an ebook published by Project Gutenberg Australia

Title: In Australia
Author: Steele Rudd
eBook No.: 2400081h.html
Language: English
Date first posted: March 2024
Most recent update: March 2024

This eBook was produced by: Walter Moore

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In Australia

Steele Rudd





Chapter 1. - Past and Present
Chapter 2. - A Terrible Drought
Chapter 3. - By the Death Bed
Chapter 4. - Eric Makes an Acquaintance
Chapter 5. - Solving the Mystery
Chapter 6. - Are Yez Stirrin’ Y’self?
Chapter 7. - A Cow-yard Scene
Chapter 8. - Orders for the Day
Chapter 9. - Assertive Mrs. Potthouse
Chapter 10. - Mrs. Potthouse Plays the Devil
Chapter 11. - Mr. Mullett
Chapter 12. - Twelve Months After
Chapter 13. - Trouble on the Lucerne
Chapter 14. - Stibbening, the Inspector
Chapter 15. - Ray McKay and Beatrice Appleby
Chapter 16. - Piggy Uses the Leg Rope
Chapter 17. - Harry Ryle Appears
Chapter 18. - In the Cold Storage
Chapter 19. - In the Fire Wid ’Ud
Chapter 20. - At the Parson’s
Chapter 21. - At the Circus
Chapter 22. - On the Road to the Races
Chapter 23. - At Smith’s Hotel
Chapter 24. - The Race for the Cup
Chapter 25. - After the Event
Chapter 26. - Constable ’Enery Engaged
Chapter 27. - The Return
Chapter 28. - The Stolen Will
Chapter 29. - His Majesty’s Gaol
Chapter 30. - His Majesty’s Gaol
Chapter 31. - His Majesty’s Gaol


Chapter 1
Past and Present

It was the last days of the great land monopolists of South Queensland. The squatters and their vast sheep herds were raipdly disappearing. The great rolling, grassy plains of the Darling Downs, which, from the earliest days of the colony’s history, had been conserved as sheep walks, were gradually being acquired by progressive and democratic Governments, and sold in small holdings to the farmer.

A hundred homesteads in full swing, their green wheat-fields, their hay-sheds, their dairy herds, dotted over the verdant expanses of plain and timberlands, where before a set of dusty drafting yards, and a few barren salt camps, were the only symbols of industry or civilisation. The solitary railway-sidings, the “gates” and the “crossings” that had marked the distant settlements were now converted into lively townships, consisting of stores, hotels, bakers’, butchers’, and blacksmiths’ shops. Cooperative and private cheese and butter factories sprang up in every district. The London market, as fast as ships could convey it, absorbed to the last pound the produce turned out, and cabled demands for more.

An earth hunger set in. Land values went up, till even waste selections that a few years before “went begging” at 30 s. per acre, could not now be purchased at £8. And many of the onetime struggling cockies who had but too often known the pangs of nursing their hunger, till the pinch of flour that was to provide a few scones to go on with for the mid-day meal arrived from the store; and who year after year were forced to leave their holdings, and seek work at the shearing sheds, in order to meet the interest accruing on the mortgage, and keep the wolf from the door—were now rising to comparative wealth.


Chapter 2
A Terrible Drought

It was the middle of summer. And such a summer! There had been no rain for months—not as much as would wet a pocket handkerchief; and the relentless, pitiless sun, day after day, blazed steadily down from a clear, cloudless sky, and set in the west like a ball of fire. The intense heat was almost unendurable. Workmen, at intervals throughout the day, left the field and sought the shade beneath the trees. The women abandoned their housework, and with their gowns opened at the throat, sat in the passages of their homes, fanning themselves for a breath of air. The grass and herbage withered away. The corn crops drooped and died. The dairy herds went back in their milk, gallon by gallon. Every day saw a serious shrinkage. Anxiety began to fill the hearts of the people. In vain they studied the heavens, from dawn till dusk. God! would it never rain! How long was it to last! The new moon, that was a fortnight off, would surely bring a change! In its coming there was hope—hope that was soon to give way to despair and discouragement. For the new moon came, and—Oh, God!—it was the same, same, old moon! A moon that shed its pallid, ghostly glow over the baked and barren earth—that mockingly led the thirsty, famishing stock to holes that were dry and bare, and went its way.

A few more maddening weeks dragged on, and—still no rain! One by one, the tanks and dams gave out; then, what a drag! What trudging! Hauling and drawing water every hour of the day, for man and beast. Bush fires licked up the dry grass, till the earth became a veritable flame of fire; then sank to a mass of dust—dust, and dead leaves!

The milk supply fell to nothing; the cows wasted away to shadows, to walking skeletons. What fodder the stacks and hay-sheds contained was doled out with a sparing hand; the stock were placed on a daily allowance, that life might be kept in them till rain came. The rain didn’t come, and the fodder exhausted itself. People were on the verge of insanity. The money they had been saving—the first few hundred pounds they had been able to bank, to call their own, since they first began their life struggle on the land, was withdrawn, to purchase fodder to save the herds. Ah, it was hard! And produce at such prices—prices never before heard of in the history of the colony. The starving stock were literally eating money—money that amounted to more than they were worth. But there was no alternative; the people could not let them go; it might rain any moment, and how, with the money used up, was another herd to be purchased? Where would they raise the means? And if they did raise it, what a price they would have to pay for cows when the drought was over!

But the drought queen continued to hold sway, and the day came when the people could no longer afford to purchase fodder. Banks were forced to turn their ledgers down upon them. And the storekeepers, in turn, to press for payment of long accounts. God! What a year it was!

Then, as a last resource, the axe rang out, and its ring was heard all through the land; and everywhere that a tree swept the ground it was surrounded eagerly by hungry, moaning, maddened cattle, with just sufficient strength left to munch the bitter leaves. But that was the last straw. The wretched stock began to drop out and die—to die in twos and threes—to die in the yards, and on the roads, and in the people’s very doorways! Ah, it was heart-breaking! Then, one night, when no one was even hoping for it, it came on to rain. It rained for several days—rained, till there was a flood. And when it was over the stock for several weeks died faster than before. But the drought was ended. Ended!

Then the reckoning, the pain and suffering. Crushed and broken, many left their holdings to the banks, and walked out penniless. Others saw nothing but years and years of struggle and stint before them, ere they could regain their feet, and were broken-hearted. One man alone, in the district of Longer-Linger, came through it almost scathless. The cringing, ill-disposed Piggy Potthouse, seemed to have the luck of the very devil. To assign to the uncharitable old sinner’s fortune any special favour of Providence would be blasphemy. Not a hoof did he lose! Numerous stacks of ill-cared for hay that had lain on his land for many years, and was looked upon as so much rubbish by Piggy himself, saved most of his stock, and even kept them in a low percentage of milk. And with the devil, still inspiring him to fortune, Piggy, only three days before the drought broke, took a sporting risk, and, riding round the district, purchased some hundreds of cows—cows, that a few months before couldn’t be bought for ten or twelve pounds— at fifteen shillings and one pound per head, and made a pile of money out of the misfortune of his neighbours.

“H’m! h’m! h’m!” Piggy said, when he walked in to deal with Mrs. Ryle. “An’ you’ve not even wan left?”

“Not one—nothing in the wide, wide world, except one horse!” the heart-broken woman said, without lifting her head from the pillow of the sofa on which she lay. “The remains of the cows I suppose you saw about the yard as you came in?”

“H’m! h’m! h’m! ’Tis bad; ’tis bad!” Piggy grunted, glancing with his sphinx-like eyes round the little room.

“If you could have kept them alive, I do believe I would have bought them from you, and taken the risks ov them dyin’. And you would have made sure ov a few pounds, anyway; for ’tis a terrible drooth, a terrible drooth. And I do be thinkin’ to myself in bed, at night, that none of us can stand to see through to the end of it all. Not wan ov us. Only for a little haay, I’d been keepin’ and keepin’ for years and years past, and would never sell it—would never sell—thinkin’ ’twud be wanted for the cows some day, in a dry time, I would have been ruined— ruined a month and more ago. Johnny West have lost a hundred head, poor man! And Dan Wilks, they tell me, have gone to the mad-house only this vera morning. Lord have mercy upon his poor wife. ’Tis, indeed, a terrible, terrible drooth!” Mrs. Ryle, crushed into the recesses of her own mind, was silent and uncommunicative.

The lean head of a horse, with sad, but intelligent-looking eyes, and wide open nostrils, poked itself in through the open back-door of the cottage, and winnied feebly and plaintively.

“Poor old Newchum!” Mrs. Ryle murmured, compassionately, turning her head to greet the staring animal. “Get the pieces of bread from the pantry that I put by from the breakfast, and give them to him, Eric; he must be very, very hungry to-day,” she said to her son.

And, as Eric appeared from the pantry with the bread-dish in his hand, the dumb animal winnied his gratitude, and feebly pawed the ground with his lean limbs, as he started to eat ravenously.

“Poor old Newchum!” Mrs. Ryle said again; “he’s all that’s left, and he can hardly carry his hide. But I hope he doesn’t get down on us.”

For a moment or two, Piggy seemed to be thinking hard, and raking his memory.

“Newchum, did you say?” he said, stepping to the door, and eyeing the frame closely. Then, while Eric patted and fondled the animal’s head, Piggy walked round it several times.

“Newchum!” he murmured, as though there was something familiar about the name. And, stepping inside again, he asked aloud:

“Is that the horse that—that—”

He turned and looked anxiously at the animal again, “that—”

“That my husband thought so much of,” Mrs. Ryle put in gently.

“No; that—that—” Piggy was gasping with excitement, or surprise, or fear, or something, and couldn’t get out what he wanted. “That all the trouble—all the—the—. But didn’t he go to New South Wales after the—the—”

“What do you mean—what trouble?” Mrs. Ryle asked, rising, with flashing eyes, from the sofa, and fixing them full upon Piggy. “What trouble do you mean, Mr. Potthouse?” she demanded. “My husband was never in trouble!”

Piggy realised in a flash that Mrs. Ryle had not been in the full confidence of her husband, and felt he was “putting his foot in it.”

“Oh, may be I do be forgettin’, an’ mixin’ wan thing up wid the other, like I do since my memory have been goin’,” Piggy answered, to escape the quandary. “What was in my mind, I suppose, if I ain’t dreamin’, was the trouble he had to get paid for a horse he sold to a chap that wasn’t the clean goer, in New South Wales, and when I heard Newchum, I wondered to myself if it could be the same, because that one he called Newchum, too, if I remember right, but it couldn’t be; it’s too long ago. H’m! h’m! h’m!”

Piggy was an artful and hardened old liar.

“Ah, no!” and Mrs. Ryle sank back, with a sigh. “Harry would never think of selling Newchum. The last thing he said to me, the morning he went away, was to keep Newchum always about the place, and never to let anyone ride him till he returned. But Eric used to ride him a little.”

“H’m! h’m! h’m!” Piggy grunted, thoughtfully.

Another sigh escaped Mrs. Ryle, and she added, pathetically, “The last letter of Harry’s, posted at Camooweal, just a month before his death—”

Piggie’s eyes and mouth opened wide, and he voluntarily muttered “Death!”—

“Was full of questions about Newchum, and gave all his pedigree. And I was never to part with him—if anything happened to himself—unless I was very hard up, and then only through—”

Mrs. Ryle broke off abruptly. She was ill.

“And then through?” Piggy, with a clumsy attempt to conceal his anxiety, asked.

The woman sighed wearily, and said:

“I’m too unwell to talk any more to-day, Mr. Potthouse.”

“H’m! h’m! h’m!” disappointedly, from Piggy, who again cast his eye at the starving horse; then turned his attention to Eric.

“He reminds me of his father,” he said, looking at the boy. Memories of his mother’s description of the father he had never seen, flooded Eric’s mind, and his young heart beat fast and pumped the blood in crimson flushes to his handsome face.

Mrs. Ryle turned her eyes affectionately upon her son, and shared his feelings of pride.

“What’s your age, boy?” Piggy asked of Eric.

“Eight on nineteenth of next June, sir,” was the answer; “and I’m just two years older than Newchum. But he’s grown more than me, hasn’t he?”

“H’m! h’m! h’m!” Piggy grunted, ignoring the question. Then, addressing the mother: “I’m in want of a boy about his size for the yaard, so I am. He’d just do me, I think; and I’ll give him half-a-crown a week and his keep, if you send him over?”

Mrs. Ryle shook her head, and replied:

“Eric has been doing well the little while he has been at school, Mr. Potthouse, and the teacher has been so impressed with him that he has great hopes he will rise to something one day. So, if I have to work my hands off in order to do it, I will give him the opportunity, at all events, of becoming something better than a cow boy.”

“Then—then—” Piggy snorted, angrily—“he might be something a damn lot worse, so he might,” and took his leave abruptly.

All the way across the yard, to where his horse was fastened, Piggy talked to himself.

“H’m! h’m! h’m! That’s the horse; and she do think that Harry Ryle is dead—that he is dead! dead! when he isn’t, when he isn’t!” he said. “H’m! h’m! h’m! ’twould be better, ’twould be better if he were—if he were; and if the cub of a boy were dead, too! were dead, too! H’m! h’m! h’m! The son of Piggy Potthouse might then be a Lorrd! A Lorrd, a real Lorrd he would be. Lorrd Henry Pigford Potthouse. H’m! h’m! h’m!” And the birds chirped and whistled cheerfully, as Piggy rode away across the paddock.


Chapter 3
By the Death Bed

A glorious Queensland day; the air clear and crisp, and the sky all purple and blue. The blazing, blistering sun no longer baked and parched the earth. The drought had relaxed its death grip. The leafless trees had already started into foliage again. A cool, fresh breeze flirted with the boughs. A mild and temperate heat rested on the land, coaxing new life into grass and vegetation. The hand of the Great Painter was at work, and a gorgeous curtain of green and gold was falling over the last act of the awful tragedy.

Outside fires were burning, and the washing flapping and ballooning on the lines in every yard round Longer-Linger—in every yard but Mrs. Ryle’s. The one solitary horse grazed near the house, upon the green, tender shoots of the returning grass, his fleshless ribs still showing, like two washboards.

The front door of the house was closed, and, an unusual circumstance, Eric was at home from school. At intervals his little figure could be seen hurrying in and out the kitchen— sometimes with a steaming basin in his hand; sometimes a plate, or a cup and saucer.

A gloom hung over the humble homestead, contrasting sadly with the spirit of rejoicing invited by the buoyant day without. It seemed as if something was going to happen.

“Und how is modder to-day?” old Hartmann inquired, appearing at the door, for the second time that morning.

“She isn’t no better, Mr. Hartmann,” Eric answered, allowing the tears to trickle over his cheeks without restraint. “She says she will never be better any more,” and leaning against the door-post, he wept copiously.

“You must not dake no notice of dot, leetle fellow,” the old man said, kindly, patting the boy encouragingly on the head with his horny hand. “She vill get better for you soon again; don’t be frightent for dot. Und mine vife says she vill coom again in a few meenits, so soon as she haf done a leetle vork that cannot could stand a vile, and vill stay mit her to-day some more.”

The boy’s heart was full, and he cried harder.

“Don’t let modder see you cry like dot, leetle man; you must keep cheerful, and talk mit her to keep her bright,” Hartmann went on, consolingly. “Dot is a good leetle shap, be a prave poy.” Then the old German turned sadly away, and went home again.

Ah, yes! Mrs. Ryle was ill. How ill Eric could not realise. But the wife of the old German realised it to the full. “Ven dot voman,” she told her husband, “dake to her bed she is vera, vera bad—vera bad!” And so it was. The physical strain and anxiety put upon her in the struggle for subsistence, had been telling on the woman fast enough; but when the merciless drought came, and rested like a curse on her homestead, till everything was gone—till every vestige of that hope she had long clung to was blasted, her heart broke; despair entered her soul, and the weary, over-wrought soul-case was crushed and prostrated.

Poor little Eric! How he watched. How he sobbed by the sick bedside, and in boyish efforts appealed to that mother to “look at him!” How pitifully he beseeched her “not to turn her eyes like that!” How he pleaded in vain to her to take the cup of tea from his hand that he had made! And then:

“No! No! don’t say that, mother! Oh, mother, don’t!” he cried, in a frantic scream of anguish. And when the sinking voice counselled him to be honest and truthful in all his dealings, when she was gone, and to put his trust in God, it was more than the young heart could hold.

“Oh, no! mother! You are not going to die!” he shrieked in sobs, and clutched at the bedclothes.

“Don’t say it, mother! Don’t say it!”

And when the glassy eyes of the sick woman settled in their sockets again, and a ray of light returned to them for just a moment, Eric threw his arms about her neck, and nestling and crooning beside her on the pillow, assured her “she was better now, and would be all right soon.” In that attitude he remained on the bed till Mrs. Hartmann came in.

Ah, yes! there’s an end to all things. “A season to every man!” And, next morning, the clear, silent air round the little homestead was suddenly pierced with cries of sorrow and distress! And such cries!

“Mother! Mother! Mother!” rang out in the stillness; and rang out again, and again.

Something had happened.

“Poor leetle shap!” old Hartmann murmured—the big tears filling his aged and sunken eyes—“Poor leetle man! By Got, I am zorry for you!”

And next day, when the last shovelful of earth was heaped on the new-made mound, in the little country graveyard, by the range; and Piggy Potthouse, by the wretched privileges of relationship, installed himself as guardian to the bereaved and homeless boy, and hurried him, sobbing and reluctant, into his dog-cart, the old German, standing bare-headed by, shook his head sadly, and said again:

“By Got, I am zorry for you, my leetle man!”


Chapter 4
Eric Makes an Acquaintance

“It’s no use yer whimperin’ all night about it!” Piggy grumbled, when Eric, his eyes red as hot coals, from the scalding tears, took his seat at the kitchen table, of what, in future, he was to regard as home. “She’s gone—an’—an’—no one can bring her back!”

The boy smothered a sob, and hung his head over the table board.

“Hand the end of it will be,” Mrs. Potthouse, a wrinkled-faced hag of fifty, said, in a shrill voice, as she shoved a plate of cold meat in front of him, “the end of it will be, yer’ll be makin’ yerself hill. Hand then who’s goin’ ter look after yer, I’d like ter know? People wot comes here doesn’t come to be waited on, remember!”

“Oh, hold yer jaw!” Piggy growled across the table at his wife.

Mrs. Potthouse held her jaw.

Without raising his eyes, Eric nervously ate some of the meat, and sipped some black tea. Then he sat back, and thoughts of home—thoughts of that mother who was gone, rushed to his unhappy mind, and a chain of broken sobs burst from him.

“I want home!” he cried. “I want mother! ... I want my mother!”

“Can yer not stop yer blubbering?” Piggy snapped. “Stop it, will yez!”

“Hand get off to th’ barn ter bed,” the woman put in. “Hand don’t think yer can alwuz eat in the ’ouse; because yer can’t, it gives too much work. Yeh’ll have ter take yer meals with Snowy Wing. But wot uset yer goin’ to be to this place is more than I can tell!” And she wiped the butcher’s knife across the bread, preparatory to cutting it.

“P’shaw! Stop yer cacklin!” Piggy growled again.

There was an interruption.

A bare-footed, coatless boy, about ten years of age, with a wild shock of dusty, white hair, rushed in at the open door, and snatching up all the meat that was on the table with one hand, and a billet of bread with the other, dashed out again with lightning rapidity.

“Luk! luk at there, th’ dog of a thief!” Piggy burst out, like a volcano, as the provender vanished from under his eyes. And the hag, having no time to stay the theft, turned and flung the butcher’s knife with full force at the head of the absconder. The point of the long blade buried itself deep in the pine door, and remained there, shivering, in its grip.

“Ther vagaboan of a boi!” Piggy said, turning his eyes toward the door.

“It’s a terin’ lot yer gained be stoppin’ his dinner,” his wife jibed. “Hinstead o’ stoppin’ ’is gallop with ther end o’ ther leg-rope, yer—”

“Shah! dry up!” Piggy grunted, and began stirring his tea with the handle of a fork.

“Well, if yer finished,” Mrs. Potthouse said, turning to Eric, “yer better come an’ see where yer bed is.”

The little chap rose to obey, and the case on which he was seated fell over.

“Hare yer goin’ ter leave it layin’ there?” she cried. “Who do yer think is goin’ ter foller you round pickin’ heverything up hafter yer?”

Mumbling a nervous apology, Eric turned and adjusted the furniture, then followed his foster mother out the back-door, and across the yard to the barn.

A family of pigs prospecting at the door gave a chorus of grunts at their approach, and scurried through the darkness.

“In there,” Mrs. Potthouse said, pressing open the large wooden door. “There’ll be lots o’ room for you with Snowy Wing. If there haint enough blankets, you’ll find lots o’ empty bags about, if yer look, but mind yer don’t take any of ther new ones, an’ don’t frighten ther fowls at ther other end.”

A dim light was burning in one corner of the barn, behind a medley of old harness, that flapped from a beam like vines dangling in a scrub, and a husky voice drawled lazily:

“Are y’ puttin’ ahn anoother hahnd, moother?”

“Oh, you’re there, are you, White Ants?” Mrs. Potthouse answered; then added: “A’and one as won’t hearn very much, I’m thinkin’ ... Is Snowy Wing there, White Ants?”

“Ah think he be aboot, moother.” And White Ants, the eccentric one of the farm, stirred up the slush-lamp, that frizzled beside his bunk, with an old table-knife. “Ah think ah heerd him a-nibblin’ th’ sooper yer sent on of ’im, moother.”

“Snowy Wing! Yer thievin’ ’ound,” the woman squealed; “if yer don’t soon come ’ere and take this chicken ter bed with yer, yer’ll get it termorrer—yer’ll get a hextra length o’ th’ leg-rope around yer, ’instead o’ a short ration!”

A heap of lifeless-looking baggage began to move in the corner opposite White Ants, followed by a rustling and grating of dry, crispy corn-husks, and Snowy Wing, in the same old rags, the same old dirty face he had worn all that day, and the day before, glided silently forth into the dim light.

“Where’s he. Is this ’im?” he said, reaching cautiously for Eric.

“Yer young dingo!” And Snowy’s foster mother struck viciously at him with her sharp, bony knuckles. But she had often attempted to assault Snowy in a like manner. He ducked skilfully, and danced away, and the blow belaboured the air.

“Yer young dog! Wait till Pott’ouse deals it out to yer hin th’ mornin’!” And, mumbling further threats, she returned to the house.

Snowy Wing approached Eric, and for a while eyed him closely and curiously in the dim light.

“Stow me!” he said, “you’re on’y a tibby little bloke. Yer won’t be hable ter milk cows fer ’im. Yer ain’t ten, is yer?” Eric, too nervous to speak, shook his head, feebly.

“How did ’e git yer out o’ the Orph’?—yer muster did a bunk, did yer, blokey?”

Eric made no reply. Then Snowy looked him over again, and seeming satisfied, invited him to his quarters at the other end of the dim, dusty barn.

’’You an’ me ’ll be cobbers,” he said. “You can doss at the foot o’ my crib; theer’s lots o’ room in it, fer two.”

In the distressed little stranger, the uncouth, ill-used, orphan boy saw a silver lining to his own cloud of woe and hardship.

But those eerie surroundings chilled the very soul of Eric. The thoughts of sleeping there with strangers struck terror into his heart, and memories of his home, and fresh thoughts of his mother filled his mind again.

“I only want my mother,” he sobbed, “my mother!”

At the child’s outburst of grief, Snowy remained thoughtful and silent. The bereaved one’s earnest appeals recalled sad memories of his own. He knew the feeling, and his heart went out to this latest little orphan.

“Where is she?” he asked.

“They b-b-buried her, to-day,” Eric said, between his sobs. “But I want her—I want her back.”

“Hoh, Crikey!” Snowy murmured. “An’ ’es took yer! So yer niver got a chancet ter be sent to the Orph’? Hoh, Crikey!” And for a moment he became silent and reflective again.

After a while he advanced and took Eric by the hand. “Don’t get scared, little blokey,” he said kindly. “There ain’t nothink ter be frightent fer in here. There’s on’y me an’ White Ants sleeps ’ere, an’ y’ know I wouldn’t hurt yer. And White Ants wouldn’t either. He never says anythink ’ardly, except when he gets the giblets, and then he’s on’y queerish, y’know, and does things that makes yer larf. And you’ll soon get used to everythink, same as I did when I comed first. But y’ won’t stay longer’n yer can help, little blokey, if yer listens ter me. An’ I means to do a bunk soon as I gets a little stuff. It ain’t no good of a place yer’ve come ter, but yer isn’t ter blame. An’ he won’t give yer any stuff fer workin’ when he didn’t get yer out o’ the Orph’. He’ll give you nuffing, cuz the law can’t make him. He’ll give yer th’ leg-rope, though, often enough, the old Dago, just as he gives it to me, when he does things wrong hisself. Oh, I tell y’ I can’t stand much more of his beltin’ and bruisin’ of me, and gettin’ starved by her for it too! But don’t be scared, blokey; there’s nothink like that goin’ on to-night. I’ll see no one ’urts y’.”

And Eric, yielding submissively, allowed his new found friend to lead him to his rudely-made up “doss.”

The bed of husks rasped and crackled beneath their weight, as they sank, together, on the bag mattress, and by the flickering glow of White Ants’ slush lamp, spluttering from its place on a box opposite, Snowy was able to observe closely the face of his companion, and to note the neatness and cleanliness of his clothes.

