, with a large padlock as an appendage,
that weighed at least a pound and a half. It has been written that
intelligent men are cruel, but that profiteering men who made gain at
the expense of the lives and souls of human beings, are monstrously
cruel.

The master of the Ringarooma and the men under him, including the
officers and soldiers, were stupid scoundrels and they became more
cruel and oppressive as the voyage extended. They feasted and fattened
at the expense of the convicts. But what did that matter! The convicts
were the life-timers, the desperate ones, the incorrigibles. It was
better for the sake of discipline that they should suffer the pangs of
hunger and thirst than that the freemen should go short. Besides, the
voyage would be long, and the wine and water and food must perforce be
stinted--so far as the convicts were concerned--so that the master, the
crew, and the soldiers might suffer no inconvenience in that regard. To
starvation and sickness--twin conditions sufficient to discipline the
most unconscionable--were added physical punishment and torture.

The master of the Ringarooma was one John Gow as execrable a villain
as ever walked a ship's deck. For transportation purposes it was usual
to call for tenders for the outward run only (the ships being chartered
to load timber for the navy for the return journey) and the practice
to accept the tender showing the lowest price per ton even though this
meant taking up a larger space in the vessel than was actually required
for convicts, this additional space being filled up with stores for
trading at South America and South African ports of call. The owners
provided the navigating officer and crew and an approved surgeon,
and they chose the men best fitted and calculated to carry out their
purpose of profiteering.

When the Ringarooma was ready to weigh anchor, the merchants
who had fitted out the vessel and had shipped goods on board, came
to pay a parting visit to the captain, and to give him their final
instructions. It was, moreover, hinted to the captain that the less
number of convicts handed over to the Governor on arrival, the better.
The surgeon ostensibly appointed to attend to the care and management
of the convicts was one Dr. James Honeyman. It was his duty to see
that the master fully complied with the terms of the Charter Party, to
see that the convicts received their due rations, that the food was
properly cooked and regularly served and that sufficient water was
provided for the use of all. Dr. James Honeyman was himself a convict,
convicted at the Middlesex Sessions for swindling a victualler of his
wine, for which offence he was transported for seven years; but as it
was found difficult to obtain surgeons to sail to the other end of the
world on transports, he was released on parole--that if allowed his
liberty on the transport, he would faithfully discharge his prescribed
duties as surgeon during the voyage, and would not try to escape. As
a surgeon Dr. James Honeyman had failed in his profession, and was
incompetent. In other respects he was quite incapable of seeing that
the master fulfilled his charter obligations.

The officer in charge of the military guard was Paul Lewis, the son of
a worthy clergyman, who put him to a grammar school at a very early
age. He had an ambition to become a very fine gentleman and in his
spirited attempts to attain that character, he ran into debt with his
tailor to the amount of one hundred and fifty pounds, which obliged
him to run away and go to sea. There he had for some time behaved so
well that he was made, first a cadet, then a midshipman, and finally a
lieutenant in the Royal Navy. He had served with distinction abroad,
but growing tired of the sea he enlisted in the army of Sir Arthur
Wellesley, served in the Peninsular campaign, and was a captain of
infantry at Waterloo. Under Sir Arthur Wellesley he behaved with
courage and activity. He had vices, however, not common to bravery,
and very different from the irregular sallies of a high spirited
and strong passion. He was not only wicked, but base; not only a
robber, but a scoundrel; of which he gave proofs while on board the
fleet, particularly by collecting three guineas apiece from many of
his brother officers to lay in stores for a West Indian voyage, and
then running away with the collection from the ship and entering the
army. After Waterloo, he returned to England and sought adventure on
the broad highway. He went to a public house at Southwark, where he
stayed the greater part of the day and supped; and then, going to an
inn, hired a horse, rode out between Newington Butts and Vauxhall,
and stopped a gentleman and his son in a post chaise and robbed them,
returning to the public house in Southwark. Being apprehended for this
offence, he was brought to trial at Kingston, when the people of the
public house swearing that he had not been absent from noon to midnight
more than half an hour, he was acquitted. But the episode brought him
under the notice of the police. He was warned, and advised to stick to
soldiering. He rejoined his regiment which had been reformed after the
final roll call at Waterloo.

But the peace that followed the downfall of Napoleon was irksome to his
turbulent spirit, and later on he offered for active service abroad in
any capacity. When it was found necessary by the transport office to
provide a guard for the transports sailing for Australia, Captain Paul
Lewis was assigned to the transport service, and appointed in charge
of the detachment of soldiers placed on board the Ringarooma. His
fitness for the position was regarded as excellent, firstly because he
had seen service in the navy, secondly because he had seen service in
the army, and thirdly because by reason of the highway robbery episode
he was a tool in the hands of the Chief Police Officer of London,
who whispered in his ear before embarking that he wanted to get at
the truth of the murder of Lord Belriven, and as Nigel Lording was a
convict on the Ringarooma bound for the penal settlement at Moreton
Bay, no doubt the opportunity would present itself of getting the truth
from him by some means or other, as there was an element of doubt at
Bow Street as to whether convict Nigel Lording had really committed the
murder of that notorious and profligate nobleman.




CHAPTER XIII.

When the transport Ringarooma was ready to weigh anchor, the
ship-broker and owners of the vessel came on board to give the master
of the ship his final instructions and to supply him with a warrant to
secure and keep in safe custody the prisoners entrusted to his charge
and to enter into the necessary bonds to do so. The captain, agreeable
to custom, entertained his company under an awning on the quarter deck,
after which he ordered the guards to parade the convicts for their
divertisement.

Captain Paul Lewis, who was an interested spectator, asked one of the
guards to point out to him the notorious Nigel Lording, whose trial
for the murder of Lord Belriven and the subsequent remission of his
sentence from capital punishment to transportation for life, under
dramatic circumstances, had caused such a sensation at the time. When
the "lifer" was pointed out to him, he surveyed the convict with a
cold scrutiny as if mentally measuring what amount of torture such a
powerful and athletic man as the convict appeared to be, could bear
before either confessing his crime or breaking down under discipline.

Captain Paul Lewis was a large and very powerful man and most of the
ill-nurtured felons would be but as straw in his strength; but, brave
though he was, he would have hesitated to match his great strength with
the physical perfection of Nigel Lording were the convict free of his
manacles.

"Hell," thought this consummate villain, "what a man to subdue." It was
not long before he started on his work of subjugation.

When the vessel had cleared the Channel, he mentioned to the master
that he had been requested to obtain from Nigel Lording a confession of
his guilt of the murder of Lord Belriven and to use all means in his
power, short of murder, to do so. To this the master readily consented.
How the convicts were treated during the voyage did not concern him so
long as he delivered up alive as many as possible to the Commandant at
Moreton Bay, notwithstanding the hints of the ship-brokers.

Almost from the commencement of the voyage the convicts were stinted
in their rations; but when off Teneriffe, and the vessel was brought
to anchor in Santa Cruz roads, warm weather made it necessary to
curtail the water supply. As most of the provisions consisted of salt
pork, the thirst of the convicts became almost unbearable, and they
preferred a complaint to the master concerning not only ill-treatment,
but with regard to the short allowance of water. Nigel Lording who
was chosen as spokesman because of his education, allied with his
desperate character, preferred the complaint. The burly master, inured
to the hardships of the sea, and with thews and sinews of a Hercules,
listened while Nigel Lording spoke on behalf of the convicts with all
the courtesy and dignity that he could command notwithstanding his iron
manacles.

"Have you finished?" asked Captain John Gow, with a snap of his jaws
like a steel trap, contracting his eyelids, overshadowed by heavy
coarse eyebrows, until his cold grey eyes were focused malignantly on
the convict. Nigel Lording stood in dignified silence.

"Then take that for your answer." Instantly the great fist of the
Captain shot out at a short arc from his shoulder, and crashed on
the point of the manacled convict's jaw. Nigel Lording was felled,
unconscious, to the deck. There was a growl of rage from the convicts;
but ironed from waist to ankle and with fettered wrists they were
powerless to interfere.

Giving the prone convict as he lay on the deck, a vicious kick with his
heavy sea boot, he told the guards to remove him to "solitary," one of
the strongly barred cells set apart for recalcitrant felons.

"Work you will upon 'im. Break 'is spirit until he confesses 'is crime."

Then to the assembled convicts he said "The next cove who complains
will be triced up and flogged into insensibility. Guards, remove this
scum below and batten down the hatches."

It is a terrible thing to see a strong man broken, but all the
ingenious torture devised by Captain Paul Lewis did not wring a
confession from Nigel Lording--for he had nothing to confess save his
innocence--nor break his spirit. But still, the eternal question and
the eternal following punishment went on. Even the dark cell into
which he was thrown, punishment that drove less strong-minded felons
into drivelling and yammering terror, had no effect upon him, for the
darkness was lit by the radiant glory of the girl he loved. Her he
conjured to lighten his darkness; her he enshrined as the warder of his
brain to hold him to sanity. Once she had quoted to him--and the words
vibrated in his memory: "There's never a day goes by or a night that
falls, but some fond thought of you, beloved, calls." And so, with him,
never a day or a night passed, but the memory of her, the thought of
her, was the bliss of his solitude, the balm that soothed his torn and
tortured flesh when clubbed and whipped by inhuman hands.

And because, under the most fiendish torture and the most persistent
persecution, he made no moan and uttered no word that might tend to
ameliorate his punishment, he was regarded as a super-incorrigible
that connoted a human monster capable of the most heinous crimes. And
because of what his persecutors termed his obstinacy, he was starved
of light and food, spreadeagled and thumbed-up, and openly and privily
beaten by brutal guards more criminal and more worthy of punishment
than he.

But there revolved in his mind--a mind that could not be numbed by
torture--the whirling resolve, with hate for its pivot, that if ever
the opportunity was vouchsafed to him, he would make his persecutors
suffer with a refinement of torture of which they had no conception.
The desire for revenge and his absorbing love which covered him with
its invisible protecting shield and dulled his pain like some magic
anaesthesia, buoyed him up under the "disciplinary" treatment that was
meted out to him.

The stinting of the ship's provisions was not confined to convicts.
Captain John Gow had had previous experience in transporting felons to
Australia, and as he had served his employers so well not only to their
profit but to his own as well, his reputation as an uncompromising
pinch-fist, gained for him the captaincy of the Ringarooma. He not
only starved the convicts, but he short-rationed the soldiers and the
crew as well.

Shortly after leaving the harbour of Rio de Janeiro where the captain
landed some of his merchandise, surreptitiously shipped by the owners
at the expense of the transport board, Captain John Gow observed that
a sailor named Paterson was very dilatory in executing his orders. The
captain demanded to know why he did not exert himself to unfurl the
sail's, to which the sailor made no direct answer, but was heard to
mutter: "As we eat so shall we work." The captain heard the remark but
took no notice of it as he was unwilling to proceed to extremities.
He had, moreover, noticed that some of the sailors seemed to be in
league with the soldiers, and this, together with the fact that his
conduct had been complained of and his orders disobeyed, caused him to
consult with the first mate, Ambrose Johnson. Thereupon they agreed
to deposit a number of small arms in the cabin in order to defend
themselves in case of attack. The captain, not desiring to leave
anything vital undone, directed Ambrose Johnson to order the second
mate and gunner, Thomas Lympus, to clean the arms, a circumstance that
plainly hinted to Lympus that the master and first mate were suspicious
of a mutiny. He mentioned the matter to Captain Paul Lewis, who, having
been a lieutenant in the navy, felt himself superior to the master
and chafed at being subservient to his orders. Having some knowledge
of navigation, he conceived the idea of fomenting a mutiny, placing
himself in charge of the vessel, and turning pirate. To this end he
judiciously picked his men from among the crew and soldiers under him;
but he was faced with the problem of dealing with the convicts. There
were two hundred of them on board, many of them execrable villains, who
would welcome any diversion to relieve them of the terrible monotony of
the voyage. He decided to take his pick of the most subservient, and
the others--well--probably they would not greatly mind if they were
made to walk the plank. Death would be an immediate relief from further
torture, if not on board the ship, then at any rate in that remote hell
on land to which they were consigned.

Having carefully and secretly prepared a list of his "loyal"
conspirators, he chose from among them an executive of five which
included the second mate Lympus, the carpenter David Morgan, Corporal
Richard Bailey, who had in his earlier days been a smuggler,
and Convict William Adams, a boatswain who after returning from
transportation for attempting, with divers others, to break into the
Custom House at Poole, was sentenced to seven years penal servitude.
Having served his sentence in Tasmania, he, on his return to England,
was again transported, this time for life, for the murder of his master
who had employed him as a gardener in his orchard in Kent, the cause of
the crime being a dispute respecting the pruning of a vine.

Adams was looked upon as second only to Nigel Lording in being the most
desperate criminal on the Ringarooma. One day when being exercised
on deck, he, to show his contempt for discipline; jingled his chains
in a jig on the teak decking. The master ordered him to be triced up
to the mast where he was accommodated with a hundred strokes of the
"cat." The master stood by to see that the punishment was inflicted.
When the castigation was over, it had so little effect on his hardened
frame--he had suffered similar punishment at Hobart town--he turned
and spat in the master's face. For this disgusting offence, he was
placed in "solitary" for 30 days. His cell was next to that of Nigel
Lording. The cells used for solitary confinement were 'tween decks
next to the hospital. They were closely boarded up with heavy planking
clamped closely together and secured by wrought iron bands and heavy,
tight fitting doors securely padlocked. These hell-holes were so
constructed that no light whatever could penetrate them when they were
shut and locked, and they made "solitary" punishment the abiding terror
of weak-minded felons. Even the most hardened criminal would prefer
gruelling punishment, at the most, than a term of close imprisonment
in these dungeons. For purposes of ventilation, small square holes,
strongly barred, were cut in the walls of the cells so that when the
port holes were open, a current of air passed through from cell to
cell. Sound followed the air from windward to leeward. When the sea was
not too rough, voices and even whispers in the windward cell could be
heard in the leeward one. Nigel Lording's cell was to the leeward of
the one occupied by Adams.

Captain Paul Lewis who had, as officer in charge of the soldiers and
the chief warder of the convicts, free run of the ship, found ample
opportunity to sound both convicts and soldiers as to their willingness
to capture the vessel, and turn pirates. He made a list of those whom
he termed the "loyalists." This list comprised the second mate, eight
of the crew, ten of the convicts, twelve of the soldiers and himself as
captain. He had arranged, when the moment was opportune, to have the
irons knocked off the "loyal" convicts and to arm them with cutlasses.
The soldiers only were to be armed with firearms. By this means, the
convicts could be over-awed if they in turn thought it fit to rebel
against the rebels. Lympus was to be first mate and Adams second mate.

The "executive" at midnight, a few weeks later, when the scheme for
carrying the mutiny into effect, held a secret meeting in the cell of
Adams whose irons were knocked off. The night was still and the vessel
sailed on an even keel off the western coast of South Africa. It was
not a favourable night for a conspiracy. The slightest sound between
decks carried. In the dark cells, day and night were almost merged into
one long night and Nigel Lording not knowing the time was awake. He
had been beaten up a few hours before by his torturer, Lewis. His pain
kept him awake. The darkness of the cells making his eyesight useless,
quickened his sense of hearing. He sensed that something unusual was
going on in the cell next to him and attuned his hearing to catch
the slightest sound. He heard the manacles being removed from Adams,
but for what purpose? Then he heard whispering. Whose whispering was
it? What was the purport of it? Listening intently for an incautious
clue, he was rewarded. The hatred he bore Captain Paul Lewis for his
relentless tortures made him sensible of the minutest detail about him,
his voice, the odour of him, the peculiar hissing between his teeth
when he became excited. He was excited now and he hissed the plot of
the mutiny to Adams, Lympus, Morgan and Bailey. As stealthily as a
prowling cat, Nigel Lording raised himself as near as he could get to
the air hole between his cell and that of Adams and listened with the
acute hearing of a wild animal. Though standing up and listening in
his tortured state was painful, nevertheless he continued to hear the
muttered names of the conspirators, and the method devised to murder
the captain and first mate and to seize the ship.

Half of the ship's company were regularly called to prayers in the
great cabin at 8 o'clock in the evening, while the other half were
doing duty on deck. After service, those who had been in the cabin went
to rest in their hammocks. The arrangement was to execute the plot at
this juncture. Only two of the conspirators were to remain on duty.
The rest were to retire to their hammocks. Between nine and ten at
night a watchword was to be given. This was "Moreton Bay." On hearing
this watchword, the conspirators were to go to the cabins of the chief
mate, the surgeon, and the super-cargo and cut their throats while they
were asleep. The captain who would be on the upper deck in charge of
the ship, would then be dealt with. The meeting was arranged for the
following night.

Now and again Captain Paul Lewis muttered a little too loudly. Lympus
growled, "The covey next door will hear yer."

"Plague take the villain!" hissed back Paul Lewis. "To-day I thrashed
him into insensibility. He'll be one of the first to go overboard."

Very stealthily the conspirators left the cell of Bill Adams, Lewis
then closed the door silently and locked the great padlock with his own
key.

When they had gone, Nigel Lording started thinking in deadly earnest.
He bore the master of the Ringarooma no love, but after all, he
represented authority--the law. Though he had not much respect for a
law that had branded him a felon, nevertheless, there was a thing about
to be carried into effect which was repugnant to his sense of justice,
to his sense of fair play. Though he did not have much regard for a
brute such as he considered the master of the Ringarooma to be,
his hatred and lothing of Captain Paul Lewis was such that he would
side with the master rather than with such a scoundrel and bully as
Paul Lewis. With him in charge of the ship it would be hell let loose.
Distinguished by the ferocity of his nature, he would, as captain of
the mutineers, have such an opportunity of exerting his mania for
cruelty, that he would soon prove himself to be a detestable and
bloodthirsty villain. Backed up by a criminal, a hell-hound like Adams,
he would exert his influence in the direction of cruelty with a degree
of severity that would render his memory execrable.

Death at the hands of such monsters was not what Nigel Lording looked
forward to. He had not yet abandoned hope. He still cherished the
prospect that he would, in the not far distant future, meet Mary
Worthington. Whilst she was alive life was still dear to him, and he
would, therefore, rather trust to the mercy of John Gow than that of
Paul Lewis.

But how to apprise the master? That was a question to be answered. As
there was no mention by the conspirators of the name of the first mate,
Ambrose Johnson, he concluded that he was not one of the conspirators.
At any rate he would have to take that risk.

It was the duty of the first mate each morning to patrol the ship. This
brought him into close contact with the convicts including those placed
for the time being in "solitary." This duty Ambrose Johnson, well
armed, performed alone. He wanted to know each day at first hand, how
matters stood with the ship. Nigel Lording seized this as the fitting
opportunity to disclose the proposed mutiny. When, therefore, Ambrose
Johnson, on the morning following the secret meeting in the cell of the
convict, Adams, looked in at the cell of Nigel Lording, he was arrested
by Nigel Lording's muttering earnestly, scarcely above a whisper,
"Beware of mutiny."

Then he placed a finger on his lips, indicating silence and discretion,
and jerked his head towards the cell of convict Bill Adams.

"A mutiny? Are you raving, man?" Ambrose Johnson whispered back.

"My God, no. There's no time to lose. For God's sake take me to the
captain. I will explain," pleaded Nigel Lording.

"Can I trust you?"

"Please yourself, sir, but I was never more serious in my life."

"Very well. Keep quiet. I'll see the captain."

When Ambrose Johnson mentioned the matter to Captain John Gow in the
privacy of his cabin, the master felt dubious and was inclined to treat
the matter lightly.

"What's the villain's game?" asked the master. "Locked up in solitary,
how could he possibly learn anything? To hell with him and his mutiny!
It's only a ruse to break confinement. He's a cunning dog and I don't
trust the blighter."

"I don't think so, sir. Better not run any risk. If Lording's foxing,
you can easily take it out of him later."

"By God, you're right, Johnson. Bring the gallow's cheat here. We'll
hear what he has to say for himself. When does his term of 'solitary'
expire?"

"To-day, sir."

"Good, when he's released, let him exercise on the deck as usual, but
see that he speaks to no one. Then leave the matter to me."

It was a pale physical wreck that marched the deck in clanking irons
with the first contingent of the exercise squad.

The captain sat on the poop, while the armed guard lined the deck as
the convicts paraded.

Nigel Lording, weak from long confinement, and suffering pain from his
recent man-handling by Captain Paul Lewis, stumbled as he tried to
march with his fellow prisoners. This seemed to displease John Gow.

"Bring that prisoner to me," he shouted with an oath. "I'll teach him
how to march properly. By God, he'll learn what discipline is on this
ship." Two of the soldiers marched him up to the captain.

"Take him to my cabin," he shouted, drawing his pistol from his belt.
"If he shows any sign of disrespect, I'll deal with him. Is he going to
contaminate the whole ship with his insubordination?"

In acting in this tyrannical manner, John Gow did so for a purpose. If
there was any suspicion on board that convict Nigel Lording had any
inkling of the proposed mutiny, his demeanour towards the convict would
tend to allay it.

Nigel Lording sensed that the master was acting the Bombastes Furioso
in order to hoodwink the conspirators and it was, therefore, with
a feeling of elation, which he took good care not to show, that he
marched off to the captain's cabin under strict escort.

"Leave him to me," the captain said to the two soldiers. "If he turns
a hair in the wrong direction, I'll know how to deal with him. You may
return to your quarters."

The soldiers saluted and turned about. They were aware that the master
was by nature cruel and hardened by practice in cruelty. Alone in his
cabin with Nigel Lording, the captain demanded to know what he knew
about this cock-and-bull story of a mutiny.

Nigel Lording knew from bitter experience that the master of the
Ringarooma was not a man to be trifled with. He knew also that he
was a man who would adopt no half measures in dealing with mutineers.

"Sir," he said to the captain respectfully, but convincingly, "it is
not a cock-and-bull story that I have to tell you. If it turns out to
be that, as you appear to think, you have the power to deal with me
accordingly. My life is in your hands. I'll tell you what I know, not
because I'm a traitor, but because you represent authority on this
transport and have in your keeping not only the ship, but all the lives
on it. If the mutiny be accomplished, I'll get no quarter, nor do I ask
any reward at your hands for acquainting you with what I know. The law
has condemned me to be a felon, and you, even if you wished, could not
lessen my sentence by one hour. I must serve it to the bitter end. But
I'm not so base as to keep to myself information that by disclosing it
to you may be the means, if you act promptly, of saving not only your
own life but the lives of many on board this transport."

The captain, in spite of himself, was impressed by what Nigel Lording
had said. He was not an educated man, but he was a man of sound common
sense and recognised sincerity and breeding. That Nigel Lording was no
common felon he knew, but he was given the impression that he was a
most dangerous criminal, and had treated him accordingly.

"Go on, spit it out, Lording. Tell me what you know."

When Nigel Lording had told the captain how he had come to learn of the
conspiracy to murder him and the first mate and to seize the ship he
was convinced. He wrote down the names of all the persons implicated
as told to him. Then he spoke through a speaking tube to Captain Paul
Lewis, requesting him to send two of his soldiers to escort convict
Nigel Lording back to the lower deck and to trice him up for a flogging.

"His spirit is not yet broken," he informed Lewis. "He still maintains
that he is innocent of the murder of Lord Belriven."

As Captain Paul Lewis was an execrable villain, steeped to the ultimate
in cruelty, he was not slow in giving the necessary order to his
soldiers. If what Nigel Lording had told the captain were true the
soldiers then on duty were not among those concerned in the conspiracy
to mutiny. The master was aware of this when he ordered the tricing up
of Nigel Lording, and his mind worked quickly. The remainder of the
soldiers who were off duty and who were unarmed were either resting or
lolling about the ship. They would be on night duty fully armed. This
had been arranged by Lewis. The mutiny was to take place that night
when the soldiers not in the confidence of the mutineers would be in
their hammocks all unconscious of their impending fate. The authority
of the "old man," as the master was termed, was paramount. No one, not
even Captain Paul Lewis, dared dispute his authority on the transport.
It pleased him, therefore, to make the flogging of convict Lording as
public as possible, as a deterrent and a warning to the soldiers as
well as to the crew, that discipline must be rigidly maintained. As the
arbiter of life and death on his little floating kingdom, he ordered
all those whom he believed to be concerned in the proposed mutiny, to
assemble at the flagellation, and as a safeguard, he further ordered
the soldiers to form a cordon round the interested spectators.

Now it was a most unusual, if not an unprecedented, action on the part
of the master to give orders to the soldiers, and Lewis protested.

"Sir," he said to the master, turning a trifle pale, "I am in command
of the soldiers. They get their orders from me."

"Yes," snapped the master with a frown, and sticking out his determined
chin. "The way I looks on it is this. When the general commands, the
captain must stand aside. 'Ow in the name of Gawd could discipline in
the army be maintained otherwise? Cap'n Lewis, ain't I the general in
charge of this ship? Next to me is the first mate. Come 'ere Johnson
and stand by me. Next to him comes the second mate. Stand by Captain
Lewis, Lympus."

The master's contention was unanswerable, and Paul Lewis submitted with
the best grace that he could command. His turn would soon come. With
this reflection he smiled and said:

"Have it your own way, sir."

Turning to his soldiers he said, "Captain Gow is right, men. He is in
charge of the King's ship. His commands are law. See that you obey
them."

He had no desire to precipitate the mutiny. It was his policy at
present to find no grounds for suspicion. In the fondness of his
conceit he did not imagine for one moment that the master had any
suspicion of what was afoot. In requesting the soldiers to obey the
master, he forged the strongest link in his own fetters.

With a bitter curse, to make the scene the more impressive, Captain
Gow, pointing his finger at Nigel Lording, shouted, "This gallow's
cheat, the murderer of one of England's nobs, 'as a contession to
make. Sink 'is soul in hell, if he doesn't confess now, the onnatural
villain will not live to see the voyage out. Two 'undered and fifty
strokes with the 'cat' will make 'im so as 'e'll never confess. And
this 'cat,'" he continued, holding up a cat o'nine tails, "is not an
ordinary 'cat' such as they uses in the navy, but a double 'cat' such
as they uses at Macquarie 'Arbour. That other 'lifer' Adams knows. 'E's
felt it. 'Ere, Johnson, take two of the guards an' bring Adams 'ere
to witness this little ceremony. The 'cat's' licked 'is 'ide at Port
Arthur and Macquarie 'Arbour. It'll be eddyfying ter 'im ter see 'is
cobber taste the double 'cat' which 'e 'isself taught the sailors to
make. A nice fine little 'cat' with a double twist of whipcord, and in
each o' its nine tails it 'as nine knots."

When Adams was brought from his dark cell blinking in the strong
sunlight he was made to stand near Nigel Lording, and the master said:

"Afore we trice 'im up I'll give 'im a last opportunity to confess. If
'e doesn't may the Lord 'a' mercy on his soul. Now thin, Lording, you
gallows cheat, confess. You know what you confessed to me in the cabin.
Now confess before the crew and the ship's company. Speak up!"

Standing on the upper deck, abaft the main mast, manacled, gaunt,
hollow-cheeked, clad in prison garb, the centre of attraction, the
cynosure of all eyes, Nigel Lording faced the master of the vessel,
the captain of the guard, the crew, and the assembled soldiers. All,
save the master and the first mate, expected to hear his confession of
the murder of Lord Belriven. But as he stood on the raised covering
of the hatchway no one looked less like a brutal murderer--standing
erect with his head thrown back and his manacled arms by his side he
looked at his audience squarely and fearlessly. His eyes, bright and
piercing in their glance, were focused upon his arch-tormentor, Paul
Lewis. Moistening his parched lips with his tongue, he said, slowly and
deliberately:

"The law has said I am a murderer. It is useless for a condemned
felon to rail against the law. No confession of mine, unless I could
bring forward proofs, would mitigate one iota my terrible sentence.
Branded as a felon, I must bear to the full the decree of the law for
the term of my natural life. Therefore, concerning myself, I have
nothing to confess. Even though I receive five hundred or a thousand
strokes I have nothing to confess. No good purpose would be served.
I am convicted. To say I am innocent of that, for which I have been
sentenced would make a liar of the law. That is not my purpose. My
purpose is to make an altogether different confession, and as an
earnest of what I am going to confess, I offer my life as forfeit it I
am proved to be wrong.

"In the darkness of my cell last night I heard whispers. Raising my
bruised and writhing body (for I had but an hour before been beaten
into insensibility to make me confess a crime that the law says I
committed) to the vent hole in my cell. These whispers were borne to me
on the wings of mercy. I listened to them. They came from the cell of
convict Adams and they spoke of a mutiny on this ship----"

Nigel Lording here stopped and looked straight into the eyes of Captain
Paul Lewis who paled under their direct gaze and raised his hand as if
to stop the speaker.

Captain John Gow also had his eyes fastened on Lewis and noted his
demeanour. The second mate, Lympus looked round as if seeking for some
place to hide, and convict Adams glared at the captain of the guard
for being such a fool for conspiring in his cell when there was a
convict in the next cell who would blow the gaff to get even with his
persecutor. Over all there was consternation.

"Go on," shouted the master in a voice that made the innocent jump and
the guilty quake. "Finish yer confession. That's what Cap'n Lewis is
waiting to 'ear."

"Sir, I object," heatedly shouted Captain Paul Lewis in retort. "The
man's raving. I've seen no sign of a mutiny on the ship."

"That's as mebbe, captain. We'll come to that later. I want to 'ear all
that this ravin' lunatic 'as to say. Go on, Lording."

"The persons in that cell," continued Nigel Lording, "were Captain Paul
Lewis, Lympus the second mate, Morgan the carpenter, and Bailey the
boatswain. These, with convict Adams, were the executive. The soldiers
now off duty and certain of the convicts who had been sounded, were to
be the mutineers. You, sir," he said, turning to John Gow, "and the
first mate, the surgeon, and the super-cargo, were the first to have
your throats cut. The watchword was 'Moreton Bay.' The remainder of the
soldiers and the convicts were to be shot or made to walk the plank.
That's my confession, sir."

"So that's their little game, eh?" said the master tensely. "Soldiers
on guard," he commanded, in a voice of thunder, "arrest Captain Paul
Lewis, Lympus, Morgan, and Bailey, and place them in irons."

The soldiers on guard who were to be victims of the mutiny, made to
obey instantly the master's orders. The confession of Nigel Lording
rang too true to be doubted.

Then the unexpected happened. Captain Paul Lewis, who never went
unarmed on that transport of criminals, drew his pistol and shouted
"Moreton Bay," and was about to fire at Gow. Alert as a panther, Nigel
Lording, though loaded with irons, manacled at wrists and ankles,
jumped with incredible swiftness and caught Captain Paul Lewis in his
arms. His eyes during his "confession" never left the captain for an
instant, and he interpreted his slightest movement. Before the pistol
was properly levelled at the master it was deflected, exploded, and
convict William Adams was accidentally shot dead. Paul Lewis was thrown
heavily to the deck and the mutiny started. The conspirators, shouting
"Moreton Bay" in the hope that the armed guard on duty would understand
the watchword and join in the mutiny, attempted to seize the ship. But
above the din the voice of the master rose supreme.

"Soldiers, do yer duty," he shouted. This was the voice of authority,
and the armed guard obeyed. Were they not ordered by their own
commanding officer to obey the authority of the master? Every man who
shouted "Moreton Bay" was a mutineer and was either bayoneted or shot.
In a few minutes the mutiny was quelled. Those who were not killed
or wounded surrendered. The master, with his smoking pistol in his
hand--he had accounted for the second mate, who had attempted to stab
him--stepped down from the poop.

"I'll teach yer to mutiny, yer blasted scoundrels. Soldiers, arrest
them and see that they are placed in irons."

Then turning to Captain Paul Lewis, who, bruised and bleeding, was held
to the deck by Nigel Lording, he said, "As f'r you, yer rascal, I'll
learn yer ter mutiny. A taste o' the 'cat' will tell yer by its purring
what discipline means. 'Ere, Lording, ow d'yer spell discipline? Spell
is slowly."

"D-i-s-c-i-p-l-i-n-e, sir."

The master counted the ten letters on his fingers. "Ten times ten is an
'undred, ain't that currect, Lording?"

"It is, sir."

"Soldiers, strip 'im to the waist and trice 'im to the main mast, arms
lashed apart to the iron rings above 'is 'ead and legs spread apart and
tied to rings on the deck. By God, Captain Lewis, yer won't be fit to
mutiny when the 'cat's' finished licking of yer back."

Fearfully the hapless captain glanced at the master to see if he
really meant it. But he saw no repenting in the scowling and brutal
countenance of the master. He was conscious that a terrible retribution
at the instance of the man whom he had brutally and mercilessly
man-handled to wring repentance and a confession from him had overtaken
him. Miserably he grovelled and begged for mercy, but it was as useless
to beg for mercy from a demon in the nethermost pit of hell as to beg
for it to John Gow.

"'Ere, Johnson," the master said, turning to the first mate, "remove
the irons from Lording. 'E won't want them again this voyage. Now,
Lording, the 'cat' and give the traitor a taste of 'is own medicine,"
grinned the master when the irons had been removed from Nigel Lording.
Taking the "cat" in his right hand and testing its weight, Nigel
Lording answered:

"Sir, I am at present too weak from ill-treatment to do your command
justice. I would beg that you place the 'cat' in stronger and more
powerful hands than mine. To do the job properly you want two strong
men, a left and a right hander."