“Yer a orlright little toff, blokey,” he said, with a glow of admiration in his sharp eye. “And you’s have real swell breedin’ in yer. It’s in yer face, an’ the way yer hold yer head. But I hain’t asked yer yer name, has I, little ’un?”

Eric gulped down a lump that was in his throat, and made an effort to pronounce his name; but his voice only came in a thin, muffled whisper.

“What did yer say, blokey?” And Snowy held his ear low to him.

“Eric Ryle.”

“Eddy Rye?”

“Eric Ryle,” with vague emphasis.

“Oh, Herric Ryle!” Snowy repeated, pleasantly. “Herric! . . . I knows a chap called Herric, he was at the Orph. He’s a lot bigger’n you . . . Mine’s ’Airy—but they all calls me Snowy.”

Here White Ants left his bunk, and moved silently about the barn, in search of more fat to replenish the lamp. On noticing his massive figure upend itself, Eric’s heart started to flutter, and his staring eye-balls to project, and his whole frame to quiver like a young hare held in captivity. He crouched involuntarily into Snowy for protection. To allay his fears, Snowy forced a short laugh, then said, softly:

“He ain’t goin’ ter touch yer, Herrick. He’s a good old chap, is White Ants. He never says anythink, or does anythink to anyone. He on’y works and sleeps, and wakes up, and works again, except when he’s havin’ them giblets, and then he’s all fun.”

Then, addressing White Ants, himself:

“Yer ain’t seen this little covey yet, has yer, White Ants? He’s come ter live here. What do yer thinks of him?”

“Ah heerd moother bringint of him in,” was the slow, dull response; then White Ants, having discovered some fat, returned to his bunk again.

“I gets fine sport outer him, sometimes, an’ so’ll you, Herrick, drekeley,” Snowy said, breaking into a playful mood. And in practical demonstration of White Ants’ harmlessness, he threw an empty sack at him, and giggled when it covered the man’s face, and extinguished his lamp.

Eric gave a jump, and clung in terror to Snowy. But White Ants merely removed the sack from his face, and dropped it on the floor. Then, in a quiet, unruffled voice, he said: “Ah doont kno’ where the matches be.” And while he groped patiently about the floor for them, Snowy, who had possession of the box, struck one, and applied it to the slush-lamp.

“That took a start outer yer, White Ants, didn’t it?” Snowy said, taking a fistful of the man’s long, silvery beard in his hands, and dragging at it playfully.

White Ants lay back, and smiled up at him.

“Oh, no,” Snowy said, turning with further assurance to Eric, “he wouldn’t ’urt yer.”

Then Eric ceased to tremble, and became calm again.

Letting fall a tear at intervals, however, he leaned on his elbow, and rested on the bed. And as the desire to sleep crept over him, his head drooped and nodded, his eyes closed and opened. And there, while Snowy hunted round, and ransacked in search for more bed-clothes, he reclined, forlorn and forsaken-looking,—a tender object of the deepest commiseration and pity.


Chapter 5
Solving the Mystery

While Eric Ryle lay on his bed of husks, sobbing himself to sleep on the lean arm of Snowy Wing, Piggy, and his jade of a wife, by the light of the kitchen fire, were going through the tin trunk which contained the little fellow’s few articles of clothing, and his mother’s private papers and effects.

“Receipts for the instalments she has been paying on the selection. H’m! h’m! h’m!” Piggy grunted, looking hard at a scroll of paper that had been carefully folded, and placed in a corner of the box. “I’ll take th’m; I’ll take th’m. They wud only get losht to the cub in the barrun, so they wud. H’m! h’m! h’m!’ Mrs. Potthouse made no remark. She was making discoveries on her own account. For quite a long interval she sat back, flat on the floor, pouring laboriously over a faded letter that she held in her hand, till at last her shrill, rasping voice broke in on the silence, and she started to spell the document out.

“My dearest Nellie. There—was—no—let—letter when Hi reached Cam-Camoo-Camooweal, hand Hi was very—dis—dis—disappointed—”

Piggy gave a jump.

“Show it ter me!” he cried, snatching the document from his wife’s hand, and upsetting the tin trunk by his action. “ ’Tis from Harry Ryle. It is, it is.” And while his small, evil eye glistened, Piggy turned the letter over and over, and upside down, scanning it endways and sideways, and from top to bottom. “There y’ are!” he exclaimed, “ ’tis there, at the bottom. ’Tis he! luk! luk! ’tis his signature! Your lovin’ hoosband, Harry Royle.”

“Well, hit’s like yer hill-bred manners, Pott’ouse, not ter wait till Hi gived hit ter yer,” the hag snarled.

“My dearest Nellie,” Piggy muttered, ignoring her and proceeding to read for his own benefit, “My dearest Nellie! H’m! h’m! h’m!” And he lifted his eyes in astonishment, and said:

“But her name—her name—it were never Nellie. Were it ever?”

“Well,” Mrs. Potthouse sneered, “Hi was never ’er godmother, Pott’ouse, thank the Lord, so ’ow could I tell yer?”

“’Twas Sarah,” Piggy cried; “Sarah (thinking hard, and wrinkling his brow), Sarah . . . Sarah. . . (thinking some more) Sarah . . . Sarah Smith. It’s on them paapers he left widme. . . But why ever do he be writin’ it Nellie?”

“Well, an’ dersent hall men,” Mrs. Potthouse answered, “chrisern ther woman they breaks their ’eart on, theirselves? Didn’t you, Pott’ouse? Hif Hi remembers correctly yer never called me be me name. Hoh, no! It wasn’t ‘Mrs. Pott’ouse’ them days; hand, blarst yer! hit was ‘little Tick’, hand ‘Pretty Tick’. Huh! yer fergets it, no doubt!” And she chuckled, maliciously.

Piggy lost his temper. “Yer’e like a clucken hen, y’are, wid yer dang noise, an’—an’—yer pretty Tick! . . .Pretty lunatic!” he roared.

Mrs. Potthouse’s susceptibilities were offended.

“Hif yer dare calls me a lunatic, Pott’ouse”—she squealed, “I’ll tear th’ heyes hout o’ yer! Who are you Hi’d like ter know?”

Piggy was glaring ferociously at her when a noise was heard at the door. The expression on both their faces changed in a flash.

“What ’n th’ deuce wer’ that?” Piggy whispered. Then stepping to the door he opened it cautiously and peered into the darkness.

Mrs. Potthouse started quickly to fold the articles of clothing strewn about the floor, at the same time humming in a cracked voice.

“Is there any wan there?” Piggy called tremulously.

“Well, that’s finished markin’ hall his little things,” from Mrs. Potthouse in a high pitched key of sympathy that might have been heard in any part of the yard—“hand ’e houghtn’t ter lose hany o’ them when they goes ter th’ wash, th’ poor ’omeless little chick.”

Piggy closed the door quickly, and for a while, stood with his ear to it, listening. But no further sound came.

“Maybe it were only th’ wind or th’ pigs,” he said. “But I thought—I thought—I—I—”

“Yer thought hit were’ ’Arry Ryle comin’ ter th’ funeral of his wife, Pott’ouse,” the hag said leeringly.

“Well, he were in me mind, so he were, but I dunno why I wud expect it were him.”

“Well, isn’t it halwez them wot yer least wants ter see that are halwez in yer mind?” Mrs. Potthouse put in, as she lifted another letter to spell over. “But,” she added, glancing over the top of the paper, “I don’t see why you should hexpect a man what’s dead an’ buried ter frighten yer!”

“What’s dead an’ buried!” Piggy snorted. “What’s more alive than—than yez are yerself!”

“Well, I tell yer ’e his dead,” his wife answered, shaking the letter she held in her hand, “an’ ’ere’s evidence in writin’ of it.”

Piggy sat back, and cogitated deeply. When he had finished cudgelling his brain, he turned again to the letter, commencing, “My dear Nellie,” and read it through.

“Newchum,” he continued, turning back and repeating portion of it aloud, “should turn out a splendid horse. I wish I could induce William to take him to Melbourne, and look after him till we go back to live there.”

“To live there?” Piggy soliloquised. “What did he mean at all? ’Tis more villainy, Harry Royle! and she must have known ud, though ’tis dead and gone she is!

“His sire was Leopold, the horse that was planted, and his dam, French Lady, mother of a cup winner, and one of the stolen mares. It was luck to get him from William”—(who would William be, Piggy asked of himself, as he put aside the letter. “I’m sure I don’t know who he mean, an’ I dunno if ud were ‘luck’. It were bad luck fer yer Harry Ryle, the daay yer stole Leopold from Clifton. And I know all that you have been writin’ to her is forgery.”)

Taking a light, he glided through a side door into the house, and returned with a packet of letters, which he carefully examined.

“Here’s wan,” he muttered, straightening out a portion of a letter, written on foolscap, with “Boggo Road Gaol” printed at the top of it. He placed it beside the one written to Eric’s mother, to compare the handwriting.

“No more like it than—than—it is—like mine,” Piggy chuckled. “’Tis a forgery, as I knew, and someone have been doin’ it forrim.”


Chapter 6
“Are Yez Stirrin Y’self?”

It wanted an hour to daylight. The door of the barn grated and groaned on its solitary hinge. A cracked bullock bell rang with great violence, and the voice of Piggy Potthouse growled, aggressively:

“Now then, out yez turn to it, Snowy Wing. Shake yerself up, an’ get them cows rounded up.”

Then he tossed the bell into a corner, and the row it made when it struck and rolled on the floor, was itself sufficient to disturb the slumbers of the dead.

Snowy, half-dazed, sat up in the bag-bed, and rubbed his weary eyes. He closed them again, and for a moment allowed his head to hang over on one shoulder. Ah, it was cruel to break his sleep, just when he was in the middle of it! Poor Snowy, he longed to fall back on those bags again, and go off for a week into a deep, deep slumber.

“Are yez stirrin’ yerself?” Piggy called from the door again, “or do yez want to be livened up wid somethin’?”

“I’m comin’,” Snowy answered, bounding from the bed.

“Yer just saved yer skin, me shaver, so yez did!” And Piggy went off, and turned into his warm bed again.

There was no necessity for Snowy to dress himself.

The law of self-preservation dictated the wisdom of sleeping in his clothes—though his scant raiment was, after all, but poor protection against the leg-rope!

“It’s mornin’, White Ants,” he said; “ain’t yer goin’ ter turn out?” But White Ants slept on.

Then striking a match, Snowy held it close to the pale, tear-stained face of little Eric, who lay with his head off the roll of bags that served as a pillow, sleeping as sound as the dead.

“Ain’t ’e a hangel!” he said, speaking to himself. “It ud be a sin ter wake yer, little covey; hand they hasn’t sed if yer has ter come or not. I’ll fix yer up, anyway (lifting the little sleeper’s head back to the pillow), hand they can wakes yer theirselves— there ’y are.”

Then at that unearthly hour of the morning, with a lantern in his hand, to distinguish the milkers by when he would stumble across them in their respective haunts and camping grounds, Snowy Wing, in thin calico shirt sleeves, cut off at the elbow, torn, dilapidated pants, grease and dirt bespattered, and narrowly kept from departing from him for ever by a quaint pair of braces, designed and constructed by himself out of strips of moleskin and a quantity of string, and no boots, issued from that beautiful elysium, and limped tenderly across the yard—a yard where Bathurst burr and bull-head grew thick and rank, to tramp and search the grass paddock for two hours at least. And Piggy’s grass paddock contained over a thousand acres. There were other paddocks around Longer-Linger, however, that also contained a thousand acres, and some of them adjoined Piggy’s. And on the lightly timbered flats and ridges at that same, merciless hour, eerily flashed distant lanterns, like so many will-o’-the-wisps, each lantern accounting for a child missing from its bed—perhaps a girl of tender years, sleepy, hungry, weary, and thinly clad! Had they been tutored in some form of flashlight telegraphy the mites might, at least, have spent the first hour of their morning’s misery pleasantly enough in communicating their sufferings and conveying messages of sympathy to each other across the dark and silent valleys, which Nature, in her wisdom, had not yet deemed fit to awaken from a healthy slumber.


Chapter 7
A Cow-yard Scene

It was broad daylight, and the sun rising in all its splendour, when Snowy, trailing along behind fifty cows, arrived at the milking yard. Calves were bellowing in the pens, half-starved “poddies” moaning in the barn; some more wagging their stumps of tails and poking their nose into the row of empty milk cans that White Ants had placed in readiness on a rough stand beside the yard rails. Draught horses, kicking and squealing, were taking possession of each other’s feed-boxes, placed all about the yard, and returning greedily to their own when they saw the contents being devoured by the one whose claim they usurped.

Piggy emerged from the kitchen with several buckets hanging on each of his arms. Mrs. Potthouse, yapping at the top of her shrill voice, appeared with some more buckets; and work for the day commenced in real earnest on “Daisy Vale.”

“An’—An’—what have been keepin’ yez to this late?” Piggy growled as he entered the yard. “If I thought yez wud be skylarkin’ in the paddicks me boy, I’d—I’d—” and approaching Snowy he shook his fist at him.

“Nothink has been keepin’ me,” Snowy answered sullenly, backing into the yard among the restless cows. “They wuz all over the place, so they wuz; some of ’em wuz away up at th’ top o’ the mountain, an’ old Spot an’ Madam Melba was away down—”

“Get on—get on—an’—an’ don’t be standin’ there talkin’ all the day,” Piggy snorted. “Put them in—an’—an’ get yez a bucket. Where’re th’ leg-ropes?”

The cows, meanwhile, had been poking and hustling each other till they worked all round the yard, and Piggy was left reproving Snowy in the middle of it, like a ring-master. Suddenly, a heifer that found herself hoisted on the horns of a huge slabsided old warrior with a head on her like a stag, gave an appalling bellow, and in a blind effort to escape further punishment struck Piggy in the rear with the full force of her shoulder and knocked him into the dust.

“Help! help!” Piggy yelled thinking the attack was premeditated.

The absurdity of the situation was too much for Snowy. He started to titter.

Mrs. Potthouse put down a bucket and responded to her husband’s cries. She commenced by calling Snowy a “whelp” and chasing him with the leg-rope.

“’Twas th’ cow—’twas th’ cow,” Piggy shouted in explanation—“she charrged me wid her horun.”

“Hand that’s hall yer ’ad ter roar about?” Mrs. Potthouse said, eyeing him disgustedly. “Huh! yer as ’elpless as a baby!” and she returned to her bail.

Snowy, with a broad grin on his face, shuffled through the yard and bailed up several of the cows.

Then for quite a while nothing but the sound of milk squirting into the foaming buckets could be heard.

Mrs. Potthouse, whose mind had been active, suddenly remembered something.

“Where hon hearth his the hother himp?” she called out, rising suddenly from beneath the cow, and staring over the top of the yard towards the barn.

“Oh, be gob, the cub!” Piggy exclaimed. “I—I—never guv him a thort—not a thort, and he cud be here bailin’-up, he cud, so he cud!”

“Hand ’ave yer left ’im lyin’ in ’is bed ter this blessed hour?” Mrs. Potthouse shrieked across the cow’s back to Snowy.

“I wasn’t told that I wuz ter wake him!” Snowy answered.

“Yer wasn’t told!” Mrs. Potthouse sneered, “What did yer think—thet he’s ter stick hin bed hactin’ th’ gentlem’n and wearin’ hout ther bed-clothes till someone brings him coffee hand cake! Here, hundo this leg-rope, hand bail hup Lady Hogan. Hi’ll soon teach ’im wot his work is ter be.” And leaving the yard she strutted to the barn.

“Here!” she cried, approaching the bed and taking a firm grip of the bagging with both hands. “Yer’ve had about enough o’ this. Out yer come!” And with a lunge she brought Eric on to the floor.

“Oh! Oh! Mother!” he gasped, unconscious for the moment of his surroundings.

“M-Mother!” Mrs. Potthouse snapped. “Wot hare yer dreamin’ about? Do yer think there’s nothink to be done but sleep hall day. Get hout with yer!”

Poor Eric, dazed and confused, didn’t know which way to turn.

“Here!” and grabbing him by the coat collar, Mrs. Potthouse propelled him, at arm’s length, out the door and across the yard. “Get in under there!” she said on reaching the yard-rails, “an’ bail hup ther cows when ther’re wanted.”

Eric crawled under the rails and stood staring from bail to bail.

Mrs. Potthouse, keeping up a running fire of “language,” took her seat beneath the flank of Lady Hogan and began milking her.

Receiving a smile of encouragement from Snowy, Eric gained confidence, and moved about the yard.

“Now then, hunt Spot along.” Piggy said, as he finished milking Violet, and slipped the leg-rope off her.

Eric, not knowing the cows by their names, stared in bewilderment at them all, then murmured timidly, “This one, sir?” indicating one nearest him.

“Spot, I said,” Piggy shouted angrily. “Wud yer call a—a— red cow ‘Spot’? There she is lukin’ at yez, in th’ corner. An’— an’—wonderin’ wuz there ever such a eedgit!”

Eric succeeded in fixing his eyes on the right beast, and bailing her up.

“Bring Bawley,” Mrs. Potthouse squeaked, releasing Lady Hogan, and giving her the double of the leg-rope as she departed, for having kicked mud into the bucket.

Snowy caught Eric’s eye, and quickly pointed to Bally. Eric, without hesitation, separated his cow from the others, and slipped her into Mrs. Potthouse’s bail.

“Hoh,” she said, looking surprised, “Yer ’ave got some intelligence, then? Yer do know a bailey cow from a black one or a red one?”

Snowy peeped round the hind-quarters of the animal he was engaged on and winked at Eric. Eric’s pale little face never changed.

“Coome on wi’ y’, Beauty,” White Ants drawled, mooching round the yard with his hand on the back of a beast.

“Yer lazy young ’ound, yer—” Mrs. Potthouse shrieked at Eric, “Are yer goin’ ter stan’ there starin’ erbout yer hall day, hand letting White Hants waste time bailin’ hup for hisself, hand doin’ yer work for yer?”

Eric bounded to White Ants’ assistance; but that silent irresponsible paid no more attention to his presence than if he were a butterfly fluttering through the yard.

Snowy let go, and bailed up for himself.

“The Duchess,” Piggy shouted.

Eric unconsciously glanced to Snowy.

Snowy gave him the “tip.”

“H’m! h’m! h’m! Yez are comin’ on,” Piggy said, when Eric, without a word, headed the Duchess for the bail. “Yez’ll be worth ye’re tucker, y’ will, some day, if yez keep on.”

The color mounted to Eric’s cheeks. He felt he was being praised (Praised! the Lord forbid!) and his conscience seemed to tell him that in accepting such words of encouragement without offering an explanation or refusing credit for them he was doing something wrong—something very dishonest. But the desire to offer the explanation was soon dominated by the fear of what its effects might be.

Snowy leaned round and again winked knowingly at Eric, and pulled a satirical face in the direction of Piggy.

There were not more than four or five beasts now remaining in the yard.

“Blossom! hand ’urry up,” Mrs. Potthouse cried sharply; and again Eric’s watchful eyes sought assistance from Snowy.

Snowy gave his head several shakes, and pointed to the cow he was himself milking.

Eric understood.

“Snowy has that one, mum,” he murmured.

“Hoh! ’as ’e! Hit wouldn’t be ’im hif ’e ’adn’t th’ heasiest hin th’ yard. Yer take them has they come, Mister Snowy Wing (lifting her voice for Snowy’s benefit), hand don’t be halwez leavin’ th’ tough ones to hother people, hor yer’ll find th’ leg rope’ll be a bit tougher ’n hany o’ them.”

“Roany,” Piggy shouted.

Snowy glanced at Eric and pointed again. Eric saw a roan beast handy, and rushed it. He succeeded in separating it from the others. The roan beast refused to face the bail. It dodged. It refused a second time. It was a bull.

“Th’—th’—Lord save me!” Piggy burst out, “is ut Digby Denham yez ud have me milkin’? Let Digby alone afore he gore yez, yer cub!”

Eric looked puzzled, then coloured to the roots of his hair, when he saw the absurd mistake.

Snowy, screwing and twisting about on his milking block like a snake taking a hot breakfast, finally broke into an irrepressible burst of mirth.

“Hare yer goin’ ter stand this sort o’ thing, Pott’ouse?” Mrs. Potthouse squeaked in a fresh fit of temper, “hand sit listenin’ ter yerself made fun hof, hand ridiculed hin yer own yard—hare yer?”

A low mumbling noise came from the vicinity of White Ants’ bail. Snowy immediately stood up, and elevating himself on the milking block, stared expectantly over the cow’s back. Piggy and Mrs. Potthouse also rose, but their faces bore looks of deep concern.

White Ants, with a finger in each ear, was standing a few paces from Mary Ellen, laughing idiotically at her.

“Devil take hit, ’es goin’ ter ’ave hanother o’ ’es mad fits,” Mrs. Potthouse whined.

“H’m! h’m! h’m!” Piggy grunted gravely. “H’m! h’m! h’m!”

“The giblets!” Snowy with a sparkling eye, whispered exultingly across the yard to Eric. “The giblets!” Eric gulped down a lump that had settled in his throat and moved to higher vantage-ground.

Becoming impatient, Mary Ellen started to kick.

“There be devils int her,” White Ants said, raising his hollow voice. “Devils! devils! devils!” And he sprang back and rolled the whites of his eyes about like the lion in the magic lantern.

Snowy tittered, and tossed a mud pebble across at Eric.

“Yer hold fool,” Mrs. Potthouse called out in a conciliatory tone. “There haint no devils hin Mary Helen; she hon’y wants ter be let go. Take the leg-rope hoff ’er.”

White Ants sprang back a further pace or two, still keeping his wild eyes roaming over the cow.

The beast kicked with increased energy.

White Ants emptied a bucket of milk over her and sprang away again to watch results.

Mrs. Potthouse shrieked and wrung her hands. Piggy thought of his loss and groaned.

White Ants lifted a heavy stick lying at his feet, and rushing in at Mary Ellen, smote her hip and thigh.

“They’re all on her, they’re sittin’ on her. There’s one!— there’s one!—there’s one!” And to every one he dealt a fierce blow, which the unfortunate beast received.

Mary Ellen plunged, struggled, and bellowed till her tongue touched the ground.

“’E’ll kill th’ poor thing; he’ll kill her right hunder hour two very heyes!” Mrs. Potthouse screamed, taking shelter behind the rails of her own bail.

“He will, then; he will, then; th’ damn madman!” Piggy groaned, also seeking shelter.

White Ants broke ground again, and belaboured the air with the waddy to beat off some imaginary foes that were attacking him.

A burst of facetious joy came from Snowy, which escaped the attention of Piggy and Mrs. Potthouse. They were now only concerned about the safety of themselves and the cow.

Eric seemed riveted to the ground. He didn’t know whether to laugh with joy or to cry with fear.

White Ants threw the waddy at the devils and struck Mary Ellen hard on the ribs, then with a yell of terror he turned and started to run. He encountered the form of Snowy, and stopped short, jumped back, and baring his teeth to the gums, craned his neck and hissed at him like a serpent.

Snowy grinned.

White Ants crept down low to the ground, still hissing, as though preparing to spring upon him like a tiger. But he didn’t spring. Slowly he drew himself to his full height; then pointing a long, thick, hard forefinger straight at Snowy, edged closer and closer to him.

Snowy stood his ground, and broadened his grin.

The rigid finger approached and approached till it was almost touching Snowy’s face.

“Be careful ov him when—when he is like that,” Piggy cried warningly, pressing closer into the rails himself.

Then Snowy calmly opened his mouth and closed his teeth like a steel trap on that finger. The rapidity with which it was withdrawn nearly decapitated Snowy. There was a loud demoniacal yell from White Ants. He mounted the highest part of the yard like a great ourang-outang, and fell over on the other side with a loud crash. Regaining his feet he ran. Three of Piggy’s mongrel dogs ran after him, barking at his heels, bounding at his head, and falling across his path. White Ants turned on them. They surrounded him, and kept him at bay. They kept him at bay till the “giblets” wore off him, then he strolled calmly back to the milking yard.

The row of milk cans standing outside the rails were full to the brim, and the work of milking for that morning was over at “Daisy Vale.”


Chapter 8
Orders for the Day

“Well, now,” Piggy said, looking round from his seat on the milk waggon, when the full cans had been lifted in. “Wan ov yez young devils have ther gate open fer me; an’—an’—when yez have put th’ horses that won’t be usin’ back intil th’ th’ grass-paddock, an’—an’—chops some o’ th’ pumpkins up intil small pieces fer th’ peegs; an’—an’—drags th’ harry lyin’ beyont there (pointing with the handle of his whip to where it lay) over ’ere, an’—an’—stands it up agen th’ hole in ther fence where th’ poddies got intil th’ lucen; an’—an’—chops up a heap o’ wood fer th’ misses, an’—an’—feeds Brindle (his favorite dog, that was chained up), yez can then be havin’ yez breakfast.” And tugging at the reins like the unskilled driver he was, Piggy drove off through the gate and along the broad, black soil lane to deposit the morning’s milk at the factory.

Slicing pumpkins for the pigs and feeding Brindle were light enough tasks, but ah! it was a hard struggle the two boys went through to drag that heavy wooden harrow on its back over the rough, uneven ground! Stones and sticks would accumulate beneath it and clog its progress; and every now and again they were compelled to exert themselves to greater efforts to upend it and relieve the debris. Then hitching themselves to a rope they had fastened to it would haul and haul again, pausing, panting and breathless, every ten or twelve yards or so, to recruit their strength. After a while they succeeded in dragging it to its destination and stood it up against the damaged fence. Then they directed their steps to the horses. The animals had long since finished feeding, but their passion for biting and kicking had in no way become mollified. One brute in particular seemed to incur the displeasure of all the others, and one after another they viciously resented his presence. A pair of heels narrowly missed the head of the outcast when the boys came up.

“It’s Newchum! Oh, old Newchum,” Eric exclaimed, a look of genuine joy lighting up his sad little face. On hearing his name, and the sound of a familiar voice, the horse pricked its ears and turned round, holding its head high in the air. “Old Newchum! Newchum, it is!” Eric said again. And giving a low, pleased whinney in recognition, the horse trotted feebly forward and rubbed his head fondly against the boy. Eric in return stroked the white stripe down his forehead and put his arm around his lean, lengthy neck, and caressed him as though he were a long lost brother.

Snowy, surprised, stood for a while, an amused spectator of the affectionate meeting.

“I see the old Dodger,” he said, “bringing that cove inter th’ paddock yes’d’y. Ders ’e belongst ter you, Herrick?”

“Yes, he’s ours,” Eric murmured, the large tears that had been stirred to his eyes by the sad memories the unexpected presence of his dumb friend, awakened within him, rolling down his cheeks. “He was always mother’s old pet, and mine. He was father’s horse before, and he left him when he went away, for mother to mind till he came back. But he never came back. He said he was too valuable to take on the roads; and that no one was ever to ride him. And no one ever did, but me. Did they, Newchum?”

“Crikey! but ain’t he a scarecrow, Herrick?” Snowy observed, walking round the horse and eyeing him critically. “He muster been close up a gonner. Yer’d think his ’ide was jest ’angin’ over a lot o’ brambles. He’s a chestnut, heh?”

“Ah, poor old Newchum!” Eric said, placing his cheek caressingly against the animal’s nose. “You nearly went in the drought, didn’t y’? But we managed to save you, mumma and me, with little bits of bread, didn’t we?”

Again the horse whinnied fondly and rubbed his head against the boy.

“Fetch ’im over ter th’ barn, Herrick,” Snowy counselled, with boyish enthusiasm. “An we’ll give him a feed o’ punkkins; them’s th’ things ter make ’im fat an’ put a shine on his coat. We can give ’im some every mornin’, an’ when ’e gets round a bit, an’ puts up condition, we’ll ride on ’im after th’ cows, you an’ me, instead o’ walkin’. Yer haint got a saddle too, has yer, Herrick?”

Eric mildly shook his head, and wiped away a tear.

“It don’t matter, there’s a hold one in the barn that th’ hens roosts on; we’ll mend thet up some night when they reckons we’ll be sleepin’, an’ ’ide it in ther corn, so’s th’ old Dago wont know. . . Fetch him on, Herrick. Hi’ll cut ’im up a punkkin; then we’ll shut ’im in the yard so as them other ’ungry dorgs of his can’t get at ’im while we’re choppin’ wood. Then we’ll put the whole lot in th’ padduk tergether.”

Eric, with his hand resting on Newchum’s mane, as he walked along, followed Snowy to the barn.

“That’ll fatten ’im, I bet,” Snowy said, cheerfully, struggling with a large box laden with sliced pumpkin, which he dumped down in the yard.

Closing the gate behind Newchum, the two boys stood for a moment contemplating him with pride, through the rails, as he waded into the pumpkin, then went off to the woodheap.


Chapter 9
Assertive Mrs. Potthouse

A blunt, cranky old axe it was that did service at the wood-heap, and every moment or two the head of it left the rough-hewn ironbark handle, for the shaping of which White Ants was responsible, and lost itself in the thick weeds, or amongst the wood. And while Eric held the lantern in position, and stacked the small pieces, Snowy wielded the implement, till the perspiration coursed down his face and down his heated body in miniature rivulets. At intervals Eric would essay to “give him a spell,” and, gripping the rough handle, would struggle in the undertaking, until he hadn’t strength enough remaining to raise the axe above his head. Finally, both would give in from sheer exhaustion, and sitting on the ground, limp and languid, would puff and fan themselves with their hats.

“His that ’ow yer cuttin’ th’ wood!” the voice of Mrs. Potthouse rang out, suddenly, from the kitchen window. “An’ me waitin’ ’ere hall mornin’ fer it! Hoh! Hi’ll warm th’ skins o’ th’ two of yer, hif there hain’t soon some fetched hin ’ere!”

Eric loaded himself up to the chin with an armful, while Snowy went on chopping feebly.

“His that hall yer’ve cut hin hall that time?” the hag exclaimed, glaring disparagingly at the load Eric dropped in a corner of the kitchen.

“No, Mum; there’s a big heap outside yet.”

“Well, then, just—you—bring—it—hin!” giving the ear a squeeze, “and don’t be sittin’ down—loafin’.”—and she gave his ear a parting pinch at the door.

Eric, holding his hand to the wounded part, returned to the woodheap.

“Never mind ’er, Herrick!” Snowy said, consolingly. “She’s done that ter me orften!”

Then the two of them carried in as much wood as their arms could hold, and dumped it down.

“Do y’ want ter fill ther kitchen hup, an’ leave no room fer to turn in?” Mrs. Potthouse screeched. “Take it hout again, an’ leave it till its hasked fer.” And she reached for Snowy’s ear. But Snowy, having been “there before,” ducked, and shouldering his way along the wall, escaped.

Two minutes later, Mrs. Potthouse’s voice was heard in conversation with the magpie. She was asking Maggie its private opinion of Potthouse. And when the bird defamed Piggy, in an eloquent string of profane adjectives the woman chuckled in approval, and added a few choice touches of blasphemy in the interests of the bird’s vocabulary.


Chapter 10
Mrs. Potthouse Plays the Devil

“She’s a—a bad, wicked woman, and—and I don’t want to stay here no—no longer,” Eric sobbed beside the woodheap.

“But there ain’t no one yer could go ter, is theer, Herrick?” Snowy answered, “lest yer got inter the Orph’. But ’e (meaning Piggy) ’Id keep yer all ’e knew from gettin’ there, be tellin’ lies ter them about ’ow kind they is ter yer ’ere, an’ all th’ rest, jist as they stuffed th’ Inspector about me. An’ ’e’s a bloke what swallers all theer lies and skite about ther hacts o’ kindness, an’ their good nater, an’ about my playin’ up on them, an’ me hingratitune or somefing. He takes it all has th’ straight hout gorspels truth; Oh, no; there’s no chancet for yer, Herrick, yet a while; but waits till I gets a bit o’ panum! I’ve five peg hid away in me tin now, what Mr. Ray McKay gived ter me fer tellin’ ’im where ter find a horst ’e lost. Yer ’aven’t saw Mister Ray McKay yet, has yer, Herrick? Oh, ’e’s a shiney torf; han’ so is Miss Beatrice, who ’e rides hout with every day. Oh, she’s a hangel! han’ ain’t she a beauty on ’er new side-saddle ’orse? Not a bit stuck hup neither, like some o’ them what passes yer by with their blokes. She’ll hask yer ter th’ Sunday School treat, Herrick, same as she ders me; an’ if ’e won’t let yer go, as ’e won’t, o’ course, not ’im, ’e ain’t likely ter, she’ll send over what cakes she keeps fer yer next day, an’ ther prize that yer could ’ave won if yer ’ad gone—”

Just here, Snowy’s rambling discourse was interrupted by the voice of Mrs. Potthouse calling upon the magpie to give a rendering of “How Snowy Wing squeals when Mother ’ides im.

Snowy stared, suddenly, at Eric, and Eric stared at Snowy.

The bird opened its beak, and after the manner of Snowy, squealed tragically. Then, resting several semi-breves, it broke out in a dramatic voice: “Oh, yer killin’ me! Yer killin’ me!” Resting a second or two, for effect, it wound up, melodramatically, with: “Never! Never! Never! Mother! I’ll never do it again! never do it again! oh, never! never! never!”

Snowy’s fists clenched, his teeth set, and his eyes flashed like the villain’s in the play. Only on one solitary occasion, and then in a weak moment, when he first came to Piggy’s inferno, had he given in under the bruises of the leg-rope, and pleaded for mercy. And for the screams on that far-off occasion, and his futile requests for mercy and forgiveness, to be now reproduced like words spoken into a gramophone, and used in ridicule against himself was worse than ten floggings—worse than death! His pride was insulted; his spirit of taking his gruel like a man trampled upon; his heart stabbed to the very core.

Lifting the axe high above his head, where it poised for a second, he said:

“The first chancet I ever get, I’ll chop that magpie’s damned head (down came the axe) right hoff!”

“It’s not the poor magpie’s fault, Snowy,” Eric said, holding a brief for the bird. “It doesn’t know its doing any wrong, y’ know.”

“Hi don’t care, Herrick (lifting the axe again), Hi’ll chop—” Once more Mrs. Potthouse’s voice intruded.

“Now, hif yer’re finished yer work,” she cried, “hand yer want hany breakfast, yer’d better look sharp hand ’ave it, ’cause Hi’m not agoin’ ter keep ther things awaitin’ on ther table hall day fer yous.”

“The horses?” Eric said, looking up, interrogatingly, at his friend.

Snowy turned his eyes in the direction of the animals, then to the kitchen.

“Well, Herrick,” he replied, philosophically, “a breakfust in yer hinside is better’n two locked in ther hoven.” And tossing the axe aside, Snowy slunk off, leading the way to the kitchen.

Eric, feeling abashed, removed his hat, and looking about him, hesitated in the door-way. To sit to a meal with soiled face and hands, and without arranging his hair, was repugnant to his nature.

“What hare yer glarint erbout hat?” Mrs. Potthouse shouted to him. “There’s yer breakfust hon th’ table, starint hat yer; hain’t yer got heyes ter see it? Hif yer don’t want it, git hoff hout, there’s plenty o’ work waitin’ ter be done.”

“I was looking for a dish to wash in, Mum,” Eric faltered.

“A dish to wash hin! hoh!” she sneered, placing both hands on her ill-shaped hips, and fixing him steadily with her glaring eyes. ‘That’s hall what’s wrong with yer, his it? Wouldn’t yer like a warm plunge hin a marble bath? hand a pair o’ hivory brushes hand lookint glass ter do yer ’air up be? Hand, may be, yer’d like yer carpet slippers fetched, hand put down beside yer for yer to put yer feet into—wouldn’t yer?” lifting her voice fairly into the rafters, and approaching the shivering boy. “Wouldn’t yer?”

“N—n—no, Mum,” was the nervous response.

“Well, ’ere!” And grabbing poor Eric roughly by the shoulders, she ran him to the table, and squashing him down hard on a stool, yelled. “There!” shoving a pint pot under his nose, “hand there!” bashing a cocoa tin, containing dripping, hard on the board, “hand ’ere!” dumping the full tea-pot down heavily beside his elbow. “Hand can yer see that?” banging a burnt damper, the shape of a cartwheel, down in front of him, with so much force that it shook half the tea out of the pint that Snowy had filled for himself. “Hand hare yer satisfied—or d’yer want someone t’ heat it fer yer?”

Snowy, munching ravenously, looked over the edge of his pint of black tea, and grinned at the tigress, as she left the kitchen to tidy the “parlor.”

“Never mind, Herric,” he said, between gulps; “don’t lose any time, tho’. Heat hall yer can afore she comes ter whip heverythink away from year!”

And, forgetting his soiled hands, in the moment of hunger, Eric, acting on Snowy’s advice, hurriedly devoured as much damper and dripping, and swilled as much black tea as he had appetite and capacity for—and a little more.

“Hit’s th’ only innings we gets,” Snowy added, after a long interval. “S’ keep yer wicket up as long as yer can.”

Then, having finished to his satisfaction, he leaned across, and whispered, confidentially:

“Now, while theer’s a chancet, I wanter show yer somefing.” Then keeping one eye closely fixed on the open door, Snowy noiselessly slipped from the table, and tip-toeing across the room, bent down, and, raising the end of a short, broad slab, which served as a floor-board, disclosed to the astonished gaze of Eric a large hole beneath, containing several tins, a jug, and a tin-plate. Cautiously replacing the slab, he tip-toed back to the table again.

“That’s me cold storage,” he whispered, with a grin. “Hit’s horiginal, Herrick. I thought it hall out, and made it meself harfter workin’ hours. Yer gets to it from under th’ front o’ th’ house. An’ when they sends me ter bed without supper, thinkin’ they’ve did something smart for theirselves, I comes up theer,” pointing to the floor, “an’ inter th’ cubbard. It comes awkward but, when they sits ’ere fer long, same as they did larst night, when yer comed.”


Chapter 11
Mr. Mullett

Eric was sitting, staring at his friend, with wide open eyes and mouth, when Piggy’s voice was heard roaring in the yard, and confusion set in.

Mrs. Potthouse rushed in from the parlor.

“Hain’t yer finished yet?” she cried. “Hand yer master back from ther fact’ry with th’ waging! Hoh, yer’ll catch hit, yer young whelps, fer not bein’ hout ter hopen th’ gate ... Go hon hout till him!”

The two boys snatched up their hats, and hastened to answer the howls that every moment were growing more and more in volume, and violence. As they filed past Mrs. Potthouse, recoiling instinctively from her, she delivered them, in turn, a blow with the broom that she held in her hand, yelling, as she did so: “Hand take thet ter go hon with!”

A flash, stylish-looking man in breeches and boots, who had arrived with Piggy, to inspect some of the pigs that were for sale, dismounted from his horse, and awaited the latter’s pleasure.

“An’—an’—” Piggy foamed, jumping from the waggon, “didn’ I tell yez ter put the horses that wouldn’t be usin’ back intil the grass paddock—didn’ I?” approaching Snowy, with blood in his eye.

“We wuz jest goin’ to do it,” Snowy answered, dropping his head humbly.

“Jest goin’ to do ud!” Piggy raved. “Yer whelps! yez wud never do ud if yer cud—cud—help ud! . . . An’—an’—who tell yez to put that—that skeleton of a horse in the ya-ard an’— an’—give ud th’ good pumpkin to stuff itself wid—the pumpkin, bought in the drooth—who telt yez?”

“The others kept ’untin” im,” Snowy said, “an’ we put ’im there till he finished.”

“I’ll—I’ll put yez somewhere, some day, fer something, me young cock-o’-th’-walk, where yez won’t get any pumpkin to—to thrun away, if ye’re not careful wid yourself . . . Here,” pointing peremptorily to the cans on the waggon, “get that whey out, an’—an’—guv it to the pigs, an’—an’—be th’ tare o’ war if yez don’t clean th’ cans better’n yez cleaned them yesterday, I’ll—I’ll break your baacks for you, I will.” Then, turning sulkily to the visitor:

“Th’d—n young devils! alls they thinks erbout is skylarkin’ round the place from—from morning till noight, an’— an’—comin’ up fer their meals, like wild wolves, when ever they are ready fer them.”

The other smiled cynically; and casting his eyes in the direction of the yard, where Newchum was moving restlessly about, and whinneying, said:

“What’s this you’ve got, Piggy? Something new?”

“P’shaw!” Piggy answered, affecting indifference. “Some trash that even th’—th’—drought cudn’t kill.”

The man in the boots approached the rails of the yard, and eyed Newchum closely.

“He certainly got a gruelling from the drought,” he said, ‘ ‘but he’s a d— good frame, all the same, Piggy. . . What’s his age?”

“Th’ Lord only cud tell!” Piggy answered, impatiently.

“Oh, there’s more than the Lord can tell that!” And breeches and boots crept through the rails, and entered the yard.

“What ders ’e wants pokin’ about Newchum fer?” Snowy growled, jealously watching the man from the milk waggon.

“What’s th’ gentleman’s name?” Eric inquired.

“Him!” Snowy snarled, contemptuously, “’e’s only Tom Mullett; ’e ain’t no gentle’un; ’e comes ’ere sometimes in ther night, yer’ll see ’im often drekely, an’ they talks with theer ’eads tergether like thieves, as don’t want ter let on. I heerd ’im once, when I was in th’ cold storage, ’er talkin’ erbout, Mr. Ray McKay, an’ hittin’ th’ table, an’ a-swearin’ to th’ Dago that he’d beat th’ parson’s son fer Miss Beatrice yet, or bust ’isself. I thinks he’ll bust ’isself.”

To his great surprise, Mr. Tom Mullett failed to place his hands on Newchum. The horse gave an unexpected display of temper. He ran at the intruder with wide open mouth; and low condition, and all that he was in, tried to impress Mullett with his heels, as the former took refuge on the rails.

Snowy, gazing across, was delighted. “I ’opes ’e heats ’im, Herrick!” he said, chuckling.

Eric looked concerned, and murmured, apprehensively, “He’ll bite, or do anything to strangers if they go near him.”

“Where the deuce did yer get him from, Piggy—out of a circus?” Mullett said, looking down on Newchum from the top of the yard.

“He’s—he’s—in a circus now, I’m thinkin’,” was Piggy’s surly reply. “Just look at them—them two clowns, there,” indicating Snowy and Eric, “starin’ their eyes out ter see what’s goin’ on here, in—in—instead o’ lukin’ after th’ wheay (yelling at the boys) go on there, yer young vagabones, an’—an’—does yer work.”

The boys went on.

Then, throwing open the yard gate:

“We’ll—we’ll let this scarecrow out, an’—an’—go round an’ see th’ pigs when they be feedin’.”

“I’ll give you fifty bob for him, as he stands, Piggy,” Mullett remarked, as Newchum strode through the gate.

“Go ’long, go ’long!” Piggy answered. “I—I—don’t wants ter be takin’ yer money, Tom. ’Tis bad enough ter be takin’ me ’inemies in. Come on, an’—an’—luk if any o’ the pigs ’ill sood.” But Mullett’s eye followed the movements of the horse. Newchum stood, looked around; whinneyed.

“Hello, Newchum,” Eric couldn’t resist calling out.

In recognition, Newchum whinneyed again, and trotted to the waggon. He switched his tail, stamped his feet, shook his head, and went through various forms of horse-play, to mark his delight. Then he poked his nose under Eric’s arm, and remained motionless.

“By Heavens! look at that,” Mullett exclaimed. “I’ve seen horses take to dogs and cats; but I never saw a horse make so much fuss over a kiddy before.”

Piggy lifted his eyes.

“Oh! he do be givin’ th’ damn thing bits o’ bread, an’—an’— stuffin’ ’im every day,” he grunted disparagingly. “Come round wid me this wa-ay”—directing his steps to the rear of the barn where the styes were located.

“Who is the kid?” Mullett asked casually, as they turned away.

“’Tis a wise child what knows its own father,” Piggy answered. “An’—an’—’twud be a wise orphan what cud tell y’ who he is, or who he isn’t, when he haven’t no one to tell him his pethigree.”

Tom Mullett dealt with Piggy for several “porkers”; and when he had gone, and the gate closed behind him, Piggy shouted lustily to Snowy and Eric, who with cloths in their hands, their sleeves tucked up to their shoulders, were employed rubbing and scrubbing and scalding a dozen milk-cans:

“Put that—that skeleton intil th’ little windmill paddock; am’—an’—leave ’um there. An’—an’—don’t yez ever bring ’im intil this ya-ard again!”

“A good job, Herrick,” Snowy chuckled. “It’ll suit uz hall ter pieces.”


Chapter 12
Twelve Months After

More than twelve months had passed. The first call of the jackass had gone, and the grey dawn was beginning to break over the verdant valleys, and still lagoons. Two shadowy forms flitted round the dim outline of a horse in the Windmill paddock of Daisy Vale. Snowy Wing and Eric Ryle were saddling Newchum, as they had been doing every morning at that hour for several months.

“We’ll fold th’ cloth up double, this mornin’, Herrick,” Snowy said, “’Cause th’ stuffin’s sinking down a lot an’ th’ saddle might touch ’e’s wither.”

“Do you think the circingle is strong enough to hold?” Eric said, carefully testing the gear. “We don’t want to come off again, like we did yesterday morning.”

Memories of the double catastrophe set Snowy chuckling as he strained on tip-toe to tighten the greenhide girth to the last pole. “I mended it to-day,” he answered, “when ’e was away and she” (grunting in his efforts to tighten the circingle) “talkin’ to them lydies. I put two ribbits in it—two (grunt) that ’e was keepin’ fer th’ (grunt) hamish. It’s strongerer than ever now.” Then the reins were thrown over the animal’s head.

“Now, on yer get, Herrick,” Snowy advised, “an’ ride ’im over to ther stump, an’ I’ll get on theer.”

When Eric took hold of the reins and climbed into the saddle, the horse, answering to the touch, moved off proudly at a swinging walk, as though he was built on springs; his head carried high, and his long tail, held well out, flowing gracefully behind him. And this was “old Newchum”; this the “frame”; the “bag o’ bones,” the “skeleton,” the “dying object,” the relic of the awful drought; this animal that now was all life, all action, sleek-skinned, and rolling fat! Ah! yes! The times had indeed changed.

“Now, we’ll jes’ see ’ow ’ard ’e can cut this mornin’ afore we goes after ther cows,” Snowy said, scrambling on behind Eric, “and send im twicet round th’ course, Herrick, an’ let ’im go all ’e knows—but I wisht (sorrowfully) he’d go with me on in front. Curioust ’ow ’e won’t!”

The next moment Newchum’s head was turned, and, prancing and champing the bit, he faced the “course” (a rude circle indicated within the 50-acre paddock by certain trees and objects familiar to the two boys). He felt the gentle pressure; the nervous touch of a pair of heels. He reefed; carried the full rein with him; was away, stretching to it, doubling to it, bending to it, thundering down the stretch of grim, grey plain. Around the curve he swept like a demon, the riders crouching low on his back. A shirt ballooned violently in the wind for just a second, then burst from its moorings, and flip-flapped like a whirling flag. Furiously they swept round the second curve. A tree flashed, and the first “mile” was circled. Down the plain again. The speed was too much for Eric. He gasped, gulped, dropped his head, recovered. “Fer th’ finish! Give it ’im”—in muffled jerks from Snowy. Then two pairs of heels worked like wings. The grass whistled beneath. Muscles, strained and stretched. The old saddle creaked like a ship. The earth rocked, lifted. Then the tree flashed again and the “spin” was over.

“Oh, ’eavens!” Snowy gasped, rolling from the saddle to the ground. “Hif ’e ’adn’t stopped, Herrick, I’d a-tumbled hoff— right hoff on me ’ead; fer th’ breatht wuz blowed right outer me stomick, an’ I couldn’t git any more hinto it. Oh! bless me! wuz hever theer sich a racet ’orse?”

Eric dropped forward on the arched and heated neck of Newchum till his full breath returned. Then, taking Snowy up behind again, cantered leisurely off into the grass-paddock; and rounding the cows up, started them for the yard. Returning to the Windmill paddock, they dismounted and concealed their riding gear. Then, after rubbing the animal dry, they let him go, where he remained for the rest of the day, out of everyone’s sight, and knee-deep in clover and wild lucerne. And this exciting ride on the back of Newchum every morning was the one bright circumstance in the long, dull rounds of their sordid existence—’twas the oasis in the desert of their hard, wretched lives.


Chapter 13
Trouble on the Lucerne

“Breakfast” was over, and Snowy and Eric were engaged in scrubbing and cleaning the milk cans.

Piggy came along clearing his throat.

“When yez be finished them cans,” he said, “if—if—yez ’ll ever be finished, drive th’—th’ cows down an’—an’—put them on th’ lucen; an’—an’—shepherd them there till yez see me wave th’ flag from th’ randy; then—then taake them off ud at oncet, right at oncet, or they’ll be bustin ’in ud. An’—an’—be th’ dogs of war, if yez let any o’ them bust, I’ll—I’ll shoot yez in th’ paddick like rats, so I will. D’ yez hear me?”

The boys hastened to assure the old tyrant that they heard him.

“Hand don’t ferget,” Mrs. Potthouse squaled, adding her injunction, “don’t ferget who’s ter be ’ere fer dinner, hand that yer is ter heat hin th’ parlor. Hand don’t come hin without yer manners, hand sit down has dirty has two blacks; cleant yerselves fer oncet in yer lives, hand put hon ther coats that’s been washed hand hironed fer yer, hand don’t try ter give ther place a bad name. Hand when yer are hasked hany hofficial questions, Snowy Wing, as yer will be, Hi’ve no doubt, erbout ’ow yer are fed, an’ ’oused, hand waited hon, mind yer don’t tell no lies.”

Snowy ground his teeth and bit his lip.

“Yer needn’t pull no faces erbout it,” the hag went on. “We knows yer quite capable o’ doin’ it.”

“Be—be cripes, then,” Piggy broke in, “if—if there’s any mis’renting th’—th’ treatment that—that any ov yez get under me roof, I’ll—I’ll strangle yez in yer sleep, I will, yez pair o’ tieves.”

And with various imprecations and warnings, and threats of after-vengeance if they failed to be well-behaved, and loyal, and truthful, and clean, in the presence of the inspector, Piggy and his wife left the boys to their cheerful reflections.