"Gawd! who but a man out for vengeance would 'a' tho't o' that now.
Man, yer a hinspiration."

The master called for volunteers to act as flagellators and several
offered their services. They were only too eager to curry the favour of
such a tyrant as the master could be when it suited him.

Picking out two of the strongest of those who proffered their services,
one a right-hander and the other a left-hander, he bade them lay to and
do their worst.

The punishment was a terrible one. Though the two flagellators were not
artists in the profession of the "cat" the deck soon became wet with
human blood. Before twenty lashes had been inflicted the writhing man
howled for mercy, but the flogging went on relentlessly to the bitter
end. When it was finished he was untied. He dropped groaning to the
deck.

"Throw a bucket of salt water over 'im and then cast the dead mutineers
overboard," ordered the master.




CHAPTER XIV.

The seven months of voyaging was almost at an end. The man on the look
out shouted: "Land ahead!" A murmur that rose to a shout formed the one
word, "Australia."

Cramped and confined 'tween decks with but short intervals for
exercise, in limited numbers at a time, the convicts, notwithstanding
disease, sickness and ill-treatment, which made their lot a living
horror, and the ship a floating abyss of unmentionable agony, had
quickened pulses of eager expectation when word reached them that the
land of their ultimate destination was in sight.

If the future had in store for them further trials and punishments,
such a contingency was forgotten for the moment. They were sick of the
sea. Their hatred of the ship was malevolent and impious. Even if death
awaited them in the land of their long imprisonment, they would eagerly
go forward to meet it so long as they could feel the solid, stable
earth beneath their feet.

Australia!

To many of the felons there was a ring of hope in the word. To them
it meant more than a geographical entity. It meant deliverance from
the sea and the ship and the brutality of prison life on board the
transport. Even if their stepping on the shore of the unknown land
meant exile for ever from the land of their birth and upbringing, yet
there was always hope, always unforeseen possibilities that might,
somehow, or some day, work in their favour, work towards their reprieve
and liberation.

To Nigel Lording, freed of his irons and granted liberty by a grateful
master who owed the safety of his ship and his life to him, hope loomed
large on the horizon that outlined. Australia. It seemed to him in
his semi-liberty--for he was still legally a convict who could not be
reprieved by the master of the Ringarooma--that no portals could
shut out hope. No matter how terrible his punishment had been, and
might still be, there would be a way through and out at last.

And above and beyond all was his love for Mary Worthington. In the
seven months' voyaging he had lived on the memory of that love, and
watered it with the unshed tears of his anguish. To him it was as
measureless as the depths that lie between star and star, and as strong
as the roll of a flood when the thunders crash. To his lone soul, the
name of Mary Worthington was sweeter than voices attuned to the rhythm
of songs divine or the undying fame that men win mid the thunders of
battle. And she? What of her? Would the lamp of Destiny guide her steps
to his or his to her? Were they not both like children stumbling in
the dark? Life for them was but "a chequerboard of nights and days."
Destiny moved them hither and hither until some day--perhaps, their
paths would converge and ultimately meet. And then?

The land first sighted was the south coast near Cape Leeuwin, but it
was a long thrash round the coast from the Leeuwin to Moreton Bay. The
convicts were bitterly disappointed when they learnt that it would be
some weeks yet before they reached Moreton Bay. They imagined that
Australia was but a small island and that Moreton Bay would be but a
short distance round the corner from the cape called Leeuwin. They had
yet to learn of the immensity of Australia.

As the days passed into weeks, they suffered the poignant feeling of
hope deferred. The sea, the sea, the eternal sea! They hated it but a
degree less than they hated the transport, and the gruelling discipline
that they had been subjected to since the quelling of the mutiny. Many
gave up hope of ever treading on land again. They cursed the master
for not running into the first inlet that ate into the long low coast
line, and for their curses they were answered by the lash. But still
they begged to be landed even if they had to walk to Moreton Bay. Their
ignorance of the geographical distances of the great Southern Continent
was sublime.

But at last the voyage, revolting in the sickening horror of the
cruelty and suffering of its continuance, was ended. At the dawn of a
May morning, the Ringarooma was tossed over the bar of the South
Passage between Moreton and Stradbroke Islands, and was anchored in
Moreton Bay.

To the scurvy stricken voyagers, the calm waters of the bay was a haven
of refuge after the seven months' buffeting at sea. In the western
distance, mountains and ranges were outlined in diaphanous blue; to
the north the towering peaks of the Glass House Mountains, Beerwah,
Coonowrin, Tibrogargan, Beerburrum, N'gungun and Tibberoowuccun uprose
in their silent, eternal majesty; to the South dense scrub and bush and
undulating hills, swept away into immeasurable distance; and beside
the long sweeping coast line, clothed with its regalia of trees and
mangroves, lay Bribie Island girdled by sloping sands along which the
waters of the Bay crept and receded in perpetual murmur; whilst over
all as the sun went down on a cloudless day behind the western ranges,
hung the vault of the darkening sky tinted in rose and purple, shaded
to heliotrope. The calm of the bay, the gorgeousness of a semi-tropical
sunset, the quiet and stillness that hung over land and water like a
benediction, brought the awe of a wonderful peace that seemed past all
understanding into the lives of the felons. So this was Moreton Bay,
whose very name had filled them with a fearful dread; but instead of
a prison of suffering and torture, it was an earthly paradise. Soft
scents were wafted out of the bush by gentle breezes that kissed the
grime and hardened faces of the criminals. For a space they forgot
their miseries and embittered memories in the contemplation of the
wonderful panorama of land and softly curling water spread out before
them.

Then as the gold of the setting sun flowed back from the peaks of the
Glass House Mountains, night dropped its sombre curtain over land and
bay, and the stars from their measureless remoteness glittered in the
inverted bowl of the sky.

And this was to be their place of living death! This paradise, the
world's remotest hell! But they had yet to learn that man's inhumanity
to man could smirch and smear by monstrous hate and pain, the fairest
scenes of paradise.

Then from the contemplation of supernal glories, they were brought down
to the infernal realities of their merciless existence.

As the Ringarooma lay motionless on the bosom of the Bay, Master
John Gow mustered his felons for a last roll-call, and there were many
gaps in the ranks. On the morrow he would have to hand over the indents
of his "lifers" to the Commandant at the settlement on the Brisbane
River.

"If yer think that the worst of yer troubles is over now that y've
arrove at Moreton Bay, may Gawd forgive yer for a lot of ignorant
blackguards. Yer troubles is only starting. Yer sufferin' and
punishment on this 'ere vessel ain't as nothin' to what y'll 'ave ter
submit to under the rigid discipline of his Excellency, Commandant
Captain Lannigan. When yer step off this 'ere flotin' 'ell as ye've
called it, yer'll step right inter a 'ell of 'is making which is worser
than this 'ell, and may the Lord 'a' mercy on yer souls."

Captain Lannigan!

When Nigel Lording heard this name mentioned by the master, all hope
that he had fondly entertained of lenient treatment vanished. There
loomed up before his mind the "hue of dungeons and the scowl of night."
At the entrance of the great river up which they were about to sail,
there seemed to be plainly inscribed on an invisible banner that
stretched from bank to bank, "All hope abandon ye who enter here."

Captain Lannigan!

Must he, Nigel Lording, under the menace of that name, under the
dominance of the man who bore it, bear to the utmost all the horror of
this unjust sentence? There was no dodging his destiny. God of heaven!
And it was into the custody of this tyrant that Mary Worthington would
ultimately pass!

"God of Mercy! If there be such a God, let her die first in the radiant
glory of her innocence before she passed under the control of this
reputed monster!"

But the predestined plot of dust and soul must be woven out to the
ultimate end, and, on the morrow the transport sailed out of the Bay
into the mouth of the great river--the gateway to a vast and unknown
land, bearing its criminal contingent to the newest settlement of an
Empire.

From such a beginning was destined to grow a great city, and a great
state. From the loins of such men, the forerunners of a marvellous
civilisation, there would spring and grow a virile race, fearless and
intrepid, who would walk erect with eyes clear and shining, looking
into the future with a sublime confidence, honoured and respected
settlers, statesmen, poets, and builders of a dominion of imperial
greatness.

No Norman Conquest warriors, Mayflower pilgrims or Huguenots who sailed
in their galiots for the New World to make a home in the wilderness
free from religious persecution, were these felons who on that May
morning of long ago sailed up the Brisbane river in chains and fetters
to live or die as circumstance might warrant, but forced adventurers
of British blood, victims of penal laws, under which British society
rid itself of its most turbulent elements and at the same time supplied
labour for the new colonies. Out of the agonising crucible of the
infamous system of transportation made notorious by the power of
autocratic and sometimes conspicuously unfit officials who were cruel,
callous, and merciless in the extreme, there would emerge a new race
that would grow to wealth and power and would lay the foundations of
an illustrious state in which the infamy of its beginning would be
unremembered, and its glory grow brighter and more radiant with the
succeeding years.




CHAPTER XV.

Pearce Lannigan, Commissioned Captain in the 57th Regiment and
Commandant of the Moreton Bay penal settlement, had been advised by
the captain of the brig Amity that a transport had arrived in the
bay and was now on its way up the Brisbane River. In less than an hour
it would be moored in the Bight, a bend in the river formed by a sharp
sweep of the current round Kangaroo Point.

The settlement was a very primitive one, governed by a military
despotism. Besides the commandant there were other military officers
who had charge of the troops. The staff consisted of a captain, two
lieutenants, and two ensigns. There were also the hospital surgeon, a
surveyor, a botanist, a superintendent of convicts, a superintendent of
agriculture, an overseer of works, a commissariat officer, a chaplain,
and several other officers of minor grades. The native name of the
settlement was Maginchin, subsequently named Brisbane, after Sir Thomas
Brisbane, the Governor of New South Wales, who first visited the
Moreton Bay Settlement in 1824.

Leaving his quarters on the north bank of the river facing South
Brisbane, the commandant, accompanied by the superintendent of
convicts, Terence O'Rourke, and a bodyguard consisting of Lieutenant
George Partridge and six soldiers of the 57th, armed with loaded
carbines, proceeded along a track through the clearing in the bush down
to the Bight, there to await the arrival of the transport.

On the way they passed a gang of "incorrigibles," double ironed, who
were employed making a main roadway from the official quarters and
soldiers' barracks to the Bight. This roadway was named Queen Street.
Over the convicts was a guard of soldiers, whilst perched up in the
fork of a gumtree, forty feet from the ground, was a sentry box, where
a sentry with a loaded carbine was on watch all day, keeping an eye
on the toiling convicts and a watch on the blacks who were in the
habit of swimming over from Kangaroo Point on the opposite side of the
river to steal corn from the cultivation, over which the botanist,
Charles Fraser, exercised a superintendence. As the commandant with his
bodyguard passed the manacled, toiling convicts he was met with looks
of intense hatred, for he was heartily detested for his tyrannical and
supercilious character. During his sway the swish of the lash was ever
resounding through the settlement, and near Frog Hollow, through which
ran a muddy mangrove creek, was a huge pine tree to which the convicts
were tied and flogged.

The rule of Commandant Lannigan was arbitrary and despotic in the
extreme. Though he was a martinet of the most inflexible type,
enforcing his orders with a ruthless hand, yet, it is believed, he was
governed by a sense of duty and a great desire to make the settlement a
success. Far away from the seat of Government at Sydney, and surrounded
by savage blacks and a set of lawless men, perhaps the worst and vilest
in the whole colony, the position of the commandant and his officers
was not enviable. Though a stern and strict discipline was no doubt
absolutely necessary, nevertheless, the commandant was not prone to
mercy, and carried his discipline to the extent of ferocious brutality,
which drove some of the poor wretches to abscond; this meant either to
consort with the blacks, to perish in the unknown bush, or to return,
starving and penitent, to the camp and receive merciless punishment by
the lash--as many strokes as the commandant might choose to inflict.
The last happened most frequently, though several of the absconding
felons were adopted by the native tribes and lived with them for years
until they lost even their language and all semblance of civilisation.

In the disciplining of the convicts, the commandant was well backed up
by the ferocious and pitiless superintendent, O'Rourke, and there was
ever before them the possibility of being murdered by the desperate
felons if a favourable opportunity to wreak their vengeance on the
tyrants presented itself. It was for that reason that the commandant
never went unarmed and was always escorted by a bodyguard when he
made his rounds of inspection of the works at the settlement, which
were being carried out under his personal direction and under the
supervision of the overseer for works.

"It's to be hoped, O'Rourke," said the commandant as they walked
towards the Bight, "that there'll be some stone masons among the
prisoners. I want some good tradesmen to complete the windmill on the
hill and the commissariat stores on the Settlement reach."

"To say nothin' of barricks and cells, y'r Excellency, fer the new
arrivals. Faith, there'll be some disciplining to do with thim coves or
me name ain't O'Rourke," rejoined the superintendent.

Captain Pearce Lannigan brooked no formality with the officers and men
under him. He insisted on being spoken to, and of, as "Excellency." The
more subservient the demeanour towards him the better he liked it.

"Well, O'Rourke, as for that, we'll give them an object lesson
immediately on their arrival. There's nothing like making a good
impression, by God."

"Meanin' y'r Excellency?"

"That absconder that crawled back from the bush last evening--his
fifth escape and return--Jem Davis. When the convicts are disembarked
from the transports, ye'll see that they are lined up in the square
round the pine tree to witness the flogging of Jem Davis. It will be a
fitting occasion for a sermon on discipline."

"Faith, an' who but y'r Excellency would 'ave thought of such a bit of
play actin' 'as that. Sure, its the grrund idea," sycophantly remarked
Superintendent O'Rourke.

Arriving at the Bight where the Amity was moored, the commandant
inquired of the captain when he expected the transport to arrive.

"In about an hour's time, your excellency," replied Captain Thomas.
"It's now about sailing up Hamilton reach."

The Amity had been cruising in the Bay and had learnt of the arrival
of the transport.

"Gad, O'Rourke, we'll have our hands full when this batch arrives.
There'll be about 200 of them all told if the full complement arrives.
It'll take some hominy to feed the brutes."

Then turning to O'Rourke, the Commandant directed that the convicts
should be rowed up the river from the Bight to the King's wharf at the
Commissariat Stores, marshalled at the barracks to check the inventory,
and then assembled at Pine Tree Square to be officially addressed and
to witness the flogging of Jem Davis, the absconder.

"And look ye, O'Rourke," enjoined the commandant, "see that all the old
hands are also assembled and marched to Pine Tree Square in order to
receive their guests in a manner befitting condemned felons. They are
not likely to sing, 'For they are jolly good fellows.'"

"That's thrue, y'r Excellency," grinned Terence O'Rourke. "There wan
thing sure and sartin, afther a seven months' voyage the gossoons 'ill
think they're being marched to a picnic when they thread droy ground
and feel the warrum sun, afther all the dirty weather they'd be afther
havin' on the rollin' main. An' faith, they'll get a shock whin they
see their playmates of Moreton Bay."

"But they won't appreciate their playground, O'Rourke, when you've
finished with them," laughed the commandant.

"Begorra, now, y'r Excellency, as chief host, y'r'll do the honours
with the lash, I'm thinkin'."




CHAPTER XVI.

Excitement ran high at the Settlement when it became known that a
transport had arrived from overseas, bringing a fresh contingent of
prisoners to Moreton Bay. This was the first vessel that had come
direct from England and everyone was agog to hear the latest news from
Europe. Even the "old hands" at the settlement, men who had known the
horrors of Port Macquarie, Norfolk Island, and Botany Bay, forgot for a
space their toil and suffering, in the hope of learning something of a
world from which they had been long divorced and which they would never
see again.

When the vessel anchored at the Bight in mid-stream, she was boarded by
the Commandant and his staff in all the panoply of official regalia and
official importance. He soon learnt that the man officially in charge
of the transport was Captain John Gow. The manifests and official
papers were carefully gone through and a complete inventory of the
human cargo was taken and checked with the lists that had been handed
to the master before leaving Channel waters.

Though the system of classification was very inadequate, it was the
custom to give the name of the felon and the ship in which he was
transported. Then followed his personal description. For purposes of
discipline and administration, the convicts were divided into three
main classes according to their sentences--seven years, fourteen years,
lifers. In investigating the callings that the prisoners followed in
Great Britain before being sentenced, the Commandant was wrathful when
he found such a small proportion of skilled labourers or tradesmen
among them; but very few men who had been apprenticed to a trade were
transported to Australia at any time. This the Commandant deplored
and he described the prisoners on the transport as a cargo of human
rubbish. He had roads to make, cuttings through hard porphyry rocks to
blast, stone to be dressed, stores, prison and barracks to build, and
the windmill on the hill at the back of the settlement to complete for
the grinding of the corn and wheat grown to feed the convicts.

It was when inspecting the "lifers" on the Ringarooma that the
Commandant first heard of the abortive mutiny. He listened attentively
to the story graphically told to him by Captain John Gow, and then
ordered Captain Paul Lewis, who had been kept in irons, to be brought
before him. He was a miserable looking object, dirty and unkempt, but
he did his best to maintain a military bearing and to look dignified.

"Captain Lewis," spoke the Commandant in his best military manner,
"What have you to say for yourself?"

Captain Paul Lewis finding himself before a higher authority than the
master of the Ringarooma, became truculent and assumed an attitude
of defiance.

"You are, I understand, Captain Lannigan, the Commandant at Moreton
Bay, and, as such, are in supreme authority here?"

"I am," replied the Commandant, in his most dignified manner, drawing
himself up.

"Then I ask your protection, Sir. The story of the mutiny is a
fabrication, based solely on the evidence of a desperate criminal--one
of the convicts on board the ship."

"Ah, indeed, is that so?"

"It is, sir. What was meant as a joke to relieve the monotony of the
voyage has been magnified into a desperate attempt to seize the vessel
and to embark on a piratical cruise."

"He's a monstrous liar, beggin' yer Excellency's pardon," shouted
Captain John Gow, who was standing by.

"Sink me, Gow! Curb yourself. This matter must be looked into. It's a
serious thing to place one of his Majesty's commissioned officers in
irons on the evidence of a convict. What's the world coming to!"

"And on that evidence, sir, I was not only placed in irons, but triced
up to the mainmast and flogged."

"What! And on the evidence of a convict! Dear me, Gow, but I'm afraid
you will have to answer for this."

"Answer, yer Excellency. On my ship I am master, as you are here on
land. The evidence of the attempted mutiny is beyond question. Beggin'
yer Excellency's pardon again, but the man's a traitor--every inch of
'im."

"Steady, steady, Gow. It is not for you to judge and condemn a British
officer. That is the duty of a higher authority than you."

"By gawd, then yer Excellency, all I 'opes is that this 'ere 'igher
authority, whatever it is, will court martial 'im for a traitor an'
'ang 'im for the scoundrel and liar 'e is," replied Captain John Gow
with extreme anger.

For a military despot like Commandant Lannigan to be spoken to in this
fashion in a land remote from all civil law and where military law was
supreme, was a defiance of his authority which irritated him beyond
measure.

"Sink me in hell, Gow, but you forget yourself. I've flogged a man to
death for less insolence."

"Mebbe, yer Excellency. But, Gawd Ormighty, it would 'ave been better
if I 'ad flogged the villain to death before 'e damned 'is soul ter
everlastin' by lying t' yer."

"Well, your chief witness. Where is he? Let me hear his evidence."

"His chief witness, sir, was another convict named Adams, and he's
dead."

"Blazes, Gow, but it appears to me that this is a conspiracy of
convicts. Come now. Where's this convict who put you wise to this
alleged mutiny?"

"You 'ave in yer 'and, yer Excellency, a list of the 'lifers' on the
Ringarooma--leastways all that's alive of them. You came aboard to
check that list and to learn of their crimes. Might I suggest to yer
Excellency that you proceed to do what yer came on board to do? Then
ye'll larn in yer own time all about Nigel Lording, the 'lifer'."

"Nigel Lording!" At the mention of that name, the Commandant muttered
it, turned round sharply as he was about to walk away to inspect the
human cargo of the Ringarooma, and looked with an incredible stare
at Captain John Gow.

"Nigel Lording!" he repeated, not quite understanding. "I've heard that
name before. But where, I cannot just call to mind. What is the nature
of his crime, Gow?"

"Turn to the list in yer 'and, yer Excellency, and ye'll find out
officially. If I tell's yer, y'd as lief call me a liar."

Glancing at the alphabetical list in his hand, Captain Lannigan,
looking down the printed list, read:

Number: 2,965; name, Lording, Nigel; sentence, life; crime, murder of
Earl Belriven.

Then enlightenment dawned on him. This was the man who had humiliated
him on Tavistock Green, who had taken from him that beautiful tigress,
Mary Worthington. God, and he was here, now a convict under his
control, and within his power! But how came it about that he had
murdered his friend, Lord Belriven.

Looking up at Captain John Gow, the Commandant eagerly asked:

"What is the story of the murder, Gow?"

"It 'ill take too long in the tellin', yer Excellency. I'm thinkin'
you'll find a full account of it in the papers that ye'll find in yer
mail bag."

"Very well," the Commandant shouted. "But where is this infernal
scoundrel? Have him brought to me. I would look on the fellow."

Captain John Gow requested the guard to bring Nigel Lording before the
Commandant.

Though, for his part, in nipping the mutiny in the bud, Nigel Lording
was freed of his irons and was treated with a certain amount of
consideration by Captain John Gow, he was nevertheless guarded as a
prisoner when the transport entered Moreton Bay. The master of the
Ringarooma, though an excellent navigator, was not a man of social
attainments or one versed in statute or common law, but he had the
shrewdness to imagine that it was not within his power to grant a
pardon to any convict no matter how much he may have deserved a pardon.
A reprieve would have to come from his Majesty the King. All that
he, Captain John Gow, could do would be to make such representations
to the Commandant at Moreton Bay that would lead him to treat with
the utmost leniency, a man who had rendered such a signal service to
him, Captain John Gow, in saving his ship from the bloody hands of
mutineers. Indeed, he could not conceive from his own standpoint of
rugged justice, how the Commandant could act otherwise. But he did not
know Captain Pearce Lannigan, nor the height and depth of his savagery.

When Nigel Lording, escorted by two soldiers, was brought before the
Commandant, the lieutenant who had assumed command of the guard on the
arrest of Captain Paul Lewis, and who desired to make a most favourable
impression with the Commandant, roared: "Stand to attention! Salute the
Commandant!"

Nigel Lording stood to attention. He could not very well do otherwise,
but his saluting of the commandant by the raising of his right hand to
his forehead, was very perfunctory.

"You infernal dog," bellowed the Commandant, "I know you!"

There was no mistaking the malignance of his reception by Captain
Lannigan, and Nigel Lording stiffened. The favourable treatment that
he had received from the master of the Ringarooma had built up his
physique and restored to him the manliness of his bearing. Tanned by
the sun and wind, clean shaven and masterful, with a face stern and
implacable as if hewn out of granite, he faced his uncompromising
enemy, for such he knew him to be. Turning to the lieutenant in charge
of the guard, the Commandant barked out his imperative orders.

"This villain's a dangerous criminal. Put him in irons. Release Captain
Paul Lewis and restore to him his sword and uniform. And Gow is a
meddlesome fool. Proceed to disembark the convicts."

When Nigel Lording, again loaded with irons, was forced to take his
place among the convicts, he knew that he could expect no gentle
treatment from the man whom he had humiliated in Tavistock Green, but
he resolved not to cringe. As he took his place in the boat with the
other convicts, the Commandant snarled at him:

"I'll teach you what discipline means at Moreton Bay, my man."

"You can go to hell and do your worst," replied Nigel Lording, looking
at the commandant with a grim set of determined jaws.

Captain John Gow who was standing near, leaning on the rail of the
vessel and looking into the boat that was about to be rowed up to the
King's wharf said: "I'm sorry fer yer, Lording; but if yer live through
this taste of 'ell 'ere, yer'll 'ear more about this matter when me
report reaches the Secretary o' State for the Cawlinies."

When the convicts were landed at the wharf from the transport, they
were marched in twos to the barracks situated at the south western end
of the road known as Queen Street, their leg irons clanking as they
trudged wearily along. Clad in convict garb, profusely adorned with
broad arrows, they presented a sorry spectacle as they tramped along
the rough bush roadway up from the river to the barrack square, guarded
on each side by soldiers in bright red uniforms.

Away back from the sordid surroundings of the settlement and the grim
structure of the barracks, with the gallows, an object of serious
contemplation to the new arrivals, outside the gate near the river, the
country rose gradually up to the crest of a long ridge on which stood
the foundations of a huge stone windmill, designed for the grinding of
corn grown on the alluvial flats on both sides of the river, for hominy
was the principal food of the convicts. The extraordinary loveliness
of the background, with its forest, scrub and unexplored mountains,
covered with a wealth of pine and cedar and stately gums, and rising
to meet the clouds in the distant west, was a strange contrast with
the foreground where everything spoke of crime and brutality. The
banks of the river, denuded of their trees, fire scorched and littered
with felled timber, presented a wanton and unlovely appearance, though
the scenery that backed the settlement, with the silver flow of a
magnificent river rolling between, was akin to fairyland. It was hell
planted in the midst of paradise. And to this hell and paradise in
one came Nigel Lording, with his many shipmates, to be ground under
the heel of a merciless tyrant until they were done to death either
by brutal treatment, by hanging, or by escaping to the bush to become
utterly lost and to die of starvation or of murder by the blacks.

At the barracks the new arrivals were drafted into gangs along with
the old hands, each gang being in charge of an overseer and a guard of
soldiers. They were then marched off to the square, a cleared space in
the bush, in the centre of which stood a great pine tree to which Jem
Davis, the absconder, was to be triced to receive two hundred and fifty
lashes--fifty for each of the five times that he had bolted into the
bush.

It pleased the Commandant to order a cessation of all work at the
settlement to enable everyone to be present at the introduction of
the new arrivals by the transport Ringarooma, to the land of their
servitude. It was a suitable occasion on which to impress upon the
convicts the importance of his commands, and his views as to the severe
disciplinary and deterrent measures which he would resort to, if
necessary, for their moral and industrial rehabilitation.

As the infant community was a convict one only, there were at the
time no free settlers. The population consisted of the convicts, the
military guard, and the civil officers of the Government as embodied
solely in the autocratic person of Captain Pearce Lannigan, the
Commandant.

When the superintendent of convicts assisted by the military guard
had assembled every soul in the settlement at Pine Tree Square--a
large clearing hewn out of the trackless and unknown bush by which
the settlement was surrounded, the Commandant appeared on the scene
in the full military uniform of his regiment. He was smartly and
promptly saluted by the soldiers, warders and overseers, and every
convict present touched his forelock by way of salute. The greater the
obsequiousness shown to him, the more he was pleased. The uncrowned
despot had stepped into his kingdom.

Standing on a platform near the Pine Tree, he addressed his subjects,


"Old hands and new arrivals, it has pleased his Excellency, Sir Thomas
Makdougall Brisbane, the Governor of New South Wales, to establish a
convict settlement at Moreton Bay, in order to relieve the convict
settlement at Port Macquarie and elsewhere. It has also pleased the
Secretary of State for the colonies, through Sir Thomas Brisbane, to
appoint me to the position of Commandant of this settlement. You, old
hands, know what that means. I am in supreme command here, and my word
is the only law that must be obeyed. In spite, however, of the humane
tendencies which I have shown towards you, you have proved yourselves a
lot of incorrigible rascals for whom there is no redemption.

"You, old hands, have been sent here from Port Macquarie and elsewhere
because your conduct has proved that you are irreclaimable, and if my
treatment of you has been characterised by excessive rigour, it is
because you are a set of impossible villains. You can only be regarded
as unredeemable criminals and confirmed idlers, and treated as such.

"To you, new arrivals, I would say that the situation of the settlement
is such that it must be safeguarded by rigorous discipline, and the
slightest sign of insubordination will be most severely dealt with,
because I believe in the theory that the harsher the punishment, the
greater the deterrent.

"Here, you will have to work like slaves, for there is much to do,
lands to be cleared and tilled, roads to be made, barracks and prisons
to erect, stores and factories to be built, and corn to be ground.
Idleness and malingering will not be tolerated. If any of you tries to
escape from the settlement, God help you. The only way to civilisation
is by the river. All around you is unknown bush. Escape that way is
impossible. If you are not hopelessly lost, killed and eaten by the
blacks you will return on your knees and beg for food, even though you
know that the punishment meted out to the returned bolter is the lash.
Jem Davis escaped and returned five times. His punishment for the last
bolt is 250 lashes. You will now witness his punishment."


Signing to the superintendent of convicts, the Commandant ordered that
Jem Davis be brought forth and triced up to the flagellating post--the
pine tree in the centre of the square.

The "old hands" at Moreton Bay, of whom Jem Davis was one, were the
most reckless and ferocious of the convicts of Australia; but even
they, for all their callousness and inured brutality, were horrified
to see the unfortunate Jem Davis, weak and emaciated from hunger and
exposure, more like a wild animal than a human being, with his convict
uniform torn into shreds by the thorns and dead wood of the bush,
dragged forth and tied by the hands and feet to iron staples driven
into the pine tree, to receive a sentence that must mean death to him
in his present weakened state. But the Commandant, armed with the
tremendous powers of a summary and autocratic jurisdiction, desired to
impress the new arrivals with the magnitude of his authority. According
to custom, the prisoner to be flogged was examined by the hospital
surgeon, who reported to the Commandant whether in his opinion the
prisoner was physically able to stand the infliction of the prescribed
number of lashes. In this instance, the surgeon certified that the man
was in such a weak state that he could not survive two hundred and
fifty lashes.

"If he collapses under his punishment, report to me again, surgeon."

"Very well, your Excellency."

Then to the superintendent of convicts he said, "Let the flagellators
do their duty, O'Rourke."

Each of the flagellators took it in turn, when the convict was relieved
of his torn jumper, to deliver fifty lashes. They had flogged Jem Davis
before but never got a whimper out of him. The last time he was flogged
he turned to his floggers and said, "Is that all you do?" But this time
he did not walk jauntily up to the pine tree to receive his flogging
like a man. He knew that in his present state he could not survive his
savage sentence, so submitted to be triced up in the fervent hope that
death would end his agony before his ordered punishment was ended.

When he had received one hundred and twenty lashes he collapsed. The
surgeon examined him.

"His heart is very weak, your Excellency. To give him more will mean
murder."

"Release the rascal, O'Rourke," ordered the Commandant.

But when the unfortunate felon was untied he fell down at the base of
the tree, a lifeless, blood-stained mass of quivering, tortured flesh.
The surgeon felt his heart and his pulse and then, looking up, said
laconically, "He's dead, your Excellency."

The Commandant, turning to the assembled convicts, raised his head
and shouted, "Let this lesson sink into your dense minds. The fate
of Jem Davis, the absconder, will be your fate, if you show any
insurbordination."

For answer he received a menacing, rumbling growl of hate from the old
hands and the new.




CHAPTER XVII.

The settlement on the Brisbane River, twenty miles from where it pours
into Moreton Bay, was comprised within certain prescribed limits beyond
which no prisoner was permitted to wander, except on special service.
The utmost strictness was manifested, and the intentions of Governor
Brisbane, through his despotic commandant, Captain Lannigan, were
ably carried out so far as rigour of discipline and the severity of
punishment were concerned. Any convict who was bold enough to venture
outside the prescribed limits of the camp--for the settlement was
little more than a camp--had to risk the hazard of a sentry's bullet.

The prisoners were divided into gangs, the most desperate in chains
and loaded with heavy irons, the gangs being employed in various
occupations, such as quarrying, road making, clearing and burning-off,
and building. The hardest work was allotted to the "incorrigibles."
The only one of the new arrivals who was chained and ironed as an
incorrigible was Nigel Lording. In him the commandant recognised a
proud and militant spirit which he boasted he would break. In this he
was actuated by a hatred that was born on Tavistock Green, when he was
made to look a poltroon in the eyes of a proud and beautiful girl. This
humiliation he now desired to erase from the tablets of his brooding
memory.

The overseer in charge of the gang in which Nigel Lording was placed
was a brutal martinet named Morrison, who, as a subordinate, outdid the
commandant in habits of severity. He was a stonemason by trade, and had
charge of the convicts employed in making a marine parade bayward along
the northern bank of the river. This meant hewing through the solid
porphyry hill at the Bight down and beyond what was known as Breakfast
Creek, through another hill that ran into the river at the Hamilton
Reach, and on to Eagle Farm flats, which later were brought under
cultivation by women convicts and where they were quartered.

The stone excavated from the quarries was dressed by the convicts and
used in the building of a windmill on top of the ridge at the back of
the settlement and in constructing the commissariat store on the north
side of the river.

The work in the stone quarries was hard and gruelling and went on
from sunrise to sunset. When the stone was dressed it was placed in
roughly-made sledges with hardwood runners which were hauled by the
convicts up to the windmill or to the foundations of the Government
buildings. These were the prisoners' barracks and cells, the hospital,
the commandant's quarters, and soldiers' barracks.

The work was speeded up by liberal doses of the lash. Triangles to
which the convicts were triced formed part of the equipment of each
quarry. Nigel Lording received his first dose of one hundred lashes
the second day after his arrival. Two convicts were harnessed to each
sled, which they were forced to pull, whether weak or strong. Many,
ill-nourished and with feet cut by the sharp stones on the worn track,
collapsed through exhaustion. They were revived by the lash of the
overseer and forced to move on so as not to hinder the men following
behind. Two collapsed while the overseer was down at the quarry and
Nigel Lording, who was following behind, and was young, strong, and
well-nourished by reason of the easy time that he had had latterly on
the transport, left his load in charge of his fellow-convict despite
his warning, and helped the collapsed men to drag their sled over the
pinch they were unable to negotiate.

In order to prevent malingering it was a rule of the system at the
settlement that no convict under any circumstance was to go to the
assistance of another. The penalty for breaking this rule was severe
punishment with the "cat." Being a new arrival, Nigel Lording was not
aware of the rule, but he was actuated by a feeling of humanity, and
he suffered for his indiscretion. The overseer at the quarry noticed
the halt in the line of march and looked up to ascertain the cause. He
found Nigel Lording out of his place in the line and soon learnt it.

"Who asked you to interfere?" he bellowed.

"I'm the best judge of that," Nigel Lording retorted hotly.

"Stop yer hinsolence. I'll larn yer what discipline means 'ere," raved
the overseer, striking Nigel Lording with his fist. Calling the guard,
he ordered him to be triced up to receive one hundred lashes. The
commandant, riding down to the quarry on his usual round of inspection,
was apprised by the overseer of what had happened.

"So my fine buck," he said, addressing Nigel Lording, "your first taste
of the lash has come sooner than I expected." Turning to the overseer
he enjoined him to see that the flagellators--one for each fifty
lashes--did their duty. And they did.

The commandant sat on his horse and watched the flagellation through
to the end. Though the punishment was severe Nigel Lording suffered it
without a groan. He had been beaten up on the transport and learnt how
to take his punishment. If Captain Pearce Lannigan had expected to hear
him plead or cry out he was disappointed.

When the thrashing was finished he remarked cynically to Nigel Lording
"It'll take more than a hundred lashes to break your spirit, my man, I
can see. But the taste that you've had is a commencement. It gives me
prodigious satisfaction, my brave wrestler, to have you in my power.
If only the fair tiger cat could see you now! I'll warrant she'd
understand what the vengeance of Pearce Lannigan means."

Replacing his jumper on his cut and bleeding back and shoulders, Nigel
Lording looked at his tormentor with blazing eyes, but remained silent.
The rigid sternness of his face was as hard and set as if carved out
of granite. To retort would mean further punishment. He was learning
his lesson. But his fixed gaze at the brutal commandant spoke more than
words. From such a man, scarcely human in the intenseness of his hate,
he could expect neither justice nor mercy, only unbridled savagery.
From his order or those of the tyrants under him there was no appeal.

At the Moreton Bay settlement there was no Bench of Magistrates as a
court of appeal such as existed in New South Wales proper and Tasmania;
but such a court of appeal rarely favoured the charged criminal, as
the magistrates were clothed with extensive summary jurisdiction, and
as they were often settlers directly interested in maintaining the
strictest subordination and in exacting the most laborious exertion
which the law permitted on the part of the unfortunate convicts he got
very little redress. It did not, therefore, take Nigel Lording long to
learn that he was absolutely at the mercy of the brutal commandant.

For a space the commandant looked hard at Nigel Lording as he stood
erect, his seared heart glaring from his eyes, then turned and rode
away. A feeling shot through him that this convict would not break
down, but would endure, and he sensed a premonition of danger. It was
remarkable, he thought, that their paths in life had met and that they
had been thrown together. He was superstitious and feared the felon
though he had him in his power. Cause and effect roll on in their
sequence, he mused. What was the cause that had thrown him and this
convict together and what would the effect be? So far as he saw at
present the effect would be the martyrdom of the man who had dared to
pit his strength, his brain, against his. He would show him no mercy.

But the tragedies of everyday life have their own immutable laws. They
seem to march, Nemesis-like, steadily and irresistibly onward, without
rush, to a pre-ordained end, with a blind disregard of all possible
avenues of escape from their marked victims.

At night the prisoners were herded together in barracks save the few
who had committed capital offences at the settlement. These were
placed in cells. Both barracks and cells were at first made of split
hardwood slabs, strongly braced, and bolted and dowelled together.
Later barracks were built of stone. The chief carpenter was one William
Rogers, a foreman of carpenters who had been employed at the Lyceum
Theatre in London and who had been in the habit of purloining wood and
other material. These he had had made into articles of furniture for
his own use by several of the men belonging to the theatre. An inquiry
took place and he was apprehended. Found guilty, he was sentenced to
be transported for seven years. Under the strict supervision of the
commandant and the superintendent of convicts, O'Rourke, he designed
and built the barracks with convict labour. The capital offenders who
were confined to the cells were mostly thieves. The speculation that
prevailed in Sydney had its counterpart at Moreton Bay, where all but
the officials were convicts, and it was only natural that clever feats
of roguery were now and then performed by men who stood above their
fellows in all the arts of villainy. The punishment for stealing was
hanging, and the gallows erected outside the barracks square was often
in use.

Though the convicts were confined at night time in the barracks their
fetters were not removed. As a further precaution two armed sentries
patrolled the building throughout the night.

Herded together, the convicts were able to converse, and Nigel Lording
learnt much from the old hands that was to stand him in good stead.
But a more repulsive lot of scoundrels herded together it would be
hard to find. Their closely-cropped beards and hair, their shrivelled,
emaciated features, with their restless, furtive eyes sunk deep in
their sockets, gave them the appearance of gorillas. Though they
appeared beyond redemption there was still some spark of manhood in
some of them. One of the men whom he had assisted in helping their sled
over a pinch up the hill to the windmill, and for which he had been
punished, crawled up to him and spoke in an undertone.

"Ye've a lot to larn in this 'ere 'ell, mister, who ever ye be, but I'm
obligated ter ye for yer 'umanity. But ye'll 'ave to cut out capers
like vot ye did t'day. Mind your own business is the rool 'ere. But
ye varnt to know vot th' Almighty's law is 'ere. By the Almighty I is
'ere. By the Almighty I means the commandant. 'E's God Almighty o'
Moreton B'y, s'elp me."

"Thanks for your advice mate. I'm learning Lannigan's top dog here."

"F'Christ's sake call 'im Excellency and pull yer lock when ye speaks
ter 'im or ye'll get 'nother 'undred. 'Nother thin' I axes ye to bear
in mind. Never answer back to Morrison or any overseer ven 'e speaks to
ye. On'y pull yer lock an' nod. Be dumb, covey, be dumb."

"I'll be dumb all right, matey, but by God the day will come when I'll
get even with some of the tyrants here."

"That's wot we all think, covey, but dassent speak abaht. 'Nother
thin', don't be ketched thievin'. Ef yer do, it'll be up at eight wiv
a' hempen necktie on, an' down at nine. But mum's the vord, covey."

Nigel Lording did not speak but pressed the calloused hand of his
friendly adviser as evidence of his understanding, then he muttered
back.

"What were you transported for matey?"

"F'r stealin'. Th' cop vot arrested me vos f'r makin' me serve in
the navy, an' the cove--a jeweller he vos, guv me in charge, guv 'im
the tip to make me serve me country; but the commander of the vessel
ordered the cop t' take me back. F'r v'y? He didn't vant thieves in the
navy. So 'ere I am servin' th' Almighty at Moreton Bay. Vot was you
lagged for, covey?"

"Murder."

"Murder! Then ye be a wery bad villain, covey, but not so bad so be ye
murdered a cop or a varder. At the Coal River an' Port Macquarie, I've
seen varders an' overseers croaked. I'd croak em meself ef I had 'arf a
charnse. Mebbe I vill some day. They'r wermin like overseer Morrison."

"Then you were not transported to Moreton Bay?"

"Vy bless ye no covey, I vos sent to Botany Bay, then to the coal mines
at Newcastle, an' t' Port Macquarie. I'm an old bolter I am, vot they
calls incorrigible, so 'ere I be wiv a lot more hardened villains,
starvin' on skillagalle."

"Then they haven't tamed you yet, matey?"

"Lor' bless yer, no, covey. Not even th' Almighty can tame 'Enery
Taylor. I'm waiting to do for that tyrant Morrison. Then the Almighty
can string me up."

Henry Taylor, otherwise "The Squeaker," was typical of the convicts at
the Moreton Bay Settlement. They were as a rule a morose lot, and not
given to exchanging confidences, for fear of treachery. It was only
to the new arrivals they unburdened their confidences. To these they
boasted of their villainy and often made themselves appear worse than
they really were. It was from such men as Henry Taylor, men who often
spoke lightly to hide their seared hearts, that Nigel Lording learnt
all about the discipline of the settlement, its ways and means, and the
best methods to adopt to avoid punishment. To be dumb and subservient,
to perform the most gruelling tasks uncomplainingly, to submit to the
bullying treatment of overbearing officials clothed with the most
autocratic powers, was to escape torture. But when, as it sometimes
happened, the tasks assigned, the treatment meted out, and the infernal
goading became unbearable, the vengeance of the tortured felon became
a leaping, overwhelming force, and the murder, swift and terrible, of
an official was the result. This was what his Excellency Captain Pearce
Lannigan, the supreme tyrant, often feared, despite all the precaution
that he took to protect himself.




CHAPTER XVIII.

Though Sir Thomas Brisbane, Governor of New South Wales, with his
Chief Justice, Sir Thomas Forbes, visited the settlement in Moreton
Bay in 1825, their visit of inspection did not in any way alleviate
the lot of the convicts. All that they did was to confirm the choice
of Lieutenant-Surveyor General Oxley in selecting the site for the
settlement in the new territory--not at Umpie Bong, on the shores of
the Bay, but twelve miles up the river from its mouth. In the fondness
of his conceit Chief Justice Forbes named the settlement Edenglassie,
after his own birthplace, but his conceit was not perpetuated, and the
settlement soon began to be known as Brisbane Town and the magnificent
river on which it was situated the Brisbane. The name was a fitting
tribute to the Governor who first ordered the establishment of a
convict settlement in the region to the north of Port Macquarie.

Soon after his return to Sydney Sir Thomas Brisbane was recalled by
Earl Bathurst, Secretary of State for the Colonies, because he was too
peace-loving, too prone to rely on subordinates, and too much of an
onlooker. He was succeeded by Lieutenant-General Sir Ralph Darling, who
immediately after his arrival in New South Wales tightened the bonds of
both military and convict discipline. He also took a keen interest in
the settlement at Moreton Bay. He disliked, however, the site twelve
miles up the river because of the tediousness and difficulty of the
access. He therefore promised to make a new settlement on Stradbroke
Island, which, with Gnourganpin (Moreton Island), almost land-locked
Moreton Bay. The proposed new settlement was at a place called by the
blacks Goompie, but afterwards changed to Dunwich.

Included in the detachment of convicts from the Brisbane settlement
detailed for work on Stradbroke Island was Nigel Lording. The
detachment consisted of picked felons of the most desperate type even
among the incorrigibles at the settlement. There had been frequent
attempts at bolting into the bush and the commandant, notwithstanding
his strictest vigilance, could not stop the bolters even though the
punishment inflicted upon them on their capture or return was most
merciless.

The convicts, chained like galley slaves were made to row in boats
laden with utensils and provisions down the river and across the Bay
to Goompie, where they were made to clear the land for the growing of
cotton. Out of the felled timber slabs and shingles were split for the
erection of huts and sheets of bark stripped from standing gums and
flattened out by heavy logs to dry for roofing.

Overseer Morrison, with four soldiers well armed with brown besses,
were in charge of the gang, and the work of clearing went on apace.

There was very little opportunity for bolting. Though Stradbroke was
discovered to be an island its area was immense, and even if a convict
absconded from the new settlement at Dunwich the chance of his getting
over to the mainland, unless assisted by the blacks, was remote.

Dunwich faced west and looked over the calm waters of the Bay towards
the setting sun. Behind rose high hills, and in between these hills
and the sea were lagoons of the purest fresh water. Game and fish were
plentiful. At night when all was still there came across the island
from its eastern shore the roar of billows as they rolled majestically
over long miles of perfect beach.

Even this spot of perfect climate and heavenly peace was desecrated
by brutality. The lash was the goad that flogged the convicts to a
higher endeavour. Overseer Morrison, in supreme command, emulated the
commandant in exercising petty tyranny over the felons that formed his
gang.

Not far from the clearing the blacks had formed a camp. They were a
portion of the Turrubul tribe that had crossed from the mainland to
Bribie Island, thence to Moreton Island, and across the South Passage
to Amity Point, on Stradbroke Island. In their hunting, guided by the
smoke from the burning-off at Dunwich, they paid a visit to the white
men's camp. Overseer Morrison warned them off. He threatened to flog
any black that overstepped the boundary of the clearing. To emphasise
his threat he showed them the "cat."

One young buck, more truculent than the others, had a smattering of
English picked up at the settlement up the river. There he was known
as "Boney" from his facial resemblance to Napoleon Bonaparte. He was
cunning, elusive, and of superb physique. The 'possum skin he wore tied
round his middle accentuated his nakedness and his symmetry. Looking at
the "cat" which Morrison held in his hand, he asked:

"What that pfeller pflog mean?"

"Gammon, you don't know, Boney. Some time you don't look out you taste
that fellow," and Morrison made as if to hit him.

Springing back instantly, the black exclaimed:

"Baal, megundawarra!" (spear man), and poised his spear with an angry
glint in his eyes. It would have been a very easy thing for the black
to spear Morrison, who immediately held up his hands in token of peace,
but he had an ugly look on his face, which became all the uglier when
the convicts grinned at his fear.

"S'welp m' Gord," muttered a convict named James Brady to Nigel
Lording, who was working with him rolling a heavy log with wooden
crowbars, "if he ain't scared." Nigel Lording did not reply. He still
adhered to his policy of silence. He might have been deaf or dumb for
all the speech that Morrison could get out of him. He obeyed every
command, performed to the best of his energy every task set him, but
he kept his silence. Under it all he did not break down, but endured.
He had a feeling that some day not far distant he would want all his
strength, and he kept himself fit.

One day not long after this incident a tomahawk was missed. Brady
had used it last. He had cut a handle for a crosscut saw and left
it sticking in the stump of a felled tree. Morrison missed it when
checking the inventory of the tools at the end of the day's work. Brady
remembered where he had left it and was ordered by Morrison to go and
get it. With his leg irons clanking as he walked he went to where he
had last used it. Morrison went with him. It was getting dark and the
overseer did not trust any of the convicts going about alone after
dark, even though ironed, without a guard. The tomahawk couldn't be
found. Morrison accused Brady of hiding it. The convict denied any
knowledge of its whereabouts, but Morrison chose to disbelieve him and
called him a rogue and a liar, striking him with his fist as he did
so. This the convict resented. Unjustly accused, Brady for the moment
forgot the golden rule--never to answer back to an overseer.

"Go and find the thing yourself," flung back Brady.

Morrison was furious. This was insubordination of the first degree and
was punishable by flogging. Brady knew what to expect--"A hundred in
the morning, Brady, to make you keep a civil tongue in yer 'ead."

"Do yer worst, yer cowardly bully----"

"And fifty," added Morrison.

"Make it two hundred. It's all the same to me, Morrison."

"Two hundred it is, Brady, m'earty. It's me that 'ill 'ave the pleasure
of tannin yer 'ide. Yer'll get them in relays of fifty m' brazin' 'ero."

It was no boast on Morrison's part that he would flog Brady himself.
He was a powerful man and before he was appointed overseer, he was
a flagellator. For this, he was mortally detested by the convicts.
He had learnt the art of wielding the "cat" at Norfolk Island and
Macquarie Harbour, and latterly at Moreton Bay. He prided himself on
being able to flog a man without breaking the skin. Consequently there
was no blood spilled. But the back of the unfortunate flogged had the
appearance of blown veal and shook like a jelly.

That night in the camp as the convicts lay stretched out on the warm
sands of the shore as near to the water as possible to escape the
mosquitoes, weary from the day's labour of clearing the bush, the
incident of the lost tomahawk was made known to them and discussed
quietly.

"True as Gord, Brady, did yer sneak it?" asked Henry Taylor known as
the "Squeaker" from the tone of his voice, whose major aversion was
Overseer Morrison.

"No, Squeaker, I left it stickin' in a stump an' forgot all abaht it.
When I went to look for it the blarsted thing was gorn."

Nigel Lording, who was lying near, said: "Do you think the blacks took
it, Brady?"

"Hanged if I knows or cares. It's gorn, that's all abaht it, 'cept I
gets two 'undred in the mornin'."

The blacks were wily and covetous and a tomahawk was a priceless
possession. It made the climbing of gum trees and the cutting out of
'possums from the hollow limbs easy. It therefore became the accepted
theory that the tomahawk was stolen by one of the blacks who must have
crawled unseen through the bushes and bracken skirting the clearing,
and stolen it.

Next morning, after their breakfast of hominy and salt beef, overseer
Morrison paraded the convicts and harangued them on the loss of the
tomahawk, at the same time accusing Brady of its theft. For that, and
insubordination he was to be triced up to receive two hundred lashes.

"My Gord!" exclaimed the Squeaker under his breath.

Nigel Lording, who was standing near to him, heard the expression
of horror. He, too, was horrified, but if the theft could be proved
against Brady, it was, according to the code of the Commandant, a
hanging matter. The flogging was for answering back, thereby offending
against the dignity of the overseer; but Nigel Lording reasoned that if
the tomahawk were found, there might be a mitigation of the flogging.
Stepping up to the overseer and pulling his forelock, the customary
salute, he said (though it was much against his pride to show humility
to such an offensive bully): "Your pardon, sir. But isn't it just
possible that the tomahawk was stolen by the blacks?"

This had never occurred to the dull witted overseer.

"Whot's that to do with you? Who arst you to put in your oar?" That was
enough. Nigel Lording stepped back and said no more. But he had set the
dull wits of the overseer working. Morrison sent one of the soldiers
over to the blacks gunyahs to get them to come over to the white man's
camp, but to leave their spears and nulla-nullas behind.

The blacks had respect for any one in the King's uniform and obeyed
the summons of the soldier, all except the gins who were ordered by
"Boney," the chief in charge of the tribe, to remain behind.

Near the beach, not far from the camp, was a forked sapling which had
not been felled in the clearing. It was saved for use as a triangle.
Brady's up-stretched arms were lashed to the forks and his ankles
fastened to hardwood pegs driven into the ground three feet from the
tree and three feet apart. Morrison, stripped to the waist for greater
freedom, held the vicious "cat" in his hands, running his fingers
lovingly through the cords. The convicts, hobbled with leg irons but
with hands free for working, stood around guarded by the soldiers
with their loaded flint-locks. The blacks squatted near, interested
spectators of a ceremony that they did not understand. It was soon,
however, made clear to them. Morrison, throwing the "cat" over his
shoulder, picked up a tomahawk. Holding it up to the gaze of the
blacks, he said:--

"This feller," pointing to the bound convict, "been steal 'um tomahawk
like this feller (holding up tomahawk). Him bad man. Now, I been flog
him for steal 'um tomahawk. Suppose black man steal 'um tomahawk, me
been flog 'im like this feller." Then the brawny overseer commenced to
flog. When he had delivered fifty strokes, he stopped for a rest and a
smoke under the shade of the tree. The heat was intense and the waters
of the bay were unruffled by a breeze. The sun poured its heat on the
bare back of the convict and the sand flies swarmed on the bare flesh.
The agony of the heat and the bites of the sand flies were worse than
the flogging.

"Morrison, get on with yer job," fiercely shouted Brady.

The overseer, taking no notice, finished his smoke and then
deliberately resumed the flogging. Before he had finished the second
fifty strokes his arms began to grow weary. He was growing old and he
did not place the stripes accurately across the back and shoulders,
but struck low across the convict's loins. This was too much for the
experienced Brady who had been flogged many times and understood the
etiquette of it.

"For Christ sake hit higher, Morrison, yer a novice at the gime."

There was one thing that Morrison prided himself on and that was his
ability with the "cat." Brady's remark that he was "a novice at the
gime," hurt his pride and he snarled.

"Novice, am I? Well as the 'cat' won't scratch hard enough, let us see
what a lawyer 'cat' will do."

This was a cat made out of the long saw-like tendrils of a lawyer vine,
with teeth as sharp as those of a band saw. The punishment inflicted
by this instrument of torture was terrible in the extreme. Even the
soldiers, used as they were to brutal treatment, were horrified, and a
deep throaty growl came from the convicts. But Morrison, unperturbed,
waited patiently while one of the warders went to his hut to get the
"Moreton Bay Stinger" as the new cat was called. All eyes were focused
on the overseer, who stood with arms folded by the side of the bound
convict. Even the blacks edged nearer and nearer, fascinated by the
white man's brutality. Nigel Lording standing at the back of the human
cordon nearest to the blacks, felt something move at his feet. Looking
down, he saw that it was a spear that "Boney" had been secretly moving
forward with his toes. Instantly, he put his foot on it, and warned the
black by a gesture not to move further. The warder had returned with
the "Stinger" which he handed to Morrison, who said:

"Now, Brady, p'raps this 'ill cool yer onruly tong'." As he flourished
the 'Stinger,' prior to striking, and looking intently at the bared
back of the convict, he added, "I wonder, Brady, who'll be in 'ell
first, you or me----" and he swung the "Stinger" backward and forward
to gain direction and momentum, before striking, as a golfer addresses
the ball. But no blow fell. A spear hurled with terrific force by an
unseen hand, pierced the overseer in the middle of the back and the
point come out a foot through his chest. Morrison uttered a groan
and fell forward at the feet of the convict, dead. It was a bolt of
vengeance, and instantly the eyes of convicts and soldiers turned
to see whence the spear had come. They were so intent on watching
Morrison's swinging of the cat, that the thrower of the spear was not
seen. The soldiers levelled their firearms at the blacks and fired
wildly, but the elusive natives had instantly fled into the thick bush.
To follow them was useless, if not dangerous, and the soldiers were
there to guard the convicts and not to shoot blacks.

The spearing of Morrison was so dramatically sudden, that the convicts
were speechless. The first who spoke was "Squeaky" Taylor.

"Strike me, but I sees a tomahawk fall from 'Boney's' 'possum skin
as he scooted into the scrub," and he ran to pick it up. It was
the missing tomahawk which Brady had been accused of stealing, and
hiding--a dangerous weapon in the hands of a convict.

After this incident, the new settlement at Goompie (Dunwich) was broken
up. An inquiry into the killing of Morrison was held by the Commandant
at Brisbane Town, but no one could swear as to who threw the spear.
That the thrower was one of the blacks was generally believed, but the
Commandant was not too sure. It was thrown from where Nigel Lording was
standing. Of that the warders and soldiers were positive.

"You infernal dog! You know who threw that spear," fumed the Commandant
at Nigel Lording. "You stubborn hell-hound, but I'll get you yet at the
end of a rope."

Nigel Lording made no reply but looked with eyes glinting with a cold
hard hate at the fuming Commandant, who turned away, baffled, fearing
the fury of a tortured soul.

The black, "Boney," who was accused of stealing the tomahawk, was
subsequently arrested and placed on a small island not far from the
mouth of the river, which was afterwards known as St. Helena; but the
captured replica of Napoleon escaped a few days later by making a canoe
out of a sheet of bark and paddling back across the bay to Stradbroke
Island.




CHAPTER XIX.

Notwithstanding that Captain Lannigan was heartily disliked for his
tyrannical and supercilious character, the settlement on the Brisbane
made progress. The sway of the lash and the work at Brisbane Town went
on apace. The windmill on the hill at the back of the settlement was
completed, but all the ingenuity of the commandant and his incompetent
staff could not make it work. The sails refused to move. The mechanism
was somewhere at fault as the sails could not be kept constantly
turned to the wind. Even the form and position of the vanes were at
fault. The commandant ordered the clearing of a large space around the
huge cylindrical tower in order that the trees would not obstruct the
prevailing north-easterly winds, but the labour was expended in vain.
The sails refused to revolve. The commandant cursed and flogged, but
the winds blew on a motionless windmill cap so that the sails were not
presented in the direction of the wind.

In desperation the commandant converted the huge base of the tower
into a treadmill and used it in the direction of prison discipline. It
therefore answered a twofold purpose, as a machine for grinding the
maize grown at the settlement into maize meal for the convicts, and
as an instrument of labour and torture. The wheel was sixteen feet
long and five feet in diameter, having on the periphery twenty-four
equi-distant steps. The wheel was made to revolve by the weight of the
prisoners treading on the steps. A horizontal handrail to the height
of a man's chest ran along the length of the wheel which the prisoners
held on to for support. The work of keeping the wheel revolving
continuously was laborious and tiring in the extreme. Its speed was
graduated by a brake controlled by an overseer who never erred on
the side of leniency. If a prisoner lagged in the eternal treading
his failing efforts were speeded up with the lash. As a hard-labour
punishment in the confined and ill-ventilated base of the tower when
the humid heat approached a temperature of a hundred degrees it was
infinitely worse than labouring in the quarries. There were no favours
shown. The weak and the strong were compelled to equal exertion and
many of the unfortunate wretches collapsed under the strain. With such
a wonderful instrument of torture that produced such profitable results
at his command the ruthless Captain Lannigan forgot all about the
failure of his windmill. The commissariat store on the north bank of
the river, built out of stone hewn from the quarries and dressed, was
also completed, and the commandant moved into his new quarters up from
the King's Wharf and commissariat stores between the rough roadways
known as William and George Streets, running parallel with the river
from the site of the hospital past the soldiers' barracks down to what
was known as the garden reach of the river, where maize and vegetables
for the feeding of the settlement were grown on the first cultivated
land at Moreton Bay. Through this cultivation ran a muddy mangrove
creek into Frog's Hollow, which was later filled up and converted into
what was subsequently called Albert Street. From this tidal creek
and the one a few hundred yards further to the north, which was also
filled up and converted into another roadway, appropriately named Creek
Street, fish and crabs were caught which were eagerly devoured by
the half-starved convicts as a relief from the eternal salt beef and
hominy. It was on the north bank of the creek where the huge pine tree
stood to which the convicts were tied and flogged.

A message had come from the authorities at Sydney to the effect that
a contingent of female convicts would arrive before many months had
passed to swell the population, and preparations were to be made at
once to receive them. The commandant at once commenced to build for
them quarters in Queen Street where the General Post Office now stands.
These quarters were known as the female factory. Other quarters were
built at the cultivation at Eagle Farm.

In the intervals between governing the settlement at Moreton Bay
and the flogging and hanging of convicts, Captain Lannigan, who, to
give him his due, was never idle, and who carried out to the utmost
of his ability his thankless task of turning a wilderness into the
semblance of a settlement and a civilised community, made frequent
journeys of exploration into the unknown bush to the west and south of
the settlement, discovering rivers, naming mountains, and searching
for botanical specimens. It was on one of these expeditions that he
discovered, up beyond the junction of the Brisbane and Bremer rivers,
a hill of limestone, where he formed a new settlement, which he named
Limestone Hills, subsequently (owing to evil associations) changed to
Ipswich.

Lime was very necessary for the manufacture of mortar for use in
constructing the stone buildings at the settlement. Prior to the
discovery of the deposit at Limestone Hills lime had been brought
from Newcastle and it therefore afforded the vigorous and energetic
commandant considerable satisfaction to learn that lime could now
be obtained in limitless quantities handy to the back door of the
settlement at Brisbane Town. Moreover, owing to the lack of transport
by teams, the quicklime could be readily conveyed by punts down the
Bremer and Brisbane rivers to its destination at the settlement.

For the purpose of burning the limestone the commandant employed a
number of the convicts under his control to build the kilns for the
manufacture of quicklime. This was carried from the works to the
Bremer in bags on the backs of convicts and loaded into the punts. The
overseer in charge of the limestone burning at Limestone Hills was a
man of ruthless severity who had at his command two scourgers whose
jobs were no sinecure. The "cats" were scarcely ever out of their
hands. The lime-burners were flogged on the slightest pretext. If from
weakness or accident a convict stumbled and spilled the contents of his
bag he was flogged with never less than fifty strokes of the "cat."
Loaded as the convicts were with heavy leg irons, stumbling over the
rough ground to the river was not infrequent, and a flogging always
resulted. After the flogging the lime-burners, with raw and bleeding
backs, were forced to continue their labour, with the result that
the lime was slaked by the blood trickling from their backs, thereby
causing the most intense pain.

When the settlement on Stradbroke Island was temporarily abandoned
after the murder of Overseer Morrison, Nigel Lording, for whom the
commandant still had the utmost hatred, was drafted with a gang of
desperate felons to the lime-burners' camp. Whether by design or
accident, "Squeaky" Taylor was always included in the gang which
contained Nigel Lording. Taylor was as weak as Lording was strong,
and between the two convicts there was formed, by their constant
association, a bond of genuine attachment. As cunning as a rat and as
agile as a monkey, which by his bent back, long arms, his wrinkled
facial expression and restless eyes, he strongly resembled, Taylor
often put Lording wise to many expedients that lessened the misery of
both. Moreover, Taylor was the only living soul who knew that it was
Nigel Lording who had thrown the spear that had killed Morrison. In
his sight Lording was therefore the hero of the settlement because
he was a killer. Had he not killed his man in England and had he not
killed another at Moreton Bay? As a rule there was very little loyalty
among the felons at any settlement or camp. If a convict, by betraying
another to an overseer or to the commandant, could by so doing gain
amelioration of his lot he would not hesitate to betray. Though Taylor
was aware that Captain Lannigan had the most intense hatred for Lording
and that he only wanted the slightest opportunity to have him hanged,
he kept his own counsel. He was aware of the fact that if he had given
evidence against Lording in the killing of Morrison he would have
rendered the brutal commandant such a signal service that he might have
qualified for a ticket-of-leave; but his detestation of the commandant
was no whit less than that of Nigel Lording's. It was, therefore, with
some sincerity that Nigel Lording called this unlettered but faithful
specimen of humanity "matey" and Taylor always addressed Lording as
"covey."

The burning of the limestone in the rough improvised kilns required a
quantity of firewood. This the convicts had to cut and carry to the
kilns. The wood mostly used was ironbark, as it burned longer than gum
and gave the most intense heat. To cut ironbark it was often necessary
for the convicts, under the strict surveillance of an overseer, to
travel some distance from the camp at Limestone Hill. This had its
dangers, for the blacks were troublesome. They had erected their
gunyahs and were camped by a deep waterhole where fish were abundant
and wallabies plentiful in the scrub. Two convicts had felled a tree
and had cut an opossum out of a hollow limb. This meant food, but they
had no knife with which to skin their find. The blacks' camp was not
far away and the bucks had not returned from the hunt. The convicts,
disregarding the gins and lubras, went over to the camp and broiled the
opossum on one of the camp fires, not waiting to remove the entrails.
When the hair had been burnt off and the opossum partially roasted,
the convicts returned to the tree they had felled and greedily ate the
opossum. Fresh meat of any kind was a rarity, and the half-starved
wretches tore into the juicy flesh with teeth and fingers. It was an
hour before sundown and the returning blacks, hearing the angry barking
of their dogs at the camp and the chattering of their gins, ran up
to the camp to see what had happened. The blacks resented the cool
invasion of their camp by the white-men and tracked them to where they
had just finished their meal.

The overseer who had been supervising some distance away, hearing no
chopping, went over to find out what the convicts were doing. If they
were loafing they would be flogged. Unconscious of any danger he walked
towards the convicts, who had stood up to resume their wood cutting
when he saw both fall, pierced by spears. Then he saw a number of
blacks run forward shouting their tribal war-cry. The overseer, who was
armed, fired and killed a black who was about to hurl his spear at him.
Before he could fire again the blacks, alarmed, hastily retreated. The
shot fired by the overseer startled the camp at Limestone Hills and two
soldiers were ordered by the superintendent in charge to go and find
out what had happened. When the blacks, who recognised the authority
that lay behind the red-coats, saw them approach at a run, they
vanished with the whole of their tribe into the dense scrub bordering
the waterhole, where pursuit would be both useless and dangerous.
The blacks who had speared the convicts were a section of war-like
wakkas of the Upper Brisbane River. Hitherto, the white men who had
dealings only with the more peaceable tribes of Moreton Bay, such as
the Turrubul tribe, the Wogee tribe on Moreton Island and the Goenpul
tribe on Stradbroke Island, had regarded the aborigines as harmless
and inoffensive; but the sudden hostility of the natives in the region
of Limestone Hills brought it home to them that the tribes remote from
the sea were more treacherous and dangerous than those of the coast,
notwithstanding the fact that certain runaway convicts were treated
kindly by them.

Though the murder of a convict or two did not worry the Commandant
to any extent, it saved them eventually from being hanged, no
doubt--nevertheless he gave orders to the soldiers to shoot any
aborigines of the settlement at Limestone Hills, and a stricter lookout
was, therefore, kept. Several convicts had managed to rid themselves
of their shackles and bolt into the bush. Some had never returned. The
Commandant was afraid that if these bolters joined with the blacks and
were accepted into their tribes, the aborigines under a white man's
evil influence, might become a dangerous menace. A way of cutting
through their irons without files was learnt by the convicts, but how
it was found out will never be known. In the scrubs where the convicts
worked at clearing, there grew a very strong grass which was known as
spear grass. Smeared with gum from wattle trees, dusted with sharp
sand, and allowed to dry, a primitive pliable file was formed which,
carefully used, and with considerable patience, cut through the iron
links without making a noise. It is said that human ingenuity can
overcome any obstacle, and many of the convicts were resourceful in
the extreme. Their wits were made sharp by torture and suffering, and
not even the brutal discipline of the Commandant and his overseers
could prevent some of them from bolting and ridding themselves of their
irons. The overseer who narrowly escaped being speared when the two
convicts were killed by the blacks, was a tyrant named Thomas Martin.
It was under his direction that the lime kilns were built. He had
some knowledge of brick making, and brick laying. He also had some
knowledge of masonry and taught the convicts by a liberal use of the
lash, how to dress and lay the stones hewn out of the quarries at the
settlement on the Brisbane. It was he who superintended and directed,
under the orders of the commandant, the building of the stone buildings
at the settlement, and the huge windmill tower that was a failure as
a windmill. If the stones of these buildings could speak, they would
tell a tale of unspeakable inhuman cruelty that synchronised with their
building, even as the stones that went to the building of the Pyramids,
if endowed with tongues, would tell a story of such infinite horror and
cruelty that would cause a shudder to run through the limitless ages.