“It’s on’y one of two things, Herrick,” Snowy mused feelingly, as they sauntered into the lucerne paddock at the tails of the straggling milkers. “Heither I must make up me mind ter tell the ’onest truth, an’ say it straight hout, thet they ain’t fit ter ’ave dorgs under them; an’ run away drekeley arter. Gord knows where to, Herrick! an’ p’raps ter be brought back be Constable ’Enery to ’im ter-morrer! Hor, Herrick, ter put me tongue hin me cheek, an’ tell hall th’ lies I can think o’ erbout th’ nice, kind, generous people they are; an’ ’ow self-dernyin’; an’ ow’ good they’s ter me, and ’ow it’d break me very heart ter be took away from me happy ’ome.”

“But you mustn’t tell a lie, Snowy; it’s wicked,” Eric said. “It would be worse than everything. You must—you must—” He paused. He was in a quandary.

“Yer thinks Hi should stick ter th’ truth, an’ then do a bunk?” Snowy said, helping him out.

“Oh, no! no! not that either; that would only make everything blacker against you; and they would perhaps get Mr. Ray McKay and Miss Beatrice, and everyone on their side. But maybe the Inspector is a good man, and would believe what you tell him, Snowy; and perhaps he would take you from here, and get you a better place.”

“No chancet, Herrick!” Snowy answered gravely. “He ain’t th’ sort; I knows ’im. ’Sides, if ’e did believe me, an’ took me away, I’d be clearin’ out an’ leavin’ you ter go through a nice picernic on yer own. No, Herrick, you an’ me’s pals, an’ I never deeserts a pal. Leave it hall ter me, Herrick. I’ll go through with it; an’ if I ders tell a fib or two, it’s on’y because I ’as ter, an’ it’ll be them as ’ll ’ave to answer.”

Leg-weary and bodily tired, the two boys sat beside the fence while the cows spread out and fed on the lucerne.

The day was promising warm. After a while, there was a silence. First Eric, then Snowy dozed and dropped to sleep. Friendly soldier birds came and perched on the fence, and “tweeked” above their heads. Hares disturbed in their formes darted from the shelter of the thick lucerne and raced in pursuit of each other to cover in the grass-paddock.

The time arrived to remove the cows. The flag waved from the verandah of the house. It waved violently for ten minutes, and roars interspersed with angry oaths were borne vaguely upon the wind.

An aggressive bull-dog ant disturbed the slumbers of Snowy.

He awoke with a jump, danced about and rubbed his bare leg.

“Herrick!” he shouted, with alarm. “Th’ flag’s wavin’. I don’t know how long. Come on!”

They both ran as fast as their legs could carry them to round up the milkers.

“Oh, look!” Eric cried with fearful apprehension. “There’s one bursting, I do believe!”

“Oh! ’eavens!” from Snowy, as he ran faster. “Get them hout! Get them hout, Herrick! Quick! quick! Oh-h, we’re hin for it.”

Rushing the cows out through the barb-wire gate, the boys turned and raced frantically back to the beast that was down and swollen like a balloon.

With the aid of a pair of field glasses, Piggy, from his seat on the verandah, saw by the commotion going on that something was amiss, and swearing at the top of his voice, hobbled off to the scene.

Eric and Snowy were nearly out of their minds. Both were shedding tears.

“I’ll go an’ tell ’im ter come,” Snowy said in desperation, and started off. But seeing the form of Piggy already on the way, Snowy bounded back; and with increased fear and alarm, endeavored in all manner of ways to persuade the cow to rise and save the situation.

“Oh! if we could only let the wind out of her, and get her up before he comes!” Eric whined. Like a flash Snowy remembered he had a pocket-knife. Opening it hurriedly he stabbed the cow in the flank with the blade. She didn’t budge. Piggy came nearer and nearer. The moments were flying. Snowy kicked her with his bare foot. Eric kicked her. Snowy jumped astride her barrel-like carcase and bumped her with all his weight to force the gas out. Eric got astride behind him to add his power. Piggy arrived, puffing, perspiring, and with fire and fury in his eye.

“Oh, megod, it’s Lady Morgan! Lady Morgan!” he yelled pathetically. “Have she busht? Have she busht?” One glance convinced him that she was dead as a door-nail. Then his voice changed.

“Yez —! —! —! —!” he yelled; while Snowy skidaddled one way, and Eric another.


Chapter 14
Stibbening, the Inspector

“Good day, Mr. Potthouse,” the Inspector said, riding into the yard on a horse that he hired at the railway station.

“Hello, Mr. Brown,” Piggy responded, lifting his whiskered face from a dish of water that he was sluicing himself in, and reaching for a towel. “Yez are just in time for yer dinner.” Snowy promptly appeared, and took possession of the horse. “Guv it a derink, an’—an’ a good feed ov oats,” Piggy shouted after him.

Then, tossing the towel on the ground:

“Come ’long, an’—an’—sit yez down, Mr. Brown. ’Tis fine weather we’re havin’.”

The Inspector followed Piggy into the parlor, where Mrs. Potthouse, busy setting the table, received him with a smirk which answered for a smile, and ducked her head like Judy bowing to Punch in the show.

“Yer lookin’ well hon it sincet yer wuz here last,” she said, complimenting him upon his well-fed appearance.

“Well, you see, I haven’t much to worry me, Mrs. Potthouse,” the easy-going official replied. “So long as I find the youngsters are doing all right on the farms, and I get three meals a day, and somewhere to sleep at night, I’m happy.”

“Then yer hain’t got much ter trouble yer ’ead erbout,” she rejoined. “Hit’s hother people, Mr. Brown, who gets hall th’ worry o’ th’ youngsters; they’re more trouble than they’re worth, Hi’m thinkin’; hand they do more ’arm hon a place than they’ll hever be able ter make good. Leastaways, that’s hour experience.”

“Why, what has been going wrong, Mrs. Potthouse?” the Inspector asked.

“Well”—and fire flashed from the eyes of the hag as she straightened up and pointed through the front window. “Yer can’t even trust th’ one we have ’ere ter watch th’ cows fer ten minets on that bit o’ lucen without he clears hoff somewhere hafter birds hand lets th’ hanimals bust.”

“I’m sorry to hear that of him,” gravely from the official.

“Yes, yes!” Piggy chimed in, as he produced a whisky bottle and two glasses. “Me—me very besht cow, Lady Morgan— that—that I refused twenty sovereigns fer from Johnny Grogan —he let busht on th’ lucen this vera morning, th—th’d— young whelp! If ud had been my own son who’s awaay ad th’— th’ Grammar Schule, I’d— I’d have half killed him forrid, I wud.”

“Oh, that’s too bad of the young vagabond,” the other murmured. “Too bad, altogether! It’s a thing he should have been severely chastised for—not the slightest doubt of it.”

“Well, yez know, Mister Brown,” Piggy said in a low, humble, sympathetic voice, “one never likes to—to put hand till a child what ain’t his own. An’—an’ when yez know a boy has never father or—or mother, th’ feelin’ that it puts until your heart prevents yez from ud, an’ yez can’t do ud.”

“Well, you know,” the Inspector replied, with an air of wisdom mingled with justice, “it is worse for the boy—it’s against his interests—if it isn’t done in cases where he richly deserves it, such as this one.”

“Oh, dersen’t I know ud—know ud well,” Piggy mumbled, affecting indifference. “But we’ll let it go, let it go . . . What will yez take wid id, Mr. Brown? A little well-water, or a drop o’ ginger-beer?”

Mr. Brown said he always took water with his. Ginger-beer or soda water, he reckoned, was injurious to the system when taken with whisky; it wouldn’t assimilate in the stomach.

“Well, well! I—I never knew that now,” said Piggy, smacking his lips after tossing his down.

“Oh, yes, that’s well known to whisky drinkers in town,” the visitor added, planking his empty glass beside Piggy’s, and taking out his pocket handkerchief. “Water with whisky every time.”

“See that now! An’—an’ it’s cheaper,” Piggy put in, this view of it recurring to him after an interval of reflection. Then bending over the table once more:

“Fill up again, Mister Brown, an’—an’ then we’ll hab a moutful to eat.”

The official filled his glass again, and having emptied it like winking sat down to dinner.

“Now I wonder where is them boys?” Mrs. Potthouse remarked, leaving the room and going to the back door.

The boys, with a look of fear and uncertainty on their polished faces, were waiting about outside.

“D’ yer want ter be carried hin?” the old fiend raved. “Hor d’ yer want yer dinner fetched hout ter y’?” Then, hissing into Snowy’s ear as he stepped past her:

“Hand yer ’ad better heat yer skin full, me sparrow ’awk, fer yer’ll go to yer bed pretty ’ungry han’ sore ter night, Hi know.” Snowy and Eric slouched in with awkward, uneasy step, looking more like lambs going to the slaughter than youths promoted to a place at the best table.

The Inspector condescended to pause in his conversation, and nod stiffly to the waifs, as they took their seats, then continued his observations on the joys and excellence of good whisky.

“Some of the stuff you get in hotels,” he told Piggy, “is deadly; it’s not fit to give to travellers. But with ‘Wild Cat’ you can’t go wrong; it’s the best in the market, and you can drink bottles of it without feeling the least effect.”

“What ’ave Hi halwez told yer erbout usin’ yer knife han’ fork, Master Snowy?” Mrs. Potthouse remarked, when Snowy, who had not been used to cutlery in the kitchen, took the roast beef in his hands to devour it. “Yer soon forgets th’ manners that’s taught yer!”

Poor Snowy took up the knife and fork, but how to manipulate them he hadn’t the slightest idea. Stealing a glance at the Inspector, next him, to learn his methods, he made an heroic effort to imitate his dexterity. His display was feeble. He reversed arms, and taking a firm grip of the handles with full fists, set to work in his own way. He leaned forward and put all his strength into the operation. It became a tug-of-war between the knife and the fork. The knife severed its hold, and the fork, having nothing to resist, flew from the plate, taking the meat and the gravy with it, which it propelled with a splash into the lap of the loquacious Inspector. That gentleman shoved his chair back with a great noise and heaved the roast beef to the floor as though it were a live thing.

Piggy, from his place at the head of the table, poured a torrent of language over the head of the surprised and disappointed-looking Snowy. Mrs. Potthouse walloped him vigorously with her hands—walloped him till he found his feet, and scrambling from the chair, rushed outside.

Meanwhile, the Inspector had risen from the table, and was standing in the middle of the floor rubbing and scrubbing the gravy out of his pants with his handkerchief.

“That’s hon’y some o’ ther things we ’as ter put up with from ’im,” Mrs. Potthouse said apologetically, “Hoh, ’e’s a hincorriable scamp! hand gets worst hevery day!”

“An’—an’—I do believes he did it o’ purpose,” Piggy groaned, reaching for the whisky bottle. “Howsomever, ’tis done, ’tis done. But take yez another little drop, Mister Brown, an’—an’ —wash ud down—wash ud down.”

Mr. Brown half filled his glass, and promptly washed it down.

“Well, now,” Piggy said, when the meal was over, “I suppose yez wud like to have a word with Snowy Wing afore yez go?”

“May be-sh I’d (hic) better,” was the answer. “Theresh (hic) just time. Sen’ him (hic) in.”

Snowy, battered and dishevelled, and in his shirt sleeves, entered the parlor again, looking like an escapee going up for sentence.

“Havesh you (hic) any plaints to makesh to me about (hic) treatment, boy? Are yoush er—er (hic) satisfied?” Mr. Brown asked.

“Oh, it’s a lovely placet ter be in, sir, when yer gits used to it,” Snowy answered, with a twinkle in his eye. “It’s simply divine; an’ I’m satisfied about it orlright.”

“Well, then, yoush (hic) can thinkshelf luck (hic) lucky. My horsh (hic) ready?”

With a grin on his face, Snowy withdrew. And when Mr. Brown’s horse was saddled and brought to the door, Piggy helped him into the saddle, and saw him safely through the gate.


Chapter 15
Ray McKay and Beatrice Appleby

Amid the green lucerne squares, and golden cornfields surrounded with hills and scenes of peace and quietude, nestled “Todmorden,” the home of Beatrice Appleby.

The slowly sinking sun was shedding fantastic rays upon the tinted pines and the garden that was ablaze with bloom and bud.

Beatrice plucked a red carnation, and pinning it in Ray McKay’s button-hole, said with a smile:

“I’ve a great favor to ask of you, Ray?”

“The deuce you have,” he said. “Well, sit over here and break it gently.”

He led her to a seat beneath one of the murmuring pines. It was a lovely spot. The sweet-smelling air filled the garden with fragrance. The rose and honeysuckle clung about in profusion. The ivy climbed over the walls of the bush house beside them. Beneath rippled the limpid waters of the winding creek; and away beyond, as far as the eye could see, stretched the great rolling downs.

“Now you won’t think me dreadfully silly, will you, Ray?” Beatrice commenced.

Ray replied with a gentle squeeze of her slender waist.

“I know what I’m going to tell you will sound awfully funny, but—”

“Then it’s a joke, is it, Beatrice?”

“I am afraid you will think it is.”

“When are you going to come to it, Beatrice?” with another squeeze.

“Now listen. I saw my two little friends this afternoon—the poor little orphan boys, and we had such a long interesting chat under the willows.”

“And how is the lively White Ants?” Ray asked. “Has he had the ‘giblets’ this week? And is My Lady Morgan in the best of spirits?”

“Oh! I knew I had something to tell you,” and Beatrice broke into a short, silvery laugh. “She’s dead; poor thing! She ‘hover et ’erself an’ busted on th’ loosum’.”

Ray thought of Snowy, and laughed.

“It’s a fatality that will never overtake the poor kids themselves while they’re at Potthouse’s,” he said.

“Ah! poor little chaps!” and Beatrice changed suddenly. “It’s a shame to laugh at them. But that’s not what I was going to tell you, Ray. The little fellows have got a horse—”

“A horse?” Ray laughed, “the deuce! Something will break at Daisy Vale, now, Beatrice. The last time I saw them they were going full split, bare-headed, on two calves, a red one and a white one; and the further they went the further apart they drifted.”

“Oh! that would be ‘Carbine’ and ‘Fair Ellen’,” and Beatrice broke into a fresh ripple of laughter. “ ‘Th’ Dago ’e ain’t tumbled yet erbout them bein’ broket ter saddle, but when ’e do won’t ’e go crook’.”

“Ha! ha! ha!” loudly from Ray. “Ha! ha! ha! He’s a quaint cus, Snowy. Do you know, I enjoy a chat with the little beggar, Beatrice.”

“Ah! but it’s a shame the treatment they get, Ray! It’s really cruel. And that little Eric is such a quiet, gentle boy, and so well mannered. They’re kept so ragged and dirty too, that really someone should speak to that old Potthouse about them!”

“I am afraid, though, Beatrice,” Ray said, seriously, “that it wouldn’t do any good to meddle in the affairs of a neighbour. It might be a matter, perhaps, that my old pater, as the clergyman of the district, might take—”

“Yes; but that’s not what I wanted to ask you just now,” Beatrice interrupted. “This horse—”

“Oh, yes; I forgot; they have a horse.”

“And it’s a racehorse, Ray—a real racehorse.”

“Go easy, Beatrice.”

“I’m really serious, Ray. They gave me all its history, and I believe everything the little chaps told me. It belonged to Eric’s father, and all its pedigree is in a letter written to his mother, that the little chap has in his box amongst his mother’s papers. Newchum is the horse’s name, and they told me so much about him—how fond the poor mother was of him, and how she kept him alive all through the drought with pieces of bread—how he waits with his head over the fence watching for Eric; and how he calls to him and rubs his head against him when he comes— that I’m just dying to see him. I’m sure he must be a lovely horse, Ray!”

“Yes; he must be, Beatrice,” Ray drawled.

“And do you know how they train him?—but you mustn’t tell anyone a word about it, especially Mr. Mullett; it’s a great secret.”

“All the brumbies in the bush wouldn’t drag it out of me, Beatrice.”

“They keep him in a small paddock where no one ever sees him, and every morning at break of day they gallop him round it.”

“Which of them rides him, Beatrice?” placing his cheek against hers.

“They both ride him, Ray, and—”

“Ha! ha! ha! If ever old Potthouse catches them you won’t hear any more about your lovely chestnut.”

“Oh! I’d love to go up some morning, early, just to see the little chaps galloping him.”

“Yes; and take an eight-day clock with you, Beatrice, and get Snowy to time him.”

“Snowy says when Newchum is going at his top the trees fly past so quick, Ray, that ‘ ’hif hever they hits ’im they’ll only be a wet spot left hon th’ bark’.”

A loud “Ha! ha! ha!” came from Ray, and he said: “And if ever they get as far as racing him, Beatrice, there might only be a wet spot left on the course.”

“Now that’s just what I’ve got to ask you about. Do you know what it is, Ray?”

“I don’t, indeed.”

“Well, I want you, for my sake, to enter Newchum in the Toowoomba Cup in your own name for the little fellows.”

Ray held her from him and looked into her face.

“Well, this is a joke,” he said.

“I’m so earnest about it, Ray” (putting her arms around his neck). “Now, won’t you?”

“Beatrice, I can hear the laugh that would ring on the lawn, now! Ha! ha! Fancy those two ragged young beggars coming out on some mule of a horse, perhaps walloping it with a hoe, that was entered and blazed about as ‘Ray McKay’s Newchum.’ Ha! ha! ha!”

“But you will, Ray; you’ll do it for me, won’t you?” And Beatrice snuggled close to him.

Ray laughed harder; then, after reflecting, held Beatrice from him again and said: “Well, after all, a little ridicule from my friends in town won’t kill me; and there’s nothing that I wouldn’t make of myself over to please you, Beatrice (pause). I’m blowed if I don’t do it.”

“I knew you would, Ray,” and in compensation she planted a kiss somewhere about his tanned cheeks.

“Ha! ha! ha!” involuntarily burst again from Ray McKay as arm in arm together they strolled inside for tea.


Chapter 16
Piggy Uses the Leg-Rope

While Ray McKay and Beatrice joined round the full and merry board in the large and well-lighted dining-room at “Todmorden,” poor Eric and Snowy, after having fed the pigs for the night, and distributed hay to the draught horses, were sitting together irresolutely thinking and brooding beside the barn at “Daisy Vale.”

Silent, bitter forebodings of plaited greenhide being the only item on their bill of fare filled their unhappy minds. They feared to show up at the kitchen door. Their eyes, dimmed with gathering tears, met, and each read the mental anguish of the other.

“I can’t go in if he means to hammer me,” Eric said in a broken voice.

“An’ ’es fit fer anything ter-night,” Snowy murmured gloomily. “E’s been ’avin’ drink, yer know!”

Just then Piggy called in a loud voice to his wife, as he passed from the kitchen to the “parlor”:

“Guv them they’re supper,” he said. “So they can go over to Regan to—to—borry me a pair o’ whinkers fer th’ black mare, afore ud gets bed-time.”

“It’s orlright, Herrick,” Snowy said, brightening up, and rising promptly to his feet, “ ’E’s fergottent erbout it. Come on. Don’t let them see we wuz expectint a hidin’ or they might think as it might be a shame ter disserpoint two poor blokes like hus.”

With lighter hearts they hovered round the kitchen door. Snowy, to announce their presence, instructed one of the dogs to “go and bark at itself.” And all doubt and distrust vanished completely when Mrs. Potthouse contented herself with warning them to “sling theirselves erbout hif they wanted hany tea”; and that they could “thank their lucky stars they wuz goin’ ter get hany at all.”

With a twinkle in their eyes, the waifs “threw themselves about,” and in a trice Snowy was slicing bread, and Eric pouring out tea.

Suddenly the doorway was darkened, and Piggy, carrying a leg-rope in one hand, and a heavy greenhide slogger in the other, glided in and calmly fastened the latch behind him.

A thrill of terror shot through the boys. In a flash they realised they had been trapped like rats! The tea-pot and the bread loaf fell from their hands to the table. A cry escaped Eric, as he shrank shivering into a corner. Snowy, bewildered completely, rose to his feet, and standing with back to the table, clutched the edge of it with both hands. Pale and dogged-looking, he waited like a condemned prisoner.

Potthouse grinned in malevolent triumph at the foiled and helpless victims.

“An’—an’ yez young cubs,” he roared, by way of preliminary introduction, “yez have th—th cheek to come an’—an’ get ye’er fill of grub, after all th’—th’ ruination yez did this daay!”

“Don’t, oh! don’t touch us! Please don’t! Oh! don’t!” Eric screamed distractedly, flying to another corner.

The woman leered at the frantic boy.

Piggy advanced to Snowy.

“Put this on yez,” he said, looping the leg-rope round the boy’s neck, and drawing it tight. Snowy’s eyes flashed and bulged; his teeth set like a vyce; his hands gripped the table till his finger-nails sunk into the very pine.

“Oh-h! He’s going to hang him!” Eric screamed, springing to the door and trying to unfasten it. “He’s going to—”

He stopped suddenly. There was an interruption.

A tall, well-built, clean-shaven man of athletic appearance walked into the room.


Chapter 17
Harry Ryle Appears

“Stop!” he cried. “Isn’t the life of one sufficient to have on your conscience, Mr. Pigford Potthouse?”

Piggy’s eyes and mouth opened wide. The greenhide fell from his hand.

“Lor-d! Lor-d ’tis Harry—”

“Mention that name and I’ll strangle you as I would a rat.”

Mrs. Potthouse gave a sharp cry of recognition.

“You know me, do you?” the stranger said, turning quickly upon her. “Well, my name now is Don Fitzrobertson, and don’t you forget it.”

Then to Piggy:

“Send these boys about their business—mine is more important. I’m in a hurry.”

Snowy and Eric stood staring.

“Get a move on!” the stranger commanded, “the lot of you.”

Shrieking like a lost soul, Mrs. Potthouse rushed into the house, while the two boys, feeling like reprieved prisoners, went off and ran excitedly across the yard towards the barn.

“A sad mistake, wasn’t it, Piggy?” said Fitzrobertson, “for a clever old dog like you, after successfully stealing a will that you thought was made in my favour, to postpone burning it. Ha! ha! As Harry Ryle I impersonated my relationship heroically, you must admit—but what a defamation it was on my glorious English pedigree! Sit down, man, and make yourself comfortable.”

Piggy dropped down on a gin case, which creaked mockingly beneath him.

Closing the door, and placing a chair beside it to keep it fast, Ryle sat down at the table.

“It’s a long while since we saw each other, Piggy,” he began, “and, with me, the intervals have been pretty long between the drinks.”

Piggy sat staring into vacancy. He was dumb-founded.

The stranger smiled maliciously; then, rising and taking the chair that was under him in his two hands and lifting it high above his head, brought it down upon the table, smashing what crockery there was upon it into small pieces of china.

Piggy jumped as if he had been shot, and glared at his visitor. “Some whisky,” the man said, “and hurry up.”

Piggy came to his senses, and hobbling off, returned with a bottle.

“Well, here’s short life to you, if ever you again betray me,” and lifting a glass he swallowed the contents of it.

“I—I—I wuz alwez sorry for ud,” Piggy stammered, when at last he found his voice.

“You sorry!” replied Ryle sardonically. Then added: “Well, you can now show your repentance by opening your bulging purse strings.”

Piggy shuddered and shook from head to foot.

“It was a thoughtful omission of your worthy relative, old Hungry Potthouse, to die without making a Will, when you were his nearest next of kin, wasn’t it? More especially when he wouldn’t trust you inside his gate when you came here to hover round him like a crow nine years ago.”

Piggy’s whole frame quivered, and his fingers worked involuntarily.

“There—there never was a Will! Me uncle wud—wud never make one,” he burst out. “Yez—yez sed yez had ud; but yez never showed ud! Ah-h-h, yez never!”

“No, I never showed it—but it’s quite safe; though it isn’t made in my favour. And I suppose it wouldn’t be any use to me, now, even if it was. But it’s in your Victorian cousin’s favour, who died conveniently, and you know it, Piggy!”

“Then guv ud to me!” Piggy choked, rising and shaking in his agitation like one seized of delirium tremens. “Guv ud to me!”

Ryle laughed mockingly. Piggy sat down again and groaned hopelessly.

“I—I—have done a lot for yez, Harry Royle,” he murmured.

“Yes, you have! You were instrumental five years ago in getting me fifteen years at Roma, you disloyal old hypocrite!”

“I—I—I fed your—your wife in the drooth, an’ guv her cattle; an’—an’—your—”

“You confounded old fraud, my wife, as you call her, left the shores of this accursed land seven or eight years ago, thank God!”

“Whaht!” and Piggy bounced up again, and glared, and trembled more than ever.

“Yez told people—”

“That my wife was here on a selection,” Ryle interrupted, coolly. “It suited me to, when her husband died at Camooweal, and I still had the Will that you didn’t burn, Piggy, in my pocket.”

Consternation and perplexity filled the features of Piggy.

“An’—an’—how comes yez here?” he stammered dreamily.