Nigel Lording and Squeaky Taylor had both felt the sting of Overseer
Martin's "cat." If he had been speared by the blacks, the settlement
would have had another tyrant less. At intervals between shovelling
limestone into the kilns and carrying dead wood from the forest to hurl
into the blazing fires, Lording and Taylor found time to make cautious
and subdued remarks.

"I 'ears as th' Orlmighty's comin' to Limestone 'Ills, covey, to 'ave
a nigger hunt to learn the blacks not to spear us lags in the lawful
hexecution of our dooties," muttered Squeaky Taylor under his breath to
Nigel Lording, as they were carrying a heavy ironbark log between them
to the kilns.

"Well, matey, it is to be hoped that the blacks will get him some day
when on his exploring expeditions. If he earns their vengeance, he must
look out for payment in full," replied Lording.

"They do say, covey that them there blacks is werry bad cannibals.
Would 'e now be afeered to bolt afore the Orlmighty comes, and trust
yerself to the savidges?"

"May be, matey, but I've made up my mind to live and see this business
through. My life is not my own to lightly throw away. I've dedicated it
to another, and she is, I believe, on her way now to Moreton Bay."

"Crikey, covey, yer don't say as they're sendin' wimmen out to this
'ere 'ell?"

"I do, matey."

"My Gawd! But cheese it, covey, Martin's squintin' this way."

While this subdued conversation was going on, Lording and Taylor
had eased up in their walking. The log they were carrying on their
shoulders was heavy and their leg irons clanked as they walked.

"Now then, you lags, get a move on!" shouted the overseer, coming over
and striking both men with the cat to speed them up. As he struck,
Taylor stumbled, and the cat cut him across his face instead of his
shoulders. Almost blinded by the pain, the convict suddenly dropped
his end of the log which fell on the overseer's foot, badly crushing
it. Taylor's face under the sunburn and dirt blanched. He knew what
the dropping of that log meant. Overseer Martin, fuming and cursing,
sat on the grounds nursing his crushed foot. Nigel Lording looked on,
with folded arms, stern, contemptuous, motionless. Martin glanced up,
saw the look of contempt and the ill-concealed sneer in the eyes and
face of Lording, and the terror in the face of Taylor. "You'll pay for
your clumsiness, my man," said the overseer, looking fiercely at the
unfortunate Taylor. "The scourgers have had an easy time of late, but
my God, they'll exercise their muscles on your hide for this outrage.
As for you, you swine," he raved, looking savagely at the motionless
Lording, "I'll see that you lend a hand."

The soldiers who patrolled the camp, hearing the angry voice of the
overseer, had come up to see what had happened. They held no brief for
the brutal overseer, and grinned when they saw him get up from the
ground, limping and cursing.

"This is no laughing matter, damn you," he snapped out at the soldiers.
"Take these lags up to the stockade for a lesson in discipline."

When they arrived at the stockade on Limestone Hills, they found that
the Commandant with certain members of his staff, had ridden up from
Brisbane Town. Overseer Martin, with much obsequiousness, and much
exaggeration, reported to the Commandant the incident. He represented
that Taylor had thrown down the log purposely to do him an injury, and
in that he was abetted by Lording. It was useless for the convicts to
say anything in their own defence. They would not have been believed.

"Well, Martin, you're in charge, here," grinned the Commandant. "What's
your sentence?"

"A hundred strokes each with the cat, your Excellency, Lording to give
Taylor the last twenty-five before he's triced up for his dose."

"'S death Martin, but you err on the side of leniency. If it had been
me, now, why I'd have hanged the fellow. However, sentence confirmed."
This was a sample of the judicial functions that frequently took place
at Limestone Hills. The Court was surrounded by a military guard under
arms, and the show was open to the public, but the public consisted
only of the officials and the fellow convicts of the men sentenced to
be flogged.

Out there in the bush where tyranny reigned supreme and the "cat" was
the sceptre of an uncrowned tyrant, convict Taylor with a nature that
could be loyal and faithful to a mate, and a will to endure torture
that was marvellous in a body so starved and frail, received his
seventy-five lashes and bore his punishment with amazing fortitude.
When Lording was called upon to deliver the remaining twenty-five, he
refused to do so.

"What! You refuse to obey orders?" bellowed the overseer. Lording did
not answer, but the half-dead Taylor, galvanised into life by such an
amazing refusal--a refusal unique in the annals of convictdom--spoke
for him.

"F' Christ's sake, covey, lay them on. A few more aint neether 'ere nor
there."

Still Lording remained motionless.

"Go on covey, yer can't defy them. They'll take it outer yer."

"Take the cat and flog, you mule!" again shouted Martin.

Still Lording remained motionless. He could not, if they flayed him
alive, flog little matey.

In exasperation, Martin turned to the Commandant.

"Your Excellency, this is rebellion. What are your orders?"

Captain Pearce Lannigan was a determined expert in malignity where
Nigel Lording was concerned, but he merely turned to Martin and said.

"Why, demme, Martin, the fellow's loyalty to his fellow lag is
amazingly grotesque, 'pon honour it is. If he won't flog, he won't, and
there's an end t' it. The only sensible solution is to trice the fellow
up and give him twenty-five instead, with a further twenty-five by way
of compound interest. That makes fifty 'cordin' to my calculating,
doesn't it, Martin?"

"Aye, aye, your Excellency," answered Overseer Martin, pulling his
forelock by way of salute.

The touch of sympathy that makes men more than kin, wrung from Taylor,
writhing with pain as he was being released from the triangle, "Gawd,
covey, if yer ain't a fool," he groaned out, and collapsed.

Sullen, but obedient and resistless, Nigel Lording permitted himself
to be stripped to the waist and to be tied up to receive his fifty
lashes. Though the Commandant stood by to see the flogging through to
the end, he gained little satisfaction, as Lording bore his punishment
without flinching. Dumbly and in a sort of mental haze, he watched the
flogging of Taylor. When his turn came, he submitted without resisting.
He had evolved a new idea. He would lull the brutal commandant into
the belief that his will was being broken, that he might misinterpret
his obedience into a willingness to yield to him. When, without a
groan, he bore up under his thrashing and made no remark of any kind,
the Commandant imagining that his spirit was being broken, remarked,
sneeringly, "You dog. I'll make you crawl to me yet." Nigel Lording
instantly discerned his week point. The Commandant believed he had him
conquered. In future, he would dissimulate. He would obey implicitly
every order, submit to every punishment until he had hoodwinked the
Commandant and his guards into a sense of self-satisfied security. Then
under cover of his abjectness, an opportunity might come when, off
their guard, he might elude his tyrants and strike for freedom. Such an
opportunity had come when he had killed Morrison, but that opportunity
was not of his making. It was thrust in his way, and unhesitatingly and
without thought of the terrible consequences that might have followed,
he had seized it. In future, he would not be so rash. His every act
would be weighed and studied. He would not let a glimmer of his hatred
for the Commandant or for any of the overseers escape him. He began to
imagine how madmen feel who watch for an opportunity to play tricks on
their guards. He would watch for an opportunity to exact a terrible
vengeance.




CHAPTER XX.

Sir Ralph Darling, who fought with the 31st Regiment under Sir John
Moore in the expedition of 1808 that ended at Corunna, succeeded Sir
Thomas Makdougall Brisbane as Governor of New South Wales, a territory
which extended from Bass Strait in the south to Torres Strait in
the north, and took over the administration of that vast and little
known area. When he was not involved in an acrimonious controversy
with the independent Press of the new colony over freer political and
judicial institutions, emancipists, licensing measures, and stamp
duties, Sir Ralph Darling's activities found vent in the direction
of promulgating new land laws, opening up good roads, establishing
a postal service, and encouraging exploration. More than any other
Governor he was credited with the opening up of Moreton Bay district
by the encouragement of its commandant, Captain Lannigan, and also
by encouraging exploration which led to the discovery of the Darling
Downs by Allan Cunningham and the tracing of the Brisbane River to
its head by Major Edmund Lockyer. But his best service to the colony
was the reorganisation of the administrative departments, and in this
connection in a dispatch to the Secretary of State for the Colonies
he urged the desirability of sending out more female convicts as
wives for convicts who had been given tickets-of-leave or for those
who were assigned to settlers. At Moreton Bay there were then no
female convicts. In 1823 Governor Brisbane developed a scheme by which
Port Macquarie would be the prison for those guilty of first grave
offences, Moreton Bay for runaways from the former, and Norfolk Island
as the final hell of convict degradation. But Governor Darling was
not desirous of retaining the settlement at Port Macquarie. In his
opinion it was a hindrance to the development of its rich hinterland
by free men, and he desired to leave it open for free colonisation.
To this end he withdrew the lesser criminals from Port Macquarie to
serve in road gangs, and the incorrigible remnant he sent to Moreton
Bay. Subsequently the re-convicted women who had been formerly sent to
Port Macquarie were sent further north to Moreton Bay. Earl Bathurst
approved of Governor Darling's recommendation to send out to New
South Wales more female convicts to help to populate the spacious
territory, and as a result the hulks in the Thames and in the harbours
of Portsmouth and Chatham were emptied of their female prisoners. There
were, however, at the time not enough females in the hulks and prisons
in England to form a human cargo for transportation, so the streets of
London were combed by the police, who gathered up all the strumpets,
drabs, cut-purses, and ladies of easy virtue that they could lay their
hands on and shanghaied them on board a transport for deportation.

As the idea that prisoners had any claim for humane treatment had
hardly made any headway beyond the circles of a few philanthropic
reformers, the lot of convicts, more particularly female convicts, was
brutal and degrading in the extreme. Any attempt to use the period
of imprisonment to improve the nature of the criminals, was unknown,
consequently they were at the mercy of their gaolers. In many instances
the males were not divided from the females and the hulks and prisons
became scenes of abandoned wickedness. This was the state of affairs
that existed when Mary Worthington, with a contingent of female
transportees--not all convicted felons--were conveyed to the transport
Maid of Honour for transportation to Moreton Bay.

Though transportation had its origin in banishment it was expressly
forbidden by Magna Charta. It existed, nevertheless, as a practice,
because a criminal who had incurred the sentence of hanging and had
taken sanctuary to avoid his fate, was permitted in some cases to
escape his punishment if he exiled himself. In course of time the
privilege of sanctuary was abolished by law and consequently the
system of self-banishment which grew out of it; but before then--in
the thirty-ninth year of Queen Elizabeth's reign--banishment had been
legally established by the Vagrancy Act, which gave quarter sessions
the power of transportation.

There was, therefore, some semblance of law in the picking up of
undesirables from the streets of London, charging them as vagrants, and
transporting them overseas; but it is doubtful whether the law of the
reign of Queen Elizabeth would have been revived if the call had not
come from New South Wales for more women for the new penal colony.

Mary Worthington had no regrets in leaving the old Endeavour hulk.
Everything associated with the hulk system of imprisonment--if system
it could be called--was abhorrent to her. It was a system where the
inmates were herded together in unchecked association, where vice,
profaneness, and demoralisation flourished. Like a white lily in a
garden of noxious weeds she suffered her intolerable degradation. If
it had not been for the power of influential friends who bribed her
gaolers, she would have been engulfed in the sea of demoralisation and
infamy that surged unchecked in riotous enjoyment on the hulk.

Though the supervision of the hulks resided in the Court of King's
Bench, who steadily neglected their duty, the management was placed
under the control of local justices who appointed the overseer, and the
overseer appointed the officers. The overseer was also the contractor
for the maintenance of the prisoners, and as it was obviously in his
interest as contractor to cut short the supplies of food and clothing
for the prisoners, his interest was diametrically opposed to his duty
and to the welfare of the prisoners in his charge, consequently the
prisoners suffered. The lot of those prisoners, therefore, who had
neither relatives nor friends to assist them was miserable in the
extreme, and they resented with much vindictiveness and malignity
the favourable treatment that was meted out to Mary Worthington.
This hatred of her followed her from the hulk to the transport Maid
of Honour. She was a convicted murderess, they acclaimed, and she
should, therefore, be wearing irons, whilst they (many of them)--and
this was the agony of their complaint--had been embarked without any
pretence at a proper trial.

The leader of the gang, who bitterly reviled Mary Worthington, was the
half-bred, Mulatto Jane, a vicious, cruel, and incorrigible harridan.
"Thrike me pink, girlths, ain't the one of uth? Ith the to be the pet
of the offitherths an' uth the prothtitutes of the seamen? Let uth all
be treated alike by officerth and men. Ain't we all laght?"

This speech met with general approval and as the female convicts were
allowed free access to the deck during the day a special guard was
assigned by the captain, acting under instructions, for the protection
of Mary Worthington, otherwise he made no special effort to protect the
women.

On board the transport Mary Worthington was nicknamed "The Fallen
Angel," and as she was under the special protection of Martin Kenefake,
who sailed with the transport as chief warder, she was regarded as his
mistress; but no watchdog was more faithful to a trust than was Martin
Kenefake to Mary Worthington. Though the other women on the vessel were
the common property of the male members of the crew, and this with the
connivance of the captain, Martin Kenefake, who went about the ship
armed, gave the crew to understand that "The Fallen Angel" would be
man-handled only over his fallen body. All the affection that his rough
Irish nature contained went out to her, and she, knowing the infamy
that went on around her, clung to the faithful chief warder as a lost
soul clings to the Rock of Ages.

The lot of Martin Kenefake was almost as difficult as that of his
beautiful protégée. There were men on board who hungered for possession
of her. Apart from congenital tendency to cruelty the very association
with so large a criminal element dulled all sense of respect and
honour and engendered demoralisation below the level of brutes. The
contamination of mutual bad example in a vessel carrying two hundred
females was hard to combat in a space so confined that even the master
of the vessel was not immune; but he dared not, if he wished to avoid a
mutiny, risk his life by interfering with Martin Kenefake's ward.

Mary Worthington was aware that Martin Kenefake had a terrible record
behind him and she marvelled that one so brutal as he--for he had given
her many glimpses of his past, little silhouettes of life's tragedies
that made her shudder--should be so solicitous for her welfare; but she
was not experienced enough to have knowledge of the fact that there
is a tender spot of humanity in the most debased criminal if it could
only be probed, and, unconsciously, it was she who had plumbed into the
depths of Martin Kenefake's soul and called into existence his better
nature. The coming of Mary Worthington into his life had irradiated the
black well of his life's destiny and changed his nature--so far as she
at any rate was concerned--from a human beast who had lapped insatiate
at the stream of sin, into a lovable old Irishman whose instincts of
goodness and honour before the days of his sinning had not been wholly
erased from the tablets of his memory.

"Tell me, Martin," she asked one day when they were sitting together
on the poop of the Maid of Honour, as that vessel with all sails
bellying to the wind that drove her almost on an even keel over a
tropic sea, "why are you so good and gentle to me?"

Lapsing into the brogue of his youth when he capered bootless and
barelegged in the green lanes of Kildare, he replied:

"Shure an' it's yerself, Mary asthore, wid y'r greaat brown eyes an'
y'r hair like the gold on the holy althr of the church at Naas that
reminds me of me own Mary Malone that I loved and was trothed to in
ould Ireland before she was pinched. An' it seems to me like a bit of
yistherday in a dhrame when we would sneak togither to the races at
the Curragh, an' she wid all the love of a horse in her an' the merry
soul of the lark. Och, the little whisper of her whin she said she'd
marry me, shure it was like the lilt of a lil bird an' me heart beat
to music wid ivery shy lil look of her. An' at the dance in Grogan's
shebeen her lil feet would skim the flure like a swallow flitting
across the face of a sthrame. Shure an' I was her shadder wherever she
wint, but she was the divil for the bhoys an' I cracked the skull of
more than whan of thim for her sake. In the end she put them all to
the door an' meself was the only wan she cared for afther all. Thin
one day she heard I was hurted wid a scythe whin cuttin' O'Sullivan's
whate, and she wid all her love in her heart for her man, an' that was
me, she borrowed the first horse that she cud lay holt on an' came
gallopin' over to O'Sullivan's like an angel of mercy, an' shure she
cud ride, the harum scarum that she was. Howsomiver, for this innocent
escapade she was brought before a magistrate and sent for thrial for
stealin' a horse, and was sentenced to seven years' transportation,
bad cess to them. An' then me moind wint wrong wid dhrink an' I became
woild. I left Kildare an' drifted down to Youghal, where I took t'r
smugglin', for shure I wanted to be transported, too. Then I wint over
to England and joined up with smugglers at Poole, but before I left
Kildare Father Maloney told me--and it's wonderful 'ow them prastes
know everythin'--that Mary Malone was shipped in the Royal Admiral
for Botany Bay. Howsomiver, I was nabbed at Poole, for smugglin' and
sentenced to transportation for fourteen years. Wirrah! But that plased
me, for shure, I thought, I would meet me Mary in Sydney Town, but
sorra the sight of her did I iver see agin. Like a caged birrd she
fretted and pined, and what with bad tratement and fever an' dys-sentry
she died on the Royal Admiral afor she reached Botany Bay an' her
beautiful young body was thrown to the sharks."

"Oh, Martin, what a sad story and what a wicked, wicked place the world
is."

"Wicked, begorra, it is that, colleen. Shure the divel's wide awake in
the wurruld, an' God in His hiven do be schlaping. Faith an' He's niver
guv a glance at Owstralia. An' fur why? Bekase God in His mercy cannot
know what hidjus cruelty an' tortshure His subjects are put to in that
raymote part iv the wurruld."

"Martin, I sometimes wonder if there is a God after all. It doesn't
seem right somehow that a God of heaven, mighty, omnipotent, merciful,
should permit such a place as hell to exist. A God of Mercy and a God
of Hell! No, Martin, I cannot reconcile myself to such a belief."

"An' ye 'ave rayson to be suspeshus, colleen. Anyhow, I've known more
hell than hiven. Ye would not belave me did I tell ye wan half iv the
cruelties I've suffered at Port Arthur an' Port Macquarie. God niver
looked down on thim hells widout a shudder, bekase if He did His
shudder wud shake the wurruld to its foundashuns."

"And Moreton Bay, Martin, what about it? Is that place a hell, too?"

"Shure an it's hell set down at the front dure of hiven, colleen, an'
they do say as Captain Lannigan, the commydant, is the divil himself on
a hollyday jaint fr'm hell itself."

"May one expect no mercy, no justice there then, Martin? I've met
Captain Lannigan. I believe he's an Irishman like yourself, but a bad
one and you're such a good one."

"Me a good one, colleen! God, ye make me laff. I'm that good, girrul,
that iv I had the power over them brutes that ordered the floggin'
of Martin Kenefake ye'd run from me shudderin' did I but tell ye the
onmentionable cruelties that I wud put them to."

When Mary Worthington told Martin Kenefake of the circumstances in
which she had met Captain Lannigan, and how she had dealt with him, his
admiration for her was boundless; but he groaned with horror when he
imagined what would be her fate, the fate of a beautiful and desirable
girl, in the absolute control of such a degenerate official. There
would be little of heaven for her there.

"Ye axed me, colleen, if there would be any justice or mercy at Moreton
Bay. I'll not decayve ye, me poor gurrl, divil a bit. An' if ye belave
in yer God iv mercy pray to Him that He take Peirce Lannigan to His
judgment afoare ye reach Moreton Bay."

That night in her cell on the Maid of Honour there came to Mary
Worthington like a divine inspiration the sublimity of Beethoven's
"Sonata Pathetique." It revealed to her the story of her own tragedy.
At first it spoke of anguish, and striving, the anguish and striving
of her own tortured soul; and then of the truth that all evils give
way before enduring faith, a faith that must be hers no matter what
happens; and then, finally, the sonata expressed the joy of deliverance
even as the Israelites were delivered from their bondage in the land of
the Pharoahs. She had often played the sonata on her own pianoforte at
Pentecost, but now in the hour of her tribulations its spiritual story
came to her with all its wonderful import prophesying her ultimate
deliverance.

"Oh, if that could only be possible!"

"Dear God, vouchsafe to me that inspiring, enduring faith to believe
that from this crucible of suffering I shall yet arise radiant and
free, that notwithstanding the doubts and uncertainties that have
assailed me I am still under Thy divine protection."




CHAPTER XXI.

Admitting the ferocity of Captain Pearce Lannigan's disposition in the
exercise of his merciless and tyrannical prison discipline, this must
be said of him in extenuation to a certain degree: he was, though used
to society, cut off by remoteness from all the finer attributes of
civilisation and obliged to throw in his lot not only with criminals,
whose record for blasphemy, mutual hatred, and the unrestricted
indulgence of unnatural lust, was perhaps unexcelled, but with
officials who were almost as blasphemous, corrupt, and degraded as the
felons over whom they exercised their sway.

The element of female society was non-existent, and the yearning of
his heart towards such society was indescribable. It was a torment not
only to himself but to the convicts as well. To him it was a punishment
that forced him to make a pet of a lubra; to them it was a punishment
greater than the lash or any other than the cruelty of man could
inflict upon them.

When Governor Darling broke up Port Macquarie and sent up the fearful
creatures that had lost all semblance of womanhood to Moreton Bay, the
old hands with parched mouths and burning flesh and eyes from which
blazed desire, naked and unashamed, felt a new sensation. It was the
appeal of sex. What mattered their criminal record, their tattered
prison garb that barely concealed their nakedness, their blasphemous
tongues and snarling lips, and their frenzied hysteria. They were women
and were as welcome as angels.

But to Captain Lannigan they brought no finer feelings. They were worse
than the degraded women who followed Sir Arthur Wellesley's army in the
Peninsula Campaign, and he treated them with the same ruthless severity
as he treated the male felons. He forced them to work at Eagle Farm,
in the quarries, and on the roads, stripped to the waist. For him they
had no sex appeal. They were too degraded. He preferred his young lubra
from the bush, a laughing, spontaneous child of nature. He called her
Eena, short for the black's Eenaweena, his little woman. The convict
women she called Gaddawirra, bad women, who went with Watji-Watji, bad
men.

The convict women were not immune from the lash. The commandant gave
them no preferential treatment; but at last his excessive severity to
both men and women called forth a protest from Governor Darling, who
was himself not regarded as a model of mildness, but a man of cruel
propensities. His idea of modifying Captain Lannigan's severity was the
issuing of an order that no commandant should command that more than
one hundred lashes were to be given in one day to one man or woman.

The drinking of rum and gambling was the pastime of the officials; but
as the supply of rum was limited, drunkenness was not too prevalent.
If the supply had not been limited, the commandant would not have been
able to exercise his amazing energy in laying the foundations of a
State. The greatest part of the permanent buildings forming the penal
settlement on the Brisbane River was constructed during his regime.
Though the period of his rule is regarded as the darkest in the history
of the Brisbane settlement, he made progress notwithstanding the
difficulties that beset him.

His next important step from his point of view was to marry the male
and female prisoners. He permitted them to make their own choice, but
marry they must. If any refused, the lash broke down their obstinacy.
Was it not his purpose to build up a State? Then the building must be
done on legitimate lines. Promiscuous union would not be tolerated.

"Damme," he explained to the only parson available--one the Reverend
Gabriel Grimstone--"I want to found a State of legitimates, not
bastards."

Now the Reverend Gabriel Grimstone was transported for unlawfully
performing the marriage ceremony. He had arrived at Moreton Bay in the
Ringarooma and was a snuffle-buster of the first order. When Nigel
Lording was beaten up by Captain Paul Lewis on the voyage out, the
Reverend Gabriel Grimstone exhorted him with unctious mellifluence
to confess and to repent. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning
of wisdom, therefore, learn ye the way of truth and confess," was
his constant exhortation. Nor did he desist in his hypocritical and
unwelcome ministrations until threatened with violence by the outraged
convict.

He was one of those disreputable and dissolute clergymen who,
imprisoned for debt in the Fleet Prison, insulted the dignity of
their holy profession by marrying in the precincts of the prison, at
a minute's notice, any persons who might present themselves for that
purpose. No questions were asked, no stipulations made, except as to
the amount of the fee and the quantity of liquor to be drunk on the
occasion. For a bribe he would perform any wedding, even going to the
extent of making false entries in the registers, antedating weddings,
giving fictitious certificates, and marrying persons who would declare
only the initials of their names. He even provided for a fee, sham
bridegrooms to marry spinsters or widows in debt in order to cheat
their creditors by pretending to have been married before the debt
was contracted. For this and similar offences he was apprehended and
convicted.

Captain Lannigan, with some sense of humour, dubbed him the "Bishop of
Hell."

Following on the brain wave of the commandant to join in holy matrimony
the male and female convicts at the settlement, came the news that the
Maid of Honour, with two hundred--more or less--female convicts
on board, had arrived in the Bay. As there were no free settlers at
Moreton Bay, to whom these "Maids of Honour," as they came to be known,
could he assigned, and as evils had already arisen at the settlement
owing to the disproportion of the sexes, which was an incentive to
vice, the commandant, in order to make some attempt at reformation,
decided to send the "Maids" to the factory and to the farms which
he had provided for them in anticipation of their arrival, there
to undergo a probationary period in discipline and training before
marrying them to the convicts eagerly waiting to espouse them.

But the commandant made it plain that there was to be no relaxation
of discipline or punishment. The basic principle of his system of
government was that every convict must actually undergo punishment
without either pardon or mitigation for some predetermined period
proportionate to the length off his or her sentence.

This discipline meant work of the most gruelling kind. The food problem
was an insistent one, and now that women as well as men comprised the
convict population of the settlement, the women would be employed in
cultivation and in the grinding of corn into meal and flour in the
treadmill up at the abortive windmill, and the men in the quarries
at hewing stone for building, felling and splitting timber for the
construction of huts, and quarrying and burning limestone at Limestone
Hills.

So strict was the discipline maintained at the settlement, that when
the country from the sea to the confines of the Great Dividing Range
began to be opened up by the explorations of Lockyer and the discovery
of the Darling Downs by Cunningham, no person was permitted to approach
the settlement within a radius of fifty miles.

When the Maid of Honour berthed at the King's Wharf near the
Commissariat Stores, the condition of the transportees was simply
deplorable.

Their emaciated, pallid faces bore sufficient evidence of their
suffering. It was obvious to the Commandant, the doctor, the
superintendent of convicts and the other officials, that the "Maids"
would have to undergo a period of rest and nourishment on land before
they could be put to hard labour. As many as possible were accommodated
at the new female factory in the bush track, afterwards known as
Queen Street, but the room there was limited. Even so, every class of
offender was subjected to contamination of mutual bad example; but
the women were warned that they would not be spared a flogging if
there was any quarrelling among them. In truth, they were too broken
by the strict discipline on the transport to make any attempt at
insubordination. Those that were marched to the stockade at Eagle Farm
were better off, in that they had more room in which to lie down or to
walk about.

When Captain Lannigan, resplendent in the uniform of his regiment, went
on board the Maid of Honour with his guard of honour, accompanied
by the Superintendent of Convicts, O'Rourke, to inspect the cargo of
female felons, he requested the Captain to line them up.

"Blind me, Cap'n, they're a tousled lot," he remarked, as he surveyed
them, "but there are husbands aplenty at the Settlement awaiting them."

At this remark, some of the women sniggered. Some even looked coyly at
the resplendent commandant.

"An' I'm thinkin', Excellency, ye'll find them a tough lot; but if yer
reputation's all I've heerd, I'll have no doubt, ye'll know how to
discipline them," replied the Captain.

"Gawd, wait till he thpots th' 'Fallen Angel'," audibly remarked
Mulatto Jane, nudging her neighbour in the line, with her elbow.

The Commandant heard the remark and noted the lack of discipline--a
convict daring to speak before being spoken to.

"Sink me, Cap'n, but the discipline on your ship's bad." Then in his
sternest manner, in order to impress his new subjects, the Commandant
continued: "A remark like that on land would mean a hundred lashes.
Stand out, woman. What's your name?"

"Jane de Thierry, y'r honour."

"Otherwise Mulatto Jane, your Excellency, seven years for theft,"
interjected the captain.

"By God, captain, she's repulsive enough to mate with the devil." Then
to Mulatto Jane the commandant said, "If the 'Fallen Angel,' whoever
she be, is no more beautiful than you, she must be bad. But if she's as
ugly as sin we'll find her a husband, and you, too, my peerless Jane."

At which remark "Peerless Jane" smirked and curtsied. She felt proud
at holding the deck and grinned with her ship-mates at her new name of
"Peerless Jane."

"There'll be no time for grinning at Moreton Bay, my beauties. Believe
me. But this 'Fallen Angel,' capt'n, which is she?"

"Fetch yer ward, Kenefake, for his Excellency's inspection," shouted
the captain. Then to the commandant he said; "She's a lifer, yer
Excellency, but was sent out under special protection. She has
influential friends."

"But why, in hell's name, is she not lined up with this crew? Isn't she
a convict?"

"Sure she is, Excellency, but these women here, especially Mulatto
Jane, hold a grudge against her, and as she was sent out under special
protection, with Warder Kenefake in charge, she was kept apart from the
others for her own safety."

Standing on the quarter-deck of the transport, Captain Lannigan was
amazed at what he had been told. Never in his experience had he heard
of such a thing as preferential treatment of a convict, man or woman.
"Damme, cap'n, you intrigue me, 'pon honour, you do," and he glared at
the captain of the transport with his choleric, rum-soaked countenance.
"This, this--blast my soul--this 'Fallen Angel,' set apart from her
fellows for fear of contamination, of injury! Forsooth, I must behold
her."

"It's the truth, yer Excellency--so help me God."

Whilst this conversation was going on between the commandant and the
captain, Martin Kenefake, who saw in the former an implacable monster
of cruelty, trembled, hardened criminal though he was, for the fate of
his ward. He stood irresolute until galvanised into activity by the
raging shout of Captain Lannigan.

"What in thunder are ye standing there for, fellow? Bring up your
pampered Venus, blast ye, and be quick about it."

Martin Kenefake, the victim of a thousand lashes, forgot for the moment
that he was a freeman and visibly wilted under the stern command of the
Commandant. Touching his forelock in true convict fashion, and fearing
to answer back, he went down 'tween decks for Mary Worthington.

"Darlint," he said, "I've come to fetch ye to the Monsther. Me conthrol
over ye' is inded an' its Martin Kenefake that's sorry f'r ye and I'll
miss ye sore, so I will."

"Oh, Martin, I'm afraid. Stand by me to the last."

"That an' I will, acushla, f'r there's hate in me sowl for that villain
on the deck above."

Then came forth Mary Worthington knowing him whom she was to meet,
whereas he of her long nightmares of troubled sleep, had no inkling
of her whom he was to meet on the sun-kissed deck of that transport
on a glorious day in June. All eyes were on her as she was gently led
forward by Warder Kenefake. Lissom, beautiful, even in her prison garb
of grey wincey, with the semi-tropical sun glinting through the gold of
her aureoled hair, her agate brown eyes filled with apprehension, and
her trembling hands pressed to the firm roundness of her heaving bosom,
Mary Worthington appeared before the man she had thrashed with her
riding whip at Tavistock.

There was not a movement, not a whisper on the deck of the transport,
it was like a dead calm before a storm. Up aloft, the Union Jack
fluttered at the masthead, and a few sea gulls whirled in graceful
gyrations over the surface of the river. All eyes were riveted on the
Commandant and on her who was termed the "Fallen Angel." If a mythical
angel, stainlessly fair and with wings of iridescent splendour, had
swooped down from heaven and stood before him on the deck of the
transport instead of Mary Worthington, Captain Lannigan could not have
been more startled or amazed.

"S'death! The vixen of Tavistock Green, or am I dreaming!" he
exclaimed. Then he remembered. He had read in the last mail from
England, how she had been implicated in the murder of Lord Belriven and
had been sentenced to transportation for life. Never in his wildest
imagining had he the slightest idea that this girl whose will had
clashed with him in far away England, would have been sent to Moreton
Bay to work out her life sentence under his jurisdiction. Still here
she was, in his absolute power, to do with as he willed.

"So they call you the 'Fallen Angel,' eh? Well, the term is not
inappropriate, forsooth. Fallen indeed from your high estate, but an
angel in beauty in all verity. Well, I will have speech with you later,
madame. In the meantime, you will have no special treatment accorded to
you. That ends when you step off this vessel. You will march off under
guard to the stockade with your fellow prisoners.

"Take charge of these women, O'Rourke. March some of them to the
factory and others to the stockade at Eagle Farm. Keep the men from
them and see that they are not mistreated in any way. And look you,
women, if there's any trouble among you, or any foul play, I'll see to
your punishment, and, mark me, it won't be light."