“Ah! how?” Ryle answered, jauntily. “It would bring fame and fortune to a novelist, I seized time by the forelock, my friend, and scaled the gaol wall when Brisbane was under flood and the city, like Gommorror, in total darkness. Then, while the hounds were in full blast upon the tracks of escaped prisoner Blackburn, I—that is, he—Mr. Potthouse, became a useful citizen, and a public benefactor. He—I got into a boat along with the police, and helped rescue the distressed and house-wrecked from watery graves. Tiring of that, the cheerful life of the lame, and the halt seduced me, and I became maimed. I had string-halt bad for six months, and at your hands was refused a feed, you miserable old hound.” Piggy started as he suddenly recollected. “The string-halt left me,” Ryle continued, “and I rose in the world till now Don Fitzrobertson is a welcome guest at even the parson’s house at Longer-Linger. He is inspecting large mobs of horses just now for shipment to Manchuria; besides having placed before the Government a stupendous timber scheme. Mr. Don Fitzrobertson had the honour only the other day of riding side by side with the wealthy Piggy Potthouse (fixing an eye-glass to his eye and changing his manner and voice to suit an English dude’s). And, ah, gathered from him quite a fund of—th—maost valuable information about his yearly profits and—ah—the amount of monaey he made out of the—ah—losses of other poor devils. He’s an awfully faine fellah, though, and a jollay old dog is— ah—Potthouse, devilish faine.”

Piggy was thunderstruck. He tried to speak. He could only gasp.

“And now,” said the other, removing the eye-glass, and resuming his natural voice; “to get down to business. I want five hundred pounds to go on with.”

Piggy clasped his hand over his forehead, and sat silent, and dazed-looking.

“I’ll give you twenty-four hours to think it over and to get the money,” Fitzrobertson said, rising. “This time to-morrow night, I’ll be here, and I’ll bring the Will with me. Good-bye, Mr. Potthouse—for the present.”

A few moments later the rattle of horse hoofs were heard along the black soil road.


Chapter 18
In the Cold Storage

With a groan Piggy rose and left the kitchen. His footsteps had scarcely died away when the short slab in the floor rose up, and the hatless head of Snowy Wing appeared and for a moment peered cautiously through the gloom. Satisfied that the coast was clear, the slim body followed; and Snowy silently and stealthily stole his way across the room to the pantry. Loading himself with all the food supplies within reach, he glided back and disappeared into the “cold storage.” Then for quite a long interval, a quick, sensitive ear might have detected an exchange of whispers, accompanied with a noise that sounded like rats in a ceiling knawing at bones.

“Five ’undered quids, Herrick,” Snowy whispered, “th’ Dago’s got ter part hup termorrer night. Hoh crikey, ’ow ’e must be enjyin’ ’isself! Hi couldn’t understan’, though, wot he said about ther Will—could you, Herrick?”

“There’s something been done that’s not right, I think,” was the hushed response.

“Hi couldn’t catch everythink he said, but did yer ’ear ’im say as ’e’s name were ’Arry Rylle? You ain’t got any relatints knockin’ about, ’as yer, Herrick?”


“It was curioust ’ow ’e put ther fear o’ the perleece inter th’ two o’ them! Hoh crikey, didn’t theer ’earts drop whin they tumbled ter who ’e were!”

“How lucky it was that he came!” feelingly from Eric.

“Hi thought he fell houter th’ clouds, it wuz so suddent,” Snowy answered. “But ’e’s got a game on, Herrick, like them blokes in your story books. ’E’s playint fer stakes, Hi’m thinkin’; an’ we’ll be in ’ere termorrer night when ther money’s bein’ paid over. Hoh, crikey, the Dago must be enjyin’ ’isself!” The voices and footsteps of Piggy and his wife returning to the kitchen became audible, and the waifs nudged each other to silence.

“If I—I—I dersn’t get the Will from his hands be—be some means,” Piggy said, “then that—that cub in th’ barrun ’ll have ter be got out o’ th road, he will—he will.”

Snowy nudged Eric, and the latter’s heart started thumping hard.

“Well, there might be some chancet o’ snatching th’ Will when ’e takes it hout of ’is pocket, hand chuckin’ hit inter th’ fire,” the woman answered; “but there’s no uset trying’ ter get th’ boy haway while Snowy Wing his halwez habout ’im. Yer’d get th’ rope, Potthouse, if anything happened him; hand so would Hi. And wot would be th’ use then?”

With fresh fear at their hearts the boys held their breath, and listened intently.

“Snowy Wing cud—cud be away on a nerrand,” Piggy replied, lowering his voice so that the eager listeners were forced to strain their ears at the crack to hear, “An’—an’ if yez could—could—”

But the voice lowered again, and the boys heard no more. “Don’t be frightn’t, Herrick,” Snowy said when they lay on the bag bed an hour later, “Hi’ll stick close to yer, an’ if they means any ’arm ter you we’ll both clear hoff.”


Chapter 19
In the Fire Wid ’ Ud

Next morning there was a change in manner of Piggy and Mrs. Potthouse—a change which became more marked as the day wore on. They were moody, and silent, and displayed no inclination to ill-treat or abuse Snowy and Eric.

“It’s a-weighin’ on ’es chest,” Snowy chuckled to Eric, when, after being allowed to take their tea without a growl or grumble, they were retiring to the barn. “Theer both a cuttin’ up rough hon’ th’ five ’undred. Hoh! But theer hain’t no time ter waste, Herrick. We won’t go hinto the barn jist yet; we’ll cut round hand take our seats hin ’th’ cold storage afore the bloke comes.” And scarcely had they carried out this resolution when their ears detected a commotion above that warned them of the arrival of Mr. Fitzrobertson. Footsteps, and the sound of chairs being moved hurriedly about, were plainly audible in the “cold storage”; then words that could scarcely be heard were interchanged at the door.

The footsteps crossed the room; the legs of the old rickety chairs scraped the floor just above the heads of the two boys, and voices fell clear and distinct upon their ears.

“Well,” Fitzrobertson said, “have you got the five hundred, Piggy?”

“I—I—have,” Piggy replied, in a trembling voice; “but before I—I—give ud to yez, Harry Ryle—”

“Fitzrobertson, if you please,” the other interrupted.

“Before I—I—gives ud to yez,” Piggy went on, “jest yez han’—hand th’ will to th’ old woman.”

“I’ve got it here, all right.”

A pause, and a crackling of paper followed.

“That looks like it; now, where’s the boodle?”

There was a pause on the part of Piggy, accompanied by the rustling of something.

“Is—is ud witnessed be—be anyone?” in a nervous, shaky voice.

“That’s William Brown’s signature, isn’t it?” (another rustle) “and that’s John—”

A loud shriek from Mrs. Potthouse suddenly filled the kitchen, and penetrated to the “cold storage.” A curse from Fitzrobertson followed, then nothing but the noise of falling furniture and hisses and oaths could be heard. A fierce struggle was being waged.

Snowy and Eric clutched each other in their dark hole, and gasped and shook with excitement.

“Curse you! Let go, you she devil! or I’ll—strangle you!” fell from Fitzrobertson.

Several thuds came, and a series of shrieks from Mrs. Potthouse.

“In the fire wid ud! In the fire! In th’ fire!” Piggy cried, wildly.

This was instantly followed by the sound of a heavy blow, and the voice of Piggy groaned, “I’m kilt! I’m kilt!” Someone fell heavily on the floor, and Fitzrobertson cried: “You old dog, where is it! Hand out the money, or I’ll do for the two of you!”

A roar like the bellow of an enraged bull came from Piggy, and again he cried: “In the fire wid ud!”

The combatants shifted ground. The struggle was going on near the door.

“Inti th’ house—th’ house!” excitedly, from Piggy.

“I’ll tear you to pieces, but I’ll have every fraction of it!” Fitzrobertson hissed. Several blows in succession, sounded clearly; then an enraged howl from Piggy, and yells of “Bite th’ dog! Bite th’ dog!”

The parties fell through the door, and the struggle was renewed without. Only the loud shrieks of Mrs. Potthouse now reached the “cold storage.” Cold beads of perspiration were rolling off Snowy and Eric. Their little hearts were rattling like kettledrums. Snowy’s eagerness to know how the fight was going was uncontrollable. “I’ll ’ave a look,” he whispered. Eric clutched him, but didn’t speak. Snowy shoved the slab up cautiously. A scroll of paper lying lightly across the crack in the floor, tumbled through on to Eric’s lap. At the feel of the document, his fingers grasped it, and he nudged Snowy.

“Theer goin’ hin hat it ’amer and tongs houtside,” he said, “like wild haneemals . . . But wot were thet fell hin, Herrick?”

“Don’t know,” Eric whispered back. “Paper o’ some kind,” pushing the scroll into the groping hand of Snowy.

“Hoh, Crikey!” he said. “It might be what hall th’ ‘moosh’ is erbout.”

Slipping and sliding of boots, and more oaths became audible again.

“I’ve got the money out of you,” the voice of Fitzrobertson exclaimed, in angry triumph, “so you can do what you d— well like now with the will!”

“But I—I—haven’t ud!” Piggy cried furiously.

“Well, if you haven’t, she has!” was the answer.

“Have yez ud?” was yelled by Piggy to his wife.

“ ’E took it, th’ lyin’ robbin’ gaol-bird!” Mrs. Potthouse squealed. “Don’t let ’im hout; don’t let ’im!” And another scuffle commenced.

“Back!” in a stem voice from Fitzrobertson. “Back! or I’ll scatter your brains on the fire! You pair of toothless tigers. Were I free to act the part of the honest man, I would take it from you, even now, and put the son of Harry Ryle in possession of every stick of property you have. But I’ll leave you, as it suits me, to enjoy your ill-gotten gains.” Then steps were heard crossing the floor, and the kitchen door opened and closed with a loud bang.

“Dang me, Herrick!” Snowy whispered, with fresh excitement. “Hi believes ’e means you.”

Eric made no answer, but his heart beat faster. The man’s words had sent a strange thrill through him. The warm blood coursed and tingled through his veins, and his crowded brain reeled.

A hasty nudge from Snowy, in warning of what was going on above ground, however, dispelled the thoughts that had flashed into his mind.

“Tell me if yez have—have got ud, woman!” Piggy groaned despairingly.

“Hit’s God’s trutht that Hi ’aven’t!” the hag answered. “Hi tried ter throw hit hinter th’ fire, but ’e kitched me wrist.”

“Then—then he have ud still, th’ th’ damn robber! Oh, lorrd! oh, lorrd! an’, an’, he will blackmail me all my life!”

“Well, hit’s a pity,” Mrs. Potthouse said, “that yer didn’t stab ’im when yer had theh chancet, yer chicken ’earted fool, yer; who would ’a know’d?”

“Oh, it is; it is; it is!” Piggy sighed, heavily, and proceeded to tramp restlessly about.

“Hand yer let ’im tear th’ money hout o’ yer pocket?” came in angry censure from the hag. “Hoh, yer wuz halwez a ’elpless coward! Hi hain’t a man meself (lifting her voice to the highest key), but Hi would ’ave fought ’im hup ter me knees in blood afore I would a give hin!”

“May be it—it were dropped outside,” Piggy suggested humbly, and hopelessly.

“Well, for th’ love o’ ’eaven, let’s ’ave a look then!” Mrs. Potthouse answered. Next moment they both left the kitchen to search for the lost will.

“Hi believe we’ve got what theer harfter, Herrick,” Snowy chuckled. “Hi thinks this merst be it,” touching his companion with the document. “Hoh, Crikey! they’ve a nice chancet o’ gettin’ it hout o’ hus. We’ll see hif theer’s any writint on it when we gets ter ther barn.”

Leaving the “cold storage,” and stealing quietly out from under the house, Snowy and Eric ran through the darkness, like frightened emus, and entered the barn, where nought but the loud snores of White Ants disturbed the eerie silence. Lighting the slush lamp, they prepared to turn in for the night.

“We’ll jest see hif there’s any writint hon it,” Snowy said, unfolding the will, and crouching close to the light with it in his hand.

“Hoh, Crikey!” he exclaimed, when his eyes rested on the hieroglyphics; “hit’s full o’ it.”

Eric drew close, and peered curiously over his shoulder. Snowy proceeded to read:

“This his th’ lost will hand—hand er tes—”

There was a noise at the door of the barn. They both started up and listened.

“Are yez asleep in, in there, Snowy Wing?” Piggy growled. Snowy hurriedly concealed the document in the folds of his shirt, and feeling as guilty as a thief, answered, with a stammer: “N—no—no, Sir.”

“Well, when yez get up in th’ mornin’,” Piggy said, “keep yez eyes about yez, an’, an’, if yez see a, a paaper wid writin’ on ud bring ud ter me; I’m lukin’ for ud.”

Snowy gained confidence.

“Hoh, horlright, Sir,” he replied, “Hi’ll ’ave a good look, Sir; an’ if Hi seez it—”

“Bring it ter me at wonst,” Piggy said, cutting him short, “d’yer hear?”

“Yes, Sir; Hi’ll be sure ter, Sir.”

“Then don’t forget ud!” And Piggy went away.

“Hoh, Crikey, Herric!” Snowy said, throwing himself on the bed. “The Dago nearly copt us red ’anded! Hoh, it won’t do ter chancet it any more ter night, Hi’ll put it away in me tin, halong with me Savings’ Bank, an’ me privet papers, lest ’e comes sneakint back again. Hoh, gee wiz, what a bonser joke ter go lookin’ fer it in th’ mornin’. Crikey, hain’t ’e a soft un, Herric!”

“But it’s not ours, you know, Snowy,” Eric said, after reflection. “Do you think we should keep it when it isn’t?”

“Think we should keep it?” Snowy repeated, with surprise. “Yer don’t think we should give it ter ’im, do yer? Why, ’e wouldn’t be arter it if it wern’t waluable ter some one. Hoh, no; we don’t give it ter ’im. We might shows it ter Ray McKay when we reads whats hin it. Howsomever, hits goin’ ter be kept safe fer ter night, an’ we’ll ’unt ’igh an’ low fer it, termorrer.” And chuckling to himself, Snowy arranged his “doss,” and jumped into bed.

After lying, thinking’ in the dark for sometime, he said: “Ray McKay sez th’ weights ’ll be out soon. He ’opes we wins th’ Cup, an’ th’ five ’undred pound with Newchum. . . Don’t you, Herrick?”

But Eric, worn out with the strain and excitement of the evening, was already fast asleep.


Chapter 20
At the Parsons

The Winter months had passed, and it was Summer again. Mrs. McKay, the wife of the parson at Longer-Linger, was knitting at the window in the sitting-room of the manse. Looking out, she saw old Mrs. McSturt and Beatrice Appleby coming through the garden gate, and, throwing aside her work, ran to the verandah to welcome them.

“An’ how are you the day?” Mrs. McSturt said, as they entered the room. “We’ve been thinking we must have offended you at ‘Dunalkie,’ it’s so long sin’ you were there.”

“Well, it has been my loss, Mrs. McSturt,” Mrs. McKay answered. “But my hands have been so very full, you know. I’ve been helping the girls with the sewing for the bazaar, and I don’t know if you have heard, but both Mrs. McNeil and her husband are down with influenza, poor bodies, and I’ve been doing what I could for them.”

“She never has any time for herself,” Beatrice put in. “Always helping and thinking of someone else. That would never do for me; I’m afraid I’m too selfish.”

“Well, may be then,” Mrs. McSturt said, with a knowing look, “there’ll come a day, and perhaps it’s no’ so far off, when you’ll find little time or inclination to gang oot yoursel’, my lassie. Eh, see her blush, Mrs. McKay?”

Beatrice laughed.

“Well,” Mrs. McSturt continued, turning to her hostess. “A’ this week I’ve had my own hands quite fu’ too. I spent a’ day Tuesday sortin’ and cleanin’ three bags o’ faithers that I were four years accumulatin’.”

“Feathers!” from Mrs. McKay, with a look of surprise. “What on earth kind of feathers, dear?”

“Why, hen’s faithers, of course. It’s what I make a’ my pillows out o’. McSturt wouldn’t gi’ you thankyer for any other kind. An’ on Wednesda’ Jeaney an’ mysel’ were washin’ oot th’ blankets (breaking into a cheerful chuckle, and lowering her voice). But ye mus’na tell I told you this: (the others smilingly nodded their heads) Well, she didna want to wet her skirts when she would be trampin’ th’ blankets, so what did she do, think yer? (the others smiled expectantly) She pulled on a pair o’ her brothers’ pants, an’ stepped into the tub on top o’ the blankets wi’ her bare feet. (Screams of laughter from her audience.) An’ who should walk into the corner o’ th’ washhouse, quite unexpec’ed, but auld Piggy Potthouse! (more laughter) Eh! an’ he’s been tellin’ it a’ roon th’ country; an’ she’s awfu’ wild aboot it. But you musna’ say I telt you.”

The others cheerfully pledged themselves to secrecy; then Mrs. McKay left the room to prepare her visitors a cup of tea.

“As I was sayin’, Beatrice,” Mrs. McSturt took the opportunity of remarking in a hoarse whisper, “I don’t at all approve o’ the way this wi’ body’s son is going aboot wi’ that good for naething, Fitzrobertson.”

Beatrice smiled good naturedly, and said:

“Oh, I don’t think there’s any harm in Mr. Fitzrobertson, Mrs. McSturt. He’s cynical and all that, but he appears to be a gentleman; and I’m sure a gentleman would not do anything dishonorable.”

“Maybe he’s a gentleman in appearance,” Mrs. McSturt replied, “but ye canna always go by appearances; and there’s something about this gentleman’s appearance that I distrust.” Beatrice laughed lightly.

“Anyway,” Mrs. McSturt continued, “you have some influence with the lad, so strive my lass to keep him away from Fitzrobertson, if you care anything for him.”

Beatrice shrugged her shoulders.

“Ah, you may shrug, you may pout an’ pu’ faces, but you canna deceive Vi McSturt.”

Mrs. McKay returned with a loaded tea-tray, and a plate of home-made scones, and the party sat and supped, and talked about fancy work and the bazaar for an hour and more.

“You’ll show me how the plants are doing that I sent you ower wi’ John,” Mrs. McSturt said; and leaving Beatrice absorbed in the family album they rose and went into the little garden.

Ray McKay flushed and heated after a sharp ride across the plains with Fitzrobertson arrived at the manse on a blood horse “You’re wanted most particular in the hoose,” Mrs. McSturt said to him as he raised his hat and dismounted, “so dinna lose no time.”

Ray, in riding boots and breeches, entered the sitting room, and with a face beaming with smiles joined Beatrice.

“Well, little one,” he said, taking a seat close beside her and winding his arm around her waist, “how’s the racing stable and the world-beater, Newchum, getting along? Is he thoroughly wound up yet, or does his trainer advise a few days in the plough to top him off? Raymond McKay’s chestnut gelding, Newchum, seven stone six,” he went on breaking into a laugh, “looked well, in the paper, didn’t it? Fitzrobertson wanted to know this morning what horse it was, and I could only tell him it was a dark horse, Beatrice.”

Beatrice laughed.

“Oh, the poor little chaps,” she said, “they’re both awfully excited about it, and they think the world of you, Ray. I have made a red silk jacket for Eric to ride the race in, and you should have seen how proud he looked when he tried it on. Snowy said it was a ‘bonser’.”

They both laughed.

“A red silk jacket,” Ray repeated, maliciously, “and a pair of bran-bag riding pants, with 28lbs. overweight down the legs of them, will look attractive on the lawn, Beatrice.”

They laughed together again.

“Oh, it’s a shame to poke fun,” Beatrice said; “but I told them, Ray, that you would be able to fix them on the course with anything else they wanted.”

“The devil, you did, Bea—”

They were disturbed.

Mrs. McKay and Mrs. McSturt were mounting the steps, and Ray and Beatrice suddenly separated, and became interested in the pictures on the wall.

“Sosh! Raymond,” Mrs. McSturt said, “you’re most absorbed. Permeet me to introduce you to Mr. Raymond McKay, Miss Appleby.”

“Oh, we’ve met before,” Ray said, with a smile.

“Well, by your looks, I would have thocht you were strangers.”

Beatrice blushed, while the others smiled.

When it was time to leave, and Ray McKay was escorting the visitors to the gate, Beatrice said:

“If we don’t see you at ‘Todmorden’ before we leave for town, Ray; you know where to find us in race week? And don’t forget (with a laugh) the Cup is run on Friday.”

“I’m hardly likely to, Beatrice,” Ray answered, opening the gate, “not when I have a chestnut gelding, called Newchum, entered for it.”


Chapter 21
At the Circus

It was only three days to the Toowoomba races—only three days, till Eric would ride Newchum for the Clifford Cup, and a stake of five hundred guineas.

The boys hurriedly finished their tea, and were in the barn, preparing to go out, unknown to Piggy, for the evening. A travelling circus had struck the township, and Snowy and Eric had made up their minds to see the performance. Apart from putting in a pleasant evening, they saw possibilities of doing business.

“I see th’ tent an’ all th’ ’orses when I were at th’ store, ter day, Herrick,” Snowy said, enthusiastically. “They’s a lot o’ donkeys, too, Herrick; and a buckin’ mule, an’ they gives a prize o’ ten shillin’s ter any bloke as can stick ther mule. Ten bob is jist wot we wants ter feed Newchum, an’ pay our way inter th’ races with . . . If Hi can’t stick ter ’im, I reckons you hought ter, Herrick, an’ pretty heasy. Hi’ll lift er bob from me savins bank, ter pay fer th’ two of us.”

Then, procuring the shilling from the tin which was hidden under the flooring, he added: “Now, where’s me coat, Herrick?”

Disturbing the foot of his “doss,” he dragged a long, swallow tail coat, that was left him as a legacy by an Irish immigrant, who had worked a week or two for Piggy, into the light, and slipped into the ill-fitting garment with as much satisfaction and confidence as another person would a coat he had been fitted for. The tails of it reached to his bare calfs, and to give his hands full fling the sleeves were turned well back, displaying two broad bands of lining that resembled elaborate silk cuffs. And with hair standing on end, his bootless feet showing beneath the coat, Snowy looked a prehistoric prince in fancy costume. It was the first time Eric had seen his friend in full dress, and with a smile of amusement lighting his face, stood contemplating his figure as he moved about.

“Hoh, me coat?” Snowy said, in reply to a remark from Eric. And locking his two hands under the tails of it, he walked round like a pea-cock, and tossed his head from side to side in self-admiration. “Hi got it from Paddy Moriarty, a jimmygrant what comed ’ere ter work. Hoh, Crikey,” memories of his benefactor causing him to chuckle, “yer should ’a seen what Paddy called ’es swag! ’E ’ad ’es bed in it, an’ a lot o’ sheets, hand ernough hother things ter open a shop with. ’E wuz all clothes, an’ when ’e wuz leavin’ ’e thought ’e would lighten th’ swag a bit, an’ gave this bit o’ material ter me” (looking down at the fall of the coat). “It suits me a lot better’n it did ’im though. ’E uset ter wear stockin’s with it, like a woman, an’ looked a real trick.”

Then, clapping a slouch hat on his head, and feeling his pocket, to make sure the shilling was there, Snowy was ready to make a start.

“We’ll cut through the lucerne,” he said, leading the way to the door, “an’ acrost Regan’s paddock; it’s the shortest.” Then, when out in the yard, he added, in a whisper, “Walk heasy, Herrick, or ther mongrels ’ll start barkin’ if they don’t know who we are, an’ fetch ’im hout ter see wot’s up.”

“I don’t think they’ll know it’s you then, Snowy,” Eric answered, the humorous figure his friend and mentor had cut in the light still occupying his thoughts, and tickling his risible faculties.

“Damn them! Hi thought they would!” Snowy ejaculated, angrily, as the canines suddenly started up and rushed noisily across the yard. “We’ll ’ave ter cut fer it, Herrick.” And setting the pace, Snowy went full speed ahead, with Eric panting at his heels. Like a pack of wolves the dogs pursued, and serenaded them all the way to the lucerne paddock. At the fence they stopped for breath, and groping about for missiles, pelted the brutes in the dark.

Away behind, at the house, the voice of Piggy was wafted on the night:

“Pincher! Pincher! Caesar! Stumpy!” he called; “come ’ere, boys, come here.”

“The Dago ’ll find hus hout fer certint,” Snowy murmured, leading the way again; “but it dersn’t matter. We are payin’ hour own way, an’ it’s worth a tannin’ if we gets ther ten bob.” The flaring torchlights that showed the entrance to the circus, and illuminated the tall, adjacent pine trees, ornamenting the storekeeper’s residence, and revealing the dim forms of the storekeeper himself, and the local banker, and the baker, and the commission agent ascending to the limbs of them to secure a vice-regal view of the show, came full in sight. Then the blare of a broken-winded cornet and the thump! thump! of the big drum broke upon their ears. The music was heaven to the waifs. Its effect upon them was electrical. Snowy nearly jumped out of his coat.

“Hoh! ’ear th’ band!” he exclaimed. “Come hon, Herrick!” And on he bounded, like a deer, never pausing again till he stood in the full glow of the torchlights.

“Fer two,” he gasped, pushing several females aside, and delivering up the shilling to the painted, pallid faced doorkeeper. “This little bloke an’ me,” grabbing Eric by the sleeve, and dragging him after him. A remark passed on his personal appearance and the giggling it provoked among those in the rear were lost on Snowy.

Inside the tent, he tilted his slouch hat back over his forehead, and locking his hands under his coat-tails again, Snowy sauntered around, surveying the interior like a captain taking observations from a ship’s deck. Eric, with a shy, self-conscious look, kept close to his side.

The eyes of those who had taken their seats were turned on the two boys, each inviting the other to “look at Potthouse’s orphan boys.”

The boss storekeeper from his exalted perch in the pine trees, discovered their presence, and in an amused tone, called the banker’s and the baker’s and the commission agent’s attention to them. The banker, in his hurry to obtain a clearer view, broke several branches, and incurred the storekeeper’s wrath.

“Mind what you’re doing!” he growled. “If you’re going to watch the circus from here, you needn’t break all my shade trees down.”

“Wot hoh! Snowy!” came in greeting across the ring, from the boy who worked at Regan’s. “Is yer goin’ ter ride ’im?”

“In arf a tick, Stinker,” Snowy shouted, cheerfully, back.

There was a loud laugh, and all eyes were turned to locate the individual who answered to the odorous appellation.

“Are you going to ride him in that coat?” a gruff voice bellowed from the back.

“Arst yer ol’ man!” Snowy replied; and a burst of mirth rang out at the expense of the man with the gruff voice.

The storekeeper and the banker, in the boughs of the pines, joined in the merriment. The banker’s foot slipped off the limb in the exertion, and the heel of his boot made a dint in the baker’s head. The baker was moved to bad language, and asked the banker if he had a mortgage on the whole (unprintable) tree!

“Heigh, Mister!” Snowy said, button-holing one of the officials, who, at the moment, was hurrying through the ring with a hammer and a wooden peg in his hand. “Is ther buckin’ mule ter be fust?”

“In five minutes,” the man said, and hurried on.

“Hoh, Crikey! Woh!” Snowy exclaimed, in a sudden fit of jubilation; and tucking his head under his chest, and contorting his body to the shape of a horse bucking, commenced “rooting” in rare style through the ring.

The audience yelled, and cheered him.

Snowy squealed, like an outlaw, and threw up the dust, while the tails of his coat fell over his head and flapped like sails. The storekeeper, in the excitement of the moment, lost his grip of the pine-tree, and slipped on the banker’s neck. The banker shifted his footing, and stood heavily on the baker’s fingers, that were clasping a limb. The baker took revenge in profanity and useless argument, and annoyed the commission agent, who threatened to stick a knife in him if he didn’t keep silent.

The yells of the audience attracted the officials. They rushed in. The clown took in the situation at a glance. “Woh! woh!” he cried. “The mule’s broke loose after takin’ his feed o’ ginger. Woh!” and he threw sawdust over Snowy. The crowd howled their delight. Snowy bucked on. “Woh!” the clown called again; then kicked Snowy hard on his coat end. Snowy stopped suddenly, and ran out of the ring, feeling the part that was kicked, while the spectators roared their appreciation of his performance.

“He’s a quiet mule, though you wouldn’t think it,” the clown explained. “It’s the rug they put on him that made him buck.”

Snowy met the round of mirth that followed the clown’s remarks, with a broad, cheerful grin.

The bell tingled, and a rake of a horse trotted into the ring and plunged, and kicked and jumped in amongst the spectators, and disorganised them, when the ring-master cracked his whip at him, and commanded him to lie down, and go to sleep. The ringmaster stared disappointedly at the fractious brute, then consulted a brother official. While they had their heads together, one of the audience made a discovery.

“That’s the publican’s old chestnut,” he bellowed. Then a score of voices echoed: “The publican’s old moke! Take him out!” Some more started hooting, while others laughed boisterously at the presence of the impostor.

The ring-master held up his hand, to appeal for silence. Then, in indignant tones, he complained of a practical joke having been played on his show. “Some person,” he said, pointing the finger of scorn at the publican’s horse, “has substituted that thing for our own trick horse, which, in appearance, is his double.”

This announcement was received with a burst of hilarity from the merry assemblage. The publican’s chestnut was ignominiously pelted out of the ring with sawdust, and felt hats, and the bucking mule brought in.

“A sum of 10s.,” the ring-master said, “will be given to any boy under sixteen who can sit this mule for half a minute.”

Snowy looked the enemy over calmly, then taking off his coat, which he handed to Eric, strode into the ring. His advance was encouraged with several rounds of laughter from the audience, and a dozen watches were taken out to check the time for him.

The agent’s view of the entertainment became obscured, and he threatened the baker’s life, if he didn’t push himself further into the pine-tree. The baker appealed to the banker for more accommodation; but the banker was too excited to hear him.

The ring-master held the mule firmly by the head, and said: “Are you right?”

“Right! lettim went! Woh!” Snowy shouted. The mule went. So did Snowy—but in a different direction. And while he was spitting, and gathering himself up out of the dust, the crowd enjoyed him.

Three, four, five more boys, and one with whiskers, rushed into the ring to try their skill. In due course, the mule put them all down and trampled on their chests.

“’Ere!” Snowy cried, dragging Eric forward, “this little bloke ’ll ride ’im!”

“A whole sovereign if he does,” the ring-master answered, boastfully.

“Wait till ’e’s hon right!” Snowy appealed, angrily; “give th’ littel bloke a proper chancet.”

The crowd sided with Snowy, and cheered him, and barracked for “a fair deal.”

Eric settled himself firmly on the mule’s back.

The circus man cried “Right!” Then jabbed the animal in the ribs with a spur.

The mule went off like a blast of dynamite, rising and twirling as though he were caught in a mighty whirlwind.

“Stick ter ’im! Stick ter ’im, Herrick!” Snowy shouted, bounding frantically about the ring, with his hat in one hand and his coat in the other.

The spectators rose and cheered, and crowded the space. The storekeeper in the tree slipped back on the banker, and the banker, a man of mild and gentle disposition, broke several of the Commandments.

“Hoh! Herrick! Hoh! Stick—stick—stick ter ’m!” came anxiously from Snowy.

Around the ring, and across the ring, and up and down the ring, the mule bucked, his hoofs walloping the earth every time he landed on it, like so many flails. But, like a piece of beeswax, Eric stuck fast to his back.

Snowy threw away his coat, and with bent back and both hands on his knees, watched every motion of the mule, muttering to himself.

“Hoh, Herrick! Hoh! hoh! hoh!”

“Time!” burst loudly from a spectator. Then, “Time!” “Time!” “Time!” was echoed all around the ring.

The mule, as though he understood the meaning of the cries, made a final effort. But it was useless.

“’Ooray! ’Ooray!” Snowy shouted, and falling upon Eric, dragged him, amid deafening cheers, to the ring-master, and cried into that official’s ear:

“Come hon, hout with yer quid; ’e rode ’im.”

“Take your time; anyone would think it was you who rode him,” the circus man snapped.

The audience took a hand in the argument. It feared repudiation, and howled, “Pay! Pay! Pay!”

Then the showman’s hand went to his pocket, and he handed Eric the stake.

Snowy nearly bounded over the open tent, as he shouted: “We’se got ther bloomin’ quid; our fortens made. ’Ooray!” Then, seizing Eric by the hand:

“Come hon! we won’t stay no longer ’ere, Herrick; we’ll cut hoff, an’ see if ther nose bag’s hon Newchum, so’s ’e can’t be heatin grass. Han’ we’ll rub’ im down ergain. Hoh, come hit, Herrick.”

Ten minutes later they were streaking through Regan’s paddock.


Chapter 22
On the Road to the Races

It was the night before the races. Snowy and Eric had returned to the barn, after treating Newchum to his final rub down, and fastening the nose-bag on him, with a good supply of Piggy’s oats in it, and were in bed, plotting and planning their departure in the morning.

“Everythink’s ready, an’ we’ll ’ave ter be hup be three o’clock, Herrick,” Snowy said, “an’ git away with ’im before there’s hanyone erbout. Hit’s twenty mile ter Toowoomba, an’ it’ll take hus five hours or more ter lead ’im in. Hoh! Crikey! won’t ther Dago an’ ’er go ter market when they’se finds we’se missin’; ther circus night won’t be hennerthin’ ter it! But wot his ter be his ter be, Herrick! An’ we’ll give ther cows a start ter ther yard fer ’im as we goes hup ther paddick, if we comes acrost hany o’ them, so’s ’e won’t ’ave so fer ter look fer them. Han’ when we comes back, termorrer night, Herrick, we might be hable ter settle ’im be sayin’, ‘ ’Ere, ’ere’s twenty quid fer yer, which is more’n yer lost be givin’ hus ’er ’oliday.’ Hoh, Crikey! Herrick! Hi ’opes we wins it.”

“I don’t think there’s any horse can race Newchum,” Eric replied, with boyish confidence.

Then, settling themselves, with their minds fixed on an early start, the boys relaxed into silence, and closed their eyes to a light sleep. Had they the faintest knowledge, however, that Tom Mullett, in taking a short cut that day through Piggy’s property, came across Newchum in the windmill paddock, and was so startled and tempted by his change of appearance that at that very moment, when they had closed their eyes, he was making preparations to steal him at daylight next morning, they would have started for the races right away, instead of going off to sleep.

It could not have been more than half-past three when the two waifs, cautiously leading Newchum through the dark, emerged from the thick box-tree timber, and came out on to the main Toowoomba road, and an hour later the outline of a horseman might have been seen riding round and round Piggy’s windmill paddock, with a look of disappointment in his face, and a halter hanging loosely round his horse’s neck.

With light, hopeful spirits, the boys stepped briskly along the broad, well-beaten road, one leading the horse by the bridle-rein, the other holding the stirrup-iron.

A sudden peal of laughter from a family of jackasses on the ridge, rang out the first herald of the coming day, and, passing the venerable, crumbling yards at Eton Vale, that had held untold mobs of surging, ringing cattle, “spear-horned and curly, red, spotted and starred” from the pioneering days of Arthur Hodgson, to the passing of that great landed estate, the dawn was breaking on the ridge-lands that skirted the range, and flushing down the never-ending plain.

Removing his coat, for the sake of comfort, Snowy carried it across his arm.

Crossing the wooden bridge that spanned the creek at the station homestead, and afforded shelter to a slumbering swagman beneath, they crossed the flat and started up the long hill, and reached the top, with the rising of the sun. Halting for half-an-hour by the roadside, they fed Newchum from the nosebag that hung from the saddle dee, and broke their own fast on some bread and meat that Snowy had thoughtfully procured from the “cold storage.” On slowly again, past the ancient station hut, and Smith’s Gate, where the aged and solitary Moreton Bay fig reared its massive green foliage; past Rosevale, the famous stud farm, the early home and nurse of Nemo, of Goldfinder, of Bendigo, of Greygown, Megaphone, and many other champion performers on the Australian turf, and the stable and training ground of My Love, the unbeaten black mare, and first favorite for the Cup. A string of horses, in their gaudy colored “clothes” was returning from their morning work; sweet-smelling hay tumbling in rolls and bundles from the stable lofts; windmills spinning and throbbing on the morning breeze, and all seemed life and activity at the farm. A neat, slightly-built horseman rode out of the big white gates, on a flighty hack, and, for the first time since leaving Daisy Vale, Snowy and Eric heard the sound of a voice, other than their own.

“What’s that?” the horseman said, steadying his hack, as he came up in the rear, and running a critical eye over the form of Newchum.

“A racer,” Snowy answered, proudly.

“What’s his name?”


The horseman looked closer at Newchum, and knitted his brow, as if something was puzzling his brain.

“Newchum!” he soliloquised, aloud. Then, as if remembering what he had been trying to recall: “Oh, that’s the horse McKay has running in the Cup.”

“’E’s hours, but—” Snowy answered, with the pride of ownership in his eyes.

“Yours!” the horseman said, with a grin. “What would you be doing with a horse like that?”

“’E berlongs ter this little bloke’s father,” came from Snowy.

“And are you his trainer?” the other asked. And when Snowy, with an old-fashioned shake of the head answered in the affirmative, the horseman grinned, and asked further: “And who’s going to ride him?”

“This little bloke,” and Snowy indicated Eric, with his thumb.

“All right,” the horseman added, with another grin. “I’ll see him there—I’m riding, too.” And he quickened his pace.

“High, Mister!” Snowy called after him. “Heigh!”

He pulled up short, and leaning back over the saddle, put his hand to the back of his ear.

“Wot orst ’ll yeou be hon?” Snowy inquired.

“Oh! a little black mare,” was the answer; “but don’t be afraid of her, she’s not much good.” And the horseman rode on again.

“Yer wouldn’t ’ave much chancet, anyway,” Snowy yelled after him, at the top of his voice; but the other showed no signs of having heard him.

On they went, through the deserted streets of old Drayton, where a number of boys, about their own size, greeted them as strange curiosities.

“We’ll take that ’orse from you!” one called out, Snowy turned his head, and shouted back:

“Yer’d take a pretty photergrapht hafter yer tried hit hon!”

And a couple of loungers on a pub verandah hailed them: “Where are y’ takin’ th’ horse to, Jack?” one asked, with a glint of admiration in his eye.

“Takin’ ’im ter win the Cup,” Snowy replied.

“Is he one of Finney’s?” the other inquired.

“No; ’e berlongs ter hus,” was the curt answer. And the loungers laughed, and watched the waifs till they were out of sight.

The last few miles were slowly covered, and with Newchum looking fresh and fit, they rounded the hospital corner, and entered the main street of Toowoomba at nine o’clock.

Remembering Ray McKay’s advice, given to them a few days before, the boys inquired the way to Smith’s Hotel. And being safely directed there by a man in an apron, they were received with an amused smile, and a kindly word by the genial proprietor.


Chapter 23
At Smiths Hotel

The hotel proprietor took a fatherly interest in Snowy and Eric. He invited them to a good breakfast, and directed a groom to give Newchum special care and attention. At regular intervals he accompanied his numerous custom from the bar to the stable to “show them a starter for the Cup,” and asked their opinion of him. He introduced them, too, to the “trainer and rider,” both of whom the whole time sat in the dirt near the open stall guarding Newchum like two faithful watch-dogs. The “custom” stared in admiration at the dark chestnut, who, with his coat now shining like a new shilling and his long tail combed out, looked a work of art; then they turned with wondering eyes to the careless, neglected looking waifs. One and another carried the news into the streets, till the stable-yard was filled with men and boys eager to see the “two queer-looking country kids who had a horse running in the Cup.”

Eric, shy and reserved, shrank from their curious gaze and evaded their interrogations; but Snowy met them all with an air of supreme confidence and unmistakable superiority.

“Well, yer don’t think we’s walked hall ther way hinter ’ere fer nothink, d’ yer?” he said to one who satirically inquired if he was going to win.

“I suppose you’ll get a new coat, then, Joe?” another added with a wink at his companions, causing them all to chuckle.

“’Ere,” Snowy said, elevating his big bare foot with a load of dust on it, “’Ave a pull at this.” And the laugh went against the shrewd city man.

“He’s out of the Ark, all right,” a third remarked in a loud voice, as he turned away.

“Yes,” Snowy shouted, rising to his feet. “Hi wuz Norah’s Harc hangel; an’ these,” lifting the tails of his long coat and flapping them about his body, “wuz me wings.”

Then, turning and speaking in a serious tone to Eric, he said: “Hi thinks hit’s time we wuz gettin’ hout with ’im, Herrick. Three erclock th’ race starts, han’ it’s hafter twelve, now.” In silence Eric rose and took possession of the horse.

The racecourse lay about a mile and a half from the town; and the road to it, as Snowy and Eric led Newchum along, followed frantically by a galaxy of city urchins, was thronged with pedestrians and people on horseback. All manners of cabs, carriages, sulkies, dog-carts, and vehicles of every description, heavily laden with passengers, were whirled furiously along in thick clouds of red dust. Mounted police, military men in gorgeous uniforms, bushmen of every degree arrayed in spurs and their Sunday clothes, all pressed eagerly forward.

The man on the gate, with a broad grin, admitted Snowy and Eric amidst clamours and cries of “Here y’ are, race-cards one shilling,” from a band of energetic boys. And a steward directed them to a stall provided for Newchum, and volunteered other useful information, and delivered a message from Mr. Ray McKay to them.

The eyes of the bewildered-looking country waifs danced and sparkled as they beheld the scene within the grounds. To paint their feelings of surprise, of wonder, of delight, what a genius one would need to be! A great concourse of people were moving about the grounds, and promenading on the green, closely-shaven lawns. Crowds of elegant women, dressed in all the colours of the rainbow, tripped leisurely about, their silk ribbons streaming from them, their coloured shades and petticoats, their hose and furbelow showing in the sun. Longcoated, bell-toppered men with umbrellas twirling in their hands, and field-glasses slung over their shoulders, hob-nobbed with each other and paid visits to the stalls to inspect and discuss the form of the various horses. Jockeys boys in their silken jackets, carrying their saddles on their arms, hurried briskly from saddling-paddock to weighing-room, and from weighing-room to saddling-paddock. The Premier was there. Essex Evans was there. Jack M’Quade was there. A Cabinet Minister, who regulated his eye-glass at intervals and said “Haw!” was there. There were refreshment rooms there, where corks were popping and flying, and waiters rushing up and down, rattling glasses and breaking glasses, in their hurry to keep pace with the demands of the crowds that breasted the bars. The military band was playing; racehorses rearing and plunging in the hands of the grooms. A race was coming on. A jargon of voices adjacent to the lawn were lustily calling the odds: “Two to one bar one!” “Any money Laurel!” “Five to one Lady Lee!” “Twenty to one, Lord Clifton!” And a crowd of eager speculators surrounded the bookmakers. On the other side of the white palings rang out the voices of half a hundred spielers, all catering strenuously for the custom of the simple and the unwary; and above them all the husky, familiar roars of “Daylight,” the dark “sport,” as he hung over his improvised table and with his big white eyes glared threateningly at those who were slow to come forward and be relieved of their silver: “Now den, gen’lm’n, dis is der wery game dat’ll make you smile arter you’re dead! Dree timbles and dis little pea—wid a one, two, tree, an’ a two, tree, one—pick it when yer can, look on culose, keep yah eyes wide open, an’ never say die. Don’t mind der change, all fair wid dis coon an’ above board. Dem wot don’t play, can’t win; an’ yah liuck attend that royal sportsman. Bet yah any sum of yah own money,” and so on. Such a scene Snowy and Eric never even dreamed of ever seeing. And for a long interval they stood contemplating it all with a fixed gaze of strange and silent wonder. While they were thus engaged, Ray McKay, accompanied by Fitzrobertson and Beatrice, and several fashionable ladies, came along, and surprised them.

“Hoh!” Snowy ejaculated with a grin of pleased recognition. “We’s got ’ere horlright.”

“Hullo!” Ray McKay said, with a smile, as his eyes rested on Snowy’s coat. “You’ve got them all on to-day, Snowy. Where’s this racehorse we’ve heard so much about?”

And while Beatrice extended her daintily gloved hand to our ragged little heroes, and displayed more genuine joy at meeting them than she would have shown to an English prince, and introduced them to her smiling, amused-looking friends, Ray and Fitzrobertson turned their attention to Newchum. They were both taken aback, and with amazement depicted in their faces stood staring at the animal.

“This is not the horse, surely?” in a tone of inexpressible surprise, from Ray.

“That’s ’im,” Snowy said proudly. “Why, hain’t yer seen ’im before?”

“Oh! what a lovely creature!” Beatrice exclaimed. “And such a beautiful dark chestnut!”

McKay and Fitzrobertson exchanged several silent looks.

“By George, Beatrice!” Ray, in a burst of enthusiasm, remarked, “you were right in calling him a real racehorse.” Then he turned and eyed the boys for a moment, as if drawing a mental comparison between them and their horse.

Fitzrobertson, speaking kindly to the animal, passed into the stall, but Newchum, putting back his ears and displaying his teeth, resented the intrusion.

Beatrice laughed and said:

“Didn’t I tell you he wouldn’t allow anyone to put hands on him but themselves.”

“Fetch him out and let us have a look at him,” Fitzrobertson suggested.

Eric entered and led Newchum into the light of the bright, glorious summer day. The presence of the crowd perambulating round, the strange hubhub of the surroundings, and the strains of the brass band, had an exciting influence on Newchum. He elevated his head, his staring eye-balls flashed; he neighed, extended his massive, sweeping tail, and as he stamped restlessly round Eric, he looked a king of racehorses.

Beatrice went frantic about him, and attracted the attention of the passing crowds.

With the light of admiration sparkling in his eyes, Ray McKay stared, fidgeted, dragged at his moustache, and “cracked” all his fingers.

“Gad!” Fitzrobertson said, “what sort of a game is this you have on, McKay?”

“Upon my soul,” Ray replied, with a remorseful kind of laugh, “I never knew till now that he was the kind of horse he is.”

Fitzrobertson referred to the race-book that he held between his fingers.

“Good heavens!” he burst out, going ashy pale. “Leopold! French Lady!” Then he looked hard and long at Newchum; walked round him; bit his lip. His mysterious manner was not lost on Ray McKay. A sudden suspicion that something “crooked” might be associated with the horse, entered the mind of the latter, and in turn he went pale. Out of hearing of the ladies, who couldn’t command sufficient superlatives to express their admiration of the animal, he asked:

“What’s the matter, Fitz? Is there anything wrong about him?”

“No—Oh, no!” the other answered, “except that I fancy I knew him as a yearling, when I first visited Australia, and might have bought him for a song. But,” he added thoughtfully, “which of these boys do you say owns him?”

“Young Ryle—the little chap,” Ray McKay answered.

“Good God!” slipped from Fitzrobertson; then, looking at Eric, he asked:

“Was your father Harry Ryle, sonny?”

“’E were, yes,” Snowy answered, rushing the question before Eric had scarcely heard it. “Hit wer’ ’im what left Herric th’ ’orset afore ’e went hout West an’ died fer want o’ warter.”

With a visible effort Fitzrobertson concealed the effect Snowy’s words had upon him, and addressing Ray, said with assumed indifference: “Yes; it’s the same horse; Ryle bought him as a yearling from his friend, William McKenzie, who owned French Lady and won the Caulfield with her some years before.”

The cries of the betting ring had now become a Bedlam. The bell rang, and the crowds flocked like sheep to the white palings and ascended in droves to the stands.

“They’re coming out for the Welter,” Ray said eagerly. Then, addressing the waifs as he joined Beatrice and her friends: “I’ll be back as soon as this is over.”

“Well, I’ve no interest in this race,” Fitzrobertson said, raising his hat, “and if you don’t mind my absenting myself a little while, I’ll remain here and keep these young gentlemen company.”

“I think Hi knows you, some’ow,” Snowy said to him, when the others had hurried away. “Hi’ve seed you somewhere?”

“I don’t think so,” Fitzrobertson answered, looking him fair between the two eyes, and speaking in a resolute voice. “But even if you have, my boy, a wise man keepeth a still tongue in his head. Now, which of you is to ride the horse?”

“This bloke,” Snowy answered, referring to Eric.

“Can he ride?”

“Hoh! can’t ’e! Ride hanythink! Yer should ’ave seed ’im on ther buckint mule! An’ ’e’s a registered jock, now.”

“Have you been on this course, at all?” addressing Eric.

Eric shook his head in the negative.

“H’m! that’s a pity.”

“Well, look here. Cut over and watch this race closely, and see how they do things, and how it lies. It might help you a little.”

Eric, pleased at the opportunity, strolled off and took up a position at the palings, where he remained till the Welter was finished.

“What work has the horse been given?” Fitzrobertson inquired of Snowy.

Snowy told him of the morning gallops.

“And what sort of feed have you been putting into him?”

“Corn, han’ chaff, han’ hoats.”

“How does he seem to gallop?”

Motor cars, railway engines, the wind, or chainlightning, were all fools to him, according to Snowy.

“The boy’ll want a decent saddle and proper togs to ride in!”

“We ’as a saddle,” Snowy said, pointing with pride to the one they had made themselves, “An’ ’ere”—producing a paper parcel—“his ther red jackit han’ blue cap Miss Beatrice made fer ’im.”

“That saddle would never do!” Fitzrobertson answered with a smile. “I’ll fix him up.” And disappearing into the saddling rooms, returned in a minute or two, carrying a complete set of racing gear.

“Hoh! crikey!” Snowy ejaculated, as his eyes rested on the polished tackling. “Herric won’t know hisself hin them! Hoh, don’t Hi wisht Hi wuz hup hinstead o’ ’im!”


Chapter 24
The Race for the Cup

The moment had nearly come. The great and gaudy assemblage was flocking to the white palings again, and crowding on to every available inch of ground on the grassy elevations of the lawn. A sea of faces beamed from the stands where the multitudes were struggling for positions. The band played its best. The recording bell of the “totes” tinkled rapidly. Above the hum and babel of tongues the voices of the bookmakers, in their final appeal, rose in confusion: “Even money, My Love!” “Even money, My Love!” “Two to one Projectile!” “Two to one, Projectile!” “Two to one B.Y.!” “Two to one B.Y.!” “Five to one Yabba, Trance, and Tornado!” “Ten to one Coronella!” “Ten to one Coronella!” “Fifty to one Newchum!” “Fifty to one Newchum!” “Fifty to one Newchum!” “Even money My Love!” And the excitement rapidly increased.

Inside the smaller enclosure, Eric, arrayed beyond all recognition, in boots and breeches, red silk jacket and blue cap, came off the weighing scales and was lifted lightly on to Newchum by Ray McKay.

“Hoh, crikey, yer hought ter win, Herrick!” Snowy said, with tears of delight in his eyes.

“Now, don’t forget what I told you,” Fitzrobertson quietly counselled. “It’s two miles—twice round. Take no notice of what the other boys say to you. Don’t let him go to the front at the start. Keep about fourth if you can, all the way, till you’re turning into the straight; then, if there’s anything left in him, come! Ride like the devil—as if it was for your life—and use this”—handing him a whip. Eric, pale and solemn, nodded in silence, as he took the whip and adjusted his reins.