Though Captain Lannigan as a strict disciplinarian, spoke haughtily to
Mary Worthington, he desired her beyond measure. Into this hell she
had dropped like a fallen angel indeed. Beautiful, accomplished, with
the graceful form of vigorous and healthy maidenhood, what had she in
common with her fellow female felons? Nothing, save the fact of her
banishment to this lonely outpost of crime. To make her come to him of
her own free will, he would act the tyrant. He would live up to the
reputation that she must have formed of him when in England. He knew
that she would not give herself to him for any esteem that she had for
him, therefore, he must drive her to him through torture and suffering.
But have her he would, whether by fair means or foul. To him in his
isolation among the most degraded felons in the world, she was the
most desirable thing on earth and he marvelled that fate, or whatever
power governs such strange circumstances, should have thrown her, of
all the fair women of England, in his way. In England, how he longed to
tame her, to break that proud spirit of her. Now the opportunity had
come to him in a way that was startling in its inexorableness. Here
at this lonely settlement, she was completely in his power and no law
but that of his own despotism, could save her from him. God, how his
blood tingled and his brain reeled as the thought of this delectable
beauty in his arms. Surely his hell would be turned into heaven. Then
there flashed across his mind that the man who had been a party to his
humiliation in Devon, was also out here under his absolute power. He
would now show her what power he had over that man. He would show her
how completely both were under his supreme dominance. He would test to
the utmost their love for each other, if it ever existed. To gain his
own ends, he would make good evil. He would torture to the verge of
annihilation, yet be frugal of death.

A few days after the arrival of the Maid of Honour in the river,
Superintendent O'Rourke reported to the commandant that the women had
so far recovered from their long confinement on the transport that they
were becoming rebellious and needed disciplining.

"Y'r Excellency will, no doubt, raymimber that wry faced half-breed
Mulatto Jane wot y'r Excellency cautioned f'r spakin' out of her turn
on the transport. Well, be jabers, iv she didn't thry fir to shpoil the
beauty of the 'Fallen Angel.' She scratched her face crool down at the
fact'ry."

"S'death, O'Rourke, bring both the beauties to the barracks in irons.
I would have speech with them. This lack of discipline is most
deplorable, I assure you."

The commandant, accompanied by his bodyguard of two armed soldiers,
left his quarters for the barracks there to interview the prisoners.
When they were brought before him, he noticed that the fair face of
Mary Worthington was badly scratched and her hair which now waved in
rippling splendour to her waist, and which she had managed to keep
trim, was badly pulled about.

"What's the trouble, O'Rourke?" asked the commandant in his most
superior tone.

"I'm thinkin' its shpite, y'r Excellency."

Looking sternly at Mulatto Jane he said coldly and sternly in a tone
that carried menace. "I warned you, woman, the other day that I would
not tolerate brawling. Why did you molest this girl?"

"Cauth her beathly pride makth me thick, y'r honour. She thinkth she
its thuperior to uth convicth."

"Oh, that's it, is it? Strip her to the waist, O'Rourke, and give her
50 lashes. Her next offence will earn her a hundred."

"Oh, please, sir," pleaded Mary Worthington, "forgive her this time."

"I never forgive, madam, and, by the way, remember this: When' I'm
addressed by convicts, and that's seldom, I'm entitled to Excellency
not Sir. Remember that in future."

It pleased Captain Lannigan to speak to Mary Worthington in this
grandiloquent fashion. It suited his purpose to do so; but the
only reply he received was a scornful curl of her lips and a flash
of indignation from eyes that looked at him unflinchingly. "And,
O'Rourke," spoke the Commandant, carelessly, as he turned to leave, "In
order to show the women--the new arrivals--that they are on an equal
footing here, give them all a turn at the treadmill, twenty-five at a
time and keep them at it for twelve hours. When this half-breed has had
her 'fifty,' send her up to the windmill and see that she takes her
turn at the treadmill with this girl--side by side, in order that they
may become more friendly."

The treadmill was generally worked by twenty-five prisoners at a time;
but when it was used as a special punishment, sixteen prisoners,
usually men, were kept at it for fourteen hours at a stretch, with
only the intervals of release afforded by four being off at a time
in succession. The prisoners, especially the women, found the task
extremely irksome at first.




CHAPTER XXII.

The one thought that now consoled Mary Worthington was that at any time
she might behold Nigel Lording. Where he was, she couldn't be lonely
even if she did not see him. To her there was a sense of protection in
his proximity, though at the time he was working in a chain gang making
a road from the King's Wharf down to the Bight. Ironed as he was, he
was helpless to assist her even if he desired to do so.

Being with others in this particular gang, regarded as a strong
and desperate criminal, he, not only by way of punishment, but for
the purpose of extra security, dragged about with him at every
step he took, "fifty-six pounders"--irons of that weight, without
the assistance of a supporting waist-belt. With the incorrigibles,
the Commandant took no chances. Every bolter was a menace to the
settlement. Besides, now that Mary Worthington was at the settlement,
he had diabolical reasons for keeping her lover safe until such time as
he matured his plans.

It was no secret among the convicts that the commandant had perfected
his scheme of mating the new arrivals by the female transport with the
men, and there was eager expectation among them as to the manner of the
mating. Were they to make their own choosing, to draw lots, or to be
content with the partner assigned to each by the commandant.

Nigel Lording had his own ideas about the matter. He felt certain that
Mary Worthington would not be mated with him, and when he thought of
what her fate would be in this mating business, he felt as if something
had hit him in the pit of the stomach and made him feel weak and faint.

Not far away from where the chain-gang was working was the "factory"
where many of the women were imprisoned. Without ceasing in their toil
or daring to show any signs of curiosity, the convicts saw the heavy
gates of the factory thrown open and a squad of twenty-five women
marched out under the escort of two warders and two armed soldiers.
They took the track that led up from the flat to the spur on which the
windmill stood. Then the convicts knew that the women were bound for
the treadmill, to experience their first taste of weary and unremitting
servitude. As the women passed the men in the chain gang on their way
up the hill, they looked at the brutal and sullen felons with the
curiosity that children look at wild beasts in a menagerie.

Then Mary Worthington saw Nigel Lording. With a scream like a wounded
bird she cried out "Nigel!" The cry was wrung from her not only by
the suddenness of the sight of him, but by the terrible change in his
appearance. Gaunt, unkempt, unshaven, stripped to the waist and burnt
almost black by the sun, with a small leather skull cap on his head,
she saw him quarrying with heavy irons fastened to his legs. But there
was no mistaking his symmetrical, athletic body. Of all the felons in
the gang, he stood out alone. Despite the disguise, wrought by his
martyrdom, she knew him instantly.

At the sudden cry of his name, Nigel Lording dropped his pick and
turned to look whence it came. Then he saw Mary Worthington, saw her
struck with a whip by a brutal warder and ordered to keep marching. He
groaned and the warder in charge of the gang turned from looking at the
women in the squad to see him stagger and drop his pick.

"Pick up that dam' pick, you dog. Does so much beauty overpower ye?"

Without a word he obeyed. But under his breath he unconsciously prayed:
"God who ordaineth all things, give me strength and courage to help her
in this place of torment!"

Twelve hours at the tread-mill, with the barest respite for food of the
commonest and most uninviting nature, was enough to break the spirit of
any woman unused to such a terrible form of punishment, more especially
of a girl of Mary Worthington's tender nurturing. The heat in the
tower, and the reeking bodies of the sweating women, made her sick; but
still under the watchful eyes of a brutal warder, she was compelled to
go on treading, treading, with the smellful Mulatto Jane slobbering and
cursing, on one side of her, and a vicious debased but sturdy virago on
the other side of her. If she failed to keep pace with the others on
the great revolving wheel, which ground their souls as it ground the
grain for their food, she was liable to be maimed or beaten. Though her
limbs ached with an intolerable agony and her feet and hands became
swelled and sore with the ceaseless monotony of her toil, there was no
let up, and when the day had ended, more than one sobbing wretch was
ready to curse God and die.

Captain Lannigan, with the devilish cunning of his brutal nature, knew
what effect 12 hours at the treadmill would have on Mary Worthington
after her life of comparative ease on the transport, and he planned
accordingly. In the evening he sent a warder to bring her to his
quarters and when she arrived, gave orders that he was not to be
disturbed. The only being present was the young black lubra, Eena,
naked, except for a swarthing of red turkey twill around her waist and
down to her thighs. Her he had trained to wait on him. Not more than
sixteen, she was at the budding of her savage beauty and was as upright
and symmetrical as a sculptured venus in black marble. She belonged to
one of the red tribes to the north of Moreton Bay, so called by the
colouring of their eyebrows, cheeks, and bodies with a deep red ochre.
Eena was an outcast from her tribe. Her father and mother had married
out of their classes, and by the stern marriage laws of the tribe they
were hunted down and killed. Their child became an outcast, a mongrel.
Because of her beauty she was spared. But as her life was made bitter
by the eternal taunts and jeers of the tribe, she ran away hoping to
fall in with some other tribe. Though she had grown into a comely girl
ready for marriage, none would dream of marrying her for she was a
Kongara--an outcast. It was during her wanderings in the bush that she
was founded by some soldiers from the settlement, who were scouring the
country for runaway convicts, and brought, naked and unashamed, to the
commandant, who adopted her, trained her, and made her his pampered
slave.

Captain Lannigan was dressed in his regimentals as faultlessly as
the exigencies of the settlement at the time permitted. His quarters
were lit by many candles and Mary Worthington, beholding him in their
flickering light, was ill at ease. Though she saw before her a man in
the prime of life, vigorous, alert, masterful, there was a ferocity in
his features more brutal and more intensely portrayed than when she had
first encountered him in Tavistock. The manner of his living and the
pitiless nature of his government of the settlement, had not tended
to soften his features or to move him to pity. He owed this girl a
grudge and he had her in his power, and he swelled with pride at his
conception of his power.

Handcuffed, Mary Worthington stood before him; but notwithstanding her
aching limbs and toil-wracked body, she raised her beautiful head and
stiffened herself into an attitude of defiance.

"Madame," he said, and he smiled grimly as he spoke, standing up before
her in the fullness of his masterful manhood, "I have sent for you to
renew our acquaintance. Warder, remove the handcuffs from the prisoner
and then you may go."

"Sir," replied Mary Worthington, when the warder had gone, "It is an
acquaintance I do not crave." Though her flesh was weak, her voice was
strong.

"I am hoping that you will before long. Your crime was detestable and
your punishment, no doubt, just; but I am not now concerned with what
has passed. It is the future that counts. Is not that so, Madam?"

"Oh, I can suffer, if that's what you mean, and claim no indulgence at
your hands."

"You will pardon me, madam, but your name is Mary, is it not? Then pray
be seated, Mary. It is not so much what you claim as what I am prepared
to concede. In the first place, your face and hands are begrimed, and
your wonderful hair is untidy. In fact you are scarcely presentable."

"Sir, have you brought me here to taunt me, to insult me?"

"Not so, Mary----"

"I prefer Madam, if you please."

"What! In hell's name, still as dauntless and as defiant as ever?
Damme, Mary, I like your pluck. It's so refreshing in this land of
grovelling servility. But I'll wager you'd like to bathe that beautiful
face of yours and to brush that glorious hair. Eena gawai (come here)
you take missie longa lie-down (bedroom). She bin Kombara Thoara (sweet
girl) belongum you. Make plenty clean. Plenty walar-karamerra (rain
water)."

Mary Worthington was the first white girl the young lubra had ever
seen, and she thought her wonderful. With shy, hesitating steps, she
walked over to Mary Worthington and took her hand to lead her to the
Commandant's room to make her toilet as well as she could.

Self respect being paramount, Mary Worthington had no scruples in going
into the Commandant's room to bathe her face and wash her small dainty
hands. She even brushed her glowing hair with the Commandant's military
hair brushes.

"Murrumba-thoara you (good girl). Boss he bin talk plenty longa you.
You look out. Some time he get wamba-wamba (very mad). Then he shout
like tumberumba (thunder) and flog 'im abilla (convict)."

Refreshed, Mary Worthington again faced her jailer and Eena went with
her. For the company of even this little savage, she was thankful.

"Sit down, Mary. Eena, you go make tea, bring plenty kai-kai (food)."
Then turning to Mary Worthington, the Commandant said:

"Is it the decree of heaven or hell that has thrown you to my absolute
power? Faith, I know not. But this I do know, Lord Belriven never
desired you more than I did. If I had schemed to possess you, I could
not have devised in all the ingenuity of my wickedness, a scheme so
fraught with success as that which fate has favoured me. To abase you,
to humble you for those whip strokes with which you favoured me, has
been the unfulfilled and unrepentant desire of my manhood. And yet, now
that I can do with you as I will, with no one to withhold me, I feel no
joy in my craving for retaliation. A penitent, crouching and pleading
for mercy, gives me no satisfaction. Here in this wilderness, alone,
uncared for, you must go under unless I throw out a helping hand.
You, with your woman's intuition, will have perceived that here in
the absence of women to be admired and desired, there is nothing else
for a man like me worth while to live for. Your coming is the spark
for the long dried fuel of my desire. The mere sight of you flames
it into a heaven or a hell. I have willed that a life of degradation
and suffering in this thrice accursed hell, is not one that such as
you, beautiful, accomplished, proud, must live. You see what I have
been content to enshrine on the altar of my affection--a little black
Venus. She must now suffer an eclipse. You must take her place. Though
I cannot free you from the term of your sentence as a convict, assigned
to myself you will have many privileges."

"My God!"

The exclamation was wrung from Mary Worthington by the cold, studied
infamy of the proposition made to her by her pitiless jailer. Pale and
trembling, she got up from the chair on which she was sitting, and with
pale face and haunting eyes, looked in terror at the man she feared
most on earth.

"You----You," she stammeringly spoke in her fury. "You dare to claim
me as your mistress. Oh, my God, and it was for this I was born! Oh,
no, no, never! A convict I may be, and though branded with brands that
burn into my soul, hell holds no name that is blacker than yours on its
terrible scroll. Too fascinated with horror, I could not interrupt you
in your infamous proposal."

"Madame, your railing is useless. I am supreme here. I thought that a
day at the treadmill would give you a taste of what you will have to
endure here. But it appears that you must undergo greater punishment
before your suppliant knees will bend to me."

Captain Lannigan did not expect such a spirited resistance from his
victim and he stood up now and angrily faced the girl whose will he
had imagined he could so easily bend to his. With head erect, standing
tense like a tigress at bay, she repeated:

"A convict I may be and under your sole power as chief jailer of this
settlement; but I am innocent. Deeper than mine is the gulf of your
guilt and deeper than hell is the depth of my loathing for the cruel
suggestion of your power over me."

"Enough, madame, you surely did not imagine that I, the Governor
of Moreton Bay, would ask you, a convict, to marry me. You are
too credulous. In a few days when you know what punishment for
insubordination and open defiance means, you will come to me on my own
terms and I will heal your ruined pride and bruised and tortured body
with the solace of my love."

"Sir, I defy you. You have no potence to scare me. Full in the face of
your fury I tell you that my life is my own, not yours, and I will end
it rather than yield to you. Though God-forsaken, alone, I will endure
your martyrdom even as the man I still love, endures it. If he can
suffer and live, so can I."

"Oh my fine beauty, so in him, your partner in crime, you find
inspiration for your strength of will! So be it. Well, he will suffer
by reason of your love for him. I'll see that he is mated in holy
wedlock with your tormentor, Mulatto Jane."

Then the smiling, merry-souled little black venus, Eena, came in with
the tea and cakes; but her smile was quickly dissipated when she
beheld the wamba-wamba (very bad) looks in the faces of her master
and his thoars (girl). She placed the tray on the table and quickly
disappeared. She knew from experience that that ugly look on the face
of her "boss" meant trouble. The food was left untouched. Captain
Lannigan blew his policeman's whistle. The warder returned, took charge
of Mary Worthington, and locked her in the "factory" with her wondering
shipmates.

Where had she been?

If Mary Worthington had yielded to the puissant Commandant, she might
have softened his brutal nature; but having defied him and spurned his
overtures, his rule became more tyrannical than ever. He could have
taken any of the "Maids of Honour" for his mistress, and she would
have gone to him willingly to escape the racking servitude of the
settlement. But Captain Lannigan was too proud to let it be known among
them that he, the dominant, the all powerful, had been spurned by a
convict. That was gall and wormwood to his almightiness. He would be
satisfied with no one but the "Fallen Angel." That was his inflexible
resolve. God, how he would torture her to make her yield to him! But
he took every care to see that no one else claimed her. He instructed
the Superintendent of Convicts to show her no mercy, no favour, but she
must be kept from the men. Most of all, she was to be kept remote from
the soldiers and above all from Nigel Lording. To this end, she was
sent to the stockade at Eagle Farm to work in the cornfields, to dig,
to hoe in the fearful heat of the humid summer, stripped to the waist,
a victim to the plague of sand flies and mosquitoes.

"She would not stand that servitude long," commented the Commandant to
his satellite, O'Rourke. "If she shows any sign of insubordination,
make her task the more severe, but see that you do not flog her. I do
not want her to come to me seared and scarred by the lash."

"Indade, y'r Excellency," remarked Superintendent O'Rourke, "she gives
less throuble thin anny wan iv thim and works like a Throjan. The men
look upon her as the darlint of the settlement. I'm thinkin' there's
a divil a wan of thim wud raise a hand to sthrike her. As for the
sojeers, Gorra'mighty, y'r Excellency, they follys her wid worshipful
eyes."




CHAPTER XXIII.

And so the days went by and the lash held sway until the day arrived
when the commandant decided to carry out his scheme of marrying the
women to the men. Trees had been felled and split, huts built, barracks
and stockades completed, and the settlement assumed the aspect of a
village.

The sun rose over Gnoorganpin and the day in its gladness awoke. From
river and forest and scrubland came the call and the song of the birds,
as they in the joyousness of their limitless freedom, mocked the felons
at their superhuman tasks. The land, clothed with its vestment of
burgeoning trees, was fanned by the winds of the morning, tempering
the heat of a cloudless day. All nature seemed to speak of a glorious,
exquisite ease, when the peace that overhung the settlement on this
new-born day was rudely shattered by a bugle call at the barracks. The
soldiers assembled, the warders mustered the convicts, men and women,
the Commandant and his staff rode into the barrack square, orders were
issued, and the convicts wearing their clanking irons, guarded by
soldiers and warders, were marched to Pine Tree Square. The stage was
set for the great marriage ceremony. Like a columned colossus, the pine
tree stood in the centre of the clearing. All around, save where paths
were cut, leading to different parts of the settlement, was a riot of
scrub and bracken and tangled undergrowth. Nature in her lavishment had
hemmed in the settlement with a wall of bush and scrub.

The Commandant and his staff, impressive in their military uniforms,
made a bright picture near the pine tree, and the "Bishop of Hell"
was also there in stole and surplice, ready to perform the marriage
ceremony.

Captain Lannigan mounted his official platform and addressed the whole
population of the settlement, bond and free.


"Felons," he said, "Lieutenant-General Sir Ralph Darling, the official
head of the administration of New South Wales, has commissioned me
to expand this settlement of Moreton Bay, the foundations of which
were laid by his predecessor, Sir Thomas Brisbane, to the very best
of my authority and ability. To this end, he recommended to the
Secretary of State for the Colonies, to send out to this, the newest
of His Majesty's possessions, a contingent of women (I believe they
have been dubbed 'Maids of Honour') to mate with the gallants of
Moreton Bay. They have come twelve thousand miles to meet you, and
though you are the veriest spawn of hell, you will, I am sure, not
disappoint them. Demme, you will not be permitted to do so. Any one
of you dogs who dares to refuse to take and cherish the mate which
I, in my judgment, and not of your own choice, will choose for you,
will be flogged into acquiescence. The law of the lash will be meted
out to the defiant. Lags, this day marks the foundation of a great
state. From your virile loins there will spring a race of pioneers
that will over-run this great continent. What if you are felons and
lags! In a hundred years from now, your descendants will forget their
progenitors. They will guard the secret of their ancestry so closely
that no one will know from whom they have sprung. Statesmen, lawyers,
soldiers, administrators, in fact some of the highest and best in this
Australia, will a hundred years hence, know you in secret as their
great grandfathers. They will be virile and brainy descendants, because
you have lived the open life, undebauched by the artificialities of
civilisation.

"Rascals, we are told that men should use great providence and
circumspection in the choice of their wives. But here, unfortunately,
choice is limited. But I am contradicting myself. God rot you,
villains, you have no choice, only the choice to take the wife I
allot to you. See that you refuse not. This country is crying out for
population. I will now ask the 'Bishop of Hell' to address you."


The "Bishop of Hell," with all the solemnity of the occasion enfolding
him, stepped on to the platform beside the commandant, and holding up
his right hand as if to bestow a benediction, bellowed:


"Brethren (for are we not akin, priest and felon?) ye have listened
with much attentiveness to the eloquent address of his Excellency, the
commandant, and it behoves ye to heed seriously what he has said. I am
persuaded it is the Lord's mercy to place ye where ye are. He moves in
a mysterious way His wonders to perform. His ways are past finding out.
I need not advise you to love your wife. The Lord will teach you how
to do it. Of the justness of his Excellency in choosing your partners,
I am firmly persuaded. Do not indulge in romantic ideas of superhuman
excellence. Remember that the fairest creature is a fallen creature.
Measured by that standard the women here must seem to ye beautiful. And
I say to ye in the words of the old proverb, 'Happy is the wooing that
is not long a-doing.' It matters not that some of ye may have wives and
husbands in England. If ye have ye will never see them again. As his
Excellency has told ye, this country wants population. To ease your
conscience, if ye ever possessed one, ye will be properly married. God
sink ye, but ye are all reprobates, villains and scoundrels, and it
doesn't matter whether I marry ye or not, ye'll be mated in any case.
His Excellency will see to that. The fear of the Almighty, is the
beginning of wisdom. Er--by the Almighty I do not mean his Excellency
here, but Almighty God. If ye have wisdom ye will not refuse the wife
that his Excellency allots to ye. May God forgive ye what is past, and
may He give ye grace to be reconciled to the future. Virtus incendit
vires."


This blasphemy, addressed, by such an infamous functionary whose
wedding business in England was so extensive and so scandalous, that he
was not only ex-communicated by the Bishop of London, but transported
for his dangerous and unlawful traffic in marriages, was listened to
with considerable amusement by both officials and convicts. Though
the men, sunk to the lowest depths of misery and degradation by their
manner of living at the settlement, regarded the whole affair with
stolid indifference, the women, especially those who had recently
arrived on the Maid of Honour indulged in much mental speculation
as to who was to be her man. In any case, if the mating proved to be
incompatible, they could exchange until each was satisfied. Well,
they would see what Fate in this direction had in store for them.
Nigel Lording and Mary Worthington looked with horror and abhorrence
on the whole proceeding. No man but a devil incarnate, such as they
knew Captain Lannigan to be, would have conceived of such promiscuous
mating, of such an immoral and degrading proposition. What part were
they to play in it?

They were soon to learn.

The commandant, who had made it his business to know the history of
every felon under his sway, had made beforehand, with his wonderful
genius for organisation and detail, a list of those whom he desired
to mate. He made his selection probably with greater fitness than
the convicts would have made themselves had the choice of a bride or
bridegroom been left to them. He called out their names in pairs and as
each mounted the platform (and none dared refuse) the marriage ceremony
was duly performed by the Bishop of Hell, with all the ceremony of a
sublime hypocrisy. The convicts regarded the whole proceeding as a
monstrous joke, and made the comedy complete by a clapping of hands
and a jingling of leg irons as each pair--duly pronounced man and
wife--descended the platform in Pine Tree Square, and took up their
places within the circumference of the cordon of soldiers. All had
been duly mated with the exception of three--Nigel Lording, Mary
Worthington, and Jane de Therry--otherwise Mulatto Jane. None knew the
commandant's intentions in regard to these and there was a great hush
and a look of expectancy on every face. Was the "killer," as Lording
was known among the convicts, to be mated with the "Fallen Angel"
or with Mulatto Jane? None knew, though many suspected some devilry
at the back of the mind of the commandant. There was a pause in the
proceedings and the silence was impressive.

Then the Commandant, emphasising the dramatic situation by gazing
malevolently at Nigel Lording, called his name and that of Jane de
Therry. Mulatto Jane giggled and moved forward. The onlookers gasped.
Nigel Lording remained stationary. Still Mulatto Jane moved towards
the platform leering round to see if the man selected for her husband
was following. Mary Worthington, the unselected, standing alone, paled
with horror and consternation. The fiendishness of the Commandant
overwhelmed her. She staggered and was about to fall when a warder
held her up. The Commandant who had looked at her hard and long, had
the satisfaction of noting her agitation. He was striking her through
her lover. He interpreted the psychology of her agonised soul. The
mating of her lover with the most repulsive and debased woman of the
settlement would end for ever her claim on him. It was his scheme
of what he termed "poetic justice." Mulatto Jane had mounted to the
platform. She expressed eagerness to be mated to the finest convict
in the settlement, but her pre-ordained mate--by the grace of the
Commandant--had not moved from his position in the human circle. This
open defiance was rebellion, and the Commandant was furious. His
authority was flouted in the presence of the whole settlement, bond and
free.

"God rot ye villain, I'll teach ye to defy me," he shouted, in an
ecstacy of rage. "Bring that rebellious dog forward!"

Instantly, he was seized by two soldiers and brought up to the
platform. There he stood, encumbered with his heavy irons, but defiant.

"So, my fine follow, you dare pit your will against mine, eh? Here's
your bride waiting for you. Step up and be spliced."

Nigel Lording did not move, neither did he speak. He knew that anything
he might say would be used against him. Instead, he looked with
immobile face and eyes that stabbed with hatred, at the infuriated
Commandant. Then Mulatto Jane took part in the proceedings.

"Come, be a thport, mate. Y'bride'th waitin' f'yer. It 'th no uth. Ye
can't have th' 'Fallen Angel.' The almighty wanth her for hith thelf."
In spite of the tragedy looming, the spectators grinned. Some dared to
laugh aloud. This made the Commandant more furious.

"Remove that chattering harridan and gag her," he shouted.

"Chrith, y'Excellenthy, I want me man firth," retorted Mulatto Jane, as
she was removed from the platform.

"When I'm finished with the obstinate dog, my uxorious beauty, you can
nurse him back to life." Then, to the soldiers, he commanded: "Trice
him up and give the scoundrel two hundred lashes with the 'cat' to
bring him to his senses."

The rough hands of warders seized Nigel Lording, and, ironed though
he was, bore him to the pine tree. Deft fingers made brutal by long
practice, triced him up to the blood bespattered tree and roughly
tore off his jacket, leaving him stripped to the waist. Expectantly
the flagellator fondled the flexible lash and combed its thongs with
his fingers. He was awaiting the Commandant's order to strike, but
before that order was given, Mary Worthington, who had stood speechless
in dumb agony at the awful sentence passed upon her captive lover,
screamed with sudden terror when she saw the white flesh of Nigel
Lording bared for the inhuman flogging. Running forward with sobbing
noises she threw herself upon her lover as if to protect him with her
beautiful body from such monstrous treatment.

"Spare him! Spare him!" she sobbed. "Do with me what you will, but only
spare him."

Soldiers and convicts were moved to pity. Even in the most debased
there was still a spark of humanity left. But in the fierce Commandant
there was no pity. He had been openly defied. Discipline must be
preserved. Some one must suffer.

"Bring that woman to me," he commanded.

"So, madam," he said to her, "your proud spirit has broken at last.
Well, sink me, but I thought I could find a way to tame you. But an old
score must be wiped out. You were ever prone to thrashing and it is now
my purpose to give you a taste of it. Your lover will be set free on
condition that you receive a dozen strokes in his place. Then you will
come to me better or worse. I'll take my chance."

Then turning to the warders he ordered them to untie Nigel Lording
and to trice up Mary Worthington in his place. Stepping down from the
platform on which he had been standing, he handed his hunting crop to
Nigel Lording and commanded him to give her twelve strokes across her
bared back to bring her into proper subjection.

"God's curses on you, you inhuman monster," snarled Nigel Lording. "May
he sink me in hell from everlasting to everlasting, if I defile that
beautiful body by so much as one stroke."

"Strike, Nigel, strike. I will own each stroke a caress from your dear
hands, and will feel no hurt. Oh God, how you must have suffered."

"If he doesn't strike, my chastened beauty, he will not save you. Then
his turn will come and his mangled body will be given to Mulatto Jane
to heal, while you wait on me."

Turning to the Bishop of Hell, he said, with some pretence at a joke:

"Your lordship, while these two fond lovers make up their minds, it
would not be amiss to give an exhortation to these impenitent sinners.
Pray proceed."

Then with unctuous rectitude the reverend convict, perhaps the vilest
sinner in that circle of martyrdom, conjured the felons to repentance.


"Ye double-dyed villains and thrice hardened sinners as yere own
wickedness has caused all this evil to fall upon ye, I exhort ye to
repentance, for repentance is the only road to salvation. Pray without
ceasing. Quench not the spirit. Put your trust in the Almighty. I mean
Almighty God--so that yere souls may find eternal rest with the blessed
Saviour. He will wipe all tears from yere eyes, remove yere sorrows,
and assuage yere griefs so that yere sin-sick souls shall be healed for
evermore."


Then the Bishop of Hell bent his head as if in silent prayer, closed
his eyes, and then came forward to where Mary Worthington stood bound.

"Mary Worthington," said he, looking steadfastly into her eyes and then
allowing them to roam in ravishment over her half naked body, "ye have
placed yerself in the hands of his Excellency to do with ye as he will.
That is well. In a few hours ye will know nothing but joy and gladness.
Love righteousness, and obey the law, then the Almighty will anoint you
with the oil of gladness above yere fellow prisoners. Take heed that ye
deny yourself not to his Excellency, for in him here lies the supreme
authority. Transgress not beyond the limits of his and heaven's mercy.
Speak up now, woman, in open testament before his Excellency and yere
fellow convicts, that to save the hide of that incorrigible rogue, ye
will go resignedly to his Excellency as his cherished mistress."

"Oh, no, not that! Never!" replied Mary Worthington, twisting her hands
together in the agony of her mind. "Kill me first. Kill us both. But,
Oh God! Let me die innocent!"

While this terrible discourse was going on, Nigel Lording was crouching
down with his hands to his feet. The warders and soldiers were too
intent and too amused in listening to the Bishop of Hell to take much
heed of the prisoner. If they noticed him at all, they took it for
granted that he was a broken man, with no will left, crouching down in
the abjectness of his fear.

"Enough," shouted the Commandant. "The law of the lash must prevail,
or by God, the gallows will. They've had time enough to make up their
minds. Thrash that woman, you stubborn fool or----"

"I can stand no more your Excellency," interrupted Nigel Lording. "I
give in; but I cannot thrash a bound woman. Release her and I'll carry
out your command. If she goes to you I have no further interest in her."

Nigel Lording still maintained his crouching and abject position, and
the Commandant ordered Mary Worthington to be untied. "Stand up then
and thrash her, you dog. Damme, what are you crouching there for?" By
way of emphasis Captain Lannigan lifted his foot to kick the convict
into uprightness. Then an amazing thing happened. In a space of a
heartbeat, Nigel Lording leaped to action, tense, swift, appalling,
freed of his shackles. Like an untamed beast, goaded to madness by
inhuman tyranny, and urged by the strength of his hate, he caught up
the unsuspecting commandant in his arms and hurled him bleeding and
senseless against the pine tree. Then seizing one of his fetters in his
right hand he smashed through the warders to Mary Worthington. Picking
her up with a swift encircling sweep of his strong left arm as if she
were no more than the weight of a doll, he bounded with the litheness
of a panther out of the paralysed circle of soldiers, warders, and
convicts, and ran down a bush track leading to the river.

Amazed at the swift, sudden daring, the soldiers shot wide as the
convict ran for freedom--or death--with his beautiful burden pressed
fiercely to him. The convicts, some of whom had been unfettered for
the marriage ceremony, joined in the melee and the pursuing soldiers,
whose sympathies were on the side of the daring felon, turned back
to assist in quelling the mutiny, their bayonets agleam in the sun.
Fear-maddened, but love-strengthened, the fugitive stumbled through
tangle of bracken and undergrowth, elusively running and dodging in his
frantic concern to escape. Ahead flowed the turbulent river, outrunning
in flood to the bay. There hope in all her tempting allurement lay.
To drown, maybe, in a great endeavour. To live, perhaps. If to drown,
it were better to sink and die together than to stay and live on a
pitiless shore, where there was no hope, no mercy, only toil and terror
and bodily mutilation--a life worse than death.

For a moment he paused to gain his second wind, and to place his
precious burden on her feet. Behind came the hue and cry of the
man-hunt, borne to them on a westerly breeze. Taking the hand of the
girl in his, together they ran. Fear added to their speed, until they
came to the mouth of Breakfast Creek, whose waters were dammed back by
the flooded Brisbane River. Still behind them came the coo-ee and echo
of shouting with now and then the discharge of a firearm.

Heavy rains a few days before on the Upper Brisbane and Bremer had come
down in flood and the swollen river surged bayward in a red turgid
stream at their feet. Great trees and heavy logs washed from the banks
of tributaries, rolled in mid stream.

"Are you afraid to make the plunge, my beloved?"

"Not with you, my Nigel. If we drown, then we die together. I am
content."

With quick furtive glances to the rearward as if to gauge the distance
from pursuers, the fugitives then turned and together plunged into the
flood-swollen river. Both were expert swimmers, but so long as they
could keep afloat, not much swimming was needed. The current swept
them on irresistibly and in the cool embrace of the waters they felt
infinite rest from their pains. A tree was swept by them, and Nigel
Lording seized one of its branches. With his other arm he helped Mary
Worthington to a place on its trunk.

"Do you fear, my Mary?"

"Fear, Nigel? Am I not with you? I am frightened of life, not death."

Down by Doughboy Creek, the current swerved into an eddy near the bank.
This was the opportunity they had been waiting for. They slid off the
tree trunk and swam to the bank. For the present they were safe.




CHAPTER XXIV.

It was night, but the dawn was at hand. The winds soughed softly
through the sweet-scented ti-trees and a boobook called to its mate. As
Orion dropped down in the west over Coot-tha the scrub quails cheeped
their welcome to the creeping dawn. High up on the edge of the scrub
the palm fronds waved gently and whispered aloft to the towering pines,
while ducks on the waters of a near-by lagoon flapped and dived among
the rushes and reeds.

The roving Turrubul tribe were camped by the deep lagoon and their
gunyahs were pitched on a clearing at the edge of the scrub, for fish
and game were abundant. When the wongas called and were answered from
the depth of the scrub by the deep-throated wompoons the myalls awoke
from before their dying fires and began to make ready for the day's
hunting. Before the kookaburras had finished heralding the sunrise a
young lubra stepped out from the camp and walked along the edge of the
lagoon to look at the fish traps. Moving with the instinct of primitive
caution among the long drawn shadows of the trees she was startled to
see two white people lying--dead, she thought--under the shelter of a
Moreton Bay fig tree.

They were not of her tribe, not of any tribe that she knew, and she
moved back cautiously, staring as she moved, at the inanimate forms
lying so closely and so still together. Alert to some imminent danger,
she retraced her steps, and, cooeeing, signalled to the vigilant blacks.

The cooee of the lubra awakened Nigel Lording, but Mary Worthington,
who slept the sleep of sheer exhaustion, slept on. Gently removing
her head from his numbed left arm, he stood up. The blacks, armed
with nulla and spear, crept cautiously through the thick undergrowth,
peering suspiciously around them as if fearing a lurking enemy.

Nigel Lording, to show that he was unarmed, held up both arms above
his head. He was naked to the waist. His jumper had been removed for
the thrashing and had not been replaced. Soon he was surrounded by the
curious blacks. They looked approvingly at his back, scarred by many
healed cuts. In their simplicity they imagined that he had received the
scars in some great tribal fight. Looking with still greater wonderment
at the white lubra sleeping at his feet, they concluded that he had
raided her from some unknown tribe. This and his scars proclaimed him a
great warrior, now lonely and tribeless.

"E! E! Cobbawn waruntha!" (big white man), shouted one.

"A! A! Innerah!" (lovely woman), said another, pointing to the sleeping
woman.

Then into the camp walked Garawai, the headman of the tribe, who had
been out in the lagoon, crawling along the bottom with a hollow reed in
his mouth, to catch wild duck.

"Garawai! Garawai!" (come here, come here), the blacks sang out, and
Garawai (the cockatoo--because he had a nose like one) came over to
see what all the commotion was about. He was amazed when he saw Nigel
Lording, whom he instantly recognised.

"Gundawarra! Gundawarra!" he shouted, and laid his spear and his
boomerang at the feet of Nigel Lording by way of adoption.

"Bony!" exclaimed Nigel Lording, picking up the weapons and handing
them hack to the headman in token of peaceful surrender. This pleased
Garawai, who explained to his tribe that this fellow, pointing to Nigel
Lording, was Gundawarra, the spear thrower, who had killed with a spear
the warder on Stradbroke Island.

The talking and noisy excitement of the natives awakened Mary
Worthington. She was alarmed at the sight of the blacks, and clung to
Nigel Lording for protection. He answered her that the blacks were
friendly and would not harm them. Then making the blacks understand
that they were hungry Garawai led the way up to the camp, where the
gins were roasting eels and ducks. But Mary Worthington was stiff and
cramped from cold and exposure, and walked with difficulty. Nigel
Lording, seasoned and hardened, took her up in his strong arms and
carried her to the blacks' camp. The gins stared in amazement at a
warrior carrying his woman. Then they laughed and were convulsed with
laughter. But when Nigel Lording placed her before a fire she collapsed
with weariness and hunger.

"Awoi! Sick fellow that one," said an old gin who found that she was
burning with fever. Then the understanding blacks made a big fire in
a sandy hollow near the lagoon, and when the fire had died down raked
out the ashes, scooped away the earth, and made her lie in the warm
depression. Then they packed the hot ashes and earth over her and
protected her head from the sun with cool green boughs. She perspired
freely and groaned in the hot sand-pack. Then the gins rolled her in an
opossum skin rug and she slept for a day and a night, awakening thirsty
and hungry, with the fever gone from her.

They had travelled far since escaping from the settlement. Ever behind
them was the fear of pursuit. When night fell on the day they crossed
the river they did not stay to rest. Keeping the setting sun behind
them they travelled south by east. It was a dreadful night for Mary
Worthington. They passed through scrubs and in silence crossed many
gullies, stumbling often in the dark though the night was lit by
innumerable stars. They climbed ridges in order not to make a detour,
for they were afraid of losing direction. When the sun went down they
kept Orion at their back and knew they were headed for the sea and away
from the settlement. But whither were they going and to what end? They
did not know. All that they knew was they were bolters from the convict
settlement. To be recaptured meant for the man death and for the girl
a fate worse than death. Better to die in the bush together, locked in
each other's arms, than to die under the lash or on the gallows. For
the present it was enough that they were together. After long months
of separation, enduring agonies of body and torture of mind, the
wheel of destiny had made another of its fateful revolutions, and had
thrown them together. In the past months how often had they riven the
night-watches asunder, he crying, "Give me to see her!" and she "Give
me to see him!" Now they had been hurled together by the centripetal
force of their destiny, a force that was mighty but unseen, and they
marvelled with an exquisite wonder. For were they not together at last?
But was the position they were now in, the blessing they craved or a
curse in disguise?

At midnight they had passed through another belt of scrub, scratched
and torn by thorns and dead branches, and came to a dead-end at the
edge of a large lagoon. On the far side they thought they saw the
glimmer of a light, but they could go no further. Though the strong
had come to the aid of the weak, tired nature rebelled. Sinking to the
ground, Mary Worthington groaned.

"My Nigel, I must rest."

Nigel Lording knelt down beside her on the cold, damp ground and
supported her for a while in his arms.

"Do you know, my Nigel," she said, ever so wearily, "you have not even
kissed me!"

"Beloved," he answered her very tenderly, "I was too anxiously afraid
to waste the time."

It was only too true. In the frenzy and excitement of their escape,
Nigel Lording had no other thought but that of freedom and safety. For
the time being, his great desire was to flee--to flee without resting
or halting. Impelled by the fearful danger behind them, the haunting
fear of being captured, he had no thoughts but those that impelled him,
to hasten, and to protect and safeguard the wonderful girl who was
escaping with him. It was not a time for love but a time for herculean
action, and so, with all the strength that remained to them, they fled
south by east. Now they were too weary almost for speech. It was enough
that they had escaped. It was enough for the present that they were
free.

As Mary Worthington sank back exhausted in the crook of her lover's
arm, he bent over and kissed her with a protective tenderness, in which
there was no passion, only reverence. And she, through the thin wall
that divides sleeping from waking, heard, as if from a great distance,
a low breathing like a benediction: "My beloved!"

In the jubilation of their new-found freedom, Nigel Lording was moved
to worship. There beside him lay her for whom he had descended into
hell and suffered its torments. He gazed on her with rapture as she
slept, the stars shining down on the sweetness of her troubled face
now serene in sleep, but thin, and drawn by the terrible ordeal she
had gone through. The sense of the tremendous responsibility of her
appalled him. But he must go through with it. Was their escape but
another milestone on the road of destiny leading to their ultimate
deliverance? It must be so, and this thought buoyed him up.

"My beloved," he said, gazing fondly at the sleeping girl. "Surely
where the clouds gather darkest, the star of our redemption is shining.
Ahead through the night of our travail, who knows, but the dawn may be
nigh?" Then he, too, overcome with weariness, slept; nor did the voices
that came with the dawn awake him. The cheep of the quail, the wailing
cry of the curlew, the twittering of the finches in the bushes above
him, the weird call of the cat bird, the beautiful song of the butcher
bird from the topmost branch of a dead tree, did not penetrate the
thick curtain of his slumbering.

It was only the sharp, penetrating coo-ee of a lubra, a human fearful
awakening. He thought that call, that startled him to a sudden and his
gaolers were upon him. Instead, he stood facing a shy and frightened
lubra. The lagoon on whose margin they rested, was called by the blacks
Namboreen. The glimmer of light they had seen at midnight was one of
the fires before a gunyah in the blacks' camp. Away to the South loomed
a range of mountains scrub-clothed from base to summit, which the
myalls also called Namboreen. If they were hidden in the fastnesses of
those almost inaccessible ranges, they would be safe from the sleuths
of the law. Of the tribe they were with, they had no fear. They looked
upon Nigel Lording as a great warrior, who had stolen a white lubra
from the redcoats at the settlement. He must love her very much if he
was brave enough to steal her from the red-coats, who had death sticks
that made thunder and lightning and that killed men from far away.

So the tribe took them in. It was not the first time that the Turrubuls
had befriended white men. They were the same tribe that had befriended
Pamphlet, Parsons, and Finnegan, three of a party of timber-getters
who were wrecked on Moreton Island, and ultimately found their way to
the mainland. When they were discovered by Lieutenant John Oxley, they
were naked, save for the paint and other adornments of the tribe with
whom they lived. It was Pamphlet who told Surveyor-General Oxley that a
large river flowed into Moreton Bay, which information led Oxley to the
discovery of that great river, afterwards named the Brisbane.

Though the blacks marvelled that two white fellows should walk in among
them out of the night, they wondered more because of their, to them,
remarkable conduct. Most of them had never seen a white man or woman
before, and what struck them as particularly curious was that the white
fellow should wait on, and toil for, his gin, for such they took Mary
Worthington to be, and that he should relegate her to the gunyahs to
the left of the camp set apart for the unmarried lubras. Why did he not
permit her to sleep beside him on the opossum rug, to make her carry
his spare spears and nulla-nullas. A lazy one, that one, they thought.
But when they saw how deftly she had learnt to kindle a fire with
twirling fire sticks and dry white fungus; to cook an eel or a carpet
snake; to make needles out of the sharpened shin bones of kangaroos;
to spin cord from the hair of the 'possum; to prepare sinews from the
tails of kangaroo and wallaby for sewing together marsupial skins into
warm cloaks to cover their nakedness, they forgave her much.

But most of all they marvelled at her red-gold hair, which now hung
in wavy, luxuriance down to her waist. To them it came within their
totem, and they, therefore, regarded it with totemic reverence. A gin
or a lubra with beautiful flowing hair was a rarity; but when one was
found who possessed such an adornment, she was looked upon as something
sacred, something to be protected and cherished. Therefore, to the
blacks, Mary Worthington, by reason of her wonderful hair, was a person
sacred, one to be protected from all harm.

So, in time, Nigel Lording and Mary Worthington adapted themselves with
wonderful patience and intelligence, to their environment. Indeed,
the blackfellows began to look upon the white fellows as descendants
from some great Kalumba-mutta or headman and regarded them as Amoama
(sacred). Nigel Lording, besides adopting the weapons of the natives,
and adapting himself to their use, taught them how to make snares and
springs for catching wild turkeys and bandicoots. He taught the young
bucks how to wrestle, and the ease with which he could throw them,
amazed them; but when in corroboree he explained to them how he had
rid himself of his irons and made his bold dash for liberty taking his
white lubra with him, and swimming the flooded river, their delight
and amazement were unbounded. In turn, he learnt from them how to make
signal smokes with meanings, such as white smokes from certain woods,
and black smokes from ti-tree bark, smokes near or far apart to talk
across great distances; how to make canoes out of bark; how to make
basket traps out of split green sticks plaited together with a swinging
door to catch crayfish; how to make stone axes and to fasten them to
handles with gum and cured sinews from the kangaroo; how to throw a
spear with the aid of the wommera which made the throwing arm longer;
how to climb trees for bees nests by passing a tough vine round the
tree and holding both ends and so travel upwards rapidly in a series of
jerks, leaning back and keeping the feet upon the tree-trunk.

The white man and woman soon learnt that the blacks were wonderful
hunters. In quest of game they never camped long at one place. The
men spent their time in hunting, fishing, fighting, and in making
spears, shields, nulla-nullas, boomerangs, and waddies. The women
gathered and prepared the food, made nets and dilly-bags, and attended
to the birrahlees (children). On the march they were the camp baggage
carriers, and the carriers of the lighted fire sticks. They dug for
yams with their yam sticks, and ground seeds with their grinding
stones, for making cakes in the ashes.

And so, living with the blacks, the whites learnt to know the track,
the cry, the habits of every animal in the bush and scrub, and to take
advantage of its every peculiarity or characteristic to secure it for
food. They learnt how to find honey by catching bees and sticking
pieces of white down on them and following their flight to some hollow
tree or large dead limb. With honey, wild raspberries, geebungs, and
sweet gunnaberries, Mary Worthington made fruit salads in bark bowls.
Had they not learnt the ways and habits of the blacks in securing food,
they would have starved, but having acquired the savage lore of the
bush, they were able to obtain food in abundance.

Living a life of freedom under the canopy of the sky, they kept
themselves fit and well. With yams and berries, meat and fish, wild
fowl and shell fish, which they garnered from the storehouse of nature,
they grew strong and robust. Their clothing was the skins of animals,
and their habitations, huts of bark. In the joy of living together,
free and untrammelled, they revelled in the wonders of the bush and
lived near to nature's heart. Some day, something would happen that
would bring them back to civilisation, rehabilitated. Of that they now
began to feel sure. They had faith in their destiny. In the meantime
they travelled about from place to place with their native protectors
learning their bush craft, but ever fearing capture. Nigel Lording was
not foolish enough to imagine that Captain Pearce Lannigan would remain
inactive after the attack he had made upon him and his satellites when
he had effected his dramatic escape with Mary Worthington. On the
contrary, the vindictiveness of his nature would urge him to use every
effort in his power to recapture them, dead or alive. Not to do so,
would be a stinging blow to his pride, a negation of all the terrible
threats of punishment that he had made to break their spirits, in order
to make them crawl to him, and to be abject to his mastery. Therefore,
to permit them to slip through his hands, without making every effort
to recapture them, would be unthinkable.




CHAPTER XXV.

The paramount desire of Nigel Lording, therefore, was to get as
far away as possible from the convict settlement. The more remote
their place of hiding the better. But the Turrubul tribe had
their geographical limitations. They never wandered far from the
Settlement, or from the shores of Moreton Bay. To remain with this
tribe indefinitely, was to court recapture. This Nigel Lording made
the blacks to understand, and he impressed upon them that they must
leave them. There was great objection on the part of the tribe to
let them go, but in the end he had his way. This meant that he and
Mary Worthington would have to seek the protection of other tribes
and in passing from one tribe to another, or through the country of
another tribe, a rigid etiquette was observed. The Turrubuls sent a
messenger in advance, dressed elaborately in cockatoo feathers or
other recognised ornaments. As his credential the messenger carried a
message-stick, somewhat larger than a finger or a "pass it on" cubical
stone, about three quarters of an inch in size. These message sticks or
stones bore markings which could be read by other tribes in the same
way as a written message. The stick, in any case, acted as a guarantee
of good faith to show there was "no gammon," that it was a good
passport and acted as a safeguard, to, or through, other tribes. In
this way, Nigel Lording and his fugitive partner who had now developed
into a beautiful savage, entered the territory of the Goenpul tribe
much further to the South and in whose territory lay the great mountain
range of Namboreen overlooking the sea to the east and south, and the
territory of Tamrookum and Mundoolum to the south west. With this
tribe, and in the fastness of their ranges, they found sanctuary.

*  *  *  *  *  *

When the Commandant, Pearce Lannigan raised his bruised and outraged
majesty from the ground where he had been so ruthlessly flung, and
recovered somewhat his dazed senses, he found the convict whom he
had believed to be so absolutely at his mercy, gone and with him the
beautiful "Fallen Angel." In his rage and bewilderment he could not
bring himself to believe that such an incredible thing had happened.
But the facts were against him. Pine Tree Square was in an uproar. The
convicts were in a state of mutiny. If the disciplined soldiers had
not, at the sharp word of authority from the lieutenant in command,
turned from the man-hunt instantly, the convicts would probably have
murdered the detestable commandant, and taken possession of the
settlement.

With loaded pieces and fixed bayonets, the soldiers surrounded the
felons and threatened to shoot and charge. Hampered by their manacles,
the prisoners had no hope of success against disciplined authority, and
order was soon restored. But it was a dramatic climax to the wedding
ceremony. A few of the armed warders followed the fugitives, but they,
too, soon returned to help in restoring order. Later, the bolters would
soon be captured. Nothing was more certain than that. Hampered by a
woman, escape was impossible. So many had absconded, but were either
captured or returned to give themselves up. But the male escapee was a
cunning and desperate villain. His manner of escaping had proved that.
The way he picked up the girl and carried her off, with the ease of a
tigress carrying her cub, proved the great strength of him. They would
have to move very warily to retake him. If hard pressed, he would no
doubt, abandon the girl to save himself. A scoundrel like that would
stop at nothing. More than likely when starving for food, he would
kill and eat her. Other escaped convicts under similar circumstances
had turned cannibal. This was the reasoning of the warders, who were
unaware of the past history of Nigel Lording and Mary Worthington.

That evening when the convicts were safe in the stockades, guarded by
armed sentries, the Commandant, Terence O'Rourke, Superintendent of
Convicts, and Reuben Martin, the overseer who had followed the bolters
to Breakfast Creek, held council in the commandant's quarters.

"Sink me, O'Rourke, in all my experience with desperate villains,
never have I witnessed the like," said Pearce Lannigan, twirling his
moustache angrily.

"Faith and ye'r roight, there, ye'r Excellency. They do be
thransportin' some desperate schoundrels to this part of the wurruld,
to be sure," answered the superintendent.

"And you, Martin, you say you lost sight of them at Breakfast Creek?"

"I did, yer Excellency. The villain made for the river all right, but
as it was comin' down a banker, he, burdened with the girl, couldn't
possibly cross, and the creek was up. He was blocked there."

"Then, damme, they're still in the bush, somewhere on the North bank.
They can't get away!" and the mortified commandant thumped the table
with his fist to emphasise his conviction.

"Sure they can't," agreed O'Rourke. "'Twud seem to me they've doubled
back to hide in the Enoggera ranges, since to cross the river in high
flood woud be impossible. The schoundrel wudn't attimpt it."

"Then, to-morrow, O'Rourke, you'll pick your men and follow up
Breakfast and Enoggera Creeks and see if you can't come across their
tracks. By the way, Martin, did you examine the fetters of the villain
to see how he got his irons off?"

"I did, yer Excellency. They were rasped and abraded to the thinness
of a pipe stem with sand and gum smeared on spear grass. To escape
detection the cunning rogue covered up the filing with wattle gum and
dirt. Whilst he was crouching down when yer Excellency ordered him to
flog the woman, he snapped his irons with his powerful hands."

"By God, O'Rourke, the rascal is as cunning as the devil. And to think
he hoodwinked the lot of us! You'll have to look to your laurels,
O'Rourke, or you'll find others of the desperate villains doing the
same thing."

"Faith an' they won't, ye'er Excellency. The irons iv ivery wan of thim
will be inshpicted daily fr'm this out. Any attimpt at concealmint will
be punished as threachery."

For days and weeks the bush to the north-west of the settlement was
combed by the commandant's sleuths in the hope of finding the bolters,
dead or alive, but they were unsuccessful. They questioned the blacks,
but met with no success. The aboriginals to the north, especially
the Jindobarries, were cannibals and war-like, and as they were not
friendly towards the whites, they would not have harboured them. The
blacks to the south of the river were of a more friendly disposition,
but it never occurred to the man-hunters to search in the bush to the
south. They believed the crossing of the river in a state of high
flood, to be an impossible feat. A man on his own desperate venture,
might attempt it, but a woman, never.

After a few months, the disappearance of Nigel Lording and Mary
Worthington, became one of the mysteries of the Moreton Bay settlement.
Two theories were advanced for their non-discovery. Either they were
drowned in attempting to cross the Brisbane River or Breakfast Creek,
both in high flood, or they had travelled north and were killed and
eaten by the blacks. In time, their escape was forgotten by all except
the commandant and overseer Martin. Captain Lannigan brooded over his
failure to hold Nigel Lording and to bend the will of Mary Worthington
to his own purpose. Of all the people in the world, these two were
to him the most important for the time being. That they should have
slipped through his hands in such a sudden and unlooked for manner,
was galling to his pride and humiliating to his sovereignty. He felt
that the convicts laughed at him, and that the soldiers and officials
were more pleased than sorry that a man so brave, even though he were
a convict, and a girl so young and beautiful, should escape from the
clutches of such a tyrant as they knew the commandant to be. This
did not tend to sweeten the commandant's disposition, nor make him
more merciful. He began to hate the settlement and decided to leave
its management as much as possible in the hands of O'Rourke, the
superintendent, whilst he went exploring the new country. He never gave
up hope of some day learning what fate had befallen the two prisoners.

"God!" he often muttered to himself, "if I could only find them alive
and in my power again!"

He was tortured by the devil of self-accusation. He had the man and the
girl in his power when lo! in the twinkling of an eye, almost, they
had gone. She the delectable, had spurned him, and yet the image of
her flamed in the red cauldron of his desire. The beauty of her, the
willowly grace of her, were his by the right of possession, and yet
he couldn't hold her. She had eluded him and the bitterness of that
agonising thought seared his brain as with unquenchable fire. It was at
this stage of his bitter mentality that the commandant began to look
beyond his prison environment and to inquire into the character and
possibilities of the regions beyond the confines of the settlement. In
his official capacity he had the power to extend settlement outside the
strict limits of the prison colony. As an instance, his establishment
of lime-burning works at Limestone Hills, led to the rise of the town
of Ipswich. During his regime, Major Lockyer visited the settlement and
in furtherance of the survey work of Lieutenant John Oxley, explored
the higher reaches of the Brisbane River. Later, Major Lockyer made a
second journey right up to the foot-hills of the great Dividing Range,
and on this expedition he was accompanied by the commandant.

Having acquired the taste for exploration, the commandant, accompanied
by two armed soldiers, Overseer Martin, and two friendly blacks, made
a journey to the south of the settlement in the direction of Mount
Warning. This was the chief expedition that he accomplished alone.
He discovered several rivers that ran into Moreton Bay to the south,
and formed a very high opinion of the country which he traversed. It
was when on this expedition he learnt from the blacks that a white
man with his gin had been living for some time with the natives of
Namboreen. The friendly blacks who accompanied him, were aware that
the big white Cubiment man was on the lookout for a man and a woman
who had escaped from the settlement and it was from them that he heard
of the rumour. At first he discredited it. It seemed to him impossible
that the escaped convicts could live so long a life of savagery with
its attendant privations and sufferings. Besides, he was aware of
the proneness of the natives to make the white fellows believe what
they wished to believe, and from his experience, he knew them to
be inveterate liars. Still, there might be something in the rumour
after all. He would, therefore, return to the settlement and make
preparations for a more protracted journey with the main object, this
time, of testing the rumour as far as lay within his power.




CHAPTER XXVI.

Meanwhile, deep in the heart of the Namboreen ranges, the sedulous
savages, with whom Nigel Lording and Mary Worthington were living, by
smoke signals seen from afar, soon learnt that big fellow white men
were scouring the country. For what purpose they did not know. This
information they made known to Nigel Lording, who sensed an imminent
danger in these expeditions of the commandant. He knew, however, that
the blacks would never give them up, as they now looked upon them as
members of their own tribe. The enemies of Gundawarra (Nigel Lording,
the spear thrower) and Amoama-Boonara (Mary Worthington--sacred white
one) were their enemies and they would send out the atninga--the
vengeance party--if the commandant and his soldiers attempted any of
their funny business. Wah! They would see! They would track down this
big fellow headman and torture him at their corroboree. Huh! They would
pounce on him as a hawk pounces on a bwal (pademelon) if he attempted
to take their Amoama-Boonara, with hair like the golden sunset, from
them. Hoo! No fear!

And so, unknown to the commandant, the wily natives tracked, watched,
and reported by smoke signals his every movement.

Then night dropped from the summer steeped glory that ended a tropical
day. Camp fires punctured the darkness where the commandant and his
exploring party had camped for the night. Noiseless as lengthening
shadows and keen as predatory dingoes, the myalls crept forward and
spied on the camp, but a sentinel soldier, armed with the dreadful fire
spitter that killed like lightning, was on guard. Fearful of being
caught in their spying and silent as the falling of the dew, they
retreated to their gunyahs on the mountain and told the wise Gundawarra
of what they had seen--a big fellow Kalumba-mulla (great chief) from
cobbawn darlobopal (large camping place) on the Brisbane River was
camped down by the Coomera. The tribe on hearing the news was a babble
of shrill tongues. The old pinnaroos, the elders of the tribe, took
counsel together with Gundawarra (Nigel Lording) and it was agreed to
send out a dreaded atninga (vengeance party). The news spread through
the camp of the blacks and was spoken in tense whispers by the old
gins and the young lubras. They looked with tense and soulful eyes at
the beautiful Amoama-Boonara (Mary Worthington), for they had learnt
that the big Kalumba-mutta (commandant) was bent on the capture of
the two white strangers who had come among them with a request for
protection from the Turrubuls. If they permitted their capture then
the tribe would be false to their trust, and other tribes would make
war on them for their cowardice. Kaw! Yes, they would send out their
vengeance party, and stalk and capture this evil man who would rob them
of the wards of the Turrubuls who had come to them out of the night.
Barrai! They must be quick, and each warrior reached for his spears,
nulla-nullas, and hielamans (shields made out of soft gympie).

Mary Worthington, in alarm, begged of Nigel Lording not to go with the
vengeance party and she clung to him as the vine clings to the scrub
fig tree.

"Beloved mine, what shall I do with my life if aught should befall you?
Here alone among these savages, what protection would I have, my Nigel,
without you?"

"Believe me, my Mary, no mishap will come to me. I have faith in our
destiny and have no presentiment of danger."

"Oh, yes, I know, beloved, but our mateship in the bush has been
wonderful, and I am fearful for your safety. Captain Lannigan's name
fills me with dread. If you are retaken, my capture at his hands would
be but a matter of days, perhaps weeks. He would show you no mercy and
me even less. You, he would surely kill, but me he would hold in a
bondage of shame until I, cursing God, must kill myself."

"My Mary, we must see this grim game through to the end. This existence
here cannot go on indefinitely. For your sake as well as for my own I
must lead the vengeance party. The blacks have faith in me. If I held
back they would scorn me as a coward and my authority over them would
be at an end. It is for our sakes that they are bent on the capture of
Lannigan. To save us from capture they are bent on capturing him. If
they do he will be given the mercy that he would give us if retaken."

"Then go, my warrior and champion. I will say no more, but God (Whom I
have cursed for the great sufferings we have endured) be with you. I'm
a coward to ask His protection, but I ask it for your dear sake."

The blacks looked on at the parting of Nigel Lording and Mary
Worthington. They saw the tears in her eyes as she clung to him, and
saw how passionately the man held the girl to him as he kissed her.

"Ai! Ai! She's a sad one, that one," said the gins, who marvelled at
the manner of parting of the white man from his girl, Amoama-Boonara,
but though they laughed there were tears in the deep dreamy eyes of
the lubras when they saw how much Mary Worthington took to heart the
parting with her man. They seemed to understand.

At sunrise of the next day, away up on the scrub-clothed heights
of Namboreen, the remnant of the tribe who remained in camp--the
old pinaroos, the gins, the lubras, the little birrahlees, and
Mary Worthington--a civilised savage in her warowan (kangaroo skin
cloak)--looking down over the Valley of the Coomera, saw the smoke
signals of the vengeance party curling upward through the vanishing
vapours of the morning. These signals indicated that the warriors had
located the camp of the commandant, and they yabbered with excitement.
The dark, fathomless eyes of the savages rolled in their sockets, and
unconsciously the old men who were left behind gripped their wommeras
and spears. The blood-lust was upon them. Then they, too, gathered
moist leaves and grass, which they lit and sent up answering signals
indicating that they understood. Scarcely had the sun risen over the
eastern plateau when the dread avenging party, with Gundawarra at
their head, stood ready in a belt of scrub for his orders. They formed
a stern group of painted, naked savages, with their tall spears held
upright in their hands. Then Gundawarra ordered the eager warriors to
encircle the camp of the unsuspecting white men and to watch silently,
stealthily, every movement. Dark forms separated, and dark flashing
eyes peered out from the sheltering coverts. Cowering low and creeping
forward on hands and knees, trailing their spears, the wily blacks
saw the commandant mount his yarraman and ride out of the camp, all
unsuspecting, alone. He had heard the roar of water which told of a
waterfall some distance away, and rode out to explore, fearing no
danger. In all his journeys in the bush, he had never been molested
by the warrigals, and as no sign of blacks had been seen since the
expedition had left the settlement, he did not anticipate any trouble
from them. But he had left out of his reckoning the influence that a
runaway convict might have over them.

Riding over a ridge and down a ravine, a spear cleft the gum-scented
air and pierced the commandant in the leg, passing through his thigh,
the flap of the saddle, and into the ribs of his horse. The wounded
animal, feeling the prick of the spear, plunged suddenly forward and
snorted as if it had smelt the presence of the blacks. Wounded and
bleeding, the commandant, unseated by the sudden plunging of his horse,
fell to the ground with the spear sticking in his thigh. There was an
exultant shout from the blacks who with nulla nullas uplifted, ran
forward to kill the prostrate man; but before they reached him, a voice
of authority rang out:

"Baal kill!"

The myalls halted before the wounded commandant, but looked with
questioning glances at Nigel Lording who had shouted to them not to
kill. Then he explained to them that this was the man who as chief
gaoler at the settlement had treated him and his white woman with such
devilish inhumanity, that they had run away from him trusting rather
to the mercy and humanity of the Turrubuls than to a life of torture
with the big white tribe who had come to their country in great canoes
from over the boorool (big) water. Walking up to Pearce Lannigan, Nigel
Lording stood and looked at him without speaking. In his savage and
unkempt appearance, with thick beard, body almost black, bare legs and
feet, with an opossum skin girdle covering him from waist to knees,
the Commandant did not recognise him. He took him for the headman of
the tribe, but when he looked at him more closely, and saw the stern
unwavering look in his steel blue eyes, a look that he had several
times before seen and feared--he exclaimed with astonishment "Lording!"

"At your service, Lannigan."

Stooping down Nigel Lording broke off the spear where it had pierced
the thigh and pulled the broken part through the wound, which bled
freely.

"Steep me in curses, Lording, but its grotesquely magnanimous of you
to save me from these murdering savages. I'll remember that in your
favour, my man. Pray, send word to my camp for assistance. This cursed
wound bleeds."

"You mistake my intent Lannigan. I saved you, yes. A death in a manner
so sudden, does not fit in with my purpose. What recompense would that
be to me for all the long bitter months of my torture, for the anguish
and blood-dropping tears of that wonderful white soul whom you sought
to smirch and to damn for everlasting."

"Sap my vitals, you villain, what is your purpose?" angrily shouted the
undone captain.

"To hand you over to the tender mercies of these savages to do what
their nature dictates. Mercy! God, Lannigan, you have no conception of
the meaning of that word. When did you ever show mercy to any one of
the unfortunate prisoners under your control? Not once. And you are now
going to pay in suffering indescribable for all the torture and agony
that you have, during your infernal sway as commandant at Moreton Bay,
inflicted by your studied brutality on the bound and helpless felons
who groaned and cursed and sobbed under your mastery. Damn you, man,
and you thought in one deluded moment that I would see you safely
escorted back to your soldiers. Your faith in the forgiveness of human
nature is truly astonishing! There are escaped felons roaming this bush
with the blacks who would sacrifice their right to freedom, nay, their
very right to a life of everlasting peace, for the glorious privilege
of having you helpless in their hands as I have this day."

A sense of his impending fate struck deep into the heart of the tyrant
and the blood was drained by his fear from his face. His mouth was
parched and his dry tongue licked dry lips. He attempted to stand up
but staggered. He felt for his pistol but it was in its holster at the
camp. Fearing no danger, he had ridden away without it. Leaning against
a tree he looked for a while, tense and speechless, at Nigel Lording.
Then the venom in him broke forth.

"You infernal dog! May I writhe in the torments of hell for my
foolishness in not killing you when I had you in my power."

Then in his weakness from loss of blood, he huddled to the ground.

The bunyas were ripe on Namboreen. It was the time of the great bunya
feast, when tribal hostilities ceased. Tribes came from far and near
and sat down on the mountain. In the great bora ground hacked out by
stone tomahawks from the heart of a dense scrub, the gunyahs were set
up and the camp fires lighted. The Turrubuls, the Jindobarries, the
Canungras, the Wogees, the Goenpuls, and tribes from the foothills of
the Great Dividing Range, the Coominyas and Tarampas, had gathered
together in friendly corroboree to share in the feasting; and with them
had come several bolters who had been adopted by the tribes.