The crowds were waiting anxiously.

Lenniger, on the Sydney champion, Projectile, appeared on the course.

“They’re out!” a multitude of voices exclaimed. “They’re out. Number 17.”

Then quickly followed Tornado, Trance, Miribeau, Coronella, B.Y., Melbourne, The Rake, and all the rest, with the favourite, Feeney’s bonny black mare, and Newchum quietly bringing up the rear. A ripple of laughter greeted Snowy as he tripped past the stand, the ill-fitting coat flogging him along, leading Newchum by the bridle-ring. And a running fire of jeers and “chyack” assailed him as he came abreast of the mass of faces extending all down the “outer” fence. But Snowy, now, was deaf to everything.

Next moment, the horses were trotting, cantering, and flashing past in their preliminaries.

Carrying out Fitzrobertson’s injunctions, Eric extended Newchum down the length of the straight, and in a sweeping, powerful stride, he whizzed past. Before he had pulled up every race-book was hurriedly opened in search of his number and name. And every voice was murmuring “McKay’s Newchum.”

Fitzrobertson left his place on the stand and approached the betting ring, where at the moment “Fifty to one Newchum” was being hoarsely shouted. Pausing a second, he soliloquised aloud: “The last hundred! I’ll risk it. Win or lose it all, for Auld Lang Syne.” Then, with set teeth, he made the wager, receiving a signed official slip with “Newchum, £5,100” marked on it, he placed it in his pocket, and returned to the stand. The veteran owner of My Love took up a modest position beside the white palings, and with hard-set, unemotional countenance waited, silent and motionless.

The field drew into line, and fifteen horses faced the barrier. The silken jackets gleamed in the slanting sunlight. The black mare showed on the rails; Newchum right on the outside. The light breath of a wind was blowing. There was a lull in the babel of tongues. All eyes were riveted on the start. The hearts of the silent multitude beat with suppresed excitement. The suspense was awful. Every second seemed an hour. You could hear a pin drop. Then: “They’re off!” burst like a clap of thunder upon the air, and all became a hum of commotion. It was a magnificent start. On they came past the gate-way like the roar of the rushing surf. “Coronella leading! Trance second! My Love lying third!” was murmured by a thousand tongues. As the field, pulling hard, swept past, Beatrice couldn’t restrain herself. “Oh! look at Newchum! Look at him!” she cried exultantly. Ray, filled with mixed feelings, was speechless. Fitzrobertson, gazing through his field glasses, remarked calmly:

“He’s in a fine position, right on My Love’s flanks; and the boy is sitting like a rock.” Down the long slope, the gold spangling the green, they flew like a vision; over the flat; and past the three-quarter mile post. “The mare is falling back,” was lustily shouted. They came over the “hill,” and entering the straight thundered past in two divisions. “Go hin, Herrick!” Snowy shouted from his place beside the fence. Maintaining his position on the outside, Newchum, fighting and pulling with wide-open mouth, was galloping like a demon. “Gad, the boy is a Freddy Archer,” Fitzrobertson murmured, never for a moment taking the glasses off the red jacket. Beatrice clutched at the arm of Ray McKay, and despite her efforts to control herself gave vent to excited exclamations. But the gaze and interest of the vast gathering were centred on the yellow jacket. The bonny black mare was the idol of the public, and notwithstanding her top-weight, carried the bulk of their money. At the foot of the slope the positions changed with lightning rapidity, and a cry of “Projectile to the front!” rang out, as the brown horse seemed to cut them all down in a dash for the lead. But Blacklock, a champion amongst champions, riding with all the skill and judgment of his craft, gradually lessened his distance. And then, “My Love holds him safe!” was murmured all around. In a moment Trance shot out and challenged the leader, immediately followed by the famous “all blue.” Then for the first time, Newchum’s place in the race attracted notice, and a number of tongues vociferated: “By heavens! the red jacket is running a great horse!”

Ray McKay shook all over with suppressed emotion, but Beatrice screamed out her delight. The race now commenced in earnest. The field began to string out. The strength of several was spent. The whip was already at work on them. Taking the running at the back of the course Trance set the pace a cracker. It was awful. Projectile and B.Y. clung to her quarters. Lying handy to all three was the flying form of My Love. With his head at her girths thundered Newchum, the gleams of the red silk jacket preponderating in the sun. One and three-quarter miles were flung behind. The anxious moment of victory was rapidly approaching. A dead hush came over the multitude. Snowy wildly mounted the palings. A sea of hands reached for him and pulled him down. Numbers left the fence and rushed to higher vantage ground. The horses were verging over the “hill.” Whips were hard at work in the rear. The crowds on the stands rose as one person to their feet. The horses’ heads were turning for home. For the first time throughout the tussle the rigid owner of the favourite opened his lips.

“Now then, Watty,” he murmured, “come away!” And as though by some form of magic the words had reached him, the rider of the favourite responded. His yellow jacket instantly shot into the straight by a lead of a couple of lengths. Then the pent-up emotion of the multitude exploded, and a mighty roar of “My Love! My Love!” filled the air. Snowy’s heart nearly sank into his boots. “Hoh, Herrick!” he groaned. And a sickly lump rose to the throat of Beatrice. Then, from the outer lawn, went up: “Projectile! Miribeau! Projectile! B.Y.! My Love wins! My Love!” Whips were at the flog; rowels bleeding as on they came. On! nearer and nearer! They were half way up the straight. Like a volley of field artillery, a tremendous shout of “The red jacket! The red jacket!” belched forth as Newchum, almost unobserved in the clamour and struggle between the champions, came with a terrific run on the outside. All became confusion. Snowy mounted the palings again, and was promptly torn off them. Beatrice mounted a form and screamed “Newchum! Newchum! Newchum!” and wrung her hands. “By Allah! he wins!” came from Fitzrobertson. The multitude was nearly off its head. Their peals were deafening as the chestnut drew level with the mare. “Newchum! Newchum!” “My Love wins! My Love!” they yelled frantically. Blacklock shot an anxious glance at the horse thundering beside him; then with set teeth rode with double energy and determination. Both were under the whip. Stride for stride they raced. The ground shook. The multitude cheered. Weight was telling on the favourite. The chestnut was the stronger. The mare swerved; collected herself; made a final, gallant effort. “My Love! My Love!” rang again. Then, in a long, decisive roar, as the horse by a few feet drew away in the last couple of strides: “Newchum! Newchum! Newchum wins!” And “Newchum” the judge said, too.


Chapter 25
After the Event

The excited crowds were suddenly reduced to silence. The public were “struck all of a heap,” while the ringmen, with one exception, rejoiced loudly.

“Look at this!” Fitzrobertson said with calm indifference, thrusting his “bet” under the eyes of Ray McKay.

“Wha-at!” the other exclaimed in a voice of terrible surprise. “Five thousand! Fool that I was! I hadn’t a shilling on him. My luck! Though I took a ticket on the tote for Beatrice.”

“Then she has made a scoop, too,” Fitzrobertson answered, “for there was only one ticket on him.”

With the steam flying from his flaming nostrils, and flakes of foam falling from him, Newchum, carrying himself majestically, returned to the paddock. He was the idol of the hour. Cheers went up for him. What a moment it was for Eric! The “weight” flag was hoisted. Ray McKay and Fitzrobertson pressed forward, and warmly congratulated Eric. Beatrice could scarcely refrain from hugging him. The surging spectators wondered if she was his sister. Snowy danced and jumped his coat about, and shouted: “Hoh, Herrick! five ’undered bloomin’ quid! Hi knowed he’d put ’em all down! Good hold Newchum!” patting the champion fondly.

A crowd of admirers followed the winner to his stall, but the great majority mooned about the grounds, gazing abstractedly at the toes of their boots. Many reproached themselves, and blamed someone else for having “put them off” the winner. Some groaned that they had “fancied the horse the moment he came on the course, and would have backed him right away but for listening to some fool,” whom they referred to in language much too picturesque for print. “Only one ticket on him, too!” some one whined. “The chance of me (unprintable) life-time thrown away!” While others unselfishly passed sentence on themselves, and silently desired someone to come along and kick them for their own folly. “Why any kid with eyes at all in its head,” they argued grievously, “should have seen through McKay’s bit o’ bluff! Just imagine the simple lot of fools people were to think that the horse belonged to those kids, and that that umchah in the coat trained him! We’re satisfied!”

“We’re goin’ ’ome dre’k’ely, Mister Ray,” Snowy said. “What erbout ther five ’undered—does we get it now?”

“Oh, you can’t get in just yet. I’ll see to that for you. You had better stay in town to-night (putting his hand in his pocket and handing him a fistful of sovereigns), and go home in the morning; you might as well be killed for a sheep as a lamb. But as soon as you get home to-morrow,” he went on earnestly, “I want you to be sure and do this for me, boys: bring me any papers, or writing of any kind whatever, that you have about Newchum! There might be some trouble raised over him.”

“Hoh, they can’t take ’im from hus!” Snowy said, his eyes flashing defiance. “We’s th’ receipt fer ’im hin Herrick’s box, han’ hall erbout ’im in letters, when ’e wer a foal. Haint hus, Herrick?”

Eric nodded in the affirmative.

“Oh, well, that’s all right,” Ray said. “I don’t expect much difficulty; but bring all the papers along and let me see them.”

The waifs said they would; then, leading Newchum from his stall, they both mounted him, and with joy in their hearts, rode from the course amidst rounds of cheers as they passed out the big gate.

The final race of the day was run, and the crowds were flocking from the course.

“Well, if I don’t see you again before I leave,” Fitzrobertson said, shaking hands with Ray McKay, “you won’t forget to look after those horses well for me. The brown mare is well worth a bit of attention; and I don’t expect to return before another six months, anyway. Good-bye.”

Then they parted—to meet again another day, in another way!


Chapter 26
Constable ’Enry Engaged

What a fishmonger’s morning it was at Daisy Vale when Piggy and Mrs. Potthouse sauntered forth, as usual, with the buckets slung all around them, and only two or three of the cows were in sight! And how their wrath and imprecations increased when breakfast-time approached, and there was no sign of the waifs!

“’Tis, ’tis terrible! ’tis terrible!” Piggy raved, hobbling up and down. “An’—an’ th’ damn milk ’ll be sour on me afore ’tis in th’ cans, ’twill, it will!”

White Ants was interrogated as to the whereabouts of the boys, but nothing intelligible could be extracted from the eccentric one.

Eventually Piggy was compelled to meander through the paddocks and collect the cows himself, an undertaking which occupied him till ten o’clock or thereabouts.

“Be—be th’ heavens above!” he stormed, as he set out, “if I does come across them, I’ll—I’ll smash every bone in—in their bodies agen a tree!”

“Yer hain’t likely ter get ther chancet,” his wife jeered savagely. “They’re gone hoff! That’s my idea, and you’ll find your hoily-tongued ’Arry Ryle, hor Fitzrobertson, hor whatsomever ’e calls ’isself, his hat ther bottom hof it. Hand yer’ll find, too, thet ’e ’as ther Will yer think he’s burnt.” She fairly screamed with passion as she added: “Hand ther hend hof hit’ll be that kid whose throat yer should ’a’ cut longer ’nough ago, ’ll be put hinto th’ proputty, hand th’ both hof hus, hah! my heyes! ’ll be kicked hout on ter ther road ter camp like ’unted dogs in poverty han’ starvation hunder th’ bridges hand th’ gum trees. Oh, yer wuz halwez a fool with no ’ead, Potthouse, hand yer halwez messed hup heverythink yer hever touched.”

Piggy shivered and shuddered, and went green at the thoughts of the prospects painted by his wretched partner, and with blood in his eye, answered: “Then if I—I lay me hands on—on him agin there’ll be an end till him, if I—I hang for ud.”

“Then go hand send ter ther perleece erbout ’im, hand get ther kids fetched back, hand don’t lose hany more time,” Mrs. Potthouse shouted.

“I—I will, then,” Piggy said, “so soon as I—I reach th’ facthry.”

When the milking was just about finished, Tom Mullett rode up to the rails of the yard, and under pretence of buying some horses, embarked in a conversation with Piggy about the stock in the grass paddock. After a while he drifted on to Newchum, referring to him as “the poor horse he saw in the yard one day after the drought.”

“Be heavens!” Piggy broke out, turning to his wife, with a look of consternation, “That horrse he weren’t in th’ windmill paddock when I—I wer’ down fer th’ cows, though I—I luked ter see cud I see ’im. Ye’re right, ye’re right! th’ young dogs have, have slithered, an’—an’ taken ’im with them.”

“Hoh, Hi knowed it longer ’nough ergo!” Mrs. Potthouse answered. “Hand fer Gord’s sake ’urry hup hand tell th’ perleece.”

“What, don’t you know where the horse is?” Mullett asked, becoming curious.

“Oh, them d— young devils ov boys that I— I do be keepin’ erbout me,” Piggy explained, “have cleared awaay, an’ —an’ taken him wid them.”

“And don’t you know where they have gone to?” Mullett inquired.

“I doan’t, then,” Piggy snapped, “an’—an’ if I did, wudn’t I have them brought back quick enough be the ear?”

“Well, then,” Mullett said with a vindictive leer, “As far as the horse is concerned, I dare say Mr. Ray McKay, the parson’s angelic son, could tell you something about him.”

“Wha-a-t!” Piggy cried, opening his eyes and mouth wide in surprise.

“He’s getting a nice string of blood horses about him with the aid of his imported friend, Mr. Fitzrobertson—”

“Fitzrobertson!” and Piggy’s eyes opened wider.

“Why do you look like that? Do you know him?”

Piggy made no reply, and the other continued: “I have some particulars of horses here missing from Noovindah”—taking a slip of paper from his pocket and reading, “Brown mare, 15½ hands, star on forehead, off fore fetlock white. Three-year-old bay gelding, 15 hands, white blaze. Both branded with station brand.” And if I haven’t seen the pious McKay riding those horses at various times, well, I’ll eat my hat.”

“Do yez tell me that, Tom Mullett?” Piggy said, with treachery in his eye.

“I do,” the other replied calmly, “and I’ll tell you a good deal more by the end of the week.” And having, as he thought, set enough poison for Ray McKay, of whom he was violently jealous on account of Beatrice, Mullett, leaving the Potthouses staring hard at each other, rode away.

An hour after, Piggy arrived at the factory, and the “morning’s” milk failed in the test.

“You can take it all back with you,” the manager said, squirting a stream of it from his mouth. “It’s sour!”

The factory verandah wasn’t nearly large enough for Piggy to swear on. He grabbed, in desperation, at the few remaining hairs he had in his head, and mounting the waggon again, whipped up the horses, and didn’t stop till he reached the telegraph office.

Having communicated with Constable ’Enery, of the Plainland Police Station, some eight miles distant, he returned to Daisy Vale in a terrible temper, and throwing himself on the couch in the parlour, lay there for an hour and more, raving and groaning like a miser who had received word that his bank had failed.

In the course of the afternoon, and just about the time the Cup was being run, Constable ’Enery, mounted on a bike, and armed with pencil and paper, arrived in a state of perspiration at Daisy Vale. After receiving a full description of the missing boys, and other information regarding them from Piggy, he left to institute inquiries round the district. But Constable ’Enery didn’t look upon the case as important; and when the storekeeper at Longer-Linger, in no uncertain voice, said it was “a good job they had cleared out,” and expressed surprise that “they hadn’t bolted from the old dog long ago,” he attached less importance to it, and went cold on his investigations.

Next morning, however, the Law abandoned proceedings completely. The morning newspaper arrived on the “eight train,” with a full and startling account of the race meeting. In sensational headlines was printed:


“The Winner Owned by Two Orphans, well known at Longer-Linger.”
“Trained by Orphan Wing.”
“Ridden by Orphan Ryle.”

The surprise the township received amounted to a shock. In less than no time the news travelled far and wide, and for days nothing but Newchum and the orphan boys was talked of. And no one was more surprised than Piggy Potthouse and his wife.

“Good lorrd!” Piggy said, “’tis—’tis five hundered pounds they have won for me.” And like the Jew in “Oliver Twist,” he rubbed his hard, wrinkled hands, and chuckled with hideous glee. The prospects of appropriating the prize were too much for him.

“As fer has ther money part hof it goes hit’s horlright,” the hateful hag said, “but yer needs ter get ther imp outer ther way hall ther same, Potthouse, hand ter be pretty quick erbout hit.”


Chapter 27
The Return

The departing sun was darting its last rays across the golden valleys and over the timbered hollows, when Snowy Wing and Eric, their hearts palpitating with feelings of uncertainty mingled with hope cherished on their victory, rode into the yard at Daisy Vale, and dismounted from the back of Newchum.

They were not kept long in suspense.

Piggy came out and welcomed them with excessive joy—a joy that in their wildest dreams they had hardly dared expect.

“I—I knowed all about ud, yez vagabonds,” he said, with an unusual attempt at pleasantry. “’Tis all in th’ paper. But why th’ divil did’n’ yez tell me ov ud—that, that it wuz racin’ ’im yez was; an’—an’ I wud have baacked him, an’—an’ med a fortun’ for us all. Guv ’im a feed ov th’ good oats, an’—an’ a derrink. ’Tis to Melbin we’ll take him, an’—an’ run ’im in the Melbin Cup. But hurry up an’—an’ attend till him, an come yerselves into th’ parlor, yez young divils, an’—an’ I’ll derrink yez helth.’ I—I never thought it wer’ in yez.”

Poor Snowy and Eric were carried right off their feet!

“Gee wingo, Herrick!” Snowy gushed, as they procured a feed for Newchum. “Hain’t th’ hold buck pleased erbout hus. Hoh, crikey, we’ll be hable ter do hanythink with ’im now. ’E’s hours, Herrick! We’ll heat with hour feet hon ther parlor table; hand horder th’ hold woman erbout. Hoh! come hon! ’e’s agoin’ ter shout!”

And skipping lightly across the yard, they entered the house with all the confidence and relish of pauper politicians proceeding to a banquet provided out of purses other than their own.

“There’s ginger ale, an’—an’ ginger beer, an’—an’ port wine,” Piggy said, producing a number of bottles, with an alarming display of hospitality. “An’—an’ just taake whichever yez like.”

“Blowed hif Hi dersent think Hi’ll ’ave a toothful o’ ther port on this ’ere ercasion,” Snowy said, winking at the black bottle.

“Will yez hab some ov ud, too?” Piggy asked invitingly of Eric.

But Eric shook his head, and reached for gingerbeer.

“Good luck to yez bote,” Piggy said, raising his glass.

“Ther skin hoff yer nose,” Snowy responded, raising his.

“An’—an’—it were th’ divil’s own race th’ horse run?” Piggy remarked, putting down the empty.

“Broke hall th’ preevious reckhords o’ th’ world,” Snowy replied, smacking his lips. “Hoh, crikey, hit wer’ wuth bein’ ’anged ter see.”

“Be gobs, then, ’tis Melbin’ fer ther three ov us,” Piggy exclaimed. “An’—an’ ten tousan’ apiece. ’Tis millionaires yez ’ll bote be.”

Then, rubbing his hands, and lowering his voice to confident, fatherly tones, he said:

“But did, did they guv yez th’ prize ter bring home wid yer?”

“Some of it!” from Snowy, as he drew the money from inside his shirt and flashed the gold proudly on the table. “Catch hus comin’ away without a draw.”

“But did yez count it?” rising to his feet and approaching the money. “Are yez sure they didn’t cheat yez?”

“Hit’s hall there, wot we got,” Snowy said with pride and port in his eye.

Piggy eagerly counted it—and then pocketed it.

“Ten there,” he said. “I’ll—I’ll keep ud for yez till th’ rest comes.” Then, changing his tone and manner: “Now yez had better take th’ horrse to th’ paddock, and put a padlock on th’ gate, an’—an’ lock ud, an’ bring me ther key.”

“But yer ain’t goin’ ter keep ther stuff, is yer?” Snowy said, a feeling of suspicion and distrust creeping over him, as they rose to go.

“Oh, no!” Piggy replied, with an ugly chuckle. “I’m goin’ ter give ud to th’ poor!”

Snowy’s countenance suddenly dropped. He knew he had been duped. He turned at the door to protest, but had hardly opened his mouth when Mrs. Potthouse flew at him like a wild cat.

“Go hon, yer pup,” she squealed, helping Snowy through the door with a shove, “han’ do wot yer told ter do. Hit’s drawn an’ quartered yer ought ter be fer runnin’ away. Go hon!” following him up, “hit’ll take hall thet yer’ve won ter make hup fer th’ milk that wuz lost hover yer!”

Poor Snowy! he was beside himself with anger, remorse, and vain regrets.

“Hit’s hall my fault, Herric!” he cried bitterly, “hall my fault! Hi shouldn’t a’ told ’im hanythink erbout it. But he won’t see no more!”

But Eric endeavoured to soothe his friend by saying, “it didn’t matter, and perhaps he won’t keep it, after all!”


Chapter 28
The Stolen Will

With all the letters and documents they could rake out of Eric’s tin box concealed in their shirts, and with a bitter grievance in their hearts against Piggy for retaining the sovereigns, the two waifs stole away one day and sought an interview with Ray McKay.

“I was afraid of that,” Ray said, when they spoke of the money. “The old dog! I thought he would! However, I’ll see to the rest for you, and bank it.”

Then, after casually examining some of the private papers: “Ah! here’s the receipt,” and muttering as he scanned portions of it, hurriedly, “Sold to Harry Ryle, one chestnut yearling, out of French Lady. . . .Oh! that’s all right. . . .You can leave the others with me, and I’ll go through them presently.”

With fresh hopes in their hearts, Snowy and Eric scampered back through the paddocks to Daisy Vale in time to feed the pigs.

They could hardly have been out of sight when Ray McKay suddenly jumped from his chair and exclaimed:

“Why, this is old Hungry Potthouse’s Will!” his hand trembling as he held the document that had fallen through Piggy’s kitchen floor into the “cold storage.” Seating himself again, he began mumbling to himself as he hurriedly read: “This is the last will and testament of Henry Potthouse . . . will and bequeath all my real and personal estate whatso ... to Harry Ryle ... his heirs, executors—”

Breaking off abruptly, he struck himself on the knee with his open hand, exclaiming:

“Bless my soul, it’s young Eric’s father!”

Then he rushed from the room.

“Pater! Pater!” he cried, hurrying along the verandah to the venerable clergyman’s modest little study.

“You remember ‘Hungry’ Potthouse?” he said.

“Well,” his father replied, looking up wonderingly.

“Look at that!” and Ray thrust the documents into his hand, and seated himself opposite him.

“A Will!” the clergyman murmured, proceeding to read. Reaching the end of the codicil, he looked closely at the signatures; then turned the document over. Lifting his eyes to Ray’s, he said, gravely:

“This is the lost Will there was so much talk about, after Mr. Potthouse’s death. I remember the circumstances well.”

“You see what it means, Pater?” Ray said with a tremor in his voice.

“That the present Mr. Potthouse is in possession of an estate which really isn’t his.”

“That he is in possession of an estate,” Ray added, “that belongs to the little orphan, Eric Ryle, Harry Ryle, his father, being dead.”

“That is so, and this must be handed to a solicitor.” Then, after reflection: “But how come you by the Will, Ray?”

“It was this way, Pater,” the son answered, settling himself to explain. But he had not proceeded far when it was announced that his presence was required outside.

“What can I do for you? Ray said cheerfully to the man waiting on the verandah.

“Is your name Ray McKay?” the other asked.

“It is.”

“I’m sorry, young man, but it’s no pleasant errand I’ve come on. I’ve a warrant for your arrest (producing it). I’m afraid you must consider yourself my prisoner.”

“Arrest! Your prisoner!” Ray said, bewildered looking.

“And let me assure you,” the officer said kindly, “that my duty is the more painful since I am convinced that you will be able to give a satisfactory explanation.”

“But what are you talking about—what is it for.”

“For aiding and abetting a man named Arthur Blackburn,” the constable replied, reading the warrant, “and illegally using stolen horses received from him.”

“I never heard of the man,” Ray stammered, more bewildered looking than ever.

The constable went into details about the horses.

“Good God!” Ray said, staggering back. “Fitzrobertson’s?”

“That’s his latest name, I believe,” the officer replied, calmly.

“Great heavens! What—what! My God. I—I must tell my father!”

But the old clergyman, becoming impatient within, came to the verandah himself.

The constable explained.

Recovering from the shock, the venerable parent took his son by the hand, and in a broken voice, said:

“I know how absurd this is, Ray. I am sure you will be able to explain it away. Go, Ray!”

And that evening as Ray McKay rode silently off in company with the police officer, only two persons other than his father knew why or whither he went. The two others were Tom Mullett and Piggy Potthouse!

Those were anxious weeks that followed in the homes of the old clergyman and the Applebys! What took place at the trial need not be traversed. It was much like other trials. But on the lying evidence of Tom Mullett and Piggy Potthouse, poor Ray McKay was found guilty, and sentenced to three years’ hard labor!

“Hi know’d there was some ’arm goin’ ter come ter Mr. Ray!” Snowy said sorrowfully, “when Hi heerd Tom Mullett that night talkin’ ter ther Dago, han’ tellin’ ’im that ’e know’d Ray McKay had got ther Will, han’ wuz goin’ ter turn ’im hout!”