There were Bracewell, who a few years later assisted in rescuing
from the blacks, Mrs. Fraser, the wife of the captain of the wrecked
Stirling Castle, Jem Davis, the Scotch lad, who was transported for
going on strike for higher wages, whose native name was Durumboi, and
Baker, the notorious ruffian, named by the blacks Boralcho, who a few
years later assisted Lieutenant Owen Gorman, a subsequent Commandant of
Moreton Bay, in finding a road over the Great Dividing Range, through
what is known as Gorman's Gap to the Darling Downs. These bolters had
escaped during the terrible regime of Commandant Pearce Lannigan, and
had suffered the most brutal punishment by his orders.

The scrub-clothed heights of Namboreen were peopled thick with
savages and the bucks were preparing for a great corroboree. In their
preparation for some weird drama, they showed meticulous care. Stripped
naked, they painted their bodies with red ochre and white pipeclay in
designs of circles and lines that followed the contour of the body; and
with gum and leathers they weaved grotesque head dresses. They were
preparing themselves for the blood ceremony of the dread atninga as
they chanted their vengeance song while the work of adornment proceeded.

When night fell, the camp fires were lit in front of many gunyahs
that stood in a circle at the edge of the scrub in the bora clearing.
The gins had peeled and roasted the bunya nuts, and prepared for the
feast, wallaby, carpet snake, wild duck, kangaroo, and eggs from the
huge mounds of the scrub turkey. The feast over, the gins and lubras
squatted round the great circle of fires and crooned their tribal war
songs to the rhythmic beating of boomerang, nulla, and shield. Then
with a suddenness that made the ground shake, the warriors bounded into
the circle taking up the chanting of the gins and moving and twisting
their weirdly painted bodies to the timing of the chanting. As the
crooning and chanting of the gins waxed louder and louder, and the
rhythmic contortions of the warriors became more vehement, the captured
commandant, bound and helpless, was brought into the centre of the
avenging demons, to witness the death dance.

"Gundawarra! Gundawarra!" The blacks shouted the native name of Nigel
Lording, him whom they looked upon as the son of a dead chieftain
reborn from a black to a white, for was it not he who had captured the
big fellow chief of the white fellows, who lorded it over the big white
camp on the Brisbane River?

"Gundawarra! Gundawarra!"

Nigel Lording, who was standing back in the dark of the scrub with Mary
Worthington, heeded their calling. He would not have dared to have done
otherwise. The captured commandant was handed by him and the other
white bolters over to the blacks to do with what they, in their savage
nature, desired.

"Oh, it is horrible, horrible!" exclaimed Mary Worthington, shuddering.
"Merciless tyrant though he has been, cannot he be saved from the
vengeance of these savages?"

"Impossible, beloved. His time of reckoning has come, and even if I
had the power to save him, these other convicts, especially Boralcho
and Durumboi, would see to it that he never left Namboreen alive. They
have suffered cruelly at his hands, God only knows." Then Nigel Lording
walked into the circle and the other convicts who were also looking on,
interested spectators of the fatal corroboree, followed his lead. The
time for his and their vengeance had come.

Lying on his back, with outstretched arms and legs bound with green
withes to stakes driven into the ground, and with haggard face staring
upward at the twinkling stars, Captain Pearce Lannigan, turning his
eyes from the starry depths of infinity, saw standing above him
Nigel Lording and the other convicts whom he had lashed with the
implacable scourge of his hate. From the zenith of his power he had
now fallen to the nadir of his impotence. Yet such was his pride, he
gave stare for stare till Nigel Lording, breaking the tenseness of a
great silence--for the tumult of the corroboree had stopped--spoke.
The blacks, expectant, sensing the grim drama before them, stood
motionless, their spears held upright before them. The gins ceased
their crooning and beating of time.

"Captain Lannigan, from the chain and hell of a life sentence of
despair, I am at last free and you are now in my power. Our positions
are reversed. Perhaps, in the nightmare of your dreams, you have
visioned the vengeance that some time or other might overtake you at
the hands of some of the victims of your merciless tyranny. If you
have, such visioning has now become a terrible reality. Over the dark,
pitiless sky of your sovereignty, the dawn of implacable justice has at
last crept--a Nemesis sure, and relentless, has answered the agonising
cries wrung from your writhing victims under the lash. I, too, have
borne to repleteness the fathomless depth of your hate, and she, that
wonderful girl, but a short time ago the fairest in all England, who
escaped with me and is here alive and well, looking on the wrath that
has overtaken you, has suffered at your hands the tortures of a mental
horror, blacker than hell. How often, in the bitterness of her soul,
has she cursed God for allowing such tyrants as you to live. She
herself and the God she has reviled in her despair, only know. But
perhaps God, who claims vengeance as His great prerogative, has given
to me and to her and to these other felons whom you have scourged, this
purposeful hour. Somewhere, in the great resurrection, when called to
account for your trust, what answer to God will you furnish for the
souls you have ground into dust? You dare not make any answer and so
for all of the tortures that I and she and they have suffered, you must
now pay to the uttermost."

It was only when he learnt that Mary Worthington was alive and well
that a spasm of hate and unrepentance passed like an evil shadow over
the face of the bound commandant. Otherwise, he gave no indication that
he was at all impressed by the terrible sentence--a sentence that a
stern and relentless judge might have addressed to a person guilty of
an unpardonable crime--that Nigel Lording had imposed upon him. But
judge and prisoner there in the lone wilds of Australia but gave point
to the conception of England's greatest poet of that period, "Man is
a battle-ground between angel and devil. Tenderness and roughness,
sentiment, sensuality--soaring and grovelling--dirt and deity--all
mixed in one compound of inspired clay."

When Nigel Lording and the other escaped convicts who had listened with
wonder and amazement to the terrible sentences that he had uttered over
the prostrate form of the bound commandant, walked out of the circle of
blacks, the savages resumed their corroboree. As they danced around him
by the light of the flickering camp fires, they pricked him with their
spears. Writhing under the torture, he began to lose consciousness.
Between the agony of perceptibility and insensibility, he believed he
was in hell, chained to everlasting torment on its withering bars. The
weird ululations of the gins and the guttural gruntings of the naked,
painted myalls, who danced in wilder frenzy as his agonised groans
increased, appeared to his demented imagination as a dance of demons
on the shores of an abysmal sea whose billows of lurid fire broke and
curled on a pitiless shore. Long after he had sunk into unconsciousness
and his moaning cries had ceased the barbarous death dance continued
and only ceased with the dawn.

The weeks drifted by and suspicion conjectured the death of the tyrant;
but no white man save those bolters who had fled from his spite, knew
how he had died. Diligent search with the aid of the black trackers was
made for his body, and it was only when the blacks themselves indicated
where his bones would be found, that his remains were discovered. A
skeleton, weathered bone-white by the sun and the rain, was all that
was found. Ants crawled in the track of a long dried tear through the
visionless sockets of a skull that seemed to grin in sepulchred silence
at the discovery of his fleshless bones. They were gathered together
and sent to Sydney for Christian burial.




CHAPTER XXVII.

In the meantime in England, Inspector Joe Barnes, the great Bow Street
detective, was not idle. He had gone down to Devonshire in many
disguises to endeavour to secure locally, some shred of evidence that,
followed up, might lead to the discovery of the murder of the Earl
of Belriven. All the witnesses who were called to give evidence at
the Coroner's Inquest had been placed under surveillance, but nothing
tangible could be obtained from them, and the murder still remained
a mystery. The chief witness at the inquest was the beautiful and
imperious Julia Darnley, the late Earl's mistress, but her absence
from the manor on that fatal Sunday afternoon was satisfactorily
explained. It was proved that she was at the residence of her father
when the murder had been committed, and her alibi was considered to be
beyond doubt. It was known that she was a woman with an ungovernable
temper, and that she was of a very jealous and passionate nature. She
had admitted, in evidence, that she was very fond of the late Earl and
though she bitterly resented his amours with others, she would not
think of doing him an injury, at any rate, to the extent of taking his
life.

With a life rich in the romance and colour of human lives, and with
an imagination instinctive in the unravelling of criminal mysteries,
Inspector Barnes could not dismiss from his active brain that in some
way the beautiful Julia Darnley was responsible for the murder of the
amorous lord. In closely investigating the dead Earl's career, he
learnt that he was an implacable breaker of hearts, and where women
were concerned he knew neither discretion nor ruth; but in Julia
Darnley, he found a devil that appealed to his baser passions. While
she was an adorable and willing mistress, she was at the same time an
admirable manager of his household. When their tempers clashed, as
they often did, she stood up to him to such purpose, that at times he
was afraid of her, more especially when her jealousy was aroused. In
her imperious way she was infatuated with her masterful mate, and it
was very galling to her pride, and a grave reflection on her personal
charms, to learn that he was becoming intrigued with some other beauty.

Gossips had linked the Earl's name with that of the beautiful Mary
Worthington, and when the story of his mad infatuation for her reached
the ears of the temperamental and tempestuous Julia, she warned him
that he had better take care, as she would not submit to sharing him
with that simpering dairy maid, as she contemptuously termed the
attractive daughter of Stephen Worthington.

Inspector Barnes, in thoroughly investigating the life and character
of Julia Darnley, learnt that she was the daughter of one Richard
Darnley, a person of good repute, who had married a lady of Spanish
descent from whom his daughter inherited her beauty. Richard Darnley
was a person of known wealth and good credit, who resided in a little
village near the manor of Grassmere, and who by his industry and
diligence, daily increased his riches. Perceiving his daughter to be
of a promising disposition and likely to grow into a regal beauty,
he gave her a liberal education to improve and refine those good
qualities by art and study wherewith she was so liberally endowed by
the bounty of nature. She made so speedy a progress in her learning
that she soon out-distanced her school-fellows. Her strong imagination,
polite behaviour, and the majestic grace of her carriage made her
the admiration of all who came in contact with her. Though her birth
gave place to those of higher rank and quality, yet her education was
not inferior to them. Indeed, her incomparable wit, united with her
beautiful presence, rendered her so agreeable that she was preferred
even to many of superior rank. Being in the flower of her youth and
beauty, she had several suitors of good and bad repute, who all became
captives to her beauty and flattered themselves with the hope of one
day possessing such a charming personality.

Amongst her suitors was one Edward Delpratt, a Colonel in the army
who had discharged his soldierly duties so well that he was appointed
superintendent of His Majesty's affairs in British Honduras, which
office he held much to the advantage of the Crown of England, for he
obtained from the Crown of Spain some very important privileges. The
clashing interests, however, of the inhabitants of British Honduras
produced considerable discontent, and the Colonel was accused of
various demeanours detrimental to His Majesty's Ministers. As a
result, he returned to England and demanded that his conduct should be
investigated.

While in Honduras, he married a native of that place, but left his wife
behind as he intended to return to settle in South America. In England,
however, he became acquainted with the beautiful and accomplished Julia
Darnley, with whom he fell violently in love and his marriage was
conveniently forgotten. The attraction was mutual, and it was arranged
that they would be married when his character had been cleared; but
after two years' constant attendance on all the departments of the
Government interested, he was officially advised that there was no
charge against him worthy of investigation, and that if His Majesty
had not thought it proper to abolish the office of Superintendent at
Honduras, he would have been reinstated in it. He was assured, however,
that his services would not be forgotten, but in due time meet with
their reward. He found to his sorrow and chagrin that official promises
are most unreliable, and as he was of a highly excitable nature, he
began to vent his indignation in an unguarded manner. He became a
suspicious character, and assaulted one of His Majesty's ministers. For
this offence, he was sentenced to be kept a prisoner in Coldbath Fields.

In the meantime, his wife came to England to look him up. This,
together with his imprisonment and the eternal longing for the
beautiful girl with whom he had hoped to commit bigamy, increased the
rancour of his heart and made him a dangerous and indignant prisoner.

The degradation of her handsome and gallant husband, so affected his
faithful wife that she died soon after her husband's ignominious
imprisonment. Colonel Delpratt now looked eagerly forward to his
liberation, but long before that happened, the beautiful and amorous
Julia Darnley came under the notice of the unscrupulous but equally
amorous gaze of the young Lord Belriven. The attentions of so exalted a
person as an Earl flattered the ambitious Julia, and she, following on
the divorce granted to the Countess, became the Earl's mistress. When
the first great ecstasies of their love-mating had somewhat cooled,
the beautiful Julia soon learnt that the mating with a lord of the
temperament of Earl Belriven, brought with it more thorns than roses,
and she became intensely jealous. In wit, beauty and attainments she
was, though not nobly born into the peerage, more than the equal of
her exalted paramour and she resented, in the most hostile manner, the
lapses of her noble gentleman from the path of virtue. His conduct not
only hurt her pride but made her furious. Some day she would have her
revenge.

Immediately on his release from Coldbath Fields, the thoughts of
Colonel Delpratt flew to that little village in Devon adjacent to
which was the home of the divinity of his dreams. Desperate and
impoverished, he looked to a marriage with the matchless Julia Darnley
to rehabilitate him in society and to mend his broken fortune. Though
he had not seen her for four years, so colossal was his egotism that he
imagined she would be waiting for him to look her up when their former
happy relations would be renewed. So warm had been their attachment to
each other, that any bar to their conjugal union was now unthinkable.
The death of his wife had paved the way for a happy, legitimate mating.

It was in this frame of mind that he arrived at the hamlet, where he
expected to find his beautiful Julia still residing with her father.
His visit was unannounced, and Richard Darnley was surprised and not
too well pleased to see him. He had learnt of his imprisonment in
Coldbath Fields. When the eager Colonel desired information as to the
whereabouts of his daughter, he was disturbed and evasive; but being
pressed, he grudgingly admitted that he had no control over his wilful
and headstrong daughter and that she had left him. Where she had
gone he refused to say, but hinted that it was quite useless for the
Colonel to imagine that his former relations with his daughter could be
renewed. Indeed, a marriage with her was now impossible.

Stunned by this uncompromising information, the Colonel felt desperate.
All his dreams--dreams that he had cherished during the long term
of his confinement and on which he had fabricated a future of great
happiness with the most beautiful girl that he had ever come in contact
with--now lay broken at his feet. In the agony of his disappointment,
he held his head in his hands and groaned. He was roused from the
depths of his misery by a voice that in the past had thrilled him
through and through. Had it now come to mock him with its beautiful
cadence? He heard it again.

"Father, you have a visitor. I did not know."

Raising his head from his hands, the Colonel looked upon the girl he
imagined he had lost for ever. Instantly he realised how beautiful she
still was. Thrilled to the core he got up and with outstretched arms,
went to her, exclaiming "Julia!" in a voice that she knew was the voice
of his soul. If he had struck her she could not have been more upset.

"Edward," she asked in a voice that shook. "Why are you here?" He saw
that she was very excited.

"Why? You ask that? Have you forgotten?"

"Oh, no; but I--Oh, why did you come? So much has happened since--I--I
cannot say it. But the old relations between us are now dead--dead, I
tell you." She spoke vehemently, "and cannot be brought to life again."

"That I refuse to believe until you tell me all that has
happened--all--since I--well, since I fell foul of the law."

She led the way out of the house and he followed. She was still very
excited. There was something on her mind. Outside in the flower-scented
garden, was a maid with two young children, beautiful as infant angels.

The Colonel looked at them questioningly.

"Yes, they are mine. You may as well know. They are everlasting
barriers between you and me."

"Explain," he asked hoarsely, as he fumbled at the latch of a gate that
opened out into a green lane.

"They are your children?" he questioned. "You are married, then?" He
held on to the wicket gate for support. Forgotten were the years that
had rolled between. He had expected to find her the same as yesterday.
Was it not only yesterday that they had parted? He pressed his hand
to his eyes as if to awaken himself from a dream. Then her voice, the
voice that he had always loved with its soft Spanish accent, recalled
him to himself.

"Yes, they are my children, but I am not married."

"Then you, what are you?" he gasped out, as if disbelieving.

"The mistress of the Earl of Belriven. Come, I will tell you all."

She led the way in the direction of Grassmere, whose tall gables
could be seen in the distance above the trees. Leaving the lane, they
followed a footpath that struck right through the heart of a wood. It
was a drowsy Sunday afternoon and the air was heavy with the scent of
flowers. Julia Darnley would never forget that afternoon, or the tiny
incidents that were indelibly etched on the tablets of her memory, the
hum of the bees, the lowing of cattle, the birds weaving intricate
patterns in the air. Beside the path, sitting on a tree-trunk, she told
her former lover of the life she had been living, and now, how she
hated it, hated the man who had seduced her, who had heaped insults
upon her until life with him had become unendurable--intolerable. Then
she paused awhile in her story of degradation. The wind made rustling
noises in the trees. She heard the call of a pheasant, then the sudden
laugh of a woodpecker. A squirrel ran down a tree trunk and scampered
away off and up another tree. How she remembered all these little
happenings on this glorious dreamy Sunday afternoon with soft fleecy
clouds scurrying across the exquisite blue of the sky.

"Even now, the earl is with a new flame, for whom he has taken a
violent fancy, and he is alone with her at the manor. He ordered me to
take myself off and my brats with me so that he could be alone with
her. God! How I loathe him, and yet how I loved him, too! But now I get
nothing from him but scorn. Some day he will go too far and I shall
kill him."

Through this recital, Colonel Delpratt made no remark but sat like a
man stunned into insensibility; but when the woman whom he had loved so
passionately exclaimed in her vehemence that some day she would kill
her seducer, he got up and said deliberately and sternly.

"Faith, not at your lovely hands will he meet his death, but at mine.
This despoiler of women must die."

Without saying anything further, but like a man demented, he walked
quickly away towards the distant manor.

Startled at the suddenness of his going, Julia Darnley ran after him
crying: "Ned! Ned! Not by your hands must he die. Please, please, for
my sake. I wouldn't have you a murderer." Then he stopped and turned
back to her, and she sobbed her misery in his arms.

The speciousness of his behaviour, the gracefulness of his person,
and the elegance of his appearance, combined to make Colonel Edward
Delpratt a very great favourite with women, and he had so far
ingratiated himself into the affections of Julia Darnley that she was
now frightened at the fearful thing he had so suddenly resolved to do.
She knew that he was not without courage and now that she had awakened
a demon in him, she was aghast.

"He is unworthy of death at your hands, Ned. Believe me, dear, he will
be punished through his own wickedness and cruelty. Men as evil as he
do not live long."

Calmed into a more reasonable frame of mind by her tearful pleadings,
he turned and walked back with her to the cottage of her father.

But there was another who had witnessed this woodland scene. It was
John Pooler, the poacher, who had been setting snares in the heart of
the wood through which wound the path towards Grassmere manor, when he
heard voices. Prowling with the stealthiness of a fox, noiseless and
unseen, as befitted the training of a poacher, he followed to learn
what the beautiful Julia Darnley, the mistress of the hated earl, was
up to. She had often befriended and protected him from the high-handed
authority of her master, and he adored her for her graciousness to him.
His regard for her was only equalled by his hate for the tyrannical
earl. Now he learnt that she would be pleased if he were dead. Then
he reasoned with himself: "Jack, you must do for this vicked lord.
He's a warmint. He treats Mistress Julia Darnley wery bad. He jugs you
for poachin' and puts you in the stocks. You must end his caper. This
sojer bloke vot loves her ain't got the guts to put out the Earl's
lights. Vell, Jack if you does it she'll be happy an' marry him. You'm
better get over to the manor and see vots doin'. If his nibs is alone
wif anudder hussy vy then she might vant a protector. But then she
mightn't. Hussies is hussies. Now, I axe you, Jack, vot abaht you doin'
the job. Done, your the cove to do it."

When Julia Darnley and Colonel Delpratt returned on their tracks
towards the home of her father, John Pooler, slinking and furtive,
went through the woods of Grassmere towards the manor. The place
seemed deserted. Creeping cautiously through a hedge into the drive,
he stopped and looked carefully about him. Seeing and hearing no human
presence or sound, he quickly crossed the gravel and stepped on to the
velvety sward that ran along the side of the manor. Taking cover behind
every convenient shrub or tree, he made his way to the rear of the vast
building and entered it through a door that was only fastened by a
latch. As silent as a shadow he moved from room to room, then stopped
to listen. In the distance, he heard voices raised in anger. Stepping
into the wide hall, he moved cautiously towards the uproar until he
came opposite the closed door of the library. He heard furniture being
thrown about and the agonised voice of a girl crying for help. Trying
the handle of the huge panelled door of the library, he found the door
unlocked, and slowly opened it. The fight between the girl and the
earl so engrossed their attention that neither perceived the door open
and John Pooler enter. As he did so, a stiletto fell at his feet. With
an action swift almost as thought, he picked it up and buried it with
a vicious stab between the shoulders of the prostrate madman who had
fallen on top of an insensible girl. Then he as quickly and as silently
withdrew as he entered, leaving no clue save his finger prints; but as
this Bertillon system of detecting crime had not then been perfected,
the finger prints on the dagger passed unheeded.

As no human eyes witnessed John Pooler enter or leave the manor, the
secret of the murder of the Earl of Belriven was safe in his own
keeping; and when Nigel Lording was accused of the murder, arrested
and convicted, he chuckled to himself that he was safe. He had rid the
world of a tyrant against whom he had a bitter personal grudge and it
was no part of his duty to save an innocent man from being hanged. If
the law made such mistakes, it was no part of his duty to put the law
wise. In his own way he had had enough of the law. It was his policy to
keep as far away from its clutches as possible.




CHAPTER XXVIII.

After weary months of endeavour, Inspector Barnes was forced to
dismiss from his mind the belief he had held as to Julia Darnley being
primarily concerned in the murder of Earl Belriven. He had thoroughly
investigated her life's history and that of Colonel Delpratt and where
they were on the Sunday afternoon of the murder. Nothing that he could
do or say could shake the testimony of these two people and it was
supported by the maid who had left the manor with her mistress and
her two young children, and by her father, Richard Darnley. Beyond
reaffirming her belief that the Earl was murdered by Nigel Lording, the
astute inspector could glean from her nothing that could help him in
solving the mystery.

That the murderer was someone well acquainted with Grassmere and
its environs, was the inspector's next belief and he worked on it
accordingly. Disguising himself as a common labourer he applied to John
Gatcombe, who still carried on the trusteeship of the Grassmere Estate
for and on behalf of the infant Lord Belriven, for work on the estate.
John Gatcombe, not liking his appearance, refused, and roughly bade him
begone about his business. Walking away muttering, he turned back after
going a few yards, and laughingly said:

"'Sooth, Mr. Gatcombe, my disguise must be most complete, since you did
not recognise me."

"What! Inspector Barnes! It is, sure enough. Now what's the game,
Inspector?"

"You must know, Mr. Gatcombe, why I have haunted Tavistock and its
environments on and off for the past twelve months, and I want you to
help me. Under the disguise of a labourer employed at Grassmere, I may
be able to pick up some information that will lead to the discovery of
the murderer of the late Earl."

"That I will do, Inspector. For the sake of that sweet girl transported
to the other end of the world, I will do all in my power to assist you."

And so Inspector Joe Barnes, keen, alert, safe in his disguise of
a yokel and a county clown, became an employee on the demesne of
Grassmere. From a labourer, he became a poacher, fished in forbidden
streams, and laid snares in the coverts and spinneys of the manor,
assuming the role of a wily vagabond.

"Where there's a riddle, there's a key to it," muttered Inspector
Barnes to himself, as he returned to the servants quarters at the manor
after a day's work in the fields, unrecognisable as an astute detective
in his excellent make up as a farm labourer.

The riddle of Earl Belriven's death had so far been unsolved, but he
hung to his purpose with the tenacity of a bulldog. After he had had
his evening meal, he sat outside his quarters on a bench calmly smoking
a much used church-warden. Presently he was joined by another labourer,
George Docker. Just as he had said to himself introspectively, "The
only things which cannot be explained are facts."

"Did 'ee speak, Willum?" At the manor he was known as William Lee.

"No, Garge, I maun been dreamin' awake like. That's all."

"Thee do always be dreamin' an' moochin' round, Willum. What's bitten
'ee?"

"Nawthin' Garge, nawthin', but I can't sleep o' nights thinkin' an'
thinkin' as 'ow the ghost of the murdered earl might pay us a wisit
some night."

"Thee do make me feel queerish, talkin' like that, Willum; but ghosts
only valk ven the murdered cove ain't discovered."

"Mebbo so, Garge, but be 'ee sartin sure that this 'ere Lording cove vas
the guilty cove?"

"Vell, I vos vorkin' 'ere at the time an' I knows all abaht it."

"But no one seed 'im do it. Put that in yer pipe an' smoke it, Garge."

"Vell, Villum, ven I see's him snug and comfortable in the hands of the
vatch vif blood all over 'im, I sez to meself, 'Garge, that's the cove
vot done it.'"

"Here's a pipe o' baccy, Garge. Light up and tell me wever any cove
'ereabahts bore 'is lor'ship a grudge."

"Vell, as to that an' speakin' vivout bevaricatin', no von liked 'im
over much; but ven Johnny Pooler cum out of the stocks at Tavistock,
vere 'ed been put by the Earl for poachin' firewood, arter been beaten
up by that there Cap'n Lannigan, he swore he'd 'ave wengeance some day.
I 'eard 'im say that meself."

"But 'ee don't think that sich a simple feller as Johnny Pooler would
'a done the job, now do 'ee Garge?"

"No--but Johnny Pooler ain't as simple as vot some makes out. He's
the cunningest poacher out o' Dartmoor gaol, an' vot goes on abaht
Grassmere vot 'e don't know, ain't vorth knawin'."

Detective Joe Barnes decided there and then to make the acquaintance
of Johnny Pooler. He had come across him several times, lurking in the
woods of Grassmere, but pretended not to see him. He wanted to make him
believe that though he was employed on the estate, he was not above
doing a bit of poaching on his own account. It would be all the easier
to gain the confidence of such a cunning rogue if he could make him
believe that he, Joe Barnes, was no better than a poacher himself and,
therefore, not likely to peach on him.

A few nights later, when the moon rose about midnight, Inspector Barnes
went prowling in the woods of Grassmere. He had set a springe in a
spinney and caught a fine fat rabbit. This he carried with him in the
hope of coming across Johnny Pooler. He was not disappointed. Going
along a track in the wood partially lit up by the rising moon, he
caught sight of his man getting into the wood through the hedge which
skirted a lane on the northern boundary. The poacher had not seen the
detective but Joe Barnes had seen him. Johnny Pooler walked warily in
the direction where, no doubt, he had set his traps. The detective,
cowering low, crept as noiselessly as possible in the direction to
intercept the poacher. Then suddenly stepping in front of him, he held
up his dead rabbit and said, "Any luck, mate?"

The poacher instantly stood on guard, with a club raised ready to
strike, taking the detective for a gamekeeper.

"Be'n't 'ee be scared, Johnny. I ain't a keeper. I do be doin' a bit of
trappin' on me own. But mum's the word, covy."

"Christ 'oo be 'ee, then?"

"Me? Oh, I'm William Lee wot works for John Gatcombe on the estate. But
don't 'ee let on that you've seen me poachin'. I'd lose me job else."

"Me? Not I, Willum Lee. Mum's wot I sez. But ain't 'ee afeared o' th'
keepers?"

"Noam. I allus watches me opportunity. They do be down at the Three
Brewers in Tavistock, so the coast is clear to-night. We 'as the woods
to ourselves, so to speak."

"Then 'ee'd better coom with me, Willum Lee; and see wot me springes
'ave caught."

When the snares and springes of Johnny Pooler had been duly visited,
Inspector Joe Barnes, alias William Lee, suggested a snack of bread
and cheese which he had brought with him. This evidence of good
fellowship pleased Johnny Pooler who found William Lee to be a man
whose acquaintance was worth cultivating. Though employed at the Manor,
was he not a poacher and an outlaw as he himself was?

Together they sat on a little footbridge that spanned a running brook
and the detective adroitly led the conversation towards the reputation
of the late Earl of Belriven.

"Did 'ee know his lordship, Johnny?"

"Know 'im, Willum? Coarse I did. Didn't 'e clap me in the stocks for
pinchin' wood and land me in Dartmoor for killin' of a pheasant?"

"But you was sorry, Johnny, when that Cornishman wot was transported,
killed him?"

"Don't know as I was. He was a werry windictive man, Willum, a real bad
un."

"I did 'ear, Johnny, that the Bow Street runners believe Mistress Julia
Darnley cooked 'er masters' goose. They do say she'm a real bad un."

"Aw, them smarters ought to ask Johnny Pooler abaht that. For why?
Mistress Darnley and Kunnel Delpratt was in these 'ere woods a love
makin' when the wicked willain was killed."

"No! You don't say, Johnny?"

"But I do say, Willum. I seen 'em and heerd 'em. The kunnel was for
putting out 'is lordship's lights 'isself when 'e heerd as 'ow bad 'is
lordship treated 'er, but she cried and clung to 'im, beggin' 'im not
to stain 'is 'ands wiv murder."

"Did 'ee tell that to the crowner at the hinquest, Johnny?"

"Me? No. For why? I was never axed to be a witness at the hinquest. I
never let on I heerd or seen anythink."

"Well, wot I say is this, Johnny. That there Cornishman must 'a been a
wery brave man to go into the manor and do for his lordship in his own
home."

"Aw, I dunno. Mebbe as others 'atin 'is nibs for his croolty, and
seein' 'im ravishin' a pretty young vench, 'ud be just as brave."

"If I'd been clapped in the stocks for takin' a bit of wood and
jugged for killin' a pheasant, as you vos, Johnny, I'd a done for 'im
meself. And for ravishin' a pretty vench, Johnny, why I'd a killed 'im
dead an' been a 'ero. For why? It ain't murder, a killin' of a cove
for ravishin' a unvillin' vench. It's vot the law calls justiviable
'omecide, Johnny."

"Mebbe, Willum. But I wouldn't take any chance on that. I'd do f'im and
keep my mouth shut."

"An' let a hinnercent man an' vench suffer, Johnny?"

"Better they should suffer than me. Gawd, Willum, 'ow I'd 'ate to be
stretched at the end of a rope."

"You be a wery close cove, Johnny. For why? I do be thinkin' you'd be
brave enough to kill the earl and keep mum abaht it. More power to 'ee,
I say, Johnny."

"You ain't far wrong, Willum. But mum's the vord, f'Christ sake. I'm
the cove wot killed the villain to free Mistress Darnley from the
vicked talons o' the Falcon."

"Gawd, I know'd you for a brave man, Johnny, but we maun be goin'.
Mum's the word."

"Mum's the vord, it is Willum?"

*  *  *  *  *  *

The heart of the nation was stirred to its depths by the dramatic
arrest of John Pooler for the murder, over two years before, of the
Earl of Belriven. His conviction rested upon the evidence of Inspector
Joseph Barnes, of Bow Street. Under a writ of habeas corpus the
prisoner was removed to London, where the magistrates, after maturely
considering the evidence adduced by the famous detective, thought
proper to commit the prisoner for trial at the next Quarter Sessions at
the Old Bailey.

When put to the bar, John Pooler, poacher, pilferer, and murderer,
appeared to be about forty years of age, of great muscular strength,
tall, and of savage, brutal and ferocious countenance, with large thick
lips, depressed nose, and high cheek bones.

Such was the eager curiosity of the public to know the issue of the
trial that the whole court and area of the Old Bailey was greatly
crowded. Their minds went back to that sensational trial a little over
two years before, when Nigel Lording was accused, arrested, tried,
and condemned to death for the same murder; and Mary Worthington,
young, beautiful, and refined, was also found guilty as an accessory
and transported. Even of their guilt many had entertained doubts,
which were not entirely removed, for their conviction rested upon
circumstantial evidence only. If at the trial, John Pooler were found
guilty, then the sentence passed on Nigel Lording and Mary Worthington
would turn out to be the most shocking miscarriage of justice in the
annals of England's criminal records.




CHAPTER XXIX.

There is little cause for wonder, therefore, that the heart of the
nation was stirred to its depths. The chief witness was Inspector
Barnes, who graphically told the court the story of how he had managed
to gain the confidence of the prisoner and to worm out of him his
confession of the murder. It was on the strength of that confession,
made in the depth of night in the woods of Grassmere, that he had
arrested the prisoner, who, however, stoutly denied having made any
such confession and brutally and strenuously resisted arrest. He (the
detective) admitted that there was no corroborative evidence of the
crime, and that it was, after all, only his word against that of the
prisoner's; but since the prisoner's arrest and imprisonment, pending
his trial, he had made certain statements to other prisoners, which
would be used in evidence against him. James Hethercote, a police
officer, the next witness called, stated that in the rear of the
public office in Worship Street, there were some strongrooms for the
safe keeping of prisoners pending their successive examinations before
the sitting magistrate at the Police Office, Worship Street. In two
of these rooms, adjacent to each other, and separated by a strong
partition, the prisoners were separately confined. Immediately behind
these rooms was a privy. In this privy he took post regularly after
each successive day's examination; and as the privy went behind both
rooms he could distinctly overhear the conversation of the prisoners
when they spoke fairly audibly to each other from either side of the
partition. Of this conversation he took notes which were afterwards
copied out very fairly and proved before the magistrates and which he
now read as evidence in court.

Mr. Magill, counsel for the prisoner, objected to this sort of
evidence, it being impossible, he said, that the officer could overhear
all that was said, and that the conversation thus mutilated, might
be misconstrued. Besides, the minds of officers, for the sake of
reward and promotion, were always prejudiced against the prisoner. His
objections were, however, overruled by the Court.

These conversations ran to a very considerable length, but the material
points were few. They showed, however, from the words of the prisoner's
own conversation, that he had in a moment of reckless bravado admitted
to another prisoner that he was in for the murder of the Earl of
Belriven against whom he had feelings of great hatred for his inhuman
treatment in placing him in the stocks at Tavistock for picking up a
bit of firewood in the woods of Grassmere, and for imprisonment in
Dartmoor for killing a pheasant and also to avenge the ill-treatment
which the late earl had often meted out to Mistress Julia Darnley who
had been very good to him and often befriended him. The prosecution
being closed, the prisoner was called to make his defence. He protested
he was completely innocent of the murder for which he was charged and
that the officers of the law had trumped up the statements which they
had made to the Court.

The Lord Chief Baron summed up the evidence in a very clear and
perspicuous manner, making some very humane observations upon the
terrible miscarriage of justice in the previous conviction of
Nigel Lording and Mary Worthington for a crime which the Court was
now satisfied they had not committed and hoping that the earliest
opportunity would be taken to obtain for them a Royal pardon.

The jury without retiring brought in a verdict of guilty against the
prisoner.

The Recorder immediately passed sentence in the most solemn and
impressive manner.

The Regency ended with the death of George III., and the Prince Regent
who had been virtually King since his royal father's attack of insanity
in 1810, was at this period King of England. It was now the duty of the
Lord Chief Baron to bring the facts concerning the trial and sentence
of Nigel Lording and Mary Worthington for the murder of the Earl of
Belriven under the notice of his Majesty, the King. He, therefore,
addressed the following report to Mr. Secretary Dutton.


Sir,--

I have the honour to acquaint you, for the information of His Majesty
the King, that one John Pooler was indicted before me at the Quarter
Sessions held at the Old Bailey for the murder of the Earl of Belriven
over two years ago, and found guilty. The facts of that murder, and of
the trial conviction and sentence of two persons--Nigel Lording and
Mary Worthington--for having committed that murder are on record; but
the present conviction of John Pooler for that memorable crime has
proven the said Nigel Lording and Mary Worthington to be innocent,
and I am humbly to recommend them as proper subjects of his Majesty's
pardon.

I am, &c.,

A. Macnaughton.


In due course, the pardon of the King was made known to the nation and
the following is a copy.


Nigel Lording and Mary Worthington--Free Pardon.

In the name and on behalf of His Majesty, George R.

Whereas John Pooler was at a Session holden at the Old Bailey in April
last tried and convicted of the murder of the late Earl of Belriven and,

Whereas Nigel Lording and Mary Worthington who had been previously
tried and convicted for the self-same murder are now proven to be
innocent; we in consideration of some circumstances humbly represented
unto us, touching the said conviction of the said Nigel Lording and
Mary Worthington are graciously pleased to extend our grace and mercy
unto them and to grant them our free pardon for the said crime; our
will and pleasure therefore, is, you cause the said Nigel Lording and
Mary Worthington to be forthwith discharged out of custody; and for so
doing this shall be your Warrant.

Given at our Court, at Carleton House, the twenty-fourth day of
October, 1827, in the year of our reign.

By the command of His Majesty, the King.

H. Dutton.

To our trusty and well-beloved our Justices of Gaol Delivery for the
City of London and County of Middlesex, the Sheriffs of the said City
and County and all others whom it may concern.


But the Royal pardon came too late to soothe the aching heart of
Ann Worthington for her first born--her beloved and beautiful Mary
Worthington. Widowed and mateless, but with sublime courage, she
decided since she saw no hope of the mystery surrounding the murder of
the Earl of Belriven being solved, to leave that England, which to her
was now but a land of sorrow and bitter memories, and to follow her
daughter and her unfortunate lover to Australia.

Through the influence of Sir George Murray, Secretary of State for
the Home Department, a passage was obtained for her and her three
children on the bark Lima for Sydney. It was impossible for her to
secure a passage on a boat sailing direct for Moreton Bay, as no free
settlers at that time were permitted to land at Brisbane Town, as it
was a penal settlement of the closest kind, a fact which had a very
important result on the whole country's subsequent history. For several
years after the death of Commandant Pearce Lannigan the convict and the
free settler were so absolutely cut off the one from the other, the
separation between convict life and life outside was so complete, that
the penal system remained a mere excrescence on the country's history.

Arriving at Sydney, Ann Worthington found that no possible influence
could secure her a passage to Moreton Bay, as the territory surrounding
it was exclusively a convict settlement. For all the information
she could obtain concerning her daughter, she may just as well have
remained in England. But a year later, Governor Darling, just before
his recall, received a dispatch from Viscount Goderich, who succeeded
Sir George Murray as Secretary of State for the Home Department,
covering the reprieve of Nigel Lording and Mary Worthington, who had
been transported to Moreton Bay. The criminal records in Sydney of that
settlement were searched, and when the names of these two transportees
were verified, Governor Darling took immediate steps to transmit the
King's pardon to Captain Clunie of the 17th Regiment, who succeeded
to the Governorship of Moreton Bay on the death of his predecessor,
Captain Lannigan. But the pardon, though proclaimed, was not delivered
for the very excellent reason that these two convicts had bolted into
the unknown bush and it was not known whether they were dead or alive.
When Ann Worthington learnt through official channels that her beloved
daughter for whom she had broken up her home in England and had come
twelve thousand miles to see, had bolted with a dangerous and malignant
convict into the trackless bush, and had been probably killed and eaten
by the blacks, no words of solace could soothe her agonised soul. She
wailed in tearless grief that her first-born, her beautiful, adorable
Mary, was lost to her for ever.




CHAPTER XXX.

All unconscious of the startling events leading up to their ultimate
redemption, that were taking place in England, Nigel Lording and
Mary Worthington continued to live with the blacks. In appearance,
they were akin to the savages with whom they herded. Bearded, burnt
by the sun and tanned almost black by exposure, Nigel Lording, with
long hair curling to his shoulders, was accepted by the tribe that
originally adopted him as some dead member returned to life; and Mary
Worthington, clad in skins, barefooted, her fair skin bronzed to the
hue of a copper coloured native, was also accepted by the blacks as
his gin in their former existence. By means of this general belief,
they were able to travel through the surrounding tribes in comparative
safety. When questioned by the blacks about their previous existence
and the persons whom they were supposed to represent in the flesh, it
was their custom to reply that it was so long since they had died that
they had forgotten even their former names. This answer was usually
found to be regarded as eminently satisfactory, because the belief in
reincarnation is firmly held by all the natives. Though some of the
tribes through whom they passed were found to be friendly and ready
to help, other tribes were often treacherous and fierce. It was only
by his superior knowledge and the skill he had acquired in the use of
native weapons that made him respected wherever he went among them.
By long association with the blacks, they had acquired their skill in
hunting and tracking. They obtained food in abundance and lived at
ease where a stranger would see and find nothing and starve to death.
The making of a fire, native fashion, and the cleaning and cooking of
their kills were tasks in which Mary Worthington became very expert.
The unadulterated food, the open air life, and the enforced throwing
asunder of all the shackles of civilisation, had their beneficial
effect on Mary Worthington. She walked with the grace and ease of
a savage and constant exercise in walking long distances, made her
as well proportioned as a Grecian goddess. But what appealed to the
natives most was the abundance of her red-gold hair, and the blue eyes
of Nigel Lording. Her hair and his eyes were, in the totemic beliefs of
the blacks, their passports to safety.

It was a mystery to the blacks why Mary Worthington, as Nigel Lording's
gin, did not have a child. Probably that was the reason why she was so
fond of the little birrahlees. The maternal spirit radiated from her,
body and soul. As she mothered the little copper-skinned pickaninnies,
enveloping them with a broad and deep understanding, so Nigel Lording
knew she would mother the child that might be born to her. Her physical
and mental vigour, her energy and tireless strength, all blended in
one desirable whole. But not yet was she to be the mother of his
children. In the lone bush, among savages who respected the moral code
within their tribes, it was not for him to claim physical possession
of the beautiful and perfect creature who looked to him for safety and
protection in their long wanderings. But in the agony of his longing
for her, he often exclaimed, "How long, O Lord, how long!"

When the blacks heard a curlew whistling at night, they would remark:
"Hallo, there is a child about," and they looked significantly at
Mary Worthington. Others would wonder why their great ancestor Anjea
who made children out of swamp mud, would not come and make a little
birrahlee to put into her.

And so in her wanderings, she had no fear of the blacks. Her honour was
safe with them so long as she belonged to Gundawarra.

But Mary Worthington had caught the eye of Boralcho Baker, the escaped
convict, and he desired above all else, to possess her. He first saw
her at the bunya feast on Namboreen when Captain Lannigan was tortured
to death. The sight of a white girl living like a savage among the
blacks, turned his brain. Her face, beautiful, calm, dignified under
the halo of her wonderful hair, the curve of her cheeks ruddy with the
healthy blood that coursed beneath her skin, her strong shoulders,
well fleshed arms bare to the armpits, the vital fullness of her firm
breasts, but half concealed by her robe of untanned opossum skins,
her strong white even teeth that glinted through her lips when she
laughed and played with the little birrahlees, appealed to the animal
instincts in him, and he, vowing to possess her, planned accordingly.
In dexterity and manual strength, he knew he was no match for Nigel
Lording; but he was a cunning and notorious criminal, and made up by
cunning what he lacked in physical strength.

A son of Sir Edward Baker, he had been a Captain in the Royal Navy.
Then he was known as a blackleg and for ungentlemanly, if not
dishonest, conduct, had been dismissed from the service. During a
residence in London, to support a course of dissipation and profligacy,
he, on several occasions, stole plate from his lodgings, but to prevent
his being prosecuted for felony and disgracing his family, his friends
paid the value of the stolen articles. But having committed further
thefts, his friends withheld their interference and allowed the law to
take its course. He was tried and convicted and transported to Botany
Bay. Having, however, in the territory of New South Wales, procured his
freedom, this notorious plate stealer and blackleg again indulged in
his thieving propensities, and to rid the colony of a nuisance, he was
sentenced to penal servitude at Norfolk Island for seven years. During
the time of his penal servitude on the island, he was the designer of
a vessel to be secretly built by the prisoners in which to make their
escape. This project was discovered by the Commandant long before the
completion of the vessel and as the originator of the plot, he received
further punishment. On the recovery of his liberty and return to
Sydney, he entered a small provision shop in one of the back streets of
that city, kept by a lonely widow, almost murdered her, and took the
contents of the till which amounted to only a few shillings. For this
capital offence he received three hundred lashes and was transported
north to Moreton Bay, where he soon made his escape and lived for
twenty-one years among the blacks, principally with the Tarampa tribe,
below the almost impregnable rampart of the Great Dividing Range and
in the region of Upper Lockyer Creek. The headman of this tribe was
the notorious Millbong, one of the most bloodthirsty savages of his
time; but how far he had been educated in his ruthlessness by Boralcho
(as Baker was known among the blacks) is a matter of conjecture. In
any case, his influence over the blacks was bad. Always on the hunt,
always on ramble and foray, the men of the tribe often left their camp
and went far afield. The old pinaroos, the gins, the lubras and young
children, remained in camp grinding seeds, making goolays, or digging
for yams with their yam sticks in the adjacent bush or searching for
edible grubs in wattle trunks or dead logs.

Mary Worthington did not always accompany Nigel Lording when he went
hunting with the bucks. She remained behind in the camp making clothing
of skins, and cooking food at the fire before her own gunyah. At
times she wandered alone from the camp to bathe naked and unashamed
in the deep water holes of the Lockyer, revelling in her wonderful
freedom, all unconscious of peril or danger; but once in a while when
she wandered out of the camp towards the running waters of the creek,
or the silent mystery of the dark scrub, a shrill-voiced gin would
sometimes cry out "Gawai (come here) you! Baal walk about. Keep close
up, you. Maybe someday that wicked blackfellow Millbong been catch you,
or that wicked white fellow Boralcho, my word."

At all such warnings, Mary Worthington laughed lightly, exclaiming
"Marong (good). I soon come back mahme (old woman)." But one day she
did not come back. Boralcho with Millbong, and other hunters of the
Tarampa tribe, were on a foray--and Boralcho in these forays always
contrived with a sinister purpose that they should be made in the
direction of the Coominya country when they saw Mary Worthington
swimming alone in a waterhole. Millbong was the first to see her.
Beckoning to Boralcho, he crept noiselessly towards the edge of the
waterhole, carefully hiding in the reeds and bushes. "White Mary," he
whispered, pointing to where Mary Worthington was swimming alone in the
clean cool water of the Lockyer. Boralcho Baker, speechless, gazed at
the white girl with evil eyes. She was now within his power. This was
an opportunity that he had schemed and waited for--to kidnap her had
been his supreme desire. Ever since he had beheld her up on Namboreen,
he craved to obtain possession of her. God! Was it possible that his
great opportunity had come at last! Gundawarra, even as he, Boralcho,
was a runaway convict. The girl was, therefore, as much his property
as Lording's. They were both outside the law. So was she as far as the
law was concerned. If she was once in his power, let Gundawarra take
her from him if he could. That remained to be seen. He would take her
with the help of Millbong and his tribe to the remote fastnesses of
the Great Dividing Range, the ramparts of which no white man had ever
scaled, and where no one but a blackfellow could track them.

As they watched, Mary Worthington swam to the bank where she had left
her opossum skin cloak; but before she could reach it, Boralcho,
followed by the blacks, plunged into and through the waterhole and were
upon her. Startled by the suddenness of the assault Mary Worthington,
crouching to hide her nakedness, screamed, and the gins in the far away
camp of the Coominyas hearing that startled, terrified scream, huddled
together in terror.

But the old mahme who had warned Mary Worthington not to wander away
from the camp to the swimming pool, all unafraid, ran to see what had
happened to the lovely Boonara. "Maybe," she shouted back as she ran as
fast as her thin old legs would carry her, "the bunyip in the waterhole
has captured her, or the terrible Boralcho. Who knows?"

Arriving at the swimming pool, the old mahme was just in time to see
Boralcho and the blood-thirsty Millbong, headman of the Tarampa tribe,
carrying the screaming and fighting Boonara away through the scrub.
But she was powerless in the hands of her captors. At sundown when the
hunters and Nigel Lording returned to the camp of the Coominyas, they
found it in a state of great consternation. Yabbering together, the
gins, the pinaroos, and the lubras told the hunters what had happened.
Nigel Lording became like a man demented. He knew what would be the
fate of his beloved in the power of such a man as Baker, in whom she
would find no mercy, no pity. Every minute that she was held captive
by such an inhuman brute, meant her ruin and degradation. There was
nothing else to do but to follow up the captors immediately. If the
blacks would not form a vengeance party, he would go alone. He appealed
to them, and he did not appeal in vain.

"Eh! Eh!" they yelled. "The Tarampas have stolen our Boonara, and her
strong man Gundawarra is now lonely and desolate. We will track the
stealers of gins until we find them and spear them."

The day had been hot and a drought lay over the land. Like a coin in
a slot the red sun dropped down behind the western ranges that loomed
black with jungle in the far distance. The raiders had half a day's
start and would travel fast. By now they would be hiding in the dense
scrub somewhere up in the foothills of the great Dividing Range. No
matter. They must follow.

"Boolibai," (come) shouted Nigel Lording as he gripped his spears and
woomera and ran like a human blood hound on the scent of the raiders.
The blacks love a man-hunt and, shouting their war cry they ran like a
pack following its swift-footed leader. Lilliri, the shadow, led the
way, because he was the most fleet of foot of the Coominyas and the
keenest tracker. He hung on to his quarry and followed like a shadow,
for so he was named. With the swift swinging gait of his race, he moved
and tracked with a supple, superlative grace, and Nigel Lording and his
faithful warrigals followed close at Lilliri's heels. Each mile that he
travelled Nigel Lording breathed a prayer to God that he would uphold
him in his present great emergency. Across trackless ridges and hills
they sped but when they came to the scrub at the base of the mountains,
it was too dark to go further and Lilliri could not pick up the tracks.
In an agony of suspense, Nigel Lording called a halt to camp for the
night. The blacks slept, but the torture of Nigel Lording's soul was
too intense for sleep. To him the hours of the night dragged on with
leaden feet. Would dawn never break!

"Oh Mary, my darling," he groaned, "May God in his great mercy sustain
you." In the intensity of his emotion, he tried to throw his will-power
into the night in the hope that some telepathic force might communicate
his feelings to her to sustain her with his hope and strength.

A magpie from its nest on a tree way up overhanging an ironbark ridge
was the first to trill a song to the dawn. By the time the sun had
sipped the last vestige of the dew from the grass, the avengers were
well on their way towards the mountains that loomed ahead through
their curtains of blue. Up there, in some mighty recess, the raiders,
empanoplied like wild beasts in their lair, were holding captive the
white girl. But through the scrub, following unerringly the tracks of
the raiders they passed, single file, the keen sleuth, Lilliri, still
in the lead. Torn by lawyer vines, leg-weary and shining with the ooze
of sweat, the hunters pressed on. Aloft, cockatoos, black and white,
screeched in the towering bunya-bunyas and mountain hoop pines.

Emerging from the jungle, Lilliri picked up the tracks which still led
far up the mountains. Suddenly he stopped and held up a warning hand.
Then he pointed ahead where smoke spiralled up over the trees, and
hissed "Tarampa, he been make that pfeller smoke; White Mary, she there
alright."

Crawling ahead through the bracken and long grass, the avengers crept
silently on towards the smoke. Along a spur they crawled until they
came to the edge of a yawning ravine in the heart of the range. Lilliri
stopped and, turning, pointed ahead. Far below, in a clear space in the
ravine, through which ran a stream of sparkling water, Nigel Lording
saw their quarry--Baker, several blacks, and Mary Worthington. Nigel
Lording's heart contracted when he beheld her lying on the ground,
clothed only by the fall of her flowing hair. What had been her fate?
Whether dead or alive he could not say. She lay motionless. The blacks
looked to him for a lead in strategy. A dense jungle clothed the
sides of the ravine and Nigel Lording in whispers directed the blacks
by gestures to crawl noiselessly down the sides of the ravine and
surround the raiders. At a given signal, they were to yell and with
spears uplifted, run forward. The blacks, suddenly startled, would run
into the sheltering scrub. But the white man would not run. Him they
were not to spear lest they injure Boonara. If harm had come to her,
Boralcho should die. If he had done her no harm, he was to live.

When the fugitives were surrounded Nigel Lording heard Baker speak to
Mary Worthington and throw her a possum skin. With this she did her
best to hide her nakedness. A shout of joy almost broke from Nigel
Lording. She was not dead after all, but lived. That at any rate, was
something to be thankful for. Then he breathed with intense fervour, "O
God the all powerful, how I thank Thee!"

Then he gave the signal--the howl of a dingo. Instantly his faithful
allies took up the ullawaranna (howl) and rushed forward with raised
spears. Startled and taken unawares, the Tarampa bucks, not stopping to
take up their weapons, fled into the scrub, but Baker, amazed, picked
up his hielaman (shield), and nulla-nulla, and stood on guard in front
of Mary Worthington, who had, on hearing the howls of the blacks,
jumped quickly up from the ground. Then she saw Nigel Lording coming
towards her out of the scrub.

Drawn, haggard, and dazed, she ran to him, and crying "Nigel!" fell
swooning into the arms of her marvellous mate. Taking advantage of the
temporary embarrassment caused to Nigel Lording by the girl throwing
herself so suddenly into his arms, Baker, with an agile bound of a
panther, shouting "spoils to the victor," sprang forward to brain him
with his nulla-nulla. But Nigel Lording had lived too long with the
blacks to be caught unaware. Throwing Mary Worthington behind him
with a sudden thrust of his encircling right arm, with such force as
to send her sprawling into a tussock of plume grass, he nimbly jumped
aside. The blow that was meant to crash his skull, grazed his shoulder,
tearing the skin of his left arm to the elbow. Instantly pivoting on
his left leg and crouching low, he brought his great knowledge of an
expert wrestler to his aid. Before Baker could recover his balance to
make a second hit, Nigel Lording caught him below the knees with his
left arm and using the immense leverage of his left shoulder, threw
Baker over his head with such force that he lay dazed and half-stunned
then feet away.

"Spoils to the victor, is it, you dog? Well, you're my spoil, you cur.
You've cheated the gallows, you ravisher, to die here in the bush,"
thus Nigel Lording addressed Baker as he jumped upon him, kneeling with
his right knee on his abdomen, while he clutched the prostrate man's
throat to choke the life out of him.

The suddenness with which Nigel Lording threw his heart's desire from
him and the shock of her falling heavily into the tussock of plume
grass, brought Mary Worthington back to her alert mentality. Taking in
the situation at a glance, she came staggering over to the two men who
were claiming her as their "spoil," and said feebly, "Spare him, Nigel.
He has done me no physical harm, though God knows what would have
happened to me in his vile hands and at his uncontrollable mercy, had
you not found me in time."

"Oh, my heart's mate, a despoiler of women is not fit to live. It would
be a mercy to kill him before he can commit further crimes."

"But you are not his judge, my Nigel. Do not stain your noble soul with
the blood of such a man. Come."

"If he had defiled you, Mary, I would kill him as willingly as I would
kill a black snake; but since he has respected you in that, I will let
him go, though you were in dangerous custody."

"I know it, my true mate, only too well. From the time he abducted me
until he brought me here with his blacks, he never stopped going. In
the fastnesses of these mountains he thought he was safe from pursuit.
But, oh, my Nigel, I knew better. I knew that you would track him to
the end of Australia, to get me back again, dead or alive."

"Dearest of all most dear to me, I hope your faith and trust in me
will see us safely through this terrible pilgrimage."

The blacks of both tribes came down out of the scrub on the sides of
the ravine to watch the fight between the two white men for possession
of the white lubra. When the Tarampas saw their man vanquished and
beaten, they accepted the inevitable with true savage philosophy,
and went back to their camp on the lower Lockyer, the defeated and
humiliated Baker going with them.

Nigel Lording with his faithful Coominyas rested a day and a night
by the clear running waters in the ravine. A speared wallaby and an
eighteen foot carpet snake provided food and gave them strength to
march back to their camp on the upper Lockyer.

When, on the morning of a new day, the sun unrolled its golden
splendour over range and forest, and scrub, and painted with its
radiant glory the dazzling mountain tops, it seemed to Nigel Lording
and Mary Worthington as they walked hand in hand out of the ravine on
their way back to the camp, that after all, God was enthroned somewhere
above those lofty mountain peaks along whose crests the rising sun ran
like fire-fringed rivers of fulgurant gold.




CHAPTER XXXI.

Sir Richard Bourke arrived in Sydney in December, 1831, to succeed
General Darling as Governor of New South Wales, but the Royal pardon
had not yet been served on Nigel Lording and Mary Worthington. Captain
Clunie, the commandant at Moreton Bay, reported to him, after a long
interval, that the reprieved prisoners had been swallowed up by the
trackless, illimitable bush, and it was feared that their fate would
never be known.

At the earnest and tearful importunities of Ann Worthington,
Major-General Bourke directed that search without ceasing must continue
to be made for the fugitives from the settlement on the Brisbane
River, and the services of friendly natives were to be requisitioned
for that purpose. Captain Clunie, however, made a mistake in sending
natives with soldiers to search the bush for the missing convicts.
The soldiers, with their muskets, which, like lightning, killed from
a distance, were distrusted by the wild myalls. They looked upon the
blacks who accompanied the soldiers as renegades not to be trusted,
and would give them no information except that of a misleading nature
to those Kongaros (mongrels), as they termed the blacks from the
settlement.

But what the honest endeavour of Captain Clunie failed to accomplish
a renegade white man with much evil in his heart, and with an evil
intention brought about. "Boralcho" Baker, whose knowledge of the
bush was only equalled by that of the blacks themselves, was bitterly
mortified by the recapture of Mary Worthington from his evil clutches
by his superior antagonist, "Gundawarra" Lording. The ease with which
that redoubtable wrestler had cast him aside, almost with scorn as
it were, rankled bitterly in him and he vowed vengeance. He had been
humiliated not only in the sight and presence of the beautiful white
girl whom he had hoped to make his mistress, but in the sight of the
Tarampa tribe, who hitherto had looked upon him as a warrior superior
in cunning and intelligence to themselves. He resolved, therefore, to
plan and scheme to have Nigel Lording and Mary Worthington recaptured
and brought back to the settlement, where they would suffer the
terrible punishment meted out to bolters. If he could bring about
their capture he would not only rehabilitate himself in the eyes of
the blacks, but would satisfy his lust for vengeance. The only fly in
the ointment of his scheming was that of his own safety. As a bolter
from constituted authority he would not be present to see them scourged
at the triangles or wear again the manacles of convict discipline. In
imagination, however, he gloated over the sufferings they would be
forced to endure as recaptured felons.

In 1828 Allan Cunningham, botanist and explorer, made his way from
Moreton Bay across the Great Dividing Range through the gap which bears
his name. The year before, when he discovered the Darling Downs, he had
noticed this great cleft in the mountain barrier between the tableland
of the interior and the coast, but the forces of circumstance drove him
south again via the Dumaresq, Gwydir, Namoi, and Castlereagh; but as he
glanced backward at that mighty V-shaped cleft, flanked by a towering
mountain on either side, he resolved to explore it the following year,
which he did, and passed from the coast lands to the Darling Downs,
naming the mountains that he had seen the year before, Cordeaux on the
north and Mitchell on the south. Captain Clunie decided to emulate his
predecessor, Captain Lannigan, in the work of exploration. With this
end in view he set out from Limestone Hills (Ipswich) with a small
detachment of the 4th Infantry, two convicts to lead the packhorses and
to prepare the camps, and two natives to act as guides.

One evening at sundown, when making camp on the Upper Lockyer, the
explorers were surprised to see a stalwart native armed with spears,
woomera, and hielaman, stride into the camp. He was the notorious
Millbong headman of the Tarampas. Laying down his weapons as a token
of peace, he approached the commandant and by signs and broken English
picked up from "Boralcho" Baker, made known to Captain Clunie that two
run-away tallabillas (outlaws), one a wait-jurk (wanted murderer) and
the other a gaddawirra (a bad woman) been sit down longa Coominyas.
"Maybe you come, me been shown you Gundawarra's warrabinda (camp at a
deep waterhole)."

By signs Captain Clunie, with the help of the blacks as interpreters,
made Millbong to understand that if he led him to them he would give
him a white man's cumbee (tomahawk). But if he showed any signs of
treachery he would kill him with the white man's thunder. To emphasise
his threat the commandant shot a hawk with his musket. He held Millbong
a close prisoner for the night, and next day they set off for the camp
of the Coominyas at their warrabinda on the Upper Lockyer.

When Captain Clunie arrived within a mile of the camp of the Coominyas
he gave one of his own blacks a message in writing to take to the
fugitive white man who he hoped would turn out to be Nigel Lording, the
long searched for escapee, to the effect that owing to the arrest of
the murderer of Earl Belriven both he and his female companion had been
granted a free pardon.

There was much commotion and yabbering in the camp of the Coominyas
when Nigel Lording informed them of the import of the message. They
were very angry and refused to let him and Boonara go, fearing
treachery at the hands of the soldiers. Nigel Lording was also
suspicious and talked the matter over with Mary Worthington. "It would
be terrible," he said, "if ultimately this turned out to be a ruse to
lure us back to the settlement, to imprisonment, and possibly to death."

But Mary Worthington, with faith in their destiny, looked at the matter
differently. With tears in her eyes and a voice tremulous with emotion
she said, catching hold of Nigel Lording with both hands:

"Oh, my mate, my heart's desire, my Nigel, I feel that this is our
deliverance at last. Believe me, beloved, but I fear no treachery."

"For your sake, my Mary, my Mary of sorrows, dangers, persecutions, and
privations, I will go to this man and test his sincerity."

"Then I will go with you, my Nigel. I will never, never leave you. O
God, it is too wonderful to be true. O great deliverance, after all
these years of terrible tribulation!"

Out of the bush they walked, accompanied by an escort of the Coominya
bucks, into the camp of Captain Clunie. The blacks, fearing treachery,
carried their native weapons, but Nigel Lording and Mary Worthington,
walking hand in hand, came with every semblance of trust and good
faith. It was a remarkable sight that the commandant looked upon. A
white man of magnificent physique, burnt almost black, with long beard
and hair the colour of honey, naked but for the opossum skin that
engirdled him from the waist to the thighs, and a young woman, bronzed,
barefooted, and erect, of matchless symmetry, with an emu skin hanging
from her shoulders, over which hung a rippling fall of luxuriant hair
of the tint of natural gold, stood before him.

Looking in amazement at the pair, Captain Clunie asked the man, "In
God's name, who are you?"

"I am Nigel Lording, an escaped convict, and this is Mary Worthington,
who escaped with me. Is the message you sent me, sir, correct, or was
it only a ruse to lure us back to captivity?"

"My man," replied the commandant with dignity, "what I have told
you is quite correct. It has been proved that both you and this
marvellous girl, the companion of your almost unbelievable sojourn
with the blacks, are quite guiltless of the crime for which you were
transported. The pardon of his Majesty King George IV., now over a year
old is in the hands of Governor Bourke at Sydney. I was directed to use
every endeavour to trace your whereabouts and to find you both, dead or
alive. Thank God, I have been successful in finding you alive."

To Mary Worthington this intimation seemed incredible. Buoyed up for
years by the hope of ultimate emancipation she had borne her lot with
her marvellous mate with a courage that was sublime; but now that
her--that their--emancipation had come at last, her joy, her happiness
was overwhelming. Her heart, after one great beat of joy, seemed to
stop beating and her blood to flow. Suddenly she collapsed in a swoon
at the feet of the commandant.

Nigel Lording lifted her tenderly in his great strong arms and laid her
down gently in the shadow of a flowering apple tree. The blacks looked
on in wonderment, sullen and silent. What did it all mean? They did not
know, only that they sensed that Gundawarra and Boonara were safe.

True to his promise, Captain Clunie gave Millbong a bright tomahawk,
and his smoky eyes glistened. He walked out of the camp of the whites
and went back to his own tribe. It was a queer tale he told the
treacherous Boralcho. His native instinct told him that Gundawarra and
Boonara were with friends, and Baker cursed. Unwittingly he had been
the means of restoring the fugitives from justice to civilisation.

The commandant with the greatest solicitude revived Mary Worthington
with a mixture of rum and water. Then ordering tea to be made and a
meal to be prepared he made her comfortable with blankets.

That night in the commandant's camp they heard the wonderful news that
Ann Worthington and her other three children had left England for good
and were in Sydney awaiting most anxiously for information concerning
her daughter and her great protector. It would be some time yet before
they could leave Brisbane Town for Sydney, but as there were no means
of communication between the settlement and Sydney, save by boat, it
was no use sending on news ahead. They would reach Sydney as soon as
a dispatch. In the meantime, as guests of Captain Clunie, who treated
them most kindly, they would once more have the privilege of eating the
food and wearing the garments of civilisation.

There was great distress in the camp of the Coominyas when they
learnt that Gundawarra and the beautiful, light-hearted laughing
Amoama-Boonara were leaving them for ever. The goodwill that had
grown up between them had made them very friendly. Laughter and play
among the children were stilled and the lubras squatted together in
the gunyahs and whispered. Even the old pinnaroos wagged their heads.
"Huh," they grunted, "wandering ones, those two. One moon they come,
another moon they go. Maybe now they go on a long wandering through
many tribes. We will make for them a message-stick, which will make
our talk known to other tribes. It will tell all that Gundawarra and
Amoama-Boonara are friends, loved by all blackfellows."

And so next morning, when Nigel Lording and Mary Worthington, with
the commandant and his party, walked into the camp of the Coominyas
to bid them a long farewell, the gins and lubras wept and the little
birrahlees whimpered. Then came forward old Currumbin, the headman of
the tribe, and presented Nigel Lording with the prepared message-stick,
carved out of sweet-scented cedar. It was a little larger than a finger
and engraved with many markings. It was the tribe's guarantee of good
faith, and would act as a safeguard or passport over otherwise hostile
country.

Nigel Lording explained to Captain Clunie what the message-stick meant.
To a white man travelling among blacks it was a priceless possession,
and in return for this evidence of goodwill the commandant presented
old Currumbin with a tomahawk, cut spare blankets into strips for the
gins, and distributed sugar among the little birrahlees, and so the
grief of separation was soon mollified.

The finding of Nigel Lording and Mary Worthington in the wilderness
of the unknown bush was such an important event that Captain Clunie
immediately turned back and retraced his steps to the settlement.
Arriving there he made them his guests and did all in his power to
rehabilitate them in the ways of civilisation. They were now no
longer convicts branded with the name of felon. That was past and
done with for ever. Though the memory of their fearful sufferings
was ever present--burnt on their minds with the unquenchable fire of
suffering--they could now lift up their eyes in admiration and sigh,
"Thank God, it is over."

As they walked together down paths that led to the river along which
but a few years ago they had marched in fetters, Nigel Lording pointed
out to the girl of his idolatry, the spot where they had plunged
together into the flooded river on the day of their dangerous crossing.
Shuddering, yet speechless with thankfulness and adoration, true
happiness shone like the sun from her face as her saviour drew her to
him, and he, beholding her, saw her radiant, elated, clothed with joy
as an angel of grace.



THE END.


This site is full of FREE ebooks - Project Gutenberg Australia