Chapter 29
His Majesty’s Gaol

Six months had passed. It was Sunday evening in His Majesty’s Gaol, Bogga Road, and prisoner Ray McKay was sitting thinking, thinking in his cold, lonely cell. Warder McGinty was doing his rounds, a bunch of keys jingling at his belt.

“I know not whether laws be right, or whether laws be wrong,” came weirdly from the prisoner, as he quoted to himself the lines from “Reading Gaol.” “All that we know who lie in gaol is that the wall is strong; and that each day is like a year, a year whose days are long!”

“Silence, Number 999!” the warder called. “Don’t yez know that talkin’ in the cells is against the regulashuns of th’ Gaol?”

Then to himself, as he fumbled with the bunch of keys: “An’ so is a lot more damn nonsense!”

“Would it be against the regulations, Warder,” Ray McKay said, slowly lifting his blood-shot eyes, “if you handed in a cigarette or something to pass the time with?”

The rough, but kindly warder cautiously took a fragment of tobacco from his pocket, and handing it through the bars shouted:

“Silence, Number 999! Rule 6,458a of the Prison Act says: ‘All prisoners shall be carefully searched, an’ any bits of tobaccy, or matches, or anything wotiver found on their persons shall be taken from them,’ lowering his voice, and mumbling to himself, “and detained by th’ warders.”

“I suppose the regulations don’t contain a rule that would enable a man to escape from a place like this?” indifferently, from the prisoner.

“Silence, Number 999!” then, lowering his voice again, and chuckling to himself: “Well, perhaps there is, if he only knew it; but it’s embodied in the unwritten regulashuns, and was only extended once that Oi know of—once!” raising his voice a little, “when Warder John Terence McGinty” (tapping himself proudly on the chest) “was th’ ‘look-out’ sinthry, standin’ on th’ battlemints wid a loaded roifle in his hands, and th’ promise of a hundered pound in his eye; and th’ horrse thaif, Blackburrun—who they niver heerd of since—wint up th’ big wall on a rope and over the other side like a toiger-cat.” chuckling again. ‘Oh, lorrd! It wer uttherly impossible,’ said the Super, and th’ Cumtroller, and th’ Sheriff, an’ th’ polaice, and th’ Govermint, fer a prisoner in th’ first plaice to cloimb such a wall; and in th’ second to do it widout bein’ seen b th’ wardher on sinthry. Oh, dear! oh, dear! oh, dear!” breaking off into a low, rumbling laugh. “Oh, th’ wooden heads! And there was th’ horrse thaif,” raising his voice slightly again, “every mornin’ fer six munce, runnin’ round and round the yaard, as if th’ divil wer’ thrainin’ fer th’ Melbin Cup, till he showed th’ mussles of a kangaroo deviloped all over him, and divil th’ wan but John Terence McGinty ever suspected phwat was in his moind. ‘Is there a lidge on the other soide of that wall?’ sez he to me wan mornin’. ‘Ther is, and there’s a loaded roifle on th’ prisoner that ever raiches it,’ sez Oi. ‘And there’s a hundered pound,’ sez he, ‘waitin’ at Piggy Potthouse’s, of Longer-Linger, for the wardher who—’.”

Hearing a noise in a distant cell, Warder McGinty broke off his soliloquy, and patrolling the gaol, cried, “All’s well!”

Sounds of the evening church bells tolling, followed by the strains of a choir, found their way into the gloomy prison.

“The church bells!” prisoner McKay murmured, coming to a listening attitude. Then, in a voice husky, and full of feeling: “Tolling their summons to the innocent and the faithful! The innocent! Ah, yes! But not for the outcasts—not for the convicted felon entombed here in a lonely dungeon, behind these prison bars—not for you, Raymond McKay! Your time will come when you have paid the penalty of another’s crime— when the precious ties of blood and love have been sundered— when you leave this iron-bound hell disowned, disgraced, the creaking of bolts and hinges ringing in your ears, and the stain of the gaol for ever and for ever upon you! God!” And, breaking down, he buried his face in his hands.

The faint, distant voices of children reached him. He raised his head slowly, and listened again.

“But God watches over the poor prisoners, too, even though they are all bad, bad men,” a simple voice seemed to call out.

“All bad, bad men!” the prisoner moaned, turning his eyes to the cold stone floor. “And I, then, am a bad, bad man! What hope is there now in life for me?” Turning his eyes in the direction from which the voice seemed to come: “Ah! little one, in your innocence you have stabbed like a knife-thrust one who is as innocent as you—one who, in the eyes of a dear old Dad, in the eyes of a good, kind, and noble mother, in the eyes of the Almighty God, whom you, maybe, are on your way to worship, is as innocent as you!” He dropped his head. “And Beatrice! Poor, sweet Beatrice, I wonder if she believes in me still—Ah! dare I wonder?” He broke off, hysterically: “Believe in me— a bad, bad man!”

At the far end of the yard the warder cried: “All’s well!” And “All’s well!” in a grim voice, was echoed by the prisoner McKay. “Ah! I wonder if she still believes in me?” he went on, looking around his cell, then down at his prison clothes, while the light died out of his face. “But what use is her belief— now? It is impossible!”

He rose; paced the cell, restlessly; sat down again.

“Ah!” he hissed. “Why do I think of him! Tom Mullett, my dear friend! The nests we robbed together—the football we played together—the fences we took together! And he acted the liar, and slandered me!! And, my God!” suddenly working himself into a fury, “he will have her, too—what chance have I? He will have her. No!” He rushed to the bars, bearing and dragging at them in his madness. “If these bars were his throat!” he raged. Then pausing, and relaxing his grasp: “Oh, horrible! horrible! Three years!!”

“Hush, Number 999!” the warder said, appearing before the cell. “Phwat th’ divil’s the matther wid you? Do yez want to rouse the super?”

At the same moment a window opened in the super’s quarters, and his head appeared:

“What the blazes is that row about down there?” he called angrily.

“Number 999 having a night-mare, sorr,” Warder McGinty answered.

“If there’s any more noise in the gaol,” the Super, growled, “I’ll give him a night-mare in a solitary cell.”

“Get off to sleep wid yez,” the warder counselled his prisoner: “and don’t be a fool!”

Then, sinking down on his grey, thread-worn blanket, the prisoner remained quiet, and dropped off to sleep.


Chapter 30
His Majesty’s Gaol

Ray McKay, along with a number of other convicts, with sullen, dog-like looks on their faces, was engaged in the “big” yard, making ropes. A number of warders, on duty, were moving to and fro.

“Order prisoner McKay forward,” came from the Superintendent, “for interview with the Reverend Mr. McKay.”

A warder saluted the Super; then crossing the yard, commanded, in loud, authoritative tones:

“Prisoner McKay this way, for interview with the Reverend McKay. Attention! Quick march!”

With a lump rising in his throat big enough to choke him, Ray silently advanced before the warder to the “interviewing” cage. The warder deferentially stood off a few paces, out of hearing, a mark of respect not always shown to prisoners or their friends.


“Father!” There was an impressive silence.

“Oh, Ray! to see you here!” the grey-haired old clergyman broke out. “To see you suffering like this! Innocently suffering the disgrace and tortures of another’s wrong-doing. It is the heaviest of all my afflictions, that you, our only child—the pride of your mother’s life and mine, should have been condemned on the false witness of enemies, and sent here!”

He broke down.

“Yes, on the lying evidence of a pack of crawling, cadging, ill-starred reprobates, father,” the son said, bitterly. “I was sent here—sent to the infernal shades of this gaol to associate with fiends—sent where the very air I have to breathe sears and scorches my soul, like a brand of flame. And this is called Justice! Justice! Father, there is no justice, and there can be no just God, or He would never see an innocent man suffer like this.”

The clergyman held up his hands, and cried:

“Ray! Silence! Do you know what you say? Such words deal me a greater blow than if I heard you say you were guilty. Ray, do not allow bitterness to enter your heart, and rebellion to destroy faith and belief in the justice of the Almighty. Be courageous, my son, and patient, and trust in Him. My prayers for you He will surely answer, and the wrong that has been done you and us will be righted.”

“I have had faith,” the prisoner answered; “and I have believed, father; and yet, while that belief was strong within me— while night after night I was praying on my bended knees to Him to protect me from evil, my hopes and happiness were wrecked, and I was doomed for ever to be branded as you see me now—a wretched gaol-bird!”

“Oh, listen to me, Ray!” the father pleaded. “Would you have me return home to your mother, who, if it were not for the unshakable faith she has in the mercy and justice of the Almighty God, would this moment be broken-hearted. Would you have me send her in disappointment and sorrow to the grave, by telling her that her only son had lost hope and faith in the mercy and power of that Being to Whom, night and day, her earnest prayers are directed in your behalf? That Being, by Whose Will alone she feels and knows your innocence will be established, and you delivered. Oh, Ray! would you shame and kill that mother—the mother at whose knee you learnt to lisp His name?” He paused a moment. “Lord, God, surely the trial put upon my strength is even greater than that of Abraham’s.” He was overcome again.

“Father, forgive me!” the prisoner broke out, the tears rushing from his eyes. “Tell my mother that I trust in God to right the wrong, and to restore her son to her arms.”

“There spoke my son—Heaven bless you, Ray!”

“The time is up, your Reverence,” the warder in attendance said quietly.

“Good-bye, Ray. I will come again.”

“Good-bye, dear, old Dad!” the prisoner responded firmly, as the aged parent bowed and turned away.

Looking after him, as he was escorted to the gate, the Superintendent remarked, sympathisingly:

“Poor old chap! I’d like to offer him some whiskey—it wouldn’t do him any harm just now; but I don’t suppose he would take it.”


Chapter 31
His Majesty’s Gaol

A dapper-looking, well-dressed man of middle-age, approached the large gate of the gaol, and rapped it with his cane. Receiving no immediate answer, he paced up and down before it, with a confident, careless air, and a slight, decided swagger.

“Seems a devilish, ah stoopid and ah reckless sort of idea,” he said to himself, “to come strolling back heah, like this, to renew acquaintance with the jollay old dogs I left behind the walls of this homely-looking establishment, when I went out of it, without telling any one where I, ah, was going to. Bai Jove! and when Ai think of it, it was a devil of a claimb, even with a rope.” He wiped his eyeglass with his handkerchief. “But people, ah, do get seized with these peculiarly irresistible, ah, confounded notions. Some jollay beggars gratify their curiosity on occasions—very, ah, rare occasions—by jumping, ah, like toads over cliffs. Others, and, ah, more humorous dogs, suddenly bellow out ‘Murdah!’ in the middle of a solemn church service. Devilish funny! It’s that Divinity, I suppose, ah, that shapes our ends, as the ah, poets say; just as it influences other beggahs’ horses when they, ah, get out of your hands to, ah, make back to their own runs. It’s, ah, water finding its own level. Ha! Ha!” rapping the gate again. “Must be out visiting, or, ah, having four o’clock tea with their, ah, wives and friends.

Ha! ha!. . . Bai Jove, though—” suddenly feeling his breast pocket, and taking out a fistful of papers— “I hope I haven’t lost my visiting card.”

Commencing to read:

“The bearer, Captain Hayes-Courtney, just arrived from Western Australia, is a friend of mine, and desires to look over the Gaol. I’ll be glad if you’ll show him round, and pay him every attention.—P.B., Home Secretary.”

He laughed to himself, and repeated: “ ‘Captain Hayes-Courtney is a friend of mine’. Awfully droll! Hope none of these jollay beggahs inside, recognise his ‘friend’ as escapee Blackburn, for whose capture there is a nice reward.”

The small door in the large gate opened, and Warder John Terence McGinty’s red face, looked out.

“Who is there?” he asked.

“How do, Wardah McGinty? What sort of, ah, day is it inside?”

“Who are you; and how do you know that Oi’m Wardher McGinty?” the official growled.

“Oh! ah!” with a smile, “Everyone knows you, McGinty.”

“Everyone, perhaps, who have been in here for some toime, at any toime at all! But phwhat is your business at th’ gaol?”

“I, ah, merely wish to come in. I’m, ah, doocid lonely, doncher know; and, ah, homeless.” And he handed the letter to the warder, with another smile, and dropped a coin in his palm.

“Oi beg your parrdon, ye’er honour,” McGinty said, in a grovelling tone, when he saw it was from the Home Secretary, and immediately drew the grating bolts to admit “Captain Hayes-Courtney.” Then he nearly fell over himself in his hurry to acquaint the Superintendent of the presence of the distinguished visitor.

“I’ll be delighted to take you in hand, Captain,” the Super, said, “and to show you over our establishment. It’s the first time you’ve been in gaol, I suppose?” attempting one of his stock jokes.

“Well—ah—yes,” the Captain answered. “It’s—ah—my first offence.”

“You’ve struck rather a field day, Captain,” laughing patronisingly. “The Sheriff is round in No. 1 yard, just now, manipulating the gallows. I’ll escort you there, first, and you’ll be able to see how a hanging is conducted; which will be something; though it doesn’t interest me very much. I’m rather used to that sort of thing!”

“Oh, bai Jove; he’s going to hang someone! how awfully jollay. I shall be delighted.” Then, adjusting his eye-glass, and looking hard at Warder McGinty, who was standing at “attention,” his head up, and holding a carbine by his side, the “Captain” added:

“Is—ah—this the lucky beggah who’s to be scragged?”

Warder McGinty turned his head slightly, and glared at him out of the corner of his eye.

“Oh, there’s no hanging, exactly, to-day,” the Super, explained; “the Sheriff is here merely to test the gallows, with a bag of sand—a dummy, you understand—just to make sure everything will work smoothly, and that there’ll be no hitch when he’s despatching the chap that’s condemned, to-morrow morning.”

The Captain looked suggestively at the motionless form of Warder McGinty, and said:

“I would—ah—rather see something that’s alive, operated on, doncher know; it’s so doocid funnay. But let’s see how the sand goes down, old f’lah.”

“This way, then, Captain. And after we’ve seen the gallows, I’ll show you the dark cells—they’re rather interesting.”

The Captain turned his head away, and murmured to himself: “I know all about them; they’re awfully damned interesting!”

“Then I’ll bring you round through the big yard, where the prisoners are rope-making.”

“And where a lot of my dear old pals,” the Captain thought, “will be waiting to salute me. How awfully droll and funnay!”

The Super, led the way, leaving Warder McGinty on duty at the gate.

“Now, how in the name of the devil,” said the warder to himself, as he paced up and down, “and all th’ pretty girrls, could his Honour know me name was McGinty? It’s not a common name, an’ there isn’t another like it in the gaol, and” (with an effort to mimic the “Captain”), “there’s—ah—half-a-crown fer ye—ah, McGinty,’ sez he; ‘go an’ bought yerself ah—ah—communion in the Arrmy’.” McGinty broke into a low, stifled laugh. He was laughing, when a sudden, heavy thud came from the dropping of the sand-bag, and shook the building. He sprang several feet in the air, and dropped the rifle. “Good Lorrd!” he exclaimed; “but I thought the whole caboodle wer’ down on top o’ me, and I’d losht me paay an’ position. Shure if they give his gills in the cell there a dhrop like that in the mornin’ he’ll go right through the earth, and get drowned in the ice round at Canady or some plaace.”

There was another groaning of bolts, and a heavy, reverberating thump. McGinty sprang up again.

“Shure, I think the Sheriff, himself, have gone down wid th’ throp!” he said.

One more bump.

“Well! all that,” said McGinty, “must be the swatest of swate music to the ears of the poor devil, in whose honor ’tis all bein’ got up! Oi think Oi would enjoy it meself.”

Having seen enough of the “hanging,” the Captain was conducted to the big yard, where the prisoners were rope-making.

“Attention!” the burly, chief warder roared, in a voice like a drill inspector’s, as he announced: “Captain Hayes-Courtney.”

The convicts fell into line, and saluted the distinguished visitor. The visitor raised his eye-glass, and scanned them long and curiously.

“A fine—ah—intellectual-looking regiment,” he said. The Super, could scarcely control the workings of his features, while the chief warder suddenly saw something to interest him at the other end of the yard.

“Is this the—ah—kind of rope” (lifting a rope end as thick as his leg), “that you—ah—use, Superintendent, when—ah—” The Captain paused, and drew his finger across his throat, to indicate a hanging.

“Oh, no; that’s a ship’s rope, Captain,” the Super, answered, with a smile. And proceeded to add, as he moved away a pace or two, and stooped down, “this is some of the hemp—”

But the “Captain” was more interested in the convicts. He raised his eye-glass, and looked at them again, and, recognising Ray McKay, dropped it suddenly, and murmured:

“The devil! McKay, the old Parson’s son of Longer-Linger. Reallay, it is a field day. Bless my soul! Am I—ah—inside or outside this confounded gaol, or where, ah, the devil am Ai?” Then addressing prisoner, Ray McKay:

“Well—ah, ’pon mai soul, McKay, I—ah—positively wouldn’t have known you; but what—ah—the devil fetches you heah?”

“Silence!” the chief warder thundered, exercising his authority. “Visitors are not allowed to speak to prisoners.”

“Bai Jove!” the Captain thought to himself: “I might have remembered that.”

“If you wish to speak to a prisoner, Captain,” the Super, said, coming to the rescue, “I’ll have him brought round to the cage for you.”

“That’s reallay fine of you,” the Captain answered, “really. It’ll be awfullay jollay.”

Returning to the general yard, the Superintendent despatched a warder to order prisoner McKay forward for interview with Captain Hayes-Courtney.

“Well—ah—pon mai soul, McKay,” the Captain said, when the prisoner, with set teeth and a scowl on his face, appeared at the cage. “Ai never got such a beastly shock in all mai life. What, in the devil’s name, brings you heah?”

“The stolen horses which you, my friend, were so careful to leave in my possession; and the lying tongues of your worthy confederates!” the prisoner replied, scornfully.

The Captain seemed to be taken aback.

“I—I—I’m reallay awfullay sorray, old chap—awfullay damn sorray!” he said. “Of course, there are two courses open —ah—to me. I reallay hate to see you heah for what I’ve done. But—ah—confound it, old chappie, you can’t expect me to— ah—take ten years heah to oblige you—now, ah, can you?”

“No!” the prisoner replied. “I begin to see that honour among thieves is a pleasing fiction—among horse-thieves, at any rate.”

“Now, deah boy, don’t rub it in. I suppose—ah—you haven’t got more than two or three years? You—ah—are still young—with the world—ah—all before you, you know; and— ah—”

The prisoner abruptly turned his back on him.

“How dreadfully rude of you!”

The Superintendent stepped forward.

“What the devil do you mean, prisoner McKay?” he said, “by insulting a visitor and friend of the Home Secretary? I’ve a good mind to give you ‘solitary’,” Turning to Warder McGinty, “Take him away!”

Then, to the Captain: “I’m very sorry, Captain Courtney, that the fellow had not better manners. I suppose you knew him before he came in?”

“Well—ah—slightly. His—ah—mothah was a—ah—housemaid at Courtney Hall. A rather jollay and—ah—decent fellah he was. I’m awfullay sorray for him, bai Jove, awfullay sorray, awfullay! awfullay!” Then, turning to take his departure, the Captain added: “Well, Ai’ve been terriblay interested; rather sad, doncher know; but—ah—awfullay jollay place, all the same. And the—ah—hanging was delightful. Now—ah—Ai will really have to go.”

“Well, before you leave Captain,” the Super, said, hospitably, “come into my office and have a drink.”

The Captain’s eyes twinkled.

“Well, how awfullay kind. Lead ah—on, Macduff,” he said, “I—ah—never refuse to drink with any good fellah, bai Jove, nevah!”

The Super led the way to the office, and pressed a button.

“Two glasses and some water,” he said to the warder, who appeared at the door and saluted; then took a bottle from a private recess and placed it on the table.

“Bai the way,” the Captain said, helping himself from the bottle, “what’s that—ah—poor devil, McKay in for?”

“Horse-stealing—and a bad case.” And the Super, took up the bottle.

“For—ah—how long?” the Captain asked.

“Three years,” was the answer.

“A doocid—ah—long time, bai Jove! And—ah—talking about horse-thieves—didn’t Ai heah something about a fellah named—ah—Blackstone, or something, escaping from this— ah—mansion sometaime ago?”

“Yes,” the Super, replied, nursing his glass. “The papers here, especially the labour rags, made a great fuss over it. See that wall there” (pointing through the window), “well, he must have flown over that. They gave us the devil over the affair. Headlines, you know: ‘Official Ineptitude’—‘Culpable Carelessness.’ You know the sort of thing. It was damned unjust— for how could we know the man had wings?”

“Quite so, deah boy—quite so,” the Captain answered, in sympathetic tones. “And has this—ah—Blackthorn, evah been traced?”

“Blackburn, Captain,” the other said, putting him right, then adding: “No, he’s believed to have got away to South America.”

“A low, brutal fellah, Ai dare say, he would be?”

“No—not at all,” the Super, answered. “A smart-looking fellow, well set up, and clean shaved.” (The Captain twirled his moustache.) “About your height and build, Captain.”

He touched the button again.

“Here, Casey,” he said to the clerk, who responded, “bring me the gaol album, volume 17, I think it is—the one with Blackburn in it.”

The album was brought in. Then, turning over the pages, the Super, said:

“Here’s the photograph, Captain,” displaying the picture.

“Reallay,” the Captain said, looking at it; “how awfullay interesting. Valuable curiosity.”

They drank up half their whisky.

Turning to the photograph again, the Captain said: “Ai— ah—ah, am very interested in this fellah. Er—had he, er—any marks about him you could—er—identify him by?”

“Oh, yes—but—but why do you ask?” from the Super.

“Oh—ah—meah curiosity,” the other replied. “I—ah— know I’m verray rude, but—er—what were they?”

“Well,” the Super, replied, “you can see one of them—that white mark just under the hair-line, is a scar he got when he was a boy. Besides, he wears a horse’s head tattooed just below his elbow, on the inside of his forearm. Here” (taking the album) “this is the photo of his forearm.”

There was a short silence.

“Is the—ah—scar anything like this, old chap?” the Captain asked, pushing back his hair.

The Super, leaned forward, and stared at him; then he leaned back, changed colour, and seemed bewildered.

“And is the forearm anything like this?” drawing up his sleeve, and dropping into his natural voice.

The Super, stood in silence.

“Just as big an ass as ever, Jones-Smith, old chap,” the other said, firmly. “And you would never have got me, only twelve fools like yourself sent an innocent man here!”

The Super, sprang back, gasped, and stared at Blackburn, whom he now recognised. Then he stretched his hand towards the bell.

“One moment, Jones-Smith,” the other said, pushing the hand away, and seizing his glass, and raising it: “Let me finish my drink. Your very good health, and vastly increased intelligence.”

Then, taking the paralysed Super’s hand, he placed it on the bell button.

When Warder McGinty appeared, they were both staring across the table at each other.

The warder waited, with look of wonder.

“A pair of handcuffs,” the one said, calmly.

“Escaped prisoner, Blackburn!” the Super, roared, recovering himself. “Seize him! into leg-irons with him, warder!”

McGinty dropped all over the floor. “Oh, lorrd! oh, lorrd! I’m losht!” he groaned. “Me peesition and me paay have gone!”



In the midst of the wonder and sensation that followed the “arrest” of Blackburn, alias Fitzrobertson, Ray McKay was released from gaol, an innocent, though injured and prematurely aged man. The gloom and sorrow that had darkened the homes of the old clergyman and the Appleby’s speedily passed away, and all was sunshine and rejoicing again. The rest must be conceived.

Meanwhile, at the instigation of the Reverend Mr. McKay, the legal machinery had been put in motion with regard to the Potthouse estate, worth fifteen thousand pounds; and six weeks or so after Ray McKay’s release, the will was proved in favour of Eric Ryle, an orphan, to whom the Court decided, all the real and personal estate of the late “Hungry” Potthouse, should revert at the age of 21.

Little Eric received the news of his inheritance almost in silence; but Snowy danced hysterically round his friend, and cried:

“Hoh, Crikey! Then Hi’m yer manager. His that a bargint, Herric?”

Eric smiled, and nodded in the affirmative.

“Hoh, where’s me coat?” Snowy exclaimed, excitedly, “till Hi goes, dressed hup, an’ gives ther Dago his fust horders!”

Jumping into the roomy garment, and throwing out his chest, Snowy marched across the yard, direct to Piggy’s parlour.

Piggy and his wife were brooding miserably over the turn things had taken, when he entered. Holding the collar flaps of his coat with fingers and thumb, and striking a lordly attitude, he said:

“Yer sees before yer a gentle’n whose been permoted. Hi’m happointed ther manager hof this ’ere placet, wot now berlongs ter my cobber, Herric Ryle, Hesquire. Hi ’opes both hov yer’ll like yer new boss. Hif ther two hof yez does yer work well, hand gets hup hin ther mornin’ hat four an’ runs hin th’ cows, an’ does ther milkin’, an’ dersent let hany hof it git sour, han’ cleans th’ cans well, han’ looks arter me dorg, an’ hother things yer’ll be spoke ter erbout, later in th’ day, yer won’t get ther leg-rope, but can stay hon th’ farm at’ arf a quid a week hand yer grub, with yer washin’ throwed hin hif yer does it yerself. Hotherwise yer can come round ter me hoffice an’ Hi’ll pay yer hoff.”

With heads bent forward, their chins touching their chests, the Potthouses received the jibe in silence.

Let us leave them.


Project Gutenberg Australia